Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gold Rush!

Charles Hamelin and the Canadian Speed Skating Relay Team just managed to swing us 2 more Gold medals in a couple of the most exciting speed skating races I've ever seen.

Granted, before this year's Olympics, I'd never seen a single speed skating race in my life.

But holy crap, were they ever tense!

Who knew a sport that gets decided in milliseconds could be so exciting?

Especially when you factor in all the wipe outs.

I've discovered that Speed Skating is kinda like NASCAR... on ice... with none of that namby-pamby 'metal shell' protecting you from slamming into the ground or the razor blades strapped to the feet of the guy in front.

And man were there some epic crashes -- including one incredibly tense moment where Mr. Hamelin was sent careening on one skate over the finish line as two competitors crashed and burned behind him. Hell, toss in some After Effects explosions and you've practically got Die Hard on Ice. (The inevitable movie re-make).

Like I said: Tense stuff.

Also: Canada just beat Slovakia 3-2 for the right to stand against the USA for the Gold Medal in Men's Hockey.

I can see the billing now:

Canada Vs. USA 2: Brodeur's Revenge

Maybe Iginla snow-showering Miller in slow-mo:

"Revenge is a dish best served cold".

"Igiiiiiinlaaaaaaaa!"

Yeah... I know where I'll be on Sunday.

Way to go Team Canada!

Oh, and just in case you missed it, a nice little article quietly pushed out into the news cycle (far down on the page, below the Olympic Coverage).

"Federal budget deficit rises to $39.4-billion"

Man... I'm glad the Olympics are around and all... 'cause maaaan I bet there'd be a whole lot of pissed of Canadians otherwise.

*cough*

Cheers!
Brandon

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Higher Learnin'

Well, I got me a new haircut!

It's pretty sweet. It's like... hair... but shorter and stylish... and stuff.

(exciting!)

But not as exciting as this:

In the effort to keep myself on the ol' learning treadmill I've signed up for a cool little program from Raindance Canada called the 'Writer's Foundation Certificate'.

Now, I know what you're thinking: 'certificate'?

And yes, I love pretty pieces of paper as much as the next guy -- but the thing that's cool about this program is that it's being run by one Mr. Ken Chubb.

Mr. Chubb is a story editor. A very well-known, and from what I've heard, a very well-respected one at that.

In essence, I was pretty much told 'you must do this course' by a very nice and thoughtful friend who is of the 'currently-working-writer' variety.

If you've never heard of Mr. Chubb before, he worked closely with Karen Walton on a little movie (*cough* one of my favourite werewolf flicks of all time *cough*) Ginger Snaps.

If you haven't seen 'Ginger Snaps' then you should go and watch it.

Unless you're easily scared or wigged out. 'Cause then, yeah, probably not your cup of tea.

Long story short: I'm going off to try and learn something new about storytelling and the craft of writing a badass script.

I'm not entirely sure what to expect, but I'm definitely interested in honing my skills to a surgical edge.

Needless to say it looks like it's going to be a packed month -- It's once a week, every Wednesday from March 3rd to March 24th.

Here's the itinerary:

Part 1 of 5 - The Story
Wednesday, March 3rd
It is important to understand how to break down your story and how to develop it into something an audience will want to see. What really happens in your story? Finding the central character. What kind of story is it?
Discover:
- What makes a good story
- How to make your story idea compelling
- Research and backstory
- Copyright and how to protect your ideas

Part 2 of 5 – Compelling Characters
Wednesday, March 10th
By understanding each character you will be able to develop your story. The central character must be complex and unique. Other characters must be memorable and provocative.
Discover:
- How to create compelling characters that stay with the audience
- Character sketches, traits and other tools
- Empathy and emotion
- Secondary characters that challenge

Part 3 of 5 – Building Your Story
Wednesday, March 17th
How to build on a great story or scene. How to give texture to the story. This may be the difference between whether you will elicit emotion and engagement in your audience or not. Creating atmosphere, tone and rhythm.
Discover:
- Scene writing and developing story structure
- Writing sub-text, crisis and climax
- How to create a page turner
- Suspense and other dramatic tools

Part 4 of 5 - Writing Compelling Dialogue
Wednesday, March 24th
How to read a script. The importance of proper formatting. Why is comedy important and how can you find it?
Discover:
- The knack of writing good dialogue
- Show don’t tell
- Revealing and developing character through dialogue
- Honing and mixing effective dialogue

Part 5 of 5 - Pitching Skills Workshop
Wednesday, March 31st
Pitching is one of the most essential skills needed for a successful career in the film industry. It is also one of the least considered by new entrants to the industry.
Discover:
- The one page synopsis and the five page outline
- What the goals of a pitch meeting should be
- Finding your hook_
- Pitching tools explained

If you're interested in signing up and checking it out with me you can sign up here. It'll set you back about $200... which, well, is pretty cheap as far as these things go.

And no, I'm not getting paid to do this or seeing any money from promoting it -- just figured that anything I'm being nudged toward is worth sharing with my fellow writerly types.

Anyways, I'll be posting more about the program over the month of March, so feel free to check back and see what I'm learning and how it's going.

Should be good times!

Also: A quick shout out to the cool-as-all-hell CFC PrimeTime TV folk who're having their screening/post-class party tonight. Can't wait to see what you've all put together!

