Top Ten Movies of 2016

Mid-May isn’t too late to do a top ten of the year is it? I don’t think so, at least not when you’ve spent the previous year traveling the world! That’s my excuse anyways, for this super-late post on my favorite films of 2016.

I should note that there are still a couple popular/critically praised films I still haven’t seen from last year, like Elle, The Salesman, Moana, and probably some others that could make it onto this list once I see them.

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Where I’ve Been

Hello all! I haven’t posted here for a while and maybe you’re wondering where I’ve been. Well, I’ve been doing a lot of writing, and Inna and I are also taking a year off, to travel! That’s right, a whole year: Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and of course road tripping across the United States! Maybe we’ll even get Africa in there, if we can manage it.

I started a new blog about my travel endeavors, so check it out! Otherwise, I don’t know how much I’ll be posting around here, but I’ll put up some stuff and I’ll talk to you soon!

Top Ten Movies of 2015

Here it is, my annual top ten films of the year!

Note: I still have not seen Creed, Son of Saul, and probably some others that might make it onto this list once I do see them.

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Blue Mornings Available Online!

My short slice-of-life drama Blue Mornings is available to watch online! Enjoy!

Starring: Caitlin Rose Williams, Ari Frenkel
Director of Photography: Christopher James Tobias
Composer: Jeff Icuss

13 Choices Amateur Filmmakers Make

The sequel to the 12 Choices Amateur Screenwriters Make, here are 13 choices that amateur filmmakers make.

1) All the writing choices I already mentioned 

2) Stupid camera shit, like:

  • Dolly zooms

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12 Choices Amateur Screenwriters Make

amateur pro

Screenwriting is hard, I know; I’m still learning how to do it right. I also know that it’s not just writing that is hard, thinking like a writer – like a professional writer – is also hard, probably harder in fact.

In the last year I’ve posted several requests for short scripts, and as a result have read over 500 amateur screenplays (or at least the first five pages, or at least the first page). In doing so, and also in looking back on my own writing and my experiences in writing classes, I started to notice certain things, certain signs that scripts and the writers writing them are not up to snuff. That they are amateur, with the same voice and experience as every other amateur out there.

Also see: 13 Choices Amateur Filmmakers Make

Note: this post is not about execution. Things like bad grammar and typos, inactive protagonists and low stakes, unnatural dialog, these are all signs of amateur writing but they are on the execution front and there are plenty of blogs that cover these topics already. This post is different. This post is about common choices amateurs make. And while technically it is possible for an novice to write a professional quality script after making these choices, it is not likely and if your writing falls into these categories, it’s very likely that you are an amateur, that you are thinking like an amateur, and that your script is the same as every other amateur script out there.

Okay, here goes:

1. Writing about writers

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Cluck Cluck Silence

Write one sentence. Then write another without violating the first one. Continue until complete

CLUCK CLUCK SILENCE

Okay, this is bullshit. That bullshit situation and why do they do this? To prove themselves. To prove that they’re so hot we’ll do anything for them. Risk the ridicule of their friends for the chance to maybe get somewhere, something, maybe. Women, so fucking bullshit, with their troubles and their needs and their talk talk talk, wine me dine me talk. But so fucking worth it.

Especially this one, eying me, across the bar. Surrounded by friends, Mrs. Motherhen and the Ugly One and it’s all so cliché. Nothing cliché about her though, pretty as can be, and she’s definitely eying me.

Okay, lets do it. Finish your beer and go. Talk to her. Fuck the others, she’s yours, she wants you. Be brave. Walk over. Yes. Her eyes follow, you’re in, she’s yours, closer, across the bar, her eyes locked in, away, back, giving me the signs. Twenty feet, fifteen, ten, she looks away. Playing innocent, I get it, I saw you. Five, three, one.

“Hello,” I say. I’ve never been good with game; hello’s all I got. “Not interested,” says Mrs. Motherhen. Fuck you bitch, I ain’t talking to you. No one is. I smile. Chicks love the smile. “Can I get you a drink?” “I said she’s not interested.” Cluck cluck cluck, that’s all I hear, as I stare at the girl. I’m in, she’s with me, staring back, eye contact, the most powerful connection one can make.

“Cluck cluck cluck why are you still here cluck cluck cluck.” Okay seriously, this bitch, say something lady, get up and lets go, before I smack her. This fucking cunt, ruining my time, my game, which I don’t have much of, and fuck, she’s just sitting there, I don’t get it. “Bartender cluck cluck cluck, this guy is bothering us. Make him leave.” What? Fucking hen, fucking bitch, making eye contact still, just sitting there, not moving, and now I look like an ass, an idiot. Nothing to say, no idea what to do. Fuck, I should just crawl up and die. The bouncer comes and I don’t resist, just walk away, defeated, dead, done.

