Wednesday, October 24, 2007

MM's 100th Review on TriggerStreet!

Hey guys,

I posted my
100th review on TriggerStreet. (I've lost track of the number of private, unpublished reviews I've done for friends since I started my blog.) In any case, my reviews usually range anywhere between 2,000 to 5,000 words, and it could be argued that I've contributed nearly half a million words of analysis on the art of screenwriting in the last two years. Reviews for me were never about gaining credits but studying the craft and keeping my skills sharp.

My 100th review was of Mickey Lee's superb
Operation: Atomic Blitz, which is about a British commando team (and one particular member - Garrett Davies) who has to rescue a beautiful atomic physicist during World War II in order to stop a rogue German General from creating a superweapon. It's a fun and kitschy action/adventure story in the vein of Indiana Jones meets 60s-era James Bond.

Below is not only the review but photos from Mickey's research of all the planes, weapons, and equipment referenced in the story.

Hope you enjoy it.



From England With Love

This was an assignment I couldn't resist! I read the first draft twice, read this second draft once, and skimmed it a second time, because well, I practically have it memorized by now. It's a much tighter script than I remember... I've read all the reviews since this script was posted, and I'd like to do something different. I'd like to talk about all of the issues the community raised about Operation: Atomic Blitz.


There were two issues I recall the community raising about the protagonist: 1) that Garrett didn't take the lead or be the leader at times in act two, they're probably thinking of the scenes where he went to the Furry Kitty with Dukes who did all of the talking, and 2) that we should've seen more of his backstory in the beginning. Now, I raised both of those issues in my first review, and I've changed my mind. I'm sorry I ever brought them up. On the issue of Garrett being a leader, I don't think a lot of us realize after one quick pass through his script that, as a franchise starter, Garrett's arc has been constructed as the birth of a new hero. In the beginning, he's just a hard working grunt with a dirty past as part of 39 Commando and in the end, he's "just the chap to put 39 Commando back together." In the sequel, if we're ever so lucky, we're going to see a different side of Garrett than what we saw here, and that's exciting. Everyone's trying to squeeze Garrett into the familiar cliches of action films when, in fact, what we have to do is consider the story that the screenwriter wrote on its own terms and not complain about what WE wanted to see. It's kind of funny how we, as writers, will behave like the pro readers and the studio executives we hate because they only want the same formula over and over again. Even Roger Ebert said of other critics in his Darjeeling Limited review, "Why do we have to be the cops and enforce a narrow range of movie requirements?" Exactly. Now, the second point about seeing Garrett's backstory in the beginning is something I wrote about earlier, which I regret now. The fact that we didn't seen his backstory in the opening makes the scene with Johanna on the fishing boat that much more fun because THEN it's revealed WHAT he tried to steal and then you get that great line from Garrett, "If you're not going to have a whack at the best, why bother trying?" I think people wanting to know more about Garrett is a good sign and all the more reason you don't give it to them so that they'll come back in droves for the second film.


By my count, there were three that really stuck out - the secret passage in the castle in the opening sequence, the manhole in Copenhagen, and the bomb dropping in the exact location of Derica's plane. It's really personal preference to keep these or not, because it's an homage (or a riff) of the genre that those convenient moments are even in the script. Whether they stay or go is of no consequence, and it certainly doesn't take away from the charms of the story. I wrote about this kind of thing before, and it's worth repeating:

"Many film critics and TS reviewers behave like merciless logicians by pointing out each and every plot hole and logic flaw and thereby rejecting entire stories because of said plot holes no matter how small they might be, as if that's the only thing that matters in a movie. Well, it all depends upon the size of the holes, doesn't it? Most film students know that almost every thriller under the sun has plot holes and flaws in logic in them but they are still accepted and beloved by many because of so many other elements of quality craftsmanship. I think there's a sliding scale involved. If a movie takes itself seriously and yet you can't buy into its incredibly flawed plot, then yeah, it officially sucks. Unless, of course, it is a movie that doesn't really take itself too seriously and is INTENDED to be wildly impossible but entertainingly so, like, say, a James Bond movie, then okay, no problem. If a serious thriller can hold water for the most part (or not leak too quickly), I won't condemn a script over a few minor leaks."


The more I read this script, the more I like this relationship between the Johanna and Garrett. This is not a love story. Their sexy banter yet non-existent love story is a twist on genre conventions. In fact, I love the revelation on the fishing boat that Johanna's with Dukes and we get the funny line, "Bloody spies, always get the girls." In the end, all Garrett gets is a quick poke in the pod and then she's off to blow up New Mexico. Beautiful! Just great, man!


A lot of people brought up Mickey's technical terms in the script. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. You can't get around them in a WWII story, and even if you don't know exactly what those terms are, you should get a sense generally that it's a boat or a car or a plane or something and you can just go with it. Naturally, one shouldn't overkill technical terms in a spec but having them is good. It only proves that you did your homework and you really know what you're talking about.


I certainly did not think, as one guy wrote that "the action overpowers the other elements of the film," because... hello? it's an action film.


Bob, I really love you, man, but since when did the science behind those world domination plots in James Bond films ever make sense?



I did agree with Peter and David's reviews about needing a bit more gratuitous cruelty from Von Kiel, and I think that this section in the early 20s when Manfred visits is just the place to do it. Either Von Kiel kills off Manfred or he tortures a captured British troop or he kills a Captain Guard for failing, or something like that. Manfred does die, of course, but I think it should've been at the hands of Von Kiel.


I recall David writing, "I would cut back on some of the honorific exchanges between Royal Marines, like 'ya manky git,' 'ya tossers,' etc. It was the only time the dialogue sounded a little too mannered." I have to say, I liked it, and I'll get hammered for this, but I'm going on record as saying I liked the "Alas, poor Yorick" line. Hehehe...


My dear Duncan Andrew, what are you smoking? "Unfortunately, the humorous dialog, Shakespearean references (example pg. 46 & 50) and overall tone of the story do not match the seriousness of its subject matter." Are you kidding me? Dude - rent a James Bond film immediately and then re-read the script. Thank you.

Good job, Mickey.


Monday, October 22, 2007

"The Fountain" analysis

Okay, The Fountain didn’t really work for me, although I wholly agreed with Jim Emerson when he wrote, “I'd much rather watch somebody shoot for the moon when the stakes are sky-high than sit back while they play it safe.” Ebert, who’s been doubling back on reviews, recently wrote, “I will concede the film is not a great success. Too many screens of blinding lights. Too many transitions for their own sake. Abrupt changes of tone. And yet I believe we have not seen the real film. When a $75 million production goes into turnaround and is made for $35 million, elements get eliminated. When a film telling three stories and spanning thousands of years has a running time of 96 minutes, scenes must have been cut out. There will someday be a Director’s Cut of this movie, and that’s the cut I want to see.

