Graffiti of North Hudson Park

  Grafatti of North Hudson Park: A Photo Essay I decided to travel to North Hudson Park in North Bergen, NJ to try out the camera I got for Christmas, the Cannon T3i. While shooting nature is fun and all I became enchanted with all the graffiti around that structure – The Archway. I became […]

Tips from a Script Reader: Flashbacks

Holy hell, do I hate flashbacks. Nothing bogs down a new screenwriter’s script like adding flashbacks. They’re usually clumsily written or terribly transitioned into. They’re a crutch writers use in order to reveal exposition and it has to stop.

While working at Pipeline last year I came across so many examples of bad uses of flashbacks. A majority of the time, these flashbacks were bad. I remember one incident of a flashback within a flashback. It was dreadful.

Stop with the damn flashbacks

What Is A Flashback?
A flashback is a scene that takes place at an earlier time before the story.

Essentially they’re a plot device used, usually, to reveal something that has happened in the past. Today, because of the quality of video editing and storytelling, flashbacks are becoming normal yet stylized plot devices in television. Lost was very heavy handed with their use of flashbacks but the flashbacks were usually pertinent to the main story-line  Desperate Housewives’s earlier seasons relied on flashbacks narrated by the deceased Mary-Alice in order to reveal plot or character developments. The first seasons of ABC’s Once Upon a Time and Revenge also relied heavily on the use of flashbacks for their main narratives. Like Lost, the flashback was often used parallel to the main storyline in order to create some motivation for a character’s actions.

Flashbacks are also being used more and more in comedies under the guise of cutaways. Family Guy is a notorious show for its use of cutaway gags. But in essence those cutaways are flashbacks – scenes from the past that happened prior to the narrative – as wacky as they can be. 30 Rock also uses a lot of flashbacks in its writings similar to Family Guy. They’re gags. But they’re used to establish actions the characters have previously done. New Girl has also utilized flashbacks in their storytelling for comedic purposes.

Film has various degrees of examples when it comes to flashbacks. Some are really good. Some are not.

A good example that comes to mind is V for Vendetta. There was one particular flashback that worked extremely well – far superior to the others. It was the letter which Natalie Portman’s character read regarding the lesbian couple being arrested. The segment was silent except for the narration. The scene was short. It was poignant. And it helped move the story forward. Natalie suddenly became sympathetic towards the movement. She was no longer a coward.

Batman Begins used flashbacks. It’s use of flashback wasn’t as strong as V for Vendetta. Our first flashback was when Bruce was training with Raas, and we flashback to Bruce’s origins story. The transition was clean. The actual flashback was adequate but it’s essential to the Batman mythos to tell that story.

Luckily, bad flashbacks rarely make it to the big screen. But they do find their ways into more independent movies you can find on Netflix and Hulu. One of the worst uses of flashbacks came from a movie I caught on Netflix, Fear Island. In this film, a survivor recounts the terrors she experienced on a trip with her friends. The story is told from a series of flash backs but some of the flashbacks shown are shown from a POV the character narrating could not have known unless (spoiler alert) she was the killer.

Using Flashbacks

Syd Field has written, “Flashbacks are a tool, a device, where the screenwriter provides the reader and audience with visual information that he or she cannot incorporate into the screenplay any other way. The purpose of the flashback is simple: it is a technique that bridges time, place and action to reveal information about the character, or move the story forward (1).” While reading scripts from Pipeline, I’ve come across a lot of examples of poorly written examples of flashbacks. The flashbacks were written as a way to show something about a character that could’ve easily been said or shown some other way in the script. The flashbacks read so intrusively and it annoys the fuck out of me.

