Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Savagery

It's been a while since I posted about my show and how things are going.

I've been playing with the idea of actually sitting down and writing the 1st 6 episodes in full for a while now. Been chatting with others about this idea and they basically think I'm a bit nutty for even considering it. ("If you're not getting paid for it, why bother?")

Well, the thing is that I have these stories I want to tell and I've gotta get them out of me. What's really killing me is that I'm starting to see shreds of my ideas (not stolen, obviously, but other people finding the same train of thought) appearing in other programs or movies. I haven't even committed my ideas to paper yet and they're already showing up somewhere else. It's really unnerving and actually kind of scary - a feeling of helplessness as someone else, someone who's getting paid, is coming to the same conclusions as me.

In some ways it's lighting a fire under my ass, forcing me to seriously look at where I want to go with this, what I want to do. A part of me thinks that by having 6 full episodes written I'll have a tighter package to show off, something that I can say "Look, I've got more here, it's not just a cool pilot!". Another part is saying "No one in their right mind is going to pick up a show where so much is written in stone". (Of course, nothing's ever written in stone...)

So I've decided to split the difference. I'm going to take some (spare) time and come up with short treatments, maybe 2-3 pages each, for the episodes. Enough to get the ideas on paper and work out a solid line of 'This is where I'm going with this". Something I can finish, put down and come back to; Something I can show to others, go "But wait, there's more!" and have a significant touchstone.

In other news, haven't forgotten about my CFC application, been working on my letter of intent and some of the smaller details that they've asked for. That's all coming along just fine for now, also hard at work on my 2nd draft of my BSG script. I've added about 6 pages to the total but I'm kind of getting worried that it's slowing things down too much... I don't want to add frivolous action or fluff just for the sake of it so I've been working on adding in more story, expanding on some things that were only hinted at before (hopefully with better results).

I'm finding that I'm alot more unsure about the second draft than I was when I wrote the 1st. I think it's because I got the story I wanted to tell out of my system and all this other stuff feels like it's getting in the way of what I was telling. Obviously that's not a good thing but on the bright side it kind of explains why the going has been so slow for me on the second draft; trying to find bits that make sense for me to expand. I have a strong sense that this script won't be making it to 60 pages.

Anyways, back to the grind.

Cheers,
Brandon

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cause there isn't...

"I just wish we talked about story more. And I wish there was a place in Canada where they encouraged that.

Cause there isn't."

Those final - almost hopeless sounding - words, coming from a successful writer like Mr. McGrath, sting a bit. I'm not entirely sure why they hit me the way they did, but it's the kind of hit where your eyes start to blur and you ask yourself "what?"

My grandfather and my dad have been a strong influence in the person I am today - even if they're not really aware of it. As my gramps would say: I've "got a lot of fire in my belly".

And somehow Mr. McGrath's comment threw a bag of coal into the furnace.

I don't get it. Why aren't there places like this in Canada? Why don't people talk about story more? Why isn't it encouraged? Is it that people are uninterested? Or is that we haven't started the conversation (or made it interesting enough)?

When I first got into college for 3D animation and design they told me "This is a wonderful, exciting time, full of opportunity and great possibilities." By the time I graduated those same teachers were saying "Well, we're working for free just to have jobs - good luck!" And then I was promptly spit out into the world to make my fortune.

It didn't matter that I'd made the Dean's list every year and graduated with honours, it didn't matter that I was one of a handful of people to get an internship at an actual animation house. The industry looked at me and went 'meh'. The market was oversaturated, I was now a dime a dozen and my 'industry training' was becoming more and more obsolete by the day (we used Zip Disks 'cause CD Burners were still too expensive to implement en masse).

Everywhere I went they told me I wasn't needed and that there were other people with more experience who would do my job for the same pay or less.

So I took what I knew, what my training had taught me, what I was passionate about and rolled it into something new: Promotions. I had the design side of things down pat, I had the social skills to meet people and I had raw, unbridled determination. I spent $80 and registered my own business: Canadiana Promotions. Dedicated to promoting Independant Canadian Musicians, Filmmakers and Artists, I ran that business on nothing but gumption and raw energy. I met countless amazing people and for a whole year, it was mine - my baby. The site has since lapsed but you can view an older version of it thanks to the Internet Archive: here)

I learned a lot about myself and the world in that year and, while it inevitably failed - there is no money in promoting Independant Canadian Artists... a need, yes. Money, no. - I learned that if I didn't like what I saw in the world I COULD change it. But I had to do something other than bitch about it. I've learned the hard way that anything other than action is lip-service and I can sit here writing for days about how I want my world to change, but unless I get out there and do it, no one's going to do it for me.

When my business closed I looked at my life up to that point and realized that through it all there was one constant: my writing. I've had all sorts of jobs in my life from Paperboy to Door-to-door sales (don't do it kids!) to editing intern (glorified janitor) but through it all I've always found solace in my writing. My ability to make my own world and tell my own stories, stories that my friends and family truly enjoyed. I began to wonder if maybe that was my calling, if that was what I was meant to do. And so I began to learn. It hasn't been easy, calling up people, asking for advice, being ignored for years but it's paying off now. I'm getting better, I'm getting stronger - I still have an nigh-infinite amount to learn, but I am learning.

I am still passionate.

