Friday, February 06, 2009

Screenwriting News & Links! 2/6/09

Hey guys,

SO sorry for the interruption! Will be blogging almost daily now.

Hope you’re well,



New Screenplay

Twilight - February 11, 2008, shooting draft by Melissa Rosenberg.

Spielberg going to Disney?
DreamWorks SKG, Mr. Spielberg’s boutique production company, is in advanced talks on a deal to distribute its movies through Disney, according to four people with knowledge of the talks but who asked for anonymity because negotiations are not complete. A deal with Disney, which could come as soon as Friday, would replace one Mr. Spielberg arranged with Universal Pictures just four months ago after an acrimonious divorce from Paramount Pictures.

Why HW Needs a New Model for Storytelling
Brothers and sisters, we are gathered here today to mourn the death of Story. As you may have heard, it's kaput—or, at the very least, terminally ill, wracked by videogames, wikis, recaps, talkbacks, YouTube, ADD, and the rise of a multiplatform, multipolar, mashup-media culture. Hollywood, vendor of Story in its most denatured form, is most at risk: The film industry is slowly but steadily being forced to part with quaint artifacts like the "hero's journey," Joseph Campbell's so-called Monomyth. (Which is just so ... well ... mono.) Beginnings, middles, and ends are headed for the attic, next to the box marked VCR Rewinders/Beastmaster Franchise. And Tinseltown can kick this chestnut to the curb.

37-minute interview with Andrew Stanton

Stephen King vs. Stephanie Meyer
Bestselling novelist and pop-culture writer Stephen King isn’t a fan of Twilight author Stephanie Meyer. King tells USA Weekend that while both Rowling and Meyer are “speaking directly to young people, The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”

Dark Knight Screenwriter Responds To Oscar Snubbing
The Dark Knight screenwriter, Jonathan Nolan (brother to director Christopher Nolan), also found the news disappointing, but tried to put a positive spin on things in a message to fans at Dark, a site that was devoted to a grassroots campaign supporting the Batman sequel for Oscar nominations. Nolan points out that, while the news is disappointing for those who had higher expectations, any nominations for a movie like The Dark Knight is a “thing of beauty,” and that the recognition the movie did get is thrilling. He also sounds pretty glum about the film’s chances at winning if it had been nominated, commenting that he’s been to the Oscars before and now knows to bring cash so he can buy a drink at the bar after he lost.

Italian Writer Claims Story Rights To Benjamin Button

A funny random comment on Button
The screenplay had at least one head-banging moment where the daughter goes, "Mom! You never told me you were a dancer!" And that's fine, until we learn later that Mom ran a dance studio for a living. At which point I immediately thought, "Christ, kid. Your Mom spent her whole life teaching others to dance in the town she grew up in, she has a huge scar on her knee that pains her, and not once did you ask her about her career or overhear anyone else say, 'It's truly awesome to be taught by the world-famous dancer Daisy Nolastname'? God, you're a self-centered idiot."

Fanboys screenwriter gets bitter taste of Hollywood's dark side
It goes like this: "I was in this whole insane development hell for years, then, wow, my movie's going to get made, then it gets made, then it gets taken away from the people who made it, then there's a fan boycott of the studio, then the studio gives it back and lets us finish it, then it ends up in theaters."

Mall Cop script stolen from local screenwriter?
Paul Blart: Mall Cop is currently the top grossing film of 2009. It’s about to break $100 million at the box office. And allegations have surfaced that a local man wrote the original script without receiving credit.

How much money is worth admitting that you wrote Mall Cop?

Jim Emerson’s involvement in the stolen script controversy
A COUPLE HOURS LATER: Catalfo responds: "I can tell you that I wrote my script Mall Cop in 2000 and that it was a winner and/or finalist in twelve major screenwriting competitions. I was not hired to ghostwrite Paul Blart: Mall Cop and only recently started my Scriptghost service."

David Hudson on The International
As for the rest, it's not all Tykwer's fault, though he should have recognized early on that the screenplay was hopeless. Writer Eric Singer may have intended to revive the thrill of 70s-era paranoia but has instead bundled together the most whoppingly obvious clichés and laid them out by the numbers. The idea here is that banks, and one in particular, the International, finance wars, insurgencies and revolutions not for profit but for debt, the real currency of global power. In other words, if a nation does business with a bank and pays its bills, there is no longer a relationship between that nation and the bank. As long as the nation owes the bank, however... Well. Interviewers have also been asking Tykwer if he had any idea how topical his movie would be by the time it was finished (and of course, the answer is "no").

