Monday, April 14, 2008

Screenwriting News & Links! 4/14/08

Hey guys,

Our good friend
Unk is in a funk.

Ya know, this can happen to any writer. It’s something we all should openly acknowledge and address. This is not to say that Unk’s situation is anywhere near as severe as some of the famous writers I’m about to list, but we know that the poets, Robert Lowell, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jarrell and Theodore Roethke were all diagnosed as manic-depressive. Of the famous writers, Philip K. Dick comes to mind, of course. Anne Rice suffered from severe depression due to a long-term illness and the death of her husband. And there’s Hemingway and Fitzgerald, naturally. In a letter to Fitzgerald, Hemingway wrote, “Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to hurt like hell before you can write seriously.” Do you really have to be in pain to write well? I don’t know.

I mentioned this before, but there’s an interesting article here about
creativity and the troubled mind. Personally, I think we have to at least keep in check the usual elements that can lead to or worsen an already existing funk - isolation, introspection, lack of physical exercise, irregular hours, less than perfect diet, and lack of exposure to sunlight (sounds strange but it’s true). When I’m struggling to find something to say in my blog, it usually means that my mental output is way out of balance with my much needed input from books and films, which never fails to inspire me. And ya know, this business can repeatedly get you down. It’s full of many, many lows before you find the highs you’ve been searching for. But be of good cheer. You’re amongst friends.

By the way, funk is also great music.



New Screenplays:

Two drafts of the The Fisher King:
a January 20, 1989 revised draft and a June 31, 1990 revised draft script by Richard LaGravenese hosted by: Daily Script. (Hat-tip to SimplyScripts.)


Apparently, Michael Chabon’s Spider-Man 2 draft is available
here. But, to me, it looks like a crappy fake. Film Stew was a tad skeptical: “Although one would assume that an author's publisher would be certain of an author document's authenticity, so far, those who have taken the time to peruse the document are more than a little Spidey skeptical. ‘That honestly cannot be real, can it?’ comments Jonathan. Adds Alex: ‘That is either fake, or Chabon doesn’t know how to write a screenplay, or someone just inexplicably deleted all of the action (and by action I mean description of what’s going on on screen).’”


Here are the
first 3 pages of Oliver Stone’s W. And here’s Risky Biz reporting: “Even before a single talent deal was signed or locations scouted, Oliver Stone's W was hotter than a Texas afternoon in July. Conservative pundits were ready to pounce on the provocateur for what they said was agenda-driven filmmaking, while Stone and his partners said they were simply telling the story of the Bush White House without varnish or sugar-coating. As Stephen Galloway and Matthew Belloni report in THR today, both turn out to be right -- sort of. According to four Bush scholars who read a draft of the script, the tale has elements that are unquestionably accurate (like when George Jr. comes home drunk and nearly gets into a fistfight with his father) and elements that are just plain made-up (like when the president and his advisers discuss high-level policy in a casual, even frat-house, sort of manner).”

And here’s
p2p’s take on the matter: “The newspaper sent copies of an October 17, 2007, screenplay to four Bush biographers for their comments, it says, pointing out someone, ‘close to the film’ says the script has since gone through at least two drafts. Reactions were mixed, says the story, going on the biographers said specific scenes are, ‘largely based in fact but noted that the screenplay contains inaccurate and over-the-top caricatures of Bush and his inner circle’. Stone, ‘declined comment for this report,’ and screenwriter Stanley Weiser, who wrote W said, ‘I have no comment other than the fact that I have read 17 books on Bush.’”

See more of
First Showing’s side-by-side photo comparisons.


Mystery Man in the News:

Alanis kicks off her new tour with a mystery man in tow
Well, she’s uhh… no comment.

FBI searches for identity of mystery man with 32 aliases
Puh-lease. They’ll never find me.

Bulldogs wary of mystery man
I’ve got a mean bite, ya know.

Tara parties with mystery man
I was just holding her up.

Mystery man keeps his cool, helps save mobile home on fire
Hey, it's my one good deed.


