Monday, August 14, 2006

Finally Finished!

Saturday, I finished the Lifetme script and sent e-mail copies to both the producer and director. I had planned on finishing it Friday, but just ran out of energy. I was right at the big confrontation, and realized that I would be doing a crappy job if I continued writing, so I called it a day. Saturday I woke up ready to go - and exploded the villain into a million pieces, then did a double creepy epilogue scene where we introduce a potential *new* horror creature (for a potential sequel) and hint that maybe the dude from this story may still be out there (to scare the audience after the movie is over).

Once I finished the script, I did a second save of it under a different title and added some of the scenes I had cut because they were too violent for Lifetime. The plan is to do a rewrite that turns the script back into what *I* intended (reversing the Lifetime notes) in case Lifetime decides the toned down version is still too violent. It’s difficult to figure out what they want - and I’m not sure they know what they want. I think the whole idea of a horror script is something that sounds good to them, but on paper it may not fit what they want to make.

I always advise people to reward themselves after they write FADE OUT, because this is a business where rewards from others are few and far between. I fully expect to get a bunch of notes from the producer and director about the things they absolutely HATE in the script. Not much of a reward, huh? So I had planned on celebrating Friday night... except I finished on Saturday. I already had plans on Saturday night - my friend Rolfe has a new movie called NIGHTMARE MAN that was playing on a double bill with his very first movie, THERE’S NOTHING OUT THERE, at the Fine Arts Cinema in Beverly Hills.

Okay, I’ve seen some of Rolfe’s movies in the past - PRETTY COOL and TOMORROW BY MIDNIGHT - and wasn’t really thrilled. Both were made on limited budgets, and were kind of cheesy. But Rolfe told me this was the best film he has ever made, and both L.A. Weekly and L.A. Times gave it a mixed review (good, considering it’s a low budget genre film shot on DV), and the guy’s a friend (and you support your friends, right?) - so after e-mailing my script I zoomed over the hill to Beverly Hills to see his movies. Because I didn’t want to be late, I didn’t stop for dinner. Thought if I got there early enough, I’d eat in Beverly Hills. Might be expensive, but I just finished a script! I was celebrating! Unfortunately, I arrived only half an hour before the movie, and didn’t have time for a restaurant. And there’s no fast food in Beverly Hills... so that meant I had a theater hot dog and popcorn for dinner. Not exactly celebration food, but I was going to see 2 movies - and I love movies.

Um, I didn’t love these movies. Rolfe and his investors had rented a screen at the Sunset 5 the week before, and this weekend they rented the Fine Arts Cinema for Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the double bill. Though I don’t know what they actually paid to rent the place, the cinema has a rental price list... and some addition would put the cost at $15,000 for the three days. About $5,000 a night - and on Saturday night there were about a dozen people in the house. I recognized most of them as other friends of Rolfe.

The biggest problem with both movies was the script. Though both films had major plotting issues, one thing that completely ruined them was the complete lack of characterization, theme, and drama. NIGHTMARE MAN has 4 people in a cabin who might as well been named VICTIM #1, VICTIM #2, VICTIM #3, and VICTIM #4 - they seemed to exist only to be killed. None of them had any *character* and none had any *character growth* - they only existed to be killed. Their dialogue was interchangeable - they had no relationships with each other (even though they were two couples, Vasquez and Gorman in ALIENS have 100 times more relationship that these couples had). Rolfe is a horror movie fan, and there's often talk about "horror movies by fans for fans" - but I'm not sure just being a fan is enough to make a good horror movie. A fan can regurgitate horror scenes, but they may not have anything to say. They end up with a hollow film - a paint-by-number horror flick that's hollow and bland. Not film about real people struggling with emotional problems. You know, movies are about *people* - even horror movies.

Please look at your screenplays and make sure you are writing about people, not future victims.

You know, when I pump out a horror script like GatorBaby, I’m exploring some theme (age) and writing about *characters* trapped in dramatic situations where they have to make life changing decisions. I want you to believe in these people, because that makes the horror of the situation more frightening. I’m also using the horror genre to explore characters, rather than using some characters as pawns in the horror story. It’s about the people, not the genre.

Anyway, Saturday - no celebration. Sunday - one of those days where everything goes wrong... no celebration. Today (Monday) - I’m already bak to work on a new project.

So, take my advice (I’m not using it) - when you finish a script, celebrate.

- Bill

11 comments:

wcdixon said...

Congrats Mr. Martell...glad to hear that Lifetime one is off the table (until its back on again).

Now I'm going to read 'Gatorbaby'

Mariano said...

Well done, Bill! Sorry you couldn't celebrate but thank you for turning your disappointing evening into a feast of blogging material to feed your adoring fans. :)

You point out many of the problems which plague horror films.

Unfortunately, a lot of people think horror is easy. They see the surface (the killings, the monsters, the weird lighting) and think that's all there is.

How wrong they are.

Add the fact that horror seems to attract a high percentage of hacks and people who couldn't care less about what they're making and
we end up with a lot of crappy horror movies.

The real problem is that every crappy horror movie drives one more nail into the coffin of the genre, until we get back to the end of the cycle with all the execs and "people in the know" declaring horror dead and ruining any chance of making good horror movies for the rest of us :(

And, while we're on the subject... Will you be going to the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in New York at the end of September?

Unknown Screenwriter said...

No more hot dogs for me... LOL.

Unk

wcmartell said...

At the end of September I will be jetting to London for the Raindance Film Festival...

So say hello to Tony for me, and tell him they need to have me come do my horror class next year.

And sometime next year I plan to be in NY teaching my big 2 day class. If you (or anyone you know) is intereste they can e-mail me at NewYork@ScriptSecrets.Net and I'll send info about dates and locations as soon as I get it.

- Bill

Brett said...

Do I recall you saying that you were blowing off Austin this year in order to do some other fest?

Weasel.

Meanwhile, I think the problem you describe (lack of characterization and engaging humanity) is a problem in pretty much any genre, especially for those folks who get too wrapped up in the various structure-centric methods of story construction (where writers get so excited about having the act breaks fall right that they forget to put actual interesting PEOPLE in their stories...). I see lots of movies these days -- and I mean big studio ones which do decent box office -- where the mechanical action onscreen is all fine and dandy and well-sequenced, but ultimately you feel about as emotionally invested as you do at a wax museum. These aren;t people you're watching -- they're halfway lifelike recreations of people.

Thank god LIFETIME now rides to the rescue with horror for women.™
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B

Mariano said...

Pity you won't be at the Fango convention. I was looking forward to resuming the rather entertaining conversation we were having some years ago in London.

The irony is that I will be jetting off FROM London to attend the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors.

I've been reading Fangoria all my life and this year... I'm going to be one of the guests! :)

I will certainly say hello to Tony on your behalf. I think you should absolutely do your horror class at a Fango gathering. A marriage made in hell! :)

wcmartell said...

Character issues:

Yeah, it's like building a car and spending all of your energy on building the best engineered chassis in the world... then forgetting to put in the seats. Look, the technical stuff is very important, but *people* use cars. If you forget the people, the rest of the stuff doesn't matter.

- Bill

English Dave said...

Give me a shout if you fancy a beer in September Bill.

The Moviequill said...

it's all about character.. hey, I'm going to tattoo that on my ____ right next to the WMartell insignia. Keep up the tips, I love 'em

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