Monday, March 31, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
How I do love Mr. Anthony Minghella who was the son of ice cream makers on the Isle of Wight off the coast of England. David Carr wrote that he “used expansive tastes in literature and a deep visual vocabulary to make lush films with complicated themes that found both audiences and accolades.” Having recently gone through three of his screenplays for this article, Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and The English Patient, the phrase “deep visual vocabulary” might be the perfect words to describe his writing style.
He was definitely in a class all by himself. I fear I may be over-generalizing here, but due to the fact that many writer-directors are basically writing scripts for themselves, they tend to toss format to the wind and allow their scripts to get bogged down with camera angles and technical details. What’s interesting about Minghella is how he stays (not perfectly but) relatively close to proper format. He never writes “we see.” He never mentions camera angles. He consistently stays focused on the story from beginning to end. Obviously, for Minghella, the script is the story and nothing else matters. And he tells that story very simply, very visually, very cinematically, and he avoids all those technical details that’ll pull you out of the narrative.
I thought I’d share a few cinematic storytelling examples I enjoyed while reading those three scripts. I had quite a few examples but trimmed it down to these smaller scenes.
Hope you enjoy them.
I love how he bookends this scene. He starts it off with us looking up at the sky, a beautiful night. A lot happens in this brief Civil War skirmish, and then Minghella ends the scene looking up at the sky again but for very different reasons. The other amazing thing is that the scene also ends with an obvious fade to black, but Minghella won’t write a transition. Even his fade to black is kept within the context of his story.
EXT. CONFEDERATE LINES. NIGHT
A beautiful night. Lots of stars. Inman and three others, including Butcher, slide over the top of the trench, far to one side of the stand of trees. The plan is to cast a wide arc that will bring them around back of the trees, closer to the enemy side than their own. The four men slither over the ground. They pause. Inman has arrived at a tangle of corpses.
He slithers over them.
They work their way towards the trees. THERE ARE A HALF DOZEN FEDERALS CROUCHING IN THE COVER OF THE TREES. They are dozing. Only one of them sits with a rifle surveying the Confederate lines, the others have their backs to the enemy, sitting against the trunks, grabbing a few minute's sleep.
As the four rebels approach, still crawling, one of the Federals opens his eyes, sees the attack, shifts for his rifle. INMAN IMMEDIATELY STANDS UP, FIRING INSTANTLY, killing him and two others, while Butcher throws himself at another.
The exchanges are brief and savage and one of Inman's party and all of the Federals lay dead. Then the rebels break from the trees.
A FLARE goes up, then another, both from the Confederate trenches. INMAN AND HIS ACCOMPLICES ARE PICKED OUT IN A BRILLIANT GREEN LIGHT. Shots follow, from both sides, aimed at the three returning men as they zigzag towards their own lines. As they get close, voices cry out, rippling down the trench, joining their own admonitions: Don't shoot, Hold your fire, they're our boys, Hold your fire!!! They're almost home. Butcher is laughing, whooping. Then just as suddenly he falls, wounded. Inman stops, turns back, runs to him.
Inman collects Butcher, drags him, carries him. They're fifty yards from their lines. A BULLET CATCHES INMAN IN THE NECK.
He goes down like a tree, blood pouring from his neck. Lying on the ground, he watches the phosphorescent lights slowly fade to black, all sound fading with them.
THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY
Two examples I’d like to share. First, a scene that was a prologue in the script but I believe was ultimately used for the final shot. I love the simplicity of this visual statement about Ripley. The light and darkness say it all about Ripley’s arc with crystal clarity. This is also the one and only time I can recall Minghella actually referencing the camera.
PROLOGUE: INT. RIPLEY'S CABIN. EVENING.
Fade up on Ripley, as in the final scene of the film, sitting, desolate in a ship's cabin. The camera rotates around his face, which begins in light and ends in darkness.
Second, I love the way Minghella conveys very simply and visually in this short sequence the idea of Ripley, the outsider, desperately wanting in. You get it. You don’t need it explained. You don’t need Ripley verbalizing his inner needs to anyone. We know it by his actions.
EXT. THEATER. EVENING.
Ripley runs past the droves of arriving concert-goers and heads for the theater. Music continues.
INT. MEN'S ROOM, THEATER. NIGHT.
The interval: A thick mass of men in tuxedoes grooming themselves at the basins. Ripley turns on faucets, offers towels, brushes off dandruff. Men talk over, round, and through him. Put coins in a bowl.
INT. A BOX AT THE THEATER. NIGHT
The concert continues. Ripley peers through the curtain at the performances. A haughty woman in the box turns round and he closes the curtain.
INT. BACKSTAGE. 1:30 A.M.
An empty auditorium. Ripley plays Bach in the blue ghostlight. A caretaker emerges from his rounds, flips on the house lights. Ripley jerks up from his playing, waves apologetically.
Sorry, sorry. I know. Sorry.
THE ENGLISH PATIENT
Lots of great moments one could discuss, but I especially love the way he wrote the opening sequence in the film. Szerelem, szerelem, she cries, in a haunting lament for her loved one, and the flames erase all that matters - his name, his past, his face, his lover…
EXT. LATE 1942. THE SAHARA DESERT. DAY.
SILENCE. THE DESERT seen from the air. An ocean of dunes for mile after mile. The late sun turns the sand every color from crimson to black.
An old AEROPLANE is flying over the Sahara. Its shadow swims over the contours of sand.
