The Hollywood Dog That Isn’t Barking — Where’s Our Second Civil War Disaster Movie, Roland Emmerich?

by Shelt Garner

Movies are meant to be a representation of the collective unconscious. At least, that’s the theory. As such, it seems pretty obvious that if you produced a big budget Hollywood movie about a Second American Civil War that it would be really popular.

But there are also some pretty obvious problems with that idea.

One is, given that you would have to make an editorial decision as to who the good guys were, it probably is doomed to failure. You can’t make it the Blue States because the movie probably would appeal to Red States more and you can’t make it Red States because the liberal media would put the movie in the “Left Behind” genre of content.

The only way to solve such a problem is to make the point of the movie that there would be no winners in a Second Civil War. You would have to “both sides” the conflict to such an extent that there would be no good guys and no bad guys.

This would leave us with a movie that lacked any creative vision and was nothing more than yet another excuse to see notable American landmarks be blown up in a rather dramatic fashion.

[Spoilers] The Third Act of ‘No Time To Die’ & The Potential Influence Of Phoebe Waller-Bridge On The Screenplay

by Shelt Garner

I really liked No Time To Die. I only rolled my eyes a few times and checked my watch a few more. And I only once felt the need to think about leaving the theatre in mid-film. For me, a person who walks out of movies constantly, that’s a big deal.

But it’s the third act of the movie I want to talk about.

It’s in the third act that the stakes are raised and a child’s life — Bond’s daughter — is put in harm’s way.

It’s in the third act when something about how unfocused the movie is becomes clear. Somewhere in the movie’s nearly three-hour run time was an even better movie, waiting to come out. The emotional highs and lows of the movie were blunted by how muddled it all was.

I think it was so muddled because that is the point of a Bond movie. You go to a Bond movie to have a good time, not to really get your emotions played with. But had they wanted to make not just a Bond movie but a Bond “film” they could have focused a lot more on the implications of Bond having a family for once in his life and what he was willing to do to save them.

As it is, we’re introduced to his daughter as a plot point, she’s put in danger and then…she escapes because she bit the finger of the villain? What the what? It was a huge letdown.

You have something unique in the Bond franchise — he has a family to protect — and in the end the whole thing is dismissed in a rather ham-handed manner. There was not nearly the emotional pay off that it could have had.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Maybe I’m seeing the influence of Phoebe Waller-Bridge? But because she was just punching the screenplay up and wasn’t the main screenwriter, we just saw glimpses of the far more powerful movie that could have been? I dunno. But it definitely is weird that something so potentially powerful — Bond with family — was introduced and then not a lot was done with it.

As I mentioned, I think some of what I’m noticing is just something that is basic to the Bond movies on an existential basis. We don’t really expect them to be No Country For Old Men or There Will Be Blood. There’s just a fun way to entertain yourself for a few hours.

Of Stieg Larsson, Mare Of Easttown & The Thriller Series I’m Writing

by Shelt Garner

The original reason why I started working on a novel of any sort was my pure, white hot rage against the Trump Administration. I had no idea what I was doing, but I had a lot of energy and decided to work on a scifi novel that would talk about the major themes of the era.

It soon became clear that my ambitions were simply too huge and I would never have the resources to finish what I had come up with. Flash forward three years and I’m in a very different situation. While I’ve again come up with a massive creative project, this time I’ve got a handle on what it all means. And, much to my own shock, it’s not a massive sci-fi series that I’m working on, but rather a thriller series.

The fictional baby in question as a fictional adult.

This happened in large part because there was always one book that I was able to read over and over again and that was Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire. At first, the book I was writing was very much Stieg Larsson fanfiction.

And the, gradually, everything changed. The story was fused with an array of other themes, ideas, inspirations and it was not fanfiction, but it’s own unique story. What was one book was split into two with a cliff hanger connecting the two books.

Then the one thing I totally never expected to happen, happened: Trump was not able to steal the 2020 election.

That’s when I did an assessment of where I was and realized that with Trump out of office, I needed to do something radical. So, looking around, I realized there was a obvious fix — go backwards and time and develop two novels from the massive backstory that I had come up with for the two novels I was working on.

At first, I thought this was going to be a breeze. I had two solid plots in my mind and things were going really fast. Then, however, it soon enough became clear that I have a huge ego and am very demanding of myself. This is when I saw Mare of Easttown and was both shocked and inspired by what I saw. It was so good, that I realized I needed to up my game.

Mare of Easttown

And, so, here were are.

This first book now is being written with my impression of Mare of Easttown in the forefront of my mind. So, this first book is very different than one might think from someone who has studied one of Stieg Larsson’s books and used it as something of an informal novel writing text book.

But I’m feeling pretty good. I have shifted the focus of the novel from the abstract of owning a newspaper to the very concrete crisis of possession of a baby. The issue is I have a lot of thinking to do. I have to flesh out an element of this story that I didn’t even realize needed to understood better.

Yet, thankfully, at least I know which direction to go at last.

