Tag Archives: cinema

My Fascination with the “Director’s Commentary”

In my insatiable thirst for knowledge about the world of screenwriting, I recently (and accidentally, I might add) stumbled upon a learning tool that was right under my nose that had completely slipped my mind.

One day, in a moment of nostalgia, I decided to pull out the movie “Grease” and pop it into the Blu-Ray player. When the movie was over, I wandered over to the disc’s “Special Features” menu. The interview with the movie’s choreographer, Patricia (Pat) Birch, sounded like a lot of fun.

During the segment, Ms. Birch explains the complex logistics involved in choreographing the dance scenes for the 200 dancers. I found her explanations fascinating!

Once the veil of the behind-the-scenes magic had been lifted, I wanted to go back and re-watch three of my favourite numbers to see the end result.

I’m not sure how I did it, but I ended up watching those scenes with the “Director’s Commentary” track activated. In the special feature, director Randal Kleiser and Pat Birch discuss several of the technical aspects of the movie shoot, the logistics, the vision, and the collaborative and collective effort that went into the project. At the same time, they share their memories of the filming as well as fun facts and trivia. Continue reading

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My First Script

I had been planning for it and talking about it long enough, it was time to roll my sleeves up and get to work on my first script.

The conditions were right:
– retired and having time on my hands,
– the right working environment (my studio),
– the right background music, and
– a number of completed blog posts, ready for posting, which frees my mind for other projects.

Whether you want to call it a New Year’s resolution or just simply a writing goal that happened to coincide with the New Year, my plan was to spend January in preparation mode for screenwriting.

Over the month, I absorbed training material like a sponge. I devoured every article, tweet and video I could find on the theme of screenwriting. Meanwhile, I jotted down several ideas for the outline for my first story. I also started the background research needed to fill in some of my knowledge gaps about my subject. It was a very productive month.

Then in February, it was time to start fleshing out the story. Given the amount of material that I could see flowing organically from my story, I set a target of eight episodes of roughly 40 minutes each.

I wouldn’t even rule out the idea of overwriting, creating more material than needed, and then trim back to what I think are the strongest story lines and subplots.

Does this project sound ambitious? It sure is! Continue reading

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The Bad Back and the Broken Movie Seat

I have found it quite fascinating how movie theatre chains have been stepping up their game to try to enhance the movie experience.

Not only do we have VIP experiences where we can enjoy a yummy meal during a movie, but in certain theatres, even the non-VIPs can watch a movie from comfy recliner seating.

I also appreciate the option of buying tickets ahead of time, and to not have to worry about last-minute availability, back-up plans or getting booted out of my seat by some self-entitled Mr. Bossy Pants who arrives ten minutes after the movie started and insists on disrupting an entire row of people to be seated with his friends.

But for me, the comfy recliner seating alone has been the incentive to return to the theatre more often, to the point of nudging me to get a cozy recliner at home to level the playing field.

That was until a few weeks ago when these wonderful enhancements to the movie theatre experience backfired on me.

On the day in question, the moment I sat in the movie theatre recliner, my sensitive back could feel it right away. The recliner was broken. The seat was leaning to the left.

Anybody who has ever experienced back issues can tell you that sitting in a chair that is leaning just a few degrees the wrong way is a recipe for disaster. Continue reading

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A Renaissance of Storytelling

As a little dude, I remember that both my parents were avid readers. And as far back as I can remember, I was surrounded by books, not only in my parents’ library but in the growing library in my bedroom as well.

As an only child with an inclination for “the great indoors”, it didn’t take much coaxing to get me to share in their joy of reading and the love of a good story.

This love followed me around for a lifetime, in all of its forms whether movies, TV dramas, soap operas, biographies, classic novels, contemporary novels, plays, musicals, operas or even newspaper articles. You could say I have been a glutton for good, well-told stories.

Good stories have tugged at my heart and have inspired me. Good stories made me love some characters while I loathed others. Good stories have taken me to places near and far, real and imagined.

Stories have been a constant in my life, no matter how busy I got. There was always time for a good story here and there, for those moments I needed a little escape… or even a big escape.

I don’t know why, but lately I have noticed that my appetite for good stories is growing, bordering on insatiable. The more I see great stories, the more I want to see.

I savour every moment of stories of triumph, stories of personal growth, stories of courage, stories of social change, stories of love, stories of gratitude, stories of survival and stories of our ancestors.

Sometimes when I hear a great story, I sometimes pick up on one idea, one character, or one thread of the story line and think that you could throw the spotlight on just that one element and create a whole new story around it. There is really no end to the potential of storytelling. Continue reading

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Cinema through the Eyes of a Writer

This past summer, when most of my television programs wrapped up for the season, I decided to replace my TV time with the simple pleasure of enjoying a big bowl of popcorn and catching up on my movie bucket list.

There have been times over the years when life got in the way of seeing everything I wanted to in the theatre, and I am OK with that. When I missed one, I usually said to myself, “It’s just a movie.”

But more recently, I have picked up a renewed interest not only in that list of missed movies but old classics as well.

At this point in my life, it’s a whole new ball game. In my 50’s, I know I have a greater sense of appreciation for the artistic effort behind any movie. I also bring to the table a greater ability to admire the masterpiece in its intricate detail.

