Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Writing Experiences//New Methods

Hey all you CCMers! (past, present, and future.)

Nathan here, (graduated CCM August 2008) and I just wanted to share a recent experience with you all for a few reasons: 1) It might be beneficial to you , and, 2) You might have some feed back that is beneficial to me! 'Cause thats what this blog is all about right?

So, if you've been following my twitter or rapidly updating facebook status (via twitter) then you know that last week I wrote a movie script for a start up company in Michigan called Atlas Films. Go ahead, google them, but like I said they're start up and in the process of getting scripts for their first couple of movies so you probably won't find much. Anyways, I sent them my resume as a writer and they took a look at the volume of stuff I was able to handle, told me that since I didn't have a movie under my belt they couldn't pay me in advance for a script but if I turned in a script to them and they decided to take it off my hands it'd be worth at least $3,000, maybe up to $7,000. So I was like, sure! Why not right? I figure, worst case scenario I'll learn a lot about myself, my writing, and I'll always be able to say, "Yes, I can and have written a full length movie script." And then best case scenario, they buy my script and I come on board with them to make a movie I wrote! So yeah, I did it.

After talking with Doug yesterday I told him I'd write a blog up about my writing experience and tell you guys how I pumped out a 99 page rough draft in five days. Here is the rundown of days:

Monday: Established premise. Revisited some characters I had taken notes on in an old journal. Freewrite for 33 pages. (I downloaded the Dark Knight script a week or so before, studied how it was formatted and did my best to stick as close to Final Draft formatting with Word.)

Tuesday: Brianfart day. I had killer writing block. I didn't write a page that day. I went to a friend's house and we stayed up really late talking the story over and I started making some note card "story blocks". <--talk more about that later.

I went home and got out a huge stack of note cards. I revisited my premise, streamlined my characters based on my freewrite, added a few needed characters, and then wrote appoximately 25 what I'll call "story blocks" with bulletpointed story beats/scenes. One story block per note card. Around 6pm I started re-writing the script and hit the sack around 6:30am with 51 pages finished.

Thursday: After about six hours sleep I popped out of bed, jumped on the computer with coffee in hand and wrote from about 12:00pm to 6:30am all over again. 91 pages total at this point.

Friday: Not so much sleep this time, work up a few hours later and started my one and only shot at a readthrough/edit. So from like 10:30am-10:00pm I re-read/re-wrote/edited my script, finishing with 99 pages and a few notes for expansion along the way that I didn't have time to do. At approximately 10pm I sent the script off to the email I had been given.

Brutal? Yeah, you bet! But I still remember thinking even as I wrote it, "Wow, I'm writing more and probably better content than I ever wrote at CCM! How is this happening?" Well, I knew the answer but it was just hard to believe because I'd never tried my "story block" method before and as soon as I used it (out of desperation I might add) something clicked in my brain and I was able to knock out an enormous task in a fairly ridiculous time frame...sound familiar CCM?

Anways, the main purpose of this post is to tell you guys about "story blocking". That's my name for it so if it has an official name that I don't know feel free to correct me. Oh, and just by way of disclaimer this may not work for everyone. It worked really well for me but that's all I can really vouch for it.

So! Here we go. Story Blocking: mapping out an entire story using note cards.

Growing up reading books, comic books, and listening to crazy music that always has some clever title for each chapter or section of the story it was telling, it made sense to me to think ahead in the story and name large chunks of it with one phrase that might include several story beats and even more scenes. Sometimes the story block was more vivid in my mind and needed less note card description and sometimes I needed to map out specifically front and back with bulletpoints guiding me through the scene to make sure it was going to work and accomplish what it needed to accomplish. Below is an example:

In this way I was able to name a block of the story, "Prom Plans" and then knock out that section of the script, beat by beat, scene by scene, with important details noted. Sometimes a good line would come to me and I'd write it or an abreviation of that line down as a bullet point since I knew in my head where I wanted it to go and what I wanted it to accomplish. I guess the real important thing about "method" is that it WORKS! If something doens't work for you don't do it. If something does work, then screw what your "supposed" to do and do your thing.

*Quick tangent: Every great writer and artist has learned the rules and then uniquely broke them to let loose their genius. So yes, learn all the rules you can...but when it comes down to GETTING SOMETHING DONE, do what you have to.

By the time I was finished with my story blocking I had about 25 usable story blocks...

And a whole pile of blocks I was able to re-word, re-work, or cut out to make the story work better...

All in all, my movie was this big...


1) We don't edit linearly so why should we assume to write and think linearly when it comes to a story? Story blocking allows you to take the initial inspiration for a story, craft that block, craft another block that you think might work well with the first one...and then later realize that you need to put about 5-10 blocks of story in-between those. But what you haven't done is gotten caught up on "the next detail" and therefore stopped your overall story from developing. Huge time saver!

2) Allows you to see what works, what doesn't work, what has to happen, and what can be cut before you ever sit down in front of a blank document.

3) You never have to worry about where you're going. It's like google maps for your story. All your twists and turns are mapped out ahead of time and you just have to write your way through them. Or imagine it like this: You've made a mold and now you have to fill it up with words. All the boundaries are set in place, do whatever you want in the middle, just fill up the mold.

4) With well crafted note-card-story-blocks you could architect an entire story or stories and then pass them off to someone else to write. A CCM producer's dream ;) Oh, and p.s. I later found out that this is what Christopher Nolan did, passing off an enormous stack of note cards to his brother Jonathan Nolan to pen The Dark Knight. So I'm reassured to find out that this isn't some half-baked thing that worked on a fluke. These guys arguably made the best movie this year using this method to collaborate.

5) It's fun!

I'm pretty sure I don't have to tell you guys about all-nighters but I will say that knowing where you going in a script when it's 3am is a lot more fun than not knowing where your going in a script at 3am and staring blankly at your screen, frustrated and tired, a deadline bearing down on you.

Well, that about sums up this ginormous post. Hit me up with comments yo!


Oh! and before people ask: If the script gets picked up and I do a final draft, yes of course you can read it. If not then I'm going to chalk this whole thing up as a great learning experience and tuck that bad boy away.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

CCM Grad in Mumbai during Terrorist Attacks

CCM Grad - Season Caldwell (August '07) has been answering the calling on her life NON-STOP since graduating from CCM.

Even before she completed her time at CCM... Season seemed to be rooted, as a Director of Photography, in international missions and story telling. During her time as a CCMer she traveled to: South Africa, Scotland, England, Netherlands, and Guatemala. (Not to mention countless locations all over the United States.)

Season is an AWESOME D.P.!!

I'm so proud of her. She is both talented & skilled AND she is a great spiritual leader!!

For the past several months she has been working with a missions organization in Mumbai, India... coming and going between the states and India. As timing would have it... Season WAS in Mumbai during the recent terrorist attacks. I might add that makes it "God's Timing."

Within an hour of the beginning of the attacks I caught drift of what was going on. First through TWITTER then I began following the news.

Gail and I immediately thought of Season and began praying for her and all those working with her. I tried to get a hold of her... but several hours went by before we heard anything.

Eventually we knew had not been hurt during the initial attack. She had been outside of the city and was making her way back .

What follows is an account of her journey.

These are the sights and sounds of coming face to face with terrorism:


Journal Entry
Mumbai Terror Attacks
Season Caldwell

Written November 27, 2008 at 11:08 pm in Bandra, Mumbai…
Maharashtra, India.

Thinking of the events of last night, beginning around 9pm yesterday
evening, Wednesday, Nov. 26th.

Yesterday is certainly a day I will remember. Several people have
asked me to journal about it, so this is my account of the events of my
day (only from my knowledge and perspective. I was not at the
locations at the time of attack).

My day on Wednesday began very early, awaking at 3:30am and
heading out at 4 am. It was a long day and a long drive ahead, as we
were visiting and documenting some of our organizations water well
projects south of Mumbai. I was present in order to capture footage of
all that we saw, good and bad, need and fulfillment. After something
like 9 hours in the car with a few stops on the way, we began to reach
our water projects. We went from site to site, getting the necessary
footage and still pictures for documentation, talking with people in
various villages. Everything was going pretty well.

Back home, unbeknownst to us, or at least to me, my boss, his wife,
and their 8-year old son were in downtown Mumbai… Colaba area.
This is a busy spot for foreigners and Mumbaikers alike, and we have
gone countless times. They were shopping for Christmas presents
until around roughly 7 pm, at which point they did not feel up to
continue in Colaba and got in the family car and began the usual
traffic-jammed drive home. Our family driver parks our car just feet
away from the Taj hotel every time we go to town. This trip would be
no different. The Weehunts were among some of the last people in
Colaba before terrorists arrived. (**it has now been found out that
the terrorists had arrived by this time, went to eat at Leopold’s cafĂ©
and were somehow delayed in starting their attacks. Had they been
on time, my boss’ family could have been right in the midst of the

