Join my newsletter for freebies and info on upcoming books, classes, appearances, and discounts.Join Now!
banner image

Quiet on the set: My day as an extra for Russian Doll

Gwen with Suzanne Brockmann

With Suzanne Brockmann (squee!)

Last week, I was in a movie. Or at least my elbow was.

As an introvert, fading into the background is easy for me. As an extra on the set of the indie film Russian Doll, it was my job. The extras were even called “Background”—as in, “Okay, call in the background”—because it was our role to provide atmosphere and a sense that the world was real.

This particular gig was unpaid, but I participated for two main reasons.

First, one of my favorite authors ever—Suzanne Brockmann—is the executive producer. I’ve been reading her books pretty much since the day I found romantic suspense (circa 2008), and her blend of military action, hot romance, and wide-ranging diversity quickly put her at the top of my reading list.

I actually got to meet Suz and her husband Ed Gaffney last year when they came to talk to my local writing chapter about the process involved in their last film (The Perfect Wedding), but it was nice to spend more time chatting while on set. They’re super nice people, and everyone appreciated how much Ed went out of his way to explain what was going on during the filming process.

Second, curiosity is half the reason I write. I’ve always loved taking field trips and getting the inside view of how a place/group/factory/profession works. With Russian Doll filming in the Boston area, this was my chance for the inside scoop on filmmaking.

Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden, Concord MA

The Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden in Concord where part of the movie takes place

So how was it?

Fascinating!

Extra work can be slow. There’s a lot of sitting around waiting to be needed. But that was fine. I chatted with some of the others in the lobby of the theater where we were working. I had expected many of them to be writers—and/or readers who were fans of Suz or Ed—but those I spoke to were locals who saw an article about the film in the Boston Globe.

Extras on set of Russian Doll

Waiting for the next take

The really interesting part came when we were needed on scene. It’s amazing how few people can provide the appearance of a packed house. As long as the camera angle is right, 20 people can look like 100 or more. I was totally mesmerized by the director of cinematography. She would calmly take Ed’s vision for a scene and figure out how to make it happen, adding her own ideas along the way.

In fact, that was something Ed talked about at the meeting last year that really came to life for me on the set. When you write a book, you might get feedback from early readers and revision notes from your editors, but in the end the book is your book. The way you want it. The reader brings her own worldview to the story, but basically that’s it.

Not so with film.

The screenplay is just a starting point. From there, everyone involved puts their own mark on it. The director has his vision for how to frame each scene, the cinematographer has her own way of bringing that vision to life, the actors choose how to play their characters, and so on. The final product is truly a collaboration.

I don’t remember the exact sequence of events or have any idea what each of the crew members’ titles were. Grip? Gaffer? Rigger? Best boy? No clue. But I had fun watching them set up for each scene using the fog—not to make it look foggy, but to soften the lighting and provide a noir look to match the film’s tone—hold up giant styrofoam boards to reflect light, cover equipment with dark blankets to prevent it from showing in the scene, take sound readings, take light readings…

Crew on the set of Russian Doll

Crew prepping for the next take

We did several takes for each scene, and it’s surprising how much time is required just to reset after each run, get the camera ready, and get everyone on the same page again.

In the beginning, we—pretending to be an audience watching a play—had to respond to things happening on the theater’s stage. Except the play wasn’t actually running. So Ed, his assistant director, and Suz and Ed’s son Jason—one of the actors, along with his sister who has a starring role—mimed different scenarios for us. We laughed, we gasped, we appeared concerned.

Finally, toward the end of the day, we got some real action. Actors on stage, actors in the audience to respond to events on the stage, and several takes as we reacted to what was happening around us.

I’m already excited for the movie to be commercially available—probably near the end of 2016, if all goes as planned—so I can watch the 30 seconds or so that it took most of the day to film. It’ll be interesting to see how everything comes together in the finished product.

And I can’t wait to spot my elbow in the scene as the detectives race by my seat! 😉

7 reasons I read Kipling while brushing my teeth

drawing of Rudyard Kipling

I was drawn to the work of Rudyard Kipling after finding a reference to his poem “Tommy” in Karl Marlantes’ What It Is Like to Go to War.