Yeah, you got that right.

Personally, I’d like to read an early draft of the screenplay just to see what was cut and try to decide for myself if those lost scenes would’ve improved the film. Because there were some really interesting ideas behind that story. It could have been a truly great film. There is a guest article on Ebert’s website from an aspiring screenwriter in Maryland, Matt Withers, who offered his own analysis of The Fountain. I must say, he did a really good job. Here’s a portion:

To begin our exploration of just what the hell is going on in The Fountain, our first task is to determine which, if any, of the three story lines presented is real. We know that the story of Tomas the Conquistador is a fiction. The book "
The Fountain," written in the present day by Izzy, tells Tomas' journey. Since we see no evidence in the film of her possessing some sort of psychic-historical link, nor any mention of Tomas or even Spain in the research Izzy explores for her book, we can safely determine that Tomas' story is just that - a story. Specifically and importantly, Izzy has written all but the final chapter when she dies.

Given that Tomas is a fictional character in the universe of the film, we must now turn our attention to both present day Tom (Tom 1), and Spaceman Tom (Tom 2). It is made clear that both these men are in some fashion the same man. While the evidence could take up pages to list, it is enough to recognize that they have the same name, the same tattoo of a wedding band on their ring finger, and the same memories of Izzy. While it may seem tricky to establish if Tom 2 is actually Tom 1, somehow still alive 500 years in the future, or some other fiction, fear not for the answer is actually quite simple.

Tom 2's journey is clearly the final chapter of Izzy's book, the chapter she asked Tom 1 to finish for her as she lay on her deathbed. In it we find the Spaceman transporting the Tree that seems to contain the spirit of both his beloved Izzy and Queen Isabella to a dying nebula. In Tom 2's journey lie all the elements we would expect a grieving husband, a man who is a scientist not a writer, to present when finishing a story he did not start. It is his love letter to his dead wife.

What a beautifully romantic literary conceit that Tom 2 transports the Tree to the exact nebula that Izzy described to Tom 1 on their rooftop that winter night - Xibalba. His spaceship is completely constructed around sustaining a perfect representation of the romantic idea that Izzy shared from her Mayan guide -- the guide's belief that his father, after having a tree planted over his grave, became a part of that tree and every living thing it gave sustenance to.

In addition we notice that Tom 2, as mentioned earlier, is haunted not just by memories of Izzy and her present day interactions with Tom 1, but also of Queen Isabella from the Conquistadors story in Izzy's book. Since we have determined the story of Tomas is a fiction, the memories of Isabella cannot be real. They can only be imagined. It is hard to believe that if Tom 2 is Tom 1still alive in the future, that the treasured memories of a lost wife would have been combined and given equal weight with the imagined interaction with a fictional queen. So if we accept that Tom 2's memories are only partially real, that lends credence to the recognition that he is not a real man, but a fictional amalgam created by Tom 1. One with the memories of both Izzy and the book that was her dying work.

You can read the full article

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Have you heard the story about Juno and its screenwriter Diablo Cody?

She’s born in Chicago. She grows up. She graduates from college. She moves to Minneapolis to join her boyfriend Jonny whom she met on the internet. She works in advertising. She finds it boring. She starts working as a stripper. She doesn't find it boring. She changes her name to Diablo Cody. She starts a
blog called “The Pussy Ranch”. She becomes a phone sex operator. She writes a book called Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. She quits the sex biz. She marries Jonny and moves to the suburbs. She meets a producer who tells her that she should write a screenplay. It takes her two whole months. The Juno screenplay somehow gets passed around all over Hollywood, and apparently, everyone wants to make it.

When Jason Reitman reads her script, he loves it and thinks, “Ya know, she really nailed the new nuclear family. In the movies, families used to be mom, pop and the kids. In real life today, it's often more complicated. You have stepparents, half-brothers and sisters, children of single mothers, every kind of family. But she doesn't write about this in a political way, just in an honest light.” He absolutely has to do it and even puts off his own script and film project. And now we have the soon-to-be-released Juno, which was a hit at the Toronto Film Festival.

But that’s not the story.

Here’s the story: of the screenplay and its author,
Reitman said, “‘Sometimes I just had to trust her.’ He gave an example of a scene where Juno tries to commit suicide by hanging herself with licorice rope... ‘I didn't understand it,’ Reitman admitted, ‘but I figured if I loved her screenplay and it was in there, she must have known what she was doing. It gets one of the biggest laughs in the movie.’”

Can you believe that?

Trusting the instincts of a FIRST-TIME SCREENWRITER!

You’re an amazing guy, Jason Reitman.


Friday, October 19, 2007

"Away from Her"

I’m calling this a “think piece,” 'cause I have to think this through…

Ebert recently
posted his review of Sarah Polley’s Away from Her. He’s been doubling back to cover movies he missed while he was out, and he made some interesting points. Like almost everyone else, he gave it four stars and a rave. As you may know, this is the story of Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie), who after being married for almost 50 years, are faced with Fiona’s slip into Alzheimer’s disease. Add to that Grant’s guilt over an infidelity years ago, and well, you could have a lot of interesting things happen in that kind of setup.

Ebert first compared it to other films about Alzheimer’s: Bille August’s
A Song for Martin (2002), Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook (2004), and Erik Van Looy’s Memory of a Killer (2005) - “All very good, the third perhaps the best.” Compared to Away from Her, he made the comment that all of those films “persist in linking Alzheimer’s disease to a story.” And then he went on to say, “Sarah Polley, whose Away From Her is a heartbreaking masterpiece, has the courage to simply observe the devastation of the disease. Alzheimer’s is usually like that. There are few great love stories replayed in the closing days, few books written, few flashbacks as enjoyable for the victims as they are for us. There are only the victims going far, far away, until finally, as if they have fallen into a black hole, no signs can ever reach us from them again.

This made me think a few thoughts (and I’m not sure how well I can articulate them). With respect to having “the courage to simply observe the devastation of the disease,” let me ask you - is there anything wrong with that approach in terms of screenwriting? I certainly don’t think so. You have an arc in the protagonist, a shifting of values, a man facing an inevitable, heartbreaking change in his life, and maybe/maybe not, some resolution at the end. That’s a story rooted in its characters, is it not? If you want to write something real and true, it doesn’t get much more real than that, right? This may not be high-concept or heavy plot-wise, but you know this setup could be very compelling from scene-to-scene, especially if those characters have
depth, because this disease would have an enormous emotional impact on the characters. And this would have great meaning to people.

