Friday, May 28, 2010

Lost Hitchcock Interview Part 2

Part two of the "lost" interview Tom Snyder did with Hitchcock.

(Lost interview - wouldn't it be cool if Hitchcock explained the TV show LOST? Back in 1973?)

Would have been better if Snyder had ever seen a Hitchcock film. It gets better in part 3, when Hitch loosens up and takes control... but that's next Friday.



Hitchcock on religion. Hitchcock on his temper... or lack of it. Hitchcock on the world & communication. Why all news is bad news.

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Reversals In Action Scenes - and MAD MAX 2 (aka ROAD WARRIOR).
Dinner: Salmon and rice and steamed veggies at Mel's in Hollywood.
Bicycle: To the subway, to the Egyptian Theater.
Pages: Not much done.
Movies: POPATOPOLIS and RETURN OF SWAMP THING.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lancelot Link Thursday

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who think Ronald Reagan was *Bonzo's* sidekick, here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...



1) Great article on DON'T LOOK NOW and Venice, Italy.

2) The Hollywood Reporter becomes a celeb rag like People?

3) PRINCE OF PERSIA screenwriters.

4) New Studio To Sell To?

5) Interview With "Mr. Raindance" - Elliot Grove.

6) My films attack the UK again... sorry!

7) Today's Car Chase: before there was THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS there was this film from Universal about an undercover cop infiltrating a group of car thieves, written by the creator of LAW & ORDER before he was a famous TV guy. Welcome to NO MAN'S LAND...



One of many car chases in the film.

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Act 2 Is Quicksand - And the first BOURNE movie.
Dinner: The new Subway chicken salad sandwich - had it with all of the lettuce and stuff, and there was too little chicken. This one needs to be eaten without anything else on the bread.
Bicycle: No.
Pages: Mostly working on the Santa Fe class.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Make A Feature In 3 Days?

Just a reminder...

Thursday May 27th at 7:30pm at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, the Los Angeles Premiere of POPATOPOLIS - a film I saw at the Raindance International Film Festival in London last year. The movie is being released on DVD, and this screening is a celebration...




POPATOPOLIS is a film that answers the question - can you make a feature film in 3 days with a crew of only 2, starring women with freakishly large breasts who may be too top heavy to stand? B movie director Jim Wynorski can... and this doc chronicles every crazy minute.

Here is a link to my review from London - POPATOPOLIS.

If you are in Los Angeles and like sleazy low-end Z movies, come on down and see this documentary on how they are made!

LOST

Over 45 minutes of adverts... at $900,000 per 30 second spot = over $81,000,000.00 for the final episode.

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Writing For Toys - and the video game for THE GODFATHER PART 2.
Dinner: City Wok - Gai Bowl.
Bicycle: Short!
Pages: um, none. Totally screwed up day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A deal at the speed of light...

My friends Bill and Terry just sold a pitch for a whole bunch of money ($3.5m) to Disney. Here's the story. They still hold the record for spec sales with DEJA VU... which got mangled a bit on the way to the screen.

Congratulations guys!

- Bill

Still Standing

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I didn’t get much writing done because I ran into some old friends at my local Starbucks and we just hung out all night. The very first question everyone asked me was, “Where’s Craig?” And I ended up telling each person as they arrived and asked me that question, “He moved back home”, which was an amazing conversation killer. Moments of silence as people processed this, and wondered if they would move home someday.

The group consists of people from the neighborhood who shop at the local Ralph’s Grocery and often eat at City Wok or Tortas across the street and grab a coffee on their way to work at Starbucks and a beer after work at Residuals Bar. Some of the folks have known each other longer than others - three of them all lived at the Oakwood Apartments (where Jay Leno knocks on doors sometimes as part of a gag) at the same time. The lynchpin that holds it all together is one guy who was one of the Oakwood guys - who would come home from work and go straight to Starbucks, sitting outside by the front doors whether it was summer or winter. We called him the Mayor of Starbucks. He’d say hello to you when you passed him - said hello to everybody. Knew most people by name. And when I hit a snag on a script and needed to step away from the laptop before I smashed it to pieces, I would take a break and sit outside with him for a while. And that’s how I became part of this loose group. We all knew this one guy, and we all started to hang out together.




Two or three times a week - no schedule and no set dates and no real organization - a bunch of us would be at Starbucks at the same time and go to dinner together at City Wok and then go back to Starbucks and sit around and BS. There were directors and stunt men and writers and cinematographers and FX people and a puppeteer. You read that right - a guy who puts on puppet shows. Oh, and actors. For a few years, this loose group would meet and have dinner and BS - sometimes our table at City Wok would be for 4 people, and sometimes they’d have to put a whole bunch of tables together. I often work in that Starbucks, as did a couple of others, so we would always be part of the group. Others came or went or whatever.

Sometimes people would move to the other side of Los Angeles, and we might not see them for months... and then they’d drop in one night out of the blue. Sometimes they moved and just never made it back. And sometimes they would go home in defeat.

Mostly guys, but one ultra hot gal who lived in my building landed a big deal - a TV show - and moved into a luxury pad by the beach on the other side of town and... then it all fell apart. She ended up going home. It was tragic.

One of the guys had the hots for this cute Barista gal, but was kind of scared to ask her out. Every time he was there he would flirt with her and she would flirt with him. She was single. She was dating. She was dating men. But this guy just couldn’t work up the nerve to ask her out. Every time he was there for dinner we would encourage him to just do it - what’s the worst that could happen? She says no. One night, he decides he’s going to do it. We’re all there - over a dozen of us - I think the puppeteer was even there - when he flirts with her for a while and she flirts with him and then he asks her out... and she BRUTALLY shoots him down. You could hear us gasp all the way in Long Beach. It was like a body blow to all of us. He grabbed his tea and sat back down with us and pretended like nothing happened. He was joking about something a few minutes later.




A couple of years ago the group began to dissolve. One of the guys got married (his wife is now expecting), some of the guys moved, and the lynchpin guy who kind of held the group together had some personal problems and doesn’t go out of his house much anymore. I seldom go to that Starbucks, because it became very crowded (difficult to get a table) and too many people know my name (so it’s hard to get anything done). Some days I check to see if there’s a table, some days I just get on the bike and go somewhere else without even checking. But a couple of weeks ago I showed up for the evening shift, the place was almost empty, and I grabbed a table and started working...

When one of the guys came in and said he’d gotten a call that some of others were going to show up later... and we ended up with around 8-10 people. All of whom asked me: “Where’s Craig?” And I had to answer that he’s moved back home.

Craig was one of those other guys in Starbucks with a laptop open writing something. To hear him talk, he had it all figured out. He had quit a high paying job back home and moved to Hollywood to make it big. Make millions. He drove a sports car - leased. He was one of those guys who could talk their way into just about anything - super confident, aggressive about business, a real hustler, cocky but also funny. That was really his biggest gift, because he could make you feel at ease - like you were an insider in his world, joking at the losers on the outside. He had cajones. He would just go up and talk to some movie star or producer and often get them to take his scripts. He landed a deal, that worked out well for him... and it seemed like this was the first step to bigger things. He was walking on air - king of the world - sure that he would just be climbing that Hollywood ladder rung after rung until he got to the top. But after that initial success, he stumbled a bit before he landed his next deal. The stumbling part he shook off, telling us that those deals weren’t met to be and not getting them was a good thing because it cleared the way for the big one. Then he landed his second deal, which looked like the big one... and that did not go as planned at all.

