The Best Shows to Watch in 2018

BY CHARIS JOY JACKSON

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It’s a new year and the creative community needs good, new shows to inspire us to write and create our own new and amazing stories. Here’s a list of tv shows, which I think will help to inspire, provoke, and challenge us to make our own amazing content.

THE OA

If you haven’t seen season one of this highly innovative and creative story, then stop reading and go watch it now — be ready to do nothing for the rest of your day. Trust me, you’ll want to sit and binge the entire thing in one sitting. I did. Twice.

The story follows the return of Prairie, a young woman who mysteriously disappeared for several years. Her parents come to take her home, she stares at them and asks “Who are you?” They explain to the confused nurse, that when she went missing, Prairie was blind.

This inspired me to write and think outside the box for my own stories, hopefully you’ll find yourself inspired and provoked to create your own innovative stories. While we wait for season two, be sure to watch season one!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvHJtez2IlY

 

THE ALIENIST

Set during the late 19th century, this show recommends itself with heavy-weights Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning. Based on the novel, of the same name the show follows a phycologist and crime reporter who team up to investigate a sinister new threat: a serial killer, which is something the world hasn’t defined yet.

Author, Caleb Carr wanted to combine his knowledge of history with his love of fiction. He strived to remain integrous to what people then would have known about psychological threats, new science such as fingerprinting, and the first woman to work for the NYPD.

With a hint of Sherlock Holmes about it, this show can teach us many things about the importance of research for historical stories and it’s fun to try and figure out who the killer is before everyone else. It also helps us creatives to learn what other shows do right and wrong in the small clues they give about the killer along the way. Definitely one I want to check out.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcJQnaXiCfI

 

CASTLE ROCK

If you want to be a writer, storyteller and filmmaker there are two names you should always pay attention to for further research in how to get better; J.J. Abrams and Stephen King, and both are attached to Castle Rock. These two giants of story are sharing this universe full of creative and iconic characters. This alone is reason enough to watch it.

If for no other reason, this new show should inspire us all to keep striving to make awesome films. With both King and Abrams attached, it’s bound to help us creatives learn how to tell better and more innovative stories. Learn from the greats and watch the trailer to see how many easter eggs you can count.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWGP9nOGbqo

 

RISE

While I’m a bit sceptical about this show, I have hopes it will surpass the stereotypes of high school dramas.

Based on a true story, the trailer gives an edgier feel than other shows like it, which is also giving me hope.

If nothing else, I think this show will help us creatives to create messier stories which can still inspire and encourage people to live big lives, and to dream big.

Take a look at the trailer and see what you think.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_jJ9ilpXlw

 

PHILIP K. DICK’S ELECTRIC DREAMS

Ok, this one looks amazing. The 10 stand-alone episodes remind me a bit of Black Mirror and the cast is packed with powerful players — Steve Buscemi, Bryan Cranston, Anna Paquin, Greg Kinnear, Richard Madden and more. The cinematography looks great and the production design fills me with mystery and the urge to explore. In short, this looks to be quite the ride.

Perhaps the biggest hook for this show is the fact it’s based off the book that Blade Runner was based off of, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.”

I imagine it will give us creatives the much needed reminder to follow the rules, and know them backwards and forwards, but I think it will also remind us to break them sometimes too.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtX_LVwEJhA

 

These are only a few of the amazing shows coming in 2018, there are heaps more including This Is Us, Westworld, Dark, Gunpowder and more. If you want to know how to make movies and be the best storyteller be a consumer of film and learn the good, the bad, and the ugly about what’s actually getting produced now.

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Why ‘The Last Jedi’ Is The Star Wars Movie We’ve Been Waiting For

BY JAMES PRESCOTT

The Christmas season is fast becoming associated with popular movies, such as the Star Wars franchise, and this year is no different. The Last Jedi, the eighth chapter (and ninth movie) was released earlier this week, and I was lucky enough to see one of the first showings, at 0100 on Thursday morning.

I’m not sure I’ve felt quite as nervous and excited going into a film. I had no idea what to expect. I stayed free of spoilers (as this article will do), if there’s one movie to avoid spoilers with, it’s this one.

