Monday, October 4, 2010

Happy Monday!

Things are going well on all fronts.  A few high points:

  • We started the Health Month October game on Friday, and it's been fun to have an amusing way to keep some goals in check.  So far so good!  
  • Took another brief trip to some estate sales this weekend, and I'll have a separate post on that tomorrow, complete with pictures of the wacky things we've acquired, and tips we've learned. 
  • Today I tried something new with my water carafe. I brought a package of frozen raspberries to work, and am using them as both fruit flavoring and ice cubes. They're tastier than I expected, and because their cell walls have been punctured in the process of becoming ice crystals, they turn the water a very pretty pink color.
  • Caught up on a ton of housework and laundry yesterday, and managed to make a batch of passionfruit curd (which will serve as the sauce base on the tart we're making for our Palm Springs dinner Friday) and my lunch salad for this week: Moroccan Couscous.
1 cup water 
1/2 tablespoon ground ginger 
1 garlic clove 
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric 
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 
1 cup plain dry plain couscous 
1/4 cup raisins 
1 cup chopped cucumber 
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes 
1/2 cup caramelized onions 
1 cup canned mandarin oranges (drained, reserving 1/4 cup of juice) 
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Bring water, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin to boil in heavy large saucepan. Stir in couscous and remove from heat. Scatter raisins over, cover, and let stand until couscous softens, about 10 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork, breaking up any lumps with fingertips. Transfer couscous to large bowl. Add cucumber, tomato, onions and drained oranges. Whisk 1 tablespoon oil and orange juice in small bowl. Add to couscous; toss to coat.  Makes 4 servings,  340 calories per serving.

But enough on that.  I thought that since I've been focusing on only 2 of the 3 main topics I intended to discuss (the physical progress and mental progress) it was probably time to talk a bit about my creative progress.

I haven't gone into details here, because most of you know that over the last year, Tom and I got involved with an animation production company, a new company with some cool connections. The project gave us our first taste of writing and developing animation professionally.  The process of Tom and I joining up with this team, and everyone's subsequent departure from the team, is a long and funny story, and one that doesn't belong on the web.  If you haven't heard it, let's go out for coffee or sit down on the phone and I will tell you the details.  But the biggest thing that came out of this - other than the friends and connections we made - was that Tom and I finally stopped making excuses for why we weren't writing.  In fact, we stopped not writing altogether.  We've been working on our projects consistently all year, and the plan is, basically, to never stop.  We'd love to have more than an hour or two each day to work on it, but for right now it's making us happy.  

The project we've worked most on has been our own animated series, Bubble Gumshoe.  We came up with it together while working with the animation company last year, and we realized it was a good place to start.  Since this spring, we've completed a full series & character bible, and we're currently on episode script #3.  Here's our logline and the introduction of our series description:

Log Line
A clever ten-year-old, inspired by old movies, runs a detective agency out of his treehouse.

Series Description
Welcome to Sam’s town… where dark shadows lurk around every corner and danger looms just out of sight. A city of hardened criminals, and dames with something to hide. A city crying out for someone to set it straight. And that someone is Sam… a fifth-grade detective out to clean up the streets.

Sam lives with his family in Mount Pleasant, a sunny, all-American suburb. But that’s not how Sam sees it. After years of watching old detective movies, to Sam, Mount Pleasant is a world of mystery and intrigue, where the criminals steal stuffed animals, and the dames have cooties. From his treehouse detective agency, Sam cracks the cases brought to him by his classmates at Mount Pleasant Elementary. There are missing toys, mysterious symbols, disappearing homework, epic water fights… and for Sam, the stakes are as high as in one of his beloved Film Noir classics.

Everything that has come from this process has been kind of delightfully surprising.  At the beginning, I was surprised by the episode titles we came up with.  "The Big Nap."  "The Concrete Jungle Gym." "The Maltese Penguin." Later, it was the tapestry of characters we came up with, and the way that they interacted together.

Early on, we worried about the right way to bring in comic relief, and to keep Sam's noir musings from skewing away from the kid-friendly.  But so many solutions came to us in the process of creating!  What we have now, I believe, is a series that will entertain kids while making their parents chuckle, too. That's the goal, anyway.

For instance, we've broken up some of Sam's dark tone with his little brother, Miles - a kindergartener.  Little brothers in cartoons can wear out their welcome as quickly as little brothers in real life.  But thanks to one line that came to us out of the blue, Miles became a spirited little kid with strange taste in food and an inability to use his indoor voice at the worst possible moments. It's so much fun to write Miles.

On the other hand, I absolutely dreaded writing Roz. She is Sam's rival-slash-kindred, a new girl who writes for the school's newspaper. He wants to solve the mystery - but she wants the scoop.  This is all well and good, but when you create a character who is supposed to banter like a Girl Friday from a screwball comedy... you have to write banter from a screwball comedy.  This is as hard as it sounds, and it takes us a lot longer than, say, Miles... but when it works, it really works.

Our basic idea was that Sam should - in his head, his voice-over - sound like he belonged in a hard-boiled film noir. And because of that, he would feel like a fish-out-of-water around everyone else.  He might even feel annoyed by anyone who pulls him out of his personal detective fantasy.  (For instance, his little brother.)  But when Sam meets Roz, he should be bowled away.  Some else talks like an old movie.  Not just in her head... she's talking to him. And they're talking the same language.

Well... not quite the same language.  Part of our key to figuring out Roz was realizing that Sam speaks in occasional "noir slang," but Roz uses a combination of "newspaper slang" and a kind of invented "kid slang."  We worked from online noir and newspaper glossaries, and then we created a glossary of our own for Roz... using school themes, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and other kidlet-like phrases as a starting point for her unique vocabulary.  Tom says I'm only allowed to share one definition with you today, so I will leave you with my favorite.

To play hopscotch: jumping to conclusions. “Just because he said he was there doesn’t mean he did it. Let’s not play hopscotch here.”