I loved what was said of Grant and Fiona’s relationship in the
press release: “Polley wanted to explore how a long marriage survives without falling back on remembrances of a more romantic past, a gambit on which many films rely. She states, ‘Love stories about older people tend to be either extremely sentimentalized or justified by a million flashbacks to when they were young, which I think is a lot less interesting.’ New love is a chemical ride of hormones, fraught with the meshing of lives, but invariably, new lovers arrive in each other’s arms with a clean slate. If there is baggage, it is from previous relationships. Give the new couple half a century of being accountable to each other, and that’s when Polley becomes interested because they have their own emotional scar tissue which, being the strongest part, is remembered the longest. What Grant did to Fiona may have been the folly of his youth, but he was mistaken if he thought time would wash it away. ‘I wanted to make this relationship a real one that’s been through incredible things and come out the other side. It’s made up of all that experience and emotion and transgression.’

Great! At the same time, I think you’d have to be extremely careful with this setup, because you would need just the right cast design and the right element of characters surrounding your protagonist to bring out the different aspects of this particular issue and to make the transition to closure in the end satisfying for the audience. Indeed, Ebert went so far as to list the characters in such a way that we know we’ll get a complete picture when we see the film:

The performances here are carefully controlled, as they must be, so that we see no false awareness slipping out from behind the masks; no sense that the Julie Christie character is in touch with a more complete reality than, from day to day, she is. No sense that Gordon Pinsent, as her husband, is finally able to feel revenge, consolation, contrition or anything else but inescapable loss. No sense that the Olympia Dukakis character deceives herself for a moment. No sense that Michael Murphy’s character understands his behavior. The one aware character is Kristen Thomson as Kristy, the kind nurse who gives Grant practical advice. She has empathy for him, and pity, and she can explain routines and treatments and progressions to him, but she cannot do anything about his grief. She has worked in the home for while. She knows how Alzheimer’s is, and must be. I have gotten to know some nurses well over the last year, and seen the sadness in their eyes as they discuss patients (never by name) who they are helpless to help. Thomson finds that precise note.

When you tackle a difficult subject like Alzheimer’s (or any difficult subject for that matter), I think you have to consider what’s been done previously and how your approach will be fresh, different, and (hopefully) better. Too few aspiring screenwriters take the time to really think this through before cranking out a script. Not only that, they incorporate too many aspects of other similar films they love and when we read it, we’re reminded too much of those films, which pulls us out of the story and lowers our confidence in the writer. Besides, what worked in another film may not necessarily fit right in the context of your story. What's best for your story?

We also have to recognize that a screenplay is the foundation to a film’s visual palette and that lightness and darkness and tone are monumental considerations to make when comparing your screenplay to other films on a similar subject. Ebert wrote about how we see this story “
not in darkness and shadows and the gloom of winter and visions in the night, but in bright focus. Polley told Andrew O’Hehir of Salon: ‘For me the overriding palette that we were working with was the idea of this very strong, sometimes blinding winter sunlight that should infuse every frame. I didn’t want the visual style to draw too much focus to itself. I felt like this needed to be an elegant and simple film, and that it had to have a certain grace.’

I also want to mention that James Berardinelli, whose reviews I’ve been reading more often lately,
praised Sarah’s film but had some constructive concerns about dialogue that, to me, was a good reminder to always be careful: “While Polley has a keen sense of how to develop the emotional side of the story, and her eye for detail is impeccable (especially the authenticity of the nursing home), her ear for dialogue needs fine-tuning. Many of the lines spoken in the movie have a scripted feel, often sounding too polished and poetic, and occasionally educating and sermonizing. The source of the problem is readily apparent: roughly 75% of the movie's dialogue is taken verbatim from Munro's story, and the written word can feel unnatural when placed unaltered into the mouth of an actor. While this does not interfere with Away from Her's emotional impact, it lends a sporadic sense of artificiality to some scenes.”

There might be a little truth to that. Here's a clip:

I don’t know why, but all of this makes me think of some other comments
Ebert made about a different film - Rails and Ties by Alison Eastwood, Clint's daughter. It’s about a childless couple (Marcia Gay Harden and Kevin Bacon). She's dying of cancer. He's a train engineer, whose train slams into the car of a woman who overdosed on pills and parked on the tracks. The woman's 11-year-old son (Miles Heizer), angry because the engineer “didn't even try to stop,” tracks him down and confronts him. But it's more complicated. He's a runaway from a heartless foster home. The couple grows to love him and… more I do not know. Anyway, the ending in Away from Her provides closure appropriate for the protagonist (so I’ve read). Of the ending in Rails and Ties, Ebert wrote, “But the real sadness in the opening third of the movie is visceral and true. We look into the eyes of the woman and see bleak grief, and we look into the eyes of the man who chooses to drive a train on a day he should be with her, and see a man who lives his life by the book, which is no life at all. And then they are freed from their fixed positions by the lonely need of the boy. It’s a powerful setup, although I found the final shot less than satisfying. Yes, that’s what would happen. But more and more I question realism as a complete justification for events in movies. In some movies, yes, maybe a lot of movies; but sometimes what we need is a movie that doesn’t turn out like life.”

Yes, I think there’s truth in that. While we aspire to create a (typically satisfying) ending rooted in reality or the reality of the characters – what’s best for the audience? What should they see?

By the way, you can read for free online the short story Away from Her was based, Alice Munro’s
The Bear Came Over the Mountain.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The “Crossroads” Review

I hope you guys know that we are not here to embarrass aspiring writers but to study the craft and we cannot always do that without learning from scripts that fail. With that said, I’m going to share a recent (critical) review and some comments by the author afterwards, because... it’s pretty funny.

TriggerStreet, I was asked by an aspiring screenwriter to review a draft of a script he wrote involving a character living in a giant biosphere (the earth had turned into a great wasteland due to our environmental negligence). Everyone is attached to these virtual reality devices and he rebelled in search for a super man. It was stunning in its visuals. Yet, I told him he needed a page one rewrite:

“My first reaction is that an extremely intelligent, literate, and visually-oriented mind is hard at work behind this script. And this could very well turn into one of the most visually stunning movies ever filmed. (That is, of course, if you can find someone with about $100-$150 million to dole out.) At the same time, I think this very intelligent mind is still in need of discipline and experience in the fine art of storytelling and screenwriting, which, mixed with great ambition plus the desire to prove how brilliant he is and add a dose of well-meaning but misguided emphasis on setting over story, you have a spec that shot off like a rocket in the wrong direction to the point that I don't believe any reader could access this story enough to want to buy it or film it or watch it. I completely agreed with Matt Bujinkan's review when he wrote, ‘you need to find the relatable within that bizarre. And the writing just doesn't let the reader in. The writer really needs to give concrete descriptions of some of the bizarre elements - such as the nanotechnology. The tone was also in question. For a script with Albert Einstein's head on Schwartzenegger's body, this one takes itself a little too seriously. And this is where the heart of its problems lie, I think. It's got too much of an ecological/philisophical axe to grind - one that grinds away any character or story.’”

Time passed. The script was rewritten. I agreed to review the new draft. Here’s the review:

You're at a crossroads, my friend.

