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Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Remakes aren’t going away. Audiences will flock to an adaptation of a known work. Television is becoming more and more a source for the remake mill. If a TV series won its time slot in the ratings, it goes on lists of possible adaptations. Likewise, if a series influences how later, similar shows are made, it, too, becomes fodder for a remake.

However, television has a wrinkle that film doesn’t – syndicated reruns. With theatrical releases, there seems to be a twenty-five to thirty year gap between original and remake, depending on how well the original was received. That gap is the equivalent of a generation, enough time for a new generation to be born and grow up. During this time, film technology can improve and expand, providing a new way to tell the story. Films made in the Twenties remade in the Fifties could take advantage of colour, sound, and widescreen.

Syndicated reruns means a TV series is on the air for longer than the original run, keep a show alive in its original medium for far longer than a movie can ever hope for. If a series runs long enough, the syndicated reruns can air the same day as a new episode. The length of time between original and remake gets longer. But remakes and reboots do happen. Some are long awaited; others appear to come from out of the blue.

Another wrinkle television has, especially with long-running series, is a role gets associated with the actor playing it. This happens when the series is focused on that character. Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files is tied to James Garner. Likewise, Columbo is very much Peter Falk and Quincy is Jack Klugman. It’ll take time for these connections to fade.

When choosing a work to remake, it may be better to look at older series. Not from the Seventies, series from that decade are easily available and still have a large number of fans who are satisfied with DVD box sets of the show. Why not go back to the black & white days of TV. Not every series then is good for fodder. Rocky Jones, Space Ranger isn’t well known under that name, though Manhunt is Space is, especially the MST3K episode riffing it, is. There is a series that turned out to be as influential on how mysteries were made as Miami Vice was to dramas, police and otherwise – Peter Gunn

Created by Blake Edwards, Peter Gunn ran for three seasons from 1958 to 1961. The first two seasons ran on NBC, the third on ABC. The series starred Craig Stevens as the well-dressed private investigator, Peter Gunn, Lola Albright as his girlfriend, Edie Hart, Herschel Bernardi as police detective Lt. Jacoby, and Hope Emerson as Mother, the owner of Mother’s, a jazz club. When Emerson passed away during the second season, Minerva Urecal continued the role. The theme, written by Henry Mancini, was a hit. Mancini would win the first Album of the Year Grammy for The Music from Peter Gunn, compiling the music used in the first season. One of the musicians performing in the jazz combo for the series was a young John Williams.

Each episode of Peter Gunn ran about 25 minutes, allowing for a five minute ad break, and would start with a quick scene of the crime to be solved, often murder. Once Peter is hired, he’d dig into the case, question suspects, and get into fisticuffs, often on the wrong end. The series didn’t shy from having the lead get beaten up by mobsters and other assorted thugs. The first episode, “The Kill”, saw Mother’s bombed in retaliation to Peter’s investigating. Edwards brought film noir to television, fitting it to a half-hour slot.

There’s two ways to remake the series. The obvious way, which is what Edwards did for a 1989 remake, with Peter Strauss as Gunn and Peter Jurasik as Jacoby, is to bring the show to today. When Peter Gunn came out, a jazz soundtrack was novel, a new way to present a detective story. Today, thanks to shows like Miami Vice, using popular music is a given for dramas. Jazz, while still unusual, wouldn’t be as much a stand out today as it was in 1958. The idea, though, is still valid. Keep the jazz score, or change it up with something that fits today’s television without necessarily using Top 40 songs. The original had a signature style of music; a remake needs to have one, too.

The other approach would be to keep Peter Gunn in the late 50s. The series would have a distinctive look just from using the fashions of the era plus the chrome of the older cars. The jazz score would help accentuate the era, with the occasional period rock song. With the advantage of hindsight and time, the show can delve into social issues of the decade, not necessarily as a morale of the week, but to highlight how different life was then for different people.

Either way, a few details are hard-coded into the series. First, Peter and Edie are a couple. There’s no “will they or won’t they” going on. It was obvious in the original that Peter and Edie are a loving couple, with only the morality of the time preventing the answer of “they have.” The only television couple that is more up front about how much they love each other is Gomez and Morticia Addams. Second, Peter is well dressed, well coifed, wearing expensive clothes. At a time when the technology was rare and expensive, Peter had a car phone. Peter Gunn is not workaday like, say, Jim Rockford. Instead, he’s suave, even when he takes a beating.

Adaptations will happen. It’s the nature of the entertainment business. Studios want a return on investment, and audiences will turn up for a remake. Today, though, there is a lot of works available that still resonate with the general populace. There’s no reason to remake the same TV series over and over. Delve into TV’s history and there’s a wealth to be mined. Peter Gunn has been considered for a remake series. Steven Spielberg was working on a pilot of a new Peter Gunn series for the 2013-2014 TV season for TNT, but the show wasn’t picked up.


Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Sherlock Holmes is a character that has lasted in the imaginations of readers for well over 130 years. Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, Holmes and his partner, Dr. John Watson, solved many a mystery. Each of Holmes’ adventures were written from Watson’s point of view, a filter through which Holmes could explain his deductions to readers. Over time, Holmes has been adapted in many ways from theatre to television, the most recent being Elementary. It was only a matter of time before he was adapted as a garden gnome.

Watson wasn’t the only character that remained in the pop subconscious. Other of Doyle’s creations are as well known, including Irene Adler, Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, and the Napoleon of Crime, Professor Moriarty. An equal match to Holmes’ intellect, Moriarty appeared in the story, “The Adventure of the Final Problem”, published December 1893 in Strand Magazine and with the collection of short stories, Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, in the same year. In it, Holmes had already deduced who the Napoleon of Crime was and had plans to arrest him and key members of his gang. Moriarty, though, worked out who was behind all his recent setbacks and promised Holmes mutual destruction if the detective continued to work against him. Holmes sees no problem with that, with a career of detective work behind him that bettered London. The chase is afoot, and Holmes and Moriarty meet again at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. After a fight, both tumble into the Reichenbach Falls, never to be seen again.

Doyle meant for “The Final Solution” to be the last Sherlock Holmes adventure. He was getting tired of writing about the character. Fans, though, demanded more, despite the apparent death. Doyle obliged with The Hound of the Baskervilles in 1902. Professor Moriarity returned in The Valley of Fear, published in 1915 as a lead up to the events in “The Final Solution”.

Moriarty intrigued fans of Sherlock Holmes. Despite having just the two appearances, Moriarty challenged Holmes on a intellectual level, an equal match for the detective where their final meeting resulted in their demise. Not just a villain, but a foil, a nemesis. One that can be expected to appear in an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. Even one where the detective is a garden gnome.

When Gnomeo & Juliet was released in 2011, the movie exceeded box office expectations. When a movie does that well, sequels are expected. Since Shakespeare never wrote a Romeo & Juliet: Part II, mostly because the titular characters died in the original play, there’s not much to build from there. However, low-hanging puns are easy to build upon, leading to Sherlock Gnomes. Gnomeo & Juliet managed to hit most of the beats of the Shakespearean play, changing only near the end. Could the creative team do the same with Sherlock Gnomes?

Most of the cast of Gnomeo & Juliet returned, the main exception being Jason Stathem as Tybalt. Joining the cast are Johnny Depp as Sherlock Gnomes, Chiewetel Ejiofor as Dr. Watson, Mary J. Blige as Irene, and Jamie Demitriou as Moriarty. Once again, the music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin form the bulk of the soundtrack, with the exception of a piece by Jacques Offenbach. The crew comprised of people from Gnomeo & Juliet who weren’t otherwise busy with other projects.

The movie opens with Sherlock Gnomes and Watson foiling the plans of Moriarty to smash some helpless garden gnomes at the museum. Gnomes and Moriarty have been matching wits for some time, with the villain leaving clues to taunt and test the detective. This time, though, it appears that Moriarty himself is smashed.

Elsewhere, Ms Montague and Mr. Capulet move together from 2B and Not 2B Verona Drive in Stratford-upon-Avon to a brownstone on Baker Street in London. The garden gnomes are put out in the small garden. Once alone, they animate once again. Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith) and Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine) announce they will retire once the new garden is properly set up, with Juliet (Emily Blunt) and Gnomeo (James McAvoy) appointed the new gnome leaders. The scene lets audiences familiar with the first movie catch up on the characters, with Benny (Matt Lucas) having his hat repaired between movies. As the garden work goes on, Juliet is spending less time with Gnomeo. Feeling neglected, he decides to go on an adventure to find the flower that brought him and Juliet together in the first place, the purple Cupid’s Arrow Orchid.

Juliet discovers Gnomeo’s foolish adventure and goes out to save his butt. She is not impressed; she wants the garden in top shape. As they argue, they hear Benny call for help. When they return to the garden, the rest of the gnomes have disappeared. However, Gnomes and Watson are on the scene. With very little explanation, Gnomes begins searching for clues on the disappearance, ignoring questions from Gnomeo and Juliet. The detectives find Moriarty’s calling card and leave, with Juliet and Gnomeo on their heels.

Gnomes may not want meddlesome assistants with him, but he’s stuck with the newcomers. The clues lead through London, meeting a variety of ornaments from Chinatown to a toy store where Irene is in charge. All leads to a final encounter with Moriarty, who managed to escape his apparent smashing with just minor, reparable damage, at the Tower Bridge. The final battle sees Sherlock and Moriarty fighting then falling from the Bridge much like the illustration shown at the beginning of the movie.

