Monday, March 10, 2008

Screenwriting News & Links! 3/10/08

The most entertaining news this week has to be the fact that Johnny Depp is holding screenwriter auditions for his latest movie Dali. It hasn't been announced how he would accept scripts, and I suspect that you'll need a good agent to get anything to him. However, the actor is reportedly keen on finding the very best possible script for the film in which he would play the famous Spanish artist. “A source is quoted as saying: ‘He's open to working with anyone - from housewives to pensioners - if the script is right.’ Al Pacino and Peter O'Toole are also in talks to portray Dali in upcoming movies Dali and I and Goodbye Dali respectively.”

Here, you can watch a
76-minute documentary on Salvador Dali, and at the bottom of this post is a 5-minute tribute.



New Screenplays:

Hitman - undated, unspecified draft script by Skip Woods, which is probably the same draft that I reviewed. Hey, compare notes!

Big Trouble in Little China II - January 12, 1995 network draft two script by Charles Proser (unproduced made-for-TV)

Field of Dreams - March 9, 1998 final draft script by Phil Alden Robinson

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - August 8, 2003 Third Revised draft script by Douglas Adams & Karey Kirkpatrick

Children of the Corn - August 5, 1983 2nd revised draft script by George Goldsmith (based on the novel by Stephen King)

Untraceable - June 5, 2006 unspecified draft script by Robert Fyvolent & Mark R. Brinker, current revisions by Allison Burnett

(Thanks to



Girish talked about Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, "a British film scholar who has written books on Luchino Visconti (1968) and Antonioni's L'Avventura (1997), and is the editor of The Oxford History of World Cinema (1999). His new book Making Waves: New Cinemas of the 1960s is an overview primer and a breezy, easy read. Quite a bit of the ground covered here might be familiar to the serious cinephile, but I nevertheless found many details and observations that were new to me and helpful. Let me reproduce a few interesting passages..."

An oldie but a goodie: David Mamet’s
Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama. “To David Mamet, human beings are drama-creating animals who impose narrative structures on everything from today's weather to next year's elections. Mamet distinguishes true drama from its false variants, unravels the infamous "Second-Act Problem," amd considers the mysterious persistence of the soliloquy. 'Knife' is an inspired guide for any playwright or theatergoer that doubles as a trenchant work of moral and aesthetic philosophy.”


Mike Le wants the Cultural Attache Position. (If you're not sure what he's talking about just go here.)

Joshua James on
Goals & Motivation
“So goals are important, but only if they’re connected emotionally to the overall quest your hero happens to be on. It can be large and very personal (like Luke’s quest for identity and value in his life) or a quest can be small and silly (HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE - it’s funny. Seriously, the shit works), as long as the overall motivation of the characters is in keeping with the “Force” of their driving psyche’.”

Laura Deerfield says to
Write What You Know
“Imagination is a powerful tool. It can carry us into areas that no one before has ever conceived of, it can solve problems, it can pull beauty from nearly nothing. Imagination is essential to a writer. So why then, are new writers so often admonished to ‘write what you know?’ The truth is, for a writer who knows themselves, there is no contradiction.”

Unk on the Inciting Incident “It hits us upside the head just a little harder these days when you give us the inciting incident within the first 12 minutes of your story. The mass audience of today isn’t really interested in sitting around waiting for a half hour for something to get your protagonist’s ass in gear. Remember, these are the fucking people sitting in the audience sending text messages and even making Goddamn phone calls. You really think these are the kinda people that wanna wait a half hour or gasp — never — for your incitiing incident?”

Christina tells us
Why Juno Worked
“Folks, it really does come down to the writing. Juno had: A strong voice. Love it or hate it, Ms. Cody has one. Great characters. Juno was full of characters that actors wanted to play. Ellen Page said she read the script and immediately wanted the part. The primary buyers of spec screenplays are actors and producers, not writers or critics. So it doesn't really matter what you, fellow writer, think. Sound structure. It opened and bam, you're in the story.”

Emily’s Thoughts on
The Darjeeling Limited Script
“There's not much of a plot and there doesn't need to be. It's only 107 pages and it's chock full of dialogue because this is a story about bizarre family dyanmics, about how we deal with grief in different ways and what it means to need each other. The story itself is the relationships. Just like all Anderson's other films. What this script does with amazing skill is something so many new screenwriters have difficulty with: making each character a distinct person.”

David Bordwell on
Minding Movies
“When we watch films, our bodies and minds are engaged at a great many levels. Nobody doubts this claim. The interesting questions are: What forms does this engagement take? What gives movies the ability to seize our senses, prod our minds, and trigger emotions? How have filmmakers constructed films so as to tease us into such activities? What, to use a phrase from the philosopher Noël Carroll, creates the power of movies? On this blogsite, I’ve touched on such questions in concrete cases—how eye movements shape our uptake of story information (
here and here), how suspense can be created and sustained (here). Those are just small-scale samples of what is, to me, an exciting and promising way of studying certain aspects of cinema. That research trend is growing substantially, and an upcoming event on our home turf marks a new phase.”

