Thursday, December 16, 2010

Visualizing the story

Storyboards are an essential tool for filmmakers and the first step of translating the written words of a script into a visually dynamic movie. My own drawing skills are limited, but even stick figures can help a director choose the best angles for a shot and then share those choices with the crew. Here's an example from "A Midsummer Nightmare - The Betrayal", a short film that shows how the Faerie Court were trapped by Shakespeare and transported to colonial America.

This will probably be my last blog entry for 2010, so thank you to everyone who has supported "A Midsummer Nightmare" in our first baby steps. Look for more news early next year as we start our official podcast and begin production on the prequel short.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dreams and the Screenwriting Process

Just as every writer should have his or her own "voice", every writer has a process for developing the story and spitting it onto the page. My own process has evolved significantly since I first sat down behind my mom's typewriter and banged out a short story. Based on a recurring dream, the story was largely a rip-off of The Empire Strikes Back with telepathic cats. Many years and eight screenplays later, the process still usually begins with a dream.

Inspiration comes in many forms, but an idea is just the beginning of a story. The rough idea for "A Midsummer Nightmare" began when I auditioned for a stage production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Growing up with the stories of Tolkien and other fantasy masters, my take on the hobgoblin Puck was considerably darker than most interpretations. The director didn't agree with my vision of a psychotic Joker-esque Puck, and I was cast as Lysander instead.

Years later, I dreamt that I was in another production of Midsummer. I wandered through a forest with other actors, looking for the way back to a camp. We were stalked by a creature made of vines, and the actor playing Bottom was transformed into a demonic donkey creature. Dreams are a great incubator where raw ideas can develop into a story. This particular dream took the concept of an evil Puck and turned it into the basic story for "A Midsummer Nightmare".

Once the story has emerged from the dark recesses of my brain, scenes and characters start to hit the page as notes, sketches, and rough storyboards. With Midsummer, I found further inspiration from the play and decided to develop most of the script's characters as modern day versions of Shakespeare's characters. The play's intertwined stories of a feuding couple, a teen love triangle, and magic gone awry were easily updated to the classic horror setting of a wilderness campground.

My story notes become an outline, and at this point I make the painful decision whether to continue a project. First I check to be sure it has a Hook, a Plot, and a Kick-ass Ending. All these are essential, in my view. The hook is the concept that gets people's attention. The plot is more than a collection of scenes. It is a journey with multiple arcs. And no horror movie is complete without an Ending that leaves the audience breathless. If my outline has those three essentials, I ask myself "Is this story worth telling?"

Many of my stories never go beyond the outline stage, but "A Midsummer Nightmare" passed the test. The process of transforming an outline into a script is one of my favorite parts of writing. Characters develop their voices. New story arcs develop. Details come alive, often acted out wherever I may be writing. It can take anywhere from a couple weeks to several months for me to write the first screenplay draft.

Then comes the hard part: Editing. It's like you've just given birth to this beautiful new life... then you have to hack it into pieces with a butcher knife. Unfortunately, it's essential. Editing is not just finding the typos. You have to answer the WHYs of the story. WHY is the villain after so-and-so? WHY would someone go into the dark basement alone? If the answer is "because that would be cool" or "because it helps the story", it's time for more thinking.

I usually wait until the second or third draft of a script before I show it to anyone. After I've stitched up the baby and tried to make it pretty again, I hand it off to a trusted editor to rip it apart once more. It's essential to have someone who will give you honest feedback and not just blow smoke up your fanny. A new pair of eyes should find a lot more WHYs. Answering them isn't always easy.

The final step before a script "goes public", either in the spec market or as something I plan to direct, is the table read. Hearing your script performed by actors can help expose character issues and dialogue that wouldn't work even in a Star Wars prequel. And of course there are always more WHYs. Working on those issues with other creative people makes it a lot more fun.

At this point it's time to introduce the screenplay to the world. When a script is produced, it inevitably evolves again through the various stages of filmmaking. But that's a topic for another post.