I read one of his scripts once, and it was wild and energetic and had no act 2 and kinda didn’t really come together at the end. But filled with cool stuff. I tried to give him some feedback on it, but he thought it was fine... good enough to get him though the doors. And it was. You know, it’s not easy to get through those doors. But once they tried to make a movie out of it all of the problems became apparent and it crashed and burned horribly and something happened to him - maybe he realized he could get through the door, but when it came time to make the movie he didn’t have those skills. Or maybe he had this dream that making it big would be easy and it wasn’t. Or maybe it was something else.

Anyway, after that second one crashed, he tried to set something else up and nothing happened at all, and then, while I was out of town for the holidays, he called me and said he was going home, I thought just for the holidays.... but he never returned.

The first or second year I was at the Santa Fe Screenwriting Conference, William Kelley who wrote WITNESS said that you don’t know anything until you’ve had a script produced. You *think* you know something, but actually having that script turned into a film changes everything. I think that’s true. I think when it’s a screenplay, it’s all still kind of make believe and the decision to change something isn’t going to cost a pile of money or put production behind by a few days or make the ending impossible. You may have a script that’s an amazing read, but when it is time to put that script on screen most of the cool stuff stays on the page and the film doesn’t work. Or maybe can’t even be filmed. Once your dream becomes something that is going to be scheduled and budgeted and rewritten for budget and schedule and available talent and all of the other physical issues that come along with production (not even bringing in the artistic stuff), it often turns into something so real it is not enjoyable. That scene where he teaches her how to surf while they are on vacation in Hawaii and they fall in love? Well, we are shooting this film in New Mexico because of the tax incentives - Can he teach her how to ride a horse instead? Stuff like that destroys some people. And having to make something that only works on the page due to some fancy word-dancing, work on the screen where there is no dancing allowed, may be outside of some writer’s skill set. They may discover that they are not good enough for that next step.

There are 5 steps to screenwriting, and each is a chance for all kinds of failure.
1) Learning to write the screenplay.
2) Learning to write the screenplay that someone wants to buy.
3) Learning to write the screenplay that gets made into a film.
4) Going through the hell of production.
5) Remaining a screenwriter over a period of time.




I have seen a lot of “big talkers” come and then go. Maybe they are embarrassed because they told everyone how great they were and how great their work was and how easy it was for them to get their first thing set up someplace... and then it didn’t turn out easy after all. Maybe all of that talk is what *made them* go back home or make some low budget film that can’t find a distrib and drop out of sight so that they don’t have to answer questions about it. Maybe they have told everyone they are going to be Kings, and when they end up just pawns, they can’t deal with that.

But here’s the thing - you can get depressed or frustrated or heart broken and go back home, or you can stick it out and figure out what isn’t working and fix that. If you don’t brag about what hasn’t happened yet, no reason to be embarrassed when it doesn’t happen or takes much longer than expected.

At the TALES FROM THE SCRIPT panel, one of the writers said that screenwriting is a job where you get punched in the face again and again and again. And that is the truth. If you haven’t been punched in the face yet, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen... it means when it does happen you’ll be hit twice as hard. Maybe five times as hard. It will happen.

Best thing to do: Feel the pain, then get up and prepare to be hit again.

The best line in the last ROCKY film: “It ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!”

Same is true in Hollywood, as I’m sure Stallone can tell you. You want to go the full ten rounds and take a bunch of hits and still be standing at the end of the fight. A setback is just a setback - shake it off, stay in the ring.

"Hello, I'm a screenwriter.... I want you to hit me in the face as hard as you can."

- Bill

I'm sorry, one of my movies is invading the UK again...
Movies For Men Channel: 5/27 - 16:20 - Steel Sharks - When a United States submarine is seized by terrorists, a rescue attempt by Elite Navy Seals goes awry. The submarine crew wages a silent war beneath the waves in this tense undersea thriller.

(oddly wrong synopsis - it's a germ warfare scientist who is kidnaped by Iran, and a rescue attempt by Navy SEALS that goes wrong, etc.)

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: The Terror Of Act 2 - How to keep act 2 exciting... even if the conflict is with unseen forces.
Dinner: Arroz con pollo.
Bicycle: Medium-long ride deep into the valley.
Pages: Yesterday? Nothing but this blog entry.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Action Book Question

Working on the Action Book rewrites, so no Fridays With Hitchcock today, but part one of the "lost" Hitchcock interview with Tom Snyder is below.

But first... I am in the middle of rewriting the Action Screenwriting book, and so far it is going well. I have tried to rewrite it many times before, but the big problem always ends up being the half dozen chapters which contain really old and really crappy stuff always bogs me down. I get frustrated and quit - going back to fantasy land of some spec script. Rewriting the book is no fantasy. But this time I decided to just force myself until I broke through and got some momentum going. That's where I am now - it's a lot of danged work, but I'm doing it. Lots of new information, all kinds of new examples, and few original sentences remain.

Last year when I was fighting the damned page trying to rewrite the book, I wrote two articles on Action Scenes for Script Magazine that used CASINO ROYALE as examples. These were potential chapters in the book rewrite.

But here is the question (comments section) for any of you who read both articles - should I include both of them in the new book or only the first one? I would probably cut 10%-20% of the second one because it would be similar information, but should I have two very different examples of action scenes from the same movie? Or just that first article and skip the second article completely? Tell me what you think...

And while you're at it, if you have read the action book - what is your most favorite and least favorite chapter? Some stuff will get trimmed or even cut out, and I want to make sure I'm not cutting out the best part by accident.

And now to Hitchcock...



What frightens Hitchcock?

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Echo Scenes - absolutely kick ass tip with SHOOTER, THE LOOKOUT, VERTIGO and NOTORIOUS as examples.
Dinner: Blackforest Ham from Subway - one of the Jared low fat ones.
Bicycle: Medium ride - and freakin' wind on the way home again!
Pages: Finished this chapter, happy with it, on to the next.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lancelot Link Thursday

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who like your bananas stirred not shaken from the tree, here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...



1) Megan Fox Fired From Transformers - Middle Aged Men Shocked.

2) Virtual Refrigerator Magnets... because real refrigerator magnets are too much effort, being out there in the kitchen.

3) Lucas News: EMPIRE STRIKES BACK... remake in 3D?

4) Help me spread the word! Click Here and add ScriptSecrets.Net or this blog!

5) Today's Car Chase is from THE HIDDEN, a *great* sci-fi action flick:



That's Chris Mulkey as the crazy bank robber - he's a regular on the TV shoiw SAVING GRACE these days and pops up on 24, but back then he was one of those great 80s actors who did leads in Indie films and supporting roles in studio films like 48 HOURS. This film stars Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Nouri... and the always hot Claudia Christian. Clu Gulager plays the angry police chief.

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Genre = Emotion - what do you want the audience to feel?
Dinner: I don't know yet - that is where I'm headed!
Bicycle: Medium ride in a north-westerly direction... where there were police cars and helicopters for some reason.
Pages: Still fighting this chapter, but also read some of my workshop pages.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spring Progress Report

Well, Bill, you can trash a $200m plus film sight unseen, but what the hell is going on with *your* career?