James Cameron on 3-D
“Godard got it exactly backwards. Cinema is not truth 24 times a second, it is lies 24 times a second. Actors are pretending to be people they’re not, in situations and settings which are completely illusory. Day for night, dry for wet, Vancouver for New York, potato shavings for snow. The building is a thin-walled set, the sunlight is a xenon, and the traffic noise is supplied by the sound designers. It’s all illusion, but the prize goes to those who make the fantasy the most real, the most visceral, the most involving. This sensation of truthfulness is vastly enhanced by the stereoscopic illusion… On ‘Avatar,’ I have not consciously composed my shots differently for 3-D. I am just using the same style I always do. In fact, after the first couple of weeks, I stopped looking at the shots in 3-D while I was working, even though the digital cameras allow real-time stereo viewing.” John August had
this to say: “Of course, most directors aren’t James Cameron, who helped invent the technology and can trust his instinct on all of this. But we should trust someone’s instincts, because the result is paralysis. One of pitfalls of adding new technology to film production is that the director moves further and further from the action (and the actors) to a Den of Experts, often in a dark tent, who make decisions around monitors. In most cases, you’re better served by having a d.p. you trust.”

Mike Le’s Script Notes

Tips learned from a Red Planet workshop
2. Always Dig Deeper Than the Writer Next to You
Be better than the rest. Go further, dig deeper, find the emotions that they don't want to explore.
3. Get Your Hooks in Early
The first ten pages are crucial. Fact of life, get over it. Audiences spend less time deciding if they want to tune in or not.”

I ask myself "Do you want to be a Hollywood screenwriter? Do you dream of the big script sale? Do you fantasize your words dripping off the lips of Charlize Theron and Al Pacino?" Well, how the flying fuck at a rolling Dunkin Donut do you expect to even get within five-hundred light years of that goal unless you keep writing? You think by staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page is going to get it done for you? You think reading self-help-guru books telling you what NOT to do is going to empower you to deliver a blockbuster box office smash right out of the gate on your first draft of your first script? Your second? Your third?

Alan’s wonderful write-up on Ted Cassidy
“When it comes to character actors, Cassidy was an interesting guy because it’s quite difficult to imagine him not in character. Try to find an image of Cassidy online and you’ll come up with
this guy and this thing. Indeed, Cassidy’s towering stature helped typecast him in imposing, frightening roles, and his deep voice lent itself well to voiceover work, which he provided for many different projects throughout his career. A college football and basketball star as well as a news radio reporter, Cassidy began his film career in 1960 doing voiceover work, and in ‘64 landed his signature role of Lurch on The Addams Family. Playing the part of Star Trek’s centuries-old, female voice-impersonating android Ruk came a few years later, and Cassidy would enjoy several more roles in his career though his association with Gene Roddenberry.”

William Coleman on
the 3-Act Structure of Star Wars
“The screenwriting books give different criteria depending on which movie they’re analyzing at the minute — which, of course, tends to make the idea useless. You might want more than one definition, but you’d need to be clear about them ahead of time. Many people seem to feel that you have 3-act structure if you have two big, impressive scenes, called ‘turning points’ — let’s say, approximately on pages 30 and 75 in a 105-page screenplay — and so these turning points accordingly divide the movie into three segments, or ‘acts.’ This is the version that I call ‘The Snowman Theory’ of screenplay structure: all you need are three balls of snow, and you just stack them up. (I suppose I’ve fallen into sarcasm again.) Even if you subscribe to this idea, you’d have to see that we’d rightfully be more interested in the snow balls (the acts) than in what’s between them (the turning points).”

Julie Gray on Gerunds
“So it seems there is a bit of a disagreement over whether gerunds should be used in action lines of screenplays. I've always liked the word gerund in and of itself. It makes me laugh for some reason. I don't know why, really. Any way, just as a refresher a gerund is typically when you take a verb and add ‘-ing’ to the end. The result is that you take something finite like ‘walk’ or ‘walks’ and make in non-finite such as ‘walking’. An example of this would be that ‘walk’ or ‘to walk’ means to place one foot in front of the other and move. That's it, nothing more. Move forward on feet. Whereas ‘walking’ is usually modified by adverbs or a preposition of some sort such as ‘walking down the street’ or ‘walking slowly’. So how does this translate to screenwriting?”

