Sunday, September 12, 2010

Flexing Those Writing Muscles...

On the subject of inspiration, I've blogged a couple times about how music sets off my creative process.

Recently, a music composer friend, Claude Foisy, sent me a clip of an underscore sample. Just great film music. It instantly conjured up images and situations.
Here's the music clip (you might want to raise the volume):

I listened to the haunting melody a couple of times and found myself writing down what my mind's eye saw.

I can't say what follows is completely original or even very good. It just came out as my heart felt it. The subconscious does have a tendency to regurgitate moments from films that have moved us in the past. Regardless, it was real. It fit the music and I could see it playing out on the imaginary screen in front of me.

I'd like to suggest that you play the clip as you read what follows and see if the images come alive for you.


Not sure if you could call this a meme, but I'd like to challenge you pros and aspiring pros out there. If there's anyone who would like to give this a crack, please send me your little gem and I'll post the best ones: 

I'll show the scenes to Claude. I'm not sure where this could go, but, who knows? The couple of pages you send might turn into something much bigger...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Without a Jacket and Tie...

Every so often, a song comes along that hits me where it counts.

Nino D'Angleo is an Italian songwriter and performer who sings in the Neopolitan dialect. Many of the most well-known Italian songs were created by singer/songwriters from Naples.

If you ever visited the region, you'll understand where all the inspiration comes from. Perhaps it's Vesuvius, the Amalfitano Coast or the rich, passionate history of the region. Simply, it's one of the most breathtaking and awe-inspiring spots in Italy and the world.

Senza Giacca e Cravatta (Without a Jacket and Tie) was released (I believe) in 1999. I just discovered it.

One of my passtimes lately is to put English subtitles on Italian songs that move me.

It's my little way of keeping my writing muscles in shape.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010


What inspires you?


It does me.

Take this clip, for example. Now, Josh Groban isn't everyone's cup of tea. But, friends of the blank page, this song just sends me...

It burrows into the deepest folds of my heart. It infuses me with conflicting waves of euphoria, joy, love, passion, nostalgia, sadness, regret... yearning for what was and for what could have been.

I lost the most important person in my life recently. Above everything else, someone who was my best friend.

Don't cry for me, Argentina. One day I'll open up a couple of veins and bleed it all out here. Suffice it to say for now that I had it coming.

Maybe you have to be Italian to really appreciate the lyrics. I was so moved by it that I wanted to share it with the world, so I added English subtitles... and listened to it until my eyes and heart were drained. The translation may not be spot on, but it represents what I felt listening to this for the first time.

So, how do I get that kind of emotion on the page?

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?


Writing is all about practice.

It's taking that spark -- that joy or pain, that whatever it was that moved you -- showing up on the blank page and just doing it -- over and over again.

Of course, it helps if you have a little talent. Okay, lots of it. But, only by actually sitting there with your writing implement, day after painful day, can you develop a voice that will be heard above all the cacophony.

Even after doing this "thing of ours" for decades, I still have my doubts and lots and lots of room for improvement.

But, what inspires you, fellow soldiers of the story brigade?

Monday, July 26, 2010


Enough whining.

Some good news today.

I was listed on Telefilm Canada's website as a screenwriting mentor.

Now, if I could figure out a way to make some money from it...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On demons and other nasty creatures...

I'm sitting here, looking at my previous post and feeling powerless.

You know the feeling?

When all your best efforts and good intentions melt into a glutinous mass of nothing. When you're up against that proverbial wall with no room to breathe, nowhere to run. When you have to face reality and surrender.

I've tried, brothers and sisters. I've given it my best shot. I've done my "Win one for the Gipper" bit a hundred times. And today, for what it's worth, I'm feeling beaten. Not broken. Just exhausted and discouraged.

You know the feeling?

I'm sure you do.

A volatile existence is an occupational hazard in this industry.

And one of the things that dictates that existence is, you guessed it...

This is not about big money, fellow travellers, just the every-day subsistence-level kind.

And so, as it has happened in the past, I have to disappear for a just little while into the amorphous realm of the Elysian Fields.

In the vernacular: I had to get a job.

Another kindred spirit, Kid in The Front Row, was nice enough to leave an encouraging comment in my last post. It's why I posted this. I'm going to borrow his profile "about me".

I am a Writer. Everything else is just to pass the time.

He knows the feeling, I'm sure.

Should I even go there? Part of me wants to stay anonymous and part wants to bare my soul as was my intention with this blog. I did say this was going to be a process. I didn't say it was going to be painless.

Lighten up. Trying to be funny is hard work. And this stuff is always a sure thing.

Back to sitting on my pity-pot...

