Category Archives: Writing Shakespeare

Posts about my various projects including but not limited to writing.

Cuddlefish The Film Shoot

All that nervousness about shooting my short scene was unnecessary, but was probably going to happen anyway. My film shoot went really well, and it was a lot of fun. The set looked great (especially given that my original ideas for the set kind of went wrong early on, especially concerning the bed) and the actors were fantastic and everyone was relaxed. Including me, surprisingly. Once it got going, it rolled along smoothly and we finished on time to enjoy the nice spring day.

Here are some set photos to show how the space was transformed between my shoot and the shoot the next day. The same exact space was used, as was the same bed. Here’s my set:

A professional cuddler's room on a low budget.

A professional cuddler’s room on a low budget.

I’ve never seen a professional cuddler’s bedroom. Originally I wanted a double bed, but the only bed available from the props department was a hospital bed. So, we did a LOT of covering up with blankets and pillows and somehow managed to make it look like a coherent bedroom. Our props department has a lot of mismatched stuff, so I’m still amazed that we got stuff that matches somewhat.

The next day, I got to be camera (or, director of photography if you want to be fancy about it) for another fellow screenwriters’ shoot. This shoot also went smoothly, which was great. I actually really liked being camera, probably because I love photography and the two are similar. The first set we had was a trashed bedroom that belonged to a male musician:

The bedroom of a very upset man.

The bedroom of a very upset man.

This was for the first scene of that shoot. For the second, the room became a hospital room.We changed from the trashed bedroom set to the hospital room set in half an hour.

It's a really dingy hospital.

It’s a really dingy hospital.

Props has a surprising (disturbing?) amount of hospital/medical equipment. Which isn’t really obvious in this picture, but we did manage to get the dingy hospital feeling across. I have seen some hospitals in the Bronx that would rival this set’s dinginess, so for me at least, it was convincing.

So, it’s surprising what you can do with a set. This space was meant for two different shoots, and stood in as three different locations. I was a bit wary of the space because, as a room, it’s pretty grim. But as you can see above, I think it turned out well.

I’m really happy my directing experience worked out so well. I don’t know that I would want to be a writer-director. I definitely wouldn’t want to only be a director; I like writing too much to ever stop doing it. But if I got to direct my own writing, I don’t know if it would be stressful or a nice extra bit of control. This experience was really relaxing, but I know they’re not all like that, especially on a full-fledged production rather than just the production of a short scene. After our short day of shooting, I was exhausted. So I won’t write it off completely, but we’ll see.

I also have no idea if I’m any good at it. My team helped a LOT. They were awesome.

I did like doing camera on the shoot the next day. Working to make images that look interesting is a lot of fun. I also really like pull-focus shots, but some cameras are better at it than others.

And somehow, I always end up on shoots where the camera is in a position that’s quite a bit taller than I am. But it’s okay, because the shots we got from those positions were really good.

I’m looking forward to getting back to writing. But we have two weeks to edit our short scenes, so I think it’s going to be awhile before I’m back to the thing I’m actually studying.




Leave a comment

Filed under Thinking Shakespeare, Writing Shakespeare


It’s almost time to film my scene. Production begins and ends on Thursday. I’ve finally cast actors, gotten props, and I have a shot list.

As I mentioned before, the scene comes from a longer feature film idea that we were asked to come up with a few weeks ago. Mine is called “Cuddlefish,” about a professional cuddler who falls in love with one of her clients, but she’s asexual, so she doesn’t want the relationship to go beyond cuddling (and kissing) (and romance.) The scene I chose from this idea is when her client confesses that he likes her and wants to be in a relationship with her, and she’s conflicted because she likes him too, but she isn’t sure she can give him what he wants.

Explaining the scene, because it’s out of context, is one of the most important parts of producing it. I need to get the romantic comedy tone across, but I also need there to be an understanding of exactly why the scene plays out as it does, why my professional cuddler is so hesitant when she’s told by the guy she likes that he likes her back. I think that’s been the hardest part of the whole process, making sure that the context and tone are clear and transferring that to film. Hopefully it works.