Passionate. And sometimes foolhardy.

I had written a whole rant here - probably pages - that pretty much bordered on calling for anarchy; about the frustration I feel when I see people who are much higher up the food-chain complaining about how the system can't be fixed. Truthfully, it bordered on me talking out of my ass and being a completely disrespectful dick to people I've barely/never met and who've been far deeper in the shit than I ever hope to be. Just for writing that-which-I-won't-be-posting, I will apologize to you all.

I know that my anger and frustration are not mine alone, but it makes me wonder: If the people that I respect and the people they respect can't affect change to a system we all agree is broken then what the hell am I to do?

Are we truly so powerless?

I've decided to keep one small line of my original rant and it is the maxim by which I choose to live my life:

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world" - Mahatma Gandhi

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Challenge...

So I just got hit with a bolt of inspiration. I realized today that my little story got started because someone else dug the spade into the clay and said "Here. Good Luck." That story burned out of me like a napalm geyser in the middle of a brushfire. And you know what? It was FUN. I got lost in it and I had a great time just running with it.

So I've decided to try something here - you can choose to take part or not (I'd really like it if you did). Every Monday I'm going to post a writing challenge. The idea is that you are encouraged to go anywhere you want with the idea, take it as far as you can and have FUN with it. That being said, 'Fun' is a vague term - if your idea of a good time is writing slasher-fic then, by all means, go for it. There are no set themes or limits except those asked for by the challenge.

You don't have to share it with anyone but yourself (perhaps the one true freedom/joy of writing for you) but I hope it will springboard you into exploring new ideas or avenues or types of characters that you might not normally try.

If there's enough interest, I'm setting up a forum where those who're into it can get together and share their tales and comment on others.

Either way, I hope we all (yes, I'll be taking part too) have fun with it.

Writing Challenge #1:
Format: Any
Length: Minimum 50 words
Topic 1: Yoda and Sigmund Freud sit down together at a crowded bar.
Alternate Topic: "My leg, it clicks when I walk" said David...

Optional Bonus: Use the word "epitome"

Cheers!
Brandon

Story time!

I like to enter online contests from time to time, especially writing ones as I get to pretty much do whatever I want. I saw one today and the entry caught my imagination before I'd even read what the prize was. I started writing almost immediately - this was their setup:

It was a cold snowy day up in Alaska, and after being trapped indoors for several weeks, Curly was getting a pretty nasty case of cabin fever. Against his better judgement, he layered up in a parka, boots and several pairs of long johns and ventured out into the
white wilderness. He hadn't been outside for more than 10 minutes when...

Now Curly is the website's mascot - a cute, anthropomorphic pig - and needless to say, I had way more fun writing this than I thought I would. My continuation of their story follows below:

... a low rumble fills the air.

In the distance the echo rolls across the frigid white plains and Curly snaps to attention - he knows that sound. The rumble steadily becomes a roar – a roar heading in his direction - and he knows that he’s in trouble. He sprints to the shed as fast as his little hooves can carry him, plunging through drifts and trying desperately not to fall into the deep snow that would surely signal his doom.

He can see the avalanche coming now - as if the roar of thousands of tons of collapsing snow hadn't given it away.

Fumbling with his keys he finds the lock and throws the door wide as the sky begins to darken. Jumping into the shed the wall of snow hits it square and it begins to slide forward, torn from its foundation.

Another roar, this time from an engine as Curly's skidoo bursts free of the collapsing shed, the tangle of wood falling around him.

Out now, into the crisp light of morning, Curly grips the handlebars, his knuckles white inside his gloves, his eyes tearing up from the cold winter wind.

Behind him the earth shakes, trees and boulders and cars all consumed by the tumbling mass. He dares to glance behind him and fear grips him cold – it is gaining on him.

The machine whines as he snaps the throttle open, Curly begging the machine to hold out long enough. It’s a crazy plan to be sure but the tumbling cloud behind him makes it clear that his options are limited - and this is one side of bacon that’s not going down without a fight.

In the distance the cliff beckons, he'd been there before - he knew the drop of more than 100 feet could... could… He clears the doubts from his mind; there was no chance of beating this down the hill. Better a slim chance than none at all.

Faster now, the snow screaming out from beneath his treads as the cacophony reaches its fever pitch; He feels the spray bouncing, making rivulets on the back of his parka and knows that there will be no other chances.

He clamps down on the handlebars and focuses his eyes - "eye on the prize", as his dad would say. Jumping with every fiber of his being he feels his muscles strain as the machine leaps forward into the air, defying all laws of physics --

-- well, for at least .325 seconds.

Gravity pulls at him, trying to separate him from his only chance of survival. The ground rushes toward him and he closes his eyes, fighting the dizzying doom of vertigo. Gritting his teeth he prepares for impact.

Then it comes, but not from where you’d expect. The snow slams into him from behind, having arched off the cliff and followed him in his path to the ground below. It pushes him, cushions him, cradles him as it slams into the wintery abyss at the bottom.

And like that - silence. As if the world had come to a complete standstill. Curly lay atop the mound, his skidoo half-buried beneath him. The icy chill of melting snow in his boots and parka bring him back around. He lays there, slowly wiggling his fingers and hooves, nothing broken.

A gasp rings out and Curly groans toward the sound.

