Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'm gone a couple of days...

and a whopping amount of posts are made (including two cherry poppers, nice).

Anyways people, have just read your suggestions, noted with interest, will be spending the next few weeks mulling. I have to do a presentation tomorrow morning (probably at the same time as half of you are at working reading this blog) and I chose to focus on the read-through you fullas kindly did for me. I decided to post it for you to read if you want, hopefully it'll give you the chance to understand how freaking fantastic you all are, and what a big help it was to me. It's about two A4's long, just thought I should warn you before you begin.

BTW - our discussions and your feedback led to many changes - thanks guys!

At the start of the year I set myself a goal: to write two new drafts of my feature film Birth Control. Considering this was the first film I had written I really had no idea what I was getting in to. I finished last year with a 103 page first draft, and while I was pretty proud of the achievement I knew there was much to be done. The whole process has been new to me, and to be honest there has been far too much involved for me to be able to cover in ten minutes. So I’ve decided that today I’ll talk about a tool I used to understand a little more about my characters, and my film script.

A couple of weeks ago I gathered nine of my friends and had them do a read-through of Birth Control. The read-through was part of discovering my own process as a writer, and there were a couple of important outcomes that I hoped to achieve.

Firstly, by committing my friends to a date in advance I also committed myself to a deadline for producing a second draft. I know that I’m a person best motivated by pressure, and for me, there’s nothing like the potential to let people down to get me moving.

I had also been feeling a bit stale about my script. I began almost every writing session by reading from page one and making little changes here and there. I was no longer sure if what I had was any good. I had come in too close to my characters and their world, I’d lost the ability to see if there was humour in a line, or tension in a scene – I was pretty much over it.

I wanted to hear my characters in a voice that wasn’t my own, to see how someone else may interpret the line, to see if my dialogue was strong enough to convey what I intended. I was ready for the lines to rise off the page, to hear instead of see them, to get a different perspective.

The other reason I wanted a read through was that I have struggled a lot with the isolation of writing. I’m a people person and interaction with others is something that energises me. I’ve found that holing up in my corner of the house with my i-pod on and people who only exist because I put them there was not totally conducive to good mental health. It was time to share.

There are probably a bunch of ways I could’ve done this: assigned characters to each person, given the scripts beforehand so they could be read, given a description of characters and their stories… but I was pretty stoked my mates had agreed to give up their Sunday arvo and anything more seemed a bit much to ask. Besides, the reasons I had for the read-through were my own. At this point I wasn’t listening to check a line had been delivered perfectly, or that timing was bang on, I simply wanted to get at my script from another angle.

So Sunday rolls round. We were sat there with a beer in hand when somebody shoved the snacks aside, and it hit me. While I have shown my script to my tutor and classmates, and regularly had their feedback, these guys were different. This was my gang, my closest friends whose opinion I cared about, whose values and ideals I often shared. This was totally being judged by an audience of my peers.

What if they thought it was shit? Would they say it to my face? Would there be an awkward silence at the end. Part of me wanted to get up and run from the room, but I managed to override the urge. I felt my cheeks flush as we kicked into the first couple of pages.

About two minutes into the reading I was feeling pretty crappy, there was so much description and direction, it felt stilted. My friend reading the directions must've thought she was in for a hell of a long afternoon. In hindsight I was able to understand that this is the setup – this is where we first meet the characters, this is where I paint their world. So yeah, it’s a little wordy, but get four or five pages in and it all starts to happen.

At this point I want to let you know that my friends are not actors. Most of them had never seen a film script let alone read one, and their only qualification for the job was that I was pretty sure they could be honest with me. At least I hoped so.

As we read on something started to happen – my friends voices began to change, the dialogue gained momentum, the characters started to speak for themselves. I began to see how it might work, how each characters voice would play on the screen, how their relationships to each other would look. Without having seen the script before, my friends began to show the emotion and tension in a given scene, using nothing more than their voices.

It was valuable to be able to sit and listen, to hear the lines that hummed, the lines that clunked, and the lines that the group had a reaction to. I immediately knew what to cross out, the scenes I entered too late, the plots and sub-plots that I needed to develop further.

To have the opportunity to be an audience to my script let me experience it differently, and consider all the elements from another angle. And the round of applause they gave me at the end – well it felt pretty sweet.

After we refilled our drinks we asked questions of each other – it was interesting to see the storylines that resonated and the ones that needed more attention. It was great to hear the way a friend perceived a certain character, and to realise that as we continued the discussion they were referring to the characters by name, explaining things they had said or done, commenting on their situation.

So enough ego stroking, and back to my main reasons for setting up the read-through.

