Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

A Song Of Ice and Fire and Television

Never underestimate the power of television: It’s amazing to see the sales and popularity of the A Song Of Ice and Fire books shoot up to the stratosphere following the HBO excellent adaptation of Game Of Thrones, the first book in the series, leaving all long-time fans in a “told you so!” mode. I wonder if the new readers are genre fans or just book fans. It seems to me ASOIAF has broken through the genre stereotype and has become so mainstream it’s a little annoying. It causes my geeky snobbishness to emerge (“Oh, NOW you like fantasy!).

But it’s just me being snarky. I’m hardly a long-time fan myself. I only started reading the series a few years ago following constant recommendations. Just to put things is perspective, Game Of Thrones was published waaay back in 1996. But once I started, I never looked back. These books are immensely compelling, and hard-core fantasy elements like spells and magical creatures – the elements that make the genre seem silly in the eyes of most readers (and often justifiably so) – are very minor and subtle here. They seem to be a a part of the ancient history of the world rather than its present, which actually make them even more awesome and “magical”.

I remember going through the same process with Watchmen, the groundbreaking Graphic novel by Alan Moore. I read it years ago, and was well-aware of its high-status in the world of comic book fandom. But only when the movie came out a couple of years ago did you start seeing people reading Watchmen on the subway in such quantities you’d think you’re in Tokyo and not in Toronto.

I cannot say I’m not happy to see other people getting exposed to the books I love, people who would probably never have read them otherwise. I see old women reading Game Of Thrones, for crying out loud. Usually you would see them holding a Daniel Steele book or somethin’. But no, they read Game Of Thrones, with all the sex and brutal violence. I would be honest, I’d say it makes you feel a little less special about yourself, but also a little less geeky. Now, says the Ego, you have to go and find other obscure book to love and cherish to help you feel special! until, that is, they make a movie or a TV show out of it too. The supremacy feelings that make your inner geek all warm and fuzzy inside were apparent as book readers watched in cruel joy as watchers of the TV series, new to the world of ASOIAF, were shocked again and again by the twists in the plot.

But enough with all the labels (although it’s fun. If we lived in a world where everybody likes everything else that everybody likes, how boring would that be?)

So A Song of Ice and Fire went mainstream. It was considered a high point in the genre for years, but if you didn’t read SF and/or Fantasy, you probably weren’t aware of that. To be honest, it makes sense ASOIAF has been “liberated” by TV. The books may not be great literature (how many books are?), but they’re certainly great entertainment. Martin is an accomplished screenwriter as well, and his chapters in ASOIAF read like TV episodes. Short and sweet, full of twists and turns, and usually ending with a cliffhangers. The very definition of a page-turner which usually applies to thrillers and not 1000 pages long fantasy novels… It’s a very easy read on the one hand, but also very demanding – trying to keep up with all the names of people and places, but it’s well worth it.

Book 5 is out today after a looong wait. Welcome to Westeros, everybody.

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Applause

One of the greatest lovemaking acts in the world is between an artist and his audience.

Therefore, the greatest place for an artist to be is on a stage. To stand in front of the people who love his work, his talent, his gift. To stand in front of them and share it with them. It must be the best high in the world. Musicians and other performance artists experience it in the most direct way. Music shows have people clapping and shouting and cheering with enthusiasm after each song, and during. Magicians, jugglers, acrobats, and other performers of the circus also experience the appreciation of the audience in the most immediate way, although there’s a difference between a performer who is a part of a show and a musician who people come especially to see. I think as far as audience feedback goes, nothing beats being a musician/singer on stage. Yes, it’s hard, doing shows one after the other. It demands energy and stamina. But there’s a reason why music legends such as Madonna and The Rolling Stones still perform while most of the people their age are rotting away in places with names such as “Green Fountains”. You see, it’s the love of the audience. It’s intoxicating. Is it an ego-trip? Partly, for sure. But as long you keep your ego in check, as long as it’s not too inflated, as long as you can enjoy the adoration and not get too caught up in it, it’s just an awesome feeling. For musicians, going on tour is the best thing there is. It is nothing like recording in the studio. It is connecting with the people who buy and enjoy and love their music. It’s seeing them, hearing them, feeling them.

