Monday, January 21, 2008

Screenwriting News & Links! 1/21/08


Well, it took a bit of tinkering, but we’ve got a system now! I will be posting within these Screenwriting News articles episodes of Dana Brunetti’s TriggerStreet TV, which covers industry news, trends, and topics. Dana, as many of you know, is the founder of TriggerStreet and producer of four films coming out this year, including 21 with Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, and Jim Sturgess.

We’ve been having a lot of fun here. We had Miriam’s big article on the
Shower Scenes of Brian De Palma, a scene analysis from There Will Be Blood, and a big blog talk with the Unknown Screenwriter about 2007 and the screenwriting community (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4).

Thanks again, Unk. So great to talk to you.



New Screenplays:

Panther - 1995 unspecified draft script by Melvin Van Peebles.

Below - November 6, 2000 blue revised script by Darren Aronofsky & Lucas Sussman with revisions by David Twohy.

Cliffhanger - March 30, 1992 First Draft, 2nd Revision script by Michael France, revision by Terry Hayes


Our hearts are with you, Roger, and those involved in this
sad tragedy. Here’s an eye-witness’s account. Terribly, terribly sad.

On the flipside, here’s an article about hope. An
Iranian News website has an article about screenwriting: Aristotle's Seven Golden Rules Of Story Telling. It’s contributing author is Jan Janroy, who I think lives in New York, and who is also the writer & director of a film called David & Layla. Jan wrote, “‘The most essential thing for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector. This is the writer's radar.’ Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway said he re-wrote the ending of his 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' thirty-eight times until he was content. Within its genre, are the characters and their stories credible? Is the ending believable? Is the ending satisfying?” She also has another article called Why Write? Ya know, this is a great example of what Unk and I were discussing in our Blog Talk. We live in an age where people should no longer have to pay to learn about screenwriting. Take the knowledge and the art into places that can’t afford Robert McKee seminars and help them create art for themselves to better their lives.

Congrats to my friend Dennis Cozzalio…
…whose blog, SERGIO LEONE AND THE INFIELD FLY RULE, has been nominated as “Best Entertainment Blog” for the 2008 Blogger's Choice Awards! Yeah, baby! In an e-mail, he wrote, “While I would NEVER advocate indiscriminate ballot stuffing, I will encourage to you to visit their website at and vote for SLIFR if you enjoy the blog and the work that I do there. When you visit the site, click on "Best Entertainment Blog," go down to the bottom of the page and click on the [number 2. That's where you'll find SLIFR as of Sunday evening at 8:00 p.m. -MM]”

David Bordwell on Scene Transitions in Classical Cinema
Just sensational. A must read. “As a storytelling device, the hook affects both narrative design and stylistic patterning. Studying it helps us grasp some basic mechanics of classical storytelling. Just as important, these devices display tacit knowledge and decisions on the part of filmmakers, who adapt traditions to the needs at hand. And filmmakers’ tacit knowledge corresponds to that of audiences, the skills you and I exercise unawares. We can follow the corrugations of sound/ image organization because we know about the world outside cinema, we know how conventions reshape that world, and we’re alert for narrative and audiovisual organization. Analyzing how movies are put together helps us understand how we experience them.”

“Stuttering John” wrote a screenplay
“Most people know John Melendez from his voice, either as “Stuttering John” on Howard Stern’s show or the announcer for Jay Leno. Now Melendez is going to have his time in the sun: National Lampoon will distribute his film One, Two, Many, according to Variety. Melendez wrote, produced and stars in One, Two, Many, about a man on a quest to find the girl of his dreams. The movie is set to open in theatres on April 10, even when many of National Lampoon’s projects go straight to video these days.”

I loved what Ebert wrote about the Honeydripper characters
John Sayles has made 19 films, and none of them are two-character studies. As the writer of his own work, he instinctively embraces the communities in which they take place. He's never met a man who was an island. Everyone connects, and when that includes black and white, rich and poor, young and old, there are lessons to be learned, and his generosity to his characters overflows into affection… As for the sheriff's role: As I suggested, lots of Alabama sheriffs were more racist than he is, which is not a character recommendation, but means that he isn't evil just to pass the time and would rather avoid trouble than work up a sweat. At that time, in that place, he was about the best you could hope for. Within a few more years, the Bull Connors would be run out of town, one man would have one vote, and the music of the African-American South would rule the world. That all had to start somewhere. It didn't start on Saturday night at the Honeydripper, but it didn't stop there, either.”