One of the most ghastly examples I’ve read to date come from a script titled, “Too Much of Nothing.” If memory serves correctly, the story was about a cab driver who is helping his lover kill her other lover in order to rob him. However, their plan gets derailed when their target accidentally kills his wife in the process. The plot itself was convoluted. However, the plot was made more convoluted by the use of flashbacks that constantly interrupted the narrative. Here’s a portion from my coverage:

The story is dragged down by the use of flashbacks. The writer of this script used approximately 25 flashbacks, some of which were flashbacks during flashbacks. Worst of all was the fact that the flashbacks were coming from all three characters when the entire story is told from the point of view of Sam. There was even a flashback from Laura’s wife.

At least 25 flashbacks in a script that 97 pages long? The script wasn’t even being told in a non-linear style either. It just had at least 25 flashbacks. Poorly transitioned ones, no less.

I remember laughing out loud while reading the script when the flashback within a flashback came. The Bernie Maddoff-like character was being consoled by his mistress when out of nowhere we cut to an intrusive flashback of Maddoff and his wife arguing about who leaked his misdealing to the SEC. She swears she didn’t do it but agreed to testify against him when she found out he cheated on her. He then accuses her of being a cheater too to which we cut to her riding a handsome guy.

(FROM “This Last Lonely Place” by Steve Anderson.)

DEVORE
Oh, spare me. Don’t be so high and mighty.
I’ve seen your latest   conquest. Mr. Handsome? In our bed?

LAURA DEVORE
Tit for tat, Frank.

Laura can’t hide her almost lustful smile.

LAURA’S FLASHBACK: 

INT. MANSION BEDROOM – NIGHT 

Upstairs, Laura Devore is naked on the massive bed, vigorously riding Mr. Handsome. It’s good sex, very good sex. Both parties seem to be completely enjoying themselves.

LAURA DEVORE
Yes. Yes. Yes.

With each affirmation, he thrusts harder, deeper. She leans forward, holding both of his strong hands for balance…
Holding tight, Mr. Handsome is Cameron Kane.

RETURN TO FRANK’S FLASHBACK

INT. BEVERLY HILLS MANSION – NIGHT

Laura smiles, quivering just a little at the memory.
Alas, it will be her last quiver ever.

That added flashback was completely unmitigated. It was unnecessary. It was useless. Clearly her response and body language spoke more volumes about her infidelities than that stupid flashback ever could. The film is in production. I’m sure a few years from now it will be available on Netflix.

Have I seen good uses in screen writing by writers? Yes, I have. One that comes to memory is a script I read called “Lucky Them” by Huck Botko and Emily Wachtel. The script is about a music columnist who is sent on a search to find out if her former lover, a Kurt Cobain-like figure, faked his own death. The script makes good use flashbacks by never showing flashbacks. Instead the flashbacks are spoken. It allows a reader to imagine the tale. If were to be onscreen, it allows a performer to shine.

In terms of actual flashbacks used as they’re meant to be used, I have read a couple of scripts where they don’t feel intrusive. Part of the problem I’ve seen is the transitioning from present to flashback.

“Waldo Salt, great screenwriter of Coming Home and Midnight Cowboy, told me that he thought a flashback should be thought of as a “flashpresent,” because the visual image we’re seeing is what the character is thinking and feeling at that present moment, whether a memory, or fantasy, or event; a flashpresent, he remarked, is anything that illuminates a character’s point of view.

Syd Field (1.)

Writers should think about what is triggering a flashback when they write one. If there’s no good trigger then there probably isn’t a need for a flashback. Is the flashback going to tell me something that can’t be shown any other way? If not, there’s probably no need for a flashback.

To Write a Flashback or Not?

I am a firm believer writers shouldn’t be restricted to writing with rules. There are no rules in writing besides grammar and punctuation – and some writers have thrown those conventions out  of the window.

However, every writer wants to make their script into a movie. Writers should be very careful when writing flashbacks. They can often times make or break a script in my experience.

As a script reader, I read all movie scripts with an open mind. If I come across a flashback I’m not going to stop reading. I am however going to be extra critical about the writer’s judgement to include it.

Sources:

1. Field, Syd. Uses of Flashback. LINK.

I’m Back (But For How Long This Time?)

