Upcoming Period Films 2014-2015

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (2015)

I’m super excited to watch this one.

Based on the literary classic by Thomas Hardy, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD is the story of independent, beautiful and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), who attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer, captivated by her fetching willfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions explores the nature of relationships and love – as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through resilience and perseverance.

 

PAN (2015)

Offering a new take on the origin of the classic characters created by J.M. Barrie, the action adventure follows the story of an orphan who is spirited away to the magical Neverland. There, he finds both fun and dangers, and ultimately discovers his destiny—to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan.

 

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (2015)

In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will, and an almost human sense of vengeance. The real-life maritime disaster would inspire Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. But that told only half the story. “In the Heart of the Sea” reveals the encounter’s harrowing aftermath, as the ship’s surviving crew is pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable to stay alive. Braving storms, starvation, panic and despair, the men will call into question their deepest beliefs, from the value of their lives to the morality of their trade, as their captain searches for direction on the open sea and his first mate still seeks to bring the great whale down. Based on the book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick.

 

BELOVED SISTERS (2014)

n 18th century Weimar, devoted aristocratic sisters Caroline and Charlotte fall in love with Friedrich Schiller, a rebellious poet taking the literary world by storm. Soon their journey of shared passion and creativity inspires a ménage-a-trois that invigorates and complicates their entire world. Germany’s official Oscar submission, this sweeping yet intimate romantic drama illuminates two bold women and one of classical literature’s most celebrated figures with charm and contemporary energy.

 

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Writing Tip: Your Plot in Three Acts

2010-05-22

During my work break at the library, I was skimming through the Entertainment Weekly magazine. In one of the articles, the author Miriam Toews made an interesting statement about how she constructs her novel:

You must first establish tenderness, [Mariam Toews] says. Then the excitement will build, as you put “the violence and agony of life into every note” until you must make an important decision: either return to tenderness or “continue on with the truth, the violence, the pain, the tragedy, to the very end.”

I love books that follow this construct. I try to follow this arc myself when I write.

Without this three-act structure, I lose interest in a story fast. And by the three-act structure, I mean, the beginning introduces the conflict, the middle is when crap hits the fan, and the ending is how that conflict is resolved. According to the filmmaker Edoardo Nolfo:

The three- act structure is intrinsic to the human brain’s model of the world; it matches a blueprint that is hard-wired in the human brain, which is constantly attempting to rationalize the world and resolve it into patterns. It is therefore an inevitable property of almost any successful drama, whether the writer is aware of it or not.

During my work break, I ALSO discovered the literary agent Paula Munier’s book PLOT PERFECT, where she gave a breakdown of the conventional beginning, middle and end:

Love Story

Beginning: Boy meets girl.
Middle: Boy loses girl.
End: Boy gets girl back.

Murder Mystery

Beginning: Someone gets murdered
Middle: The cops, detective, or amateur sleuth investigates the murder
End: The murderer is brought to justice

Coming-Of-Age-Story

Beginning: A young person longs for adventure — and new acquaintances and events conspire to make that happen
Middle: With the help of the new friends and mentor, the young person undergoes a series of transformative experiences.
End: Armed with this newfound knowledge and experience, the young person triumphs against overwhelming odds — and comes of age

War Story

Beginning: Our hero (or heroes) learns of the mission.
Middle: Our hero (or heroes) plan out, train for, and undertake the mission
End: Our hero (or heroes) must go above and beyond to overcome the enemy — and the mission is won

Each model shows that by the middle of a book, the Main Character should be tackling some kind of conflict. This conflict should threaten what the MC wants most in life.

In my book, what the heroine wants most in life is a sense of belonging, self-worth and independence; this is all introduced in the FIRST act. By the SECOND act, what the heroine longs for is threatened when the Metropolitan Police track her down. The THIRD act (without spoiling anything) explores how she deals with this threat.

What does the character in your book want most in life?

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My Writing Music:

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Writing Tip: Kill the Urge to Protect Your Characters

If you know me well, you’ll know that I’m crazy about crime shows. These days I’m hooked on The Mentalist – or more specifically, I’m hooked on Patrick Jane, the oh-so charming main character. One thing I noticed while watching this show is that my favorite episodes are when Patrick Jane gets hurt.