A woman's voice begins to sing unaccompanied on the track. Szerelem, szerelem, she cries, in a haunting lament for her loved one.
INSIDE the aeroplane are two figures. One, A WOMAN, seems to be asleep. Her pale head rests against the side of the cockpit. THE PILOT, a man, wears goggles and a leather helmet. He is singing, too, but we can't hear him or the plane or anything save the singer's plaintive voice.
The plane shudders over a ridge. Beneath it A SUDDEN CLUSTER OF MEN AND MACHINES, camouflage nets draped over the sprawl of gasoline tanks and armored vehicles. An OFFICER, GERMAN, focuses his field glasses. The glasses pick out the MARKINGS on the plane. They are English. An ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUN swivels furiously.
Shocking bursts of GUNFIRE. Explosions rock the plane, which lurches violently. THE WOMAN SLUMPS FORWARD, slamming her head against the instruments. The pilot grabs her, pulls her back, but she's not conscious. The fuel tank above their heads is punctured. It sprays them both, then EXPLODES.
THE MAN FALLS OUT OF THE SKY, clinging to his dead lover. The are both ON FIRE. She is wrapped in a parachute silk and it burns fiercely. He looks up to see the flames licking at his own parachute as it carries them slowly to earth. Even his helmet is on fire, but the man makes no sound as the flames erase all that matters - his name, his past, his face, his lover...
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
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)
Billy 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.”
Alan’s 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.
Another 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.”
An 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 couldnвЂ™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
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Let’s imagine that we are all aspiring musicians and/or songwriters.
One day, a man (who is not a musician and has never once written a song in his entire life) comes into town. He holds a “Conference for Aspiring Songwriters” (for $250 a pop, mind you), and tells the packed crowd of young hopefuls that all songs must follow the AABA formula.
“History has proven that the greatest songs ever written use the thirty-two bar form known as AABA,” he says. “This form found its origins in Tin Pan Alley songs and later became the essence of rock, jazz, and pop music. This became the principal form of music beginning around 1925-1926. It’s a thirty-two-bar form with four sections usually eight measures long each (4×8=32), two verses or A sections, a contrasting B section, the bridge or 'middle-eight,' and then a return of the verse in one last A section (AABA). Thus, we’d have:
verse / verse / bridge / verse
“Some of the best examples of AABA,” he says, “include Jerry Lee Lewis’ ‘Great Balls of Fire,’ the Everly Brothers’ ‘All I Have to do is Dream,’ and the Beach Boys’ ‘Surfer Girl.’ The best Beatles songs followed this formula, as well, from ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ to ‘I Will’. Although they have, at times, modified the thirty-two bar structure, they never strayed far from the most proven songwriting form in music history.”
“Therefore,” he declares, “all songs must follow this construction. All songwriters must use ‘Great Balls of Fire’ as their personal model.”
And, of course, the entire music industry embraces this man.
Then the artists, those who have actually written songs and studied songs all their lives, stand up and say, wait a minute. How do you explain songs like “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, which features a thirty-two-bar section, a contrasting bridge, and then a repeat of the thirty-two-bar section, making a compound of ABA and AABA forms? This structure might look something like this:
verse / chorus / verse / chorus / bridge / (verse) / chorus
“It’s not as strong a song as ‘Great Balls of Fire’.”
“Because it failed to follow AABA.”
How about Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love?” Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’?” Tom Petty’s “Refugee?” They all follow similar compounds of ABA and AABA forms. People love those songs, do they not?
“Compound ABA and AABA forms are too long, too complicated, less catchy, harder to market, and don’t give you as much freedom with lyrics as AABA.” (What?) “AABA gives you room for musical intros and outros, not to mention the opportunity to add some musical breaks between the verses without having to worry about making the song too long. As I’ve said in my award-winning conferences, compounds are lesser songs that will not stand the test of time because the form does not connect with people as easily as AABA, which has been proven throughout the history of music.”
Hey, not all great artists in rock and jazz followed AABA. Ever heard of Pink Floyd or Miles Davis? They connected with thousands of people!
“Those were rebellious artists that brought disgrace to their genres for failing to follow AABA.”
Then how do you explain the works of Amadeus? Symphonies, concertos, or any other kind of multi-movement form of music like ballets, fugues, operas, rhapsodies, or sonatas?
“Nobody goes to ballets or operas anymore because those songs don’t connect with people as easily as AABA. They don’t sell as many tickets and for good reason - it’s not a form that works as well. AABA is a proven formula that has lasted almost 100 years now.”
But aren’t symphonies high art?
“Music is about connecting with people. If you don’t connect with masses of people, you fail.”
So high art can’t exist even with songs that are through-composed?
Then I guess Les Miserables is a piece of shit.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
1) As the title mentions, I'll be back on Thursday. There is so much to write about it. I want to explore a number of areas including UNsympathetic protagonists, fatal flaws in screenplays, and even a few more pro script reviews. I honestly hate not blogging and can't wait to write again.
2) I am aware of the issues with the feed which has affected the e-mail newsletter and the feed subscriptions in a few areas like Google homepages. I'm getting assurances that they are working on correcting this problem, and I appreciate everyone's patience.
3) Do you guys remember our love screenplay experiment? Well, we have a new hate screenplay, which offers 6-page shorts from 20 writers addressing the subject of hate, and it includes a short written by me called "Long Journey Home." Hope you enjoy it.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Let us put an end once and for all to the current madness about inner character arcs, which finds its origins in the Grand Poobah of screenwriting gurus, Mr. Robert McKee, who penned in his (now infamous, err, famous) book, Story: “The finest writing not only reveals true character, but arcs or changes to that inner nature, for better or worse, over the course of the telling.”
