Friday, December 28, 2007

Screenwriting News for the Holiday Blues!

Stocky: One Man vs Christmas Dinner

This sensational holiday vid was put together by our good friend and writer / filmmaker Tim Clague. Great job, man.



You may have heard the gossipy lip-smacking amongst fanboys the world over following the release of I Am Legend over a billboard (visible early in the film) of a Batman vs. Superman film to be released on 5/15/10. There’s nothing to get excited about. It was just an Easter Egg-y gag suggested by Akiva Goldsman who worked on the Batman vs. Superman screenplay (when it was oh-so-close to being produced). However, due to of all this recent talk, I thought it’d be fun to post (soon) a review of Batman vs. Superman, because there are some great lessons to be learned from
Goldsman’s script. (Err, I should say “Goldsman’s revision of Andrew Kevin Walker’s script.”)

Also, a new article from Miriam Paschal on the “Shower Scenes of Brian DePalma” (that’s been months in the making) will be published soon (with over 60 photos)!

So stick around. Hope you enjoy the links.



New Screenplays:

Fox Searchlight’s
For Your Consideration, which offers The Darjeeling Limited, Juno, Once, The Savages, Waitress, and The Namesake.

For Your Consideration, which offers American Gangster, Breach, Knocked Up, The Kingdom, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

For Your Consideration, which offers No Country For Old Men, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Gone Baby Gone, and The Hoax.

And Paramount Vantage’s
For Your Consideration, which offers A Mighty Heart, Into the Wild, The Kite Runner, and There Will Be Blood.


Lists, Lists, Lists:

Mad Screenwriter’s “New Screenwriting Books for 2008”

Lucy Vee’s
Required Reading for Screenwriters
Articles about everything from Dialogue to Structure to Characters.

Best of Joshua James who turned three this year.

Rhys Southan’s
List of Non-WGA Signatory Production Companies
“Most of the production companies I've found through Everyone Who's Anyone, cross-checking the companies they list with the list of struck companies on the WGA site, and making sure the non-struck companies have updated web sites and are still making movies. I'll be updating this as I find more…”

DexPac’s “Pottentially Usefull ScreenWriting Links”
(Dude – There’s no “TT” in “potentially” and only one “L” in “useful.” And you don’t have to capitalize the “W” in “screenwriting,” either.) Still, a decent list.

Dave Kehr writes about the 25 titles that were recently added to the National Film Registry: “Once again, it's a diverse, wide-ranging selection, not intended as any kind of 'best' list (though inevitably it is interpreted that way) but instead as a reflection of American film culture in all of its forms and fashions, from home movies (the extraordinary Our Day, a 1938 film by Wallace Kelly of Lebanon, Kentucky, that displays a more sophisticated sense of mise-en-scene than the great majority of current Hollywood features) to the most expensive and elaborate industrial products (Back to the Future, Close Encounters of the Third Kind).”

And here’s
Roger Ebert’s 2007 Top 10 List. Here’s Jim Emerson’s list in a convenient montage format. Here are lists from NYT critics - A.O. Scott, Manohla Dargis and Stephen Holden. Here’s Girish. Her’s Caryn James on actors and their labors of love. And – OH, SCREW IT - here’s a comprehensive list of lists.


Photostreams for the Visually-Oriented Writers:

Rodrigo Adonis


Paul Grand

vaneska~tHOmz's photos

Jason Hightower




Filmmaker’s Ronin is Looking for a Screenplay
“Serious Inquires only. If you do not understand the meaning of 3 acts or more, please do not reply. We are looking to option a feature script for a negotiable amount. Our website is under construction. If you email us the script there is about a 99% chance it will not be reviewed. Please send a hard copy only. You will be contacted if we are interested.”

14-Year-Old Needs Advice on Screenwriting
“Ok, I have a real interest in screenwriting. Ever since I was 6 & I’m now 14. I was really inspired in this field by the wonderful works of Michael Imperioli. Or as he’s probably best known as Chris Moltisanti on the Sopranos. I write a lot of stuff and my friends say I’m really talented at it, but I would like to improve a little. I would like to improve on how to think up characters and a good plot, and whats the best way to improve on scripts? If anyone could give me a good website, or some advice would be very much appreciated! Also what is the best screenwriting software for a computer? Thanks!”

Unk on Your First Ten Pages
“These first 10 pages have to grab the reader and hopefully, your audience — and inject them with quite a few things but probably most important of all? These 10 pages have to send a clear message to the reader and your audience that they are in for the read and or movie of their lives! These 10 pages need to scream out to the reader and audience that everything they ever thought they knew about screenplays and movies is now going out the fucking window because Baby… You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

John August on
Characters who are not yet important
“Yes. If a character needs to be in a scene, you need to put him there. If you don’t, there’s every possibility he’ll get dropped out of the schedule when it comes time to shoot that scene. Screenplays are literary works, but they’re also instructions. Recipes of a sort. While it might be tempting to leave something out — “Of course they’ll remember that Balthazar is at the funeral!” — assumptions like this invite mistakes.”

(August would also like for you to
nominate his script, The Nines, which is available for download here. Dude – it was a good script, but it’s not Oscar-worthy.)

Alex Epstein says:
Don’t be afraid of Negotiating
“The only producers who can be ‘scared off’ by contracts are those who plan not to pay you what they promised. And the only producers who will be scared off by a legit agent are those who want to rip you off.”

Strongest film scripts come from dive into unknown
“Blending the unique and the familiar is a challenge for any writer, but many writers in contention for this year's original screenplay Oscar have stretched the boundaries of what audiences will accept, sometimes challenging them to find the familiar in the most unfamiliar things of all.”

