Author Archives: Eileen

Top 6 Resources for New Screenwriters

My first foray into screenwriting was a disaster.  Okay, not a disaster in the sense of a cinematic Titanic or because it caused several small villages to be burned to the ground.  But aside from a handful of comedy sketches, it was a prose writer’s first real attempt to write a script.  And it showed.  But it taught me one very important lesson:

I HAD NO IDEA HOW TO WRITE A SCRIPT.

(Actual footage of me writing my first screenplay)

Again, not exactly true, but I think it’s important to underestimate your knowledge whenever possible.  If you go into a learning situation assuming total ignorance you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the things you do know and are good at.  It’s once you’ve gained the information that you can then sift and synthesis.

At the time, I was aware that lots of books about screenwriting were readily available.  In hindsight, I wish I had looked into these more before starting my programme, not because they could stand in place of it but because it would’ve given me a little more context about what I was learning in school.

Why 6?  I mean, there are thousands of resources out there, and you should read as much as you can, in my opinion.  I easily could have chosen 10.  But if you’re just starting out I really think this is all you need to start learning the basics of screenwriting.

  1. Screenplay by Sid Field: An oldie but a goodie – for a reason.  This was the first book I ever read about screenwriting and it’s been the most helpful book I’ve read so far about structuring the story of a film.  If you’re looking for a great introductory book, it has to be this one.
  2. The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier: While this book also talks about structure, character development, and so on, where it really shines is an explanation about the technical details of formatting a screenplay.  How else will you know how to write a montage or introduce a character?
  3. Writing the Romantic Comedy by Billy Mernit: Even though I’m currently only working on one romantic comedy, the way this book breaks down the rise and fall of a relationship in a romantic comedy is useful in every genre of screenwriting.  Does your film feature at least two people who interact with each other?  Then you’ll find a use for this.
  4. On Writing by Stephen King: Half instruction booklet, half memoir, allll Stephen King.  Stephen gets into the nitty gritty of writing and the challenges all writers face.  Excellent motivation for dealing with rejection, “writer’s block”, and the overactive imagination that comes with being a writer.
  5. Thesaurus.com: Maybe this is just me, but 60% of writing seems to be finding the right word for any circumstance.  Not necessary for first drafts but a must for rewrites.
  6. RedLetterMedia: Bear with me here.  If you’ve heard of them it’s probably by way of the Mr. Plinkett reviews on YouTube, 90-minute-long videos made by a “creepy old man” detailing exactly how the Star Wars prequels failed as movies.  I discovered the channel late last year while looking for an honest review of Ghostbusters 2016 and never looked back.  Just from watching their videos, I’ve noticed a marked improvement in my writing and my ability to objectively analyze what does and doesn’t work in films – on every level, not just storytelling.  There’s a lot of crude humor and language, so if that bothers you I’d say avoid it, but if you enjoy that you’ll find it’s educational as well as so SO entertaining.

These won’t turn you into Quentin Tarantino overnight, but I think they’re a good introduction to screenwriting for people who are interested in pursuing it in school and as a career!

I’d love to hear from other screenwriters (new and seasoned) on what resources they turn to for help.  I’m always looking for new reading material!

Eileen

Getting Sappy About Star Wars

StarWarsMoviePoster1977

So, 40 years ago this film came out.  It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I wasn’t actually there to witness the premier of the film, but I can say with absolute certainty that these films have had a tremendous impact on my life.

I still remember the first time I watched it.  My parents bought the original trilogy (or the Star Wars trilogy, as it was then known) on VHS from Sam’s Club.  I even remember picking up the box, still wrapped in plastic, and turning it over in my hands.

“What’s this?” I asked, wary of the black case and block lettering, obviously not my usual 7-year-old fare of Disney and The Land Before Time.

“It’s Star Wars,” my dad said, a twinkle in his eye. “We’re going to watch it tonight.”

I sat back in my seat with a doubtful “Okay…”

It was the last time I was ever reluctant to watch it.

That night, for two hours, I was glued to the screen, my tiny heart thrilling at the adventures of Luke Skywalker and friends.  Luke, a misunderstood kid who dreamt of something greater (i.e. me), watched the twin suns of Tatooine set as he gazed off into the distance.  My heart ached with him as we both yearned for something greater than our humdrum lives.  Yes, even at 7 (or perhaps because I was 7) I felt the limits of my existence, the smallness of my life, and a burning desire to be more, do more, live more.