That is a two-faced lie.
I suppose if you want to get real nitpicky with me about McKee’s quote, you could argue that he was not saying that you CAN’T have character arcs. He was merely saying that only the finest writing showcases an arc, aka an inner change in the protagonist.
That is STILL a two-faced lie.
Friends, this lie has pervaded every area of Hollywood from gurus to screenwriting professors to pro consultants to pro readers, etc, so that all new writers (and many working pros) encounter a thought police on this particular subject the likes of which we haven’t seen since the pre-wall days of East Germany. And the simple truth is that this does not hold up against the record of cinema history. (Need I remind everyone that the Academy just handed the highest yearly artistic award for cinematic achievement, the Best Film of 2007, to No Country for Old Men, a film that, as noted in Anthony Lane’s review “charts no moral shift in Chigurh, or indeed in the men around him; all of them are set in stone from the beginning.”) The fact is great films have been made with great characters that do not change who they are at their core. It isn’t that the writing is a lower quality because the protagonists don’t change, it's that this principle about arcs has been wrong since the very beginning.
Now let me be clear about the fact that there’s nothing wrong with character arcs. I love character arcs. I love watching the downfall arc of a flawed protagonist as we saw in Citizen Kane, or Michael Corleone in the Godfather films, or most recently, Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. And I love the hero’s arc, too, as we saw in the much-loved Luke Skywalker from Star Wars, or Neo in the Matrix, or most comic book hero origin films. Plus, I love the kind of transformational arcs we saw in Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, or Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler in The Lives of Others.
But to say that every protagonist in every story must have a character arc is madness, my friends. It's a two-faced lie from the pits of hell.
So let’s look at this subject from a variety of categories. This first category is probably most dear to my heart, stories in which protagonists do not change but they create change in others.
Protagonists That Create Change in Others:
Gandhi – This film certainly chronicles his maturity and the many ways in which he was tested as a man, but he never once changed who he was at his core. I loved what Ebert wrote: “The movie begins in the early years of the century, in South Africa. Gandhi moved there from India in 1893, when he was twenty-three. He already had a law degree, but, degree or not, he was a target of South Africa's system of racial segregation, in which Indians (even though they are Caucasian, and thus should "qualify") are denied full citizenship and manhood. Gandhi's reaction to the system is, at first, almost naive; an early scene on a train doesn't quite work only because we can't believe the adult Gandhi would still be so ill-informed about the racial code of South Africa. But Gandhi's response sets the tone of the film. He is nonviolent but firm. He is sure where the right lies in every situation, and he will uphold it in total disregard for the possible consequences to himself.” (For that matter, how about Jesus in Passion of the Christ?)
The Seven Samurai – One of the most influential films of all time, and my question to you is how did the Samurai change? All they did was accept the task at hand of protecting the village. They did their jobs living by their codes, and they either survived the battle or not. The villagers certainly changed in that they became stronger individuals due to the influence of the Samurai.
Chance the Gardner – Being There is a 4-star satirical masterpiece. It’s 97% on the critics TomatoMeter and one of Ebert’s Great Films. Here was a man who was, frankly, mentally challenged and cared solely about gardening, TV, and food. He never changed. He couldn’t change. And yet, everyone thought he was something other than what he was and he evoked monumental, life-altering changes in everyone around him inside the home of a certain millionaire. His simplistic isms (“Spring is a time for planting”) turned Chance into a media darling because his words could be easily condensed into simple sound-bytes. Ultimately, they talked of him becoming a presidential candidate. (And while we’re talking about a protag causing change in a household without personally changing, how about Mary Poppins?)
3:10 to Yuma – To quote James Berardinelli: “Two things of significance occur during 3:10 to Yuma, and both revolve around Dan. As a character, he doesn't change. Instead, he's the instigator of change in those around him. Dan is the same at the end as at the beginning: devoted to what is right. Justice is his master. He will not kill because it is expedient. He will not turn his back even though he stands to earn a fortune. Dan's obdurateness makes him a wall against which others crash and break. One of those is his son, who starts out the film viewing him with contempt but grows to respect him. The other is Ben who, suffering from something akin to Stockholm Syndrome, forms a grudging respect for the man who rejects his bribes and stays true to his course.” Exactly. Is there anything wrong with that? No.
Patton & Hawkeye Pierce – How did either of these men change? Patton was a big character with a big ego who influenced the military, the enemy, and all of World War II. But he never changed who he was at his core. He was only sad that the war ended. Hawkeye Pierce with his anti-war, anti-establishment, and anti-military attitude had a bigger impact on the M*A*S*H camp than the camp ever had on him. The dramatic emphasis on both of these characters was not their arcs but their depth so we could enjoy the different sides of their characters.
Characters That Transform Without Changing Who They Are:
I came across an article at StoryFanatic by James Hull, an animator, about William Wallace in Braveheart and Dr. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive. James wrote, “Both Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford’s characters have a character arc - both grow in their resolve as they hold out for the oppressive situations around them to alter. Mel fights the subjugation of his people by the King of England while Harrison holds out against the obvious reality that he’s the only suspect in his wife’s murder.” I agree and disagree. They certainly grew in their resolve, but these guys did not have arcs in the sense that there were changes to their inner nature for better or worse. They were in positions where they felt they had to fight back on their own. What kind of arc is there for Kimble after he proved who the murderer was? How was he different? There is no question he would be affected or perhaps emotionally damaged by that kind of upheaval in his life but was there a change to his inner nature? No. He certainly didn’t transform into a criminal or anything less respectable than what he was before the murder. He transformed into a different version of himself because of these circumstances, but he never changed who he was at his core.
