is two guys collaborating to write on writing and collaboration.

April 2006 Archives

Sunday
Apr 30, 2006

Re[2]: A Radical Idea posted by Martin

2. When ALL the bios are done, we THEN discuss the pros and cons of each story. But: we are no longer pitting them head-to-head anymore, but simply looking at each one individually and deciding if they are worthy of being turned into a screenplay.

I was thinking more that we still take the heats step by step, so present two stories, do a bio, talk about them, and then vote and move on to the next round. Only, when we would normally (“Normally.” As if we did this all the time—yeah, on the last screenplay blog we did it this way….) go on to the next heat, this time we vote.

6. So, an idea that got Shelved can be resurrected by the Yes Voter, and put into the Ranked Winners category if the No Voter acquiesces. I understand that, but I’m not sure if I know where exactly this step occurs. (After the Ranked Winners are determined? Before?)

I say any time. If, for instance, I voted no on Rasputin (fat chance), and you voted yes, then at anytime in the future you could expand on your vision of Rasputin and I could reevaluate whether I would vote differently. If I would, Rasputin is in the running. My first inclination was to put it in the bottom of the list, but if you came up with a stellar idea, we might want to bump it—so we would have a revote over the items in the list and see where it shook out.

I had the idea of voting to “Vault” certain ideas — meaning, removing them from the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas, but keeping them for ourselves for later development.

I like that idea, but I’m still not sold on it. That is to say, I think some of these ideas could be very commercial, but I also think if we went through the same process that we did to come up with these ideas based around a topic different than Prison Planet we could come up with another batch of ideas that we liked as much, if not more. And, to boot, they would be more contemporary to wherever we are when we do it. It will come as no surprise to our readers that Shockah and I have scripts we’re working on outside of Spitball! that won’t get talked about much here because they are decidedly not in the public domain. But, since we started this with the idea of putting these out there, I vote that we release all ideas on this blog, and all work on this blog and keep that the rule. So, no hoarding commercial ideas, I say. Anybody can use them. My feeling is that we’ll get back more from releasing them than we would if we hoarded them, but then, my parents used to sing me the magic penny song, so apply salt where needed.

That may also influence voting, then—if we knew we couldn’t keep some ideas, then we may want to push an idea higher because we feel it has commercial potential, and in one sense commercial potential = well written and considered script.

Of course, the outlines aren’t what matters, the writing is. That’s where the rubber meets the road, and we’re going to really succeed or fail.

How do you feel about that Shock-a-dock-a-dockah?

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Sunday
Apr 30, 2006

Re: A Radical Idea posted by kza

Note: Some discussion of this post took place on iChat. I believe most of the points and issues will be restated here; if not, I’m sure Burley can help me out.

First, I’m glad you liked the last bio. I thought that what you wrote about Jones in the Jake bio gave us a good enough idea of Jones’ physical circumstances, that focusing entirely on what I call his “interiority” seemed like a better tactic. I didn’t expect the whole thing to be his dream though; that just kinda happened.

Next: As I told Burley in an email, this was The Right Post at the Right Time. I, too, felt very strongly about both story ideas, and wouldn’t know which one to vote for. Well, I’d probably go with Time to Die, since I’m kinda conservative and always choose the one that seems “further along”, whatever that might mean at the time. But the idea of losing Rasputin, especially when it seemed like it was on the right track, was pretty disheartening. So: what to do?

(Oh, wait. One more aside. This:)

Brought to you by: Shower—a contained, temperature controlled indoor rain, promoting clarity of thought, cleanliness of body, and consumption of odiferous creams, jellies, soaps and scrubs. Shower—it’s repetitive beating on your head will stimulate deep thought. Shower—have one every morning.

(… is so fucking true it aint even funny. Except that it was. Great job!)

Anyway… What to do? I’m going to go through Burley’s last post step by step, and pretend to be a little slower than I really am, since this is a pretty important decision regarding this blog and our communication should be crystal clear.

Even though it’s taken us four months to get to this point, at some future date we’re going to start writing, and then at some future date months or years away we’ll have a screenplay written that we have blessed as our as-good-as-we-can-make-it version (or, knowing us, as-good-as-we-can-make-it-until-we-undertake-a-massive-rewrite-and-totally-complicate-the-plot), what then? Does this blog just sit fallow?

So we’re talking, “What is Spitball! about once the experiment is over and we’ve written our script via blog”. It’s a good question — and I’ll admit I’ve been concentrating more on the trees lately than the forest.

Here’s what I propose: we move through all the heats in the in the current round, doing our bios. We discuss as much as we want the pros and cons of each story as if we were going to vote on them, but then we vote on whether or not each idea is really a viable idea for a script. If we both vote no, off it goes, if we vote yes that idea moves forward. If we vote yes on both, then they both move forward, and we move on to the next round. If one votes yes, and the other votes no, the idea is shelved for later. When we are through with all of the heats, we list all the ideas that made it through, and each of us orders, from one to whatever, our favorite ideas.

We take those numbers, and average our scores, which will give us a list or ranked ideas that we both liked and feel can be made into a doable script—and a string of scripts to write, should we actually get that far. Now, here’s the rub—since an idea might end up on top that we both are a little unhappy about, it would be silly to force us to write it. So, we always have the option of voting again until we get the order that we both want.

So, to recap, to the best of my understanding (them’s some nice Needlessly Complex Rules, btw):

1. We do bios, one apiece for each story, for a total of 2 bios for each story and a total of four overall, for:

    a. Little Black Stray and Terminal Connection
    b. La Commune Planet and The Scabs

2. When ALL the bios are done, we THEN discuss the pros and cons of each story. But: we are no longer pitting them head-to-head anymore, but simply looking at each one individually and deciding if they are worthy of being turned into a screenplay.

3. Each story is voted upon. If “No”, then that story is relegated to the dustbin of Spitball! history. If “Yes”, then that story moves onto the next and final round. If there’s a split vote, that story is “Shelved”, which means it isn’t “in play”, but has the potential to come back into play. (More on that in a moment.)

4. Final Round: We take the winners and rank them favorite (#1) to least favorite (#whatever).

5. Each story gets an average based on our ratings and are then ranked again (The “Ranked Winners”.) This new ranking gives us the winner (the story with the average closest to 1.0) and a list of runner-ups for use once the initial winner gets a script written about it. If this final list is unsatisfactory, however, we may revote on it until we get one we like.

5a. This last rule is a good one; in my experience, “winner based on average” more often than not gives a winner that’s least objectionable, but often has the last amount of passion attached to it.

Also, if any shelved ideas are gnawing at us, the party that voted yes on it can try to expand on the idea to sell the other on his vision of it. Of course, this continues our fine tradition of needlessly complex™ rules, and will eliminate the dread I feel when it comes to not working on some of these ideas.

6. So, an idea that got Shelved can be resurrected by the Yes Voter, and put into the Ranked Winners category if the No Voter acquiesces. I understand that, but I’m not sure if I know where exactly this step occurs. (After the Ranked Winners are determined? Before?)

How’d I do? Correct me where necessary.

One more thing: During the iChat, Burley and I were concerned about how this will play with one of the elements of our Mission Statement: that the scripts developed here are released into the public domain. Do we really want to commit our best ideas to that? (It was one thing when it was only one idea, one script; it feels different when it might be more like three or four.) It’s true that we feel like we can come up with ideas at the drop of a hat, and that it’s about execution and not ideas. Yet, a few of these ideas seem, to me at least, very commercial, and it’s not like we plan to make a living putting screenplays into the public domain (if we even knew how!); in fact, we’d like to, you know, get paid one of these days. I had the idea of voting to “Vault” certain ideas — meaning, removing them from the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas, but keeping them for ourselves for later development.

