Friday, September 28, 2012

Comic Relief: Ferris Wheel Scenes

Please indulge me... this "comic relief" is for my own therapy. As my previous post explained, I was an extra for a commercial filmed at a local amusement park. I spent three days from noon to beyond midnight (last night until 2:00 a.m.) riding rides and walking the park.

I love most amusement park rides, and thrilled at riding them over and over for the numerous takes, but the Ferris Wheel gives me palpitations. It stems from my childhood when I rode one for the first time... my brothers thought it was funny to rock the seat back and forth, making me feel like I would fall out. From that point on, the ferris wheel became one of my least favorite rides.

So imagine my hesitation when I was told to ride the ferris wheel for filming. I wasn't sure I could handle one ride on there, let alone an undetermined amount of times round and round. Gulp. Thankfully as I approached the one in the park, I realized it was a different version. Instead of the open style seat with just a little bar across the front, it was more like round bowls with umbrellas over them. Umbrella gondolas. Sigh of relief. I felt secure.

However, even though I survived--quite pleasantly--the daytime filming, when we returned to film that same ride at night, I felt apprehensive as we rotated through the dark sky.

Here's a photo I snapped with my phone before boarding. You can see the gondolas way up there.

A cameraman was on a gondola next to mine and I'm certain any shots of me revealed a very somber woman. Not the same woman who just a short time earlier had been screaming with delight as she spun through roller coaster loops and begged to keep on going even after seven consecutive rides. No, this woman was inwardly pleading for the ferris wheel ride to end.

Sometimes to overcome a fear, it helps to find the humor in it, or see it from different perspectives, so I found some movie clips to help in my therapy.

First from Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985). I enjoyed this film. Superb supporting role for Joel Grey too.

I would feel safe enclosed in the cages of this ferris wheel, but please don't ever make me ride it like Remo does.

Remo Williams in training:

In my search for clips, I came across a comedy I've never seen. How did I miss this John Belushi film? I added it to our Netflix queue. My trauma is nothing compared to what the characters experience on this ride!! 1941 (1979):

This next clip from Charlotte's Web (2006) is sweet. Awww...maybe I wouldn't feel nervous on such a ride if my sweetie was next to me! He would never rock the seat. And I would never wish it to end.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Motivation: Grab opportunity.

"Opportunity is rarely convenient." ~me...and lots of other people.

I couldn't find a perfect quote for what I am experiencing right now, so I went with something I said yesterday. (Google reveals that lots of people have said or written the same thing.)  

The situation: I was contacted to be a paid extra in a commercial for a local theme park, and I almost turned it down. Why? Because of transportation problems and inconvenient hours for filming.

We only have one vehicle and my husband needs it on Tuesday, so that presents a problem. Then there's the hours. It will be from about 11:30 AM to Midnight, two days in a row (possibly three). I am a morning person. Seriously... an early morning person. I do not function well when I am up late and need to sleep in. It might take me a couple days to recuperate from the hours of the shoot, so I have to consider that. (Be forewarned, this will probably interrupt my blogging this week.)

After considering the inconveniences, I still accepted the offer, and told my husband:
"If I select only convenient opportunities, I will miss out on a lot." ~ me again... and probably others... 


Friday, September 21, 2012

Comic Relief: Oscar

Another essay I wrote for a Comedy Film class, Spring 2008.

Film: Oscar (1991)