I’m glad I had no preconceived ideas of what it would do, because director Rian Johnson does an excellent job of turning all of them on their head, in what is an epic addition to the Star Wars saga. It’s the longest film in the franchise, but it earns its length, and the pacing and story are strong enough to keep you engrossed all the way through – I barely noticed the time passing.

The previous chapter, The Force Awakens, now feels more like what it was, a gentle re-introduction to the franchise, based on a familiar formula. This is where the real story begins, where we begin to see a real progression in the story – and it’s worth the wait.

The Last Jedi bears no resemblance to any predecessor. This is a great thing, and makes the film a real game changer. Johnson takes the franchise in new, bold, and interesting directions, and there are no rules he won’t break to do so.

The film begins with the resumption of hostiles between the First Order, the successor to the Empire, and the resistance – now led by General Leia, Organa, played by Carrie Fisher in what is a phenomenal and deeply moving last performance – with final scenes tenderly and beautifully handled by Johnson.

But the real story, of course, is happening down on the island, where Rey meets Luke Skywalker, and goes on a journey of her own. Without giving the game away, as time goes on we begin to understand more of why Luke has disconnected himself from the world, and Rey begins the journey into her own identity and exploring her powers, and her past.

And the other big story arc is Kylo Ren, fresh off killing his father Han Solo in The Force Awakens. Kylo – or Ben Solo – is a dark, conflicted, tragic figure, struggling to find his true path and the call to darkness.

In many ways, both Rey and Kylo are both on the same journey – trying to figure out their place in this story, both powerful with the force and wrestling with the call to explore their powers, tempted by the raw power of the dark side.

We see more of the history of both Kylo and Rey in this movie, all linked together by Luke, brilliantly played by Mark Hamill in arguably his best performance yet in the franchise, in the middle of it all – in many ways a broken man also wrestling with his own demons, yet trying to bring wisdom and guidance to Rey.

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One thing which impressed me hugely in this movie is the balance between light and dark in it’s tone – and this balance is in many ways an underlying theme of the entire movie. It’s one of the darkest Star Wars films, but it combines this well with, mostly earned, laugh out loud moments, and tender, intimate and deeply moving scenes.

This movie had me scared, in fits of laughter, and in tears of both joy and sadness, all kept in perfect balance. It’s very rare for a movie to combine these three experiences without going too extreme into one area, but The Last Jedi does this perfectly.

The Force Awakens feels like mere prologue to the events of this movie. The Last Jedi is without doubt the biggest, most epic Star Wars film since Empire Strikes Back. It’s also one of the most spiritual and mythical of the Star Wars franchise, exploring deep philosophical and spiritual questions, without becoming too self-pretentious. But it combines this with lots of action, great fight sequences and lightsaber duels, and the amazing visuals we’ve come to expect from Star Wars – and some surprises too.

The real genius of this movie though, is how Rian Johnson takes all the fans questions and expectations and predictions of what will happen in this movie, and about who the characters are and what they will do, and turns them all on their head. He also, with great subtlety, takes the audience down what looks like one path, only to turn a completely different way to what we expect.

Some hardcore fans won’t like where this movie goes, simply because it shifts the franchise in a whole different direction. By the end of this movie, we’re in new territory for Star Wars, yet there is no doubt that to be true to the heart of what Star Wars is, it’s where the story needs to go.

Many criticised The Force Awakens for being too much like a predecessor – I suspect some will apply the exact opposite criticism to this movie. But such criticism isn’t justified in my eyes.

The Last Jedi is the Star Wars movie we’ve been waiting for – a truly fresh addition to the story, which takes the saga into new places. It’s an epic, thought provoking, innovative, action packed, sometimes funny, mythical and at times deeply moving addition to the Star Wars franchise, and will leave you with many more questions for J.J. Abrams to answer in Chapter IX, in two years time.

Wonder Woman: More Than a Feminist Icon

Motivated by compassion and love is Diana of Themyscira, the Wonder Woman who is the latest superhero to grace our cinema screens. We all know her as the powerful goddess who answers to no man and seeks to defeat Ares, the god of war, thus saving humanity and making it pure again.

If only it were so were so simple.

