The jtkwriting Blog

So, basically I just blog about life, stories I've read, stories I write, movies I've seen and the plethora of oddities that run through my brain.

Category: movies

Brett Heard

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Brett Heard of Fresh Baked Entertainment is doing things right. In recent months I have had the pleasure of viewing two of Brett’s collaborations -“See You Next Tuesday” and “Parent Teacher” – wherein Brett takes material that has been workshopped with local Toronto artists and turns it into a short film for our pleasure. These shorts came out of The Comedy Development Workshop with Brett Heard and I will advise you to click on the embedded link for all the information you need about what Brett does specifically (and his other projects) as I fear I will not do it the justice it deserves.

What I want to speak about is how I love what Brett is doing. The workshop specifically, but also the general idea behind it is inspiring. I love that Brett is fostering local talent and helping make the creative dreams of both emerging and established artists come to the screen. This is vital for the development of creative people but also for creativity in general, and Toronto’s culture. To provide a safe space for people to perform with an intended, produced outcome, is something that benefits everyone, both directly and indirectly. The film you watch tomorrow might just have been incubated in a workshop such as Brett’s.

If you want to perform and meet like-minded creative people, sign up for Brett’s workshop. The hardest part of the process is putting your name in the hat. I have seen the results of two of his previous classes and by signing up you will be part of a great tradition. You will also have a lot of fun…and who doesn’t like that???

Please see the embedded links above and also these below:

Brett’s Twitter

The Comedy Development Workshop on Facebook

Character vs. Plot

Focus on character over plot. I think this is the oldest, and most over-used, writing advice, besides ye olde nugget of, “if you want to be a writer then you need to write and everything else takes care of itself.” But it’s true. Both are true. Once you have committed to writing, what’s next? Create compelling characters. Obviously plot matters, but depending on who you listen to, there are anywhere from 3 to 33 story arcs. That’s really about it. So great stories come from the infinite amount of characters that can be created. Yes, one character might be only slightly different from another because they carry an old photograph in their wallet instead of a cut out from the newspaper, but that one difference could mean everything, depending on how you use it.

Character(s) beget plot(s). What one character does in one story could and should be completely different from what another character would do in the same story. Thus, you might have the same plot but it changes with what the characters decide to do.

Have you ever read or watched a story and felt some dissonence about a character’s decision? I would argue that is because the character(s) acted outside of their established pattern of behaviour for the sake of saving the plot. The elements of the story don’t jive, thus leaving the reader or viewer ill-at-ease with the story they are experiencing. The writer sacrificed the beauty of his or her original character for the contrived beauty of the unoriginal plot. There are also many other reasons why the story wasn’t viewed favourably, and I would argue that a lot of those have to do with the perspective of the reader/viewer, but I think the majority of the time it is because the plot drove the characters as opposed to the characters – the living and breathing aspects of the story – driving the plot.

And that’s all I really have to say about that. At least until the next time I post about it in 2015.

Ned Vizzini and The Artists’ Health Centre

1387573583_ned-vizzini-lgNed Vizzini might still be alive if he had visited The Artists’ Health Centre, but then again who can say?

I found out today via Google search that the author of It’s Kind of a Funny Story et al, died by his own hand in late December of 2013 (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ned-vizzini-kind-a-funny-667260). It hit me hard. I never met Ned Vizzini nor have I read any of his work though I have seen the film adaptation of It’s Kind of a Funny Story. In fact, I found out about his passing when I was making a list of books to buy for further reading and the first thing that popped up was news of his suicide. It hit me hard because I am a writer and I have had negative, sometimes very dark, thoughts. Ned had the success of which I have been dreaming. He had published books, had film adaptations made of his work, he was married and had a child. Ned had the very life that I am working hard and toward everyday. This is one of those stories that makes you think about your life, but also makes you realize that no matter what we have or want, it might not be what we actually need, or at least the combination of what we need. And by that I don’t mean he didn’t love his career or family, but that maybe Ned needed to talk to someone or do something to help him with his negative thoughts.  This is also one of those stories that hit me enough to at least spur action in the form of a blog post but also in my life. And that brings me to:

The Artists’ Health Centre located at Toronto Western Hospital on the 3rd Floor, West Wing @ 399 Bathurst Street (at Dundas) in Toronto. I have not yet taken a trip to the Centre myself, though I’m sure it is only a matter of time. I came to know about the clinic during a hockey of all things. Very Canadian, yes, I know. I was introduced to a writer who was a supporter of the cause and he handed me a flyer and the Centre was the first thing I thought of when I read of Vizzini’s passing, especially by suicide. The Centre is open Monday to Friday, 8:30am – 4:30pm with the hope of extended hours in the future. They can be reached at 416.603.5263 as well.