As an artist, some fans will leave you, especially if you’ve been in some sort of creative decline, or “sold out” in their opinion. It’s hard, keeping the love of the audience. It’s hard to win it and it’s even harder to keep it. But, you will always have your core of fans, your little family, who travels along with you, metaphorically and literally, over the years. And even if you don’t have a fan base yet, even if it’s your first performance ever, even if it’s in a school talent show instead of in a stadium, you can still connect with an audience like no artist can. And it’s still magic.

Actors in the theater have it a little different. It really depends on the kind of show you’re making. If you’re making a comedy, you’ll be able to enjoy the crowd’s response during your performance, just like a rocker on stage (depending if it’s funny, of course). If it’s a drama, you’ll have to wait until the end to get your applause. That part, where the actors return to stage and take their bow, is the most magical part in theater, it’s the moment where the performer goes in front of his audience and says “there you go, I did my part, now it’s your turn”. It’s awesome being an actor in the theater if only for that moment, if only for that feeling, doing the same play each and every night, and when it’s over, feeling the love rising out of the seats in a roar of applause, and like a wave, washing over you, affirming your talent, your gift, telling you that you have found what you were brought to this Earth to do. Those applause, this love, they are the stamp of approval on the talent sheet you received from god.

A writer, on the other hand, cannot experience this immediacy, this connection with an audience. A writer performs his act on the page, adding words to words, creating a story or a poem. The closest a writer can get to feeling like a rock star is if he reads his work on stage. And that’s really more of a performance, only of the literary kind. The writer needs to be proficient with it, or he risks boring his audience to tears, just like a musician. But a writer cannot see or feel first hand how his work affects people. He cannot be in your living room with you while you read his book. He cannot hear you gasp, laugh, cry. Writing is the most intimate of artistic endeavors. The connection between the author and his reader is always done through the mind. Yes, a writer can receive letters from readers telling him how his work affected them, but it is certainly not as direct as hearing your crowd cheer and applaud your live performance as a fire-eater or as a Blues artist.

A playwright can hear his words spoken on stage and can take joy in the love of the audience. He is not necessarily on stage bowing, or even present at the theater every night, but he can experience it behind the scenes. Better than nothing, right?

And what about the screenwriter?

Screenwriting, that weird amalgamation of the playwright and the novelist. A script, unlike a novel or a play, is not an independent piece (barring some exceptions…). It is the blueprint for a motion picture. A screenwriter cannot experience a direct link with his audience unless he sits in a theater showing the film he wrote. And even then, it is anonymous. It is like the playwright behind the stage.

A writer is not a performer. Writers are usually shy and prefer it this way. But there’s something to be said about getting your applause. For me, showing my short film in the theater was a high point, and the closest I got to being a rock star. Of course, I cherished it with complete anonymity, and I was somewhat tense since when you’re making a comedy you always worry the audience won’t laugh. But when they do, and in the right spots, and when they gasp in the right spots, you can imagine yourself on the stage, a guitar in your hand, shredding it, or maybe sitting at a piano, hammering those tunes, your fingers dancing on the keyboard like drunk ballerinas.

And when it ends, you stand up, and take a bow, and thank them.

And then you are one with your audience.

And you love them for it.

Perfect Day

This was it. It was now or never (well, probably not, but he always had a flair for the dramatic).

She was sitting at her desk, her eyes glued to the computer, her hand moving the mouse left and right, up and down.
She paid no attention to him.
Her hair was dark and long and curly, strands of it falling and covering her left eye.
She twisted her lip and puffed some air up and the renegade curl flew away.
His heart skipped a bit.
He said:
“Hey”.
She tilted her head and saw him. Her eyes were brown and large. How he loved those eyes of hers.
“Hey!” She replied, leaning back and stretching her fingers. “God, this report is a pain in the ass”.
“So take a break”.
“Yeah, I guess I should. What’re you up to? Still with the fall paperwork?”
“Yeah”. He said.
“Poor guy”.
“Oh, that’s alright”.
Ok, enough with the damn small talk.
“Listen, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you”.
“Hmm..?
“Would you like to… you know… go out and do something togeter? Maybe this Saturday?”
She looked at him with her big eyes. His heart sank for a minute.
This can’t be a surprise to her, he thought. The way he’s been talking to her, the way he’s been trying to be close to her, she must know that he likes her more than just a friend. She must.
“Sure” she said.
He felt a smile appear on his face, widening and widening. He felt himself turn into the Cheshire Cat.
“Great!” He said.
“What did you have in mind?” She asked.
“Mini Golf? At The Grover Grounds? On Saturday”
“Yeah, sure”.
“Then we can go to Kiki’s”.
She smiled again.
“Listen” she said, “Lets talk later. I have to get back to this damn report”.
“Yes” he said, “Yes. Okay, so… thanks. I mean, good.”
She laughed.
“You’re funny”.
He went back to his cubicle, but there was no chance he could focus on his work today.
No chance in hell.

