Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lancelot Link: World Cup Monkey Business

Lancelot Link Monday! You may have noticed there's some sort of sporting event going on now. Here in the melting pot of Los Angeles we have people from all over the world, and they are all watching futbol. There are celebrations in the streets, illegal fireworks, and parties. So, what is *your* favorite soccer film? While you're thinking about that, here are this week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

Here are a baker's dozen links plus this week's car chase...

1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Transformers 4........ $100,000,000
2 22 Jump Street......... $15,400,000
3 Train Your Dragon 2... $13,100,000
4 Think Like Man 2........ $10,400,000
5 Maleficent.................. $8,237,000
6 Jersey Boys................ $7,610,000
7 Edge Of Tomorrow....... $5,210,000
8 Fault In Stars............. $4,800,000
9 X Men Future Past...... $3,300,000
10 Chef........................ $1,654,000

2) Your Hollywood Leading Man Height Chart... GET SHORTY!

3) Five Lessons From Linklater's BOYHOOD.

4) LEGENDS OF OZ, Family Film Or Sequel To The TV Prison Drama?

5) Shane Black, PREDATOR!

6) PROJECT GREENLIGHT Is Back, Matt & Ben Tell All.


8) Millions Of Great Screengrabs From Movies!

9) Fifty Opening Title Sequences!


11) Interview With My Friend Johnny Sullivan.

12) Is It Plagiarism To Steal A Plot?

13) Last But Never Least: Here Are Your Women Director's Hollywood! Now HIRE THEM!

And the Car Chase Of The Week!

Would you believe, a soccer based action scene? From the *great* movie, SHAOLIN SOCCER directed by the madman Stephen Chow.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Brad Pitt Guy (part 3).

From 2009...

Okay, so I’m sitting in the empty upstairs section of Jerry’s Deli in Westwood with a guy in a funny hat and too much jewelry who may be a crazed stalker but definitely took a piss next to Brad Pitt in some nightclub and pitched him some script that he had not yet written and Brad Pitt said he wanted to read it and this stalker guy tried to write the script and couldn’t and now he wants me to finish the script for him in exchange for half the money Pitt’s company pays him.

Should I say yes? Hey, it’s 50% of some potential deal the originated at a urinal. Actually, not even a deal - just an offer to read a script. Should I say yes?

The entire time I keep my glass of Coca-Cola in sight and often in hand to prevent him from using some knock out drops or something so that he can kidnap me, take me back to his house in TBDotcoLA and do weird things to me while I am unconscious before serving me up with a nice chianti and some fava beans and then either mounting my head on the wall of his trophy room-basement (do houses in the Brentwood District have basements?) or pickling my brain in a jar and putting it with all of the others on the mantle over his fireplace (do houses in the Brentwood District have fireplaces?). The guy may have really pissed with Pitt but that doesn't mean he's not also a crazed stalker.

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

After our waitperson, Laurence-with-a-Z, sets the endless dishes and bowls on the table in front of my stalker, and my half sandwich in front of me, then goes back to his station on the other side of the room, stalker’s face unfreezes.

“So, can you tell me what this story you pitched while pissing is about?”
“Then you are interested? I knew you would be!”

And he tells me the story between bites of food. He has about a dozen plates in front of him, enough food for a bunch of people, and instead of focusing on one plate he ends up nibbling a little bit from each. A bite here, a bite there, a bit of soup and then a forkful of cake. His story is like every episode of 24 mashed together along with a soap opera story about a guy in love with two women and one of them is an imposter and a plot to assassinate the President and some Iraq War stuff and a conspiracy involving cloning the Vice President and the protagonist dealing with the death of his wife in a car accident and ... Brad Pitt must have been saving up pee for weeks in order for this guy to have pitched this whole story to him at one standing!

Afterwards, with all of his food picked at but not a single plate cleaned, he asked me...
“So, William C. Martell, are you intrigued? Excited? Interested in my proposition?”
“Well, it *is* interesting.”
“Ah, I knew you would find the possibility too delicious to ignore!”
“It sounds like this is your baby, though - I think you should write it.”
“Alas, I have made numerous attempts to complete the screenplay, but I am not a professional writer, as you are. I’m afraid I require your assistance.”
“I think you can do it, you got this far, right?”
“I am willing to offer for your services one half of the impending purchase price from Bradley Pitt’s motion picture production company, which I am sure will be most lucrative. I have already written half of the screenplay and as you have heard, planned each of the remaining scenes in the story. This should be simple for someone of your talents and experience!”

And then I say yes.

No, of course I don’t say yes. That would be crazy. This deal is only slightly better than having him kill me and eat me with some Chianti and fava beans.

“I’m kind of in the middle of one of my own projects right now...”
“Completing my screenplay should be quite simple, and consider the rewards.”
“It’s your baby, you should see it through.”
“No. No. I have attempted that and woefully fell short. You have actually written the book on writing such films, you are the expert, you are the individual with the unique talents required to complete my screenplay. Please give this careful consideration.”

And then he reaches into his bag and pulls out...

Is he going for a gun?
Is he grabbing a can of mace or some knock out drugs or something?
I'm I going to end up on the menu with a nice chianti and some fava beans afterall?

His cell phone.
This was a few years ago, so it wasn’t an iPhone, but was whatever the cutting edge phone was at the time. The funny thing is, it may have been a Razr - which is the phone I got for free when I renewed my deal with Verizon a few years ago... the phone I got for free when I renewed my deal last year has a full keyboard for texting and holds about as much music as my iPod and shows movies and has internet access. But this was one damned fancy phone at the time, and he popped it open and went to his contacts page and scrolled down some numbers...

