Under Construction

Hello readers, I’m making some changes to the blog. I’ll be back later with a new post.



Your Own Personal Dennis

Back in July, John and Craig took a week off Scriptnotes and to fill the gap re-ran one of their best podcasts, their interview with screenwriter-turned-psychotherapist-turned-author-therapist Dennis Palumbo. Before having what he describes as a “Road to Damascus moment” that resulted in a career about turn from screenwriter to psychotherapist, Palumbo wrote on Welcome Back Kotter as well as the screenplay for My Favorite Year.

Palumbo now combines therapy work with his other career as an author of thriller novels. Ultimately, writers’ problems are just human problems, he says, but there’s nothing like having a therapist who’s personally familiar with the mind-bending anxieties of trying to write something exceptional (Palumbo has a salient comment about that but I won’t reveal it here).

Sit back, relax, and hear the three discuss your darkest writerly fears:

  • The difference between perfectionism and procrastination
  • De-fanging writer’s block
  • The imposter syndrome
  • Fear of shameful self-exposure
  • Red Bull, ritalin, adderall and other addictions
  • Adopting a craftsman approach to writing
  • Screenwriters’ problems are just human problems
  • The faucet factory.

If the interview makes you want to lie down on Palumbo’s couch but you don’t live in LA, grab a copy of his excellent book Writing From the Inside Out for more insight and anecdotes


Palumbo Scriptnotes interview: http://johnaugust.com/2014/summer-re-run-psychotherapy-for-screenwriters

Dennis Palumbo’s home page: http://dennispalumbo.com

Eight is Enough, or How to Get A Writer’s Residency

No, this isn’t deluxe human accommodation in Hobbiton, it’s one of the  cottages at Hedgebrook on Whidbey Island. If you’re a female writer (sorry fellas) and you’d like to stay here a while, write, be fed and meet fellow writers – all for FREE – Hedgebrook invites you to apply for a 2015 residency. You could be in the company of an international mix of novelists, poets, screenwriters and playwrights, some accomplished, some not, but all with the drive to create and the need for artistic sanctuary from real world responsibilities. The alumni list is impressive, but I won’t mention any names because fame isn’t what the organization is about. I applied last year. While I was initially hopeful, by the time the emails came out some months later apathy had set in due to other more pressing issues, and the news that I didn’t make the cut didn’t concern me.  If and when I try again (and those pressing issues are put in their place), I’ll make sure I read a piece by four-time New York Times best selling author Ellen Sussman, whose application experience is something to learn from and admire. After seven previous attempts, she finally got in this year.

 Applying for writing residencies is not for sissies…Every year, since 2005, I applied for a Hedgebrook residency. I was rejected each year, so I would work even harder the following year to make my essays shine and to choose a stronger writing sample. (This time an excerpt about the darkness of the human heart! This time a story that tackles a complex political subject! This time a humorous social commentary!) My file of Hedgebrook rejection letters grew and grew.

Another way of looking at this is if it takes a New York Times bestselling author EIGHT attempts to crack Hedgebrook, what hope is there for the unpublished writer in Helsinki? Who knows? Maybe she’ll get in on her first attempt, maybe her fourth. Sussman just kept going until she made it. So must we all. Keep going. And read her article.  


Hedgebrook: https://www.hedgebrook.org

Ellen Sussman: http://blog.hedgebrook.org/2014/06/knocking-at-hedgebrooks-door/

Susan Rich’s tips from a Hedgebrook insider: http://thealchemistskitchen.blogspot.ca/2013/07/application-advice-for-hedgebrook-just.html

Dale Chihuly/Ridley Scott

Recently, the family came over from Oz and we spent an enjoyable, if short and rather rushed week visiting Seattle and taking a road trip along Washington’s Cascade Loop. I love visiting Seattle because two of my favourite things are there: Frank Gehry’s garish and brilliant EMPSFM building, and the museum itself – especially the science fiction section. The place just feels like home.

There’s now a third reason I love Seattle: the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. And how convenient that it’s located a short stroll from the  EMPSFM, right by the Space Needle and Pacific Science Center. Tourism central in the very best way.

Dale Chihuly is a treasure, a visionary, and along with his team of master glass workers makes extraordinary pieces of art. The family hadn’t heard of him before, but after seeing some trippy glass tree-like things from outside their curiosity was piqued and they decided to go in. They spent the next hour-and-a-half engrossed.

And so we come to the point of this post, which could be subtitled “You know you’re a bit of a sci-fi nerd when…” because one thought only sprang to mind when I saw the sculpture below.  “Hey, that’s like the Hammerpede in Prometheus.” You can’t take me anywhere. But I’m right.