It's not very often you see across-the-board "good" ratings with a "pass." How can this be? If this is a good writer who did well in all of these categories, how can they "pass" on the story? Well, the community IS right, of course. This seems to be a capable writer. He thinks big, uses big words (to the point of overreaching intellectually from the norm in filmmaking). He comes up with names that feel fairytale-like, such as The Fifth Wind, The Forbidden Forest, The Seven Beauties, etc. He thinks up interesting visuals, but in this case, it is to the detriment of a story. Unfortunately, you're trying too hard to create some semblance of a story to justify the visuals when, in fact, the story should come first and the visuals should support the story. (The giant Paul Bunyan statue that glides behind trees still has me scratching my head.) The vast range of elements in this script never come together into one cohesive whole of a story that an audience can get behind. The title, Teotwawki, like the rest of the story is simply too expensive to make and too inaccessible to audiences. "Teo-what? Let's go see Batman."

My apologies, Michael, I'm going to get tough on you now. Did you or did you not read my last review? You obviously didn't read my notes because you made many of the same format mistakes that you made the last time. With respect to story, you may recall that I quoted Matt Bujinkan who wrote (correctly) "It's got too much of an ecological/philosophical axe to grind - one that grinds away any character or story." I went on to emphasize STORY, PLOT, and the PROTAGONIST'S JOURNEY over visuals and environment and philosophy. What did I write? "Let's just forget all this stuff about the environment and this post-apocalyptic world and the moral lessons you're trying to teach. What's the story? Why should we care about these characters? What are you going to do to make us feel empathy for them? What is it that they want or need that we should be rooting for?" And here we are with a new draft and THIS is the synopsis you give us: "The End Of The World As We Know It: TEOTWAWKI. Over five centuries ago mankind drew straws for seats on lifeboat Eco Stasis: self contained biospheres warehousing a million humans each, depopulating Earth, leaving the land to heal, and avoiding the total failure of Earth's ecosystems. But something is happening in the domes. An unknown force or instinct beckons mankind back to the forest, compels him to flee a technological Eden into an Earth renewed by his long absence. Can this brave new world survive? Or will we simply return to the same old mistakes? An encounter with 'dead enders' from the brutal old world may tell the tale."

What does this synopsis tell us about STORY, PLOT, or the PROTAGONIST'S JOURNEY? Clay isn't even mentioned once, nor any other character. The synopsis, just like the script, is a variation of all the same problems that we had before. You're at a crossroads, my friend, and you have 3 choices:

1) If you want to create vast new worlds, that's perfectly fine. There's nothing wrong with that. But you'll have to give up screenwriting and pursue a career creating those new worlds for something else, like, the gaming industry.

2) Write novels where you'd have more liberty to de-emphasize plot and characters in order to explore philosophy, science, and all those ecological axes you wish to grind.

3) Seriously address your weaknesses in the art of screenwriting.

If you're decision is number 3, then this is what you have to do. You have to walk away from this story completely. You are so far gone into this whole world you've created that you've lost all sense of objectivity about how to provide a good, accessible plot within the context of your big sci-fi world. You need to take a break and study the craft of screenwriting and what that craft is REALLY about. Read these books:

Story by Robert McKee
Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger
Psychology for Screenwriters by William Indick
20 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias
Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D.
How NOT to Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flinn
Cinematic Storytelling by Jennifer van Sijll
The Story of Film by Mark Cousins

And so you'll have good formatting:
Screenwriter's Bible (fourth edition) by Dave Trottier

I don't want an email telling me "I've already read those books." Read them again. AFTER you've read all those books, THEN you should start a new, SIMPLE story that won't cost $200 million dollars to produce. Forget about a sale, too. Just focus on honing your craft. Create a simple setup (NOTHING sci-fi or fantasy - just a drama and something you like but you're not so in love with it that you're not able to be objective about the plot). Make the setup and plot rooted in your characters and create a protagonist with an inner need who pushes the plot forward in order to accomplish X. Create a character development sheet for your protagonist and your antagonist. (I wrote about it
here). And then, within those 120 pages, follow the common three-act structure. Forget about philosophy or worlds or fancy prose in the action lines - aim for clarity in action. Focus on the protag's journey, the character arc, and escalating conflict. People are more concerned by what happens and how a conflict escalates and how characters act over how fancy you've written the action lines.

I will not read another story by you (freewill) unless you've followed all of my advice exactly. I certainly won't read another variation of TEOTWAWKI either, at least not for a long time after you've clearly shown an improvement in the craft through new stories.

My notes below are not really designed to help with revisions but to show you that I did, in fact, read your script. I don't want explanations, either, for all the times I wrote, "I don't understand." At this point, it doesn't matter. You have to start anew. Good luck with your choice, man.



Okay, well, about a week ago, the author forwarded an email receipt from He ordered every single book on the list.

He copied me on an email to another TriggerStreet member and wrote, “I really appreciated your comments on Triggerstreet. Don't know if you read the other reviews but you and Mystery Man really nailed it. (don't know who that guy is or thinks he is but if he wasn't so right, I'd hunt him down and kill him).


The thing is, he’s so smart and such a great visual thinker that when he really gets it, when he really embraces the craft and tries to master it, he could be (like so many others I know) unbelievably great, one of the best. And we’ll say we knew him when…

Monday, October 15, 2007

Close-ups, Baby!

Matt Zoller Seitz is having a great close-ups blog-a-thon until October 21. You must check this out. So far, I love Jim Emerson’s Free-Association Dream Sequence. I love Stephen Bissette’s article on The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly. And I love Simon Hsu’s Emotion through Bodily Motion: Acting and the Frame in John Cassavetes's Faces. (“How maddening, in a medium that exists as a series of images, is it to find that dialogue has replaced what visuals should say?”)

Sheila O’Malley’s post on a close-up of
Bud White in L.A. Confidential was a great reminder that characters who have dimensions to them, who have varying inner conflicts and emotions, a.k.a. depth, fosters the right circumstances for great acting through close-ups. Of a moment in which we watch Bud, Sheila writes: “He is totally still. He doesn't blink. He just stares. He seems like a snake, or some kind of predator. He's looking out the window, but there is a coiled violence in him, a potential for action that vibrates in his expression. He is waiting for his moment. But the main reason why the close-up is so arresting, so startling ... is that beneath all of that ... somehow ... is sadness.

Another great article, Chet Mellema on Kubrick’s use of
close-ups in 2001, focuses on the scene where Hal watches Dave and Frank speak to each other in the pod: “This close-up/warning not only functions as a plot point for Dave’s last-resort space walk later in the film, but it also forms for the viewer a general sense of foreboding and signals perhaps that what Frank and Dave are about to do may have unintended consequences if they are not cautious. Frank and Dave do apparently isolate themselves from HAL’s ability to hear their conversation. Unfortunately, as we all know, they fail to hide from HAL’s paranoid, malicious gaze. Kubrick deftly conveys this information through a series of five, quick close-ups.

