Showing posts with label All Blogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label All Blogs. Show all posts

A Canadian Film Industry Resurgence

As Canadians, we have this myth of living in the shadows of the American Film Industry. We often lament that the total ticket sales for our films is just a fraction of the American market. This compels us to contemplate if not criticize our industry for not rivaling the American behemoth. To be sure, we don't want the same revenue as our cousins, we just want more Canadians to take notice of their own work. This anxiety leads to policies and clauses designed to protect Canadian content with quotas, only to feel a backlash from fellow Canadians claiming we're insecure artists looking for a handout. (Most European countries do the same to protect their work from American know-how.) But what if there was an answer that embraced the American market rather than competed with it? What if we could use the American system to sell Canadian work in Canada? And, what if we should do this because our decisions have lead to this point whether we like it or not?

The Coming Death and Renewal of Stories

The myths of today are made exclusively from multi-million dollar production warehouses in sunny Los Angeles. These productions are laden with formula and award-winning focus groups. Big Business storytelling takes care of its bottom line first. Stories, like cattle, are being heartlessly manufactured, butchered and cut up like prime beef steaks for public consumption. Some of us like it while others do not. We want something deeper. We lament: Our stories don't come from the prophets anymore. Instead, writers work tirelessly with formulaic writing loosely based on ancient stories meant to lift us to higher dimensions. Our stories are consumed like household products. We spin them like yarn, but not from our homes or farms, but from vast entertainment factories that homogenize content for the worldwide audience.

Story Influence Theory by Kendall Haven (DARPA)

The Story Influence Theory says a lot about humanity's struggle with the truth. We evolved from prehistoric hominids living in caves to contemporary humans boasting an Anthropocene Age. Yet, we've done it with a brain that's more prehistoric than contemporary. As tool-making animals, we've learned many skills necessary for our survival, but it is the ability to influence people that is probably one of the most sought out skills in life and business.

Scooby-Doo on the Next Star Trek Show?

Who Can't Love
this Guy?
Ever since Disney Corporation took over Star Wars and Star Trek, we've stood at the precipice of a mega-corp take over on a planetary scale. To be honest, it's a harsh reality, but something most geeks are happy to endure as reboots tickle their fancy enough despite many of them being far worse than their not-so-distant awful cousin, the 80s sequel. Lucas referred to mega-corp Disney as "the white slave traders" but it didn't stop him from selling out to them either. We might as well associate the good times with Mickey Mouse - and by the way, Mickey eat your heart out! Literally, please. Not only will you never go public domain, we can look forward to seeing you on the starship Enterprise too. You'll be commanding, under Minny of course, because the mega-corp will try to be politically correct to keep sales going. But don't fret. In that age, even Hanna-Barbera will sell out too. Which is why Scooby's appearance will seem both entertaining and appropriate. Ugh.

Star Wars, Revisited.
The Call for a Public Domain Insurgency.

Star Wars owned by the Empire
On October 30th, 2012, George Lucas, billionaire and Star Wars creator, sold his franchise to the "white slave traders" a.k.a. Walk Disney Corporation. The Empire. The "trader" analogy was soon followed by an apology alongside a muted jeer for Bob Iger's leadership via a personal statement. To say this sale was bittersweet would be an understatement. Lucas struggled with the release of Star Wars: Force Awakens, and although many loved the film (this blogger excluded), one couldn't help but think that Stars Wars was taken over by the executives Lucas fought so hard during his tenure as filmmaker. But was it really necessary? There was another option. George Lucas could have earned a place in history as the patron saint of public domain rather than the dejected Star Wars creator living in obscurity. Yes. George Lucas could have been the first billionaire filmmaker to give away his entire franchise to public domain.

Chu in Chew - Food Psychic
John Layman and Rob Guillory Create Hells' Kitchen Meets the X-Files

Meet Tony Chu. A comic book superhero. Food psychi Tony is what we call a cibopath, a man who gets premonitions from food. The life we take for granted is a life that Tony would love to have. Pick up a hamburger? We bite into it, but Tony gets a vision. Eat a celery stick. Same thing. We eat, he prophesies. Eating food is supposed to be normal and good. But not for Tony. He sees the cow that once lived, the butcher that killed him and the peeps that packed it up. You get the idea. Cibopath. That's Tony Chu. They guy who gets visions from touching food.