Cool site:

Thanks to
Matt Zoller Seitz, here’s a link to Hollywood Values: The Sympathetic Child Molester written by the conservative site Libertas, and here’s the rebuttal at Cinematical.

Mike Gilbert on Cinema

Studio shuffle creates script limbo
“As a ‘transition team’ reshapes the new New Line division into something more like Dimension Films or Screen Gems, many scripts in its possession are going to have to move out. For all the writers with screenplays in development there -- not to mention the hundreds of employees thrown into limbo -- the question is: What happens now? ‘It's a wait-and-see mentality,’ says one manager, who prefers to remain anonymous so as not to jeopardize his clients' projects there.”

Screenwriter Zak Penn Talks The Avengers Movie as CGI, Young X-Men Movie
“At one point, George Miller was in talks to take Justice League America down the all-CGI route a la Beowulf, and now Marvel’s dream-team flick, The Avengers, might be headed in that direction as well according to screenwriter Zak Penn (X-Men 2 and 3, The Incredible Hulk). Of course, this whole uber-caped enchilada depends on the success of this summer’s Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, as both Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are key players. Director Jon Favreau
has previously stated his interest in directing a live-action version that would team up Robert Downey Jr. and Ed Norton. Penn says that all-CGI talks have definitely happened…”

Ken Levine talks about the future of Hollywood
TI: There seems to be a bigger divide now between major studio pictures and independent features, which seem to be the movies that don’t make a lot of money but win the awards.
KL: And those [studio films] are the movies where there’s interference from film studios, with notes on drafts, editing and casting. They tend to be more formulaic. If you look at a movie like Juno, I can’t imagine that being made by a major studio. And if it was, they probably would have taken Diablo Cody’s script and given it to some A-list punch-up people to change it. And they’d say, “We need a scene with Juno and her mother shopping. And we need a scene of her and the guy holding hands” They’d ask, “Who do we cast it with?” And they’d probably go, “Can we get Mandy Moore? Lindsay Lohan? Miley Cyrus?” What you’re then left with is one of these bastardized formula movies, as opposed to what Juno was, which was a very clear vision. They took a really good script, a director who understood it, cast the best possible people, and did it in the tone they felt was best for that picture. And it will end up making a lot more money – considering the cost – than the other four [Oscar] nominees. The truth of the matter is, last year -- and I checked it -- Norbit had a bigger box office than the Best Picture of the year. There’s something wrong there.”

'Roger Rabbit' writer pens sci-fi novel
After watching a few too many of those Saturday morning TV commercials in the 1970s,
Gary K. Wolf came up with the idea for his novel “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?” which became the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit…”

Terrance Rafferty on Godard's Contempt:
“Further confusing matters (as was, and remains, his custom), he told an interviewer that his movie was 'a simple film, without mystery.' It is nothing of the kind. Moravia’s story, which the film tells surprisingly faithfully, is a fairly simple one, about a screenwriter (played by Michel Piccoli) who can’t figure out why his wife (Ms. Bardot) has suddenly begun to despise him. The collapse of their marriage occurs while the writer is mulling an offer to punch up the script of 'The Odyssey,' produced by a wily and crude American mogul (Jack Palance) and directed by Fritz Lang, who plays himself. (In the novel the director is an invented character, a generic veteran of the German silent cinema, who is, we’re told, 'certainly not in the same class as the Pabsts and Langs.') That’s about it for narrative: the writer frets, the wife glowers, the producer rants and manipulates, and Lang, calm in this storm of domestic malaise and showbiz madness, tries to make a movie that will reflect, at least a little, his vision of 'The Odyssey.' 'Homer’s world is a real world,' he says. 'The poet belonged to a world that grew in harmony, not opposition, to nature.'”

Indian Screenwriters are having a revolution
“At the first All India Screenwriters’ Conference held at FTII Pune in August 2006, attended by over 275 established and aspiring writers, it was strongly felt that the Filmwriters’ Association (FWA) should be proactive about serious issues that concern writers, including
1. Protection of writers’ rights: Writers’ don’t always get their due. Contracts are not fair, they are underpaid, moreover they don’t always receive the promised fees and credit, there is no copyright protection, no question of royalties...”

Batman's Burden
“...The Dark Knight is an even lonelier outing for his character, who once naïvely thought his crime fighting could be a finite endeavor. 'This escalation has now meant that he feels more of a duty to continue,' he said. 'And now you have not just a young man in pain attempting to find some kind of an answer, you have somebody who actually has power, who is burdened by that power, and is having to recognize the difference between attaining that power and holding on to it.'”