And then there was Craig’s unexpected article about
Shattered Glass: “It is the conference call scene in Lane's office that marks the turning point for this transition. Glass's most recently published scoop--a wild yarn about a computer hacker blackmailing a powerful software company--has been challenged by a duo of reporters (played by Zahn and Dawson, with Cas Anvar as their editor) at While an increasingly panicky Glass attempts to deflect, dodge and stonewall their questions, Lane sits quietly and observes. And it is at this point, for approximately twenty-five seconds, the camera begins to push slowly toward Sarsgaard's face.” A scene isn’t just about a shifting of values, pushing the story forward, escalating the conflict, creating reversals, twists, and revelations, who wants what from whom, etc, it’s also good to think about WHO that scene is really about.

We know from our
Cinema Europe series that close-ups were historically designed to be a deterrence to illegal forgeries of popular silent films. Nothing could be a better stamp of actual authenticity than a human face. In fact, Episode 1 of Cinema Europe showcased many examples of early close-ups – characters looking through keyholes or spectacles or eating camera lenses just to show something different to bring audiences back for more. There was G.A. Smith’s The Sick Kitten in 1903 that showed a medium shot of two children in a room. One is holding a kitten. Then Smith cuts to a close-up of the cat taking a spoonful of medicine. There were concerns at the time that audiences, who were still accustomed to watching live theatre, would repel at such an intimate moment. But Smith insisted and kept the close-up because he thought audiences would want to see this curious action in greater detail. He was, of course, correct and audiences loved it.

Can we, as screenwriters, incorporate close-ups in our specs? Of course we can, even though we no longer write camera angles. They’re simple variations of
Secondary Headings. And you can use this whether it’s a face or a hand or an object:

Across the room


licks her lips as she stares at Mystery Man.

Yes, that really happened. Okay, so, what are some of the dramatic reasons behind close-ups? I give you 23:


To examine beauty / ugliness:

To illuminate a glance we would not have seen (as in
Lady Snowblood):

To establish an essential prop in the narrative (thanks to
Keith Uhlich):

To insert an important text or image that pushes the story forward:

To inspire using a much-loved visual symbol:

To convey non-verbal emotions (like confusion and embarrassment):

To emphasize a word(s):

To make us face a face that we may not wish to see:

To intimidate:

To emphasize power, influence, obsession, or one individual's absolute resolve to stay the course:

To create a feeling of unease and paranoia:

To punctuate the severity of a tragedy (as in Battleship Potemkin):

To convey isolation and emptiness:

To show a different side of a character, such as an army leader’s personal, private breakdown:

To terrify (as in

To disorient (thanks to
Jonathan Lapper):

To tantalize (as in Malena):

To show a moment of extreme intimacy:

To make a visual statement about a character (as in Miller's Crossing thanks to the
Opening Shots Project):

To reveal a sought-after MaGuffin:

To capitalize on a heightened emotional near-death climax:

To provide a moment of humor:

And to give resolution to a conflict:

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mim’s Book Review – Writing Drama

Hey guys,

We were approached some time ago by the (very polite) Colette in France who represented the publisher,
Le Clown & l'Enfant, to provide us a perusal copy of Yves Lavandier’s exhaustively researched, 600-page Writing Drama: a comprehensive guide for playwrights and scriptwriters and also post a book review, an assignment that our always great friend Miriam Paschal accepted.

An interview with Yves can be found
here. Praise for his book here.

Thanks so much, Mim. (And thanks to you, Colette.)



Writing Drama by Yves Lavandier is a dense, academic look at how to fashion a dramatic story. He pulls his examples from everywhere, including classic Greek plays by Sophocles as well as European comics for children like Asterix and Obelix. Along the way he includes a few American films, such as The Little Mermaid and 8 Mile.

His take is unique. For instance, in studying conflict we are shown the difference between static conflict and dynamic conflict. He ranks the plots points in order of importance, starting with the Climax. Rather than simply define the inciting incident, he breaks it down over the course of several sections, citing many plays and films along the way. There is the inciting incident as a source of action, multiple inciting incidents, and the lack of inciting incident and how a story can still work without it.

He begins with how stage plays began: way back in ancient times when priests performed stories as part of their rituals. And in order to understand many of his points, the reader has to be well-versed in the classics. The plays of Moliere get a close inspection.

He also defines genre in strictly Aristotelian terms. Aristotle is generally considered the father of modern drama and the two masks of comedy and tragedy are based on his definitions of types of stories. There is comedy, there is tragedy, and then there is something called melodrama. In America, we use the term drama. To us, melodrama is more of an exaggeration of drama to the point of being too emotional and slightly unreal. To Aristotle (and to Lavandier), melodrama is closer to what we call drama.

It is set up so that it can be read in either of two ways: from the beginning, with each point building on the one before it, or in random sections, depending on what you might need help with at the time. He starts by explaining what conflict and emotion are, and once you have immersed yourself in that, he takes you through the protagonist, his obstacles, and finally characterization. The table of contents breaks it down so that you can head to a specific section without reading any of the others.

Of course, if you read this book, you should already have read several of the other screenwriting books on the market. Having a working knowledge of screenwriting is fundamental to getting everything you can out of this book. You should have read at least The Screenwriter's Bible by Trottier before you read this one. Lavandier does not cover such mundane topics as how to structure a slugline or the comparative uses of (V.O.) versus (O.S.). Writing Drama is most definitely best read in conjunction with other works, not the least of which are other screenwriting books.

There is a lesson on every page. Sometimes you learn how to juxtapose unsympathetic acts by a protagonist with sympathetic ones, so as maintain the audience's empathy. Sometimes the lesson is how to make a scene spectacular.

Like other analysts, Lavandier uses specific terms to refer to the elements of drama. We all know Blake Snyder has invented his own terms; you won't find "Dark Night of the Soul" or "Double Mumbo-Jumbo" in any other screenwriting books. Lavandier also uses terms that are not familiar, or rather are familiar, but are used to mean different things than what we're used to. He defines an ellipsis as "a syntactic omission." It is either an omission of time, or an omission or narrative. That is how an ellipsis functions, but it has a symbol: the three periods. As far as I could tell, Lavandier's ellipsis is part of the structure of the script. There may or may not be three little periods. The symbol isn't important. According to Lavandier, an ellipsis is part of plot structure, not a punctuation mark.

After discussing various aspects of story structure, Lavandier breaks down two dramatic works to illustrate how everything functions together in actual drama. He discusses fifteen points in each work: 1) Conflict and emotion, 2) Protagonist-Objective, 3) Obstacles, 4) Characterisation (sic), 5) Structure, 6) Unity, 7) Preparation, language and creativity, 8) Dramatic irony, 9) Comedy, 10) Development, 11) Exposition, 12) Activity, 13) Dialogue, 14) Effects, and 15) Conclusion.