2013-wallpaper-hd

So I forgot to update this blog for a while. Sue me.

In all fairness, I’ve had a busy few months since graduation. Started a new job in the city that required me to read movie scripts and critique them. Followed by an assistant editing job that pays well and has me working in the center of the world: Rockafeller Center. I’m going out and meeting new people in the industry often. And most recently, I started working on a new project with my buddy Flem.

However, I did set new goals for myself in 2013. One of those goals is to write freely for 20 minutes every day by the end of the year. I’ve been doing good so far but I can only write so many script ideas before my brain stalls. So in order to prevent that I’ve decided to include poetry or prose in this blog as acceptable writings for my 20 minute mark.

So that means for the foreseeable future I will be blogging regularly, ready to spew my ideas to everyone in the world who wishes to read. I’ll probably also post treatments or new ideas I have scripts in hopes of generating feedback from other readers.

I’ll also be posting advice for screenwriters from the point of view of a script reader. While script reading at my job I’ve learned that writers too often make the same mistakes. If you read this blog maybe it’ll stop you.

I’ll also be posting regular critiques or reactions to articles I’ve read in regards to filmmaking – most likely in the confines of scrip writing or editing but I’m open to everything.

And lastly, I will also regularly be posting a new segment I call: “Shit I’m Watching on Netflix/Hulu.” In this segment I will be critiquing stuff I’m watching on Netflix or Hulu in terms of content and screenwriting. Since I watch a lot of TV shows, prepare for discussions on story arches and character development.

2012 was a kind year for me. Hopefully 2013 will be kinder.

- Rolando Nieves

Sex Tapes of the Average American

It’s becoming a trend I see more and more of: Sex tapes being posted to the internet. It’s a fad I like because it brings out the porn star in all of us.

They’re just about everywhere. Xtube. Redtube. YouPorn. HomeMadePorn. All it takes is some libido and a camera. Hell, sometimes you don’t even require another person.

Sex Tape 1

This post comes in light of recent events. A friend was showing people this sex tape he made when he engaged in a threesome. The video was grainy, dark and you really couldn’t see anything. It pissed me off because what’s the point of a sex tape if you cannot see a damn thing. The man just had a threesome. Show me the goods.

Not long after another friend came across another mutual friend’s sex tape on the internet. This was much better put together. There were change of positions. There was good lighting. There was a money shot. I was impressed. This was what a proper sex tape should look like.

Tips and Tricks
1. Lights. This is so obvious. Why would you make a movie if you can’t see the damn thing? Are you too shy to show your full figure? Then the camera has no place in your sex life. It’s supposed to be freeing. It’s supposed to be liberating. It’s supposed to be fun. Most importantly. it’s supposed to be seen. We can’t see anything in the dark unless you have night-recording capabilities. Otherwise, just leave the lights on.

2. Talk Dirty. There is nothing more boring than watching a sex tape where there is no dialogue. I’m not suggesting to start acting but add a little  theatrics to the production. “Yeah, yeah, harder, harder.” Or, “Mmmm, baby, deeper.” Or, “You like my cock? / <Muffled yes>.” Don’t be afraid to give a little direction. The person whose holding the camera is seeing what’s getting on the tape. Dictate what you want to see on that tape. “Take it deeper,” or “Lick my balls.” Or as your laying the pipe while in missionary, pull out and tell your partner, “Get on your knees and spread that ass.” Or pull out and tell your partner, “Ride me, slut.” Being verbal turns a regular sex tape into something exciting. And don’t be afraid to curse. A sex tape is no place for, “Gosh” or “Oh, golly.”

3. Get Buck Wild. When you’re doing a sex tape it’s not time to hold back. You want to get loose. If your girl don’t like to swallow and normally finishes you off with a hand-job, you gotta make it clear to her, “No, tonight you’re getting a facial.” She’s not down with the facial? Negotiate. Ask for a pearl necklace. Still, no? Then ask for some diamonds-on-the-ass-crack. She’d be more receptive to those since they don’t show face. As for the one doing the penetrating, you gotta learn how to switch it up; Deep plunges, just-the-tips, fast and reckless, slow and passionate. Variety.

