“Slice of Weirdness”

04 - Slice of Weirdness Cover

weird [wɪərd]

  • Involving or suggesting the supernatural, unearthly, or uncanny
  • Something fantastic; bizarre

Why are people afraid of weird things? It is the other, the exotic, something unpredictable. It’s different, and that can make some people feel uncomfortable. To begin with, many people to a degree can be hesitant to try new things in general, but if you would just make that first step you would see that there’s a whole world of creative thoughts, ideas, and experiences you couldn’t predict or expect, and that is a fantastic feeling.

Why weird is awesome: it is fun, it’s interesting, it’s different, unique, clever, challenging. In some cases, it can also unfortunately be stupid, painfully stupid, and this is what tends to put some people off. Of course, I’m referring to the many terrible attempts at cheap and unfunny comedy. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to spot the difference at a glance and managed to avoid anything fitting of this description for a good many of years, but I’m sure what qualifies for me will be different for others. At the same time, depending on your mood and outlook, this type of work could be just perfect for you, Wiseau’s beloved masterpiece The Room for example. But normal will always be boring, repetitive, predictable, and unremarkable. It’s been done. The question is if it’s between weird and normal, why would you want more normal? You know exactly what to expect with normal, you’ve seen it before and could write the story in your head based on a description or some clips you may have seen, and you probably wouldn’t be too far off. It’s the ham sandwich compared to the tasca pasta with ricotta, spinach, mushrooms and brie baked in a creamy tomato porcini sauce. Take it from me, it’s delicious, and if you’d like some I can tell you where to find it.

Disregarding the fact that some stories have been told to death, and some are even somehow being retold every few years in the form of reboots, the first thing you should ask when writing one is what is different about yours? What makes it interesting and stand out from all the background noise of everything else that’s been done in this genre? If the answer is not much, then I would go back to the drawing board. My friends, not to point any fingers but they know who they are, on occasion take issue with my choices of films to watch (more specifically, ones I subject them to in movie night situations), because I like unique films and unique experiences. I don’t want to see the same thing over and over. There are many films I can’t even get into, much less rewatch at this point, because I don’t feel I would get anything new from them that I haven’t already experienced, or at least enough to justify the time it takes to view them over something else. I’m looking at you, 20-hour long Lord of the Rings plus The Hobbit experience, and numerous 100+ episode shows that start off with a promising concept, but inevitably waver in quality and ultimately disappoint. I’m much more inclined to give original independent works a try and I feel that more often than not I get much more from the experience.

How mainstream is still mainstream is beyond me, it is 90% boring, formulaic, and derivative, with rare exceptions that really push the limits like Fury Road. I think Netflix deserves some praise for offering a greater variety of works for the public to explore, as well as being responsible for some quality original programming themselves. Maybe they can slowly help to change what mainstream means and requires. But at present, mainstream is still largely terrified of breaking out of the tried and tested cookie cutter mould of proven successes and appealing to the masses, and at those budgets I can hardly blame them. It can be very risky, but they are so afraid to try something new you hardly ever see it at all outside the indie scene. So, I for one am largely not getting the thrill I’m looking for in the mainstream: something that’s not afraid of being weird, eccentric, or experimental, while still being smart and well put together. I may have seen about as many successes as not to that end, but they deserve respect for trying something different, and I couldn’t call any of them failures if they are interesting and share something different.

As far as successes go, from my taste I would say that the best and most remarkable thing about a film like The Maltese Falcon is Peter Lorre’s uncanny performance. It is still so vivid in my mind years later. And I absolutely love The Holy Mountain, I think Jodorowsky is a genius and it is a travesty his insanely ambitious, potentially 9-hour long reimagining of Dune doesn’t exist in this world because it pushed too many boundaries, and made boardroom execs too uncomfortable, meanwhile millions and billions are flushed on producing the same tired old stories over and over again, or on colourless, desaturated gritty films, as though grey is the color to capture our reality. And yes, these same stories, I’m looking at you, interchangeable superhero films or Michael Bay-produced rebooted nostalgic properties, make billions and people keep watching them and I would hope enjoying them, so why shouldn’t they keep producing them? I just think it’s too much of the exact same thing with a different name and packaging, and it’s fantastic that there is an audience that will enjoy it regardless, but I can only appreciate the same experience I’m being sold so many times before I’m sick of it. And I’ve been sick of it for a good while. So bravo, Dead Pool, impressively structured and executed relatively low-budget over-the-top quirky superhero dark comedy, for doing something completely different from all the others. It totally paid off, and most importantly not just in a financial sense, but by creating a unique and interesting experience. Thank you for being brave enough to be weird, hopefully others will follow this example.

This is still a personal blog, so I’ll change course quite a bit and discuss how the content of this post informs my own work. Slice of Weirdness is a genre I made up for fun to describe a project I’m working on, as a parody on Slice of Life, which is one of my favourite genres. I’ll take my slice of life with a bit of weirdness any day, because it’s a nice spice to add to the mix that can really accentuate characters and situations, and generally make things more interesting and memorable. A recent example I can think of is that I was really touched and impressed by the film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Making fun of and paying homage to Werner Herzog to the degree they do is about the most random thing you can put in a quirky yet heavy slice of life teen drama, and perhaps many people won’t understand the half of it, but I thought it was brilliant.

04 - Slice of Weirdness - Put A Sock In It

My own quirky project is not a slice of life, it is a slice of weirdness called Put A Sock In It. It is a short and very silly game, in which a girl finds herself locked in a stairwell and begins to play out scenes between characters with sock puppets she managed to make, to help pass the time and alleviate her boredom. It’s a pretty weird concept. Where did this idea come from? I can tell you exactly how I came up with it, it’s not complicated and influenced by the comedy I’ve been exposed to, and my writing for it is greatly influenced by improv comedy. But as far as why I wanted to make this project, I can only say it came from a desire to create something that is fun and different from what is out there and what has been done (if that’s possible). Hopefully, people that play it will find it more clever and fun than stupid, but it is an experiment and enjoyable to work on, and certainly a risk I am willing to take to try and make something unique and interesting. Time will tell the rest.

About Leonid Pilchin

I am a writer, artist, animator, film and retro game enthusiast, traveler, and daydreamer. Also Creative Director at Far-off Daydream Games - my occasional indie story-driven game endeavors.
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