Saturday, April 05, 2008

Screenwriting News & Links! 4/5/08


New Screenplays:

Carrie - January 1976 second draft script by Lawrence D. Cohen (based on the novel by… some unknown horror writer) - hosted by: Carrie… A Fan Site.

Hat-tip to


Books (Plus Excerpts!):

[Excerpts from 3 books I’ve been reading.]

First, I’ve been looking for a way to work this quote into an article. No luck, so here it is. This can be found in the introduction to
The Story of Film by Mark Cousins:

“The measure of an artist’s originality, put in its simplest terms, is the extent to which his selective emphasis deviates from the conventional norm and establishes new standards of relevance. All great innovations which inaugurate a new era, movement or school, consist in sudden shifts of a previously neglected aspect of experience, some blacked out range of the existential spectrum. The decisive turning points in the history of every art form… uncover what has already been there; they are ‘revolutionary’, that is destructive and constructive, they compel us to revalue our values and impose new sets of rules on the eternal game.” – Arthur Koestler

This wonderful paragraph derives from David Bordwell’s latest book,
Poetics of Cinema, and it’s a great reminder to consider seriously how and when we filter information to the audience:

“Two characters are talking to one another on the telephone. The filmmaker faces a number of choices for rendering this event. First, we can see both characters exchanging dialogue, perhaps via crosscutting, split screen, or some other technique. As a result, following the turn taking of the dialogue, we hear the entire conversation. Alternatively the filmmaker can, throughout the conversation, show us just one of the pair. But that offers a further choice: Shall we hear what the offscreen speaker says, or not? If we hear the speaker but see only the listener, we can observe the reaction to the lines. Instead, the filmmaker might eliminate the sound of the speaker’s dialogue, so that we don’t get access to what’s coming through the earpiece. In this case we see the speaker’s reaction, but we have to imagine what’s being said that provokes it. In sum, each choice narrates the phone call in a different way, doling out different information for different purposes. In a comedy, we might want to see both characters speak their lines and react to each other. In a mystery, it might serve the scene’s purpose to omit one side of the conversation, so we don’t know who the speaker is, or whether the speaker is sincere, or why the listener reacts as she or he does. All of the presentational tactics I’ve mentioned – crosscutting, split screen, eliminating a sound stream, presenting the sound coming into the receiver – are stylistic choices, but they’re inevitably narrational choices as well. They shape what information we get and how we get it.”

And finally, this comes from the book
Defining Moments in Movies. (1000 defining moments, in fact. Great book.)

Key Scene – The invitation to and release from temptation
Chloe in the Afternoon

“Very early in Chloe in the Afternoon, we know that Frédéric (Verley), a personable if at times quietly anxious married man, can be seduced into buying a shirt by an attractive female sales clerk. Can he also be seduced into something more serious, like an extra-marital affair with the provocative, unattached Chloé (Zouzou)? In that question lies the suspense, which recalls Alfred Hitchcock, of the last of Rohmer’s “Six Moral Tales.” The dénouement of this highly sophisticated, always absorbing drama finds Chloé asking Frédéric to towel off her naked body, which he does in a tasteful, yet highly erotic shot in which we see his face from behind her. Ready to capitulate to his desire, he begins to pull his turtleneck over his head but sees his face in the mirror, in a reminder of a moment with his family – wife (Francoise Verley), daughter, and newborn son – and resists temptation, leaving to run down a winding flight of stairs in a masterly overhead shot, the clattering sound of his footsteps expressing both his panic and release from it, in the only truly great homage to Vertigo (1958). It is the moment that affirms that cinematic suspense has less to do with genres and situations than with how the style and form of a film are approached, and with tension and release – the release here returning Frédéric to his wife and a single-take final scene in which Rohmer’s trademark irony is suffused with a profound melancholy.” - Blake Lucas


The Clouds in Billy’s Coffee
“One of my longtime claims to fame -- i.e. to being a tiny footnote in pop musical history -- is that I'm the guy who gave Carly Simon the line "clouds in my coffee" for her song, You're So Vain.”

Mike Le’s
They Can’t Hear Your Pitch If They’re Not Awake

Danny Stack on
“The late, great Anthony Minghella said that there were no act breaks in a screenplay, just natural developments involving your characters and their emotions. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, or how you perceive certain rules & regulations (Minghella knew a thing or two about structure, that’s for sure), you just simply have to trust your storytelling instinct to write the best script possible. But don’t dismiss basic techniques and familiar approaches. It’s always useful to try and understand and embrace all of the techniques available, that way you continue to improve and develop your craft.”

