Should You Get Your MFA? I can think of a million reasons I would want to go back to college, and studying isn't one of them. That's not to say that I haven't considered getting an MFA from an accredited college (one with low standards in my case). My main goal in life is to become a better writer. And herein arises the debate: can good writing be taught, or does it come from a writer endlessly toiling in his craft? The Rumpus recently examined that very question.
But the origins of the MFA debate are older...much older. They date to around the same time as the beginnings of the English degree itself, in the nationalist literature movements and land-grant university boom of the Victorian era. And the rhetoric has hardly advanced since then. A fair starting point would be The Art of Fiction, an 1885 literary two-fer by Henry James and British critic Walter Besant. Its fundamental assertion is that fiction is one of the fine arts - a trainable art - despite the fact that stubborn "amateur novelists alone regard their Art as one that is learned by intuition."
Can Film Survive in a Digital World? Is shooting on film soon to be a thing of the past? For the record, I can remember having this conversation with some guys in an edit bay in 1992 when they were cutting something on an early version of the Avid. It took a long time for digital cameras to hit the market after that and even longer for the quality to be acceptable for mass distribution. But here we are in 2010, and there are now some viable alternatives to shooting on film and getting the same quality.
The RED is the first digital cinema camera to achieve 4k resolution, twice as good as high-definition and on par with 35-mm film, the traditional gold standard in image-making. The RED isn't the only one of its kind (ARRI, Sony, Panavision and Viper also make digital cinema cameras) but its 4.5 kilogram size, reasonable cost and high resolution have made it a favourite toy of contemporary filmmakers. First released in 2007, the RED cameras were developed by multimillionaire James Jannard, who made his fortune from the sunglasses and sports apparel company Oakley, Inc. Jannard is also a camera buff who owns about 1,000 cameras. In 2005, he assembled a team to develop a better camera, with the flexibility of digital and the quality of film.
Apparently, Mozart Could Compose Music, But He Couldn't Produce Cash Mozart was a brilliant composer whose legacy continues to grow as the centuries pass since his untimely death. He wrote timeless compositions that have been studied and played and admired by millions. He was a musical genius, but he was a lousy businessman. At the time of his death, he was deep in debt, and personal papers reveal that he wasn't beneath begging his fellow Freemasons for a handout.
Mozart expressed financial desperation in letters of the time, and scholars have long sought to interpret their tone. Was he being deliberately theatrical? Did they reflect some other anguish? "Without your help, the honor, peace of mind and perhaps the life itself of your friend and brother Mason will perish," Mozart wrote to another Freemason, Michael Puchberg, in July 1789.
I know I'm treading in dangerous waters by covering two Harry Potter stories in two weeks, but I thought this was an interesting topic. Can the Harry Potter movies create a new generation of readers, or are the movies only relevant to current fans? I think the real question here is whether you can call the Harry Potter books classics yet. Do they have the same kind of staying power as Lord of the Flies or To Kill a Mockingbird?
The latest installment in the film version of the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1," had a massive box office opening this weekend, clocking in at more than $125 million in the U.S. alone. Usually, that kind of popularity for a film that's based on a book has some literary blowback; publishers might even expect that the paperback would pop back onto bestseller lists, as happened this year with Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love." But considering that "[a]bout 25% of the audience for 'Deathly Hallows' was between 18 and 35, compared with 10% for 'Goblet of Fire,' as our sibling blog Company Town reports, that book sales bump may be in question. It seems that the Harry Potter viewership is aging in parallel to the demographic of those who've already read Harry Potter.
Writing rules are a double-edged sword, especially for screenwriters. They can help you structure the perfect story, but they can also stifle creativity. If you try to write following all the rules the people in-the-know developed, you're likely to grow frustrated and stop writing. During the writing process, you might consider throwing all the writing rules you've ever learned out the window, and then use the rules when you analyze the first draft and apply them during rewrites. Here's what screenwriter Jurgen Wolff had to say on the subject.
