Sunday, March 02, 2008

Screenwriting News & Links! 3/1/08

So sorry, guys, No Trigger Digest this week. Blogger wasn’t playing nice with me. I don't know why.

Coming this week: MM’s script review of Diablo Cody’s Jennifer’s Body!


New Screenplays:

Here’s what could be an interesting study. Three versions of Entrapment, the
December 2, 1996, first draft by Ronald Bass, the February 22, 1998, eighth draft by Bass, and the May 8, 1998, tenth draft by Bass and Don MacPherson. (Thanks to SimplyScripts.) We have three scripts spanning ten revisions for a film that’s unfortunately at 36% at RottenTomatoes. James Berardinelli said, “However, to lay the full burden at (Sean Connery’s) feet would be both unreasonable and unfair. He is saddled with a script that, at its best, is inconsistent, and, at its worst, is laughably implausible and riddled with obvious flaws.” I wonder if, over the course of ten revisions, the story went from good-to-bad, bad-to-worse, or consistently bad-to-bad?

In The Bedroom, an undated, unspecified draft script by Rob Festinger and Todd Field (based on the short story 'Killings' by Andre Dubus).


New Books:

The Shocking Miss Pilgrim – A 99-year-old woman, Frederica Sagor Maas, shares her struggles as a screenwriter in Hollywood in the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. From Publisher’s Weekly: “In 1920, she answered a New York Times classified ad from Universal Pictures, becoming, at age 23, Universal's N.Y.C. story editor. In 1925, she arrived in Hollywood, turned down a screen test and instead scripted a Clara Bow vehicle, The Plastic Age. Installed in the MGM writers' bungalow, she tackled a rewrite of Dance Madness (1926) but proved so ‘ignorant of studio politics’ that she was labeled a ‘troublemaker’ by producer Harry Rapf. After her 1927 marriage to script writer and producer Ernest Maas, the couple survived the coming of sound films, the Depression and various earthquakes, but dry scripting spells and the constant theft of their ideas, stories and credits led them to quit the business. In 1950 she ‘bid farewell, without tears, to the Hollywood screen industry that had so entangled and entrapped me in its web of promises.’ Maas trashes Hollywood legends, recalling Louis B. Mayer as ‘a very fearful, insecure man;’ Clara Bow dancing nude on a tabletop; Jeanne Eagels squatting to urinate in the midst of a film set; and Marion Davies commenting on her affair with Hearst: ‘I'm a slave, a toy poodle…’”

Billy Mernit recommends Mark Harris's Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. “It's the best book written about the movies and what they mean to us to come down the pike in a long while, and its subject matter is particularly intriguing in terms of its contrast to the times we live in.”


Mike Le’s
agent wants him to start stripping.

John August on
Test screening questionnaires:
“There are several companies that do paid test screenings, and I’m sure each has a template and a standardized methodology. But you’re not interested in statistics, and don’t need to compare your movie with other historical dramas of the last five years. You just want to make your movie better. So you can safely make up a sheet of your own…”

Joshua James on
Emotional Content
“THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION of the characters TO THEIR ACTIONS. They are emotionally connected to what they do. That’s going to be the theme of this post, and so it’s gonna be repeated, but for good reason. Too often, when I read a script that has a good idea to it, and good writing, I see that the characters aren’t emotionally invested in their actions. By that, I mean the things that they do in a story (save a cat, drink a beer, smack a guy) aren’t powered by emotional logic, and so it feels more like a construct (this is where my hero does this action) rather than something not only would that person CHOOSE to do, but that person HAS to do. And that’s the dirty secret not only of storytelling, but of life itself.”

Man admits to beheading Hollywood screenwriter, killing doctor in 2004
“A man accused of beheading a HW screenwriter and fatally stabbing his neighbor in a drug-induced rage pleaded guilty today to murder…”

"In the 1980s, when the Chinese government granted
Bernardo Bertolucci unprecedented access to the Forbidden City, an entire nation that had been ignored in popular world cinema suddenly became a new frontier for Western viewers," writes Andrew Chan, at the House Next Door. The Last Emperor "became an international hit and a whirlwind success at the Academy Awards... But behind the silk veils and looming structures of Bertolucci's biggest blockbuster remains one of the strangest mainstream epics imaginable, a film that wears its compromises of style and perspective on its sleeve." "Last Emperor is most decisively a lesson of nobility: The most destitute in a society is nobler than the one living in unimaginable privilege and wealth," writes Arthur Ryel-Lindsey in Slant. "In this way, Bertolucci's most awarded film is also his signature." (From GreenCine.)