It's been rough in my little corner of the universe, members of the dream-squad. Without going too much into detail, I did a face-first into a smoldering lava pit. And always having to do with fucking...

I've been trying to get back on my feet for the better part of a year. Dealt with the emotional upheaval of a failed marriage. And a foray into being a small-business owner that kicked the shit out of me financially and emotionally. Yes, I chased the be-your-own-boss fantasy just as one of the worst recessions in history whacked us.

Textbook case of PTSD...

You know the feeling?

I'm sure you do.

And so, just for a little while, until I recharge my optimism batteries, I will have to put my energies into this job and myself. I have managed to squeeze a few script pages out of my wounded psyche and they are standing by ready to be posted.

First things first...

Easy does it...

One day at a time...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Stand by...

I'll have to put this blog on hold temporarily.

Other, more pressing matters beckon.

Back soon.

Thanks to all for your interest and please keep checking back.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Adventure Begins...

Hurray! Signs of life from SODEC. Just got an email from them. That's the Quebec funding agency I applied to recently for those of you who are new to this blog...

Hey. Wait a minute... They're telling me my project doesn't qualify!

Surprised? Me? About as surprised as receiving my Sham Wow in the mail and discovering that a couple of sheets of paper towel do pretty well the same job. But, this sure was a surprise!

You can read about my reasons for putting up a fight with this project in the previous post.

My reply to them follows below. I didn't include their email because... Well, it was by the book and dreary. So is my reply, but I didn't have anything new to post, so what the heck, eh?

I promise to be more entertaining in future posts. Like this, for example:

There have been many times I've felt like that squirrel in this business.

Here's my reply to SODEC:

Cher M. R.,

Please excuse me if I write to you in English.

I would like to point out that the eligibility requirements detailed in the SODEC document entitled “PROGRAMME D’AIDE √Ä LA SC√ČNARISATION” on page 4 also goes on to state:

(Reference to SODEC's Screenwriting Assistance Program deleted out of mercy for my readers)

Other than any awards received for my work, I do fall into this category. I have signed at least 3 contracts... Blah, blah...

It would seem that the SODEC requirements are somewhat subjective in nature. I would like to ask you to reconsider my application for funding and would like to know if there is an appeals process.

My credentials are noteworthy and I feel that this project should be judged on its merits.

Thank you for your understanding.

Vince DC

Can't get around it. This is boring shit. Here's something that should ease some of that pain:

Oh well, back to bottom feeding for now...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Screenplay Genesis: ESPRESSO

I'm going to go out on a limb and try something. But first, let me set this up...

I made a big deal about this particular project of mine and why it doesn't stand a chance of seeing any funding from SODEC with my letter in the previous post. For those of you who don't have a clue what SODEC is, it's the most important cultural funding agency in this province. It doles out millions of dollars for script development and film production. A wonderful institution, but I suspect somewhat biased.

For those of you who don't have a clue what Espresso is, it's a feature screenplay that I'm in the middle of writing. Here's the log line:

In 1976, a group of Italian-Canadian friends navigate through the decadence of Montreal's disco scene, the excitement and corruption of the Summer Olympics and the gathering separatist storm.

That last part pretty well sums it up. My screenplay will not present the Quebec nationalist movement in a very good light.

Strike One: The script's in English
Strike Two: It's anti-Quebec nationalist.
Strike Three: I called Marcerola, the new head of SODEC, a bureaucratic fossil in my letter (hee-hee).

A quick history lesson: The Parti Quebecois was in power here for the better part of 25 years. During that time, thousands of English-speaking citizens and major corporate head offices moved to greener and less stressful pastures. Suffice it to say that this province, and more particularly, this city (Montreal) suffered tremendous social and economic setbacks because of this party's single-minded agenda: Quebec sovereignty (for those less observant readers, please notice the website I used for this link). In other words, they wanted out of Canada. And, they used every sneaky, devious, underhanded way to achieve their goal of a unilingual French fortress in an English North America.

In the process, many of us, loyal to Canada, were left to feel like we didn't belong. Actually, it wasn't just a "feeling", the PQ institutionalized bigotry with their Bill 101 which outlawed English. Yes, there were varying hues of tolerance in the law, but in the end, it was out and out REPRESSION. Read more about it on-line if you find something like that hard to believe could happen in a North American society. Here's a CBS 60 Minutes report on the issue.

So, the experiment will go something like this:

I'm going to post pages from the screenplay every few days, or as soon as I "get around to it". You writers out there know what the words between the quotation marks mean...

I won't be hearing from the funding agencies for another couple of months. So, what the fuck do I do in the meantime? Work on something else? Get the hell out of Quebec?  It's not like I don't have a dozen or so projects on my hard drive demanding my attention. And, it's not like my career couldn't use a fresh start. So, why, Vince, why are you even bothering with this?