The Centre offers services such as: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Group for Artists with Anxiety Disorders, Conditioning for Musicians, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction groups, Primary Health Care, Psychotherapy services, and Support Groups. Please see the full list at their website: http://artistshealth.com/ahc/clinic/.

Mental Health is important for everyone, including those who do not suffer from a specifically diagnosed mental health disorder or disease. It is not just clinically depressed people who commit suicide or self-harm.

Artists, yes we should funnel our emotions (both positive and negative) into our art, but we should also not be afraid to seek help if we find those emotions are having a negative impact on our work and , of course, life.

Never be afraid to speak up and out. And if you can’t find someone to talk to send me message on this blog, I’m here. And if I can’t help, I can hopefully direct you to someone(s) who can. :)

“Mourning Has Broken”

MV5BMTM5MjQzODY2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTA0MTI2OA@@._V1_SY317_CR15,0,214,317_It’s a gem.

Mourning Has Broken is a feature film written and produced by Brett and Jason Butler, venerably known as The Butler Brothers.

This logline, taken from The Butler’s website Substance Production, sums things up beautifully but leaves room for the viewer to delve deeper and become a part of the main character’s journey, which is inevitable: “Mourning Has Broken is a dark comedy about a husband who awakes to find his ill wife has passed in the night. Unable to cope with something so emotionally devastating, he chooses to complete the weekend ‘to-do’ list that she has left for him instead.  A simple list takes the husband on a journey from frustrations and aggravation to hilarity and violence, and in the end, catharsis. This is the story of a man with nothing left to lose: assholes beware.”

The ace, the trump card, the “whoa, really?” moment – and I’m hesitant to reveal it as it is a good one, but the info is readily available all over the internet and there’s no way I could ever play spoiler – is that they made the feature for $1000.

Check it out this week at The Royal Cinema! You will not be disappointed. And if you are then you should have your heart checked because you are clearly dead inside.

And on that note, check out The Butler Brothers online presence:

Web – Substance Production

Twitter – @SubProd; https://twitter.com/SubProd

They are gentlemen.

“Ex Gratia” update…

We made it to the “Best of Toronto”!

So proud of this film and the team.

More to come.

Internet’s not working as best as it should right now.

All love!

Happy NaNoWriMo (which is also going well)!

 

Everything & Everything Else

Yes, the title of this post is pretty weak, but it’s short and because I decided to pack everything that’s been happening in the last couple of weeks it’s more than appropriate.

Alright, well, what’s been happening?

Let’s start with the most important weekend of my creative life. Two and a half weeks ago my dear friend (I’d name her, but I’m not sure she wants to be named so henceforth she will be referred to as MDF) contacted me about an upcoming screenwriting opportunity wherein production teams have 48 hours to write and produce a short film. This was my introduction to the The 48 Hour Film Project. What an experience. Wow. MDF, who was also my writing partner, and I got together at 7pm on the night of October 18th and began our writing process. After two ideas, some delicious soup, a banana, an epic larynx crushing hug, two moments of goosebump inducing revelations, consultation with the production team, and a bunch of other stuff, we nailed an idea and had a first draft put into Final Draft at around 4am the next morning.

And that was just the beginning. The team then took our script and turned it into a BRILLIANT visual experience. As cliche as it may sound, words do not do justice to any part of this experience. It was truly a blessing to work with the uber-talented individuals that I had the pleasure of collaborating with on this project and I feel indebted to each and everyone of them. I describe this as the most important weekend of my creative life, because it gave me a chance to help create something, but also to work with such an amazing group of people who, without ego or personal agenda, committed their time, talent and effort to creating a film in a scant 48 hours. I am truly humbled to have been a part of this project and feel as though I should message each person every day to express my gratitude. Now, I haven’t done that because then, instead of the team thinking of me as “that writer guy who worked on the 48 Hour film project”, I would be, “that crazy, overly-grateful guy who needs a thesaurus to find other ways to say thank you and maybe a valium because he keeps sending me really happy and rambling thank you emails and now I just want to go to his house and shut off his internet”…so ya, maybe I should stop it here.

But Damnit! Good job to all! And Thank You!

Our contribution, “ex gratia” will be screening at the Revue Cinema, Monday November 4th at 7pm.

