Monday, February 29, 2016

Lancelot Link: Awards!!!

Lancelot Link Monday! Oscar Winners!This was the big movie awards season! Best and worst and... 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 links to the winners!

1) Oscar Winners

2) Razzie Awards

3) Spirit Awards


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Friday, February 26, 2016

Hitchcock: Organic

Jimmy Stewart in REAR WINDOW uses a camera to defend himself... He's a professional photographer, what else would he use?

I have a whole article on this, written for Script Magazine about a decade ago, called Hitchcock's Chocolates that gets into using the character and story to find all of the details of your screenplay. It always goes back to character - any question or problem you are having with your screenplay - think character, theme, story... and you will find the answers.

- Bill

Monday, February 22, 2016

Lancelot Link: Box Office Battle Royale!

Lancelot Link Monday! Last week's new film was the vulgar and profane hard R rated DEADPOOL, and it broke all kinds of records. This week's big new film is the early Easter religious film RISEN... did it break records? Did it beat last week's film? As someone online said: "This is a battle for moviegoers souls!" Well, kinda. RISEN was released by a major studio (Columbia Pictures), directed by a major director (Kevin Reynolds, Kevin Costner's ROBIN HOOD, etc), stars a guy who has starred in hit movies (Joseph Fiennes, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE), and opened on 2,915 screens. Add to that a huge publicicty push, tying the film to previous big Christian hit PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Oh, and block selling seats to church groups. Plus, DEADPOOL made so much money it's probably exhausted its audience, right? So... which one do you think won the weekend? 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 dozen links plus this week's car chase...

1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Deadpool........................ $55,000,000
2 Kung Fu Panda 3................. $12,500,000
3 Risen........................... $11,800,000
4 The Witch........................ $8,685,270
5 How To Be Single................. $8,220,000
6 Race............................. $7,275,000
7 Zoolander 2...................... $5,500,000
8 Star Wars TFA.................... $3,836,000
9 Revenant......................... $3,800,000
10 Hail Caesar....................... $2,640,000

Business is still booming in 2016!

2) MERMAID Opens In China With A $400m Weekend. Take That DEADPOOL!

3) RIP: Harper Lee.

4) The Real Maltese Falcon. I was talking about this a couple of weeks ago, it's the inspiration for the third Mitch Robertson story, which I will write whenever I get around to finishing the second one!

5) A Look At Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND.

6) Interview: Inarritu On REVENANT and BIRDMAN.

7) THE WITCH Screenwriter Robert Eggers On Research And Influences.

8) "It's THE MARTIAN With Mastadons! It's THE REVENANT With Sabertooth Tigers!"

9) The Athena List - Best Unproduced Female Lead Screenplays.

10) Paul Schrader's ROLLING THUNDER (with his brother Leonard).


12) Bing Predicts The Oscars (though Vanity Fair doesn't seem to think screenwriters matter)

And the Car Chase Of The Week:


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Friday, February 19, 2016

Hitchcock: Suspense vs. Surprise

If it's Friday, this must be Hitchcock day on the blog! I'm squeezing in another Hitch interview segment...

And HITCH 20 is about to return for Season 3... Here's the trailer!

- Bill

Monday, February 15, 2016

Lancelot Link: The President's Valentines Are Missing!

Lancelot Link Monday! This was both President's Day Weekend and Valentines Day Weekend, causing all kinds of confusion, not to mention thoughts of odd crossover film pitches. The only movies I could find for cross celebration were THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT (1995) - Aaron Sorkin's predecessor for THE WEST WING, and KISSES FOR MY PRESIDENT (1964) - about the first woman President and her First Man... other than that, we tend not to think of the President in romantic terms. Why is that? 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 dozen links plus this week's car chase...

1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Deadpool....................... $135,050,000
2 Kung Fu Panda 3...... .......... $19,650,000
3 How 2B Single................... $18,750,000
4 Zoolander 2..................... $15,650,000
5 Revenant......................... $6,900,000
6 Hail Caesar...................... $6,590,000
7 Star Wars TFA.................... $6,194,000
8 Choice........................... $5,250,000
9 Ride Along....................... $4,130,000
10 Boy!............................. $2,913,000

So DEADPOOL broke all kinds of box office records and seems to have proven than audiences really want to see something Hard R on Valentines day weekend, since the last record holder was FIFTY SHADES OF GREY ($93m). Box Office Mojo has this huge list of records that DEADPOOL has broken so far, but on top of all that it has pushed 2016 ahead of previous years at this point in time... Ahead of last year by 2.8%, ahead of 2014 by 16.4%, ahead of 2013 by 29.6%, ahead of 2012 by 16.4%, and ahead of 2011 by only 35.4%!!!!

But this is a 3 day weekend in the USA, which means there's one more day to go!

