Category: art

Screenwriting Is Easy, and Other True Lies about Craft

Read a screenwriting book and you'll feel like the king of the writing universe.

Read a screenwriting book and you’ll feel like the king of the writing universe.

This post is going to be short so I can get back to my screenwriting. You read me right. My husband and I have started writing screenplays. I’m diving deep into my first one literally as I type this. (Ideas are always brewing, you know.) Somehow, by reading Save the Cat! and collaborating with my husband, I’m not only coming up with ideas quickly, but…wait for it…I’m having fun! I know. It’s too good to be true. But here are a handful of reasons I think this is happening:

  • Brainstorming works: We’ve been encouraged (by the screenwriting books we’ve been consuming like candy) to come up with as many ideas as we can and not worry about totally fleshing them out, so we’re freed from the hard stuff (at least at first) and able to revel in the glory of what we think are genius movie ideas.
  • Walking collaboration is magic: We talk details as we walk to the store, and it feels more like planning a slumber party than writing a story. We talk motivation, action, conflict, how to ramp up the conflict even more, and how to get to the climax gracefully. And when we get home, we’re so energized, that we have to just write it all out. And we do! The lesson of the walk-talk is that collaboration can make writing more fun. I suppose you have to have a good collaborator, though, so I’m lucky there. My dude’s full of good ideas.
  • Helpful guidance is a sage: The books we’ve been reading (besides Save the Cat! there’s also Writing Movies for Fun and Profit, which is as much fun to read as it is to follow) give some great practical advice, including outlines and examples that are easy to understand and follow.

This isn’t to say that as soon as we get past the outlining phase all the lust won’t have evaporated, but it is to say that I’ve never had such a good time writing in any other genre, and I wonder why…

Hipster Hiking

About a year ago, I started a photo project called the “Hipster Hiking Series.” I began this series because I take many photos and my mother was asking to see more with me in them. The rules were simple: the camera had to be balanced somewhere, on the ten-second self-timer, or handed to someone so unfamiliar with cameras that the chances of them getting the autofocus to work would be less than twenty percent. Also, because I am not one to model, I had to make fun of myself by adding “hipster elements,” including a logo, light leaks, and hue shifts.  They had to be taken while I was hiking or camping. The process has led me to many questions–beginning with the question, “are these selfies?”

What makes a selfie? Is it any self-portrait? When Van Gogh painted himself, bandaged after cutting his ear, was it a selfie? Or must it be a photograph? Must it be more ephemeral than a painting, more off the cuff?

hipster-hiking-white-sands

White Sands National Missile Range, 2014

Read more »

Dreams, the Collective Unconscious, Joan Rivers and Andy Taylor

Joan Rivers circa 1967

Joan Rivers circa 1967 (Getty)

On the night Joan Rivers died, I dreamed of her, her and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran.

Well, this is something that happens. Us common folk dream of celebrities all the time.

Yes, yes. I agree. However in this instance, I had no idea Joan had had surgery, was in a coma and had died. The dream stuck with me for days because it was slightly bizarre and yet felt very based in reality. For me it took place mostly backstage. I haven’t worked backstage since my very early college years (read: before drinking age), and even then I never worked a show for anyone super famous. But my reality is that I’ve been all over stages and dressing rooms and green rooms.

The dream was also very persistent. The theater was sometimes an amphitheater, that was the only bit of inconsistency, which I’ll just call a quirk. The event lasted for hours in the way that dreams can compress and expand time at will. At the beginning, I was ushering Joan and Andy around backstage. Then I was trying to blend in with the stage crew and performers because it felt like I had snuck backstage or very seriously didn’t belong at least. There were chorus line dancers and circus performers. There was a nervous stage director lecturing everyone to do their best. I was terribly afraid I’d get caught, but then Joan and Andy were coming off stage, done with their onstage performance. They knew me! And I hadn’t “dreamed” that I was their escort! (Meta moment: being afraid I had imagined or “dreamed” something in the dream.) We walked out of the theater together. Joan was hilarious the whole time. Andy smiled a lot and was charismatic. It was mostly an enjoyable dream, and I thought about it for days.

Then three days later, I heard about Joan River’s death. And I did the math Read more »

Stories Sway Our Decisions

Last month, I attended a writers conference where Lisa Cron presented a master workshop on how neuroscience discoveries can help your story telling (and your writing). I had to leave early for an appointment, but Ms. Cron’s ideas about the importance of story telling and how stories influence our everyday decisions stuck with me.

So, I looked her up when I got home and found a TEDx talk by her. The video is a little more than 17 minutes long, but worth watching just for the share pleasure of discovering that stories–and therefore writers (hyberbole added by me)–are more important than we think.

In Ms. Cron’s words:

“We turn to stories not to escape reality; we turn to stories to navigate reality.”

and

“If you can’t feel emotion, you can’t make a single rational decision.”

[youtube]http://youtu.be/74uv0mJS0uM[/youtube]

“The Power of story is yours, use it wisely.”

Enchanted Watermelon Seeking Art Submissions

tiny-logo
Enchanted Watermelon is seeking art submissions for a Loteria-themed coloring book.

A portion of the proceeds from each coloring book will benefit an Albuquerque nonprofit organization that help children in situations of domestic violence, poverty, or homelessness.

The coloring book will not only showcase artists’ work, but since children are the target market for the book, it provides a unique, plausible way for children to help children.

A series of community artist workshops will be scheduled once the coloring book is in production.

How to Submit:

1. Select an image from the list of cards and interpret it with your own style and imagination. Your image will be printed in black and white, so please consider high contrast drawing materials/media.