The hottest women not on TV
“When Creative Artists Agency makes the rounds in Hollywood, pitching the screenwriting talent of Tassie Cameron, they like to market the Toronto native as ‘the girl who writes like a guy.’ But rather than take offence at a comment some might construe as sexist, Cameron finds the whole thing highly amusing. ‘Hey, I like guys,’ cracks the 38-year-old. ‘I listen to men. And if you look at what I've done, certainly a lot of it is very male-centric cop stuff,’ says Cameron, whose TV credits include Would Be Kings, The Robber Bride and The Eleventh Hour. ‘I guess when I write, I channel my inner Hunter Thompson and go to town.’”

Andrew Anthony profiles Salman Rushdie.

The nominated finalists and winners of this year's
Pulitzer Prizes have been announced, and there are a few that may be of interest to cinefolk. The Boston Globe's Mark Feeney has won the criticism award "for his penetrating and versatile command of the visual arts, from film and photography to painting." The finalists are the Washington Post's Ann Hornaday "for her perceptive movie reviews and essays, reflecting solid research and an easy, engaging style, and Inga Saffron of the Philadelphia Inquirer for her forceful critiques that illuminate the vital interplay between architecture and the life of her city."

Life sentence for man who beheaded screenwriter
See also
Corey Mitchell’s post.

Bridget Jones Diary Screenwriter Attacked
“The screenwriter who adapted the BRIDGET JONES books for the cinema is recovering after he was attacked by a fellow dog owner while walking his pet pooch. Andrew Davies, who is also responsible for the BBC's film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice, was at a park in Abbey Fields, Warwickshire, England when two aggressive Staffordshire bull terriers ran at his adult mongrel Daisy. Davies tried to defend his dog by kicking in one of the unruly canines' direction - but then their owner launched into a vicious attack on the 71-year-old, punching him in the eye and knocking him to the ground. He says, ‘I drove one of them (the dogs) off. I shouted, 'Go on! Get out of it!' and sort of aimed a kick at it, which was never really meant to connect, and didn't. The dog got the message and went off. ‘But the owner shouted, 'Don't you f***king touch my dog!' and ran up and headbutted me and punched me in the eye. ‘It knocked me clean off my feet. He was a big guy and I am quite little.’ Warwickshire police have confirmed they are investigating the incident.’”

'Outcast' writer pens winning debut
“Her first draft finished, Jones's agent began shopping the screenplay when two strange things happened simultaneously - a producer was really keen to get the story in front of cameras and the soon-to-be-well-known author started having second thoughts. ‘I had been optioned several times, but this felt very different,’ she says. ‘The screenplay had a strong life to it and as time went on, I didn't feel that I had told it fully.’”

"So far,
Rebecca Miller has written and directed Personal Velocity (originally her collection of short stories) and The Ballad of Jack and Rose," writes Olivia Laing. "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is already in pre-production, with Robin Wright Penn signed up for the title role. Like The Ballad of Jack and Rose, this delicate, dreamy novel tells the story of an outsider for whom the ties of blood and marriage are both trap and salvation. As the wife of Daniel Day-Lewis and the daughter of Arthur Miller, it's no doubt a paradox with which Miller is exquisitely familiar." (Thanks to GreenCine.)

Meet…screenwriter Frances Marion
“She was the highest paid screenwriter of either gender at that time. In 1940 she retired from films but taught screenwriting at the University of California - Los Angeles. How did she become so highly respected..? Marion wrote across genre and gender lines. She could write ‘four-hankerchief tearjerkers’ like ‘Stella Dallas’ and ‘The Champ,’ and high drama, like her Oscar-winner ‘The Big House.’ She successfully transition from silent movies to the ‘talkies’ because she wrote scripts that were always conscious of the camera. She often wrote scenes with no dialogue, relying on the actors' expressive faces and actions to relay the story. She was also extremely adept when it came to translating a book to film. She tried her hand at directing at various times throughout her career, but never garnered the recognition and acclaim her writing received.”

