Archive for August, 2007

The Golden Compass Film

August 30th, 2007

A long and interesting piece about some of the challenges to producing, filming and editing the film from Pullman’s novel is published in today’s New York Times Arts section.  A link to a trailer is also available on the article’s site.

 A couple of pulls follow:

 [ . . . . New Line, of course, reinvented fantasy with its “Lord of the Rings” series, directed by Peter Jackson. But each of those films cost far less than what is being spent on Mr. Weitz’s movie, the most expensive the studio has ever made. ]

[ With “The Golden Compass” much still hangs in the balance. Its filmmakers completed a four-month shoot in England, Switzerland and Norway last January, and Mr. Weitz screened a cut for top New Line executives in May.

But as recently as last month Mr. Weitz, who wrote the script’s current version, following earlier drafts by the playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard, was revising scenes that set up the movie’s complicated story about a girl’s struggle against repressive authority.

Mr. Weitz, speaking from London, said the latest changes were largely intended to bring clarity to a tale that depends on obscure elements, including a powerful cosmic substance known simply as “dust.” “Dust is kind of like our version of the force,” said Mr. Weitz, referring to a bit of “Star Wars” mythology. “But somehow the force is much easier to explain.” ]

[ The project’s extraordinary expense was due in large part to the business of the daemons, which had to be inserted in not just major set pieces but even simple dialogue scenes.

“It’s like directing that character,” Ms. Forte said of the myriad appearances by a snow leopard, jackal, ferret, mouse, ermine, chameleon, golden monkey, various birds and others, not to mention those non-daemonic armored bears. ]

Love, C.

Live (Critiquing) on Saturday Night…

August 28th, 2007

Last Saturday I served as a judge in a regional multi-genre writing event. Slightly – really only slightly – reminiscent of a certain TV show, the volunteer contestants stood before the three-judge panel and read from their current work-in-progress for two minutes. Then the three judges gave three minutes of critique. No, we didn’t take Simon, Paula, or Randy roles. Honestly, we weren’t even mean…unless you define mean as including some hard truths along with writerly encouragement and positive feedback.

First off – writers who put themselves through such a ordeal must be commended. To open your work – yourself – to critique in front of an audience is courageous. Indeed, in this case, the potential rewards were significant – reviews by a couple of excellent agents and freelance editors.

The results? For the enthusiastic audience and the writers themselves some valuable writing tips, (so they told us!) For the three judges brain fatigue certainly. Listening so carefully to eighteen readers without benefit of printed pages, while coming up with comments both diplomatic and meaningful was intense. But the effort was rewarding as well. Several writers demonstrated a truly excellent grasp of concept, characterization, plot movement, description, tension – all the elements of story. To be able to award them even so small a “leg up” was a pleasure. One writer showed us a superb “voice” – the bitter edgy angst of a young bipolar male – but the author didn’t quite know how to get this character into a story. How fun to match this person up with a writing coach!

Even those who didn’t make it into the winner’s circle showed some grasp of the craft – pleasing narrative, original ideas, sensual imagery. The deficiencies that kept them out of the roses were clustered in a couple of areas. We’ve talked about most of them here on Deep Genre, but I thought it might be useful to review notes “from the field” as it were.

First and foremost: getting into the story.

Most readings were openingswhich for a two-minute reading was generally (though not always) the most useful selection. Many openings consisted of extensive rumination over past conflicts, several were lengthy character exposition that had nothing to do with the conflict of the story, and one was an extended metaphor that introduced the first character only in the last line. As a writer friend of mine puts it, “One character on stage thinking is not a scene,” thus rarely provides a dynamic opening for commercial fiction.

Another opening problem: meaningless activity parading as an “active” opening. Dialogue does not necessarily equate with action, especially banter accompanied by internal monologue that has no relationship to the matter of the story. Nor does mere frenetic activity serve the purpose, unless it somehow introduces us to character or essential conflict. Even palpable danger does not ensure a successful opening if the reader has no context for the conflict and no reason to care about those involved.

And one more problem: the persistent use of dreams or car accidents as opening scenes. We saw at least four examples. Careful, careful, careful, fellow writers! Only touch these overused opening tropes if you have a truly fresh approach. (We heard one that certainly did. But I won’t tell. I hope he gets it published.)

The writers were supposed to give a log line, a one line “elevator pitch” to describe the thrust of their story before beginning to read. Out of eighteen candidates, less than a third gave anything near a concise, coherent description of a story. A few of those who did give a good description, read nothing in those first two minutes that evoked any particle of the log line. Give it some thought. I certainly am. One of the benefits of critiquing is how it causes us to re-examine our own work!


Live Free!

August 7th, 2007

An occupational hazard of reviewing fiction is the necessity of engaging works one would not otherwise be likely to read. Thus I find myself from time to time encountering that peculiar fringe subspecies of the genre, libertarian science fiction.

The practitioners of libertarian SF tend to be ideologically motivated, and their fiction, more often than not, serves primarily as a medium for their Message. Of course, no political position confers immunity from the general tendency for an overload of ideology to make for bad story. But libertarian SF seems to be afflicted with a peculiarly wrong-headed Message, that we must go into space to live free!

Continue Reading »

Joss Whedon – Season 8

August 4th, 2007

The Onion’s AV Club section of  August 2, 2007 issue has Joss Whedon as its cover feature.

The intereview talks extensively about Buffy, Season 8, the probable Season 9 — and the very probable Angel – After the Fall, Brian Lynch doing the outline. 

Which, of course, explains why Angel was always b and c level when compared to Buffy, coz the guy just doesn’t have the imagination, the emotional penetration or sense of rhythm that Whedon’s got.  It would all be great — except there was Buffy … and they dragged all the secondaries in, and that showed why they were the secondaries on Buffy, and not the primary.

He also speaks about the Wonder Woman project, as to why it didn’t work out, and very graciously too.

I checked on The Onion’s website, but though other articles included in this “AV Club” section are there, this isn’t listed.  It is in the paper edition though.  Vaquero very kindly picked it up and brought it home because he thought I’d be interested.  Wasn’t that sweet?

Love, C.

Show Don’t Tell But Don’t Show Too Much

August 3rd, 2007

This morning’s while-I-was-thinking-of-something-else revelation: reading is a collaborative experience. Writing is done in the expectation of this collaboration, which is one of the things that makes it difficult (aside from the invention, the research, the craft). Movies are prescriptive: they show you what they mean. The best movies, in my humble, leave a little bit to our imagination, don’t spell everything out, make you work. The best books do too, but even there, you are using the author’s words to create a movie in your head. It’s a collaboration. That means the writer has to be careful not to put up blocks to collaboration; the writer has to allow the reader some leeway for her own imagination.

I’ve been thinking about this because I’m mid-way through a really interesting book, but keep stumbling over the details. Many of the details are delightful, but sometimes there’s just too many of them. It’s not worldbuilding, or at least not otherworld-building; the book takes place in the present, in our world. But I’m told every garment every character is wearing, and their fabric composition; I’m told about every tic and shiver, to the point that I can’t tell which of these tics and shivers are meaningful in terms of character reaction and which are just there. If I were workshopping this book, I’d tell the author that he’s so caught up in the movie in his head that he’s not leaving space for me to make that movie my own.

ETA: I appear to have posted this before I was actually done composing. My bad.