Emily Blake’s
Eight shows action writers should see
“3) Myth Busters. Discovery Channel.
“Please tell me you've seen Mythbusters. Adam and Jamie, two former special effects guys, and their crew test out common legends to see if they're true. From this show I have learned that you should touch metal before you touch the gas pump if you've been sitting in the car at the station, you cannot talk to each other while freefalling from an airplane, and throwing a lighted match into a pool of gasoline will not start a fire. Plus, they blow stuff up real good.”

For Whom Do We Write?
“It's the eternal question: For whom does a writer write? The lofty answer, of course, is ‘I write for me.’ A better answer must always be, it depends. Let us lucubrate together.” (Confession: I posted this link just because it said “Let us lucubrate together.”)

‘Taking Of Pelham’ Not As Easy As ‘123,’ Says Screenwriter
"Four hijackers overtake a NYC subway car, override the “dead-man’s switch” – a fail-safe which is supposed to ensure a human driver – manage to extort a $1 million ransom, and then escape off the train before sending it hurtling around the bowels of Manhattan, ensuring that police all head the wrong way. To call the plan at the center of 1974’s “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” genius is an understatement. But how in the world would it work today – with passengers all carrying cell phones, with GPS, with laptop computers and thermo-imaging? That’s the big dilemma for screenwriter David Koepp, who recently adapted the novel for director Tony Scott and star Denzel Washington."

Writer arrested after criticising Beijing Olympics
“Wang was arrested when police came and searched his home in the Quanzhou Chengbei district of Guilin on the afternoon of 13 December, removing articles, books and his computer. His family said he was accused of defamation and was taken to the Quanzhou Chengbei police station in the early evening. Later that night, the family learned that he had been charged with ‘inciting subversion of state authority.’”

Shatner May End Up in Star Trek XI, Says Screenwriter
“’Still, it could happen,’ Orci admitted after explaining to SciFi that the problem is two fold: ‘One, from our point of view, we are still hoping to find a way. Secondly, one of the difficulties that was brought up and discussed with Shatner when we all met him and pitched him ideas is that Trek fans are sticklers for their canon. [And,] unfortunately, Shatner’s Captain Kirk was killed in Star Trek VII [1994’s Generations].’”

Lost Boys 2 Writer Still Believes
“Leader of the new vamp pack is actor Angus Sutherland, real-life brother of Kiefer, here playing Shane who travels the world with his fanged chums. Yes, they're surfing vampires. But Rodionoff is quick to dismiss that these are not the stereotypical ‘bro’ and ‘dude’-dropping wave riders we've seen in cinema countless times. Roving gypsies is more like it. Traveling the world and pissed off that they've been deprived of sunlight. ‘You don't really get to see them surfing much in the movie. I didn't want them to be fake and create surfers that don't exist. If I did that, I knew my surfer friends were going to be beat me up and then the horror crowd would beat me up," he laughs. "The idea isn't that they were vampires who decided to start surfing. They were surfers who, while they were in Fiji or something, were attacked. They can't go in the sun. They have to get their kicks now in other ways - which translates to killing. They're not what you think of when you say surfers.’”

Zach Campbell’s
The Moment of Death
“Like Blow-Up, The Passenger affirms the impossibility of seeing the crime in the present. Here the moment of transition from the living to the dead body is concealed, maintained offscreen through a complex camera movement that traces a hollow space, installs a void in the center of the scene, and empties out vision from within. The camera, and the spectator with it, sees from this groundless position, this invisible space in which somebody is dying. Through a complete reversal of perspective, the vanishing point, the point sanctioning the disappearance of the scene, is being projected all the way back to the viewpoint and even behind it.”

GreenCine: Nicole Brenez, author of one of the most superlatively praised film books in recent memory, Abel Ferrara, opens the new issue of Rouge with "Shops of Horror: Notes for a Visual History of the Reification of Emotion in a Capitalist Regime, or (to put it more bluntly) 'Fuck the Money,'" a piece so musical it's got an overture. The parameters are laid - "Three low-budget auteur films" - before we head out on explorations within them, circling first close to home, then wider. Not too far along, for example: "The Shop Around the Corner takes, as its premise, the female fantasy of the Ideal Man - in order, finally, to describe the relations of force in the world of work. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie invents nightmarish narrative forms and deconstructs its narrative so as to liberate figurative possibilities linked to the female body. Go Go Tales addresses - under the cover of a lighthearted reverie - the nightmare that human relations have become in a capitalist regime."

Justine hosted a Powell and Pressburger Blog-a-Thon.

Just read
Offscreen’s issue on “Popular Italian Cinema.” Here are some great essays:
File Under Fire: A brief history of Italian crime films
Italy by Caliber 9 –The Films of Fernando di Leo
Crime Naples Style: The Guapparia Movie
Homosexuality and the Italian Spaghetti Western
All the Colors of the Dark vs. They’re Coming to Get You

Paul Thomas Anderson: Tracking through a Fantastic Reality
“André Crous argues the case for P. T. Anderson as the finest contemporary exponent of the tracking shot in all its varying glory and complexity.”

There Will Be Blood -
Take 1 and Take 2.

(The script is now
available here.)

Talk is Cheap: City of Lights
“What is there left to be said about City Lights? Everything that can be written, it seems, has been written. The greatest ending in the history of cinema. Orson Welles’ favorite film. Chaplin’s masterpiece that could only have been made after the advent of sound. And so on, and so on. That the masterpiece of silent cinema could only have been made after the talkies began seems an especially prescient point; watching City Lights, with its dialogue-as-robotic-squawking opening, I felt increasingly aware of the purity of silence. The silent form, as employed by Chaplin, forces a certain distance from the Tramp that allows us to empathize with him in a way we could not empathize with a character we heard speak. Of course, the other comment that begs to be made is that, with sound, the grandiosity, the mythicness of the film -- be it City Lights' ambitious comedic sequences, or its moments of silent poignancy -- could not be taken seriously.”