Cheers!
Brandon

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dusting off

So, I set my 2nd draft of Pipeline aside this weekend and found myself wanting to dust off an older project: the re-imagining I did of Savage Knights (my first show).

Long time readers may remember that I'd originally written a 2-hour backdoor pilot but decided to re-imagine it as a 1-hour.

It ended up being fine for what it was, tho' I felt it lacked the heart of the original.

Good, but it could be better. A definite 'meh'.

So I shelved it and moved on.

Well, this weekend I suddenly felt the urge to pull it out and plug away at it.

Which was not unlike opening a time capsule.

A time capsule from the year 2007.

Okay, it wasn't a HUGE change or anything... but it was still a look back at a different time -- moreso, a different frame of mind for yours truly.

Structure-wise, it seemed solid-ish enough, there were a few changes but for the most part, that part of the script held up. What really stuck out at me though was the pacing.

I really seem to like getting in and out of scenes as fast as possible.

Now, in TV that's not so much a bad thing but it often means that my dialogue ended up feeling rushed.

But I guess that's just one of the hallmarks of my earlier writing...

It's kind of funny tho' cause when I was reading it I got the feeling like I had ants in my pants or something; like I just couldn't wait to move on, to say what needs to be said and get out the door and onto the next cool thing.

It's kind of cute.

On the bright side, it also means that my older scripts move by at a blistering pace.

So yeah, no time for boredom.

Guess that's also why I have such a hard time trying to write a feature, I don't like to slow down and just 'exist' in the scene. I don't really enjoy letting a moment breathe.

Maybe that's something I'll develop when I'm older and more refined?

I dunno.

I went over it again, slowed things down some, expanded on a few others.

Overall I'd say it's definitely a stronger story for my tinkering and hey, it was an interesting experience; a chance to take an objective look at how I used to write while realizing how far I've come since then.

Anyways, tonight I hop back onto Pipeline with the hope of having a solid 2nd draft ready for Friday.

Fingers crossed!

Cheers,
Brandon

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Thousand Words

One simple animated GIF succinctly explains the U.S.'s reaction to 9-11.


I saw this online today and it hit me on a number of levels.

Comedy.

Drama.

Intrigue.

Maybe I'm wrong, but this actually does sort of sum it all up rather nicely.

Cheers,
Brandon

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gordon Lightfoot LIVES

And I'm happy as hell to hear it.

Tho', if you were staking out Twitter feeds... oh, about 20 or so mins ago, you'd have probably gotten wind of Mr. Lightfoot's demise.

What was interesting is how quickly it spread. I noticed it first on @heywriterboy's feed -- who got it from @addthis.

Thing was, they weren't just spreading talk, they had real, credible news sources backing them up.

So I hit Google with a vengeance, looking for some sort of confirmation.

I found a Calgary Harold article (now removed) that appeared to back up the Ottawa Citizen article (also removed) making the rounds and so tweeted on to my friends the sad loss of a Canadian Musical Legend.

Then, in the span of what appears to be 3-5 mins time, @nowtoronto (apparently the only place able to actually verify a story) tweeted "Gordon Lightfoot is NOT dead. Manager just talked to him 30 mins ago. #Canwest fail."

Ahh yes, the joys of instant information transfer.

Though it looks like Macleans.ca has yet to get the message (the story's still up and linking to the now-defunct Ottawa Citizen article)

And while I apologize to Mr. Lightfoot for having a hand in spreading the misinformation of his passing, I feel infinitely more incensed that our established media would drop the ball in such an obvious and idiotic way.

I get it that as an institution you want to be the first with a story; News told 2nd place isn't news. But no one thought to call his manager?

Apparently someone thought to call Ronny Hawkins (a friend of Mr. Lightfoot's) and confirm with him but not the person who deals with him on a day to day basis?

Of course it's far easier to write a retraction and apologize than to miss out on a story, right?

Well, on the bright side, Mr. Lightfoot: Some free press, a brief moment of Canadian introspection and a few moments more to quickly announce a Canada-wide "come-back" tour.

I'd say it isn't a total wash.

Thanks to Now Magazine for being... uh, Journalists.

Now I'm off to buy some of his music on iTunes.

I figure, hey, you help fake his death, you can at least reward the man by spreading around some good tunes with the good news.



Cheers,
Brandon


Update from The Globe And Mail here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How To Attend A Party

Rules. You gotta have'em.

As someone who's organized their fair share of shindigs over the years, I'm still surprised at how many people can't just show up and enjoy themselves.

I'm not sure what it is -- maybe it's something in the air, or the commotion... maybe the booze.

Hell, probably all three.

I dunno.

So, for those who need reminding, let's keep it simple:

When you're out in public, there's no need to be an asshat.

This is how to attend a party:

1. Be civil. Disagreements are bound to happen, but don't be a bully. If you can't agree, walk away. Don't escalate, don't berate. It's not the time or the place. Move along and enjoy your night talking to others who you can get along with. Incidentally: I'm not talking 'friendly, healthy debate' here. That's a two-way, mutually-agreed-upon, street to travel... usually far away in a corner where you can talk to each other and be heard. It's not a public shouting match or brow-beating session.

2. Be mindful. Don't force yourself on others and be respectful of their emotional, mental and physical space. --> This one comes up a lot for some reason. You can converse with someone without having a direct view up their nostril (or vice versa). Also: Just because you have one good conversation with someone does not mean you're now 'Best Buds'. Chill out. Relax. Have a good time. And, seriously, pull back on the intensity throttle. By a lot.

