Neat stuff to look at

Via a new friend of mine on twitter, a writer called Novellife: These photos from within the barrel of waves are just gorgeous. Really stunning. I’d love to have one or two of them printed really huge and on my walls.

Clicked through from there I really enjoyed these 10 public space art installations, especially the Transformers and the Giant nest.

Cute video of the day: hedgehog eats a carrot, just 40 seconds long, you can watch it.

I’m pleased to read that Amazon stopped stocking a sexual assault video game but I am horrified it was created in the first place.

If, like me, you are going to see Starlight Express when it starts up in Wellington in just over a month you might be interested in this twitter feed of how they’re doing in 6 day a week rehearsals. There’s sometimes pictures!

Oh and check it out, Suraya made it onto stuff! (I have had no requests for postcards yet but I am still keen to post them if you want one. Let me know!)

Gah, it’s so freaking cold in Wellington today. I have witnessed I think 6 hail storms, but they’re broken up by bouts of sunshine. It’s all very confusing. Lee and I bought 6 new bookcases today (4 weeny little ones and 2 big tall ones) I think I’m gonna go start putting them together.

PoF: Not warm enough
CO: new shelveses

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Frances Ford Coppola’s 1992 movie of Dracula is a strange mix of faithfulness to the source material and total liberties. It is confusing to watch just after reading the book.

I was pleased with the dialogue, letters and diary entries that were lifted straight from the book and I love the way they kept Joanathan’s hair going grey from suffering. I didn’t mind some of the changes, like the increased sexual content. That could never be included in the 1897 book after all, and the vampire and sex connection is pretty universal.

The one thing I really disliked was the whole reincarnated love/romance between Mina and Dracula. As you may recall one of my favourite things about the book was the loving and strong relationship between Mina and Jonathan. I feel she is a weaker character in the movie because of her emotional turmoil. I can see why the choice was made, after all it’s much more dramatic, but it makes me sad. She didn’t want to become a monster in the book, she fought solidly on the side of good.

It’s also kind of confusing how they’ve kept in all the truly monstrous things that Dracula does while also trying to make him sympathetic with his back story and his true love. I guess if they want to make him sympathetic they shouldn’t show him turning into a thousand rats or a huge manbat thing. Or killing all the people in the boat that brings him to London.

Some of the stuff in the movie is pretty cheesy, Lucy’s nightie for one, and the way blood spurts out of the walls when Dracula finally kills her. The special effects are rather good though, and there was a lot of very spooky stuff. Love the music too.

Also Van Hellsing is a little bit creepy. I don’t mind it too much, but he is quite frightening to Mina when they first meet. Anthony Hopkins is wonderful though, isn’t he? He can make you believe anything.

I have to laugh at Dracula’s fabulous gold lame dressing gown though.

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Things I Love Thursday

Quick and deadly, like the viper!

This Thursday I am really loving the large size chocolate sundae from MacDonalds that Nick made me buy after work. Nick is a bad influence, clearly, but it was delicious and the chocolate syrup cheered me up after a decidedly meh day at work. The 48 hour finals were very good fun last night and I am enjoying the films in retrospect today. Having warm feet from legwarmers is good and my snuggly warm striped merino tops.

Suraya’s magazine got a mention in the New Zealand Herald, which is exciting. If anyone would like a postcard of a pretty boy (there are four different pictures) I will send you one, just email through my contact me link with your postal address and I will post it out to you.

Also, Svend sent me this Definitive list of things you should have already seen on the internet. So go to it.

Also also, I love this picture of baby turtles.

turtles
Steven Fry took this picture ❤

Wellington 48 hours finals

Team Testies “Race to the Top” Nature Run Amok

This film didn’t actually make the finals, but it was included and given a prize for the best worst film. Similar to Aborgeddon but not as high concept, this was a bit more Shaun of the Dead in excecution. Three slacker friends realise that trees have come alive and are killing people. None of their cellphones have coverage so they run for higher ground…up Mt Vic…through the forests. Hilarious baby-in-peril stuff, great genre tropes and clever evil tree stuff. I enjoyed it very much. I actually really loved how their use of “it doesn’t fit” was completely unrelated to anything. I’m strange like that.