Laura Deerfield on
The Sequence
“An average movie would have eight or nine sequences. Each one focuses on a character, leads up to a complication, and has a resolution (if only a partial one, that leads to further complications - and thus further sequences.) These sequences can blend well with a three-act structure, the mini-resolutions falling around the turning points, or they can be seen as following their own rhythm. Shorter sequences, interspersed, can be used to develop sub-plots. As a screenwriter, it's less intimidating to approach ten- to twelve-page sections. As a film-goer, it's more interesting to watch a film that has smaller sequences with rising action, conflict and resolution in each of them. It's also closer to the approach used by TV writers (each section between commercials is sometimes called an "act" but is really a sequence.)”

Kevin Lee on La Femme Infidele
“On the surface, La Femme infidèle is a simple tale of marital infidelity and revenge. However, look close and you will see much more than that. Hélène, like Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, is driven into having an affair because she can no longer endure the passionless sham that her marriage has become. Her husband is content to watch pictures of wine classes on an eight inch screen television. She needs much more than he can offer. It is only when he kills his wife’s lover that Charles shows any passion for his wife – a stupid, ill-conceived spur of the moment act of madness, so he can keep his wife for himself. Of course, when Hélène realises what her husband has done, she rediscovers her love for him and she has no further need of her surrogate lover. Of course, by that stage, the edifice of respectability has been completely destroyed and their lives will never be the same again. The beauty of this film lies in both its subtlety and its charming playfulness. The film has an almost existentialist minimalism in its plot; all of the detail – the drama, the suspense, the comedy – stems from the reactions of the characters to their predicaments. To this end, Chabrol is well served by his leading actors, Michel Bouquet and Stéphane Audran.”

Open Letter to Diablo Cody
“Each time I praise your formidable writing skills, some film school grad goes off the rails and claims that it was in fact stripping that made you famous, and not first and foremost your writing ability and unique personality. Check out the comments section of Mystery Man's post
The Diablo Cody Backlash for a grand display of it. I hope you find it as amusing as we do. The most recent reaction was a humdinger. A new-ish blogger in LA and I both interviewed the same screenwriter. She posted her interview a couple weeks before I posted mine. I read her interview and thought it was sorta well done, so I formed a follow up question based on one of her questions and linked back to her. However, instead of thanking me for a bit of traffic (which she could use), the blogger felt that I had totally misquoted her in reference to you. In response, she didn't comment on my post and confront me directly with her criticism like a seasoned blogger would have done, someone like bad-ass blogging buddy Joshua James. Rather, she posted a windy, defensive rant on her own blog. Therefore, I will call her "Windtalking LA" from this point forward. And I won't link, because she's doesn't like that.”

Emily Blake approves of the
new Silver Screenwriting Competition
“There is a new contest out there. It's called
The Silver Screenwriting Contest and it was just started by Julie over at The Rouge Wave. Julie is a professional script consultant who makes cupcakes. I've met Julie, I've hung out with Julie, I've entered Julie's contests before. Julie is the real deal. The contest is her brainchild but it is sponsored by The Script Department and Jim Mercurio. Prizes include $2500, a plane ticket to LA, two nights accommodation, some meetings with industry pros and cocktails with Blake Snyder. Julie is also trying to get at least one A-level screenwriter to donate their time to the winner.”

'Heathers' ' Daniel Waters makes a comeback
“Today, Waters lives in the Hollywood foothills in a home that belonged to Orson Welles in the last 15 years of his life -- the place where he died, just off the main foyer, is still outlined in masking tape. Nearby is a coffee-table book called "Pornstar" by Ian Gittler, which features production stills from the numerous adult movies that were shot here in the decade after Welles' death. ‘I bought the house because I wanted to get that 'Citizen Kane' mojo,’ says Waters. ‘Instead I'm getting the end of [Welles'] career, the hanging out with Henry Jaglom, doing wine commercials and magic tricks part of his life. I mean, I enjoy my life, but come on -- where's my Touch of Evil?’ His new film, Sex and Death 101, might not earn too many comparisons to Welles' classic, but it does place Waters squarely back into off-kilter territory. The story follows a callow ladies' man (Simon Baker) who, on the eve of his wedding, receives a mysterious e-mail containing the names of all his sex partners, past, present and future.” (See Lichman’s review.)

