Breaking the silence…

So, it has been nearly a year since my last post. So much for new years resolutions.

Well, to be honest, I have been holding true to my writing objectives, or as close as I can in between working on films. However, the networking and business side of my work has been EXTREMELY lacklustre.

This has been one of my busiest sound editing work years. So that has put a dent in my progress, but that is no excuse.  Really, I’m still trying to come to terms with what I’m supposed to be doing with a blog. Its a tricky process to go through when you feel like you’re not really blogging for anyone. Like you’re going through the motions of a bizarre play where there is no audience.

And yet I must press on! Learning through trial an error. As my manuscript goes through draft upon draft, likewise, my understanding of the publishing industry go through shifts and turns.

It feels at times like I’m writing an overly formal journal, where I can’t really be 100% honest with myself. I’m still suffering a fear of putting myself out there and calling myself an author when I’m not actually published.

Well all that has changed now, I have in the last few months had 2 short stories published in 2 anthologies! A horror short story and a Children’s Christmas story.

So, no excuses now! Time to get moving with my business and make more of an effort to engage with other writers and share in their achievements.

Only through working with others, interaction and participation will I learn what this journey of mine is actually about. Networking above all else is the key to refining one’s art. Only by sharing with others can we really discover what we have to offer.

I’ve learnt this through the years building up my network to establish myself as a sound editor, so I know big things come from small steps and that reaching out to help others and to share in a community is where it all begins.

 

 

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New Years Writer’s Resolutions

Welcome 2014!

So, the wheels somewhat came off my little writing wagon over the Christmas season, no writing, no blogging, very little reading.  I had a great few weeks though, visiting family and friends back in Sydney. Now I’m back in Wellington I am faced with a list of questions rattling around in my head.

1) What are my goals for this year in terms of writing?

2) What are my goals for this year in terms of production management – transforming my writing projects into published works?

3) What can I do to better prepare myself for marketing challenges once I am ready to publish?

2014 will be a busy year with sound work, perhaps my busiest year yet. So it will certainly be a challenge to find time for my writing, but I must make time and I must start taking it seriously as a business.

Answering the first point should be relatively straightforward (one would hope!). Writing should be the easy part, but I still need to set myself goals and work towards them…more about that later. Point 2 and 3 however, need a lot more consideration. 2013 was a better year for my blog, simply because I actually posted on it, but I have a long way to go before it is of any significant interest to people.

I need to shift my focus. Instead of thinking that I am simply making art for myself I need to concentrate on investing myself into a community of artists and view my work as something that I want to give to others.

I need to start to be more serious and studious about networking. The writers who I read and follow on the internet are the ones who are giving back. Since we’re talking about building networks with colleagues, it is the positivity and enthusiasm of a writer that I’m looking for, not their genre, style or background. I might love a writers style, but unless they have an engaging and optimistic outlook then I wont necessarily think of them as a valuable contact or source of inspiration. I am drawn to the bloggers who have some insight, who have taken the time to do interviews and reviews on other people, writers who offer experiences both positive and negative that they have had. The success of a writer’s marketing strategy can be pinpointed to something so simple that it really can be seen as the mark of success in every aspect of life.

The strategy is simply – generosity.

It is almost unfair to call it a strategy, it is more like a modus operandi. If you are generous, willing to share and open your heart and mind to others, then they will open their hearts and minds to you. It’s not just about buying other writers books and expecting them to buy yours in return, it is about sharing ideas and broadening your online networks by engaging in insightful and honest conversation.As well as getting your name out there by word of mouth. It might just make you a better writer and person too.

So that is my writing goal for this year, to find ways to engage more, start up conversations, read other peoples books and blogs and write reviews, even do interviews. To find ways to make the most out of the exchange between colleagues both here in New Zealand and abroad.

I am also part of the film community here in Wellington. I sometimes take it for granted the network of people and artists that I know here. Even worse, I completely neglect to interact with them sometimes when they are all right here, living in my neighborhood. So, hopefully I can aim to do better here in my own backyard too.

How about you? What are your new year writers resolutions?