Because this project has been sitting in my head for years.  Because I need to get it out, once and for all, and down on paper. Because it's a story that needs to be told.

Right now, it's a collection of notes, a treatment, script pages.

One day, a few weeks ago, I had a kind of epiphany -- something that happens to us writers from time to time. And when one hits, you just gotta get that shit down, baby. Like I said, this project's been sitting in my subconscious for a VERY LONG TIME. But, it never went anywhere because I...well, I didnt' know exactly why.

A bunch of movies came and went during all those years: The Pope of Greenwich Village, Moonstruck, Goodfellas, Analysis This/That, Mickey Blue Eyes. Let me just add The Sopranos to that list. Just simply, sublime TV. All, more or less, what I wanted to do with this project. So, I figured. It's been done, and VERY WELL. What do I have to add to that marvelous list of "The Italian Immigrant Experience in North America" theme?

And then, it hit me: the missing link. Why not set this in 1976? Montreal. That mesmerizing summer when the WORLD belonged to us -- when I was young and owned my own white suit and danced the night away in discos, even travelling to New York City a few times each summer to pick up the latest dances and music and bring the culture back to Montreal.

I'd like to point out that this was one year before Saturday Night Fever was released, before Travolta strutted his stuff on the dance floor in that iconic white suit.

There's a entire aspect of that part of my life that I can go into, but perhaps I should keep that for another time and another medium. A book? Let me just finish by saying that we used to hang out with a bunch of paesanos in Brooklyn at a place called the 2001 Odyssey Disco. It just so happened that part of SNF was shot there and the film was based on the Brooklyn disco scene. Well, ok. To be more precise, the photos for the article were taken at The Odyssey.Then some freak of nature going by the nom-de-plume of Son of Sam had to go spoil it all by shooting some of my friends' friends and their girlfriends while they chilled in their cars after a night of disco dancing.

Boy, lot's of stuff to draw from. That's why I'm so excited about this script. It all came together for me that night a few weeks ago. A bunch of Guidos from Montreal's East End. Clueless, desperate, ambitious, passionate. Caught in a vortex of conflict, complicated by a terrifying political crisis.

The summer of 76. Lost in the hedonism and thrills of sex, drugs and disco. When thousands of foreigners came here to witness and celebrate humanity in its purest form. When forces were gathering that would suck the life out of this amazing city, stealing its very soul.

Interested in reading more? Come back for a visit. I'll be posting pages in the next few days and we can take this journey together if you care to. It'll be my process but one many writers can relate to.

Oh, and the "going out on a limb" part? Well, I'll be baring my soul with first draft pages. They might suck at times, and at others, I hope, be of some value either to other screenwriters or readers who just want to be entertained. Of course, feedback, whether negative or positive, is very welcome.

The stuff's all copyrighted, so no stealing!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Who's Running the Canadian Film Industry?

It's been a while.

Had an interesting couple of weeks media-wise. Sent an application for funding to The Harold Greenberg Fund and SODEC for a feature project I'm developing around the same time an article appeared in The Gazette about the new heads of Telefilm and SODEC.

So I got a little hot under the collar and shot a letter off to the Gazette. Silly people printed it.

The Thursday before, I got interviewd on The Tommy Schnurmacher Show on CJAD about the plight of English screenwriters in Quebec.

The point? It's so damn hard to be a screenwriter in this country to begin with, the government agencies supporting our craft seem to forget that it all starts with a screenplay

Quoting Doug Taylor, writer of Splice, in the latest issue of Canadian Screenwriter:

"Telefilm needs to open up its process at the bottom. It could finance many scripts and stories this way. Scripts cost a lot less money than shooting movies."

You can click the jpg above to read the letter. Here it is if you don't want to bother:

June 21, 2010

As a screenwriter/filmmaker/delusional romantic living in Montreal, I was interested to read your feature on the new heads of Telefilm and SODEC. It's interesting to learn who is helming what in our industry, especially such important cultural institutions as these.

What's disconcerting is to discover that an accountant has been put in charge of Canada's artistic soul in one case, and a bureaucratic fossil, one of the people responsible for the flotsam littering the shores of our country from the sinking of English-Canadian cinema (phew!), in the other.

Thank our lucky stars that Quebec's francophone filmmakers keep producing such great movies.

But I ask myself, what is wrong with English screenwriters? Do we drink the same water? Is it something in our genetic makeup? Or are we dramaturgically challenged in some profound, irreparable way? Yes, perhaps there's some of that at play, but the policies of these public institutions might have something to do with it.

Vince DC