“I meet many people in the motion picture industry in popular night clubs, and would be happy to introduce you to several of them if you wish...”

And he shows me names on his phone - names of people you have heard of. Movie stars, directors, a famous agent or two, the producer or this summer’s big movie. And I want to steal his phone. I want to sucker punch him, grab the phone, and run out of Jerry’s and around the building to the parking lot, get in my car and speed off. Actually - there’s an upstairs back door and stairway down to the parking lot... that will save me some time. Once I’m back home in Studio City I can write down all of the contact information and start calling these people and...

Who am I fooling? I would choke so badly trying to call some famous stranger - trying to call Brad Pitt, even. What would I say? Hey, I stole your number from this stalker of mine and have a great screenplay - wanna meet in a men’s room so that I can pitch it to you? But I want those connections... and this guy has them. I have no idea how this crazy guy got all of these folks to give him their numbers, but he did. Hell, I’m sitting in Jerry’s having lunch with him - so whatever odd anti-social social skills he has, they work. Maybe it’s the hat?

“Look, I can’t. I really can’t. I’m in the middle of this spec, and it’s *your* script that Brad Pitt wants, not mine. You’re the one who has to write it. You *can* do it.”

The phone is snapped closed and goes back in his bag.

“In that case, would you read the material I have written up to this point and advise me on how to best proceed? If you give me your counsel on this matter, I would be willing to introduce you and your work to Mister Bradley Pitt. Perhaps he would be interested in the screenplay you are currently writing?”

I do not read people’s scripts for money... I do read my friend’s scripts... but this guy is not my friend, he’s some weird stalker in an unusual hat.

“Sure, I’ll read it.”
“Good. Good. I knew you would be interested!”
He whips out the script and hands it over his picked at plates of food. I give a quick flip - half a script, I should be able to read it and scribble down some notes in a couple of hours, right?

That’s when our waitperson, Laurence-with-a-Z comes with the check... and my stalker offers to split it with me, he’ll pay half and I’ll pay half. He figures out what half is on that fancy phone of his... and I leave with his script after paying for half of what he ordered. Once I finish reading the script, we’re supposed to meet again at Jerry’s... he seems sure that once I read his brilliant writing I will want to finish the script for him and get half of that money Brad Pitt is never going to pay and some of those contacts in his phone. Hey, maybe I’ll read the script and it will be brilliant - all of those weird subplots will somehow come together into something that makes sense?

At least I escape without ending up this guy’s entre.

Monday - Part Four... all about that brilliant script of his!

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: We Love Trouble! - how conflict pulls us into character and story... so you need to have lots of it.
Dinner: Popeyes Chicken.
Bicycle: I think I'm almost back... after the holidays and the rain kept me off the bike. Only negative - someone in North Hollywood is using my bike headlight right now... after the stole it!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lancelot Link: Summertime, Summertime, Sum Sum Summertime

Lancelot Link Monday! It's summer! Finally those summer movies will come out! Like CAPTAIN AMERICA and X MEN and GODZILLA... And all of those movies with the number "2" in the title. Here are this week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

Here are ten links plus this week's car chase...

1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Think Like A Man 2.... $30,000,000
2 22 Jump Street........ $29,000,000
3 Train Your Dragon 2... $25,300,000
4 Jersey Boys........... $13,515,000
5 Maleficent............ $13,012,000
6 Edge Of Tomorrow...... $10,340,000
7 Fault In Stars......... $8,600,000
8 X Men Future Past...... $6,200,000
9 Chef................... $1,845,000
10 Godzilla............... $1,820,000

2) Robert Altman's Lost Movie... found.

3) Could Your Strong Female Character Be Easily Replaced By A Lamp With A Note Attached?

4) Kubrick's copy of Stephen King's THE SHINING."

5) Nabokov's Script Notes On Kubrick's LOLITA.

6) Novelist Tony Cavanaugh's notes on Kubrick, King, Nabokov... well, on the difference between writing a novel and a screenplay.

7) Netflix's VP Of Development... what are they looking for?

8) BRICK Director Lands STAR WARS 8 & 9!

9) SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN writer Evan Daugherty interviewed.

10) The Ultimate Typos.

And the car chase of the week...


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Brad Pitt Guy (part 2)

From 2009...

I’m meeting this strange voice on the phone at Jerry’s Deli in Westwood Village to discuss some secret screenwriting project that supposedly involves some A list star, he would tell me who it is, but then he would have to kill me. Actually, this whole thing has been strange enough that I’m afraid this guy is some sort of stalker who may kill me *before* I find out who the A lister is. That would suck, because I’m curious.

PART ONE - if you missed it.

My potential killer wanted me to come to his house in Brentwood, which is really the Brentwood Village District of the city of Los Angeles... because there is actually a city of Brentwood in California up near where I grew up. This caused a great deal of confusion to people who did not live in Los Angeles during the OJ Trail. Some out of town reporters ended up in the city of Brentwood by mistake wondering where the trial was, and there were all kinds of funny (well, to me - probably not to the people of Brentwood) repercussions from Los Angeles based newscasters covering the story *internationally* and referring to the murder location as “Brentwood” instead of “the Brentwood District of the city of Los Angeles”. When this guy wanted to meet me at his house in TBDotcoLA, my first idea was to meet at Mothers Bar... except that was long gone.