Don’t tell me you don’t have any? Look here, I’m not the only one trying to be proactive…

The Writing Resolution You Can Actually Keep

Imagining Beauty

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’, so said Keats. I wonder what each person sees in their mind what visions are conjured when they hear that phrase. Or perhaps, what they envision when they simply see or hear the word ‘beauty’? The mystery of the mind and its complex machinations is at the heart of all art, no matter how small or great. The child sitting at a desk at school writes what he or she sees of the small world that they know and the great universe they can imagine. The rulers of countries sit at their desk signing their name and attaching it to ideas and dreams they have about the future.

Too often people consume their day with negative worries and fears. So much more time should be given to our imaginings. So much more effort should be spent on visualisations of what we hope will be, what we wish to achieve. Especially if those dreams and wishes are of things that are good.

I was inspired just now about the concept of beauty when I was flicking through YouTube watching short animation sci-fi films. There is some outstanding work being done out there, especially by people who are funding the projects themselves. Often I get so caught up in reading current sci-fi work that I forget how immediate and blistering inspiration can come from sight and sound. How the vast landscapes of written text can so quickly be etched into mindbogglingly beautiful reality through the medium of film.

Short films in particular, need to infuse a ton of of ideas into the viewers imagination in a short window of time. Perhaps this gives the short film genre more license to be more disjointed and incomplete than feature films. They offer only fractured glimpses of another world just as short stories do, without being bogged down by the constraints of character development, story arcs and plotting that larger works depend on.

This seems like a great excuse for me to offer a plug for a sci-fi short film I worked on in 2010. I co-designed the sound for a film called Abiogenesis. As the blurb states; “In this breathtaking science fiction spectacle, a strange mechanical device lands on a desolate world and uses the planet to undergo a startling transformation, that has profound implications for an entire galaxy.”

You can buy it here on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/abiogenesis/id644210102 or preview it. There is only a trailer of it on YouTube that doesn’t feature my sound sadly, nor the actual musical sound track by Rhian Sheehan. It has won numerous festival awards that has put it in a position to be eligible for an Oscar award in 2014.

Shameless plug aside, another film I just watched that sparked my interest was one called ‘The Gift’ –

The complexity of the world building and sheer beauty of ‘The Gift’ is laced with a sense of mystery that utterly captivated me. Though it is only a few minutes in duration and barely scratches at the surface of a compelling view of a futuristic Russia, it draws me in and leaves me craving more. The key character is a creepily well animated robot butler with porcelain skin. He is chased and hunted down by police for stealing a strange metallic box containing what we are only told is a ‘unicorn.’ When the film concludes, I know I should be disappointed for not finding out what the ‘unicorn’ actually is, but instead I’m glad. The puzzle is left open for the viewers imagination to toy with. My mind twists and turns over what the ‘unicorn’ could possibly be and what the motives of the people who wanted to obtain it are. As one of my favourite film makers David Lynch once said, “The more unknowable the mystery, the more beautiful it is.”

A riddle unsolved, that is the spark of inspiration that I crave constantly. Like a book not quite completed, the painting I imagine myself creating before I start, a quiet afternoon spent pondering what I will do next year.

When I was younger I used to think endlessly about the universe and what it meant to say that it was infinite. I used to end up feeling scared, intimidated and helpless. When I thought too long about it all, I always wound up thinking that perhaps there was no meaning to life? Then one day, I had a revelation. A moment of relaxation…of letting go. I realised that if we knew the reasons, the limits, or all the answers then it wouldn’t be nearly as exciting or profound or beautiful. Though every day the sun rises and sets, everything is always changing, always fresh. Transformation of matter and energy is endless and so is my daily appreciation for everything that I see, hear, taste, smell, think and feel. Beauty is just that to me, endless mystery.

How about you? What does beauty mean to you? I’d love to hear since only through sharing our stories can new idea be born.

Writer’s Revolution

I just read yet another article about the future of publishing. It seems every where I look, every blogger, every writer’s site, every publisher’s page, there is article after article all about the same topic – what is the fall out of the self-publishing boom going to do to the industry?

I say, less than we fear and more than we hope.

We saw a similar scenario with the music industry when downloading music made the industry re-evaluate itself. Everyone was terrified that CD stores would shut down, that record labels would collapse and that the individual artists would suffer great financial losses.