Wonder Woman stands as an empowering testament of female capability, yet it masks itself in the desire to make life mean something. Men and women alike can relate to her character because of what she stands for: the desire to ‘make a difference’ in a suffering world, and the desire to continue doing so even in the realisation that the world will always suffer.

Before the age of disillusionment and cynicism rises to meet us, young adults often face a wonderfully powerful Messianic phase in which desires of finding a ‘cause’ to cling to come to fruition. Many times these desires are enacted upon and take many forms, whether it is through education, donating to charity or placing oneself in the midst of the trouble, it is common to give a damn.

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Perhaps this is why we see so many people entering fields such as medicine, social work and law enforcement – these are practical ways of enacting this Messianic phase.*

As someone who never had to care before, who didn’t even know there was a world to care about, Diana instinctively latched onto the idea that the world needed her. She was not aware of the power she possessed, and she was never told the purpose of her creation was to save the world from itself.

A powerful scene towards the beginning of the film shows Diana sneaking away from her home in the middle of the night to embark on her journey of Ares’ defeat, when her mother finds her and warns her that she may never be able to return. “Who would I be if I stay?” she replies. She became aware of a cause, and as a result felt responsible to do something about it.

Similarly, in our society, once a social issue is brought to light, it becomes our responsibility to do something about it. Ignorance is no longer blissful, and if one so chooses to do nothing, it becomes wilful – and who wants to be guilty of that?

Wonder Woman urges us to fulfil our perceived duty as human beings: to realise our common purpose, to live for something bigger than ourselves and to leave our comfort zone when doing so, even when it seems like nothing will change.

The themes of compassion, justice and ‘making a difference’ in the world is pertinent in the film. More insightful, though, is Diana’s journey from being the ‘saviour’ to realising she is actually powerless to change anything in a world that is self-destructive – in a world not wanting her help.

How do we, as those who do want to have an impact, respond to this? Furthermore, why should we even care? Why should we, like Diana, keep on fighting for humanity even as we watch humanity make the same mistakes? Diana’s partner in the film – American soldier and spy, John, insightfully outlines his motives for his actions. He says he can “do nothing or do something… I already tried nothing.”

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This is a statement I believe resonates with many people, yet the perplexing question for me is: Why do we even feel like we want to do something? For Diana, it was the purpose of her existence – her “pre-ordinance”, she called it, and so it makes sense.

Is it also our pre-ordinance? What is our motivation and why do we persevere even as the world continues in its suffering? Interestingly, superhero films, such as Wonder Woman, all carry these similar themes of responsibility, duty and ‘saving the world’. They are the highest grossing films of our time.

It seems like a collective fantasy we have as a human race: to make our lives count for something great. Perhaps we project this ideal onto films such as these. They make us question our own pre-ordinance, and if we don’t have one, then we crave it. They call us to action. Ultimately, they are representations of what we could be.

Wonder Woman, albeit an empowering female figure, is a picture of the human purpose – a motivation to contribute to the common good of humanity. She calls into question our desires and motives for making a difference in our dark world, and challenges us to continue doing so even when nothing seems to change.

Written by Hayley McGarvie.

 

*Going into medicine is one way for people to enact that Messianic phase.

Why Angelina Is One Of The Most Remarkable People

BY ANNETTE LANGE

Angelina Jolie is one of those actors who would have the ability, means and even the excuse to withdraw from any work or the public eye if she wanted. She could be satisfied with her success, after being deemed one of the most beautiful and rich women alive by the media, and having won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

She is an extremely busy and recognised woman, and I have no idea how she manages to balance everything. But all the awards and successes don’t seem to be enough to make her slow down.

Ever since shooting Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in Cambodia and her exposure to the worldwide humanitarian crises, she hasn’t stopped being involved in humanitarian causes.

Hollywood actress and Oscar winner, Angelina Jolie, looks at an Afghan refugee making bricks at a bricks kiln in the outskirts of Islamabad

Upon receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, she shared in her speech:

“[My mother] was very clear that nothing would mean anything if I didn’t live a life of use to others.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ATgxOp31oI

Sure, Jolie didn’t always have the best reputation or set a great example. She’s always been considered a bit of a wild child. She’s been divorced three times, was accused of being a homewrecker, and the list goes on…

She doesn’t deny any of this, instead she recalls:

“I came into this business, young and worried about my own experiences and my own pain. And it was only when I began to travel and look and live beyond my home that I understand my responsibilities to others.”