The crowd watches him as he gets to his feet and bursts into applause when he stands. From the city below they had come with their camcorders and cell phones to witness the spectacular beauty of nature in action - and had seen his amazing feat.

A young man in snowboard gear helps him from the mess and cleans the snow off his jacket.

"Dude! That is SO going on YouTube!"

THE END

So I finished the story, spent a good half an hour cleaning it up - in total, took me about an hour and change to write - and sent it off. It was only then that it hit me: "Hey, what am I actually doing all this for?"

I clicked the prize link and I couldn't help but laugh - I realized that was playing for 100 piggy points.

Essentially: 10 cents.

I wonder if I'll win.

Cheers,
Brandon

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Been a long week. Forgot my cup.


Okay, I've now sat down every day since Monday with the intent to write something here. Inevitably I've been called away for this that or the other thing.

Did you know that the average hour-long TV series script can range from 56 to 70+ pages? I didn't. It sounds like such a simple thing that any writer would know but nope - I've never even seen a finished shooting script before (yeah, I told you I was green...).

So, I've been fighting to keep up my writing regime and I'm finding it harder to do these days without the deadline to keep me motivated. I still do it but I'm starting to feel those stupid 'why bother?' pangs. I know, I can't let myself slack, but I can feel them there, scratching at the back of my mind whenever I hit a brick wall in my stories.

I've been going to the gym for the last few weeks - not just motivated by guilt, apparently I've officially nibbled my way into the 'obese' category (thanks, doc...). I've been kind of teetering on that ledge for a while and Christmas didn't help me any. I'm guessing that gaining 10lbs in 2 weeks is considered a bad thing across the board no matter where you live. Especially in my case where both sides of my family have histories of diabetes, heart problems and other such fun things. And thus I've been out there sweatin' to the oldies. Actually, I've been sweating to the poorly remixed Rihanna tracks played ad infinitum - and cutting down my food intake.

On the bright side I've actually lost some weight and have started to see some muscle - not much (only 3 weeks in) but enough to keep me motivated. The downturn is that going to the gym 3 nights a week tends to leave me waking up sore and cranky - not the best disposition for getting my imagination all fired up. Once my body gets used to the new strains I think things will clear up but I've found this last week to be especially challenging.

I woke up this morning and did not want to write.

I sat there, still in pain from Tuesday's Tae Kwon Do class and just couldn't do it. It was like a whole other side of me was resisting with every fibre of its being. And today it won out.

Practitioners of Martial Arts often talk about the Mind-Body-Spirit connection and I think the 'body' aspect of me has been out of whack for a while. I can't give up on the physical activity aspect - I've seen where my parents are - and I can't give up on my writing; I'm going to have to find a way to make both come into some sort of harmony.

So, to that end, I've come to a conclusion in that I'm going to have to shake things up a bit. I'm a morning person when it comes to writing but once I start having to force myself... well, I shouldn't have to. I'm going to try and shift things around a bit, maybe do some after my workout when the energy levels have peaked and my body is tired but my mind is still active. We'll see how that works for me.

In other news, I want to thank Patrick Hanratty and Peter Rowley for their amazing and infinitely helpful critiques of my spec script. Both of you knocked it out of the park and your insights have helped me a lot as I go into starting my 2nd draft. My first draft clocked in at 43 pages and so I've got about 15 to 20 more to play with over 4 acts. I've got a good idea of where I can flesh things out, the hardest part for me will be keeping the pace that I worked so hard to set in the 1st draft. It's a challenge that I readily accept however, as I think it'll only make my story stronger in the end.

Also, I want to take a moment to revisit The Border. I've seen the first 3 episodes now and while it is growing on me there are just some things that are kind of jabbing me in the ribs.

I've grown to love the constant sense of action, that this is indeed a team. I'm loving the culture, the unabashed joy of jumping between our languages as quickly and easily as the scenes change. I love that every single one of these stories so far has a distinct air of plausibility about it.

My problem - and this is really my biggest issue - is that I can't relate to any of the characters. There are none that are really 'likeable'. I can appreciate Slade's humour every once and a while and like some of his quirks (is eating the new smoking? Just wondering...) however, often he comes off as, well, obnoxious. And he seems like he's supposed to be the 'likeable' one, the one the young, hip, lawlcats are supposed to relate to.

On the bright side, the series is still young and these characters have yet to find their way - I'm hopeful that they find their stride.

I'm still watching - I even watched episode 3 on TV, commercials and all! I'm hoping to see something that's going to grab me. Preferrably some character interaction that leads me to understand/believe why these people are there. These people got into this business for one reason or another and so far I haven't seen anything that gives me real insight into who they are or why they give a shit.

And lastly, before I go, I want to express my only gripe with Episode 3: Lagarda said earlier in the ep "I couldn't stop these guys even if I wanted" and yet in the end she's yelling into the phone "abort! abort!" and they do. I mean, I know they haven't really established what the limitations of her 'powers' are but it comes off as if she had been lying when she said she couldn't stop them. Which leads me to believe she has her own agenda and that actually makes me like her less as a character. I mean, it's one thing to be there on the pretense of 'helping' us poor Canadians but to lie to Kessler's face in order to get what she wants - well, that seems to me like the characteristic of a villain more than anything. Certainly not someone with a lot of scruples.