Loved what Manohla said about Cloverfield characters
“And, so, much like a character from a crummy movie, Rob hears from an estranged lover, Beth (Odette Yustman), who, after the attack, begs for help on her miraculously working cellphone. Against the odds and a crush of fleeing humanity, he tries to rescue her (unbelievably, ludicrously, the others tag along), which is meant to show what a good guy he is. But heroism without a fully realized hero proves as much a dead end as subjective camerawork that’s executed without a discernible subjectivity. Like too many big-studio productions, “Cloverfield” works as a showcase for impressively realistic-looking special effects, a realism that fails to extend to the scurrying humans whose fates are meant to invoke pity and fear but instead inspire yawns and contempt.”

Tim Claque, JJ Abrams, & Mystery
Tim shares a vid in which J.J. Abrams talks about how he looks at his own work - and why he works in the way that he does.

Emerson on the Juno backlash
I loved the reader-submitted question halfway into Jim’s article: “Q: I have been following the debate about the clever dialogue in "Juno" and there are two things I don't understand: (1) Why do people continue to expect every film they see to be a flawless reflection of reality when no film, not even a documentary, could ever accomplish such a feat? Isn’t one of the pleasures of going to the movies in seeing things we don’t usually see in the real world? (2) Why aren't more people refreshed that a film has gone against the grain by creating characters more intelligent than real people, as opposed to the Hollywood norm of creating characters who are considerably dumber and more shallow than real people?” Exactly. Let me just say that the backlash has more to do with Diablo Cody’s over-exposure in the media than it does any lack of talent, a good lesson for many of you guys out there.

Craig on Fringe Characters
“…but it got me thinking about the difference between movies with an inclusive point of view and movies with what one could call an exclusivist perspective. The distinction is tricky, of course: I'm not necessarily talking about a 'populist' sensibility like Spielberg's or James L. Brooks's as opposed to the more divisive appeal of a worldview like that of Kubrick or the Coens. What I mean is a sense that in a world of a particular film there is an acknowledgement, however tacit, that all the characters have lives beyond what we see in the frame. This, too, can be difficult to evaluate. Spielberg, of course, received a heaping of criticism for his depiction of Arabs in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and while a lot of it was probably accurate, I must confess that I still laugh when Indy shoots the swordsman in the marketplace. (My only defense, immaturity aside, is that I think I'm laughing at the undermining of audience expectations of a big action movie fight scene, not at who the character is or what he represents…)”

Mike Le’s “Two in the Pink, One in the…”

Emily Blake talks about Teaching Thursdays
“I got this email just now: ‘Gate 2 at Warner Bros. has come up with a stellar idea: "Teaching Thursdays," where writers of various genres would join us on Thursdays, making themselves available to discuss story, structure and everything in between to aspirings if the aspirings would be willing to come out and pick up a sign…’”

Laura Deerfield on the Death of Science Fiction
“How about something completely original? Take a look at Paprika, a great piece of anime. If you want interesting and unique ideas about the future, anime is a good place to look. Then there's Jathia’s Wager, a fascinating concept that seems to be a sort of choose your own adventure fr the digital age. I am sure there are also original ideas being made cheaply and shown online for free, as fans of SF tend to be drawn to new technologies.”

No Character Arc for the Joker
“Chris Nolan briefly chatted about his villains to the LA Times: ‘Harvey Dent is a tragic figure, and his story is the backbone of this film. The Joker, he sort of cuts through the film -- he's got no story arc, he's just a force of nature tearing through. Heath has given an amazing performance in the role, it's really extraordinary.’”

'Peter Pan' drawing inspired 'The Orphanage' screenwriter
“But screenwriter Sergio G. Sanchez is the one who grew up in Asturias, on the northwestern Atlantic coast of Spain, the location that gives the movie its seaside setting and its gray foreboding. He is the one who imagined a tale of a mother, a former orphan, living in an old orphanage, trying to find her own child who has disappeared amid mysterious goings-on in the place. ‘The spark that ignited everything was a drawing on a 'Peter Pan' book that I read when I was a child,’ Sanchez says. ‘It's that image of a mother, waiting by the window, for her children to come back from Neverland. It's my favorite book, and the final chapter of that is probably the saddest thing I've ever read. So what I wanted to do was tell the story of 'Peter Pan' from the point of view of the mother. That would give us a chance to go into darkest corners that story has to offer.’”

