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This is INFODUMP 39.
Watch one, do one, teach one.

A shorter letter this week, because I’ve actually managed to write another newsletter within seven days of dispatching the last one! It transpires that this edition is loosely about process, and the process I’ve set out for the INFODUMP seems to have worked this week - I’ve written a section a day, first thing in the morning, and thereby taken all the weight off of the thing. A lot of new newsletters fall by the wayside after the first few issues and INFODUMP has always been in danger of going the same way, because writing the letter in one go has always clashed with other work I have to do. Somehow, I’ve managed to keep it going, but I’m now a little more optimistic about its longevity, because I’ve finally started to break it down and establish a process that gets it done without so much fuss. Long may this continue...

For most of my career as a writer I have been goal-oriented, which is to say that I've had my eye on finishing something and the curve of effort tended to be shaped in such a way that the early stages of a project contained very little actual work and the last part was a mad scramble to get something in on deadline.

It was only a few years ago that I finally got sick of that mad scramble and turned my attention away from the goal and onto the process. Nowadays, when I get a writing job, I sit down and figure out how much work I am likely to put in per day (with a little leeway for absence and distraction built in). I feed this into a project manager (Merlin Project in my case) and that tells me when the script will be ready. All I have to do then is to stick to the daily process (Things 3 tells me what I have to do on which project each day) and deadlines are, nine times out of ten, hit without any panic. The process has been refined over time; I recently got into the habit, in the last week of a writing job, of ditching all other work just to make sure this one thing has my full attention so that I can deliver something that's as good as it can be. What this all means is that deadlines are hit with the minimum of fuss and that effort is spread evenly across the entire writing period, not crammed in right at the end. 

When you focus on process, goals just get hit without any fanfare. Thus, this week, I finished the last script for Season 3 of the podcast and the second episode of a show for Netflix. My attention now goes to a couple of movie rewrites and a new podcast pilot, all of which are already started because their processes overlapped with the last stages of the earlier work. 

I may blog about this process in more detail at some point. My feeling, though, is that you have to arrive at a process like this yourself. Now that I have a company that has commissioned podcast pilots from a few writers, I am seeing how the younger ones all feel they need that mad panic in the last week before deadlines; they seem to view the adrenalin rush as an essential part of their creative process, just like I always did. Because sprinting is always more exciting than running a marathon.

But, in order to sustain a career as a screenwriter, you need to be able to work across multiple projects simultaneously. I think there's a period early in your career where you can only focus on one thing at a time, and a period when you're very successful when you might choose to get that focus back. But there's a long stretch in the middle where you really have to be able to work across several projects at once, and that is only achievable through pacing and process.

In my experience, this idea is applicable to a lot of different things; turning a big job into bite-size chunks takes the heat off of it and makes the accomplishment of the task an awful lot easier.

My CD of “Data Lords” finally arrived. This is jazz composer Maria Schneider’s latest project. Schneider has funded her last few albums via Artist Share, so the process of investing early means that you get regular updates, behind-the-scenes videos, etc. So that when the album is finally finished, you do feel like you were there for a lot of its creation. Data Lords is two CDs. The first is a condemnation of data culture; discordant, repetitive, oppressive, and the second disc is a hymn to nature, akin to Schneider’s peerless “The Thompson Fields”. David Bowie was a huge fan of Maria Schneider and used a lot of the musicians from her orchestra on his last album. Schneider herself came in to do the arrangement for Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime).

I’ve watched Moneyball twice this week (I’m on a Michael Lewis jag). I love this movie and I find the central idea, that baseball teams are assembled using deeply flawed criteria, to have applications in all walks of life. 

Speaking of Michael Lewis, I’m finding his podcast Against The Rulesto be really enjoyable. 

I’m coming to the end of Jay Kristoff’s “Nevernight” trilogy of books, and I haven’t enjoyed a book series this much in a very long time. These are VERY adult books, kind of a mix of Leon and Harry Potter set in a really well-drawn fantasy world. The set-up of the story is simple; a girl whose parents were brutally murdered enrols in assassin school to learn how to take her revenge, but where Kristoff takes the story is inspired and so much fun. 

No tech stuff or gadgets this week, because I loaded last week’s letter with them, and nothing new has happened in the last seven days. Except...

I’m in the midst of a couple of tricky movie rewrites at the moment. I originated these scripts in Highland 2, but have now ported them across to Scrivener (which I usually only use for episodic television and podcasts). Rather than scroll up and down making changes and checking for consistency, Scrivener allows me to see an overview of the script, to colour-code storylines and characters, and to compile sequences to work on. It’s a really good surgical tool. 

I still know some writers who ONLY use Final Draft, which I find bizarre (bizarre that anyone still uses it at all, let alone that it would be the only app you’d use). For years now, I have found that different apps are good for different types of scripts and even for different parts of the process. Given the ease with which you can move a script between apps without causing any headaches, it seems only sensible to me to select the right tool for a given job.

My standard workflow on feature scripts now is to start in Highland 2 for the first draft, then port into Scrivener for rewrites. The Scrivener file is then compiled out as a Fountain file and dropped into FadeIn for formatting, title page, etc. before being saved as a pdf to send to the studio. Written down, that sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. And the different perspectives each tool gives on your story are invaluable.

My DevonThink database is full of articles on various things so, rather than just randomly pull highlights of what I’ve read in the last week, I thought I’d dive into the database for some older pieces. I’m on a Kubrick theme because of this Rolling Stone piece on the incredible documentary feature “Filmworker”, which is a must watch for Kubrick fans and pretty much anyone who is into film: ‘Filmworker’: How Leon Vitali Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Kubrick’s Dark Moods

So for further Kubrick reading, I’ve dusted off the following:

Stanley Kubrick’s original treatment for ‘The Shining’

Run Through the Jungian: Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Full Metal Jacket’, a Phenomenological Treatise on War

Stanley Kubrick's Boxes

12 Stanley Kubrick Strategies for Perfecting a Film

Stanley Kubrick's London

All hail Kubrick's ‘Barry Lyndon,’ a masterclass in bringing a unique filmmaker's vision to life

November 27, 1965: A Rare Recording of Stanley Kubrick’s Most Revealing Interview

That’s it for this week. The world continues to be a strange place and we continue to cope with it, one day at a time...

Fuck it. Send.
Copyright © 2020 Julian Simpson Ltd, All rights reserved.

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