Sunday, February 03, 2008

Screenwriting News & Links! 2/3/08


Above is 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.

Vacation Alert - I'll be out this week but do not fret! All week long, we will be posting Best Of articles from the archives (with new intros written by me) to give all you new readers out there a chance to catch up. If you haven't read these articles before, this could be a life-changing week for you as a writer.

Be well,


New Screenplays:

K-Town Super Frog (filmed as All God's Children Can Dance) - January 2006 draft script script by Scott Coffey (Inspired by the short story All God's Children Can Dance by Haruki Murakami) - hosted by: SimplyScripts. “A boy's attachment to his mother affects his relationships as he searches for his father.” See also All God’s Children Can Dance on MySpace.


Required Reading:
Billy’s The Movie On The Page
“The ten Oscar-nominated screenplays are all "pre-directed." They're crammed full of specific visual/aural choices that timid Little Brains would deem "directors only!" -- and most of them achieve their aims without ever resorting to camera language (the Coen's No Country lays out the writer/directors' shot list, as is their wont, but this and P.T. Anderson's There Will Be Blood prove the exceptions amidst the current crop of Oscar-nom'ed screenplays).”

Danny Stack on Theme
“Writing for theme works in a variety of ways. One, don’t worry about it and get your first draft done, only then revising the story to add notions of theme and what you really want to say. Two, write with theme in mind (many writers stick the theme, or even one word, over their computers to remind themselves that everything must feed into that idea) and really get a hold of the resounding power of your story (get you). Three, forget all about theme. Write what you like. If you feel confident that the story delivers what you want in terms of entertainment value but you don’t have a clue what the theme is, don’t worry, someone else will come up with one for you, probably a critic (especially if the film is a hit). Loads of hit films don’t have themes but that doesn’t mean to say that they’re hollow or without merit. The slimmest suggestion of a theme could be enough...”

Laura Deerfield on
Depression and Creativity
“But the article I found most helpful was this one: An interview with a doctor who did an empirical study on creativity and mental illness, and so is speaking from facts rather than supposition. In his study, around 70% of the writers had depression, which is just massive. However, he noted that during a depressive or manic phase, an individual is not motivated or organized enough to actually create. It is only after they emerge from that state that they are able to use those experiences as fuel. He addresses the fear that some have of medication stifling their creativity with examples, and states that creative people are more functional and more able to actually produce work while their illness is under control. He also notes that besides major Depression and Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia has a link to creativity - but once again, not when it is out of control.”

For Writer, Happiness Isn't Free, but It's Cheap
“With a knack for getting the most out of a dollar, Jeff Yeager likes to call himself the ‘Titan of Tightwads,’ ‘Maestro of Misers’ or ‘Commander in Cheap.’ ‘I am cheap, and I am a loser,’ Yeager, 49, of Accokeek said last week, pointing to his soiled shirt and bluejeans. ‘Look at me. Do I look like an author?’

Bardem, Ledger and the truth about movie acting
“Bravo to Bardem for publicly acknowledging what every cinematic actor knows but few talk about publicly. If you've ever asked yourself, "How can Actor X be so good in one picture and so bad in another?" -- Bardem's got your answer in a nutshell: Any performance is created from many random bits and pieces of film, carefully chosen (we hope!) and assembled from among hundreds of choices and many thousands of possible combinations. Actors may give several very different readings of the same scene, adjusting nuances and emotions or improvising something spontaneous that the director and the editor (n the Coens' case, the pseudonymous Roderick Jaynes -- can't wait to hear his Oscar speech) must put together from what would otherwise be incoherent scraps.”

Emily Blake on
Things you can learn from high school storytellers
“1) They didn't show me, they told me. They told me two characters were best friends. They told me a boy and girl were in love, they told me a boy's mom was a whore. I gave them examples of how you can add a scene into a story to show the relationship in a way that's much more effective at getting me into the story.”

Girish on Film Magazines
“I'm curious to know: what film magazines do you search out, read, and find valuable? For me, in addition to the mainstays--like Cineaste, Cinema Scope, Film Comment, Rouge, Screening the Past, Senses of Cinema--I've just taken out a subscription to Film Quarterly. And I cancelled my long-time Sight & Sound subscription (a tad expensive).”

Zach Campbell’s Revisitations
“I recently re-watched All About Eve, All That Heaven Allows, and The Fly (Cronenberg) on DVD… Mankiewicz's film comes off somewhat better than the first go round--I wasn't a huge fan the first time I saw it, and I know it's a classic and full of great lines, and I see now that it's not a shallow film, that the whole Addison DeWitt angle especially gives it some substantial resonance. But I just haven't been able to jump aboard 100%. Don't ask me why, I'm not certain I could give you a rational reason. Or even a coherent irrational one. Yet.”