3. If you're not enjoying yourself: Leave. Hey, some shindigs aren't for everyone -- it happens. If it's not your gig, don't stick around and work to ruin the night for others. No one's forcing you to stay and those who are enjoying themselves don't deserve to be bothered.

That's it. Really.

The rules are incredibly simple... and yet so many can't operate under those conditions.

I dunno, maybe it's just a sign of the times that people, so emboldened by this 'say-whatever's-on-your-mind' web ideology, forget how to deal with Human beings on a polite, face-to-face basis.

Maybe.

I figure: Sure, say what's on your mind, but remember there's a person on the other end of your words.

But if you can't be decent and civil amongst your own kind, then it's time to go back to being by yourself.

'Cause if there's one thing I've learned over the years it's that no matter how hard you try, when you invite a bunch of people over for coffee, eventually someone's going to squat over the pot.

And that's why we have these rules:

To weed out those who'd really rather be alone anyway.

Cheers,
Brandon

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gong Hei Fat Choi

Happy Chinese New Year, folks!

Between the Olympics and feasting with family it was a busy weekend/Valentine's/Family Day.

Man, I'm still stuffed!

So, we're in the Year of The Tiger now which... well, I wasn't really sure what it meant.

Apparently I'm a 'Monkey'. And, well, Monkeys and Tigers don't get along.

Oh, joy. (See above picture for reason why... NOTE: You can see the rest of the tiger pics here.)

If you were born in 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998 or 2010 then you're a Tiger.

Which also means that you may find yourself living a successful and fulfilled life as an: Actor, Comedian, Chauffeur, Musician, Race Car Driver, Pilot, Artist, Writer, Flight Attendant, Travel Agent, Advertising Agent or Office Manager.

Here's a ton of 'information' on the Chinese Zodiac should you be so inclined, you may find that you fit the descriptions... or not.

Either way, it's kind of a fun little read.

At the very least it's a great collection of imagination flint for us writer-ly types.

And yes, for the rest of us who're intrigued, here's the breakdown:

The Rat: 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008
The Ox: 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009
The Tiger: 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010
The Rabbit: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011
The Dragon: 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
The Snake: 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013
The Horse: 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954,1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
The Sheep: 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015
The Monkey: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016
The Rooster: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017
The Dog: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018
The Pig: 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

Cheers!
Brandon

Friday, February 12, 2010

Following Up On That

John Mayer gave a tearful apology yesterday in front of a crowd of fans.



And while I can appreciate the sentiment -- and applaud the fact that he's willing to make such an open apology -- I just sort of wish he'd thought of this before hand.

Tho' I'm sure he's probably wishing that too.

Anyways, kudos to him for taking a step back... but just cutting yourself off from doing interviews isn't going to fix the problem. Just sayin'.

But hey, a whole whack of people end up learning things the hard way (myself included). Maybe this is the push he needs, maybe not. Maybe he'll write a song about it. I dunno.

Best of luck to him.

In other news, my second draft Pipeline is coming along swimmingly. I'll be off celebrating an interesting mix of Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year this weekend so I'm not entirely sure how much writing will get done... but hey, two celebrations for the price of one!

I'm not entirely sure what transpires during Chinese New Year but if any of it involves eating, I'm in a whole lot of trouble... :P

Cheers!
Brandon

Thursday, February 11, 2010

When There's Just No Excuse To Be That Stupid

I'm all for free speech. I believe that everyone deserves the right to say whatever they feel comfortable sharing with the world. I don't care who you are, you go ahead and say whatever it is that's just gotta get out of your head.

With the proviso:

As long as you're prepared to live with the consequences.

Long ago, when I was in the experimenting phase of being a young, muddled, teenage idiot, I discovered that I was really good at saying all sorts of mean and nasty things.

Sure, most of it was just a greatest hits list of stuff I'd picked up from being a quiet fat kid in Public school.

But somewhere in the transition from Public to High school I found a semblance of backbone.

Which, like most dumb kids, I promptly abused.

Insults, put downs, comebacks -- my mouth became a loaded weapon and, being a pubescent, angry kid with not a whole lot of self-confidence (or self-control), I reveled in the little bit of power my sharp tongue allowed me.

Until I got punched in the face.

See, one of the things that I only learned in hindsight was that most of the people I'd said horrible things to... they were people that cared about me, or were too nice to do something about it.

They'd shake their heads or walk away or both; Maybe laugh along, maybe spin it into a joke.

Except this one kid. I think his name was Jason... or something. Started with a J.

He didn't like the words coming out of my mouth. Or the fact that other people around him used my words as an excuse to laugh at him.

A lot.

So he punched me in the face.

There's a kind of clarity that rides along with pain, specifically when the stars clear and you realize there's yet another fist coming toward you.

When it was all said and done, when I apologized to him there in that alleyway, I'd meant it.

I'd wiped the blood from my nose and the tears from my eyes and I got it. That immediate physical connection - that fist to the skull, a very literal rebuttal of my venom-tipped words.

I realized very quickly and personally the effect my taunts and put downs had been having.

Angry kid or not, I had no right to spill acid on others.

Now, not saying I was fixed over night... but it set me on the path.