2RhAB (Two Redheads and a Blonde) – “Lost and Found” – Parallel World

Triple split screen about three different choices our hero makes in regards to the lost wallet outside his house. I thought this one was really strong and had a hell of a payoff. On the other hand I kind of forgot about it after I saw it, so it didn’t have sticking power.

A Trick With A Knife – “Call Me Al” – Musical

A really charming and simple musical with no normal talking at all, everything was sung. A man and a woman agree to meet after chatting online and hopes are high…then disappointment. The songs were clever, the camerawork was suitably cheesy but well done and the performances outstanding. My second favourite 48 hour film ever after “Shooting Star” and my second favourite film of the night.

Chain Gang – “Chip: an Actor’s Actor” – Nature Run Amok

Creepy but awesome make up turned a man into a tree. Good twist on the genre having a plant going off the rails, drinking too much, etc. Fun times. I kind of liked the stuff over the end credits better than any of the rest of it, so I’m not sure what that says about the film. Or about me.

Chess Club – “Alex, His Kids and Miracle World” – Family

This movie was awesome! Totally nailed the heartwarming family movie. The premise was a bit familiar: adult telling the kids a story which is then acted out, but they kept it fresh with the great performances and the weirdness in the story. The left out son being made a zebra in the story make me laugh so hard. Also the noise that zebras make. (Fnneeerrr fnnneeeerrr.) I also enjoyed the next door neighbour who you never saw the face off. He was hilarious. Best film of the night for me. Or was it? Yeah, it totally was.

Dog Films – “Extraction” – Revenge

Eh. Gore-nography. I just don’t like it. The movie was nicely shot and at least it wasn’t a man torturing a woman. Good acting etc, but I just can’t enjoy this kind of thing.

Eat Kitteo – “Poultry Pounder 3” – Parallel World

This was so good. The whole audience was roaring with laughter. A guy buys a forbidden, banned and cursed video game, brings it home and the chicken from it steals his baby! He follows the chicken into the game for an amazing sequence and a great pay off. I really enjoyed seeing something so short and to the point as well, I also love this team’s name animation and the easter egg at the end of the credits. Great time was had by all.

Killah Walz/Orca – “Otack Otack Otack Fall” – Religious

A very different kind of 48 hour film, this was a strange arty movie set in a mental institution. One of the inmates begins to wonder what is going on. The whole thing was very beautiful and strange. Loved the music, loved the design, loved the weirdness. I also understood what was going on, which I think is a bonus. A couple of the people I saw it with didn’t understand and perhaps because of that, didn’t appreciate it. I thought it was very daring and will stick in my memory for ages. They also won the grand prize, so it’ll be on TV for the National Finals.

Liquid Chicken
– “No Warrant” – Twist

This movie had Keisha Castle-Hughes in it. Someone at the back of the theatre yelled out ‘no fair!’ when she was revealed, which I thought was funny. This was well acted and very prettily shot but it didn’t really have an M Night big twist. They did include a photo of M Night and I thought they were going to go one way with it, which would have been awesome. Instead they just had a little twist and then a reveal and I was disappointed. I kind of feel like none of the movies of this genre have really got it. It makes me want to write one.

mrs e movies – “Bienvenidos A Nueva Zelanda” – Educational

Another hilarious film. This was a travel show for Spanish people settling in Wellington. Due to cut backs they had to cut out actors and use little wooden dolls which were very cute. Nice use of the exaggerator as the voice over, saying how wonderful Wellington is while showing crappy houses, road works, etc. Me and Chelle giggled all the way through. Plus, bonus points for the rock being an engagement ring like we had.