On Pitching with Stephanie Palmer, Founder, Good in a Room
“One of the toughest parts of being a screenwriter is... well... much of it doesn't involve actual writing. Unlike being a poet or a novelist, much of writing for film and TV involves walking into a room and being social, whether it's pitching a movie to a producer of throwing around jokes in a sitcom writers room. And for many writers, this is one of the toughest parts of the job... after all, we're writers, not salesmen... our job is to write, not schmooze and sell. But sell we must, and pitching is an integral part of the gig. Fortunately, today's special guest is someone who can help... my friend Stephanie Palmer, one of the industry's foremost experts and coaches on the art and craft of pitching…”

In Austin, David Mamet rarely smiled
“Asked his opinion of formulaic screenwriting courses, Mamet spoke of seeing a flier for a course that promised to reveal ‘The Secrets of the Second Act.’ ‘I think I want to sign up for this thing,’ he said, feigning excitement. Then he added, ‘Aristotle wrote the book on screenwriting. It's called 'Poetics' ... It takes a lifetime to master.’ Again and again Mamet stressed the importance of the audience. ‘You aren't a writer until you hear your work with an audience... You have to pare it down, because the audience is absolutely going to beat you to the punch line.’”

A Screenwriter's Close Encounter
“Ben Monaghan has gone from writing a small part with Glenn Close in mind to making a big play with Glenn Close in his corner.”

R.I.P. Malvin Wald
“Malvin Wald, a prolific writer for film and television best known for co-writing the Academy Award-nominated screenplay for the 1948 film The Naked City, died Thursday of age-related causes at Sherman Oaks Hospital, said his son, Alan. He was 90.”

Toby Keith helps pen screenplay
Beer for My Horses tells the story of a group of small-town deputies and friends who defy the sheriff's orders and hit the road to save one of their girlfriends from kidnappers. Keith said he worked closely with one of his co-stars, country comedian Rodney Carrington...”

Horror King to pen screenplay
“Stephen King is poised to bring his brand of horror to the Great White Way. But first, there’s a pit stop at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre. The Maine horrormeister has penned a script for “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” with music by singer-songwriter John Mellencamp. The musical will open at the Alliance Theatre in April 2009 and then be fine-tuned to be brought to Broadway.”

Screenwriting under pressure
“So you got the big deal. You’ve finally been hired by that production company to write a screenplay, and you have a looming deadline ahead of you. Or, more likely, you’ve talked your parents out of a thousand dollars to cover rent, after which time you’ll have to return to flipping burgers. BUT you have this month more or less free to write. Whether or not someone else hires you or you’ve hired yourself, you should always have a deadline.”

Bateman confirms 'Arrested' film
“The Juno star admitted the film went on the back-burner during the WGA strike but work will now resume with creator Mitch Hurwitz and producer Ron Howard…”

screenplay analysis of Michael Clayton
She compares the action plot line to Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet.

Speaking of
Blake Snyder
“It is my pleasure to announce that Blake Snyder Seminars, LLC has a new partner: Final Draft. I can now officially let you know I will be speaking on behalf of Final Draft, and we will be supporting each other’s software, in addition to my writing a regular column for their online magazine.”

Confessions of a Film School Screenwriter
“1) Don’t be so f#@king sensitive. One of the benefits of film school is how to take a critical beating and rise up from the ashes. Workshops are attempts to streamline your story and to get input from like-minded people that are trying to do the same thing. They are not blowjob fests. People that read your material should be harsh. They should tell you when your story doesn’t make any sense, when your characters have no drive and when they simply lose interest. If you don’t have a little masochism in your heart, then do something else because taking the abuse is part of getting better.”

The Guardian’s new piece on Ron Harwood
“Ronald Harwood is one of the hottest screenwriters in the world, and later this year he will be 74. He has a new stage play, An English Tragedy, playing in London (all right, Watford), and within weeks you will be able see two of his screenplays playing at the same time - Mike Newell's film Love in the Time of Cholera (from the Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel), and the phenomenal The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Julian Schnabel's film derived from Jean-Dominique Bauby's book on what he did after a stroke imprisoned him in his own body and he could only flicker one eyelid.”

a three part series on Krysztof Kieslowski:
“I believe that to understand Kieslowski one must remember that his skills and technique were developed in an era of censorship in Poland. He talks about this himself in the supplemental material for the Criterion Collection edition of The Double Life of Veronique. He reminds us that he and his contemporary directors in Poland had to learn to say things to the audience that the censors wouldn’t cut. That meant that they could not say things directly, but had to convey their ideas through indirect means. Some of these indirect means result in films that: o Have relatively little dialogue – this is especially evident in Veronique; Irene Jacob has remarkably few speaking lines; o Develop without strong linear plot lines; o Use lighting, cinematography and especially music to convey meaning – the use of music in Blue is especially striking and important.” (
Intro, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