The second hardest part is actual set design. Over the past two weeks, I’ve struggled with how I’m going to build a bedroom set that looks like it could be the room of a professional cuddler within the confines of the film school. The room I’m booked to shoot in looks a bit like a cross between a basement and an industrial kind of place, and has art supplies in it including one huge blue canvas. The door is also in a really odd place.

To add to the problem, the double bed from the props department I planned to use is already being used on my shooting day, so I’m using a hospital bed (single) and making it look like a bed that a professional cuddler might have in their bedroom. It’s going to involve a lot of pillows and blankets and honestly it won’t look like what I thought about in my head, or anything remotely close to it. But for the purposes of this scene, hopefully it isn’t too distracting. I think a lot of it hinges on performances, so if the bed looks a bit suspicious, well, hopefully clever camera angles can take attention away from that.

The last problem is directing. I’m not a director, and I’ve never really directed in any sort of official capacity before. It’s a lot of decision making and controlling and knowing what you’re talking about, and having written the thing, it’s also an exercise in learning what works on the page and what doesn’t need to be in the film (things like small stage directions, for example.) You’d be surprised at how many things in a script, even a good one, don’t need to be in the film. The past week has involved learning that directors look at scripts differently than writers, so playing the part of a writer-director is weird because, at least for me, I’ve never fully been in one mode or the other. They bleed through to each other.

Other things I’ve had to learn include camera coverage, health & safety (there was a risk assessment), working with actors, film set protocol, and producing practices. Yesterday, when filming someone else’s shoot, I got a crash course in being an assistant director and on using clapper boards. It’s a lot to take in, and there’s definitely a lot of learning while doing. And the set should be relaxed, which is hard when you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re secretly panicking and there’s so many choices.

Somehow, so far, the sets have been pretty relaxed.

I just hope the shoot on Thursday goes smoothly. I hope that the set looks like a bedroom tomorrow when I’m done with it. I hope nothing sudden happens that’ll throw a wrench in the works.

The good thing about being on the screenwriting course is that, if I want, this is the first and last time I’ll have to do any of this film production stuff.

We’ll see how it goes.


Leave a comment

Filed under Living Shakespeare, Writing Shakespeare

Screenwriting In the UK

So I said I’d be keeping up with this blog, and I’ve done a really bad job. But it’s been a month since I’ve started my course in England, so I thought it was about time for a post to talk about what I’ve been doing aside from the answer I usually tell everyone, which is writing.

I am writing. For those who missed the last blog post, I’m doing a two year Masters course in Screenwriting at the National Film and Television School in England. After which, I hope to get a job, preferably in the UK because I like it over here more than, say, LA. Not that there’s anything wrong with LA but it’s not particularly my style.

The screenwriting course does involve a lot of writing. There are ten of us, and we spent the first few weeks each generating ideas for a film or TV series. We had four ideas to develop with the following prompts (or guidelines, they weren’t very hard about them): idea based on visuals, idea needing research, fantasy idea, and an idea in a particular genre other than drama. We wrote treatments (proposals, pretty much) for each of these ideas. I ended up with four film ideas whose working titles are: Fishermen (this will change), Underground, Fallen, and Cuddlefish. Take those as you will. The last one is a romantic comedy. The first one I’m thinking about as maybe a play, though the visual part would be great to see on camera. But it’s such a smallish drama that I wonder if it wouldn’t be better on stage. The middle two I haven’t thought much about, but would love to write them.

On the side I’ve gotten involved with games design, collaborating on story for a game. The second year games designers have to develop a full-fledged game (for any platform) as their final project. Some of them want to bring in writers for story/character reasons. This is where I’ve come in. The game I’m working on is very story based, which is great. I like story based games. It’s much different to writing a script, but it’s a lot of fun, and the interactive aspect is fun to think about and play around with.