4.Describe. Nothing irks a viewer more than when one looks at the descriptions of the sex tapes on X-Tube and it just reads, “Me and my girl.” Or “Some bitch give me head.” Tell me a little more. What happens? Do you cum on her face? …In her mouth? Is there a cock smack? Sometimes the sex tape has a story behind it, like you just bough a camera and she’s always wanted to do a sex tape. Or you were hosting a gang bang and whipped out the camera. A little detail can make the entire sex tape watching much better.

5. Positions. Don’t just film in one position. Mix it up. You want to film at least 3 good positions. Do about 3 to 4 minutes of each position. Including foreplay, you have about a 12 to 15 minute sex tape. Many viewers can get off in less than 10 minutes. Also, when you change positions, be ready to change the camera angle. Some positions require close ups.

6. Switch Cameraperson. Different points of views are hot.

7. Turn Off Distractions. The sex-tape should only be you and your partner. Get rid of all distractions. Turn off the TV. Turn off the music. Leave the dogs in the other room. The focus should be only on you and your partner.

8. Edit. Use Windows Movie Maker or iMovie and put together a little film. Basic editing can go a long way. Nothing makes a viewer lose his wood faster than the dizzying effect from moving the camera around. Cut that shit out. Maybe there’s a minute of cellulite but rest looks phenomenal. Cut that shit out. Maybe you guys did a good job of hiding faces but there are a few frames where the faces are visible. Cut that shit out. Editing can turn a shitty sex-tape into something mediocre – or even good.

9. Publish. Don’t be shy. Show the world. What’s the worst that can happen?

10. Or… Private Showing. If you are too shy because you have a “career” to worry about or you don’t want your family to see it.  Understandable. So find a couple of trustworthy friends and pick a night to show it. Maybe it’ll inspire them to make one themselves. Or hell, maybe one thing could lead to another while you’re showing the video and you all find yourself in a group-sex thing. And if you’re too shy for that then maybe it should be just for you two.

Remember, the whole point of a sex tape is to get wild and have fun. If you start having uncertainties just turn off the camera because no one wants to see an apprehensive person on camera. People want to see confidence.

As it turns out, my friends weren’t impressed with our mutual friends’ sex tape. They complained about it. They complained about the quality. They complained about stamina. They confused the sex tape with a porno.

Sex tapes aren’t pornos. They’re not professional videos. They are an appreciation about the human form and the act of sex. They are expression. They are supposed to be amateurish.

Depression: Ke$ha Recently Turned 25

Someone on my Twitter feed posted a picture of pop-singer getting her head studded in order to celebrate her 25th birthday. And my heart sank. I am, if only by months, older than Ke$ha.

Why are you famous, bitch!?

It’s a sad world we live in when a 25 year old girl hoe with the body of a 40 year old mother is more successful than me, the world’s greatest writer/blogger. OK, so I might not be the greatest writer but I damn well know I have more talent than the over-produced, over-sexualized pop-star, a term given to anyone whose produced garbage tracks.

How!? How is she younger than me? Who the fuck do I have to fuck to get somewhere in Hollywood? I’ll do it. I will sell myself to be successful. Give me a chance!

Realizing that Ke$ha is younger than I am is just a stark realization that I am 25 and I’ve accomplished nothing. Have I accomplished nothing yet? Or am I doomed to not accomplish anything and keep thinking in my head that I haven’t accomplished anything yet?

We keep getting bombarded by these stories of people who found success at a young age. And it’s fucking annoying. I’m tired of you stupid young celebrities making me feel inferior. And you should be too.

Sex and First Dates

I went on a date last week. Went well. Back to their place and ended up in a bedroom. What is a horny 25 year old going to assume is going to happen?

