Why the Best Picture #OscarFail Really Stings for La La Land

A little different blog today. Taking a break from the screenplay stories to share a thought about last night’s show.

Like many people, I spent Sunday evening watching (and live-tweeting #selfplug) the Oscars. 95% of it was a pretty standard, boring show.  Then Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway stepped onto the stage to deliver the award of the evening, Best Picture.

After what we thought was some showmanship by Beatty, La La Land was announced as the winner! The La La Land crew and cast stormed the stage to accept their award. They were ecstatic! They were celebrating! Then this happened:

Whoops! Moonlight was actually the winner of Best Picture and #OscarFail was born. This moment was awkward, shocking and really sucks for La La Land if you know the campaigning process for the Oscars.

Let me explain. In theory, Best Picture should go to the best movie of the year. However, this isn’t the case because it is all done by voting and people can be swayed and wooed.

This is why Oscar campaigning is so important. To win an Oscar, a film’s producer and studio must run ads, set up free screenings and hold fancy parties, lunches, brunches and dinners. Their goal is to get their film seen and loved by Academy voters. The video below does a great job explaining the campaigning process:

As the video mentioned, Oscar campaigns are expensive. The 2017 Oscar campaigns cost between $3 to $10 million. That’s more than the budget for Moonlight ($1.5 million)! They’re also a grueling process, lasting up to a year because studios want to make sure their film is in the best position to take home the gold.

Clearly, Oscar campaigning is insane. So imagine being the team behind La La Land. You’ve spent all that time and money trying to raise your film above the competition. Then for one fleeting moment your dream became a reality. You succeeded! Then, well, this moment again:

In context, this moment really stings for La La Land, eh?

Until Next Time,

Mr. Struggle

 

Why the Best Picture #OscarFail Really Stings for La La Land

Live-Tweeting the Oscars

The glitz, glamour and GOLD of the Oscars is tomorrow night (start time is 8:30 pm EST). To celebrate, I’ll be live-tweeting the night’s events. Get excited like Danny B:

Danny Boyle Jumps

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As someone who’s fashion-sense never left hammer pants, I don’t feel well-suited (gotta love puns) to comment on the red carpet. With that said, I do know movies! So expect witty banter, intrigue and shock as the actual award ceremony unfolds.

Follow my Twitter to watch in real time and use #StruggleOscars to join the conversation.

Once its all done, I’ll have a complete Storify of the night’s events! Enjoy and let the best (campaigned) movie win!

EDIT: Here is my updated Storify story: https://storify.com/MrStruggle/lets-struggle-through-the-oscars

See you tomorrow,

Mr.Struggle

Live-Tweeting the Oscars

When Technology Fails

I woke up this morning inspired to write. I love those days. It’s when I write the real gold that holds my script together. On days like today, I feel like this:

Basketball player dancing

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Feeling inspired, I booted up my almost decade old MacBook Pro and opened my screenplay software of choice, Final Draft. I was then off to the races. One scene, two scenes, three scenes done in an hour and a half! I was in the zone and flying through my script.

Then boop. My laptop shut off. I quickly pushed the on-button and my computer slowly rebooted. I felt as nervous as those people in the audience during the original Paranormal Activity trailer:

Scared audience in a theatre.

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After what felt like a decade of waiting, my computer was running again. I opened Final Draft and my three new scenes weren’t there. They disappeared like the box office returns for the later Paranormal Activity films. This moment I felt like him again:

GIF: Camera pans closer to Ben Affleck with a sad face. There is a caption on the bottom:

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Clearly, I was too busy writing that I forgot to hit save. I guess this is the risk we take with technology. It can always fail us.

However, I’m not going to stop using a computer or Final Draft to write my scripts. Screenwriting is more than what you write, it’s how your write it. There is specific formatting that you must follow if you want your work to be sold.


“Screenwriting is more than what you write, it’s how your write it. There is specific formatting that you must follow if you want your work to be sold.”


In all honesty,  it would difficult to create this formatting without specific software. So I need Final Draft, Celtx or some other screenwriting program. The computer though, maybe it’s time for a new one.

Until Next Time,

Mr. Struggle

When Technology Fails

Getting Writer Blocked

My writing process is very goal-oriented – I try to write 2 to 5 pages everyday, come up with a new idea once a week and finish a script a month. I need to always be striving towards a goal because I am so easily distracted. My attention span makes the dog from Up look like any hacker in a terrible b-movie.

Old-fashion hacking scene

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Side Note: who remembers Swordfish? Yeah, neither do I.

