Sunday, February 10, 2008

Screenwriting News & Links! 2/10/08

Here's the latest episode of Dana Brunetti’s TriggerStreet TV, which covers industry news, trends, and topics. Dana Brunetti, 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.



CS Weekly’s Words of Wisdom:

"Every writer I know has trouble writing."
Joseph Heller

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit."
Richard Bach


Here it is, guys, the
Summary of the Tentative 2008 WGA Theatrical and Television Basic Agreement regarding the "resumption of work through May 1, 2011.” Stuart Levine reports.

Fade In’s Studio Poll
“Fade In polled producers and writers (hey, maybe they can settle their differences) on their experiences working with studios and minimajors…” Here are three samples:

New Line
‘Every movie is going to get made if the green-light committee says it's gonna to get made. So all these people have to weigh in on it....And if one person doesn't like the project, or it doesn't work with all his numbers, then the whole movie could get derailed.’ (Producer)

‘In the hierarchy of it all, i found the lieutenants at New Line to be pretty good; they worked very hard and did a great job for us. But I found the top brass to be pretty checked out.’ (Producer)

There is a lot of bitterness aimed at Paramount. So we're going to take an, er, pass.

‘(Amy Pascal) has always struck me as being a very smart person, an excellent businessperson and she has a pretty good track record. But the problem is, there's no respect for writers. The studio executives all think they can do it.’ (Screenwriter)

‘Everyone at Sony gets along really well, so you don't get that sense of territoriality that you get at other studios.’ (Screenwriter)”

Rapping On Writing - Keep It Active & Mind Your Tenses
“Verbally, people tell stories passively, as a rule, if you asked your buddy what the President is doing today, your buddy is likely to say, ‘He is sitting in the White House with his thumb up his ass,’ right? He wouldn’t say, ‘He sits in the White House with his thumb up his ass,’ even though that’s grammatically correct, it’s not how most people talk. So a CHARACTER speaking passively is normal. But when writing a screenplay, in your action descriptions, you should put – ‘Bush sits in the White House, his thumb firmly up his ass,’ because it’s far more active.”

Unk on
Getting an Agent
“Another slew of emails I’ve been getting recently is the same old tired, “Unk, how do I get an agent?” The email then goes on to complain that of course they can’t get an agent because no agents will talk to them and yada yada yada.”

They’re turning
Mike’s Comic Strip into a Film. Hehehe...

A Rom Com Call To Arms!
“But if you have seen “27 Dresses,” — or last year’s “Because I Said So,” let’s say, or the other Mandy Moore wedding-theme comedy that came out in 2007, or any of the dozens like them disgorged by the studios in the past decade or so — you will know what I mean. How did this genre fall so far, from one that reliably deployed the talents of the movie industry’s best writers, top directors and biggest stars to a source of lazy commercial fodder? There are several possible answers. The most obvious one (and to me the least persuasive) is just that they don’t make them like they used to, that the history of American cinema since its classical era has been a sorry chronicle of decline. It may be true that you rarely hear the kind of sharp, sparkling dialogue that used to animate the films of Ernst Lubitsch, George Cukor and Preston Sturges, but it would be hard to look at movies and television today and conclude that there is a shortage of funny writing or sharp storytelling.” (I gotta say, I completely agree.)

Emily Blake on There Will Be Blood
“The other great thing about that lack of dialogue is the concentrated silence it creates in your brain. You've been sitting in that theater with all these other people, just contemplating the events before you without anyone even having to speak. Then Plainview begins to talk calmly and quietly. Then a bunch of people start yelling. Since it's been so quiet for so long, the yelling is jarring as hell and you get his frustration and annoyance right away. It's a very effective contrast.”

On the Slumming Genre Writers
“What we look for in genre writing, Mr. Updike suggested, is exactly what the critics sometimes complain about; the predictableness of a formula successfully executed. We know exactly what we’re going to get, and that’s a seductive part of the appeal. It’s why we can read genre books so quickly and in such quantity, and happily come back for more of the same by the very same author. Such books are reassuring in a way that some other novels are not. Does that make them lesser, or just different? Probably both on occasion. But it doesn’t necessarily make them easier or less worthwhile to write…” Here’s Emerson’s reaction.

