Friday, December 05, 2008

Around Blogosphere – 12/5/08

John August on How long should it take to write a script?
I’m hesitant to give a firm number for how many weeks it should take to write a script. Every project is different. Big Fish took me the better part of four months, while Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was three weeks. But part of the reason Charlie was only three weeks was because that’s all the time there was. There was already a release date, and sets were being built. And that points to the better question to ask: How quickly should a professional screenwriter be able to turn around a script, given some urgency? In my experience, the most successful screenwriters are the ones who are able to accurately estimate how much time they’ll need. That’s part of the craft, just like a cabinetmaker promising a delivery date. For my work on Iron Man, I told them exactly how many days it would take to address certain issues, and delivered pages every night.

The Three Versions of Batman
In the very final moment of the movie, Batman scampers off to his future as a pariah, while Gordon explains to his baffled son: “He’s the hero Gotham deserves . . . but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.” So, in this very canny, complex action movie (the director of The Prestige and Memento seems incapable of a narratively direct movie), the duality is clear. Dent and Batman are both knights, but Dent is “shining” while Batman is dark knight. Dent is the hero Gotham needs/not deserves while Batman is the reverse. In short one might say (with just a jot of overreach) that Batman willingly takes on the mantle of everlasting infamy in order to save humankind. The thesis pursued in this article is that this strong thematic aspect of The Dark Knight finds its roots in a short story by the labyrinthine Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges.

A huge list of free online film commentaries and essays

Which Came First, the Theme or the Script?
I tend to start with a story -- that is, a character with a problem. The character and the problem usually suggests a theme. I don't stress too much about themes because no one goes out to watch the movie with the great theme. They go to the movie with the great story.

Mike Le’s very funny
I Wanna Osama.

Danny Stack continues his series on the steps of the pro writer:
Step 4: Industry Insider
Step 5: Get an Agent
Step 6: Discipline
Step 7: Attitude

Bill on the
Oscar Winner Who Can’t Sell Scripts
Once you break in, you have to work even harder to keep your career going. I've said before - you are always breaking in, again and again. You can coast a little on a big sale - other people will want to meet with you and some of those meetings may turn into assignments. But if you don't start pedaling soon you're going to hit that hill before you're ready and will have lost any momentum.

Joshua James
turns 4 years old!
Well, his blog at least, and he has offered a smorgasbord of links to many great articles he’s written. Here’s just a taste:
What Writing Be?
The Last Gasp
Fingers To The Bone
It’s Like A Kick To The Head . . .
And While You’re Over Here, You Mind Grabbing That End Of The Couch?
Rapping On Writing - The Dialogue Mix . . .
Rapping On Writing - Character issues . . .
Rapping On Writing - Character issues, Part Deux, The Arc of the Transformative
Don’t Tell Me, Show Me . . .
The Great Pumpkin, The Football That Won’t Hold Still, The Kite That Won’t Fly, The Red Baron & Other Wonderful Unrealized Aspirations
Rapping On Writing - Screenplays, Plays, Novels . . . What’s the difference?
Rapping On Writing - Keep It Active & Mind Your Tenses
Rapping On Writing - Campbell
Rapping On Writing - On Character, Ya Gotta Have Soul
Rapping On Writing - Emotional Content
Rapping On Writing - Goals, Motivation & “Use The Force, Luke”
Rapping On Writing - Character, Story and the Utter FAILURE that is THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Rapping On Writing - The Prestige, The Reveal and the Head-Fake
Rapping On Writing - Two Valuable Writing Secrets Revealed Now!
Suspense & Tension . . . On The Steps With The Untouchables
Rapping On Writing . . . Fatal Flaws
Secrets of Success in 8 Words

12 Character Journeys We Can Learn From
Badlands, 1973. This is a real favourite of mine. I first watched it when I was fourteen: it was accidental; I couldn't sleep and it was on BBC2 really late. I got into massive trouble for waking up one of my younger siblings when all the gunshots went off in the field bit. Like Bonnie and Clyde, the two main characters have a real chemistry and even though the Martin Sheen character is a total psycho and they're horrible murderers, we can still see *how* this all happened, even if we don't condone it. Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers seemed a pale comparison when I got hold of a (then-banned) copy at school, from my video "pusher" Weird John (that was his real name, honest).

Julie Gray shares her
2009 Hollywood Calendar
Is there a specific time when spec scripts are best to go out? Well, like everything in Hollywood, yes and no. It's like some playful god designed Hollywood with rules that are upside down, backwards and ever-changing, just to mess with us mortals, isn't it? If I had to warrant an opinion as to when spec season is at its best, I'd say it's sometime between mid-January through July. Many production companies have a fiscal year that ends in October. That means in general, that by July or August, they're out of money to buy anything new. But then from Thanksgiving through the first of the year, when business is famously slow because of the holidays, nobody's buying much anyway. Anybody who's anybody is off skiing in Vail or snorkeling in Maui.