Sherlock Gnomes takes a few liberties with “The Final Solution”, though the movie isn’t really an adaptation of the story, just the characters in it. Still, key beats from the story show up, such as Gnomes travelling to various locations to keep a step ahead of Moriarty. Much like Holmes, Sherlock Gnomes is brusque and lacking in social skills. In the literature, Watson acts as the filter between Holmes and the reader. In the movie, Watson fills the same role, not just to the audience but also with the gnomes the two meet. Gnomes is also a master of disguise, much like his progenitor, including disguising himself and Juliet as a squirrel in order to retrieve one of Moriarty’s calling card from the cutest Hound of the Baskervilles to be on screen. Being a family film, Sherlock Gnomes elides Holmes’ addictions, though as a garden gnome, it’d be hard to show his heroin habit.

The movie borrows an idea from the Robert Downey, Jr. in showing how Sherlock’s thought processes work. Instead of slowing down the action, Sherlock Gnomes uses black and white animation, showing how the detective works out problems. The processes aren’t that easy to understand, being meant more for comedy than actual problem solving tips. Gnomes also has Holmes’ eye for detail and observation, able to tell that Gnomeo and Juliet are having a lovers’ quarrel within seconds of meeting them.

With the basic premise of telling an adventure of Sherlock Holmes as a garden gnome, the movie could have taken an easy route of having just a gnome that looks like Holmes solve a mystery set to the music of Elton John and be done with it. Instead, Sherlock Gnomes brings in Holmes as he is in Doyle’s stories, intelligent, arrogant, and dismissive, and still highlights what would have been his last adventure if Doyle had his way while turning the character into a ceramic ornament. Gnomeo & Juliet demonstrated that the creative team could keep to the beats of a tragedy while still making a feature for the entire family. Sherlock Gnomes follows in the same footsteps.


Posted on by Steven Savage

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

We’re talking how to solve your creative challenges with a Brainstorm book!  Last time I discussed how to record your ideas and track them.

Of course I assume you’re actually getting things done during this time by whatever method of productivity you choose. So let’s talk what to do to follow up once you get things done.

Signoff

Make sure you have a way to look at one of your projects and say “yeah, that’s done at least for now.” This way you can confidently say you’ve completed what you set out to do. This could be something as solid as a published book, or as ephemeral as a website update you know you’ll change tomorrow. Learn how to say “this is done.”

Defining “Done” means you can complete work. You can evaluate. You can deliver a product. You can relax. “Done” is vitally important to define – so do it as early as possible, including as early as possible when you’re maintaining your lists of all these ideas.

When you do decide something is “Done” have your Brainstorm Book handy – that “Done” will probably inspire other ideas.

Plus you get the peace of mind of something being over.

Retrospectives

It’s important to have a regular Retrospective – a review of how things have gone. I recommend two times to do them – in fact, I recommend both:

  1. First, do a retrospective after any big project completes.
  2. Second, do one after a period of work. For instance if you plan things out by month, then review every month.

On a Retrospective review the following:

  1. What went well?
  2. What did you have problems with?
  3. What work took more effort to do than expected and what work did you miss?

After this review, you should actually ask what concrete actions will you take in the future to make things run better. This could be doing things you did right more, it could be fixing things, it could be staying aware of issues.

Retrospectives help you understand how you brought ideas to life, and how work went from a scrawl in a Brainstorm Book to being real. They spawn new ideas and help you understand your creative process.

Plus each time, you get better.

Success List

Finally, keep an success list. Every month list out what you achieved that month to move your plans forward. That should include:

  • Any major achievements and successes in your plans.
  • Making distinct progress in one of your projects.
  • The completion of a project.
  • Anything you’re particularly proud of.

Reviewing your successess helps you see the results of your actions, appreciate them – and provides you reminders that you can get these things done. It builds habit of self-reinforcement.

All those ideas in your Brainstorm Book? This is when you see that you can make your dreams real.

You’re Not Done Until After You’re Done

Always remember that your brilliant ideas aren’t done when they finish. You want to take time to figure out how to end them, how to review them, and how to learn. That helps tie together all you did and all you learn and all you do at the end.

It’s important to have these kind of closing rituals to know you’ve ended things correctly. And of course, you’ll come up with new things to do or tweak my ideas – good.

Keep learning because even though things are done, creativity doesn’t end . . .

– Steve


Posted on by Scott Delahunt

DC Comics has its triumvirate – Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Superman has had many adaptations on radio, television, and film, the latter two both live action and animated. Batman hasn’t had as many over the character’s existence, but has picked up on the number of film adaptations over the past two decades. Wonder Woman, not so much. The character had her own TV series in the Seventies and has appeared in the various DC-based cartoons featuring a full team of heroes, but her solo appearances are lacking compared to the other two in the Big Three.