Mothers was a UCLA hangout in TBDotcoLA and I watched much of the first Gulf War from the bar there. I had some potential project at Showtime, which is Westwood, and some potential project at Corman’s, which was 2 blocks from Mothers, and I had MARGIN FOR TERROR at MGM which was in Santa Monica. For whatever reason, all of these meetings were afternoons, and let out at rush hour, and I did not want to get stuck in bumper-to-bumper on the 405. So I would go to Mothers and have burgers and fries and a beer and watch the war on their big screen TVs. But Mothers is gone, now... so I’d suggested Jerry’s in Westwood Village.

I hate Westwood Village. All of the big movie theaters are there, that’s where they do many of the fancy premieres. There are some nice restaurants. And it’s where UCLA is, so it is jam packed with cute college girls, many of them film students. But there is no place to park that doesn’t cost you a bundle. All of these reasons to go to Westwood Village, and when you get there you can’t find parking. I used to know a couple of streets on the east side of the village where you might be able to find parking, but they changed those to permit only. Wilshire Blvd across from the Avco Cinemas goes from traffic lane to parking at 7pm, and if you are lucky and quick you can be in front of a space at exactly 7pm and park... of course, there are a hundred cars circling the block waiting for 7pm. The parking lot for Jerry’s Deli has an attendant with his hand out - I think it cost me $5 to park there, but it might have been more. It’s not as bas as Century City, where I’ve had a bunch of meetings with producers that cost me close to $20 to park... and the producers did not validate. Great, I didn’t get the job *and* it cost me $20! But it was only around $5 in Westwood Village... and that was with validation. Los Angeles is all about cars, and that means there are people who have found a way to get rich off cars.

As I lock my car and go to the back entrance to Jerry’s, I realize I have left my pocket knife at home... the only weapon I have is the pen in my pocket. I just hope I won’t have to use it. Jerry’s is close to empty at 3pm and I climb the stairs to the second floor, which is completely empty... except for one table where one man sits with a tall glass of ice tea... and a waiter hovering at a station on the other side of the room.

I knew this was my stalker, because he was wearing an unusual hat. I’d never seen anything like it on a man before or since. I don’t think Elton John would have worn it - and he dresses funny sometimes. He also wore jewelry - I think there was a ring on each of his fingers, but I didn’t want to stare at his hands, who knew how a stalker would take that? If you know me or have seen me at some event, you may have noticed that I wear no jewelry at all - not even a wrist watch. I used to carry a pocket watch - in the same pocket as my cell phone. I realized my pocket was crowded and I couldn’t make calls from the pocket watch, so it’s now permanently in a drawer in my dresser. This guy would have *wanted* redundant jewelry.

“William C. Martell, I would recognize you anywhere. I have the photo from your website taped to my computer for inspiration. You are slightly early.”

He shakes my hand... and his hand is cold and damp. Maybe it’s from the ice tea glass. I take a seat, while he whips out some hand sanitizer and removes any traces of my flesh from him. This actually comforts me. While he’s doing that, I am secretly looking to see if he actually brought a matchbook and a pad and pen. Not on the table, it may be in his bag.

“I must admit that I have only recently become a fan of yours. I do wish I had known of you earlier, so I might have purchased a copy of your book at a reasonable rate. I’m afraid I paid over three hundred dollars on e-bay. Though it was well worth even that exorbitant price. I consumed it in one delicious gulp.”
“I’m glad you liked it.”

I always feel bad when people pay a lot of money for my book, even though I don’t get any of that money. There’s a place on Amazon Marketplace that currently is selling it for over $100, and it’s a book store that bought copies at wholesale (so I made $4 or something) and every time they sell a copy, another copy takes its place. Do they have a leftover *case* of my books they are selling one at a time for over a hundred bucks? But for some reason, I’m not feeling too sorry for this guy.

“I consumed it in one delicious gulp.”
Okay, now I’m back to being creeped out. “Now can you tell me about this proposition of yours with the A list movie star.”
“Good. Good. Right to the point, eh?”
That’s when the Waiter decides to come over, and my stalker instantly shuts up. Almost mid-word. It’s like hitting a pause button or something. His whole face freezes in place. He looks dopey.

“Good afternoon, I’m Laurence with a Z, and I’ll be your waitperson today. Can I get you started with a beverage, sir?”
(Oops - that should be ‘Laurenze’ I guess)
“Sure, I’ll have...”
I would normally order an ice tea, but that’s what stalker’s having.
“...a Coca Cola.”
“Would you like that with lemon or cherry?”
“Um, no. Just ice.”
“Are you ready to order?”

I haven’t even opened the menu. And I don’t know if stalker is paying or what... Do I *want* stalker to pay? What if that means we’re dating? I’m not Gay, and don’t want to give stalker the wrong impression. Heck, this is like a mine field - anything I do might be taken the wrong way and end up with me either in a relationship with a guy in a weird hat or in his basement freezer... or both!

I end up ordering half a sandwich, stalker ends up ordering half the menu. Have you seen the Jerry’s menu? This guy ordered a meal and a dozen sides and some soup and... I sure hope *I’m* not paying.

The good news is that Laurence-the-a-Z stopped hovering over the table, the bad news is that I am now alone on the second floor with stalker.

“This proposal of yours?”
“Yes, of course. I’m sure you are curious about each of the facets of I alluded to in out phone conversation. On a Saturday evening one month ago I was in a popular night club on Sunset Boulevard and after an hour of dancing felt the urge to urinate.”
Too much information... and this guy was clubbing?
“I partook of the facilities in the men’s lavatory, and noted that an A list star was using the urinal next to mine.”
“Can you tell me who or would you like me to start guessing?”
“I shall get to his identity –“
“Morey Amsterdam from the Dick Van Dyke Show?”
“No. No. I believe I said this was an A list celebrity.”
“Jennifer Connolly?”
“I believe I said this was the men’s lavatory. If you must know at this juncture in the tale, it was --”

That’s when Laurence-with-a-Z returned with my Coca-Cola. Stalker did that human freeze frame thing again - his mouth hanging open mid-word and not moving at all. I’ll bet his tongue was frozen in place, but you know I wasn’t going to look into his mouth.

