Thursday, October 09, 2008

Around the Blogosphere 10/9/08

John August has released his Scrippet plugin to the masses.

I loved Unk’s
Chasing the Process.
It occurred to me very recently that I’ve got an addiction. An addiction to the PROCESS of screenwriting. (The graph is hilarious.)

Mike Le’s great
Divine Intervention.

Danny Stack on
Don’t be dull and flat with foreshadowing. It’s easy to give a character a line of dialogue that’s an important bit of set-up but, more often than not, it will sound too obvious or stilted. “Make your exposition ammunition” is a good way of saying dramatise what you want to get across rather than simply tell us. So, basically, if you need to set something up, do it within the context of a scene or as part of someone’s characterisation, or a clever bit of dialogue/an amusing exchange. Try to give the set-up another purpose within the scene rather than just plain exposition.

I still enjoy Bill Martel’s Fridays with Hitchcock and most recently,
The Trouble with Harry and Vertigo.

Julie Gray on
Origin Stories
So all of this got me to thinking - what is your main character's origin story? Regardless of genre, your main character is on an arc of change, right? What was that moment that defined the hole your main character has been trying to fill ever since? What defined them long before your story began? If there was a moment of origin for your main character, your script is then going to be the second most defining moment of their lives, right? Because your script is in some ways the continuation of a story that already began long ago.

The Anonymous Production Assistant
hates directors
I know of directors, not that I’ll name Brett Ratner’s name or anything, who pretty much let the DP run the show, and then, in post, have the editor put the movie together on her own. But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Above the liners are messed up. Writers are insecure, socially inept misanthropes; directors are raging ego-maniacal sociopaths; actors are just as egotistical, but without having gone to the trouble of accompishing anything to justify their egos; and producers just wish they could be writers, directors, or actors, if only they had the talent.

I loved Bordwell’s article on
Reaction Shots
Prototypically, the reaction shot shows a face expressing emotion. The technique trades on our ability to grasp expressions, often very quickly. We’ve perfected this skill since birth, and there’s evidence that newborns are pre-wired to detect and respond to certain expressions, especially from mom. Exposure to actual expressions in their daily lives allows children to refine and tune this proclivity. So one part of the reaction-shot technique is a very well-practiced skill that cinema has exploited.

Can a bad review kill your career? Short version: Yes
There's one time in particular when an author is particularly vulnerable to the effects of a devastating review, and that's when you are a debut author. An editor who takes on a first-time novelist is taking a risk on someone who's untried in the marketplace. The editor hopes, of course, that the debut novel will be wildly successful, or at a minimum, earn back its advance And to increase the chances of its success, this editor will talk up the book to the sales force. As the pub date approaches, she hopes that in-house enthusiasm for the book builds, because that enthusiasm gets transferred to booksellers, who will be convinced to increase their orders. Hefty orders mean more exposure, better displays, and of course better sales. Imagine you are that debut author, and your novel "FIRST TIME OUT" has been bought with a generous advance. Imagine that the publishing house is telling you this is going to be an important book. Imagine that they have decided to give it a big push, with major ads and an author tour.

Alan asks:
Hollywood’s promising you more superheroes, more crossovers, bigger films - but will they be any good?
But I’d argue that the success of IM and TDK owe as much to a stronger dedication to story and character as they do for their purely visual and aesthetic treats. And I wonder, as I read about recent trends designed to Make! The Movies! Into Events! Again!!, whether future efforts will simply throw story, character and true narrative movie-making back under the bus again.

Mark Achtenberg on Kieslowski's
I highly recommend this series to all but particularly to film writers. Kieslowski's work is firmly planted in strong themes and ideas. I'll leave you with Stanley Kubrick's forward to the published screenplays of 'The Dekalog': I am always reluctant to single out some particular feature of the work of a major filmmaker because it tends inevitably to simplify and reduce the work. But in this book of screenplays by Krzysztof Kieslowski and his co-author, Krzysztof Piesiewicz, it should not be out of place to observe that they have the very rare ability to dramatize their ideas rather than just talking about them. By making their points through the dramatic action of the story they gain the added power of allowing the audience to discover what's really going on rather than being told. They do this with such dazzling skill, you never see the ideas coming and don't realize until much later how profoundly they have reached your heart.

MaryAn Batchellor on
Suspension of Disbelief
So, I pose this question - how far is too far? Where is the line? Is the line Stretch Armstrong far for animated films and slashers but only to the edge of your elbow for every other genre?

James Bond Blogathon (10/24-11/16); or, Cinephilias of Anticipation

Tim Claque &
The Villain’s Journey
All too often we think of the hero. But what about the villain? Every actor says the villain is more fun to play… Philip Zimbardo is a name you may not know. But he was the professor who ran the now famous experiment where he took a random group of 24 students and made half of them prisoners and half of them prison guards - and watched the abuses unfold within a matter of days. In short his career is about studying the evil within us all.

Girish on the
The Filmmaker Overview Essay
There is a genre of film criticism that I find intimidating enough that I've never managed to produce a piece of writing in it. I speak of the filmmaker overview essay. For a film-lover, it's an immensely useful and educational form. I'm always looking out for good examples of it. A couple of terrific ones have appeared online recently.

Rescuing Se7en from Nihilism
The difficulty I have with the attachment of this label to Se7en is that Se7en is not nihilistic but a concertedly structured, almost mathematically precise exercise in moral calculus that argues people must abandon apathy as a private solution to the problem of pandemic human suffering. If an incorrect view of a valuable work is perpetuated it tarnishes the reputation of that work and those who created it, and obscures the ability of viewers to engage that work as it is intended to be engaged. Language activates a conceptual understanding, a presupposition. "Nihilistic" is an especially toxic word that suggests far more than merely that a film has a downbeat ending. It suggests a work is immoral, amoral, and that, by imputation, the filmmakers, director and writer have willfully conspired to create art whose intent is to hurt viewers and disparage our collective confidence that our lives are meaningful. Thus, one who believes Se7en is an cynical exercise in torturing an audience may conclude, "Se7en is a nihilistic work; therefore, it doesn't mean anything. It does not exist for any purpose other than to shock and depress people like me." This is unfortunate, because I believe the meaning of Se7en is immutably clear, brilliantly argued and vitally important.

(Thanks, K, for the link!)

Recent Script Sales

Q&A with Kirk Douglas
THR: Why did you hire Dalton Trumbo to write "Spartacus"?
Douglas: Sen. (Joseph) McCarthy was an awful man who was finding communists all over the country. He blacklisted the writers who wouldn't obey his edict. The heads of the studios were hypocrites who went along with it. My company produced "Spartacus," written by Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted writer, under the name Sam Jackson. Too many people were using false names back then. I was embarrassed. I was young enough to be impulsive, so, even though I was warned against it, I used his real name on the screen.
THR: What was the reaction from Universal Studios?
Douglas: They were against it, but they were weak at that time and in the process of selling the studio. So I overrode their objection -- and the sky didn't fall.

'The Dark Knight' Screenwriter David Goyer On 'Batman 3' Rumors
"If and when [Chris is] ready to talk - we'll talk," he promised.

Roger Ebert blogs now. A post I enjoyed:
"Critic" is a four-letter word