            Gangster Angelo “Snaps” Provolone (Sylvester Stallone) promises his dying father that he will go “straight” and enter the legitimate business world. The task proves difficult. His employees have a hard time transforming from thugs to bakers, butlers, and chauffeurs. His wife, Sophia (Ornella Muti), complains that it embarrasses her when the chauffeur leaves the car running at the curb—like a getaway car—while she is shopping. Visual contrasts and clever lines create rapid-fire comedy in Oscar.
            There are numerous contrasts in the film. For instance, it is humorous to see the various henchmen dressed in suits, but performing household tasks. Aldo (Peter Riegert), the butler, wears a brown plaid suit, a brown derby hat, and smokes a cigar. Not the typical version of a butler. Other “tough guys” are in the kitchen wearing white aprons over their suits, looking out of place as they perform their domestic tasks surrounded by fresh vegetables and canned goods. Upstairs, Connie (Chazz Palminteri) (yet another contrast—a gangster named Connie) reads the color funny papers as he guards a door. The tasks and attire of the men provide visual incongruity, adding to the humor of the film.
              Provolone's daughter, Lisa (Marisa Tomei), lounges in an extremely feminine bedroom decorated in floral wallpaper, lots of pink, plenty of frills and lace, dotted with dolls and stuffed animals, yet she wears a peignoir with garters, smokes a cigarette in a long cigarette wand, and reads Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Her dark hair has tight curls purposely placed around her face.  She is a contrast to her surroundings. When her father enters the room, he adds another contrast—a gangster surrounded by frou-frou. 
              Another scene in Lisa's bedroom has hilarious contrast. Upon hearing his boss yell, Connie runs into the room toting a pistol. He is not supposed to be “packing” since they are going straight, so “Snaps” orders him to reveal his weaponry. Connie pulls out a switchblade and places it next to the fine silver brush, comb, and tray on Lisa’s dresser. He continues to pull out various tools of the trade: an ice pick, brass knuckles, billy-club, knife, a bottle of poison, an iron pipe, meat hook, sling shot, flail, a ticking bomb, and finally a small derringer. The incongruity of all those weapons hidden in his suit is great comedy, and the visual contrast of the weapons piled on the feminine dresser adds to the humor. “It’s like disarming Germany,” Provolone mutters.
            Funny dialogue adds great comic flare to the film. “The dialogue can let us know the climate is comic—because it either is funny or is delivered in a funny, incongruous, mechanical, or some other unnatural way” (Mast 10). Consider this scene: “Snaps” convinces Anthony (Vincent Spano) that the Finucci brothers (Harry Shearer and Martin Ferrero) are “vicious contract killers” when they are actually easy-going tailors. Anthony plays a tune on the piano and soon the Finuccis join him. Panicked, he asks them what they want. They ask him to please tell “Signor Provolone” that they are in a hurry, they “gotta do another guy at 11:00.” Anthony assumes, of course, that they are talking about killing someone when they are actually talking about fitting someone for a suit. Anthony asks, “You do more than one a day?” They assure him that sometimes they do six to eight a day, “It’s a cutthroat business.” With pride, they show him a newspaper clipping of a murdered man. The intent is to show off the wonderful suit—their work of art—that the deceased is wearing. Anthony assumes they are showing off their contract job. The Finuccis continue, “Maybe someday we do you too, huh? And when we get through with you nobody gonna recognize you.” 
The dialogue is fantastic as the mistaken identity and mix up in messages during that scene has the Finuccis show off their tailoring work with pride, yet sets fear into Anthony, previously threatened by Provolone.
            Another witty dialogue takes place between Angelo, his wife Sophia, and Father Clemente (Don Ameche). Angelo experiences numerous interruptions during a fitting for a new suit. Each interruption brings more confusion and twists to the plot. There is much confusion about who is marrying whom. Father Clemente heard their daughter Lisa will marry Bruce Underwood (a wealthy associate) but Sophia explains that Lisa will marry a nice Italian boy by the name of Anthony Rossano. Angelo breaks the news that Lisa will not be marrying Anthony but will marry Dr. Poole (Tim Curry) instead. Sophia is shocked and confused. Angelo says he does not have time to explain because he needs to call Nora, their ex-maid, who has quit to marry Bruce Underwood. Sophia demands, “When did that happen?” Angelo shouts, “I don’t know!  Somewhere between my vest and my pants.”
            The visual contrasts, along with the snappy dialogue, in Oscar are top notch and help to create a successful comic confusion. The viewer must keep track of who is who and what is what and which valise is which, and can relate to Connie’s dilemma when asked to leave the room: “Do I have to Boss? Every time I leave I fall behind.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Editing fool.