So when I read John Mayer's most recent interview -- that one he did with Playboy where he shared such insights as:

PLAYBOY: Do black women throw themselves at you?

MAYER:
I don’t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.

And

PLAYBOY: Did you send Aniston a copy of the CD after it was done?

MAYER:
No.

PLAYBOY:
Maybe she’ll download it from BitTorrent.

MAYER:
If Jennifer Aniston knows how to use BitTorrent I’ll eat my fucking shoe. One of the most significant differences between us was that I was tweeting. There was a rumor that I had been dumped because I was tweeting too much. That wasn’t it, but that was a big difference. The brunt of her success came before TMZ and Twitter. I think she’s still hoping it goes back to 1998. She saw my involvement in technology as courting distraction. And I always said, “These are the new rules.”

Or

PLAYBOY:
If you didn’t know you, would you think you’re a douche bag?

MAYER:
It depends on what I picked up. My two biggest hits are “Your Body Is a Wonderland” and “Daughters.” If you think those songs are pandering, then you’ll think I’m a douche bag. It’s like I come on very strong. I am a very…I’m just very. V-E-R-Y. And if you can’t handle very, then I’m a douche bag. But I think the world needs a little very. That’s why black people love me.

PLAYBOY:
Because you’re very?

MAYER:
Someone asked me the other day, “What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?” And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a ni--er pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, “I can’t really have a hood pass. I’ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ‘We’re full.’"

I had to stop a moment. I went back and I re-read the interview, trying to see if I was mis-reading, maybe the context was wrong or the questions were leading him or egging him on.

Nope. He was lobbed pretty open questions... and he responded to them like an arrogant douche.

Which I find somewhat ironic considering the whole undercurrent of the interview felt to me like he was trying to explain away how he wasn't actually a douche, just misunderstood.

PLAYBOY: What if you were to google the phrase John Mayer is a douche bag?

MAYER:
You’d get a lot of hits. It’s this whole perception thing about tabloids, where 85 percent of the stories are not true. If you align yourself to be exactly who you know you are and to have dignity, maybe through that distorted lens you look askew to everyone else. I’ve done away with feeling aloof and trying to seem suave and bulletproof. I’ve resigned myself to being slightly awkward and goofballish.

Throughout the interview he wanders across all sorts of territory, from contrite to defiant to matter-of-fact, he almost even manages to make it make sense.

PLAYBOY: Were you one of those smart kids who hated school?

MAYER:
I would act up and get sent to the dean’s office and talk to him as though I was an adult. “I’m not trying to upset anybody, sir. With all due respect to you and your staff, I’m just not supposed to be here. It’s quite difficult for me to sit in class, because I’m supposed to be a guitar player, sir.” I was very cocky. But from the outset, there was opposition. My parents were not the biggest fans, to put it diplomatically. I grew up saying, “You’ll see. I can’t explain it yet, but you’ll see.” Early in my career, when I was 19 or 20, I’d meet presidents of record companies and refused to give them my demos. I’d say, “We’ll see each other again sometime.”

PLAYBOY: That is really cocky.

MAYER:
It was incredibly cocky. I was so tempered in opposition that when the opposition went away, I started to look like a total asshole. When my first record came out, I was still saying, “You’ll see. Check out what I did. Eat it.” It gave me this reputation for being really arrogant. I probably should have stood on top of a roof and yelled, “Fuck you!” That “I’ll show you” instinct is still alive and well. Now, instead of “We don’t think you can do it,” it’s “We think you’re a douche bag.”

PLAYBOY:
Do you still have a chip on your shoulder?

MAYER: Yep. I have an extremely tall antenna that reaches high into the sky and brings in a lot of cool stuff but also a lot of unnecessary stuff. If I hadn’t had my upbringing, I would have probably been like, “Yeah, this is fun. Cool.” But right now I still have “See? See, motherfucker?”

But then you get deeper into the interview, you can almost feel him relaxing. Relating as opposed to preening.

And that's when you get 'white-supremacist genitals'.

Or

PLAYBOY: This was August 2008, when you said you had ended the relationship “because I don’t want to waste somebody’s time if something’s not right.”

MAYER:
It really, really upset her. I wanted to take responsibility for having ended it because I saw it as such an offense. But a lot of people felt I was saving face. This would serve to begin the period of my life I’m just exiting, when love made me feel guilty and people called me a rat, a womanizer and a cad.

PLAYBOY: You’ve also been called a man-whore.

MAYER:
I feel like women are getting their comeuppance against men now. I hear about man-whores more than I hear about whores. When women are whorish, they’re owning their sexuality. When men are whorish, they’re disgusting beasts. I think they’re paying us back for a double standard that’s lasted for a hundred years.

And

PLAYBOY: At this point, what’s your ideal relationship?

MAYER:
Here’s what I really want to do at 32: fuck a girl and then, as she’s sleeping in bed, make breakfast for her. So she’s like, “What? You gave me five vaginal orgasms last night, and you’re making me a spinach omelet? You are the shit!” So she says, “I love this guy.” I say, “I love this girl loving me.” And then we have a problem. Because that entails instant relationship. I’m already playing house. And when I lose interest she’s going to say, “Why would you do that if you didn’t want to stick with me?”

PLAYBOY:
Why do you do it?