Other than that, episode 3 showed more potential than the earlier two eps. I really started to get a sense of where things stood and how the team was going to work from episode to episode. I'm truly hoping it only continues to go up from here.

Cheers,
Brandon

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I love this city!

There are so many things about this city that can get under your skin, just little things like the time you have to wait for a bus to show up (and then have 3 in a row come by) or the way people forget that you're squishy and almost run you over with their cars.

But then there are days like today: A day where a small action had a large repercussion and helped to reaffirm my belief that there are good people out there after all.

By the time I realized it was gone I knew it was too late. Standing there on the platform of Runnymede station I felt the cold bolt of fear grip me: my wallet was missing and I had no idea when or where it fell out.

Fell out. That's the key. My sister had gotten me this slick new jacket for Christmas, looked very nice with one minor exception: The pockets were far too shallow. It would seem that that's where my problem began.

While on my way to do some grocery shopping with my girlfriend, I'd scurried across the road and never noticed that my wallet had fallen out of my pocket and into the middle of the street. I would be at least 30 minutes in there and down into the belly of the TTC before I'd realize.

And I backtracked my steps, I went to every place we'd been to that day, back and forth, scouring every nook and cranny where it could have possibly been. No luck. My temper flared - how could I be so stupid?! I knew better than to put important things in those pockets. It was a simple mistake, a thoughtless action but there it was: my life, clad in a 4x3 inch foldable leather housing, was gone.

Debit Cards, VISAs, my Birth Certificate, SIN Card, Health Card, Driver's License - just the thought of that much personal information being at the hands of would-be ne'er-do-wells made my skin crawl. I became frantic, trying to remember everything I had on me, the places I'd have to call. I dialed my Visa's first and waited in silent agony as my girlfriend watched in shock as my mood had steadily declined. She tried to be supportive and I wanted to let her but I was inconsolable. The more I thought about it, the more I started to imagine. I imagined all the things that could've been done - I mean, not even to my Credit Cards, those are a quick fix, they've been great at reporting illegal usage before - No, it was my Identity. That scared me. All that I am on 4 separate pieces of paper and plastic with the most sophisticated of them being protected by a photograph and a magnetic strip.

Finally I'd weathered the storm of "extreme call volumes" -- really, how is it supposed to instill confidence in the consumer if you're telling us that your service reps are being inundated with phone calls? -- and I got to talk to a guy who sounded like he was reading from a manual. After my every sentence he began with "Yes sir, I will see what I can do for you". I mean, sure, politeness counts but come ON! And so he asked me the standard ID questions, I answered and then he told me I was calling the wrong department. So he transferred me and I got to wait again while he put me through - wow, who uses ABBA for their hold music? Good stuff!

So then I'm on with this other lady who asks me the same questions in the same order. Apparently the other guy forgot to inform her that he'd already cleared my identity. She went over my last purchases and I did my best to calmly state that those purchases were valid and that my wallet had only been missing a couple hours at most (I hadn't been out of the house that long). She put a temporary block on my card and completed my call. Great, one card down, only took me 20 some odd minutes. Good times.

We decided to call off the search, we'd been everywhere it could possibly be and no dice. I sat on the subway home and grilled myself, knowing what a dumb mistake I'd made, thinking about what a pain in the ass it was going to be to try and get myself a new birth certificate and SIN card. I made my way home and began to call the rest of my VISA's. One by one they confirmed that my accounts would be frozen for 3-5 business days on the off chance my wallet would turn up.

I was right in the middle of a conversation with my last VISA when the beep came - another incoming call. "Name Witheld". I almost let it ring through, but something told me to answer it. I put the customer rep on hold and switched lines.

"Hello, Mr. Laraby?" "Yes?" "This is Constable Derek Saleh (sp?) from the Toronto Police, I have your wallet here."

And my heart jumped into my throat.

Apparently a man named Bill had been walking along and happened to see my wallet laying out in the middle of the road. He picked it up and his first reaction was to call the police.

Wow.

They, in turn, called my bank and got my phone number.

The Constable took the time to drive over to my house and personally deliver it to me, watching as I went over everything to make sure it was there - it was. Every last thing accounted for and undisturbed.

I held the weight of it in my hand and asked him if he'd happened to have the contact information of the person who'd found it and he did.

I began this entry just after I'd gotten off the phone with him, thanking him profusely for his honesty. I wish I'd had something I could give him in return, some money or something to represent my appreciation for his good turn. Something to reward not just the action but the purity of thought behind it. Goodness deserves to be rewarded and though I don't have much to give monetarily, I certainly plan to pay it forward however I can.

Thank you very much to both Constable Derek Saleh (God, I hope I've got that right) and to Bill, the man whose first instinct was to do the right thing.

Cheers,
Brandon

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bringing down the house...

I had an interesting conversation earlier this week with a small group of writers that I'd met at the I CAN Pitch event late last year. We were hanging out at the Rivoli having a great time and chatting about Film, TV and - in particular - Comedy.

As we talked about things like 'what it takes to be a Comedian', something began to dawn on me that didn't really hit home until today: When I was younger, I was funny. And I don't mean like 'he tells cute fart jokes' kind of funny, I used to be able to keep a room of strangers in stitches. I was known as the 'Funny' kid - which was in direct contrast to what was really going on in my life at that time; In truth I was going through some of the most tumultuous and painful times of my life. Since then I've looked back on things, reflected, and realized how Comedy became my coping mechanism. I made people feel better and in turn I felt better - Inside I was a mess, but as long as I could make someone else laugh, that pain was abated.

