Happy Writing Trails

Posted: January 17, 2011 in Updates from the Outlaw

So one thing I find interesting about my current work, that of transforming a film script into a novel, is that I often find myself unwinding scenes. In the script, I made an effort to set up scenes quickly, to layer in meaning, to avoid repeating myself. That led to scenes that are like tight coils of words.

But in the novel form, my focus has changed. The script never had the opportunities for character development that the novel has, but in particular, I am digging deeper into the main character’s head. There are more bread crumbs in the novel. So it is much as though I were uncoiling these scenes from the script into ribbons that lead off into blind alleys and unknown territories.

I am starting to realize that after the novel, I am going to have to return to the script and rewrite it to include all the gems I am discovering along this way.

Also, go football!


Old Pro

Posted: January 14, 2011 in This is a hold up! A link hold up.

A producer friend of mine was making fun of my phone the other day. I have a dumb phone, you know, for making phone calls, and I can’t bring myself to get anything smarter.

He said, “How can you possibly be a filmmaker with that phone?” But which he meant, how can you not use every tool possible, and also you are good looking and very cool.

That reminded me of this article. It’s about how some people think they can get away with all kinds of things, in this case, being late, and that they will only be judged on their actual work.

Keep dreaming. Everything matters. So there’s a smart phone in my future.

Yesterday, I watched an old cut of The Making of Iridium Consequence. For various reasons—money, frustration, other projects—I haven’t thought about this movie in a month. It turned out to be a good thing, because I was able to see it with fresh eyes, and my fresh eyes saw that the movie definitely starts slow, but that when it gets going, it is a good movie. It needs sound desperately.

These fresh eyes are ready to tackle the project again. There are a few things I want to simplify—the CGI, for example, and the beginning if possible. And if I can find all the actors again, we are going to need to ADR a bunch.

I had gotten caught up in how hard it has been to push this movie forward, and forgot for a while that the project is worth the effort. But it is worth the effort. So I’m rolling up my sleeves, spitting on my hands, and then I’m going to go wash my hands, because that is gross. But eventually, I am getting back to work.


When I saw this, my first thought was, movie announcer voice! Here’s a guy so down on his luck that he’s homeless. And here are hundreds of filmmakers trying to find a voice like his that they can use for free in their trailers. Win, meet win.

Love on the Range

Posted: January 5, 2011 in Independent film
Tags: ,

I want to talk this week about love scenes. Why now? Why not wait two months for Valentine’s Day? You are so bossy. Because I feel like it. That’s why.

Anyhow, many movies have love scenes. Some of them are more graphic than others, but the reasons that one is classic and others are forgettable has nothing to do with the amount of flesh involved. I am actually against most movie sex scenes, as they mostly ring false (that weird scene in Underworld) or are over glamorized  (can anyone say Top Gun?) and are usually require the story to stop while the screen gets gauzy and guys lean forward and look for nipples.

But I have come to see three things as crucial to making a love scene powerful.

1. Delay. That’s pretty obvious, but every so often, someone believes it is a rule they can break. But a movie that begins with characters getting together can’t have as it’s payoff that the characters get together. When romance is a subplot,  there doesn’t have to be as much delay, but the more delay, the more tension. And the relief of tension is an emotional experience for the audience.

2. Sound. Specifically, the sound of breathing. This is a little cinema trick that I have seen others use to great effect. The sound of breathing can’t be loud and obvious for this to work. Just audible.

When a scene is gearing up to love scene, when the two character’s eyes lock, bring up the sound of breathing. Only one character’s breathing will do. Usually filmmakers use the actress’s breathing, but it shouldn’t matter.

What happens is that the audience will subconsciously start breathing in rhythm with the breathing that they hear. It’s a wonderful side effect of being so close to our mothers’ lungs in utero. We don’t even realize the comfort it gives up to breath at the same rate as another person. This is also true of heartbeats, but harder to use in film.

So as the scene progresses, speed up the rate of the the breathing, and your audience will breath faster, and they will feel viscerally the increased intensity which leads to a good love scene.

3. Hunger. For a really good love scene, I recall the acting advice one Jimmy Stuart followed. He was told, in order to look lovelorn, to eat less and imagine the beloved as a thick juicy steak.

He did some decent love scenes with a side of baked potatoes.

Why does this work? Why is love related in some way to hunger, and the object of affection in some emotional way equivalent to the best meal you ever had? Do I really have to answer that? Really?

So the next time you are putting together a love scene, try some of these tips. At the heart of the love scene is the emotion, not the actions. Love is one of those things that have been done so often all the standard actions are cliche.

Good thing that cliche still works fine in real life.

Happy New Year, Outlaws! I have a feeling that 2011 is going to be a great year.

My resolutions for the New Year? This is going to be the year that we finish The Making of Iridium Consequence! It is so close to done. So close. And I have had a break from it, and got myself all enthusiastic about it again.

This is also the year that I intend to get more outlaws in my posse. And by that, I mean guest bloggers. So keep an eye open for that. Yeeha!

And this is the year that we will finally get to see Thor as a movie directed by Kenneth Branaugh. The guy does Shakespeare!


We are all doing our various celebrations, but be sure this year to stop and think, what does a sound designer want me to do?

This week’s link is brought to you by Dwight Cenac, who through his own sound design adventures, has come to believe that this is the best thing ever in the world, including air.

I cannot vouch for it, because sound makes me cry and hide under my bed. Which is a lousy way to pass the new year.