'My Liar' mines Rachel Cline's past life as a 'screenwriter'
“Building on that success, Cline has returned to tell the story of the Los Angeles that she knew in the '90s as a budding screenwriter.”

Haggis is confused over the next Bond title
“Screenwriter Paul Haggis (himself getting in on the daft name show) was asked by MTV what the fuck was going on, and he gave a helpful insight into the naming process: ‘I have no idea. It's not my title.’”

How to Create a Three Dimensional Character in a Screenplay
“Step 1:Write a complete biography for all main and secondary characters. As a writer, you need to know every single detail about your characters so when they react in a situation it will feel real. Where did she go to school? What is his economic background? Does she have siblings? Where did he grow up? You protagonist's college education may never come up in your script, but you still need to know about it in order to shape him.”

Interview with a "Screenwriting Professional"
“Jaden, who blogs at Screenwriting for Hollywood was kind enough to share her Hollywood and screenwriting expertise in this interview. In the wake of the WGA strike, Jaden decided to launch her own online business. She now works as a screenwriting consultant, and she is also a fiction and non-fiction writer... In the interview it’s asked, ‘What advice would you give beginners who are interested in screenwriting?’ and Jaden replies, ‘No one will take you seriously if you do not properly format your screenplay. You have to start there.’” Hehehe.. What have I been telling you people?”

How to Become a Screenwriter in Ten Easy Steps
“2: Learn and memorize proper screenplay formatting. This is not optional. Most other items on this list are.” Hey, look at that! See?

Has Academy's vote gotten too rote?
“Music, foreign, docu categories under fire.”

Indy 4 could premiere at Cannes. The film reshoot rumors aren’t reshoots but pickup shots. There’s another rumor that Indy 4 will not be playing digitally anywhere, and yes, Shia confirmed with MTV that the warehouse in the trailer is THE warehouse.

Hollywood puts focus on China
“Studios, distribs race to get piece of the pie.”

On the meaning of WB’s purchase of New Line
“Warner Bros plans to maintain New Line as a ‘separate development, production, marketing, distribution and business affairs operations.: However, it will “closely integrate and coordinate those functions with Warner Bros. to maximize film performance and operating efficiencies, achieve significant cost savings, and improve margins.’ I’m guessing that means in the short term, there will be minimal layoffs. New Line will still do some distribution. Anne Thompson claims that this is the result of their being ‘various output deals that can’t be instantly severed.’ As for Warners maintaining completely separate operations for New Line, Nikki Finke writes ‘Of course, how long that lasts is anybody’s guess.’” See also the NYT article.

Film greenlights in limbo
“Pic development gives way to strike concerns.”

Script Review: The Happening
“M. Night Shyamalan is at a strange point in his career. His approach to filmmaking seems to be that he is going to take the most super-cliched genre staples (ghosts, aliens, mermaids, and pilgrims) and sort of retroactively 'own' the sub-genre by coming up with the ultimate twist. So it isn't any surprise that Shyamalan's latest foray, The Happening, is in the apocalypse-in-progress mode of such current films as I Am Legend, 28 Days Later or even Diary of the Dead. It's a sub-genre just crying out for reinvention at Shyamalan's genius soaked hands. Sadly, the genius doesn't sweat from Shyamalan's pores here, only some silly chlorophyl based mixture that smells strangely like the carcass of a once promising career.”

Above is a pic of NYT’s
Visual Guide to the Box Office. It’s interactive, so be sure to click around.

On the Use of Windows in A Beautiful Mind
“Ron Howard and Akiva Goldman’s deliberate use of windows in A Beautiful Mind is effectual as a device for accentuating the experience of mental illness. Its symbolic implications can also lead viewers to uncover layers of meaning from multiple perspectives. ‘Within this perfectly detailed exterior life I could build an inner life and in so doing, give the audience a window into what it might feel like to suffer from this disease.’ (Goldman).”