Fox estimates it will end up with $150m, but BOMojo reports that other studios are pegging it as high as $156m. That would mean more records would be broken. I predict I will soon get a note from development about having the female lead wear a strap on, because that's what audiences pay to see. I'm sure DC is preparing THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN XXX or something as you read this. I think the real lesson here is that there is an audience for a hard R rated movie filled with all sorts of naughty things... because movies are a fantasy and we all fantasize about all sorts of naughty things (whether from DEADPOLL or GREY). But the *real* solution is just not to give me any stupid notes, and realize that when you hire someone for a specific skill it is because they know how to do their job. Just trust them.

Hey, if you *don't* believe that audiences love the nasty stuff, let's see what happens next weekend when the religious RISEN opens from Sony Pictures. Will it pull down the same numbers as DEADPOOL? $135m opening weekend? Come back next week to find out, same Batplace, same Batchannel!

2) The Real Superheroes In DEADPOOL - Screenwriters Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick.

3) Your Female Lead Character: She's Beautiful, But Doesn't Know It.

4) Writing INSIDE OUT.

5) Preston Sturges - Comedy Genius.

6) A Short Story Sells For High Six Figures! WTF?

7) Is Cuba The New Hot Location?

8) Drew Goddard On Adapting THE MARTIAN.

9) WGA AWARDS Winners! (kind if a buried lede, but what the heck)

10) NIGHT OF THE HUNTER - The Story Of The Film, Plus The Screenplay By Agee.

11) Shane Black (and others) On Suspense.

12) Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND - The Story Of The Film, Plus The Screenplay!

And the Fight Scene Of The Week:


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Friday, February 12, 2016

12 Hours Of Hitchcock/Truffaut.

Seems the new HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT documentary that just played at TIFF is just a rehash of what we already knew from the book and the recordings:


So since I'm still recovering from the Portland Film Festival... so why don't you spend 12 hours listening to the original recordings of Truffaut's interviews with Hitchcock? It's only half a day...

Hitchcock Truffaut Master Tapes.


Monday, February 08, 2016

Lancelot Link: On Vacation!

Lancelot Link, Simian Spy is on vacation today because Bill has a terrible cold and just said "Ef it!" and is on the couch watching movies. Sorry. But just for fun, here's the first Lancelot Link from 2009 - how many links still work?

Lancelot Link Monday! For those of you who buy Playboy for the articles, 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) Overpaid Hollywood Stars - who is *most* overpaid?

2) Hollywood Reporters Next Generation List - Executives on their way up.

3) Why should you move to Hollywood to pursue your career?

4) And my friend Keith's movie BATTLE FOR TERRA is the #1 video-on-demand movie at Amazon (in its genre)...

Ranked 210 overall and
#1 in Amazon Video On Demand > Movies > Kids & Family > Animation
#1 in Amazon Video On Demand > Movies > Animation > Kids & Family
#2 in Amazon Video On Demand > Movies > Kids & Family > Adventure

I saw it in the cinema, liked it but never got around to reviewing it... even though it pops up as a *great* example of a future or alien world in my review of TERMINATOR SALVATION (which had a stupid and sucky future world). Congratulations to Keith, and if you have those short people in your house, you might add it to your Netflix que.

5) Congratulations to all of the folks who made the top 100 in the Script Shadow logline list - many of them I know, and at least one of them I have slept with. The Top 100 Loglines. Some are... interesting. What are your favorites and the ones that had you saying WTF? Comments section!

- Bill

Friday, February 05, 2016

The Lost Hitchcock Film

So here is some background on this “lost Hitchcock film” THE WHITE SHADOW...

When Hitchcock was 21 - the year was 1920 - he got a job with Famous Players Lasky, an American film company that opened a studio in England. That company would eventually become Paramount Pictures. Hitchcock was interested in film and studying advertizing art in college and submitted some art for title cards to the new studio... and was hired. In the silent era, movie title cards had the minimum dialogue to tell the story - hand lettered in an easy to read style - and a small illustration. Hitchcock’s example for Truffaut was: “George was living a fast life” and the illustration would be a candle burning at both ends. Writing title cards was part of post production, because often a film changed completely during production and the assembled shots might tell a completely different story. Hitchcock told the story of a drama that didn’t turn out well, so the title cards were comedy dialogue that transformed the meaning of the scenes so that the film became a crazy comedy.

Hitchcock did title cards on numerous films... and was curious about films, so he asked questions and learned about the various jobs. Part of titling a film was reading the screenplays, and he learned how to write scripts and occasionally wrote a last minute scene for the films - kind of production rewrite work.

During this time Hitchcock directed a short film, NUMBER THIRTEEN (1922) which he says was never completed.

When Famous Players Lasky left the studios, British producers took over and Hitchcock was promoted to assistant director. On a film called ALWAYS TELL YOUR WIFE (1922) the director became ill and Hitchcock and the star completed the film - Hitch was kind of coy when he told this story to Truffaut, so my guess is that the star actually directed the remaining scenes and Hitch just did his assistant directing chores and maybe made a suggestion or two.

