Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Silent Running

I have a plan now, but it involves not posting here for a while. I'll be back someday!

Thanks for your help, everybody!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Rough Patch

Since I received my first round of critiques, I've been doing my best to upgrade the screenplay in piecemeal fashion. About a week ago, I started to bog down. The revisions were improving the script, but I could see that no matter how hard I worked, I'd only be able to gain half a letter grade, at best. Maybe from C- to a straight C. This was a tough pill to swallow, given the time I've sunk into this project. So I've spent the last few days moping.

I bottomed out on Sunday. After having a long talk with Jiyoung, I decided to shelve the project. It was an emotional afternoon -- I was angry that I'd flushed such a big chunk of our personal savings down the toilet. I also felt embarrassed to have failed in the eyes of my friends and family.

The turbulence subsided a little the next day, and I wasn't as sure about tossing Stareater. I saw that I had three options:
  1. Try to salvage Stareater.
  2. Take what I've learned and start a new project.
  3. Get a real job.
Fixing the existing screenplay will require a complete rewrite. I've been reading The Art of Dramatic Writing, by Lajos Egri, and it has highlighted fundamental flaws in my story. To paraphrase Egri, I started building my house from the roof down. I fixated on incidents and setpieces, and my characters were never more than action figures whom I forced to participate in a series of pointless, disconnected events.

According to Egri, I should have started with a premise. This sounds kind of Hollywood-hacky, but having written an entire screenplay that lacked a premise, I feel well-suited to attest to its importance. Simply, my screenplay should have said something. Part of what made last week so lame was that the shallowness of my script pointed to a shallowness of mind. As cheesy as it sounds, this process of writing about space people has precipitated the most penetrating phase of introspection of my life.

In the end, you can't write well unless you  really believe something, deep down. And after a week of stock-taking, I'm not sure if I'm a person with convictions, or (and this is creepy) if I even want convictions.

If I don't have those things, can the process of writing cause them to grow spontaneously? Preferably in the next few months, before I run out of money?

I'm not going to quit yet. At the very least, I can spend the next few days standing around, waiting to be stricken by a bolt of inspiration.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Oops

Taking a break from drawing. 

I got some great feedback from the first wave of screenplay guinea pigs, and here's the general message:

It needs work.

In fact, I was a little winded by the reaction. Embarrassed, even. Embarrassed enough that if I had a day job right now, I'd probably go back to it. 

The situation being what it is, however, I've got no choice but to double back and fix the thing. And here's what needs fixin':
  1. The characters are unmotivated, unsympathetic, and identical to one another. At no point are their goals obvious. 
  2. The backstory is needlessly convoluted. Long-winded exposition bubbles up and kills the momentum about every five pages.
  3. The central mystery of the story is given away about halfway through act one.
  4. A girl falls in love with the weakest, least-lovable character in the story, and no explanation is given.
  5. Pretentious flashbacks galore
There's probably more, but why nitpick? 

I'll post again when the story gets out of the hospital.

Thanks to all who helped me through this rough spot. I'll do my best to surprise you with quality.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dope-amine

My blog posts have tapered a little as the workload has increased. Now that drawing has started in earnest, it's kind of tough to switch from image mode to word mode. But it's Saturday morning, and I'm waiting for Jiyoung to get up for breakfast. Blog time!

Man, this is hard. I thought the writing was going to be the toughest part, but the storyboarding is brutal. I've spent the week trying to figure out the best working method, and I'm still wandering all over the place. Experiments have included:
  • Using an internet-based timer to remind me when five minutes are up. And by "remind," I mean "scare me out of my skin." Man, is that thing jarring. I was only able to stick with this for a day -- five minutes per drawing over eight hours is just about the most exhausting thing you can do to your brain. 
  • Using Painter instead of Photoshop to keep things impressionistic. Alas, it's so impressionistic that I have trouble telling if this or that blob is a person or a spaceship.
  • Using Photoshop again to draw in a more linear, sketchy way. This isn't bad, but the line feels artificial. Sort of bugs me.
  • Using Painter again, but with pencils instead of paint. This might work. Still trying it out.
I'm trying to figure out how not to run out of steam over the course of a day. I've been starting strong, but by mid-afternoon my mind is a total blank. Part of the solution may be to set clearer daily goals: "Today I have to get three pages of script storyboarded." The problem with that is that some shots, even if they don't take much time on screen, require a huge amount of storyboard explanation. So "a page of script" can mean an hour of work or two days of work. 

On top of all that (and this is the toughest thing for me), the drawings are looking pretty awful. My discomfort with this is yet another side effect of my not having anticipated the reality of the process (c.f. "I can do the script in a couple of weeks, I think"). I look at the Miyazaki storyboards and they're beautiful, intricate, and fully-realized visions. I don't know how long they take (I probably don't want to know), but I expected that I'd be coming up with comparably finished stuff. I guess I forgot that I was also trying to hash out the entire storyline in two months, per the suggestion of Steve Thompson, my spotter.

I still think Steve is right on the money. Just get the stuff down, then circle back around for revisions. Still, my ego is really tied up in this, and I wish the drawings were prettier. To spend eight hours drawing and not have a single gee-whiz image to show Jiyoung at the end of the day... it's kind of a bummer, man. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason I've ever made anything is to get the little dopamine payoff at the end when somebody says "wow, that's cool." These days, I feel like a rat who's hitting the feeder bar twice as fast, but the food pellets have stopped dropping.

So this is a great opportunity to start working for the right reasons, I suppose. Or maybe I can tell my brain that this is all building toward the ultimate dopamine bonanza at the end of the year.

In other news, three people, including my dad, are reviewing the script right now. It's been a week and no word. I'm trying not to panic. Please let this not be garbage.

Okay! Back to drawing!