I'm not funny anymore.

I mean, I can be witty sometimes, I can make a close group of friends laugh but it's not the same. In essence, since my life stabilized, since I came to terms with my past it seems like I no longer "need" those coping mechanisms and therefore they've gone away.

From that stability it seems things have swung to a different end of the spectrum - I find myself writing Horror and Dark Fantasy and Sci-Fi, things that I know I never would've had the courage to explore in my youth. I'm wading deep into things that are decidedly not funny and until recently it's been weirding me out.

I've found that my writing has been tinted as of late, evolving into these themes of fighting back against our demons, our own internal darkness. There's an earnestness about it that gives me the willies even as I write it, a palpable frustration with the state of things.

And I've been fighting it so hard, I'm not quite sure why. I've been holding the door shut, trying to be 'funny' and then wondering why it kept reading false. I've kind of realised that I'm not quite in the right mindset to be 'funny' right now and that I should roll with it, fling the door wide and shine a flickering light on that blobby dark-patch in my mind.

Something inside me is fighting to get out and I've decided to find out what that is.

Buckle up folks, this is going to be interesting.

Cheers,
Brandon

Sunday, January 13, 2008

It's DONE!

Well, as of 11:32pm the 1st draft of Battlestar Galactica "Reign" is done and clocks in at 43 pages! The average BSG episode ranges from 42 to 46 minutes in length so I'm pretty happy with it. I could probably add another page or two but I get the feeling I'd be heading into fluff territory.

Any BSG fans care to give it a read and maybe offer some feedback?

Cheers!
Brandon

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bordered


So this post is coming from Brandon the "TV Viewer" not the wanna-be TV Writer... I just thought I should mention that from the get-go. It's an interesting post for me because I don't really watch much TV anymore; well, not in the way that Mr. McGrath mentions (I do try and stay current, even if I still haven't managed to catch The Wire).

I mean that in the sense that I don't physically sit in front of a Television set and watch whatever they decide to serve. Most of my TV watching these days comes from Online sources where I have the freedom to choose what I want to watch when I want to watch it. If someone tells me a particular show is great, the first thing I do is look for it online - if it's not there I can't help but find myself frustrated. Watching TV at home, for me, has become a luxury that I don't get to do very often anymore - be it because I'm writing or because I'm trying to meet other people who are. Thus, most of my TV watching happens when I have time to spare.

I just sat through the pilot episode of The Border, here at work, online - in my free time. That means it essentially took me 4+ hours to watch a one hour program (cue the relevant Yo' Momma joke here). Now I haven't been on this planet for all that long in comparison to some people but my sense of Canadian Identity isn't quite the "I AM..." that the Beer guy would've had you believe. I'm patriotic to a point but I've met lots of overly friendly, nice Americans; Met a couple asswipes too, but hey they've got 10x the population of us so it's bound to happen.

Anyways, off tangents and back to my point: I found The Border to be an engaging, if somewhat two-dimensional, hour of television.

But the thing is that I GET why it's so two-dimensional at this point.

Mr. Henshaw said, quite rightly, that "Change is anathema to us [Canadians]. In fact, we're still chanting the same "We're not like them. We're so much better than them" mantra we've been mewling for generations while progressing little if at all to becoming something of our own."

It's a point that I agree with him on and, so - in that context - what better way to start up a show for Canadians about Canadians then to play to all the things we already know that we 'like' about ourselves? I mean, yeah you can call it trite or whatever but this country is not famous for wide, open-armed acceptances of programming that doesn't make us feel "special", "different", "better" or whatever happy word for 'Our National Identity' you want to toss in the sling.

If there's one thing that TV-land has shown me - as a viewer - it's that when you're just starting out, trying to reach as many people as possible, it makes sense to use broad strokes - even if it doesn't always paint the prettiest of pictures.

The truth is that most Canadians DON'T pay attention to their government or how things actually work here until it hits close to home. Okay, that's more a Human nature thing but still, it's true. God, I know Canadians who think the FBI has jurisdiction here (don't get me started). You've gotta keep it nice and simple. Black and white, easy to follow and digest. Really, my mom doesn't even know what CSIS is. How many people can tell me what C-S-I-S stands for off the top of their heads? (I can't, had to look it up: http://www.csis-scrs.gc.ca/)

Anyways, if this kind of thing is still going on in the next 5 or so episodes then we'll have a serious issue but, you know, I think for now it's on the right track. It's done what a pilot's supposed to do: get me to watch episode two.

Which I would happily do, if only they hadn't tacked that absolutely CRINGE-INDUCING trailer for the second episode on the end. My sweet dear, merciful, half-buttered, cinnimon toast Christ! What were they thinking?! I spent almost half my day going away and coming back to this episode thinking "Okay, I can see potential here" to be rewarded with a trailer for the next episode that looked like... well... I don't know what to even say about it that won't descend into more expletives than I'm comfortable with.

Bad choice guys. Seriously: I physically cringed in my seat.