The article also had this to say: “What most story people don’t realize is that when they talk about character arc they are referring to what Dramatica calls the Main Character’s Growth. Growth is all about whether or not the character is moving towards something or away from something - not whether or not they change. You can grow as a person and still hold on to your beliefs - they just get stronger.” Wrong. I should acknowledge that gurus and theorists have different interpretations about arcs. But growth is not an arc, and James is giving Dramatica too much credit in terms of influence on writers. When people in the biz talk about character arcs, they are talking about a change to the inner nature as defined by the Grand Poobah of gurus whose obscenely invasive influence all throughout HW spans well over a decade now. Right or wrong, love it or hate it, we have to go by Robert McKee’s definition, unfortunately.
Scarlett O’Hara – Gone With the Wind is a sensational film, one of my favorites. It is also the highest ranking movie on AFI’s Top 100 list that has a protagonist that does not change. Scarlett was, as Rhett told her, “selfish to the very end.” She did change in the sense that she adapted to her new circumstances. She went from a spoiled society girl to a devastated southerner and then back into a self-made business woman, but she never once changed who she was at her core. When she returned to Tara and found it in ruins and her mother dead, she went out to the fields and cried out to the heavens, “As God is my witness, as God is my witness, they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill, as God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.” That is certainly a defining moment for Scarlett in that she found the zeal to overcome her devastation, but let it be said that her speech was more a declaration of true character than anything else. She will overcome this tragedy but she will not change who she is. Ever. She will continue to be the bad girl she has always been. She will stoop to any low to rise again, and that’s exactly what she did in the second half of that movie. She lied. She stole. She cheated, and she killed. In the end, she finally saw Ashley for what he really was (a spineless wimp). She realized how good she had it with Rhett. And she realized the significance of Tara in her life. And these kinds of realizations can certainly prompt some change, but whether she does, we don’t really know. Personally, I find it hard to believe she’ll be any different after she returns to Tara. Those realizations just aren’t enough in my book to prompt real change in a person.
Bad, Bad Boys:
Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid – Written by one of the most celebrated screenwriters of our time, William Goldman, the only thing to be said about these two characters beyond the fact that they were crooks to the very end, is that their story was unique only in the way that it revealed true character. They were cool and hip when they were stealing from the big railroad company, but when a special posse of experts is after them, they take off for Bolivia. They were not the hipsters we thought they were – they were chicken shits.
Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, & Thirteen – Over the course of these films, we can chart the growth of characters as con men but they never depart from their true natures. It’s always the way they toy with character arcs that they fool audiences, because when we think that a particular guy is perhaps betraying the group or going his own way, we become the fools, because that was part of the deception all along and we fell for it. These stories are always about the job, the heist, the multi-layered deceptions at play, some of which we know about and some turn into surprises and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. If any of these guys “quit,” we won’t believe them, and in time, we will be proven correct. Question - when alcoholics quit drinking, does that mean they are no longer alcoholics? The same can be said for con artists, right?
The Wild Bunch - It was, in fact, the inability to change and adapt to modern times that brought Pike and his gang to their downfall. Not only that, the man who led the crusade against Pike and his gang, Thornton, a guy who was once a member of the gang himself but now forced to capture them or go to jail, sat outside the gates of the compound after it was all over and while he was thinking, he observed the formation of a new gang looking for jobs. He smiles wryly and joins them. Even Thornton couldn’t change who he really was.
Since when did Sherlock Holmes have an arc? Or Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple? There may have been isolated occurrences, but mostly – they didn’t. Mysteries are more plot-driven than character-driven, and there’s nothing wrong with that, because the fun comes from trying to solve the mystery. The investigation is usually led by a dynamic character. So is it truly essential that Holmes or Poirot have arcs in every story? I’ve heard it argued, “Well, those are franchises, so they don’t count.” They’re stories, aren’t they? People love those characters, do they not? Whether we have 1 or 50 stories about Holmes, the emphasis will always be on the plot and the mystery, and an arc in the protagonist shouldn’t be required. In fact, shouldn’t the emphasis be on depth instead of an arc because the more sides to the protagonist and the more games the protagonist can play on the other characters, the more entertaining the story, right?
I love crime noirs and the books of Dashell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane, and I miss the days when we would go see a film simply because the protagonist was cool and we wanted to be more like him. We watched Sam Spade because we admired the way he handled his own affairs. We loved watching him deal with and outsmart the bad guys. I love what Anthony Burgess said about protags, “The character that lasts is an ordinary guy with extraordinary qualities.” Although Sam Spade made us wonder if he was actually bad with the questionable deals he was making with other characters, the Act III climax always reinforced that he was one step ahead of the bad guys (and us) and that he was, in fact, still good. Anything wrong with that? The Maltese Falcon is Number 31 on AFI’s Top 100 list.
