Movie snacks, socks and stories to tell

Last week, I managed to find some time to watch four feature films. I didn’t watch them in the theatre, although, there is one I plan on grabbing some hot buttered popcorn for.

Watching movies at home is great. You don’t have to buy overpriced drinks and popcorn or nachos. Settling in with a gin and tonic or a tumbler of whiskey sounds like a good idea. But I do think having whiskey during movie night depends on what movie you’re planning on watching. I have yet to figure out kind of movie would be appropriate with the hard stuff.

However, I can think of a couple of actors who would go well with a shot or two of Lagavulin or Macallan. My mouth waters at the thought. Considering I haven’t found the right movie that goes with a good whiskey, I defaulted to a good herbal tea for the four films. Yes, that’s boring. No, I don’t care. Just know that when I bring out the whiskey, it will be for something special, something unique.

As for in-home movie snacks, I guess I could make my own popcorn. Unfortunately, I don’t have a popcorn popper. I could use one of my stainless steel pots to make the popcorn but then, I’d set off the smoke alarm and ruin a perfectly good pot. Not really interested in a hot air popcorn popper even though it’s considered the healthy alternative to using hot oil. And I’m ambivalent about microwaved popcorn.

Since I refuse to put in the work to make good theatre-worthy popcorn, snacks of choice would be mixed nuts or rice cakes with almond butter. That might be a little too healthy for some folks but that’s how my tastebuds roll. I had the rice cakes.

Screenwriting is always about what people say
or do, whereas good writing is about
a thought process or an abstract image
or an internal monologue, none of which
works on screen
— David Nicholls

Now that the discussion of in-home movie snacks has been dealt with, I’d like to say watching the four films was the first time I was consciously aware I was viewing the films as more than just as a person looking to be entertained by what was on the screen.

To be more specific, I was looking at lighting, the choice of camera angles and the type of camera shot. I practiced figuring out within the three-act story arc where act two and act three started. Not sure if I was all the successful. Yeah, I was getting nerdy.

Call it research. Call it learning. Call it absorbing everything like a sponge and reflecting on it.

And before I started watching the third film, I came up with another idea for another novel. Let’s just say the idea was inspired by one of the first two films I watched. A re-imagining, perhaps. Maybe more like a deconstruction? Anyway, it probably won’t look anything like the source of the inspiration after I’m done figuring out the characters and fine-tuning the storyline.

Considering I have two writing projects I need to focus on, coming up with another future project seems a little ambitious and is begging for trouble when it comes to time management. It’s probably safe to say that for a lot of writers, coming up with several story ideas that have enough traction to become novels or screenplays is something to relish and be grateful for. It offers the choice to work on a couple of ideas simultaneously or one by one — finish one project and start on the next.

When I started writing, I didn’t know if I had a story worthy of becoming a book inside me. Then, after I wrote The Raven Sonata, I didn’t know if there was another story tucked inside me that I could sink my teeth into. To continue to hone, to stretch and push, and to get more ambitious with my storytelling skillset.

It turns out I have more than one story to tell. It’s not like I have a ton of stories dying to be told. I have no idea how many stories I have and how many of them will end up on paper. And I don’t think I’m too concerned about that right now. Nevertheless, I’m surprised. Surprised that I like being a storyteller. Surprised that I’ve found the one thing that allows me to express myself in a way where I simply couldn’t give a fuck what anyone else says. And I’ll never stop being surprised by the tiny pile of story ideas I’ve acquired, all with not-fully developed characters, waiting to play with me.

I know I’m becoming more ambitious with the stories I want to tell. Being more ambitious requires figuring out how to execute those lofty goals a person has set for oneself. That’s where I am now. Complexity and simplicity have been ubiquitous qualities that have shaped all aspects of my life. So, why wouldn’t I have that enter my writing. It’s a matter of allowing the complexity and simplicity to flow and express itself in the written word. It’s not an easy process but the journey has been rewarding, so far.

Although my focus is on the second novel and the short film screenplay, it doesn’t stop me from thinking about the most recent idea. It will remain an idea that will incubate and grow on its own. I estimate working on the story arc for this new idea won’t happen until late summer/early fall unless something changes and I find myself scratching notes on file cards sooner than later.

It’s always exciting to come up with new story ideas that immediately grab hold of your imagination. All fun and games until you realize you have to prioritize. Either I reel in my imagination or pull up my socks and manage my time so I can get this pile of stuff done…

I guess I’ll pull up my socks.

