Sunday, February 17, 2008

Screenwriting News & Links! 2/17/08

Above is the latest episode of Dana Brunetti’s TriggerStreet TV, which covers industry news, trends, and topics. Dana, as many of you know, is one of the founders of TriggerStreet and producer of four films coming out this year, including 21 with Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, and Jim Sturgess. It opens March 28.

No more Best Of articles! I’ll be back with a vengeance this week - new articles, reviews, insights, and I’m sure, controversy! Woo hoo!



New Screenplays:

Pineapple Express - November 28, 2006 unspecified draft script by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (story by Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg).

Domino - September 8, 2004 draft script by Richard Kelly.

(Thanks to


Bob’s I Can Do It Better blog-a-thon in TWO WEEKS!
1. Please choose a well-known movie, book, painting, sculpture, speech, song, performance, or other manifestation of human artistic expression.
2. Describe how it fails to attain perfection.
3. Describe your remedy.
4. Publish the article on your blog between February 28th and March 2nd..

A year for hot movie scripts
“Nevertheless, the quality of this year's Oscar-nominated movies gives him reasons to believe. ‘Good movies still get made, even with the profit ratio of the blockbusters that demand nothing more of you than your money. And with technology changing and access to movies widening, there'll be even more ways for writers like me to tell stories without being hampered by studios.’”

10 Universities Offering Free Writing Courses Online

New Ideas Always Look Wrong at First
“Here's an essay on what successful new ideas in software seem to have in common. Headline:
good new ideas often look wrong.: ‘I like to find (a) simple solutions (b) to overlooked problems (c) that actually need to be solved, and (d) deliver them as informally as possible, (e) starting with a very crude version 1, then (f) iterating rapidly.’ These point all apply to screenwriting…”

Philip K. Dick link explosion
For example, there’s
"How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" and "If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others." Loved it!

3 leaked pages of Diablo’s Quotey
You’ll also find notes written on the pages by “yours truly.” Now I’m disappointed that my copy of Jennifer’s Body didn’t have her notes…

Juno wasn’t Canadian enough
“Swinging a little late on the pitch here, but the fact that Juno, the sharp delightful little dramedy that's all the buzz right now, wasn't eligible for Genie nominations is still nagging at me. As the Toronto Star's Peter Howell points out in
this was shot in Canada, it was directed by a Canadian (Jason Reitman), and the two main leads (Ellen Page and Michael Cera) were Canadian. Yet because it was financed by Fox Searchlight out of the U.S., it didn't qualify. It wasn't Canadian enough.”

Presence and Absence: Towards a Working Conception of Screen Characters
“It seems a little silly to speak of characters in films as if they possessed a full-bodied existence of their own. Unlike their counterparts in the novel (think of Anna Karenina, Isabel Archer, Leopold Bloom), the film character can never consist of more than a few defining quirks, a seemingly coherent (but ultimately simplistic) psychology and above all the presence of the actor. When we speak of a great performance by Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro or Jack Nicholson (to name three of the more celebrated actors of the last fifty years), it is really this presence, so strongly pronounced in these unusually telegenic men, that are we referring to. In the most interesting work of the trio (Brando in Last Tango in Paris, De Niro in Taxi Driver and Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces), it is the commitment of the actors, the expression of a few unique personality traits and the ability to suggest a kind of deep-seated damage in the characters' psyches that accounts for any notion of "depth" we may read in the performances. To suggest that these creations transcend their essence as screen characters and partake of the same full-bodied existence as the best characters from literature is to (in one sense) overestimate the possibilities of the cinematic medium. Yet focusing so emphatically on character to the detriment of film's other capacities is to underestimate these possibilities as well.”

Great moments in 2007 screenwriting
“There's so much sparkling dialogue in the movies nominated for best adapted screenplay and best original screenplay that the Academy could have doubled the number of nominations and still had plenty of worthy candidates left over. Here's a sampling of some of the best.” (As far as I’m concerned, the best line of ’07 was “I drink your milkshake!” Hehehe… I love that line.)