“Here’s your Coca-Cola, sir, no ice. Your food will be coming shortly.”
“Will there be anything else?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“And the gentleman?”
He broke the freeze frame, “No. No. I’m quite alright, thank you.”
We both waited for the waiter to stop waiting on us. Took a while for him to figure it out and go back across the room to his station.

“Okay, it wasn’t Morey Amsterdam.”
“Well, I had the very good fortune to be urinating next to Bradley Pitt, the movie star. I loved him in that Interview With A Vampire movie and he was marvelous in The Mexican.”
“Brad Pitt?”
“Yes, of course. As I was standing beside him, draining my rather full bladder, I decided to pitch him an action tale. Something his production company might be interested in as a vehicle for his various screen talents.”
“How long was the pitch?”
“Oh, it was quite detailed.”
“Must have had a full bladder himself.”
Or maybe just been afraid to turn his back on this guy.
“I don’t know, but he did seem mesmerized by my tale...”
(Scared to death)
“...after he had completed the task at hand, as it were, he gave me his card and told me he was much interested in my screenplay and I should send it to his office posthaste.”
“Brad Pitt said ‘posthaste’?”
“Well, he may have said ‘expeditiuosly’, I don’t really remember his exact wording.”
“I don’t think he said either... but he wants to read your script, so what’s the problem? Congratulations. Send it over and see what happens.”
“Well, that is the problem. There was no screenplay. I did attempt to write it, which is why I obtained your fine book, but the process was more difficult than I had originally imagined and I was unable to complete the screenplay.”
“How far did you get?”
“To the midpoint, approximately 53 and a quarter pages.”
I wish he had been more precise.
“So, what do you want me to do?”
“If you were to finish the screenplay for me, I would pay you half of the money Bradley Pitt’s production company pays me.”
“So, um, what’s the name of Brad Pitt’s company?”
Stalker pulls out a business card and reads off it, “Plan B.”
Crap, that’s really Brad Pitt’s company!

That’s when Laurence-with-a-Z came with our food.

Part Three tomorrow.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Writing Indie Films - but not the kind where the hero wears a fedora and uses a whip.
Dinner: City Wok - tomato beef.
Bicycle: Yes! Some long rides every day of the 3 day weekend - went to some Starbucks way out in the West Valley.
Pages: And burning up the keyboard! Almost 8 pages Saturday, only 4 pages Sunday, and just shy of 5 pages Monday. Plan is to have this one finsihed at the end of the month and move on to the next one... which may actually be the new assignment by then. If that one isn't ready to go, yet, I'm diving in to this bad cop script and working on that until the assignment *is* ready. Oh, and I'm finishing up another article for Script Magazine soon after you read this.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Lancelot Link: Graduation Day!

Lancelot Link Monday! It pains me to say that there was no POLICE ACADEMY movie subtitled Graduation Day... this explains a lot about those films. They never graduated! Some of you reading this may have had kids who graduated last week, and some may have graduated last week. So here are this week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

Here are ten links plus this week's car chase...

1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 22 Jump Street............ $60,000,000
2 Train Dragon 2............. $50,000,000
3 Maleficent..................... $19,008,000
4 Edge Of Tomorrow....... $16,175,000
5 Fault In Our Stars......... $15,725,000
6 X Men Days Of Futbol... $9,500,000
7 Godzilla........................... $3,155,000
8 A Million Ways .............. $3,077,000
9 Neighbors..................... $2,484,000
10 Chef............................. $2,276,000

2) Screenwriter John Logan on the next Bond film.

3) Are Movie Stars And Endangered Specied?

4) 10 Tips For Making Your Microbudget Feature.

5) Speaking Of Micro budgets: And Interview With Roger Corman.

2) ALIEN Concept Art.

7) Is Tarantino Playing With Blocks?

8) Screenwriting Isn't Writing? Say What?

9) Pixar's 22 Rules Of Story... The FREE Book!

10) THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is a symmetrical movie.

And the Car Chase Of The Week!



Friday, June 13, 2014

On The Red Carpet With Jason Voorhees

Since this is both Friday the 13th *and* a full moon, here's a flashback of a blog entry from 2009 - logged a few days before another Friday the 13th when I went to the premiere of the FRIDAY THE 13th remake...

This has been a busy week. I’m still playing catch up after turning in the quicky second draft (which I’m not counting as an official draft because I only made a few changes from the version we did our pile of meetings on) and on top off all the work that piled up over the holidays, on Thursday my parents were in town on their way elsewhere - and I had lunch with them, then on Friday my ex was in town and we spent the day together, and it’s been raining like crazy, and Saturday and Sunday I did a bunch of errands - and saw a movie Sunday night.... and then on Monday I went to the premiere of the new FRIDAY THE 13TH movie at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, then the party afterwards. My top secret remake is for the producer of F13, and I was invited to the big premiere... maybe buttering me up before I get fired. “Let’s invite Bill to walk on the red carpet with the stars, it will be a nice memory for him when we replace him with David Koepp.”

The question is always - eat first? Since I was early, I decided to grab some food at one of the Hollywood & Highland restaurants - this place where you look at pictures of food on a screen at your table and touch the screen - ordering by computer - and then the waiter brings the food to your table. Kind of cool - except when I had my touch screen menu in GRID RUNNERS it was the table surface instead of this monitor in the middle of the table. Not as cool as my sci-fi version.

