My thanks to Nisi Shawl and the Seattle Review of Books for including “Alien Jane” in an article about the ways that SFFH explores pain. It’s one of the oldest questions: what is pain, really? (I’m currently reading Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramachandran which includes the idea that “Pain is an opinion on the organism’s state of health rather than a mere reflective response to injury.”).
If you’re interested, you’re welcome to read “Alien Jane” in PDF form. I’ve just DMCA’ed several websites that are publishing work without my consent, so right now the story might be hard to find on its own. I’m happy for people to read it: I just want it to be my idea, you know?
It’s a cool idea for a competition: writers produce an original short story of up to 3,000 words in any genre, using opening and closing lines from a classic work of literature.
But not just any work (because that would make it too easy, and where’s the challenge in that?). This year’s competition offers you the choice of opening/closing lines from The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, or “A Telephone Call” by Dorothy Parker. Each of these is considered a separate contest and will be judged separately, which means you can enter a story in each one if you wish.
I’m participating because I love the idea, and because I think the contest is set up fairly: a voluntary (not required) entry fee, cash prize of $500 for the winner in each contest, and no rights grabbing (winners and runners-up grant only first English-language publication rights to Regulus Press).
I’m excited to read the work and to help choose the winners. Which could be you! Unleash your imagination and submit your storyby noon on June 4.
If you’ve read Solitaire, you’ll be intrigued by the story differences; and if you haven’t read it, you don’t need to. The screenwriting experience was particularly fun for me because I got to explore the same emotional territory through two different sets of story events.
The protagonist, Ren, drives the story. She makes her own mistakes and earns her own triumphs. She is not a manic pixie dream girl, a tits-first badass rebel chick, or a mothering-instinct-driven character. She is smart. She makes human choices and experiences human consequences. I worked hard over the years of development to create and maintain this sense of agency for Ren, and I gotta tell you it wasn’t always easy.
The Guardian says: “…a darkly charismatic leading performance from Jessica De Gouw.” Jess carries the film with confidence and intensity. She does a terrific job.
It’s a beautiful film! Cinematographer Dan Freene did amazing work – go take a look at these gorgeous stills.
And beautifully directed. It was magical to be in Perth for six days on set and watch Ben Lucas work with the cast and crew. Ben’s sensibility as a director strikes me as a mixture of control and curiousity: let’s plan and then let’s see where we go. Find his first feature, Wasted On The Young, also on Netflix.
The Hollywood Reporter says: “… [OtherLife’s] puzzles could prove catnip to genre fans who thrill to fare such as FX’s Legion that blurs the line between real worlds and virtual ones.” Many folks have already told me that they want to watch it again in order to track the nuances of the plot unfolding, and the layers of Ren’s emotional journey.
Helen O’Loan’s fabulous production design strikes all the right emotional notes. Check out these design docs. And wait until you see the cell in action….
The hypnotic, evocative, powerful music by Jed Palmer, with cello performance by Zoë Barry, both of Zalumma Agra.
The brilliant editing by Leanne Cole that keeps the film moving fast while also going deep at all the right moments. I’m fascinated by editing, and I felt very lucky to watch dailies during the time I was there. I drank beer and listened to creative experts talk about the impact of shots, motion, camera work, acting… With Leanne filing it all into the warehouse of her brain, already starting to build the visual story.
And finally — because there is so much of me in this film. Three writers share credit, and the script would not be the same without the intelligence, ideas, and hard work of Gregory Widen and Ben Lucas. But the heart of this script is mine. I created these specific characters, these relationships, these human quandaries. They come from everything I know so far about being human, and writing. I don’t think I know nearly enough about either of those yet. But I’m working on it. And I want to share.
Interested in learning more about making OtherLife? I’m writing a series of behind-the-scenes articles on The OtherLife Journals at Medium.
Want to help boost the signal on the film? Take a moment to rate it on Netflix, and on Rotten Tomatoes – these ratings really matter in terms of helping people discover the film. If you know a film reviewer, ask them to consider writing a review. Write your own blog post or social media update. It all helps the film reach as many people as possible.