Attack of The Crab Monsters (1957)
How Pacing and Style Keeps Low-Budget Interesting

Roger Corman's Attack of the Crab Monsters is a 1950s drive-in classic that turned a $70K budget into a $1M profit. Despite being a mega-monster film about radioactive land crabs eating human beings, the Crab Monsters has little to no special effects. Corman relied exclusively on plot devices to keep the audience interested. This makes Crab Monsters an interesting film to study as it shows the beauty and power of great screenwriting. The screenwriter in question is Charles B. Griffith, a man who cleverly spun a tale about giant crab monsters with only a few scenes of exposition and a lot of tension in between. Consider Crab Monsters to be a Hitchcock-inspired thriller that's weird, fun and perfect for kids. There isn't a boring frame in it and a mysterious virtuoso violin that plays in the background sets a foreboding mood while the team of researchers investigate the mystery of the previous expedition team.

Some Cool Plotting in Allen Steele's V-S Day (2014)
Because Building a Big Bomb Takes Some Storytelling


V-S Day, written by Allen Steele, seems be to a story fans are split on. Critical reviews claim the characters aren't fleshed out enough and the history is wrong. While others extol V-S Day for its fun, campy style that allows for a quick read. Again, on the negative side, one review points out some malapropisms that got under his skin. The book isn't controversial but ambiguous. Being alternate history, it's bound to turn heads the right and wrong way. Aside from the criticism, it's an interesting example of how timeline displacement can be expressed through story structure. We have two scenarios: Something called an "symetrical storyline" or linear chronology where the story is told sequentially, and, second, a non-linear one, or assymetrical, which follows a non-chronological path, more relevant to the character's development than anything else.

Identifying Theme in Callaham's Godzilla (2014)
Or, How David Callaham Wants Us to Get Along and Stop Eating Each Other

Finding plot devices isn't that hard. Just look for elements that repeat themselves throughout the film. Callaham's Godzilla contains patterns from the very first scene, at Joe Brody's house, where his son, Ford, teams up with mom to put on a surprise birthday party for dad. The camera tracks the boy wearing a green t-shirt with a string of "Happy Birthday" letters trailing from behind, like a Godzilla tail. This shot is no mistake. It's Callahan's attempt to tell a story about how about every monster in the world - including humans - have families too. Godzilla, a tale of peace and mayhem in a battle filled with creatures looking for the same kind of love they got from the day they were born.

How Pamela Ewing Got me Hooked On Stories
Or How I Learned to Hate Season-Long Dream Sequences

The summer of 1986 was plentiful, in its own way, with news that would change the world and events that we would never forget. But I'll always remember the moment, at home in our tiny living room, with the RCA colour TV set tucked away in the corner, away from direct sunlight, so that we could all make out the amazing plethora of images that would sprawl against the smoothly arced television screen. That was a moment when TV history happened - bad TV history. There I was, a young kid, with big brown eyes, lying in his favourite position on the floor, stomach down with elbows to the floor and palms pressed against his cheeks, as Pamela Ewing (Victoria Principal) wakes up from her dream. Shazbat!!! I raised from the floor like an animal ready to take a flight. It was a moment of shock. I mean, Dallas was a cool show.

Sure, J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) was a douchebag like no other, but seriously, the guy knew how to get out of trouble. His brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy), had a heart of gold, but now dead, left Dallas in a kind of screwed up position in prime time TV land. Something had to be done to bring him back. Something harsh. Yes, that's the scene when Pamela wakes up, with shorter hair and dreamy eyes, who nonchalantly walks over to washroom only to find her nude hubby taking a shower like it was Season 7.

Gilgamesh's Enkidu and the Bible's Adam Similiarities

The oldest story on Earth has a lot in common with the greatest story every told. The oldest story, being, of course, The Epic of Gilgamesh and the greatest, the Bible, starting with the Book of Genesis. Both have strong male leads whose lives are in a state of proverbial bliss only to be disturbed by the love of a woman. In Gilgamesh, Enkidu is a wild man who gets drawn into Sumerian life through the love of a prostitute and in the Book of Genesis, Adam is seduced by Eve to break his bond with God and live by the sweat of the brow. When two stories use the same plot we some times call it "archetype" - a word used for a mythic element that speaks to a universal human experience.


The Difference Between Story and Plot
Stories Have a Soul and Plot Delivers It

A lot of things in life have a beginning, middle and end.  But they're not stories! So what gives? It's simple. Stories have more to do with the intangibles of storytelling - its soul - rather than the nuts and bolts that come with plots. That's right. Plot is the body and story is the soul. No wonder there's so much confusion! In his most fascinating book, The Way of the Screenwriter director and teacher Amnon Buchbinder claims that stories are living things. His students often look befuddled at the statement as do most his readers, but Buchbinder is right. Stories take a life of their own and that makes them mysterious and beautiful.