I’m so glad you asked.

1) Just finished a new spec... and starting another.

2) *Actually* working on the action book rewrite - since that $253 used price on Amazon is kinda crazy to pay for an out of print paperback.

3) My big studio hit 80s film remake project - known to friends as Grandma’s Possum Pie because no one has sent out a press release that they're remaking this film and I don’t want to be the one who let the cat out of the bag if they have some *reason* for not wanting this known - seems to have stalled. At least, as far as I am concerned. There is probably some other writer working on it right now. I got one of those script notes that I don't know how to make work (remove the antagonist) and asked if *they* knew how to make it work and I got one of those, “You’re the writer, be creative” answers (though, in different words). There were a couple of meetings and some phone calls and some e-mails after that, but I don’t think they ever figured out how it could work and make sense. My plan has been to wait until they figure out that the note doesn't work - even if it means some other writer wastes their time doing a few drafts.

4) The 3rd Place Contest Winner - That flavor lasted a couple of months. Over a dozen production companies requested it, and only 2 managers, no agents. I thought that was strange, because there were folks who got requests from agents and managers when they announced the top 100... and even more when they cut it down to the finalists. But I only had 2 requests when I bronzed - and one of those was after sending a query which included a link to the contest winner's page. The whole reason for entering VOLATILE was that it was an experimental script (first script in decades written with no outline) and one helluva bleak story. And that’s what just about every prodco said. I had some meetings at some studios, a few places read additional scripts because they liked the writing but thought the story was too dark... and eventually that moment of lukewarm heat dissipated. I actually have one place that is still reading stuff... but no agents or managers or dentists to the stars.

5) The “new assignment”: just got a call, next week we have a meeting and then I write the next draft. That’s going smooth.

6) Looks like I got a rewrite gig after I finish that draft. Some action script is in trouble and the producer wants me to make it work. I don’t like rewriting other people’s work, and you probably will not see my name anywhere on this film unless it’s a “Special Thanks” thing. I just want to make the script work... and make some money... and get in good with the producer (who will be making other films that need screenplays).

7) Circling possible projects - that may crash and burn two months from now...

A) I sent out a zillion query letters after winning 3rd place in the contest, and got a couple of hits. One that looks like a good possibility is a producer who had read my stuff long ago and switched studio deals, and was now looking for “reboots” of older popular films in the studio library that nobody else has dibseys on. I pitched him a few possibilities (my lawyer, who is reading this, knows I pitched a stack of films - almost anything in the studio library I could think of with a new high concept twist and a fresh story) - and there was one they really liked. An 80s action flick that seems like an obvious reboot - yet nobody seems to have thought of it, yet. The producer is now talking to the studio.

B) Some folks looking for a thriller are reading an old Hitchockian project of mine that is filled with twists and has a cool concept and catchy title.

C) Some folks who need an MOW writer who knows how to write for budget are looking at something of mine as a sample.

D) A couple of other places are reading stuff from that volley of queries - including the spec I finished at the end of last year. Now, if I could only get all of those other specs I wrote out there!

8) The Italian Novel Adaptation Project - um, keep forgetting about it, so I suspect I do not have that job. It was problematic anyway - a series of mostly unconnected short stories that all happen on the same day. It worked as a book, but there was no plot thread that connected the stories. I screwed up on that one - should have at least given it a shot.

9) There is no number 9.

10) Lawyer just called - he heard of a company looking for a script with a specific type of lead that is not your usual star... and after he kept mentioning this script of mine that did not fit, stupid me realized that it could easily fit with some small cosmetic changes. I am stupid.

So my 20th year as a professional screenwriting will result with (at least) my 20th produced screenplay on screen... and maybe a couple more.

As usual, in 2 months everything will probably be dead except the assignment and the rewrite, but the key is to keep enough things in circulation so that *something* happens, and often one thing leads to another. Probably mentioned this in another blog entry, but I have this sheet of paper with “Chances To Win” on the top, and I try to keep it filled with scripts that are out in the world and meetings and anything else that may result in a sale or assignment. If I only have one lotto ticket I only have one chance, if I have a dozen lotto tickets I have a dozen chances. Here’s the thing - I’m writing my own tickets!

And so are you.

Every script is another chance, another ticket. And if nothing happens with the spec I just finished, I had a lot of fun writing it (dust bunnies that form into creatures and thousands of rats and all kinds of fun stuff in that one), and maybe something happens with the next one - that is about pirates. I love coming up with some strange idea and then living in that world for a while.

Sometimes I even get paid for it.

- Bill
IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Always Do Your Best Work - even of it is on a monster movie for Roger Corman.

Dinner: Turkey sandwich again.
Bicycle: Up to a coffee shop in NoHo then back to Ventura & Vineland for the evening shift, where there was an available table. It was a miracle!
Pages: A chapter on the Action Book.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A 99 Cent Book

Just a quick note - my friend Chris Valin is one of the writers of a science fiction book about how an alien artifact destroys everyone who gets their hands on it. It's a Kindle book, and it's on sale for a limited time for 99 cents. If you have a Kindle and are interested, here's a link:



The Artifact.

Chris also wrote This Book on Naval History, which just came out in paperback.

- Bill

Friday, May 14, 2010

Robbing From The Poor (Writer)

ROBIN HOOD opens today, a year late, and with a Tomatometer rating of 44% (and falling - it was higher on Wednesday when I began this entry) - and it is not expected to unseat IRON MAN 2 as #1 film over the weekend. Oh, and they disliked it at Cannes. Oh, and the budget is rumored to be $250 million and maybe even more. Would you believe this film began with one of the hottest screenplays in town? A screenplay that *was not about* Robin Hood?

(This is not a piece of investigative journalism, it’s an opinion piece, so my facts come from other sources (mostly newspapers and entertainment websites) and I didn’t authenticate any of them. If I get something wrong, feel free to correct me...)




Probably close to 3 years ago, a hot script by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris called NOTTINGHAM went out to buyers. The script was the Robin Hood story told from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s point of view - as he used period “forensics”, like tracking and arrow trajectory, to find a terrorist who was robbing respectable members of society. Shelock Holmes in Sherwood Forest.

One of the things a screenwriter needs is an idea that is both unique and universal. There have been over a hundred movies and TV series about Robin Hood - we all know the story. We’ve seen it all before... But making the “villain” into the protagonist is something we have never seen before - the unique part of the idea. We know this can work, because of that long running musical WICKED and a bunch of other stories that flipped the POV and shown the story from an angle we have never seen before. So we have a story that is universal - Robin Hood - and add the unique element of telling it from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s point of view.




I am all about finding the unique idea, my friends Terry & Ted have their theory of “mental real estate” - the “pre-sold” universal idea that we all know about, and twisting it to make it unique. Hey, we’ve probably all taken the Pirates Of The Caribbean ride at Disneyland, or at least know about it. That is prime mental real estate. Add the magical curse to make it unique and come up with one heck of a great story and great characters and clever dialogue and make sure it’s exciting, and you have a hit. (And if it were that easy, we’d all be the hottest writers in town!) But taking a story we all know and telling it in a way we have never heard before is genius - and NOTTINGHAM didn’t stop with the great idea, it was written well, had a great star role, and an exciting read.