Would you take screenwriting tips from a man with bad Glamour Shots?
"I came across a link today that left me speechless. The link was referencing a free online screenwriting class. I eagerly clicked on the link thinking how it would be a great resource for this site. This is what I saw…"

Bill Martell Interview
"There's two different ways you can find a story. One is through character. When I'm writing a script for myself usually what I'll do is start with a character and then I'll figure out what's the very worst thing that can happen to that person and then my story is that thing happening to them. The other way to do it is when I start with a concept. Usually if I'm going in to pitch to a producer they will want some sort of an interesting idea."

John Carpenter Returning to Theaters with L.A. Gothic
His next film, L.A. Gothic, is scheduled to start shooting in March, with a script by Jim Agnew and Sean Keller, who scribed the new Dario Argento movie, Giallo, mentioned yesterday. Here’s the log line via STYD: ‘Five interwoven stories of high-octane horror centering on a vengeful ex-priest’s efforts to protect his teenage daughter from the supernatural evils of L.A.’s dark side.’”

The League Is Disbanded
Due to the strike and a script in need of a rewrite, Warner Bros. has pulled the plug on its planned 2009 superhero flick Justice League.

Brittany Murphy -- Lowered Expectations
“TMZ caught up with the actress at the Sundance Film Festival, as she gushed about just celebrating her 10-month wedding anniversary to screenwriter Simon Monjack. In Hollywood, after 10 months one celebrates an enduring marriage.”

They've Always Loved Films with Chaos
Martin Scorsese and Harvey Keitel have signed on to produce Daphna Kastner's New York drama Chaos.

Mickey Wins Again
Patrick Goldstein grades each studio on their 2007, which is good news if you work at Disney. United Artists? Not so much…

Film Tax Credit Program a Boon to Film Productions
“Governor Edward G. Rendell announced today the film tax credit program is attracting film productions to communities across the commonwealth, including $8.2 million in investments outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. ‘Due to the film tax credit program, we have been able to attract productions even to some of the most rural areas of the commonwealth,’ Governor Rendell said. ‘When is the last time McKean County was the location of a $4 million film production? This is an incredible experience and economic opportunity for our communities.’”

For Sundance Invitees, Real Work Is Just Starting
“Glanz, a Greenwich Village resident who was born in Hartford, raised in Westport, and whose family still has a home in Litchfield County, says he has ‘been around the block.’ A previous feature screenplay was on the cusp of being produced before the deal fell apart. ‘I was naive and overly ambitious,’ he says, adding that he lightened up and scaled down his latest project to sell.”

Bone Season Horror Movie Screenplay Script Sale Not WGA - eBay
Now you can buy movie scripts on Ebay. For a cool 500k that is.

Keith Uhlich’s Top Movie Monsters
“Hence this collection of the top 11 such hellions that, in one way or another, continue to haunt this writer's dreams, though don't expect too many obvious choices (no King Kong or Godzilla on this roll call, and even such "well, of courses" as Frankenstein and Count Dracula are herein represented by movies slightly off the beaten path). Scary as the things are that tower over us, crashing through building and brush with sheer, unstoppable girth (several examples of these below), there are also the subdued monsters, those all-too-human creatures who co-exist within our self-same existential space, lulling us into complacency before they strike like venomous cobras. And speaking of venomous cobras...”

The Guardian Questions the Ethics of Collecting Scripts
"Of course, that still leaves the big question - why? Doesn't it ruin the film if you've read the script? Apparently not. 'The attraction is knowing something other people don't,' says Don Boose, webmaster at 'Personally, I enjoy reading scripts as a kind of literature. In many cases, I will actually go out and see the film because the script intrigues me, or I want to see how it's translated on to the big screen. Stepmom was one of those...'"

Screenwriter Ugo Pirro dead at 87
Italian screenwriter Ugo Pirro, who earned an Oscar nom for penning Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, died in Rome at 87.

Shot at stardom
Newspaper interviews Scriptapalooza semifinalist.

Interview with “Fanboys” Screenwriter, Ernie Cline
“SB: As a writer, you have a huge following in, for lack of a better term, the geek community. Or do you prefer nerd? In any case, where did that start and how do you feel about living in that role?
EC: I’m equally comfortable with being called a geek or a nerd. I’m definitely a bit of both. And that comes across in pretty much everything I write. I can’t hide it.”