Created by William Moulton Marston, who also developed the lie detector, Wonder Woman was to offset the more violent titles. Instead of beating her opponents into defeat, she’d use the power of love to change their ways, using her version of the lie detector, the Lasso of Truth, to rehabilitate them. Since her debut in 1941, her approach has changed, becoming an Amazon warrior, willing to take the steps that Superman and Batman would not.

Over the past ten years, DC’s domination of superhero moves have waned as Marvel Studios finally figured out how to make interesting movies. Marvel’s approach to The Avengers movies forced DC to accelerate their Justice League titles. The problem that Warner has right now, though, is that all of the DC-based movies look like the Batman films. While that approach works for the character*, it didn’t with Man of Steel or Batman vs Superman, turning both into colourless messes.

After a few fits and starts, Warner finally had a Wonder Woman movie released in 2017. Directed by Patty Jenkins, the film was the top grossing superhero film for the year and finished behind Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the live-action Beauty and the Beast overall. Even Justice League only wound up tenth. Turns out, representation is key. Wonder Woman is a feminist icon; the character is the best known superheroine, able to bring in an audience that normally wouldn’t consider a capes-and-spandex movie.

The movie opens briefly in the present with a voice over narration by Diana (Gal Gadot) about the problems of the world. A Wayne Foundation armoured truck delivers a briefcase to her. Inside are a photo of Wonder Woman standing with several men in a wartorn town and a note, triggering a flashback to Diana’s days as a child on Themiscyra. Diana is the only child (played by Lilly Aspell) among the Amazons, having been fashioned by clay by her mother, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), and has no mind for studies, instead wanting to watch the Amazons train. While the Amazons are hidden, they are prepared for the day when Ares tries to destroy mankind and the world again. To prevent that end, Zeus left a weapon capable of killing a god on the island.

As Diana grows older (now played by Emily Carey), she convinces her mother to let her train. Diana’s aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright) pushes her past her limits, working the girl to be the best she can. As a full grown woman, Diana is capable of standing her own against several Amazons at once, but when Antiope pushes to far, something inside Diana pushes back, sending Antiope flying. Diana walks away to brood over what happened. As she does so, a German plane crashes off the coast.

Diana rescues the young pilot, unaware that a German warship has sent several boats to retrieve him. The Germans pierce through the veil that surrounds Themiscyra and land on the beaches. The Amazons fight the invasion, but swords, spears, and arrows can only do so much against trained soldiers with rifles. The Amazons win, but at a cost.

The young pilot is interrogated with the Lasso of Hestia, compelling him to give his name, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), and his mission, an American officer working for British intelligence as a spy. He discovered German General Ludendorf (Danny Huston) and Dr. Isabella Maru (Elena Anaya) in the Ottoman Empire creating new weapons, including poison gas, to fight the Allies in the Great War. Diana insists on going off to fight, suspecting Ares behind the war, but her mother denies her. Undaunted, Diana breaks into the tower holding the god-killer sword. She takes it, the Lasso of Hestia, a shield, and the costume. Dressed and armed, she takes Steve to a small harbour. Her mother arrives, not to stop her, but to say goodbye, giving Diana Entiope’s circlet to wear. The parting is bittersweet.

London is a confusing whirlwind for Diana. So many new sights, sounds, and smells. Steve takes her to get appropriate clothes, with the help of his secretary, Etta Candy (Lucy Davis). After a few hours and many outfits tried, Diana gets an outfit that’s slightly less conspicuous. Leaving the store, Steve and Diana are followed by German spies. They confront the Germans in an alley, where Diana shows how effective she can be.

At Allied HQ, Steve gives over Dr. Maru’s notebook. Diana is able to decrypt it, understanding the languages used. However, she’s learning that in man’s world, women aren’t listened to. Diana goes off on the assembled generals, who have denied Steve’s request to track the General to Belgium. Steve pulls her out, explaining that he is going anyway, only convincing her after using the Lasso on himself. He makes a stop to pick up reinforcements, con man Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), marksman Charlie (Ewen Bremner), and smuggler The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock).

On the way to find Ludendorf, Diana leads an impromtu charge through No Man’s Land, clearing a path for the British troops to follow while reducing the German defences. She continues through to liberate the village of Veld, with assistance from Steve and his men. Diana is getting a harsh lesson in modern warfare, seeing the damage wrought to people and their lives.

The team tracks Ludendorf to German High Command. The General, opposed to the Armistice, had killed the rest of the Command with his new gas. The gathering at High Command is a show, one put on to demonstrate the new weapon by using Veld. Angered, Diana finds her own way into the aerodrome where Ludendorf is stockpiling the gas and begins her attack. The final battle of the film is one for Diana’s heart.