Now whether the next episode is really that bad, I doubt it. I hope - HOPE - it's not as bad as it's set up to be but the footage and dialogue used in the trailer single-handedly made me not want to watch the second episode. You've essentially made the Anti-Trailer.

Which segues nicely into my next point/rant:

The good thing about watching things online is I get to choose what shows to support. I can CHOOSE whether or not to watch the advertisements and, more importantly, I can CHOOSE to share it (quickly and easily) with friends and people I know will like it. I don't have to tell them to tune in at 9pm. Bad TV - or TV I don't like - is easily culled from the herd and therefore my free time is filled with programming I know I'll like because it's something I've watched or has been recommended to me by someone I trust.

And there's your online market in a nutshell: I am speaking as your potential best client. Sell me and you can have my hard-earned money through Paypal or however you like it. Give me a non-DRM'ed Season 1 of Trailer Park Boys made for small format screens that I can load on a memory stick and watch while commuting to work. Give me an episode of TV that comes standard with the soundtrack .mp3 (the music used in the show) included in that $5 or so cover charge - c'mon, Battlestar Galactica, anyone?! It's not that hard to make money off this, people. Just think about what you want as a consumer and make it available. There are enough people consuming media on the web that MORE options, not just confining yourself to one, will pay off more dividends over time. It's not like you have to re-shoot the whole thing with a smaller camera...

Okay, enough ranting, time to wrap it up.

Outside of my painful wait for Episode 2 of The Border I will wholeheartedly recommend the pilot to my friends but I'll tell them the truth: "It has potential". I really hope this goes places, there are great stories to tell (I've had some great conversations with Border guards) and Canada certainly is worthy of having something we can tune into, together.

Best of luck to you, ladies and gents, I'll be watching - online.

You can view the pilot episode here for free thanks to the kind folks (hey, bandwidth ain't cheap) at the CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/theborder/watch.html

Cheers,
Brandon

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Excuse me, what?!

Interesting conversation today:

"Yeah, I'm kind of in a panic, trying to get this script done so I can apply for the CFC."
"Oh? Are you applying for the film course?"
"No, TV Prime Time Program"
"Why are you in a panic then? The deadline's not until mid-May"
"No it's not, it's January 28th."
"No. That's the Film program. Look it up."

So I did.

Well, fuck me with a rusty chainsaw: May 16th, 2008.

I don't know where I got the 28th from but daaaamn, I believed it. I have been burning the candle at both ends, sleeping like 4-5 hours a night, working my ass off because I wanted to make sure that what I was submitting would be the best damn thing I could make in the time that I had. I figured "Get it done early and spend extra time polishing it up". Well, I guess that won't be a problem now.

I'm so mad at myself, I just don't understand how I got it mixed up.

Somehow I got it into my head that it was the 28th and, rather than checking or double-checking, I ran off, full-tilt. Ugh!

Yes, the bright side is that I've managed to do something I've never done before: I pulled a pretty damn good story out of my ass and put together the first draft in about 2 weeks (it'll be finished tonight or tomarrow) - but DAMN... I'd been getting stressed over this. Between work and life and this I was getting kinda rough around the edges from pushing myself so hard.

And I was having the time of my life.

See, the trick for me is that I work really well under pressure, under deadlines - I don't always particularly "enjoy" it, but my best work has always come out when I'm beating a clock or competing in some way. When the pressure is there, the game gets brought - when it's not, well, there are alot of things in my life vying for attention. I was loving having to prove something to myself, to see if I could make it, to see if I was good enough. But now that's gone.

And it really bugs me.

So, what am I going to do now? Well, first off, I'm going to complete this script - on schedule! - and work with it for the next while, make another draft at least, show it to some friends. I've managed to get myself into a pretty solid writing routine and I don't want to screw that up. Mr. Robinson has made it clear that if I have other Sci-Fi related things that I should send them his way and I think that's where I'll focus my goals for the next little while. I've got 2 other ideas I've been batting around and hopefully this will be an incentive for me to keep writing.

I'm going to have to learn how to write a proper pitch document though, so that's also on my list.

I figure that 2 pilot scripts and their respective pitches should keep me busy for a while at least.

It's funny, I kind of feel like something has been ripped away from me - even though I know I shouldn't. I've got alot to be happy about: more time, more insight, proof that I CAN do it - but I was so looking forward to that deadline... as crazy as that sounds.

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, January 07, 2008

Some clarification may be in order...

So I wrote on Friday about how excited I was to have my eyes opened but what I forgot to mention was the context of his comments.

The script? He loved it, thought it was great. The Bible is what tripped him up - and that's entirely my own fault. See what I'd done is tried to write a series bible with no prior experience. Sure, I'd gone to the web and looked up what I could (found an INSANELY detailed bible for HE-MAN) but I could find nothing on the actual 'How To' of creating a series bible (aka story bible).

Needless to say, I decided to wing it.

My first big mistake was that I actually thought of it as a 'SERIES' bible. I had written into it enough backstory, major arcs, character arcs, secondary character arcs, development and story leads for 2 or 3 seasons. I went into the deep history of my world and created not only a mythology but a bestiary of sorts.

My second mistake was that not only was it incredibly detailed, it was dense - all of that contained in 27 pages. I thought I'd paved a clear path from start to finish with it but it turns out that I'd managed to completely overload the reader with information. So, needless to say, lesson learned. I'll have to keep that in mind as I make the second draft of it.