I wasn’t familiar with the poem—which inspired the title of the movie The Thin Red Line—so I searched it out. Now, I’m working my way through Rudyard Kipling Complete Verse (Anchor Books, 1989), one poem per day, while flossing and brushing my teeth.

Much of his work was written in the late 1800s, and is set in—or influenced by—his time in India, which means I don’t understand every line. But I enjoy trying to figure out the gist of each poem.

Once I’ve read it through, I go to The New Readers' Guide to the works of Rudyard Kipling, hosted by The Kipling Society, to get more info on the context and definitions of foreign, archaic, or slang words that aren’t footnoted in the text.

Understanding what was going on in the author’s world enriches my reading experience.

Here are seven of the reasons I read Kipling–and will eventually read other poets–while thwarting cavities.

1. Reading before bed is relaxing, but not if I get sucked in and stay up all night to finish the book—a common problem because I have no willpower to resist a good story. With poetry, it’s much easier to read one poem and close the book.

2. I hope that reading poetry will introduce me to new themes, as well as influence my more lyrical side.

3. Reading outside my genre, length, and style can only expand my skills as a writer, and the references upon which I can draw.

4. Poetry stretches your brain. Instead of speeding through the prose with a movie running in my head like I do with a novel or memoir, I’m forced to slow down and ponder each word. It’s like savoring a gourmet dessert rather than inhaling a plate of sugar cookies. Both are enjoyable, but in different ways.

5. By exploring the context of each poem, I’m also expanding my knowledge of history and the author’s life. Not all authors' works are so intensely influenced by their personal experiences, but Kipling seemed to view his life and everything around him as fodder for his art.

6. I’m inspired by the wide variety of themes and moods one author can produce. Kipling wrote satire, humor, lighthearted verse, dark tales, and diatribes.

7. I like knowing things. Period. I want to learn as much as I can about art, history, literature, science…

Probably one of the reasons I’m driven to write is because I love the research. I’m curious at heart. What’s it like to be firefighter, sculptor, pilot, accountant, billionaire’s daughter, or pararescueman? My inquiring mind wants to know.

And I love the connections my brain starts to make when I expand my horizons, just like the connections that brought me to read Kipling while brushing my teeth.

Adding Evernote notes to a Scrivener project

Evernote invariably comes up in my Scrivener courses. Someone mentions how they use it for their research and asks how to integrate it with Scrivener. Someone else asks what it is, and off we go. 😉

Since Evernote is a web clipping tool at its core—and a fabulous way to keep track of all sorts of things, from recipes, all of the ISBNs related to a book, book release checklists, travel resources, and more—it often does a much nicer job of grabbing Internet content than Scrivener. Which is fine with me. I want Keith and the crew at Literature & Latte focusing on Scrivener’s core competencies anyway. Especially since it’s a cinch to import or link to research files stored in Evernote.

Here are a few ways to do bring your Evernote content into a Scrivener project. (Click any image for a larger view.)

Import an Evernote Note as a Web Page

Rather than import the web page directly, let Evernote clip and convert into a nice format, then import the Evernote note.

  1. Locate your note in Evernote.
  2. Right-click the Note (or select it and click the Note menu).
  3. Go to More Sharing—>Copy Public Link (Mac) or Share—>Copy Share URL (Windows).
    NOTE: The link is available publicly, but you’d pretty much have to tell someone where to look for it (via the link) for them to find it. Still, don’t link to any private or personal information this way. If you just copy the note link instead, it may not work properly when you try to view it in Scrivener.

    MacCopyLink

    Mac

    Windows

    Windows

  4. Switch to your Scrivener project.
  5. Select the folder (one outside of the Draft/Manuscript folder; Research is a good choice) where you’d like to import the web page.
  6. Go to File—>Import—>Web Page (or right-click the folder and go to Add—>Web Page).
    A dialogue box appears.
  7. If the web address (URL) is not already filled in with the link you copied, paste it into the Address box.
  8. In the Title box, add a title for the web page to remind you what it is.
    Mac

    Mac

    Windows

    Windows

  9. (Windows only) Choose how you want to import it. Webpage Complete (MHT) or one of the PDF options should work, but I’m currently having issues importing web pages—especially as PDFs—into Scrivener on my Windows 7 machine. See Windows Import Workaround below.
  10. Click OK.
    Scrivener imports the note and adds it to the folder as a web page. Select it in the Binder to view. All of the links are active and clickable. NOTE: The import process can take a-w-h-i-l-e.