I had an email from someone asking whether I'm really against the use of templates and formulas for writing a screenplay and, if so, how can I explain the fact that most screenplay stories do fall into a three-act structure? Just to be clear, my belief is that templates and structures are better tools of analysis than of creation. During the rewriting phase, we often realize that what we've written is kind of chaotic, that we have things happening later in the story that we need to set up earlier, that a secondary character takes up too much space in the story or would add more to the story if we have her more space, and so on.
I've always said the one thing that would make most musicals perfect is if Spiderman was part of the cast. It seems U2's Bono had the same idea. He and his bandmate with the coolest name ever, The Edge, are actually developing a Spiderman musical. This just goes to show you that inside every webbed crusader, there's a song-and-dance routine just waiting to come out.
The musical has 40 pieces of music in total, including 18 songs. Only one tune - the glam rocker "A Boy Falls From the Sky" - is widely known, but Bono and the Edge say the show's music runs the gamut from garage rock ("Dancing Off the Walls") to choral arrangements. Only four or five are rock songs and the musicians want to dispel the notion that they've created a rock opera similar to The Who's "Tommy." "It's much more varied than anything we would ever achieve or set out to do with U2," says the Edge. Adds Bono: "There's big, otherworldly melodies. There's dance numbers. There's experimental, avant-garde, jagged metal pieces."
Does your plot add up? Are you writing for the sake of writing, or is there purpose to your prose?
Robert Rodriguez on How Technology Has Changed Filmmaking - Gizmodo
Everyone's favorite rebel with camera, Robert Rodriguez, dishes on the current state of filmmaking. His first feature was shot for $7,000 in 1992, which he thinks is about 10 times more than what he would need if he shot the film today.
How George Lucas Changed Special Effects in Filmmaking Forever - Techland
What do you do when you're a young filmmaker and the technology doesn't exist to create the special effects you need for your film? If you're like George Lucas, you invent the technology.
Whether you're a fan of the Harry Potter books and films or not, you have to acknowledge that it is a remarkable worldwide phenomenon - one that I believe created a generation of enthusiastic readers. Harry Potter books crossed that rather large gap between literary success and pop culture benchmark. It also put J.K. Rowling on the map, and it's hard to believe that she will just walk away from the billion dollar franchise, but according to the actor, Daniel Radcliffe, who's bringing her main character to life on screen, she's doing just that. In his own words:
"Basically, it amounted to the fact that she felt I had been very good in this 'Harry Potter' film, and as a reward for that, she wasn't going to [write] any more 'Harry Potter' [books]," Radcliffe revealed to MTV News. "I'm sure she will be writing other books," he continued. "But I can pretty much guarantee that Harry will not be a feature."
An Indie Film that Looks Like a Big-Budget Special Effects Movie
Aliens, spaceships, buildings blowing up? you need a huge budget for those kinds of effects, right? Not if you're the Strause brothers. Colin and Gregg Strause set out to make a movie about an alien invasion for $50,000, but the trailer they created to woo investors helped them increase their budget to $10 million. This may still be a relatively small figure by Hollywood standards, but it allowed them to up the production values, and they secured a distribution deal with Rogue Pictures.
They didn't have the money to pay their crew of about 20 people, raising the funds through loans and investors. What's more, they had to sell skeptical actors and agents on the project, where the compensation was deferred. "It wasn't easy," Greg says. "We were telling everybody, 'You're going to make zero. And we've never done this before.'" When shooting at Greg's apartment complex garage, they would have to stop between takes so the parking attendant could retrieve residents' cars. With only themselves to please and no studio notes, "Skyline" was conceived, written, shot, edited and released in less than a year. "It's been the least stressful thing we've ever done," Greg says.
Legendary '70s rocker Patti Smith has made the leap from acclaimed singer/musician to award winning author. She won this year's National Book Award for her memoir titled Just Kids, a book the New York Times called "sweetly evocative." She accepted the award and revealed she has had a long standing love affair with books.