Yes, the music industry has changed a lot and downloading has affected and shaped how we listen to music and how we share music with others. I realised the other day that I used to listen to a lot more music. I thought about it for a while and came to the conclusion that this was because the technology I use for music listening has changed dramatically in the last few years. I don’t own a CD player any more and all my CD’s are in another country where I had to leave them because of their ridiculous travel weight. So, I have a library of music on my computer and various drives, but my iPhone and iPod are older models and its too difficult for me to bother trying to get music on them. I feel like I have to upgrade all my gadgets all the time just to be able to listen to something I bought on a CD four years ago. I have to upgrade everything…my phone, my laptop, iTunes, constantly in order to simply play my music.

I can’t be bothered buying new CD’s because;

  1. I don’t have a CD player and
  2. Shopping on the street is so time consuming and shops are stocking less variety making it harder to find what I want. Often I will go into a store to find something, can’t find it and think…”Oh, I’ll just buy it online.”

We are being encouraged to work more hours, spend less time engaging in society, purchase everything possible online and stay at home.

We see it in the film industry too. Everyone is encouraged to update their home viewing system with giant televisions and 5.1 home surround stereos. Don’t go see it at the movies…download it, stream it, purchase the television series after it airs and then you can control when and how you watch things. Certainly not after you have done your extremely long hour day that prevented you from having the time to go out and see a film in the first place.

The focus of consumerism is shifting away from community, away from the public sphere and into the individual space. Also everything is shifting away from the accumulation of physical possessions and towards transitory ownership. Renting, streaming or purchasing something that is floating somewhere in a cloud of digital ether rather than being a tangible – in your hand – object.

I think that there will always be a certain percentage of the population that will reject this and want to own physical objects. Humans are collectors by nature. People want to feel the pages of a book, or to read through the dust-jacket of a vinyl record. Just as there will always be a percentage of the population that want to get everything for free, pay for nothing and cheat the system. Ultimately, most people want to do the right thing I think. Most people want to pay artists for their work in whatever format they offer it.

The online emphasis of our consumer marketplace can be seen as a threat to the old ways of doing things in person. There is less importance placed on the act of seeing a real live band of musicians, buying a book from a shop or going to the theater. However people seem to be sharing their thoughts ideas and creative experiences more than we used to. Because of social media, people are in many ways a lot more involved with introducing their friends and family to things that interest them. Science, current affairs, politics, art and culture are shared across the internet more now than ever before. So, we artists now have an opportunity to communicate directly with our audience, bypassing the old chain of command.

The old pathway to releasing a book was – Author>Agent>Editor>Publisher>Bookstore>Reader.

This is being replaced increasingly by a new model – Author>Internet>Reader.

The new model won’t immediately replace the old, nor should it, but it will certainly mean a period of adjustment for publishers, writers and readers.

We are seeing a shift away from the publishing houses having all the control over what gets published. The writers are taking the reins of their creations. Also, while self publishing will increase in popularity, so will work for freelance editors/ marketers/ proofreaders etc.  The publishing houses are already using the sales through Amazon and Kobo to look for their next publishing deal. The successful self-published author appears to the publishers as a marketable bet to make a deal with.

For people such as myself, living in far flung places such as New Zealand or Australia, it is even harder to enter the traditional publishing system since we are so far from that is seen as the cultural hub of the USA and Europe. Getting overseas to attend festivals, conventions and seminars is out of the question for most of us. It is extremely difficult for us to go and meet agents/ editors and publishers in person also and with the development of the online industry in recent years, it simply unrealistic to pretend that our small local market would be sufficient to sustain a writer’s career. We have to look globally and I think that the rise of independent publishing as an equal and respected avenue for authors to take will enable this. The previously unnoticed corners of our beautiful and diverse planet will start to have a voice in a global network of independent authors, where every writer now has a chance to let their work be seen.

Life is Learning

I finally mustered up the courage to send my manuscript off to someone for an editorial pass. A momentous step indeed. Not so much because I feel this is a step towards success as a writer, but because it’s a step towards me taking my work seriously and accepting that I need help in order to get better and better and continually more betterer at writing.

As you can see, I openly admit that I have a lot to learn. I realise this will be a long haul.

As much as I would like to be an instant success and receive great acclaim for my writing, I know this is not likely to be the case. I wish I had some magical powers, some mystical bardic charm that enchanted anyone who read my words, enticing them to throw money and accolades my way. But I have been down this road of creative discovery before and I know better.

