What I'm Working On Now

Three short films are in Post-Production, soon to be submitting to film festivals.
Producing/editing a pilot for a new web-series inspired by the Alice in Wonderland tales.
Producing/editing a documentary on Gene Roddenberry and the genesis of Star Trek The Original Series.
There are a number of other projects in development, just waiting their turn to be produced.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Moral Rights of a Storyteller

     Droit Moral. That's french for Moral Rights. In basic, quasi legal terms, it means that a storyteller (writer, filmmaker, etc.) has an inherent right to control aspects of their work. What these rights are, specifically, varies from place to place, country to country. However, the essence of these rights are that the creator of the work (in the US this only includes 'visual arts') has the right to dictate how they're credited for the work, how/if the work may be altered, how the work is viewed/displayed...basically, it means no one can change the work without permission.

     This is not the same as copyright. For example, an artist can sell a painting and have the moral right to protect that painting from being painted over. As a filmmaker, these moral rights are a little harder to nail down since a film can be distributed in countless units whereas a painting usually is not. People make mash-ups of movies, re-edit them, and so forth. So, I have been asking myself, how do moral rights help and/or affect a filmmaker?

     If I make a film and then sell it to a distributor, they can't do things to the film that I don't feel appropriate, i.e. they can't take my family film and make a sequel incorporating heavy adult themes I don't like (even if I gave them the right to make a sequel). Now, most of the time, distributors will want to get the filmmaker to sign away their Moral Rights, along with all other rights they can get. Don't get me wrong, filmmaking is a business and securing rights is an important part of that business. A producer needs to get the rights from everyone involved so that he/she can go and market the film. However, Moral Rights, in my opinion, are something I would be resistant to sign away so easily. I understand contractually why distributors would want my Moral Rights to a film, as they would like to have the option to take the film in new directions should the markets go that way. But still, I feel like the artist who doesn't want to sell a painting only to come and find a new face painted over the one I'd painted originally.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Short Stories And Their Power In Unlocking Your Mind

     Before setting myself to the task of writing anything longer than couple of pages, I first write a short story. I do this for fiction and non-fiction alike. Sometimes I've ended up with a short story that was longer than the piece I originally set out to write. But no matter, I've learned that doing this simple exercise greatly improves whatever I write afterwards.

     Like exercising the  body, warm ups are important to the creative mind. Most people have their own routines that work for them and this is the one that I've found works for me. Inventing characters, events, plots, structure, etc. in a short amount of time gets me excited for the prolonged work of writing whatever it is that I'm actually wanting to write. Writing short stories in this manner is like working through an improvisation for an actor. Very little time goes into preparing the actual piece and you just let whatever comes to flow out of you.

     Most of these short stories never see the light of day, never get read more than was necessary to write them and almost inevitably end up in the waste basket. A few, though, turn into real gems and that's where the power of these little exercises come. Every once in a while, lightning strikes and the improvisation becomes emotional, gripping and alive. The characters take on a life of their own and they will not be silenced until you have finished telling their tale.

     My first set of novels, a trilogy, came about that way.  One lazy summer afternoon, before my summer classes were to begin (I attended year round school through college) I began re-reading a series of short stories I'd written over the years and realized that many of them were telling the same story. Characters, places, worlds even, were different, but the bare essential elements stayed the same. That story would not let me rest until I gave it proper attention. I gathered together all the different renditions of it that I could find scattered through notebooks, day planners, note cards and word files. Piece by piece I put it together like a puzzle.

     After a few weeks I had a handful of chapters written and the bulk of the plot outlined for the first book (at that time I didn't know a further two books would be spawned from this adventure). But the end felt wrong. I worked it over and over in my mind until I remembered a short story I'd written some time before in which the friend of the main character died, thus spurring on the protagonist to the climax. Everything fit for my novel to follow this line of events. The only problem was, I had fallen in love with my characters and didn't want them to have to suffer like that. I felt it unfair to kill such an innocent, caring character. Someone I'd grown to love writing about. I hated myself for even thinking about making my protagonist go through such a traumatic event. And all of this right when the two of them are falling in love.

     I won't lie, I cried a little when I wrote that chapter, and he had to hold her, telling her it would be alright while they both knew it wouldn't be. His failings and weakness' all coming to the foreground while at the same time the last thing holding him back from confronting the villain died in his arms and gave him a stronger resolve to overcome.

     As I said, two more novels grew from the first and I've been working up to writing a screenplay for them (and possibly a series to take place after the three main stories).

     My point in all this is, even if it's an exercise, always be looking for people, places, stories to fall in love with. You never know where they'll take you.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Internet troubles

Sorry for the lack of posting lately, my internet's gone down and I've had to make runs to the library to get posts up. Hopefully the problem will be fixed soon.

In the mean time, thank you for your patience and I look forward to reading your comments on my stories.