There was a bidding war. Everybody loved this screenplay, everybody wanted to buy it. This is what screenwriters dream about.

We all want to see our stories on screen. But most of the time, your script ends up just a sample so that you can get an assignment writing BEETHOVEN 7 or something. And that’s if you are lucky and get a gig! Sometimes it feels like we are just shoving screenplays into a black void... they just disappear, so we write a new script, and that disappears. Even if you land assignments, it’s not unusual to write for a decade - paid to write - and have nothing ever go to screen.

Okay, there is a bidding war, and Imagine Entertainment wins - that's Opie’s company - and they love the script so much they “fast track” it - they get Russell Crowe onboard to star as the Sheriff of Nottingham and set a release date. The film is going to be made and in cinemas - no protracted development process because they can’t figure out how to make the script work - everybody loves this script!

It’s ready to roll!

DIRECTOR’S MEDIUM?



They needed a director that Russell Crowe likes - he’s the star, gotta make him happy - so they hired Ridley Scott. That sounds great, doesn’t it? You write a script, everybody loves it, you sell it for a bunch of money in a bidding war, and now Russell Crowe is going to star and Ridley Scott is going to direct. I’ll tell you - I would be dancing on clouds if that happened to me. So excited I could not sleep for months.

Except if everyone loves the script, the director is ranked #2... and that can not be! Film is a director’s medium, right? The director must be the most important person on the film! Hey, I’m just guessing about Ridley Scott’s motivations, I don’t really know. What I do know is that he wanted massive rewrites done to the screenplay that everybody loved.

And the script began to evolve...

Brian Helgeland was brought in to do rewrites, and he’s an Oscar winning writer. If he were brought in to rewrite one of my screenplays, I would be dancing on clouds...

Except the rewrites are kind of weird. Ridley becomes *obsessed* with archery, has always wanted to do a movie about archery, and has NOTTINGHAM rewritten to focus on archery and archers. Huh?




Two years ago, when the film was supposed to be going into production, Ridley Scott had them postpone production because “we don’t have a script, yet”. You hear directors say that in interviews fairly often - “We started making the film before there was even a screenplay!” - but you know it’s bunk. What they mean is, “There was this brilliant screenplay that everybody loved and all of the stars signed to... but I thought it needed some work so I brought in some new writers and they tore it apart and we began filming before they actually had a new draft that worked... and everything we shot was *not* that polished draft that came out of development that everybody loved... it was a sloppy first draft where some pages were written on the set as we were filming.” Though CASABLANCA was being written as they shot it, that’s kind of the exception to the rule. Usually the more time you have to work out the problems in the script, the better the script will be... and the easier it will be to shoot. You tend to spend a lot of money when you are making it up as you go along.

Two years ago, when Scott postponed production, Patrick Goldstein at the Los Angeles Times wrote a blog entry about the problems this caused: Nottingham Stalls.

(I actually began this blog entry two years ago... but only that link remains from the original piece.)

The big problem was that the film would not make its release date, and this was supposed to be the big film for the season. The tentpole. Remove the studio’s big tentpole and the whole thing collapses! On top of that, there was a potential SAG strike, plus escalating costs to stop that runaway train of filming and then restart it later. All of this because Ridley Scott wanted a new draft that focused on archery, and he is the director, and the director is always right.

Always.

Except here is the problem - what if the director is wrong?




We currently have a system where that isn’t even considered. The fear is that once a director is “let go” (fired) from a project, they will not be able to find another director and the project will fall apart. And that has happened enough times to be a legitimate fear. If you fire Ridley Scott, you need to replace him with a director that Russell Crowe approves of - that’s some other big name director who may be booked for the next 2 years. But how is that any different than waiting on Ridley Scott for 2 years? And we have seen some new, young (cheap) directors who have done amazing work and everyone wants to work with them... maybe you could convince Russell Crowe that this new guy is worth sticking around to work with?

Look at Christopher Nolan - before MEMENTO he was nobody, and afterwards he was directing an Al Pacino movie... and then the new BATMAN movie. Doug Liman makes GO and gets THE BOURNE IDENTITY... and after he’s “let go” they hire Paul Greengrass, who made a couple of low budget shaky-cam art house films before that. There are always these hot new directors that everybody loves because they are creative and interesting - if Imagine had fired Ridley Scott when he removed their tentpole movie and replaced him with whoever was the hot new director 2 years ago, could they have kept Crowe? Maybe.

Problem is - producers and studios are of the mindset that the director is the power when *they* are the power.

If a director becomes a problem - no matter how big they are, even Spielberg - get the ef rid of them. Fire their butts. Send them to the unemployment line. There are new directors with new ideas every month - and they cost less and may be easier to reason with (because they don’t think they are the 300 pound gorilla). You know what? If enough people fire Ridley Scott because he took away their tentpole or ruined their script or spent twice what was budgeted, I’ll bet Mr. Scott would consider becoming more cooperative.

REMOVING UNIQUE



Brain Helgeland is stuck doing press for this film and cheerleading for it. But he was also in that tough spot of being the writer trying to make the 300 pound gorilla's strange ideas into a screenplay that could be made into a movie. I've had those crazy notes where what you want to do is say, "Are you out of your effing mind?" but instead, your job is to make the note work. Okay, there may be some discussion first, but the director is always right, and if you refuse to execute the crazy note you will be "let go" and they bring in some other writer who will. This is not an easy job and I'm sure Hegeland did the best he could with what he was given.

So, Ridley Scott wanted to change the NOTTINGHAM script which featured period forensics to a script about archers and archery...

Then he came up with a brilliant idea! What if the Sheriff Of Nottingham and Robin Hood were the *same person*! Kind of like FIGHT CLUB. He’d be chasing himself for the whole damned movie! And there were some drafts of the screenplay written like that, until someone (maybe Helgeland) must have hinted that it might be a little silly.

And draft after draft, they script changed - evolved - twisted - becoming something completely different. The way the most expensive meal you have ever eaten turns into something else when it goes through the digestive process.




Eventually, they ended up with a script about Robin Hood - the same story we have seen a hundred times before (according to imdb there are 111 movies about Robin Hood, first one made in 1912). Nothing unique about it. Just a rehash of someone else’s hash. Oh, they say it’s gritty. But the Costner version was gritty for its time - remember? He wore leather instead of tights and there was more realistic violence and Sherwood Forest was muddy and... well, it was gritty. We’ve had that version. And all of the versions feature archery - even the Disney cartoon. So what Ridley Scott did was take a script that was both unique and universal and remove the unique aspect so that it’s bland. They keep trying to find some hook to the story in the trailers and adverts, and can’t find anything. It’s Robin Hood... again. They’ve settled on star and director and GLADIATOR... but I think the bad reviews are making the GLADIATOR comparisons a tough sell.

Oh, and about those bad reviews - several that I have read single out the big problem with the film as the script, and then name the writers - including Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris and in some reviews giving Oscar winning screenwriter Helgeland a break and *focusing* on them (because they do not have Oscars, so it must be their fault). I have yet to read a review that mentions the original screenplay... but have read a couple that said Scott and Crowe get bogged down by this terrible script.

You know that dream come true of having your script sell and get fast tracked and star Russell Crowe and be directed by Ridley Scott?

Nightmare.




I’ve had many films that do not resemble my screenplays at all - and some like CROOKED where they changed the concept. The stupid idea in that film was not mine. The stupid story was not mine. The stupid characters were not mine. Nothing in that film was mine. Yet, I get sole credit for the screenplay! None of the changes were written material, just stuff the director and star came up with on the set. So, I was the only actual writer on the film... that is nothing at all like my screenplay. What am I gonna do? Run around town and tell them that wasn't my script?

The worst part of this is that the NOTTINGHAM screenplay that everybody loved and caused that big bidding war? We will never get a chance to see that movie. Never. You see, that script became ROBIN HOOD. That script has been “made” - just made into something else and then filmed. The writers have lost the chance to see their work on screen... forever!




On TREACHEROUS, I was invited to the screening by the producers (ITC) who apologized to me in advance, and I laughed outloud once when a line I actually wrote came out of a character’s mouth. The whole film was completely different (again - not even my idea survived) and it was funny to watch this story that I had nothing to do with and then suddenly have a character say something I actually wrote. It’s surreal. And I’m sure Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris were sitting in the cheap seats at the premiere - no red carpet for them I’ll bet - and when something they actually wrote happened, they got a good laugh out of it. You have to laugh to keep your sanity sometimes. And when your script, your baby, gets mangled like this, if you can’t laugh you are in trouble. The only other thing left to do is cry.

LOCK IT!



I am not anti-director, nor am I against a director’s input. I have had some great input from directors that improved the screenplay. I have also had the other kind of input... um, more of that. But film is a collaborative medium, a team sport, and I just want to be a team player. But when one of the players on the team is doing things wrong, I expect the coach to step in and tell him or her to knock it off. And if that player keeps screwing up, it might be a good idea to bench them and bring in another player. Right now we have a system where the director is always right, even when he’s wrong. That’s not a good system!

How many directors did THE WIZARD OF OZ have? How many directors did GONE WITH THE WIND have?

My theory is that the screenplay and screenwriters are part of that team. We do not tell the DP what lens to use, we do not tell the gaffer what light to use, we do not tell the actor how to read their line - we just write the script. That is our job. We are in charge of the script part of the movie, and other people on the team are in charge of other parts of the film. We work together.




For better or worse, a screenplay goes through development and is supposed to come out of that process the absolute best that screenplay could ever be. And if the producer decides that it is ready to be filmed, and attaches the stars and director to it, and the studio (or whoever is financing it) puts up the money - that is the screenplay that should be filmed. It should be locked. Once that screenplay is the best it can be - the whole thing is locked and the star can’t just decide he wants to wear his lucky leather jacket in the film (happened to me), so the character has to be changed to someone who would wear a leather jacket... and the director can’t just throw in a bunch of BS to put his stamp on it. I think part of the “director’s stamp” thing is that many directors have no idea what they are doing and can not use their visual style / directorial style to “put their stamp on it” so they mess with the story (the writer’s job). Fridays are usually about Hitchcock films - even with the experiments, you can tell a Hitchcock film from directing style from a handful of shots. No need to know what the story is. Same thing with Nick Roeg. Same thing with Don Siegel. Same with Orson Welles. Same with Kubrick. Same with Kurosawa (check them out at the Egyptian Theater NOW!). Same with Bergman - even though his stories are often very different, his directing style is his own. It’s when you have a director who doesn’t know how to do his job that he starts messing with yours.




So, we have this screenplay that everyone thinks is the very best it can be, and we lock it. What happens if the director comes up with a great idea? Or the star? Well, like anything that is locked, someone has the key - the producer. The *default mode* for the screenplay is *LOCKED* (which is the opposite of how it is now). So when the director comes up with an awful idea, the producer just says, “I’m sorry the screenplay is locked. We are only going to unlock it for an exceptional change.” And if the director gets snooty about that, fire his butt. Bring in the kid. But, I think if locked is the default mode for a screenplay it stops being personal - because all scripts are locked. The producer makes the decision to unlock it. If the director comes back with another idea that is brilliant, the producer pulls out that key and we make it a better screenplay. I think that is what we all want - as a writer that is what I want. The best screenplay possible.




But how do we know that Ridley’s idea that the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood being the same person chasing himself like a dog chasing his tail wouldn’t have ended up a brilliant movie? Well, maybe it would be... but I think an important part of my job as a screenwriter and a producer’s job as a producer is to be able to see down that road to see if it works. When I look down the road, the best case scenario I can see is some wacky bow & arrow version of FIGHT CLUB, and FIGHT CLUB was a movie that flopped so hard it almost took down a studio. That’s a hard sell when you’re looking for the studio to put up the money to make the movie. Also, though FIGHT CLUB did it right and is a great movie, having the hero and villain be the same person is one of those new screenwriter ideas that just doesn’t work 98% of the time. The odds say it would have been much worse that the script that everybody loved.




Though none of us is Miss Cleo, we can usually look at past performance and get a good idea whether something will work or not. Sure, there are flukes - and maybe this idea of Ridley’s is one that would work. In that case, I’d say you write that up as a new and different screenplay, and then return the rights of NOTTINGHAM back to the writers and let them keep the money you paid them - as your penalty for switching horses in the middle of the stream. The producer is responsible. And you know what? Probably wouldn’t cost them a penny more than they way it transpired, because once you hire Brian Helgeland to start from scratch with a brand new idea, you have to pay him - the credits for ROBIN HOOD give Helgeland a "Story By" along with the original writers. In fact, it might actually *save* you money - because part of giving back the script means the original writers do not get a piece of that production bonus, and if you make your deal with Helgeland right...

The downside is that that script that everybody loved will be picked up by somebody else, and the Nottingham-chases-his-own-tail version will be in direct competition with the screenplay that everyone loved. See how that would make a producer actually consider the changes?

(The original writers might also consider sticking around - because maybe the changes did make it better.)

And even though we are not Miss Cleo, we can look at the results: NOTTINGHAM - both unique and universal vs. ROBIN HOOD - not unique at all. So there is some objective criteria that would make the changes to the screenplay everybody loved look like a bad bet in the first place.




Hey, what happens if a producer does unlock the script for a bunch of stupid ideas? Well, he probably isn’t a producer for long, right? There are several producers who probably need to be escorted to the Los Angeles city limits and told not to come back any time soon. (I mentioned in a messageboard post a couple of weeks ago that lawsuit that Sean Connery had against a “producer” who didn’t produce anything - he had a development deal with a studio and *only* developed scripts... no intention of ever making them into films. That way, he could never make a flop, and keep getting his development deals. Only problem was, one script had Connery attached to star... and it just never seemed to be getting any closer to getting made. I think we could stand to lose guys like that.)

At the end of the day it’s all about being responsible for the product you create. Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris had to be responsible for the product they created, or no one would have loved it and no one would have bought it. Writing a spec script is a big gamble where the odds are against you - such a small percentage of spec scripts sell that it seems crazy to write one. Except unlike buying a lotto ticket, the reason a spec script becomes one of those one in a million winners is something *we control* - the writing. Sure, there’s a timing factor, too - but if you have written a great script it’s going to stand so far above all of those crappy ones that your odds are suddenly much better. We control the odds. We are responsible for writing the best possible screenplay... or it doesn’t sell to anyone in the first place.