I remember when I first started playing guitar, I wanted to be good right away. I wanted to be able to express all the musical ideas that were in my head and it was frustrating to have to wait till I was any good to do so. The poetry and the melody  was trapped within me and I had no musical skill or language with which to express it. The thought that it would take me years to be any good at guitar was so daunting at the age of 18. I was in such a hurry to express myself and achieve greatness. Of course, time flew…as it does…and playing guitar comes relatively easily to me now. Though, strangely enough, I do not seek greatness as much as I seek fulfillment and satisfaction. I know that ultimately, there are more important things than living up to expectations of others or following markets and trends. Being comfortable to express myself is my main priority, even if that means not producing something that is seen as marketable.

Right now, I’m experiencing this same beginning phase with my writing and while I think it’s important for me to constantly strive to be better, I can’t get lost in worrying about what other people will think of my work.

Ever since I was a child I have loved writing and though I have always kept it up, only recently have I started to take it seriously as a skill to be trained. My wordsmithing muscles are just like my guitar fingers and they need constant exercise. And just like learning an instrument, I need to be more comfortable with the language of storytelling. I need to learn from others about the rules of the craft, just like when learning music, you have to know how the rules work before you can bend them.

There is no better way to do that than to get someone else to help you. A teacher, a mentor, a friend, someone outside yourself who can form an opinion about your art. It’s time for me to take on another step of learning by opening up myself to constructive criticism.

It is also important to realise that we are never too old to learn and never too old to receive advice. When I used to teach guitar, I often would take on mature age students and I was surprised at how many of them felt embarrassed about picking up the guitar in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s or whatever! They all had a touch of shame when they first sat down and admitted that they were probably too old and should have had lessons years ago. The only shame they should feel is for thinking that their age should determine the goals they set for their life.

There is nothing, I repeat….nothing, better in life than finding a way to express yourself, be it through art, through music, through writing, through exploring, through conversation, through your day job even. Communication is the essence of human experience and it is never too late to pick up a new tool, take a few lessons or ask for help or advice when discovering a new way to create the art of your life.

How many of us out there have ever put off doing something we dream of for ages, only to find out that when we finally make that leap, it wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be? What dreams do you have that you prefer to keep as abstract goals rather than tackle the challenge of actively seeking to realise them?

Moving Forward

So, I have decided that upon finishing my latest edit of my book, that it’s really time to get myself out of this eddy that I seem to be stuck churning around in and get the project moving forward. While I want the book to be the best it can be, I also want to move on, to start something new, or at least start on book two in the series. I know I can still keep editing away and refining my book while starting on a new one, but I feel now is the time to get some fresh eyes onto my work.

I have been working with a critique group for a year now and it has been an unbelievably rewarding experience. I’ve learned so much from those 3 individuals and I’m truly thankful for them including me in their group.  I can’t recommend writing groups enough to other authors out there, especially if you think that it is too daunting, the thought of showing your work to others. After all, why else do we write if not to let others read it. I was thinking today about how slow this process of refining the work is. I love belting out the first draft, but then everything slows down, substantially, unless you’re a pro who has already refined your process. But for a first time writer, just the sheer amount of time spent waiting for friends to read it, waiting for editors or agents to get back to you, waiting for your online presence to build – it’s staggering. The months fly by and nothing happens and it can be agony.

Then there is all the research you have to do to get your brain up to date with current markets, publishing houses, agencies and on-line book making services. Researching Amazon, kindle, and their various competitors…trying to weigh up between looking for an agent or approaching smaller publishing houses or going indie – it can be exhausting. Trying to develop your personal brand and working out how to make this convoluted and continually evolving industry work for you is something we all must endure. Its all about ensuring that every decision you make is aimed at get your book out there in the best way to serve your individual needs.

Then there are the days you get lost on the net…wading through pages and lists of names and criteria. You may start to feel that maybe you’re not such an individual. Maybe your book is like a single cell in a greater organism and when you step back from yourself you can’t see how your work fits in anymore. You feel like you are being absorbed into a circuit of promotion and marketing hype that just goes round and round like a mad carnival ride and the only way to get out, is to give up.

But you have to keep on believing right? Because the only thing that really matters is that you do the best job that you can and that you are happy and proud of the product you produce.