2. Develop a fun rhyme or verse to accompany your image. *The rhyme does not have to be in Spanish.* Here are some examples from the original deck:

EL DIABLITO (The Little Devil): “Pórtate bien cuatito, si no te lleva el coloradito.”   “Be good, or you will meet the little red guy.”

LA PERA (The Pear) “El que espera, desespera.”  “He who waits, despairs.”

3. Please use our Loteria template to ensure that your ratio is accurate and that you have enough space for the title of your image and a whimsical rhyme or verse!

4. To submit, visit: https://enchantedwatermelon.submittable.com/submit

I don’t know if you’ve seen my home in the news recently, but there currently extremely high rates of homelessness and violence in Albuquerque. Most recently, two homeless men were killed by three teenage boys. This kind of violence breeds more violence. One of the boys had been homeless himself only a couple years before.

This coloring book will provide a fun, lighthearted way to raise funds for shelters that take in children, and help give them extra resources to continue the powerful, difficult work they do.

“Make Me Beautiful”

Journalist Esther Honig wanted to examine how the standards of beauty vary across cultures. She sent a picture of herself—makeup free and hair pulled back– to 40 different graphic designers across the globe with only one request: “Make me beautiful.”

What she received back blew her mind.  (And mine.)

Some of the pictures came back with minimal changes, what I  think of as studio photo retouching. Like this image from Romania:

Romania

All images in post are courtesy of Ester Honig

Others were radically altered. This one is from the Philippines:

Philipines

 

What struck me is that some designers changed Honig’s features in ways I wouldn’t even think of, going to extremes like changing her eye color, removing collar bones, and altering the shape of her eyes and forehead.  Read more »

Evidence of Life: Voices from the PSU Archives

Portland State University just discovered new life through history

Portland State University just discovered new life through history

 

Last week Portland State University made headlines after revealing decades of speeches that had been tucked away in their library’s archives, out of sight, out of mind, until now. Some of the greatest minds of our time — leaders, artists, activists — can be heard speaking at PSU online now. Check out Robert F. Kennedy, Toni Morrison, Allen Ginsberg, and a ton of other voices here.

Femcees Rising

Time magazine recently posted an article briefly introducing the 7 female rap artists they say are the industries new up-and-coming superstars, women they indicate are moving in the same direction as Nikki Minaj and Iggy Azalea, both of whom have found huge success in the male-dominated genre. The Time article was a response to XXL‘s (really good) list of 12 freshman rappers to watch over the next year, a list which, unsurprisingly, featured no women. Artists like Noname Gypsy and Nyemiah Supreme are joining the ranks of women like Brianna Perry to shake up the rap world brining pointed and poignant lyrics and melodies to the microphone.

 

However, one rapper they didn’t pay attention to is Minnesota-based rapper Dessa. Granted she is part of the underground rap scene and the Doomtree collective whih are not marked as mainstream music. Beyonce may not post Dessa’s music on her tumblr as she did for Brianna Perry, and you won’t see Dessa working with Timaland the way Nyemiah Supreme did, but her music explores cultural problems, issues of place and politics, crises of the heart, of life, and of childhood. Basically the same topics as all the other important MC’s working in the business and just as interesting to listen to, except she’s white.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSxSCv7Cegc[/youtube]

Cognative Surplus, or How LOLcats will Save the World


lolcat
Back in the late 90s, I worked in a software company that hired  full development teams to other technology companies. We provided expertise that our clients might not have in-house, which meant we usually worked with new technology on cutting-edge projects. When the internet opened up to e-commerce, the company signed up new clients at record speed. One of the marketing managers explained to my coworker Angela and me that the internet was finally useful now that people could use the web to make a profit. After that meeting, Angela created a secret slogan that we would sometimes whisper to each other while working on projects that had no purpose other than making crazy amounts of money: “Use the internet for good, not for evil.”

This weekend, I listened to author, professor, and social media guru Clay Shirky on the TED Radio Hour. The program focused on collaboration and Shirky talked about a concept he’s coined “cognative surplus.” According to his estimates, the world has over a trillion of hours of free time to commit to shared projects. Some of that time we—the people of the world—use to do things like watch TV or create memes that we share on the internet. But even if you use your time to create LOLcats instead of inventing cool apps to do crisis mapping (one of Shirky’s examples is the creation of Ushahidi, the software that election information after the disputed 2007 Kenyan presidential race), you should still feel like you’re contributing to the good of the world:

The stupidest creative act is still a creative act….The gap is between doing anything and doing nothing.

The talk is well worth the 13 minutes it takes to watch. I especially find Shirky comparing our relationship with media and technology during the 1900s to the 2000s inspiring. The last century taught us how to consume. We’re still excellent consumers, but with new media tools like the internet and mobile phones we also show that we like to create. And share. And collaborate.

According to Shirky—and I really want to believe him on this—human motivation, new tools of collaboration, and our cognative surplus allow us to do “truly incredible experiments in scientific, literary, artistic, political efforts.”

In this new century, we’re finally using the internet mostly “for good, not for evil.” Angela and I are very happy.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/qu7ZpWecIS8[/youtube]

The Division of Gravity

I marvel everyday at humanity’s capability for resilience. So often, difficulties and challenges feel insurmountable, heartbreak feels incurable, pain unending. In a perfect world, the people we love don’t hurt us, parents don’t separate, families aren’t ruined, and everyone has enough money to live decently. But perfection is also problematic, sometimes it is too weighty, sometimes it costs too much to sustain and gets lost in the fullness of itself.

However, it is entirely possible to survive every misery, from the trivial to the desecrating, no matter how many things were solid yesterday and today disappeared beneath a fault line. After a while, the dust settles. Ruin is swept away, rain becomes important again, and air, and the sea and the sun.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/36813256[/vimeo]

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