Baby as McGuffin

by Shelt Garner

This first book in the series I’m writing is definitely finally come into its own. I’ve fleshed out the first half of the outline to my satisfaction. But now that I’m in the second half I’ve smashed into an existential problem that I’ve only begun to fix.

That existential question was: why?

The baby in question grows up to look something like this later in the series.

Now that I know that “why’ is the central issue of the story, I can do a significant creative reset. Another thing I’ve decided to do is make the central issue of the entire story not the abstract of a newspaper, but the very concrete problem of possession of a baby.

All of these changes hinge on something I didn’t even realize was a problem — the current piss-poor development of a very crucial character in the story. But all of these problems are beginning to fix themselves now that I realize that was what was causing problems to begin with.

The story, overall, is getting much better. It’s just going to take some time to flesh out these elements of the story that I just hadn’t even thought about before.

Now that I understand what the problems to fix are, things should move a lot faster. I no longer have unknown abstract problems to work with, but very concrete issues that can be fixed by simply doing a lot of thinking and daydreaming.

Dreaming Is Free: Of Jessica Chastain, Sophia Lillis & The Thriller Series I’m Developing & Writing

by Shelt Garner

I’m being extremely delusional still when it comes to this thriller series I’m working on. But at the moment absolutely no one cares if I drop off the face of the earth, so I don’t think you’ll be grudge me a little daydreaming. Though, this being the Internet, maybe you will.

Jessica Chastain / Image: Internet

But there’s one specific character in this thriller series I’m working on that I’ve imagined looking and acting like Jessica Chastain. And now that I’ve decided to write two exogenesis novels as well, there’s another red head I imagine playing this character in my head, IT’s Sophia Lillis.

Sophia Lillis / Image: Internet

She’s a little young at the moment to play the character in the first book movie adaptation of any sort of I-win-the-lottery situation where there are movie adaptations of these four novels. But by the time things came to that point, she probably would be about the right age to play the early-20s stage of the character I think Chastain could play in later books.

Yet, again, this is all extremely delusional. I just need hope at the moment and, also, I need someone to model the character after in my mind. I like Chastain’s vibe. And I like the idea that we would kind of see her character — and all the other characters change over the course of a generation.

That’s one of the things I did not expect when I started this process about three years ago — how enormous it would become. I’m really digging deep into every aspect of my personal life — and the lives of a few other people — to flesh out this universe I’ve come up with and populate it with not just characters, but people.

Thinking About The Influence of ‘Mare of Eattown’ on The First Novel In The 4 Novel Series I’m Writing

by Shelt Garner

While it’s definitely not a one-to-one, the heroine of the first novel in my series leading up to my “Female James Bond” getting her “00,” if you will, is greatly influenced by Kate Winslet’s character in “Mare of Easttown.”

The two characters are dramatically different in some respects, but Mare is the vibe I’m looking for. Or, maybe if Mare was younger, a lot less bitter, brunette and a lot more fit. But the vibes of the two women are very similar.

Mare of Easttown greatly influences my goals and vision for the heroine of the first novel in the female James Bond “exgenesis ” series I’m working on.

I like how writing four novels at once allows me to see the macro arch of the series in my mind. It’s a lot easier to plant things here and there in the novel as needed to give it a cohesive unity.

At the moment, Alexa Chung (sorta) is what imagine the character looking like, for no other reason than she’s Amerasian in ethnic background. But I think Phoebe Waller-Bridge could probably play the character if somehow, I manage to not only get the novels published, don’t die of a heart attack like Stieg Larsson and they’re miraculously enough popular enough that Hollywood grows interested.

But I’m still in the very delusional stage of all of this. I have to allow myself to be delusional because that’s the only way any of this will get done. I will note, again, that it’s interesting that other people read the Millennium series and saw a totally different set of books than I did.

It’s pretty wild how different my take on Stieg Larsson’s stuff is relative to at least one book I’ve read. The first book, especially, is far more character driven than this one book I’ve been reading that wants to be a successor to Larsson.

I’ve given myself a few days for something of a reset on all of this. I really need to do some reading, especially about character building. Seeing Mare of Easttown was a swift kick in the creative ass — I saw it and realized I needed to up my game.

Writing 4 Novels At Once Means A Huge Universe to Game Out

by Shelt Garner

So. I have four novels to develop and flesh out. Things are going pretty well, all things considered. One thing I’ve noticed, however, is how desperate I can grow to find things, people and ideas to populate the massive universe I’ve created.

In this first novel of the four that I’m working on at the moment, I have to sort of sheepishly say that the novel’s protagonist — in my mind at least — looks a lot like Alexa Chung. (This is where I wonder if an FBI agent in D.C. is going to swoop in and print this post out for my file or something. Ugh! I’m harmless, stop bother me.)

Alexa Chung is how I imagine the heroine of the first novel in my four novel series…sorta.

This did not happen on purpose, but I think some of it comes more from my personal proclivity towards brunettes than any lingering celebrity crush on Ms. Chung. Or, if you really wanted to get specific about what’s going on — in my mind, the protagonist of this first novel kind of is a mixture of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown. Sorta. In a fuzzy, general way.