She has gone above and beyond to take her mother’s advice seriously. She knows at the end of the day, what matters is not how good you’ve been in what you’ve done, but how you’ve used what you had to do good and love those around you.

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It’s such a common trap for one in the entertainment business to be self-absorbed and see a powerful performance, recognition or fame as the end goal.

When talking about her past, Jolie recalls being “absolutely self-destructive.” She continues, “I think a lot of young people in this business lose their way. You don’t know what is of value. You don’t know where you are. And you know something’s wrong, because it isn’t life as it actually is. It’s like living in some warped reality.”

She’s been exposed to the ‘real world’ with its cruelty and injustice, and she’s thrown herself right in to do something about it.

Her humanitarian efforts include the fight against the refugee crisis, conservation and community development, child immigration and education as well as human and women’s rights. Rather than just donating money and raising awareness about the crises, she’s determined to go there herself, visiting the respective people groups and taking time to hear their stories and giving them a voice.

I’m fascinated by her not stopping her involvement in film entirely. Now that she’s been exposed to more pressing matters, she could have seen the film industry as less important, but no.

angelina_jolies_directing_style

She is still doing what she loves. She acts, directs (shedding light on other actors), writes, and tells stories which challenge and encourage her audience, while being dedicated to her many humanitarian efforts.

Jolie isn’t perfect. She knows this, but she’s  trying to be the best she can be. Let’s cut her some slack, and use her as a source of inspiration instead of a target of criticism.

Are you living in a warped reality? Is it possible that you’re focused in achieving something that doesn’t matter at the end of the day? What legacy are you leaving behind? Is your life/art/craft of use to others?

Even though you probably won’t have the same means and resources as her, there’s always a way to invest in the lives of others and get a shift of perspective. Use Jolie’s willpower and drive as an inspiration.

 

“The Expanse” Will Make You Feel Lost In Space

BY KEATON J. EVANS

Netflix’s new show, The Expanse, is extraordinary, visually stunning, and has a gritty, realistic look which makes the show quite unique and creative when compared to other sci-fi shows.

There’s a lot going on right off the bat, with colonies across the solar system, a futuristic Earth, a militant Mars, and plenty of water shortage on some smaller worlds. I would say there’s a lot going for the show.

This being said, there are also a few things which the show isn’t so great at doing. Below are some thing it does well and some things where it misses the mark. All points considered, you’ll feel lost in space watching this show.

Now whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.

The Worlds Are Incredible

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The production quality is the shows number one quality, hands down. The worlds and ships they show glisten with details and have almost a Blade Runner vibe especially on the Asteroid colonies.

The show also hits well on the realities of space and what could go wrong. One example, is the water shortage on the asteroid belt. There’s moments where shipments of ice are delayed and the people on the belt suffer because of it. It goes even farther to point out that if a second shipment is delayed then people will die.

It was refreshing to see so much thought put into the mechanics of world outside of earth, and see the messy reality, and complications which could arise. The visual aspects of the worlds and the realism they present are both excellent.

Seeing all these real intricate worlds allows you to get lost in them, a feeling which was a pleasant surprise.

Wait, Who Are These People?

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After watching The Expanse, I noticed the one thing I didn’t quite like: the character development. Probably the weakest aspect of the film. While the production design is quite superb, the characters fall short, especially in the beginning.

I thought about why this was. The characters are interesting enough, they live in incredible worlds, and the plot is good, so what gives. Well, here’s the deal. While the characters may be interesting, it’s hard to know because they rush the character development.

It feels like we are supposed to know who these people are as soon as we see the first shot. It almost seems like the beginning of the show is the middle of a show. Now, there is development of the characters, a little.

But for the most part, all the introductions are rushed and end up leaving you feeling  little connection with the people you are watching. I think to myself, “A spaceship explodes and people might die! Oh no! Wait, who are these people?”