David Bordwell’s
What happens between shots happens between your ears offers a discussion of analytical vs. constructive editing segues in an analysis of a scene in Godard’s Hail Mary. He writes, “Kuleshov’s example was the formulaic scene of a man sitting at his desk and deciding to commit suicide. The Russians, Kuleshov claimed, would handle this all in one distant framing, with the result that the key actions were just part of the overall view. By contrast, Americans would shoot the scene in a series of close-ups: the man’s face, his hand taking a pistol out of a desk drawer, his finger tightening on the trigger, and so on. This gave the scene a powerful concreteness, and was cheaper to film besides (no need to have a full set).” This, in screenwriting terms, would also be the difference between on the one hand just telling the story, an interpretation that would lend itself to thoughtless wide shots and on the other, actually writing the shots.

In Defense of the Perils of Pauline
“A few days ago, Jim Emerson offered a post that once again considered, depending on your point of view, either the estimable influence or the declining reputation of Pauline Kael. The Scanners post came in response to the near-44-year anniversary of the publication of her essay, “Are Movies Going to Pieces?”, and by posting it Jim was opening up discussion not only to the continued relevance, or lack thereof, of Kael’s criticism, but also to questions we, as thoughtful moviegoers, are still asking today.”

David O. Russell to pen 'Playbook' screenplay
“David O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings) has signed on to write the screenplay adaptation of Matthew Quick's soon-to-be-published comic novel The Silver Linings Playbook for the Weinstein Company. Playbook centers on a man who, after a mental collapse, is released from a facility only to find that his wife has remarried and moved on. Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella are on board to produce through their Mirage Productions. Currently, Russell is in preproduction on Nailed, a political satire starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Biel, which he cowrote and will direct. It is expected to start shooting on April 15. ” People are still willing to work with him?

What is that next to Indy's head? An alien?

"Breakthrough Performances in Film" - a
New York Times Magazine multimedia Oscar season special. Times Richard Corliss lists the 25 most important films about race.

In Bruges Q&A
Senior CreativeScreenwriting Editor Jeff Goldsmith interviews writer-director Martin McDonagh about In Bruges. Also - Juno Q&A

Screenwriter Tom Epperson is living his dream
“Tom Epperson, a longtime Hollywood screenwriter and even more longtime aspiring novelist, is a gentle man who's just published a brutal book. Epperson, who has a shy Arkansas twang and a slight hangdog manner, was talking on a recent afternoon about his 1930s-esque noir, "The Kind One," at Musso & Frank's in Hollywood, a place he loves for its literary ghosts.

Multi-faceted Mamet gives advice
“‘If there is any question about a line or a scene, get rid of it,’ Mamet said… ‘The gag is a complete theatrical unit: Set up an expectation and destroy it,’ he said. ‘All dramaturgy is gag writing.’”

He Nearly Quit Scripting Diving Bell
“Screenwriter RONALD HARWOOD found creating the screenplay for THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY so hard - he nearly quit the project. The 73-year-old agreed to the job years after reading the autobiography of the same name by Jean-Dominique Bauby - and struggled desperately when he began to script the ‘untellable’ story of a man completely paralysed except for his left eye. He says, ‘I read it five years before being offered it and thought it was an extraordinary book. ‘Five years later (producer) Kathy Kennedy offered it to me and I said yes without re-reading it. It was not a clever thing to do. When faced with reality I was totally stuck. I had no idea how to proceed.’ And the writer - who won an Oscar for his screenplay to 2002's The Pianist - was so ridden with anxiety, he began to suffer panic attacks - and even considered returning the advance he received for his work. He adds, ‘As I was about to say 'I can't go on' I had the idea of seeing it from his (Bauby's) point of view and the camera did the blinking, and that was the breakthrough.’ ‘Then I knew what story I had to tell - one of illness and imagination. This was the most difficult screenplay I ever had to write, no question.’”

