Using The Opportunity To Write

I’ve probably already mentioned this on here before, but the environment I’m in has a huge impact on my ability to sit down and write. What better place to inspire than my favourite city in the world.

It’s inexplicable that I can spend two days in a city I love so much, wandering around and snapping pictures for my work in progress portfolio for another class, and suddenly be so inspired to get to work on the scripts for my masters project: a comedy drama on press and power. But that’s exactly what’s happened. I’m not even going to pretend that this process makes sense, because it doesn’t, but it’s blatant proof that environment is everything in terms of my creative process. Very seldom do I get this excited to write when I’m back home. Even in my ‘spot’ at the kitchen table that I’ve created out of necessity.

As far as the content of my masters project goes, I’m currently sketching out character profiles on each of my main players. The idea is that I’d like two, completely different, female, journalists teaming up to expose the wrongdoings of their local council (‘wrongdoings’ might be a slight understatement). Their editor hates the duo and is in the pocket with some of the prominent figures within the power structure of the council. So he seeks to censor the womens’ efforts to expose this corruption. I want to play on those stereotypes you come across in a newsroom and in politics and to almost caricature them. I feel like it’s coming together nicely.

Whether it’s good or not is another question entirely, but for now, I’ve been relishing the Copenhagen sunshine and getting inspired for other projects in the works. Definitely not looking forward to returning back to normality this evening.

I’ll be detailing my adventures in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Berlin

Hey everyone. Sorry I’ve been god-awful at updating this, this is the first time I’ve really had a moment to write words about my big adventure.

I’m having a blast. Berlin was wonderful. Sure, it’s not my favourite place to have visited, but I’m still glad I went, if only to tick another place off the list. To be somewhere with such a vast and chequered history was deeply inspiring. I guess that’s the main thing I took from Berlin. I particularly loved the area surrounding the Ramones Museum and the East Side Gallery.

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It’s gritty, grimy and full of little surprises. I also visited this very harrowing and profound holocaust memorial which, I’m not going to say it was a highlight given the touchy subject matter, was so moving and will stay with me for a long time.

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Initially, I had planned to utilise my time in Berlin to put together a portfolio of portraiture and interviews with artists. But that quickly went out the window and now I’ve managed to put together a fair collection of street photographs that you can find on my Flickr. The idea is to continue on with this broad theme when my colleagues from Brandenburg travel to Scotland and perhaps put together some kind of blog or product involving the photographs. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.

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I also visited Studio Babelsberg yesterday afternoon which was a dream come true. As someone with a passion for film, it completely blew my mind, getting to see where films such as Metropolis and Inglorious Basterds were filmed. Fun fact: they filmed the ‘Operation Kino’ scene in this very hall!

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Right now, I’m in Copenhagen, in desperate need of a nap. It’s been over two years since I last visited this city and I’ve lost my bearings and any trace of Danish I had managed to absorb during my stint at the Copenhagen Post in 2015. But I’m sure it’ll return in the next two days! I can feel the stress practically melting away.

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Anyhow, I’ll be back!

The German Adventure: Brandenburg

Hey everyone, just a quick update to tell you all that I’m alive and currently in beautiful Berlin (dream come true).

Over the last few days, I had the opportunity to head to Brandenburg Technical University to connect up with some of their students to work on creative projects before they do the same in Scotland. I’m pleased to say, it was a fun experience and I’ll be working on photographing and interviewing artists I meet as I go along on my travels.

It’s kind of daunting though, as I’m realising the scale of Berlin. It’s been a dream, like I’ve said, but I just don’t feel like I’m gonna have enough time to see everything I’d like to, as I’m only here until Monday. And that’s already really bumming me out.

Buuuuuut, on the plus side, I’m visiting Studio Babelsberg on Monday!

Anyhow, I’ll keep you posted.

P.S: I’m also heading back to Copenhagen on Monday night.

Give My Ashes To The Coast

It’s a fleeting visit from me tonight. I’m working on a new screenplay. It’s called Give My Ashes To The Coast.

And in case you were wondering, this is the album that’s inspiring this project. I came home from this band’s show on Saturday night so emotional yet invigorated and inspired to write. I wrote until 6AM the next morning. It was a wonderful experience.

It never fails to astound me how other peoples’ creative practices are miles away from my own, and yet, when you pick them apart, you can carry themes or even aesthetics (yes, film aesthetics from music – who’da thunk it?!) over into your own work. I should say that I don’t plan on making this into a film. I feel like I’ve found my comfort zone over the winter break and I firmly believe that it’s – surprise surprise – in writing. It would be lovely though to see it on screen.

This project’s a very personal one to me as it deals with themes that run through my everyday life. The self-doubt, the self-loathing, the feeling that you’re going to amount to nothing because of where you come from, the inability to accept responsibility for your own shortcomings and the expectations people heap on you after you do one good thing. It’s going to be fun to explore.