I responded to this movie in a way I’d never responded to a story before.  It made me want to be in the story.  And then it made me want to tell my own stories.  Sometimes they were science fiction stories.  Sometimes the main character had magical powers, or was swept up in one of a thousand others adventures.  It’s no coincidence that I wrote my first story shortly after watching A New Hope.  In the past 20 years, not a day has gone by that I haven’t written.

And now I’m getting ready to finish a Master’s degree in screenwriting (!!!) in LONDON, of all places.  I’ve been on my own journey, taking me from my homeworld of Tatooine (Maine, admittedly slightly less arid) to Degobah (Florida, obviously) with a slight detour in Hoth (Alaska).  Although my adventure hasn’t included blowing up any Death Stars or picking up X-wings with my mind, it’s taken me far beyond the reaches my 7-year-old self could have wished for.  I think Luke Skywalker would be proud.  I’m proud.  And I’m thankful to have Star Wars in my life.

 

Señoritus

You know when you’re a senior in high school and you get senioritus?  Or when you’re a senior in college and you get senioritus?  What do they call it in grad school?

Señoritus?

Because… I like tacos and I’m planning on moving to southern California?  I dunno, don’t judge me.

Whatever it is, I have it.  Which is unfortunate because this is kind of go time.  The first year was all fun and games, writing ten-minute screenplays and writing faux-academic papers about workplace sitcoms, but right now I’m trying to write a full length screenplay.

Which I’ve done before.  Except now I know the right way and the wrong way to do it – and it turns out my first try was mostly the wrong way.  That’s okay; it was a learning experience, just like this is.  But now that I have all this knowledge in my head, now that I can see the spirit of Syd Field flinch whenever I use an adverb, and I’m doing this for a grade – like, most of it – it’s big ‘I’ Important.

Also, it’s way too early for this to be happening.  Inconveniently early.

I’m trying to pass it off as Christmasitus.  Or homeitus.  Or see-my-familyitus.  Which is probably the case, too.  As much as London is finally starting to feel like a place I live, not just somewhere I’m visiting, I’m looking forward to going back to somewhere that I’m not ‘the American girl’ and I don’t have to fly across an ocean to visit my loved ones.

I mean, I’ll still have to fly across the country to see them.  But land seems much less daunting.  Is it safer to crash over land or water?  Hold on, let me Google it.


The internet doesn’t seem to have reached a consensus, except maybe ‘Don’t crash.’

Anyway, my point is that… I’m not sure what my point is.  I’m not sure if anyone cares that it’s like pulling teeth to get me to write right now.  I’m actually losing interest as I write this.

I am doing it, though.  I think that’s the important part.  Yes, I am literally having dreams about my dog, but I’m doing the work.  Slowly but surely.  I guess… there’s a lesson here?  No.  Is it inspiring?  Definitely not.

Huh.  Okay.  Never mind.


PS: Ohhhhhhhh!  I just got why I wrote this.  PROCRASTINATION.

Here is a gif of Rik Mayall for your trouble.

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We both are, Rik.  We both are.

PPS: God I miss tacos.

Dear Britain: Stop talking to me about Donald Trump

I hate saying controversial things.  At all.  But especially over the Internet, because there’s something so ambiguous but final about them.  It’s so easy to misinterpret what someone really means.  So the fact that I’m about to post something so “controversial” (to me) is kind of weird.  But I feel like it has to be said.


The conversations I’ve had in the UK about the US election – okay, mainly about Donald Trump – have been, um… interesting.  The few friends I have here that are also US citizens seem just as eager as me to avoid the subject, or talking about it at least.  Or maybe it’s just that I don’t want to talk about that and they can sense that and respect it.  Either way, we rarely talk politics, even to commiserate.

But most of the people I’ve talked to, usually at their instigation, have been UK citizens, complete outsiders to the process of a presidential election.  In case you’re not aware, the British Prime Minister is elected by voting for a party.  Whoever is the head of the winning party becomes Prime Minister.  So elections here are less about the individuals and more about party politics (although not entirely).  Their elections are very different from ours.  And the people I’ve spoken to seem to think what’s going on in the US is funny.

I can’t say exactly why people find this election funny.  God knows I’ve tried to laugh at it from time to time through my tears.  But they seem to love bringing up Donald Trump and then chuckling softly to themselves.  I can’t stress how often this happens to me AS SOON AS THEY LEARN I’M AMERICAN.  As in, they’ve just met me.  We establish I’m not Canadian (a common mistake).  Without knowing anything about my political views or even my last name, they’re eager to bring up the fact that it looks like our president might be That One Cheeto That’s Missing Cheese Dust on Top.