Indiana Jones – Friends, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the golden boy of action adventure films and one of AFI’s Top 100 films, gave us a protagonist who was very much the same in the end as he was in the beginning. He had one external goal, that is, to obtain the Ark of the Covenant, which was eventually realized, although he lost it again in the end paralleling the opening sequence, a kind of running gag. Sometimes a great story is about a character with a goal and either he reaches that goal or he doesn’t. (See also, for example, the character with no name played by Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.) Indy’s relationship with Marion, I think, would fall under Linda Seger's definition of a “hidden inner need.” He sees her again for the sake of his mission, falls in love with her all over again, which could be an inner need he didn't realize he had, and winds up with her in the end. That doesn’t mean he changed. A hidden need was realized, and apparently, it wasn’t that big of a need as they were no longer together in the sequel. Doom gave us a change in motivation, selfless reasons, in fact, for going after the Sankara Stones, which was simply an illumination of a different side of his character. In Last Crusade, he had an external goal to get the Holy Grail, of course, and he had inner needs with respect to his relationship with his father, which were satisfied by the big hug and the words of affection from Henry Sr. after he thought Indy had died. But does that mean Indy changed as a result? It means that a need was met. Period. However, I will throw out there what seemed to me to be only two hints of a change in Indy in Last Crusade: 1) When Indy took the leap of faith to walk across the hidden bridge, but we saw no indication he was changed in any way by this, and 2) When his father said, “Indiana... let it go.” I wonder, is this not a one-time exception to Indiana's usual nature or was this the beginning of a change in his ways?
James Bond – One of the most iconic figures of the spy genre, and with a few exceptions, such as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale, Bond rarely had an arc. We never wanted him to change. We loved him as he was. He got the job done and he did it with great style. Can you imagine how different he’d be today if he had a change to his inner nature in every single film? Bond proves the point that when it comes to franchises, arcs are not a requirement for satisfaction or longevity. (For that matter, John McClane hardly changed after the first Die Hard film. Dirty Harry never arc'd either.)
Clarice Starling – My good friend Joshua James made the most important point I've heard about this character in an email to me (also wrote about this subject here) and that point is about emotional content: “…it's not about the arc for characters. It's more about, are they emotionally motivated for what they do? If I can offer anything from my experiences as an actor and director that the thing to look for when crafting characters is emotional connection. Connect them personally to the story and explain, to yourself, what their motivation is. Basic acting - what's my motivation? What drives them to make the choices they do, does it make sense for them emotionally, is it logical EMOTIONALLY... people aren't logical, but they are emotionally logical - they're doing things that conform to their world emotional view. Clarice from Silence of the Lambs: I argued she's not transformed by her movie. She's wiser and learned more, certainly, but she's not a different person. More important, and this is what makes the character work, why does she put herself in danger, why put herself through what she does to save a girl she doesn't know. The movie gives it to us. To save a lost lamb that was crying. She sees that and her mission, throughout life, became to help those in peril, like the lamb. She didn't even know it until Lector pointed it out to her. But if you trace her actions, every choice she made was linked to that emotional logic of her character. What is Lector, what does he do? He FEEDS. Not only on food, but on interesting people, he finds her fascinating and she feeds his intellectual appetite.”
As Josh always says: WHAT plus WHY equals WHO.
(Chief) Inspector Jacques Clouseau – Let it finally be said that it is not required for protagonists to have a character arc in slapstick comedies. I’ve written about this before, but the most you can hope for in slapstick comedies like these are characters who have “blind obsessions,” individuals who fail to see their own flaws or the dangers of their own ridiculous fixations. Got that? Blind obsessions. Ridiculous fixations. Moliere’s life-long career in the theatre was built on that one fundamental, lampooning the ridiculous fixations of the social elite. (And the actors would always play those characters seriously, as if they had no clue they were being ridiculous, and that had us rolling in the aisles.) Consider the comedy-gold combination of the money-fixated Max Bialystock and the producer-fixated Leopold Bloom. Or Oscar Madison living with the germ-obsessed Felix Ungar. Or the war-fixated General “Buck” Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove. Or the sex-obsessed teens in countless movies. Or any of a number of Woody Allen characters. And yes, Inspector Clouseau was obsessed about being the greatest detective in the world but it never occurred to him that he was always the dumbest man in the room. He fumbled his way into foiling the plans of countless bad guys without ever realizing what actually happened. Then he’d get decorated with honors for his brilliance, and that, my friends, was the big cosmic joke. The moment truth gets revealed, the moment Clouseau realizes he has flaws in his personality and that he needs to change (thereby giving his character an “arc”) will be the very same moment the comedy will die. And this is the reason I felt that the latest incarnation of Pink Panther with Steve Martin failed, because Inspector Clouseau gets outed in the media as the bumbling idiot he always was, he actually REALIZES that he IS a bumbling idiot, he APOLOGIZES to different people if he made them look silly, and then he SOLVES the big case thereby proving to the world that he is, in fact, a brilliant detective. Blasphemous. Completely blasphemous.
I can hear someone argue, “Well, Mystery Man, you only showed us one-offs and rare exceptions.” Did I really? It only takes ONE EXCEPTION to invalidate this stupid rule.
Monday, March 10, 2008
The most entertaining news this week has to be the fact that Johnny Depp is holding screenwriter auditions for his latest movie Dali. It hasn't been announced how he would accept scripts, and I suspect that you'll need a good agent to get anything to him. However, the actor is reportedly keen on finding the very best possible script for the film in which he would play the famous Spanish artist. “A source is quoted as saying: ‘He's open to working with anyone - from housewives to pensioners - if the script is right.’ Al Pacino and Peter O'Toole are also in talks to portray Dali in upcoming movies Dali and I and Goodbye Dali respectively.”