How to break into screenwriting
“Wanted: Co-writer for high-profile Hollywood screenplay. No experience necessary. Yep, it's for real. My friend Eric Estrin, left, has launched the "LA Observed Script Project," a collaborative venture that's partly an experiment and mostly a writing competition. Estrin started off the project's screenplay "Right of Way" with a three-page setup. Then it was turned over to the masses. Wanna-be screenwriters are asked to submit a few pages. Each week, Estrin will pick the submission that best advances the story.”

Matt Lopez knows how the other side works
“He moved from a job as a DreamWorks lawyer to Disney’s resident writer feature program. His Bedtime Stories is now filming with Adam Sandler starring.”

Screenwriting teacher offers an insider's tips
“However, she said ultimately the scripts that get made into movies are the ones that are well-written and engaging. She said it's a fallacy to think it's impossible to make it in in Hollywood, but emphasized it is talent that makes the difference. ‘You can't teach someone a writer's voice,’ DeMarco said. ‘What you can learn in screenwriting is that it is a distinct form. There is a craft to screenplays that is different from fiction writing and poetry.’”

R.I.P. Robin Moore
“The writer of books such as The French Connection and The Green Berets, both of which went on to become films, has passed away at the age of 82.”

Green Working on Green Lantern Script
“Michael Green wasn't unprepared for the job of working on the script for Warner Bros. upcoming Green Lantern, having had previous experience as a part of the writing teams for Heroes and Smallville, and being the current writer on DC Comics Superman/Batman. Speaking to Newasarama, Green confirmed his work on the script and the fun he is having with it.”

Cleveland teen wins screenwriting contest
“Months ago, she had entered the Scenarios USA scriptwriting contest, but she'd put it out of her mind. So she was completely surprised when she walked into a classroom on Feb. 19 to find a crowd of friends, family and Scenarios staffers along with banners and flowers... Her winning story will be turned into a short film directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber ("Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story"). The movie will be cast and shot in Cleveland...”

Project Greenlight Horror Screenwriting Duo to Raise Hellraiser
Saw 4 and Saw 5 [and Feast] screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan will hammer out the script for the upcoming Dimension Films remake of Hellraiser. Variety reports that the writers' salaries will be in the "high six figures for the job," and it may actually be money well spent. Directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo will begin shooting their remake of the 21-year-old film this spring, giving Melton and Dunstan at best about three months to get a script in shape.”

Cut/Scenes: screenwriting vs. game writing
“In any story-driven media, be it novels, narrative videogames, films, etc., you can’t have a very successful project without solid writing. While visual media like film and videogames (and from here, we’re speaking of games with central story lines, not Tetris) don’t necessarily rely on the spoken word as heavily, the writing is still an essential part of the production. With narrative becoming more and more important in gaming, and the industry growing at such an exponential rate, we’re seeing more established screenwriters try their hand at writing for games. But can these skills really be translated into such a vastly different media?”

"If the [1968 Democratic] convention was a tragedy, the trial was a farce," writes
J Hoberman in the Voice. "Revisiting events at once overly familiar and impossible to imagine, [Brett] Morgen's impure mix of documentary footage and rotoscopic computer animation is unrelenting Sturm und Drang. Chicago 10 has a deliberate and irritating absence of context but a full appreciation of antics." "It's like seeing images from 1956 Budapest, except it's the streets of the city I've lived in most of my adult life," writes Ray Pride in Newcity Chicago. "Almost, just almost, the fragments of historical material are pungent enough, iconic enough, to stand out against the underwhelming animation. It ain't Boondocks, an accomplished feat of animation which is also far more incendiary and subversive while beguiling the eye." (Thanks to GreenCine.)