These breakdowns are very informative, especially because they incorporate all of Lavandier's rather unique points of view. For instance, in the Preparation, language and creativity section, we learn about the A-A-A' gag, something called Milking and simplicity, and the Topper.

So there are many, many points in this book that will give us a very different perspective of how to structure a story, and most of them are extremely valuable. After reading this, I think it's very important to have this opportunity to look at our familiar guides and standards from across the pond, as it were.

Unfortunately, the works Lavandier has chosen to analyze in his breakdown section are School for Wives by Moliere (a seventeenth century French playwright) and North by Northwest by Hitchcock. These are classic works, to be sure, but film-making (and story-telling) is an evolving process, not a static one. Granted, the elements that Lavandier discusses have changed little since the days of Greek drama, but it would have been nice to have a more recent film as an example of what he's talking about.

Now that I've revealed the works used in the breakdown section, I can go back to my example of ellipsis. In the North by Northwest section, Lavandier says, "There are several examples of ellipsis. Many of them are classic, and some are related to the language of cinema rather than dramatic technique. When the black steward (Ernest Anderson) comes to make the bed in Eve's cabin, Roger hides in the toilet. He barely has time to examine a tiny badger and lady's razor before the steward has finished his work. This kind of ellipsis is extremely common in cinema."

So this work is extremely important for any film-student. Many of the published and produced works used as examples might not be familiar to modern American students of film, but they serve to illustrate how narrow our view can be sometimes. I recommend that this be added to any screenwriter's library as a reference.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Best Of - Indiana Jones 4

Hey guys,

Yesterday, shooting wrapped for Indiana Jones IV. Film news sites like Ain't It Cool News,,,, IGN, ComingSoon, LatinoReview and Slashfilm were invited to the set and all came back with glowing reports and interviews with Spielberg who shared a few Indy 4 details, which I will let you discover for yourself. (You can get a summary here.)

I enjoyed Slashfilm's article. Peter Sciretta wrote, "Steven gushed about how a film frame is alive with movement and film grain and that digital video is 'too perfect.' Lucas tried to convince Steven that they could add the film grain to the digital image, which Spielberg found totally amusing because doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose? And wouldn’t it just be easier to shoot the whole thing on film?" Spielberg also confirmed that "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has been the official title for the fourth for almost a year now (our notes have the script being handed in early fall of last year which totally makes sense). Spielberg admitted for the first time publicly that they did release a couple bogus titles (including the much reported City of the Gods) to feed speculation and allow them to be the ones to 'make the title announcement.'"

The most interesting development lately, for me, was the interview with Lucas on MTV in which he revealed that ALL 5 writers they hired for Indy IV worked on stories involving Crystal Skulls. By my count, that would go all the way back to Jeffrey Boam in 1995, and every rumor we've heard since then from all the fanboy and media websites were lies. But those lies were SO much fun.

To celebrate, I'm reposting one of my most popular articles, the one that chronicled the long, sordid history of Indy IV on the web. For me, the last great Indiana Jones adventure is not the release of the 4th film, but the day that we can (hopefully) read and compare all of those different drafts and see for ourselves what worked and what didn't. That day may never come, but we can dream...

Hope you enjoy the article.




Harrison Ford revealed at the Venice Film Festival that he was considering playing his most famous character one last time. (It's been long acknowledged
and reported that Spielberg and Lucas were DONE with the Indiana Jones series, but Harrison Ford has been the one pushing for the fourth film.) A couple of months later, that “bastion of investigative journalism,” the Daily Mail, ran a story (titled "From Speed to Ford Escort") claiming that Sandra Bullock would play Indy's "sparky" sidekick in Indiana Jones And The Lost Continent, which allegedly concerned the fate of Atlantis, a rumor that Variety put to rest. "While Nazis and various cultists couldn't stop Indy, the lack of a suitable script has pushed back the fourth installment in the series for the time being," the article said.


By Oct, we knew that Jeffrey Boam was working on scripts for Indiana Jones IV and Lethal Weapon 4. In
an article in Variety, Boam was quoted as saying that Spielberg wanted the pic to be shot almost entirely in L.A. Only one week will be on location, probably in Honduras. Russia had first been planned. "And," added Boam, Harrison Ford will play his own age, "so he can limp and/or wear glasses!" Apparently, Boam had been asked to flesh out the MacGuffin that Steven and Harrison didn’t want to do. Empire reported that the story concerned an attempt to foil a Soviet plot to establish a missile base on the moon, or had something to do with the UFO crash at Roswell, New Mexico, or both. I can’t imagine why Ford and Spielberg wouldn’t want to do THAT. Poor Jeffrey.


In a Drew Babcock interview (which I can't find anymore - only referenced here), Spielberg assured the world that Atlantis had not been considered as part of the scripting process and mentioned that the script "had to do with Adam and Eve." After Babcock did some digging, a source at Paramount told him that the title Indiana Jones and the Garden of Life was being tossed around. In May ‘96, a script entitled
Indiana Jones And The Sons Of Darkness, which was credited to Boam, hit the web from someone who claimed to have lifted it from Lucasfilm's offices. As reported by Empire, “The script, which concerned a race by Indy to beat the Russians to the remnants of Noah's Ark, was removed from the web a day after its initial posting, fuelling rumors that it was genuine.” Fans were invited to post feedback because "Lucasfilm is monitoring the Web to assess what Indy fans do and don't want to see." In truth, the folks at Lucasfilm had nicknamed this script "Indiana Jones and the Sons of Plagiarism." Four months and several cease-and-desist notices later, ambitious Indy fan, Robert Smith, fessed up to having written a bogus script. Later, Kevin Costner and Tom Selleck were rumored to play Indy's 'bad seed' brother.


This is the year that brought us Chris Columbus’s
Indiana Jones and the Monkey King. At the time, Columbus was known for writing and directing Goonies. He would later go on to direct a couple of Harry Potter films. In any case, the story of Monkey King had Indy, Marcus Brody, English anthropologist Dr. Clare Clarke and 'Scraggy', a Portuguese guide, on the trail of a legendary Chinese artifact, which was believed to hold the secret of eternal life. We would learn later that this was in fact, a rejected Indy 3 script. (The absence of Henry Jones Sr. would’ve been your first clue, and sadly, the actor who played Marcus Brody had passed away in ’92). Of this story, Justin Clark (Ugo Screenwriter’s voice) wrote, “Where Columbus commits his most cardinal sins is with the characters. Long story short, they're cartoons. Indy is an asympathetic womanizer, with only fleeting hints of confidence, and constantly being made the fool by his situations. Screwing up Indy right off the bat should've been where Columbus put the pen (well, nowadays, keyboard) down, and handed over script duties to someone else, but sadly, it doesn't stop there. He also sees fit to saddle Indy with a virtual army of stereotypes (particularly, the stiff, British female scientist who guides him to a stray member of the lost city, and the superstitious African who drives him and his crew around while spouting words of wisdom from his many gods) and annoying sidekicks, none more so than Betsy, a clinging, pain-in-the-ass harpy who, somehow, we're supposed to think has chemistry with Indy. If you thought Willie Scott's perpetual screaming was a problem, she'll look like Katherine Hepburn by comparison. Some of the script's most cringe-worthy moments come from her. And the second I realized the characterizations weren't getting any better, that's when I realized this script, no matter what came later, wouldn't work. And believe does get worse, especially once Sun Wu Kung shows up.”