On Auterism
“I've had a couple of different trains of thought running through my head lately; let me draw them together in this post under the broad, common theme of auteurism. The subject of
Adrian's new column at Filmkrant is the screenwriter/auteur debate. He recounts an exchange between Josh Olson and Brad Stevens. Olson wants to remind everyone that even though Cronenberg might get the credit for the two much-talked-about sex scenes in A History of Violence, he (Olson) is the one who scripted them word by word. Adrian writes: ‘Stevens fires back with an impeccable cinephilic example. The opening scene of Hou Hsiao-hsien's Café Lumière (2003) is so rich and complex on the level of its sounds and images, gestures and spaces, light-values and rhythms, that it could never have been entirely 'foreseen' or described in a script. Stevens does not mention Hou's close longtime script collaborator, celebrated Taiwanese novelist Chu Tien-wen, but his point is solid. However, it sends Olson and his LA-based comrades into apoplectic fits: it's a critic's fantasy! Auteurist nonsense that can only believed by eggheads who have never made a film! Give the greatest directors in the world a blank page, and see if they are so great then!’”

There's room for all in Hollywood's buying frenzy
“NEWCOMER: Brad Ingelsby, 27, has been working at his father’s insurance agency in the Philadelphia area and writing scripts at night. “I really never expected it to be like this,” he says. When unknown Brad Ingelsby sold "The Low Dweller" for $650,000, it announced that Hollywood buyers were still here.”

The Debate about Anton Chigurh & God
Here are the thoughts of a reader: “I'm a bit surprised that nobody has really touched on Chigurh's theology or lack thereof. In the book McCarthy makes clear that Chigurh is a non-believer. This is huge. I believe it's McCarthy's intention to say that Chigurh's atheism carved him into a Darwinian creature with a powerful survivalist function. That's the thing, Chigurh isn't meant as some reaper figure at all. He's an atheist/survivalist, plain and simple. It's not an accident that Chigurh is able to give himself first rate medical care after his leg gets shot up. Nor is McCarthy alluding to some military/medical background. Chigurh has equipped himself to live, he means to live above everything else. Now, remember when he tells Carson Wells -- if the rule you followed led you to this then what good is the rule? This tells us two pretty revealing things about Chigurh. One, that Chigurh is pretty sophisticated and understands that lawmen of all stripe/mode must operate within confined moral/legal spaces. And two, it would appear that Chigurh willfully operates under an evil banner because it's . . . are you ready for this -- safer, i.e. it best serves his strong survivalist function. Many people have labeled "No Country" as one of Cormac's more simple books. But I don't see it that way at all. I see it as a modern classic, a deep meditation on the natural conclusion of atheism (the recklessly craven positioning of self for purposes of survival) and the believers who dare to exist for causes outside of self, an endeavor that "No Country" makes clear is noble indeed but corrosive to the soul.”

The Dying Movie Critics

WGA, Clooney at odds over credit
“Aside from bringing back pro football's formative days, Leatherheads might be remembered as the film that permanently drove a wedge between George Clooney and the Writers Guild of America. Clooney went financial core last fall, after the WGA decided 2-1 in a credit arbitration vote that only Duncan Brantley and Rick Reilly deserved screen credit on the picture that Universal opens today. Going fi-core means a member is still technically a member of the WGA, but has limited rights within the guild. Fi-core members have to pay dues and are covered by the health and pension plans. Once you elect to go fi-core, the decision is irreversible.”

On the 40th Anniversary of Kubrick’s 2001
“There's an archive of
lots of goodies here including sound bites and an early draft of the Kubrick-Clarke collaboration. Try, which includes Michel Ciment on "Kubrick & The Fantastic" and Mark Crispin Miller's "2001: A Dark Descent", as well as the text of the booklet from the Cinerama release. Or another shrine, housed at Ryerson. And what about spaceships? There's a 3-D modeling archive here. Then there's One: A Space Odyssey, which recounts the film in Lego form. Below: Kubrick at the 2001 opening.” (Hat-tip to William Speruzzi.)

Interview with Stephanie Palmer, author of “Good in a Room”
4) In your time at MGM what did you learn that surprised you most about screenwriters? How unprepared they were for meetings. The fact is that the skills and talents required to come up with a great idea are different from the skills required to present it. However, the skills that allow you to pitch effectively and with confidence can be learned by anyone. I’ve seen the most shy, awkward people become good in a room—not because they transformed their personalities and became charismatic extroverts—but because they practiced the right techniques and developed their own style.”