Plus, in looking ahead to my next career as a writer, I have to admit that the appetite is there to go through as many movies as possible to see what common denominators come up that make a movie work. Continue reading

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Planning the Best Stay-At-Home Vacation

Regular readers will remember my frustration with myself over my last stay-at-home vacation which seemed jam-packed with projects around the house. As much as I tried to fill my heart with the gratitude of having a nice home and the opportunity to do home improvement projects, I was left very tired and still needed a vacation after my vacation.

The reality is that after a few unusually tough years when mind, body and spirit didn’t have the energy to spare to turn a screwdriver or to declutter a drawer, the to-do list got pretty long. Fortunately, the energy and desire are back and ready to tackle the list, but there are only so many hours in a day to get to everything.

Just the same, when I think ahead to next year’s stay-at-home vacation, I have already committed to myself that every waking moment should not be filled with house projects. I want my vacation to be just that… a vacation!

To get to that point, I have made a commitment to myself that between now and then, I needed to find the time to knock one or two projects off the list each week. They just need to get done in small consistent increments.

When the prize is genuine unstructured play time, not spent with a paint roller in one hand and a drill in the other, I think this should be an easy resolution to keep rather than the old habit of deferring the projects to my vacation time.

So far, the plan seems to be working.

Which leads to the next question… So what do I want to do during the next stay-at-home vacation? Continue reading

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When a Cell Phone Ruins the Movie

I was at the movie theatre one night, on the edge of my seat, holding my breath, when Dame Judi Dench was in the middle of a long pause, about to utter with masterful precision the words that will earn her next Academy Award nomination… when I was suddenly blinded by a bright blue screen, from the idiot in front of me, checking her phone.

Needless to say, I was devastated to have been dragged out of the precious moment where I completely escaped my own life, to live vicariously through the characters of this cinematic masterpiece. I felt robbed.

I leaned over and whispered sternly, “That’s very distracting!” The idiot turned back and gave me a glare like she was the offended one.

Are you kidding me?

After she turned around, I offered her my look of scorn and severe disdain with one eyebrow raised and one lowered, accompanied by a middle-finger salute, a gesture I reserve for the rare few who crack through my calm exterior and get my blood instantly boiling. With that done, I was able to let it go and reconnect with the movie.

I don’t know why but lately, it seems that every visit to a theatre has at least one person checking their phone during the movie which is completely unfair to the rest of the movie patrons.

A movie theatre is a place where people go to escape from day-to-day reality. It’s a place to forget one’s troubles, to get inspired and to be taken away to a different world. Continue reading

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My Take-Aways from Awards Season

Oscar and me1Ever since I knew I wanted to become a writer, whenever I watched The Golden Globes, the Academy Awards, The Emmy Awards (Prime Time and Daytime) or the Tony Awards, I always found myself walking away feeling inspired that one day that could be me.

When I hear writers’ acceptance speeches of humble beginnings, late starts in life or how a unique little story or unique way of telling a story became the object of much attention, I really do feel validated that there is purpose and potential for a budding writer like myself.

I do not delude myself into thinking that my turn WILL come at the awards podium, I think the odds of that are equivalent to winning the lottery. But I would like to think that my imagination, my creativity, my ideas and my story telling style combined with consistency and persistence, are the foundation for writing stories that will resonate. Where it goes from there, nobody knows. Hope for the best, expect the worst, and hopefully land somewhere in the middle.

This year in particular, the word “diversity” has been a recurring theme, appearing in speeches, editorials and reviews which struck a particularly deep chord with me.

As writers, I think we all have an innate fear, “What if no one is interested. What if no one reads it.” If the appetite for diversity is as strong as it seems to be, I take that as my cue and as my challenge to dig deeply for the stories that can matter and that can resonate. Continue reading

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Texting During the Movie: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

iPhone Movies CatFriday morning, I awoke to the news that AMC’s CEO, Adam Aron, was opening the door to the idea of texting in some theatres. My initial reaction was “Are you kidding me?” with a not-so-nice word in the middle.

I immediately stopped myself and thought I was sounding a little like the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey, horrified at the first telephone in the estate and asking “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?” Then the Bob Dylan song, “The Times They Are a Changing” came to mind.

However, just before posting this blog on Sunday, I noticed several sources indicating that AMC had already reversed their decision. Daniel White at Time.com reported AMC CEO Adam Aron as saying “We have heard loud and clear that this is a concept our audience does not want” … “With your advice in hand, there will be NO TEXTING ALLOWED in any of the auditoriums at AMC Theatres. Not today, not tomorrow and not in the foreseeable future.”

But I wonder if this is really the end of this story? How many times have you been distracted by the glow of a screen in the middle of a movie… or a concert… or a play? Personally, I think we are still at the opening credits of this dialogue. Stay tuned!

The theatre experience

For me, the theatre experience involves completely suspending judgement, suspending reality and completely immersing myself in the story that the producers, directors, actors and technical team are trying to tell me. To me, that is sacred for the full enjoyment of a movie, allowing my mind, soul and emotions to get completely wrapped up in the moment as if I was there experiencing it myself. If I can achieve that, then the experience was a success and money well spent.

I like the entertainment experience of completely escaping and disconnecting from my life for a couple of hours. The world will not come to an end if my online presence is not felt during that time.

Personally, I find it a buzzkill when there is a Continue reading

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