If you go to an art gallery, you can drift by a hundred paintings in an hour and absorb a fraction of the effort, labour, passion, pain, love, hatred and intention of all the artists that that poured themselves into their work. But a book, is a much more intense commitment. You are asking someone to read every word, to get hooked on every line and to stay with you until the end. When I buy a book, I like to flick to a random page and read a paragraph to get a sense of the authors intention. Can they maintain that enduring enthusiasm so that every paragraph, every line is strong and worthwhile and something that a reader can believe in. Forging that kind of relationship with a reader is a hard ongoing battle. You can’t predict who will love it and who will hate it till you put it out there.

So now it is my turn to be brave and start really thinking about who I can get to look at this work I have crafted. It’s time to find out what more needs to be done in order to get it out there. My book yearns to hunt for ravenous sets of eyes.

The Magic of Sci-fi

Carrying on from my last post about working in film and how it helps me learn about the crafting of story through my experience with the editorial process, I thought I might take a moment to look at the film I worked on last year that has just come out, Elysium.

I mean, I’m not going to review it, since I worked on it, that would be a little self-serving. No, really, I just want to talk about how difficult and yet enticing it is to write sci-fi these days.

I have always loved science, but I feel that in the last few years so many changes and advances have been made in scientific fields of study that we are really in a very open and exploratory phase of human history. Fields of study that were at one time mocked or ridiculed are now openly accepted as legitimate research subjects or at least worthy of investigating.

I feel that a resurgence of interest in sci-fi films and novels somewhat reflects this shift. It’s an exciting time to be writing sci-fi and getting to work on one of this year’s biggest sci-fi films was a real honour. It was also an amazing opportunity to work with writer/director Neil Blomkamp, who is at the forefront of modern sci-fi story telling.

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/aug/17/elysium-neill-bloomkamp-interview

I loved working on this project and felt honoured to have been part of a team that was so talented and dedicated.

However, when it comes to writing my own sci-fi, I often I find myself daunted by the amount of research required to do the work justice. I find that I battle constantly with trying to…

  1. Create accurate and plausible technology and science for my universe without…
  2. Bogging down the text with too much jargon and at the same time…
  3. Keeping it fresh and exciting with ideas and concepts that perhaps haven’t been looked at before or at least are being dealt with in a new way. While…
  4. Being mindful of genre staples/ cliches/ paradigms .Knowing when to adhere to what is tradition and when to steer clear from what is old hat…and lastly
  5. Trying to figure out how a modern teen really would behave in the bizarre circumstances that they find themselves in.

 

All the while I’m conscious that sci-fi readers are among the most critical and scrutinizing of all genre fans. And they have every right to be! I know I’m critical of other sci-fi writers.

Sci-fi writers  suffer all the criticisms of ordinary fantasy. Both genres deal with forging something completely imaginary and trying to make it believable. Readers ask questions like…

  1. Is the world building seamless?
  2. Are the characters realistic for the world that they inhabit? and
  3. Is the social/economic/political structures within the world detailed and well balanced to convince the reader that its all real?

But unlike fantasty authors, sci-fi writers also have to deal with an audience who have a sophisticated understanding of modern science and technology. Every single reader/viewer has their own opinion on how they foresee humanity will fare in the future – for better or worse. This is the key to understanding the sci-fi genre…because sci-fi stories all have something in common. They deal with the concept of our use of science or technology getting out of hand. The classic Prometheus myth. Sci-fi tackles heavy issues dealing with the human thirst of conquering new horizons without taking heed of the consequences. It is a genre that is about looking to the possibilities of the future in order to take responsibility for the actions of the present.

In Blomkamp’s Elysium, for example, we see the dark side of that philosophy. Elysium offers a look at how our current world social and economic structure may lead to a future where social division between the rich and the poor are at extremes and the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. We see a scenario where sacrifices must be made on both sides of the social spectrum, in order for a balance to be re-established.

Without going into too much specific back-story about how the world ended up in this situation, Elysium makes the viewer think about the implications of our current world economic situation and do some hard evaluating.

The sci-fi author must always be looking to the horizon. I find that it is getting harder to keep up to date with the rapid advances in science. It is really difficult to stay ahead of the curb. You have to identify with modern science and project it forwards, to investigate how it may evolve and change in time and what implications it has for the future of humanity, both good and bad.

But if a book takes three years to write/publish then the modern sci-fi writer has to realise that in the time it takes to get the book out there, a whole gamut of scientific discoveries will emerge.

