Talking Sheep

Earlier this month I was scheduled to give a thirty minute presentation on screenwriting for a local writer’s association. I was nervous, because although I’ve written several screenplays, I’ve never actually sold one. I’ve learned a considerable amount about the industry, but I would feel more confident if I had an on-screen credit.

The challenge I faced was speaking slowly and clearly, because when I get nervous or excited, I tend to speak so fast that I become impossible to understand. That’s exactly what happened the previous month when I read a portion of a novel I’m writing. Visualisation often works, so I first imagined I was driving an older model car using a manual transmission, shifting to a lower gear. That wasn’t a good idea, because I’ve only used a manual transmission once, and it isn’t an experience I want to repeat.

The inspiration for the visualization technique that was effective came from a children’s series that never fails to make me laugh; Shaun the Sheep. I imagined myself standing in a field surrounded by sheep, happily munching on grass. One of the sheep walked up to me and said, “Caaaalm Doooown.” I started laughing and I immediately relaxed. I was enthusiastic, because I love writing and I think it’s a fascinating subject, but I spoke slowly enough to be understood.

If you’re serious about a writing career, take advantage of public speaking opportunities to improve your skills. You never know when you’ll be asked to speak about the writing process or another subject related to what you’ve written. Keep writing, because the world needs to hear your voice, your passion.

Copyright © 2018 by J. Paul Cooper




A Fascinating Challenge For Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio’s talent seems limitless; he portrayed a street artist in Titanic, an agent invading dreams in Inception, a suave, mysterious millionaire in The Great Gatsby and a brash, greedy business tycoon in The Wolf of Wall Street. I’m looking forward to two movies in development that will require him to play real-life characters who were complete opposites; one a national hero, the other the most hated man in the United States.

The Black Hand is adapted from Stephan Talty’s book and concerns the battle between a criminal organization, the Black Hand, and a New York detective, known as the “Italian Sherlock Holmes.” The Black Hand was terrorizing new Italian immigrants, kidnapping children, stabbing victims and blowing up the businesses of those who refused to pay their extortion demands. Joseph Petrosino, who DiCaprio is going to portray, became a national hero for his fearless determination to confront and destroy the Black Hand.

The Devil in the White City is based on Erik Larson’s book and concerns the lives of two men during a turning point in American history. As architect Daniel Burnham was designing and organizing The World’s Columbian Exposition that opened in Chicago in 1893, serial killer H.H. Holmes opened a hotel nearby and used it to harvest victims. DiCaprio is going to portray H.H. Holmes, who was distinguished by the chameleonlike ability to switch between a charming personality that deceived people into trusting him completely, and a cold hearted killer who enjoyed the suffering of his victims.

What makes these stories so interesting is that the two men lived in the same time period as American history transitioned from the 19th to 20th centuries. It will be interesting to watch how cinematic magic recreates the era and how Leonardo DiCaprio portrays such divergent characters.