The launch of OtherLife is the culmination of a long time of work and wait and wonder for me, folks. Now the film starts its own journey out in the world, meeting people and making friends. I hope you’ll watch, and enjoy.
I’ll have more to say this week about how you can, if you wish, help support the launch of the film on Netflix. But today I will simply say how deeply excited I am, after so much hope and work, to know that any of the (currently) 104 million people in the world with a Netflix subscription will be able to see the film on demand. I very much hope you all will, and I hope you all love it as much as I do.
Nicola and I traveled to San Diego this weekend for the North American premiere of OtherLife at the San Diego Film Festival, to see the film screened at a real live theatre with a real live audience.
So here is the magic: the house lights go down and people fall silent, and there are promotional trailers. And then the film begins. The size of it takes my breath away – the lushness of the visual experience, the details that rebalance themselves on the bigger screen, the nuances of sound through the cinema system. At this larger scale, the film feels even more intimate to me (and it’s very close POV to begin with): I can see every actor’s expression and physical behavior so clearly, and the larger landscape makes the subtleties even more subtle.
And holy wow, it is so fucking beautiful.
This is the culmination of a very long journey for me. Every writer hopes to see a novel adapted in a way that makes her proud of the book; every screenwriter hopes for a produced film that makes her proud of the script. It doesn’t happen that often: a lot of moving pieces have to align for a film to come together, perhaps especially so when it’s an indie production like ours. I feel extraordinarily fortunate that it has happened for me, and that I could see the film as it was made to be seen: at scale, intimacy writ large, in the company of others.
The theatre and film festival staff were fabulously helpful. I’m so grateful to the friends who came to support me, and to all the film lovers who showed up because they were interested. Everyone was attentive and absorbed, and had great questions and comments during the Q&A. I felt for the first time like a member of an active film community, not just a member of my movie team. It’s a great feeling.
Many thanks to SDIFF for hosting the film and giving me this chance to see it. It was an amazing evening for me.
I am counting down to the North American premiere of OtherLife in San Diego on Thursday Oct 5 at 8:00 PM. The chance to see the film on a big screen with an audience is a huge payoff for me – something I’ve dreamed about for a long time.
Last night at my house:
Me: I hope lots of people come to the screening.
Nicola: They will.
Me: What if they don’t?
Nicola: Then we’ll have a lot of room.
As much as I like my space, I earnestly hope that Thursday’s screening will be stuffed with audience. If you’re there, please make sure to say hello. I will be the one wearing the WTF Is Happening Right Now look. I’ll be pretty easy to find.
Thanks to everyone for helping me spread the word, and for all your support. I really appreciate it.
OtherLife screens for the first time in Europe at the Down Under Berlin Film Festival, Sept 15. Down Under Berlin gives Europeans the chance to see the newest and best films from Australia and New Zealand. OtherLife producer (and one of the first champions of the film) Marco Mehlitz hopes to attend. Say hello from me!
Nicola and I will attend the screening on Thursday Oct 5 at 8:00 PM, and I’ll do a Q&A afterward. Please join us! It will be fun! And please help me spread the word. It would be wonderful to have a full house, see old friends, make new ones, and to hear from all of you what you think of our film. You can order tickets here.
And to everyone: if you have a dream, do something for it today. Any small thing. We don’t always know if any particular journey will be short or long, but either way every step counts.
Here’s the announcement, with a different approach to describing the film. For me, this one speaks more directly to ways in which the film is connected to the book, although it’s a vastly different plot.
I’m very pleased that the film has been favorably reviewed by The Guardian and The Hollywood Reporter; I hope there will be more reviews after the Melbourne screening. And I hope that if you’re in Melbourne during the festival, you’ll see OtherLife on August 16 or August 18. You can also catch director Ben Lucas on the panel Dystopia on Film on August 17. Say hello from me!
I’ve spent a lot of time over the years shopping for film and television writing coaching. I’ve taken workshops, I’ve had professional coverage, I’ve read a hundred books and countless blogs.