Two years ago when I began writing my book, the Higgs Boson particle had not been discovered…NASA’s Curiosity had not landed on Mars…numerous exo-planets hadn’t been discovered including one Earth-sized planet that orbits Alpha Centauri B. And that’s just scratching the surface of what’s been going on.

Now, having said all this, my story is heavily steeped in what can only be called magic. I worry about this at times, knowing that hard-core sci-fi readers might reject some of my more ethereal concepts. I try to reassure myself that magic is just as valid in sci-fi as physics, since at some point in our human history, they could be seen as one and the same thing.

I tend to think that only by incorporating things that seem utterly like magic to us, can I write sci-fi that is true to what I love about the mystery of science. Or perhaps, I’m just a dreamer who has my head too far up in the clouds? Sometimes I focus too hard on getting the facts right, (especially knowing that my nuclear chemist brother would not approve of my sloppy research). But sometimes, I find it particularly hard to be practical when it comes to some of the core scientific aspects of my work. I prefer to focus on a more philosophical and emotional side of things and sort of let the structural mechanics of the world fall into place around the characters. After all, it’s the character’s story that matters most to me.

So, yes, it’s a difficult and yet thrilling era to be working on sci-fi, I might even go so far as to say it’s magical.

 

 

 

The Sound of Storytelling

One of the great things about working on sound for films is the experience I get in learning how to shape and craft a story by examining how film-makers do it. The editorial process for films is similar to editing a novel, in many ways. The first cut we sound editors receive from the picture department, is almost always too long and in need of a major tidy up. Trimming shots and scenes the way we do in writing to cut out unnecessary detail or to speed up the pacing is a big part of the process. Sometimes it is the reverse also true, and a key scene slowly becomes longer as shots are extended to give more time to let poignant moments linger on the screen. Sometimes, the director even has to go back and shoot more footage adding more detail in the cut to explain things that are confusing or just didn’t work the way they had first imagined they would.

This is true of the novel editing process, sometimes you have to cut huge chunks of writing out in order to keep the story centered on the protagonist and their goals. Sometimes, you need to add more detail to flesh out an idea that needs more development in order to sell a critical theme or concept.

The main difference between film editing and novel editing, (other than the fact that they are completely different mediums), is in my mind, is the fact that from the very beginning, it is a process that involves the thoughts and creative input of not just one person, but many. Dozens or even hundreds of people, depending on how big the project is, put their creative energy into creating a film. Those people might only each have a very small part to play, but they contribute to the overall shape and tone of the film and constantly influence/ inspire or affect the decisions that the director makes as the project evolves.

Working in sound, you really notice this, since sound is the last step in the film creation chain. We get to see the picture edit change over and over and over again, refining the story day by day. With each new version, we alter and enhance our sounds that accompany the pictures in a process that can last weeks or even months. Sometimes you have to work very fast to get all the sound blocked out for temp screenings while other times you might be working on one scene that only lasts a few minutes for weeks on end.

Although the film started in it’s original form as a script written by a single person or handful of people, once it leaves their hands and enters the machine of the film-making world, it becomes a strange new beast. A conglomerate of creative talents. Sometimes this can be a very fruitful, smooth and rewarding process, but sometimes it can go on and on and become sterile or a confused tangle of competing ideas. At the end of the day it comes down to communication and team work.

How this relates back to my understanding of shaping a story is that this endless exposure to other peoples ideas, to the way they see things, affects how I create my sound. The visual effects (VFX) become more sophisticated and detailed, allowing me to think more about the world I’m looking at on screen. I try to make sounds that will immerse the audience in that space. I think about how the sound can affect the viewers emotions. I think about how the sound works with the music to achieve a cohesion between what is really being heard by the characters and what they are feeling. All the while, thinking about the main goal of the film which is – to tell a story.

When I’m writing by myself, I still think through the same process. I’m still thinking about the scene as though I can see it. Drawing on all the senses, to describe what pictures I see in my mind. The hardest part is getting that visceral emotion out into words in a way that is as effective as sound. So in a direct way, I’m always thinking about how the words I write, will sound.