But that’s about as far as we got, since we knew we’d have to hash this out on the blog. And now that I’ve made some hash, I’m slinging it Burley’s way. What say you, Grymz?

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Sunday
Apr 30, 2006

A Radical Idea posted by Martin

Brought to you by: Shower—a contained, temperature controlled indoor rain, promoting clarity of thought, cleanliness of body, and consumption of odiferous creams, jellies, soaps and scrubs. Shower—its repetitive beating on your head will stimulate deep thought. Shower—have one every morning.

I was thinking about these two ideas and how to move forward. First of all, though, I have to say that I totally dug your last post. Dreams are usually a bit boring to read, but you had great tension, suspension, and now I want to know more about the man who will become president. Really engaging and inspiring work, Mr. Shockah.

So—we have two character bios for each story, and I’m no closer to picking one. At first I thought that I would just call for a vote, and force myself to decide, but as I pitted these against each other, I just couldn’t. I want them both to win for very different reasons. And maybe they both can.

Even though it’s taken us four months to get to this point, at some future date we’re going to start writing, and then at some future date months or years away we’ll have a screenplay written that we have blessed as our as-good-as-we-can-make-it version (or, knowing us, as-good-as-we-can-make-it-until-we-undertake-a-massive-rewrite-and-totally-complicate-the-plot), what then? Does this blog just sit fallow?

I can’t predict what will happen here in the future, but assuming everything goes well, what if we had a string of scripts to work on?

Here’s what I propose: we move through all the heats in the in the current round, doing our bios. We discuss as much as we want the pros and cons of each story as if we were going to vote on them, but then we vote on whether or not each idea is really a viable idea for a script. If we both vote no, off it goes, if we vote yes that idea moves forward. If we vote yes on both, then they both move forward, and we move on to the next round. If one votes yes, and the other votes no, the idea is shelved for later. When we are through with all of the heats, we list all the ideas that made it through, and each of us orders, from one to whatever, our favorite ideas.

We take those numbers, and average our scores, which will give us a list or ranked ideas that we both liked and feel can be made into a doable script—and a string of scripts to write, should we actually get that far. Now, here’s the rub—since an idea might end up on top that we both are a little unhappy about, it would be silly to force us to write it. So, we always have the option of voting again until we get the order that we both want.

Also, if any shelved ideas are gnawing at us, the party that voted yes on it can try to expand on the idea to sell the other on his vision of it. Of course, this continues our fine tradition of needlessly complex™ rules, and will eliminate the dread I feel when it comes to not working on some of these ideas.

What do you think? Silly, or maybe something workable?

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Friday
Apr 28, 2006

Round 10.2, Part Two [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die] posted by kza

And now, Part Two…

Rasputin the Translator
In a World contacted by a sentient and potentially violent alien race, one man—bearded and wild eyed—is the only person on earth who can translate between the languages of humans and the language of the aliens. But this strange man is not only hostile to both sides of the debate, he is also untrustworthy, and possibly manipulating the negotiations to his own ends. With all of Earth being turned into a prison as the stakes, one government has a very limited time to not only unravel the mysteries of the alien language, but also the history of the interpreter.

Character Sketch: Jones Alan Porter
Relationship to Story: Supporting

Jones Alan Porter had a dream. Not a political dream of freedom and enlightenment, mind you; that would come later. No, Jones had an actual in-bed dream once, while he was in high school. This was strange, because he never usually remembered his dreams, and if he didn’t remember them, then it was as if they never happened. But this one night, Jones, after winning a track meet earlier that day, dreamt that he was late for school. He ran to get there before the first bell rang, but to his mild surprise (since, in dreams, things that are truly weird never register as such), he was in a large grassy park that he’d never seen before. Despite having never seen this place before, he nonetheless knew that just over the stone bridge just before him was the school, and he rushed to get over it.

But just as he was about to, he heard a voice call his name from underneath the bridge. Jones stopped. Despite the fact that the school bell would certainly ring at any minute, making him late and giving him a black mark on his record that he felt he could ill afford (because in dreams, the smallest concerns are always crises of unimaginable consequence), Jones peered over the edge. The bridge crossed over another path, a trail through the park like the one he was currently on. The voice called out his name again, more urgent this time, and Jones slid down the steep green incline next to the bridge and landed on the path. (Years later, Jones realized that this bridge appeared in a violent video game he played during this time. He was always afraid that his fondness for this game would reach the media and severely impact, if not outright destroy, his career. This never came to pass.) As Jones stepped closer to the dark underpass (which was much darker than it should have reasonably been), he saw a figure standing next to the wall. The next morning, when Jones tried to remember what the figure looked like, it always appeared in his head as the image of a man in a trenchcoat with a gaping void where a face should be. He knew, however, that this was the simply the best that his waking, conscious mind could create — the real thing, whatever that might be, was visible only under the shroud of sleep.

Amazingly, the tardy bell still hadn’t rung, but he knew it would soon, and he felt that if he could just deal with this stranger quickly, he would still have time to make it. Why did he call Jones’ name? What did he want? But as Jones stepped forward, the man in the trenchcoat retreated from him, step for step, forcing Jones to step further into the tunnel. Once he was completely under the bridge, the man stopped his retreat, and Jones (just barely aware that the underside of the bridge was much larger than the top) called out to the man. You wanted to see me? he said, feeling in control, like during his track meets. The man said, I need you to stop this. Stop what? asked Jones. The man opened his trenchcoat and pointed to his pocket, a odd shaped bulge hanging off his hip. I need you to stop this, the man repeated. It seemed like a reasonable request to Jones, and it seemed like the most natural thing to do was to reach into the man’s pocket and remove whatever it was that was distressing him so much. Jones slipped his hand into the man’s pocket. He came back out with a small box, like for a ring or a piece of jewelry. The man said again, and for the last time: I need you to stop this. Jones looked at the man, then down at the box. With two fingers on the bottom and two on the lid, he started to pry the box open, the hinges of the box providing tight resistance. But then the lid sprung open, and Jones’ ears were nearly deafened by the shrill ringing bell that emerged from the empty box.

Jones awoke with a start, adrenaline in his veins and a hollowness in his chest. To his dismay, he realized that he urinated in his sleep, soaking his underwear and his sheets. While this was a problem for a very short time when he was six, it had never reoccurred since then, until this night. Stuffing his wadded up sheets into the hamper, Jones then got into the shower. As the hot water poured down his face, he reflected back on the nightmare (for it was a nightmare to him) and worked out what scared him so much. It wasn’t the shock of the bell, or the strange man with a black void for a face, or even reaching into the man’s pocket, as confused and ashamed as he later felt about it. It was simply how willing he was to step off the path and go under that dark bridge, simply at the call of his name.

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Friday
Apr 28, 2006

Trickster Raven Deserves a Movie posted by Martin

Northwest Coast Indians have an amazing visual art tradition—one of the most developed of any indigenous peoples in the world. Cultures like the Haida in British Columbia have an astounding history of a complex visual language. Bill Reid, the most famous Haida artist—and possibly the most famous native artist—of the 20th century said this:

Art can never be understood, but can only be seen as a kind of magic, the most profound and mysterious of all human activities. Within that magic, one of the deepest mysteries is the art of the Northwest Coast — a unique expression of an illiterate people, resembling no other art form except perhaps the most sophisticated calligraphy.

But more than a calligraphy (which, it seems references the symbology employed in his and other Haida work), the masks, carvings and work of the North Coast Indians are a full language in of themselves, acting as visual reminders for the legends and stories handed down.