The Price of Alexandra Sokoloff

"Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre."
The New York Times Book Review

"A medical thriller of the highest order... a stunning, riveting journey into terror and suspense."
- Bestselling author Michael Palmer

The Anonymous Production Assistant
looks back on his favorite bits of script coverage when he was a reader:
“This script is so aggravatingly bad that it’s hard not to suspect it’s some elaborate practical joke, and I’m being filmed even as I write this coverage.”

rants about Twilight
"This sucks, I'm about ready to leave." I don't remember at what point she said this, but it was getting towards the point where I was just as frustrated at this film. The book was so perfect for a film adaptation (overlong and repetitive, therefore capable of handling a large number of cuts) but it got messed up in the translation somewhere. At times, I wish there was more of the Edward/Bella relationship going on but at others I just want them to stop staring at each other and do something. I don't know, the whole experience left me very conflicted; I know there are problems with the film but I'm at a loss as to what needed to be fixed. The film is shot a lot in either close up or extreme close up, creating an intensely intimate atmosphere that mirrors the relationship between Edward and Bella, and I applaud Hardwicke for taking such an unneccessary stylistic chance in such a crowd-pleasing film, but it really gets in the way some of the time. First of all, it does Robert Pattinson no favors and secondly, it provokes unintentional laughter in some of the scenes. When the band of bad vampires show up to the Cullen family baseball game, the constant cutting between extreme close ups of Edward's and James' (Cam Gigandet) eyes and the members of each group ready to pounce on each other like that cafeteria scene in Mean Girls where the kids turn into wild animals was hilarious, but for all of the wrong reasons.

Write Vision’s
How to Write a Scary Movie and Great Dialogue.

on Douglas Fairbanks
But how can such a genial fellow yield any drama? Give him an idée fixe, a cockeyed hobby or life philosophy into which he can pour his adrenaline. Now add a goal, something that his obsession blocks or unexpectedly helps him attain. Toss in the staples of romantic comedy: a good-humored maiden uncertain how to tame this creature of nature, a few old fogeys, some unscrupulous rivals. Hardened crooks may make an appearance as well. Be sure to include some tables, chairs, sofas, or horses for him to vault over, as well as some perches near the ceiling or on the roof; Doug feels most comfortable lounging high up. Add windows, for his inevitable defenestration. (In a poem about him, Jean Epstein wrote, “Windows are the only doors.”) There should also be chases. Other comedy stars run because they must. Doug’s joy in flat-out sprinting suggests that he welcomes the chance to flush a little hyperactivity out of his system. At the story’s climax he must save the day, taming his obsession and achieving his purpose while acceding to the claims of the practical world.

Hitchcock and Romantic Irony
Part One and Part Two
An examination of Hitchcock’s films reveals that sexuality carries with it not only the stench but also the stain of human perversity. His aestheticism works through three possible formulations of the romantic ideal: 1) An ambiguously connoted romance that achieves an idyllic transcendence to a state of love, 2) An idealization that contains something destructive, or 3) An idealization that leads to annihilation and death. These three possibilities can give us a glimpse into Hitchcock’s religious views on heaven, limbo, and hell, since the romantic ideal manifests the possibilities of rebirth (heaven), suspended animation (limbo/purgatory), and condemnation (hell). We can combine these forms of the romantic ideal into a unified nomenclature (as does Allen). Firstly, there are films about romantic renewal. In these comic thrillers, Hitchcock acts as a divine narrator controlling his characters from a position above the fictive world. In films like To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest he directs elements of good fortune onto his protagonists while making sure that the elements of human perversity are used to good ends toward romantic renewal. Secondly, there are films about ironic ambivalence. The majority of his works lie within this category. British films with an ambivalent tone are The Lodger (1926) and Murder! (1930). Hollywood films with ironic ambivalence are Strangers on a Train (1951) and Rear Window (1954). In these works, Hitchcock acts as a more reserved narrator who suspends himself from making any commentary, hovering in between the romantic ideal and its subversion. In this case, the simultaneously opposite perspectives compete in a back-and-forth struggle for dominance while the narration refrains from judgment. These competing perspectives are sustained by making use of the distinctions between the point-of-views of the characters and the narration. Thirdly, there are films about ironic inversion, which mostly interest us in this paper. Only a few of his works lie within this category, containing narratives that destroy the romantic ideal all together. Examples of such films begin with Downhill (1927), a silent British film that becomes a research platform for Hitchcock.

