Writing and writing and writing

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I am currently engaged in top secret writing endeavor (Muahaha – evil laugher!).  Let’s call it Nathan’s Screenplay Number Seven.

Writing is funnest part of the process … and it’s also the hardest.  It’s true, sometimes the characters will occasionally leap from the page, telling you what they’re going to do or say.  That’s just wonderful.  Other times, however, that same group of characters stand and collectively glare at you, waiting for you to tell them what the hell they’re supposed to be doing.

My process generally consists of outlining and structuring the dammed thing for weeks or perhaps months.  Or, if you want to get technical about it, most of these movie ideas have been germinating for even years in my brain, they just never had the priority in the queue to get any attention.  Structuring the development of the story is important in screenplays.  When you read a book, you rarely read it in one sitting.  The reader controls how much content they take in depending on their own time and interest.  When you watch a movie, it’s almost always in one sitting.  A single experience moving through time, much like a song.  Because of this, movies are very structural.  Like a poem.  There is an economy of time that has to be mastered.

George Lucas said a movie is made up of sixty small movies, two minutes each.

This is not to say that I’m talking about a formula or anything.  If there WAS a formula it’d make my life a whole lot freaking easier!

Before “The Transgalactic Zoo”, my record for writing a screenplay was two or three years.  Yeah, that’s nothing to brag about.  “The Transgalactic Zoo” came out of the sky like lightning.  From initial idea to finished screenplay was five weeks.  Two weeks of outlining, three weeks of writing.

When I’m writing I try to get five pages done a day, usually after dinner.  I wish I could do my writing first thing in the morning like Stephen King.  During the day, however, I prep what I’m going to write.  I figure out all the significant beats in the scenes I’m going to do that night.  That’s usually about an hour of work over lunch.  It’s like priming the pump, so the actual writing process is more about putting one foot in front of the other and just getting it done.  I used to take one day off a week, but then I realized how much momentum I lose even with that one day off.  It’s easy to lose the discipline.  Real easy.  Why?  ‘Cause writing is hard.  Real hard.  Well … sometimes.  But still fun.  Sometimes.

When you’re writing you look for any excuse not to write.  “Oh!  Let’s do more research on the internet!  Watch a movie!  That’s working, right?!”  Olive Stone put it best.  The “formula” (oh yay, there IS a formula!!)  for a screenplay is Ass + Chair = Screenplay (oh, unyay that formula …).

So obviously I’m not being TOO coy here about what I’m writing.  I mean, I posted this picture didn’t I?  Certainly a clever person such as yourself didn’t need me to hint at where the Easter eggs were hidden, did you?

New Times Big Brain

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So back in May I discovered I was one of three nominees in the Film & Video category for the Phoenix New Times new award for emerging artists, called the Big Brain Award.  I know, totally rad.  I am occasionally completely clueless.  From what I gather, there was a hoopla a few months prior, on facebook, of people trying to get themselves nominated.  You submit nominations for the Big Brain Award, and then a panel of chosen experts choose those nominees and then the winner.

So I had no idea about this whole thing until I got the email.  My name was put forward by unknown people, to which I am very grateful for.  I know for a fact that one big-wig in the film community, who I have never met, pushed my name forward…  To which, again, I am equal parts grateful and blown away.

Well flash-forward to May 22nd, the night of the big event.  Held at Madcap Theaters in Tempe, it was both a Big Brain Award shindig and a Phoenix New Times 40th Anniversary part.  Meaning, everyone was slightly more interested in the food and drink than the whole “award thing.”  Kinda like Final Draft’s Big Break ceremony.  You quickly understood that the event was actually the company’s end of the year party.

Claire Lawton did a great profile on me for the Phoenix New Times, which I’ll include in this blog.

So I didn’t win, but that’s okay.  Actually the award was a thousand bucks.  Dammit.  I freaking wanted that.  Lol.  So I totally swiped the display they put up about me (which one would assume I could take home anyway, but I decided not to ask).

All in all, a total blast of an experience.  Thanks again superdudes!  Here’s some photos from the event:

Photo from Phoenix New Times

My profile display thingy. Perfect placement for 100% lady exposure!

"Normally This Weird", along with other Squishy movies, playing in one of the theaters

A moody picture of Josh Kasselman. He and his wife Stephanie were very kind to show up and give their support.

We totally got ripped off! Errr, in parking that is.

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Here’s the great write up from the New Times.  Thanks again to Claire Lawton and all the other staff at the Phoenix New Times:

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FILM

Nathan Blackwell

www.squishystudios.com

When he’s not looking through his video camera lens, Nathan Blackwell’s

in the stingray tank.

It’s an odd day job for a film director, but being an exhibition tour guide

and stingray educator at the Phoenix Zoo gave Blackwell plenty of

background for his latest screenplay.


If the screenplay gains enough interest (i.e., financial backing), he’ll be

back behind his camera directing and filming a couple on a doomed first

date, which begins with an alien abduction and relocation in an outer-

space zoo exhibit.


The bizarre and extraordinary plot is a “Blackwell classic,” as it joins a

list of films he’s produced, such as “The Hand You’re Dealt,” in which a

guy walks into a tarot card reading and has to leave after his first three

cards are death, car bomb, and alien rectal probe, or “The Constant

Epiphanies of Billy the Blood Donor,” in which poor Billy finds himself

in the center of a blood donation clinic’s soft drink conspiracy.

It’s here where Blackwell succeeds: in the imaginative backstories, the

intense character development, and in the concrete and often comedic,

bloody visuals he uses under extreme time and resource limits (the tarot

card short was written and shot in 48 hours).


His film career began as soon as the first kid on his block got an 8mm

video camera for Christmas. The Central Phoenix neighborhood, just

miles from where he still lives, made a perfect backdrop for low-tech

renditions of Indiana Jones and Star Wars films.


“For me, it has always been about the imagination. It’s why I’ve stayed

here in Phoenix, and it’s why I keep throwing resources at what I create .

. . I’m not looking to make Hollywood blockbusters, but I also don’t

think my films are the typical ‘loners sitting around in a room’-type indie

films.”

As Blackwell continued experimenting and borrowing equipment, he

found himself looking for inspiration. He enrolled in Scottsdale

Community College’s film production program and, after graduating,

created Squishy Studios with a few friends. Blackwell and his four-

person studio have since created 40 short films, two feature films, six

screenplays. (His second job — the one that actually pays the bills — is

freelance commercial work.)


“Squishy comes from the very colorful, fun movies we like to make,” he

says of his company’s name. “We’re not Disney, by any means, but we’re

into that joie de vivre, irrepressible silliness.”


At 34, Blackwell describes himself as a late bloomer — perhaps not the

kind that couldn’t find a date to prom, but the artist whose work still

doesn’t fit in with what’s considered slick or cool.


“I used to look at Chuck Jones (of Looney Toons), who was depressed in

art school because he couldn’t draw as well as the other students. He was

talking to his uncle, who told him that up against a bunch of sports cars,

you can be the fastest pig you can be, but you shouldn’t want to compete

in the same arena. And it’s a lot like that for me. I want to create my own

projects and share my vision of a unique, fun and enjoyable world.”

Claire Lawton