MacImportedWebPage

Windows Import Workaround

  1. Locate the note in Evernote, right-click, and choose Export Note.
  2. Choose Export as a Single HTML Web Page (.html).
  3. Click Export and save the file to a location where you can find it again (Desktop, maybe?).
  4. If you get a message that the export succeeded, click Close.
  5. Switch to Scrivener and right-click the folder where you want to import the web page. Choose Add—>Files.
  6. Select the HTML file you just saved from Evernote, and click Open. If you get the Import Files dialogue box, click OK.
    The pictures may not import (they’re in a folder on your computer with the same name as the individual HTML file), but the links should work (if not, right-click the hyperlink and choose Copy Link, then paste into your browser).

Create a Reference (Bookmark) to an Evernote Note

Don’t want to clutter up your Binder? Having issues importing notes as web pages? Or maybe you want to link to a note that you expect to update regularly so you always want the most current version.

Create a reference (called Bookmarks in Scrivener 3) to it instead. We’re going to create a project reference, but the steps are the same if you want a document reference (just select the document in the Binder and choose Document References in step 3).

  1. Follow steps 1-4 above to copy the note URL.
  2. Click the References button in the Inspector pane (or go to View—>Inspect—>References).
  3. Make sure the References header says “Project References.” If not, click it to toggle to Project References.
  4. Click the + button and choose Create External Reference.MacRefMenu
  5. Enter the title and paste the URL into the appropriate text boxes.
    Mac

    Mac

    Windows

    Windows

  6. To view your note, double-click the paper icon to the left of the reference.

Create a TOC Note in Evernote

Want a references-like list of clickable links to your Evernote notes on a particular topic, stored as a web page in Scrivener? Follow these steps to create a Table of Contents (TOC) note. It’s a handy thing to have within Evernote too (e.g. as a link from one Evernote folder to notes in another).

  1. Select the desired notes in Evernote (the Expanded Card View didn’t work for me, but all others did).
    Mac

    Mac

    Windows

    Windows

  2. Click the Create Table of Contents Note button that appears on the right.
    Evernote creates a TOC note that you can move to any folder within your Evernote account.

    Mac

    Mac

    Windows

    Windows

  3. Follow the steps in the Import an Evernote Note as a Web Page section above to import the TOC note.

    MacTOCNoteImported

    Evernote TOC Note viewed in Scrivener

Want more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session.


Like this article?

tea mug and chocolate barIt takes a lot of mint green tea and dark chocolate to fuel these posts. If you found something helpful, please consider a small donation to my pantry. Thank you!

$

(enter desired amount)

Select Payment Method
Personal Info

Donation Total: $3

References in Scrivener

Importing research, images, and web pages into Scrivener is handy, but sometimes creating a reference might be a better option. When might you want to use a reference instead of importing?

When you always want the most up-to-date version of a file or web page.
When you import a file, Scrivener creates a copy of it, thus freezing it in its current incarnation. Sometimes that’s desirable, other times not.

If the file is large or you have a lot of them.
Importing files increases the size of your project, which can slow down backups and syncing with online drives. A large project may take up too much space on a flash drive or be too big to email. Some people also prefer not to have their Research folder cluttered with anything but the most important reference materials.

When a web page doesn’t import well.
If you’re having trouble importing a web page, a reference lets you create quick access to it.

When you don’t need to refer to the item frequently, but want to be able to find it easily.
You can create internal references that point to items within the project (usually as document references, see below), but I’m going to focus on external references in this post. External references point to items outside of the project, located either on a drive accessible by your computer, or a web page.

Accessing the References Pane

To view the References Pane, click the References button at the top of the Inspector.