Dennis Cozzalio Loves to Dance
“The rest of Dance Party USA is indeed a dance done to and in the rhythms of two restless people desperate to connect to someone—perhaps each other—who must deal with the ramifications of the honesty Jessica inspires in Gus and where it will lead them, if it can lead them anywhere. Director Katz has fashioned his first film in a way that remains true to the sensibility of self-absorbed teenagers without itself becoming bogged down in a morass of self-reflection or self-serving romanticism. His camera is free-floating but patient, willing to settle on Jessica’s relatively mature gaze, or on the squirming self-consciousness of Gus’s self-protecting grin as he begins to reckon with the ways Jessica is beginning to transform him, from a sexual predator to a social partner. What Katz finds in those visages, as well as in the freshly observed city environment in which their small drama plays out, brings flesh to what could have been just another plastic indie D.I.Y. romance of the sort Sundance spits out like sunflower seed shells these days.”

Ed Copeland on Death Proof
“In Death Proof, few of the characters have any sort of distinct personality outside of Russell, especially in the case of the first group of young women Stuntman Mike terrorizes. Most of the actresses in the early sequence are really bad, and not in a good way. Since we spend nearly an hour with them, it gets to be unbearable. The second group of women, which includes Rosario Dawson, are slightly better, but their repartee comes off as very tired.”

New Voices in Writing Offer Their Advice
“Silas House ("The Coal Tattoo," Ballantine): You have to be determined. That's the only way to get published. Never take no for an answer. I think that you should never have a big ego about yourself, but you should have an ego about your writing. But before that, you have to get to the place where you can have some objectivity about your own writing. So many of my undergrads come in and they think they're the best writers in the world, they think they know everything. So part of my job is to focus in on what they don't know, and whatever it is they do know, that's what they need to be writing about. You have to be patient. It took me about six years to get published, from the time I started querying agents.”

Burt Reynolds Blog-A-Thon!
“Has it really been more than 30 years since he was larking it up on Carson's couch, or tear-assing across the South in that black Trans Am, or navigating the rapids of the Cahulawassee River, or posing - grinning, naked and hairy - for the centerfold of Cosmopolitan magazine?” asks Larry Aydlette, the intrepid host of very fun blog-a-thon. See also Peter Nellhaus's piece on 100 Rifles and Burt-a-Thon, Day 2: Semi Tough.

Drown Doubt With a Dose of Inspiration
“The truth is some people have big dreams that will require hard work, creating opportunities and, perhaps most important of all, faith that those dreams can happen. Henry Ford said, 'If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.' Every time a client comes to me and says some variation of, 'I’m writing a screenplay, but everyone is writing a screenplay' I want to shake him or her. Honestly, if you think your screenplay (or painting or music composition or novel or brief or presentation or speech) has no distinguishing qualities, then how do you expect anyone else to engage it?”

Q&A: Difference between Story By, Screenplay By and Written By
Answer: If a person wrote only the story (plot, characters, etc) but did not write the actual screenplay, that person will get the 'Story By' credit. If a person only wrote the screenplay, then they’ll get the 'Screenplay By' credit. Lastly, if a person wrote both the story and screenplay, they’ll get the 'Written By' credit.”

Screenwriting 101: Pop Quiz
“The protagonist of 2001: A Space Odyssey is:
a) Moon-Watcher
b) The Monolith
c) Dr. Heywood R. Floyd
d) Dr. Dave Bowman
e) Dr. Frank Poole
e) HAL 9000
f) The frozen astronauts
g) None of the above”

Former 007 screenwriter Bruce Feirstein talks about Bond film titles
“Ordinarily, I don’t like writing about the James Bond franchise. Having written or co-written three of the pictures from the Pierce Brosnan era, it feels like something that took place a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. But with last week’s announcement of the curious title of the latest film in the series, Quantum of Solace, my editor—who knows that I bear responsibility for the equally controversial title Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)—has asked for an explanation as to how these movies are named. So, for once, I’ll indulge him.”

Vanderbilt psyched for 'Spider-Man 4'
“BlogTalkRadio chats up screenwriter James Vanderbilt about Zodiac as well as his next project Spider-Man 4. 'I went in on that. I really loved the films,' Vanderbilt said. 'It's sort of an odd process because you're sitting down with the people who made the first three and going, 'Well let me tell you what to do.'”