Devices like onomatopoeia, alliteration and assonance, are all subconscious contributors to affecting how a piece of writing flows and how it draws us in. When I’m cutting sound, no matter how big or small the action on screen is, it could be a car chase or an explosion or simply opening a door, I’m always listening to the shape of the sounds and making sure that there is a flow. Every sound has a beginning a middle and and end, just like every story, every sentence every word. When you break everything down, you see that the process of a story unraveling is just like everything in life, breathing sleeping birth and death, all art is a reflection of this process of beginning middle and end. A three act play.

Sound is perhaps the most powerful and primal of our senses. It develops in the womb and is one of our earliest methods through which we can communicate and interact with out world. As a species, sound played an important role in our evolution, helping us to become better survivors in a world full of dangers. Our language sets us apart from other animals. It is through language and written word that we have learned to share our experience and our consciousness with each other.

It was the sound and the shape of words and the emotions that they can evoke that I think first drew me to the act of storytelling. I’m fascinated by the nature of how humans tell our stories and how we have done so since the beginning of human history.  A love of reading is completely connected to our childhood and our past. The stories that were shared with us from older generations, the histories of our ancestors become part of us when they are told to us. There is such an alluring mystery to the process of hearing about something that happened outside of our own experience. And by hearing an account of someone else’s story we are transported into their minds. It enchants me. I am in love with how the sound of words can evoke a world within our minds, a world that no two people can see the same.

This is what I think film is all about. People coming together, to try and take all those individual visions of a story and put them together to form a collective. A meeting point between the vision and imagination of artists working in all different fields. It is as close as technology has so far brought us to sharing a dream amongst others. That is why film is such an amazing force in the world of storytelling, because it’s not about replacing books, its about our desire to share our thoughts and dreams. Outside of people who claim they have telepathy, this is as good as it gets.

Withdrawal of Thrones

So I am suffering withdrawal since finishing watching season three of Game of Thrones. There, I admit it. I don’t know what to do with myself, I’m trying to absorb myself with work, but it is just so hard to carry on knowing next season is so far away.

It’s so  frustrating when a book, or a piece of music, or film, or TV series inspires you so much that you want to somehow incorporate elements of that style into your own work even though they are miles apart in genre or scope. This is how I get into trouble with my story becoming too cluttered and confused.

I have always been a fan of high fantasy and now I find myself wanting to incorporate fantasy elements more and more into my sci-fi adventure. Is this a completely foolish notion? Or is such genre blending a good thing? Is there a market out there for scifi-fantasy? I had a little look and saw that it is sometimes referred to as science and sword. Something as grand and epic as star-wars could be classified as this kind of a genre blend, simply because of the presence of hand to hand combat with the light sabres and an abuncance of magic-like elements such as the concept of ‘the force.’

When I think about it, my work on this sci-fi has always been of this ilk. I always set out to make my story like Indiana Jones meets Lord of the Rings, in space, with kids. Or something like that.

Yet, I’m aware of how cluttered my book has become due to my intricate genre blending. So now I’m at a cross roads yet again. I had a crisis/epiphany the other day when I realised that I hated the book and it needed serious revitalization. I get a sudden urge to make the book more like that movie I saw, or more like that book I read. I take it as a warning sign that I am not happy with some element of the story.

This time, it is my characters. I really need to push them in different directions. This is what I have taken from my watching/reading of “A Game of Thrones.” Despite not being a kids story nor a sci-fi, the character detailing and immersion into the mind of the POV character is something that is universal to storytelling and I’m sure I can do better than what I have already.

So what do I do?

Do I abandon the story all together? Or do I rework it once again into a new beast?

I feat it’s in danger of becoming a Franken-novel. It possesses very few words now that were in the original draft and has somewhat lost its vibrancy because of it. Yet I think it is getting stronger with each re-write and most importantly, I’m learning more about how to write. So regardless of where this book eventually goes, I think that the various lessons I can learn from re-shaping my work will ultimately make anything I write in the future easier and faster so get it to where I want.

Inspiration for change is everywhere and you don’t need to lock yourself into reading solely from within the same genre as you are writing. Moreover, it can come from any art from; music, poetry, sculpture. Just a few weeks ago, my partner and I went to the symphony and the whole time I was creating a story idea in my mind, inspired by the orchestra. Sometimes my best ideas come even when I’m doing nothing creative whatsoever, I could be walking down a street or sitting at a cafe, you never know when some idea will strike.