Jim Henson: The Movie
“Empire Film Group has acquired the motion picture production and distribution rights to Henson, an original screenplay by Robert D. Slane that tells the story of the life and achievements of Muppets/Sesame Street creator Jim Henson. Empire plans to hire a major director, such as Penny Marshall, and name talent for this $30 million production which is aiming for a Summer 2008 start. The screenplay follows Henson’s rise from a teenager to entertainment mogul.”

A-Team Script Review
“After 20 years that’s how I remember The A-Team. And I seriously cannot believe I am going to say these words but, wow, this A-Team movie screenplay I got my hands on takes all of those best remembered aspects of the show, scrapes away all the silly stuff, gives the concept a fresh coat of paint to make it contemporary and then proceeds to shove it into overdrive. This is the goddamn A-Team movie that you wanted so badly to see when you were a teenager: R-rated, a little more adult but completely and totally the same A-Team that you loved. And the action stuff? Imagine the old show with a budget of $100 million dollars. Seriously. It’s insane and yet so perfectly movie-level A-Team!”

Fitzgerald's Writing Room

An essay on F. Scott Fitzgerald
“If there is tragedy in Pat, it lies outside the stories themselves, and that is where today’s writers’ strike and Pat Hobby intersect. While writing these stories, Fitzgerald was working out the last plot details of what would have been his best novel, ‘The Last Tycoon.’ A magically driving story of a studio baron battling death, labor unions and unpredictable women, the novel has a sophistication of voice and a truly cinematic flow of scenes unparalleled in his earlier work. But with no residual income from the many films to which he contributed, Fitzgerald was forced to keep putting the novel aside and grab whatever bone floated his way, be it Esquire’s story fee or his $250-a-week screenwriting fee — similar, not incidentally, to Pat Hobby’s. In the rare moments he was able to get in bed and work on the novel, Fitzgerald found his only peace. ‘I am deep in the novel,’ he wrote several months before his death, ‘living in it, and it makes me happy.’”

A Deal with Chris McQuarrie
A week after signing a deal with Paul Haggis, United Artists has made a first-look deal with another Oscar winner: The Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie.

Weinsteins Cry Wolf
The Weinstein Co. has optioned Evan Kuhlman's Wolf Boy: A Novel, and has set animation writer Christopher Parker to adapt the book.

Stuck in a Moment
Fox Atomic has optioned the rights to Lizabeth Zindel's young adult novel Girl of the Moment, which is about a teen girl interning for a starlet and experiencing celebrity herself.

Want A Peek At The Castlevania Screenplay?
“I'll ask again. Do you want to take a possible early look at the feature film adaptation of Konami's Castlevania? We have 32 pages worth…” (I peaked. It’s not pretty.)

Smart People takes two frequent cinematic stand-bys, the dead spouse movie and the fractured family film, and manages to execute both of them with no small amount of skill," counters James Rocchi at Cinematical. "Unlike PS I Love You or Dan in Real Life, the loss of Lawrence's wife is neither operatically omnipresent or glossed over; it's just always there, always sad, always real. And unlike Little Miss Sunshine or many other 'dysfunctional family' films, Smart People isn't slathered with wacky, zany characters. Everyone onscreen is human, and the film's full of small, deft character touches that feel unforced." And he talks talks with Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church.


On the Contest Circuit:

FINAL DRAFT’s™ Big Break International Screenwriting Contest Open for Entries

BlueCat Lab Announces Short Screenplay Finalists

ScriptDoctor Announces Open Screenplay Contest Winner

Kairos Prize Announces 12 Finalists

All Access Announces Semfinalists


And finally

The teaser for The Happening. If you missed it, here’s my script review.


Joshua said...

Thanks for the link, bro . . . hey, don't forget tomorrow is a new Unheralded Cool Movie You Should Know About Day in the Dojo . . . I think you'll dig it.

Social Skills said...

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Mickey Lee said...

Why does that fanboy review of "The A-Team" make me think the movie is totally going to suck?

Another tarnished childhood memory....