Thursday, May 31, 2007

It's Not as Bad as It Looks

First, I want to give a big thanks to Don over at Simply Scripts for the mention on the homepage of their site. It was nice to have a generous spike in visits over the last week or so and hopefully a few of them decided they liked what they saw.

I had one anonymous comment from my post about the Simply Script contest held in April who mentioned a site called Movie Poet which runs a short script contest each month. This time I bit the bullet and have been working on the entry for May. I just checked the site out on Monday(May 28th) and the entry has to be in by midnight May 31st. Yeowza! It's only five pages so really what the prob right? I have a great idea which 3-4 pages just flowed easily from my brain to the keyboard but now I have wrap it up with basically one page. I made some changes to eliminate one of characters but I might end up ading her back in cause I was able to drop in some exposition in their conversation while they she was complaining to the main character about something else. In the re-write it has to be pulled out with another character and it just feels forced. I was hoping by eliminating this character and about a 1/2 page of dialogue it would help me but I might be back to square one.

So, this is a great exercise in restraint and I hope to be able to find the ability to finish it in time. I've read some of the prior scripts and there really is some great talent in this pool of writers. Great twists and good use of everything that can be fit on 5 pages.

Unfortunately, if you're reading this it probably is too late for this month. But there is always the next month.

The subject was open ended for May with the only requirement being the line "It's not as bad as it looks" has be somewhere in the script.

I'm gonna see if I can fit it in twice.

Wish me luck

Saturday, May 26, 2007

May the (Ambigious Mental Power) be with You

When I heard about Edward Copeland's blog-a-thon idea for Star Wars I got a little giddy.

That really isn't the best word but it's what comes to mind. But it also reminds me of my age (damn it) Star Wars was a defining moment for me as a kid and my early teens and still holds a special place in my heart as an aspiring screenwriter. Once I got older and Lucas decided he needed to pop the wonderful bubble that was Star Wars with 3 mostly forgettable prequels, my visions of being like Lucas went bye-bye.

Was Lucas a visionary in his time of Star Wars? Definitely. Was he one of the best auteurs to profit from his original idea? By all means. But with the original trilogy having a few other hands involved with the process i.e. directors and writers allowed him some distance from the whole product while he could control in the background. The prequels have Lucas' hands all over them yes he had assistance with writing but, by God, the dialogue just caused me such pain.

I didn't want to spend the whole post giving Lucas a bad time....what has me thinking about Star Wars is it's legacy. It's already endured 30 years and people are clamoring to write their experiences, feelings, insights, etc about it. It's stands in the forefront again because of the recent productions of the prequels which have put it as cool again by some of the kids today. My nephew was a huge fan of the old school trilogy and the prequels also. In fact, with all the books and other paraphernalia that has come out in the last decade regarding the Star Wars universe, that little squirt (he's not so small anymore) knows more than me about all things Star Wars.

But will it last another 30 years? Will my grand kids be talking about that old celluloid movie Star Wars as they download the latest flick on their cellphone/sunglasses? Will it have the same impact?

I hope so. Battlestar Galactica mostly got its push from the hoopla over Star Wars back in the late 70's and even though the original series (which I loved) didn't last--look at it now--the 2nd try at Battlestar is going very strong. Lucas for all the bashing I have dumped on him, tapped in something so primal with these movies that boys(and a fair share of girls) relish them and have invested themselves into the very world he thought up so many years ago. I cherish my memories I have from the original flick. I can remember replaying it in the back yard on Crocus Circle (back when kids could play outside) with me my older sisters and my cousins who were visiting during the summer that year. We traded off who could play whom but I think I got the shaft most of time cause I was the youngest.

While, I am talking about those memories who could forget the toys. Wow, figurines, and ships and blasters galore. What did SS get? I got Han Solo's blaster and one figurine ( a storm trooper from Empire Strikes Back.) My cousin, on the other hand, had a Storm Trooper's blaster. He also had Han Solo, Ben Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, a Jawa and one of the Sand People figurines (damn him hehe ) I believe he also had a kick ass poster of the Millennium Falcon escaping the Death Star with a squadron of Tie Fighters on its ass. But the toys now for Star Wars is phenom why couldn't they have thought of this stuff when I was a kid. Legos that can be built to make a actual Millennium Falcon or X-Wing. The Light Sabers are 100 times better too.

