Thursday, January 01, 2009

Around Blogosphere – 1/1/09

Hey guys,

Happy New Year! Here's a bit of link love to get you started...

Hope you're well,



The Endings Blog-a-thon

Unk on Character Theme Plot
Part 1 and Part 2
Of course everyone is different… We grow up in completely different environments. We have devout beliefs about lots of different things and some of us have a hell of a lot more life experience than others so… To me, because of this INNATE TRUTH of people being so different, to me, BROADER IS BETTER unless of course you’re Michael Moore. I’m not. At the same time, I would probably toss this in the ring… DON’T BE TOO BROAD WITH A THEME. LOL. Are you completely confused now? Good.

Alex Epstein’s 4-part
interview with Chad Gervich, author of Small Screen, Big Picture. In case you’re curious about writing for TV.

Mike Le’s hilarious
I Wanna Osama

Danny Stack’s complete series on the Professional Screenwriter:
Step 1: Reading
Step 2: Writing
Step 3: Networking
Step 4: Industry Insider
Step 5: Get an Agent
Step 6: Discipline
Step 7: Attitude
Step 8: Choosing Work
Step 9: In the Know
Step 10: Doing the Do

Interesting discovery (many thanks to
Girish) – a blog devoted to landscapes in the arts.

The "Waid Wednesday" articles at
Kung Fu Monkey on comic-booking writing and creating and adapting are pretty interesting:

Number 1: 101
Screenwriter walks into my office. Famous, one of the two or three whose name is as instantly recognizable to movie fans in Iowa as it is to us Left Coasters. And he’s immediately on my good side because the first words out of his mouth are not “so I have this pitch for a supernatural western,” but, rather, “I know how to write for film but I don’t know how to write for comics, and I presume there’s a difference.” You would be astounded at the number of professional writers who mooch off my expense account and don’t know even that much. Here’s what I told him: The single most important difference between a screenplay and a comic book script is that a comic story is made up of frozen moments. Screen stills. Snapshots

Number 2: More than Words
Novelist walks into my office. Relatively famous, not as famous as Aforementioned Screenwriter, but a multiple award-winner in his genre nonetheless. And he’s immediately on my bad side because the comics script he has handed me is the dullest thing I have ever read, and I used to be a legal secretary. It isn’t a bad story. To the contrary, the conflict is clear and intriguing and the plot moves along at a good clip. But the Ambien on the page comes from the fact that the writer’s a novelist. He’s accustomed to introducing his characters by writing hundreds of riveting words describing how they view the world, what their hopes and dreams are, and what’s going on inside their heads from moment to moment. But there is no room for that on the comic book page, so he just left it out, and now I’m holding a script starring a bunch of plot puppets who are indistinguishable from one another, who don’t reveal themselves through action, and who are interesting only in the writer's head

Number 3: Economic Storytelling
If you’ve set your sights on writing an original novel or a prose piece, you can generally type to your heart’s content. There’s no hard-and-fast space limitation. American comics, on the other hand, tend to be 22 pages. It’s a totally arbitrary number; since their invention in the 1930s, comic book stories have been as long as a hundred pages and as short as one. In the early 1980s, industry leaders DC Comics and Marvel Comics, factoring profits versus creative costs, arrived at 22 as their standard page-count, and other companies settled in at about the same, give or take. (As the E-I-C at BOOM!, I allow 22 pages for first issues and 21 for ensuing issues, leaving room for a “what has come before” text recap after the opening scene.) Twenty-two pages is not a lot of space. Believe me. Having written a bazillion comics, I still find myself more often than nine pages into a script and realizing to my horror that I’m only about a quarter of the way through the story I wanted to tell, and the next thing you know, I’m making fresh coffee and tearing up the floorboards to rewrite…