On the Contest Circuit:

Movie Script Contest Announces Contest Winners Announces Quarter Finalists

New Screenplay Contest will Produce Winning Screenplay
“The grand prize in this new screenwriting contest is something every screenwriter wants — a produced movie. will pick one winner and make the movie this year. Portland, OR (PRWEB) May 5, 2005 — It’s nice to win the grand prize in screenplay contests, but odds are, the winning screenplay just won’t get produced. If you examine the statistics of the most prestigious screenplay contest around, the Nicolls Fellowship Screenwriting Competition, you’ll see, according to their website, 68,000 screenplays were submitted over 18 years and a mere 84 fellows were selected. Of those 84 fellows, only about 35 of those have been produced. Not good numbers. But a new screenplay contest,, will produce the winning screenplay and market it to television and theatrical distributors.”

Disney Fellowship 2008 update

"So, here’s the 411 on the 2008 Disney Fellowship. The 2008 Fellowhsip year will not start until the writer’s strike is over. The selection process has continued on as usual. If you have applied for the 2008 Disney Fellowship and you have not gotten a call from them, then you did not get in. 'Dear John' letter started arriving in mailboxes this week."

Here’s Lianne’s
2008: Dates for Your Diary (Part 1)
For example, here’s January:

Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship Program

Orange/Bafta 60 Seconds of Fame Contest
Create a 60-second film on the theme 'unite'.

dumbFUNDED Theatre Sketch Competition
8 minute comedy sketches on the theme "‘Town & Country".

HighTide Theatre Festival submissionsRequesting submissions from playwrights with plays of no more than 90 minutes and 'emerging' theatre companies looking at developing a piece.

Scripapalooza Screenplay Competition Early Bird Deadline

Sony TropFest Short Film Competition

17th International Writing Contest Final Deadline

15th: Britspotting 2008:
Call for entries

PAGE International Screenwriting Awards early deadline

Filmbase Short Film Awards
Applicants must be fully paid up members of Filmbase as of the deadline.

Alcantara Movie Contest
Filmmakers must create a 3 minute film around the theme of the extraordinary, every day concept.

24/7 Theatre Festival Call for Scripts
Plays under 60 minutes.

Drama Association of Wales One Act Playwriting Competition



Dave Can’t Wait
“DAVID Letterman is poised to announce tomorrow that he is going back on the air Jan. 2 - with or without his writers.”

Report weighs ripple effect of writers strike on Street
"The report, a primer on the Hollywood writers' strike, seeks to figure out how the ongoing labor disruption might affect stock prices of the media conglomerates. The answer is: not much. Even if the writers' demands are met as currently proposed, their new wages and reuse fees will amount to just $32.2 million for Time Warner over the next three years. After TW, the new WGA contract would impact NBC Universal most, at $23.2 million over three years. After that it's News Corp. ($19.5 million), Walt Disney ($19.3 million), Sony ($16.9 million), Viacom ($16.5 million) and CBS ($4.9 million)."

Pants, WGA talks short of deal
"We had a substantive discussion today with the WGA and look forward to continuing these talks next week," said Rob Burnett

Writers have a lot riding on a director
“A deal on a new contract between the directors and the studios could not only undercut the writers' demands, it could weaken the position of actors. The powerful Screen Actors Guild, whose contract expires in June, has supported the writers. But Hollywood has a history of "pattern bargaining," in which the first contract settled between one of the talent unions and the studios tends to become the template for subsequent contracts.”

Alec Baldwin’s take on the Strike
“when Bruce Willis was paid $5 million for a movie, things began to change. We entered a period wherein everyone wanted, and got, more. You knew that things were distorted when agents started getting rich. Not the owners of the agencies, not the Norman Brokaws on the scene. Regular Ten Percenters began making seven figures. That was a big change. Once agents saw salaries rise and their own income potential with it, the old school practices of developing clients began to die. If you want to get repped by a good agency today, you have to walk in the door printing money.”

The AMPTP Is Probably Winning. Now They Should Shut Up.
“The AMPTP has the upper hand right now not because they are so good, but because the WGA's leadership is so bad. You don't conduct a public relations war when there is no "public" to "relate" to. The AMPTP should stop their PR releases, erase their website in favor of a simple logo and an email address. And shut their mouths. Talk to the WGA, not the public. The public is playing Guitar Hero and trying to find a Wii.”

Controversy Erupts After WGA Lets Dave's 2 Late Night Shows Return With Writers

Apple Files Patent for WGA-style Anti-Piracy Tech

127 Striking Writers With Pilots Pending Write Xmas Letter To Hollywood Bigshots

Attempt Fails To Restart WGA-AMPTP Talks; Outlook Very Grim

Here's Striking WGAE Xmas Statement

The Reality Behind Rumors

WGA Allowing Writers On Indie Awards

WGA Decries Stewart/Colbert Return

AMPTP Shuns LA City Council Hearing...

Variety's AMPTP Ad Has "Technical Glitch"

Disney/ABC Twisting Truth About WGA

No WGA Waivers For Globes Or Oscars (And Other News From Tonight's Meeting); AMPTP Nominates WGA For "Worst Union"

DGA & WGA Meet To Discuss New Media

AMPTP Statement Recycles Same Old Shit


I dedicate this final link to Mickey Lee who recently told me “I love ya man, but one more article on Diablo Cody and I'm gonna scream.”