House = where we live
X = general area of attacks

The distance is about a 30 minute drive without heavy traffic.
Anyways, back to our car in Kolhapur villages, about 7 hours away.
We began our drive home around 6pm, and expected not to reach
home for 6 hours, at least. We stopped for some McDonald’s after a
while. Soon after our stop, calls began coming in to a Mumbaiker
friend and coworker, Mark, and my boss’ eldest daughter (my boss’
family has lived in Mumbai and Texas, back and forth every year, for
about 16 years now). The people on the phone are saying there have
been “gang shootings” at the Taj and other places in town, but we
were very gray on the details. My first thought was only that some
crazy people had gotten hold of a couple guns and started shooting
people. Didn’t seem too much cause for alarm. As more and more
calls began pouring in, we got the idea that this could be a serious

As we continued driving home, something strange happened. Along
the highway, we saw flames ahead. We continued and could now see
it was a Goods Carrier truck up in flames that had collided with a
smaller car. A loud pop burst right as we pulled next to it, and we
pulled over once we had passed it to see if they needed anything. I
pulled out my camera and took a few seconds of footage in reportermode.
Though we knew this was completely unrelated to the attacks
happening in the city, I suddenly realized that things were out of
control. That something I didn’t understand was happening...
Something I may not be able to keep myself safe from. A pretty
frightening feeling struck me at that moment. At this point, things
became spiritual for me. In that car we prayed for peace, for safety of
the innocent... I realized that this city, and so many places like it
around the globe are in the midst of intense spiritual warfare.

The car and truck up in flames on the side of the road. [unrelated to
terrorist attacks]

More phone calls, more news… they are targeting foreigners, they are
firing AK47s at the train station, they are taking hostages in at least 3
locations. We were told not to come home that night. After a long,
rough day of travel and Indian village roads, that is not what we
wanted to hear. For a long while, I suspected that as soon as we
made it to Lonavala, a town 2 hours out of the city, that everything
would be under control and they would let us come home. But that
didn’t happen. Instead, things escalated.

Constant calls, constant checking on friends and family… I had a phone
but didn’t need to use it, as I am a guest of the family I work for here.
I sit and listen and do what I’m told and that is all I can do right now…

We made it to Lonavala, two hours outside of the city where our
ministry has an orphanage (Thank God for a safehouse!). We
confirmed we would stay the night, took showers, talked, Christie took
several more calls, and we were off to sleep, as it was now past 1am
on Nov. 27th. There was nothing we could do but pray and sleep. This
time may have been the height of my fear. I was even feeling a bit
nauseous and restless, having a hard time going to sleep. Even if I
felt fear, I knew we were really quite safe here. I knew all the kids in
our orphanage were right next door with their house parents, sleeping
soundly. Twelve wonderful children that I love so much… Twelve
children that I would protect at all cost. No one could lay a hand on
those kids while I’m around, I thought. I realized that whatever fear I
had for my own safety went away when I thought of those kids. I
would have no problem dying to keep them safe, I thought… and with
that I fell asleep and slept incredibly peacefully that night.

I woke up the next morning, Nov. 27th, Thanksgiving Day. Last year I
was in India on Thanksgiving, and we had gotten stuck in Goa for the
night, 10 hours out Mumbai. I guess I’ve started a tradition of being
stuck away from home on Thanksgiving! It was quite a blessing to be
there at our orphanage on this day, as I got to see all the kids and hug
and squeeze them a little. They didn’t know what had been going on
in the city… All I heard was “Season Didi, my birthday was last month!
Season Didi, will you be here for Christmas?” And that is all I wanted
to hear from them.

I was shocked to find out that things had not been taken care of yet
back in the city. In fact, new things were happening. We awaited the
“ok” to return home to Mumbai. Seeing that the problems seemed to
be confined to areas a bit south of our destination, it was approved for
us to venture quickly home, and we loaded up our stuff in the car. It
seemed that our poor driver had spent the night in the driver’s seat.
We are very blessed to have such good drivers here. We added to our
numbers, taking two of the American teachers from the orphanage
with us to the city, since they had to come to town by the next day
and did not think it was wise to take a public bus under the
circumstances. Five white American girls, one Anglo-Indian man, and
our Indian driver in one car, heading into the “war zone.” Since they
were targeting Westerners, all of us girls took out our shawls and
covered our heads, so as to be a little less obvious. Of course we had
fun with it, taking pictures of us looking so silly.

The youngest daughter of my boss, Hannah, got a text message on
her phone from some government thing that had the license numbers
of 2 police vehicles that had been stolen by the terrorists and
reportedly were heading out of the city. My eyes were peeled for cop
cars, but I didn’t even see one on the way home. Should I have been
disturbed that I didn’t see even one cop car all the way home?

As we got quite close to town, I spotted an army truck full of men in
green camo. One, then another, then a weapons truck, then at least
five more trucks full of soldiers. We saw them taking the road into
town, and we continued straight. I was very glad not to be heading
the same direction as these trucks.