MAYER:
Because I want to show her I’m not like every other guy. Because I hate other men. When I’m fucking you, I’m trying to fuck every man who’s ever fucked you, but in his ass, so you’ll say “No one’s ever done that to me in bed.”

And I realize that, in a way... there's a certain elegance to the good ol' fashioned punch in the mouth.

Nothing big, nothing drawn out, just the kind of punch that reminds you there's someone on the other end of your words.

Empathy, learned in 2 seconds flat.

Now, no, I'm not advocating violence or the destruction of fine dental work.

I'm not saying we should all run off and lay the smack down on those who've wronged us or anything like that.

But man, oh man... sometimes I wish people would learn to think before they talk.

And when you can't trust yourself to open your mouth and not spill venom and bile all over... well, sometimes self-censorship isn't a bad thing.

'Cause that punch may sting in the short term, but I'll tell you this:

The last time I went back to my hometown to visit, I happened to walk by that guy. He was bigger now, taller than me and a whole lot meaner lookin'.

I didn't even remember him, but he sure as hell remembered me.

He didn't say a word, he didn't need to. He watched my face as I looked up and the recognition kicked in.

His grin said it all.

So, yes, Free Speech and all that.

Keeping in mind one little thing:

People remember the shit you say about them long after you've forgotten you said it.

Cheers,
Brandon

P.S:

Oh, and John? Fixing your whole 'being a douche' thing starts at home and it starts simple:

Think before you speak, man.

'Cause you're flinging your bile everywhere.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hit The Road, Jack -- Or, 5 Ways To Save '24'

I've been a fan of 24 since I watched the first and second seasons back-to-back in one tense, sleep-deprived weekend.

Back in the day I'd watch the show and it stirred something in me, something primal. I'd watch 24 and then go skydiving or something. It made me want to go for a run or shout German or Russian at strangers (... not that I did that).

Now I can barely be inspired watch the episodes backed up on my PVR.

Still, I've sat and watched this season and what's really bothered me is how little it seems they've learned over the years.

It's like time passes in this world and somehow that means a giant reset button must be pushed.

- Jack returns to fighting form, a little older, a little crankier...
- No one remembers or cares who he is.
- This includes the Criminal community...?! Really folks, eight 'days' in now and there's no criminal 'watch list' for Jack Bauer? No 'heads up for THIS guy -- seriously, he will mess you up'?
- Moles always slink their ways back into embarrassingly high ranks of Government Organizations. Really? The year is 2010, information is everywhere, you can't do a full and invasive background check? (especially considering the amount of leaks there's been over the years...?)

Anyways, here's my thoughts on how to bring '24' back from the brink:

1. Kill Jack Bauer. And I mean, kill him dead. Like, die in the street like a dog at the worst humanly possible time. You know that 4 hour setup every season does? Show Jack jumping in to save the day, show Jack kicking ass like the badass of old, show Jack actually THIS close to saving the day before the full-on '24 hour' mark. 'Cause, hell yeah, he's just that damn good. Jack don't need 24 hours anymore. He can do it in 4.

And then BLAM. 2 in the chest, one in the head. Leave a rudderless CTU scrambling to pick up the pieces. 20 hours left to go and the biggest possible set back. Let someone new rise to the top or watch a team of people on the ground try and do what Jack did by himself.

Also, when it's all over: Give Jack a hero's funeral as the epilogue. Thank him properly for his service to the country. Show him buried amongst all the other heroes who've died doing Jack's job and more. Then, reveal that it's all a dog and pony show. That Jack's been buried in a simple grave right next to his wife. Just like he would've wanted. Last shot of the whole shebang is Jack's headstone side-by-side with his wife, having earned his rest. Maybe some sort of poignant 'He Saved The World A Lot' quote. Maybe just 'Father and Friend'.

That said, they'll never kill Jack Bauer. So:

2. Make It Personal. I wanna see his loose ends come back to get him. Remember how the Chinese didn't forgive and forget? Remember how awesome that was? Yeah. Forget political intrigue, BLAM, Kim's dead (just to show they aren't screwing around here) and his worst enemies have taken his grand-daughter. Their ultimate goal? Simply: Revenge.

Remember the movie TAKEN? Lets see Jack losing his cool, using every damned tool in his arsenal. A man REALLY on a mission. We know Jack's got very little left to live for, let's make his last day utterly personal. I wanna see a Jack who's calling in every favour he's ever been owed, I wanna see him calling up the President of the United States and yelling 'I'm Jack-Fucking-Bauer and God-dammit you will help me'.

If neither of the above 2 are in the cards then let me submit these more minor (but heavily effective) changes:

3. Respect. This drafts off my earlier point but Jack should be the guy who people talk about in hushed tones. He walks into a room and it silences. Newbies should be going 'who's that guy' and getting slapped upside the head. Every time anyone of credible authority -- who should know who Jack Bauer is -- questions his ability or denies him for bureaucratic reasons, the show takes a hit. People should be moving mountains to help this man whenever he appears.

Jack Bauer should be able to walk into any Government building, fully armed for war and those in the know should be like 'well, I'm sure he's got a good reason'. Simply put, anyone who questions Jack's loyalty at this point needs a kick in the ass for not reading up on who this dude is.

