Movie Making 101

Picture courtesy of BenBois and Wikimedia Commons
Picture courtesy of BenBois and Wikimedia Commons

We are thick into preproduction of my first movie, “Most Likely to Die,” and I feel like I’m getting my Master’s degree in movie-making.  Now, for the most part, I’m on the sidelines looking in.  I am super, super lucky that Mar Vista Entertainment and Snowfall Films are producing, because they’re both fabulous companies that treat writers like family.  I’ve been kept on the project 100%, doing the production rewrites and director’s notes.  So while I have no real say in the production decisions (and frankly, I want a producer with experience calling the shots, as opposed to me, with opinions galore but not much production savvy to back ’em up), I have been kept in the loop.  Breaking news this weekend: casting.

The film’s a cabin-in-the-woods horror story about a ten-year high school reunion, so most of the characters are in their late twenties.  But there is a lovely little cameo in the film for an older actor.  The producer called me the other day to say that three wonderful actors were all duking it out for the part: Anthony Michael Hall, Michael Ironside, and Jake Busey.  I nearly swooned.

We’ll know tomorrow who will play the creepy caretaker, Tarkin.  Since “Most Likely” is rather like “The Breakfast Club” gone horribly wrong (there’s even a line in it referencing the movie), my heart belongs to AMH for the role.  But any of them would be amazing.

This is the reason one makes movies.  For the little fun moments, the chance to work with fantastic actors, the little wins along the way.  I am so lucky to be part of the team.

Murder at the Beach!

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Bouchercon 2014: Murder at the Beach is two whole months away… How will I stand the wait?

In addition to the usual amazingness of the mystery world’s premiere convention, this year I have the privilege of moderating a terrific panel.  Writers of historical mysteries, Emily Brightwell, Susanna Calkins, Charles Finch, Eleanor Kuhns, and Suzanne (S.K.) Rizzolo will be discussing “Chills, Thrills and Mysteries in the 17th – 19th Centuries.”

I may swoon.

But I will try to hold it together long enough to get the discussion rolling.  I’m particularly interested in learning how they navigate the relationships between their characters — because while we are all still human beings, then as now, the lives of people in that era were so deeply circumscribed by class and gender and race.  And relative power.  That kind of story creation requires a deft touch, and I can’t wait to learn from the masters.

Plus, I want to hear how they manage to carve out time to write when there’s all that tempting research to be read…

Learning Curve

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We are four days into the new year and I am already learning a lot. First thing I’m learning is, carving out substantial time for myself = hard.

Second thing I’ve learned is, damn, I love to write.

Clearly, I’ve got to make this work. Other than what I am doing at this very moment, which is fobbing off my son, who wants me to make him breakfast. While I love to binge-write, that is no longer possible given my life right now. (Quick pause while I feed my son.)

So today, I’ve packed a notebook and pens galore to take with me wherever we go. If I have a few minutes to myself, I can get some words down. I know how I want the next scene in my novel to go, and I’m outlining another book — I think I can manage some of that, at least, in ten-minute chunks.

Of course there’s always waking up earlier, which I often do for clients. The trick is going to be to make it a habit for myself. And easy. And fun. Right now I’ve got “hot coffee” and “bagels,” but I’m afraid if I have only food to use as a lure, my word count won’t be the only thing increasing in size this year…

I’ll let you know what else I come up with and if you have tricks to share, all advice is greatly appreciated!

New Year – New Crazy Goals

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Happy New Year!

Remind me, now, what the devil was I thinking when I made those resolutions? 1400 words every day in 2014.

Can I give up yet?

I did manage it today, but the prospect of doing this every day – especially days which, unlike today, are not days off from work – is daunting. I see a lot of early mornings and extra juggling in my future.

On the other hand, I did manage a tricky part of my novel and two blog posts today. Feels pretty good – incremental, but good.

The brilliant Michael Hauge talks about keeping “the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair” as the best way to have a writing career. (He’s a friend of mine, but I was a fan of his work long before we met, so I can genuinely recommend his books and seminars. Check him out at http://www.storymastery.com/)

I guess this is the year I put his advice to the test.

