The Cat Thief #Gointothestory DAY 10 scene

SCENE 11

EXT. LONDON GEORGIAN MAISONETTE AND GARDEN – NIGHT

A ginger cat goes out of an upstairs window and out of a huge overgrown garden which looks like a jungle.

Copper eyes reveal the face of Bombay Black pirate cat Gatto camouflaged near a wall in the garden.

Gatto holds down the tail of squirrel Tiny with his paw. Tiny has a watch and scratches notes on to a nut.

Gatto: Draw it up. If you tell anyone about this, squirrel death will descend upon your hole.

Tiny skips away trembling with nut in hand.

EXT. HOUSE GARDEN – NIGHT

Exact same scene, fat ginger cat leaves upstairs.

Great escape theme music starts to play quietly.

Gatto looks behind and slowly climbs up through a window. Squirrel Tiny trembles below.

Gatto: Are you a squirrel or a mouse?

Tiny: Someone said we’re related.

INT. KITCHEN – NIGHT

Gatto climbs on to a cooker door handle, jumps onto cooker and then hops into a larder cupboard. Gatto’s eyes feast upon the bounty.

Gatto drop tins of top cat food out through the window.

EXT. WINDOW DOOR – NIGHT

Tiny ducks food tins which tumble onto the patio.

INT. UPSTAIRS BEDROOM – NIGHT

Gatto keeps sniffing as he climbs bedposts, jumps onto a mantlepiece. The clock swivels to open a trapdoor. Inside is a jewellery case holding a cat collar with sapphires and diamonds.

Gatto: Ging, you fat cat, you.

A croaky groan. Gatto sees old lady in bed.

Gatto is relieved when lady falls back asleep but he now hears the sound of a cat knocking into something.

Ging appears and looks directly at Gatto who starts to creep away but Ging just looks out to space.

Gatto turns to go but cranky sleepy old lady wakes up.

Old lady: Come here you disgusting cat.

Gatto looks at himself and then the old woman. Gatto is about to remonstrate when sleepy lady grabs Ging and slaps him. The old lady now awake sees Gatto.

Lady: YOU.

Momentarily lost, Gatto pulls the cat collar and waves it as a pendulum at both the old lady and Ging.

Gatto: Ging you will leave this place, lose weight and regain your self esteem. You, old lady, will stop abusing cats or anyone. Remember nothing when you wake.

Both Ging and the cranky old lady fall into a deep sleep.

Gatto scratches the bedpost and the bed sheet with a pirate cat skull.

Gatto sniffs both Ging and the lady. Gatto finds a bottle of RUM under the bed. Gatto swigs the rum and puts on the cat collar before disappearing into the night.

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The Date #Gointothestory DAY 11 scene

SCENE 10

INT. RESTAURANT – SUNSET

Swarthy confident David and a glowing but nervous Clarissa are having candle-lit dinner at a restaurant. Sunset can be seen from the window.

David: So how come you said yes?

Clarissa: I had a lot less on this week.

David: I’m curious as to why.

Clarissa: Curiosity.

David: And how’s that curiosity coming along?

Clarissa: Coming along.

David: Are you being evasive?

Clarissa: An accusation or a question?

David: Do you enjoy being with me?

Clarissa: Let’s skip the interrogation.

David: I’m enjoying the asparagus.

Clarissa: Finely tipped long shoots always work well.

David: And the artichoke?

Clarissa: Great once you get to the heart of it.

David: The heart is where it’s at.

Clarissa: If it tastes great, it’s probably great.

David: Same time next week.

Clarissa: Sounds like dinner every week.

David: That good?

Clarissa: You only live once.

David: Unless you believe in reincarnation.

Clarissa: I’m in this life now.

David: Looks good from where I am sitting.

Clarissa: I want to blow out the candle and make a wish.

David: Together.

Clarissa: I’m ready.

David: Next dating candidate please. A great eg of how to avoid the sticky four letter commitment. Feel free to come back anytime Melissa.

Clarissa: I’ve got a funny feeling I won’t need any more courses on getting out of being with Ed. By the way, my name is Clarissa and I just committed.

GOINTOTHESTORY TASK: 

Today’s prompt: A characters says “I love you”… without using the words “I love you”.

There are tens of thousands of words in the English language. Explore them in a scene where one character expresses his/her love for another without the old tried and true expression.