The first time I saw Reid’s astonishing Spirit of Haida Gwaii at the Vancouver airport, I could swear it was moving in front of me. It’s practically alive with motion. You can sit and just watch it, which I’ve had the pleasure of doing a few times. You can imagine it alive.

So here we have a culture, long in story and rich in visuals. Why no Indian mythology movie? I would see it set long before Europeans. Instead we have a story of a man, maybe—and let’s say that he is confronted with the creation stories. He’s confronted with Raven, but Raven is created in CG, and appears as a moving, breathing Reid sculpture. His dreams or visions are alive to him. Give him this world to run around in, a quest to complete, and throw in some views of authentic life on the North Coast before the white people came in, and you’ve got a compelling film. I’d pay to see it in a heartbeat.

It seems an obvious thing to me, but maybe that’s just showing my own naivet�. Would this work? Is there any reason it couldn’t? Think of the recent slate of visual arresting films coming out of China based on Chinese mythology and history (I’m still waiting for the Zheng He movie, but I won’t hold my breath). Wouldn’t one in the same spirit about the Northwest Coast Indians be just as cool?

Comments (0) — Category: inspiration

Thursday
Apr 27, 2006

Re: Jeeeeeeem! posted by kza

Is it okay to say that I usually end up going over to RogerEbert.com for Mr. Emerson’s Scanners rather than Mr. Ebert’s reviews? (Well, the Answer Man, too.) I mean, he named his column after a David Cronenberg movie! How cool is that?

The new, “real” blog is looking pretty cool, too. Just wished he’d have comments enabled, although I can understand why he’d demur — it’s not a decision taken lightly. (Not everyone can be a Matt Zoller Seitz — that is, be a journalist, but embrace the instant feedback, as well as give and take, that comments provide. Just ask the Washington Post.)

Comments (0) — Category: Links

Thursday
Apr 27, 2006

Re: Wednesdays with Cranky posted by Martin

Ironically (in light of my post last night), today in the Stranger, Brendan Kiley took local theater critics to task.

Tuesdays with Morrie is pap and the critics know it… But instead of indicting the play, the critics indict themselves. Why is this play tying them into knots?

I’m no reviewer or critic, and certainly not one of the ones he’s talking about, but I couldn’t help laugh when I read that. I did exactly what he said.

Although, my point ended up being more about the elitism of many critics, his is really about the nature of the play and why it incites such responses.

Still, it’s a good point to make—I think I tempered my harshness because of my interest in not being an asshole critic, but strove instead to let people be who they are and make their own choices in what to like and what not to. That said, I should really just get with it and remember that my opinion will likely mean little to anybody, and those that might be insulted by it will: 1) not likely read this blog, and 2) it’s goddamned egotistical of me to assume that I’m influencing anybody.

In the end, though, I guess I strive to at least be entertaining in my wrath—succeed or not. I’ll name my next review The Punches Less Pulled. Oh, and just for the record: we were season ticket holders. Morrie was the last show of the season.

Comments (0) — Category: inspiration

Thursday
Apr 27, 2006

Jeeeeeeem! posted by Martin

I really like Roger Ebert. He may be a populist critic, but he’s always unpredictable, and I think often has good insights.

So, around here, we were thrilled when the new RogerEbert.com launched, and especially because it was edited by the way-cool Jim Emerson (whom my better half worked with—or in the same building at least—at Microsoft). He wrote a lot of great stuff on the Roger Ebert site, but the page was a bit confusing in the outer shell of RogerEbert.com, and also felt more like a blog than a column, but looked like a column more than a blog—especially since there wasn’t even an rss feed.

All that changes today—Jim has a full-on blog at the Chicago Sun Times, now totally separate from the RogerEbert.com domain. I’m thrilled, and immediately added him to my feed reader (the awesome NetNewsWire, created by Seattle man Brent Simmons ).

http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/

Jim has especially big internet street cred right now—even Kottke links to him. Go Jim go!

Comments (0) — Category: Links

Wednesday
Apr 26, 2006

Wednesdays with Cranky posted by Martin

Let’s just make it bitch night in general around here. I just got back from seeing the Seattle Rep staging of Tuesdays with Morrie. The acting was fine, the staging was impressive, the story just interesting enough. I spent the hours it was unfolding in front of me trying to figure out exactly how they were moving all the props around. Occasionally I’d remember there were people on stage too.

They say that movies are about emotions, books are about ideas, and plays are about conversations. So, here we have a conversation of aphorisms between a wayward student who is unhappy (but here’s the rub: he doesn’t know it yet) with his successful career and new bride, and a happy nub of a man who is all charm and joi d’vivre—oh, the irony, she is a cruel mistress—for this man who loves life is dying.

Let’s watch him die, shall we? Gather around, ye in the expensive seats, and ye in the cheap sets—you shall all witness together. Did you remember your hankies ladies? The darkened room will be lifted by the sniffing of many noses—anonymous people shedding bodily fluids in amazingly close proximity—while on stage this man—a man who was a sociology professor for 30 some years, who published three books, who taught some of the Yippies before they got radical we are told, who influenced thousands of students over many years—this man seemingly quotes chicken-soup-for-the-soul for his student who — maybe he never watched Hallmark theater? — has never heard anything so profound as “Love always wins.”

Am I a total asshole for even approaching it so cynically? I mean, here’s a book that has moved millions of people, and tonight all of our friends that we went with were incredibly touched.

And now here’s the part where I talk about the movie Crash. I liked it. More than I liked this play. I know that I’ve just committed total hipster suicide, but just in case any of you are thinking there’s hope, I’m coming out completely un-ironically. I didn’t like Crash the same way I’m supposed to remember liking Night Rider (or so the Family Guy keeps reminding me, anyway), I just accept it. Why? I mean, this movie isn’t worth debating to many people I know, but I just didn’t think it was all that bad. I didn’t think it deserved best picture, but you know what? It moved a lot of people who credit the film with making them think about racism. That’s not the reason I like it, but that’s not a bad reason to like it—if it honestly moved you.

And here’s where I talk about media effects. You know, how media desensitizes us, children exposed to it for long times are more prone to do bad things, etc. etc. I had this conversation recently with somebody (hey D!), and what it always boils down to is: “I like playing violent video games and watching some violent movies and television shows and I’ve never been in a fight in my life,” and the other person says something like “Yes, but you’re….” smart, or thoughtful, or well-balanced, or not clinically insane or something—but implicit in the argument is this idea that I’m okay, but the other people that the media effects are not, and we know they’re not because research shows that media effects people in abstract ways that psychologists extrapolate from as metrics for real world violence, which everybody confesses they don’t fully understand or know how to predict. I think it’s an elitist attitude, however well-intentioned. It essentially puts you in the position of being able to save humanity from some evil, but the humanity you’re saving is unable to save themselves. The laws we pass are never for ourselves, they’re for the other jerks.

Now—to be fair to the conversation I was having, her argument was much more nuanced before I pigeoned it into this tiny hole for my own manipulative purposes, but my attitude towards bashing Crash or bashing Morrie is essentially the same argument: I think it’s elitist. What’s the harm in letting people make their own decisions about what they like and don’t like. Where the hell do I get off being so cynical and egotistical about my privileged opinion on the thing?

Which is why I asked: am I a total asshole for even approaching it so cynically? The answer? Hell, I don’t know. I can only say what I would have wanted.