After we wrapped I met MDF and her lovely and talented boyfriend, MDCT (those are his initials), for a couple beers a few days later and I thanked her again for asking me to be a part of the experience and she said that one of the reasons she did so was because she felt I needed a creative kick in the ass. And without knowing it, she was right, I did need that. As good friends tend to, they know and can read parts of us that we have maybe let fall, unintentionally, dormant and after she said that I realized that I had been feeling disconnected from my creative self. This past year I went back to school with the intention to change careers and find something more stable to pay the bills until my writing career can handle them on its own. During that time, I keep up with reading, editing and story plotting, but the actual writing muscle was rarely exercised. I remember feeling as though I had “lost my muse” for lack of better phrasing. This project ignited it and combined with another reading of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – I know I have posted about it before, but as a refresher it is easily the most important book ever written about creativity and living a creative life – the muse is back. And this wouldn’t be a blog post on jtkwriting.wordpress.com without the accompanying music to express a sentiment. So I give you, “You” by Matt Skiba and the Sekrets (I’ll post the song and lyrics below…the vid is pretty guerilla.) The lyrics in this song perfectly encapsulate how it feels to have the muse back and to be able to create again, while looking toward the future and the bound copy of this first vomit draft that I am currently spewing out for National Novel Writing Month.

Ta DA! I have previously posted about NaNoWriMo, however, a quick refresher: the point is to write a novel, the baseline of which is 50,000 words, during the month of November. You can write an entire story or just the first 50,000 words, but the word count is what matters. You can write 1667 words a day, or 50,000 on November 30th (good luck!), but you have to get it done. The manuscript I’ve been editing for the last 3 years was written during NaNoWriMo 2010. So yes, this is my second attempt and with the muse back I’m killing it. Though it is only November 2nd.

I think that sums “everything and everything else” pretty succinctly. If not, I’ll hopefully write something here tomorrow, as the dates on my posts show I have been an utter failure as maintaining this blog. But “You”, my dear muse, are back and thus, so am I.

Be good to yourselves and each other. All love.

and the lyrics as promised:

“Its alive once again
I feel it pounding in my chest and it hurts like it should
A sharp pain that feels so good
With your arms ‘round my neck leaving me a melting wreck
Now with you by my side I can breathe once again I have nothing to hide

And You – I watched you dancing, you
Out of the ashes, you – dreams of demons kissing in the fire so deeply
You – ya found me hopeless
You – ya gave me solace
You – dying for your kiss I can’t imagine my life without you

Its alive once again
I feel it pounding in my head and it kills all the pain
It’s been powerless vicodin with your hands on my face
Pulling me out of my hiding place with your mouth upon mine
I can breathe once again I do nothing but smile

And you – I watched you dancing
You – out of the ashes, you – dreams of demons kissing in the fire so deeply
You – ya found me hopeless
You – ya gave me solace
you – I’m dying for your kiss I can’t imagine my life without you

Dance with me, dance with me, dance with me
you’re the name of the place where time stands still
Dance with me, dance with me, dance with me
Dismembering this memory its true, I lost myself in you

You – I watched you dancing you
You – out of the ashes
You – Dreams of demons kissing in the fire so deeply
You – ya found me hopeless
You – ya gave me solace
you – I’m dying for your kiss, I can’t imagine my life without you”

Scott Sawyer’s “One Good Reason”

It can be done and it can be done well. Scott Sawyer’s One Good Reason is a shining example.

One Good Reason follows “frustrated writer Wyatt Williams (as he) finds his new muse in the pages of a woman’s lost journal and the prospects of a new love and a new book are much to celebrate until the lovely subjects’ stories take a turn for the worse and her last entries reveal a woman on a dark path. With so much to say and so little time, Wyatt must retrace his steps through the pages never meant for his eyes for clues that will lead him to a woman on the edge.” (from imdb.com)

And it’s phenomenal.

The first thing I took away from it was that “it” can be done. “It” being having a creative and artistic vision, and with hard work, everything can be accomplished, and accomplished very well. But yes, it can be done and Scott (et al) did it. I found that so inspiring and it was something that helped me push forward everyday and night when I was writing this summer and I’m sure I’ll it will stay with me for the rest of my career.
The second thing I took from the film was that Scott is very talented. I knew this from reading one of his screenplays, but seeing all the pieces he worked on and helped put together for that film, well, I was impressed. That could be read as me having little expectation for the project, but please don’t look at it that way. I walked in with a blank slate of expectation and that slate was filled with inspiration, motivation and pride for knowing Scott for the brief time that I have and in the “little” that I do. Like I’ve said before, at first I knew it was Scott on screen but that lasted for only a few minutes before he was the character.
And the third, but in no way the least, was that the story is very well crafted and filmed. I was invested in the characters and the stakes that were set up, while specific, are universal enough that more than just writers can relate. Fulfilment is beautiful.

It would be a crime, not only against those who worked on this project, but also against creativity and dreams if this film does not receive distribution.

Good Job Scott! Keep it up!

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