'Hard Candy' screenwriter presented film with humor and q & a
“’We showed the script to studios and they said, ‘God we love this but you know we could never do this,’’ said Nelson. Backed by a small independent film company, the film was made for just over $1 million in 18 days. When the film was screened for audiences at film festivals, the reactions ranged from positive to outrage. ‘Some people got it and liked it and others wrote little notes saying, 'What right do you have to make a film like this?’’ said Nelson. The father of two daughters and the husband of a family therapist, Nelson stated that he was not trying to say anything specific with the film. Nelson said he was trying to expose issues facing the world today, such as online predators...”

'The Departed' Screenwriter Acquires Ken Bruen Novel
“Oscar winning screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed) has begun a screen adaptation of Irish novelist Ken Bruen’s crime drama ‘London Boulevard’.”

Gibson Wants 'Passion' Financial Records Sealed
“HOLLYWOOD - Mel Gibson has appealed to a Los Angeles judge to grant a privacy motion in his legal battle with the co-screenwriter of
The Passion of the Christ, in a bid to keep financial records about the 2004 film secret. Benedict Fitzgerald is suing Gibson, who directed the controversial religious epic, over accusations he cheated the screenwriter out of millions of dollars in potential earnings.”

Rumor: GI Joe Movie Screenwriter Pens New Halo Script Based on Halo: Fall of Reach Novel
“If Spanish movie news source Latino Review is to be believed, a new script for the currently-on-hold Halo movie is being passed around. According to the site, Stuart Beattie has penned a script titled Halo: The Fall of Reach, which is based on the Eric Nylund novel by the same name. However, this script was not commissioned by any studio. Instead, it is a spec screenplay, which means Beattie wrote it on his own time and for no money, with the hope that a studio will buy it. In other words, this isn't an official script, but it is most likely on the radar, considering Beattie is a well-known professional screenwriter. He wrote the screenplay for all three Pirate of the Caribbean films, and other recent pieces of work include game-to-movie adaptations of Spy Hunter, Splinter Cell and Gears of War. He also wrote the script for the new G.I. JOE movie, which Paramount is currently filming – a $170 million project.”

The 2nd Annual White Elephant Film Blogathon

Film to chronicle life of Brooklyn Dodger Gene Moore
“The professional baseballer’s son Gary Moore based the screenplay on his 2006 book Playing With The Enemy: A Baseball Prodigy...”

Abby Mann, 'Nuremberg' screenwriter, dies
“Abby Mann, the screenwriter who brought incisive characterization and a searing sense of justice to Judgment at Nuremberg and other social dramas, died on Tuesday in Beverly Hills. He was 80.”

25 Screenwriters Tell All

Screenwriter of the Decade: Charlie Kaufman
“Kaufman easily edges out any of the contenders. Stephen Gaghan has ridden extremely hard, but hasn’t written enough. David Koepp simply does big Hollywood movies, and PT Anderson, while spectacular, doesn’t jump off the page the same way Kaufman does.”

Kevin Miller Interview
“Long a ghostwriter for several high-profile names, Miller’s serendipitous encounter with filmmaker David L. Cunningham at a hotel in Hawaii provided the nascent screenwriter with his first professional gig: After…, a psychological thriller set in the world of base jumping and urban exploration. Miller’s latest project, starring Ben Stein, is Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a documentary that looks at the turf wars in the science community over Darwinian evolution and the field of ‘Intelligent Design.’”

Dennis Cozzalio on the
Joe Dante Film Festival

New Screenwriter, a NYC TOLLBOOTH WORKER
“Well an asiring screenwriter, who works at a NYC tollbooth is taking the time to craft a sequal to the movie. His name is Michael Martin. He got into the screenwriting business when his car broke down so he decided to enter a screenwriting contest to win the prize money. His script came in second place at the writing contest but someone at Warner Bros. noticed his writing style and contracted him to pen the sequal to New Jack City for a stright to DVD release. His winning script titled Brooklyn’s Finest is about to go into production. Richard Gere and Don Cheadle have signed on to co-star and Antoine Fuqua will direct. Meanwhile, Michael Martin is still crafting the sequal to New Jack City.”

