Part of me wishes that before a movie started in a theatre, that a slide would go up that would state the film's budget, and the number of days of principal photography. It would help people appreciate the true differences between films. That doesn't happen though, so people judge each film as if they're made with the same resources. To some degree, that's unfair.
Last night, I went to see The Visit, in one of those new, fancy theaters, with the reserved, reclining seats (in Marquette, MI, of all places). Going into it, I knew that M. Night Shyamalan shot this film for only $5M. I also knew that it was a very specific genre film: a house-horror tale, which is very common: due to a limited budget, shoot 85% of a horror film in or around a house. My next film will be similar, if I can get it off the ground. Because of the limiting factors, these films are extremely difficult to pull off.
If you compare The Visit to The Sixth Sense (which was made for $40M in 1999 dollars) or Signs (which was made for $72M in 2002 dollars), you're probably going to come away a bit disappointed. But, if you compare The Visit to $5M movies (in current dollars), you'll get a more realistic expectation of how good this movie is.
The Visit does a good job of mixing horror and comedy in a limited space. The young actors (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould) are superbly cast. There's an inherent danger in building a story around young people, because it's much harder to find young people who can act well (given their limited experience) than older people who can. The film also does a fine job with pacing, building up the intrigue and suspense as the story unfolds.
Is The Visit a masterpiece? No. Is it a pretty darn good movie done on a low budget that could possible signal a rebound of M Night's career? Absolutely.
I didn't hate many of the later M Night films as much as other people did. Aside from the ending, I liked The Village. Besides M Night's performance, I liked Lady in the Water. And, despite its problems, I liked The Happening a lot more than most people did. (I didn't see The Last Airbender or After Earth, and have no intention of ever seeing them.)
What I think The Visit does, is give M Night a couple more chances. That's a good thing. He tends to blow endings. He tends to ruin movies by casting himself in them. Yet, when he's connecting, he's still one of the best writer/directors around. He has a very distinct voice as an artist, and I want him to have a lot more opportunities to make films. He's only 45 years old, after all.
I'd recommend going to see The Visit, or at least streaming it when it comes to Netflix. Keep in mind that the whole film cost $5M, or 1/8th the budget of a horror movie like Final Destination 5. Hopefully, M Night gets four times the $5M budget for his next one.
A couple of days ago I flew from LAX to MQT to start two weeks of vacation in the rural Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where I was born. While at airports and in planes, I like to observe human behavior for future character creation tips. I ran into a couple of dandies on this trip.
First off, I really like small behaviors that can go a long way in defining who a person is, especially non-verbal behaviors. The more we learn who the characters are, the more satisfying the narrative is going to be.
Second off, there're two types of assholes. Asshole Type 1 is a person who realizes they're an asshole, and just doesn't care. Asshole Type 2 is a person who just doesn't realize that they're being an asshole. Both have intriguing aspects. I think each has their benefit to a story given the narrative situation.
When I entered the Delta terminal at LAX, it was crowded as all can be, as it always is. Since the check-in and security process went amazingly quick, I had a couple of hours to kill. I thought I'd sit down and have breakfast. However, every seat at every bar and restaurant was taken (the terminal is rather small for such a huge airport).
So I decided to grab a cup of coffee and to sit down and write for a bit. They now have a/c posts (of course not enough of them) where multiple people can plug in multiple devices. Not wanting to kill any battery juice before I took off, I searched for a seat near a post. There was not one.
What got me though, is that many of the people sitting next to the posts, had nothing plugged in. There were ample seats away from the posts, yet they chose to sit near the posts, seemingly to a/c block those who needed a charge. I'm assuming that the majority of these people were Type 2 assholes, not aware of what they were doing. Instantly, I can read a ton into what kind of people (or characters) they are.
I board the plane. I sit down and wait through a minor mechanical problem. The plane takes off. Instantly, the lady in front of me reclines her chair all the way back. For the duration of the flight, she's the only person that I can see that has her chair reclined back, and it's not to take a nap. She just wanted more room—at my expense. There went four hours of potential writing time because I no longer had enough room to open a laptop.
I'm guessing she's a Type 1 asshole. She's a person that just doesn't give a fuck. She'll gladly take some of what is mine in order to have more for herself.
On the second leg of the flight, I board a much smaller plane, and have a window seat. Same exact thing happens. The only person on the entire plane to lean their seat back is sitting in front of me. On this plane, however, the amount of legroom is unconscionably small. The seat drops back into my face. It was the most claustrophobic experience I've had since being shoved into an MRI tube.
