Source Code

The same loop of 8 minutes inside a train. The same people. The same conversations. The same events. And the same ending- a bomb annihilating the train. How do you make a commercially viable movie out of it?

I had read the original spec script of Source Code some time back. But the movie still did not disappoint. There were some changes especially in the second half. And certain things have been much more clearly spelled out in the movie for the audience sake. What really works for the movie is the fact is that it doesn’t neglect the personal drama for the sci-fi aspect of it.

(Spoilers ahead) But still…in the end, I think that the writer had to bend over back for explaining the commercially acceptable ending.  The physics of it doesn’t really gel even in a distantly rational way. There is a scene in the end where the protagonist goes back into the time loop inside the train for one last time, and when he kisses the girl and all the passengers are smiling, the moment freezes in time. A last precious moment encapsulated in time. And that’s where the movie should have ended.

Gang leader for a day

In 1989, when Sudhir Venkatesh, a sociology student enters Robert Taylor home projects in Chicago,  he was just planning to administer a questionnaire on  life and poverty in those urban ghettos. But he ends up living the life of an outsider there (with privileges of observation one can say) for the next one decade. He befriends J.T., the gang leader of the Black Kings, a local group involving in a chain of activities including drug dealing, prostitution etc. Then follows his experiences which tests his own ideals. Is he an impassive inert academician or an earnest intruder? Things get pretty complex when he tries not to pick a stance.

The highpoint of the book is when J.T. gives him the reigns of the gang for one day to prove to him that being a gang leader is not about sheer muscle power, but it’s all about business skills. The kind of decisions that test Venkatesh include deciding which among his groups would clean up a building and avoiding loss and bad blood that would arise from it, finding and punishing a peddler who is mixing dope with impurities to make some profit for himself etc.

These memoirs really give insights into the life on the back side of the high rises. The struggle for survival, the daily turf games with corruption and armed gangs, the collectiveness hardened by hardships… This book is not about the author and how he naively navigates an hostile alien world. But the focus is on the painstaking earnest account of a world where a person’s only choice is between being poor and being a criminal. And this is not fiction.


An inspiring interview with a scriptwriter

This is an interesting interview with Elan Mastai, scriptwriter of ‘The F word.’ The script is still under production but propelled Mastai into the big league. The script is circulating around the net and you can get it if you are desperate enough. The same old premise for a romance- a guy and girl trying to remain ‘just friends.’ But the script reminded me that if you are talented enough and work hard, you don’t need high concepts.

His interview validated many points I have been trying to incorporate into current strategies in the last 6 months.

An excerpt:

-What do you think is the most common mistake beginning screenwriters make? 

EM: Probably waiting for their big break to magically appear instead of writing as much as possible as often as possible. Because when you do get your big break, it really sucks if you’re not developed enough as a writer to take full advantage of it.

I say that as someone who did have their big break magically appear. But when it happened, I was more or less ready to jump on it. I was (thankfully) a much better writer than I’d been in previous years because I’d spent the previous years writing as much as I could.-

Yeah, in the scramble to get your work out there, you may be blowing your chances if you are not ready enough.

Strategies for 2011- 3rd update

Number of days= 63

Number of days where I completed 2.5 hours of writing= 29

Number of days where I didn’t write at all= 2

Number of days where I exceeded my target= 9

Number of days I have accessed the net without reaching my targets= 0

The good thing that has happened with posting updates is that my net writing time has increased. In fact the consistency has improved much. Even though the number of days where I have reached the target 2.5 hours is only around 50%, the number of days where I have really tried to reach the target has improved. That is number of days where I don’t do any writing has decreased. Also the number of days where I write for more than 2.5 hours has increased dramatically.

Something that I am yet to crack is some system of networking which I can build into this. I have some ideas but right now I don’t want to rush it. First let me have at least 3-4 solid treatments in hand. Then we will see.

The most important thing that has happened with me with this strategy is that my dependence on internet has almost disappeared. That compulsive urge to log into facebook or twitter, it is not there any more. And the reason? I got forcefully weaned as I couldn’t access net (except email) unless I finish my days’ quota of writing. I realise now that I have been pumping in enormous amounts of time into this apparently harmless micro-browsing episodes scattered through the day. Yeah, there may be obvious disadvantages. But right now, with my focus on churning out as many treatments and scripts as possible this year, I am not bothered. To win some, you have to lose some.

Photo by Taylor Finke