One look back and there are the three girls, no eye contact, just laughing. Fuck.

The Engine Lab

Cristina and Scott meet after a failed experiment. One wants revenge and there is a near death experience involved. Write the story.

THE ENGINE LAB

It was supposed to be a simple experiment. They did it every year, Aero 351, turn on the engine and measure some shit, then go home and do calculations, write a report. That’s how it was supposed to be, how it went every year.

But not this year.

This year there was a leak. One of the injection valves, leaking gas into the engine. It’s an old engine, and used so rarely and who knows how long it’d been leaking for: a day? a month? All year?

No one knew, of course, no one knew it was leaking at all. The lab always stank of gas, so that wasn’t a warning, and how can you see a leak that’s inside an engine? No, no one knew, not until they turned on the engine and a fireball shot out the nozzle, right into unsuspecting engineering student Cristina Locks.

*****

Cristina was an aberration. There aren’t a lot of girls in engineering, even less attractive ones. But Cristina was the ultimate, sweet and cute, with a smile that could inspire you to greatness and melt your heart. All the guys either fell in love with or want to fuck her, but none had a chance, at least not her classmates, no way.

That was before the incident. Before the fireball covered her in burns and seared her face. She was lucky to survive, the doctors doing everything to save her, but they couldn’t save her face, her sweetness, her innocence.

Before the incident engineering was hard. It’s hard for everyone but it’s even harder for girls, entering a boys club, dealing with chauvinism and sexism and trying to fit in. It helped that she was cute, that the boys worship her, that they’d do anything to help and be with her. But now they treat her like a freak, gossiping and avoiding, or worse, giving her their sympathy; it was too much, that she couldn’t take. And so, by the end of the year, she dropped out.

*****

It was around this time, sitting at home doing nothing, that Cristina found him. Scott Bryant, local high school boy, ranting and raving about being rejected from his dream college. Cristina’s college, her very own department, had rejected him. And with no backups, no secondary plans, he’d been reduced to ranting on Craigslist. That’s where she found him.

His first rants were innocent enough, angry at the college, his parents, himself. But then they got worse, organizing protests, calling for action, for revenge against his dream school. This was perfect for Cristina, for she wanted it as well.

So Cristina attended his next “protest”. She was the only one there, the only one listening as Scott yelled at the university from its student union quad. And when he took a break she introduced herself, then said: “Why don’t we get out of here? Talk this through?”

*****

Of course he said yes. This crazy boy, with no friends and terrible social skills, and someone was actually listening to him? Someone wants to talk? Someone interested in what he had to say?

They met later that evening, a local diner, off campus and out of sight of any school action. Cristina dressed up for the date, ready to make this boy hers.

Not that she needed to, for this boy was crazy! Even at dinner he couldn’t help himself, ranting against the world, raving against the school. Filled with anger and disgust, spewing out conspiracy theories and other untrue stories; no wonder her college didn’t let him in. What does he have: ADHD? Bipolar? Borderline personality disorder? Doesn’t matter, for all she had to do was agree, let him talk and agree with everything. It was simple as that, she agreed with everything and they hit it off completely.

*****

For their second meeting, Cristina chose a library. It was a test, could he control himself? Could he be quiet, adapt himself, behave in a challenging situation?

They chatted and she watched him, observing, evaluating. He was nervous, yes, having lots of energy with no release. Being forced to stay quiet, not able to rant or rave; he was almost bursting at his seems. But he was trying, working hard to stay under control, and he did well enough, it getting easier and easier as time went by. He can control himself, she concluded; he just has to work hard to do it.

*****

She held their third meeting at her place, all alone, just the two of them. She knew it was safe, for not only could he control himself, but she could control him. And now, with some privacy, she finally could tell him why she went to his protest, what made her interested in him. It was something in his Craigslist posts, something about revenge?

Just bringing it up set Scott off again, that evil school and their conspiracy against him, the abusive system that’s ruining America and didn’t let him in.

“So what are you gonna do about it?” Cristina asked, focusing his anger, focusing him. Stop ranting, stop raving, get serious. Do something with your feelings, make something happen.

Scott falls silent. He’s never encountered this before, someone listening to his rants, encouraging him. What was she getting at? What did she want from him?

Cristina suspected he’d respond like this, and so she was ready. First, she told him her story: the dream student at the dream school, how everyone loved her and how she was doing great. And how they all destroyed it, destroyed her. Lit a fire and burned her face off. That’s real pain, even more than being rejected, real pain is being accepted then being destroyed, being ripped apart by the people you trust, the people you love. Deeds like that cannot be undone, they can’t be allowed and they can’t go unpunished.