Sigh. Don't worry I'll be okay.

Check out Ralph McQuarrie's site where this piece of artwork came from here.

McQuarrie was a former conceptual design artist for Boeing who was a part of the special effects team for Lucas. (an interesting side note McQuarrie can be seen briefly in The Empire Strikes Back as Gen McQuarrie.)

McQuarrie's artwork is considered a huge factor in the reason Star Wars was able to be made.

Yesterday, my wife and I came for the holiday weekend to my parents place and my sister, her husband and the nieces and nephews were already here. Once we were starting supper I whispered to my nephew "Do you know what today is?" His active mind worked hard to think of what today could possibly be. But I told him and his eyes lit up "Yeah, I read about that in the newspaper." My brother in law (not the bagpiper) mentioned how he read about Star Wars coming out in Time Magazine and how it was something totally new for movies. My sister chimed in too. Now, my sister likes movies but she watched bits of the Making of Star Wars with my nephew so she understood alot more than someone who was a die hard fan which has always impressed me. She also talked about going to see it in the theatre and still remembers it vividly. She was 4 years older than me--my memory isn't vivid but just on the outside edges.

This movie and the ones that followed have created something I'm sure only Lucas could have dreamed of and for that small token it does give me hope that one idea I may have might spawn even the imagination and dreams it gave me as a kid growing up to some other scrawly geek of a kid. Maybe this movie in some regards will be our Casablanca--a great iconic movie which is 65 years old--for our generation, because it, along with Jaws, ushered in a new way for movies but also endeared movies for us fanatics out there who are sitting here once again remembering that little movie called Star Wars.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

On the Lot: Day 1

I have to admit I was curious how the show was gonna play out. I knew that they were going to be filming shorts to be viewed but it was interesting to start out with the pitch.

They had 3 judges (Carrie Fisher, Brett Ratner and Garry Marshall) to listen to the pitches and par out the ones who would be eliminated from the first round. Carrie Fisher is an interesting choice she has done acting (duh) but really now a days is known more for writing though she still does act having a few movies in the can. Brett Ratner wouldn't be a choice I'd make for a director judge (I'm still frustrated over his horrible take on X-Men 3) but Garry Marshall is a legend to me. He's old school and knows what he's talking about when he says to one knee shaking contestant "It costs 100,000 dollars a day on a film no company is going to risk that kind of money if you come across as nervous trying to sell a movie..." I may have paraphrased some but that was the gist of it.

The judges stated 5 different pitches--

  • A mouse is captured by a pharm company and must plan its escape.
  • A man who may be missing or wanted sees his face on TV.
  • A priest falls in love just before being ordained.
  • A secret gov't crate is delivered erroneously to a suburban family.
  • A slacker applies to the CIA and gets accepted.
I know I would be sweating bullets giving a pitch but some of those log lines had be thinking up images and ideas right from the get go. I liked the pitch for the secret gov't crate being erroneously sent to a suburban family. There are definitely several ways that could go anywhere from a family film to a twist on a James Bond type film.

I was amazed how some of these people just tanked when they had to do the pitch. I am far removed from what they had to endure for the pitch so I can't knock them too much. But, the majority of the contestants are people who have made films and work in the industry to some degree. I would hope they would have a better grasp of the concept.

For the pitch about a rat that is captured by a pharm company and has to plan its escape there was the first victim, er contestant from Dyer, IN who didn't bring in his notes (what!) He started out okay but after the first sentence or so just sank like the Titanic...he ended up finishing the pitch so give him credit for not running for the hills BUT the line "the strength and ability of a human but the power of a rat" huh?? Have I been underestimating the power of rats all along?

They showed just a few more pitches one notably from the midwest who the judges liked. And then the cuts came. It was fairly predictable for whom you saw doing the pitches who was going and for the ones they didn't show probably ran along the same line.

Round 2 came quick and fast right after the first batch of contestants were let go. The remaining contestants were to group up in threes and film a 2 and 1/2 page short with each contestant responsible for one scene. Now, I never went to film school and probably never will and I haven't directed anything but one scene from Crimes of the Heart from Beth Henley's play way back in my college days so I can't really state to much about the process these contestants go through but you can tell they were back in their element cause oh boy did the egos start flying.