RKO to remake horror titles
8 classic films will be remade by Roseblood Co.

Adapted screenplay
Eye on the Oscars: The Nominees

Original screenplay
Eye on the Oscars: The Nominees

The Permanent End of Project Greenlight?
LivePlanet film unit takes final bow; Company moving on.

Are You a Screenwriter on Strike?
“If so, it's the perfect time for you to become a playwright! Many striking members of the WGA, in addition to battling the producers for fair compensation, are using this opportunity to hone their craft, polish up old scripts, and perhaps even try out new mediums.

"A couple decide to document poltergeist-like disturbances in
Paranormal Activity," writes Dennis Harvey in Variety. "Oren Peli's crew-less debut feature is one of the best genre spins on the pseudo-nonfiction 1st-person-cam since The Blair Witch Project, with which it shares improvised performances, no explicit violence or 'solution,' and a gradual escalation of chills."

Cloverfield 2 Writer Announced
“Production charts have made it known that Drew Goddard will write CloverField 2. Cant really complain since the first movie was fantastic. IS it just me though or is JJ Abrams getting all the credit?”

Haggis takes Hwy61 to United Artists
“Filmmaker Paul Haggis has inked an overall deal with United Artists that will have the Oscar winner writing, producing and possibly directing projects with the studio through his newly created Hwy61 production shingle.”

Screenwriting 101 -- Some Thoughts on Dialogue
“3. To every extent possible, characters should not tell each other how they feel. Any time a character tells another character how he or she feels, the audience is going to wonder 'what the heck is he or she getting at?' Any time a character says 'Here's the truth of a matter:' what should follow the colon is anything other than the truth of the matter. Think of it: any time someone comes to you in your daily goings-about and says 'Let me tell you something about myself' or 'I have some feelings I want to share with you' or 'The fact of the matter is...' you want to turn around and run in the opposite direction. Because the only reason someone would come up to you and offer you some kind of truth is because they want something from you.”

Richard Armstrong’s
Modernity and the Maniac: The Fall of Janet Leigh
“In Touch of Evil and Psycho, the icon came into her own. These films painfully chart specifically modern degradation. In Touch of Evil we witness the downfall of the All-American Girl at a key moment in Leigh's evolution from ingénue to star. As Harvey puts it, Susie Vargas ‘is no campus-queen sweater girl, but a courageous, self-possessed young woman. On her honeymoon.’ ‘Susie’; the accessibility is piquant, almost gooey. But if in early scenes her coiffed blonde hair--check that quiff--and brimming confidence, suggest the brash American on a spree—‘on the trail of a chocolate soda’--by the end of the film the young bride has been molested, drugged, and stripped bare.”

Meet the Spartans Gives Hope to Screenwriters Everywhere
“If absolute crap like that can be made, then my wonderful screenplay (called Love in the Time of Hedge Funds, a romantic comedy about a Hedge Fund manager who falls in love with a venture capitalist and they live happily ever after earning a 19% return on invested capital) can be made into a movie!”

Savage Grace is a quiet stunner, a reserved but engrossing psychodrama whose cumulative impact is devastating," writes Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper. It "builds to a series of incidents that would seem outrageous in another context. But without relying on reductive foreshadowing or pat psychobabble, [Tom] Kalin and screenwriter Howard Rodman earn the movie's final scenes, when what has seemed like a poisoned take on Edith Wharton suddenly becomes something out of Edgar Allan Poe." "One of the more controversial films at Sundance, Savage Grace dramatizes the real-life story of Barbara and Tony Baekeland, a bizarrely intertwined high-society mother and son whose Oedipal relationship ended in tragedy," writes Kim Voynar at Cinematical. "Tom Kalin, whose prior film Swoon re-told the 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder case, seems fascinated by exploring these unusual true-crime type stories, and Savage Grace, while frequently difficult to watch because of the nature of the storyline, is both intense and fascinating." (Thanks to GreenCine Daily.)

Billy Wilder : 10 ScreenWriting Tips

My good friend, Kevin, on a
New Screenwriting Management Company
“Over the weekend, I was contacted by Tim Lambert of Abbot Management, which (according to their website) is a new company dedicated to representing screenwriters. It’s impossible to vouch for the veracity of their claims or the quality of their work since they have yet to sell a screenplay…” See also Alex Epstein’s thoughts.

15 Nominees for Worst Movie Dialogue Ever
“Some of the most regrettable lines in Hollywood history come from the mouths of babes (Drew Barrymore), Oscar nominees (Tom Cruise), and superheroes (Halle Berry)...”