Hollywood, Etc.: In the beginning ... was the word
“In the classroom, each student takes a turn, assigning speaking roles to their classmates. Sometimes Voytilla joins in. And when they're done, there's a round of applause led by their teacher, who adds, ‘Thanks for sharing that.’ Youthful writers, he knows, can be impatient, saddled sometimes with bad grammatical habits and balking at the extensive work that goes into coming up with even a first draft. They persist, though, taking criticism and suggestions, aching to get their work on paper, ‘the kinds of stories - sometimes nightmares - in the world as they see it and experience it,’ says Voytilla, ‘the potential of love, standing up against oppression, relationships - father-son, father-daughter - and dealing with parents and other loved ones (like Jenkins' The Savages and Polley's Away From Her).’”

Hollywood Screenwriter Hopes To Remake Slapshot
“Peter Steinfeld, a Hollywood screenwriter whose works include Analyze That and Be Cool, is in the process of writing a screenplay for a remake of the 1977 cult classic Slapshot.”

"A blockbuster in its native Iceland, adapted from
Arnaldur Indridason's 2000 bestseller, this somber, sinewy police procedural by the talented actor-writer-director Baltasar Kormakur (The Sea) could pass for an episode of CSI: Reykjavik, only with less high-tech gimmickry, more pavement-pounding, and a head-clearing view of crime as anything but a cool diversion," writes Jim Ridley in the Voice. The New York Times' AO Scott finds Jar City "intricate and pointed, conjuring a haunting, satisfying puzzle out of violence and chaos.... The emotions at the heart of this philosophical detective story are dark and tangled, like the grisly surprises that seem to be buried under every floorboard." (Thanks to GreenCine.)


On the Contest Circuit:

2008 Waterfront Screenplay Competition
“The 2008 Waterfront Screenplay Competition will take place during this year's annual Waterfront Film Festival in Saugatuck, Michigan June 12-15…”

BlueCat Screenwriting Lab Announces Short Screenplay Winners

Scriptapalooza Interviews TV Contest Winners

Script Savvy Announces January Contest Winners

WILDSound Announces Contest Winners

PAGE Award Winning Writers Build Careers in the Industry

BlueCat Lab Announces Pitch Development Awards

HSI Announces Monthly Contest Winner

CineStory Retreat Chosen as Top Prize for Final Draft Competition



No, this wasn’t me:
Mystery Man Who Fed Striking WGA Writers Revealed, Thanked (This was, in fact, Drew Carey.)

WGA Members Ratify Contract

Screenwriters Vote to Strike Annually In Future

WGA files embezzling case

CBS profit drops as TV and radio revenue declines

Sweetheart deals soured

LA Times: Writers bill aims at cable revenue


And finally


Mickey Lee said...

Amazing how that Optimus Prime clip likes 1000 times better than any of the CGI in "Bayformers".

Ugh, dont even get me started with the stupid DC Oscar pic...

Kevin Lehane said...

MM, I hope that you will be honest in your assessment of Jennifer's Body because as much as I enjoyed Juno (yet can understand the criticisms levelled at it) I personally found Diablo Cody's JB to be poorly lacking. And I hope this isn't construed as backlash bandwagon jumping. I actually read JB before Juno and it didn't work for me at all. So, yeah.

Joshua James said...

Thanks for the shout-out, brother, I appreciate it!

Jaden @ Screenwriting for Hollywood said...

Thanks for the mention!

This is a long juicy post.

1. Sean Connery is a great actor. If he is sucking, it must not be his fault, but lies somewhere in the script, direction, and filmmaking.

2. "over the course of ten revisions"
I'd wager a large bet that there were far more than just the 10 official revisions. Many scripts/movies have been totally ruined from over-re-writing. On the flip-side, of course some scripts were never good from the gate.

3. "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim " sounds really interesting; am excited to read that one! Thanks.

4. Emotional connection -- great point.

5. "Sadly, the genius doesn't sweat from Shyamalan's pores here, only some silly chlorophyl based mixture that smells strangely like the carcass of a once promising career." Couldn't agree more.
Shyamalan is my great screenwriting disappointment. He writes about all the same subjects I do and makes 'em into movies before I do, and then... yeah, so cliche and boring. WTF? I always have excitement and high hopes on the concept of his films, then am always disappointed by the vapid unroll of the story and the unbelievability of his singular dimensioned characters. Boo.

Cheers for your fat post!

bob said...

Michael Le's cartoon is freakin hilarious- Left Eye Lou he he