Todd McCarthy wrote: "While prescient, or just lucky, to have made bankers its bad guys, The International is a mostly ho-hum globe-hopping thriller that gives the audience too little investment in its protagonists and central conflict."

R.I.P. John Updike

New issue of
Bright Lights Film Journal – The March of Manly Men!

Dirty Dancing screenwriter shares idea for film
In fact, Dirty Dancing has a few dirty little secrets, according to screenwriter Bergstein, who based the movie on her formative years. “My first movie was ‘It’s My Turn’ and Michael and Jill were in a scene where they go to bed, but before they do, they do this dirty dancing scene,” she said. “I taught Michael and Jill and the crew how to dirty dance and just as they were about to shoot the scene, they decided they didn’t need it. So he just unbuttoned her blouse.” Bergstein was “heartbroken.” But if it had made it into the movie, I would have probably been satisfied and would never have had the need to tell the story of Baby and Johnny. I was like, ‘I am going to do this.’ When one door closes, another opens.”

Here’s the HOTTEST Screenwriter. Really? Have they not seen me?

Interview with Dustin Lance Black, writer, Milk

And the Guardian runs a transcript of
Bryony Hanson's conversation with Milk director Gus Van Sant, & screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

Brandon Harris asks why there hasn’t been a good biopic of MLK
While LeVar Burton (Ali) and Robert Guillaume (Prince Jack) have issued portrayals of the man, playing bit parts in much larger films, most of the significant movies involving King were made for television. The most notable Martin Luther King project remains HBO's 2001 biopic Boycott, which features terrific performances from Jeffrey Wright, Terrence Howard and Erik Dellums, but deals only with King's involvement in the events of 1954, notably, the Montgomery Bus Boycott. While it shows you in great detail how the boycott was planned and carried out, it doesn't leave you with a very full sense of the man himself, a man who, despite his saintly public persona, had all-too-human failings of his own (infidelity among them).

Auteurs launch Epilogue '08: Around the World of Cinema in 2008": "We have gathered here a panel of passionate film critics from around the world to feel the pulse of the cinephile life as it unfolded in half a dozen capital cities where cinema is lively and brewing.... The roundtable conversations will be published two-a-day beginning Monday, January 26. Please join our debate with your reactions, questions and comments."

Reverse Shot's Two Cents, 2008" is a big roundup of comments slotted into categories such as "Most Exhilarating Moments of Pure Cinema," "Most Unwelcome Comeback," "Most Politely Overlooked Awful Scene in an Otherwise Okay Movie" and so on.

"In the Korean film industry, the general mood in 2008 reached a new low," writes
Darcy Paquet. "Companies continued to struggle, and there were a lot of bad films that seemed to display the signs of cut corners or a lack of polish. However if you separate out the good films and consider them as a group, it wasn't such a bad year." Topping his list: The Chaser - "for the genius of its execution, rather than its originality. Director Na Hong-jin may have a long career ahead of him." Also at, Kyu Hyun Kim on Our Town ("a rather decent mystery thriller") and "Hwang Jin-Yi" ("a chore to sit through") and Darcy Paquet on Like a Virgin ("the detailed characterizations and intricate humor of this film help to bolster its originality").

From Annie Leibovitz’s
“Something Just Clicked” photo gallery.

The Power Behind the Screen
"…that the content of a studio's films is determined entirely by the political and economic interests of its parent company; studio CEOs typically have considerable leeway to make the pictures they want to make, without any direct interference. But it is important to understand how and why Hollywood studios are tied into these wider corporate interests. At best, such interests contribute to a culture of conservative filmmaking. At worst, it is certainly not unknown for parent companies to take a conscious and deliberate interest in certain films."

On Defending Copyright Infringement Suits
To prevail on a claim of copyright infringement, a plaintiff must establish (1) a valid copyright, (2) unauthorized copying of the copyrighted work, and (3) that the infringing work is substantially similar to the protected work. The first prong of the test is presumptively established by registration with the Copyright Office and the second element is often not challenged. The dispute in copyright infringement cases frequently centers on the third element - whether the infringing work is substantially similar. Substantial similarity has both qualitative and quantitative aspects. Thus, to prove substantial similarity, a plaintiff must show that the copied work was "protected expression" and that the amount copied was "more than de minimis."