4. Momentum. My gawd, this show has devolved to talking heads talking about talking heads with a minute of gunplay inbetween. In the most recent episode they actually had a scene -- and this was just to fill time -- where criminals invading a police evidence warehouse got lost. They were being led, they were given explicit instructions on how to get there: 'Go to locker 3101, down the hall, on your left'. They don't. They stand there at locker 3110 trying the passcode going 'Why won't this work!?'. Yep, that's 3 minutes of your 24 hours you'll never get back.

You know what was great about (most of) the first Season? I felt that the scenes were taking me somewhere. Leading up to something. This season we have entire sub-plots that not only appear arbitrary, they're downright insulting to the viewer. Why not introduce subplots when they're needed, not just to help kill time from the main plot? If your main plot is that thin then head back to the drawing board... I mean, you can only water down the gruel so much.

5. Backup. By now Jack Bauer should have the best of the best at his back every step of the way. I'm sorry but this version of CTU doesn't cut it. 'Oh no! We lost Jack Bauer, our drones can't find him'! At which point, the smart, well-trained, world-class CTU agent goes 'oh, wait, I've got him on Infared.' Or 'The tracking bug we slipped into his coffee because we knew (having read his file) that he'd never actually wear one on his own'.

Why does everyone have to wait for clues from Bauer? Why can't anyone else on the team take the initiative that leads to a break that puts them ahead of the game? Or, shocker, actually HELPS Bauer. I'm not talking race-against-the-clock things like saving a limo from exploding, I'm talking about smart, thoughtful, intelligent people who foresee, plan for and prepare for places where Jack will actually need help down the line. Aka: Weaknesses.

You know... maybe acting like a real team would. Otherwise, what's the point of having a team? Right now, every single agent in that building looks like they're all running off of one shared brain cell.

And it's gotta stop.

Anyways, that's my list... I love this show and I think it's about time that Jack got his due... and a proper send off. The show needs a breath of fresh air, and... well, this is how I think it should go.

Cheers,
Brandon

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Hart to Heart

I always wanted to be a rebel when I was a kid.

You know, that guy that flipped off the system?

The tough, cool guy who always looked so bad-ass; who got all the chicks and smoked and had wicked tatts and took no shit from anyone.

Only thing was, I could never shut off that voice of reason in my head -- or silence it long enough to reeeeally let myself make the serious life-changing mistakes that old chums with nicknames like 'Ozzy' and 'Vedder' did.

Sure, I did me some dumbasser-y when I was young, no doubt, but yeah... I always had that gut check firmly in place. I could always see the ramifications of my actions down the line. Thus, my fist-fights were always honest, I never jumped nobody and never joined a gang; I never got expelled, went to juvie or got myself locked up.

But damn if I didn't romanticize the hell out of it.

Even now I just can't help but be drawn to different kinds of shows, those that tend to have a darker bent to them: Dexter, Durham County, Sons Of Anarchy, The Wire.

I like it when my heroes are flawed, when they make mistakes -- sometimes catastrophic ones.

I like it when actions have ramifications that don't just go away 'cause the credits roll.

I like shades of gray and double-crosses and bad guys who win because they'll do what men of conscience won't.

In short, I like seeing 'reality' reflected back to me in my stories.

What I've been realizing over the last while is that that puts me distinctly in the minority amongst TV viewers.

Not TV viewers that I know and associate with... but TV viewers on the whole.

I'm sure most of you've read the fantastic transcript from Hart Hanson's Keynote at the "Future Of Story" conference (thanks to todoom for transcribing it!)... a great deal of it was rather eye-opening for me, but this part really hit home:

"... if you cleave to, if you support – as an entertainer – the basic values of your culture and society, you have a much better chance of reaching a mass audience than if you challenge the mores and morals of a society. I hope a huge number of you are going, “Well, that’s what artists do. Artists challenge what we think.” And I would say, that’s right. So I’m not an artist."

Now, long ago I realized that TV is a business and that writing for TV is far more Craft than Art. But somehow this quote just really cemented home a different sort of perspective.

You want a hit show? Give people what they want to see. Reflect their ethics and morals and mores back to them. Tweak it where you can but, essentially, tell them what they want to hear as many different ways as possible.

Sell them the Dream, not the Reality.

'Cause, as the numbers seem to bear, very few watch TV to see the darkest aspects -- let alone the painfully true aspects -- of their life reflected back at them.

Which is... weird to me.

I've never known the happily-married sitcom life: Mom, Dad, Sparky, picket fence and the kids. But I've never known the dark, hard, criminal life of the streets either.

Certainly nothing like anything in The Wire.

And yet it's still this sort of odd dichotomy where writing about either side of the line feels fake -- with the 'shiny, happy people' side feeling moreso than the other.

At least I know people who've done hard time.

Then again, maybe I've been looking at it all wrong. Taking it in from the wrong angle. 'Looking down' on it (as Mr. Hanson says) without really giving it fair thought.

Maybe that's what the Dream is all about: The last stand.

That shining refuge and hope that at the end of the day Good will triumph over Evil; that hard working people will be rewarded and the assholes in life will always get their comeuppance.

I mean, is it wrong to want to come home after a hard day of dealing with jerks and just escape to a simpler world? To turn off the brain and enjoy a story... maybe even surrounded by people you love?

Truth be told, when you put it that way... I can kind of get it.

One of the very few times we'd all sit down and watch TV as a family was when my mom would grab us kids by the collar and sit us down to watch Little House On The Prairie.