Saturday morning was beautiful and sunny. They met at the entrance to the Grounds and played till 11:30. He won, but it wasn’t really important. He helped her choose her clubs and aim. She let him hold her arms and guide her. It was wonderful to touch her, to smell her. His whole body and mind were on a natural high.
Then they went into town and he bought her ice cream. She laughed at his jokes. At some point she held his hand.
They talked about all kinds of stuff, sitting in the park eating their ice cream. They talked about what movies they last saw, about the wonderful weather in this April day – as if god arranged it just for them after a week of rains. They talked about his family and her family, about life in a small town and their dreams of getting out. They talked about books and music and cats. They both loved cats.

They didn’t talk about work at all. Not even one bit.

After the ice cream they didn’t feel like lunch so they went to the Gladstone Theater instead to catch the 4:30 show.
He couldn’t beleive his luck. They showed Casablanca.
When they went back out into the street (part of them still in the black and white wonder), they needed a few seconds to adjust. He felt like he’s hovering a few feet above the ground.
But it was getting dark.
And they were tired.

Her place was just a few blocks away and he walked her there.
When they got to the walkway in front of her house, she turned to him and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
“Thank you” she said. “I had  a wonderful, wonderful time”.
“It’s me who should thank you” he said. “thank you for a perfect day”.
“It was great, wasn’t it?” She said.
The sun was setting, making their shadows growing longer and thinner on the pavement.
Then he leaned and kissed her. She let him.
He held her tight.
“Yes, it was wonderful” he said. “Let’s do it again soon”.
“No” she said.
He let her go and looked at her, befuddled.

“I’d have to say no” she said from behind her desk. She wasn’t really smiling anymore. And she did act surprised, for some reason.
“Ah, okay”. He blurted.
She went back to her computer.
“I just thought I’d try, you know. You only live once”.
“Yeah, I know” she said. This time she smiled, but it wasn’t the smile he was looking for. “But it’s still no, okay?”
“Okay” he said. He kept standing there for a few seconds as if someone poured concrete on his shoes, but she didn’t look at him.

It was as if he wasn’t there.

He turned and slowly went back to his cubicle.
It was longest walk of his life.
He felt eyes looking at him. But they couldn’t have heard the conversation, could they? Could they?
He sat back on his chair ans stared at his computer.
He would keep staring at it until it was time to go home.

Home.

The weatherman on TV said that the rains will be over by the weekend.

He said Saturday will be sunny and warm.

He said it’s going to be a perfect day.

Make ’em laugh

Getting ready for my screening at WILDsound Film Festival in Toronto, I started to think how nerve-wrecking it is to do a comedy compared to all other film genres.
With comedy, the rules are simple. If the audience don’t laugh, you’re screwed.
If you do a drama, a horror film, an action-adventure, you usually never know if your film worked until the credits start to roll. Then, either people clap, or boo, or couldn’t care less. You may know if it worked by talking to the audience, by looking at their faces or listening to their conversations when they’re leaving the theater, but comedy is the only genre where you absolutely know if your film worked WHILE it is shown.

But does a comedy HAVE to make you laugh to be considered successful?

Well… Yes.

I’m the first one to admit that my film, Hype, is not a laugh-a-minute-riot, nor is it a slapstick comedy or a comedy of errors. Instead, it relies on a certain punchline to deliver the laugh.
Whenever I watch it with a group of people I always get very anxious at the end, because i know that if people don’t laugh now, the film didn’t work for them.
So tonight, watching Hype with the (hopefully) largest audience I ever had for it, I feel excited but mostly anxious. You sit there and you know that if people won’t laugh, your film is a misfire, a dud, a waste of space. A comedy is meant to make people laugh through satire, irony, black humor, slapstick. Like every good film, it needs to say something about life and the world we live in, about the characters, and it needs to do so in a way that makes you laugh. Maybe not all the way, but I believe a good comedy has to have at least one big laugh proportional to its length.