There were changes made to the character as created in 1941. The biggest is moving the date of Diana’s first appearance in the setting. When Wonder Woman was first published, World War II was an ongoing war, appearing in newspaper headlines daily. The US hadn’t yet formally joined the war, but was supplying the Allies supplies while trying to appear neutral. Comics of the time gained a secondary purpose, propaganda, so naturally, Wonder Woman fought Nazis. With the war now part of history and using Ares as the film’s villain, moving the setting to World War I made sense. World War I, also known as the Great War and the War to End All Wars, saw casualties in the millions, saw technological advancements that outstripped defenses, and saw an entire generation reduced in four years. Showing Ares having a hand in creating that War works in the context of the film. The movie didn’t show all the horrors of the war, but did show enough to give the audience an idea of the nature of warfare.

Gal Gadot as Diana worked well. She looks like the character, which is critical when adapting from a comic book. Appearances are everything. There were a few times in the film where Gadot’s appearance called back to Lynda Carter’s turn as Wonder Woman in the Seventies. While the movie was far more serious than the show, the portrayals aren’t that much different. Both find that they are fighting with the Power of Love. Chris Pine isn’t necessarily Lyle Waggoner, but he does bring charm to the role of Steve Trevor. Lucy Davis’ Etta Candy also harkens back to the comic and the first season of the TV series. Etta is there as contrast to Diana, but even she has her moments of heroism. Moving the time didn’t change the characters; they adapted well.

Wonder Woman is an origins story. Unlike Batman and Superman, Diana’s origins don’t leave her passive. She defies her mother and trains then leaves Themiscyra. Diana explores the world of men and carves out her piece of it. She is a warrior, but one who fights for love. The movie explores how she came to that decision.

The movie managed to add something that, until then, was missing from the DC adaptations – humour. The levity came from character moments, usually between Diana and Steve, typically centering around the different cultural attitudes about sex. Diana is well read about the subject and the Amazons are open and honest with each other. Steve, though, is coming from an American upbringing that has far more hangups than today.

Wonder Woman despite the changes, does keep to the nature of the character and the comics. Changes that were made help with the story without really taking away from the character. Diana is still Diana, warrior and defender of mankind. She is still recognizable on the screen in costume or regular clothes.

* To quote Batman from The LEGO Movie, “I only use black. And sometimes very, very dark gray.


Posted on by Steven Savage

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

We’re talking how to solve your creative challenges with a Brainstorm book!  Last time I discussed how to review it – so new we talk getting active and using all those notes.

You’ve got a Brainstorm Book, you put ideas in it, then sorted them into various groups. You have your Archives, Incubator, Backlog, and Current Backlog. So, now what?

First, with the Current Backlog is self-explanatory – you’re doing that now. That’s your “getting things done in the near future” thing – and if you don’t have a system to do that, I have a free book for you.

But let’s talk the rest of the lists.

Using The Archives

The Archives are where you put ideas you like, but aren’t sure if you want to do. Of course, what do you do with them since they kinda sit there.

As you add to them in each Review, consider the following:

  • Are any of your files, documents, piles of ideas getting too large? Then take the time to purge them and cut out things you no longer care anymore.
  • Does anything look like it’s worthy of promoting to the Incubator? If so, go ahead (it’s not like you can’t remove it later).
  • Do you care anymore about a given set of ideas or interests? If not, find a place to just store old files in case, or outright delete them.

The rule I use with Archives is “is there any value in keeping this?” When there’s not, get rid of it somehow.

After awhile, you may find these things getting overlarge and need to do a review. Do this every six months, and set a timebox to an hour.

Using The Incubator

The Incubator is your “want-to-do-but-not-sure-when” box. It’s things you haven’t yet put on your schedule but are sure you’ll probably want to do.

Review the Incubator once a month for an hour – if you want, you can do it as part of one of your regular Brainstorm book reviews. While reviewing it do the following:

  • Reorder it. As you insert new items into it, or just go over it, see if you want to change any priorities.
  • Remove items. If something seems relevant to you, then delete it – I wouldn’t even put it in the Archives. If it was important enough to put here but you lost interest, you probably won’t care again.
  • Move an item to the Backlog. If an item is something you’re sure you want to do, move it into your Backlog – and put it in the proper order.
  • Move an item to your Current Backlog. If something seems ragingly important, you may want to have it on your short-term to-do list. I don’t recommend this unless there’s a good reason.
  • Do it and get it over with. If it was real simple and can be done in a few minutes, do it. In fact, you probably should have done it before.

As always, keep the Incubator in order of priority – with nothing of equal importance. That forcing-the-issue will really help you keep track of what you want to do and set your priorities.

Using The Backlog

The Backlog is where you keep your definitely-going-to-do items. Again, in order of importance – however there’s an important difference.
By the time something gets to the Backlog, you’re probably already thinking of how to break it down into pieces of work. If you’re not, you should, because a lot of great ideas take time to do, so you don’t do them all at once.