I unfortunately missed the last 5 minutes of the show due to AI going over and my DVR screwed up. From reviewing other sites about the show I dont think I missed anything major but I'll get the recap when the second results show is on Thursday and then more heads will roll...
edit--I don't know why this damn post is single spaced... Blogger be damned

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Don't push that Button!

What does your family, friends or other people you come into contact with regularly know about you? We all learn details about our loved ones. The little foibles that lead to cracks in the armor. Something about someone that can be used as ammunition when needed. Sometimes they are small but we all hit each other's proverbial buttons from time to time. I can admit to have a few blow ups at different people like the wife, a family member or the boss when you get one thrown back at you. It happens to the best of us.

This past weekend my wife and I had my brother in law and father in law over to put in a new water heater and a new sink for us. They're both plumbers by trade so this is second nature for them but being from the same family--if you only knew my in laws--the digs started early and often. The Junior In Law often jumping on Senior In Law with references to the job and the inadaquencies he thought Senior In Law had doing it. Mind you, this was in jest to some degree since my brother in law's humor can be biting but he is a teddy bear at heart.

But not all button pushing is a simple jest. I've had plenty of squabbles with my older siblings that were not pretty. So, in thinking, if I'm gonna have these squabbles why wouldn't my protagonist (or the antagonist too?) My characters have buttons that can be pushed and send them into a blind rage perhaps or some other type of reaction.

What would your protagonist's button or buttons be?

Untimately, it should be the central issue with the protagonist or at least related to the central issue. How does this button get pushed? How does the protagonist deal with that button getting pushed? All questions that need to be addressed.

The first response might be to use this push the protagonist forward positively toward their goal. It has be used to reach the goal---the operative word there was positively. One of my screenplays I have been working on does that to some degree. The protagonist and the "bad guy" play off each other and pushes the other's buttons.

Hopefully, you can allow the character to respond badly because this moment can show some of how the character acts initially (or doesn't act) in adversity. My protagonist does some dumb stuff--just acting out--which in turn puts him in peril in several aspects of his life.. But it also brings him closer to his goal. If the antagonist didn't start pushing him around how would he realize that he needs to do?

Another aspect of this to address is what kind of buttons are there. I see it broken simply into 2 kinds of"buttons" that we all have at some point been involved in:

Active--Someone purposely trying to go after some one's fallacies, weaknesses, etc to facilitate some response (usually a bad one.)

Inactive--Someone unaware they are doing something (flirting, ignoring, acting clueless) that feed into some one's fallacies or weaknesses which faciliate a response (again probably not going to be good.)

Keep in mind this is one interpretation. Maybe there's a study out there about this very subject. Great. I didn't find anything. This, to me, is what I have experienced or seen through other people only.

So the button getting pushed is just the starting point. In turn, how a character may respond to this action can be what occurred prior to the beginning of the story hence how a character responds maybe different before the story starts but will hopefully transend to something else by the end of the screenplay. So, how it gets addressed through the story is how the character resolves this button getting unpushed, turned off etc.

Also, by exploring how you act when you have reached the point of no return when that jab or ugly retort spills out of your lips can give rise to how a character may respond in the same way. However, take it and ramp it up. If the protagonist is getting knocked for being a poor bread winner maybe he decides to rob a bank or the lemonade stand down the street instead of some nasty fight with the wife or the boss. Not to say an argument doesnt serve the best purpose of the screenplay but becoming a bank robber or the scion of the neighborhood may be more compelling and offer some great opportunities down the road with the story.

My teenage protagonist I mentioned earlier crashes a car into a house to profess his love for a girl. Twisted, definitely.

Believe me... not something I would probably do. But there is a story behind that which caused him to do that.

Awww....the memories of teen love. Hehe

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Coming Soon to a TV Near You

Just about a week until this show starts into finding the next superstar filmmaker or something like that as the show overtly states. One side of me is excited about the potential that the show has to give. However the realistic side of me is thinking the next superstar filmmaker?