Which is: My Dying with Andre. Instead of pitting a life that is slowing down against a life that is speeding up and having them grate against each other, present us with threads of this man’s research. You know: engaging ideas. Here—off the top of my head: I just finished a great book by Seth Lloyd called Programming the Universe, that talks about the amazing realities of quantum physics in relation to computation. I’ll bet if Lloyd is dying in bed and has students come to him, that what they speak of will be viewed through the prisms of their education and learning. Here’s what Lloyd might say, in my fantasy play of Tuesdays and Not Tuesdays with Seth:

Lloyd (on death bed, weakly): I remember today when I first really understood the amazing notion that a particle could be in two places at the same time, until measured—at which time, the particle must decide where to be. We’re all like that particle.

Student (checking watch): I don’t understand, coach. I can’t be here and at my expensive, privileged job at the same time. I’m sacrificing for you because I thought that’s what you wanted.

Lloyd: But the particle only chooses when being monitored. Where would you be if you weren’t being monitored? What’s your choice if I wasn’t watching?

Student (Cries, grab hands of his teacher): Here coach. I choose to be here because you teach me so much about life. I want to learn. Please don’t die.

As it is, Morrie could have been Patch Adams, or Father McClusky who saved the parish, or Fireman Pete who taught us the lesson of giving back to the community, or motivational speaker Tony Snow, now dodging reporter’s questions while providing a well-marketed message that ignores reality on a screen near you….I mean, there was nothing of his career in there. To believe the play (and, maybe the book—which I have not read), Morrie only taught because he liked being around people. Not because, you know, he was particularly interested in the topic he received his PhD in.

But, maybe this is not moving to me because of going through my own father’s death, which I confess moved me more than watching a stranger pretend to die playing another stranger who did die. And maybe I feel that this play should have been informed more by Morrie’s career because my own father’s death was very informed by his own career as a minister. But just today I was tremendously moved reading Jeffrey Zeldman talk about his mother’s death. Much more than by the play. Zeldman was more honest, more vivid than this play, and not only did it not try to manipulate me, but he published it for free and didn’t make it into a made-for-tv-movie and play after selling millions, so I can trust that his heart is truly in his words.

Comments (0) — Category: inspiration

Wednesday
Apr 26, 2006

Air Vent Chastity posted by kza

Over at his great blog, Go and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory screenwriter John August has proposed a Screenwriter’s Vow of Air Vent Chastity:

I, John August, hereby swear that I shall never place a character inside an air duct, ventilation shaft, or any other euphemism for a building system designed to move air around.

Last time I checked, several people have “signed” the vow (or whatever it would be on the internets), and I think there have been suggestions for other types of anti-clich� vows.

Not to be a stick in the mud (especially with something as tongue-in-cheek as this), but I won’t be signing. I understand the frustration with the overuse of the air vent escape; I understand the ridiculousness of it. But in the comments section, someone brought up the counter-example of the toys in Toy Story 2, or the possibility of squirrel characters running around in the vents, and noted that for these characters, using the vents would be a natural (non-contrived) method of getting about. But for August, a clich�, even if it makes sense in context, is still a clich�.

And that’s where I part ways. I mean, why is the air vent thing an issue to begin with? Is it simply because it’s overused? Or is it because it’s overused and very unrealistic? If the answer is the latter, then the squirrel example should suffice as a good use of the air vent, and the vow shouldn’t be necessary. If it’s the former… well, what isn’t overused in mainstream screenwriting? As nice as it might seem to have action movies without explosions, romantic comedies without “meet cutes”, Westerns without shootouts… y’know, these things aren’t going anywhere, and have their place as well. And while the air vent is too often the escape hatch of the hacky screenwriter, if it’s used in an interesting fashion, I’m not going to complain. After all, a clich� is really only a clich� when no thought or imagination go into the presentation, and I’m not going to take a vow that preemptively hamstrings my ability to use either of those things.

(Yeah, it’s a slow night over here at the Spitball! — y’wanna fight about it?)

(New character bios soon.)

Comments (0) — Category: screenwriters

Tuesday
Apr 25, 2006

More Meta Commentary posted by kza

Shockah? Did I forget something?

Don’t think so. I told you about the crazy opening scene of Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss and how I saw that in connection with the potential opening of Time to Die, with the brutal violence that starts without any context, but other than that, I think that was it.

One thing we did talk about that you didn’t mention (probably because I haven’t written my bio for it yet) is the stuff we discussed about Rasputin the Translator. Way back when, I mentioned how I didn’t want the Rasputin character to be an out-and-out Bad Guy, in the same way that I don’t want either Okkervil or the warden to be Bad Guys. But now that we’ve started on characters, we’ve hit upon an odd and interesting way of defining Rasputin: by who he isn’t. He’s not Jake, he’s not Jones, he’s not Cemile, he’s not any of the other characters. He’s defined by the negative space created by these characters. I even proposed that we not know (and thus, not define) anything about Rasputin except for what he wants, the major definition of a character in a mainstream screenplay. And because of this idea, I came around 180 on my position: I think it’s okay, perhaps even mandatory, that Rasputin be a capital “B” Bad Guy.

(Oh, and you had an idea where each character sees Rasputin differently, and thus his personality and even looks seem to change depend on who he’s talking to, which is a cool crazy-ass idea. Assuming I presented it correctly.)

This is interesting commenting on a different character and thinking about how they might dovetail with the character I did the bio for in the movie—this feels so much smoother than working on the same character and having to deal with the things that don’t fit in with your vision of the character. We’ll play it by ear, but I might just pick other characters than you do in the next round.

Good idea — I say we continue with this mode until we come to a situation where it doesn’t seem to work. It’s interesting: part of me says that we’re bound to come to a story where we severely disagree about the presentation of a character… but part of me says that the disagreement will be more about the kind of a story that character represents (like what happened in Round Nine) and not about the character per se. But, you know, keep writin’ them like you did for Round Ten and that’ll never happen.

So, what’s Round Eleven again?

(checks)

Little Black Stray v. Terminal Connection

Oh fuck me.

Comments (0) — Category: communications

Tuesday
Apr 25, 2006

Getting Real posted by Martin

Both Shockah and I have been quite inspired by reading the book by 37 Signals titled Getting Real. It’s about designing web applications, but really is good general advice as well for creatives and creative pursuits. This quote, from CD Baby founder Derek Sivers, particularly struck me, especially considering that the sentiment is similar to our Statement of Purpose:

Be An Executioner

It�s so funny when I hear people being so protective of ideas. (People who want
me to sign an nda to tell me the simplest idea.)

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier.
Execution is worth millions.

Explanation:

Awful idea = -1
Weak idea = 1
So-so idea = 5
Good idea = 10
Great idea = 15
Brilliant idea = 20

No execution = $1
Weak execution = $1000
So-so execution = $10,000
Good execution = $100,000
Great execution = $1,000,000
Brilliant execution = $10,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.

The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea
takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.

That�s why I don�t want to hear people�s ideas. I�m not interested until I see
their execution.

-Derek Sivers, president and programmer, CD Baby and HostBaby

I think it’s also worth noting that Derek was a musician who was fed up with the current distribution systems, so created his own—and it totally kicks ass as a marketplace for indy musicians.

Comments (0) — Category: inspiration

Monday
Apr 24, 2006

Round 10.2.5, Part One [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die] posted by Martin

Great post—I’m totally digging your breakdown—it shows that this guy won’t be a pure terror/evil type. He has some method to his madness, and the base of a loving relationship as a child. The self-righteous grandparents are great too. And Florida flooding, I laughed out loud. Sorry Florida—don’t take it personally—I don’t really want to see you drown. I mean, damn Florida, I love you. Don’t be like that.

I think the vision of neon is great—and that story about the street kids is amazing. It’s amazing how fast the adult fantasies of idealized childhood go out the the window, and we see kids become a microcosm of the paranoid adult world we build and shape around us.