We’re also working on a project called Metamorphosis, which is to give us writers a perspective on what it takes to bring our scripts to the big screen. We’ve each picked a scene from one of our film ideas and written it, and we’re going to film it two weeks from now. Between then and now we have to finalize the script, cast actors, get location and props, and learn how to use the equipment. This means that we’re making 10 films (since there’s ten of us.) Each writer directs their own scene, and the crew is made up entirely of other writers who aren’t filming that day. So we have two weeks of prep (this week and next) and one week to film, and then a few days to edit. I’m not a huge fan of the production process (I did come here to write, after all) but it should be a lot of fun. Especially since it’s the most developed script I’ve ever filmed.

Adjusting to life outside of school is interesting. I’ve had to get used to not having the usual people to fall back on for support and/or weekend hanging out, to not having things work the same way they do at home, and to not having a good selection of pre-made cookie dough. The Ben & Jerry’s here is also terribly expensive. I haven’t been able to justify getting any yet, but I will. Maybe as a birthday present. Going into London a lot gets expensive so I haven’t done it too much.

Overall, I’m enjoying this, and I’m really happy that I’ve got this opportunity. I feel more creative than I have in a long time, more creatively supported than I ever have, and like I’ve learned more about the film/TV/theatre industry and writing in the past month than I did in my three years at my university. And that is just fantastic. I’m really excited about all the writing we’re going to do, all the different areas we’ll get to explore, and how much we’ll learn about everything.

And, fingers crossed, when I’m done they won’t kick me out of the country.

Leave a comment

Filed under Living Shakespeare, Writing Shakespeare


Hello all!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve properly posted. I’ve been really busy with a new internship at a theater, working in the film and booking departments. It’s a great internship, but it also involves a two hour each way commute to the city and back, which takes up a good chunk of the day. I’m pretty much out of the house from 6:45am to 8:15pm. It’s been a good experience, learning how to be a real working person, but this next year is going to change quite a bit.

I’ve been accepted into the Screenwriting Masters program at NFTS, the National Film and Television School in England. I applied back in the spring and never expected to get in, but I did, and I’ve gone on orientation to meet my fellow screenwriters and people from other programs in the school. Everyone is really awesome and nice and passionate, and it looks like it’ll be a good environment to be creative in. And I’ve always wanted to write for film, television, or theater in the UK. It’s been the pipiest of my pipe dreams. But it’s not so far fetched anymore.

The program starts at the end of January. Whether or not I’ll get there in time is another matter-I’m having issues with the visa application that I really need resolved this week before things start to get really hairy.

That aside, I’m exciting. Especially given that this time last year, I didn’t have any prospects for after I graduated. That’s changed, and I couldn’t be happier.

A lot of my posts from now on are probably going to revolve around the screenwriting program, so if screenwriting, film, or theater is something that interests you, then you’ll really like what’s going on! There’ll probably be a few other posts about the state of packing and being in England and saying sorry for not posting in awhile because time gets away from me.

I can’t wait to start. I have a small notebook full of stuff I learned during the orientation, which was already a lot (and a good chunk which I’ve been told to forget until graduation). And then there’s a list of ideas I could use for future stories. I’m pretty sure I’ll be using most if not all of them, considering we did a lot of idea generating and developing during the orientation. And, I get to write a dissertation, since it is a graduate program. I’m thinking about writing about performing Shakespeare. I love Shakespeare, and I find the various ways his plays can be performed an interesting subject.

2013 was a good year, especially compared to 2012 (the year I’d rather forget.) So I’m ready for 2014. A few more things need to fall into place, but in general things are looking good. Which is all I can really ask for when starting off another year.

Leave a comment

Filed under Living Shakespeare, Writing Shakespeare

Blogkeeping and Exciting News

Hey all! This post is primarily to do a little bit of housekeeping around the blog, pretty much to set up for this summer. Why? Because this summer is going to be much more exciting than last summer. I’m going on a month-long trip to Europe!

But first a bit of exciting news: I’m now a contributing writer at The Artifice, an online magazine about entertainment. It’s not paid, but it does get my writing out there and it’s something to do while I look for a paying job. I’ve only written two articles so far (on Shakespeare and Hannibal), but I’ve got more planned. My articles are here:

Second, at some point in the near future this is going to become a travel blog. Posts will be categorized under “Traveling Shakespeare.” (You’ll notice I redid the categories so different types of posts are easier to find.) I’m leaving July 4th, but there might be some prep posts before then, and hopefully I’ll be able to cross-post photographs to my photography blog from the trip. I got a new camera which is better than my point-and-shoot from years past but not as heavy or expensive as my DSLR, which is too bulky to drag along, much as I want to.