But you see, not only have I seen Juno (and loved it) but her script is now
available online (which I expect you to read, Mickey, and give me a full report – Hehehe…). Not only THAT, The City Pages of Minneapolis / St. Paul has what may be the best Diablo Cody interview - EVER. It covers the downside to success (“Yeah, I mean there's a lot of pressure. I suffer from feelings of unworthiness on a daily basis. I think of myself as a novice writer, and I am. I have so much to learn.”), misconceptions about her (“The one probably biggest misconception about me is that I'm out there courting publicity. I've never solicited an interview in my entire life. People want to talk to me. When I went on Letterman, people on the internet were snarking, ‘Oh, she must have a hell of a publicist.’ I didn't have one. I went on that show because Dave Letterman read my book and liked it. And I know that seems so improbable that a first-time writer would just randomly wind up on Letterman, but that's what happened to me. And that's how my life works, for some reason.”), and finally, some good advice (“But there's one bit of advice I have that is going to make me sound like a douche bag. And that is, when you're in a competitive environment, always give out the impression that you don't care. It makes people want you more. If you act desperate, it's over. I think a passive attitude is helpful. It comes naturally because I'm lazy. If I show up to a meeting in flip-flops, it makes me seem extremely appealing for some reason. But it wasn't something I orchestrated. I just didn't feel like putting on regular shoes.”).

Plus, you get a

Below are a few of those pics. I love you, too, man.


Happy New Year.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Hey guys,

Hope all your Christmas wishes come true.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Internet’s Impact on Cinema

Hey guys,

What do people look to get out of films today? Has it changed since the explosion of the internet? I’m going to share four ideas I’ve been mulling over for quite some time about how the internet has influenced the future of screenwriting...


1. Sex no longer sells.

I wonder if the failure of Basic Instinct II should mark the end of an era where sex in film sells. As a result of free porn on the internet, which has
sent the porn industry into a financial windfall, people don’t look to movies to see nudity like they used to. Even if the hottest movie star shows skin in some new film, odds are that those images will get leaked on the web long before it ever hits the theaters, and thus, the film must fall back on something else to sell tickets – like story? I suspect sexy sells more nowadays than sex.

There was an interesting article by Dylan van Rijsbergen called
Sexing the Handbag. He wrote: “Time has come to start a new movement inventing new images of sexuality and pornography. Time has come for a new Jan Wolkers, male or female, someone who can write powerful stories of authentic sexuality. Time has come for all kinds of individuals in the media, art and literature to invigorate the tired imagery of commercial porn. Time has come for a slow sex movement, which stretches sexuality beyond the single moment of the male orgasm. Time has come to return sexuality to what it has always been: elusive, exciting, intense, playful, authentic, dynamic and sublime.


2. No more political blab-fests.

Did you guys see Variety’s
review of Lions for Lambs?

Talky, back-bendingly liberal but also deeply patriotic, Lions for Lambs plays like all the serious footnotes scripter du jour Matthew Michael Carnahan left out of The Kingdom… Schematic idea sounds bold on paper: three separate events, played out roughly in real screen time across three separate timezones, with each potentially cross-fertilizing the others. Problem is, as the cross-cutting proceeds, it becomes increasingly evident that each yarn exists in its own, very specific frame of reference, with no real human drama to buttress the moral-political conflict… In addressing the issue of the U.S. role as both world policeman and a credible force for good, Carnahan's screenplay thus takes three clearly defined avenues of approach: the practical (Rodriguez-Finch), the political (Irving-Roth) and the philosophical (Malley-Hayes). All three avenues, however, lead nowhere in particular… The to-and-fro of their political debate [between Cruise and Streep] gives both actors a fine workout, and plays to the strengths of their screen personas. But as Carnahan's script dutifully checks off the issues, it becomes clear the discourse is leading nowhere, and is merely a rerun of arguments already extensively aired by media around the world. Roth has no new arguments to propose, and Irving's only solution is more positive action. With almost no character backgrounding beyond repping various schools of thought, the actors largely get by on screen charisma…

There is nothing you can verbally say about anything political in a film that hasn’t already been said in previous films or somewhere else in the media or in greater detail on the internet. Why spend $9 per person to hear someone say something in a film that we’ve already read online for free? While the activism is commendable, looking forward to writing future films, I think the emphasis has to be on compelling human drama, because you can no longer have main characters designed to be simple mouthpieces of practical, political, or philosophical points of view - unless it’s truly unique.

Screenwriting has become a venue for the heart. People look to films more for an emotional and artistic experience than an intellectual one. I love what Francis Ford Coppola said in the Apocalypse Now Redux commentary: “In a way, you know, cinema is more like poetry than literature. It’s all about expressing things and saying things that you don’t say and trying to say it in another way – to use metaphor, or simile, or allegory or any of these other poetic techniques where you express one thing by, in fact, showing something quite different – and the audience puts it together. Cinema is at its best when it expresses things without really expressing them.”


3. Screenwriters will be pushed more into the public eye.

Scripts are regularly leaked onto the web. We have to now expect our scripts to get leaked and analyzed in the media. Not only that, there’s a growing appetite by the public to read scripts, and there’s a lot more public discussion about how well a screenwriter handled a story. I think we’ve reached a place in cinema history where screenplays have evolved into an art form, and writers can no longer fool people with sloppy craftsmanship anymore. All these elements have put the screenwriter into the limelight more than ever been before (the recent explosion of articles about Diablo Cody is certainly an example of that) and an enormously strong fanbase on the web can turn some writers into huge public icons, which may or may not be a good thing.


4. Standards of screenwriting & filmmaking will forever remain at an all-time high.

With the explosion of film bloggers (like the popular ones on my sidebar), there is now a more intense public scrutiny of films in general, such as Emerson’s study on
Opening Shots. We have to be ahead of the game, more knowledged than the bloggers, and incorporate more thought into every single detail of every scene. Elite closers will no longer be able to get by on name alone and must deliver home runs every time they’re at bat. Aspiring screenwriters must now have a god-like knowledge of not only the craft of storytelling but also the craft of filmmaking as well as the world of the story you’re writing.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ten Reasons Screenwriters Need Lawyers

I share this link (and the example below) because a producer tried to do this very thing to a TS writer. My advice to him was – get a lawyer.