At the time I thought it was stupid... but even now, as I look back on it, I can't help but have fond memories of the times we shared there.

Is there a way to serve the dream but keep it real? I'm sure there is.

There's gotta be some way to play it straight and fair but swing for the high note.

There's just gotta.

Can you do that for 20-ish episodes a season for 100 episodes or more?

That... yeah, that'd be the trick.

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, February 08, 2010

Monday Music Selection

My brain's too slow to think of interesting things to write about today. Been trying all day but no dice.

So I share with you the healing power of music:



Cheers!
Brandon

Friday, February 05, 2010

Once More, With Feeling


The always-insightful Jim Henshaw has a great post on his blog where he brings up Mel Gibson's recent antics and essentially asks the question:

When do we let people go back to being 'normal' after they screw up?

The answer, sadly, is when we let ourselves forget; More so: when we stop caring.

This is problematic when you're a star.

Doubly so when you're prone to fits of furious, drunken, anti-Semitic tirades.

Here's what I've gleaned from the US star-system:

When you're someone famous, you're only as good as your last headline. And the media, dumb and predictable as it is, is at least consistent in this regard. Whatever bad crap you did before is going to get thrown in your face the moment you sit back in that junket chair.

You don't think Winona Ryder got the rundown of shoplifting questions the moment she stepped into the press room? Or Eddie Murphy and his dalliance with a transsexual? Or Hugh Grant with his hooker?

Maybe Mel was right to be pissed off. To him, 4 years have passed. He's lived four years of his life since that moment. He did all the 'necessary' things -- in his mind -- to make it right.

What he may be forgetting is that those 4 years for Mel are as fresh as a Google search for those lazy journalists needing something 'edgy' to push past their editors.

Were they valid questions? Technically, sure.

Were they designed to elicit a response? Absolutely.

Here's my question: Is Mel Gibson a hot head? Does he have a temper? Or is he just sick of hearing the same question lobbed at him through different milquetoast filters?

I don't know if you've ever seen a press junket for a film, let alone one featuring a major star, but the lineup of reporters and cameramen can stretch around the block. It can take hours, all broken down into 10 min (or less) chunks of reporters coming in to get as many usable soundbites from you as they can.

If you're someone who feels like they've paid their dues, there's only so many times you can answer the proscribed PR answer before it starts to grate on you.

That's just Human nature.

That said, he's an ACTOR; his entire career is based on pretending he's someone else. And this is not exactly his first press junket or his first scandal...

Maybe Mel just wasn't playing along anymore.

Maybe he, at whatever point, just decided to say 'fuck it' to the game that they're all playing.

The 'game' -- which is really no secret at this point thanks to our Perezes and TMZs -- is that we love to see our celebrities humbled. Once they've had a taste of being 'us' again, they're free to go.

Just ask Hugh Grant -- the current reigning champ of the public apology -- who, after his dew-eyed mea culpa on the Tonight show, was quickly huggled back into the fold by the waiting masses. His trick -- if you want to call it a trick -- was that he went before the masses and publicly LOOKED apologetic. He seemed genuinely contrite.

Was he acting? Was he hiding a secret Tiger-esque cache of hooker-hook-ups? We'll never know and, more importantly, we don't care. He kissed the ring, threw in a bit of tongue for the ladies and strolled off the lot looking like crisp dollar bill.

Mel Gibson not only failed the ritualistic 'trial by douche' that all returning actors go through, he flipped them the bird and showed -- to the public that had 'forgiven and forgot' -- that he really didn't mean it.

Even though he kneeled and kissed the ring, in his heart, he was still looking down on the plain-clothes folk; cursing them for making him kneel.

And so the outrage begins anew.

Do I agree with it? Do I think it's right?

Personally, I don't care.

Ask me about a penal system that locks away instead of rehabilitates. Ask me about regular folk who've paid their debt to society and only wish they could have that kind of podium with which to earn their forgiveness; to be granted their proper re-entrance to the world.

To not live the rest of their lives marked by past mistakes.

Though...

Hey! Maybe we can kill two birds with one stone?

Send our 'contrite' stars to work with inmates who're legitimately trying to get back on the straight and narrow.

Some sort of 'one of us, one of them' approach.

First up, our Wynonas and our Hughs followed by our Bubba's and Lloyd's -- give'm all a few minutes to make their case and their apologies. Then release'em back to the wild.

Hey, it might even make for some good TV.

Just a thought.



Cheers,
Brandon

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Side Project: Letters From Imaginary Characters - Henry

I've got voices in my head. A lot of them.

Sometimes they tell me to burn things.

It's okay tho'... I'm writer.

Apparently in my profession it's entirely encouraged to have imaginary people speak to you or, better yet, through you.

So the concept of my side project is -- whenever they're yelling loud enough -- to give them a bit of space to breathe.

They'll get about a page or so to write an entry and get whatever it is off their minds and out there into the world.

So, first up -- as, well, he's the loudest -- is Henry.

---

I lie in bed, watching the shapes drift above me.

It’s been dark now for hours, the clock says 3am but I’ve trained myself to not notice. Every ounce of my being focused on the sliver of space between my eyelids; Keeping that perfect balance that allows me to see them.

My Ophthalmologist told me they’re 'just floaters’; Specks of protein ‘floating’ in the vitreous humour of my eye. He was rational and straight forward. He was certain. He knew.

