Category: short films

Star Trek: Just Ad Nauseum

title

Here’s a script for a fan film that I wrote a few years back. The original intention was to do it as a cartoon, mimicking the style of the 1970s animated series. But animation is a hell of a lot of work. Also, I discovered that William Shatner is really hard to draw. Anyway I came to my senses and never made the film. But I always liked this script. Hope you enjoy it too.

FADE IN:

EXT. SPACE – THE ENTERPRISE

Orbiting a planet. A rather drab, grey, unremarkable planet. (The typical act-opening FANFARE MUSIC plays over this establishing shot of the ship.)

KIRK (V.O.):
Captain’s log, Star Date 2229.7. Our planetary mapping and survey project has entered its third week. The mission continues, without incident.
(pause)
Any incident. At all.

INT. BRIDGE – CONTINUOUS

CHEKOV and SULU at their stations. Chekov plays Tetris on his console. Sulu nodding off. SPOCK works at his science station. UHURA is out cold and SNORING. KIRK slumps in his Captain’s chair, chin on his hand. He stares up at:

THE MAIN VIEWER, displaying the planet – a colorless ball.

Kirk SIGHS.

KIRK:
Mr. Spock: report.

Spock peers into his sensor display.

SPOCK:
Surface is a rocky crust, primarily composed of silica as is typical in Type G planets. Atmosphere is thin and unbreatheable–

As his first officer rambles on, Kirk slouches in his chair. He puts both hands behind his head.

SPOCK (CONT’D):
–no volcanic activity, no life forms, no energy sources detected–

Kirk makes a MOTORBOAT SOUND with his lips. He pushes the deck with his shoe and his chair SPINS a complete 360.

KIRK:
Mr. Spock, we’ve discovered the dullest quadrant in the galaxy.

SPOCK:
Indeed Captain. This planet bears strong resemblance to the last five we’ve charted. If I may employ an oxymoron: it is strikingly nondescript.

Kirk stares at the planet. His chair arm console BEEPS.

SCOTTY (INTERCOM):
Captain: Scott here. We’ve got a wee problem.

KIRK:
Thank God.

INT. SHIP’S GALLEY – CONTINUOUS

SCOTTY presses buttons on one of the REPLICATORS built into the wall.

SCOTTY:
It’s the food replicators.

The little door opens. It’s a sandwich. Scotty frowns and hands it to a nearby crewman, and presses more buttons.

Unhappy CREW MEMBERS mill about behind him. All hold trays with identical sandwiches on them.

SCOTTY (CONT’D):
It dinna matter what you order for dinner, all ye can get off ‘em is a wee toasty.

KIRK (INTERCOM):
A what?

SCOTTY:
Grilled cheese sir.

The replicator produces another sandwich.

SCOTTY (CONT’D):
Och!

From the crowd: a disappointed SIGH.

EXT. SPACE – THE ENTERPRISE
Cruising through space.

INT. BRIDGE – DAY
Kirk nibbles unenthusiastically on a grilled cheese.

KIRK:
Alright. Lt. Uhura… let’s liven things up. Music!

UHURA:
Our computer has over 97 million selections, sir. Any preference?

KIRK:
Nah. Put it on shuffle.

Uhura presses a button. A surf-rock version of “TEQUILA” plays. Kirk bobs his head to the music.

SULU:
Captain, we’re approaching the next planet in the system.

KIRK:
Standard orbit Mr. Sulu.

SULU:
Aye sir.

ON THE MAIN VIEWER: the planet. Another drab grey ball.

KIRK:
Jeeeeeez! This sucks.

SULU:
It really does.

Chekov punches buttons on his navigation console. Meanwhile, the SONG that’s been playing ends (the band members shout “Tequila!”). The SONG IMMEDIATELY BEGINS AGAIN.

KIRK:
Is it – it’s playing again?

Annoyed, Uhura hits a button. “TEQUILA” STARTS ONCE AGAIN, from the beginning.

KIRK (CONT’D):
A different song would be nice–

The SONG BEGINS AGAIN.

KIRK (CONT’D):
Or just turn it off–

UHURA:
I can’t even turn it down!

Uhura continues to press buttons to no effect. Spock moves over to assist. The turbo-lift doors SNAP open, and DR. MCCOY walks onto the bridge.