This is interesting commenting on a different character and thinking about how they might dovetail with the character I did the bio for in the movie—this feels so much smoother than working on the same character and having to deal with the things that don’t fit in with your vision of the character. We’ll play it by ear, but I might just pick other characters than you do in the next round.

Also—to our readers, a bit of a confession. Shockah and I met for coffee yesterday (in the awesome Cafe Fiore on top of Queen Anne Hill), and amongst the talk of Project Rockstar the game, the state of software in general, and a few upcoming things for this here blog, we discussed a few plot points on this story. I assure you, it wasn’t conspiratorial—we didn’t mean to keep them off the blog, it was just our unbridled excitement over what’s to come.

Exciting it is, but since we said we’d have everything up here, I present you the bullet points:
1. We talked about how the villain in this case is motivated by necessity of survival, and doesn’t necessarily see himself as a bad guy. He’ll be sympathetic to the heroine, and want to help her, but can’t. Either way, they have an alliance of sorts.
2. There will be a warden character who symbolizes the bureaucracy, and will ultimately be foiled.
3. Shockah asked how I saw it ending. Since we’re not telling the story here, but writing it, here’s my spoilers: I see the ending being Okkervil sacrificing himself so that the guard can live. He’ll end his arc by coming to terms with the fact that it was his choice all along to do evil, despite the fact that he felt it necessary. The killed guard will come back to life, but we’ll never meet him. We’ll know nothing of his story. We talked about the opening of the movie being the guard running and being killed, and the ending being his opening his eyes to see his wife.

Shockah? Did I forget something?

Oh—here’s something I didn’t forget: you still owe me an essay, and someday before too long, I’m gonna come a ringing to collect. When you least expect it. Bam!

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Monday
Apr 24, 2006

Round 10.2, Part One [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die] posted by kza

Hey folks,

Sorry for the turtle-esque crawl that this round is starting to resemble. My excuses are a) spending the last few days with a friend before she flies back to the U.K., and b) discovering, on Saturday morning, that our car up and fucking died. Just would not start.

We went to a dealership and got a new one (and I literally mean new, which was pretty weird in itself — we’re not “new car” people.) and got a great deal on it, too. (It’s a “Regal Blue Pearl” 2006 Subaru Forester, for those that care.)

So that’s been occupying my time and mind these past few days, and the David Lee Roth-style air splits that I expected this round to metaphorically approximate hasn’t come to pass. In fact, I still feel a bit distracted, but Spitball! shall not be denied. As a compromise, I’m going to post one of the character bios today, and the other bio probably tomorrow sometime.

Oh, yeah, the bios. As I hinted earlier, this round is going to be a little different than previous rounds. I was so happy with Burley’s character bios for the Round Ten, that writing two completely different ones, while potentially educational, seemed like a complete waste of time. I discussed this with Burley over iChat, and decided that I could instead write two bios of supporting characters (since we’re gonna need to know about them as well).

Time to Die
In a World where death itself is beaten by genetic regeneration, a guard is killed during a riot on the prison planet. One woman—his wife—faces sure death to retrieve his body in time to bring him back to life. It’s a race against time, with one nearly resourceless woman willfully fighting like a juggernaut against the prisoners who are holding his body hostage, and the powers that be that think she should just give up. All to simply save the man she loves from eternal death.

Character Sketch: James Crowley Okkervil
Relationship to Story: Antagonist

James C. Okkervil was born into an upper middle-class home in upstate New York, the son of an aerospace worker who, when James was less than a year old, changed his life radically when he divorced his wife and married his male co-worker. James lived with his dad and new partner rather uneventfully, going to an expensive private schoool, getting good grades, and visiting his mom weekly, until her untimely death in a traffic accident. But then, when he was nine years old, he watched as both his male parents quickly succumbed to cancer. (James would learn, much later in life, that his parents were exposed to chemicals and heavy metals during their time there.) His grandmother, whom he�d never met, flew in to take him back to Florida. She told little Jim that they died because they were wicked people, and were punished for their sinful lifestyle. Jim didn�t know what this meant at the time; all he knew was that his parents were loving people, and treated him well. But their names were never to be mentioned in his new home. Instead, he had to quickly adapt to his new family � his grandmother, cold and avaricious, his grandfather, humorless and prone to violence towards Jim, and his new brothers and sisters, adopted children with severe disabilities. This was hard for Jim � being the only �normal� kid, forced to take care of his incontinent siblings, and constantly avoiding the wrath of Grandma and Grandpa.

However, one of these children was Roscoe. Roscoe had muscular dystrophy, and was confined to a wheelchair. Despite (or perhaps because of) being bound to a wheelchair, Roscoe had quite a mouth on him, which got him into all sorts of trouble � although never with Grandma and Grandpa, who were always indulgent with their �gifts of love�, as they called their adoptees. They became friends — Jim took an immediate liking to Roscoe, with his penchant for insults, and Roscoe liked how Jim wasn�t afraid to dish it back to him. They also protected one another � Roscoe from those who would pick on him (or those angered by his incessant abuse), Jim from the worst excesses of his grandparents.

When the floods came and Florida became a small island, Jim and Roscoe, now fourteen, used the ensuing panic and confusion to separate from the rest of the family and make their way up north towards New York, with a vague plan to become musicians � this despite neither of them having ever touched an instrument in their lives. The journey was difficult, but they eventually made it, although they were now penniless and homeless.

On the brink of starvation, Jim and Roscoe met a kid, nicknamed Sticks, who, despite being about ten years old, had the demeanor, the world-weariness of someone four times that age. Sticks rescued them and took them back to a hidden shelter in the Bronx. There, Jim and Roscoe met The Neon, a loose confederation of homeless and orphaned children that provided shelter and support to each other. Although The Neon were bound together by their physical circumstances, they were bound together another way as well. Over the years of surviving on the streets and witnessing terrible violence, the Neon developed a bizarre cosmology that explained their lives in terms of a war between outnumbered angels and overwhelming demons, with no help from an absent, cowardly god.

At first, Jim, older than most of the Neon, didn�t believe these stories, and merely did his part to help this community to survive. Then, about a year after coming back to New York, his Grandma and Grandpa tracked him and Roscoe down, intending to bring them back home. Although old, Grandma and Grandpa were still strong and quite capable of using force to bring Jim back. And while The Neon that were present outnumbered the grandparents, they found the pair terrifying, and thought them to be demons. Faced with going back to live with these tyrannical guardians, Jim took the first step on a path that would define the rest of his life: he would kill in order to survive. He stabbed Grandma and Grandpa to death, and with the help of the Neon, disposed of their bodies. Up until that point, Jim was something of an outsider within the Neon; now, he was a warrior and a demon killer. At the same time, this marked the falling-out between him and Roscoe, who, after a year on the streets, was ready to go back.

This event would set the stage for the next five years of his life, as Jim would now be known as simply Okkervil. Due to the worsening economy, the ranks of the Neon swelled, and Okkervil organized them into something more like a gang. And as the Neon came to rely on Okkervil more and more for leadership and protection, Okkervil responded by using the Neon�s mythology as a pretext for branching out into petty crime — after all, it�s not wrong to rob a demon. During this time, Okkervil would find himself in situations that forced him (in his view) to kill to protect his charges � people who would expose the Neon�s operations, people who would take away the kids from him, people who challenge him. That last one would be his downfall, and his ultimate heartbreak: He discovered that Roscoe was going to turn him in, and Okkervil, by now used to doing whatever necessary to survive but long past the point of having to do it personally, had him killed by the Neon.

Unfortunately for Okkervil, Roscoe secretly kept evidence of the Neon�s crimes, and they came to light. The gang was dismantled, and Okkervil was tried and sentenced to spend the rest of his years at the Wellington Planetary Correctional Facility. He�s spent two years in the Well so far, and already is feared and respected by the other inmates. He�s also quietly spreading the Neon Cosmology amongst the prisoners, and attempting to unite disparate factions under his own leadership. Everything was going to plan � until the guards got a little too rough with Jackie J, and the prison exploded.

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Sunday
Apr 16, 2006

Could 1024 Japanese Schoolchildren Be Wrong? posted by Martin

I would guess not:

Click for a larger view and check out the little uniforms!

Make your own at http://www.madin.jp/ouen/index.html

Comments (0) — Category: inspiration

Friday
Apr 14, 2006

Weekly Wrap-Up (4/7/06 - 4/14/06) posted by kza

Another pretty slow week at Spitball!, with only three posts, but that’s soon to change when the Great Spitball! Media Blitz awakens like the slumbering leviathan it is and begins its inexorable conquest of realities both physical and virtual. But until that moment, when all bow down before the might of Spitball! or else be crushed like bloated, overripe fruit, how about some links?

The week began with the tail-end post of the Tragic Round Nine Debacle, which ended with the two story ideas, The Atheist and Atmosphere, being combined into one idea — The Atmospherist — despite their incompatibility. Burley’s idea of how such a monstrosity might be summarized deserves to be quoted in full:

In a world where autistic youth believe they are not living on earth, one religion proves itself useless when the methane atmosphere changes into scientists. Also known as My Blog with Andre.

It was agreed that, despite the absurdity of the concept (or maybe because of it), The Atmospherist will be treated as a legitimate contender in the Spitball! Tourney of Story Ideas. Heat #3 will be… odd, to say the least.

Then Burley gave us the rundown on March’s blogging. Short version: we wrote stuff.

Finally, Burley (it’s been all Burley this week) threw us the opening pitch of Round Ten, Rasputin the Translator v. Time To Die. It was so good that Shockah, off-blog, asked Burley if he could write some supporting material for the two character bios instead of creating whole new ones. He said yes. Look for Shockah’s post sometime on Monday, if not earlier.

Comments (0) — Category: communications

Tuesday
Apr 11, 2006

Round 10 [Rasputin the Translator v. Time to Die] posted by Martin

Rasputin the Translator (Shockah rank: #1, Burley rank: #13)

v.

Time to Die (Shockah rank: #6, Burley rank: #10)

Don’t mess with Texas. Unless—you know—you really wanna.

Rasputin the Translator
In a World contacted by a sentient and potentially violent alien race, one man—bearded and wild eyed—is the only person on earth who can translate between the languages of humans and the language of the aliens. But this strange man is not only hostile to both sides of the debate, he is also untrustworthy, and possibly manipulating the negotiations to his own ends. With all of Earth being turned into a prison as the stakes, one government has a very limited time to not only unravel the mysteries of the alien language, but also the history of the interpreter.

Character Sketch: Jacob Anatoli
Relationship to Story: Protagonist

I was going to draw this sketch of our Rasputin himself, but I decided that he should remain shrouded in mystery. I know that eventually, as a writer, I’ll need to know him better, but I’m delaying that day as long as possible. Part of the appeal, in my mind, is that he’s really an unknown quantity for much of the film. Instead, I focus on who I see as the protagonist—the President of the US Domestic Policy Advisor, who takes a front row during the alien crises and becomes the primary negotiator with the Rasputin character.

Jake never thought he’d work in the White House. He was raised in Colorado, where his father was the mayor of his small town, and Jake always helped out with his campaigns. Jake was always a bit of a loner, and as soon as he was old enough, he’d take himself into the wilderness to go camping. He explored the Southwest, sometimes with buddies, sometimes on his own, learning the land well.

When he was 16, Jake had a friend that everybody called Rapid. They would camp a lot together, and Rapid would always bring along some weed or speed. Jake didn’t like getting high and always refused, but Rapid would indulge every time. Rapid came from a pretty troubled home, but Jake really didn’t like being around him when he was high all the time and started extricating himself from the friendship. Rapid killed his father and then himself on his 17th birthday, and it came out that he had been molested his entire life. Jake realized that Rapid had tried to tell him a few times, but Jake had never really listened correctly, and so carried some guilt over the event.

He excelled at his studies, and was accepted into Yale, where he graduated summa cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in American History. He won a Rhodes Scholarship, and so studied at Oxford and then returned to the states to take a PhD in Arabic studies at Harvard. While there, he met and fell in love with a Turkish born woman named Cemile, who was finishing her PhD in the women’s studies department focusing on women’s issues in the muslim world.

While at Oxford he befriended another American, Jones Alan Porter, a charismatic and somewhat wild young guy. He played rugby and could drink Jacob under the table, but Jake was drawn to Jones’ earnest persistence in the capability of people to change their own worlds. He was especially keen on learning all of the things that Jake knew—but took for granted—about electoral politics after helping his father get elected for so many years.

While Jake was at Harvard, Jones studied law, and within 10 years of graduating was governor of Connecticut. He reached out to Jake, and Jake came to work for the governor as an advisor. This was during the great economic expansion that took the east coast by storm. Riding a wave of popularity, Jones Porter was elected president, and appointed Jake as his domestic policy advisor.

Jake was, generally, a centrist. He believed in fiscal conservatism, but had a core belief that government should aid and assist people—should level the field so that any person could have the opportunities that he and Jones had. His domestic policy was driven on this, streamlining agencies so that they were forced to be responsible for themselves and as lean as possible, while still providing services to the countries population. He also drove a strict environmental policy, based on the assumption that it was the fiscally responsible thing to maintain the land for all Americans.

Jake was not, by any stretch, a showboat—and part of his job was watching the president take and receive all credit for everything that Jake did, but on the other hand, Jake was able to walk freely around Washington DC without security, and lived a fairly normal life with Cemile, who was working for a think tank. They had three kids—a girl, and then twins, one of each. It’s not every family that has pictures of their children with the president and first lady.

He had just gotten to work, and hadn’t even taken off his overcoat the morning the alien transmission came in. The situation room was alive with energy, and as the nearest thing to a linguist, Jake was given the task of trying to decipher just what it was these aliens wanted, and where they came from….


Time to Die
In a World where death itself is beaten by genetic regeneration, a guard is killed during a riot on the prison planet. One woman—his wife—faces sure death to retrieve his body in time to bring him back to life. It’s a race against time, with one nearly resourcesless woman willfully fighting like a juggernaut against the prisoners who are holding his body hostage, and the powers that be that think she should just give up. All to simply save the man she loves from eternal death.

Character Sketch: September Rose St. Germain
Relationship to Story: Protagonist

She was named so that she’d never forget the terrorist attacks on New York. Her grandfather was a fire fighter who had died, and throughout her very large and close-knit family, honoring him was a part and parcel of the culture. She was raised in New Jersey in a suburban development that was overrun with members of her family, who all kept houses near each other. She had nearly total freedom to wander the neighborhood as a child—somebody was always looking out for her.

September was never an excellent student, but she got by. She was socially very easy going, and never seemed to care much about fitting in, but that could be because fitting in was effortless for her. While she wasn’t part of the “popular crowd” per se, she had a certain charismatic gravity that pulled people to her. Within no time, she had her own small social group.

Her teenage years were pretty uneventful, save for a mugging. She had snuck into the city to go clubbing with some friends from school and had been jumped by some thugs who stole her mobile iCompuPhonePod and smashed her into the side of a building when she deigned to raise a fuss. She broke her cheek on the bricks and spent a few painful months trying not to smile, but eventually healed up. That’s when she started taking martial arts, first as a confidence builder, and then continuing it as a good form of exercise.