Woody Allen made some great comedies. Some of them were funnier than others. Bananas and Love and Death were ribald and crazy. Radio Days and Mighty Aphrodite were much more subtle. All of those films made you laugh at one point or another. But while Allen’s first films are considered his funniest, his later comedies are considered to be more deep, more rounded and profound. They are more about something, while his early spoofs are more like 90 minute sketches.

But they are all comedies, and they all work in their own way. I love comedies such as Take The Money And Run and Airplane because I love nonsense humor, but I also admire comedies that are more mature. There’s a lot of leeway inside the genre confines, but the rule always stays the same:

Your audience needs to laugh. And laugh for the right reasons, too.

A comedy can sometime tickle your funny bone without causing you to burst uproariously with laughter. There are countless examples of that. But as I’ve said, it’s not enough. If you strive for a comedy, you need those laugh-out-loud moments. Because what comedy filmmaker would want to sit at a screening of his film and have everyone chuckle inside for 90 minutes, or 20 minutes, or 5 minutes?

No, when we do a comedy, we want to make ’em laugh.

And we will sit in the dark and hold our breath until then…

3-day novel contest – 3rd day and epilogue

The third day was the easiest one. I finished writing the book on Sunday night and had 85 pages on my hand, and the 3rd day was spent on editing and especially stepping outside and feel the wonderful sun on my face. I also felt the fatigue in a tremendous way.

At night I did some more editing and that was that. I haven’t sent it in yet. I still haven’t figured out how to do a proper numbering in the openoffice Writer, but I’ll fix it soon enough.

So what can I say about those 3 days? I don’t think it really sunk in yet. The longest thing I have ever written in prose form up to now was a 25 page novella and it took me 6 months to finish fist draft. Here I wrote 85 pages in what was basically two days. The ramifications to my physical and mental well being are still to be determined, but it was like an out-of-body experience. I done nothing but write, eat, go to washroom, write, eat, go to washroom, sleep, wake up screaming, sleep again.

Who the hell needs to go to a shack out in the woods to write? If you get enough into your story you forget there’s a world out there anyway. And if the outside world invades your little cocoon all you need to do is put the headphones, listen to some music, and lose yourself.

I drank copious amounts of tea and even a cup of coffee which I usually don’t drink. Parts of the novel were written in a Starbucks in a book store. I like writing surrounded by books. At some point I even tried to download a software which enables you to speak instead of type and the words get written that way, but it didn’t really work out and I realized I was just procrastinating again.

It’ll take me some time to get back to the story to do some more editing (the version I’m sending to the contest includes of course whatever editing I managed to do in the 3 days and nothing more). I feel energized though in a peculiar sort of way. Maybe I’ll try and get back to my short story roots and write a couple of them that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

My short novel is called The Forever People and it has to do with the effect movies can have on our lives, especially when we’re young and impressionable, about coping with loneliness and heartbreak and missed opportunities, and about following your dreams and not be afraid to be yourself.

It may all sound terribly cliched and familiar, the way i put here, but you know what? Tough break.

I only had three days!

3-day novel contest – 2nd day

Wow, this was a crazy day.

Yesterday seems like a walk in the park compared to today. Yesterday had a 30 page output, while today I added 43 more.  But today was hard mainly because I was stuck a lot of the times. At the end I decided this is not going to be a 100 page novel. I will have to make do with 80. I knew my ending, but there was no way  I would feel another 20 pages with fluff.

So that was it.

Tomorrow will be mainly devoted to editing and giving the mess some kind of shape, but the book is basically finished, I think.

And I hope i’m not wrong!

3-day novel contest – 1st day

The day isn’t over yet but I’m taking a break, and taking the opportunity for a quick update. Right now I’m on page 23, which is less than I hoped to achieve by now (10 pm). I must have at least 30 pages done today, so that means working at night until I get it. My original plan was to begin last night after midnight but after a hard night of partying (and I make no excuses here. I partied because I needed to!) I came home at 2 AM, head buzzing with alcohol, set at my computer, stared at the blank page, typed the word PROLOGUE, shut down the computer and fell on the bed like a ton of bricks.