MCCOY:
Jim! What’s with the beach party music? It’s being piped all over the ship!

CHEKOV:
Captain! I’ve just been re-checking our navigation logs. They’ve been tampered with.

KIRK:
Tampered?

CHEKOV:
Yes sir. We’ve actually been going in circles for three weeks now.

KIRK:
No wonder the planets all look the same!

Spock, still at Uhura’s side, speaks up:

SPOCK:
Captain, the Lieutenant’s controls are not responding. Furthermore, the ship’s entertainment library has been completely deleted.

MCCOY:
Deleted?!

SPOCK:
Entirely. Except for one song.

KIRK:
Tequila.
(looks skyward, dramatically)
Te–qui–la!!!!

The song wraps up again. The band members shout “Tequila!”

SPOCK:
The obvious conclusion is sabotage.

“Tequila” starts playing again.

KIRK:
Forcing us to eat nothing but grilled cheese? And listen to the same song and map the same planet over and over?!

MCCOY:
What kind of sicko would do this?

A BEEP.

SCOTTY (INTERCOM):
Captain! I’m in the computer room. You’d better get down here.

INT. COMPUTER ROOM – A FEW MINUTES LATER

“TEQUILA” BLARES AWAY as KIRK, SPOCK and MCCOY enter. SCOTTY is already there. Everyone stares up at a GLOWING BLOB up near the ceiling. Its glowing energy-tendrils are imbedded in the ship’s computer processor.

Spock SCANS it with his tricorder.

SCOTTY:
Looks like my Auntie’s haggis.

KIRK:
What is that, Spock?

SPOCK:
A traditional Scottish dish made with the stomach and entrails of a sheep, haggis–

KIRK:
(pointing)
That!

SPOCK:
It appears to be a life form composed of pure energy.

KIRK:
Pure energy? Is that possible?

SPOCK:
Quite possible. You may recall our encounter with the Organians, who appeared humanoid but were revealed to be blobs of photonic plasma.

KIRK:
Oh yeah.

SPOCK:
Then there was the mischievous Trelane, an immature form from a race of energy beings.

KIRK:
Right.

Scotty and McCoy exchange glances. They look bored.

SPOCK:
–or the glowing creature that kept Zefram Cochrane alive on planet Gamma Canaris–

KIRK:
Got it. So why is it torturing us?

SPOCK:
Each step the creature has taken has maximized repetitiveness and monotony for the crew of the Enterprise. I can only conclude that it subsists on the emotional energy generated in humans by situations lacking in drama.

KIRK:
A creature that… feeds… on boredom? Is that possible, Spock?

Off Kirk’s question, McCoy and Scotty SIGH. McCoy crosses his arms and rolls his eyes.

SPOCK:
Indeed, Captain. You may recall the being that made us fight the Klingons with swords in order to feed on our anger.

Scotty picks his nose.

KIRK:
Right…

SPOCK:
–or the creature that framed Mr. Scott for the grisly murders that keep it sated on emotions of fear and terror–

KIRK:
Oh yeah…

SCOTTY:
(flicking booger)
How could you forget that?!

SPOCK:
The precedent is well-established. Only the emotion in question has changed. This being feasts on feelings of ennui.

MCCOY:
You’re laying out a spread for him, Spock.

Kirk regards the creature.

KIRK:
Alright. It had us for a couple of weeks. But now we’re on to it… so why doesn’t it leave? Isn’t the fact that we’ve discovered it enough to end the boredom? I mean, now we’ve got a problem to solve.

MCCOY:
But it’s kind of a boring problem–

SCOTTY:
Aye, it’s not very dramatic.

KIRK:
Then, gentlemen: let’s – get – dramatic!

EXT. SPACE – THE ENTERPRISE
Another stock shot of the ship in orbit, another MUSIC FANFARE to indicate passage of time.

INT. COMPUTER ROOM – DAY

KIRK has a phaser. He presses a switch on it and it emits a LOW HUMMING. (”TEQUILA” still plays in the background.)

KIRK:
Alright, this phaser is on overload. It should explode in about one minute… killing us all.

SCOTTY, MCCOY, and SPOCK look on. Kirk tosses the phaser to Scotty:

KIRK (CONT’D):
Hot potato!

SCOTTY:
Och!