Then take that as a jumping off point: Why does the character not use the words “I love you”? Are they afraid of making that type of commitment? Are they trying to be clever? Have they rehearsed a speech? Stumbling over ILY, then suddenly jump to some other way of conveying their feelings?

And by the way, they don’t have to say anything, it’s possible they could get across their love through a gesture. Movies are a visual medium. Perhaps explore that possibility.

But whatever you do, don’t let the character say, “I love you.”

 

DEERS OFF – #Gointothestory DAY 9 scene

EXT. WOODS NEAR ALEXANDRA PALACE, LONDON – DAY

North American white tailed deer STAG Harry and FAWN Micky eat twigs and look out to London.

HARRY: Here we are in London, I can smell the pollution Jerry described.

MICKY: Scotland’s the place we want to be Dad.

HARRY: You got to think of property prices son?

MICKY: We won’t need a house to protect us in Scotland.

HARRY: Scotland’s got too many food banks son.

MICKY: It gets better and better.

HARRY: You got to start thinking with your stomach son.

MICKY: I do Dad, all the time, apart from one time.

HARRY: Food banks mean no one has food son.

MICK: Red deer said we should go back to where we came from?

HARRY: And what was that Red’s name again?

MICKY: Tufton Victor Osborne.

HARRY: And did you tell Tufton about dangers in the US?

MICK: Red said it’s worse here. Red dreams of going to Cayuga heights.

HARRY: Tufton doesn’t want immigrants like us.

MICK: They have immigrants like us in Scotland.

HARRY: It won’t be any different there son.

MICKY: DAD, I saw a video about the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996.   

HARRY: I’ve warned you about watching TV.

MICKY: No one can shoot us in Scotland Dad.

HARRY: And this has got nothing with you trying out at the Edinburgh fringe?

MICKY: Mum thinks you could develop a Scottish nose.

HARRY: No Tufton’s there I bet, talking smells.

Harry raises his white tail and twitches. Harry runs and Micky follows and they are gone.

A small child appears after peeing in the bushes.

The Break Up rom-com rewrite

The job was to rewrite rom com The Break Up, keep all the good bits but this time, not alienate the female audience.

The premise of The Break Up as a rom-com concept is undeniably fantastic when compared with run of the mill rom-coms. Two people love each other and the comedy is that they break up over nothing.

Gary Grobowski, played by Vince Vaughn and Brooke Meyers played by Jennifer Aniston meet at a game. Gary woos attractive Brooke by just talking until she has no choice but to go on a date. Gary’s flaw is, he is a bit overbearing but his funny go-getting attitude and charming approach means we instantly like him when we meet him. Gary’s funny charming manner is confirmed in his job as a tour guide.

The problem is after meeting funny charming Gary, he suddenly becomes a passive cruel unattractive couch potato. Gary’s cruelty knows no bounds, he is homophobic, he is dirty and messy, unhelpful, uncaring and unsupportive of Brooke and others. Worst of all, he is not even funny anymore. Basically the character who we met at the beginning no longer exists and develops a variety of inconsistent traits which are rolled out depending on who he talks to in the film. Brooke breaks up with Gary who becomes even more intolerably cruel with Brooke but she is desperate to get back with him. This is despite the fact that Gary has no intention of changing and has totally lost the sense of humour that caused them to get together. The break up continues amidst animosity and miscommunication. The couple must share the condo before it sells and their break-up can be concluded.

The problem for a female viewer is she cannot understand why Brooke wants to get back with cruel unattractive Gary. A good comparison with The Break Up Gary character is Melvin Udall played by Jack Nicholson in the film As Good As It Gets released in 1997. We the viewers watch and learn that the main character Melvin is not a hateful racist, homophobic, anti-semitic, sexist and misogynistic dog hater. Melvin does not mean to be cruel and over time, we the viewers see Melvin overcome this debilitating flaw and change through the female character. While the waitress Carol Connelly played by Helen Hunt may be a TV trope, a young poor single mother wooed by a rich old cruel man, she is not a pushover.

The film Break Up was released in the year 2006 not the 1950s. The period in which such female TV tropes and stereotypes are rolled out. The problem for the scriptwriters of The Break Up is that they alienate the female audience.