I’m also excited about the trip because it’s pretty much a return to the origins of this blog. The blog was originally on blogspot (for some reason) and chronicled my study abroad in London two years ago, studying Shakespeare. Hence, timetravelingshakespeare. You can read the posts about my time abroad here: and here:

But now I’m setting off on my own, free from college and, at least for part of the trip, from family. I’ll start off with my family in Spain, but then I’ll go off on my own to a few choice places: Switzerland, Berlin, Dublin, Edinburgh, and London. And then it’s back to New York to finish out the summer doing I-don’t-know-what.

So, there are travel posts coming. I hope you enjoy them as much as I (hope to) enjoy the trip! I’m very, very excited.

Leave a comment

Filed under Living Shakespeare, Traveling Shakespeare, Writing Shakespeare

Playwriting: A Journal

Yes, not journey. For my playwriting class we’ve been asked to keep a journal about our writing experiences, which included a few writing exercises (the 500 word sentence being a memorable one) and probably should have included something introspective about getting ideas and the writing process. But there wasn’t. Mostly because, being honest, my process was a bunch of chance things that went like this:

-Draft three ideas, use one that might possibly work.

-A week later try to write a first scene for the idea, realize that it’ll never be a full play, come up with a completely different idea with a difficult-to-swallow premise that the professor has a hard time getting, and decide to write that one.

-Write act one. Play unintentionally becomes a comedy.

-Also there are sex scenes.

-I realize that I don’t know what stage directions are. Or formatting. I try to figure that out. My documents labeled “Correct Format” are not.

-Meet with professor, who tells me that I’m writing a play. That sounds encouraging. At least I’m not writing a novel or math equation or something.

-Write act two. Am not sure how to end play. Play becomes much darker in the second half.

-Quite a few times I question if I know what I’m doing.

-Agonize over casting classmates for readings as certain characters.

-Finish play.

-Have hundredth-thoughts. Re-write play.


-Finally get the play into a somewhat correct format while rewriting the play.

-Ask myself why I decided to torture myself with writing a full-length play. And then I die. Because it’s DONE.

Keep in mind, most of the time I didn’t know what I was doing. And there was a minimal outline. And by “outline” I mean that there was a sort of idea of what the play was about, four characters with names, and a kind-of-sort-of-theme that probably changed halfway through.

Writing a play is hard. Writing a long anything is hard. I’ve written screenplays that were hard, too, but somehow the play was a little bit easier, perhaps because scenes were longer, there was more dialogue, and plays don’t have the same sort of requirements as Hollywood scripts do. Sure, I’m more familiar with film scripts rather than play scripts, and I was out of my depth, but I think I’m more satisfied with the play I’m still in the process of writing than anything else I’ve done.

People actually like it, for one thing.

It was introspective. Characters have bits of my life in them, but so does everything else I write, at least a little. I had to ask questions about situations in my own life, how I would react to things, and how I saw the world, and then put it in a fictional piece of work. And I had to name the characters while doing that. Naming is so hard.

Titling is even worse. Some people have that gift, but I do not. My works are perpetually “Untitled” until the last moment.

And it’s hard and sometimes a bit painful but it’s also enjoyable and rather funny. Trust me, there’s nothing like having a classmate read a character you wrote using a sex-voice and getting really into it. There’s nothing like hearing other people attempt to act out what you wrote, and hoping that it’s somehow comprehensible to them. There’s something awesome about knowing something works when you hear it, and something a bit awful about hearing something cringe-worthy that you wrote.

I’ve enjoyed writing  a play. I might even try my hand at another one. This isn’t my playwriting journal, but this is pretty much as close as I’ll ever get to having one.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing Shakespeare

A Love(?) Story

This blog doesn’t actually have much in the way of fiction, but today I figured I’d make an exception. Yesterday I was at a creative-writing get-together and we were prompted to, for an hour, write a story about love, or Valentine’s Day. So the following is what I wrote up, and it’s weird and I probably should be sorry for it, but I’m not. At any rate, it’s more entertaining than anything I could think to write about for today.