Here, you can watch a 76-minute documentary on Salvador Dali, and at the bottom of this post is a 5-minute tribute.
Hitman - undated, unspecified draft script by Skip Woods, which is probably the same draft that I reviewed. Hey, compare notes!
Big Trouble in Little China II - January 12, 1995 network draft two script by Charles Proser (unproduced made-for-TV)
Field of Dreams - March 9, 1998 final draft script by Phil Alden Robinson
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - August 8, 2003 Third Revised draft script by Douglas Adams & Karey Kirkpatrick
Children of the Corn - August 5, 1983 2nd revised draft script by George Goldsmith (based on the novel by Stephen King)
Untraceable - June 5, 2006 unspecified draft script by Robert Fyvolent & Mark R. Brinker, current revisions by Allison Burnett
(Thanks to SimplyScripts.)
Girish talked about Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, "a British film scholar who has written books on Luchino Visconti (1968) and Antonioni's L'Avventura (1997), and is the editor of The Oxford History of World Cinema (1999). His new book Making Waves: New Cinemas of the 1960s is an overview primer and a breezy, easy read. Quite a bit of the ground covered here might be familiar to the serious cinephile, but I nevertheless found many details and observations that were new to me and helpful. Let me reproduce a few interesting passages..."
An oldie but a goodie: David Mamet’s Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama. “To David Mamet, human beings are drama-creating animals who impose narrative structures on everything from today's weather to next year's elections. Mamet distinguishes true drama from its false variants, unravels the infamous "Second-Act Problem," amd considers the mysterious persistence of the soliloquy. 'Knife' is an inspired guide for any playwright or theatergoer that doubles as a trenchant work of moral and aesthetic philosophy.”
Mike Le wants the Cultural Attache Position. (If you're not sure what he's talking about just go here.)
Joshua James on Goals & Motivation
“So goals are important, but only if they’re connected emotionally to the overall quest your hero happens to be on. It can be large and very personal (like Luke’s quest for identity and value in his life) or a quest can be small and silly (HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE - it’s funny. Seriously, the shit works), as long as the overall motivation of the characters is in keeping with the “Force” of their driving psyche’.”
Laura Deerfield says to Write What You Know
“Imagination is a powerful tool. It can carry us into areas that no one before has ever conceived of, it can solve problems, it can pull beauty from nearly nothing. Imagination is essential to a writer. So why then, are new writers so often admonished to ‘write what you know?’ The truth is, for a writer who knows themselves, there is no contradiction.”
Unk on the Inciting Incident “It hits us upside the head just a little harder these days when you give us the inciting incident within the first 12 minutes of your story. The mass audience of today isn’t really interested in sitting around waiting for a half hour for something to get your protagonist’s ass in gear. Remember, these are the fucking people sitting in the audience sending text messages and even making Goddamn phone calls. You really think these are the kinda people that wanna wait a half hour or gasp — never — for your incitiing incident?”
Christina tells us Why Juno Worked
“Folks, it really does come down to the writing. Juno had: A strong voice. Love it or hate it, Ms. Cody has one. Great characters. Juno was full of characters that actors wanted to play. Ellen Page said she read the script and immediately wanted the part. The primary buyers of spec screenplays are actors and producers, not writers or critics. So it doesn't really matter what you, fellow writer, think. Sound structure. It opened and bam, you're in the story.”
Emily’s Thoughts on The Darjeeling Limited Script
“There's not much of a plot and there doesn't need to be. It's only 107 pages and it's chock full of dialogue because this is a story about bizarre family dyanmics, about how we deal with grief in different ways and what it means to need each other. The story itself is the relationships. Just like all Anderson's other films. What this script does with amazing skill is something so many new screenwriters have difficulty with: making each character a distinct person.”
David Bordwell on Minding Movies
“When we watch films, our bodies and minds are engaged at a great many levels. Nobody doubts this claim. The interesting questions are: What forms does this engagement take? What gives movies the ability to seize our senses, prod our minds, and trigger emotions? How have filmmakers constructed films so as to tease us into such activities? What, to use a phrase from the philosopher Noël Carroll, creates the power of movies? On this blogsite, I’ve touched on such questions in concrete cases—how eye movements shape our uptake of story information (here and here), how suspense can be created and sustained (here). Those are just small-scale samples of what is, to me, an exciting and promising way of studying certain aspects of cinema. That research trend is growing substantially, and an upcoming event on our home turf marks a new phase.”
Cool site: http://filmsound.org/
Thanks to Matt Zoller Seitz, here’s a link to Hollywood Values: The Sympathetic Child Molester written by the conservative site Libertas, and here’s the rebuttal at Cinematical.
Mike Gilbert on Cinema
Studio shuffle creates script limbo
“As a ‘transition team’ reshapes the new New Line division into something more like Dimension Films or Screen Gems, many scripts in its possession are going to have to move out. For all the writers with screenplays in development there -- not to mention the hundreds of employees thrown into limbo -- the question is: What happens now? ‘It's a wait-and-see mentality,’ says one manager, who prefers to remain anonymous so as not to jeopardize his clients' projects there.”