Forty-Seven Drafts Later
“By signing on the dotted line the day before the beginning of the current writers strike, a pair of novice screenwriters and an AFI Directing Program graduate are about to get their shot.”


On the Contest Circuit:

Gimme Credit Announces Cycle VI Super Short Winners

All Access Announces Quarterfinalists

Kairos Announces Contest Semifinalists

ASA Announces Nominees for 2007 Discover Award

BlueCat Announces Short Screenplay Lab Semfinalists

Slamdance Horror Announces Semifinalists

Praxis Announces Fall 2007 Winners Announces Contest Winners

Screenwriter Showcase Announces Contest Winner

TWP Announces Contest Winners Announces November Winners

Script Savvy Announces Contest Winner

International Gay Screenplay Contest - 10th Anniversary
The submission deadline for 2008 ONE IN TEN SCREENPLAY CONTEST is September 1, 2008. Entry forms are available online through the contest website:



Deal or No Deal
The Directors Guild has agreed on a new, three-year contract with the AMPTP after only six days of negotiations, and now all sides are speculating on what this means for the ongoing WGA strike.

Don't Follow the Leader
The New York Times reports that several WGA members are confused and angered by their leaders' negotiating tactics.

Playing Rough
The L.A. Times reports on the surprising move that four major studios made where they canceled dozens of writer contracts for the current TV season.

Joss Whedon on The WGA Strike


NBC vs Dick Clark Prods Blame Game: Lawyers To Untangle Golden Globes Mess

Pride, prejudice should not get in the way of WGA deal

Studios Accord With Directors May Help Resolve Strike (Update3)

Bill Maher on the WGA Writers Strike

Drew Carey Shells Out For WGA Burgers


And finally:

New Indy IV & Star Trek photos:


Joshua said...

There are actually only six elements to Storytelling, according to Aristotle - so I'm not sure what source she's using for that . . . the essential elements are as follows.

1) Plot
2) Character
3) Thought (not idea or theme, but thought)
4) Diction
5) Song
6) Spectacle

I have a copy of the Poetics on my lap now, nothing about decor in the primary six . . .

Mystery Man said...

Does it matter when Aristotle was so wrong about everything?

Just kidding.

I'm still studying Aristotle, so I shall bite my tongue. However, I didn't agree with everything Jan said in the article, but ya know, everyone's got to start somewhere. Many of us started with McKee and look how wrong he was about so many things!



Laura Deerfield said...

Thanks for the link to my blog! Maybe I'll get some traffic... Of course, writing in it more regularly would help with that, too.

Joshua said...

Hey dude,

It's all cool . . . personally, I believe most people misinterpret Aristotle, as she does, and misapply it what he spoke of to screenwriting today . . .

I also think it somewhat happens with Campbell, who was using story to tell us something about human consciousness, rather than using human consciousness to tell us about story.

Most writers believe the latter, but Campbell meant the first one. It's a slight, slight change (and I in no way mean to state that one DOESN'T pick up stuff about story from Campbell) but an important distinction to keep in mind because, as in everything, excellence is really a matter of inches, if not millimeters.

I personally don't believe that knowing or reading THE POETICS necessarily makes one a better writer - I've known too many dramatists well versed in theory who fail miserably when it comes time to put their words to the test.

The best teacher always comes from doing, from writing and writing and writing and hearing what one's audience responses are . . . knowing where it all began can be cool, just not necessary in order to excel.

Like in film, a lot of us film geeks know about BIRTH OF A NATION, but it's not going to necessarily mean that someone who knows nothing about film history is going to not be able to make a good film (Spike Jonze is supposedly an example of this, from REBELS ON THE BACKLOT) - learning by doing is still the best teacher, in the end.

But it's cool, like you said, it's all what opens a door for a person. And disagreement can be good, as then you have to examine why and wherefore and, in the end, find out more about why you do what you do . . . that's why I enjoy those long semantical battles with Unk, even though I usually end up on the losing end of any debate.

But I win for what I discover about myself in my craft.

Ugh, long post. Sorry man.

Mystery Man said...

Laura - A lot of the stuff you post is really good, too. I'd like to see more.

Josh - Loved those thoughts about Campbell. I certainly read "Hero/Faces" with a view to storytelling, not so much human consciousness. That's a great point. Thanks for that.


