The Great After-Hours Investigative Scene (OR Gotta Love the Noir...)
As a special holiday gift I'm explaining one essential ingredient for anyone writing thrillers, police shows, detective flicks...The Great After Hours Investigative Scene... Just one problem. For some reason some of the images may not show in your browser. Hmm. I'm going to send the newsletter despite this because if I leave it any longer it will never get sent. Many apologies if you can't get the pics (they work in my email and on Android but not, it seems on Firefox). I will try to sort it out for next time. Anyway, there is a bit of serious stuff at the end of this email but this bit is just for fun. Happy Holidays!
Meanwhile, on set in and After Hours Scene...
Of course, you can't tell your director what to do. And you can't tell your director what not to do... Hence, there are times when you have to say : 'What the...?' but go along with it, since you are, after all, only the writer. What I'm talking about here is the Great Investigative Scene and it is a strange thing perpetrated by an unholy alliance between lighting designers, art department folk and directors, none of whom has ever got over Noir.
So what is The Great Investigative Scene? This is when any of characters works late. The rule in film and television is that if a character works late at the office or at home doing a bit of investigative paper or online work, they do so in almost complete darkness. Moreover, they have the same range of unlikely and often gender-biased things on their desk and around their offices. Now, unless there's some kind of deals going on with Spec Savers and Ikea, I think we should call a halt and all concerned should be given a good talking to because real people base themselves on the movies.
Like all the law firms around the world who, influenced by the writers' device in the old TV Series LA Law, of a Breakfast Meeting at the start of every episode where all the characters discussed what jobs they were doing this episode), started having breakfast meetings too. Only to find that telling their assembled colleagues about the fact that they were doing a few wills and a bit of conveyancing didn't really boost either morale or company profits (true story).
So I say to all lighting people, art department folk and all directors, stop it or we'll go blind - and we don't need to support multinational companies...
Take a look at this.
Here we are in The Intern, with our character working away in the gloom. Being a girl, she has been given a bunch of pink roses on the desk. Very nice. Especially when they tip over into your laptop. Being a gal, she also gets a nice Ikea office lamp - not pointed at the keyboard. Still, she is definitely taking care of her eyes and will probably seen in the next scene in a flattering pair of specs. But take note of something else here. That rather stylish all-purpose table lamp.. Observe that lamp...
Because here it is again, in Double Indemnity! Actually, there are three here! But notice, Fred MacMurray's character's so tough he doesn't even need lights. Indeed, he's inexplicably got the Venetians down in the middle of the day... Inexplicable? Nope. It's the old Venetian shadows trick, utterly irresistible to generations of lighting designers. Look out for their headstones: 'Loved the Louvres'.
As you'll see when you next watch a movie, an amazing number of detectives choose Venetian blinds as their favored window furniture, and those Venetians spend a great deal of time down and casting moody shadows as they brood over the crime.
Back to the desk. Since we're in a boy's office the flowers are blokey sunflowers, but they're not on the desk (too girly), they're on the sideboard next to the domestic photos presumably placed there by an adoring female hand. Bizarrely, Fred appears to have a fish bowl on his desk (what is with the containers of water in an office context? Or is it there just in case the director wants to do the old 'goldfish POV', the action seen through the goldfish bowl? ) But back to that table lamp...
Because it's here again, in Belle Epoque form in True Detective!
And here it is again! Corporate style!
In both cases providing a suitably tense Noirish mood. The point of lighting of course, is to create mood and focus attention. In the scene above, fascinatingly (and surely co-incidentally) to grab our attention, the man's face is fully lit - whereas the only thing that's fully lit on the gal to grab our attention are ... her crossed legs. So are we supposed to concentrate on his face and her legs? Surely not. Has to be a coincidence...
Note, there are no flowers this time, instead, orange globes. Now globes, like Venetians often figure in boys' offices.
This time it's a big silver globe. No flowers and curiously, the table lamp has gone. Now he's lit by the computer. Noir goes digital age. But he's looking a bit worried... Are his eyes killing him? Does he - gasp - need glasses?
And as for the mega corporations getting a look in, Lego actually has a Detective's Office set. So I'll leave you with a Lego detective (I think it's Indiana Jones) , sitting in the gloom, complete with his desk lamp and Venetians ...