Screenwriter Zak Penn Talks The Avengers Movie as CGI, Young X-Men Movie
“At one point, George Miller was in talks to take Justice League America down the all-CGI route a la Beowulf, and now Marvel’s dream-team flick, The Avengers, might be headed in that direction as well according to screenwriter Zak Penn (X-Men 2 and 3, The Incredible Hulk). Of course, this whole uber-caped enchilada depends on the success of this summer’s Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, as both Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are key players. Director Jon Favreau has previously stated his interest in directing a live-action version that would team up Robert Downey Jr. and Ed Norton. Penn says that all-CGI talks have definitely happened…”
Ken Levine talks about the future of Hollywood
“TI: There seems to be a bigger divide now between major studio pictures and independent features, which seem to be the movies that don’t make a lot of money but win the awards.
KL: And those [studio films] are the movies where there’s interference from film studios, with notes on drafts, editing and casting. They tend to be more formulaic. If you look at a movie like Juno, I can’t imagine that being made by a major studio. And if it was, they probably would have taken Diablo Cody’s script and given it to some A-list punch-up people to change it. And they’d say, “We need a scene with Juno and her mother shopping. And we need a scene of her and the guy holding hands” They’d ask, “Who do we cast it with?” And they’d probably go, “Can we get Mandy Moore? Lindsay Lohan? Miley Cyrus?” What you’re then left with is one of these bastardized formula movies, as opposed to what Juno was, which was a very clear vision. They took a really good script, a director who understood it, cast the best possible people, and did it in the tone they felt was best for that picture. And it will end up making a lot more money – considering the cost – than the other four [Oscar] nominees. The truth of the matter is, last year -- and I checked it -- Norbit had a bigger box office than the Best Picture of the year. There’s something wrong there.”
'Roger Rabbit' writer pens sci-fi novel
After watching a few too many of those Saturday morning TV commercials in the 1970s, Gary K. Wolf came up with the idea for his novel “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?” which became the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit…”
Terrance Rafferty on Godard's Contempt:
“Further confusing matters (as was, and remains, his custom), he told an interviewer that his movie was 'a simple film, without mystery.' It is nothing of the kind. Moravia’s story, which the film tells surprisingly faithfully, is a fairly simple one, about a screenwriter (played by Michel Piccoli) who can’t figure out why his wife (Ms. Bardot) has suddenly begun to despise him. The collapse of their marriage occurs while the writer is mulling an offer to punch up the script of 'The Odyssey,' produced by a wily and crude American mogul (Jack Palance) and directed by Fritz Lang, who plays himself. (In the novel the director is an invented character, a generic veteran of the German silent cinema, who is, we’re told, 'certainly not in the same class as the Pabsts and Langs.') That’s about it for narrative: the writer frets, the wife glowers, the producer rants and manipulates, and Lang, calm in this storm of domestic malaise and showbiz madness, tries to make a movie that will reflect, at least a little, his vision of 'The Odyssey.' 'Homer’s world is a real world,' he says. 'The poet belonged to a world that grew in harmony, not opposition, to nature.'”
Indian Screenwriters are having a revolution
“At the first All India Screenwriters’ Conference held at FTII Pune in August 2006, attended by over 275 established and aspiring writers, it was strongly felt that the Filmwriters’ Association (FWA) should be proactive about serious issues that concern writers, including 1. Protection of writers’ rights: Writers’ don’t always get their due. Contracts are not fair, they are underpaid, moreover they don’t always receive the promised fees and credit, there is no copyright protection, no question of royalties...”
“...The Dark Knight is an even lonelier outing for his character, who once naïvely thought his crime fighting could be a finite endeavor. 'This escalation has now meant that he feels more of a duty to continue,' he said. 'And now you have not just a young man in pain attempting to find some kind of an answer, you have somebody who actually has power, who is burdened by that power, and is having to recognize the difference between attaining that power and holding on to it.'”
On Pitching with Stephanie Palmer, Founder, Good in a Room
“One of the toughest parts of being a screenwriter is... well... much of it doesn't involve actual writing. Unlike being a poet or a novelist, much of writing for film and TV involves walking into a room and being social, whether it's pitching a movie to a producer of throwing around jokes in a sitcom writers room. And for many writers, this is one of the toughest parts of the job... after all, we're writers, not salesmen... our job is to write, not schmooze and sell. But sell we must, and pitching is an integral part of the gig. Fortunately, today's special guest is someone who can help... my friend Stephanie Palmer, one of the industry's foremost experts and coaches on the art and craft of pitching…”
In Austin, David Mamet rarely smiled
“Asked his opinion of formulaic screenwriting courses, Mamet spoke of seeing a flier for a course that promised to reveal ‘The Secrets of the Second Act.’ ‘I think I want to sign up for this thing,’ he said, feigning excitement. Then he added, ‘Aristotle wrote the book on screenwriting. It's called 'Poetics' ... It takes a lifetime to master.’ Again and again Mamet stressed the importance of the audience. ‘You aren't a writer until you hear your work with an audience... You have to pare it down, because the audience is absolutely going to beat you to the punch line.’”
A Screenwriter's Close Encounter
“Ben Monaghan has gone from writing a small part with Glenn Close in mind to making a big play with Glenn Close in his corner.”
R.I.P. Malvin Wald
“Malvin Wald, a prolific writer for film and television best known for co-writing the Academy Award-nominated screenplay for the 1948 film The Naked City, died Thursday of age-related causes at Sherman Oaks Hospital, said his son, Alan. He was 90.”
Toby Keith helps pen screenplay
“Beer for My Horses tells the story of a group of small-town deputies and friends who defy the sheriff's orders and hit the road to save one of their girlfriends from kidnappers. Keith said he worked closely with one of his co-stars, country comedian Rodney Carrington...”