She went to college at NYU studying marketing and management. Out of college her first job was PR for a aerospace firm called Tangenilent, working on campaigns selling some of the first personal spacecraft available on the market. She lived in New York in a tiny apartment with two other women she knew from High School, one who worked as a dominatrix at a freelance dungeon, the other a stripper who worked in a private corporate club. They used shoji screens to divide the main room into three small sleeping nooks, and had understandings about bringing men home. They spent a lot of time together out on the town.

One night at a bar she met the man who would become her on-again off-again boyfriend, and eventually her husband. He was finishing a degree in law enforcement, but after graduating got rejected for his desired job in the New York Police Department due to a heart murmur. He was able to find a job with new off-land security agencies that secured the contract for the brand new prison planet. He worked six months on, six months off and sent home large amounts of money for his trouble.

September hated the emotional up-and-downs of the schedule at first, but after a few years of being together, it actually grew on her and she found herself relishing both the time she was alone, and when he was around to keep her company. With his help, she could afford a large one-bedroom apartment in a nice area. She stayed with Tangenilent, working her way up to director of marketing and having quite a bit of a say in her work schedule so long as she was meeting or exceeding expectations. The craft were selling extremely well, thanks in no small part to September having created a buzz about them that made them cool and desirable before they even launched. When she wasn’t on, she competed in martial arts competitions for fun, honing her competitive sense and keeping her body strong.

Her boyfriend proposed to her, and they were married on the moon, her company loaning her one of its crafts for a honeymoon drifting in space—the latest craze people were calling tin-can camping. You would get everything you need, set a course for nowhere and spend times sleeping under a glass bubble that showed you the stars, planets and suns. The craft could be programmed to randomly pop into exciting areas of the galaxy on auto pilot, and still safely return you to Earth to the docking station before your oxygen or fuel ran out. Then, you could take the space elevator back to Earth, and after spending a few days in the underwater hotel readjusting to the atmosphere, you could fly home.

They settled back into their routine until the morning that September got the call that her husband had been killed during a prisoner uprising. And there, as they say, our story begins….

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Saturday
Apr 08, 2006

State of the Blog: March posted by Martin

Citizens of the world, websurfing aliens, and sentient underwater overlords—welcome to the State of the Blog address for the month of March, 2006. We (we being I, as Shockah had nothing to do with it) apologize for the delay in posting this overview—it is my responsibility, and I fell behind. I accept any disappointment you feel in me, and will try to please you more next month.

We were happy to see a few more people popping up in the forums in this month, and we encourage all people reading this to go and comment on anything you would like, including comments like ‘You guys are really boring me,’ and ‘I thought screenwriting was supposed to be filled with buxom babes, perilous parties and more excitement than any reasonable person should be exposed to.’ Of course, we may be holding out on you and when you sign into the forums you will find those parties. That’s all I have to say about that.

Our Google ranking has remained about the same this month. We’re still a first page result for searching “Spitball”. We posted around about 74 posts in March, wrapping up the first heat of our battle in Seattle over screenplay ideas. Shockah continued his fine study into the Sequence method, to which I added nothing of value other than occasional quips. Shockah gets the gold metal for actual work this month.

We both became weighed down in minutia in round 9, which seems to be a bit dispiriting to us both, but I predict will be a minor hiccup in the road. From my point of view, when we get into the nitty gritty about something, it’s usually about something else—in this case, I think it’s about the weakness of the two ideas presented.

The last week of March saw a dramatic slowdown—first from my need to focus on work, and then from the flu which struck me down in practically biblical ways. Speaking of which, how about that Gospel of Judas? I’ll bet you gnostics are just psyched.

In any case, I predict April will be much busier as things pick up. We’re about to start round 10, and it contains two very strong ideas that we both have strong opinions about. Get ready for a smackdown.

Thank you for tuning in to Spitball!, the world’s only screenplay being written by blog. Memberships are still available for free. Hurry and sign up, before they are all gone.

Comments (0) — Category: communications

Friday
Apr 07, 2006

Re:[6] Round 9: A big stick posted by Martin

It might end up being an excuse to indulge in some Grade A nonsense.

Hey—that’s a great idea. I’m totally on board with that. It shall be treated like any other story, but it’s our chance to really go outside.

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Thursday
Apr 06, 2006

Re:[5] Round 9: A big stick posted by kza

Just FYI: I found your “consolidation synopsis” hilarious, and I do plan on treating The Atmospherist seriously as a contestant. It might end up being an excuse to indulge in some Grade A nonsense (something I haven’t allowed myself to do in a long while), but, yes, I plan to put it through its paces, just like any other story idea.

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Thursday
Apr 06, 2006

Re:[4] Round 9: A big stick posted by Martin

The Atmospherist it is, as proxy. If you’d like to take a stab at combining them, I’d be open to it—maybe a different tack would help.

This round has raised interesting issues—one of which I’ll voice here, although I will preface it by saying that I’m not suggesting we change anything—I think we should slog through the heat. But, I’m thinking this: the true issue is not one story vs. another, but a story vs. itself. Or, two views of one story that need to be reconciled.

So, when we have rounds between two stories going more in depth, it seems that we ended up butting heads on a few issues, any one of which could have been dealt with individually and not in relation to the story it’s up against. The later rounds felt like we were arguing on multiple fronts, so the relationship between the two stories is kind of superfluous, save for their ability to skinny down the list. Maybe, as I’ve suggested, this point will be moot when we get into more interesting material, but I think this might be a point worth considering if we get bogged down much more. Focusing on one story at a time might help that.

But, we’ve got some great ideas coming up. Round 10 coming up soon.

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Thursday
Apr 06, 2006

Re:[3] Round 9: A big stick posted by kza

But, if I had to vote for one of the two, I would say that I, Burley Grymz, vote for The Atheist.

Naturally — I’d vote for Atmosphere.

The Atmospherist it is, unless you have another idea.

(I was thinking earlier, “Too bad we can’t combine them”. But of course, you can combine anything. It might not be pretty, it might not make sense, but yes, you can combine them.)

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Thursday
Apr 06, 2006

Re:[2] Round 9: A big stick posted by Martin

I say we move forward a proxy:

The Atmospherist
In a world where autistic youth believe they are not living on earth, one religion proves itself useless when the methane atmosphere changes into scientists. Also known as My Blog with Andre.

But, if I had to vote for one of the two, I would say that I, Burley Grymz, vote for The Atheist.

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Thursday
Apr 06, 2006

Re: Round 9: A big stick posted by kza

Both ideas get canned.

Generally, I’m not against the Gordian Knot rule. However, there is one problem: I’m incredibly anal-retentive it really screws up the competitive order of the Spitball! Tourney. I’d really feel better if something moved forward, even if we know it’s gonna get canned in the next round.

You know, let’s rise to vote and see where we stand. That could solve this thing with one fell swoop. If you had to choose one to move forward, which one would it be?

Oh, and:

I think that this [tabling procedures] might be interesting for the needlessly complex� rules futures

I’ll start working on that, since we should have that in place.

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Thursday
Apr 06, 2006

Round 9: A big stick posted by Martin

c) Start writing a post on tabling procedures?

I think that this might be interesting for the needlessly complex® rules futures, but I don’t think it’s actually needed in this round. I propose instead something radical:

Both ideas get canned.

I’m not really feeling the love for either of these that strongly, and it seems that the things that interest and pull me in are nearly opposite of the things that interest you and pull you in. I’m taking our disagreements over these ideas as a sign that the ideas weren’t that strong to begin with.