So remember, as you keep your Backlog and polish it, feel free to start prioritizing the parts of things you want to do. Maybe make the priority also reflect chronological order. Maybe think of what’s the most important stuff you can do first.

EXAMPLE: You really want to write and publish a short story. That can be broken down into several “stories” on their own – writing out the plot, doing the story, editing, etc. By the time that story idea hits the Backlog, you can break it down, in order, and maybe even have an idea of when you want to do things (which also affects order).

Review your Backlog once a month, and whenever you think you should. I usually find I look at it once to three times a month as I get new ideas, or review my Brainstorm Book, or get new feedback. Your Backlog is your roadmap to the future – take it seriously.

When reviewing consider:

  • Do I even care about this item? Some items may not be worth doing after awhile. You can send it to the Incubator, but usually if you put something into the Backlog and then stop caring, you’ll never do it. You learned how much you really want to do it by saying “not now.”
  • Should I move this item up or down in priority? Remember, if you’ve already broken an item down you might just shuffle parts of it. But either way, as you review, things may suddenly seem more important – though as you get used to a Backlog, I find that changes less.
  • Should I move anything into my Current Backlog? Maybe it’s time to start doing something now. So do it.
  • Do it now. Again, sometimes you just get it over with.

Using The Current Backlog

Well, this is the list of stuff you’re trying to do right now so you’re probably looking at it daily. I’ll assume you’re fine here.

As You Review . . .

So you’ll find yourself reviewing your past brainstorms, you’ll most likely find that you’re having new ideas as well. Which is good, but kind of annoying as you’re busy.

This is of course great because, hey, new ideas – plus you see that your imagination is working away. But again, you’re busy.

What I do is take these ideas and put them in my Brainstorm Book so I don’t get distracted, unless the idea is so absolutely stunning it must go in my documents. You have to make the judgement call, but I’d say err on the side of caution and jot it down for later.

Why Actively Managing Your Documents Matters

You’re now regularly reviewing the documents that are . . . created from your Brainstorm Book reviews. So why do these matter to you?

  • You’re able to re-review your ideas. This keeps them in mind and helps you appreciate them, analyze them, prioritize them, and reassess them.
  • You’re able to polish a long-term plan in increments. Instead of developing some huge, doubtlessly unlikely-to-succeed plan all at once, a plan to realize your ideas emerges over time. Its’ more likely to succeed.
  • Because you review your ideas, you now see that, yes, you actually have good ideas. This builds confidence in your imagination and helps you overcome fears of being creatively blocked.
  • Since you’re re-prioritizing all the time, you’re keeping yourself from being overwhelmed with ideas. In time, these documents will grow, and you’ll not just see how imaginative you really are, you’ll use them to keep yourself from going overboard.
  • Finally, looking at past ideas will inspire you with even more ideas. Which you will, of course, review . . .

By now you have a Brainstorm Book system. However, I have a few more ideas for you.

– Steve


Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Apologies.  Life got hectic and I wasn’t able to prepare a proper column.  Lost in Translation will return last week.


Posted on by Steven Savage

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

There’s a Tibetan Buddhist tradition where monks spend days building beautiful mandalas of sand, illustrating various principles.  Then at the end of this long ritual, they destroy the entire thing.  It is a nicely evocative example of the impermanence of all things – and a lesson to writers and artists.

Imagine you are making a mandala, knowing it will be destroyed.  You craft it perfectly, knowing it’s impermanent.  Every step is temporary, each precise.

Imagine working as people gather around you, in awe, looking at it, wondering.  They marvel art artistry, think over the meaning, ask questions.  Then they go on their way.

Then you spin it or scrape it away or let the wind come in and it’s all gone.

That’s very likely to be your book – any book.  That’s likely to be your art – any art.  Few of us will be spoken of in centuries, let alone years ,let alone ever.  We’re unlikely to be Kameron Hurley or Terry Pratchett or any of the other greats.  We’re temporary things, but in the end we’ll be sand – and even the greats will probably stick around a bit longer before they’re footnotes and records.

It’s worth it.

First, it’s worth it because art is what you do.  That is your expression.  That is who you are.  Be it for religion or creativity or to speak or even money, that’s you and what you do.

Second, it’s what you learn by doing this.  The craft, the knowledge, the self-reflection.  Each step in your own impermanent work tells you something more.  Each step changes you – because you too are an impermanent, shifting, collection, so make it a good one.

Finally, it’s that crowd gathered around you, watching and learning.  They may not take home the mandala, they may not see it again.  But they’ll think, and learn, and contemplate.  You may just touch hearts – they don’t need to take a picture or have their own copy to do that.