There’s something incredibly smug about it.  I guarantee you they would be singing a different tune if anyone remotely like Donald Trump had a chance of becoming Prime Minister, but they seem eager to laugh in the face of my (and America’s) misfortune.  Like they’re saying “Americans think they’re so great with their president and their Congress and their Constitution.  But it obviously doesn’t work because Donald Trump.”

I get that America is not a perfect country – no country is.  And I also understand that different countries value different things, and those values shape the face of the government.  What works in one country might not work in another (although basic human rights are always in style).

Come on, guys.  Of course I don’t like him.  I only know one person in real life who supports him, and everybody else is a friend of a friend of a friend.  I only know people who “know a guy” who supports Donald Trump.  It’s like his entire voting base is made up of urban legends and the smoke monster from Lost.

Unless you actually want to have a conversation about it, don’t bring it up.  I don’t want to talk about it.


Here’s a little ray of sunshine at the end of this butthurt rant about Donald Trump.

People in democratic countries have an amazing right: the ability to choose who runs the government.  It’s great!  It’s one of the things every single person deserves, but not everyone is fortunate enough to possess.  I can vote for whoever I want!  It doesn’t matter if that’s Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or Bruce Wayne or Jill Stein.  No one can make me vote for someone I don’t like.  And my vote counts.

But that doesn’t mean the person I vote for will win.  It happens no matter what you believe in.  At some point, your side will lose.  But that isn’t the end.  A country isn’t defined by its government.  A country is defined by the people in it.  The people are what make a country great.

So if, come November, you find your choice for president isn’t elected (or you’ve had to make the most of a bad situation) don’t despair.  Your voice is still powerful.  It still matters.  Write to your Congressmen (and -women) about things you feel strongly about.  Volunteer – at food banks, homeless shelters, animal shelters, with children.  Donate money to help wounded veterans, underprivileged children, struggling single parents.  There are so many ways to make the country and the world a better place, no matter who the president is.  Raise your voice if the government is doing something you disagree with.  No matter who’s president, you still live in a country where that’s allowed.  The president doesn’t make America great; WE do.

February Small Goals

Nicole S. over at writes like a girl introduced me to this really cool idea.  You set five small goals for each month.  At the end of the month you review your goals and see how many you’ve met!  I love this because it can help set an intention for the month, or just get me around to doing things bigger than “taking out the trash” but a little less important than “figuring out my life”.

  1. Finish a full 3 weeks of C25k.  I’m already on my way to this and I even have a reward set.
  2. Try meal prep.  You know those Pinterest posts where people plan their meals for the week and put them in cute little containers?  That really appears to my “not sure what to eat so I’ll have half a container of ice cream” brain.  I’d love to see if it’s a good fit for me so I’m going to try it for a week!
  3. Have an awesome time with Lydia.  For those not in the know, one of my best friends is visiting me in London.  I’m SOOOO excited to see her – watch out for our trip hashtag! (TBD)
  4. Develop 10 pages of a new script.  I’ve been trying to choose between a couple different projects, so this month I want to pick one and really work on it.  10 pages shouldn’t be hard, right?
  5. Hang pictures.  I’ve slowly started actually decorating my flat, but haven’t hung anything on the walls (except the mural over my bed).  I have some super cute pictures made by friends that I’d love to display so I need to get frames and hang them (using 3M tape, of course).

That’s it for me!  Anybody else setting some medium-sized goals for this month?

XO Eileen

Great Expectations

I worry a lot about whether I’m being “my true self”.  Like, a lot.  Like, to the point where I start to feel like I’m vain (to think that song is about me…)  As someone with a lot of different “sides” I tend to mold my personality to whatever group I’m in.  I have different groups of friends for different aspects of my personality.  This might seem fake to some people, but I’m not pretending to be someone I’m not.  I’m just letting different aspects of myself shine.

Lately, though, I kind of have been pretending to be someone I’m not.  I’ve invented this set of standards I think I should live up to and tried to live them, all the while feeling like I’m not really doing what I want to do.  I’ve knowingly denied my own likes and dislikes, preferences, and even personality just because I thought if I was this way this thing would happen.

There was one thing, one big, specific thing.  I can’t tell you what it is but I held on to it for so long.  It was a fancy I let turn into a daydream, which quickly evolved into an obsession.  Dreams are wonderful, but when they haunt your every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment and prevent you from being yourself and living your best life (such a cliché, but true in this case) they no longer serve you.