Once it has sold, it is the producer’s responsibility to make sure the best possible movie from that screenplay ends up on screen. And if that means firing Ridley Scott, that’s what you have to do. By the way, the producer on ROBIN HOOD is Brian Grazer, who is a smart guy and a good producer - but like every other producer, stuck in a business where directors are right even if they are wrong. That’s the thing that has to change. It’s not Grazer’s fault, nor his odd hair’s fault - he’s just trying to get films made. And Ridley Scott is not the villain, either - he's just doing what directors have become used to doing - being always right. It's not Helgeland's fault - he's the guy caught in the middle trying to make bad notes work. And it's not Opie's fault - though I know that sucker is up to something. The *system* is broken, and ROBIN HOOD is a perfect example of that. If producers used this as a call to arms, they might be able to get the business back on course and not turn that screenplay that everybody loves into a film with a 44% Tomatometer rating.

Tonight I’m staying home and watching the Errol Flynn version.

- Bill


Blog Sampler - some other cool entries.

Fridays With Hitchcock entries.

Today's Blog Entry.


IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Okay, Who Started It? - the guy who throws the first punch is the villain... even if he's a priest.
Dinner: Tortas - a burrito bigger than my head.
Bicycle: Short, due to laundry.
Pages: Instead of doing something productive, I wrote these 16 pages.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lancelot Link Thursday

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who like your bananas stirred not shaken from the tree, here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...



1) Help me spread the word! Click Here and add ScriptSecrets.Net or this blog!

2) All star cast movie that you have never heard of... watch the trailer and you will klnow why.

3) Producer Linda Obst on Why Movies Suck.

4) Roger Ebert's Screenplay for a Sex Pistols movie.

5) Dueling 3D opinions: James Cameron vs. Roger Ebert.

6) Today's car chase (I have this film on DVD):



- Bill
IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Sledge Hammer! - how to make a point without forcing it.
Dinner: Turkey sandwich.
Bicycle: Up to a coffee shop in NoHo then back to Ventura & Vineland for the evening shift...
Pages: Um, not as many as I had planned. The plan was to get a toe hold on a new spec I'd jotted down notes on last year about pirates and a dude who specializes in ship security. But I only wrote a page and a half. The other part of the plan was to rewrite some book chapters - that didn't happen either. Instead: I BSed with Duane about movies all night.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tales From The Script

If you believe that after you win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay you will suddenly be treated better by Hollywood and your writing will be respected and not messed with by the damned dirty apes of development... think again! You’ll have to deal with all of the same problems - you’ll just get paid more.

Two weeks ago I went to the Aero Cinema in Santa Monica to see the pre-DVD release screening of...




TALES FROM THE SCRIPT is a great documentary that all screenwriters both new and abused should see. Filmmakers Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman interviewed dozens of professional screenwriters about their work, the business, and how the role of the screenwriter has changed over the years. The film is broken down into chapters, with many screenwriters addressing the same issue in each chapter. Shane Black, Frank Darabont, William Goldman, David Hayter, Paul Schrader, Ron Shelton, David S. Ward, and just about any writer you can name is interviewed. You learn the truth about screenwriting - a truth you may not have wanted to know, but that will help you navigate the treacherous waters of the screenwriting business. Though the film is simple talking head interviews - these folks are all great storytellers, and when they tell a war story about the business it’s a heck of a good story! I was never bored - and usually too busy laughing or squirming with terror.

If you have seen the film on screen, the DVD has 3 big special features:
47 minutes of additional interviews.
12 minutes of William Goldman’s advice.
9 minutes of advice for new screenwriters from the pros.



There is also a companion book with *different interviews* and *different screenwriters*.

The DVD is available on Amazon and on Netflix - check it out.

After the screening there was a great panel of screenwriters doing Q&A, many of them I know. It was kind of cool. Steve DeSouza, Peter Hyams,. Stephen Susco, Bruce Joel Rubin, Adam Rifkin, and a couple of others. It was a great Q&A session - many things that probably will never see print or film or tape - because these guys want to continue to work in this town. Bruce told a horror story about a big name star who has no story sense at all - but is so big that whatever he wants in the script goes in the script... even if the resulting film sucks. The film is filled with stories like this!

POPATOPOLIS!



And Thursday May 27th at 7:30pm at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, the Los Angeles Premiere of POPATOPOLIS - a film I saw at the Raindance International Film Festival in London last year. The movie is being released on DVD, and this screening is a celebration...

POPATOPOLIS is a film that answers the question - can you make a feature film in 3 days with a crew of only 2, starring women with freakishly large breasts who may be too top heavy to stand? B movie director Jim Wynorski can... and this doc chronicles every crazy minute.

Here is a link to my review from London - POPATOPOLIS.

If you are in Los Angeles and like sleazy low-end Z movies, come on down and see this documentary on how they are made!

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Individualizing Characters - how to make every character distinctive and different.
Dinner: Strip Mall Chinese place - fried rice, tofu with veggies, broc-beef.
Bicycle: Medium - my legs felt fine.
Pages: Mostly did some corrections on SECOND SON, wrote the paragraph synopsis, and wrote some new material for today's tip. And this.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Most Disturbing

So, my friend Harry's second book GAME OF CAGES is coming out, and he thought it might be a good idea to create a "book trailer" to help increase sales. You've probably seen James Patterson's book trailers on TV, and other writer's book trailers are on YouTube and Amazon and B&N and I've seen them play on airport monitors and once on a bar's TV!

When Harry mentioned this on his blog, one of his fans created this disturbing trailer and sent it to him...

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!


My plan was to post this today just for fun, but a strange thing happened yesterday - Harry had it posted on his blog, and his publisher - Random House - thought it was strange-funny and posted it on their website, and Publisher's Weekly saw it on the Random House site and thought it was strange-funny and posted it on the magazine's website and... well, I *joked* about the trailer going viral, and now it has!

The lesson in all of this? I think many of us (me included) think "I can't do that because I do not have the money, or do not have the resources, or do not have the connections" and we do nothing. Mistake! Just do it. Do it even if it's silly. Do it, even if it has no chance to succeed - because we don't know what will succeed and what will fail.

There's a guy on a message board who says he has a script with a great idea that he is passionate about... but he thinks it may be a tough sell. Though I am in favor of considering the odds before you write the script, if you *have* considered the odds and still need to write the script? Write it! None of us has a crystal ball. We can use our knowledge of the current market and successes from the recent past to help us figure out what has the best chance of selling or getting read or breaking in, but there are always exceptions and weird sales and what may be a dead genre today could be a hot genre in a decade - and you will already have a finished script ready for that market. If you have to write it, you have to write it. Hey, it may not sell, but every script is a step somewhere.

Harry's new book GAME OF CAGES comes out August 31st, but you can preorder it on Amazon now. But I should warn you - many scenes from this book trailer do not appear in the book. I know. It's kind of a cheat. Maybe Harry will put a dance number in the third book...

- Bill
IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Self Discipline - and why it is easier than self bondage.
Dinner: El Pollo Loco - breast & wing, corn, black beans.
Bicycle: Short. My legs were still throbbing Monday morning - I didn't want to ride at all, but figured I needed to teach them damned legs who's boss. They felt better by the time I rode home, so maybe that was a good plan.
Pages: FADE OUT - 102 pages total.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What Was I Thinking?