Yesterday I spotted a typo on my blog post after it had published earlier in the morning. I wrote the post a week ago, and spent several days going over it, re-writing a section, and tweaking others. Yet still, it had an error... and parts I wish I had written tighter. Some blogs I follow are written so eloquently, I wonder if they have a real editor.

Editing my own writing is tough enough, but tougher is the task of editing other's writings. Last year a friend asked me to edit his essays required for admittance into a Master's program. He was born in Africa, but raised mostly in Portugal, and has only lived in the United States a few years. It was difficult to edit his writing and yet keep his unique voice shining through. (I was soooo relieved when he was accepted. If he had been denied, I would have wondered if my editing hindered his chances.)

My husband started a blog in May 2011, but I only recently began editing his posts. Titled "Medicine Simply Put," he explains and defines medical conditions in simple terms and humorous ways. His writing style is a mixture of "doctor-ese," dictation (omitting pronouns, for instance), and morbid sense of humor. I don't want my corrections to sterilize his distinct style.

But I digress. Back to my own blog edits. I wish I had a real editor, and can't help but think of a Ben Franklin quote, "He that teaches himself has a fool for a master." Does that translate into, "She who edits her own posts has a fool for an editor?"

Maybe I am an editing fool. Before posting his very first blog entry, my husband asked me to read it. I gave some pointers on what needed clarified or written in simpler terms (not medical jargon), and told him, "You need to write in such a way that any nincompoop can understand."

He responded, "That's why I had you read it."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Action!: Writing and more writing.

Thanks to the comments of a reader (Susan) last week, I thought about the kinds of writing I do. Sometimes at the end of the day, I feel like I didn't accomplish much because I didn't get to my screenplay, or to my blog, but actually I did a lot of writing. So for today's post, I thought I would share the kinds of writing I do... some of them almost daily.

  • Morning Pages.  That's what Julia Cameron calls them (The Right to Write and The Artist's Way). I write three pages in a spiral notebook, free hand, first thing in the morning, writing whatever pops into my head. Usually it's lame, trivial stuff. Sometimes I record a dream I was having upon waking. I don't re-read my entries for a long time, so when I do read them again, I see patterns (good and bad) in my way of thinking. I see topics repeated over and over that I didn't realize weighed so heavily on my mind... and sometimes I see the solution. And occasionally an epiphany shines through the dullness. I am now working on my 5th volume of Morning Pages, and in the meantime I've started to go back through previous volumes and make notes of the lessons and ideas I've gleaned.
  • Memoirs.  I am writing about my life. I read somewhere (I think in one of William Zinsser's books) that the best way to find your voice is to write about memories. So I started by writing random things and events from my childhood. Fun, fluffy things. Later, I felt guided (for personal reasons) to start with my earliest memories and work my way forward. This forces me to face the not so fun and not so fluffy. Sometimes I can only face a few paragraphs. I have no idea what I will do with it when I'm done, other than breathe a sigh of relief.
  • Journals.  It all began in a college English Composition class in 1975. The professor required us to keep a journal, and I've maintained that habit ever since, with only a few years lacking. This is where I write my thoughts, feelings, and events of my daily life. Far too often it is a chronicle of my activities, but still, because I have the habit of writing in my journal, I manage to capture important insights too. I have taught classes on journal writing, and preached, "Don't think you will remember to record important matters in your journal if you don't have the habit of writing about the small stuff too." If I have time to only do one kind of writing in a day, it's my journal that gets the slot.
  • Screenwriting.  This gets neglected far too often, for reasons that I've bemoaned many times on this blog. Life. Lack of time. Distractions. But it all boils down to Resistance, and it's only recently that I've learned how Resistance blocks the very thing I need to be doing, so I'm pouring my energy into that battle almost daily now.
  • Blogs.  I have another blog (My Healthy Eating Challenge), but it's at a standstill. Last year I focused on it, and neglected this one, and this year it's in reverse. Apparently I can only devote my attention to one blog at a time... yet I have several other blog ideas lurking in my brains. Go figure.