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First Date Thoughts...

Sex. At the very least a handjob.

I was disappointed to find out my date refused to put out on the first date because in this person’s mind, sex on a first date is a bad thing and the only reason I was taken to the bedroom was for a screening- to see how I react with the fact we won’t be having sex as well as discuss previous liaisons in the sack. It felt a lot like an interview.

After one week of thinking about it I have come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t trust people who don’t put out on first dates. In this day and age of sex tapes and sexting and hookup sites like CougerLife and Manhunt, and even apps like Grindr, it is easy to see that this is a very sex driven culture. Especially in the North East, where I reside.

List of (Possible) Reasons One Should Never Put Out on the First Date

  1. Herpes Breakout.Maybe your date has Herpes and the time of the month you’ve gone on the date there was a break out. Instead of having to explain what those bumps are when the clothes come off and looking like a damn fool, your date makes up this lie about sex and first dates.

    Image

    Genital Herpes?

  2. Genital Odor.Your date probably didn’t have time to freshen up before the date and is feeling a little self-conscience about his/her stank. Shame on them for not getting ready.

    Image

    Use this to get rid of ball stank.

  3. A Forrest in Their Underwear.This is probably worse than the genital odor thing, but who wants to chow down anywhere near a massive bush? Not I. Nor you. Majority of men nowadays don’t want to but I’m sure there’s a fetish out there. Your date might’ve not had the time to get the trimmer out and makes up a lie about sex and first dates.

    Image

    Hot...?

  4. They’re Religious.Run away as fast as you can.

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    Extreme case, but you get the idea.

  5. Time of the Month.This could very well happen. No one wants to leave red wings on a guy after a first date.

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    Admit it, you'd still put it in...

  6. Time Traveler.Your date could be from a time period when sex on a first date was forbidden and still adheres to those cultures. How did he/she discover time travel? Will it fuck up the time-space continuum? Same could be plausible if he/she is from the future. Sex with someone from the past could alter the future.

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    zOMG! Time traveler.

Turns out I nailed the interview since I’m scheduled for a second date this weekend. However, in retrospect I might have to bail because sex on a first date to me is a deal breaker. I’m not a prude and I don’t expect to get into bed with one.

Whatever Happened To…?

I’m thinking of starting a brand new segment of my blog in which I ask people “Whatever Happened To…”

For our first segment I am going to ask readers whatever happened to Helen Hunt?

Whatever happened to Helen Hunt?

Who is Helen Hunt? Shame on you. But it just proves my point.

Helen Hunt was on the TV show “Mad About You.” It was popular. She was also an actress. She won an Oscar for “As Good As It Gets,” costarring with Jack Nicholson. And then she… well that’s all I remember. She seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth.

So I ask, whatever happened to Helen Hunt?

HBO Pushes Back “GAME OF THRONES” One Week

War is coming… to HBO from angry fans.

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 In a surprise move HBO has decided to push back the much anticipated season 2 premiere of “Game of Thrones.” The series is based on the popular book series by George RR Martin.

The move comes after weeks of grumbling from the author himself. From The Hollywood Reporter:

“Time and time again HBO has spit in my face,” says the writer. “But from what I’m seeing, the entire production of the series is completely deviating from my books to the point where they can no longer use my name in this work.”

HBO has not released a comment but has pushed backed the season to premiere next week. Instead they will air the last two episodes of Game of Throne’s Season One.

“He is considering legal recourse in the matter,” his manager has stated.

Sounds like a shitty situation to be in considering the anticipation the fans have. Hopefully they can work something out. Here’s a trailer to the new season which is now slated to come out next week, 4-8-12.

On a sidenote, to my three followers: Happy April Fools.

Foolish Facebookers: Don’t Pump Gas on April 15, 2012

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So there’s a post that’s circulating around Facebook. A lot of mindless goons are passing it around in hopes of accomplishing something from there desks/laps on a global level.

They won’t.