Cody Goes to College
“Chances are the $40,000 Diablo Cody pocketed for her Tuesday, April 8th speaking engagement at the University of Florida is more than she was paid to write Juno. During an on-stage, Inside the Actors Studio-style Q&A with journalism professor Mike Foley, the stripper turned star screenwriter was her usual, open self. ‘Honestly, if I had any idea that the name Diablo would one day be engraved on an Oscar, I would never have chosen it,’ the woman born Brooke insisted, revealing
per a report in the Independent Florida Alligator that some of her other youthful adopted names included Bon Bon and Roxanne. And though she used to refer to herself as ‘The Princess of Snark’ Cody insisted she has now adopted a less cynical attitude that translates into having something nice now to say about anybody. When one of the 800 or so audience members in attendance challenged her to do just that about one particular person, Cody replied to much laughter, ‘Paris Hilton loves animals.’”

Jason Reitman Turns Down Justice League
Reitman: “Good, FINE… You know, I mean. I had to sign something, they send me the script and it comes on this spy paper which can’t be Xeroxed... They have a time when I have to have the script back to them and the script is fine … What am I going to do with Justice League of America? So Basically I’ll make a movie that is not as good as X-Men, then I’ll be ‘the guy who made a movie not as good as X-Men.’ Where just like you talking about, going to smaller stations, if I make another small movie, and it’s really good, it performs well… Right now I’m thought of as a particular type of director. I’ve got an oscar nomination. I’ve made two indie films that play film festivals that are considered thoughtful. I want to stay in that world, I like making those type of films.”

Haggis’ Bond script “polished” by new writer
page 3 of a RottenTomatoes article on Quantum of Solace: “Nevertheless, Forster did hire another writer, newcomer Joshua Zetumer, to polish Haggis' draft. ‘He's a very young writer and he only wrote two or three scripts. And I read a script of his that I was very fond of and Barbara and Michael liked it,’ the director explained. ‘There were a couple of polishes and changes that I wanted to do and I felt that he was very well suited and I thought that he would be good for it and that's why I hired him.’”

Paul talks about his own treatment contract
“Sony has now officially hired me to do the treatment for the movie (for those who don’t know what a treatment is, it’s explained in the previous post). I pitched my treatment/vision of the Pooch Café movie to Sony along with a number (not sure what the number was) of other experienced Hollywood screenwriters. Sony told me that after reading my pitch they were sitting around relaying to each their favorite parts and laughing, which they felt was a strong indication that I was on to something and at which point they decided I might be the best candidate for the job. The contract I’ve signed is for a complete treatment, with two rounds of revisions. Sony has made me aware that despite the fact that I’ve already submitted a working treatment that this will be no walk in the park. Meetings are being held this and next week and I’m to prepare myself for a barrage of notes and comments.”

Kushner Speaks "Fiction That's True"
Angels in America author Tony Kushner opened the Tanner Lectures on Human Values last night with a rapid-fire monologue by a character named Tony Kushner—a neurotic writer completely unprepared to give a speech ‘at—you should pardon the expression—Harvard…’ ‘Plays are really more about arguing than storytelling, more about combat than plot, more about dialectics than narrative,’ he said.”

Roger Ebert may have bid farewell to broadcasting, but it is his "print corpus that will sustain Mr Ebert's reputation as one of the few authentic giants in a field in which self-importance frequently overshadows accomplishment," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "His writing may lack the polemical dazzle and theoretical muscle of Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris, whose names must dutifully be invoked in any consideration of American film criticism. In their heyday those two were warriors, system-builders and intellectual adventurers on a grand scale. But the plain-spoken Midwestern clarity of Mr Ebert's prose and his genial, conversational presence on the page may, in the end, make him a more useful and reliable companion for the dedicated moviegoer." (Thanks to GreenCine.)

