The Orange County Screenwriters Association
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    Mark Sevi

    Mark Sevi

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      Orange Country Screenwriters Association Mark SeviMark Sevi

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    Need a scriptwriting class?  OC Screenwriters approved classes can be found here: link

    Past Events Include:

    • Educator/Author/Writer Jule Selbo
    • J Michael Straczynski
    • Kevin Sorbo
    • Author/Screenwriter James Elroy
    • Super Producer/Screenwriter Clark Peterson
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    We hold one-day seminars on all aspects of filmmaking!

    Past Events Include:

    • Educator/Author/Writer Jule Selbo
    • J Michael Straczynski
    • Kevin Sorbo
    • Author/Screenwriter James Elroy
    • Super Producer/Screenwriter Clark Peterson
    • Super Producer/Screenwriter Stacy Ruckyser
    • Many many more...

     “Up in the Air” is a character study. No car crashes. No giant robots. No space marines fighting aliens. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    At its core, the movie is about a guy that has intentionally isolated himself. The story doesn’t go into a lot of detail about how he got there, but is concerned with him discovering just how isolated he has made himself. To do that, the film uses generous amounts of irony.

    Ryan, the main character played by George Clooney, works for a company hired by other companies to be a temporary hatchet man. His job is to separate people from the people they work with. One of his daily goals to to provide these people, some of whom have worked for the same company for decades, with just enough hope and dignity to allow them to walk out of the office; let them down easy. Of course, there really is no way to do that.

    Ryan travels something like 320 days a year. His “hobby” is collecting milage from loyalty rewards programs. His goal, a big number of miles; a noteworthy number so large the companies will go out of their way to be loyal to him. So here’s big irony point #2, Ryan values loyalty and companies that reward it, yet on a daily basis Ryan cuts the legs out from under employees that have been loyal to companies.

    While Ryan may not exactly take joy in airport screenings, he’s developed the entire procedure into a fine art. He travels with very little baggage. He’s known for this and even gives corporate motivational lectures about cutting baggage out of life. Not just the physical baggage you travel with, but also the emotional baggage that comes with relationships.

    As part of a cost saving initiative by Ryan’s company, he’s called back to the home office and introduced to Natalie, played by Anna Kendrick, a young up and comer who has the genius idea of firing people via internet video chats. Ryan resists this, mostly because it means his hobby goal won’t be reached, but also he really does feel that he actually does provide a service by being in the room. So, Ryan is starting to realize something; maybe isolation isn’t such a good thing.

    I don’t want to give too much of the film away, but it is rather brilliant in terms of finding the exact right contrasts when it comes to building all of the characters and how they interact with one another.

    Dialog in this film is stunning. That’s actually what got me hooked on it; an early teaser trailer that linked a couple of Ryan’s speeches together in a way that was simply amazing.

    I highly recommend this movie.

                 A few months back one of my films, The Perfect Girl, competed in the horror section at the Knight of Shorts Film Festival.   All the films in the competition were screened for the judges and audience then there was an intermission while the judges selected which film they liked best.  After the intermission the finalists were called to the stage to briefly introduce themselves and their inspirations for their films.  After an open Q&A with the audience, the judges announced the winner of the festival. 

                I remember standing up there with the audiences’ eyes on me.  I remember thinking there was no way my film was going to win. 

    The Perfect Girl was financed by Cal State Fullerton while Chapman, UCLA, and USC financed the other films I was up against.  Their films were better made and had much more production value and creative aesthetic.  The one thing my film had that set it apart was I wrote the story about subject matter I could closely relate to.    

                As I stood up there I got myself mentally prepared to congratulate the winner.  I remember thinking about having to show my sportsmanship by shaking the winner’s hand as the festival director made his way to the stage.  The next thing I knew, the spotlight was on me because the announced winner of the festival was The Perfect Girl by Victor Phan. 

    I was still in awe as I was given the microphone and trophy.  I opened up my victory speech by stating how I didn’t think I was going to win and how I thought all of the filmmakers standing on the stage were better filmmakers.  After I made my speech there was a huge applause from the audience.  I came down from the stage and hugged and shared the victory with the people who came to the festival to support me.  As I was getting ready to leave, I had a realization.  None of the other filmmakers who stood on the stage with me had bothered to shake my hand before leaving.  This troubled me. 

    A week after I attended a OC Screenwriters event.  It was a discussion panel given by a famous television celebrity.  During this panel he spoke about things that made entertainment a tough business.  He specifically said there is a lot of envy and jealously in this industry, and that the same people who cheer for you when you succeed are the same ones who are hoping you fail. 

    I had an epiphany during this panel.  I thought about why there was so much envy and jealously between the people who worked in show business.  I then thought about who the people working in entertainment are and what were their backgrounds.  For the most part, people who work in entertainment come from creative backgrounds.  They either did art, photography, theater, or some other creative discipline before deciding to work in entertainment. 

    I come from a strong background in illustration.  It is this background that made me decide to become a filmmaker, but that’s not the only background I have.  I also have been kickboxing for as long as I can remember.  Kickboxing, and the discipline it requires, has given me a high level of athleticism and sense of confidence.  I’m always sincere and nice to people I meet because I have no need to feel threatened or competitive.

    This athletic background has given me a strong sense of humility.  I know that no matter how hard I work at my craft there will always be someone out there who is better than me, and have accepted that.  I know that no matter what happens within competition, once it’s over I should congratulate the opposition whether I win or lose.  I know that in order to get respect I must first give it. 

    Most people who work in entertainment did not come from an athletic background, so they never learned humility.  They literally believe all of their work truly reflects them and get personally offended when someone does better.  They don’t have a sense of sportsmanship, so when they don’t win an award, they just storm off while fuming with strong feelings of envy and jealousy rather than look within themselves and seek to improve.    

    I think humility isn’t just something every athlete or artist should have, but something everyone should have in order to be a good person.  No matter how hard we try, we have to accept that there will always be people out there who can do things better than we can.  That’s just a fact of life that we have to learn to accept which enables us to move forward.  If we don’t accept it, we get filled with negative emotions and will continue to do things that will keep our industry a tough business.  Maybe it wouldn’t have to be such a tough business if we learned to toughen up a little bit, keep the ego in check, and strive to be better humans.   


    Victor Phan & Clark Jones

    Torture Chamber Productions

    December 20, 2009

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