Scott listened, agreeing with everything. He continued to agree as Cristina laid our her plan: to sabotage the lab, destroy that engine so it could do no more damage. He agreed with everything until she got to the finale: unfolding their plan during an actual lab, taking out all who would use such a machine. Scott didn’t like that part. Did death really need to be part of their plan?

Yes it did. They did this to her, she’s doing this to them.

Cristina saw that Scott needed more convincing, that revenge means more to her than it did to him. She needed extra to get him on her side, and it was at this point that she decided to sleep with him.

*****

At their next meeting, Cristina laid out the details: where to go, how to get in, how to sabotage the Aero lab engine. It was simple really, a couple incisions that she detailed for him, then the gas will seep in, just waiting to be ignited, just like what happened to her in lab.

After detailing her plan their meeting ended, but before Scott left, Cristina took off her clothes and fucked him again. Really good this time, giving it her all and even going down on him, making sure to give him the best feeling he’s ever had. Not that she liked it, not that she even likes him, but this was her insurance: him addicted to her, drowning him in pleasure with the promise of it forever; he won’t have a single other thought in his feeble little head.

All he had to do was this one deed. God knows it was needed, God knows they deserved it.

*****

And so, with sex on his mind and craziness in his brain, Scott went to campus, to the engine lab. The lab was outside (for “safety”), surrounded by barb wire and a chain link fence. Scott had to be careful getting past all that, climbing over the fence and sneaking in. But he was and he did, dropping down inside, he was in.

He went to the engine and poked various tubes and valves with a sewing needle, exactly as instructed. The result was holes so small they were guaranteed to go undetected. But even so, the leaks would begin, causing the engine to blow once it was ignited.

Once finished, Scott exited the way he came. He then went back to Cristina’s, ready to be congratulated and fucked again. But Cristina corrected him; his job wasn’t done yet. For the lab hadn’t been conducted yet, and he needed to be there to confirm their success.

And so Scott did what he was told, went to class and stood by the door, in the exact spot Cristina told him. And then, when the lab began and the engine was ignited, it completely exploded! One leak caused a fireball and this time there were ten leaks, twenty, who knows how many. Enough to take out the whole lab, the professor, the students, the fence and everything inside it, and even the random eighteen-year-old by the door outside the lab.

*****

The fire department rushed to the scene, a scene filled with smoke and numerous charred bodies, surrounded by students too scared to intervene. News crews arrived soon after, reporting on the carnage as campus police controlled the crowd, paramedics worked through the smell of burnt flesh and the screams of the student body.

The whole situation was a nightmare. This shitty professor, his lab a ticking time bomb, how did the department not learn from last year? What even happened this time? And who was that kid who was incinerated outside?

The Fire Marshall, studying the scene, immediately recognized it as sabotage. An explosion like that, with so many failures all happening at once, and on an engine repaired less than a year ago? That doesn’t just happen.

Also involved were detectives, identifying the bodies: the professor, the students, the random boy outside. The boy was tricky, and it took some legwork to identify him. But once they did, they match him to his rejection, and then to his numerous Craigslist rants. They then search his bedroom, finding his medication untaken, and with it several articles about Cristina and her accident. It was obvious he did it, sabotaged the lab as revenge for his rejection, then stood outside to enjoy it, no idea the amount of sabotage he actually did. It was an open and shut case, but for completeness the detectives did question Cristina: she didn’t know anything, never even met the kid.

*****

Now Cristina she spends her time alone, supported by her settlement with her war-torn school. The school was reeling: fifteen deaths (no survivors), lawsuits flying left and right. But there was one thing the school was lucky about: in the first incident Cristina survived. Cristina survived and simply wanted to move on with her life, although she would only do so for the right price. The right price which the school immediately paid, eager get this nightmare behind them, and least in part.

Yes, now Cristina lives alone, surviving on her settlement, enjoying a simple life. Except for every once in a while when a reporter stops by. Several had done so, each one looking for a survivor’s perspective on the “Aero disaster”. Cristina’s response was always the same: devastation and sadness for the tragedy that transpired, but also relief that the lab will claim no more lives. The reporters also couldn’t help but take her picture, her face representative of the damage the school did. And sometimes, the reporters would even ask about the perpetrator, the crazy kid hell bent on revenge. And to that Cristina always said the same thing: she didn’t know him, but he seemed like a troubled kid.

Updated Reel

I updated my reel! Enjoy!