I woke up at 6 am, determined to begin my writing now. I went to the washroom, brushed my teeth, went back to the living room, went past the computer, looked at it, looked at my bed, looked at the computer again, looked at my bed. Somehow, I don’t know how, I ended up in bed and fell asleep again.

I woke up at 10 and then I finally started writing. I did it almost without any breaks except for lunch and a stroll to a near-by coffee shop with my laptop because, you know, there IS a world out there.

It’s hard keeping consistency. There were a few instances where I went back and had to change names or facts because I changed my mind about the plot at some point. I’m sure there will be consistency issues but that’s what you get.

Anyway, a quick break (a person has to shower) and then back to work.

3-day novel contest – The pre-show

Okay, I’ll make it quick.

This weekend, that’s what I’ll be doing:

http://www.3daynovel.com/index.html

The challenge was too enticing to pass by. Yes, I had my doubts. For a guy who sits in front of a computer almost 50 hours a week, doing intense typing for 48-72 hours isn’t something that he looks forward too. But yet, I think there’s a way to do it.

I have an idea. I’ve had it for weeks. But it doesn’t mean I won’t change it at the last minute. Perhaps what scares me the most is getting stuck in the middle and not knowing where to go from there. I just know I’m going to feel the panic at some point!

I have been writing for years now. Short stories, screenplays, and in this weblog. I haven’t ever written a novel, though, and figured this contest is a great excuse to finally do it. I think I operate well under pressure when it comes to writing, but we’ll see…

I don’t have a real plan for writing the story. No outline. Just a bunch of details I jotted down in my notebook, like character traits, the inciting incident, and some background. That’s it. Similarly, I don’t have a plan for how to write it. I’m not going to sit for more than three hours in a row, I think. I’ll also go outside and write in a coffee shop. I will eat my regular meals not in front of the computer. I will have some snack near-by and drink a lot of tea. I will disconnect myself from the Internet. I know the breaking point will arrive at some point and I think I need to hang a sign above my desk which will say DON’T GIVE UP!

And most of all, I hope the story will carry me through to the finish line. I hope to lose myself in it and forget about the outside world.

I think this is the only way to write a novel in 3 days…

See you on the other side.

Express yourself

For me, writing is hard. Everything about it is hard. From forming ideas, to formulating plot and characters, to actually sit down and write. It’s 90 percent torture and 10 percent joy. It’s joyous when it’s flowing, when the story seems to actually write itself. But that is so rare. Usually I have to hammer at it and write with fits and starts. I can’t remember when was the last time I actually wrote continuously for 3 or 4 hours.

Sitting in front of a blank screen and trying to find the first words is a very stressing experience.

True, I write in this Weblog. I write in this Weblog much more than I write screenplays or stories. It’s easier to write in a blog. First of all, it’s not a story. You don’t have to think about plot turns, dialogue or characters. It’s a much more intuitive, flowing form of writing. The second reason is that I’m much more motivated to write here because, as a friend of mine mentioned, it’s the instant gratification of seeing your work published, pure and simple. You write something, hit “submit”, and it’s out there, for all the world to see. A miracle of modern technology.

So why is it so hard for me to write fiction? When I look at my body of work over the years, I get depressed. I first began setting pen to paper about 20 years ago and been at it continuously in one form or another ever since, and what I got to show for it is three short decent stories, one feature screenplay, and a couple of other screenplays in varying lengths, from 5 pages to 45 pages.

this is not meant as another self-depreciating rant like I’m “fond” of doing, but as a clear view of the facts. In 20 years, I have produced very few completed works of written fiction. Sure, I wrote dozens of short stories in my youth, but they were easier to write because I couldn’t care less about characters or sensible plots. I just wrote them intuitively, applying things I learned from reading other people’s stories. Sadly, all those stories were thrown away over the years and so I can’t really look at them today and see what they were really like. I suspect they were crap, but it could be that some of them held good nuggets of ideas or even just characters that I could’ve used today. And so I have many, many beginnings of stories just laying around in my computer, begging me to complete them, but I have no idea how.