Deadlines – well, that worked. The days leading up the read-through I was focused on crafting a draft good enough to let me hold my head up as it was read aloud. After the read through I had a few days before I was due to hand it in to Graeme, which gave me the chance to right some of the wrongs that came up in the reading. I know it still needs work, but hey, it’s my second draft, and that’s what the next ten are for huh?

The read-through definitely helped freshen the script for me again. I was able to forget the fact that I knew the next line, and just listen. I could take whatever my friends bought to the character and see the film, rather than the letters on the page. And as for whether or not I was funny, I’m glad to announce I got a few laughs.

Did I get to hear my characters voice? It was fantastic to hear my friends voices change as they became a nineteen year old boy, a matriarch, or a plumber in his mid forties. Even without a rehearsal or prior discussion I got a sense of who my characters are, and how so much of their presence is tied up in the dialogue.

And my final reason for wanting a read-through, there’s nothing like baring your all to make you feel alive. It was great to share this with my friends, as much for that Sunday afternoon, as the discussions we’ve had since about the characters that inhabit my script.

As I mentioned at the start this is my first film, and the first time I am muddling my way through something of this complexity. The process is all new, and for this reason it is impossible for me to make mistakes, though I’m sure I’ll have my share of learning opportunities. To have the chance to do a read through, to hear my script rather than read it, well it’s just one step back from watching it on screen, and I say bring on that Sunday afternoon.

Thanks fullas, you rock.

More on bodies

Apparently societies that eat primarily for pleasure rather than health have better health outcomes.
Our seminar at work today about urban and civic agriculture was really interesting.

Monday, June 29, 2009

will squeak(y clean) squeal

at the thought of a washing machine that uses only one cup of water?Yup an enviro-friendly machine due out next year

The appliance, which could save billions of litres of water a year, has been developed at the University of Leeds.
It uses less than 10 per cent of the water of conventional machines and 30 per cent less energy by replacing most of the water with thousands of tiny reusable plastic beads to attract and absorb dirt under humid conditions.

I may even wash my bath towel after every use with this technological advances like this puppy. assuming i'd have one.. that is.

i bet tankgrl has one on order

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

It had to be done

Ha! I knew it.

"Reuters highlights a study following over 11,000 Canadian adults over 12 years which has found that, while being extremely underweight or overweight is bad for your longevity, a little fat adds years. During the study period - from 1994/1995 through 2006/2007 - underweight people were 70 percent more likely than people of normal weight to die, and extremely obese people were 36 percent more likely to die. But overweight individuals were 17 percent less likely to die and the relative risk for obese people was nearly the same as for people of normal weight."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

List of things that distract me

  1. Worrying
  2. Email
  3. Dreaming
  4. iTunes
  5. Trying to do too much
  6. Bad hair
  7. Planning
  8. Researching off-topic

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's ...

day. Let's hope we survive.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Biggin it up

Ok people, time to be bold (for me at least).

I am taking ideas on what I can do that is HUGE. I want something to get my fires stoked once more and find some passion again. At this stage I am open to suggestion (let's face it, I'm always open to suggestion), am probably more keen to be involved with other people as I am spending enough time on my lonesome as it is, other than that... um... think big?

I guess what I'm after is some way to make a difference to my own life and others lives, if I get to be a little nutty and creative along the way all the better. Something different, something challenging, something fun.

Of course if others want to join me...

So come on then... what've ya got?

Inspirational people who make a difference

I was watching a talk by Isabel Allende on the train this morning. What a woman! Funny! I was pissing myself just about falling off my seat, and then minutes later almost sobbing. Click here if you want to watch this yourself. I love it when I see and or hear from women (especially older women for some reason) who are wise, witty, ascerbic, empathetic, angry, intelligent in whichever combination. I want to be her.

Random fact

As the gap between rich and poor increases in this country I note:

"When monkeys are kept in an hierarchical environment, those at the bottom self-medicate with more cocaine."

Who knew?!

This is from a Guardian interview with two researchers who have written a book ' The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better.' which I want to read. Thanks Ian for the link. Apparently a wide wealth differential results in poor outcomes for the poor and the rich.

Wellington's Totally Fab Ukulele Orchestra!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Well Hello there!

75 days until my birthday....such a very very long time.

How many mins/secs until Jan's sixth sense kicks in an knows that there's a new post?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

While it may all seem like a struggle...

I got a lovely reminder today of how cool our little country can sometimes be. I know, I know, it's easier to bitch and moan, hell there's plenty of material open to attack if that's your inclination. Let's face it our pozzie at the ass end of the world has a few shortcomings. But sometimes, in some small ways, we get it right too.

