Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The Brad Pitt Guy (part 4)

From 2009...

When I woke up, I was bound with colorful bungee cords in my stalker’s dank Brentwood basement with a huge spider crawling up my left leg. When I looked closer at the spider, I could see the tell-tale red hourglass markings of a black widow.

That’s when my stalker came downstairs with a huge woodcutter’s ax, the Home Depot price tag still on the blade, and asked me, “So - did you like my screenplay?”

And when I hesitated, he knew my answer and swung the blade again and again until both of my legs were gone and I could never run away...

That’s when I really woke up. But that didn’t end the nightmare - I had stupidly taken my stalker’s half written screenplay and offered to read it... when I don’t do that, not even for money. As I said in part 1, I do not do Script Consulting. Everyone wants me to read their script, and I tried it for a while and did not enjoy it at all. The % of good scripts to scripts so bad you want to kill yourself instead of finish reading them is small.

There is a writing guru/consultant who teaches classes (and I’m not mention their name) and when anyone asks them about the odds of selling a script, they say to ignore the numbers - because 90% of all of those scripts out there just completely suck, so they are not your competition. What this guy neglects to mention is that those scripts might be *yours*. If 90% of all scripts suck and he’s telling this to a room with 100 screenwriters in it, then the odds are that 90 of those people have written those sucky scripts. I say - know the odds, know how difficult this is, and use that knowledge to prompt you to work your butt off and keep improving your craft (and your script) until you are in that 10%. And don’t just assume that you are already in that 10% - that’s what everybody does, and instead of working their butts off they relax. The people who are sure they are good usually are not good... and no matter how much they pay for consulting, their script is still not good. And the biggest problem with consulting is that they do not want someone to tell them how to improve their scripts, because they are sure they are already in that 10%... so they tend to argue with you. Which is probably why this guru/consultant wants everyone to believe they are in that 10%, so that they will keep using his services. They think they are getting closer to a sale - and they are... just as West Virginia is closer to Hollywood than Virginia is (but both are still a long ways away). So I do not do consulting - I have my own scripts to write and I’d rather write my Script Tips which may help a bunch of people at the same time without me having to read some of those really bad scripts written by really strange people who give off weird stalker vibes...

Like this guy.

PART ONE - if you missed it.
PART TWO - if you missed it.
PART THREE - if you missed it.

Now I have agreed to read his script and meet him in a week at that Jerry’s Deli in Westwood again and give him notes... but he not-so-secretly wants me to read the script and agree to finish writing it for him in exchange for 50% of whatever Brad Pitt pays him - which is probably one miiiiiiiillllllion dollars.

I put off reading the script for a few days, then realize I’m running out of time and head to Starbucks with the script and a pen. I don’t want to take the time typing up notes for this guy, so I’m just going to mark up the pages. Who knows, maybe it’s brilliant, right? Well, I start reading it and already there are all kinds of problems - it’s written like a novel - a bunch of dense pages of description that do not matter, and lots of things that can not be seen or heard. The guy has a flowery style (who would have guessed?) and seems to think that his style will mask the bland characters and situations... and sometimes the completely over-blown characters and situations. Like his pitch, this script is all over the place and is inconsistent in tone - one minute it’s mundane stuff and the next it’s some larger than life soap opera plot about the cloned Vice President. It’s a mess.

Then I get to the first action scene and it’s much better written than the other stuff and oddly familiar. The more I read, the more it resembles a scene from LONG KISS GOODNIGHT... I mean, *really* resembles it. Like, it is the exact same scene, just with his guy in love with two women while dealing with the death of his wife as the guy in the motel shoot out... and the motel is the White House... but when they guy gets blown out the window and lands in a tree... hell, this is the same damned scene! Later I pull my copy of LONG KISS off the shelf and compare both scenes - and they *are* the same scene - and the same *sentences*! This guy has search-and-replaced action scenes from other screenplays and used them in his. And some of the dialogue scenes seem familiar, too. This is some sort of Frankenscript! No wonder it seems like it’s made up of a dozen different stories!