I drink your Oscar promo
“The milkshake analogy isn’t all that bizarre. Daniel chooses a metaphor for drainage that he thinks Eli can understand. Beyond that, the milkshake speech is a way of emphasizing Daniel’s delight, not just in making a fortune in the oil business, but in doing so by paying little, or in this case no, money to those whose land he exploits. Stealing someone’s milkshake is a petty form of theft, so Daniel is able to trivialize the removal of oil that Eli has been counting on as his last chance for financial and spiritual salvation. The taunting also allows Daniel to revenge himself for the parallel earlier scene in the church where Eli had forced him repeatedly to confess how he had betrayed his own son. In this final portion of the film, Daniel no longer has any need to put on a friendly face, to pretend to have empathy…”

Mark’s Conversation with Mills
“Mamet's great for character - his dialogue can become great when it is delivered from the mouth of an accomplished performer - the slightest hesitation and it comes across like they're chewing on a plank of wood - and when that happens it reflects not just on the performer, who bears the brunt of the immediate audience reaction, but also inevitably on the writer because it makes their words sound stiff and hollow. Mamet can write poetry when he wants to and is not above writing dreck when he can get away with it - cast his shit with the best performers and he sings - why? It's not because of the famous Mamet dialogue - it's because he depicts human beings acting badly with each other and we love to watch that so long as we aren't directly in the line of fire. Emotional gladiatorial games. The intellectual exercises of Mamet's work hinge not on mind-fucks but on emotional manipulation - emotional sleight of hand - look over there - feel this - oh, by the way, I just stole your wallet, stole your heart and dropped your pants.”

Screenwriter turned Novelist turned Screenwriter
"So it's good for my career in Hollywood that I also have a career as a novelist."

Do you outline?
“I recently heard Diablo Cody talking about the way she wrote her award-winning screenplay Juno. (Check it out while it’s still available for
free download at Fox Searchlight.) Here’s someone who very deliberately projects a public image of being the intuitive, artistic type. But when pressed, she revealed that about halfway through her first draft, she decided to compile a bulleted list of scenes in order to avoid getting lost. She found this extremely helpful.”

'Passion' Screenwriter Sues Mel Gibson
“Fitzgerald's suit couldn't be any worse-timed for the director, landing on the cusp of a bold new era for the most downtrodden and exploited peg of Hollywood's rigid above-the-line caste system. It's disputes like this that can plant seeds of simmering resentment, eventually exploding on the side of the Pacific Coast Highway as an officer waves away the potent agave fumes that accompany Gibson's hate-fueled accusations of, ‘Are you a screenwriter? Fucking screenwriters... The screenwriters are responsible for all the strikes in the world.’”

Alan Rants about the Indy Trailer
“There are far too many computer-generated effects in this trailer. I know that’s the way it’s got to be, but what happened to Frank Marshall and the others crowing about how they were going to do this the old-fashioned way, with Big Macho Practical Stunts and effects?” Amen. The moving four columns toward the end of the trailer and the gang sinking into the sand felt more like it came out of Tomb Raider than Indiana Jones. I would also add that he’s got too big of a team with him and that car chase sequence looked very fake. And Marion and her son tagging along through the temples feels like overkill. There’s also been some discussion about the
differences between the American and International trailers with side-by-side comparisons like pictured above.

Dead Head Fred wins WGA's first Video Game Writing Award

Critic takes aim at Jumper screenwriters
“Jumper would be lame simply on the basis of its under-written characters and slack attitude toward the hero's adventures (the action scenes may be as sleek and colorful as car commercials, but they're so pedestrian in their staging and cutting that I found myself focusing on the travelogue cityscapes instead of watching the characters, which made me wonder if this movie was funded by international tourism boards), but the lazy regard for David's moral crisis, or lack thereof, is pitiful. While Spiderman has to wrap his addled teenage head around the notion that with great power comes great responsibility, David wonders how best he can lie to his girlfriend about himself and keep her in his back pocket; even after she learns the truth, his primary concern is finding the way to keep her in his orbit with the bare minimum of embarrassed apology. I haven't been so disgusted with the hero of a mainstream Hollywood offering since Russell Crowe had to struggle between choosing his high-income job as an investment broker and making a lot of money off of his winery and chateau. In other words, these people are wondering what selfish bit of wish fulfillment they want ‘right now.’”

Haggis In the Valley
“When Paul Haggis talks about his latest movie, In The Valley Of Elah, he's keen to cite the three Oscar winners in the cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and Susan Sarandon. The writer-director has likewise basked in Academy Award glory as the writer and director of 2004's Crash. Still, he says, ‘I think it's odd to judge films. It made me personally uncomfortable with Crash being called the best film of the year when there were many great films that year.’ In The Valley Of Elah is arguably a better movie than Crash…”

Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell to Pay Tribute to Heath Ledger in Dr. Parnassus
“In the film, Ledger’s character reportedly falls through a 'magical mirror' into an alternate reality, and thus the caveat of these three actors’ interpretations is further supported.”