Q&A with Zack Snyder on Watchmen
That’s what happens. That’s Hollywood. It’s that old thing of, “Listen, kid, it’s cool, it’s cute, it’s a comic book. But let me tell you what the movie’s going to be like. You need action, you need romance. Dan can’t be impotent, are you crazy!” I think after the first draft, the studio was like, no naked blue guy. These are the three things that I think the movie would have been without in a classic studio system: Comedian’s funeral, not necessary. Just bury him. No flashbacks there. Second: Dr. Manhattan on Mars. Unnecessary. He can go to Mars, but then once we see him – pfft – land on Mars, [snaps fingers] back to the story. And Rorschach’s back story – do we need to know anything about Rorschach’s childhood, or does he need to be interrogated by the psychiatrist at all? He can just be in prison, and then Dan and Laurie bust him out.

Zack Snyder on a 300 sequel
After hinting back in October that another installment of 300 wasn’t entirely inconceivable, Snyder’s position on follow-ups to both films are now crystal clear. “The way I would do it is if Frank [Miller] drew a graphic novel, it came out in the marketplace and people said, ‘That’s pretty cool,’” Snyder told the New York Times. “The studio wants it to be, sit with Frank, come up with an idea, write a screenplay, maybe he’ll do a graphic novel based on the screenplay. I’m like, ‘Yeah, I want nothing to do with that.’”

Watchmen skulk to the screen
But with those assets, Mr. Snyder said, came a stream of requests from the studio to change small but crucial details: Did the film have to interrupt its story with long asides about the origins of Rorschach and Dr. Manhattan? Was it essential that Dr. Manhattan be naked for so much of the film? And could the movie be any shorter? Mr. Snyder’s answer in each case was to remain faithful to the graphic novel and its creators. “Their ideas do stand the test, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Snyder Never Doing Watchmen Sequel
He told them: "Listen, they own the rights. If they wanted to go and hire some guy to make them a sequel to Watchmen, I don't know that they would get any of those actors to do it, and I know that I wouldn't have anything to do with it. He said: "But they own it. They can do whatever they want. They can make a movie - I've spoiled it, I think, a little bit. Do you leave that film going, "Man, I wonder what the next chapter is?"

The 10 Biggest Oscar Snubs of 2009

Frances Kavanaugh dies at 93; screenwriter of B-westerns

Heads rolled at Paramount for losing Twilight franchise
According to one well-positioned executive, when the tracking for Twilight began going through the roof, Paramount instigated an internal “witch hunt” trying to pinpoint who was responsible for letting the project go. Fingers were cast at everyone from co-president of production Brad Weston to Scott Aversano, the former head of MTV Films, to Gail Berman, who stepped down as president of Paramount Pictures in January of 2007. (It was under Berman’s watch that Paramount was unable to make a co-producing deal with Fox on the movie.) Executives at Paramount insist that any Twilight-induced anxiety is over; that the studio has moved on. After all, most of the executives who were involved with Twilight at the studio are no longer there. Furthermore, the Twilight script that was developed at Paramount (written by Mark Lord) is radically different from the script, by Melissa Rosenberg (Step Up), that made it to the screen. Rosenberg, in fact, never read Lord’s screenplay.

“Horror Sells.”

Puss in Boots has a writer.

From Howard to Hollywood: A Q&A With Screenwriter Kenneth Rance
Inspiration for New In Town was taken from a page out of Kenneth’s own life. Sixteen years ago, while in his hometown of Minneapolis, he meets a young lady, who appeared to be out of place in his town--after approaching her; he learned that she decided to take a job in a small town after a failed relationship. After his encounter with the young lady, he knew he had a story to write for the big screen.

Notorious BIG Screenwriter Working On Run DMC Movie

Ian Fleming Biopic Gets A Screenwriter
According to the Hollywood Reporter, John Orloff (who penned 2007’s A Mighty Heart has been hired to write the screenplay. The project, which is simply titled Fleming, was first announced in 2005 with a script written by Damian Stevenson. That version of the story commenced on the eve of Fleming’s wedding and just before the author’s debut 007 adventure, Casino Royale was published.