The film had numerous supporting characters that added to the plot and gave some undeniably funny moments: Brooke’s brother Richard Meyers played by John Michael Higgins challenging Gary’s homophobia; Brooke’s boss and gallery owner Marilyn Dean played by Judy Davis offering a beleaguered Brooke unexpected relationship tips; Gary’s best friend and confidante, barman Johnny Ostrofski played by Jon Favreau entertaining us despite being forced to deliver bad exposition and Gary’s colleague Sandra who we see in only two scenes. Sandra’s expressions tell us of her work relationship with Gary and she manages to make driving a bus and boat funny.

But overall, the film had too many characters that were not needed and just diluted the premise. The film needed to cull characters and give viewers time to hang out with funny supporting characters that were essential to integrating the plot and bringing about much needed changes in the lead characters. The characters who were not needed included: Brooke’s best friend and confidante, married with two children, Addie Jones played by the talented Joey Lauren Adams. Addie did not question Brooke’s love for cruel and inconsiderate Gary. Addie’s unsupportive and low-key criticism made their scenes the opposite of funny. Gary’s family and Brooke’s parents were too one-dimensional and they were simply not needed.

SPOILER ALERT:

The worst part of the film was a wholly redundant scene which actually made me hate the male character irreparably. Brooke invites Gary to a concert for a band he likes two days before they sell their condo. This is a band he likes and she asks him very nicely. Gary does not turn up. Still in as a viewer? I wasn’t. The question for me, is why would the writers write an inconsistent character that is that unnecessarily cruel?

After seeing Brooke cry, suddenly Gary becomes a nice person and so the inconsistencies of Gary’s character continue. Gary’s best barman friend has to tell confused viewers in exposition that Gary always just gets his own way but Brooke is the first girl he has ever been in love with. Really and even as I write this, I have to ask, does the character of Gary and the plot make sense?

Still it is watching these moments that give me enlightenment as a writer. I learned rom coms may be light and funny although Groundhog Day and There’s Something about Mary show such films can also be rich in mythic quality. But lead characters must be engaging in the charming Cary Grant way or at least be people we wish to hang out with or learn about as we have to spend over an hour in their company. The scriptwriter must help us find ways to understand or forgive their frailties. This cannot and must never happen in exposition.

I am certain The Break Up would have had an amazing box office given the performances if the character of Gary could have been revised to make sense.

So here comes the rewrite

Gary the funny but selfish philanderer has met the girl of his dreams and that is his problem, he is on a trajectory which aims to use his fast funny talking to help their relationship go all the way but Brooke is a determined career girl.
Brooke’s grand plans involve trying to convince boss Marilyn Dean played by Judy Davis to change the gallery ethos and re-balance mythic male phallic art with some female presence so they can woo the male crowd. Brooke worships high priestess Marilyn but believes she must make use of the mythic female fertility symbols sitting in Marilyn’s office. Amongst other things, Brooke keeps bringing home scary mythic female art and fertility artefacts which terrify Gary and his mates. Brooke accuses Gary of being uncultured because she believes them to be aphrodisiacs. Both of the issues cause a direct conflict with Gary who turns to barman friend Johnny Ostrofski played by Jon Favreau for help. The couple still break up but this time, it is Gary who breaks up with Brooke after taking advice from Johnny that he has become too much of a pushover to be attractive. Brooke is unconvinced but plays along with it to teach Gary a lesson until she can conclude her work ambitions. In line with the original, Brooke dates attractive men to make Gary jealous. But in the rewrite, she asks her brother Richard Meyers played by John Michael Higgins to find a string of gay men from his all-male singing group to be her date. Gary tries to understand Brooke by befriending the men. The problem is some of the gay men like Gary and other’s just question Gary as a choice. One of her dates provokes Brooke so much that she is forced to defend Gary as a partner choice. Brooke realises she loves Gary and must find a way to make him understand and Gary learns he must use his fast-talking skills to help Brooke to pursue all her worldly ambitions if they are to make it as a couple. Gary stays a consistent fast talking, charming and funny guy and Brooke is not a pushover but a sassy smart attractive girl with some self-respect. Everyone wins. One final note, I’d keep the dinner scene but I would only invite Marilyn Dean, Brooke’s brother, barman friend and Gary’s work colleague Sandra. All of them have their own views and versions of the couple which adds to the madness.

Writers choices©

As writers we make choices – I am weary of ever claiming or thinking there is a right or wrong way of writing. There is only one way of writing – the individual writer’s way. This is something it took me a long time to realise. This is why the one size fits all books must be considered as aids not the biographical works of how to write. Successful screenwriters have found a myriad of roads to get it on the page.