Number 4: Artists are Not Helper Monkeys
This week, we backtrack a little bit. The responses and e-mails I’ve been getting about these blog entries are very gratifying and very illuminating (also a little tame; I worry that I’ve apparently not yet said much worth arguing over. How does anyone post two thousand words about anything on the internet and not get flamed by someone?), but I realize, for the benefit of those newer to or outside the comics biz, the terminology is a touch “inside” and I maybe should have laid more groundwork about How A Comic Is Created. Hence: Comics stories start, like most everything else dramatic including half the breakup conversations I have ever had, with a script. Unlike the standardized screenplay format, there is no existing template for comics scripts. That’s primarily because comics is a uniquely collaborative medium. Some writers are their own artists and work it all out in the drawing; some writers break their scripts down panel-by-panel with dialogue; some describe simply the basic plot to the artist sans final dialogue, then add the actual words and captions once the art’s produced. I’m sure that last method sounds spectacularly backwards to our film and TV brethren—like crafting and looping in dialogue only after a scene’s been shot—but that’s the way many of the most classic American comics of all time were done…

Christian Howell on
Sex in Cinema
The Time Image: This is probably the least used of the images when referring to sex. It's not because it can't be done but because the sex scene has to be encompassed in a secondary passage of time, such as; the progress of a train or other vehicle. This though necessarily moves the emphasis from the actual sex scene and towards the element which does encompass time. Coincidentally, Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest used this technique at the end where as the couple is headed towards coital bliss we view the "phallic" train heading into the tunnel, which fulfills both the Memory Image in that it is linear, and the Time Image which is the movement of the train through the tunnel.

Bill Martell on
The Blacklist’s Beaver Script
The other thing about the hand puppet - it’s not funny or clever. There is *one* line about the CEO’s death by hooker, and all of the rest is just kind of bland stuff in a British accent. No great cutting remarks, nothing that you really wish you had said but couldn’t - because you didn’t have a hand puppet doing the talking for you. Since “sock puppet” is an online term for a false identity that says all of the things online that you can not, I believed this sock puppet would say all of the things Walter could not. You know, the clever, cutting things that will get you fired or punched if you say them yourself. A couple of weeks ago I saw Gran Torino, which has got to have the most un-PC dialogue of any film in the past few years. Eastwood’s character is constantly saying things that are completely inappropriate - and that produces laughter. He calls people names to their faces! But here, the Beaver mostly just makes speeches or says something that is not clever or cutting... something that Walter might have easily said himself without fear. And, when you compare the Beaver’s dialogue to Triumph’s? Seriously - watch that first Triumph clip where he goes to the dog show and try not to hurt yourself laughing. That puppet says things you wouldn’t even think of thinking! Triumph is too honest... and you wish that the Beaver had been more honest and more funny.

Todd Alcott
on The Dark Knight’s studio notes:
ME: So — The Dark Knight.
ME: Right?
PRODUCER: I know. It’s amazing. I know.
ME: So. You tell me. You make this kind of movie. You tell me. How?
PRODUCER: How what?
ME: How does a movie like that get made? In this environment, where anything complicated or challenging or pessimistic or visionary get ironed out to appeal to the broadest possible market, how does a movie like that get made? That’s an expensive movie with a lot of moving parts — the producers, the cast, the special effects, the location shooting — how does a picture like that get made, and end up that good?
PRODUCER: Because Christopher Nolan gets no notes.
ME: What do you mean?
PRODUCER: I mean, the studio gives him no notes. None. Zero.
ME: The director gets no notes?
ME: So, you’re telling me, Christopher Nolan and his brother write the script –
PRODUCER: And then they shoot it. And the studio gives them no notes. They’ve given them the project, they trust their vision, and they let them shoot it the way they want. And that’s how a movie like that gets made.

Andrew Stanton’s
Keynote Address at Screenwriting Expo 5
(Thanks, Josh, for the heads up!)