- Joshua Siegel

You can win a signed BLOODWOOD CANNIBALS dvd by "Liking" my new movie "A Midsummer Nightmare" on Facebook. Check out the page for details!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A sprint and a Marathon

Hey Guys, Jeff here. The one thing about getting a movie made is that a lot of things need to happen first before you even hit the record button and/or roll a frame of film. Preparing (and raising money) for a film is a marathon not a sprint. But before we even take a penny there are a few things that need to take place. First off an Entertainment lawyer. This is done to protect the film and the filmmakers from a variety of things legally. Then the project needs to become an LLC (Limited Liability Company). This keeps everything in house from generating income from the film as well as creating any type of merchandise and payroll. However an LLC needs to be done to protect the filmmaker(s) in the event that someone decides to sue the movie. These are just a few of the things that Josh Steve and I are discussing.

On the Marketing end we are using our Midsummer Facebook page to keep people up to date on things as well as creating an audience for our much anticipated film. We are looking to raise between $1 to $2 million for this film which is by no means a big budget but a feat unto itself. The Facebook page I think is great way to reach your audience directly to tell them what you're up to. We are also going to create new avenues to market the film as well as talk about filmmaking so check back with us in a few weeks.

Okay that's about it. Time to take the Mrs. to the BART station. Later


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Midsummer Nightmare art

Jeff Moore and I had a great time at the Sacramento Sci-fi / Horror Show this past weekend. We met a lot of cool people and got to hang with Deneen Melody, our Marion in "A Midsummer Nightmare". Photos from the event and our first podcast are coming soon!

Visiting all the talented artists at the show inspired me to create another teaser graphic for the movie. Think you can do better? Enter A Midsummer Nightmare - Horror Movie Design Contest to win screen credit and exclusive prizes from the film!

We're looking for creative artists to help design the creatures of "A Midsummer Nightmare". All design submissions will be made online and entrants are encouraged to incorporate a range of mediums such as animation, sculpture, photography, painting and computer-generated and digital imagery. Visit our contest page to learn more.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Actress Deneen Melody cast in Shakespeare inspired horror movie "A Midsummer Nightmare"

Arcadian Entertainment is proud to announce that Deneen Melody will be playing a lead role in the horror film "A Midsummer Nightmare". Deneen Melody is widely considered to be a rising star in independent film, especially the horror genre. She says, "When I first heard about A Midsummer Nightmare, I knew right away it was the type of project I had to be involved in. It has that nice mixture of dark fantasy, horror, action, and comedy... definitely my type of movie."

"A Midsummer Nightmare" follows a group of young actors who go to a remote wilderness campground to rehearse their next play: Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night’s Dream". Their retreat soon becomes a nightmare as they are stalked by evil forest spirits, led by the murderous prankster Puck. Writer and director Joshua Siegel says that “A Midsummer Nightmare” will have the dark fantasy flavor of films like “Pan’s Labyrinth” while retaining the fun B-movie feel of horror series like “Leprechaun” or “Wishmaster”.

Producer L. Jeffrey Moore says, "When people ask me what's my next project I mention Midsummer Nightmare and tell them a little about it and they get excited. I can't wait to give them a scare that they'll never forget."

"A Midsummer Nightmare" is the second feature from Arcadian Entertainment and writer/director Joshua Siegel. Siegel's first horror film "Bloodwood Cannibals" will be released on DVD by Eagle One Media on September 14.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

News about A Midsummer Nightmare

Thanks to Brandon Sites and Big Daddy Horror Review for the cool write-up about "A Midsummer Nightmare".

Check out their article A Midsummer Nightmare Gets Under Way With Pre-Production

More info and video coming soon!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Midsummer Nightmare teaser graphic

Although my new horror film "A Midsummer Nightmare" is still early in pre-production, I created this teaser graphic.

You can also now find us on Facebook!

Joshua Siegel
writer director producer

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Midsummer Nightmare

The Shakespeare inspired horror film "A Midsummer Nightmare" is currently in pre-production. More info coming soon...