If they want the events to hold any weight, they need to let us get to know the characters, and then put them into dangerous life-threatening situations, or we won’t care.

If you feel stranded and not quite sure how to feel then don’t worry, it’s an effect of rushed character intros.

Feeling Lost Could Be Either Good or Bad

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Both the best qualities of the show and the worst qualities of the show will make you feel lost. But which feeling sticks with you? Does the production design and visuals carry you through the hard-to-know characters, or do you feel not knowing the characters takes you out of the show?

Either way, it’s an inspiration to anyone who wants to make a science-fiction show.

Gavin Hood – Practical Advice and Inspiration from Eye In The Sky Director

Gavin Hood is climbing the ranks in the film industry, having directed some popular movies with tenacious morale.

I first noticed him after watching Eye in the Sky, which is about the disputes of modern warfare. I was thoroughly impressed. I don’t remember the last time I was on the edge of my seat for the duration of an entire movie. When I realized he’s a fellow South-African, I was intrigued even more – I have to admit I’m a bit biased…

The more I found out about him, the more reasons I found to acknowledge him and his work.

Gavin Hood is the kind of filmmaker who is in the business for the right reasons.

He is driven to create current and applicable content which is entertaining at the same time. When asked why he chose to direct Eye in the Sky, he commented: “It’s completely current and it’s about what’s really happening in modern warfare and it has elements of black comedy and farce that are grounded in real life.”

His choice to cast Helen Mirren (the role was intended for a male lead) as Colonel Katherine Powell was very strategic. He didn’t want to box the movie in as a war movie for guys.

He recounts saying, “I want it to be a movie about war but that it’s a conversation starter for men and women about a subject matter that I think is very topical.”

He’s also a filmmaker who works extremely hard to get where he is right now. When asked to give advice to aspiring filmmakers, he shared, “Unfortunately, […] there’s this notion that you can become famous and rich very quickly. It’s a curse I think. […]

The way you make it is by getting good at making films.

There’s no shortcut; just study the craft and practise and hopefully you’ll eventually connect with an audience. And if you don’t connect with an audience, you won’t have a career in this business.”

Hood with Barkhad

It took a while for him to gain international recognition. Even though he wanted to be an actor, he followed his father’s advice and “took his big mouth and studied law” though he only practiced it for 4 months. He was already 30 when he actually started studying screenwriting, cinematography and directing.

Although he knew he was always going to go into film, he doesn’t regret having studied law, instead he recalls, “it trained me in terms of thinking and story and conflict and moral and ethical questions.”

He continually emphasizes the importance of making films in order to connect with your audience. He himself is drawn to stories compelling him to think. “I personally, with my background of being a lawyer and growing up in the turbulent times of the 80’s in South-Africa, I tend to be drawn to […] stories that somehow challenge me in a moral or ethical way.

“Don’t tell me what to think, but present me with something morally or ethically challenging.”

He started small by making short films; The Storekeeper was one I remember seeing in Middle School. It left a big impression on me, not only because of the dilemma it presents, but because it was so close to home. It was a South-African story which could be understood universally.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoAONuFrjtU

This is another thing I appreciate about him; he bloomed where he was planted. He started where he was and then expanded, instead of limiting himself to the small South-African film industry.

Tsotsi was his breakthrough film which garnered him an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006 – a film I highly recommend by the way…

It was again, an authentic story, but one exploring universal humanity.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-cQHJm25qI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wikqd0aUVkM

“I really believe that we focus so much on differences and not enough on similarities. Most people, on a very basic level, have surprisingly similar needs. The need for companionship, dignity, love. And when these basic needs are not met, you find individuals developing a very distorted sense of the world.”

By now, he has other popular movies under his belt like Ender’s Game, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Rendition.

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I celebrate people like Gavin Hood and believe there are many more like him out there who we simply need to discover.

Fellow filmmakers and actors, let us strive and work hard to tell stories worth telling. Stories that challenge people in their thinking to fight passivity.

Gavin Hood, I thank you for being an inspiration and persisting with a tenacious and creative spirit – all the best to you for your future projects!

Written by Annette Lange.