A Love(?) Story

There are good days and then there are good days, but Valentine’s Day was, decidedly, neither type of good. Charlie, often mistaken for a man because of her name, spent every Valentine’s Day collecting hearts. Real hearts. Not the candy-type or the paper-type or heart-stickers or any heart-shaped object or metaphorical heart. No. She collected real hearts. It was sort of like being a holiday card company that got extra business on Valentine’s Day, but without cards and with added murder.

The thing is, Charlie doesn’t collect actual human hearts on Valentine’s Day because she hates Valentine’s Day. In fact, she finds the collecting of human hearts to be a rather thrilling experience that reminds her of the fragility of life. No, Charlie collects hearts on Valentine’s Day because they are an offering to a god who thrives on such sacrifices.

If you think that this god is St. Valentine, you would be mistaken. The god in question is, in simple terms, the god of heartbreak, and the only way to assuage his feelings of loneliness are to collect hearts. Valentine’s Day is particularly hard for him. Hence, why Charlie is employed to bring him hearts.

The god in question is called February, and he rarely smiles.

Charlie might be something of a goddess herself, but she’s never questioned her role. She brings February the hearts of those who find themselves heartbroken, who would find it easier to have their hearts ripped out of their chests (after death, of course, Charlie is not a monster) rather than go on living without the loves of their life. These hearts, full of sadness, take away from February’s own constant melancholy and for a day each year (the day after Valentine’s Day) he finds himself slightly less depressed.

But it is never enough. Last year Charlie brought February a grand total of thirteen hearts, and it was a record, and she didn’t even get caught, and February hadn’t even smiled. He’d just said, “This should do for a few more hours,” and dismissed her and Charlie thought, if thirteen hearts isn’t enough to make him happy than what is?

Which is why this year, Charlie has been reconsidering her choice of heart-donor.

For who-knows-how-long February has subsisted off the misery of others in a sort of cathartic process of hanging up hearts in his bedroom until they rotted and left behind the ghost of depression, but never has it been enough. Charlie spent the following year after her record wondering if it would ever be enough, or whether sadness was simply not the way to go.

Valentine’s Day, Charlie had noticed over the years, had two extremes: heartbroken sadness and sky-high joy. The sadness hadn’t work; this year Charlie has decided to try the joy.

As Charlie makes her way to a French restaurant in upper Manhattan she thinks about how much harder this will be. Sad hearts from sad people are easy, because the sad people are single and alone. Joyful people, on Valentine’s Day, usually find themselves with other people, usually the person they are in love with. Charlie will have to lure someone away, and make it subtle.

Charlie assumes that French restaurants would be full of love-struck couples because, well, French is apparently romantic in America. The French themselves might disagree, protesting that French restaurants are only romantic in France. But either way, when Charlie arrives at Le Bon Pain she is not disappointed. The cozy atmosphere lends itself to declarations of love and marriage proposals, what with the candles glowing seductively on the tables, which are arranged to mostly accommodate pairs, and the lights dimmed so that everything is wrapped in this seductive candle-glow.

Charlie finds her target almost as soon as she walks in, unnoticed by the staff, which has turned about three other couples from the door, claiming a full restaurant. Towards the back, a young man kneels in front of a young woman in a shimmering white dress. Charlie makes her way towards them. She can see his lips moving, forming the words, “Will you marry me?”

Charlie sees the young woman answer, “Yes.”

He slips the ring on her finger and they kiss and they look so happy. Charlie has a moment of longing that stops her in her tracks. This is what she needs. Someone to love her. Someone to spend their life with her.

This is unlikely, almost impossible. The life set out for her is not the life of the young man who has just asked someone to marry him, nor that of the young woman so greatly loved. She regrets, for a moment, that she will be the end of this happiness, but then she thinks, if this is what she needs then surely this will be what February needs.