Here are just a few pointers I found useful when learning about my own craft – again, only use what’s useful for your work. Some of my suggestions evolved after the first draft – that’s the draft where first you get all that stuff on the inside – out. Then the work is edited to what you want to show on screen.

characters – how well we know our characters or get to know them? Do you know the character’s reaction in any given situation? This is the reality of knowing a character. Once you know this, you know the character is real. When they surprise you, that’s development. Is their reaction consistent with a shift or change in their own character?

dialogue – every person speaks with an inflection which is often more of an indication of their character than the person – hence why we love actors who find the essence of a character and bring them to life not just with the voice but the entire persona

story – does your story add up? if a story has holes, we could say our story does not matter. Plot rich consistency matters if you write and care for an audience. It was useful for me to understand my relationship with my audience whether I have one or not. I believe a creative work of art only comes to life with the audience otherwise it lives in the bubble of the artist’s creation. This is the impetus for my work.

beats – what and where are the changes in the drama? Do they change and move the plot and character forward and are the beats noticeable by the audience? Rising tension for instance. Todd Click has written a book on beats. He also wrote an article giving examples of beats showing similarities between the plays of Shakespeare and Spielberg/Lucas film Raiders of the Lost Ark written by Lawrence Kasdan. Please see tiny.cc/ai9n0w

act – emotions must be felt in screenwriting. Go on some acting courses, understand the ease and difficulties of expressing emotion in the character’s world. Acting helped Callie Khouri, Quentin Tarantino, Moliere, Shakespeare (read Hamlet) and countless others. It is also what puts off writers. Sometimes it is unpleasant but keep going.

theme – does your theme have meaning and resonance? A theme is in your entire story and sometimes in every detail not in an obvious way though. Theme is vital – consider the various stages in life, school, work, home – when your life has no meaning, you absolutely have to do something and a film is no different. The great myth is films tell people how to live, no writers simply show how this character found a way to live or die. Music in the words of the great Schopenhauer already has theme – art including great screenwriting work hard so emotion and logic can meet creatively to create depth

truth – to paraphrase Robert Mckee in Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, phew!, you may lie in life but not in your art – So as writers it is vital we know our work and the intention of our work. I was forced to expand this point because I could not edit it.

prejudices – I am not a fan of negativity in my blog (remember I want to nurture and inspire) but please avoid negative stereotyping because it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. As an example. I study movies and sometimes I cannot believe the number of times where male characters get oral sex from disposable girls (also apply to the depiction of race, colour, countries etc). Sometimes the oral sex is supposed to make the boy/men look cool and other times funny. It just makes me think something else. This is the writer’s wishful thinking and this is what they think of girls and worse still, is this their revenge for being unpopular? If you need a sex scene, why is it there? why is it funny? why is it part of the drama? Think best British comedy The Full Monty by Simon Beaufoy (sexual stereotypes are reversed for full comic and social impact), American Pie by Adam Herz (the audience and the girl characters get a chance to make fun out of the boys who stereotype girls and the guys in the audience who actually think this stuff is cool think this movie is for them) and Pretty Woman by Jonathan Frederick Lawton (theme – how true love overcomes prejudices about identity).

I believe it is our job as writers to root out internal and external prejudices and shine a light on them comically or dramatically especially if we are putting them in our work. Not to feel bad? Feelings uncomfortable or otherwise is often just conditioning and it does not define who any of us really are. It is not our job to judge emotional responses but to understand these ways of thinking and the impact on the world of our characters. The sad thing is we do not always understand the sophistication of an audience. They know the writer’s intentions from the work. Know that your audience will be left with the feeling of the identity of the work produced. The audience has gone to be entertained not to do the hard work of trying to understand why our work came out like this or that. Know that and let your characters evolve to much more than the first thing that came out on the page. If there are prejudices, do not fear being controversial but find out why because it will help improve your work and may even help the audience to understand the world. If you do not believe me, screenwriter Paul Schrader says screenwriting improved him as a person. I came to it as a form of self-therapy, I came to it because I had no choice, I came to it because I needed to do this to save myself. Gustave Flaubert said: “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” Perhaps this is why some great writers say writing makes them better people.