Yet here I lie, in the dark, eyes straining against the abyss, watching translucent horrors dance above me; swimming in the ink like pond water beneath my microscope.

And yes, for the record, I’ve considered the fact that I'm losing my mind.

Annie hadn’t been buried more than a few weeks when I first noticed them -- the night terrors had left me cocooned in our quilt, sweating and whimpering in the silence of our condo.

Through my tears I stared into the darkness above, begging 'God' or 'Allah' or Quantum Physics to make it right. To take me to Heaven or Nirvana or wherever Muslims go.

To be back with her. To go where she went.

But my soul, like my body, remained inert.

Off in the corner of my eye a flicker of movement grabbed my attention. Staring, focusing, my eyes beheld one form and then another; Soon, like a starfield of evil, a host of diaphanous creatures overtook the sky above me.

Some with tendrils and savage spikes, or eyes on stalks or mouths with lancets, I watched them glide above me, silent as a ghost’s whisper – each one different and yet somehow the same; co-existing inside this… ecosystem… above my bed.

Silence overwhelmed me then as lay there mesmerized by their dance.

Oh, I tried to rationalize it. My consciousness clawed inside me, bringing up every mote of pseudo-psychotherapy I'd ever ingested; I was dreaming; I was projecting.

Somehow this was all a product of my unconscious desire… some internal need for a break from reality.

But dreams they were not. And even if they were... it would be a blessing. For my dreams were not dreams. Not anymore. Now twisted and gnarled into the most pitiable and vengeful of sights; Visions that seared me to my core, revealing a pain unlike any I'd ever felt.

Yes, the problem was that my dreams had become all too real.

In them I’d see her: Healthy. Svelte. Long, dark hair full and shimmering, draped over mocha shoulders, warm skin pressed against my own. My heart would pound, struggling, trapped. Her perfume -- long before it would be used to hide the stench of her sores -- threatened to bind me, to hold me down, to drown me.

Every night it was more torture than I could bear, each glance or kiss a jagged shard through my very being.

Yet there was no escape, night after night I discovered that ticklish spot on her thigh or made love on my father's floating dock. Or shared our first chicken curry and remembered the way it –-

No. Awake. Here.

Eyes open.

This... is better.

These things, these ethereal monstrosities -- whatever they are -- instill in me a sense of solace. Of purpose.

I watch them in peace.

Like a fishbowl of nightmares above me, their existence is a reminder that there is more out there than what I know.

And somehow that gives me hope.

I will find you, Annie.

Out there.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Ugh... Sick

The last couple days have been a hazy blur of 'ew' and 'gross'.

My body's finally remembered how to rebel.

And not in that whole cool James Dean 'Rebel Without A Cause' sort of thing.

No folks. We're talking white-cell-vs-viral-payload-bloody-freaking-warfare.

Incidentally, the brief moments of lucidity have been rather... engrossing.

My dreams (day or otherwise) haven't been this vivid in years.

I've also had a bit of a revelation:

I have a need to write something where the first question out of my head isn't 'but is this a show'?

I hadn't realized it but I've been throwing ideas on the pyre like cordwood - things that seemed great in my head but weren't 'TV' so I'd scavenge them for parts and toss the rest to the blaze.

Most are for little short stories... which I like. I never seem to be able to drag a story out to fill a novel... I tend to like to get to the point.

But some are for comic ideas -- which I can't entirely take credit for as I've just fallen madly in love with Joe Hill's 'Locke and Key'. Over the last couple days I've devoured the two trades and I crave more.

So yeah, there's that.

My TV pilot is great and the second draft is coming along fine but I've been feeling this need to write something fantastical -- maybe sci-fi, maybe fantasy, maybe horror... maybe all of the above. Not sure. But I can feel it banging away on the side of my cerebellum.

'Let me out'.

Because, as my most recent dreams will attest, there is just some whacked out shit going on in my head that -- no matter how hard I try to spin it -- just screams 'not for TV'.

And no matter how much I try, it will not be burned.

So... yeah, I think I might take it up as a side project -- something that I can shift gears into from time to time. Probably something short. Probably.

I'm not entirely sure just yet -- it's still sort of fuzzy... like your teeth after a hard night of drinking.

Whatever it is, it's gonna be wild.

Cheers,
Brandon

Monday, February 01, 2010

Crushing It

Jill Golick must not sleep much.

Especially not today as her latest online adventure, 'Crushing It', goes live.

That's right, 'latest'.

Jill's been hard at work creating new and interesting web content for a while now, in fact you might remember her earlier web-series Hailey Hacks, an online show that teaches kids cool tips and tricks on the web; or boymeetsgrrl, a digital drama/love story told over vlogs and blogs and Facebook.

Now we have 'Crushing It' -- an ambitious project that brings Jill, producer-extraordinaire Cathleen MacDonald, and an international team of writers together to pull off a week-long story across half a dozen social media services.

Billed as a Social Media Week Story Project that's "A comedy about relationships and the social web told entirely in the social web in honour of Social Media Week 2010." Crushing It is already underway and it looks like it's going to be a fun ride.

You can follow the story a number of different ways including the following hash-tags on Twitter: #cistory and #smw

The next 'episode' starts at 3pm today.

So hop on and follow along, it's going to be a great week.

Cheers!
Brandon