So, what do I do when I’m suffering withdrawal from a great TV series? I take what I have learned from the experience. I analyse what is great about the craft of that show and then go to the video store and rent out a new TV series….hmmm…Downton Abby?…sure my kid’s sci-fi could do with a little bit more social commentary laced with witty repartee and a dash of chaste romance. Why not?

Creativity in the Subconscious Realm

My life is full of Zen-like sound recording moments where I get to take in the world around me in a way that most people overlook. Sound is the first sense that we encounter in this life, we experience sound in the womb and yet, most of the time, most of us don’t pay a lot of attention to the sounds we hear. When I get to go out and record sound for a film I’m working on, I really listen to the world. Not just beautiful things like forests or mountains, but stuff like factories and industrial areas too. It is a chance to take stock of the world around me in a very unique way and there really is noting like it.

You sit there with your headphones on, your microphone on a stand and at first you simply listen to the space. You listen to what is really going on. What are the different sounds, how do they interact? You analyze the technical stuff like how the sound is reflecting off different surfaces or what is the texture of different trees and listening to how they move. Then after a few minuets, you wonder if you have recorded enough…if it is a nice recording, you might decide to stay there and just capture a good length of sound ten or twenty minutes maybe. Then something strange happens…you stop thinking entirely. You aren’t thinking about the sounds, you aren’t planning your life, you aren’t even thinking about the time anymore…you are just in the space, part of it. It is the closest I feel to how I experienced the world as a child, before I had deadlines, commitments, schedules or plans. I could just sit and watch the world and literally just – space out.

This is what I love most about sound, connecting to that very rare mind space, and experience a little moment in time that I can keep for later. But its not even just about capturing it, it is about letting go of being in the world and just stepping back and letting it tell its story.

So speaking of stories, where is mine? It has been a while since my last post. Have I forgotten about my story?

Sound has once again dominated my world. I do love sound and it is through helping to shape other peoples stories that I learn more about my own.

The thing is, when I’m working on a film, be it a short film, or a feature film, I tend to feel like you shouldn’t be doing anything else with my life. Exercise takes a nose dive, cooking, cleaning, everything associated with my own needs suddenly takes a back seat to my need to feed and develop this creative project that someone has been carrying with them form months/years/decades. I stop planing and structuring my book and start thinking how to conceptualize the film…what sounds I can go and record to bring this film to life, to make it something new and fresh, something never been heard before.

It’s a good feeling to be involved with bringing someone else’s dream to life. I just hope that one day I can be in the position with my books, getting other people to help me bring my vision into reality.

At the moment though, my book and all associated activities…(my blog, my reading, my research, my sketching, my thinking of the plot while I am doing household chores) have come to a stand still. It’s not just that it takes up most of my time to work on a film, it kind of hijacks all of my creative energy. To get my head into a project in such a deep and engrossing way, I need to stop thinking about my book, since normally my book is always at the forefront of my mind, like a demanding child stamping its feet and pestering me for its attention.

I always thought I was great at multitasking and in fact, most of the time, I need to have myself involved in a few art projects at once. I’ll swap between painting, music, sound and writing quite happily, but as soon as one of them becomes a JOB, it takes over and bullies all my other hobbies, interests and passions into a dark corner of my life. A corner rife with creative cobwebs. My JOB whatever it may be, becomes a gorging – rampaging – power-hungry – mind tyrant!

I have sometimes thought about trying to write more than one book at a time, but maybe I’d end up having some sort of manic episode. Maybe I’m just not experienced enough to live in more than one world at a time? I do have a lot of ideas for other stories beyond the one I’m writing now, but I’m not sure I could ever straddle more than one writing project, cause as soon as I get into writing a book, it demands so much of my brain’s CPU and I get obsessed.

I’m not sure if I can find such moments of peace while writing. The act of writing is so different to what I do in sound, It feels more difficult to find a way to tap into my subconscious like recording sound does. I do come up with a lot of ideas in my sleep or when I day dream, so maybe that is part of the subconscious writing process – daydreaming…inhabiting the world within my head.

So what about you? Do you suffer from mind tyrants? Do you have problems juggling multiple projects? Do they fight in your brain for attention making you feel like someone with multiple personality disorder? Or are you able to organize your artistic projects and still find time for those Zen artistic moments?How does your subconscious influence your creative process?