In any case, (thanks to
Legal Fixation for sharing this) Robert L. Seigel at the law firm Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard put together a list of ten scenarios in which a screenwriter most finds him or herself in need of an attorney. Here’s one:


If a writer has already written a script and has found someone who is interested in further developing the script with a view towards producing a film or television program based on the script, that person who is taking on the producer role will want the motion picture and/or television rights in and to the script. Since most producers have no or very limited funds to develop their projects, those producers will want to option the rights to the script rather than purchasing the rights to the script outright. By optioning the rights to the script, the producer is taking the script "off the market" so that he or she shall have the exclusive right to further develop the script and to seek possible cast and funding for the project. The producer may offer the writer a "no money" option even if the agreement states the option price is one dollar or some nominal amount. In an ideal world or one where the rules of the Writers Guild of America ("WGA") apply, the option price would be ten percent of the purchase price for the script's rights for a period of time ranging from six months to a year and a half with the possibility of such term being extended with another payment to the writer. In the non-studio world, a producer may option a script's rights for some nominal amount for a year the right to extend such option by paying a nominal amount to the writer.

Producers generally need an initial one year option period with at least a possible renewal term of another year since it takes time for script rewrites and getting responses from possible cast representatives and funding sources. Why would a writer take his or her script out of the marketplace for no money for as long as three years? A writer has to judge whether a producer has the passion or belief in the property to work on it for what may be years to have a project produced and the experience and/or contacts to take the script to those sources that can finance the project. At best, it is a judgment call for a writer to make and will serve as the basis of any negotiations between a producer and the writer.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Screenwriting News & Links! – 12/18/07

Above is a smaller version of MM’s Photo Mosaic! Yeah, baby! I love it!

Today, I will not post links to any new interviews with Diablo Cody.

You're welcome.

Except - she is now the latest
writer on writing for Entertainment Weekly. “As I had imagined it, life as a touring writer would be a soft-focus gypsy caravan, a multi-city blur of room-service Moët, artfully tousled hipsters, and intimate after-parties where everyone listens to Gram Parsons in the buttery light of dawn. Sadly, my boho-glamour fantasy wound up looking more like week 6 at Camp Winnemucca. I quickly learned that it's hard to look attractive when you live out of a Samsonite. My neglected haircut began to resemble Javier Bardem's man-bob in No Country for Old Men. Someone like Kate Hudson can make ‘disheveled’ look hot, but I looked like someone you might see queuing up at the needle-exchange van downtown.”

But that's it.

Wait - Billy Mernit thinks
Paulie Bleeker is Totally Boss. Okay, fine.

Seriously, I’m done writing about Diablo Cody.

Oh, damn - Slash-Film has
a script review for Diablo Cody’s new screenplay that’s also on the Black ListJennifer’s Body. is extremely gory. One passage from Cody’s script describes a scene where blood and viscera is scattered everywhere, with Intestines strewn about “like party streamers.” One victim is described as looking like “Lasagna with teeth”. There are a couple scenes where a Jennifer graphically tears apart unknowing High School boys. Some of the descriptions gave me an uncomfortable feeling deep in the pit of my stomach. The gore described on these pages is Hard-R. However, I assume that the film will likely be cut down to a PG-13 to capture the teen audience. But I’m not really sure that is possible.”

That's it! No more! I'm not kidding!

MM’s How to Choose a Scene Location
“Ironically, little has been written in screenwriting books (and around scribosphere) about how to pick locations for your screenplay. This is important stuff! And it is such a pet peeve of mine when writers are so thoughtless, unoriginal, and uncreative about locations in their scripts. (Or they keep returning to the same boring location again and again. Or a protagonist goes halfway around the world to Italy only to spend the majority of the time in a hotel room. Are you kidding me? If you’re going to Italy, then show me Italy! I don’t need the country to be showcased like some vacation video, but please, let me soak up the sights and sounds and culture within the story.)”

Catch the Rythem wants a horror script
“Screenplay Wanted: Film Production company is looking for a screenplay with strong, character or concept driven horror, psychological thriller or suspense scripts( Action,thriller,Horrors, Psychological thriller.) Think Saw,12 angry man, Panic Room or Open Water Chopper, Usual Suspects.) No special effects driven scripts please. Mixing of genres is fine. to shoot for next two project. It must be very marketable and scary as hell!! Should be 90-120 pages in length. Please send us a synopsis/log-line about your project, if we are interested then will contact you. Your script must be original and not be attached to an option. Please e-mail information to:”

Slash-Film also has a script review of Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.
“What happens? Does Randy die? Does Cassidy realize her feelings for him? At this point does he even care? I really don’t want to spoil it. I will say this, the match is almost fully choreographed step by step over the corse of seven full script pages. Think Rocky, which is a very apt comparison. And the ending is something you would never expect. It’s not an obvious choice. I’m sure some people will leave this movie really angry, while others will love it. One thing is for sure, I can’t wait to see it on the big screen.”

And now we have “The Screenwriting Glossary”
action description: the overt, physical actions that happen on screen, such as “He falls down the stairs” or “She pulls a gun, hands shaking.”
actor: a gifted individual who has studied the craft of acting in order to portray roles in performances of dramatic literaure.
alter-ego: a substitute “self” for a writer, usually a protagonist in the writer’s story.
ambience: the overall quality of mood, tone, or atmosphere in a film.
antagonist: a character that puts barriers and reversals in the way of a protagonist’s progress or objective.
archetype: a universal character modeled upon those that have been appearing in stories since the time of our ancient ancestors.
assistant director: a film crew member whose job it is to manage the set protocols and keep the film shoot on schedule.
atmosphere: the dominant mood or emotional tone of a film.
audience expectation: particular elements of a film genre which the audience consciously or unconsciously expects to see.
aural: a film element that can be heard (such as an off screen sound like a dog howling or a gun firing).