Last week, we shared
A Softer World, and then I was made aware of another webcomic of similar sensibilities – Tiny Ghosts.

Funny things keep happening to the "Dodgeball" writer
“But he somehow sold ‘Dodgeball’ to Fox with himself attached as director and landed his dream cast. Upon release, the movie stunned industry observers by besting Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks' ‘The Terminal’ during the films' opening weekend in 2004 before going on to take in $114 million domestically. Suddenly, the San Francisco-born writer-director went from zero to hero (well, sort of). ‘There were all these offers for me to do romantic comedies about competitive darts players. Or curling,’ he recalled. ‘I got seven competitive eating scripts.’ But then another funny thing happened to Thurber en route to becoming the next Judd Apatow — or at least, the next auteur of blow-Pepsi-out-your-nose-inducing, below-the-belt comedy. Against the advice of his agent (‘He said: 'Capture the bouquet of this moment' — do something that's very similar’), the 32-year-old followed up his ‘Dodgeball’ success by making a low-budget, independently financed art house drama…”

Mike Le’s Paradise Lost.

Sundance winners start with 'Frozen Water' and 'Trouble the Water'
“Alex Rivera's ‘Sleep Dealer’ won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award as well as the Alfred P. Sloan Prize for a film with science or technology as a theme. A vivid, visually exciting sci-fi epic with a strong sense of social commentary, 'Sleep Dealer' created a fully realized world on a shoestring budget….The world cinema screenwriting award went to France's Samuel Benchetrit for his ‘I Always Wanted to be a Gangster.’”

Spotlight on Jump Cut’s
Spotlight on Horror:

Vampire as metaphor: revisiting Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction
Existentialism, radical politics, and vampire lore meet in Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction (1994), an intense, anomalous and highly personal film.

“Before you die, you see The Ring”: notes on the immanent obsolescence of VHS
The videocassette and reproduction are examined in a technological sense, a biological sense, and a psychoanalytic sense in the way they shape the plot of The Ring's horror narrative.

Perpetual flight: the terror of biology and biology of terror in the Ginger Snaps trilogy
The misfortunes of teen sisters Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald in this darkly comic Canadian werewolf film trilogy provoke a critical reflection on bare life and sovereign violence, as theorized by Giorgio Agamben.

"I could kiss you, you bitch": race, gender, and sexuality in Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2: Apocalypse
Harper explores fetishized femininity and racial stereotyping in the first two instalments of the Resident Evil film series.

Everyman and no man: white, heterosexual masculinity in contemporary serial killer movies
Film serial killers have commonly been represented as sexual deviants or "white trash," and more recently as extraordinarily-ordinary white males. In all instances, this iconic figure conveys more general cultural anxieties about white male subjectivity.


On the Contest Circuit:

MoviePoet Announces December Contest Winners

American Gem Announces Semi-Finalists

BlueCat Lab Announces Semifinalists

Script Savvy Announces December 2007 Contest Results



Striking writer heads to the Ukraine for work
“Billy Frolick is the toast of Ukraine as he signs to write its first computer-animated feature film.”

UPDATE - "BREAKTHROUGH" in Writer's Strike
Could lead to a tentative deal as early as next week!

Striking Screenwriters Slum It In The Lit World
“‘Oftentimes, you shudder when a screenwriter sends you a novel, because they tend to be strong with dialogue but crappy with context, and novels are all about creating the proper context for the story...’”

"Very Productive Day" At WGA-Mogul Talks

More Side Deals Signed With WGA

Chernin Returns To WGA Talks Friday

More Sources Say More WGA Progress
"Things are looking very good," I'm told.


And finally

Take a vacation with Robert Mckee!

“Esteemed screenwriting sage and Fulbright Scholar Robert McKee has grown weary of pacing chilly theaters and yearns to feel the wind through his eyebrows. He is now offering* the following vacation packages, all of which include Mr. McKee’s in-demand, three-day Story Seminar. ‘Relive the Cuban Missile Crisis with Robert McKee…’ ‘Backstage at Ringling Bros. with Robert McKee…’”


Laura Deerfield said...

So much good stuff here, I'll be reading these all week!

Mystery Man said...

That's how long it took me to read it all! Hehehe...

Cute picture.

Elver said...

MM, have you thought about using something like a combination of and feedburner?

So you could submit your links to and once a week feedburner would take those links, assemble them into a huge blog post like this one, and put them in your RSS feed.