I have a lot of dreams.  Most of them are the kind that rely on me working hard and making the right choices and having a little bit of luck, but this dream was the kind where the elements are totally out of my control.  All I could do is sit and wait for it to arrive and mourn its absence.

I know I’m being really vague.  Maybe someday I will be able to publicly talk about what this “dream/obsession” actually was but for now I still feel embarrassed that I let it carry on for so long.  I’m tired of living up to assumed expectations.  In the short time since letting go of these self-imposed expectations I’ve felt so much happier, freer, and more productive.  I finished the first draft of a project I’d been working on for almost two years as if all of the pressure I’d been putting on myself had been weighing me down and keeping me from completing it.

If there’s a point to this rambling mess of a blog post it’s this: letting go of the things that no longer serve you is easy.  Realizing why they don’t serve you is the hard part.

Well

Hi.  Hello there.  Heya.

Everybody still alive?  Caught in a perpetual struggle between your belt and the last notch?  Sweeping up the confetti and storing it in little baggies for next year?  Good.

I spent my Christmas running around with (and occasionally being dragged by) my family all around London, taking in the sites I had avoided just so I could see them with fresh eyes with them.  We even ventured to Bath in a rented car, which, have you ever tried driving on the wrong side of the road, you will know is quite the adventure.

So now here we all are, safe on the right side of 2016.  Did you make any resolutions?  I didn’t make any formally, but I took the opportunity of a near-empty fridge and more than my fill of holiday treats to treat myself to some healthy food.  I’m not counting calories or exercising (yet – baby steps) but I’ve managed to shoehorn extra fruits and vegetables into every meal.  I’m also cutting back on carbs – not cutting them out, just eating fewer* and higher-quality ones.

Okay, I can see your eyes starting to glaze over.  Enough diet stuff.  Let’s talk about… Star Wars.

more like Poe DAMN!eron

*ahem* Sorry, I mean…

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*SPOILERS*

*SPOILERS*

*SPOILERS*

I wanted to love this movie.  I was afraid I’d hate it.  Instead, I have mixed feelings.  While I liked the characters, this first instalment had a lot of elements that were very ‘A New Hope’-y to me.  I’m hoping that’s just due to Kylo Ren’s Darth Vader fanboy crush.  A Death Planet?  That’s fan fiction stuff right there, Kylo.  Hopefully the next film will force him (no pun intended!) to come up with something more creative than ‘freeze Finn in carbonite and cut off Rey’s hand while revealing they are somehow related’.

*END SPOILERS*

*END SPOILERS*

*END SPOILERS*

Did I mention I met Jane Austen?  That was pretty bitchin’.

Oh Jane, you're such a card.

A post shared by Eileen Herbert (@eileenonyou89) on

Happy New Year!

Eileen

*Or is it less?  Are carbs quantifiable?  Yes and no, depending on the context, I guess.  Quantifiable if you mean the actual molecular compound, but not the “food group”.  Weigh in.  This is important.

A case of the blues

When I was getting ready to move, I knew one of the things I would deal with would be feelings of sadness.  Isolation.  Loneliness.  Homesickness.  Being-a-crappy-writer-dom.  I’m also a really emotional person, so I know when I do feel like this I’m going to feel it in my whole body and if I just let those feelings fester it’s going to consume me.  I have always lived with other people so I’ve almost always had someone to turn to when I had those feelings.  But even though knowing those feelings were natural helps, I still found myself unprepared for pulling myself out of the rut when I get in it.  It’s not enough to acknowledge my pain… I must transcend it.  And here’s how I do that:

  1. Self-care: easily the most important thing I can do.  If I feel like a disgusting human being incapable of stringing two sentences together, not taking a shower or eating vegetables isn’t going to help.  It feels like giving myself the day off but what I’m really telling myself is that I’m not worth it.  Um, excuse me?  Yes, I am.  I shave my legs, feed myself real food, and clean my apartment.  Because I owe it to myself to be the best roommate in the world.
  2. Go outside: along the same lines of self-care but slightly more social.  It’s not even about talking to other people, just reminding myself I’m one soul in a sea of billions and the air is crisp and Pret exists.  It’s what separates us from the Matrix-dwellers.
  3. Buy a candle: or flowers, or a picture or any small thing that perks your living space up.  Being a writer with ADHD who can’t write anywhere near other people means I’m in my flat ALL. THE. TIME.  So if I have to shut myself away to write those last three pages of a script, I need to do it in a room that smells like I’m frolicking in an apple orchard someone set on fire with cinnamon sticks.
  4. Arrange to Skype or physically hang out with someone: a lot of the time, my loneliness isn’t a product of being alone in that moment, but not knowing when that moment’s going to end.  Even if I have to wait a week, knowing I get to see and talk to someone I love is all the encouragement I need to perk up.
  5. Go somewhere I haven’t been: I don’t know if you know this, but London is HUGE.  I don’t know if I could learn this city if I stayed here a lifetime, let alone the measly two years I’m here.  My Pinterest board has helped immensely, but I’m always taking recommendations! (*hint hint*)
  6. Talk to a counsellor or religious leader: my school has a great mental health centre and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve taken advantage of it.  Even if there’s nothing “wrong” with you, talking to someone objective and trained in the art of listening can be a great way to sort out the reasons your feelings have taken a downward turn and how to identify triggers.