Ms. Smith - clearly the favorite of the night - choked up as she recalled her days as a clerk in the Scribner's bookstore in Manhattan. "I dreamed of having a book of my own, of writing one that I could put on a shelf," she said. "Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don't abandon the book. There is nothing in our material world more beautiful than the book."
Another story about the growing trend of using DSLR cameras to shoot films. It's a small, affordable camera that creates a beautiful image.
Lack of Passion and Caring About Music at Majors - Hypebot
Many blame the Internet for the decline of the music industry, but DJ Premier thinks it's a lack of passion by the people in charge that's the real problem.
Crowd-Sourced Johnny Cash Music Video Is a Work of Digital Art - Mashable
This is a great tribute to Johnny Cash and excellent use of crowd-sourcing. The organizers say 250,000 people from 172 countries have participated so far to create the legendary singer/songwriter's final music video.
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.
Creating a blog is easy enough to pull off these days. All you need is an Internet connection and the ability to express yourself in relatively short posts. Maintaining the blog is a little more tricky because that requires finding the time to post on a frequent and regular basis. Occasionally, it's tough to squeeze in precious minutes between work schedules, meetings, family time, etc.
Luckily, there are some labor-light posts you can put together on those days you can't find the time to create an original post. In fact, you may even create a day of the week or month that you devote to these types of posts. Let's face it, we can't be creatively "on" all the time. These types of posts will give your brain a break and still allow you to put fresh content on your blog.
1. Video Posts - Thanks to sites like YouTube, Break, Brightcove, and others, you can find tons of video content to post on your blog. Whether you want to include something outrageously funny, intensely inspiring, or fundamentally educational, there's probably a video out there to match the overall theme of your blog. The videos you watch and enjoy enough to share says a lot about your personal brand.
2. Polls - Everyone loves to participate in polls. They're interactive, they're fun, and they give us a way to express our opinions. Thanks to sites like PollMonkey, addpoll, Mister Poll, etc., polls can also be free and easy to set up. The first time you create a poll may take a few minutes while you're learning the process, but after that it shouldn't take much time to create and incorporate a poll on your blog.
3. Lists - Create a quick list of things on your mind. A famous example of this type of blog post was done by science fiction author John Scalzi. He posted a list of things he had to do that day. Most of the items on the list were actual, mundane things you would see on any "to-do" list, but one was included as a joke: "Tape Bacon to My Cat." He even snapped a picture of his cat with bacon on it and included it in the post. That one post became one of the biggest draws to Scalzi's blog - it just resonated with people for whatever reason. He even got coverage in some mainstream media outlets because of it. Scalzi now gets over 40,000 visitors a day on his blog, and he credits that one simple post as the catalyst for its initial growth.
Having an active blog doesn't necessarily mean it has to be a huge time killer. If you pressure yourself to include blogging time in your day, you're likely to burn out quickly. Relax. You can rely on simple content that doesn't take a long time to create as long as the basic content is true to your personal brand.
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.
Do you know Robert McKee? Chances are, if you've ever written or attempted to write a screenplay, you know McKee as the master of story structure. He's the author of what's known as the screenwriters' bible, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting. His philosophies and methods stretch across a number of storytelling mediums, so many novelists and playwrights are disciples of McKee. Author and marketing expert Jonathan Fields did an excellent six part interview with the story structure guru that's well worth watching.
This series is a wide-ranging, long interview (that's why it's split into 6 parts) that covers everything from McKee's career in theater, film and his ascendance as the world's storytelling-master to the use of story in books, film, TV, blogging, business, marketing and selling. McKee is frank, not all that concerned about being PC, immensely generous with his knowledge and insights and tells some incredible stories. Be sure to tune in to the future session where he tells how he met Kirk Douglas. And, he even puts me on the spot to improv a provocative headline and gets me to talk about why I rarely publicly share my dark-side in my writing.