The Official V 48 Hour Team – “Behind the Scenes: One Flu Over the Bees Nest” – Conspiracy

Ok, so it was a film about people making a 48 hour film, and there was gratuitous placement of V…but somehow they won me over. Maybe it was the dedicated performance of the director who kept taking his clothes off. Maybe it was the long haired skateboarder being cast as John Key. I don’t know, but it was better than I had expected it to be.

Sauce-Era – “The Perfect Fit” – Politically Incorrect

A very politically incorrect film set at a job interview. The interviewee relates all the terrible things he’s done at past jobs; being perverted, creepy, rude to customers, homophobic, etc. Some of which was appropriately hard to watch and you were laughing despite yourself. Had a Hell of a payoff. Good work on the concept.

Traces of Nut – “Free Range” – Religious

Rowan from The Winding City is in this one as the head of a religious cult that worships eggs. On their last day on this Earth before ascending to the albumen one member of the cult begins to have misgivings. Beautifully acted, fantastic overall look with the costumes and some nice jokes as well. I liked the ending as well. Praise Gupa!

Overall I think it was a much stronger group than last years’ finals. I felt a little weird about the Official V team winning prizes, but their movie was pretty darn good. I’m also a little weirded out that Traces of Nut filmed in the war memorial without permission with no apparent repercussions but whatevs. The judges’ decision is final and all that.

Winners here, although you probably have to join the forums to see the list.
Also see the 48 hours heat our film was in

Wednesday writing

This Wednesday wasn’t as cold as last Wednesday, which is good, because when it’s that cold I just want to have a bath and then crawl into bed. Today after work I went and ran some errands and then came home to leftover burrito lunch. Then I messed around on youtube for a while. I eventually buckled down and wrote some stuff.

Getting back in the habit of writing is tough each time, but it’s a little less tough than it has been. I have been taking baby steps, giving myself a bit of time to write and telling myself not to feel guilty if I don’t feel like I’ve written ‘enough’. I just tell myself that each page I write is one I won’t have to write later, that makes me feel better. Baby steps. I did some writing on Sunday, I did some on Monday after work and I did nearly an hour this afternoon.

I’m having fun writing this book, although I’m wondering a little bit about copyright. I have my main character mentioning movies and characters all the time, as well as the names of other books and I feel like I’m doing wrong somehow. I guess it cant be that big an issue since off the top of my head I can think of at least five books which mention real books and real movies but I can’t help but worry. I’m not too sure how to start researching that either.

Like I said though, I’m having fun writing again and that’s the important thing I think.

I have started reading a book called What I talk about when I talk about running which is a kind of memoir by Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. It’s mostly about running, but it’s also about writing and motivation. I have only read 33 pages but I have already found a couple of good quotes.

“In the novelist’s profession there’s no such thing as winning or losing….What’s crucial is whether your writing attains the standards that you’ve set for yourself.”

In this he is talking about what motivates him, personally, to run and to write and how it has never been about competition with other people. The thing to keep in mind is that you are pleasing yourself with what you are achieving. That you aren’t making a half assed go of it, but doing your best. If you know you are doing your best then you can be satisfied.

I marked another page last night but I must have been half asleep. I just read it through again and I have no clue what it was that jumped out at me last night. I will keep you posted though, there are bound to be some more gems in there.

This Wednesday’s mandatory link is a website of life hacks for creative types.

Tonight I’m off to the Wellington Finals of the 48 hour film competition. Our film wasn’t selected, but it’s always a fun night out. Watch this space tomorrow for my thoughts on the films.

Dracula

In my quest to read more classics I decided that Dracula was the next one to tackle. I kind of sort of read Dracula back in 2006 when there was a livejournal community uploading it in real time, with all the diary entries and letters posted according to the dates in the book. This means it was in a different order slightly to the book contents. In any case I couldn’t remember very much of it from then and when I read it again much of it was new to me.

Of all the classics I’ve read so far I think I enjoyed Dracula the most. It’s just such a good story, spooky and engrossing and populated with interesting characters. I guess they have to be classics for a reason, but I didn’t enjoy Wuthering Heights nearly so much.

