Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Starbuck and the Eclipse

Left Los Angeles for Death Valley on Sunday night to get a better view of the eclipse.  Still wasn't anywhere near total, but was significantly more covered than Los Angeles was.

And Starbuck had a blast, so it was worth it.

Sporting his Eclipse Shades.  Photo courtesy of Zach Hunter.

Leaving Death Valley.  From a spur near the Father Crowley Lookout.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Reno Tahoe International Film Festival, 2017

This is pretty cool, as I have many friends and family in the Reno Tahoe area.

But, it's not cool, because this film festival happens at the same time as the festival in Jerome, Arizona.

Alas... I cannot be in two places at once.

Good problem to have, I guess.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Irreview, Book Review: The Hollywood Pitching Bible

There are dozens and dozens and hundreds of books on screenwriting.  Whatever philosophical approach you can fathom on the topic, there's probably a book written on it, for it, or because of it.  Some are wonderful (The Art of Dramatic Writing), some are worth reading for some nugget of information or another (The Nutshell Technique), some are just fun to read (Your Screenplay Sucks!), some are part of the fabric of the trade (Screenplay)... and some are detrimental to the art form (Save the Cat!).

The point is, there's a shitload of books on screenwriting.

There is, however, a surprising lack of books on how to be a screenwriter.  Sure, there are biographical works (Adventures in the Screen Trade) and books on what screenwriters actually do (Writing Movies for Fun and Profit), but not so many about how to actually write to get that first job.

Basically... books on pitching and treatments.

Of the most recent two that I've read, one was banal and lacked useful depth (Pitching Hollywood), and the other was outright crap (Writing Treatments That Sell).

As far as book recommendations go, I had none.  There was no title I could tell an aspiring writer to pick up and read.

Until Paul Guay came along.

He recommended a book called The Hollywood Pitching Bible.  I approached it with caution, given that it's published by a small independent publisher and Mr. Guay's blurb is on the book (he is also referenced several times within its pages).

I must admit, however, to being pleasantly surprised.

It's a well-presented book (with a few typos), well-thought, and well-said.  It is, hands down, not only the best book on pitching and preparing a pitch that I've ever read, it is probably one of the best books on the screenwriting craft that I have in my library.

Taking it further: It is a must-have for anyone interested in becoming a screenwriter.

Rating: 12 (Style: 3 stars; Substance: 4 stars)

I'd have given "Style" 4 stars, but I can't forgive the typos and the college-essay aesthetic of the book.  That stated, I can't reiterate enough that aspiring screenwriters should pick up this book.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Way Down Film Festival, 2017

This one is nice for the film's director, Tyler Nisbet, whose first film with Short Pajamas ("Dog") played at the Way Down Film Festival in 2016.

Good stuff.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Stella Adler Academy Hollywood Short+Sweet Film Festival, 2017


That one was a mouthful.

But, it's cool for a few reasons.
  1. It's the first multi-acceptance festival for Short Pajamas in the Hollywood area (other fests have shown multiple Short Pajamas projects, but this is the first time it's happened in the same year's festival).
  2. Short+Sweet is an international conglomerate of festivals that started in Australia (anyone who knows me knows that I adore Australia).
  3. Stella Adler is one of the premiere acting schools in Los Angeles, and it also means that Mark Ruffalo is judging our films.
Sadly, they were a bit disorganized, and only delivered their laurels to us this past Tuesday.  But, "Bella Donna" screened on July 31 to much aplomb, and "Gloriana" screened August 7 to more of the same.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Irreview, Book Review: Science Matters

After having read Robert M. Hazen's The Story of Earth (review here), I wanted to check out more from Mr. Hazen.  I love science and I like his style, so I perused his catalogue and picked out one I thought would be appropriate as I delve deeper into physics and geoscience.

Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy

It is, as its name implies, a book for those whose experiences and grasps of science are limited.  It is not, however, a textbook.  There are no problems to solve, no review questions to prove that one is making progress, and no math to muddle up your basic understanding.

Covering the basics of physics, chemistry, Earth science, and biology, Science Matters is nothing more than a book that introduces basic concepts and discusses how they apply to your every day life and to science itself.

And it's a book that everyone should read.  Yes.  Everyone.

Now, that's not stating it's the best science book out there (indeed, Hazen's The Story of Earth is far superior, both in style and substance), but it's importance, combined with its egalitarian and modest presentation, cannot be denied.  In today's climate of science deniers and religious fundamentalists, something this effective in communicating basic principles and foundations of science would go a long way to eliminating stupidity.

Now, that's not stating that eliminating stupidity is even possible, but... well... yeah... never mind.

I found much of this book to be boring, but that's mostly because I am already familiar with many of the concepts found within.  Of the portions I found fascinating, I was not as familiar and many times learned something I simply hadn't known before (in all of my readings and science classes, the Miller-Urey experiments somehow completely slipped by me).  And, still, even the "boring parts" were effective refreshers.

I must admit that I found the style itself to be somewhat banal, even if friendly and easily-accessible.  This could be because it's more of an introduction book than The Story of Earth is.  It could also be due to the co-writing arrangement between Hazen and Trefil (I am debating grabbing another of their books to see if this is the case).

Anyway... if you have any interest in science, or feel that you should at least come to a discussion about science having some sort of clue, you should read this book.  EVERYONE should read this book.

Rating: 12 (Style: 3 stars; Substance: 4 stars)

New Words:
  • ex cathedra - by virtue of or in the exercise of one's office or position 
  • retrodiction - to utilize present information or ideas to infer or explain (a past event or state of affairs)
The Profound:
  • "If you can get used to the idea that the universe is what it is, regardless of what we think it should be, then you'll have no problem with relativity." - Hazen & Trefil

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Irreview, Book Review: On Directing Film

This one's interesting.

I am not a film director, nor am I even an aspiring film director.  But, since I work with film directors often, I figured I'd finally sit down and read the entirety of this book, front to back.  You see, I read portions of this book years ago (probably in 2005), but didn't at the time sense it's applicability.

I sense it now.

I like the book.  I'm a long-time fan of many things David Mamet (although he is responsible for a handful of things I really dislike).  I enjoy what he says about storytelling.

But I have to say... the opening "dialogue" with his students... man...

I found that to be full of shit.

Yes, Mamet himself is likely to acknowledge the bullshit factor in that opening chapter (and he implies as much in his own foreword), but, man...

Anyway, there is much value for aspiring directors, producers, and writers in On Directing Film. It's a quick read, if a wee overpriced.  It has Mamet's usual quick, blunt style.  Most of it is on point, though Mamet's disdain for the Hollywood system is palpable.

While Mamet fans will undoubtedly be drawn to this one, there are definitely better books concerning filmmaking. 

And that's really all I have to say.

Rating: 9 (Style: 3 stars; Substance: 3 stars)

I'd have given "Substance" four stars, but I can't get over that opening dialogue.

New Words:
  • jejune - juvenile, puerile; devoid of significance or interest; lacking nutritive value
  • aver - to declare positively
  • picayune - a Spanish half real piece formerly current in the South; something trivial
  • assiduous - showing great care, attention, and effort
  • quiddities - whatever makes something the type that it is :  essence; a trifling point :  quibble
  • lacuna - a blank space or a missing part :  gap; a small cavity, pit, or discontinuity in an anatomical structure
The Profound:
  • "Any good drama takes us deeper and deeper to a resolution that is both surprising and inevitable.  It's like Turkish taffy; it always tastes good and it always sticks to your teeth." - David Mamet