Scotty, alarmed, manages to catch it and toss to Spock. Spock tosses to McCoy…

SPOCK:
Captain, I must point out you are risking the lives of all the command-level officers on the Enterprise.

Kirk catches and tosses back to Spock. The phaser’s WHINING SOUND LOUDER AND HIGHER now…

KIRK:
Keeping it interesting, Spock.

Kirk’s toss goes high, over Spock’s head. Everyone watches as the phaser CLUNKS off the ceiling and disappears behind a control console. Scotty reaches behind it… the PHASER SOUND SCREECHY LOUD NOW…

MCCOY:
Nice throw.

SCOTTY:
I can’t reach it!

MCCOY:
Try harder!

SCOTTY:
I need something – a broomstick maybe.

MCCOY:
Now when have you ever seen a broom on this ship, Scotty?

SCOTTY:
Shut yer gub, McCoy! See if you can reach it…

Kirk studies the creature as McCoy and Scotty struggle to reach the phaser. Spock operates his tricorder.

SPOCK:
(reading tricorder)
It’s working, Sir. The creature is losing energy.

Meanwhile: Scotty has McCoy upside down, holding his ankles. McCoy’s head and upper body are wedged behind the console.

MCCOY:
All the blood’s rushin’ to my head.

SCOTTY:
Ye won’t have a head if that phaser goes off!

MCCOY’S HAND QUIVERS, inches from the phaser – he GROANS, straining… the PHASER SOUND SQUEALING, HIGHER and HIGHER…

ON TOP OF THE COMPUTER PROCESSOR, the creature QUIVERS. It releases its tentacled grip on the computer and floats free.

KIRK:
…did it!

MCCOY grabs the phaser.

MCCOY:
Gotcha!

Scotty hoists McCoy up and they both fall to the ground. McCoy SWITCHES OFF the phaser.
The creature passes through a bulkhead like a ghost, leaving behind a spot of glowing goo on the wall.

The TEQUILA PLAYBACK finally STOPS. Spock scans with his tricorder.

KIRK:
Where’d it go?!

SPOCK:
Unknown. But logically, we can assume it will seek shelter in whatever part of the Enterprise is the least exciting.

KIRK:
The “least exciting…” Suggestions, Mr. Spock?

EXT. CORRIDOR – A FEW MINUTES LATER

A CABIN DOOR, marked with a nameplate:
“NURSE CHRISTINE CHAPEL”

INT. NURSE CHAPEL’S CABIN – CONTINUOUS
The shelves are populated with cute Hummel figurines. A needlepoint sampler with a picture of the Enterprise on it hangs on the wall, captioned “Home Sweet Starship.”

NURSE CHAPEL sits in a chair, quietly HUMMING “Tequila” and working on another embroidery project. Her door BEEPS.

NEW ANGLE: Chapel answers the door. It SNAPS open to reveal MCCOY, KIRK, and SPOCK.

MCCOY:
Hi Christine, sorry, but we’ve got to search your cabin.

The men enter, start looking under pillows, etc.

NURSE CHAPEL:
What? Why? What for?

MCCOY:
(trying for casual)
Oh, a… alien.

Spock opens the closet.

SPOCK:
Here, Captain.

Sure enough: it’s up on the shelf above the coat hangers. Nurse Chapel looks shocked.

NURSE CHAPEL:
That’s not mine!

MCCOY:
Now what?

SPOCK:
Clearly we can chase the creature from place to place by creating localized disturbances. Our only hope of forcing the creature to leave the Enterprise entirely will be to generate excitement throughout the whole ship.

KIRK:
Throughout the whole ship, huh?

Nurse Chapel has been standing behind the three men. Now she’s frowning:

NURSE CHAPEL:
Wait. You came looking for it in my cabin because you think I’m boring? Whose idea was that?

MCCOY:
Nobody. Well… it was kind of a consensus thing.

NURSE CHAPEL:
Right. Somebody brought up my name.

Kirk looks around. McCoy is already looking at Spock, and Kirk glances his way as well. Spock stiffens.

NURSE CHAPEL (CONT’D):
I see.

ANGLE from behind Nurse Chapel. She hides her new needlepoint project behind her back. It says “I (heart) Spock” on it.

KIRK:
Say something, Spock.

SPOCK:
Since the creature is in fact here, clearly my supposition was correct.

McCoy winces.

MCCOY:
Smooth.

NURSE CHAPEL:
I’ll have you know I have a rich and vibrant inner life!

EXT. SPACE – THE ENTERPRISE

Once again: the ship in orbit, another MUSIC FANFARE.

KIRK (V.O.):
Captain’s log, Star Date 2229.5: We’ve devised a plan we hope will drive the creature off the ship. To deprive it of any source of sustenance, our plan will have to excite every single crew member at the same time.

INT. BRIDGE – DAY

KIRK sits in his chair. CHEKOV and SULU are at the helm, UHURA and SPOCK at their stations as usual.

KIRK:
Helm, report.

SULU:
Course laid in, sir.

KIRK:
Stand by.
(punches a button)
Attention everybody, this is the Captain speaking.

INT. CORRIDOR – INSERT

A bunch of MISC. CREW mill around, listening to Kirk on the intercom.

KIRK (INTERCOM):
The ship’s engines have lost power and we’re spiraling out of control toward the planet. I’m very sorry. There’s really nothing we can do at this point, and, we’re all going to die. It’s been an honor serving with all of you, thank you, and goodbye. Kirk out.

The crew members stare at each other blankly for a moment. Then everyone starts running around, SCREAMING in panic.

INT. BRIDGE – RESUME

KIRK smiles, satisfied.

KIRK:
Now, Mr. Sulu.

Sulu presses a button.

EXT. SPACE – THE ENTERPRISE

The ship PITCHES over to one side.

INT. CORRIDOR – INSERT

MISC. CREW all stagger and hit the wall. They SCREAM more.

INT. BRIDGE – RESUME

Grinning, SULU hits another button. He laughs… one of those freakishly deep-pitched George Takei LAUGHS.

EXT. SPACE – THE ENTERPRISE

The ship LURCHES over the other way, and dives down toward the planet.

INT. CORRIDOR – INSERT

MISC. CREW stagger and hit the other wall. They all SCREAM again.

CREWMAN:
Mommy!!

INT. NURSE CHAPEL’S CABIN – SAME TIME

Everything VIBRATES. The GROAN of the Enterprise’s straining engines is loud in the room. NURSE CHAPEL ignores it. She is crying, and talking to the energy creature in her closet.

NURSE CHAPEL:
I don’t blame you. It’s not your fault he thinks I’m dull. No. There’s only one person I can blame for that, and that’s–

The energy creature quivers, and disappears through the back wall of the closet. Chapel frowns:

NURSE CHAPEL (CONT’D):
Oh I’m sorry, was I boring you?!

INT. CORRIDOR – CONTINUOUS

Her cabin door opens, and NURSE CHAPEL strides out. She spots the ENERGY BLOB and follows it as it floats down the hallway. She staggers a bit as the ship LURCHES in its death-spiral.

NURSE CHAPEL:
Hey! I was talking to you! You low-budget-lookin’ piece of crap energy creature! You think I’m boring!?

Chapel follows the creature into the turbo-lift.

NURSE CHAPEL (CONT’D):
I’ll show you how boring I am… uh, not!

The turbo-lift doors SNAP shut.

INT. BRIDGE – MOMENTS LATER

The grey landscape of the planet hurtles past on the viewscreen. The Enterprise is losing altitude. Loud ENGINE SOUNDS and RATTLING.

SULU:
Impact with planet surface in 2 minutes Captain.

KIRK:
Maintain course and speed, helmsman. Uhura: buzz Nurse Chapel and see if the creature is still in her closet.

UHURA:
It’s not…

Kirk turns. In fact, the creature is emerging through the closed doors of the turbo-lift. It hovers near Uhura’s console. Everyone stares.

The ENGINES ROAR, ever louder. The PLANET SPINS PAST on the viewer…

SPOCK:
Depleted energy readings from the creature. It’s working, Captain!

UHURA:
Then why doesn’t it leave?

SPOCK:
The rest of the crew is terrified. But those of us here on the bridge know the danger is not real.

SULU:
Impact in 90 seconds. Unless I press this little green button, of course.

KIRK:
OK, we need something really exciting to push it over the brink. Everybody think!

The turbo-lift doors SWOOSH open. NURSE CHAPEL walks out, a crazed look on her face. She glares, fiery-eyed, at Spock.

ANGLE ON SPOCK: one eyebrow goes up.