Broke At The Magic Mirror

Combine the following into a story: abandoned town, zerbra (zebra spelled wrong), Jack Daniels, broke [at] the magic mirror (the at was actually an ‘a’ crossed out, but I took it to be an at symbol)

BROKE AT THE MAGIC MIRROR

It was all she could do to get out of here. This place, this town, hell it was called, at least it should be, where 10pm hits and there’s nothing to do, where everything is closed.

Nothing except her trusty watering hole, The Magic Mirror. For good times, go to The Magic Mirror, nothing else to do in this stupid town.

She slides inside, past the bouncer, and takes her seat at the bar. “Hey Zerbra,” she says. “How’s it goin’?”

“What’re you doing here? Wasn’t yesterday enough?” Zerbra, the bartender, responds.

“Yesterday? What’s yesterday?” she asks.

“Yesterday? Wednesday?” but Zerbra gets no response. “The Jack? You finished that bottle, went home with that trucker from up north.”

“Oh, sounds like fun.” Zerbra serves other customers, he does not respond.

“How ’bout… how ’bout vodka this time,” she asks. “What you got?”

“Nothing. There’s no vodka here.”

“Sure there is. I can see it right there.” She points to some bottles behind the bar.

“Let me clarify. There’s no vodka for you here.”

“Oh.” She wasn’t expecting that, not a drop in her and already she’s cut off. Zerbra, the only one her charm doesn’t work on, the only one who cares about her. “Well then how ’bout-”

“There’s none of that either. Why don’t you go home?”

The girl laughs. “You didn’t let me finish,” she says. “How ’bout you let me play some pool?”

Zerbra eyes her; she’s playing games, playing him. But at least she’s not drinking. “Fine,” he says as he pulls out pool balls and a cue.

“Another one please,” she says, indicating to the cue. “I can’t play by myself.”

“Yes you can,” Zerbra says. “Otherwise you can go home.”

“No way, can’t do that,” she says as she takes her cue and heads to the table, her thin waist and swaying hips catching the attention of everyone in the room.

Zerbra watches too, for different reasons. He watches her rack up and start playing pool. This innocent girl who doesn’t belong, who should be home, asleep, getting ready for school. Oh well, at least she’s not drinking; he’ll make sure of that, it’s just him tonight. She won’t get a single drink.

It doesn’t take long before she’s joined at the table. Two college kids, locals, but she doesn’t know them, although the way they act, she probably should. They play together, the three of them, playing and flirting and what can he do? Zerbra the bartender with patrons to serve, stuck far away in his corner behind the bar. What can he do if they’re all over her, what’s he expect, with her seductive figure and easy demeanor, her flirty ways and sexy air.

And then, one of the guys breaks from their game, leaves the pool table and heads for the bar. “Three beers man. Buds, the good stuff.”

Zerbra looks on with disgust as he produces one beer. “Five bucks.”

“Hey man, you know how to count? I said three.”

“They can order themselves. Five bucks.”

The guy registers this response. He pulls out a five and drops it on the bar, then takes his beer and heads back to the pool table.

“She’s barely eighteen,” Zerbra says as he goes.

The kid stops, turns back. “Old enough old man,” he says as he continues on.

It’s the three again, Zerbra watching as best he can. Watching that they don’t share their drinks, don’t get her drunk. But there’s only so much he can do, him serving customers, making drinks, and then he sees it, the corner of his eye: them trading sips, sharing drinks. Them all over her body, more playing with her than playing pool.

From then on he stops serving them. He can see they are sharing, liquoring her up like he’s not even there. So no more alcohol for them, no more to share, he’ll keep her sober and eventually they’ll leave and then she’ll go home, go to bed.

It works, the college kids grabbing their things, getting ready to go. All it took was no service, being refused and ignored; college kids go where the alcohol is and with no alcohol here, they get up and go. A victory for Zerbra, them leaving, her safe and sober, until… what’s this? She’s packing her things, she’s going with them.

“Charlotte,” Zerbra says, finally stepping in. “Where’re you going?”

“Home, baby. Just like you said.” The guys put their arm around her and the message is clear: back off man, she’s theirs, not his. “Don’t worry, I didn’t drink anything. I’ll remember it all this time.”

With that she leaves, the guys laughing as she walks out with them. Zerbra does nothing, just stands there, watching; he has customers to get to but he doesn’t move, he just stands there watching, the three of them, two guys and that girl, sober as can be and still she goes, out with them, home with them, with guys who’ll treat her like shit, who don’t care about her, don’t care about anything. Not like he does; he just wants her to be safe, to be happy, to be safe at home.

“Hey man. Let’s get some service here!” a patron yells back at the bar. And with that Zerbra comes back to reality, to his job, to his duty. He heads back to the bar and starts serving more drinks; Charlotte is gone, she’s never going home.