In other news, the 'bolt of lightning' has successfully made its way through and out of my system. I captured as much as I could in the cloudy bottle that is my mind - hopefully I remember how to open it when I need it. Damn child-proof lids...

On the bright side I managed to harness some of that energy and put it into my Battlestar script. As of last night I'm officially halfway done and, for a first draft, I'm really excited about it! I've got more than a few scenes that I'm quite proud of and I'm finding it quite interesting how my writing style seems to have changed. I can't quite place it but it just feels a lot more exciting as I'm writing it - almost cinematic. I really see the images in my head as I write them, watching the story unfold like a real episode.

Also, I used a bit of that lightning to create an offshoot of Savage Knights. It's still in very basic form but it's set in the same world and more for teens. It's a lot more episodic in nature and less violent, less horror, more rollicking adventure-ish. I could almost see it as an animated series.

So yeah, I've got some notes on that, going to think up some story ideas just for kicks. Battlestar's on track for the end of next week and then I can get to the business of doing all the OTHER things they want me to do :P

If you're interested, I'm posting a scene from my script below here. I know that some writers don't like to read other writers work before its finished but I'm quite happy with it and want to see if I can pique your curiosity with this bit from the teaser. Hope you enjoy!

Cheers,
Brandon
__________________________________
The setup: The Cylons have just shown up en masse to invade New Caprica and Adama orders the fleet to Emergency Jump. Now millions of kilometers away and unable to make contact with the planet, the reality of their situation sets in.

INT. THE CHRION - BRIDGE

The Chrion is a luxury liner that has seen better days, the bridge is in disarray and swarmed with scared people clamoring over each other, yelling, trying to be heard. The Captain, MARKUS ARRIN, is a tall, well-built man in the remnants of 'proper' uniform. His voice is inaudible, lost in the din. Soon his calm, professional manner melts away and he starts shouting for people to calm down. That shout is heard over on Galactica, along with the cries of the passengers.

ARRIN
Sir, what is going on? I've got a lot of people here --

ADAMA
Mr. Arrin, we're doing everything in our power --

A well-dressed man PUSHES Captain Arrin out of the way and grabs the phone.

MAN
Why have we stopped? We have to keep going! The Cylons will find us! Once they're finished with New Caprica --

He is forcibly dragged away by a security detail.

INT. GALACTICA - CIC

We hear the sounds of a struggle engulf CIC for a brief moment. The words "They're dead, they're all dead!" echo throughout before Adama spins to Mr. Loomis.

ADAMA
Cut it!

The room goes silent.

Carolanne is there again, just in the peripheral.

CAROLANNE
You're losing them, William. They can see right through you.

He looks at her, a flash of confusion and horror on his face.

ADAMA
(to himself)
... not time yet.

She smiles at him.

CAROLANNE
You can't ignore me William, not anymore. You can't ignore us.

ADAMA
(to Carolanne)
Shut up!

The entire crew looks to him and he realizes. The room is still silent. That silence is broken by Mr. Loomis.

MR. LOOMIS
Sir...

Adama is distracted. He tries again.

MR. LOOMIS (CONT'D)
Sir...?

Adama snaps to Rygel Loomis and he flinches as the Admiral turns his gaze on him.

MR. LOOMIS (CONT'D)
Um... We - we have more incoming calls, sir.

ADAMA
From who?

Mr. Loomis checks his instruments again to be sure.

MR. LOOMIS
All of them.

END TEASER

Friday, January 04, 2008

Holy. Sh*t.

I'm quivering as I type this - I just thought you should know.
That letter I wrote to Mr. Robinson has paid off in spades, it has --

You ever have that moment where a bolt of inspiration hits you, where you realize where you've been going wrong? In one sentence he put everything into perspective and changed the entire direction and motivation for my show.

"Jack is the Hero".

He also said a good many things that are pretty plot specific so I'm not quite comfortable posting them online - just yet - but the overall message was that I'd gone and made things FAR too complicated, especially for people just getting into the series. I'd thrust the people headlong into the world and not really taken the time to set the ground rules. With no real lead up the viewer has no reference point when things get hairy. Slow things down, lead them to it.

He also felt that I had two people competing for 'Hero' status when there should only be one:

Jack is the Hero.

And SHAZAM! it hit me. He was right. And instantly my mind was racing - How did he get there? Why is he doing this? Why does he start this journey alone?

Then it dawned on me, the story could be told so simply. Take it back to basics. Everything else, all my meticulous plans, all my wonderful ideas, they could still happen - just give it time.

Mr. Robinson also offered some great advice in the letter:

As a development person, I’m not usually keen on big bibles – a simple script and maybe a one or two page pitch document is all I really need to see, if it’s well put together I’ll know pretty quickly if it’s something we’d be into. Bibles are good for the writer’s room, and can certainly be accessed to answer nit-picky production exec. questions when they arise. As well, the language in your bible should be more clinical. Fun to have the character descriptions written in their style of speech and a bit cheeky too, but you don’t want to drown the meat in gravy, if you know what I’m saying.