Pacino does Bond?
“The folks over at
AICN recently threw out quite the dizzying rumor that Pacino will be playing the big boss behind the events in the first film, which is who Bond is looking for in the second film, not only to find out who's the puppeteer of the first film's events but to get a little revenge for his lost love.”

Interview with Dr. Linda Seger
Story Structure – Learn the 3-Act structure well. Later, you can work with non-traditional structures (such as Crash) but don’t start there.”

Wendy Ide's ten greatest screenwriters
Quentin Tarantino: Tarantino gets a lot of stick but there’s no arguing with the fact that his densely layered brand of wordy, cine-literate screenwriting spawned innumerable imitators...”

Sir Tom Stoppard on writing Shakespeare in Love
“I like the early stage of screenwriting, the first and second drafts. I am an optimist: each time I think it will go perfectly and every time I will write a script that everyone loves. It never quite works out like that; there is always a slight disappointment. Many people have asked me to adapt my own plays for film. But one seems to fall between two equally awkward stools: you film the play and end up not satisfied with the film, or to make the film you leave out two thirds of the play, so why make it as a film in the first place?”

14 Great Movies About Writers
“With the WGA strike finally ending, we celebrate the scribe tribe's return by saluting screenwriter characters in movies, from Sunset Boulevard to Leaving Las Vegas to Hannah and Her Sisters and more…”

Screenwriter Takes Name Off Punisher: War Zone, Cites Difference in Vision
“My pitch, my vision, for the Punisher franchise was something much different. I tried to rip Frank Castle from the comic book world and place him in the real streets of NYC. Castle is the only superhero without powers. He’s a tortured, highly skilled soldier with a really bad anger problem. I always felt we should see Frank in some place uber-real and gritty. I threw away the first draft written by Nick Santora and did a page one rewrite. I changed the locations, the characters, the story. I dropped Frank in a real New York City with real villians, real cops, real relationships. To me, the Punisher deserved more than the usual comic book redress. It shouldn’t just follow the feature superhero formula. Apparently, I was the only one who shared that vision.” (According to
this article, he was getting death threats.)

The Science of Fairy Tales
“In the story, Ariel loses her voice because of a curse. However, a less skilled sorceress could use a different method to silence a
singing mermaid. Scientists have figured out a way to bend sound waves around an object and, can even prevent the escape of all sounds created inside a given area (important for keeping a transformed, singing mermaid from being heard). Recently, Steve Cummer, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University announced that it is theoretically possible to create such a sound shield. Building on research demonstrating how light waves can be bent around an object to make it appear invisible, Cummer and his collaborators used mathematical analysis to show how to do the same thing with sound. They established that it is possible to create a material that bends sound waves around walls, pillars, or any enclosed area, where the sound waves emerge as if nothing had been in their way. It would be like someone in the bedroom being able to hear what someone in the living room said, but as if there were no wall between them.” (See also Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth, The Surprising Realities of Mythical Creatures, and The Science of Sea Monsters.)

Michael Bay has Already Written Transformers 2
“I’ve been writing Transformers 2. We’ve got our characters all designed. I always write all my scripts, my movies anyway so at least I’ve got something to give the writers. It’s like a template. We have a really good outline so I worked on that,” Bay told
Rotten Tomatoes. “We had to because I want to make my date. I’m not going to let the strike take me down.” (You can get a first look here.)

Screenwriter awards go to “Juno,” “No Country”

Strike 20 years ago led Hollywood writer April Smith down new path

Frustrated indies seek web distrib'n

Experts on the acceptance speech

'Star Trek' pushed back to 2009


On the Contest Circuit:

ScriptapaloozaTV Announces Contest Winners

Adrienne Shelly Wins ASA's Discover Screenwriting Award

Movie Script Contest Winner Secures Agency Representation and Writing Assignment

Kairos Announces Contest Winners

IFFF Announces Semifinalists

Acclaim Film & TV Announces Winners

Acclaim Film & TV Announces Winners


Strike Related:

Actors Threaten to Take Up Strike Cause
“The Writers Guild strike was over for less than 24 hours before Screen Actors Guild members seized headlines and began publicly positioning for their contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.”

Marc Norman’s Happy Ending for Writers
“If history is written by the winners, let me gloat. I'm one of 10,000-plus members of the Writers Guild of America, and we're about to ratify a new three-year contract that was concluded last week. We're an odd union, the WGA, composed of rich uncles and poor cousins, the uncles being the A-list screenwriters and TV show-runners, the cousins folks scraping by writing for low-budget reality shows and soaps, and it takes a significant issue to weld us together. When our contract came up for renewal in July, for the first time in decades, we had one -- everybody wanted contract language that would give us a cut of revenue when our work is broadcast on the brave new media world of the Internet. We got what we wanted.”