This writing thing can have me fidgeting around, frustrated and introspective and wondering what the hell it's all for anyway. And then I look up and see that we have a Film Commission, and that it does just that - commissions films. Ok so the budgets might not be huge, the numbers of films made may not satiate the desire to see our own culture reflected back at ourselves, but stuff all countries have what we have. There are few places on earth where a writer can approach an agency for GOVERNMENT funding that exists purely to finance creative talent - and sure, this is a two-edged sword that has it's own sets of issues, but still, money exists for getting scripts to screen.

And Radio NZ. This station pays writers to reflect NZ. They don't care about commercialism (in fact often produce works who would otherwise have no voice), they provide a service on every side of the experience, and are one of the largest international producers in the world of Radio drama - RNZ slays countries with more money and larger stations because of a commitment to creativity, to new zealand, and to new zealand art.

It's easy to get pissy and focus on the bad and the wrong. But for today, matthew, I'm gonna be happy about the state of our nation in it's commitment in some small way to making it possible for voices to be spoken.

And with that patriotic little rant I shall jump off my soapbox and get back to the business of writing something that is worthy of getting a slice of money that National hasn't yet managed to commit to another roading project in Auckland.

Grumblings about farmers

I recently read a speech made by Federated Farmers CEO Conor English at the Large Herds Conference, held in Ashburton in March.

I found the whole speech pretty terrifying: there’s talk of “water storage” (read ownership, trade-ability, water as a hostage), climate change (“We know there is a problem with climate change, because fashion tells us there is one!”) but the thing that has stayed with me is a comment Mr English makes about the voice of farmers:

We need to think about this for a bit. It's important to realise that by number, farmers are about the same size as the gay community (my emphasis). With MMP and the increasingly urban dominated political environment, we have challenges in bringing the country with us and winning the numbers game. We need to punch above our weight to get our voice heard and to win the debates. And that is exactly what we are doing.”

(I’ve never heard Conor English speak and I don’t know anything about him, but in my head, the tone of that second sentence is not inclusive.)

Unfortunately I think he’s right. Farmers do punch above their weight, their voices are heard, and they do “win the debates”.

That a group of farmers has so much political sway and the gay community has so little really pisses me off!

This is not a level playing paddock, I don’t know how to play the number’s game and I don’t see how we can ever achieve any kind of equity of “voice”.

Grrr! What are your thoughts?

Found some cool free downloads today...

I've been searching on the web and allowing a bit of "free click" therapy to take hold. You know, see where your old mouse takes you kinda mentality (= little mental). And I've found some really cool websites.

These are my favourites:
  • TED = full of very cool and inspiring people from all walks of life who are at or near the top of their games.
  • Delicious = a bookmarking site where you can see the top favourite bookmarks.
  • Creative Nerds = has all sorts on it, but this link is to 25 free creative programmes that you can download. I love open source software - the philosophy and the quality rocks. And it's free or low-cost :-).
  • Toodledo = is basically an online to do list. It's free. You can have it on your iPhone (which syncs to the web). And it's real easy to use.
  • Monkey On = you can send other people a monkey if you need them to do something for you but you can't be fagged sending them nagging emails to see if they've done it. Once they get a monkey, IT nags them until they "kill" the monkey by completing the task.
Happy clicking [big smirky smiley face - what? That's just my face!]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Watch these if you have time...

I watched them on the train last night. And they are fabbo.


When was the last time you made something out of nothing?

A big deal perhaps?

Mountain out of a molehill?

Perhaps a spontaneous poem for the one you love? (Roses are red, violets are blue, you wanna go to bed? I'll give you swine flu'...)

How about a painting? Short story? Piece of clothing? Film script? Food from scrap? Essay on a topic? A beautiful turn of phrase?

What's the fuss? These things are normal aren't they? Doesn't everyone want to create something from nothing?

I wonder what happens when we don't create? Do our minds turn to destruction? Perhaps creation and destruction are normal activities for the frail humanity of which we are a part?

Have you noticed that there are 19 questions in this post? And only one sentence ending in a full stop. Do you have more questions than answers?

PS, does blogging make you feel like a wanker?



Did you hear that?

That was the soft sigh of hip to the beat losing her blog virginity.

She’s heard how great it is, and she’s seen others do it, but it has taken a while to feel comfortable doing it herself.

So, ok, shyly, scared of being in the spotlight, here is her first blog…

It’s not going to be some flashy-pants glossy tart of a blog post, I think she’ll start small.


Shhh. Did you hear that?

That was it!

Does that count?

Was that the real thing?