I loudly discuss with the person next to me how little space I have. The man in front of me doesn't care. He's clearly a Type 1 asshole. What a villain. I plotted my revenge, but the flight was so short I didn't have ample time to carry it out.
Next time you want to efficiently establish that someone is a Type 1 asshole, have them get on a small plane and drop the seat back into the lap of the person who's sitting behind them. Small behaviors like this speak volumes about who the person is—most likely in many facets of their life.
Here's a picture of me trying to read on that second flight, with my book above the headrest of the asshole who sat in front of me, because that was the only space available:
Haven't blogged in a bit, but I've been busy. Have been doing some writing, mostly rewriting the part of my new novel that I lost in the Windows 10 debacle. The more I write with Scrivener on my new MacBook Air, the more I love it.
Tomorrow afternoon, I'm flying out of LAX, to Detroit, and then to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, to spend a couple weeks of vacation time in my hometown of Ishpeming. I'm hoping to get some writing done there. There's a nice, old library in my hometown that's a good environment for writing. Will also try to take some pictures of the fall colors as well.
Can't wait to get out of this horrendous Los Angeles heat. Hopefully, by the time I return in early October, the worst will be over. The cooler the weather, the better the sleep, the more writing gets accomplished. I'm not sure how in the hell Hemingway did it while staying in Key West and Cuba.
I've had my MacBook Air for a few days. I downloaded the newest version of Scrivener. I set up all my Chrome tabs with my dictionaries/thesauruses/grammar sites/etc. I've tweaked the rig (including hiding the annoying dock on the bottom), I transferred over the novel I'm currently writing, and actually spent several hours putting words on the virtual paper.
So far, I'm completely understanding why novelists are shifting towards Scrivener on MacBook Airs. First off, the Mac Scrivener version is much more complete than the Windows version. I've not encountered any bugs as of yet, either.
The MacBook Air has many things going for it. Even though it's not very powerful—for writing it's got plenty of power. I'm really beginning to love the keyboard (it's comfortable during fast-typing). The thing boots up in a breeze. The power cord connects with a magnet and is so easy to remove. The battery will last a full day of writing. The whole thing is damn light; it's a dream to carry around.
I'm glad I went with the 13-inch screen (vs. the 11 inch). Once I launched Scrivener and did the divided screen (so you can see two parts of the novel at the same time), I realized that the bigger screen was the way to go. The rig is still extremely portable. (Remember, only the bigger version has the SD card slot as well).
So far, I'm elated. I can't wait to write a bunch of killer novels and screenplays on this thing. I'm almost glad that it's not too powerful because it will always remain my writing-only rig. I won't gunk it up with anything else.
One lame thing: on the Mac an em-dash is alt/option plus shift plus -+. How diabolical is that? Thankfully, there's a setting in Scrivener to convert double dash to em-dash, so all is good.
Yes, the MacBook Air is a pretty expensive option for starving writers. If you can afford it though, it's probably worth the purchase price because of its stability, functionality, and portability. It's got me pumped to do more writing.
I did it. Today I joined the Dark Side. I knew I had to at some point. Today was the day.
I'm not a Mac guy. I had one once, which I used to edit a movie. I didn't use it for much more than that though. I like the flexibility and price of PC machines. The absurd Apple prices really put me off. I just don't get where the value is.
That being said, I'm a writer. Writers tend to write on Macs, especially novelists. Now, in that previous sentence, I didn't want a comma, I wanted an em-dash (this sentence too). I'm used to hitting alt-0151 to get that beloved dash. I have no idea how to get it on the Mac. Hence, the issue. Now I have to relearn a new world.
However, I'm sick of what the Windows 10 upgrade did to my PC laptop and what it does to Scrivener. I've lost thousands of words of writing because it won't go into sleep mode. I needed to upgrade to a Mac anyway, since the Mac Scrivener version is so much better (and I believe less buggy).
Having done a lot of research, I've found that many novelists, including big novelists, are switching to MacBook Airs. They're light, quick, and super-portable. They're not the most powerful, and don't have the most storage (they have solid state drives), but for authors, they're a terrific rig.
I went back and forth on whether to get the 11-inch or 13-inch screen. The 13 has more real estate, but is a bit heavier and larger as well. However, the 11-inch didn't have an SD slot, so I went with the bigger screen.
$1200, out the store, at Fry's. Ouch.
But, I hope I have a writing rig that will last me many years. I'm only going to do writing on it. Novel writing, screenwriting, blogging--that's it. (notice that cheap version of an em-dash?)
My 2 year old ASUS machine will be used for photo-editing and heavier type of activity. My Xbox One for gaming. My Amazon Fire for TV watching. My Google Nexus phone for podcast listening. My god-awful Tab 3 for Candy Crush. My Fitbit for step counting.
I think I'm set for awhile. What wonderful tales will be written on this new rig? I don't know, but I have a feeling I'm going to have fun writing them.
Now, can someone please tell me how to write a damn em-dash on a Mac?
I've been a lifelong gamer, but have never played a Metal Gear Solid game. It's more of a Playstation thing, and I'm more of an Xbox gamer. But, the new MGS game, The Phantom Pain, was released earlier this week to both platforms, and to unbelievably favorable reviews.
Metacritic names 11 perfect 100 reviews for the game, including Gamespot and IGN. This is an incredibly rare feat. Since I'm knee deep in Witcher 3, and since Fallout 4 is coming out in November (both are games that will take hundreds of hours to play), I wasn't planning on buying a game in between the two, especially not another sandbox game. But the reviews had me intrigued, so I plopped down my $65 and downloaded it.
I've gotten just past the prologue (which takes a bit over an hour to play through), and am starting Act 1, which takes place in Afghanistan. I still don't know much about the game, but here are my very early thoughts:
Immediately, you realize this is the best looking console game by far. The visuals put Grand Theft Auto 5 to shame. This is clearly the first real next-gen title. I honestly didn't think I'd see something this amazing on the underpowered Xbox One.
You then quickly realize how immensely immersive this game is. The first hour of game play (which takes place in a hospital) is one of the most immersive game experiences I've ever had. It's amazing.
It doesn't take long to then realize that the cinematography of this game is brilliant. Without the restrictions of cost and physical camera movement, video games are literally pushing cinematography into new realms that are nearly impossible in the real world. This game has some of the most beautiful camera movement I've ever experienced. It's utterly fascinating, and I'm only a little over an hour into it.
I knew nothing about the Metal Gear Solid story line. Absolutely nothing. I just figured it was a run-of-the-mill stealth shooter, light on narrative. Apparently, I was wrong. I'm already hooked strongly into the story. The prologue does a wonderful job of setting up the game in a very mysterious and intriguing way.
So, I don't want to read too much into a bit over an hour of game play. I'll write a more extensive review when I'm 20 hours in, or so. That being said, I'm impressed as hell so far, and I'm extremely excited to see the games coming down the pipe now that the next-gen consoles are finally coming into their own.
How many times does a writer need to learn a lesson about backups?
I'm currently working on my second novel, a medieval fantasy tale. I'm using a program called Scrivener, which I'm not too familiar with, but since so many authors are turning to it, I'd thought I'd give it a try. After spending a bunch of hours playing around with it, I've gotten to appreciate its functionality, even though it's not the easiest thing in the world to figure out how to use. (I know—not the first time I've complained about it)
So I was working on a long chapter. I was about 10,000 words into it, and I was feeling pretty good about it. The day before yesterday, I left off at a good point to pick up from, and closed Scrivener, and saw it make a backup.
Now, I've been having an irritating problem since upgrading to Windows 10. Every time I close my laptop, it doesn't go to sleep—it goes into hibernation mode. Not fun. It's a widespread problem that I hope MS will fix with a patch soon.
Yesterday, I boot up my laptop out of hibernation mode and open Scrivener. Much to my dismay, my 10,000 word chapter was not there. Damn.
I immediately search for my backup folder, find it, and look at my most recent file. It's completely missing the chapter as well. Double damn.
I look to the next previous backup, which for some reason was from many days ago, and luckily it had 7,000 words of the chapter in it. But since I've only been writing about 500 words a day, I was initially confused as to why there weren't more backups.
Come to find out, my backup option was set to backup on program close. What I've gotten in the habit of doing, is closing my laptop, without closing Scrivener. This usually isn't a problem, since I can just pick up where I left off. Now however, because of the Windows bug, it goes into hibernation mode, and the program is shut down without creating a backup.
So I lost a few days of writing. But at least I better know how the Scrivener backup system works. I need to close the program every single time I stop writing.
How many times does a writer need to learn a lesson about backups? I don't know, but I'm guessing the number is pretty darn high.
Jon David Rosten, author of
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