So why is it so hard for me? As I see it, a writer is someone who sits down and write. All the time. And not come up with a script every five years. I now read George R R Martin’s amazing Song of Ice and Fire series and I marvel: How does he do it? each book is a tremendously detailed and flowing and riveting and highly readable tome of 800 pages or more, obviously the product of an incredible effort behind the scenes, of planning and then planning some more. The guy must have 50 drawers full of background and research material.

And this is what separates the professional from the amateurs. The level of commitment. You have to be committed for it with every fiber of your being. You have to skip on television, movies and even eating. You have to skip on being with people. you have to sacrifice your social life. In order to be a prolific writer, you have to cope with the loneliness of the writer. Sitting in a room for hours and typing away.

Just look at Stephen King, who has written more than 50 books in 30 years. His memoir, On Writing, is highly recommended for every aspiring writer. King’s methods may not suit everyone, but he has some very good points to make about the craft.

I find it hard to mold ideas into a narrative. I lack the patience and the peace of mind. I’m too restless. That’s why most of my work is short. Short stories, short screenplays. The idea of writing a feature, not to mention a book, intimidates me. When I see a book written by some model about her life I get envious. Even people who don’t consider themselves as writers manage to finish a book and get it out there. That’s a great accomplishment in my… hmm… book.

Because I’m a guy who thinks too much as it is, and sits alone at his house too much as it is, the notion of making this life style into a profession intimidates me in some way. That’s why I love to direct and create a visual story with other people – collaborate – then sitting alone at home and write. I write the scripts, because if I want to make a film, nobody is going to write the story for me, unless I purchase the rights for written works which is out of my budget right now.

There is one clear resemblance between writing posts on the weblog and writing stories. I write them only when I have something to say. The most underwhelming experience a writer can have is the feeling that he has nothing to say. That there’s no issue or theme or a facet of the world or the human condition that motivates him to sit on his ass and start working. Crafting a story is work. Writing in a blog is a hobby, unless you do it professionally. It helps you flex your writing muscles and communicate ideas in another form, but for me, at least, it is no substitute for fiction writing.

Coming up with ideas is easy. Ideas are dime a dozen. But it takes commitment and passion to actually sit down and do something with them, and doing that can be torture. Procrastination can be an art form for a writer. I also don’t believe in writer’s block anymore (at least for the most part. I do acknowledge that sometime a writer just hits a creative block and is unable to continue, but that usually happens in the process of a work, not when you first sit down to begin).
Also, an idea that comes up in King’s book as well in other professional writers’ musings can basically be summed up like this: “Fuck inspiration”.

Waiting for inspiration to grab hold of you can be a long wait indeed. In order to write you have to make yourself write, adopt a writing routine and have self-discipline, traits that I’m not capable of achieving right now, apparently. You need to work hard and not wait for inspiration. When it arrives, it arrives. IF it arrives at all.

And the most important question of all: Are you really a writer if you’re suffering most of the time? There’s this romantic notion of the suffering writer which may or may not be true, but many successful writers admit that they just do it because they love every minute of it. So I guess it shouldn’t be that torturous.

I know that today I write much better than I did 20 years ago. Practice always makes perfect. But it’s still not enough, I feel. That’s a big question that I sometime ask myself: If you only wrote one piece during your entire life, but it was a masterpiece, are you considered a writer? I think so, but I think you can only be considered an author or a screenwriter if you actually have the body of work to show for it.

With the advent of the Internet, writing has become more widespread than it ever been. Everybody blogs, writes reviews, writes articles. Everybody’s commenting on everything. On Amazon, you have comments for the reviews. Soon we’ll have comments for the comments for the reviews. It’s a lot of clutter and noise, but I also find it fascinating. Are we better people because we all write now? Human beings need outlets to deal with urges. If those are not dealt with through creativity, they can explode in negative ways such as violence and anger.

My answer will have to be no. The violence and anger is seen clearly all over the Internet, so the fact that you’re writing a comment instead of punching the guy doesn’t make you a better human being. Everybody’s a big hero behind the mask of anonymity the Internet provides. Everybody’s a writer in some form or another. Illiteracy is an unheard of notion in the Western world, but I don’t think it makes us better human beings.

Hey, that could be an idea for a story.

Life as a Montage

There is a tendency in me to picture my life in scenes, as if they were part of a movie. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I think it’s neutral, depending on what I do with it. If I expect life to be this way, I am bound to be disappointed. If I just see it as an amusing flight of fancy, I might get a kick out of it, or even an inspiration.