Don’t pump gas on April, 15 2012

KEEP SENDING THIS – Let’s all try this, wonderful if it helps.

Il do it! If running low, just get your gas the day before on April 14 or the day after on April 16. Every little bit helps.

In April 1997, there was a “gas out” conducted nationwide in protest of gas prices. Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

On April 15, 2011, all internet users are not to go to a gas station in protest of high gas prices. Gas is now over $1.20 a liter/$3.87 in most places.

If all users did not got to the pump on the 15th, it would take $2,292,000,000.00 (that’s almost 3 BILLION) out of the oil companies pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the gas station on April 15th and let’s try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day.

Well here’s my beef. This movement is going to do jack shit.

  1. There was no such GAS OUT in 1997. There was one in 1999 and it got a lot of attention but there was no huge dent to the global gas economy. Few people participated.
  2. The letter urges people not to use gas for one day to hurt the market. But if you’re low on gas fill up the night before or the day after. Here’s the problem – any sales lost in one day will be quickly made up before or soon after.
  3. If all the drivers in the country did in fact boycott gas it wouldn’t affect the companies. But it could have a negative impact on the small business owners who rely on sales. How patriotic in this economy.
  4. The first sentence in this JPEG is misspelled. “Il do it.” Il do it!?! If someone is trying to make a movement, do a little spell checking. Don’t dumb down our nation more than it already is.

So, buy all the gas you want in April 15. It ain’t going to change a damn thing. Very things we do make much a difference. Deal with it.

American Reunion: A Review

American Reunion

I was given a chance to go to a free screening of American Reunion. It’s why I was in the city last night. In my mind, I thought, “The worst free movie is still better than any good movie I’d have to pay to see.” I had low expectations, especially after seeing the trailer.

The movie exceeded my expectations. In my opinion it was funnier than American Pie 2 and American Wedding combined. The jokes and comedy were a little more fertile at this stage of the game. And the theme of reuniting after growing apart is one which a lot of people can relate to. When American Pie came out, it was a teen classic. Funny, raunchy and poignant. Thirteen (!) years later the movie was able to recapture what made the original so good by being genuinely funny, raunchy and poignant.

The entire original cast is in this movie, including some of the memorable extras. And that’s a good thing since only half the cast returned for the sequels. Therefore the writers were able to give most of our characters some closure.

My biggest fear going into the movie was that all the best jokes have probably been shown in the trailer or TV commercials. Thank god, that was not the case. There are a lot good moments in the movie that are hysterical; the standout scenes being Stiffler and the cooler, Jim and a drunk chick in his car and the boy-now-men fighting high school boys.

My one complaint is the music. I think there wasn’t enough 90s Rock in the mix. My buddy swears there was enough but I remember one good song. All the others were contemporary or from the 2000s. NOT 90s rock!

Is this movie the greatest comedy of all time? Absolutely not. Is it worth watching in theaters? I would recommend it to those who saw the original one. Especially those who saw the original one when they were between the ages of 13 and 18 because this movie begins to hit really close to home. Most of us are grown up with shitty jobs and sexless marriages or have kids and are constantly looking back to the good ol’days when they had no responsibilities. All the characters are trying to recapture something from their past: Oz wants his ex, Kevin wants to recapture his friendship with the boys and Jim wants his wife’s sex drive back. A lot of men fall into one of these categories by the time they hit 25 and it can last until they’re 30. It’s the quarterlife crisis.

And lastly, there was a scene where Jason Biggs goes full frontal. I assumed it was a prosthetic because how often to Hollywood men go the full monty? After doing some research, I might be inclined to believe it is the real deal. And ladies, the boy is packing. Expect a lot of “Bigg” jokes to come when the cast promotes the movie a lot in the next couple of weeks.

American Funeral: Coming 2025

I, personally, can’t wait until the next sequel, American Funeral. Which one of the character should die that would force all these people to come back to town for some shenanigans? And it better not be Jim’s Dad.