Or Just Try It And See If It Works

After a trip to the thrift store yesterday I came home with a 1998 Apple keyboard. Apple design in the ’90s was funky and arty so the keyboard has a frosted plate around the keys, a frosted stand underneath, and a translucent teal green base. Super cute! But for a little wear on the USB connector it looks new and only needed a quick clean up to remove the small amount of dust between a few of the keys. I like to think it was fortuitous that I happened to be standing next to the new items cart because I typically don’t go to the store to look for computer equipment. As soon as I spotted it my arm reflexively shot out. Mine mine. It was untested, and at 50 cents I had nothing to lose other than a fair bit of hope that this delightful thing from the past would actually work.

I’m naturally cautious about plugging things into expensive computer equipment so before I attached the keyboard to my MBA I went looking for information on the internet about it. Would a 16 year old piece of technology still be compatible? Was it really as simple as using the USB port? Some 10 minutes later, after trying a variety of search terms and not finding a straightforward answer, I just plugged the thing in. It worked. I love it.

As I get into working again with a traditional keyboard, the extra heft of the strokes, the slightly hollow click as I press down on the keys, it has me thinking, isn’t this just like writing? One can spend months and years on research, holding back the story until a certain mass of information is is gathered. Or, one could do  a certain amount of primary research in order to become familiar with the subject and then begin the story knowing that there’s more to learn along the way. Just try it and see if it works.

*What did I learn along the way? The keyboard has a few quirks, probably due to a wiring issue. It’s okay with long stretches of typing as long as the cord doesn’t get knocked. I can work with that.

Sundance North: WFF Praxis Screenwriters Lab

When Praxis announced last November that it was closing after 25 years due to a lack of funding, and that its excellent screenwriting competition would be no more, it was a huge blow to hopeful Canadian screenwriters (not to mention founder and director Patricia Gruben). Well, out of the ashes, as the saying goes, and Praxis is back with a new and exciting partnership with the Whistler Film Festival Society. Eight feature writers will be selected to take part in an intensive five-day screenwriters lab during the Whistler Film Festival this December. Placed with a veteran screenwriter or story editor, the two will work from concept to draft to rework and rewrite the script and bring it closer to development. As with the previous Praxis program, each writer will then have a chance to apply for the summer readings where they watch and learn as professional actors bring their script to life.

Details are here: http://www.whistlerfilmfestival.com/industry/screenwriters-lab

Watch out Sundance, we have the slopes, the festival, the good-looking people and now we have our own lab (this year, anyway).


Into the Deep (And Dark)

True Detective passed the halfway mark last week and as the long-awaited showdown with Reggie Ledoux took place, more mysteries materialized, spinning the story beyond the earthly plane and off into the fourth dimension – at least, that’s the dimension Cohle pondered as he explained to the increasingly agitated Papania and Gilbough the difference between time as a sphere and time as a flat circle, a little nugget he picked up from Reggie before Marty despatched the creep.

Week by week the story has been a slow burn as the detectives track down leads in the Louisiana hinterlands of shacks and mobile homes, spillways and fields, with the hulking refineries never far away and the old billboard with the dead girl a grim reminder of what’s at the heart of the story. That slow burn came to an end in the final half of episode four “Who Goes There” when Cohle put on his bikie gear and stepped back into narc persona Crash. In a Heart of Darkness-esque sequence, high on a variety of substances Ginger foisted on him, Cohle embarked on a journey along the bayou that ended in a raid on a drug stash house. In that incredible final ten minutes, a long, stunning tracking shot followed the tense, dramatic shootout as Coehle dodged heavily armed gang members to keep Ginger, his in to DeWall, intact. Left wondering what could possibly top that, in “The Secret Fate of All Life” it turned out that just about everything did in the best episode so far.

“I can see your soul at the edges of your eyes. It’s corrosive. Like acid…There’s a shadow on you, son.”

It didn’t start well for Cohle, but the disconcerting psychic reading from the menacing DeWall was the tip of the metaphysical iceberg. Back at the meth shack, after a simple takedown of Reggie, the spaced out meth cook and child abductor seemed to know his fate was at hand, rambling about black stars and it being time. “He sees you” he says to Cohle, who asks “Why the antlers?” Spooky.

Ten minutes in and the 1995 case is solved. The lsd matches that in the body of Dora Lang, and the creepy devil catchers about the place confirm they’ve got their sickos. Let’s all go home. But that was then and it’s now 2012, there’s the body of the woman at Lake Charles to account for and Cohle’s missing years between quitting the force and returning right about the time Rev Billy Lee Tuttle dies. Papania and Gilbough drop the inscrutable act and come out with it: they suspect Cohle.