One of the things I really enjoyed was the portrait of Jonathan and Mina Harker’s relationship. There is strain put on it by the events of the book, or should I say, the actions of the Count, but through it all they remain devoted to each other. Mina is in a lot of ways the stronger of the two, being much less likely to break down emotionally and more level headed when faced with difficulties. Jonathan is a man of action and his devotion to Mina is what gives him the determination to hunt and kill Dracula with the others.

There is a very moving scene when Mina is aware that she has the vampiric taint on her and could potentially turn, she asks all the men in turn to promise to kill her if she ever does turn. This is understandably very hard on Jonathan, but she tells him that he must do it and allow her that comfort, that she will not be allowed to live on as a monster but be put to rest by one who loves her. Although it pains him to do so, Jonathan promises this to her. It’s hard to explain now that I’ve put it down, but his desire to make her happy even in such a horrible situation overcomes his initial resistance. Maybe I should have just said that they keep writing about each other when they are apart and trying to take the strain off each other when they are together. That sounds much nicer doesn’t it?

I love the side characters, the weirdly accented workmen that the characters encounter. I like the chapter about the last voyage of The Demeter, I like the way the Count can be so many different forms, but can only change at certain times of day. I like the distinct three acts the book is divided into and I love the character of Lucy.

All in all, I’d definitely recommend it. It’s wonderful to see all the vampiric lore that became such common knowledge, and I think you’ll enjoy the way Van Hellsing talks. English is his second language you see.

Point of Fashion: Batman/Robin
Current Obsession: Cemeteries of London

PTA – The Other Side

I’m not keen to turn this blog into just Actual Play reports, but my Tuesday night game group is seriously rocking the Prime Time Adventures right now and I’d like to talk about that some. We’re on the second season now of The Other Side, a comedic drama about the collision of two cultures: Earth and a traditional fantasy world where magic works. In the second season Hell is also involved, so I guess it’s three cultures now.

Svend has stepped back to just producing, but I took his cynical Embassy worker as one of my connections, since he was kind of my mentor last season. This means the character is still involved in my story at least. Steve’s well meaning troll is now king of the fantasy realm, Elric’s seventh son Prince is deposed and working as a teacher at the high school my character attended the year before and Star has switched characters to Fifi, the terrifyingly homicidal woman who was killed at the end of last season but came back as a hell spawn zombie.

Anyhoodles, the game has been really really good. All of us are invested in our characters which makes a huge difference. The emotional involvement is what I love about roleplaying and we are all on the same page when it comes to making it hard for our characters. There have been several difficult conversations and some nasty outcomes from conflicts. I managed to shock the whole group by having my character, in girl form, sleep with her old friend AJ who has also been affected by the gender-swap curse. This was an obvious choice for Sam, because everything in her world is hard and unpleasant and stressful and this was one thing she could do to feel good. Apparently it wasn’t obvious for anyone else in the group, and it will make for good drama later when Sam reconnects with Alfredo, who is more or less a true love kind of person.

The emotional involvement has really meant the players have all been gaming outstandingly. We’re all surprising each other and collaborating in a really natural way. This is why I roleplay, to create something amazing with other people, to try out other worlds and emotions. This is awesome!

Oh and if you’re wondering what’s happening with Calvin, as I am, I should have mentioned that my Buffy game is on hiatus right now. This is due to our slayer moving house as well as the 48 hour film competition and various other real life things happening. Next week we’re doing a not-quite-related Victorian slaying game and depending on how long that takes we’ll be back with the new episode of Fall. I have some plans for Calvin, so stay tuned. I think I’m going to try and surprise the whole group with him….I love doing that.

More about The Other Side:

Sam’s curse, a kind of origin story for my character.
Entry from Steve about the game.

Last season’s details can be found on my old blog:
Start of the season
Mid-way
End of season

Stay Inside

It’s an immeasurably miserable winter day in Wellington, even though it’s still Autumn for another 5 weeks or so. With this in mind, here’s some stuff to keep you occupied while you stay inside where it’s warm. Snuggle into a blankie, make yourself a hot cup of whatever you fancy, click and read and watch….