Chapel strides toward Spock and takes his hand. Spock rises to face her.

NURSE CHAPEL:
Kiss me, you big dummy.

Chapel plants one on Spock. Spock breaks it off.

SPOCK:
Nurse, this is highly–

NURSE CHAPEL:
–Interesting?

She embraces Spock with both arms, dips him, and passionately resumes kissing him.

Kirk stares. So do Uhura, Sulu and Chekov.

The energy creature QUIVERS, and visibly CONTRACTS. Kirk gets up and approaches it, to get a better look.

KIRK:
Keep it up you two. It’s working!

SULU:
Impact in 30 seconds.

KIRK:
Everybody, kiss each other. That’s an order!

Kirk begins kissing on Uhura, seated at her console. Uhura’s earpiece falls out.

Sulu looks over at Chekov.

SULU:
Orders are orders.

Chekov and Sulu start making out.

For a moment we just cut back and forth between the three kissing couples and the quivering creature, as the RED ALERT KLAXON BLARES and the planet surface rushes ever closer…

WIDE SHOT – everyone on the bridge is kissing.

THE CREATURE IMPLODES, splattering glowing goo on the walls. Kirk breaks from his clinch with Uhura:

KIRK:
Press that button, Mr. Sulu!

Sulu reaches over to his console, while continuing to kiss Chekov. He presses the button.

ON THE VIEWSCREEN, the planet surface RECEDES as the ship gains altitude…

Everyone stops kissing.

Kirk wipes a bit of goo from his face.

KIRK (CONT’D):
Nice work everyone.

Kirk smiles at Uhura. Sulu gives Chekov a wink.

KIRK (CONT’D):
Nurse! Very inspired!

NURSE CHAPEL:
Thank you, Captain.

Chapel and Spock are quite drenched in goo, since they were closest to the creature.

KIRK:
You two, go get cleaned up.

As the two exit via the turbo-lift, Kirk returns to his command chair and punches a button:

KIRK (CONT’D):
All hands, this is the Captain. Forget what I said before, about the crashing and the dying. False alarm. Sorry.

INT. TURBO-LIFT – A MOMENT LATER
SPOCK rides in goo-covered silence with NURSE CHAPEL. He looks at her. Chapel smiles back, confidently.

NURSE CHAPEL:
So. Still convinced I’m the dullest member of the crew, Mr. Spock?

SPOCK:
I am… pleased to re-assess my views, Nurse. Your solution to our dilemma, while unorthodox, was also completely logical. And quite innovative. My congratulations.

The turbo-lift stops, and the doors snap open. Chapel leans in close to Spock before disembarking:

NURSE CHAPEL:
(softly)
Glad you liked it, Spock.

Spock swallows and TURNS SLIGHTLY GREEN.

Chapel turns and exits. The turbo-lift doors shut.

Spock puts a hand to his forehead, wiping away a spot of goo. He raises one eyebrow.

EXT. SPACE – THE ENTERPRISE

TEQUILA plays once again as the Enterprise leaves orbit and sails off into the stars…

ROLL CREDITS

 

THE END

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My 2017 in 365 seconds

Here you have a year, rendered in moments. Each moment is exactly one second in length. There would be 365 of them, if not for the 19 days when I forgot to pull out my phone and shoot anything.

The idea for this video comes from a fellow named Cesar Kuriyama. He’s made one of these annually since 2011. He even did a TED talk about it.

Me, I’ve done this little exercise just once before. 2014’s video was fun to make, and fun to watch. This time around, the actualities accrue into something a bit heavier. For sure, there are happy seconds to be found in here. Plenty of birthday cakes, backyard parties and cute pets on tap. Watch for the total eclipse of the sun on August 21.

But 2017 was also a year that included news of the sudden and unexpected passing of our friend Ann (February 23) and a visit to see my oldest brother Jerry (May 15), shortly before he succumbed to cancer (shortly after July 25). Less apparent to most viewers is that the happy baby shower glimpsed on October 1 preceded the sad loss of my niece Lindsey’s first child, Jaxon.

Bummed out yet? Did I mention the headstone? It’s a nice new one, (May 19) installed at my parent’s grave after the death of my mother in October of 2016. She was 96.