Reference button circled

Mac

Reference button circled PC

Windows

You can create a document or project reference. A document reference is only visible when the item to which it’s attached is being viewed in the Editor (or is selected in the Corkboard or Outliner). A project reference is visible regardless of which item currently has the focus in a project.

Click the References header in the Inspector to toggle between Project References and Document References, see below. In this post, I’ll be creating project references.

References header Mac

Mac

References header windows

Windows

Creating a Reference To a File

Use this procedure to add a project reference to a file on a drive that’s accessible from your computer.

1. If necessary, toggle the header to Project References.
2. Click the [+] button and choose Look Up and Add External Reference.

Add External Reference menu

Mac

External references menu

Windows

3. When the Add References window opens, choose a file and click Open.
The reference document shows up on the line. For Mac users, the URL in this case is the file's address on your drive.

Mac

Windows

Windows

Creating a Reference To a Web Page

This option lets you manually enter the reference information. If you happened to know the file path for a file on your computer, you could use this option to add it as well.

1. Click the [+] button and choose Create External Reference.
2. In the first text box, enter the description of the reference (e.g. Bob’s Vacation). Press the tab key to move to the URL text box.
3. Type (or copy and paste) the web address for the page (e.g. http://www.pismobeach.org/).
4. Press Return or click anywhere in the References pane.

creating a web reference

Mac

new web reference

Windows

TIP: You can create links to Evernote notes this way too. See this post for more on how to copy a note's URL.

Dragging & Dropping References

To add any kind of reference, you can also drag it from Finder (Mac) or Windows Explorer (PC), the Scrivener project Binder, or your browser’s address bar (grab the URL icon) directly to the References pane. No extra steps or clicking buttons required.

Just make sure you’ve selected either Document or Project References first, and that for a document reference, the desired document has the focus in your project.

Viewing a Reference

To view a reference, double-click on the document icon at the left of the reference line.

Editing a Reference

If you give a reference the wrong name, or need to edit the location, you can edit it anytime by double-clicking it.

Deleting a Reference

  1. Select the desired reference.
  2. Click the [-] button in the References header.
    The reference is removed.

Want more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session.

[Updated 17 Mar 2016]


Like this article?

tea mug and chocolate barIt takes a lot of mint green tea and dark chocolate to fuel these posts. If you found something helpful, please consider a small donation to my pantry. Thank you!

$

(enter desired amount)

Select Payment Method
Personal Info

Donation Total: $3

The power of love

Flickr_-_Official_U.S._Navy_Imagery_-_EOD_diver_receives_Bronze_Star.There are plenty of inspiring people in the world, but some really touch your heart. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician and quadruple amputee Taylor Morris and his long-time girlfriend Danielle have touched mine in a big way.

Not only does Taylor have an incredible spirit and zest for life, but Danielle has stood by him through it all, sometimes literally carrying him on her back. It's clear that she motivates him to work hard and reaffirms his value. Theirs is a beautiful story of the power of love that reminds me why I write romance.

I learned about the couple while researching bilateral amputees for a new storyline when I came across a blog maintained by Danielle that chronicles Taylor’s recovery. That led me to photos and stories about Taylor posted by his childhood friend, Tim Dodd, a professional photographer.

Those who have lost limbs—no matter how it happened—face tremendous physical and mental challenges. They must relearn how to function and take care of themselves while facing incredible pain. Not only that, but they often harbor doubts about their appearance, their self-worth, and what they have to offer current or potential loved ones now that they are “less than” they once were.

Makes my daily struggles—if they could ever even be classified as such—seem pointless. I’m certainly reminded not to take what I have for granted, or to let life pass me by while I wait for something amazing to happen.

Photo credit: By Official Navy Page from United States of America Patty Babb/U.S. Navy (EOD diver receives Bronze Star.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tattoos with something to say

Every tattoo has a message of some kind. It might be a cry of rebellion, a permanent memorial, an homage, or a personal reminder to follow one's heart. Tattoos feature prominently for several of my characters, and while looking for a tattoo ideas one day, I stumbled across this website that features literary-inspired ink. What do you think?

What's the coolest tattoo you've ever seen?

 

 

Photo credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Man_with_tattoo_on_his_back_-_at_the_beach_-_cropped.jpg