Anatomy of the Best Loglines

Knowing where to start in the creative process of writing can be daunting for a first time filmmaker. I know it was for me. I’ve tried building a story around every possible thing imaginable, and I found Blake Snyder’s longline method from his infamous book, Save the Cat, to be the most effective.

His argument centers around starting your writing process by creating something called a logline (your entire movie summarized in a sentence). He would say, if you can’t do this in a compelling way from the start, then you don’t have a story worth telling.

Many of you more seasoned writers may find this approach “formulaic,” however for writers starting out, this is a great place to begin.  

Ingredients for the best logline:

  • One Character
  • One Goal
  • One Source of Conflict with a dash of Irony

In short what you will be creating is the following equation:

Your hero is going for their goal, but something ironic happens to stop them.

If you cannot put your story within this simple formula, then perhaps your story is too complicated, OR missing a crucial element.

FOR EXAMPLE:

Disgraced pilot, E. Ripley is left with PTSD after her encounter with the xenomorph and tries to rebuild a life for herself. However, when a human colony is overrun with xenomorphs, Ripley may be their only hope.

From the film Aliens

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Element 1: Establish Your Hero

The first step is to insert your main character into your logline. This isn’t a place to go into great detail on their backstory; all that’s needed are one or two descriptive words. Sometimes the scenario they find themselves in is sufficient enough information.

As Blake Snyder says, you want to paint a clear enough picture in the minds of those who will hear your logline. They need to be able to see where your story is going. This includes who your character is.

In my example, I defined Ellen Ripley as a disgraced pilot with PTSD. We know she’s an underdog, and it will be easy for the audience to get behind her.

Emma-watson-as-belle

Element 2: Establish Your Hero’s Goal

The next step is to show what the character is trying to accomplish before they are confronted by the story’s major conflict.

In Vertigo, Scottie is investigating Madeline for her husband (his goal) before he begins to fall in love with her (the conflict).

In Beauty and the Beast, Belle wants more than what her small town has to offer (goal) before she is held prisoner in an enchanted castle (the conflict).

Sometimes the goal can be something more passive, or simply keeping the status quo. For example, in Toy Story, Woody isn’t actively trying to do something new, but is enjoying the “status quo” of being the toy on top.

Don’t just tell us WHO your character is, but where we find them at the start of the story.

For Ellen Ripley, I have her trying to rebuild a life for herself.

Warrior

Element 3: Conflict with a Dash of Irony

Lastly, we introduce our story’s major source of conflict into the logline.

This is where people tend to struggle the most, either because they realize they have no real source of conflict throughout their story. Even if they do it’s lacking the crucial element of irony which gives a story it’s hook, edge, or bite.

Conflict is truly what starts your story and what moves it forward. Without this element, there is no story.

In my example from Aliens, the conflict comes from the xenomorphs overtaking a colony, forcing the corporation to turn to Ripley for help.

It’s conflict, because it’s both stopping her from starting a new life, while giving her an opportunity to gain her old life back.

Irony?

Before I explain how irony comes to play in this equation, let me explain what irony IS. There are two forms of irony: situational and irony of fate. Situational irony is when events defy expectations, while irony of fate is when it seems the gods, fate, the universe, etc are toying with humanity for their own amusement.

Situational irony would be getting robbed by a police officer (an amoral act practiced by someone who is sent out to stop such behavior). Jesus being crucified by the very people he was to save is another great example of situational irony. Both examples play on your expectations and subvert them.

Irony of fate is when something occurs with lasting consequence beyond a specific situation. A former athlete who is now paralyzed is an example of irony of fate. Beethoven, one of the world’s greatest composers lost his hearing. He can no longer hear the beautiful music he puts out into the world. Irony of fate.

Irony is all about subverting our expectations in an effort to hook us.

The irony in Aliens is drawn mostly from the situation Ripley finds herself in; she was seen as a pariah and a liability by the company at the start of the film, and becomes the very person who could save them.

That’s irony.

There’s no right way to go through the writing process, but by beginning with a logline my writing has grown simpler and stronger. I hope it helps you on your own writing journey. For more great film advice, check out Blake Snyder’s book, Save the Cat.

Written by Brenden Bell.