We arrived home very shortly after and I realized how fast our driver
had been going the whole way. We were home in record time! He
must have been a bit frightened. We quickly unloaded our things and
walked up the 7 flights of stairs to our flat. I walked in that door
almost exactly 24 hours ago and I haven’t set foot out yet, and I won’t
until tonight only to go up to the roof terrace for Hannah’s 18th
birthday party celebration. We had to cancel the lighting and music,
as it’s not a good time or place to cause a big scene.
We are constantly watching the news and checking in with people,
updating facebooks for our family and friends back home. It’s still not
over! We pray for those still being held hostage, for those still hiding
in their hotel rooms, for the wounded. We hear of a friend saving the
Maternity Ward of the Hospital after coming face-to-face with some of
the terrorists and then locking the bullet-proof doors on the floor
above. New stories are always coming in, some happy, many sad. At
one point, my boss was phoned by a good friend who takes care of
children living in the Red Light District of Bombay. He had been
hearing shots where he was. As we prayed for them, I could hardly
keep it together and tears began to fill my eyes. Surely more than
anyone, this man and these children deserved safety.

Even now as I’m writing this “account” 38 hours and 22 minutes after
it all started, new firing is being reported at both hotels (the Taj and
the Oberoi) and the Nariman house. The footage on TV is showing
cops and/or special forces crouched and hiding behind cars and fences,
and windows are blown out of cars and the buildings. We are all
shocked this is still going on and wishing to know what we should do.
Still this fear of the unknown is inside of me. If I knew it would stop
at this, I would be okay… but we live in a part of town that has many
foreigners, so we just don’t know what might happen next. Too many
unanswered questions… mobile phones that were used by hostages in
the Taj are being found in towns hours away from where they were
used last night… a bomb was discovered in the train station just
minutes before it was set to go off... there were supposedly 5 bombs
placed in city taxies, but only one went off… where are the other 4?
And police don’t carry guns here? What?! It’s just chaos.

December 2, 2008
It has all been over for 3 or 4 days now, so we headed in to town
today to survey the scene and interview friends who run shops that we
frequent. Through all these events, through having conversations with
Indians here, and spending time to think on my own, I have realized a
few things.

1. Fear is the terrorists’ greatest weapon. It keeps people in
burning rooms. They hope chaos and confusion will also spread
fear. We should not give in to this fear. The Word says that
“The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the

2. Terrorists who have been planning attacks are set in their minds
to kill. They do not care to discern between grown men and
children (terrorists reportedly gunned down a woman holding a
baby, then shot the baby). Also, they go out ready to die in the

3. We may fear the unknown in scary times, but that is when we
must cling to what we do know, that Our God will never leave
us… No terrorist is any challenge to God. Our battle is spiritual,
not natural.

4. Terrorism could happen anywhere at anytime. It would be
wishful thinking to say that there are no terrorists left in this
city. The truth is, they could be anywhere. If God has called us
to go somewhere, fear should not be the thing that stops us. A
Peacemaker has no work left to do in an already peaceful place.
(My sister, her husband, and another co-worker of mine are
flying in to Mumbai tomorrow, Dec 6th. We haven’t changed our
trip plans!)

5. There were so many men involved in planning and executing this
attack (reported to likely be Al-Quaeda), and they devised
intricately, studying hotel maps and roads, the fastest way from
here to there, etc. What great lengths these men have gone to
cause evil and darkness… it begs the question to me, are we
going to great enough lengths to bring good and light?

This is Leo’s six days after the attacks… My absolute favorite food in
India is upstairs in this restaurant. We shortly interviewed one of the
managers. There were at least 3 bullet holes in the upstairs windows
we would sit by.

Gordon House first floor is All Stir Fry restaurant, just a very short
walking distance from the Taj hotel. A restaurant we frequent and had
just visited about a week prior to attacks. When we returned to eat on
Dec 2nd, we were the only ones there besides the full staff (not usual
at all), and a manager told us that they had had 30 dinner guests on
the night of the attack, all of whom were forced to stay the night

In front of Metro Cinema, there was a drive-by attack by terrorists who
had stolen police vehicles. Across the street from this theater is my
Indian home church, Metro Church. Footage from this part of the
attack is quite disturbing, as an AK47 takes down a whole line of

Above is the Taj hotel 6 days after the attacks. It doesn’t look so
messy here, but it burnt for over 24 hours.

One of the windows burnt out in the old wing of the Taj.

Memorials at the Taj.

memorials at the Taj.

Memorials at the Taj.