What many of us artists can hope for is not immortality as creators – and it’s not what we should hope for.  In these impermanent moments we leave behind something greater, not as a work praised for the ages, but in influencing ourselves and others.  Just because your book is forgotten a year or two from now, doesn’t mean it didn’t matter or have an effect.

It’s pretty much the same as how I take the Buddhist idea of Projected Karma – that thing that has an influence down the road.  Influence of action, not permanence of creation.

Just like the Mandala teaches, so can you work.  It doesn’t have to be forever – and indeed it shouldn’t be.  Nothing is, and clinging to past forms, worn and tired, isn’t immortality, it’s a specific kind of hell.

Let the sand be sand.  Don’t mummify your creativity in the hope people will stare at it dumbly, unmoved, un-involved.  Let it be a living thing and go where it may, even when it may die.

Think of how liberating that is.

– Steve


Posted on by Steven Savage

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

We’re talking how to solve your creative challenges with a Brainstorm book!

Now that you have a Brainstorm Book and are filling it with ideas, you need to review it. When you review it, you’ll go through the contents, go over your ideas, and figure what to do with them. That means coming up with a review schedule – but also coming up with a way to organize these ideas.

Your Review Schedule

First, set up a time to review your Brainstorm Book. You want to find a schedule that’s going to work best for you and not drive you up a wall. I recommend one of the following two choices:

  1. Do it every 2 weeks regularly.
  2. Do it twice a month on regular times that makes things roughly equal distance. (I recommend the 5th and the 20th).

Now it’s OK to, now and then move the time around a bit, but don’t get too radical. Good, solid, regular review should become a habit so you make the time to do it.

But what do you do? Well, when you review you need to set a few things up in your notes. Let’s get ready for a review.

Preparing for a Brainstorm Book Review

Remember, set this up before your review begins.

When you review a Brainstorm Book, you’ll sort ideas into four separate files. Now that may sound like a lot, but bear with me.
Here’s the four ways I keep ideas.

  • Archives – A collection of files that are things written down that you might refer to one day. One file can be enough, though you may want to divide them into general lists (stories, cooking, etc.)
  • The Incubator – This is my list of things you want to do some day, but aren’t sure when. Keep them in a list in order of importance – and no item can be of equal importance to another.
  • Backlog – Things you are definitely going to do. These should also be listed in order of priority. In many cases you’ll start breaking down work here because you know it well enough.
  • Current Backlog – What you’re committed too now. As an example I plan my work in monthly increments, so it’s a month of things to do.

Yeah, it sounds like a lot, but I keep the Incubator, Backlog, and Monthly backlog in the same spreadsheet.

If you’re familiar with Agile methods, specifically Scrum, some of this may look familiar – that’s because it comes from a mix of my own experience, Scrum, and the Getting Things Done method of David Allen. I sum this up more in the next chapter but to give you an idea:

I use my personal version of Scrum, where I plan work monthly. Every month I determine what I can do (from my regular tasks and Backlog) and then commit to that. Then at the end of the month I re-evaluate.

(You can also get a detailed guide here)

Now you know what you have toset up, let’s talk about how we use the review.

Reviewing Your Brainstorm Book

When you sit down to to a Brainstorm Book review, commit to taking one hour to do it. You may not use all of the time – but sometimes you will. You may also find yourself needing to go over, which is fine, but if it’s a habit you may want to get more efficient.

With that time set aside, do the following:

First you take your Brainstorm book, and go to the latest page that needs revieweed (I mark pages as I review them). You look at the idea or ideas there and decide what to do with each:

  • Ignore It – The idea may not be worth it or isn’t as great in retrospect or you weren’t sure what you wrote down.
  • Archive It – It may be something you want to write down but there’s no place for it. Put it in an Archive file.
  • Incubate It – If it’s an idea that you really see value in, really want to do, then put it in the Incubator. However the Incubator is ranked in order of priority as noted – so you have to put the idea at the right priority. You might reshuffle the entire list (this is why you may need an hour)
  • Backlog It – If an idea is really important, really must-do, put it in your Backlog – and again, put it in order of priority. If the idea is maturing, take some time to flesh it out more – you may break it into parts – another reason you may need that hour.
  • Current Backlog – If an idea is that important, that necessary (or that awesome) put it in your current backlog so you get to it soon.
  • Do it now – If it’s going to take a few minutes, why not just get it over with?

Simple, isn’t it? You look at ideas and determine how important they are, then put them in the proper areas. It’s intended to be simple because we don’t want to overcomplicate this. Next chapter, we’ll talk how to use these gatherings of ideas in more detail.