Not only that, but I tend to shy away from writing anything particularly dramatic or harrowing so it’s going to be a first for me as a writer.

So… yeah.

Listen to the album I linked up there.

You can find a short, provisional, blurb for Give My Ashes To The Coast here.

A monologue


Posting a short one today, but hopefully you’ll find this as powerful and inspiring as I did. I’m going to be talking about a monologue called ‘Highway‘ by Eric Bogosian.

I know everyone thinks it’s hilarious and meme-worthy – owing to this particular delivery – but it’s also so incredibly moving. That’s what art should always achieve. Some form of heightened emotion: discomfort, elation…

I remember watching it for the first time and crying because it totally resonated with where I’m at in my life and how I deal with people who just don’t get it trying to steer me into where they’d like me to go. I’m desperately trying to stay hopeful whilst navigating life and being told to grow up and figure out what I want to do and feeling forced into settling for just ordinary.

The reality of it is that I’m a 22 year old with an old soul, a thirst for freedom and a healthy amount of dislike of routine. It’s ok for my mum or my grandparents to not know where I’m going with any of this artsy shit I’m studying. All that matters is that I keep going. I keep exploring. I keep creating. And that I know where I am, even if no one else is quite sure.

The idea of treating life as an adventure and a collection of experiences is so powerful; something I seek to live by. And the message of being right where you need to be in this great myriad? That’s what I take from that monologue.

I love it. I love ‘Highway’ because it feels like my life. I love this delivery of it. It’s beautiful.

Check it out.

2017

Hi everyone. It’s been a while since my last update and the reason for that is honestly because since I finished last semester, I’ve been all ‘creativitied’ out. My writing has taken a little bit of a hit and so progress on just about everything has been slow since it’s an integral part of my practice. So today, I’m going to talk about future projects, exciting things and what’s inspiring me.

So the first thing I’d like to bring up is the trailer for Jim Carrey’s ‘I’m Dying Up Here‘ because, as you all know, I’m a big big fan of Sebastian Stan. I know he’s only going to be in the first episode, however, he completely owns the trailer. The series premieres in June and focuses on the Los Angeles comedy scene in the 1970’s. I’m willing to bet, even just by the trailer, that is is going to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing TV shows of the year. Check out the trailer here. It definitely seems to be the kind of content I’d like to take cues from in my work.

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Speaking of my work, I had my first day back at university yesterday. The class was mostly to clarify what we’re aiming to do for our masters projects. I’m very pleased to say that I’m going to be making another film – this time a mockumentary – called ‘The West-End Cultists‘. The film utilises my experience in journalism to explore the relationship between the press, the public and politics and offers a response to the press’ complicity in the rise of Neoliberalism in a funny way. I’ve been working on the script as much as I can recently in an attempt to get a head start, but again, writer’s block has gotten in the way. Nevertheless, I’m working my way out of that and I’m feeling incredibly inspired to get the project underway.

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It’s awards season in the film industry, and so it’d be completely wrong for me to ignore my film of the moment. Last night, I saw ‘La La Land‘. Finally. Now, I’m always sceptical of these over-hyped, ‘boy-meets-girl’, Oscar-baiting offerings. But this film completely dispelled all of that feeling. Right from the very beginning, I was sucked into the film’s toe-tapping, feel-good vibe and became wholeheartedly invested in the journeys of the film’s main characters, jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), and Mia (Emma Stone) an actress. As a creative struggling to actually realise my own dreams, the film affected me in quite a profound way. It restored my faith and optimism in my craft at a time when I’ve been unsure about my ability to make good on certain projects. One of them being my next film, ‘Mae‘, which I’ve been stalling; half from lack of motivation, half from fear that the final product might not be what I envisioned in my mind. It’s a huge parallel to the journey Mia and Sebastian take in the film. But perhaps in a more practical sense, the film’s cinematography provided a really nice example of what I’d like to achieve with ‘Mae‘. Just because I want the project to have a vintage feel to it, it doesn’t mean my film has to employ dull colour palettes or have my cast donning victory rolls and petticoats and ‘La La Land‘ hammered that notion home for me. In short, ‘La La Land‘, is an absolute must-see. I hope it does well at the Academy Awards (along with ‘Miss Sloane‘, ‘Captain America: Civil War‘, ‘Deadpool‘, and ‘Silence‘.)

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I promise I’ll update m0re often as I go through the process of putting together each of my projects for this semester. Keep your eyes peeled!

Finished my biggest work to date…

And I’m feeling pretty great about it. I’ve always had an issue with running out of steam when it comes to longer projects (BA dissertation, my final Journalism portfolio for my BA…), so I decided to prove to myself that I could write something of length and stick with it. And, for the most part, the process was pretty painless. In two, eight hour, writing sessions over two nights, I wrote a near feature length  screen adaptation of Ed Brubaker’s ‘The Winter Solder: The Complete Collection‘.