Long on Talent but Short on Marketing Funds during Awards Season
Sporting a tighter belt when you're a small independent studio often means you have an uphill climb during awards season in Hollywood. Bigger studios spend mega-bucks on advertising campaigns in industry trades to try to influence voters in award competitions. Awards, after all, can mean more earnings and greater prestige. How can the independents compete? An article in the Los Angeles Times tells how one small studio is trying to get noticed.
Amid all the spare-no-expense campaigning, Andy Garcia can be found driving his own car around town, trying to drum up award voters' interest in "City Island," a tiny movie that has proved its doubters wrong at every turn. "We can't compete" with the money big studios spend for awards, Garcia said. "All you can do is your best effort with what you have."
Finally, I Have Something in Common with Jon Bon Jovi
Eighties and nineties rock superstar Jon Bon Jovi has announced that he is bored and fat. To which I say, welcome to the club, Mr. Bon Jovi. It seems that age has tempered the rocker's feelings of immortality. The way he tells it, he's not so much going down in a blaze of glory as much as he's creeping into old age.
"I'm not the fat Elvis. At 48, I look OK. But you know ? I'm coming to real good terms with getting older."You become that thing that you looked at your parents and the older people in your life, and said: 'No! I don't want to live to be that old! I don't want to!' But it's actually ? much better than dying."He added: "And there are too many people that are my age, that are dying. God, I didn't want to be that! That would be awful! You can see why people get fat, grow old, give up!
What do you know about audio or video or photography? Your primary talent may be words, but in today's online, high-tech world, grabbing your reader's interest may take a little more than words on a page (or screen). There may come a time when you have to wow them with all the bells and whistles you can muster. Has Web 2.0 has skewed readers' expectations somewhat? Here's what author JC Hutchins has to say.
Based on anecdotal and professional experience, I believe in my marrow that now is the time for talespinners to get savvy with several storytelling media. Within years, I expect we'll see an explosive rise of enhanced ebooks, app-based fiction and transmedia narratives that will leverage technologies and trends that have already become mainstream.
Isn't it ironic that they use something called "stop" motion to create animation? It's a long, tedious process that can sometimes take years to complete. Today, a software exists to simulate the effects of stop motion, but some animators still prefer the traditional way of moving a figure's various body parts a fraction, shooting a single frame of video, and then moving the same body part another fraction. But for those of you interested in the software route, The New York Times takes a look at what's available.
To simulate movement and expression, animators bend or twist their objects ever so slightly between shots, a painstaking process that makes it difficult to achieve consistency from frame to frame. But now, software can help remedy that, with programs that help check the alignment of the camera and the lighting of the scene while letting the animator flip between recent images to see if the items are moving realistically.
It may sound a bit counterintuitive, but musician Phil Elverum says he owes about 80% of his success to the practice of file sharing, a practice that allows people to share his music freely. And by freely, I mean he doesn't make any money when Billy shares one of Phil's songs with Sandy. How can that be? Elverum explains.
My approach to the question of making a living off this "work" has been to make physically attractive objects that seem worthy of purchase. Of course there will be people who don't care about owning an object, or maybe don't have any money, or maybe who live in Siberia, and so they can just find a way to hear it for free if they want to. I don't think there's an inherent moral duty for the listener to support the singer.
What is transmedia and why should you care? Transmedia is way to take your characters and story beyond the restrictions of a single medium. Expand your fictional world and create more opportunities for yourself.
So, editors everywhere are collectively giving the literary world a big old "I told you so." Everyone needs an editor, even Jane Austen. The novelist extraordinaire has been caught with her typos down. She's known the world over as a crisp, clean writer with not so much as a comma out of place, but Oxford professor Kathryn Sutherland has been combing through some of Austen's personal papers and handwritten drafts, and she's discovered that spelling and grammar errors are plentiful. This is from a phone interview Sutherland did with NPR.