I hope she’ll be brave enough to try it again :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I started writing a blog about Banksy

Not the hideous mayor of Auckland, no, the ridiculously talented, challenging, intelligent UK artist. I love his comment on the world, the beauty in his art as he delivers the world back to us, the sinister side to his cerebral messages.

Boring myself silly with self-indulgent introspection, and needing a bit of oomph in my day, I spent a few minutes on this website:

Nice one.
It's a damn shame I have work to do.

Another bit of pretty


Monday, June 15, 2009

Want to join me in a challenge?

Every so often (like once every month or two) I give myself a silent challenge - well, perhaps not silent for Ness.

The challenge is to use everything in the fridge and freezer up BEFORE going to the supermarket to buy groceries. In order to use everything up, I often end up using the ingredients hanging out in the cupboards as well. Do you feel like joining me? I've decided to embark on a more constructive and embracive (am making up new words now) challenge to see how long we can live on what we have. How much money will we spend? How much will we save? Will we find it a big pain in the backside? Or will we grow (not waistwards) from the experience? What will make us crack?? Will it be the nirvana of "the empty fridge"?!

The rules that I would like to propose:

  • Dairy purchases OK (I do not have access to a cow).
  • Creative food exchanges OK
  • Buying lunch and the odd dinner seems OK to me, unless someone wants to be all militant about it all.
  • Let's compare notes on the weirdest things in our fridge, moments of great personal fridge/freezer triumph, and our favouritest recipes.

If you WOULD like to join me, any ideas on how should we share this information? I'm thinking about whether a blog is the best place to do this?

Something pretty

and maybe reflective of how I felt yesterday

today's blog is bought to you by the letters...

'F' and 'M' (with a ness in the middle).

'F' can be many things: a bad mark on your essay, the FLYING that goes with unidentified and object, a setting on your oven's temperature control. It can be the start of many great words like freak and fun, fool, frission, fudge, fanny and fuck. (oops..can I swear on blogs?) 'F' can be accompanied by 'OFF' when you have real intent but perhaps young ears are nearby. 'F' hangs out near the start of the alphabet, claims it is more important than letters that come later like 'L' and U'. 'F' has a sense of self-importance that is not entirely justified.

'M', and sneaky little 'm', has connections with films made for an adult audience which gives it delusions of grandeur. 'M' is average, a pair of pants that fit between 'S' and 'L'. 'M' is the turning point, the half way mark in the journey of letters. 'M' nancys around with murderers and muff-divers, marbles, monsters, mittens and magicians. 'M' is entirely void of humour.

And the ness in the middle? Hell. Don't get me started.
I'd like to make my first blog with "the group" a happy one. So I'm going to tell you all about the lovely things that I can see from my office window this morning.
* The sun looks fantastic on Wellington Harbour - so bright I have to squint and frown as if it's really not a truly spectacular sight.
* Looking down on the streets I can't seen a slow, sluggish line of commuter traffic - despite it being 8.30am. Instead I imagine that more people are cycling, busing, training, walking, running and swimming to work than this time last year.
* The trees outside the Beehive look lush and dark green. A little bit of nature right outside my office window.
* Sweet Fanny Ann and her delicious coffee is just down there. Although I can't see the brassy wench, I can imagine that great coffee smell.
* Just under my window is the contraption that the (blokes) use to navigate over the building while they wash the windows. It's standing empty and motionless at the moment, but I imagine how cool it would be to go along with them for a ride and to look out over the city with the wind (probably whipping) in my hair. How cool would that be?

I CAN'T see anyone with Swine Flu, scowls on their face or impatient hands. There are some real advantages to being on the 14th floor and being vaguely vague and myopic :-).

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I'm still waiting... Don't try and pretend all got lives and are too busy to blog.

Two thoughts for today ..
I'm looking forward to the 'Jan is sporty olympics' - you will all be asked to be judges so I hope you're ready.

This past week I may have mentioned  (ha ha) my work seminar on indigenous knowledge and sustainable urban design, and how Ngati whatua are starting to rebuild a pa settlement. Well last night at the refuge do I was talking to Ange about the new policy work happening within Maaori caucus working with whanau, hapu and iwi and I got all excited wondering what it would look like if women, men and children,  at Orakei designed the pa in part to keep women and children safe. I wonder what would that look like? How great if refuge could get involved at that level of prevention work.

Friday, June 12, 2009

My first rant

I'm over Friday, but have just read Gordon Campbel's latest blog on scoop which is all about economic censorship. Really interesting - apparently the reason you can't get Lword at most video shops is that it costs over $1000 a disc to get classification. So a TV series would cost several grand. If it's a bog block buster sweet but if not then most shops probably wont bother.
Rude! and I had no idea.