Danny Stack on Comedy Specs
“Well first, the good news. Film companies are desperate for comedy scripts. They can’t get enough of them. There are a couple of reasons for this. Comedy films are good for box office (always popular with audiences), and they are relatively inexpensive to make. Comedy does have healthy subgenres like romantic comedy, comedy crime, comedy action etc but when one of these films work, they’re mainly remembered for their comedic element.”

Bill Martel goes Postal
“Most of Stephen King’s short stories had been published in magazines called Gent and Dude, published by Dugent Publications... in exotic Florida. The editor was a guy named Maurice Dewalt. I read the King stories, and decided to write some horror stories similar to them for Dugent. Now, I was a fan of King and Matheson and Bloch and many other horror writers, and one of the things I loved about King’s work was that the lead characters were normal guys - some guy working in a factory picking up an extra shift cleaning out the basement who runs into some pretty big rats down there. I could see myself writing this kind of stuff. So I wrote a stack of short stories and began sending them to men’s magazines - even Playboy - why not? Just another day standing in line at the post office.”

Ackerman tells us The problem with colleges teaching Screenwriting
“Another gripe is that the lack of collective agreement in marking someone's work on a purely subjective basis does not for a good grade make. For instance a friend of mine on the course was told by one lecturer his script was perfect and not to change a thing, but because another lecturer wound up marking his work, he received a frankly shit grade. He was needless to say very pissed off, and for a guy who is very dead-set on riding out the full three years, turned out to be disheartened so much by this final mark, he let slip that he is considering dropping out if his next script does not achieve an above-average-grade. The disjointed nature of our timetable has brought up many questions about whether or not significant changes need to be implemented in order to improve the quantity of seminars during a week. Yes, we understand this is independent learning, but for pity's sake, if we wanted to be entirely independent and educate ourselves on this medium then we would have saved our twenty grand debt and fucking did that!! The fact is, we want exposition just as if we were living inside one of our own scripts and like any good script the exposition needs to be clear and concise so that NO MEMEBERS OF THE AUDIENCE FAIL TO FOLLOW THE REST OF THE STORY!!”

Just wait, fellas. I’ve got a new,
free screenwriting book coming…

Speaking of free books, do you guys know who
Yasujiro Ozu is? You should and shame on you if you don’t. (There’s a new article on Ozu in the latest issue of Cineaste.) In any case, there’s a FREE BOOK about him from noted film scholar David Bordwell called Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema. I LOVE David Bordwell. He’s also got a great new article on the many shapes and sizes of Godard. (By the way, if you understand French, here’s a new video interview of Godard. Can someone tell me what cigar he’s smoking? It looks tasty.) Anyway, back to film scholar David Bordwell. I actually bought his new book titled simply, Poetics in Cinema, which I will review sometime soon.

Yeah, baby! The
new issue of Senses of Cinema

A little late sharing this, but here’s the Queer Film Blog-a-thon

Aspiring screenwriter to testify against 'Sopranos' creator
Nice going. That’s the way to get ahead.

Legendary screenplay writer Nabyendu Ghosh dead
“Ghosh, who would be remembered for writing the screenplay of such celluloid gems as Roy's 'Devdas', 'Bandini', 'Sujata', 'Parineeta' and Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Amitabh-Jaya Bachachan starrer 'Abhiman', had been unwell for quite sometime.” (Note to self: rent 'Devdas', 'Bandini', 'Sujata', 'Parineeta', and 'Abhiman')

Schickel’s scathing review of “A History of American Screenwriting”
“Norman's heavily anecdotal (and error-strewn) history of screenwriting encourages us to believe that, except for the money and except, perhaps, for scriveners who add a hyphen and a second title -- "director" -- to their credits, the conditions under which movies get written have not greatly improved since Sennett's day. From the beginnings of the movies, writers have always been regarded as necessary nuisances. They provided structure and intertitles for silent pictures, but that was a medium that conveyed most of its meanings visually, which meant that the director was early established as the writer's superior. There were a few famous screenwriters in those days (Anita Loos, June Mathis, Frances Marion), but mostly it was easy to platoon anonymous functionaries off and on pictures, especially as moviemaking became an increasingly industrialized process.” (That’s actually true, Schickel. Can’t imagine it was much better for journalists. Well, I have the book and my own review is forthcoming.)

Depp says “Art Gone from Hollywood Cinema”
JOHNNY DEPP has accused Hollywood cinema of lacking any art, praising European filmmakers for their superior creativity. The Pirates of the Caribbean star, who has acted in over 35 Hollywood movies, as well as directing, producing and screenwriting various films, has lost respect for the American movie business. He says, "I'm not sure that art in cinema is possible any more, in Hollywood anyway, but in Europe there's a real regard for the filmmaker and the writer. And the product too, the end result. They respect authors, painters, filmmakers, film and creativity. They celebrate it. And the wine is pretty good."

1000 Frames of Alfred Hitchcock (Thanks to Mark Actenberg.)


Santa Fe Screenwriting Conference Set for May 27th - June 1st '08

Scriptapalooza Semifinalist set for non-Profit Production through IFP

Sundance Announces January Screenwriters Lab Participants

Movie Script Contest Announces Finalists

AWS Announces Contest Finalists

Writers' Building Announces Fall 2007 Contest Winners


I get my strike news from
Nikki Finke like almost everyone else, but here are some highlights:

DGA & WGA Meet To Discuss New Media

AMPTP Statement Recycles Same Old Shit

WGA Reminds Returning Jay And Conan: No Monologues

SAG To WGA: "Your Fight Is Our Fight"

Hollywood Moguls Claim "Common Goals"

Late Night Breakthrough; Dave Cooks Up WGA Deal That NBC & ABC Won't Enjoy; CBS Reacts By Re-Pledging AMPTP Unity

WGA On Monday Will Say To Moguls: "Let's Make Individual Deals"; AMPTP Says WGA "Grasping At Straws"

AMPTP Flacks Provide More Amusement

Verrone: "Room To Negotiate" On Reality

Other articles around the web:

Why a Dave deal with the WGA might make Moonves happy

WGA Files Unfair Labor Practice Charges Against AMPTP

WGA Food Drive: One Ton of Canned Food!