Writers suck at math: the WGA strike, by the numbers

Strike Notes from a Screenwriter
“Our strike is a victory against negatives. We successfully resisted the studios on rollbacks. And the union remained united, solid and militant in the face of the media conglomerates' obvious intent to break or enfeeble the Writers Guild of America, west and east. The strike the conglomerates' film studios provoked had the unintended consequence of strengthening our union and uniting the membership as never before. By staying out, we staked our claim to future income via DVD residuals, internet, streaming etc. And established a beachhead in the new technology. Nobody knows if this will turn out to be a bonanza or a bust.”

The WGA's New Deal: Tallying the Pros and Cons

Writers return to cloudy field

Jeff Zucker Rumored To Be Seeking Damages From WGA For Pooping On His Golden Globe Parade

WGA Says 'Deal Isn't Perfect'
“Even though the end result isn't exactly what striking Writers Guild of America wanted, Hollywood writers are going back to work Wednesday following a three-month-long strike. ‘This deal isn't perfect,’ WGA West president Patric Verrone told reporters. ‘We wish we could have gotten more. We deserve more.’”

Blame it on Ego: Why the Writer’s Strike Took So Long to Settle

Roger Wolfson: How the WGA Won: A Behind the Scenes Look

Welcome back WGA. Here's your pink slips.

WGA deal: Plenty to think about


And finally

Jerry O'Connell's Wild WGA Party Makes News


Burbanked said...

Thanks for the link, MM! I have to say, I've softened on the trailer a bit now that I've watched it a few more times. The CGI is what it is, I'm afraid, and I suppose the best we can hope for is that it will all be more seamless by the time the movie comes out.

I really am hoping that some of the trailer's cringe-worthy dialogue gets cut and/or replaced. No offense to screenwriters, but sometimes a solidly sardonic look from your actor will do just fine.

Mystery Man said...

Well, I completely agreed with you. The more I see the trailer, the more hardened I get about it, I'm sorry to say. But I'm holding out hope and judgment until I see the finished film.


Burbanked said...

I must be moving toward "acceptance" while you're staying in "anger".

Of course, I might be circling back to anger, denial or simply catatonia again soon.

Laura Deerfield said...

...Anita Loos?

I wondered whether Ms. Ide would include any women in her list. And she did include one. Look at her list of credits on IMDb. most of them are not actually for writing a screenplay, but are credits for "scenario" or "story". A couple of "play" credits, some "uncredited" contributions. She was primarily a novelist.

Not to undermine her importance. There are still several impressive screenplay credits to her name... but she just doesn't seem to compare to the others on the list. It feels like a stretch.

And it sucks that there is only one woman in a list of ten. We are, after all, more than 50% of the population.

Anonymous said...

Something Awful's parodies can be pretty funny, but I have to admit, I thought their Diablo Cody parody hit below the belt a bit with the Braniel stuff.

She's learning about the downside to fame with her husband divorcing her and hooking up (and soon to be living with) a "mutual" friend of theirs.

Her dialogue is a bit over-the-top for me, and it's clear she has a strong exhibitionist streak, but talk about kicking somebody when they're down...

Mickey Lee said...

I think the "Damn, thought that was closer" thing was kinda lame too, and a little expositional. One of my favorite Indy moments is from TOD, when he's dangling from the bridge, and Thuggee arrows are peppering the planks all around him. He looks back and says: "Jeez."

I think that's all that needed to be said in this case as well.

Mystery Man said...

Alan - I'm not sure anger's the right word. Cautious, maybe.

Laura - I agree that it sucks. Screenwriting and poker are two vocations where I'm consistently surprised I don't see more women. On AFI's Top 100 list, there are quite a few films that had both men and women writers involved (Wizard of Oz, Singing in the Rain, It's a Wonderful Life, etc), but the highest ranked film that was written solely by a woman was E.T., which was of course, written by Melissa Mathison. I sometimes wonder if her great work in that was too overshadowed by Spielberg.

Anon - Ya know, I worked so quickly to put this article together that I didn't even realize it was a fake. Sigh... I actually think highly of Diablo Cody and have been contemplating a spoiler-free review of "Jennifer's Body." She needs to reign in her addiction to dialogue.

Mickey - Completely agree. I wonder if a "aww, damn" would've sufficed, or perhaps a crack about anything else - damn trucks, damn government lights...

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