Food blogs are always good to read, but I think they’re even better when it’s cold. You can vicariously enjoy the food pictures and dream about things you might make. It may even inspire you to actually cook or bake, then you can really enjoy the food!
*Freshly Ground has recently branched out into podcast reviews, which might also interest you, but the recipes are still coming. Every time I read one of those recipes I just want to kidnap Dan and make him cook for me all the time. Luckily for him, I’m very lazy.
*My friend Jen is back from her OE and put me on to the marvelous looking Bread and honey. She advises me that the chocolate cupcakes are very good.

After I played around with the drama button Svend asked if I’d ever tracked down the animation we saw in the Animation For Kids collection a couple of years ago which we keep quoting at each other. Inspired by the powers of the internets I tracked it down. It’s a story told by three kids about Crazy eyes dolphin vs the Mad cows and animated by Ian Stewart in the manner of kids’ drawings. Good fun, if somewhat startling.

He was an article on stuff randomly, but I still think you should all read Sockington, especially if you’ve ever known a cat. It’s incredibly funny stuff. And it makes me want to talk SOMETIMES IN ALL CAPS and then undercut myself.

Just for something completely different, why not check out Filament magazine? It’s the brainchild of my friend Suraya and the first edition is going to print very very soon. Basically it’s porn for girls, or erotic images of men designed specifically to appeal to the straight woman. I have personally been involved in small ways over the course of the project, giving feedback on one of the photo sessions and beta-ing a short story. In one of the later editions, there may even be a story written by me….anyway, I’ve subscribed, so expect a review of the first edition once I’ve received it in the mail.

Suraya linked to this article about one woman’s experience in a modern burlesque show. It describes quite eloquently the problems I tend to have with the idea of burlesque.

Latest awesomeness from cutebreak is this cat’s bitter disappointment that a pigeon got away from him. Heh.

Have you read something awesome online recently? Seen a great video? Please comment with the links, I’m always up for new stuff! Speaking of which, my sister in law on Lee’s side just got a kitten, we’re going to visit and I’m going to pass on some of my cat-rearing knowledge.

Things I Love Thursday

  • Dracula. I am really really enjoying reading Dracula again, because even though it’s so old and such a familiar story, it’s still spooky. It’s spooky and it’s touching as well, and the jokes are good as well. The characters are all vibrant and cool and I worry about them.
  • New duvet. It is getting really freaking cold at night now and I am loving my new duck down duvet. It smells, for some reason, of buttery popcorn which also makes me happy. Because then I’m warm and snuggly and I can smell yummy popcorn. I am easily pleased I guess.
  • Angelic Layer. I am rewatching it while Lee rehearses. It is such a good show. Another one of these things that you watch and it makes you want to be a better person. Just because the main character is so good and so nice and good things happen because of it. Plus the credits music is all cool.
  • 15 photographs that look ‘shopped but aren’t. This kind of broke my brain, but I’m happy when I can figure out how it’s done without reading the captions.
  • Interesting Movie Trailers. There’s finally a trailer out for Dolan’s Cadillac by Stephen King and starring Wes Bentley and Christian Slater. The trailer is pretty much the whole story though, so I wouldn’t recommend you watch it if you haven’t already read it.
    Another trailer, for a completely different kind of movie…Kit Kittredge is a movie based on the American Girl books, which are based on the American Girl dolls. Set in the Great Depression the movie looks like pretty standard kid’s movie stuff, but the adult actors are what caught my eye. Chris O’Donnell used to be my number one crush, then there’s Julia Ormond, Joan Cusack, Stanley Tucci and Vinzinni from The Princess Bride.

Honourable Mentions: Old friends coming back into your life, new friends who are awesome, old friends who are still awesome and husbands. Warm feet, hot baths and being wrapped in a blankie. Boots, legwarmers, jeans, threadless tshirts, looking forward to upcoming movies, chicken wings at 8pm inspired by How I Met Your Mother, Dollhouse getting renewed and craisins.