Top 5 Reasons Why Parentheticals are Useless
5. The Director and Actors need room to make THEIR interpretation. This is the most-oft quoted case AGAINST parentheticals: if loads of lines of your dialogue tells the actors HOW to say lines "(condescendingly)", "(pleadingly)", "(wryly)" or whatever, then how is the Director going to direct? Personally, when it comes to specs and samples I don't think a writer should worry too much about this since the likelihood of the script ever getting made is slim, HOWEVER I think writers should avoid isolating the reader by being too prescriptive like this. It's very wearing to read HOW lines should be said all the time - I think it gives the impression a reader can't actually read any colour or subtext into what's being said. The exceptions to this rule of course should be ambiguous lines - bits of dialogue where the meaning may not be obvious, so "(sarcastic)" or "(deadpan" is obvious, but I think "(whispers)" is okay too, especially when you have a character speaking at the same time as a speech going on or whatever, since otherwise it *could* be confusing.

Goal for 2009: Just Do It
As it turns out, in Screenwriting World, January really does make a natural break from one year to the next. We have a few short weeks of relative quiet then the competition season is announced and business begins to rev back up again. Yes, this year we have a Funky Economy so we must take that into account, but still - Hollywood slouches on and this is indeed a good time to take inventory of where you've been and create a road map for where you're going.

Alexandra Sokoloff on Story Structure:
Story Structure 101 - The Index Card Method
Screenwriting - The Craft
What's Your Premise?
Elements of Act One
Elements of Act Two
Elements of Act Two, Part 2
Elements of Act Three, Part 1
Elements of Act Three, Part 2
What Makes a Great Climax?
Visual Storytelling Part 1
Visual Storytelling Part 2
Creating Suspense
Fairy Tale Structure and the List

Mark Achtenberg
on The Lodger
I watched Alfred Hitchcock's The Lodger last night and was struck by the sophisticated visual style that he used in the film. Hitchcock borrows heavily from the German expressionists with regards to lighting and composition as well as using a tinting process, colouring the film in sepia and blue (depending on locations). The DVD release is from the newly released "Premiere Collection" and the film is accompanied by two modern scores. One is by Ashley Irwin and the other Paul Zaza. I preferred the Irwin score as it felt like an homage to Bernard Herrman's work with Hitchcock. At a few points I surfed between the scores to find some remarkably different choices and moods.

From the
Anonymous Production Assistant:
David Bordwell has an interesting post on his site about the
sorry state of action scenes in American films today. Girl on Girl action concurs. A lot. (Check both posts out; they’re pretty awesome.) I have to agree, too. They just don’t make them like they used to.

Kevin Lehane’s
What I learned in 2008
#8 There is no such thing as a perfect first draft, or a perfect final draft. Try to please everybody and you’ll please nobody. Common sense, sure. But it’s very easy to fall into the trap of over-development attempting to attain perfection. Don’t spend months and months and months rewriting the same script. Move on. At some point the script has to be whatever it’s going to be, even if you consider that a failure. However, if you think that that one script is the best you’ll ever do, you’re not in the right headspace. Also, everyone will always have an opinion on how to improve your script. It goes for everything in life. That movie you find utter perfection, others just don’t get. It’s the same with screenplays. Aside from the obvious technical aspects, expect people to “not get it” as much as others will lose their minds over it. It’s too easy to get disheartened in this business and you can end up chasing your tail. Just think, you have gripes with that book you love reading, or that album you cherish, or that movie you watch when you’re down . . . it’s the same for your script. Expect criticism. It doesn’t mean it’s bad.

Craig’s closer look at Casino Royale
Act I, Act II, and Act III

MaryAn Batchellor’s
To Clue or Not to Clue
A post on a forum not too long ago discussed how important it is to give the audience a hint ahead of time to show how it's possible for a protagonist to extricate himself from a crisis or dangerous situation. He/she/it (can't remember) suggested that it's critically important that, even if only for a second or two, the audience sees that there's a way out or at least the potential. I think this was specifically aimed at action writing but I'm not sure. Doesn't matter. I wholeheartedly disagreed with this premise regardless of the genre and, after a month or so of watching action films and reading scripts to explore the idea, I still wholeheartedly disagree. It's not that I oppose giving the audience a hint that Richard Kimball might escape through a storm drain or jump off of a damn or viaduct or whatever that was, I just don't think it's critical or required in every escape scenario.