____________________________________________________________________________ Other things
It's been a very interesting if frantic year for me work-wise, so much so that I have been very remiss in writing these newsletters. Many apologies. However, at some point I plan to share my thoughts on what I've learnt this year about different uses for nonlinear and multiple story structures, and it's a lot. I've been doing the usual teaching and feature film consulting, so have got some ideas there, but the bulk of the new stuff is from my work in VR live-action feature film, where I have been writing, co-directing and editing, mostly one of my own nonlinear multiple storyline film scripts, The Cardboard Box. Eight interwoven stories, some linear some non linear, often appearing simultaneously. For that, since it occurs in a 360 degree space, I've needed to create a new kind of script format, which I hope to share with you at some point.
In addition, I found myself writing my first nonlinear, multiple storyline VR feature film (four stories) in which the viewer can jump stories in many different ways. In this, hidden hotspots take the viewer into over twenty or so different paths through the stories. Crucially, I've created a form that mean the piece remains understandable to viewers while they are jumping across four stories. I think it will also carry multiple simultaneous stories, too. It's special new nonlinear multiplot structure. I'm very pleased with this new structure since it's explaining a great deal to me and opening all kinds of doors for me in my understanding of new nonlinear multiplot structures for VR features and games. I may need to write a book about all this, because it's a new mindset and it's difficult so probably needs a detailed analysis. Maybe I can get away with some posts. We'll see.
For those of you interested in the nonlinear structural details (and I'm afraid the devil is always in the detail in this complex stuff) it's a hybrid in the consecutive stories family - sort of. The potential of nonlinear continues to amaze me.
I will see whether I can discuss this in future emails, but can't promise since I am flat out with my own writing.
Advice on writing
Which reminds me. I still get lots of emails from people who haven't read my books but have come across my YouTube videos or my website, found the material there on nonlinear and multiplot, and want advice on their own nonlinear films and TV - in an email. I do sympathise, but it's just not possible with forms as complex as these to explain them within the space of an email. It would be irresponsible of me to try to advise you in an email. Sorry, but you need to study the forms and practice them so that you know which of the more than twenty forms you need. Or, indeed, to discover whether you need to invent a completely new hybrid to hold your complex story together. Hard? Yes. I'd love it to be simple, but it isn't, just as building a multi-storey building is hard and needs planning.
I've got a few of these that I will be putting up soon - on multiple protagonist forms.. I didn't put them up over Christmas since I thought there would be such a queue of people's holiday videos that they would take forever to appear. Watch this space.
Which reminds me, I still haven't progressed on creating online courses where you could learn and practice nonlinear multiplot. At the risk of repeating the same thing I've been saying for a year or so, I am still thinking about online course and discussing them with colleagues internationally. My problem is that I would like to be able to provide live webinars as well as material that people complete on their own, but at the moment I just can't commit the amount of time that would require because I am doing so much scriptwriting. But I'm working on it. Maybe webinars are the answer.
Help your child write better stories for school?
One thing I might do is create an entirely different course on writing. This is, an online course for parents to help their children to improve their creative writing for school. I first saw the need for this when kids I knew were being given advice by their teachers that they didn't understand (and actually, frankly, neither did I). I have isolated some very sensible professional writers' techniques on creativity under pressure that transfer well to school students. Also, I've got a lot of stuff about writing using photographs and images and starter sentences as triggers. I've taught this stuff in schools in Australia and UK and it's been very successful, particularly with reluctant teen and pre-teen students, students who hate writing. I wrote a book on it some years that was highly recommended by various eminent sorts and I think the Nestle Children's Creative Writing Competition recommended it. Some international competition did, anyway. It would be a course that parents and kids work together on, without me. Very handy. Anybody interested? If so, let me know.
Anyone for Script Development and Script Doctoring?
I might also create an online course for producers and others interested in script doctoring, in which they learn best practice in script development. This would be based on another successful course, this time one I've run around the world. This would be a course that doesn't involve live input from me. Any takers on these? Let me know. All suggestions gratefully received.
I haven't by the way, forgotten that a number of you put up your hands to be guinea pigs if I did a free webinar or online course. Still thinking about that. It would be great to have 48 hours in a day.
Enjoy the holidays!
Meanwhile, I hope this newsletter has been fun for you. Enjoy the holidays, and may 2018 be your best year yet.