John Patrick Shanley to Receive WGA's Lifetime Achievement Award

Gladiator Screenwriter William Nicholson to Write 1066
The year 1066 is regarded as one of the most tumultuous years in English history, where control for England's throne was fought over by King Harold and William the Conqueror, culminating in the famous Battle of Hastings. William's victory and the subsequent Norman takeover stands to this day as the last hostile invasion of Great Britain. And to adapt this historical showdown and epic confrontation to the screen is none other than William Nicholson, most renowned for his work co-writing the Gladiator screenplay back in 2000. Will he apply the same formula yet again to 1066 that worked so well for Gladiator?

School of Rock screenwriter to be in next Amazing Race

Studio 407 Teams Up With Screenwriter Neal Marshall Stevens
Studio 407 recently announced a comic book deal with Thirteen Ghosts writer Neal Marshall Stevens. Studio 407 will team up with Stevens on two series, the futuristic action thriller Havoc Brigade, which will be in stores on March 25, 2009 and the horror adventure Demon Squad, which will be out later this year.


On the Contest Circuit

Zoetrope Announces Contest Results

MoviePoet Announces December Winners


And Finally

A Public Service Message:


Crumbs said...

Aww :( This totally puts a dent in my theory that you've been writing for the Oscar ceremonies.

Mystery Man said...

Truth be told, my assistant puts together these links for me. And he LOVES doing it. Hehehe...


marnie said...

Thank God you're back! I had no idea how addicted I was to your posts until they were gone. :) Hope you were off doing something fun.

Mystery Man said...

Thanks, Marnie. I worked my ass off, but yeah, it was fun.


Anonymous said...

Stephen King's assessment of JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyers is his own opinion for sure, but I can agree with him to a very small extent. Stephanie Meyers' writing is repetitive, droning, and uninspired at times. She's got great sense of story and the keen sense to reinvent certain aspects of super-explored subjects (romance, vampires, werewolves) but not so much a great handle on the type of story telling that seems so fundamentally magical and a new standard for which to measure books of its ilk. Still, she's written something that is so obviously not total crap because of its large appeal. It's in the same boat with the juggernaut popularity of High School Musical (which seemed crazy to me). More limited in universal appeal than Harry Potter, but it's bullseye for the target fangirls/fanwomen (and guys to lesser extent).

It's going to be hard to follow JK's trailblazing Harry Potters with a story about young wizards without seeming derivative and below the mark, but I think it's likely a bit easier to improve the storytelling aspect of the subjects Meyers explores because her writing isn't as quintessential to the to the subject matter, especially if you see the book as a worthy contribution to vampire mythos. BUT, I think the key, which Stephen King concedes to a point later on in the full quote, is that Stephanie Meyer knows her audience well and delivers well in that regard--because teenage and preteen girls are repetitive, droning, ect in their actions & thoughts, especially when it comes to having crushes/romances like the lead character Bella--it's like her target audience is looking right at themselves when they read about Bella or it's very easy for them to imagine being her, no real need to even have suspension of disbelief or huge creation of new world about the vampire stuff because her exploration of Bella's life is so familiar to any girl who is in or who has been to middle school. Great thing about both JK and Myers is they chose primo settings for their stories--youth doing everyday youth things and experiencing everyday youth stuff despite the supernatural and fantastical.

While I don't think Mrs. Meyers writing is shite, it certainly did not appeal to me on a sort of magically captivating scale as did JK Rowling's work, and it's basically chiclit that alienates the young boys & grown men I know unlike Harry Potter, as well as being something I cannot imagine myself wanting to read again unlike my continued re-visiting of Harry Potter (thanks to the many parts of Meyer's books that seem to drag). Whatever qualms people have about both writers, I think JK has constructed a masterpiece that appeals across age and gender and will stand the test of time whereas Meyers's work will make the rounds with the girls, guys, and older women who dig gushy, expository diary-ish stories (the romance novel reading crowd). Don't get me wrong though, that's not really an insult. Romance novels make up over half the percentage of novels that get sold. Meyer's a queen amoung that crowd. I think her novel will remain amoungst the best teenlit books no matter how narrow the fanbase or how iffy the writing just because it's a good snapshot of real preteen/teen girly life despite the vampires.

Mystery Man said...

Anon - Damn. Great comments.



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