Also in ’97, there was the rumor (from the now defunct Corona site) in which Lucas told a Dutch TV magazine that Indy will have a son. In May '97,
Spielberg told Variety that he, Lucas, and Ford are "tenacious" about a fourth "Indiana Jones." "We are totally committed to one -- if the story is right, of course." Speaking of tenacious, the rumor about his brother just would not die. Posted on the web was a note from an anonymous Paramount source who said that Indy would not only have a brother but he would also be cast by an unknown. In late '97, Corona got word about a minister and a theologian who were asked to do some historical accuracy checking on the Indy IV script. Apparently, the script dealt with the Garden of Eden and was very "religious in tone." Also in '97, Aint it Cool News spread the rumor about Indy being in his 50's searching for Noah's Ark and that Lawrence Kasdan was the writer. They also reported a rumor about a quest for Shangri-la, which was utterly baseless.


In January, Dark Horizons posted what it claimed to be the opening pages of another script, entitled
Raiders of the Fallen Empire, which sounds like a reference to the Roman Empire, but apparently it had to do with Indy's discovery of the Garden of Eden. No matter. It was a hoax. (According to Corona, this debacle stressed out a few Paramount execs. Rumor has it that Lucas was very interested in “Fallen Empire,” but it was an unsolicited spec script, and he had not yet decided whether to purchase it. Even though there is still very little known about this script, the mere leaking of the title is said to have been enough to send blood pressures rising.) Later, rumors flew from Corona that Mark Hamill was being considered to play a villain in the Indy sequel. Hamill's "people," however, assured Cinescape that the rumor had no basis in fact. In May, Mr. Showbiz spoke with Jeffrey Boam about his rumored Lost Continent script. He said that he hadn't heard of anything called that, and in fact, he was told not to place a name on the script he turned in two years prior and had not heard anything about it since. In November, Lucas told those at the Screen Producers' Association conference held in Australia that the Indy IV script had been completed. He cited the availability of Ford and Spielberg as the remaining obstacle. However, later interviews with Ford and Spielberg would indicate that all were not in agreement with this script. Then there was the "Law of One" rumor in which Cinescape was handed a script where the action took place in 1953 and involved a "race to harness the power of the ancient device which was responsible for the destruction of Atlantis." Uh huh. Willie Scott also appeared in this script. '98 also brought us a new legitimate script, Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men From Mars, which came out of the blue and was apparently written by The Fugitive scribe Jeb Stuart from a story by Stuart and Lucas. Saucer Men From Mars concerned an alien artifact that constantly changes hands between Indy, Russian baddies, and a group of extra-terrestrials. Indy gets married to beautiful linguist Dr. Elaine McGregor, but the ceremony gets interrupted by the arrival of Elaine's ex-husband, Bolander who takers her away to White Sands, New Mexico. There, a spacecraft has crash-landed, killing its alien occupants and sparking a race between the Americans and Soviets to discover the secrets of the alien ship's fuel supply, a stone cylinder covered in hieroglyphics. The wedding was great fun.


There was the rumor that Dennis Lawson, the guy who played Wedge Antilles in Star Wars, was set to portray Belloq's brother seeking revenge for the events of Raiders, which was flatly denied. And then there was the
Sword of Arthur script, which was a hoax. However, the pranksters cleverly peppered their pages with "Property of Lucasfilm Ltd," which made it almost feel real. The story had to do with the search for King Arthur's magical sword, Excalibur, which was reputedly hidden on Enigma Island, a small isle off the Spanish coast, six centuries earlier. The Nazis are after it, too, as are the surviving descendants of the original Knights of the Round Table. Indy and his companions - Including Anthony Brody (Marcus' son) and Arianna Smith (a kind of female Indy, as might be guessed from the name) - recover the sword, only to have it snatched from their grasp by the arm of a woman who reaches up from the Atlantic Ocean to reclaim it forever. (Indy loses an eye during one fight and has to wear an eye-patch the rest of the film.) The “aspiring writers,” Steven Frye and Michael Prentice, claimed to have been duped into parting with the script, unaware it would be touted as the real thing.

Lest we forget, 1999 also brought us Indiana Jones and the Red Scare, which hit the web on July 17. This 12-page treatment,
as reported by Empire, “allegedly seen by someone working at Industrial Light & Magic, was set in the early 1950s, as Indy is retained by Eisenhower's administration to find out about the Russians' retrieval of artifacts found in Hitler's bunker. No one has ever owned up to the treatment.”


There was the rumor that Natalie Portman, while on the set of Star Wars, asked Lucas if she could
play the role of Indy's daughter, Idaho. Spielberg told an Italian newspaper, “Actually, I have to answer that same question all the time: 'Dad, when are you going to film a new Indiana Jones movie?' But tonight I want to make a promise - Indiana Jones is coming back soon.” That was seven years ago. Then there was M. Night Shyamalan, who, fresh off his success from Sixth Sense, admitted on The Howard Stern Show that he'd met with Spielberg, was in early talks to do something with Indy, and that he would love to write the script. Shortly thereafter, Variety reported that Shyamalan was on board to write the new script and that filming would begin in 2002. But then we’re told scheduling didn’t work out. Uh huh. Harrison Ford described his departure as "the failure of George and Steven to attend to him." Lucas admitted he would not be able to give the project his full attention until he completed the new Star Wars trilogy… in 2005.

On a side note - Jeffrey Boam, one of the first reported Indy IV screenwriters would pass away this year due to heart disease, sadly. You just have to love Jeffrey Boam. He wrote some fun scripts – Innerspace, The Dead Zone, The Lost Boys, Funny Farm, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and of course, Lethal Weapon 2 and 3. We’ll miss you, buddy.


What? No fake scripts this year? I’m disappointed.