Because it’s been raining in Los Angeles, and I don’t mean the usual light sprinkles that brings out the TV news logos for STORM WATCH!, this has been danged heavy rain - no car windshield wiper can keep up with it. Buckets. Monday it was supposed to rain, so they had set up tents on Hollywood Blvd and a tent hallway over the red carpet. Because a prompt man is a lonely man, I was already in the cinema when the stars arrived, but it’s strange when the rope is up to keep people away from *you* (instead of the other way around).

This link takes you to the red carpet slide show at IMDB... no shots of me.

Friday The 13th Red Carpet.

Dress was “business casual”, and since I have never worked in an office in my life, I have no idea what that is. I worked at Safeway, where we wore ties and aprons... and I worked in a warehouse where I wore jeans and steel toed boots. For the past 20 years I have worked as a writer... that is my business. Marcel Proust worked in his dressing gown and pajamas... in an interview Susannah Grant (ERIN BROCKOVICH) said she wrote naked (and she’s a very attractive woman) - could I show up at the premiere in my PJs or nekked and be allowed in? I wore a good pair of jeans, a black dress shirt, and a tan sport jacket... and noticed some people who appeared to be dressed in some new homeless style that must be all the rage in Paris - they looked like they were going through the dumpsters behind Grauman’s moments before. Others were in suits... and the women who weren’t subscribers to homeless chic were in hot evening wear.

In the lobby I bumped into the producer - my boss - and he seemed happy to see me, but didn’t say a word about that second draft. I’m fired for sure. My giant ticket has an assigned seat number on it, and the ushers are freakin’ Nazis about making sure you sit in the correct seat. They are polite, they show you to the seat... but then they stand there and make sure you sit in the seat on your ticket and not some better seat. All of the ushers are big guys - probably bouncers in real life. My seat is okay, on the left side aisle. The stars and real VIPs are sitting in the center section. The producer and his date are sitting in the center section, along with some entourage members. The stars are the last to arrive... except for the guy who plays Jason - he’s early, and squeezing out every second of fame he can. There’s actually a line of people getting autographs.

The Head Of Production guy from the company and his girlfriend come down the aisle, lead by a bouncer/usher, and he stops to say hello. He mentions that everybody loves my draft, but also mentions with FRIDAY THE 13TH coming out, everybody is just loving the producer - they expect it to be a big hit, and studio eager to work with him on the next project... which seems to be mine. Then the bouncer/usher prods the HOP and his GF down to their seats, and I don’t get to ask follow up questions... so does he think they really loved my script or are just saying that to kiss the producer’s butt? Too late... but I do notice the HOP and GF have worse seats than I do - way on the end of a row. How did I get a better seat? Maybe he *asked* for a seat in the corner so that he could zip out if he got a phone call?

Then, the last stars trickled in as the house lights went down and the movie started....

The new FRIDAY THE 13th is okay. Not a remake, not a re-imagining, but kind of a sequel to the first film... using parts of the first 3 original films. Totally respects the first film (and its end twist) even though it has Jason alive instead of drowned... and then we get a totally 80s style horror movie, just with a much bigger budget. Boobs and blood and some cool kills. I would tell you my favorite kill, but that would be a spoiler. Let’s just say, it’s at the pier. We eventually even get the shh-shh-shh-shh-ha-ha--ha theme, too. There was a scene where they are being chased by Jason and blast into the cabin and the stoner kid is smoking.... and I wish the lead (Jared Padelecki - who is as tall as I am) would have told the stoner “Shh-shh-shh” and the stoner kid would have laughed. I also wish they had Kevin Bacon and Betsy Palmer do cameos, that would have been cool. There are some okay kills (some recycled from the first 3 films), some okay suspense scenes, and some stuff swiped from SEE NO EVIL and HILLS HAVE EYES (remake) 2. Completely delivered - and has the longest prologue scene ever. It starts out funny, some great lines and a good scene where a guy and gal are trying to hook up but the nerd just keeps getting in the way. And once we see Camp Crystal Lake, it’s abandoned, desolate, spooky... kind of reminded me of Mandalay from REBECCA.

Four problems (for me at least):

1) We get the Jason legend up front, so the people have nothing to discover or learn over the course of the film. No goal, no secrets to uncover... nothing to do except get killed one by one in interesting ways with a machete. Most of these films (like the first one) have the kids piece together the mystery of why they are getting killed as they are getting killed one-by-one. That gives them a goal and a purpose, other than just having the machete strike them in an unusual way.

2) There are two sets of teen victims, and they are interchangeable. Both sets have stoner kids, both have geek kids, both have handsome a-holes, etc. They needed a better variety of characters, since these guys were all lunchmeat. And the characters need to be not complete cliches. Not only did we get two identical sets of teens, they were stock characters... not real at all.

3) Jason has zero motivation. Yes, I know it’s a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie, but there is a completely illogical kill in the film (actually two of them) that kind of make the film impossible. Yes, these kills are similar to ones from the original movies - but they didn't make any sense there, either. Jason has to have some reason to kill, and his motivation must aim directly at kids who go camping around Crystal Lake (like the camp counselors in the original, and all of the rest of the kids in the sequels). But here Jason kills some people who will bring in the authorities, and he can’t do that. There’s no reason for him to do it, and if he does it that will bring in the law. We don’t need an FBI task force at Crystal Lake headed by Will Graham and/or Clarice Starling.