Horror King to pen screenplay
“Stephen King is poised to bring his brand of horror to the Great White Way. But first, there’s a pit stop at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre. The Maine horrormeister has penned a script for “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” with music by singer-songwriter John Mellencamp. The musical will open at the Alliance Theatre in April 2009 and then be fine-tuned to be brought to Broadway.”
Screenwriting under pressure
“So you got the big deal. You’ve finally been hired by that production company to write a screenplay, and you have a looming deadline ahead of you. Or, more likely, you’ve talked your parents out of a thousand dollars to cover rent, after which time you’ll have to return to flipping burgers. BUT you have this month more or less free to write. Whether or not someone else hires you or you’ve hired yourself, you should always have a deadline.”
Bateman confirms 'Arrested' film
“The Juno star admitted the film went on the back-burner during the WGA strike but work will now resume with creator Mitch Hurwitz and producer Ron Howard…”
Ray-Anne’s screenplay analysis of Michael Clayton
She compares the action plot line to Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet.
Speaking of Blake Snyder
“It is my pleasure to announce that Blake Snyder Seminars, LLC has a new partner: Final Draft. I can now officially let you know I will be speaking on behalf of Final Draft, and we will be supporting each other’s software, in addition to my writing a regular column for their online magazine.”
Confessions of a Film School Screenwriter
“1) Don’t be so f#@king sensitive. One of the benefits of film school is how to take a critical beating and rise up from the ashes. Workshops are attempts to streamline your story and to get input from like-minded people that are trying to do the same thing. They are not blowjob fests. People that read your material should be harsh. They should tell you when your story doesn’t make any sense, when your characters have no drive and when they simply lose interest. If you don’t have a little masochism in your heart, then do something else because taking the abuse is part of getting better.”
The Guardian’s new piece on Ron Harwood
“Ronald Harwood is one of the hottest screenwriters in the world, and later this year he will be 74. He has a new stage play, An English Tragedy, playing in London (all right, Watford), and within weeks you will be able see two of his screenplays playing at the same time - Mike Newell's film Love in the Time of Cholera (from the Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel), and the phenomenal The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Julian Schnabel's film derived from Jean-Dominique Bauby's book on what he did after a stroke imprisoned him in his own body and he could only flicker one eyelid.”
From a three part series on Krysztof Kieslowski:
“I believe that to understand Kieslowski one must remember that his skills and technique were developed in an era of censorship in Poland. He talks about this himself in the supplemental material for the Criterion Collection edition of The Double Life of Veronique. He reminds us that he and his contemporary directors in Poland had to learn to say things to the audience that the censors wouldn’t cut. That meant that they could not say things directly, but had to convey their ideas through indirect means. Some of these indirect means result in films that: o Have relatively little dialogue – this is especially evident in Veronique; Irene Jacob has remarkably few speaking lines; o Develop without strong linear plot lines; o Use lighting, cinematography and especially music to convey meaning – the use of music in Blue is especially striking and important.” (Intro, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)
"You could call the secret loves in It Always Rains on Sunday noirish, yet the passion and torments of its women are grounded in an East End locale that feels kitchen-sink-real," writes Nicolas Rapold in the L Magazine. "The 1947 Ealing Studios drama by Robert Hamer, best known for the Alec Guinness black comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets, is frank and bracing in ways that we're not used to seeing in a movie from this period, marking a very worthy rerelease by Rialto." "It Always Rains on Sunday is a masterpiece of dead ends and might-have-beens, highly inventive in its use of flashbacks and multiple overlapping narratives, and brilliantly acted by [Googie] Withers and [John] McCallum," writes Scott Foundas in the Voice. "Compacted into a breathless 90 minutes, the entire film exists in a state of high anxiety - not a frame is wasted." "That this slice-of-life melodrama collides with a fugitive-on-the-run thriller makes Sunday a most notable installment of 1940s British cinema," writes S James Snyder in the New York Sun. "But it's when things go from gray to pitch black in the film's final moments, building to a climax that links the anguish of a prison inmate with the daily routine of a working-class wife, that Sunday delivers an existential wallop for the ages." "Hamer handles the clockwork plot with precision and shoots a final chase scene with panache," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "It's a cannily crafted and satisfying entertainment, which isn't the same thing as claiming it has a point." (GreenCine.)
On the Contest Circuit:
Screenplay-by-Email Wins First Prize in Hollywood's International Family Film Festival
Academy’s Nicholl Screenwriting Competition Now Underway
2008 Eerie Horror Fest seeks submissions
CineStory Extends Deadline to March 24th
Rhode Island Fest Call for Entries
Cosby Program Announces 2008 Program Recipients
WriteSafe Announces Semifinalists
Over 100 producers, agents and managers involved with Scriptapalooza
SellAScript Announces Contest Results
New Companies Show Interest in Acclaim Contest Winners
MoviePoet.com Announces January Winners
'How The Writers Strike Ended', And Other Staged Readings At WGA ...
“Writers Theatre LA presents "On The Page, On The Stage" all this weekend, a festival of staged readings written by WGAW Writers to benefit the Writers Guild Foundation Industry Support Fund.”
WGA Strike Is Over And New Records Have Been Set
Writers Guild chief adjusts to post-strike life
Q&A (Video): WGA President Patric Verrone
A tribute to Salvador Dali: