Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Screenwriting News & Links! 3/25/08


New Screenplays:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – This is the controversial “early draft” by Alex Cox & Tod Davies, controversial because Gilliam swears he didn't base his shooting script on the Cox/Davies draft and they claim he did. According to SimplyScripts, “there are certain suspicious similarities between this early draft and the finished film (e.g. the opening ‘wipe’), but also some major differences. This early draft is lighter and looser, less faithful to the book.”

30 Days of Night - July 22, 2006 polished production draft script by Steve Niles (based on the graphic novel by Niles & Templesmith) revisions by Stuart Beattie and Adi Hasak



Writing Humour: Giving a Comedic Touch to all Forms of Writing
Ian Bernard's new book, Writing Humor, is the result of fifty years of hanging around golf course locker rooms listening to the jocular banter of middle aged men. Says the author, "I have to admit that sometimes the clubhouse bar contributed to my collection of ribald tales best told out of range of women and certain religious denominations albeit my theory is: It doesn't have to be filthy to be funny. But it helps." (hat-tip to the Mad Screenwriter)


on Truly, Madly, Deeply
“Meanwhile, it was in watching Truly for the third time that I finally comprehended a central theme in Minghella's work: he makes films about community. As demonstrated in English Patient, Cold Mountain and Breaking and Entering -- his last, flawed but admirable film which recalls Truly in its milieu and concerns -- Minghella loves to study how disparate people form unlikely alliances and groups, whether in the African desert or a renovated London flat. Despite its economy-sized production, Truly presents a small world teeming with outspoken individuals. Among its many pleasures are the deftly-etched humans (both living and dead) who fall in love, fight, and even give birth in the corners of its canvas.”

John Rogers on
Lessons from the (television) Script Pile
“6.) Sexy descriptions. I have read a disturbing number of character descriptions, particularly those of women, which go on for a full damn paragraph about how sexy they are, or describe how the camera lingers over them, or even explicit complements about their ass (I am not kidding) ... Okay. Listen. We are all in the Television Business. The Business of Televising. Are you somehow worried that without some Maxim-style adjectives ladled in, some misguided Network Exec is going to forget and cast ugly people..?”

Joshua James
on why Empire Strikes Back works
“Screenwriter John Turman once mentioned something that really resonated with me, and I posted it in another related article, that it’s not always what our characters do, but what they ENDURE that makes them special.”

exclusive trailer

Emily Blake needs an
intervention. Poor girl.
“Hi, my name is Emily Blake and I write unfilmables.”

Hey, the new issue of
Senses of Cinema.

Here’s Experimental Conversations 1 and 2:

Raving Dave Herman gives us some examples of cinematic storytelling in the Coens’ script,
No Country For Old men
“The example illustrates perfectly how to precisely visualize the pace and look of the film as you write it. It also shows how you can communicate that vision to the reader without literally specifying how you would edit the film if you were the director. Notice how each white line between the sparse descriptions suggests a cut and increases the sense of suspense as you read.”

Interview with Zak Penn
JO: From the initial concept how much was said about differentiating this from the Ang Lee version of The Hulk?
ZP: First of all, there's only a couple of guys at Marvel and they like Ang Lee. They didn't have a bad experience with him. Look, I've worked on a lot of movies with them and they would have told me. Everyone has tremendous fondness for him. They think it just didn't quite work. I think there's a different version of the movie that they thought could exist that's kind of grittier, more fugitive-y, if that word could be created for this. The TV show did a great job of adapting the idea of The Hulk and the lonely man theme and everything else that all of us remember from it. That's what they wanted from me and that's what I tried to give them -- put Banner on the run, put him in South America trying to hide out from the authorities. I'd read Damon Lindelof's issues of The Hulk which I thought were very good and helpful. I thought the whole idea of grounding it a little more in Banner's struggle to come to grips with his problem. There are parts in the first Hulk movie where it seems to be more about the fight with his dad than about the fight with his own demons. And that, to me, is the part that I missed.

Zak Penn article
“Penn is a 39-year-old screenwriter who made it big fast. He sold the script for the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle The Last Action Hero (co-written with Adam Leff) when he was just 24, and the following year, he and Leff scored with PCU, their send-up of campus life based not so loosely on their experiences as undergrads at Wesleyan. Since then, Penn has been a hired gun, scripting a number of tent-poles including Behind Enemy Lines and two X-Men sequels, not to mention countless uncredited rewrite jobs. But when he finally got a chance to make his own movie, he didn’t feel burdened to make it either a blockbuster or a self-serious cultural pronouncement. He just wanted to make it entertaining, and the result was Incident at Loch Ness, a deeply weird mockumentary starring Werner Herzog, a fake Loch Ness monster, and a Playboy Bunny cryptozoologist. Given the chance to write whatever he wanted, Penn wrote very little—much of the film is improvised, and it doesn’t contain a single monologue.”

From the
‘John Adams’ Screenwriter
The complexity of Adams as a character: "What emerged from David's book, at least to me, was this idea of a man who was constantly torn between his duty to his country and his ambition to excel, and how those two things were often in conflict with him. ... There's this constant dialectic between this dedication to duty and his belief that he should be recognized for his work."”

How bad is
Southland Tales?
“What an awesome disaster of a movie. Panned at Cannes, left for dead by Sony, eventually raking in $300K on an $18 million budget and forcing a promise from Richard Kelly that he will be more commercial in the future, I now say that it's the major American movie of 2007 that I enjoyed the most, far more than limp critic-fodder There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men. It certainly isn't a good movie, though there are plenty of good bits in it, but the movie, at least partly unintentionally, has been constructed in such a way as to make such evaluations meaningless. Southland Tales will never be ridiculed and celebrated the way Showgirls or Valley of the Dolls or Manos: The Hands of Fate or Battlefield: Earth are. It doesn't provide enough reference points. James Wood, in one of his bon mots, said of Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled, 'It invents its own category of badness.' Wood was wrong, for The Unconsoled is just a mediocre symbolist text (see Alasdair Gray's Lanark for a far more brilliant effort in the same vein). But Southland Tales comes as close to that description as any film in recent memory, and where it is in its own category, there is no comparable "good" to be had next to the bad. Its idiosyncratic overambition lies alongside O Lucky Man! and its acknowledged antecedent, Kiss Me Deadly. I don't know that it is as seminal as the latter film, which for me is one of the greatest American films of its era, but as with Kiss Me Deadly, it won't be possible to tell until we are further from the present. It's that sort of a zeitgeist movie; maybe it'll look as awful as Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie or Jodorowski's films, but I hope not. I got a real kick out of it.”

Finalists announced for 2008 Canadian Screenwriting Awards
“The Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) will celebrate the winning words of 2007 on April 14 at the 2008 Canadian Screenwriting Awards. More than 125 scripts were submitted for this year’s awards, honouring excellence in screenwriting...”

J. Louis Rivera talks about
Unforgiven (1992)
“While better known for his work in science fiction, David Webb Peoples' screenplay proves to be a very accurate description of life in the American west, particularly concerning the aspects of the uses and abuses of violence in that era. It is in fact the use of violence what comes as the main theme of the story, as Munny is escaping from his past's violence while the Kid is eagerly awaiting the next chance to prove his masculinity by the use of violence. The duality between man and myth is explored not only via the relationship between the Kid and Munny, but also in the shape of a character who writes novels about the wild west, and sees the figure of the gunslinger as an idolized modern hero. Peoples' screenplay is remarkably well written, as the many characters and their relationships are exhaustively explored, resulting in a character driven revisionism of the western, that in many ways criticizes the genre's origins as violent "Shoot 'em up" films.”

Miramax Films and producer Scott Rudin have acquired screen rights to Richard Price's novel Lush Life," reports Variety's Michael Fleming. "Price, who recently won the Edgar Award for his script work on HBO series The Wire will write the script.... Price's other script-work includes The Color of Money, Sea of Love, Mad Dog and Glory and adaptations of his novels Clockers, Freedomland, Bloodbrothers and The Wanderers." And he and his new novel have been the talk of the books pages for weeks now, starting, of course, with the New York Times. Reviewing Lush Life for the Book Review, Walter Kirn finds not only Raymond Chandler "peeping out from Price's skull" but evidence of "Saul Bellow's vision, too." Besides an earlier review from Michiko Kakutani, the NYT also offers a profile of Price by Charles McGrath, an excerpt and a page devoted to a thorough list of related reviews, articles and interviews. And you can listen to Price on the NYTBR podcast. (Thanks to GreenCine.)

Russell Arben on
adapting Harry Potter
“1. I simply don't believe the reasons for the split being given. Sure, DH is the final book, with lots of loose ends to tie up. And yes, there are some fairly extensive subplots and side notes which are both essential to the books plot and completely exclusive to DH (the whole Dumbledore-Grindelward thing, for example); finding the space to fit them into the film is surely important. But is there really so much going on that it resists a concise adaptation? You're going film Bill and Fleur's wedding (even though, thus far, we've no indication that either of them will even appear in the sixth movie, which presumably ought to be setting up their whole relationship)? You're going film all of the Trio camping, all of the events at Shell Cottage, all of the encounter with Xenophilius Lovegood? I'll believe it when I see it.”

Iron Maiden singer scripts movie for Cannes
“Bruce Dickinson (singer with the metal band Iron Maiden) will unveil a film at this year's Cannes festival. "Chemical Wedding" will star Simon Callow as Professor Haddo, the reincarnation of British occultist Aleister Crowley, once described as Britain's most evil man. Julian Doyle, who directed the video for the band's 1988 single 'Can I Play with Madness', co-wrote the script with Dickinson and is directing. The reaction from test screenings are that it is very much in the vein of the Hammer Horror films.”

excerpt from a new book on Tarkovsky
“It wasn’t direct connections between painting and film that Tarkovsky found, but ones that were more remote. For Solaris he suggested creating an atmosphere which would be similar to that which we see in the works of the early Italian Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio. The picture is of the embankment of Venice, sailboats. There are many people in the foreground. But the most important thing is that all these figures seem to be wrapped up in themselves. They don’t look at each other or at the landscape; they in no way interact with their surroundings. A strange, “metaphysical” atmosphere of non-communication is created. In the film, in order to produce the equivalent of this, the device of “being aloof” was used. For example, the scene where the cosmonaut is bidding the Earth farewell. There is a table in the garden at which the cosmonaut (the actor Donatas Banionis) is seated. It’s raining. It pours over the table, the cups filled with tea and down the cosmonaut’s face. The latter should not react to the rain, but should act as if he was in another dimension, in order to create an atmosphere of irreality. But Banionis involuntarily shuddered in the rain. “The scene is destroyed. What a shame,” said Andrei. This is just one small example of the influence of painting on Tarkovsky’s film language. The image, born in painting, had to undergo a powerful metamorphosis before it could become a film image.”

Avary’s Phantasm 1999 is dead.
“Another Roger Avary script isn’t going to get made, and that one is for the latest film in the Phantasm series. The creator Don Coscarelli says that the series isn’t dead though, and gives more weight to that sequel rumour. In an interview Coscarelli says: ‘I hate to tell you this, but as of now the epic Phantasm project, which was originally called Phantasm 1999 and had a script by Roger Avary, will definitely not be made. The screenplay was hyper violent, epic in scope, had a terrific role for Bruce Campbell in it, but we just couldn’t find a studio exec who was visionary enough to see the potential…’”

10 Movies That Every Writer Should See
“9. Shakespeare in Love: A rather optimistically sad movie, one that dares to suggest that writing and eternal fame is worth losing the love of your life. Writers will debate this message for hours on end but one thing is for sure--no other film has glorified the writing experience as much as this Best Picture winner.”


On the Contest Circuit:

ASA Announces 11th Annual Competiton Quarterfinalists

WriteSafe Announces Contest Winners

Slamdance TV Announces Results

Scriptapalooza Semifinalist Set to Make Film with Glenn Close

IFFF Announces 2008 Screenplay Competition Winners

Slamdance Announces Horror Competition Winners

WriteSafe Announces Finalists

Contest of Contest Winners Announces Results



Recent writer’s strike may force Blu-ray prices down

iTunes to give credits or refunds due to WGA strike


And finally