4) and this ties to #1 - I love it when one of the characters fight back - that always gets a cheer from the audience. And you’d expect out of all of these *victims* that one person would have balls. Here, we *almost* get a fighting back scene - but it’s, um, nipped in the bud.

But I laughed and screamed and (this is sick) laughed at the more inventive kills and had a good time. It is what it is. It delivers what you want from a FRIDAY THE 13th movie. I think it's going to make some money.

Afterwards, I tracked down the producer to suggest a director I like (we don’t have one at this time - nor do we have our star anymore - and there’s a story behind that which I will tell after the statute of limitations runs out for this job) (oh, and I didn't tell him those 4 problems I had with the film - I'm not *trying* to get fired), and found him on the stairs - people passing him and congratulating him. He introduced some people to me as “the writer of the next one” - which made me feel like I am probably not going to be fired tomorrow - and then asked if I had a ticket to the afterparty in my envelope... *many* people didn’t get them. I had a ticket and free valet parking ticket with a map on the back. Cool that he made sure I had one. We all kind of walked out at the same time...

But the party was a block away at My House on LaBrea, so I decided to walk (with some other people) and they drove. Another rope to keep others out... but I got right in without a problem. The club was big, already crowded, and lines for food. There were also wait-people with trays of food, so I figured I’d avoid the lines, grab a beer, and grab stuff off trays. I ended up talking to another writer I know, a woman who I later discovered was a producer, and an FX guy I know. I know stunt men and FX guys - I have no idea why. I know Kane Hodder, who was Jason in some of the original films, he was also in at least one film I wrote.

Anyway, I’m not good at socializing. I don’t mingle well. I usually know somebody, and hang out with them at parties... but I had this pocket ful of business cards and I didn’t get out a single one. I basically sat in the corner and talked to people I already knew.

Okay, I have a thing for redheads. In any FRIDAY THE 13th movie (or clone) there are hot girls who get nekkid and get killed and the nice girl who keeps her clothes on and survives. This new film kind of mixes that up so that you aren’t sure who will die, but the nice girl from the first group of victims was this cute redhead, Amanda Righetti. I had joked on a message board that if anyone else was at the premiere to say hello to me (because I’d be wallflowering in some corner), but if I was with a hot starlet half my age - wait until she shoots me down before saying hello. The table we were at was away from the DJ so that we could talk... and most of the stars ended up in that area (so they could talk). That meant we were surrounded by hot starlets half my age in great evening gowns. Check out the IMDB slide show. Anyway, the FX guy went to get a round of drinks and I said if that redhead came over I would give away his seat. And here’s where it gets funny - FX guy comes back with drinks, other writer and producer go to mingle... and someone asks if they can sit down in the now empty seats... Amanda Righetti! And her boyfriend. So I say hello and try to start a conversation... but she completely shuts me down and focuses on her BF... and if I’m not sitting an inch away from her.

Eventually I do a circle of the club, Wes Craven nods and smiles to me - we were on a panel together once, but there’s no way he remembers my name. I’m just a familiar face. I also pass the Producer, his back to me, and overhear him say my name... but pass by before I hear the end of the sentence ("I'm firing him tomorrow!") - but that's my paranoia kicking in. Things seem to be going pretty good on this project. After drinking free beers and eating free food (chocolate chip cookie and chocolate milk shooters for desert), I split... passing some guy that looks a little like Carl Ellsworth (who wrote RED EYE and DISTURBIA and the LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT remake) and it wasn’t until I was out the doors that I realized it probably *was* Carl. I thought about going back to say hello, but instead I walked back to Hollywood & Highland and my vehicle and headed home...

Where a couple of streets over, every police and news helicopter was hovering and a couple dozen police cars and something like three SWAT trucks were ready for action because a night-long police pursuit had come to an end there. It had been on the news live for 2 hours as they chased this guy all over Los Angeles, ending up a couple of blocks away from my apartment. Eventually the helicopters stopped and I went to sleep.

Now I’ve only got a screening on Wednesday, a thing on Thursday, meeting friends for drinks on Friday... and all of the stuff still in my in basket from before the holidays.

UPDATE: Nada! We lost another star and another director and I think the perfect window of opportunity for this film closed. The heat disapated. A strange thing happens when a project has been sitting on the desk for too long - the producer thinks it needs to be "made fresh" by doing a rewrite that may change the very reason why people liked it in the first place. Several months after this premiere, the producer had a new idea for the script to freshen it up... and I thought the idea was a script killer that would destroy the project. I was afraid if this version were ever put to paper if would kill the film's chances of *ever* being made - so I became a difficult writer and walked away. Could have made a rewrite fee - but would rather have the film get made. Around the same time horror remakes as a genre lost heat, on to found footage... so now I don't think it will *ever* be made. Pisser. Only 1 in 10 scripts that are bought or developed ever get made, most end up on the shelf forever. I have scripts at studios all over town on the shelves...

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Planned Unpredictablity - and SEVEN MEN FROM NOW.

Movies: PUSH - One of those scripts that needed a lot of work or a great director... it didn't seem to get either. The story has this fatal flaw - the MacGuffin doesn't show up until act 3, and before that it's a lot of people talking in grungy rooms and every so often a completely pointless fight scene that doesn't accomplish anything and winning or losing doesn't matter to the story. So it's all filler material. Imagine RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, but instead of finding the ark and having it stolen and trying to steal it back... they don't find the ark until the very end of the movie, and the rest of the time Indy and the Nazis just say mean things to each other. Indy can't kill the Nazis because the movie would be over, and the Nazis can't kill Indy for the same reason... so it would just be pointless filler action. That's PUSH.