Regrettably, I think I tend to be more disappointed than inspired.

I once was in love with a girl. I pictured us in different scenes. In some of them, we strolled at night, I gently stroked her cheek, she smiled and knew what I wanted to say without me even saying it.
And then we kissed. And laughed. And it was magical. And pretty ridiculous.
In another scene, we sat on the couch at my apartment, watching a movie. Then suddenly, she put her head on my shoulder, leaning against me. I put my arms around her and we just sat there, holding each other, without saying a word.
There were more “scenes” like these, all of them framed with the exact appropriate shots in my mind. Some of them even had background music. I derived great joy from these imaginings, but I also knew they were dangerous, I knew that if she doesn’t feel as I do, I am in for a great big huge fall. A thundering disappointment.
At the end, I didn’t really find the perfect moment or the perfect timing to be with her alone. I guess I was afraid to actually cross the Imaginary Zone and step into reality. I thought she felt the same way, but I wasn’t sure.

One night, while we were casually talking, she mentioned that she has a date with some guy. I guess the disappointment showed clearly on my face, although I didn’t say anything. The next day she apologized for hurting my feelings and said she only sees me as a Good Friend. Or in other words, a male girlfriend. How sweet.

That scene wasn’t even close to what I imagined. The dialogue was awkward, I stumbled and mumbled. We weren’t standing in a street corner with soft light on our faces, but sitting on the grass in broad daylight. And not long after that it just ended. Our friendship, I mean.

There were no big speeches, no emotional, heart-breaking moments. We kept in touch for a while and then we just didn’t anymore. It was over. I was heart-broken and lost. It was confusing, pointless, drawn-out.

It was real life.

A movie scene is a carefully structured slice of heightened reality. It usually has some kind of conflict at its core, because conflict is drama and drama is interesting to watch (that’s actually something not very positive in real life. We wouldn’t want to be in conflict all the time, would we? On the other hand, in movies as in life, conflict usually breeds a progress of some sort).
It usually has a to-the-point dialogue. People in movies say the exact, appropriate words, even if they mumble them. They don’t go home thinking: “Yes! That’s what I should’ve said!” as it is in real life. In movies, timing is almost always perfect. It has to be.

If we are to create drama, we must condense life, we must take a situation and dramatize it. For example: Three different phone calls between estranged lovers, each phone call by its own is drawn out, too long, too full of fat. We take it and condense it into one heated, dramatic conversation. We cut to the chase. We mine the conflict. We unveil the dramatic core. A dramatic scene is a clean, efficient, stylized facsimile of life. Storytelling, or drama, as Hitchcock once said, is life without the boring, pointless bits.

Of course, people do have experiences and life journeys as depicted in the movies, it’s just not happening the same way. For example, during the pre-production for my short film, I ran to and fro, been in this location and in that location, did this and did that, sat in front of the computer for hours, sending and answering e-mails… at some point, when I was nearly exhausted, I had a comforting thought: Hey, this is a montage!

You know how in the movies, when someone is going through a long, result-oriented process over a period of a few days or weeks or even hours, we get to see a montage? (The best example is of course the training montages in all those Rocky films). Well, this is exactly what I was experiencing. I was having My Montage. If this was a movie, all these past few weeks would have been condensed into a carefully edited reel of 3-5 minutes, with some cool song or music in the background. Maybe even “Eye of the Tiger”!

Real life is messy, arbitrary. It seldom has closure or catharsis. We, as humans, usually want closure and catharsis in our stories. Heck, we need them. It comforts us, it gives us a sense of order, of meaning. It lets us experience life in a more controlled manner. It gives us a sort of hope. Although there is some excellent drama out there which doesn’t obey these classic paradigms (The Sopranos, for example, which makes up for it in spades with its psychological and philosophical depth), those are the exception to the “rule”.
Even my dreams sometimes have a soundtrack and shot-compositions. I don’t know if I should be comforted or disturbed by this, though. I just know that for me, movies are a big psychological outlet in dealing with life. I love movies with all my heart. They’re the greatest thing in the world. Good movies, and good stories in general, help us make sense of things, they aim a spotlight onto a theme and let us see it clearly, away from the clutter and chaos and contradictions of the reality outside. They are the magnifying glass of the human condition.

They tell us who we really are.