Lianne shares
Useful Stuff.

Piers Beckley and
a Fetish Chart.
(Makes me wonder about that boy. Hehehe…)

BobG and
the lowbrow crowd.

On Billy Wilder’s
Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
A mellow apotheosis from Hollywood’s most celebrated cynic. This gently naughty poke at Sherlock Holmes’ emotional life and sexual proclivities reveals an inner desolation in its title character (Robert Stephens) that amounts to the most touchingly humanistic portrait of a human being in all of Billy Wilder’s work. The trademark acerbic comic banter of Wilder and longtime co-writer I.A.L. Diamond is evident, but toned to a quaint Victorian repartee between Holmes and Watson as leisurely as a picnic game of badminton. Shot in warm, soft-focus with a loving attention to 19th-century detail, individual frames pop vibrantly like panels from a graphic novel, a visual splendor unmatched by anything in Wilder’s career. This unprecdented meticulousness to mise-en-scene mirrors Holmes’ fastidious attention to his environs, which the film posits as a byproduct to a yearning for love displaced by an abiding love-hate mistrust in fellow humans, whether his bumbing sidekick Dr. Watson (Colin Blakely, excellent) or in the beguiling charms of a woman in distress (Genevieve Page).
You can also download
the PLoSH script here.

Emerson on
The Curious Coolness of Benjamin Button
Todd McCarthy of Variety, who's old enough to know better, writes at the end of his review of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button": Still, for what is designed as a rich tapestry, the picture maintains a slightly remote feel. No matter the power of the image of an old but young-looking Benjamin, slumped over a piano and depressed about his fading memory and life; it is possible that the picture might have been warmer and more emotionally accessible had it been shot on film. It has been argued that digital is a cold medium and celluloid a hot one and a case, however speculative, could be made that a story such as "Benjamin Button," with its desired cumulative emotional impact, should be shot and screened on film to be fully realized. These are intangibles, but nor are they imaginary factors; what technology gives, it can also take away... This makes about as much sense to me as blaming the weather on Doppler radar pictures.

And finally, Cozzalio’s
25 Screen Goddesses.


Anonymous said...

MM! Happy New Year! I hope you're not TOO hung over!


Your half Japanese lesbian screenwriting (ok, so not so much last year) friend... who Blogger is not letting sign in!

Anonymous said...

What a wealth of information, These links a re great. There are so many great opportunities available for screenwriters and with just a little web surfing, they are easy to find. When trying to perfect a screenplay (if that's even possible) it's invaluable to have feedback on your script instead of just working in a vacuum. For those just starting out, that can be a tough thing to find. There are some film schools that offer such services. One that I found is Film Connection, They offer one on one mentoring and their coure is available all over the US and Canada.

Anonymous said...

I'm honoured to be included in your scribosphere round-up, MM. I learn something constantly by coming to this blog, and it's a thrill just to be included with all those other great bloggers and writers.

Sabina E. said...

Happy New Year, MM.


Craig said...

Happy New Year to you too, MM! Many thanks for your unflagging support.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

MM, what a spectacular gathering. Thanks for including me (and the gorgeous Gong) amongst those rounded up. I'm especially grateful for the nod toward Bordwell and Girl on Girl action, both of which I somehow missed during the holiday onslaught. But I also find incredibly valuable the ton of resources you have put together on the art and craft of screenwriting, a mere speck of the insight we get here all year round. Now onward to the ten best of the year-- will there be a polarizing force the likes of Juno this season? I think so. But we'll see... :)

Laura Deerfield said...

Happy New Year Mystery One

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link and HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Mystery Man said...

Thanks, guys. Happy New Year to you all!


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