Monday, April 21, 2014

Everything old is new again

When I was just a young sprout of a screenwriter, I was told there were seven basic plots--boy meets girl, revenge, etc. I was going to look those up for you, but now there are lists of up to 35!

Oh, well, the fact remains that creativity does not mean originality.

Recently, some filmmakers took on this subject at the Beijing Film Festival.

One producer said it was a triangle--the creator comes up with an original work, a distributor makes sure it reaches an audience, and then the audience's reaction goes back to the creator--I would say that last would be if the film made money, the H'wood people then ask for more from the creator.

Nothing wrong with pre-existing material--books, comics, popular series.

The idea is to find a fresh way to tell an old story. Remember when you first saw Keanu stroll up a wall in THE MATRIX.

Tom Cruise's producing partner Paul Wagner says there are no new ideas--it's how you put old ideas together.

I would also say you can get good results by combining genres. My project is an animated and comedic form of a serious police series.

Even the agency WME told me it was a clever idea.

Check out:

What oldie would you like to remodel?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Pixar's Ed Catmull has a book out on wrangling creatives

It's called Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.

I have not read it because since all my bad eye operations, I cannot read books--and this does not seem to have an audio.

But Catmull, I do know, is someone I am trying to interest in my script Paw & Order--an animated comedic version of the iconic show with a wolf and bee as the two cops.

For more on this, check out:

Anyway, Catmull targets fear of failure as a block to originality. I would call my effort--which I dreamed--the originality of repurposing. After 30 some years writing scripts, my biggest fear is not getting a listen (Ed never answered my email). Or that Dick Wolf will beat me up.

Catmull apparently uses a lot of his book to describe his activities in physics and then computer science. He sure sounds smart.

He also talks a lot, reviews say, about how to make the unknown safe. The unknown, he says, is too scary for most people. Aw--really?--we call it fantasy.

At Pixar, home of Toy Story, Toy Story 2 (which was supposed to be straight to video but wasn't), they have leaderless brain trusts to pull creatives through troublesome middle stages of creation (I guess where all the unk-unks--as we used to call  unknown unknowns when I was in the aerospace  industry--lie).

Early drafts, he says, are not miniatures of the beautiful adults they will become--but ugly and incomplete.

Apparently he pushes his brain trusts and creatives so hard one dad forgot to leave his son at daycare and left him in the car.

Is it me--or would Ed and I maybe not get along that well? To me, watching an idea unfold, unfold more, exciting and fun. I don't need a committee to bigfoot it until they pay for it.

I want to be whispered, not wrangled.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Young does not mean smart

I think this notion got started in my heydey--the 60s. Never trust anyone over 30, etc. You notice that said--never TRUST, not ALWAYS BELIEVE PEOPLE UNDER 30. But because the electronics have gotten so arcane that only young people with time can master some of the subtleties, it persists that young kids are all-knowing.

Half the time, it's those same people who made everything unnecessarily convoluted.

In Ad News, Brendan Coyne says the genius behind Google Glass, Ed Sanders, saw people looking down at their phones and thought life should not happen while you are on your smartphone.

No, it should happen while you stare into the half-distance at some little gizmo in your glasses.

Then he said the fatal words--the most creative solution would likely come from the youngest person in the room.

Oh, take off your rose-colored Google Glasses, Ed! Maybe some completely unneeded hookup app for left-handed lesbians will come from some youngster. Or smells for your phone. Or even a way to fall in a manhole looking for a pizza joint.

But I promise you--things will begin to tilt back the other way. Your whole "life" is in your phone, you don't even know your mother's number, and you will lose your phone. You won't learn cursive and someone will send you a love letter.

I like the commercial Where Jack from Jack in the Box is asked about his watch. "Cool clock bracelet--did you invent it?"

Deadpan as always, Jack says, "No."

Friday, March 14, 2014

A book about nothing

Zero, zip, nada. Actually, nothing is fascinating.

Check out a book called NOTHING: Surprising Insights Everywhere from Zero to Oblivion, with contributions from 21 leading scientists and writers.

This spans the fields of medicine, physics, neuroscience, biology, and cosmology.

You will find out where oblivion can be found and what it can teach us.

Why does nothing work on illnesses--nothing meaning a sugar pill?

How can clearing the brain of all thoughts cause structural changes in the brain--some call this meditation.

What came before the Big Bang?

Why was it so hard to invent the zero?

This gem is published by the New Scientist--a rag I sometimes pretend to half-understand. There are copies on my desk as I write this. have nothing left to say about nothing. And that's saying something.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Do critters in our "guts" influence our creativity?

Everyone's innards contain at least six pounds of bacteria--which is equal to the size of a brain. This according to a story by Dr. Francis Collins, in Government Executive Magazine, Jan 27, 2014.

These organisms developed along with the fetus, to a baby, to a child...etc. They aid digestion and immunity, among other functions.

Dr. Elaine Hsaio, though an award from the National Institutes of Health, is tracing how gut bacteria may control your mind.

One bacterium sends messages that link the gut to your mind through the vagus nerve. Another shapes the immune system.

Working with mice, she has shown many links between mother and developing baby. Maternal infections can affect brain development, for example.

She has even shown that when mice display autistic tendencies but are given probiotics, those tendencies can disappear.

I wonder what magic bugs this young woman has in her insides. Pretty creative. Maybe she will come up with a painting bacterium or an inventing germ.

All down in our "tummy" brain!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Achy-breaky glass no more

Glass is such a wuss. One trip to the floor--and bam! Broken into pieces. Without glass, we might not have the word "smithereens."

Now researchers at McGill's Department of Mechanical Engineering has made tougher glass. If you drop it, it sort of deforms, but does not shatter.

The scientists were taken with mollusks (this is called biomimicry--patterning after natural items). The shells of these sea creatures are 95% chalk, which is brittle as we know. But nature added nacre--mother-of-pearl--which is tiny tablets sort of like Legos.

The team studies the internal "weak" boundaries of the chalk and nacre and then used lasers to engrave networks of microcracks in glass slides to create similar weak boundaries.

Somehow--I was losing it here--this stopped the cracks from continuing to spread and become larger. The glass sort of bent rather than breaking.

This process, they say, absorbs the energy from an impact. They also say it could be scaled up--they were using the glass slides lying around the lab, but bigger sheets would work, too.

Where does bulletproof glass fit in? Tempered windshield glass? Would it ever just sproing inward, stop, and remain whole? Like in a ... cartoon?

Monday, February 10, 2014

We'd be nothing without this guy

When you stop to think of it, what benefits society more--a meticulous study of fruitfly DNA or a Bugs Bunny cartoon?

I am writing animated comedies now--and sometimes wonder if I am benefiting society, if I ever did. But then I read about the Orange County Regional History Center's show on "The Art of Warner Bros Cartoons."

And there he was--the Wascally Wabbit! I remember my ex and my daughter on Saturdays laughing away in the living room while the Wile E. and Road blazed around the desert trying to kill each other.

This show--created by the Museum of Modern Art in NY--lauds the greats, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Friz Frelend and other giants of animation.

After "Steamboat Willie" with Mickey in 1928, moving shorts (ha ha, moving shorts) became the rage. Over at the "other" place--Warner's--Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes were "tuning up."

At Warner's, they wrote cartoons for grownups. The curator of the exhibit said kids loved thinking they were part of the joke--seeing something for grownups but safe for them.

I could not describe better how I think of my Paw & Order projects. Not that I have any business comparing myself to the people who brought you Pepe LePew.

The lesson is--you don't have to be highfalutin' to be worthwhile. In fact, it helps if you are not.