After five long years, the time has finally come for the release of Uncommon Law on DVD & Blu-Ray! It’s been a crazy journey getting to this point, and I’m thrilled to finally share it with the world. Uncommon Law is now available for pre-order in the shop!
About Uncommon Law:
After years of bailing each other out of bad dates by pretending to be married, best friends and longtime roommates Brendan & Melissa receive a court notice that they are now common law married.
Uncommon Law was written & directed by Brian Work, and stars Mick Taylor, Christie Vozniak, Myles Grier, Jules Nobles, Rob Epstein, Mandi Christine Kerr, Kyle Tutton, & Lacey Patten.
This month I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo with the goal of wrapping up the first draft of Into The Black, the fantasy novel I’ve been working on. I’ll make another post later to go into more detail on that.
While talking with a couple friends who are also participating, the subject of character sheets come up. I’m a big fan of character sheets. I’ve got one that I fill out for all of the notable characters in any fiction project or screenplay that I write, and another more in-depth one that I use for POV characters. The sheets I use were pieced together from multiple ones that I found online (credit: dehydromon & The Lazy Scholar) and modified to fit my needs. They’re constantly evolving as I find new information I want to include, & a lot of my projects require specific fields that aren’t a part of the base sheet you’ll find below. Change yours up and make them your own!
Character sheets are good for a lot of things, but there are three main reasons why I love them:
1. Fleshing Out A Character
This is the obvious reason. After I became a member of Team Outline, I started to really enjoy developing my characters before I ever started to write the story itself. I found it extremely helpful as a means of fleshing out characters who I hadn’t quite grasped yet. It’s easy to come up with ideas for POV characters and other main characters as you write, but too often minor characters fall by the wayside. Having a predefined set of information to fill out gave me a great starting point, and in the process I’d usually grasp onto something that gave me a solid idea of who the character is.
Ideally, every character should have a rich enough backstory and defined personality that you could tell the whole story from their perspective. Now, it would be a very different story from the one you want to tell, which is why you didn’t choose them as a POV. But if you’ve taken the time to dig deep into that character, identify who they are, where they came from, and what makes them tick, they’re going to jump off the page a whole hell of a lot more than one that’s just a generic stock friend/co-worker/family member.
2. Differentiate Characters
Worried that your characters are too similar? At a glance, you can check their sheets and make sure they have distinctive appearances, backgrounds, likes/dislikes, you name it! Sometimes this has to do with physical characteristics, which is usually the audience’s first impression of a character and how they keep them separate in their minds, and sometimes it has to do with how they speak or where they come from. Having character sheets saves you from having to dig through your memory or hundreds of pages of story to make sure you didn’t make five characters who all unintentionally look like Dolph Lundgren.
3. Keeping Track of New Information
This has to do with more than just looking back at your original notes to make sure you got so-and-so’s hair color correct. As I’m writing and I come up with more information or details about a character, I’ll go back and add that information to their sheet. That way, instead of having to find the specific chapter where I mentioned something, I can just refer to the character sheet and find the information (along with a footnote saying where in the story it came up.)
This is where the three sections at the end (Biography, Additional Notes, & Things To Include Later) come in handy. Biography is where I place background information & things from the character’s past. Additional Notes can be anything that doesn’t fit into the other sections, from personality traits and desires to questions that I still need to answer. And then Things To Include Later is where I put ideas for things I want the character to do later in the story (obviously.)
Place of Birth:
First Appearance in the Story:
Theme Song (what song best describes this character?):
How does the character dress?
Equipment or anything else they carry with them:
Habits (smoking, drinking etc.):
Talents, Skills, & Special Training:
Most Important Relationships
Additional Notes on This Character
Things To Include Later
Death (If Applicable)
Age at Death:
Place of Death:
Manner of Death:
This past March I was given the opportunity to direct a production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at my old stomping grounds, Parkview High School in Lilburn, GA. I’ve worked with the students there several times before, including a 24 Hour Play Festival I ran for them back in December, however this was my first time directing a full play over there. But when your favorite teacher from high school asks for your help, that’s what you do!
I was only getting half the class for my show, and the class had significantly more girls than guys. I already knew the teacher was going to need a lot of the guys for hers, so I decided to go a non-traditional route with mine. As much as I love Much Ado, it suffers from an unhealthy dose of misogyny, being a product of the time in which it was written. I’m an unabashed feminist, so I decided that the overarching theme of the production would be “screw the patriarchy.” Rather than gender bend characters, I opted instead to maintain the genders of the characters and cast women to play the members of the patriarchy as pants roles. It created a dynamic that wound up working extremely well, changing up the power structure and highlighting the misogyny in the play. It’s so commonplace in media to see men making sexist remarks to women that it’s easy for those occurrences to skate by. When you have women making those same comments to other women, it shines a light on the absurdity of it. In the end, we did the show using only three male actors (for Benedick, Claudio, & Borachio.) As for the style of the play, we went with steampunk because I wanted something that was close to our world but different enough that it created a little separation. Also, I just like steampunk, and the kids jumped at the chance to make their own steampunk costumes.