The plan was to write FADE OUT on my kinda-new spec script 2nd SON sometime on Saturday, and then meet my friends and go out to dinner and then see IRON MAN 2 at the Arclight. Tickets were purchased way in advance so that we had the perfect seats. A decision was made that the Friday Night Movie Guys would meet on *Saturday* instead, because we knew opening night for IRON MAN 2 would just be crazy. But the movie was my “reward” for typing FADE OUT sometime earlier that day.

Except I did not type FADE OUT on Saturday, nor did I manage to type it on Sunday. I will probably type it sometime today (Monday). Pisser.

But I *did* see IRON MAN 2 anyway - dessert without first cleaning my plate (and eating those gross mushy peas). I was sure this would lead to the end of the world... and maybe it did. It didn’t really lead to the end of my script, I spent Sunday trying to figure that out. Oh, I know the end-end, I just don’t really know how to get there.

The reason why is simple - I’m an idiot.

You may remember this script from a little over a year ago - I started it, was happy with the with the way it was going, then an circling assignment went to script and it got set aside. I pulled it out a couple of times last year wondering what the hell I was thinking and couldn’t quite get back into the flow - and then something else would come up. I wrote a couple of *other* spec scripts instead, and just when I got back into it, landed another assignment and set it aside again. Pisser. The script is so close to being finished it seemed stupid not to just take the time and get ‘er done. But when I pulled it back out and started writing I ran into a couple of problems.

Problem #1: One of the times I was working on it last year, I came up with a really cool twist that upped the ante and improved the story. Now, as you know, a script is like a house of cards and when you change one little thing you also change all kinds of other things and may even screw up the screenplay. It’s the domino effect or the ripple effect or whatever the hell you want to call it. I did re-outline the end of the script when I came up with this idea, but that didn’t include the small things... like how to kill the villain. I now have something similar to that overnight rewrite I had to go on GRID RUNNERS where they lost the rooftop location so my villain could no longer fall to his death. Though this problem is even worse than that. It would be like changing the location for the villain-death-by-skyscraper-roof-fall to the desert. Not a building for miles. Not a mountain for miles. And limited ways to die quickly.

Problem #2: This script has some DaVINCI CODE type riddles in it, and I thought it would be fun to put the riddle that kills a supernatural henchman in a scene on page 15 - that way, the audience would forget about it by the time we get to that henchman’s death - and I would **not** mention the riddle when our hero kills the henchman. I would leave it for the second time you saw the movie. One of the things I think about sometimes is how to get people to watch the film again. If it is a theatrical, that’s another ticket sale - and get enough of those and you have a hit. I had to see THE SIXTH SENSE a second time to see if the twist end was there throughout the film - and it was. I mean, about a couple of minutes into that film M. Night Shamalamadingdong sets up the twist, and does it with such skill that you never see it! And watching that film with the knowledge of the twist turns it into a completely different movie. Though I wasn’t doing anything like that in my script, I did want to have some cool stuff with the riddles, so that you might want to see it a second time to see if the riddle prophecies were there and came true. But when I re-read that clever riddle prophecy for the henchman’s death - I was stumped. What the hell was I thinking?

The larger problem is - I didn’t write it down. At the time, the answer to the riddle seemed completely obvious to me - something I could never forget that was so simple to figure out I didn’t need to include it in my notebook for the script. This makes that one even more frustrating, because at one point in time while writing the script this was obvious to me - and now it’s the ravings of a madman. What was I thinking?

THE PLAN...

So, my plan on Sunday was to get on my bike and ride until I figured out the solution to problem #1 - which was required if I was going to do any writing that day. I might have to ride past a dozen Starbucks and Coffee Beans and Mom & Pop Coffee Shops before I figured it out. That was okay. I did end up taking a fairly long bike ride... and I also came up with one heck of a great ending bit. It strengthens the *villain’s* character and manages to demonstrate the hero’s character arc being resolved. I’m happy with it. It did require a better piece of dialogue in an earlier scene - and that made me happy. I went from having an okay line to something similar to Agent Smith’s little speech about the *smell* inside the Matrix. I am very happy with this solution.

But no matter how many times I tried to figure out that simple riddle thing - I still have no idea what it has to do with killing my henchman. What was obvious a year ago is a complete mystery to me today.

Now, there are two possible solutions at this time - I could change something in the script so that it matches the riddle, or change the riddle so that it matches something else in the script. That’s probably what I am doing as you read this. But that’s a pisser, because whatever I had originally intended will not be in the screenplay.

THE LESSON...

Um, write everything down. Everything. Obvious things. Things you think you don’t need to write down. I have a spiral notebook for this screenplay and I’m almost at fade out and about a quarter of the pages are blank. It’s not like I was going to run out of room in the notebook, and I have a bunch of empty notebooks on the shelf if I *did* fill this one. It’s better to have that stuff written down and not need it than not written down anywhere and need it - like with this danged script. I posted this on Facebook Sunday night, and a few other people replied that they have been through the same thing on their scripts. I have been through this on previous scripts. So, when will we learn to write stuff down? We are *writers*, not *memorizers*. (Folks - that survived spellcheck!) I do not know why I think I will remember things - especially when they are those freakin’ amazing flashes of genius that are like God’s voice whispering some idea in your ear that is way over your head and you know this is something you can never think of again...

And I didn’t write it down.

What was I thinking?

- Bill
IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Three Points To Avoid Cliche Characters - and an uplifting film starring Samuel L. MF Jackson.
Dinner: Saturday - chicken caesar salad. Sunday - Subway Blackforest Ham footlong.
Bicycle: Yes. Medium long... legs a little sore as I type this.
Pages: Yes. 7 before I ran into trouble.
Movies: IRON MAN 2 - he still doesn't press any clothes in this one. Not as good as the first by a long shot - no act 2! - but entire cast gives great performances and saves it. Go for the actors, not the story.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Friday's Secret Message...

The Hitchcock entry is running a little behind, should be up later today, but to tide you over I am posting this...



I will be teaching a workshop in less than a month at the...

The Screenwriting Conference in Santa Fe (SCSFe)

I think there are still a couple of seats open. This is the best run event I've ever done classes at - and the whole thing is designed for maximum interaction. The workshops are kept small on purpose so there is more individual attention, and the event includes some great activities where teachers and students are sitting together. In the past all meals were taken together - no VIP dining room - and there was a BBQ at a film studio where we all sat together at picnic tables. There are people from the event who have become my friends.

The other thing that is great about the Screenwriting Conference in Santa Fe are the instructors - every time I'm there I want to skip my own class and sit in on one of the Oscar winners or nominees or just big name writers doing a class there. The theory seems to be skip the gurus and find professional screenwriters who can teach.

So, that's where I will be the first few days on next month:
June 1st - June 6th.

For more info:
The Screenwriting Conference in Santa Fe (SCSFe)

And the Secret Message? Here:



- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Planned Unpredictability - and SEVEN MEN FROM NOW.
Dinner: A can of generic food.
Bicycle: Short ride up to NoHo.

Lancelot Link Thursday

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who worry that your back-hair may not make you popular with the opposite sex, here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...



