Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pencils Up!

Yes, that sounds slightly obscene, and I’m sorry about that. But my pencil *is* up... because a couple of days ago I landed an awful screenwriting deal... that pays.

My big problem was that right before the strike I really needed to sell a screenplay. This is a “no visible means of support” business, where there are no regular paychecks. I can’t ask for more hours or do a double shift or any of the other things I used to do when I needed money. I have to find someone who wants to buy a script. Before the strike I was talking to some people... and I think they may have forgotten me by now. But it seems that one, and possible even two, people have remembered me.

The one that came through was kind of interesting. I have these two specs I’ve been playing around with - one is a solid B action script, I don’t have many of those that didn’t get slapped onto celluloid, and the other is a monster movie. The reason for the monster movie - I seem to know a bunch of people who make movies for Sci Fi Channel. So a script like that is something I might actually be able to sell. And they can be fun to write. I came up with this silly idea about a frightened lab mouse that was given a growth hormone and became as huge as a car... and stopped being frightened. In fact, it became as arrogant as the scientists who injected it, and began throwing its weight around and causing large scale panic in the city. I have a sketchy outline and have written a handful of pages... when I got a call from a director I know who was looking for a script for Sci Fi Channel. Hmmm... Well, I pitch him my mouse script, and he says No... You see, he has access to a cool location... okay, it’s Hawaii... and wants to do a movie about giant killer *frogs*. So, I re-pitched my mouse story as a frog story in Hawaii and changed some stuff and, well, it’s a deal. The money sucks, but bad screenplay money is still pretty good money. And the script will be fun to write - it's kind of a TREMORS thing.

No sooner did I leave his office than my cell phone rang, *another* director looking for a project. I’ll have to do a whole blog entry on this one, because it’s looking... unusual. But this director knows a producer looking for a solid B action script... so I wrote up a paragraph on the one I’m already writing and sent it to him when I got back... and I’m hoping this mysterious producer he has will like it. That would be great, because I’m so far along on that one I’m thinking it would make more sense to finish it before I basically start from scratch on the monster movie script. I can juggle both scripts with the deadlines given. If they say yes to the solid B action script, that’s a better deal... and I may end up with 2 films released this year... or maybe both will hit early next year.

Meanwhile, still looking for an agent or manager.

Anyway, I’m back to work. Movie #20 shoots this summer. If I can turn this other script into movie #21, that would also be cool... If not, well, the year is still young.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Character Moments.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Sweet & Sour Chicken at City Wok.

MOVIES: IN BRUGES - Okay, the trailer makes it look like a comedy, but a TV review said it was a serious movie with lots of violence...

And it's this strange combination of things that all come together.

It's like the Odd Couple as hit men - and there will be hits! Brendan Gleason is always great, but here I was completely identifying with him as he had to put up with ADD loudmouth Collin Farrell - in a twitchy, boorish, and so-dumb-he's-funny performance. Farrell is everything that is not cool in this film, and it starts out funny... and he ends up everything that is human. Just when you think it's a really funny buddy movie, something happens that turns it into a serious film about emotionally messed up characters... who happen to be these two guys. The surface is funny - but these characters have so much depth we keep peeling back layers and learning more and more about these two guys and we feel the tragedy of their lives... and yet they're still funny.

Another thing I loved about the film is the "small town" feeling of Bruges - everyone they meet they keep meeting again. Though there's an element of coincidence, it's really set up well. So a comedy character later becomes the key to resolving a serious plot element - and you might look back and think that the whole reason they were in the film was that resolution element... except the character has become such an important part of the comedy side of the story that the film would fail if you removed them. (By the way, all of these things you never really see coming... and if you do, it seems natural for them to happen.) The film is filled with connections and call-backs. A fat American tourist family is good for a few jokes... but later they impact the shoot out!

By the way - bloodiest shoot outs ever. Compares to RAMBO.

But for me, the thing that really got me was the relationships. It’s really about one man who is at peace with himself, and another who is not. This film is often silly, often violent... but has a soul. The scene where Gleason talks about his late wife is powerful stuff.

MOVIES: I've keep forgetting to write about THERE WILL BE BLOOD... It's strange - every time I post an old script tip, that night I see a movie that I could have used to update the tip. Before seeing TWBB I posted a tip on character driven stories - and if any recent film falls into this category, it's TWBB. The film has no traditional story - it's all about Daniel Day Lewis' character. He's a relentless man. Driven. Probably crazy. In the opening scene he's deep in a mine, finds some gold or silver (I forget which) and then falls while climbing out and busts his leg. Really busts it. So he's laying at the bottom of the mine shaft with his leg at an unnatural angle and some gold in his pocket... and he climbs his way out and drags himself all the way back to town to cash in his gold. Laying on the floor, leg still messed up, while they cut him a check. That's who this guy is.

The movie is his life searching for oil (and screwing people out of their oil), his relationship with his adopted son, and a strange parallel relationship with a preacher he screws out of oil money. He is not someone you like - but he is fascinating. We kind of care about him because we care about his adopted son - and hope he finds a way to not hate everybody (and himself) so that he can love his son. That gives us "access" to his character. But this guy is larger than life - so big he threatens to break through the screen.

And the arena for the story are the early days of oil - where you could make a fortune if you had the rights to the right piece of land. Amazing world for a story - and we see all of the amazing details of this world - they show us how to look for the land most likely to yeild oil... without the land owner knowing what you are doing. How to do an exploratory dig. And how to build an oil well - in fact, the way oil wells evolve from buckets to derricks. And the cinematography is just amazing.

This is a dark, evil, nasty movie about people you can not like - and may even hate. But Daniel Day Lewis just grabs you and does not let go - and we are allowed inside this guy, who hates people and wants anyone who even tries to compete with him to die. He is compelled to do things that he knows will lead to his ruin... and you see how tortured he is.

Okay, I'm *not* a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson, and this film is 2 hours and 38 minutes - add trailers and that's 3 hours of my life... but I never looked at my watch. It was fascinating. This is my favorite PTA movie - beating HARD EIGHT (you probably never heard of that one). Daniel Day Lewis deserves an Oscar... let's see if they give it to him.

DVDS: I've seen a dozen DVDs... and I'll talk about them later.

PAGES: Hey, moving right along... 5 pages on the action script. Cool scene where the Vice President forms a plan that would kill the President... in order to stop terrorists from controlling US nukes.

- Bill


Leif said...

Congrats! I hope both deals work out for you.

Anonymous said...

Yes, absolutely congratulations Bill. You give a lot on this site (you have no idea.) I hear it's true...what goes around comes around.

Sounds like the best is yet to come for you.

Richard McNally said...


You seem to view feature films/DVDs every day, write increasingly deep blog posts, post a daily Script Secret, write a column for a film magazine, and write a river of spec and assignment scripts--how do you do it all?

Anonymous said... do you do it all, Bill?


What might seem boring to you, could be a meaningful and exciting learning experience for others.

So, how do you do it all?

wcmartell said...


- Bill

Anonymous said...


dannyboy52472 said...

Giant killer frogs in Hawaii rule!


-danny boy

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