There's a point in one of the fights where Fanning tells Hounsou they can't kill Evans, it will change the future - so Hounsou tells his guy to stop. And I wondered - what was the point if all they can do is beat him up and let him go so that they can have another fight where they *have* to let him go. It's pointless. Everyone is just wasting time until Act 3 when we can actually have an action scene that changes the story... maybe.

Dialogue is often terrible and expositional, characters are often caricatures, and action scenes are pointless - and often silly (things that looked good on paper look like cartoons in real life - telekinetic guns are just funny to watch). Also, key elements aren't introduced until *way* too late - sinking the story. Again - it's like they were making it up as they went along, when the plot twists required things to be set up.

I think most acting is brought down by dialogue - but the acting is okay. Hounsou needed to be given more to do - he's one of those great guys who can elevate crap, and they mostly just had him stand there. Fanning is okay - drunk scene is a highlight. Belle looks stoned, and is playing the femme fatale, but in the most unsexy clothes you can imagine. Evans is kind of the lead, and needed more character - or at least some personality. Cliff Curtis has a great role, and he's also one of those actors you can put in a crap film and he makes it better (10,000 BC with Belle).

Plot, by the way, makes no sense.

Plus, what is The Division going to do with this stuff? We don't have a demonstration of what's possible, and we don't have a villain's plan to thwart. They are cardboard villains after a worthless MacGuffin.

Directing is crap. The whole movie looks like they forgot to color time it. The angles and composition are often weird. They have these ultra grainy shots, and at first I thought it was for a purpose... but then they'll have one when there's no remote viewing, so maybe there is no purpose. Shaky cam, quick cuts, the usual crap. It's difficult to make Hong Kong look this bad on film - it's lighted wrong. Things that should be magic on film end up being dull. Fanning is psychic and has a sketch pad where she draws these images of the future, and instead of the magical match of sketch and reality, it's just kind of there. Hard to screw something like that up, but they do.

The film needed to be more fun, more exciting, and more emotionally involving. Just kind of lays there like a carp. No envelopes were pushed, though they did use some pretty red envelopes as part of the story.

- Bill





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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Brad Pitt Guy (part 1)

From 2009...

I get three kinds of phone calls - calls from people I know, business calls, and some form of phone sales spam from a computer dialer or some poor guy in a cubicle trying to sell me something on commission and praying that he at least gets the steak knives. So when the phone rings and it’s some stranger, I am both annoyed and feel sorry for the guy because Alec Baldwin is going to fire his ass after I tell him “no”. Around a year ago, it’s some stranger who starts asking strange questions...

“Is this William C. Martell?”
Always a tip off that it’s a stranger - that’s the name my phone is listed under.
“Um, what is this about?”
“Am I speaking to William C. Martell?”
If I say “yes” he’ll just dive into his spiel, time shares or whatever.
“Look, whatever it is, I’m not interested, sorry.”
“William C. Martell, the screenwriter?”
Is this some strange sounding producer or producer’s assistant?
“Yes, it is.”
“Good. Good. I got your phone number from the WGA, at first they didn’t want to give it to me, so I called them back and pretended to be a producer. That’s what did the trick...”
Now he’s starting to talk like a salesman... and that is frightening me.

I have stalkers. That sounds strange, because you expect Brad Pitt to have stalkers but not some crappy B movie writer nobody’s ever heard of. Sure, there are *personal stalkers*, and I’ve had a couple of them - women trying out for the roadshow version of PLAY MISTY FOR ME after a handful of dates that did not work at all for me. But I’ve also have *celebrity stalkers* - which is crazy because I am not a celebrity. People who read my blog or go to my website and then start sending me e-mails that begin with praise and soon degenerate into odd threats. The problem is, I’m accessible - even though the address I use is a post box, um, it’s not a post box on the other side of Los Angeles. It’s within walking distance of where I live. And my phone number has slipped out before, even though I try to hide that. And, of course, everyone has my e-mail address... everyone.

Which is the first thing about this caller that seems wrong - why hasn’t he e-mailed me? If it was a producer interested in a script, a quick Google search gets them to my website and e-mail. And then they e-mail me and say, “I’m interested in this script, can you call me at (phone number). That happens fairly often because I do not have an agent or manager - most of the time someone gets hold of one of my scripts by accident (it gets passed to them by somebody else). But usually the script has my number on the title page, so they call. But often they e-mail first (my e-mail is also on the title page). I can’t remember the last time someone tracked me down through the WGA. That’s... unusual.

“Um, why didn’t you e-mail me?”
“Oh, this isn’t the kind of conversation we could have by e-mail.”

Now I’m wondering what the hell I could have possibly done that someone would be able to blackmail me over. You know, I’m a *writer* - I live a boring life. And I’m mostly honest about my life and career - I’m more than willing to share with you, gentle readers, that time I looked like an idiot or hit on some gal half my age while drunk, or wrote some movie for *Oscar winner* Roger Corman about Robot Hookers From Outer Space. Sure, I have secrets that I am not going to share with you - but, they are *boring* secrets. If this guy is a blackmailer he won’t get much from me.

“Um, what is this about?”
“Good. Good. Right to the point, eh?”
“Yes, I’m working on something and...”
“I have an offer for you. I believe you will like it. It is a most interesting offer.”
“Besides ‘interesting’, what kind of job is it?”
“Writing a screenplay. For a well known A list motion picture star. I can’t tell you who it is, that’s not the kind of information I feel comfortable saying on the telephone. That is why we will have to meet somewhere to discuss the details.”
“So, you are a producer? What company?”
“No, No. I am a writer much like yourself. I have a project with an A list motion picture star attached and would like your council and assistance. I have perused your book on the writing of action screenplays and found it quite helpful, but this will require your unique skills and advice.”
“Who’s this A list star?”
“No. No. Not on the phone. We must meet in person for these details to be discussed.”