In late 1922 producer Michael Balcon began producing films at the studio and hired young Hitchcock as his assistant director for a series of films to be directed by Graham Cutts, starting with WOMAN TO WOMAN. Hitchcock was ambitious, and when they needed a screenplay offered to write it... and had a spec script sample he had written to show what he could do. He wrote the script, was assistant director, did set design (art school background), did the title cards, and was Graham Cutts’ assistant. He performed these tasks on the entire series of films: WOMAN TO WOMAN (1922), THE WHITE SHADOW (1923), THE PASSIONATE ADVENTURE (1924), THE BLACKGUARD (1925), and THE PRUDE’S FALL (1925). Of the five, Hitchcock said WOMAN TO WOMAN was the best of the lot. Oh, the film editor and script supervisor on all of these films was Hitch’s future wife Alma - these are the projects where they met and fell in love.

Hitchcock had a falling out with Cutts on PRUDE’S FALL, but instead of being fired, producer Michael Balcon gave Hitch his first actual directing job on THE PLEASURE GARDEN (1925)... which will be the *last* entry in the Fridays With Hitchcock series.

The “lost film”, THE WHITE SHADOW, was the second in that series. Directed by Graham Cutts, screenplay co-written by Hitchcock who also did sets. Hitch had nothing to say about it to Truffaut, so I’m guessing it was just a job. These films were all melodramas, shot in 6 weeks, and none of them were very popular. This one was about twin sisters: one good, one evil. Maybe the first time they did that story, but I'm guessing not. It got bad reviews when it opened... many critics pointing to the silly script (co-written by Hitch). It would take a few more years for Hitchcock to find his footing and make BLACKMAIL (1929) before he started to become the director we now know. I suspect when these three remaining reels are restored and shown at that screening in Beverly Hills... it will be kind of a let down. Interesting to see an old film that Hitchcock did some work on, but not really a Hitchcock movie (he didn’t direct it).

The guy who *did* direct the film, Graham Cutts, basically fired Hitch... and that allowed him to begin his career as a director. Later, when Hitch was gearing up to make THE 39 STEPS (the film that would get him to Hollywood) he needed a second unit director for some odds and ends establishing shots and the producer suggested... Graham Cutts. Hitchcock said he couldn’t hire Cutts, since he had basically began as Cutts’ assistant. The producer told Hitch that Cutts had fallen on hard times and really needed a job and was willing to do the second unit stuff. Hitch hired him. So it came full circle, and Cutts sort of became Hitchcock’s assistant. Or maybe Hitch was repaying Cutts for the on-the-job-training on films like WHITE SHADOW. Maybe we should do a retrospective of Graham Cutts’ films, as the man who created Hitchcock?

And here's the film, if you're interested: THE WHITE SHADOW.

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: How Many Stories Can One Movie Tell?
Dinner: A family New Years Meal.
Pages: No, recovery from drinking instead.
Bicycle: No. I'm in the Bay Area.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Lancelot Link: Everyone Gets An Award!

Lancelot Link Monday! STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is about to hit $2 billion bucks. Disney paid $4 billion for the rights to make sequels to all of the LucasFilms titles - STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES being the two big series. With FORCE AWAKENS #3 in the USA over the weekend (still going strong) they have recouped have of that investment in *one film*. Hell, even if they burn out the franchise with one new Star Wars movie every year, they'll be deep into the black by the time we're sick of all of these characters. Sooner or later Disney is going to run out of characters to spin off with their own films... but I sure hope they explore that fan theory that Porkins (from STAR WARS) has evolved into Snoke. 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 dozen links plus this week's car chase...

1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Kung Fu Panda 3................. $41,000,000
2 Revenant........................ $12,400,000
3 Star Wars TFA................... $10,782,000
4 Finest Hours.................... $10,327,000
5 Ride Along 2..................... $8,345,520
6 Boy.............................. $7,894,000
7 Dirty Grandpa.................... $7,575,000
8 5th Wave......................... $7,000,000
9 50 Shades Black.................. $6,186,648
10 13 Hours......................... $6,000,000

2) Do You Know About TUGG? A Way To Get Your Indie Film Into Cinemas. LAZER TAG Just Made $1 Million At Tugg Screenings!

3) Never Buy Life Rights From A Bankruptcy Sale.

4) SAG Winners - Full List.

5) The Writers Of STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON Tell All!

6) Sundance Award Winners.

7) *Editing* As Storytelling And THE FORCE AWAKENS.

8) Christopher Nolan On The Future Of Film.

9) Relativity's Problems. Let The Hate Begin!


11) ACE (Editing) Awards Winners.

12) Gwen Returns In Next STAR WARS Movie... (Um, I like the tall women.)

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

The Marvel title from Lucas Films.


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