Not only is that, like, illegal... an action scene is a *character scene* and a *story scene* and is specific to *one script*. You can’t just pull an action scene from one script and put it in another. That action scene serves a story purpose - and unless both scripts are telling the same story, it won’t belong. The spec script I’m working on now has a theme that has to do with faith - so all of the action scenes (including the one I wrote yesterday) have a component of “faith” in them - a character must act on faith or not have faith in something or lose faith in themselves or another character due to the action elements in the scene... but all of the action scenes are about faith. The scene I wrote yesterday had a character who has faith in a certain book of prophecy, drop that book in the middle of a chase scene and decide if he will risk his life to go back for it or continue forward. That’s what that action scene was *about*. I could not lift that scene and put it in some other script - like maybe SLEEPER AGENT which is all about planning versus improvisation. The scene would not fit the story.

And this guy has cut together a bunch of scenes from different scripts to assemble the first half of his over-written and all over the place screenplay. Yikes!

The more I read the script, the more I want to put a gun to my head and stop the pain this is causing my brain. I finish writing my notes, and I’m afraid that they become a little mean spirited at some point. That is a flaw of mine. I try to stay helpful and nice... but then there is that straw that breaks the camel’s back and I suddenly become a complete asshole. After constructive notes scribbled in the margins for most of the script, I’ve just had enough and say what I really think. Things like - YOU CAN’T JUST STEAL SOMEONE’S SCENE LIKE THIS!

Now I’m dreading that meeting at Jerry’s. Maybe I can just show up, drop off the script with the notes, then split? No such luck...

Last Chapter on Wednesday.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Drama Is Our Business - and the drama of SUPERBAD.
Dinner: Islands Restaurant - fish tacos (3).
Bicycle: Short rides. It's kind of cloudy - supposed to rain.

Movies: SHUTTER ISLAND - quick review: 138 minutes - should have been 110. Waaaay too long. Slow... and detatched. Not a thrill ride, you aren't scared, and it seems aimless at times. Lots of great atmosphere - but its no substitute for story. The investigation doesn't have any real suspects so they kind of wander around, nothing *driving* each segment of the story. "Hey, let's go check out this location. Hey, let's go look at that location." But it never seems like they MUST go to this SPECIFIC location RIGHT NOW! Also - for a suspense film, no actual suspense scenes. Closest we get is wandering around in the dark with some matches - which is kind of a Scooby Doo cliche. Again - the lack of suspense scenes is in the way the story is told (screenplay issues)... just kinda bland. The wandering around with a match thing is the only situation that creates suspense, and even then - not really set up for suspense. The suspense scenes just are not there. And the film overstays its welcome - it has a twist end that's kind of preposterous, then keeps going for another 10 minutes! Long enough for you to poke all kinds of holes in that end. Has a character related twist at the end, but it's not nearly as powerful as that plot twist, so the film just peters out for ten minutes. Film looks great, acting is great, music is a bit much at times, but movie ends up just okay. Hard to create suspense on screen if there are no suspense scenes in the story.


Emily Blake said...

You need to write a book about all your bizarre experiences. You really really do. This is captivating.

Anonymous said...

I had fish tacos yesterday too. Cheesecake Factory. Not bad.

Anonymous said...

Bill, baby,

Here's what you could have done.

1. Grill this guy for what happened during that conversation with Bradley. What exactly did Bradley allegedly respond to?

2. Tell him his script is utter shyte, but you have a better idea.

3. Offer him a finder's fee 5-10% to act as your one-time go between, if he can get your script to Bradley. This can be put in writing.

4. Write something better, or pull off the shelf something Bradley could conceivably play.

5. Don't fear the eccentrics.

wcmartell said...

You're jumping ahead - #3 is part of the next chapter.

Feersum Endjinn said...

Write it NOW, pleeeeeeeeeease! God, I can´t wait!!

Anonymous said...

You're killing us, Bill.

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