"You could call the secret loves in
It Always Rains on Sunday noirish, yet the passion and torments of its women are grounded in an East End locale that feels kitchen-sink-real," writes Nicolas Rapold in the L Magazine. "The 1947 Ealing Studios drama by Robert Hamer, best known for the Alec Guinness black comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets, is frank and bracing in ways that we're not used to seeing in a movie from this period, marking a very worthy rerelease by Rialto." "It Always Rains on Sunday is a masterpiece of dead ends and might-have-beens, highly inventive in its use of flashbacks and multiple overlapping narratives, and brilliantly acted by [Googie] Withers and [John] McCallum," writes Scott Foundas in the Voice. "Compacted into a breathless 90 minutes, the entire film exists in a state of high anxiety - not a frame is wasted." "That this slice-of-life melodrama collides with a fugitive-on-the-run thriller makes Sunday a most notable installment of 1940s British cinema," writes S James Snyder in the New York Sun. "But it's when things go from gray to pitch black in the film's final moments, building to a climax that links the anguish of a prison inmate with the daily routine of a working-class wife, that Sunday delivers an existential wallop for the ages." "Hamer handles the clockwork plot with precision and shoots a final chase scene with panache," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "It's a cannily crafted and satisfying entertainment, which isn't the same thing as claiming it has a point." (GreenCine.)


On the Contest Circuit:

Screenplay-by-Email Wins First Prize in Hollywood's International Family Film Festival

Academy’s Nicholl Screenwriting Competition Now Underway

2008 Eerie Horror Fest seeks submissions

CineStory Extends Deadline to March 24th

Rhode Island Fest Call for Entries

Cosby Program Announces 2008 Program Recipients

WriteSafe Announces Semifinalists

Over 100 producers, agents and managers involved with Scriptapalooza

SellAScript Announces Contest Results

New Companies Show Interest in Acclaim Contest Winners Announces January Winners



'How The Writers Strike Ended', And Other Staged Readings At WGA ...
“Writers Theatre LA presents "On The Page, On The Stage" all this weekend, a festival of staged readings written by WGAW Writers to benefit the Writers Guild Foundation Industry Support Fund.”

WGA Strike Is Over And New Records Have Been Set

Writers Guild chief adjusts to post-strike life

Q&A (Video): WGA President Patric Verrone


And finally

A tribute to Salvador Dali:


Joshua James said...

Thanks again for the link, bro . . .

and BTW, I saw and early, private invite only workshop of Kings THE BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY, King was there, as was Mellencamp, and most of CAA - it was pretty awesome work in progress - a friend directed it - I can tell you more privately if you wish, but it was pretty cool to sit in a row in a theatre on theatre row and look down and Stephen King and Peter Staub are just a few seats away and Mellencamp is standing in the back because he doesn't want to sit, pretty awesome . . .

Laura Deerfield said...

Thanks for the linkage! It was my short for the Hate project that got me thinking about the phrase and the difference between biography and using life to fuel and inform art.

I think I have another post along those lines, dealing more specifically with the kinds of choices that you make when trying to distill all the complexity and contradiction of real life events into something that works on film.

Ray-Anne said...

Thank you for the link to my Blog -and for the depth of the other links on your post.
I forsee serious Procrastination as I work my way through the long list of interesting topics!

Although I create Crime Fiction I do see a lot of synergy in the craft and art. And I love the movies.
Am I permitted to cross media?
Thanks and Regards, Ray-Anne

David Alan said...

Ken Levine talks about the future of Hollywood --

Why didn’t people go out and see There Will Be Blood or No Country for Old Men? First, the damn titles take forever to say and type. Goddamn. No really. People don’t want to watch Daniel Day Lewis hamming it up for two-plus-agonizing hours. I’m kidding. Settle down.

Seriously, I believe people want to walk out of the theater happily entertained...not incredibly depressed. My god, I don’t believe those movies could be anymore depressing.

Juno did well because it was a comedy. Juno also appealed to younger people. I don’t think a lot of 25-and-under people (I was one of the few that did) saw There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men.

Anyway, Hollywood loves these films because they look at it from an artistic perspective. The movie going public doesn’t care whether its art or not. They just know what’s entertaining to them. That’s why I’m never surprised when a Michael Bay film rakes in the dough. His movies are easy to watch. Fuck history. Fuck logic. Let’s just blow some shit up and have a good time. There isn’t anything wrong here. Maybe the Oscars should have a “Most Entertaining Film of the Year” category.

And FYI, Semi-Pro kicked ass. It was good times. You'll love this movie if you aren't tired of Will Ferrell's shtick.

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