At less regular intervals, I do additional writing...

  • Reading Notebooks.  When I read, I like to write about what I'm learning, and record ideas and concepts I might want to refer back to.
  • Observation Notebook.  One habit I used to have, but lost (and need to regain) was to carry a notebook in my purse and use it to record observations while out and about. I wrote in the notebook while sitting in waiting rooms, or waiting for flights, or wherever... I described my surroundings and the people. I made note of ideas. I captured quotes. I recorded interesting information.... and conversations I overheard. I have several chubby notebooks filled with such writings, yet somehow my observation notebook got detoured into keeping grocery lists, things to do, and other such nonsense. Time to reign it back into its original purpose.
  • Poison Purging.  Okay, thankfully this type of writing I don't need daily. Once in a while I find myself full of angry, bitter, thoughts. When I recognize what's happening, I take a sheet of paper and write down all the negativity, emptying the poison onto paper. Then I immediately shred it. There's something about the act of destroying all that ugliness that helps rid me of it.
  • Humor Notebook.  When something makes me laugh hard, I write about it in my humor notebook so I won't forget. Reading those entries brightens my day. I love laughing!
  • Night Notes.  Sometimes when I need to solve a problem, I write it down in a notebook next to my bed before I go to sleep. I record a few thoughts on the subject and then pose it as a question. This allows my mind to work on a solution while I sleep... and often the answer turns up in my Morning Pages.
That's the overview of my writing. Over the next few weeks, I might share some samples from my notebooks and journals.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Motivation: Apply daily.

People often say that motivation doesn't last.  Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily.  ~Zig Ziglar

Friday, September 14, 2012

Comic Relief: Make me laugh!

Thursday was a looong day. I need a good laugh, but was too tired last night to find a funny post. I'm hoping you will help me out. Please tell me about your favorite funny lines or scenes from movies.

Make me laugh!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Art is subjective.

Utah Women in Film recently announced the winner of our annual screenwriting contest (I couldn't enter since I serve on the Board of Directors). The submitted screenplays were given scores by a panel of judges. The scores were all over the place. A screenplay could score high with one judge while another judge ranked it low. After sifting through the results, the top six were given to each of the board members to read, then we met to discuss which one we would produce. And, like the judges, our opinions were all over the place. What one person considered a beautiful moving story, I considered sappy. What I considered well-written with a compelling story, others considered dull. One well-crafted story was rejected because it was too similar to what we recently produced. I rejected another because we don't have the budget to film a complicated scene within the screenplay. (Hey, as Treasurer, I have to consider these things.)

Art is subjective, and it's maddening at times. I can send a screenplay to a festival or competition, but where it goes from there depends on the opinions and whims of the readers. It might not even make it to a judge, and even if it does, it is at the mercy of their views and what they are looking for.

There are times when I envy those with predictable jobs. Go to work. Do the work expected. Get paid. There are times I wish I worked in data entry. Take the information, plug it into the fields. It's all objective. As Treasurer, I find satisfaction in balancing to the penny; it means I did something exactly right. It's either right or it's wrong. No guessing. No whims.

But no fire.

Art is subjective, yet for some of us the desire to create burns so deeply we must do it anyway. Shoot the work down, tear it apart, criticize it... yeah, it hurts... but we'll keep on creating because it hurts worse not to.

A room full of writers gathered when UWIF announced the winner of the screenwriting contest. Only one earned the honor of having the script produced. Many felt disappointment, but in reality they are all winners in the battle of the arts, and they will keep on writing.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Motivation: Habit

Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going.  ~Jim Ryun

Life keeps kicking the snot out of my writing habits.  Why does it feel like once habit is interrupted, it takes forever to get it back?  Today I need both: motivation and habit.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Comic Relief: The Money Pit

I thought I had posts scheduled for earlier in the week, but alas, I was wrong.  Now it's Friday, and I certainly need comic relief.  Tom Hanks' crazy laugh in the latter part of this clip cracks me up every time.

(The laughing scene begins at approx 2:17)
Clip: The Money Pit (1986)