1) Indie Films - Is Online The Answer?

2) Second film in the new DIE HARD trilogy...

3) Why you always need to have directions to the nearest hospital and someone with CPR training on the set, even on a student film.

4) Fake Guns, Fake Bad Guys, Real Cops.

5) Real DUI Arrest Footage.

6) Today's Car Chase...


Part 2: The Next Ten Minutes Of Chase.

Part 3: The Next Ten Minutes Of Chase.

Part 4: The Next Ten Minutes Of Chase.

And there are a couple more segments, but that gives you most of this little chase. Yes - just about the whole film is a car chase!

7) Last but not least... This woman won $224 Million in California's Lottery... and went to work today. She has no plans to quit her graveyard shift, kinda cruddy job (in TV news) - because she likes working and likes her job. I think this is a lesson to screenwriters everywhere - if you would quit writing because you won $224 Million or because you *didn't* win anything - you aren't writing screenplays because you love writing. This woman loves her job - it gives her something to do every day. The people she works with love her, and love her attitude. I've said this before - the world is what you make of it. If you are a miserable person, winning $224 Million isn't going to change that, nor is selling a screenplay. Life can suck, but we need to laugh off our problems (or at least deal with them without letting them get to us) and find some way to enjoy our lives. Having $224 Million probably creates more problems than it could ever solve - so don't look for some sort of outside success to make you happy. Make yourself happy. We all have the choice whether we are going to be miserable or happy - happy is more fun.

- Bill
IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: The Conflict Act - and the films of master thespian Keanu Reeves.
Dinner: Togo's ham sandwich.
Bicycle: Not really - a couple of blocks to Starbucks.
Pages: Only 3... but I have a good excuse! It was some sort of freak day at Starbucks where I bumped into a bunch of people I haven't seen in months! Chris White who runs the TOP 5 comedy website - haven't seen him in months! My friend Louis who works at a studio - haven't seen him in a couple of months. My friend Rick The Stuntman - haven't seen him since the middle of last year! My friends Richard & Monica - also haven't seen them since last year - and she's preggers, with twins! So, I spent more time visiting than writing. But it was worth it.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Script Magazine - May Issue (2010)



Iron Man 2
Writer Justin Theroux, director Jon Favreau, and comic-book legend Stan Lee discuss the next chapter of Tony Stark in the lead-up to the highly anticipated sequel to 2008's summer blockbuster Iron Man.

Bringing Back The A-Team
Joe Carnahan, Stephen J. Cannell, and Brian Bloom talk about big action scenes, CGI effects, villains with moustaches, and their work on the upcoming feature-film version of The A-Team.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Scribe Melissa Rosenberg dishes on the experience of writing The Twilight Saga and discusses why she was on the edge of her seat while penning the screenplay for the third, and latest, installment in the series—Eclipse

From Script to Screen: Winter's Bone
Winter's Bone writers Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini relied on the authentic voices and settings of the Ozarks to guide the adaptation of Daniel Woodrell's "country noir" novel.

Rushing the Reveal: ScriptShadow
Screenplays have been reviewed online before, but a year-old blog called ScriptShadow is raising the sneak-peak game to a new level.

Timing, Prayer, and a Powder-Blue Pantsuit: Selling and Creating Just Wright
For someone who once experienced homelessness and came out successful on the other side, obstacles in Hollywood seem far less daunting. Screenwriter Michael Elliot recounts his inspirational journey to Tinseltown and the pitch meeting that sold his modern-day Cinderella story, Just Wright.

WGA Arbitration: The Good, the Bad ... and the Ugly
Think because you wrote a produced movie that you'll receive screen credit? Don't be so sure. Script takes an in-depth look at the WGA arbitration process.

Lights, Camera, Confidence
With more writers making the move from desk chair to director's chair, the question on many a scribe's mind becomes: How can I do it, too?

Potluck Cinema—Finding Your Voice & Finding Your Film Festivals
Did you know your film has a treasure that can be given only once? This is known as the "World Premiere" ... and it is what every film festival wants. Find out what festivals are looking for, asking for, and whether or not your film fits with their focus.

Contesting
There are several paths to making a career as a successful professional screenwriter. For many aspirants, one excellent route is to participate in screenwriting competitions. Find out which contests best suit you and your script.

Your Script is Finished, Now What?
A finished screenplay gives a well-earned, heady sense of accomplishment to a writer. But it is a literary work that has never been seen before. Here's a guide to choosing a script-consulting service that can help take your project to the next level.

To Hell With Structure
Every aspiring writer should be an expert on structure, especially the three-act form. But not every compelling story out there can be so easily shoehorned into the sometimes simplistic format ... much success can be had in scripts that break structure.

Script Secrets: Method Screenwriting
For a script to be good, it needs to be something personal and emotional. But, for a script to sell, it needs to be something commercial that millions of people will pay to see. Learn how to use events from your own life to create a box-office hit that is actually your personal story in disguise.

For more info, click here!

TO SUBSCRIBE, CLICK HERE!

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Dramatic Decisions - and a GREAT Ben Affleck movie.
Dinner: BBQ Chicken Salad and sweet potato fries at Fuddruckers.
Bicycle: Yeah - had to get there.
Movies: HARRY BROWN at the Arclight.

MACHETE trailer - For Cinco De Mayo

Wow - not only is this a great day to release this trailer, Arizona managed to unknowingly do publicity for the film. I can't wait...



"We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us!"

Here is the original fake trailer from GRINDHOUSE (rated R - NSFW - boobies)...



"You better make damned sure the badguy isn't you."

- Bill

Monday, May 03, 2010

I've Gone To Hell!

*Blog only* word count for last week: just over 8,000 (half of that was Friday's Hitchcock entry).

In standard pages = over 32 pages.

Number of weeks of similar word count before I'd have a standard book = 7.5 weeks.

So, if I put the same amount of effort into writing a book, I'd have one in 2 months.

Or a screenplay in (under) 3 weeks.

I also did a tretament for my assignment last week and all kinds of other writing.

Must change priorities!

Time to get back to working on the spec...

Sometime last year I started writing this semi-new spec script called 2ND SON, and it kept getting swept aside by other projects. A few times it was swept aside by other specs (which I finished), a couple of times swept aside by assignments... and sometimes I would try to jump back into the script only to have forgotten what the danged thing was supposed to be about.

But over the weekend I placed nose to grindstone and forced myself back into the story... and made some actual progress. The story has now gone to hell... in a good way. I am 15-20 pages from the end, and most of that will take place in Hell. My current problem (which will be fun, so maybe it isn't a problem) is to figure out what sort of hell this will be - the things that make the hell in this script unique. A lot of that will be a play on what is expected in Hell - okay, a 3 headed dog, but what kind of dog? Hey, what if "dog" is "dawg"? All of those decisions - and the first half of today will be designing my own version of Hell - then the second half will be having my characters deal with it.

So, after last week's wall-to-wall blog entries, this week may be a little lighter.

Or not.

I may feel the urge to avoid writing one thing by writing a blog entry.

- Bill
IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Emotion Pictures - it was the very first Script Tip in 1998.
Dinner: Grand Slam with whole wheat pancakes and turkey bacon.
Bicycle: Yeah - medium rides in NoHo.
Pages: 5 pages yesterday... Yeeees!
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