Other than that, my best advice is to stay with it. The CFC has a great program, and don’t give up if you don’t break through the first time, keep trying. Never stop writing every day and do your best to aquaint yourself with the business end of things too – there are lots of weekend long pitching workshops, that kind of stuff, offered in the city through various groups and those are a great way to get your feet wet with how the trade works. You don’t have to aim to be a producer, but it’s good to know how they think. The National Screen Institute offers some good programs too.

So, like most things in my life, I'm finding myself in a bit of a situation. I've just had that bolt of inspiration, my mind is RACING with ideas - but it's for the wrong show.

I have a spec script to finish and I cannot let myself fall behind. Inside it's killing me not to start a whole new draft RIGHT NOW of my show, to get this thing underway while it's there. But I know that if I do, that's it, I'm done. I'll end up following this stream until it ends - because this is my show and it's what I'm passionate about - and completely screw myself in the process.

And so I'm taking copious notes, I'm writing every little thought down in the hopes that I can use it when I need it, hopefully it'll re-spark the fire inside me again when I have the time.

I just thought of something:
One of my requirements for the CFC entry is that I have to write a "One paragraph synopsis of two original television series ideas, which will be developed during the course of the program"

What better place to refine/redevelop my show than there? The groundwork is laid, I know this inside and out already - I can, maybe, overhaul the show there. Wouldn't that be something?

Alright, back to making notes and then back to Battlestar. Oh, right, and back to work too.

Cheers!
Brandon

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Back to the drawing board...

It's funny how I logged on with the idea of writing a completely different post than the one I'm about to write; I'd had a rather eventful holiday and I've got lots of fantastic news about the status of my Battlestar Script.

It seemed like I was in the right mindset to talk for pages about characters and cool scenes that I was proud of and ideas that were running rampant through my head. I'd been bubbling over with excitement as it seemed that I'd finally worked myself into writing shape, training myself to wake up at 6-6:30 AM so that I can start a morning writing regime. There were so many things I was going to say here today.

And then this came:

Dear Brandon,

I want to thank you for submitting Savage Knights to us here at Space. Unfortunately, I’m writing to let you know that we are going to pass on the project.

While I have enjoyed reading both the script and the detailed bible, I felt the show carried too broad a series-wide storyline and a lot of characters and mythological content (both previously known myths and series-specific creations) that would appeal to an older viewership.

At the moment we’re trying to aim for material that can be a bit more stand-alone and appeal to a casual viewer, who may drop in midway through a series and who is a little bit younger. While there is lots of good action that keeps the pace up I think a program like this will ultimately be of interest to an older set.

Thank you again for your interest and best of luck with the project. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have anything else you’d like to send our way for consideration.

Best wishes,
Fraser Robinson


So, there are two ways I can take something like this - it is my very first rejection letter after all. I'm not going to go into the options because, well, we all know what they are.

The truth is I'm actually Happy. Yep. I said it. I'm happy.

Savage Knights is the culmination of so many 'firsts' for me that I can't help but be happy. It's my first screenplay, my first bible, my first series - it inspired me to learn the craft (still learning) and pushed me to better my writing skills. It helped me find something I was passionate about after spending most of my 27 years wandering aimlessly out of college and stumbling from job to job.

My work was enjoyed.

Now you can say it's a platitude, you can be as cynical as you want, but a man who reads countless screenplays for a living not only read the ENTIRETY of my pilot script (105 pages) but the entirety of my show bible as well. How can I not be pleased with that?

In truth he's actually helped me in a way - a chunk of my mind has been wondering about this, wondering if I should apply to the CFC, "What if my show gets picked up?" Now, I know you should never turn your back on a chance at educating yourself but the idea that I could, maybe, possibly get a green light... well, it's that longshot hope that'd been my only excuse not to put 100% into my application. "Maybe I won't need to."

But I know that's a foolish train of thought, I know it's only self-destructive in the end. Sometimes reckless hope can be a bad thing. Bridling it, harnessing it - while still clinging to reality - well, I guess that's the trick isn't it?

I've responded to his email in the hopes that even in rejection I can find something that will push me further, will help me to grow more than what is offered at the base of it.

Hey, you never know if you don't ask, right?

Hi Fraser,

Thank you very much for your response. Even though I'm disappointed to hear this I have to say that I'm quite happy that you enjoyed my work.

Savage Knights is my first attempt at writing a Script and Bible so, though I know I still have much to learn, I'm glad to know that I'm on the right track.

I was wondering - if it's not too much trouble - if I might ask you for some feedback in regards to this project that I hope will help me in the future as I work to develop other, new projects.

What did you enjoy most about the pilot/bible?
Did you like any of the characters in particular?
What did you not like or feel was the weakest aspect?

Do you have any advice, as someone who reads alot of scripts and works in the development process, for me as I work to break out as a Canadian Television Writer?

Now that I know what you are looking for, I have a couple other concepts that I've been working on in my spare time - however, I'm currently working quite hard to apply for the CFC's Prime Time Television Program.

Perhaps once the application is sent off at the end of January I might approach you with these other ideas?

Thank you very much,
Brandon Laraby


Perhaps the best thing about this is what he didn't say. He didn't say "This was utter garbage and you've wasted my time." He didn't say "Go into Business, you'll never make it as a writer."

He basically said "This is good, it's just not for us right now."

And I think that gives me a lot to be happy about.

Cheers,
Brandon