Well, it's very hard across the phone. I mean, lots of this evidence is visual. But what I can give you is a little passage from William Gifford, who I believe is the man who corrected her English for the press. And this is what he says about the manuscript of "Emma": It is very carelessly copied. Though the handwriting is excellently plain and there are many short omissions which must be inserted, I will readily correct the proof for you.
When Times Were Tough, People Used to Go the Movies to Make Things Better
The New York Times has a story about a new movie by director John Wells called The Company Men. Essentially, it's about two executives who lose their jobs and face the stark reality of losing their income and identity at the same time. The article takes the angle that movies used to be tools of change. Filmmakers used to create such powerful messages that society and government adopted said message and ran with them. That doesn't seem to be the case with movies about the current economic downturn.
"I'm always very careful," [Wells] cautioned, "about making it seem like a film or a piece of literature is telling you to eat your vegetables." But, he said, it may be time for the movies to take a look at what's happening on underemployed Main Street, and to applaud those fighting their way out of the problem. "One of the things that makes America great is that we actually do kind of suck it up," he said. And, who knows? A good movie might move us, and our dismal economy, through the bottom of the second act.
Stories are rampant on the web these days about how hard it is to make money in the modern music business. Some have even used the word "impossible." But, fear not! There is a way to make it according to Grammy-nominated mastering engineer Adrian Carr. His take?
Here's my insight for success in the music business: try referencing a positive balance to the two factors that have created the most change in our industry: internet and technology. For example, I might lose a job over the internet because the band had no budget for mastering and they went to the cheapest guy they could find. However, if they love what I did, and I've made some new friends on Facebook, I'm betting that when they do have a budget, they'll be back.
Ah, the sweet, sweet smell of rejection. Sweet? I mean it. If we're never rejected, how else are going to prove people wrong? All the greats faced it. Lincoln lost five elections. Michael Jordon got cut from the high school basketball team. The Beatles were told by a record company they'd never make it because they were a guitar band. The "experts" get it wrong all the time. Want more proof?
Stephen King's first published novel sold four million copies in paperback. And garnered 30 rejections from publishers. One of them wrote, "'We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell." Tired of rejection slips, King reportedly threw the manuscript into the garbage - but his wife fished it out again, and he decided to try one more time.
Go Ahead, Make My Day...with a Memorable Line from a Movie
The New York Times is wondering where all the memorable lines from movies have gone. And I'm wondering if we were really better off when everyone was telling their co-workers to "talk to the hand" or replying to praise or acknowledgment with a "Yeah, baby." I love a good movie line, but there are times when hearing "we're going to need a bigger boat," grates on you just a tad. Here's an excerpt from the article.
It may be that a Web-driven culture of irony latches onto the movie lines for something other than brilliance, or is downright allergic to the kind of polish that was once applied to the best bits of dialogue. Thus one of the most frequently repeated lines of the last year came from "Clash of the Titans" which scored an unimpressive 28 percent positive rating among critics on the Rottentomatoes.com Web site after it was released by Warner Brothers in April. "Release the Kraken!" thundered Liam Neeson as Zeus - spawning good-natured mockery on obscene T-shirts and in Kraken-captioned photos of angry kitty cats.
There are fans and then there are superfans. The two are similar in that they love and appreciate your work, but fans leave it at that. Superfans take real personal interest in your work and, in some ways, take ownership of your success. To truly make it big, you need the superfans. Make no mistake about it, you do owe them a debt of gratitude, but how far should you take your gratitude? According to singer/songwriter John Roderick, it's a tough line to draw in the sand.
Superfans want access, but bands, especially bands on tour, have to CONTROL access to themselves...Time is limited and demands are high. As bands get bigger, the demands increase and the time available shrinks. Access to the band, especially the kind of unmediated and casual access a superfan treasures, is one of the first things to go after sleep and good nutrition. It's never apparent to the fan how much energy it takes a musician to sit and have a relaxed one-on-one with them... before... a show.