I got the idea from the frustration I felt that there wasn’t any current plans in the MCU for a Winter Soldier film, and that Black Widow had never really had her time to shine (plus I wanted to give Hawkeye some really badass moments). So I decided to write a screenplay of my own, based on the graphic novel and subtly craft it to keep true to the current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The approach I took to actually writing this came, mostly, from my journalism background. Taking the word count I’m aiming for, and breaking it down into ‘features’ (1,500 word segments). After I’d written one, I’d have a break, go back to my big ‘beat sheet’ (the big sheet in the image above) and look at where I am in my story. Then, I’d make another cup of tea and go at it again. In total, I wrote an act and a half each night – three acts. I found that planning my beat sheet as I read the graphic novel (littering it with SO many post-it notes) helped to keep my story tight, linear and made me think about how I accentuate certain important plot points in my story. I also kept in mind the Russo Brothers’ love of ensemble storytelling and their desire to give each character a satisfying story arc; with that, I made a spreadsheet with my characters on one axis and my beats on the other and filled it in with where each character is emotionally and literally. That just provided me with a point of reference for cutaways from the action. If I have to be critical of the story, though, I’d say that it does lack a strong B-story that runs beneath the whole thing, but when you take into consideration the fact that the source material is largely told from the first-person perspective of Bucky Barnes, the point is kind of moot. But, if I worked on the screenplay a little more, I could definitely get more creative and craft a B-story.

Perhaps one of the biggest aides to my creative process, actually, was having a ‘space’ to work in as well. I’m usually one of those people who just does dribs and drabs in different locations – mostly coffee shops. But we just got a new kitchen table, so I had a surface to spread out all of my materials, and I sat and wrote there. It helped the process, kept me focused and made me work faster (I had a clock facing me, and a kettle behind me). The writing process also helped me to understand when I’m most productive. I’m a raging insomniac, so the whole thing was done from 7pm until 3am. Writing this screenplay was a huge source of accomplishment for me, but also the opportunity I needed to actually learn about how I work and when I do my best work.

One of the biggest challenges I faced with this screenplay was figuring out characters that could work within the wider MCU. Because currently, Marvel don’t have the appropriate rights to the ‘X-Men‘ characters (so no Wolverine) and Jasper Sitwell is, I assume, dead in the MCU. And so I had to supplement. And you know how much I love badass female characters. So I’ve utilised Maria Hill even more than she is in the original work, and written Sharon Carter into the story. I’ve also used Sam Wilson in place of Wolverine. And taken out the whole Daredevil twist. I’ve also changed a lot of names of our Russian operatives, but that was more borne out of finding myself writing – for a brief time – without having the source material in front of me.

Additionally I’ve also cut a lot of the stuff from ‘The Longest Winter‘ and used a much simpler plot point to set up the film, with no mention of Doctor Doom and Latveria.

But perhaps the biggest aspect I had to downplay was the romantic element between Bucky Barnes and Natasha Romanoff, because it just doesn’t sit well in the MCU. There’s been no mention of Bucky training Natasha in the Red Room in the MCU, let alone them having the same extensive history that they do in the comics. Plus, Bucky’s in his nineties in the MCU… it’d be messed up, in my opinion, to have them madly in love with each other. In my screenplay, we kind of see them bond over their shared Soviet past, their search for redemption and their experiences of being brainwashed to operate against the United States. That’s not to say it lacks any emotional ‘drive’ for Bucky; by the point in the screenplay where Natasha is taken, Bucky feels like he’s found another person with shared life experience – much in the same way he feels towards Steve Rogers. She’s one of the only people in The Avengers who actually understands what he’s been through, and so it still packs quite a punch for Bucky.

Perhaps the biggest challenge I encountered when I wrote this was that I wanted to make it ‘work’ in the MCU, but, I have no clue what Marvel are writing for ‘Infinity War‘ and its subsequent movies. And so I had to get a little bit creative with what I hope happens in these other films. In my mind, it would be incredible for Bucky to be placed on this path to redemption in ‘Infinity War‘, perhaps even briefly taking up the Captain America mantle and ‘dying’ in the process, and then going off to operate in the shadows amidst calls for him to face justice for his work as The Winter Soldier. So that’s kind of what I went with, because it sets up Ed Brubaker’s work perfectly.

It was also in my mind about how best to end the screenplay and how best for that ending to reflect the MCU’s seemingly more ‘space-oriented’ future. And so, without giving too much away, we do venture into Ales Kot territory at the end, which could set up future films in a series.

Of course, this isn’t going be a film that’s actually going to get made, but I found it to be an incredibly valuable exercise to go through on my journey to learning to write for the screen, because I’m working with stories and characters that are familiar to me. I’m using what I know about them from the source material and from existing films to craft something that could work right now. That’s a lot safer to me right now, at the beginning of my journey (this is only the second, whole screenplay I’ve ever written), than crafting an entire world of characters and running with it for 10-15,000 words.