My heroine actually looks like Phoebe Waller-Bridge if she was styled like The Mare of Easttown.

And, yet, I continue to be pretty surprised how deep I have to scrape within my personal history to flesh out this universe. It’s a lot of fun, I have admit, however. It’s fun to figure out different ways to use things I know to be true in a totally different context.

I will note how dramatically different this first novel has become from what it was when I pretty abruptly decided to write four novels, not just two. The story has gotten, far, far better than I could possibly imagine.

The Celebrity Social Media Consumption Conundrum

by Shelt Garner

Let me begin by saying as I grow older — and get ever closer to finishing four novels — the less I care about celebrities. I’m a celebrity in my own mind, if you will — the main character in my own life journey — and the idea of caring if a celebrity notices me or not is beginning to leave me cold.

I just don’t care.

Something about caring if someone who is famous gives you some attention is just so…ugh. I’ve been “famous” (in the Seoul expat community) and I know it can fucking suck. There’s a reason why famous people can lose their minds — being famous is pretty destabilizing to your sense of self.

I know it was, for me, at least.

The magazine that made me famous in Seoul a long, long time ago.

I figure there are two types of celebrity social media use. There are the people too busy doing “dope shit” to care about social media and there are the ones who are so insecure, so thinned skinned that they’re obsessed with what people say about them online.

One reason why I even mention this, is sometimes….I wonder. I wonder if all my ranting about on social media ever catches a name brand person’s attention. I find it amusing that that is, in fact, possible. I have, in the past, had a knack for meeting famous people.

In the 50s, I would have been a pretty aggressive signature seeker, probably.

Anyway, having said all that, it sure would help my serotonin levels if a celebrity would give me a shout out. My life is pretty dull at the moment.

The Massive Missed Creative Opportunity That Is Tay-Tay

by Shelt Garner

Oh, Tay-Tay. Everyone once in a while, I’ll get into a Taylor Swift kick and listen to a few of her songs on repeat. She’s a great performer and artist and, in general, I really like her more pop stuff.

Why fix what’s not broken?

And then….I accidently listen to one of her “fan service” songs and I violently roll my eyes. OH, COME ON, Tay, Tay, you can do better than that. It’s so annoying that Ms. Swift has decided to never challenge herself, never take a risk, never work outside her (very popular and profitable) comfort zone.

It all feels like a huge missed opportunity.

Imagine if Tay-Tay decided to work with a hip-hop or rock producer and came out with her take on Nelly Furtado’s “Loose” album. Or even maybe do very Garbage-influenced album? Both of those would be really cool and potentially significantly broaden her already huge popularity. I would even settle for her to work with Chvrches in some way. Something, anything so she did something a bit more interesting that fan service for nearly-middle aged women who think “getting drunk” is a big deal.

But, I’m not her audience. She’s doing really well doing what she’s doing and there’s no need for her to change.

I do wonder, however, what happens when she wakes up one morning 10 years from now and realizes she’s about to have her “last fuckable evening” in the eyes of Hollywood producers. Will she freak out and record a sexxy rock album out of desperation, or will she just roll over and go back to sleep?

I think we all know the answer to that one.

So, as such, Tay-Tay will remain someone who is hugely popular on a both a creative and artistic level…and yet leaves us feeling as though we’re missing out on what could have been.

They Shoot Writers, Don’t They?

by Shelt Garner

I’ve been hard at work on this novel project for about three years now. Probably the biggest surprise I’ve discovered through it all is how much I need to have absolute control over everything before I even start writing.

How anyone writes a novel “seat of their pants” is beyond me.

I want to know the entire story so well that when I actually sit down to write, all I have to do is, well, write. I follow my scene summary in front of me and just write out the scene. The problem to date, has been, repeatedly, that as my storytelling ability has improved, everything collapses and feel compelled to start all over again.

But I just can’t keep doing that forever. I’ve finally come to the point where I’m going to finish the four outlines as need be, maybe write a summary for each scene in the outline (and a scene summary) and just write.

It doesn’t matter how bad the first draft turns out being,I just have to finish a first draft sooner rather than later. If I don’t finish something sooner rather than later, it’s going to be four years from now and I still won’t have anything finished.

As such, I hope to just start writing on the first draft of the first novel in the four book series very, very soon. I still want to brood on some elements of it — and do a lot more reading — but I’m only going to give myself a few days.

And once I start writing, I hope I can stay focused on what I’m doing. I know that 1) this ideal situation I’m in can’t last forever and 2) I’m going to start my second creative track of (fashion) photography in the next few months.

So, I’m going to “just write” something, anything using the outline I’ve come up with, ASAP. I’m very pleased with everything on a creative level, but I’m very much in a put-up or shut-up situation.

I’ve been way too conspicuous with all this talk about development and I feel so sheepish about it. I should have kept what I was doing to myself, but I can’t help myself — I’m 100% extroverted and I have no friends.

So, you get all this talk about how I’m spinning my wheels with hope that maybe it will stop.

It’s going stop this time, right? I’m actually going to finish a first draft? Right?