It’s like our friends who have an organic subscription farm (brief plug: fresh veggies, delivered each week nearby your home? Great prices, and great people? If you’re in Seattle, you could do much worse). In talking about farming with them, they said that a field that has sat fallow for many years is amazing to grow in. You have no problems with pests, and everything just goes well. Compare that with a field that has been planted where the soil is robbed of nutrition, and there are tons of problems with pests and the plants don’t grown nearly as well. I think we’re sitting in weak soil with these stories. I think we need a storyectomy. When we’re in more fertile soil I’ll bet we encounter none of the problems we’re currently having. What say you?

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Wednesday
Apr 05, 2006

Round 9.13 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere] posted by kza

a. How do you end it? You can’t kill the mitochondria, who—over billions of years—have formed a complex relationship with the human hosts. What’s the end game? Is it just acceptance of the situation? Is that a dramatic enough story arc? Do the humans escape the Earth? Can they live without the tiny species?

Well, to be fair, I didn’t get a chance to end it. To be more fair, I wasn’t even sure myself (although I have an inkling), but I thought I’d get through it one way or another in the second post.

b. How do you visually represent the relationship with the tiny consciousness? Some might argue that this is what the Blob was doing in metaphor (actually, I may be the first person to suggest that, but I kind of am suggesting that), but I am thinking that this would be a big hurdle in the making of this movie. There can be tricks or representing the microscopic beings as a human that nobody else can see, but this would be a hurdle towards making this a reality.

Again, much like the autism thing, I’d much rather commit and accept the storytelling challenge then try and think and come up with the answer in an abstract way before proceeding. But I can’t really blame you if you can’t commit.

I guess it’s a little ironic—we seem to have switched position on this particular story. You’re starting broad and getting more specific, but I want specifics first and then go broad.

Which is difficult, for me, for this story (and a few others), because what they spark in me isn’t specifics. Rachel was the same way — what sparked an interest in me wasn’t anything specific, but a mood, a feeling, a vague concept, and when I tried to get specific… well, you know what happened.

I want this story to be about how in a superstitious society, one person sees things differently and, using the powers of observation and reason, figures out that things aren’t as they seem despite the dogma. I want it as a metaphor for the early (early, as in, 2005) scientists working against the ignorance of the church.

I’m sympathetic to that concept. The only problem was that the specifics you suggested were, ultimately, too Twilight Zone for me. It was ultimately just a “gotcha” story. (Nothing wrong with Twilight Zone, really, but after all the “Scary Door” parodies on Futurama, it’s kinda been ruined for me.)

So, I’ll leave this next part up to you. Should I:

a) Write the proposed second part of my Atheist story sketch? (Could be hard, since it’s gone a bit cold for me. Also, I don’t expect it to change your mind any.)
b) Write a version of the Atheist that uses the alien planet? (I’m still pretty opposed to the alien planet, but maybe that severe conflict will push me to, uh, alien places.)
c) Start writing a post on tabling procedures?

And of course, there’s always the vote.

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Wednesday
Apr 05, 2006

Round 9.12 [The Atheist v. Atmosphere] posted by Martin

I’m back! After catching the flu and being laid up for over a week, I’ve finally regained enough presence of mind to make at least as little sense as I normally do. So, without further adieu, and to propel things forward, here is my response to the Shockah’s last post on the screenplay.

I have two areas of response to your post on the Atheist

Area 1 is a response to your post

I’m still not hooked. Which is very different than saying that I’m not interested—I think what you’ve described is fascinating conceptually, but it sounds like a novel to me. It certainly is novel, and the microscopic critters manipulating people is a great concept, but I think it raises terrific issues, that for me, define it as such:

a. How do you end it? You can’t kill the mitochondria, who—over billions of years—have formed a complex relationship with the human hosts. What’s the end game? Is it just acceptance of the situation? Is that a dramatic enough story arc? Do the humans escape the Earth? Can they live without the tiny species?

b. How do you visually represent the relationship with the tiny consciousness? Some might argue that this is what the Blob was doing in metaphor (actually, I may be the first person to suggest that, but I kind of am suggesting that), but I am thinking that this would be a big hurdle in the making of this movie. There can be tricks or representing the microscopic beings as a human that nobody else can see, but this would be a hurdle towards making this a reality.

I guess it’s a little ironic—we seem to have switched position on this particular story. You’re starting broad and getting more specific, but I want specifics first and then go broad.

Area 2 is a clarification of previously stated ideas and has little to do with your post

Being sick, I’ve been catching up on some reading—notably starting Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver, which has been on my “to tackle” list for quite awhile. It sparked in my mind an unarticulated desire that I have with this story, which is one of the reasons I argue that it should be done on another planet.

I want this story to be about how in a superstitious society, one person sees things differently and, using the powers of observation and reason, figures out that things aren’t as they seem despite the dogma. I want it as a metaphor for the early (early, as in, 2005) scientists working against the ignorance of the church. This is why I argue that putting it on Earth dilutes it—in my version of this story, it could never take place on earth because the population needs to be isolated from all outside influence.

OR, if it did, it would have to be an isolated population on an island that was completely remote from everybody, and potentially takes place before European expansion into the Americas. Why? Because then an isolated population untouched by other humans is a possibility. But, there is (essentially) no difference in this and setting the thing on another planet. The other planet makes just as much sense, and the island seems to be just an abstracting factor that would add nothing to the story other than conveniently place it on earth. It seems a silly idea.

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Saturday
Apr 01, 2006

91 Word Update posted by kza

Sorry ‘bout the lack of updates, folks — Shockah’s been busy with RL stuff, and Burley… poor Burley’s got the ‘flu. And not that boogie woogie ‘flu you might have heard about, but the other kind. So take a few moments to wish Tha Grymz a speedy recovery.

And while you’re at it… Burley’s one year older today. You know what that means folks — it’s paddle time! Give his buns a thwacking on the forum — he’ll thank you later. Or kill me. One or t’other.

Comments (0) — Category: communications

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What is Spitball!?

Spitball! is two guys collaborating to write about writing and collaboration. We're writing partners who have worked together since 2000, and placed in the top 100 in the last Project Greenlight for our script YELLOW.

Currently, we are both working on multiple screenplay, short story, and novel ideas independently and together, and collaborate on this blog.

What Spitball! used to be

Spitball! started as an attempt to collaborate on a screenplay online in real time. From January 2006 to July 2007 we worked on an interactive process to decide the story we were going to make. A full postmortem is coming, but you can find the find all the posts by looking in the category Original Version.

During this period, we affected the personalities of two of the most famous spitball pitchers from the early 20th Century. Look at our brief bios for more info about this, and so as not to be confused as to who is talking when.

We rebooted the franchise in early 2009 in its current form.


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Kent M. Beeson

Urban Shockah pic

Kent M. Beeson (aka Urban Shockah) is a stay-at-home dad and stay-at-home writer, living in Seattle, WA with his wife, 2 year old daughter and an insane cat. In 2007, he was a contributor to the film blog ScreenGrab, where he presciently suggested Jackie Earle Haley to play Rorschach in the Watchmen movie, and in 2008, he wrote a film column for the comic-book site ComiXology called The Watchman. (He's a big fan of the book, if you couldn't tell.) In 2009, he gave up the thrill of freelance writing to focus on screenplays and novels, although he sometimes posts to his blog This Can't End Well, which a continuation of his first blog, he loved him some movies. He's a Pisces, and his favorite movie of all time is Jaws. Coincidence? I think not.

Martin McClellan

Burleigh Grimes pic

Martin (aka Burley Grymz) is a designer and writer. He occasionally blogs at his beloved Hellbox, and keeps a longer ostensibly more interesting bio over here at his eponymous website. You can also find him on Twitter.