Of course there are lots of little things I do, too, but these are my big, sure-fire ways of picking myself up.  And sometimes I just have to remind myself:

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If none of these are an option for you and you need help right away, you can call Samaritans at 116 123 in the UK and (212) 673-3000 in the US for someone to talk to 24 hours a day, confidentially.

You either Windsor you lose

A long time ago, a beautiful American girl got very frustrated with flat hunting and decided to leave the city behind… so she went to Windsor, drank a little too much beer, and walked around a castle slightly inebriated.

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Ticket prices to visit Windsor vary widely depending on a variety of factors (age, student status, whether you’re the Queen) but they all include an audio tour that’s incredibly detailed.  You can also book an evening tour.

I was disappointed to discover they don’t allow pictures inside the actual castle, but that’s par for the course from what I’ve seen so far.  I guess you’ll just have to go see it yourself…

Check out the rest of the pictures on Flickr.

PS: I think I need to lay off the puns… my post titles are starting to sound like ModCloth dresses.

Updates Galore!

WELL.  Now that things have calmed down a bit, I finally feel like I can update everyone on what’s been happening here at Chez My Flat (title pending).

I’ve been in school for about three weeks now.  Even though I was super excited about going back to school and getting back into the swing of things, I’ve gotten to the point where I can see and feel my lack of knowledge.  In all of my previous academic experience that was the point where I became frustrated and felt like giving up.  Now I’m trying to use it as a teachable moment: if you don’t feel like you totally get it, you’re probably heading in the right direction.  I will always feel like a fraud around other writers, like I don’t take it seriously enough, but I really think if I push myself through the difficult bits something amazing will happen.

I’m starting to get to know my classmates and they’re a fun bunch.  Lots of different personalities and backgrounds, proving writers aren’t all anti-social hermits with drinking problems.  But I think most of us would agree that burgers are fantastic.

My flat is still a work-in-progress.  I would show pictures but nothing has changed aside from the food in my refrigerator (i.e. there is some now).  A lot of “setting up” the flat was buying boring things like can openers and toilet paper.  I’ve finally gotten around to ordering ACTUAL FURNITURE so when that arrives in a week or two I’ll be sure to update.

And then there’s just London in general.  I think I’m finally getting the hang of it.  Which is not to say I have the hang of it.  I’m sad to admit this but when I first got here I was nervous about doing certain things because I didn’t know how they worked (or thought I didn’t know).  Getting registered with a GP, ordering drinks at a pub, taking a taxi… all things I was hesitant to do but eventually forced myself to.  And it wasn’t as scary as I thought.  I’ve found that if you’re really nice and apologize constantly, most people will forgive you for anything (except for murder.  I don’t recommend it.  The court case was hell).  I met someone last week and she was shocked when I told her I had only been in London a month and a half.  That was a huge compliment.  I’m assimilating.

And now, because no post is complete without an ode to food, here are some of the best places I’ve eaten so far:

  1. Boom Burger: I’ve eaten so many burgers since getting here and this is still my absolute favorite.  I’m basically free PR for them at this point, like a Boom Burger Jesus.
  2. Danny’s Traditional Fish & Chips
  3. E. Mono
  4. The Chicken Shop: Just had it tonight.  The apple pie!  The fries!  The CHICKEN!
  5. some stall in Camden Market with fresh doughnuts
  6. Paris: Just, like, the whole city.  Trust me on this one.
  7. Borough Market: Again, just the whole place. (apparently Sunday is Apple Day so… that’s where I’ll be)

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Since my sofa bed is on the way, I’m now taking reservations to stay at Chez My Flat! (again, we’re working on the title – sorry)

See you guys in London! xx Eileen