BTW - there’s a new issue of
Off Screen. Woo hoo!

Greatest Movie Robots

Jung and Synecdoche, New York
There are four stages to the individuation process, all of which Caden goes through:

1. Becoming conscious of the shadow. The shadow possesses those characteristics of the ego that we tend to push aside -- our dark places, our weaknesses, fears, hidden desires, etc. The shadow normally appears in dreams, but in Synecdoche he exits in Caden's construct of reality in the form of Sammy Barnathan (Tom Noonan), who has been observing Caden for over twenty years. Yet instead of integrating the shadow into his persona, Caden lets it run loose, where it eventually becomes more him than him (in that Sammy begins a successful affair with Hazel, something Caden could never do.) Sammy's death can, perhaps, be seen as Caden finally coming to terms with his shadow, though killing it might not have been the wisest choice.

2. Becoming conscious of the anima/animus. Jung believes it is critical that we locate traits of the opposite gender within us. For men, that requires an acceptance of the anima, or female psychological tendencies. Once again we see it manifesting itself not in Caden's persona, but in his "real" world. It begins with several occurrences of people mistaking Caden for a woman, which is odd as there's nothing visible/audible that should cause that confusion. Then, like Sammy, Caden's anima appears as Millicent Weems/Ellen Bascomb (Dianne Wiest), though this time Caden takes it one step further than the shadow and actually trades places with her. This leads to the third stage:

3. Becoming conscious of the archetypal spirit. In our waning years, Jung believes we begin to take on "mana personalities", which are associated with the archetypes of the wise-old man and the earth mother. Yet in Caden's case, he hasn't let go of the anima, for though he is now an old man, he takes on a female role, and assumes the identity of the cleaning woman Ellen Bascomb.

4. The final stage of the individuation process is self-realization, which requires the proper relationship between the ego and the self. One could argue either way as to whether or not Caden successfully reaches this stage. For whereas he has learned a bit more about life and love (albeit too late), his failure to live has left him an empty shell who functions only on orders spoken to him by his anima. (Get up, eat, say thank you, etc.) Even his death has to come via prompting -- it's a stage direction, neither peaceful nor harmonious. (This is another of the film's great tragedies that caused me all sorts of unrest.)


Joshua James said...

Crikey! Thanks for the link-love man!

Lucy said...

Wow, more links to the Linkman himself, ta MM. If I didn't know better, I'd say you had an ulterior motive... You know I'm a good girl though, right? ; )

Anonymous said...

Very nice. Congrats on your 4 year ann. Josh.

Under one of the subjects MM mentioned. "Write Vision's How To Write a Scary Movie and Great Dialogue"... Has anyone used the Great Dialogue software it mentions, and if so... What did you guys think about it.

I think my dialogue is a little off, and curious if this would help out???


Mystery Man said...

JJ - Obviously, I haven't had a chance to write articles this week, so it's a lot of link-love.

Lucy - Of course, I do! And they always try to use that "good girl" line on me. It never works. Hehehe...

Anon - I haven't known or heard of anyone who has used that program. I can't say I have lot of confidence in a computer program to help with dialogue. You should just study dialogue on your own and just develop those skills.


Anonymous said...

As usual, thanks for the linky goodness.

Mystery Man said...

That was a hilarious article. I really loved it.


marnie said...

A wealth of information. I shall soak it up like a sponge. Thanks MM and JJ. :)

Christian M. Howell said...

As usual I gravitated towards the Hitchcock analysis and can totally relate to the opinion noted therein.

I think that if I were to look at myself vs him the main difference would be that I always place the female character in a position of strength.

Rather than showing her as the sought I like to have them be the seeker. Cliche of course would relegate her to the "searching for a man" pseudo-feminist but I am enamored with the loner that demands an effort that appears effortless.

I like to explore the way a relationship works correctly with the inherent "perversity" of social relationships by removing the stress from inside the crystal to looking inward at the crystal.

Of course no one have a perfect relationship - meaning no disagreements which could lead to conflict and or turmoil so there is always a chance for "indirect suspense" where the audience can revel in the chance of turmoil in a normally sedate relationship.

I do concentrate on the "condition of pursuit." Pursuit of love especially. Said pursuit offers a myriad of paths that can create elements that are visual, distinctive and resonant.

That perhaps is why I am not a fan of the "visually sexual" but more so the implication of sex and it's aftermath. The why and the reaction to the why is always more powerful than the action. Sexuality, I feel, is truly ambiguous as one man's sexuality is another man anathema.

Ironic inversion is most certainly an interesting topic. Thanks for the link.

Keep Writing as Writing is the Revealing of the Soul.

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