If all points led to Cohle, including the final scene in the blighted Light of the Way school with the light beaming down upon with the devil catcher in his hands, then in this week’s episode it must be Marty’s turn in the spotlight. Marty hasn’t been doing much detecting and he’s awfully chummy with everyone, including the brass. And where was Marty returning from when Cohle asked him to accompany him to the gaol to interview Guy Francis? Could he have been making a phone call in a field? If Marty hasn’t been obfuscating information, he hasn’t been contributing to solving the crimes either, yet he’s the one who was promoted. It’s Cohle at night on the computer scrolling through the ‘made in error’ reports, going through the old case files, Cohle injecting cayenne into his arm, Cohle who, seven years after he thought he closed a case, returns to the crime scene. We’re yet to see Marty’s true crime, which we understand is inattentiveness.

Going into tonight’s episode my feeling is that Cohle has been undercover the whole time. He was either seconded to the station to investigate a cover up around missing women and children or requested the position because, contrary to what he’s said so far, his daughter did not die in a car accident but was murdered or abducted (consider how disturbed and angry he was when Francis told him they hadn’t solved the case and that the killer was still killing) . Marty may or may not have been specifically on his radar…actually, I’m going to say that he was. The unlikely and awkward friendship between the two detectives is real, but Cohle, who has no allegiances, is on to Marty. Marty isn’t a perpetrator but as a connected one of the boys, might have been called to look the other way on more than one occasion. We haven’t seen much of the baddies yet, but we have our green eared spaghetti monster.

The Yellow King. Now that’s where things gets weird, where the clever editing and the teasing clues want us to think it’s one of our detectives.  Much was made of a tiara worn by the girls that ended up in a tree. If they’re princesses, their father is king. Marty has blonde hair. But Marty as the king doesn’t feel right. And the disturbing doll sex scene the girls were playing with – one of the dolls looks just like Cohle.  Everywhere you look in this riveting, intriguing, spooky, disturbing and often amusing show there’s a sign to be analysed. The stars smudged into the dirty glass framing Cohle as he put the devil catcher up to the light. Spooky! Look! The actor who plays the man most likely behind the early murders, Reverand Billy Lee Tuttle, is called Jay O. Sanders. The O stands for Olcutt. Olcutt is almost an anagram of occult!

I can’t get the image of the girl surrounded by hooded men on horseback out of my mind. Five men on horseback. Five male dolls. Five aluminium men carved by Cohle. Who are the five? Are there five or are there more? And Audrey and Macie. What terrible thing do they know that hasn’t come to light? Maggie. What’s her story? And why, when he was sitting on the couch with his arm around Laurie, did Cohle look at her like she was a stranger?

Apparently the Olympic Games are over. I don’t know. I can’t think of anything else right now. I’m just waiting for six o’clock.


Poster Love: The Grand Budapest Hotel

I generally love Wes Anderson’s films. For some unknown reason I couldn’t quite get into The Darjeeling Limited, but Moonrise Kingdom brought me right back into the fold. I know nothing about The Grand Budapest Hotel, only that I want the poster NOW. The trailer doesn’t come out until tomorrow, so in the meantime people are analysing the tres stylish poster. I like Emily Yoshida’s take: http://www.grantland.com/blog/hollywood-prospectus/post/_/id/89693/what-i-learned-about-grand-budapest-hotel-from-its-poster

Stranger on a Train

Guzikowski had a soulless job in Manhattan. He’d commute from Brooklyn in utter misery each day to an advertising firm where he focused on stuffing envelopes…

Here’s a feel good story for all for all the paper stuffers, cleaners, receptionists, bank clerks and shop assistants whose dreams of living the life creative occur as often as thoughts of throwing themselves in front of a bus. That’s not to say that Aaron Guzikowski, writer of Contraband and hot flick Prisoners was that far into his misery, but for those of us who wonder if and when there’ll be a payoff for the years of life on the bottom rung, his story is encouraging in a miraculous sort of way. Here’s producer Adam Kolbrenner of Madhouse Entertainment on how a letter in the mail from an unknown writer turned into a brilliant collaboration.



Creature Comforts: Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge

I’m hoping Space brings SyFy’s latest reality show in production to Canada because this promises to be marvellous. Just announced is an eight-episode order of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge. Face Off with muppets! Reality tv perfection, I say.  Show will feature ten wannabe creature designers in a competition for $100k cash and the opportunity to apprentice at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

Face Off is the best thing in reality tv. A programme that showcases the incredibly talented and hard working people in the make up effects industry.  This picture is from season 4. Kris Kobzina, the artist of this wonderful, desiccated-looking Khnum didn’t win the contest, but did make final three, and that let’s you in on the quality of the contestants on this show. This is what he produced in THREE days. I love knowing that the creatures I imagine in my head can be made real, not to mention improved upon,  by brilliant people like Kris and co.

Kris and Khanum