I’m more confused than I was before - if this guy is not a producer, what the heck does he need me for? “Council?” He wants my opinion on his script? I don’t do that. There are all kinds of people who do script consulting stuff. After my book came out, I had a bunch of people wanting me to read their scripts, so I put up a page on my website with some rates. Well, here’s what I learned from that: I don’t much like doing consulting, and about 90% of the scripts out there are worse than you can imagine. I honestly think the worse someone’s script is, the more likely they are to pay a consultant... and then all they do is argue about the notes and how I didn’t get it. Well, if they had used coherent sentences I might have gotten it. I kept raising my consulting rates hoping that no one would be able to afford me and I could get back to writing scripts... but those crazy bad writers seem to have lots of money. Maybe they are the lunatic children of wealthy people locked up in an asylum writing scripts all day? Anyway, the % of just awful to “hey, this person knows how to write!” combined with me never really wanting to do it in the first place, meant I took the page down and stopped doing consulting. Now I am happily just writing my own scripts and doing the Script Tips and this Blog.

“You do know that I do not do consulting, right?”
“No. No. This is a screenwriting proposition. Where can we meet to discuss the details? I am in Brentwood, and I understand you are in Studio City, is that correct?”
“You could come to my house...”

Okay, this is slightly creepy. I don’t really want to go to this guy’s house and end up dead in his basement freezer with my brain on display in his trophy room. There are producers who work out of their homes - when I first met with Ashok Armitraj he had just left the Columbia lot and hadn’t set up offices at a new studio nor found a building to move in to, and was working out of the pool house at his house. He’d had it converted into an office and it was probably larger than any studio office I’ve been to. But this guy is not a producer, he’s a writer offering me a writing job - which makes no sense at all.

“I’d rather meet someplace public, if you don’t mind.”
“This needs to be a private conversation. Some elements we discuss are of a sensitive nature. I do not wish to be overheard.”
“Look, we can be anonymous in a crowd. Find someplace with a patio or back booth or something. Speak quietly and write anything really sensitive on paper and burn it afterwards.”
“Yes, that might work.”
“You want, I’ll bring the matches.”
“No. No. I have some packets I can bring with me. Do you know of the Jerry’s World Famous Deli in Westwood Village?”
“I’ve been there before.”
“They have an upstairs section which is never utilized that should allow us a modicum of privacy. My only fear is the discretion of their waitstaff.”
“Like priests and bartenders, anything you say in front of them is privileged info... same as in a confessional. They take vows.”
“I was not aware of that. What day and time would be convenient for you to meet with me?”

Okay, this is where I should have said that I’m busy and don’t have time, even though this is for an A list motion picture star. But, I am curious. What the heck is this all about? I mean, I can say no at the meeting, right? But what if it is a script for Jennifer Connolly? And she’s divorcing Paul Bettany? And looking for a screenwriter to work closely with? I mean, really closely with? Plus, I wanted to see if the guy really brought matches and burned the papers.

“How about Thursday afternoon some time. I don’t do mornings.”
“Good. Good. Thursday it is. Would three O’clock in the afternoon be convenient for you?”
“Sounds good. Um, how will I know you?”
“Do not worry about that, William C. Martell, I shall know you.”

Great. It is a stalker of some sort and I have just fallen into their trap. He drugs my coffee, hustles me to his place in Brentwood, kills me and eats my liver with Chianti and fava beans and sticks my pickled brain on the trophy shelf in his library along with all the others. Maybe I should just not show? Maybe I shouldn’t drink the coffee? But the problem with being a writer is dead cats - curiosity. You even want to know how psycho killers live their lives.

Part 2 on Monday...

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Dramatic Decisions - and some film directed by Ben Affleck.
Dinner: Carls Junior... food that was bad for me and not worth the price.
Pages: Working on a rewrite for a producer, and hit a tough scene... which I'll do tomorrow.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Lancelot Link: Interview With A Screenwriter

Lancelot Link Monday! For some odd reason, this week's links are almost all advice from working screenwriters. Maybe they're on summer break, or have a deadline they are trying to avoid. In any case, lots of cool stuff! Here are this week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

Here are a baker's dozen links plus this week's car chase...

1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Fault In Our Stars... $48,200,000
2 Maleficent........... $33,523,000
3 Edge Of Tomorrow..... $29,105,000
4 Days Of Future ...... $14,700,000
5 Million Ways To Die... $7,189,000
6 Godzilla.............. $5,950,000
7 Neighbors............. $5,201,000
8 Blended............... $4,050,000
9 Chef.................. $2,600,000
10 Million Dollar Arm.... $1,822,000

2) The AVATAR Sequels Will Be Musicals!

3) Who The Heck Is Directing ANT MAN This Week?

4) Three Amazing Video Essays On Brian DePalma.

5) Leaked STAR WARS Set Photos.

6) Leaked STAR WARS Set Photos From The First Film.

7) Francis Ford Coppola On Writing THE GODFATHER.

8) Michael Arndt On Writing TOY STORY 3.

9) Wesley Strick On Writing.

10) Jeff Nichols On Writing MUD.

11) With Great American Pitchfest in 2 Weeks: How To Pitch.

12) Abandoned Drive Ins...

13) Quentin Tarantino's Favorite Films That Would Have Played At Those Drive Ins.

And The Car Chase Of The Week!

Okay, no cars.

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