Dimension Gives a Boost to Struggling Young Screenwriter Ice Cube
“Promotion for Cube: Ice Cube has sold his screenplay Janky Promoters to Dimension. Story will star Cube as a promoter who gets the chance to book a high-profile hip-hop artist at a small venue, with hilarious consequences. Dimension head Bob Weinstein swears on his brother's life that he'll "land a big-name rapper to star as himself." If Kanye is unavailable, we wouldn't be opposed to an alternate version starring Taylor Hicks.”

"In 1973,
Laura Mulvey dropped her essay 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema' on the unsuspecting world of film theory, and came as close to superstardom as any theoretician is likely to get," writes Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper. "Mulvey, who will introduce the screenings [of her films Riddles of the Sphinx, Frida Kahlo & Tina Modotti and Amy!] as part of a Penn Cinema Studies program on her work, has spent much of her career wrestling with the issues in her original essay, not least the problem that the feminist narrative she conceived is so self-marginalizing that its political effectiveness is circumscribed. Finding a new language that is still intelligible to speakers of the old one is a riddle that remains unsolved."

Here’s a quote from Mulvey’s '
Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema':
“To begin with (as an ending) the voyeuristic-scopophilic look that is a crucial part of traditional filmic pleasure can itself be broken down. There are three different looks associated with cinema: that of the camera as it records the pro-filmic event, that of the audience as it watches the final product, and that of the characters at each other within the screen illusion. The conventions of narrative film deny the first two and subordinate them to the third, the conscious aim being always to eliminate intrusive camera presence and prevent a distancing awareness in the audience. Without these two absences (the material existence of the recording process, the critical reading of the spectator), fictional drama cannot achieve reality, obviousness and truth. Nevertheless, as this article has argued, the structure of looking in narrative fiction film contains a contradiction in its own premises: the female image as a castration threat constantly endangers the unity of the diegesis and bursts through the world of illusion as an intrusive, static, one-dimensional fetish. Thus the two looks materially present in time and space are obsessively subordinated to the neurotic needs of the male ego. The camera becomes the mechanism for producing an illusion of Renaissance space, flowing movements compatible with the human eye, an ideology of representation that revolves around the perception of the subject; the camera's look is disavowed in order to create a convincing world in which the spectator's surrogate can perform with verisimilitude. Simultaneously, the look of the audience is denied an intrinsic force: as soon as fetishistic representation of the female image threatens to break the spell of illusion, and erotic image on the screen appears directly (without mediation) to the spectator, the fact of fetishisation, concealing as it does castration fear, freezes the look, fixates the spectator and prevents him from achieving any distance from the image in front of him.”

AFI’s The Basics of Screenwriting

Cinderella Screenwriter Attracts Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio
“Variety reports that Relativity Media outbid a collection of studios for a screenplay called The Low Dweller, by a new screenwriter, Brad Ingelsby. The 27-year-old is a grad from AFI who lives with his parents in Pennsylvania..”


On the Contest Circuit:

NEW contest –
Silver Screenwriting Competition Announces February Results

Script Savvy Announces Contest Results

Wildsound Announces Contest Results

BlueCat Announces BlueCat Lab Feature Winner

Santa Fe Early Registration Ends March 31

Dates for your Diary
Covers April, May, and June

Scriptapalooza: Deadline March 5 to April 15
Final Draft Big Break: Deadline June 1
Nicholl: Deadline May 1
Austin: Deadline May 15th to June 1
Blue Cat: Deadline March 3rd (early bird)
Disney: Deadline May 1 to June 23



South Park Spoofs the WGA and Internet Stars

Writers' Strike Fallout: What's The Up Side?

Nielsen: Cable, Internet Benefited from WGA Strike

Canada: WGA strike fallout uncertain

WGAE files strike-related complaints

WGAE accuses ABC of strike violation

Analysis: WGA Strike Hurt NBC Most

TV, film actors' unions sever ties


And finally

Drunk animals! (Hat-tip to


You Suck At Screenwriting... said...

Hmmm, I am intrested in this Poetics of Cinema book you speak of...

Thanks for the Heads up Mystery Man...

Christian M. Howell said...

Dude, there's so much stuff worth commenting on, I don't even have enough time.

I really agree with the Minghella theory. It's where I find my voice. You have to believe you know what you want to say or else you'll never say anything of value.

Though screenwriting is VERY structured, the understanding of intro, buildup and resolution will always make a good story.

Gotta stop here. Great stuff. I recently came across a Bergson student, Deleuze (Cinema 1 and Cinema 2, Deleuze on Cinema); very abstract, yet very exact in his analysis of Neo-Realists.