There is no Typical Day

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The writing life often provokes curiosity in our non-writing friends, and it can be tricky knowing how to answer. Do we give them the unvarnished truth? No security! Blank pages staring at us! Business models in turmoil! Or do we let them believe we lounge about in our pajamas all day? Decisions, decisions…

Someone asked me recently what a typical day looked like and I started laughing. That the laughter was slightly hysterical is beside the point. Or maybe it is the point. You’ve got to be a little crazy to do this for a living.

The thing is, there is no typical day. I do the soccer mom thing in addition to writing, and those schedules – my family’s non-negotiable schedule of commitments – those are what anchor my life. Within that framework, I usually (but not always) get in:

– Two hours of writing/research for my novel
– A conference call with a client
– 3-5 hours writing for other people: corporate or non-profit clients mostly, with the occasional script doctor or original script-for-hire job tossed in.
– Coffee or lunch with a friend or colleague, where we usually come up with a project or two to work on together.
– An hour or so dealing with e-mails and filing and clearing the Cheerios and art projects off my desk — the occupational hazard of a home office.
– An hour reading blogs, sharing and Tweeting the good stuff, and trying to navigate the world of social media. I’ve got a lot to learn; one hour often wants to be two. I compromise by listening to podcasts while I make dinner.

I write at football practice, I write waiting for school to be out, I write past my bedtime, I write best of all in the very early hours before anyone else is awake.

At the end of the day, I fall into an exhausted heap. And then minions carry me to a bower, where I am fed peeled grapes and decaf iced coffee until I am rocked by the gentle breeze into a deep, refreshing sleep…

Oh, no, wait. Sorry. That last part isn’t my *typical* day, it’s my *fantasy* day. Different post entirely.

Last Exit To Murder

Last Exit To Murder book launch party at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach, CA.
Last Exit To Murder book launch party at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach, CA.

This was the book launch party at Mysterious Galaxy for the mystery anthology, Last Exit to Murder. I managed to snap this picture just before the last few copies were sold.

This is an awesome moment in a writer’s life.

I wish I could take credit for the book flying off the shelves, but I can’t – or not much. Mine was one story out of 16 amazing tales. For a book launch party, anthologies rock. This is my third one, and they’ve all been fun: you get to meet fantastic fellow writers, everybody brings their friends and tons of books get sold. With apologies to the other anthologies, the “Last Exit to Muder” party was the best. What can I say, Sisters In Crime/LA brought cake!

Writer’s Diary – UK Edition

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Thank goodness I didn’t know about Danny Stack’s daily blog of his life as a writer before I launched LauraBrennanWrites. I would never have presumed to write about my writing life after reading about his. Scriptwriting in the UK has always had useful information; now it includes a glimpse into Danny’s daily writing routine.

It crushes mine.

I humbly suggest you check out Danny’s blog. And while I do find it fascinating to see what he’s up to on a daily basis, my favorite recent post of his is a podcast about Writing for Television. Don’t miss it!

Retreat to Advance

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The opportunity to go to a one-day writing retreat organized by Hedgebrook magically appeared on the horizon a couple of weeks ago. I jumped at it. A chance to spend the day writing, learning from writers, hanging out with writers? Heaven. Not to mention that I would perforce be free of other minion duties…

The day turned out even better than expected. I took a writing workshop with Sherri Smith, whose books I now must read — especially Lucy the Giant, which sounds delicious.

Hedgebrook, I have just learned, has residencies as well as master classes and workshops to support visionary women writers, so check out their website at https://www.hedgebrook.org/ Applications are now being accepted for next year.

Launching!

Cheers, boys!
Cheers, boys!

I’m a writer. I’ve made a living writing, at various times in my life, for theater, for a current affairs show, and for hour-long television. But whether or I make a living writing, I make my life by writing. Like my family and chocolate, it’s a non-negotiable necessity.

This blog is for everyone else out there who feels the same.

I love to read blogs by other writers (and directors and artists) that give a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their process and their lives. Now, let’s face it, most of my behind-the-scenes time is spent sitting at the computer struggling to find the right words — and to keep from frittering away too much time on video games. But there are some things I do right and a ton I do wrong, so perhaps you can learn from my mistakes. Someone should.