In January, we’re told that they
already have a title. Spielberg said, “Kate is in it.” Ford is quoted as saying that they finally have “the right script.” But then, in February, Empire reported that they approached Stephen Gaghan to write a new screenplay, which didn’t work out. In April, Empire reported that they’re courting Tom Stoppard to write a new screenplay. A couple of days later, Lucas confessed, "There is a scene where a lot of Indy's ex-girlfriends show up, but they are not major characters." This had to have been a direct reference to Jeb Stuart’s script, an idea that apparently everyone still wants to use. In May, we’re given the news that Frank Darabont has taken the helm as the new screenwriter. In July, we learn that the story will be set in the 1950s, and there will be no Nazis. In December 2002, while promoting Catch Me if You Can, Spielberg said he planned to shoot two films before Indiana Jones 4 in 2004 for a release the year after. He also dismissed shooting it digitally.


Frank Marshall said that there will be
no son for Indiana Jones. He said, "We're sticking with Indy on his own. He still gets around pretty good." Really. In June '03, Variety told us that Frank Darabont whipped Indiana Jones 4 into shape for a 2004 start. Woo hoo! In August, Darabont said the words that brought such warmth to my heart: "I absolutely don't want to do things like having him say, 'I'm getting too old for this shit...' I don't want to be slipping and sliding in cliches. This character is no longer in the 1930s. He has to age honestly. He's got to be in the 1950s." Amen to that. In September, Ford told Variety: "Steven Spielberg and myself have reserved time in 2004 to begin shooting." (Some claim that Darabont’s title was Indiana Jones and the City of Gods.) Also in September, the question about the use of CGI came up, and Frank Marshall told Empire: “I think we're going to try and rely, like the first two movies, on realism and not try to do too many things with the computer... When you start getting into computers you get fantastical situations like in the Matrix or movies like that. We don't want that, we want exciting heroism, we want seat-of-your-pants, skin-of-your-teeth action. We didn't have all the money in the world on the first films and we want to keep that B-Movie feel. We want to make Indy 4 like we made the first three.”

And finally, a UK website for women called FemaleFirst
alleged that an insider on the production told them that Spielberg told Ford to "'get off of any and all exercise programs.' It's been 15 years since the last Indy movie and obviously Harrison has got a lot older but that's not a problem for this movie," the "insider" told FemaleFirst. "Steven doesn't want a middle-aged guy trying to look young — he wants to bring a new type of hero to the screen. He's going to be older and wiser and a lot less physical than Indy of old." Oh. Hmm.


In January, Darabont turned in his script. "I've finished my work,” he said, “now it's in the hands of God, or Spielberg and Lucas if you prefer.” But a month later, Lucas
rejected Darabont’s script despite the fact that Spielberg was so excited about this script that he told Darabont this was the “best draft of anything since Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Darabont said, “The project went down in flames. Steven and I looked like accident victims the day we got that call. I certainly don't blame Steven for it. He wasn't in a position to overrule George, and wouldn't have overruled him even if he could. He and George have been close friends for a long time, and they've had an agreement for years that no Indiana Jones film will ever get made unless they both completely agreed on the script. It was just such an awful surprise, after all my hopes and effort. I really felt I'd nailed it, and so did Steven.”

In October, we learn that Jeff Nathanson, writer of Catch Me If You Can, was
brought in to do the rewrite. Not only that, it was a PAGE ONE rewrite. Spielberg would later say in an interview that none of Darabont's script will be used. At all. Zip. All we will know about Nathanson’s script is that he moved it back to the '40s. Later that year, while shooting War of the Worlds, Spielberg met with stuntman Vic Armstrong to discuss three stunt sequences he had envisioned.


In January, Ford
gave a deadline and said that if they didn’t make this movie by 2008, forget about it. Later that month, Spielberg confirmed that Indiana Jones 4 will be his next film, calling it "the sweet dessert I give those who had to chow down on the bitter herbs that I've used in Munich.” He would later say he’s “taking a year off.” In May, Lucas is quoted in Time Magazine as saying that he didn’t plan to make anymore Indy films. In June, Ford made a joke at a press conference that the working title of Indy IV was Indiana Jones and the Opal of the Mer-Man Prince. The news spread like wildfire across the web, and a week later, Spielberg had to issue an official statement to kill the story. A few months later, there was the rumor about Spielberg visiting the set of Memoirs of a Geisha and telling Michelle Yeoh he still wants her for Indy IV. (Her agency reported in '98 that she met with him to discuss her role in Indy IV.) Close to the end of the year, we’re told that Nathanson’s script was "finished" and "approved."


Apparently, Nathanson’s script was NOT "finished" and "approved," because in February,
Entertainment Weekly reported that Spielberg himself was working on the script. May '06, Frank Marshall confirmed that there might be a desert. Oh. Nice. Then, on June 23, David Koepp was hired to polish the script. It would be “due” in a few months. He’s Spielberg’s trusted “closer.” Really. And then came Connery's official retirement despite Lucas' public assurance that he will push him into doing it. In an August ’06 interview in Empire Magazine, Lucas said, “We’re basically going to do The Phantom Menace. People’s expectations are way higher than you can deliver. You could just get killed for the whole thing… We would do it for fun and just take the hit with the critics and the fans.” (I don't know about you, but as a screenwriter, as a lifelong lover of movies and Spielberg and Lucas and Indiana Jones, that sends CHILLS up my spine.) The article went on to say that the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation freed up an idea for a plot that was originally deemed too incendiary. “I discovered a McGuffin,” continued Lucas. “I told the guys about it and they were a little dubious, but it’s the best one we’ve ever found… Unfortunately, it was a little too ‘connected’ for the others. They were afraid of what the critics would think. They said, 'Can’t we do it with a different McGuffin? Can’t we do this?' and I said 'No.' So we pottered around with that for a couple of years. Then Harrison really wanted to do it and Steve said, 'Okay.' I said, 'We’ll have to go back to that original MacGuffin and take out the offending parts and still use that area of the supernatural do deal with it.'” Hmm. In Sep '06, Karen Allen may have reignited rumors that Indy will have a daughter. (That rumor has been recently squashed.) And then, of course, in December 29, 2006, Ford, Lucas, and Spielberg confirmed that they will be shooting the movie, which will be released May 22, 2008. Production will start on June 18, 2007. All we know is that it will be a “character piece” with “very interesting mysteries.”

Do you know what the picture above is? No, it's not the government warehouse where they stored the Ark of the Covenant. This is, in fact, where they store all of the Indy IV drafts. Hehehe...


Official Indiana Jones site’s Indy 4 Page’s Indy 4 Page
Slash Film’s Indy 4 News Page
Rotten Tomatoes’ Indy 4 News Page’s Indy 4 Page
Raven’s Definitive Indy 4 Speculation Index


Raiders of the Lost Ark (Third Draft, August 1979)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Undated, unspecified)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Undated, unspecified)

Legitimate but rejected Scripts:

Chris Columbus’
Indiana Jones and the Monkey King
Jeb Stuart’s Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars (zip file)

Honest and Dishonest Fakes:

Fake Indiana Jones Scripts
Fan Fiction here and here.