I think it's important to view both sides of it right now cause really isn't this just another version of Project Greenlight? Mind you, it's alittle different cause with that a unknown filmmaker was given the go ahead to make their actual movie and so the actual tension came from the production company (bring in the bean counters) clashing with this newbie auteur. But, really, have any of those filmmakers really broken into the industry besides their short 15 minutes of fame?

Looking at the website, alot of the finalists have experience of some sort in H'wood so they aren't necessarily newbies. But, one potential finalist Lizriz who, unfortunately, didn't make the cut points out it is a lifetime opportunity for great exposure which means someone should take great risks. Kudos, Liz, you truly have more guts then I do right now. But I haven't given up the fight just yet. Unfortunately, being mentioned in my blog isn't going to help your goal much (in fact I'll probably knock you down a few notches--lol)

Right now this will allow me to live through these group as they follow their dream that one day might possibly be mine.

The show does have Spielberg behind it so it could have a completely different feel so we will see. I think it has alot of potential and frankly would like to see this thing go off cause I'm curious what kind of people they'll have and what they have to offer.

It starts Tuesday, May 22nd right after American Idol. Check it out.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lose a Job, Write a Script

Ran across an interesting thing at Simply Scripts website which I hadn't seen before. I see it's be around awhile so I am just out of loop but thought I'd put it out here for any one's attention. There was a contest to write a short script (under 15 pages) about a subject and it had to be done in a week. I unfortunately found it too late cause it had to be done by April 29th. They already had the submissions up and you could read them and leave comments in the forum. A few of them were good with a couple stinkers. The topic was about getting fired and having to explain it to the wife as a comedy script.

Check it out here. I hope they do again soon cause I'd love to try it out.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Who Am I? I Am A Screenwriter.

Recently, I had to go to a half day diversity training for work. Didn't really think it would be a subject that would take that long so I expected boredom to settle in quickly. I work for a large financial institution who prides themselves on diversity so I wasn't surprised that this would be a requirement. (Plus I was able to get away from the hum drum of the office for half a day.) In a nutshell it wasn't all bad.

So what the hell does this have to do with screenwriting?

Good question. Well, first, what is diversity?


1. The fact or quality of being diverse; difference.
2. A point or respect in which things differ.
3. Variety or multiformity

Does screenwriting feel like a quality that makes you different? Does that help define you? Not just I like to think of screenwriting and have dabbled in it. But truly you are a living breathing screenwriter. I think it makes me unique and therefore diverse. For me, screenwriting gives me life. Do you have any inkling of how that feels?

It had taken me awhile to a) realize this about myself b) to be able to tell others this same thing. It wasn't a shame thing as I didn't think people would understand. Some people still don't. Which from our vantage point can be hard to comprehend. Yet, once my father in law asked me: Why do you write? What do you do with it when you're done?

They're good legitimate questions with just a little ignorance thrown in. Would I expect my father in law to understand screenwriting and the process that goes into it?

Should I?

Hell no.

But, he is asking questions. It is a first step. And I do what to clarify that just being a screenwriter doesn't make me any more diverse as others who proclaim they too are screenwriters. However I can strive to be as diverse as, say, Charlie Kaufman or M. Night Shyamalan (though he did drop a few notches after The Village and Lady in the Water.)

When I think of what I have become I think of my brother in law...No, he's not a screenwriter. My brother in law married his lovely wife whose heritage is Scottish. He became enamored with it that with that he took up bag piping. Yeap, the kilt and the whole nine yards...He took it up so strong that he now also runs a website which sells everything related to bag piping and even his license plate reads: BAGPIPR.

He too has embraced his diversity, his uniqueness. I don't understand everything about bag piping and I know I have had my fair share of ignorant questions to him about it (along with a few jokes about skirts) but I respect his decision to define himself because I know that part of him is like that part of me screaming to be let out.

It's amazing how you can tie together bag piping and a diversity training class and how it's related to screenwriting.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Spidey III Gets Caught in its Own Web

Frankly, this film seems to have caught the corporate bug. Yeah the first two were huge and the second flick did use a lot of the buzz from the first one to create another huge movie. But, the story always seemed to take precedence.

Wow have things changed.