David Alan said...

Cloverfield Characters -- I really don’t get it. People have accused all the Michael Bay films of the same thing. Yet, his movies make millions of dollars. Why is that? Is it because people don’t go to action movies to watch a character piece? Do they only need the bare essentials? I really wish I knew why.

JJ Abrams on Mystery -- I loved everything he said. And the end was a neat little nugget.

Emerson on the Juno backlash -- This guy is no Ralph -- lame joke -- but I agree with him for the most part. But I do think movies have to be grounded in some kind of realism. If you create a different reality, you have to obey the rules of that reality -- if that makes sense. But why does the movie have to have realistic dialogue? My favorite dialogue has come from a TV series called Firefly. It’s truly inventive. Check it out if you haven’t seen it.

No Character Arc for the Joker -- Good. He doesn’t need one. I mean, he’s the fucking Joker! I can’t wait to see this movie. I’m so fucking excited! I just hope my high expectations don’t kill the film for me.

The League Is Disbanded -- Some more good news. This movie would’ve been so shitty. There is no way to do all the characters justice and keep up an interesting plot in a one to two hour movie. Well, I can’t go that far. There is a way. But the studio would never do it this way. I mean, the only way I see it working is if you skip all the setup. By that, I mean, you don’t tell a predictable story of how the league came to be.

Example: Unspeakable force arrives. Justice League characters come together and stave off the unspeakable force. Then the League is formed. That’s all folks.

Just start the movie in the middle of the action. Then you’d unwind the plot and learn on the go about the characters.

Or maybe a bad guy from one of the superheroes life comes and threatens them all. Thus you focus on one superhero and the rest are supporting cast.

Anyway, the key is to make the audience feel that the superheroes and Earth are in danger. God, it’d be very difficult to do. How do you put superheroes in danger? I don't know. I’m glad it’s been shelved.

Strike-Related -- No way should the WGA accept that deal. Though, they do need to go to the table. At least it’d look like they were negotiating, which would help public relations. I mean, I know a lot of people who are blaming the writers for this mess. That isn’t good.

And finally -- I’m also very excited about Indy IV and Star Trek. Both movies should be a great time.

Mystery Man said...

David - that's hilarious. I couldn't possibly touch upon everything, but the Juno argument strikes a nerve with me. Who said a movie's less of a movie if the dialogue isn't perfectly "realistic?" And just because a character makes a choice to keep the baby doesn't make the film anti-abortion. It means the character made a choice to keep the baby. Period.

Re: Star Trek the new teaser is up:


David Alan said...

MM -- Yeah, I’m with you. I hear you. Why can’t people just enjoy a film for being a film? Why must they pick apart the film to fit their ideology? That’s pretty fucked up.

That said...I found the film to be just alright. Maybe it just wasn’t my kind of film and I shouldn’t judge it. I don’t know. I just found my mind wandering and then I started to shift about in my seat. Was it worth the 4 dollar matinee? You bet. I just liked Waitress and Knocked Up better.

Also, I don’t think its Oscar worthy. Do I say that out of jealousy and envy? Sure. But if I had the chance to write Juno before she did, would I? No. To be fair, I did like Juno better than Michael Clayton and Atonement. Atonement frustrated the hell out of me. Here’s my list of very good movies that should’ve beat out the three movies I just mentioned:

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Charlie Wilson's War
The Darjeeling Limited
Knocked Up

These movies were just great. But it’s all subjective, I know. Oh well, I digress.

And thanks for the Star Trek link. I love a good tease. Also, the official Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trailer will be up on its site at 12:01AM Friday, February 15. I can’t wait.

Note: I just read over this and -- yes, I realize I'm all over the map. Forgive me.

Mystery Man said...

No worries, David.

I loved Juno. I thought it was great fun. But it's not Oscar worthy on any level, and this is where I always get frustrated with the Oscars every year. It was nominated because of its ad campaigns and media exposure, not because in comparing its craftsmanship to all the other films that came out, everyone felt this was one of the best. Like the film distribution system, the entire Oscar process should be totally demolished and rebuilt from the ground up.

And with that, I'm going to bite my tongue.

R.I.P. Heath. We loved you, man.


Craig said...

Hey, MM. I caught your link belatedly on "Fringe Characters." I actually wrote it, not Ken Levine. Thanks for the link, though.

Mystery Man said...

It's been changed. SO sorry about that.

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