And it’s not just this show. Another example would be when Frodo gets stabbed in Lord of the Rings – this was one of my favorite scenes too.

I know, sounds morbid.

This got me wondering. Why do I enjoy it when favorite characters get hurt?

Here’s one theory I came up with as to why we (I) experience thrill when the protagonist is placed in danger:

A protagonist’s appeal is amplified during a near-death scene (You know he/she will be OK in the end, but the other characters don’t know it). These scenes allow us to observe how other characters react to this high stress situation. Some will break into tears or stare into space, totally shocked by the possibility of losing the protagonist, and others might express their desperation by yelling out for help – all of which demonstrates that the protagonist is darn important and special to everyone.

This leads to the next question: Why do we love it when the wounded protagonist gets all the attention?

It’s possible that when we’re invested emotionally in a protagonist, we end up living vicariously through him/her. The thrill we feel when we watch a protagonist severely injured might then be akin to watching our own fake funeral. You get to see characters suddenly letting down their guard, confessing how much they loved you but never had the chance to say so; you see what a significant role you played in their lives as grief/panic/fear clouds their expressions. All the characters realize through this how important you are to them.

In other words, readers/audience get a false ego boost by living vicariously through an injured protagonist. Yes, we understand on a conscious level that what we’re watching or reading isn’t real, but we’re still able to indulge in the emotional reactions as though it were actually happening to us. And that’s why we LOVE it when protagonists are placed in danger.

So this is my theory – what’s yours?

What other shows/films/books depicts thrilling near-death scenes?

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Espionage Gone Wrong: American Revolution

1I’m researching about the American Revolution (1775–1783) for my WIP#2. It’s about a young aristocrat suffering from amnesia, lost in the backwoods filled with armed rebels and loyalists. He doesn’t remember his name, he doesn’t even know where his loyalty lies: is it to the king or to the Thirteen Colonies? He’s rescued by the cross-dressing loyalist, Marie, who knows how to a hold a rifle steady and is determined to save her father from facing a spy’s death — death by hanging.

Of course, I might end up writing about different characters. But for now that’s my focus. I’ll share more about the WIP when I finish outlining. Right now, I’m just really fascinated by the American Revolution.

And as I was reading through Fryer’s KING’S MEN (a book about Loyalist regiments) I found a funny tidbit about an espionage gone wrong-ish:

Dr. George Symth (an agent by the code name ‘Hudibras’ of the Loyalist spy network) once used slang to encode a message and informed the governor’s secretary, Robert Mathews, that ‘Blackbirds Pearch on my branches to the South,’ meaning the rebels were watching him. An irked Mathews retorted:

“I am totally at a loss to understand the last Paragraph of your letter. Oriental Intelligence is of no weight and Black Birds Spray upon my Branches to the South – In all matters of Business excuses my Requesting that you would be explicit – I am more particular in this as I lay my Letters before His Excellency and feel awkward if not able to explain every Circumstance they relate to.”

Reading that gave me a good chuckle. If you’re interested, you should check out AMC’s TURN. It’s all about spies and it’s awesome.

 

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You Know You’re Querying When…

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So you think your manuscript is ready for an agent. You send out a batch of query letters…Usually this happens:

  • You always wait for Monday. Monday is the Magical Rejection Day. That’s when it’s possible to receive three or more rejections in one day.
  • The spam folder you once had ZERO interest in – you now click on just to make sure…just in case…
  • The refresh button is your best friend.
  • You check your email as soon as you wake up.
  • Each time the email notification rings on your cellphone, you scramble to check if an agent replied to your query. When you realize the email is a newsletter from some random store – you immediately unsubscribe.
  • You experience rejection letter withdrawal.
  • You re-re-re-reread your query letter, synopsis, opening paragraphs.
  • You realize you’ve missed a comma. Your reaction: OH NOOOO!!!!!!! Kinda feels like the end of the world.
  • Everyday you’re filled with both agitation and total anticipation. Whatever the result (or lack thereof) in your querying journey, it really hits you – Oh em gee, I’m actually trying to get published… Yes, there is the pain of rejection. But the pain tells you that you’re trying, that you’re pursuing your dream.
  •  You have the song “Take a chance on me” playing in your head. The entire song translates to: Agent, I’m still free, take a chance on me.

What else should be added to this list?

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