Once I had heard of the enormous budget I was worried that the big head honchos might be thinking if they gave more
spectacle that the fan boys might end up slapping down more bucks.

Sam Raimi had a lot on his plate with this one and it seemed the corporate heads pushed something that should have been fleshed out better before getting to the public eye. I just hoped going off of Raimi's prior work that he wouldn't let us down. Having, ultimately, 3 bad guys should reminded me of bad memories of another Batman flick which went that route.

Maybe there wasn't enough help from Alvin Sargent this time (he got screenplay credit for Spidey II) or maybe he just didn't have enough story in him this time. But I have to say...Sorry Spidey Fans, this one was easily the weakest. Now before all the huge fans out there get out their pitchforks and torches screaming for my head, I loved and adored the first 2 pics on the web slinger and there were some very good moments in this pic.

Just not very much.

There will be a 4th Spidey movie (and just announced 5th and 6th) but (unless they can redeem themselves) I'm sure Raimi, Macguire and Dunst will bail...

After this showing, so would I.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Movies, Movies, Movies!!

Don't look at me that way after seeing that post title. It's summer , folks and that means:


Not all of them are good (once again this is summer) so prepare for mindless carefree onslaught of teen charged big budget is there a plot in here somewhere flicks. Or as the execs like to call'em--Tentpoles.

And then theres a few which I think will rise above the rest. These are the ones I'm gearing up for :

SpideyMan III (May 4) --Sam Raimi is on the same par as Peter Jackson in completely understanding his genre and subject he has taken on(plus he has been top notch since Evil Dead anyway.) Raimi squeezes alot out his actors and his crew to ensure it is as best quality as can be expected. And yet his movies are so popcorn flicks at the same time...

Shrek III (May 18) -- This one drops a few notches cause it am gonna hold my breath a little...but the trailer looks decent. I'm sure it will be plenty enjoyable...but we'll see.

Pirates/Caribbean III (May 25) --this movie has got alot going on (per the trailer) so I hoping the spectacle that is being pushed violently at you in it has some good story and character to compliment it otherwise this will have to wait till DVD time...

Knocked Up (June 1) --This one has been tops on alot of people's lists but the jury is still out for me...I like Kaherine Heigl and I think Seth Rogen loks decent plus Judd Apatow did a greabut like alot of comedies that come out recently I just am worried the premise will run out before the movie does. Here's to proving me wrong...

Oceans 13 (June 8) --We'll see if three's the charm for George and his merry band of thieves....though I missed the middle movie apparently I did best by stirring clear of that wreck of a movie. So, I'm expecting though the acting chops of Clooney et al to make up the difference or again it will hit the DVD list...

Evan Almighty (June 22) --This movie is getting some press over the highly inflated budget which could end up killing this one if it doesn't do phenom at the b.o. but I think Steve Carrell is great and much deserves another funny movie.

Live Free or Die Hard (June 27) --Man, this truly is the summer of sequels. The only worry I have for this 4th helping of McClane is the fact that it has been quite awhile since the last installment and that flick wasn't nearly as good as the original but Bruce Willis very well may pull off a new resurgence in the character.

Transformers (July 6th) --I was not one who ever got into this but the trailer looks cool...

The Simpson's Movie (July 27) --D'oh...who wouldnt't have this on their list unless they are strictly art film connessiours (again THIS...IS...SUMMER!!)

Bourne Ultimatum (Aug 3) --Matt Damon has made himself into a formidable action figure through this trilogy and Paul Greengrass, well, he knows a few things about directing this type of film…

A couple honorable mentions--Mr. Brooks, License to Wed, 1408, Rescue Dawn, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Rush Hour 3, Stardust....

I have to agree with
PJ Rodio that Lohan's pic I Know Who Killed Me is gonna tank royally at the b.o...also there was a piece at the MSNBC website wondering if Lohan is missing out on her Oscar because of the papparazzi hounding her (I am not making this up)...

...Lindsay Lohan admits that part of her loves being a paparazzi target — but she wishes the photographers would stop bothering her for a while so that she can win an Oscar....

Go check it out
here. I was wondering why Lindsay was struggling with the whole Oscar thing...

Going to see Spidey tomorrow...