Last but not least, read your work out aloud, sit upright with your spine, if you feel emotion going up or down your spine when you read your characters, I believe you have arrived in nirvana. Your work speaks. Not sure where you’ve arrived but it’s some place cool in the writing pantheon.

Here comes the nurturing bit – I want a story with meaning and characters and theme that resonate. Discover what you want and nurture that goal forever?

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Hidden Tools of Comedy by Steve Kaplan

I finished reading Steve Kaplan’s book on comedy The Hidden Tools of Comedy and now those pesky little comedy tools have nowhere to hide!

As a summary. The Hidden Tools of Comedy shows you how comedy writers write from the viewpoints of authentic characters in ordinary conflict situations that amuse and embarrass the audience and other characters watching them. The strength of good scriptwriting books is that they try to tell us all the great factors which help to create highly watchable comedy and drama. By showing us what isn’t comedy, Steve also teaches drama and he also delves into the history of comedy and archetypal comedy characters. He uses real scripts from funny and not so funny movies – ie drama. Steve also reveals a little of what goes on in his classes. The most important aspect for me is that this book is written for actors, writers and directors without any distinction. Great films live on because everyone not just the writer/s, actors and director/s are working to make the story and the characters who fire up the story believable. Steve Kaplan places a great emphasis on how all characters including secondary characters must feel and be authentic as they respond to real situations. He gives examples of how authenticity is what adds real value to a story. The characters in these ordinary but amusing or conflict-led situations are the ones we talk about. I believe it is only when we see real characters that we start to see how human beings on film and stage feed off each other as much as they do in life. Perhaps it helps us to see beyond the mundane situations and instead look at how people respond to each other. Steve shows how comedy finds ways to make terrible situations better by helping us to laugh at the things that we sometimes find yucky or hard to stomach. The book is a must for comedy writers/actors/directors. Don’t just believe me, there are a lot of funny writers/performers/animators, yes animators who have worked with Steve including David Crane, Ellen Sandler, David Fury, Disney. The list goes on…and on…and on…

Some of Steve Kaplan’s book was tough for me. No more bad puns he insists especially those that have nothing to do with the story. Oh alright then! Instead let the character and the story lead. Anything negative – The very beginning felt a tiny bit repetitious. Did I say repetitious? He tells you to steal great work and pay homage. Didn’t someone else say that? On top of this, I had another hairy moment when the book reminded me of that one time when I wasn’t at band camp and I was asked to rewrite bits in my work. You know to add more funny even though it detracted from my story. The truth is my characters must be real otherwise neither me or any potential audience can engage and it is my work that will lose its authenticity. It is our job as writers/actors/directors to maintain the truth in our work. It is no good me saying it’s tough. It is what needs to be done.

Hidden Tools of Comedy is a great practical book that debunks the myths, suggests some other useful books but I believe any writer who sits down and runs through the films and exercises mentioned, will be on their way to writing funny that is real for them as well as other people.

I first learnt about some of Steve Kaplan’s comedy tools because I read an article by someone who had been lucky enough to have been to a Steve Kaplan seminar. I was hooked because they made so much sense. I still went off to watch the comedies suggested and discovered all of his tips added up. I became a fan. I know most writers never have money to go to writing seminars because we get paid nothing or very little for our craft but this book is a cheap way to test out if your comedy works.

In the meantime, if your a rich writer or just want to know more from the man himself, the link to his page is: – http://kaplancomedy.com

Not the betting type©

She had one of those faces that you had to go and talk to and the kind of body you had to talk about. She was there with someone but it was me. I’m the kind of guy who can’t help himself.

“Name please” I requested.

“You make it sound like a medical check up?” She wasn’t playing but I was on a roll.

“It all checks out” I declared. Her face softened into a smile.

“Anything in particular?” Her eyes seem to beckon me. Now we were communicating.

“Everything from where I see” I said making a point of staring into those eyes.

“Depends on your 20/20 angle” she mused. She was getting technical. I had to pull it back. So I took the kind of chance that makes grown men weep. One thing was certain. There was no going back.

“What’s the bets I could take you right here, right now?”

“I’m not the betting type”. Her dancing partner laughed. I had to laugh as she brushed me aside with a wave from her alluring hand. “Besides, I’m dancing with my husband.”

Typical femme fatale, a tease or that other type.

Still, I’d slipped her my number and she didn’t even know it.

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Where blokes go wrong series