Why The Review Matters

Now that you’ve started to do your reviews, why are they helpful? Well, first after a review or two you’ll see why they matter, but heres a quick summary:

  • You don’t loose ideas or worry about losing ideas. You record them twice over to make sure you have them.
  • By seeing your inspiration you’ll be able to trust it to help you. Even if there are problems in being inspired, you now can see them, address them – and know when they’ve worked.
  • Analyzing your inspiration helps you understand how you think. You may find ideas repeat, or that certain days are better than others.
  • You can get re-inspired. When you look at your ideas, they don’t just come back to you, new ideas form. This further helps you understand how you think and have confidence in your imagination.
  • Reviewing them like this is the start of deciding what to focus on. By sorting items into different lists (or discarding them) you start prioritizing already.

This prioritization helps you get ready for long-term planning to bring your ideas to life. In fact, that’s the next chapter.

– Steve


Posted on by Scott Delahunt

Lost in Translation has looked at Jem and the Holograms before. The original cartoon was based on Hasbro’s line of dolls developed to challenge Mattel’s Barbie. The cartoon was popular but failed in its primary mission, selling the doll line. The 2015 film revival faltered at the box office because fans were expecting the cartoon. IDW picked up the Jem license for an ongoing series of comics beginning in 2014, leaning heavily on the cartoon as a base but going its own direction.

Lost in Translation has also looked at fan works before. Fan works can be variable in quality, but the common theme is that they’re made by fans. Fans will get into the minutiae about what they’re fanatical about, and may know the work possibly better than the creators. With the cost of recording technology coming down far enough to let anyone with a mind to creating a video do so, fan works are getting more common.

Combining the two leads to “Truly Outrageous – A Jem Fan Film” from Chickbait. Written and directed by Charley Feldman, the film is a twenty-nine minute short worth checking out before continuing.

The video takes the form of a live-action version of the 80s cartoon, including a bumper halfway through where a commercial break would be, but mixes in some of the ideas from the IDW comic. The characters’ appearances are based on the cartoon, with an eye to the wigs and costumes seen there. Almost every major character from the cartoon makes an appearance, including the Limp Lizards. It’s obvious that Feldman was and is a fan of the series.

The plot would fit in after the series if slightly overblown. Jem and the Holograms are still big in the music world, garnering attention for their latest efforts to raise funds for the Starlight Foundation. Eric Raymond, though, has hit rock bottom. His schemes have failed. The Misfits are in prison. There’s nowhere for them to go. In a nod to IDW’s continuity, Stormer really misses Kimber and isn’t doing well in prison. But Kevin, who is totally an American, really, has information that will help Eric and the Misfits turn their fortunes around.

It’s not just the attention to detail in the characters, though. “Truly Outrageous!” includes several songs that reflect not just the plot but how the characters are feeling. There’s also the required morale of the story, the bits needed in the 80s to qualify what would be thirty minute toy ads as educational programming. The morale is a little heavy-handed, but that appeared in the original cartoon, too. The film is well aware of what it is, and even winks at the fourth wall to let the audience in on the fun.

The result is a video that pays homage to the original cartoon, taking the ideas shown there and expanding on them. “Truly Outrageous!” is definitely Jem.


Posted on by Steven Savage

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Lately I’ve been talking about how we need to focus on our work to get anything done.  My friend Serdar has been following up on my musings, with discussing selecting work as triage or how we select our work carefully like a DJ.  Each column is a reading-worthy videpoint.

However, I have come to dislike the triage metaphor, and in further discussions with him, came to the realization that we creatives, writers, etc. often look at limiting ourselves as bad.

We don’t want to limit ourselves.  We want to tell every story, explore every nook, paint in colors no one has yet seen.  We want to do it all.  Creativity means a head full of infinity in a mortal frame that has to pick and choose what parts of that endlessness to let into the world.

We make it even harder because we often talk about our need to be selective and to cultivate work in negative ways.  Triage. Limitation.  Pairing ideas down.   Killing your darlings.  We come up with the most negative ways to talk about this, ensuring of course we want to do it less.

Thats the problem.  So let me make a suggestion – as a creative don’t talk about choosing what work to do in the negative, find positive terms.  Yes it’s a psychological trick, but by using negative terms you’ve already been tricked into seeing this as a bad thing.

Think of it as:

  • Focusing on the best choices you create.  You decide on what brings the most benefit and do it.
  • Curating the most important works you can do.  You’re like a librarian or a DJ creating a best-of for people, chosing what they truly need from your infinite repertoire of possibilities.
  • Cultivating a garden of possibilities.  You choose what to “grow” in your works and nurture it to life.
  • Being a steward of ideas.  Perhaps that means not just developing them, but also knowing when to pass ideas on to others.

So I challenge you as a creator to look at your need to focus and find the most postivie way to look at it that is still rational.  Find a way to see the good in it, and you’ll be able to focus better and more effectively.  In doing so, your need to make choices will be much easier.

You don’t need triage when the DJ has you dancing to the best tunes already.

– Steve


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