And you my darlings? What are you thankful for this week? Please share with the whole class in the comments.

Writing for the 48

Some thoughts on what to keep in mind when writing a script for a 48 hour film and how to do it well.
Because I am a huge expert on this now that I have done it once for real and once for practice. My other credits are directing, acting, editing and watching a whole lot of 48 hour films.

The first thing to keep in mind is that you are making a short film, not a 7 minute feature film. This is actually a very difficult thing to do, because most people have more experience with the long format. Many of the genres handed out suggest a long feature length story as well. You have to narrow your focus down, right down to a small story.

First you have to get your basic concept through whatever means your team chooses. ( I recommend brain storming with as much of the team as can make it in Friday night, so that everyone is invested in the project). Then you can sort out the basic plot, choose characters and figure out how to use the three elements in the best way. Then casting, location decisions and costumes choices can happen.

After that your writer or team of writers should remove themselves from the rest of the team and get down to business. Our team has always had a team of writers working together, this is because you get more fresh ideas, you can take turns napping if you need to and you have tie breakers.

Our writing team worked just by talking through the plot, inventing dialogue as we went and then refining everything. If one of us had a problem with a line or the way something went down we had be honestly voice it and be willing to be shot down. “Kill your darlings” was one of our other watch-phrases. Don’t get precious about something you’ve written and insist it stay just because you like it. Write your own things in your own time and be precious about them. The 48 hour film competition is all about time and the lack of it. Don’t waste it on something you thought up an hour ago.

The writing team’s job is to keep it as simple as they can for the rest of the team to shoot. This doesn’t have to mean two characters, one location, if your team wants to push themselves with special effects, multiple locations and zombie make up then by all means include all that in the script, but you can still make it easier on them.

Important question to keep in mind 1: How late can you start the story?
I’ve seen a bunch of 48 hour movies who start the story too early. Say you’re telling the story of some monster hunters tracking down a monster who may be acting in self defence. Do you need to show how the hunter team was formed? Do you need to show the team being asked by the authorities to step in? Do you need to show them driving all the way to the area the monster is terrorising? In a feature film, sure. In a 7 minute short? You can start as late as the hunters turning up with their armoury. Maybe you can even start later depending on what your film is about.

Remember that you want to tell the smallest version of your story as you can. If this means cutting out the montage of the main character getting up in the morning and having breakfast, then I say do it. Writing a short film is very much like writing a short story. A piece of advice I got from the Morgue our head writer, in regards to a short story is relevant here: “In a story this short, anything that isn’t 100% part of *this* story
is clutter.” In other words, if you have a scene, a shot or a character that isn’t moving the plot forward then you can cut them.

Important question to keep in mind 2: What is the heart of your story?
Why do you want to tell this particular story? Is it about the nature of human suffering? Is it a story about a dog who just wants his breakfast? Or do you just want to show a man torturing a woman? Whatever it is you have a reason to tell this story. Figure it out. With our film “Dedication” we wanted to show the real emotional core of the revenge story. The fact that someone is hurting bad enough to lash out at the person who hurt them. The writing team kept this in mind as we nutted out the story beats.

Remember to keep it simple when it comes to dialogue as well. Your film will look more polished in the heats if you have your characters saying loaded sentences full of meaning rather than chatting away with a lot of filler. Bonus points if you can pack double meaning into the words you choose. I watched a few films this year and previous years where some of the lines clunked. This is a problem because it can jar your audience, throwing them out of the film and reminding them that there’s a world outside your story. Try to make your dialogue flow like it’s real people talking, but write it better than actual conversation.

One of the things we did to try and achieve this is we read through a late version of the script at around 2am, line by line. If anyone on the team thought there could be a better phrasing or felt meh about the line we talked it through. You might not be able to fix it, but we got a lot of better stuff by doing this.

Extra reading: Helpful questions to ask from Deb-onair