Los Angeles City Council and the Strike

WGA sues AMPTP at the NLRB (ASAP)

Is the WGA Just Another Lousy Union?

The Writers Guild Is Losing Ground

Fans support WGA strike with pencil stunt
“LOS ANGELES, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- Fans and writers, looking for an end to the Writers Guild of America strike, sent more than 500,000 pencils to Hollywood's TV networks and movie studios.”

The Future, AMPTP Style
“In case you're wondering where the AMPTP would like to go in all this, MTV recently reduced health benefits for its 'permalancers' -- un-unionized workers who are hired as freelancers to work permanently. They just walked out to protect the benefits cuts. Ultimately the WGA is not only striking over residuals cuts. They are striking to protect everything they have won over the past fifty years. Current management attitude is 'you'll take what we give you and you'll thank us for it...' If they had their way, there would be no minimums and no health benefits... just like it is for MTV.”


This was cool. Jim Hill Media
reveals a number of cross references in Pixar films like Dinoco…

Monday, December 17, 2007

MM's Photo Mosaic

Okay, well, I'm speechless. The artist who wishes to remain anonymous tells me that she incorporated not only images we've seen on my blog but also from a wide range of films (with an emphasis on darker ones set in outer space to fill out my jacket).

So far, I've found charts from my character development series, pics from Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Casino Royale, Superman, Hitman, Banksy, The Painted Veil, and around the top of my tie, you might recognize a few friends like Laura Deerfield, Bob Thielke, David Muhlfelder, one of Mim's icons, and even some drawings by Ger.

(For a closer view, click the pic.)

Wow. I love it. Thanks so much.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Locations, Locations, Locations


Ironically, little has been written in screenwriting books (and around scribosphere) about how to pick locations for your screenplay. This is important stuff! And it is such a pet peeve of mine when writers are so thoughtless, unoriginal, and uncreative about locations in their scripts. (Or they keep returning to the same boring location again and again. Or a protagonist goes halfway around the world to Italy only to spend the majority of the time in a hotel room. Are you kidding me? If you’re going to Italy, then show me Italy! I don’t need the country to be showcased like some vacation video, but please, let me soak up the sights and sounds and culture within the story.)

I have a number of thoughts about locations.

First, know your story. The locations cannot dictate the story; the story must dictate the locations. So do the homework. Do the
character development sheets. Do the outline. Have a god-like knowledge about the world of your story. Know your themes, your conflicts, and your resolutions. Then you’ll make wise decisions about locations.

Second, once you know your story, you should make decisions about the visual palette of your screenplay. I think there’s an enormous significance to a script’s visual palette and the movie images you’re putting into the mind’s eye of your reader. It disappoints when you lack originality. It disappoints when your visuals are clichéd or unoriginal or lifted from another source. (Just because you like something from another movie doesn’t mean you should incorporate it into your script. It may not necessarily be the right fit. You have to consider your story on its own terms and what’s best for YOUR story. Besides, I think you’re better off considering all of the other films that have been made about similar subjects or themes and use that to make decisions about how your script will be distinctively different not only in terms of the story but also the visuals.) You may recall my post about
Away From Her where I wrote, “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.’”

Having said that, there are practical considerations to be made about a certain location. Is it do-able? Can you get permission to film there? Don’t even think about it. If you can’t film there, it could be reproduced in a studio, but that costs money and you have no idea what the budget will be if your script gets produced, so don’t worry about it. I think some writers choose cheap locations so as to impress people by how well they can save money, when ultimately, a writer should write to inspire people with a great story, not prove how cost-conscious he/she can be. Always aim for the best locations that serve your story but be willing to make changes as the needs of a production evolve.

There are only two kinds of locations you can choose:


(I first had “man-made” instead of “unnatural,” but then I could imagine someone saying, “Well, what about alien spaceships? Is that ‘man-made’ too?” Okay, fine – “unnatural.”)


There are a number of things to be said about man-made locations. Consider the setting of the story. How does this affect or make statements about the characters? You may recall in an earlier post on
Cinematic Storytelling, we talked about Strangers on a Train and there was a moment early in the film in which Hitchcock cut to an exterior moving shot of the train tracks, as if the camera was bolted to the front of the train. We smoothly glide along one set of tracks, and then we come upon one and two and then multiple intersecting tracks. Suddenly the train veers off suggesting that the protagonist has done the same.

In my
second Art of Visual Storytelling article, I talked about The Conversation. Harry Caul’s personal environment came out of Francis Ford Coppola’s interest in repetition through symbols of the circular. To quote Jennifer Van Sijll from her book,
Cinematic Storytelling, “What is being repeated is man’s emotional weakness represented by deceit and betrayal… Harry is a surveillance expert. His outer person is symbolized by the linear. He is rational, technically competent, detached, and remote. Coppola gives him clothes and a physical environment made up of straight, elongated lines. Harry’s job is dependent on the circular spinning wheels of the tape recorder. As long as he stays detached from their content, he is competent and stable.” Harry, of course, gets drawn into the emotional lives of his subjects, which is his undoing, as the surveillance expert becomes the surveillance subject. There's a scene toward the end where he tries to change the outcome and enters the building of the man who hired him. The building is linear on the outside but circular on the inside – just like Harry. As Jennifer wrote, “Once inside, he is confronted on the circular stairwell by corporate thugs. Below him is a floor tiled in a circular pattern. Once ejected from the building, he is safe again. He walks along the linear structure almost disappearing into its gray lined walls.”