I made some cuts to the script, both for time and because I needed to get it down to 16 actors. I condensed the non-Dogberry portion of the Watch down to Verges & Seacole, and cut Antonio entirely, giving most of his lines to Balthasar. The only doublecasting was with Ursula/Sexton, and the only full scene to get cut was Act I, Scene II (between Antonio & Don Pedro.) The majority of the other cuts were to remove lines that referenced older myths & legends, and other things that would have been completely lost on today’s audiences and didn’t do anything to further the plot. I also edited a couple of the problematic (read: racist & anti-Semitic) lines. “If I do not love her, I am a Jew” became “if I do not love her, I am a fool,” (borrowed that change from Joss Whedon’s version) and “I’ll hold my mind were she an Ethiope” became “I’ll hold my mind, e’en were she uncomely.” Just in case anyone is interested in using my edit of the script, I’ve made it available to download here. And if you use it, please let me know! I’d love to know how it works out for you.
This was my first time directing Shakespeare, and it turns out I was in good company because most of the kids had never performed it. They were understandably intimidated, so a big part of my goal was to help them feel comfortable with the language. We spent the first three weeks of rehearsal in the classroom analyzing the text and going through it line-by-line so they knew the meaning of every single word they said. It was a given that a lot of the language would be lost on the high school audience, so it was extraordinarily important that the actors knew exactly what they were saying so the meaning would come across through them. We also did a lot of work on physicality, because I’m a big fan of physical humor and wanted to inject a lot of that into the show.
I’m happy to say that the students absolutely nailed it. From watching them, you never would have known it was their first time performing Shakespeare. They were funny as hell, and by the time we got into dress rehearsals I was getting goosebumps every time we got to the dramatic scenes. I don’t think I could have been any prouder of them if I’d tried. I can honestly say that I’d hold this production up against any college Shakespeare performance I’ve ever seen, as well as a good bit of the professional Shakespeare I’ve watched.
I was blessed with a fantastic cast and crew who made my first experience directing high school theatre such an amazing, rewarding, and unforgettable experience. Watching them get it, really get it, made my day every single time it happened, and it happened a lot. And after it was over, having a student come to me and tell me how much my belief in them made a difference in their life… Well, that meant the world to me. That right there is why teachers do this. Sometimes I wonder if students know that the whole time you’re making a difference in their lives, they’re making a difference in yours as well.
Been crazy busy for the last few months, so I’ve fallen way behind on this (and it’s also why I’ve watched so few movies lately, but incidentally has allowed for a lot of audiobooks.) So here’s a long-delayed update for something that absolutely nobody reads because I really just do it for my own benefit.
Didn’t see a lot of movies this month, but I did rewatch a couple Disney classics that I haven’t seen since I was a kid; unfortunately, for my money neither Dumbo nor The AristoCats holds up overly well, although I actually enjoyed AristoCats a bit more.
Two movie highlights this month: The Force Awakens and Begin Again.
First, the obvious: The Force Awakens was everything I was hoping for out of a new Star Wars movie, and may have just taken the spot as my favorite of the whole series. It exceeded all of my expectations and then some. Well written, great story, awesome new characters, and superb acting all around. Daisy Ridley & John Boyega were hands down the perfect casting choices. Even BB8 was a joy to watch. This is not only the Star Wars movie that fans wanted, it’s the Star Wars movie that fans needed.
And then there was Begin Again, the movie that has quickly become one of my all-time favorites. Despite just discovering it, I’ve already watched it several times and shown it to a few of my friends. It’s a modern movie musical by John Carney (writer/director of Once.) Unlike a Broadway style musical where characters randomly burst into song, the songs in Begin Again come from the fact that the characters are musicians, and these are their songs. It has a beautiful story & music, and I absolutely love Keira Knightley in this role. Great performances all around, really. Mark Ruffalo, Catherine Keener, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld… all pitch perfect. The characters feel real and have wonderful story arcs. My emotions were riding high while watching this, as it’s a cathartic, heartfelt story about moving on. Highly recommend.
I’ve always loved Christmas music, although as an adult my tastes have tended to lean away from the standards and more toward rock covers or original songs by rock bands. I know, I’m predictable. Anyway, this year I wanted to compile a list of my favorite Alternative Christmas songs to share with everyone. Some of these may be on the obscure side, not because I have hipster music tastes but because a lot of them came off of compilation CDs that are likely out of print (99X used to release some great Christmas albums, and I don’t know how many of those songs are now available on iTunes.) A few quick notes:
Without further adieu, here is my Alternative Christmas Top 40!
So there you have it! My favorite alternative Christmas songs. Let me know if you have any favorites that I didn’t mention here, or if there are any here that you listened to and now also love.
The Uncommon Law premiere was a success! We had a great turnout and it was such a wonderful experience to finally unveil the movie to the public.
Thank you to everyone who was there! I’ll have information on DVDs & Blu-Rays in the next few months. In the meantime, here are a few of the photos from the red carpet and the Q&A with cast/crew!