There’s also the matter of certain political events (January 20) which cast a pall over… well, everything. Then as the year nears its end, a second, much less metaphorical pall is cast by the Tubbs fire (October), which destroyed a good portion of our town of Santa Rosa and took 22 lives.

In contrast, 2014 seems a pretty sweet and carefree time.

Foxes

Watch this. But wait for some quiet, uninterrupted time. Preferably at night. And it’s best if you’re alone. Those were the circumstances when I first ran across this creepy, artful short from Irish filmmaker Lorcan Finnegan.

Oh, and full-screen it of course. Always.

John’s 2017 Productivity Report

 

Splat

This cartoon by Jules Feiffer first came to my attention via Stewart Stern, a wise and lovely man who knew a thing or two about writing AND writer’s block.

2017 Goal #1: Finish my feature screenplay spec BARTENDER OF THE YEAR and submit it to the Nicholl Fellowship in April.

Goal achieved? NO

Not only did I blow past the Nicholl Fellowship and every other contest deadline this past year, I am nicely on-track to miss a bunch of 2018 deadlines too. I’m currently 100+ pages into a terrible, no good, very bad first draft. Writers sometimes call the first draft the “vomit draft,” the goal being getting it done, not making it good. But rather than a full-throated purge, progress on BARTENDER OF THE YEAR has advanced in a series of minuscule puke-belches.

BARTENDER is a comedy-drama about a popular local mixologist who runs for office in his small town. It’s also my challenge to myself to write a movie outside my comfort zone: one with no science fiction elements or high-concept gimmicks to propel the story. And it’s propulsion, sure enough, that has been lacking. In my darkest moments of plotting this thing I’m convinced I know nothing about writing, human nature, normal human speech, or how the everyday affairs of human beings are conducted. I feel as if I’m bluffing my way through everything.

And then other days… it’s better. A lot better. Experience has taught me the only way out is through. Push, work, WRITE until the work becomes the thing that occupies your mind instead of the fear.

 

Goal #2: Search for material

Goal achieved? YES

Itching to get a project into prep, this year I decided to put on my producer hat and start looking for screenplays. I didn’t find anything I wanted to option, but I made the effort and read a pile of scripts. (I’m still itchy. If you’re interested in sending me something, please read this to learn more.)

 

Goal #3: AFX training

Goal achieved? NO

This year I bought myself a nifty (and pricey) new MacBook with the intention of updating my knowledge of Adobe After Effects. The ability to create pro-level motion graphics and visual effects “in-house” would hugely expand the range of projects I can execute DIY-style. And, it’s never a bad thing to have more marketable skills. But I had an ambitious list of goals for 2017 and something had to give, so this one resides on the back-burner. I needed a new computer anyway, honey. Really.

 

Goal #4. Take a beginning improv class

Goal achieved? YES

Every Monday for 10 weeks this past year I stood up with a group of strangers, playing silly improv games with them and making up scenes on the spot. I said and did the first stupid-ass thing that came into my mind. Something different, to maybe blow some cobwebs out of the brain. Not as embarrassing as anticipated. Signing up for the intermediate class in January.

 

Goal #5. Other writing

Goal achieved? YES

OK, admittedly “other writing” is a pretty nebulous goal, so it’s easy to call this one a win. I did work on things besides BARTENDER OF THE YEAR in 2017… and even finished some of them.  For instance, an 8-page short called FROG, which I’m pretty happy with. It’s a two-hander about a disabled intern who befriends the super-intelligent frog she meets one night in a university computer lab. It was written expressly for the Jameson First Shot contest and if it had won, the script would have been produced with actor Dominic West providing the voice of the frog. Alas, that didn’t happen, but FROG did quarter-final in the ScreenCraft Short Screenplay contest in September.

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 1.38.29 PM

context is everything

One of the best writing experiences I had this past year happened at the day job, imagine that: Armstrong Creates, the agency I’ve worked at for mumble-mumble years now. I’m a generalist there, which means I might be retouching photos one day and cooking up an ad campaign the next. When a client (a manufacturer of corks for the wine industry) decided they wanted a concepts for a promotional video, I whipped up a script for a comedy sketch that takes place entirely inside a wine bottle. The wine and the cork are personified (think the Fruit of the Loom guys), best buddies who’ve grown very close over the years as the wine ages. They even sing a duet together. Like so many concepts, this pitch never made it out of the conference room. Too bad: I think it would have turned out well. Would have been an absolute blast to shoot, too. Given that, what exactly made this a good writing experience? Well, I got paid, for one thing. But more to the point: starting from zero I cranked out a completed script – one I was really happy with – in the matter of a couple of hours. It was exhilarating, and a welcome reminder that I don’t really need inspiration. I just need a deadline. So sure, my concept got rejected, but I went home happy that day. And the experience helped me shake off the torpor I’d been fighting much of the year.