Confiscated screenplay leads to legal wrangling
“Omar Khadr's Guantanamo Bay saga took a turn for the surreal yesterday, as the detained Canadian's captors and defence lawyers argued over whether Mr. Khadr is entitled to a copy of the Lord of the Rings screenplay.”

"Sometime in the late 1960s, I asked
Jean Renoir what he thought of Ernst Lubitsch," writes Peter Bogdanovich in the New York Observer. Now if that sentence alone isn't catnip for cinephiles... Anyway: "He raised his eyebrows and said, enthusiastically, 'Lubitsch!? But he invented the modern Hollywood.' By 'modern Hollywood,' Renoir meant American movies from about 1924 to the start of the 60s. Before Lubitsch's arrival to California from Germany in 1922 (to make a Mary Pickford vehicle called Rosita), Hollywood films were under the overwhelming influence of DW Griffith... [Lubitsch] brought European sophistication, candor in sexuality and an oblique style that made audiences complicit with the characters and situations." And since "Lubitsch is always fun and often as good as it gets," Bogdanovich has been watching a lot of his work on DVD; he takes us on tour, title by title. (Thanks to GreenCine.)

"Recently we lost two American actors who embodied widely different styles, and their passing is a reminder that the very presence of an actor can suggest everything about a film," writes
Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. Adds John Patterson: "With the deaths of conservative Charlton Heston and liberal Richard Widmark within a week of each other (and with blacklisted director Jules Dassin sneaking less noisily off-stage midway between their two splashier exits), it feels as if the 1950s, that most lushly American of decades, are finally slipping over the horizon like the last sliver of land glimpsed from the stern of an ocean liner." (Thanks to GreenCine.)


On the Contest Circuit:

ReelHeART Announces Screenplay Finalists Announce Spec Scriptacular Semifinalists

Acclaim Fim and TV Extends Deadline Announces People's Pilot Semfinalists

HSI Announces Monthly Contest Winner



Mazin looks back at the Writer’s Strike
Sales and Rental Residuals The deal works well here. It’s not as good of a deal on New Media as we got in 2001, when Wells and McLean somehow managed to pull the 1.2% for internet rentals out of a hat without striking. That rate, which is the gold standard for residuals, is really the only significant rate right now if you’re a theatrical writer. A lot of people, including me, were convinced that internet rentals were a non-business, and the majority of the residual load would end up in internet sales. Wrongo. Turns out the companies are rather jittery about selling movies outright on the web, because they’re freaked (justifiably) about piracy. They prefer to rent them via, say, iTunes. The Wells/McLean 1.2% on rentals is going to be lining our pockets for some time, so I salute them.”

WGA: Disney Kept Writers During Strike
“The Writers Guild of America filed arbitration claims against Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, alleging two daytime soap operas kept replacement writers hired during the union's 100-day strike, Bloomberg News reports. ‘All My Children’ and ‘Days of Our Lives’ failed to rehire writers who joined the walkout, violating a Feb. 11 agreement, the guild's New York chapter said today in an e- mailed statement.”


And finally…


Hat-tip to


Emily Blake said...

You just have to feel like it' your birthday all year when you get hired to rewrite a two-time Oscar winner on your first time out.

Or you feel paranoid and have a panic attack.

Mystery Man said...

Hehehe... Exactly.

Then again, it could've been just some political bullshit to help a friend start a career.


Mark said...

Or a really stupid rewrite that Haggis wouldn't do...

Unk said...

Congrats on the mobile home!


Mystery Man said...

Mark - True!

Unk - Mobile home? Oh yes, well, I let them keep it. You know how I am. Hehehe...


Joshua James said...

Ah, so that WAS you with Alanis - I thought as much, but I didn't wanna say anything out of respect for you privacy . . . heh-heh.

Joshua James said...

The other reason to hire a newcomer to "polish" is very simple, too . . . if you know what you want and it's very simple, it costs a LOT less than paying Haggis to make the changes . . . like, a hundred or a thousand times less.

Emily Blake said...

Good grief you guys are a cynical bunch.

I can only imagine when I finally get that bazillion dollar writing job everybody's gonna say, Well you know she probably slept her way into the job of course.

Then again it might be true.

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