Reflections on Don Delillo's Falling Man (2007)
My Attempt to Rekindle a Love for Good Drama


The world is an unsettling place these days. We're just not getting along anymore; we're fighting with each other, on the streets, social media and probably in our homes. Never before in our recent history have we've grown so apart in the same country, the same family and sometimes even the same religion. Many have retreated, in a sense, into the superhero realm or some other form of passive entertainment. Myself, included, I think. Over time, personal problems pile up, sensitive areas do as well and we naturally avoid reading, thinking or even interacting with people in the real, human world of living. Perhaps some wounds have finally healed and I'm ready to confront drama again. So I decided to read a post-9/ll novel called Falling Man by Don Dellilo.

In Need of 'High Comedic Value'
Husien Panju's Hobby Turns Trivial Moments Into Funny Ones

Ottawa Comiccon 2016, at the EY Centre, was full of vendors that sold everything from comic books to t-shirts to snazzy geek photos. I roamed around, like every year, hoping to find that priceless gem or odd piece of entertainment to talk or blog about for ages. When I looked at Husien Panju's High Comedic Value, I laughed. Not out loud and maybe not even audibly, but I laughed. Stressed out writers like me need a break and that means knowing where to find good comedy.

The True Meaning of Star Trek
Rene Auberjonois & John De Lancie Panel at Ottawa Comiccon 2016

At the age of 50, Star Trek shows no sign of slowing down. What started as a "wagon to the stars" sci-fi adventure story quickly turned into a hit phenomenon to include all people from all places all over the world. This bold mission encourages diversity, courage and love for all creatures big and small - and galaxy-wide. At Ottawa Commiccon 2016, John de Lancie and Rene Auberjonois shared the stage for a Q&A panel about Star Trek turning 50. They talked about what led them to T.V., how they got on Star Trek and what they think the franchise is all about.

Interstellar as Zen Koan Leading to Love

Zen Buddhism is perhaps one of the oldest religions in the world. Its main purpose is to induce a state of enlightenment through a practice called meditation, an emptying of the mind. Meditation is often used in conjunction with another technique called a koan. A koan is a paradoxical riddle that befuddles the practitioner to the point of frustration and enlightenment. A famous example would be: Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand clapping? Another example: How does a man give himself coordinates for outer space if he needs to go into outer space to get the coordinates? Answer: Interstellar.

(Spoiler Alert - The ending revealed in more ways than one)

The First Scene of Terminator Salvation (2009)

Terminator Salvation is a sci-fi operatic war story that centers around a hero - John Connors - whose destiny is to save humanity from artificially intelligent machines. The story runs like an American militiaman's nightmare where personal freedom is lost at the behest of a terrible New World Order. Fighting Americans, scattered throughout, are glued to their transistor radio with the hopes that Connors will make Resistance dreams come true. Salvation views like a visually panoramic Mad Max film with cheesy Godzilla-like machine monsters that breath fire on its victims. So what's so horrible about the first scene? A plot device gone wrong.

Would Joseph Campbell Like the New Star Wars?


Star Wars is often associated with the special effects grandeur introduced by George Lucas in the late 70s. New heroes and new aliens captured our imagination as well as the really cool planets they lived on. Of course, we can't forget the truly awesome X-Wing and Tie Fighters that sparred in the depths of space. But that's what  not Star Wars is all about. The story had a soul and that soul came from the inspiration of one man -  Joseph Campbell, a mythologist who popularized the notion of the hero’s journey.


Birdman: A Father and Daughter's Final Act


Birdman is a fast-paced drama that cleverly uses panning and tracking shots to tell a compelling story about a man ready to meet his dead end. It's probably a story common in Hollywood - the real Hollywood - not the fictional one, although Birdman would have you doubting both. The film starts with the protagonist, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), levitating a few feet from the floor like a superhero in deep meditation. But Riggan isn't a superhero anymore. Nor can he levitate from the floor. He's just an ordinary man who can sit on his behind because the levitation is really a plot device called magical realism, the act of having a fantasy superimposed on the real world. It's also the reason why Birdman's ending is so hard to figure out. Riggan isn't the only one doing the fantasizing.

What if You Were a Character in a Story?

What if you were a character in a story rather than the person you think you are? What makes you special? What makes your life matter? Oddly enough, it probably wouldn't be what you do for a living or how much money you earn. It wouldn't be about the car you drive or the people you hang out with. But it may be about your closest friends and family members. The people you love and reject the most.