Consider Hedwig and the Angry Inch, about a young man who struggles with his sexuality set in the backdrop of Berlin, a city divided by a wall. A man-made wall, by the way, divided two lovers in Bob Thielke’s
completely visual screenplay. I once wrote a script (just for fun) that incorporated the French Riviera as a setting to represent a particular character because the deeper you explore the city, the colors get darker and the streets are more twisted. I just think that we're the ones who are expected to explore the world, ya know, and internalize what we learn about cities and structures and shapes and cultures in order to incorporate those nuggets into films to show the world and movies in a new light that we haven’t seen before.

On that note, here are four inspirational visuals:

Nature overtaking man:

Nature bringing light into a character’s darkened world:

Contrast of old vs. new:

And reflection vs. reality:

Even on a more practical level, ask yourself, “What kind of statement does this location make about the character?” (That question makes me think of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment and Holly Golightly’s pad in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.) Other questions: “Can the character afford to live here?” “What feeling does this location evoke?” “Would it make the audience nervous, uncomfortable, or would it give them warm & fuzzies all over?” “Does it add a sense of wonder to the story?” “How does this location add or undermine the tension?” “What’s better for an argument – a loud marketplace or a library? While someone’s at work or after they get home? On the phone or in person?” “Have we seen locations like this a million times before?” “Where can we go that we’ve haven’t seen?” “How can I show this tired location in a new light?”

Since reading
Girish’s recommendation, I’ve been going through the book, 1000 Defining Moments in Movies, and I found an entry worthy of our consideration. Contributing writer Miguel Marias offers up a key scene from Roberto Rossellini’s 1953 film Voyage in Italy starring Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders. To quote Miguel:

“An English couple journeying in Italy to clear up the affairs related to a recently deceased uncle’s estate have, while forced to stay together in a strange environment, wandered apart, realizing what they had so far avoided to admit through each living his or her own lives. They have just said the words ‘let’s get a divorce,’ when they have to accept an invitation to see new archeological discoveries in the ruins of Pompeii, an ancient city buried in lava and ashes after a cataclysmic volcanic eruption. The people working on the ongoing excavation slowly and carefully unearth what seems at first an arm, then two legs, then a skull from which, delicately, the earth is brushed off to reveal the plaster cast of a disintegrated head. Finally, there appear – much like photographed images appearing on a film as it is developed – the full bodies of a man and a woman who died suddenly in their sleep as they lay together in bed and who now look like the sculpture of a couple. We make these discoveries gradually and at precisely the same time as do the two characters, Katherine (Ingrid Bergman) and Alex Joyce (George Sanders), so that we can fully share or at least understand their reaction; both are impressed, and Katherine is affected so deeply that she wants to leave the place. As Alex escorts her out of the ruins towards their car, he admits, “I was pretty moved myself” – a first step towards mutual understanding, which prepares us to accept as (barely) feasible the almost miraculous reconciliation of the couple.”


I could write volumes about nature in films. I think to find the right placement in your story as a setting for a scene is to ask first what that scene’s about. Nature can be a sanctuary or it can be a force of death. Nature can represent anything and it can be used as a metaphor for everything. You just have to consider the relationships between forces and objects in nature and consider how it relates to your story. At, they have an article on the Symbolism of Place and talked about the four basic elements of water, fire, earth, and air:

“Perhaps the most obvious general symbolism of the elements is the division between masculine and feminine. Fire and air represent the Yang within Chinese thought and symbolize the masculine archetype, the active state and the thinking function. Water and earth represent the Yin within Chinese philosophy and symbolize the feminine archetype, the passive state and the intuitive function. Fire and air have found a historical association with the sky and a relationship with the well-known symbolism of the Sky Father. The earth and water have been associated with the symbolism of Mother Earth. As Jung notes in his article "Psychology of the Transference" in The Practice of Psychotherapy, "Of the elements, two are active - fire and air, and two are passive - earth and water."

“For example, fire is associated with the sun and the light of day which relates to consciousness. It is an above space phenomena in that the quality of fire moves upward rather than downward. Our sensory perceptions relates fire to both the heat of the day and the heat of the summer season when light rules over darkness. Water is the element whose symbolism stands in direct opposition to that of fire. It is associated with unconsciousness, the darkness of night and the moon's monthly cycles which control ocean tides. While fire moves upward water moves downward and is associated with below space rather than above space. The element of air has a masculine archetype and the element of earth a feminine archetype. Again, there is a similar symbolism with these two elements and those of fire and water. Air is an above space because it is most present above the earth rather than in the earth or below the earth. Like water, the earth is a below space rather than an above space.”

I’m going to close this with another key scene taken from 1000 Defining Moments in Movies. This can show how the same location can be used for both joy and sadness. It’s taken from a 1964 Denmark film by Carl Dreyer called Gertrud and starred Nina Pens Rode and Baard Owe. Here’s what Jonathan Rosenbaum’s wrote:

“‘She awoke at last to find herself getting laid; she’d come in on a sexual crescendo in progress, like a cut to a scene where the camera’s already moving.’ Curiously, this sentence by Thomas Pynchon in The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) comes only two years after the release of Carl Dreyer’s final feature. This isn’t to suggest any influence – only a striking congruence with a cut to a scene where the camera’s already moving as it follows Gertrud’s (Rode’s) determined stride across a park to keep her rendezvous with Erland Jansson (Owe), the much younger composer she’s fallen in love with. In the previous scene – ponderously paced, in a claustrophobic flat – she has just told her stuffy middle-aged husband at some length that she no longer loves him and is leaving him. And Dreyer’s sudden cut in media res to her moving towards Erland expresses infatuation and orgasmic passion like few other camera movements in cinema – as if to replicate both her impatience and her ecstatic anticipation… They meet at a bench beside a placid pond that seems to glisten with Gertrud’s happy rapture. Much later in the film, when Erland breaks her heart in the same setting, the same pond is ruffled by quiet turbulence, but here it shines with joy.”

A few links:

Photos by
Mor and Szefi

Art of Visual Storytelling

1000 Defining Moments in Movies