Back at home and re-energized, I finally wrote up a first draft of ANAESTHESIA, another short film idea that I’d been kicking around for too many years. I’m also compiling notes for a new feature script, the one I’ll write once BARTENDER is in the bag. I don’t know the title yet. But it’s a sci-fi comedy about an alien invasion. Yeah, back to the comfort zone. I gotta be me, I guess.

 

Dotty

Dotty lives in a rest home and needs some help using her phone. Take ten minutes and watch this touching film from New Zealanders Mick Andrews and Brett O’Gorman. It’s one of the best shorts I’ve seen lately: one perfect scene, that is also a complete story.

DOTTY from Brett and Mick on Vimeo.

Three tips for short film-makers

A bunch of lanyards from film festivals

I’ve been to a few festivals in my day, and have been rejected from even more. So listen up, son.

Oh crap, I wrote a listicle. Recently a university film student wrote to me with some questions about my short film New. One of his questions was “what three tips can you give to a filmmaker entering a short film in festivals?” This is what I told him.

1) Have you made your film yet? If not, I’d say, make sure the script is as great as you can make it before you do anything else. If writing isn’t your forté, find some help. Once you have a script, get opinions from people you trust. Listen to them. Get some decent actors and do a table read. Listen to them.

2) Keep it under 10 minutes. The longer a short film is, the harder it is for programmers to fit it into their schedules. Once you pass 10 minutes TRT, you’d better have a fucking awesome film if you want to see it screen at a festival. “Gosh we all really love it, we just wish it were a little shorter” is not the call you want to get from the programmers at Sundance. Trust me. (The film in question was my short La vie d’un chien. 13 minutes.)

3) And if the film is done: do your research about festivals. It costs money to enter them, and there are LOTS of festivals. You could spend a fortune and have little to show for it. Find festivals that show the kind of film you have. Beyond that, I always ask myself: is this a prestigious festival to play at? …and if not, is it in a city I can drive to and get home from in one day? …and if not, is it in a city I’d like to visit?

Our view stats on Vimeo during our busiest week to-date

Thousands of eyes on us

Our sci-fi short film NEW debuted online November 2, and the response has been very gratifying indeed. As I write this post, we’re coming up on our 15,000th view. For a three-day period in early November, we were clocking around 3000 views per day! Those might not be spectacular numbers for, say, a 30-second kitten video, but for a quiet, 17-minute drama it’s pretty damn great. Even better: the smart comments the film has received. More about that in a moment.

Vidsee postThe film has been featured at sites like Film Shortage and Alltop. And I particularly enjoyed the generous selection of screen caps and long, English-as-a-second-language plot summary over at Singaporean short film site VidSee. Fun… but don’t read it if you haven’t seen the film yet!

Last week, I did an interview for a TV station in Switzerland called BeCurious TV – they’ll be airing that interview soon, along with NEW and two of my other shorts.

Best of all, we’ve been covered at io9.com, the go-to site for all things science fiction. I’ve been trying to get them to write about NEW for over two years! They were my white whale. Back when we were crowdfunding the budget, I sent the editors emails brimming over with all the charm I could muster, detailing the sci-fi epic being cooked up in their very own backyard (the site is based in San Francisco). All to no response… until now. Fair enough. I imagine they wanted to have a finished film to show people before writing about us.

But write abOur review at io9out us they did, last month, with a nice review that declared NEW “pretty heartbreaking.” When their story was published, it shot our view count through the roof for a couple of days. A month later it’s still a major driver of traffic to the film. Thank you, io9.

Click the image to read the review, and then take the time to savor the hardcore sci-fi discussions happening in the comments. You can see the viewers digging in, debating story points and extrapolating on the future glimpsed in NEW. No one is discussing whether the film is any good or not – that bar has been met for them. Following what was a just-okay festival run, it’s immensely satisfying for me to see NEW really finding its audience like this.