See! I am not disciplined. This is why I hate writer’s block. When I can’t think of what to write, I miss my deadlines and stop focusing on writing altogether. I recently experienced a serious case of writer’s block that made me feel like this:

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Here’s a little more about my latest battle with a writer’s ultimate nemesis. I was working on a new script about a employee trying to deal with a very corporate boss. I was racing through it. I had the first 25 pages done in a week.

I arrived at a critical scene that kicked off the second act. It was all going good, but I just couldn’t get the scene right. I wasn’t sure how subtle I should make the turn, if I had the right characters in the scene (probably means I need to spend more time differentiating each character) or how the conflict should play out.

I kept coming back to the scene. I rewrote, deleted, rewrote, deleted, rewrote, deleted…

What Feels Like 38.8 Days Later

Rewrote, deleted, rewrote and deleted it again.

It was infuriating. I couldn’t figure out how to beat this writer’s block. I tried a beat sheet to lay out the scene. That idea failed. I bounced ideas off a fellow writer. He was no help. Finally, I got inspiration from Neo himself, Keanu Reeves.

My friend convinced me to see Keanu’s film, John Wick. I enjoyed the film, it’s a tight action movie with a simple story that works. Character motives are clear, the plot moves and the tone is fun. Check out the trailer:

I’m back. No joke, I just spent the last 30 minutes watching John Wick clips. I swear a gold fish could finish a blog post faster than me. Think about how crazy that sounds – you can’t even use a computer underwater!


“I swear a gold fish could finish a blog post faster than me. Think about how crazy that sounds – you can’t even use a computer underwater!”


Anyway, this simple, but effective action movie made it obvious why I was stuck: my plot was too muddled and I couldn’t neatly transition to act two. My solution? Follow John Wick’s lead and take revenge on my script by tearing the convoluted mess apart. The script now resides in trash can heaven. Thank you Keanu for your endless wisdom.

Keanu Reeves Saying You're Welcome

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The next step is to restart my simplified script, or I could just watch Swordfish.

Actually 99 Minutes Later

Back from watching Swordfish. That was not a good movie.

Until next time,

Mr. Struggle

Getting Writer Blocked

My Latest Screenplay Idea Felt Perfect

Inspiration strikes me at the oddest times. Many writers have rituals to help them write  and brainstorm new ideas. Ernest Hemmingway, for instance, enjoyed a drink or four to get inspired. I never had these rituals. It felt too constraining to have a single hub where I’d dream up all my stories. This particular idea, though, did come to me at a peculiar time: on the toilet.

This impromptu brainstorm session began pretty typically. Most of my ideas at the start were shit. I must have come with five or six stinkers. Then, out of nowhere, a golden nugget popped into my head. This was amazing! I beat writer’s block! I was so excited, I even whispered to myself:

GIF: Matt Damon holds up paper in Good Will Hunting

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This idea had everything I look for in a story – it was emotional, original and bankable for producers. All writers know that ecstatic feeling when you come up with the perfect idea. It’s like winning the lottery, but way less likely to happen. This is how I felt. I was over the moon.


“All writers know that ecstatic feeling when you come up with the perfect idea. It’s like winning the lottery, but way less likely to happen. This is how I felt. I was over the moon.”


Let me breakdown this story for you. We follow a young man, mid 20s, who works as a plumber at some Ivy League school. He lives in a bad neighbourhood and his friends are a terrible influence on him. They all drink, hit on girls, get in fights and commit petty crime (you know, the redeemable kind). During one of his late-night shifts at work he notices an impossible math question on a chalk board. You assume he is going to ignore it and continue cleaning, but to the shock of the audience the plumber actually solves it. He just disproved all our preconceived expectations; he is actually a genius!

I stopped after finishing that sentence. Something felt off in my synopsis. Then a horrible feeling rushed through my body like bad chinese food. I realized my mistake. My original idea would have been perfect…in 1996. I just pitched Good Will Hunting.

GIF: Camera pans closer to Ben Affleck with a sad face. There is a caption on the bottom:  GIF Source

This is not the first time I’ve brainstormed an unoriginal, original idea. It’s one of the core problems I’ve encountered while writing scripts. Storytelling has been around for a millennia, meaning countless stories have already have been told. The challenge is to discover an idea that’s original to you. Or you could invent a time machine, whatever is easier.

Until next time,                                                                                                                                      Mr.Struggle

My Latest Screenplay Idea Felt Perfect