Playtime desired

The fact of storytelling hints at a fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection. Where there is perfection, there is no story to tell — Ben Okri

Because I accepted the challenge of writing my first screenplay, I’ve been slightly obsessed, for the last few weeks, with finding movies — feature and short — to watch. Or at least add them to my ever-growing ‘to-watch’ film list.

I have four feature films I’d like to watch, hopefully, this week, assuming I can find the time. The four films in question are Milk, American Gigolo, Neruda and Lust, Caution. It’s a diverse list. I threw in American Gigolo just because I needed to see what I was missing out on when the film hit theatres and I was only 12 years old. All four films are rentals. If I like them enough, I just might want to own a copy of them.

And then, there is Wong Kar-Wai’s classic In the Mood for Love. From the snippets I’ve seen of the film, it is visually sumptuous and I’m in the mood to be seduced by what the director has to offer and to discover his deftness as a storyteller. I managed to find a copy of the film and I’m looking forward to watching it.

Because of the diversity of the viewpoints of these directors, I’m excited to discover how they spin and weave a story on screen. I’ve already viewed a number of short films online at a site called shortoftheweek.com. There are some beautiful gems on that site. So much to absorb and to think about. The art of storytelling is endless fascinating to me.

And I desperately need to play with my characters. It’s annoying that I’m still so busy. Maybe I can finally start shifting focus onto my boys and girls. I’m somewhat surprised they’re not harassing me every waking moment.

I suppose a reason for this could be I’m already engaged in the silly nonsense of looking longingly at my playmates while I’m doing something I don’t want to do. It’s not one of those hideous lovelorn looks two people give each other. It’s more like ‘You know I’d prefer to spend time with you, getting into all sorts of trouble, rather than doing whatever responsible adult thing I’m doing right now, right?’

All work and no play make for lack of writing bliss. Boo. Yeah, I want regular playtime with my characters. If you met them, you would want to play with them, too. However, it’s an exclusive relationship. We’re all mutually possessive of each other and we’re not particularly concerned with how dysfunctional that sounds.

Gotta make this short. I need to put in my playtime.

Spinning my wheels

I’m restless. An energy is simmering in me, waiting to boil over. The wheels are spinning but they’re going nowhere.

Sure, I could keep busy with the everyday mundane but necessary bits of life. However, that’s just maintenance.

Maintenance, while necessary, can be really fucking boring. A major non-writing project was completed last Monday. But my commitment to the organization which is connected to the project, isn’t quite done yet. So, I’m in a bit of a limbo waiting for some elements to come my way to finish designing a smaller but final project for them. I’m hoping to be done in a couple of days.

I think I’m restless partly because it’s Spring. Being the transitional season it is, spring gets your brain out of winter to start preparing for summer. The non-writing project, which happens to be an annual gig, also happens to mark that transition for me. It signals that I will soon be free to dive back into the personal projects that ring true to my heart.

But knowing that doesn’t keep me from getting antsy and wanting to break free and run away somewhere with my fictional characters to spend some quality time with them. Well, I’m out of the winter phase, goddammit. And as much as I appreciate spring, I need to be in summer phase, to be in a more unencumbered, productive frame of mind.

The restlessness might also be partly due to some sort of delayed cabin fever. I’m itching to get out of my physical environment and wander off to parts unknown or parts I need to revisit. It’s more than wanting to be in another part of the country. It’s more like needing to be on another part of the continent or the other side of the planet.

Shed the things that want to define me as something I’m not. Get out from under some sort of oppressive weight. I need to be around people who naturally re-energize me. God knows I’m around enough energy-sucking vampires to know I need a break. There aren’t that many vampires around because I kicked a bunch of them out of my life. But the ones that remain can be really trying. We all have those vampires in our lives, right? And sometimes, having a wooden stake just sitting in your hand feels good, right?

This is what happens when I don’t spend enough time with my writing. Everything feels oppressive and I’m close to climbing the walls.

As you can see, I need to re-direct the restlessness and refocus. I need to get back to the writing process. That’s what it will take for me to settle down and feel grounded.

I’m tugging on the restraints big time and my characters are sorely tempted to grab a pair of bolt cutters and free me. But I’ve told them to wait a little longer. They actually do listening when they’re not barreling around like mad lunatics vying for my attention.

Soon, everything will fall away. Soon, everything will fall into place.