She watches the young couple return to their seats, and people at the surrounding tables extend their congratulations. She thinks of February; the two have known each other since forever, but February has rarely said more than a few words to her each year. A shame, too, because Charlie believes he has an interesting mind. His home is full of books, those from the past and the future. He writes sometimes, and sometimes he watches, and she wonders what he must see. She doesn’t have the patience to watch; she goes out and lives, and perhaps he watches her, too.

Then her mind comes back to her and she walks towards the couple and whispers a suggestion in the young man’s ear.

The man followers her up to the bathroom after telling his new fiancée that he’ll be back momentarily. He walks into the men’s bathroom, believing that he needs to send a covert text message to a friend, which he does. Charlie allows him to do it before making herself known with a few whispered words and a cough.

The man sees her in the mirror and whips around. Charlie knows how she looks; a beautiful young woman in a white dress, long enough to cover her legs and sweep the floor. She has black hair and dark eyes. She is attractive, though not enough so that she might seduce anyone she pleases. She can only suggest, but that isn’t the same thing.

She has the appearance of something neglected and wistful, which is probably why everyone who meets her, including this young man, asks, “Can I help you?”

“What’s your name?” she asks.

“Ronald. Why?”

“Ronald.” She licks her lips. “I’m terribly sorry.”

“For what?”

She takes three steps forward, enough to reach him, and touches his forehead. She sees the brief confusion in his eyes before there is nothing. He falls, limp, into her and she lowers him down onto the floor, reaches into his chest, parting the bone and feeling it scrape along her hand, until she finds his heart. She grips the heart, slippery with blood but all too still, and pulls and with sounds that would make a lesser person sick, the heart comes free. She holds it for a moment, blood staining her dress red, heart in hand dripping red liquid over Ronald’s dead body, and she feels terrible. But only for a moment. She passes her other hand over him and the blood on his shirt vanishes, and then she vanishes as well.

February is in his armchair, tears running down his cheeks, when she arrives. He is not loud in his grief, but rather unobtrusive. Charlie walks up to him, holding out the heart. She kneels before him and says, “I know it’s only one, but please hear me. The hearts full of sadness never make you smile. They make you feel better for a few hours, at most a day, but they do not bring a cure for your sadness. So I thought…you might find yourself cured if I bring you a heart full of love.”

February looks at her, mystified. He leans forward and takes the heart, and holds it to his chest and though cradling it. “Why would you do such a thing?” he asks, staring at her. “I can feel so much joy here. Why would you take that away from someone who has barely lived?”

“I care about you,” Charlie says. “I wanted to help.”

February holds the heart closer. There are tears in his eyes, but new tears, and he’s shaking and Charlie feels a terrible sadness come over her. She puts a hand on his knee and says, “I’m so sorry. I thought it would help.” And she starts to cry.

February places a cool hand on her cheek and she notices, dimly, that this is the first time he has ever touched her, and he tilts her head up and asks, “Why do you cry?”

“I wanted to help you and I’ve failed.”

“You would shed tears for me? For my well-being?”

“I care about you.” She wipes tears from her eyes with her non-bloodied hand. February still looks at her, but there is something odd in his expression that she has never seen before.

“That is,” he says, “the first time I have heard those words. The first time that someone has gone out of their way to help me. I did not know that anyone cared.” And then he smiles.

The smile is a small thing, and she can barely see his teeth, but it crinkles his eyes and it is genuine, and she feels so overwhelmed in that moment that she hugs him, and when he hugs back she knows that she has done well.

“Thank you,” he says, and this is enough. Charlie pulls away and February rises from the chair, to string up the heart where all the others would go until they were no longer fit to hang. “Would you stay with me awhile?”

“I would,” Charlie says, and then she thinks about her travels and about what she does when she isn’t retrieving hearts. “I would also like to show you where I go. There are a great many beautiful things that can’t be seen from inside this room.”

February steps back to admire his handiwork. Then he looks at Charlie and nods, once. But it is firm.

Charlie has experienced many Valentine’s Days in her time. She has stolen many hearts. But only once has she been successful, and she would trade all of those other days and all of those other hearts for this one moment in time, when she gained a smile in place of tears.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing Shakespeare