Of all those possible learning resources, the only one I’ve ever recommended is the workshop series offered by Corey Mandell and Talton Wingate. Corey and Talton will again be offering the first workshop in the series, Professional Screenwriting and Television Writing, in September. It’s an 8-week class with live remote 3-hour workshops held once a week. Full-on lectures in Week 1 and Week 8: lecture, new concepts, writing exercises, and individual feedback on homework the other 6 weeks.
Go take it. Then take the Conceptual Intensive, which is a non-required class that you can take between the first workshop and the advanced class (which I just completed and absolutely loved). The CI is the single hardest class I’ve ever taken as an adult, a firewalk with a mountain of homework and a sense of push-to-grow that reminded me of my Clarion experience, or the 41 stories I wrote in 41 days on behalf of Clarion West a few years ago.
(To illustrate this: I got laid off from my 2-year contract job along with 28% of the rest of the company last summer during the final week of the Conceptual Intensive. My first response was Oh, shit. My second response was Well, I’ll have time to do my homework now. And I did. It was totally worth it. That class scared the bejesus out of me, and I loved it.)
As you move through the workshop series, you’ll get to work with Corey, Talton, and their colleague Lauren “Tough Love” Ludwig (no, I don’t think that’s the middle name her parents gave her, but it should be). All of these people are smart, funny, expert, generous with their coaching, and every single one of them will learn your little ways as a writer and tell you to carry on, or to stop that shit.
I think it helps to have some writing (prose or screenwriting) experience going into these workshops, but it’s not essential. From my perspective, the people who have the toughest time are those who want to argue that the concepts being taught, or the feedback on their work, are completely wrong. I have seen a couple of people get very mulish in a way that I see in emerging prose writers as well: If you really understood what I’m doing you would totally see how perfect it is! Pro tip: don’t be that person, ever. It gets you nowhere.
If you want to learn more about screenwriting, have the will to grow and aren’t afraid of being truly workshopped – of hanging your ass out for everyone to see so that you can learn – then go check out the website and the class. Bring your growth mindset and your absolute willingness to embrace feedback, work your ass off, provide support to your workshop cohort, and get over the need to be perfect. Because the need to be perfect is the enemy of growth.
And if you decide to go for it, do let me know. I’d love to hear about your experience.
OtherLife stars Jessica De Gouw, TJ Power, Thomas Cocquerel, Clarence Ryan, Tiriel Mora, and Adriane Daff. They are all brilliant – every one of them brought dimensions to the characters that I didn’t imagine, and now cannot imagine doing without. Jess, Tom, Adriane and Clarence were absolutely lovely to me when I visited the set in Perth, in spite of late nights and so much hard work during the shoot. I missed meeting TJ and Tiriel by days, and look forward to someday telling them in person how much I enjoyed their work.
Directed by Ben C. Lucas. Also brilliant. Ben brought vision and rigor and insight to the script. Plus he is wonderful and fun and smart. This movie has Ben all over it.
Cinematography by Dan Freene. Who is genius, I’m just saying. Dan made the film look gorgeous and feel powerful, intimate and thrilling.
Edited by Leanne Cole. Wow. I was fortunate enough to have Leanne show me some of the dailies, and to hear her, Ben, Dan and the producers talk about how the story might take shape. Leanne can hold a hundred permutations in her head.
Written by Gregory Widen, Ben C. Lucas & Kelley Eskridge. And this, my friends, is an amazing moment for me. This is my first professional screenwriting credit. It comes after a long, exciting, terrifying, often very hard journey from option to screenplay development to production. Real live audiences will see the film. From head and heart to screen, via so many other heads and hearts.
Here’s the summary description of the film, which should make clear that the film story and the book story are different in terms of plot. But they are deeply connected in core concepts and in the emotional exploration of loneliness and connection.
You can find OtherLife on Facebook and on Twitter. Read about the wild ride of indie filmmaking at the OtherLife Journals. And if you’re in Sydney for the festival, do please go see the film on June 16 or June 18, and let me know what you think!