Monday, January 29, 2018

Surreal Conversation

Sorry, missed Lancelot Link this week!

From 2007...

So, I’m talking to a friend of mine, guy I’ve known for almost ten years, telling him that I’m on my way out of town for the holidays because there’s Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years and in the middle of it all one of my nieces is getting married - so I might as well stay the whole danged month, and he asks...

“Where you going to stay?” he asks.

“At my parent’s house - in my old room,” I answer.

“Your real parents?”

“Well, yeah.” (?)

“So, you know who they are?”

“I’m not understanding what you’re saying,” is he implying my parents are fake?

“You know who your biological parents are - and you’re going to stay with them. Does that bother your other parents?”

“What other parents?” (One set of parents is enough... sometimes more than enough.)

“You know, the people who raised you.”

“My parents raised me.”

“But not your biological parents...”

“What are you talking about?”

“You know, the people who adopted you...”

“I'm not adopted.”

“Sure you are. You told me you were adopted.”

“Um, I’m not adopted and I don’t ever remember telling you that I was. If I did, I was just joking.”

“No. You were serious. You *are* adopted.”

“Look, I would know if I’m adopted or not, and I’m not.”

“Yes you are.”

“No. I am not adopted.”

“But you told me that you were. You are adopted.”

“Okay, somewhere along the line I must have made some sort of joke and you –“

“No. You weren’t joking. You were serious. And you *are* adopted.”

“But, I’m not.”

“Whatever... I *know* you’re adopted, I don’t know why you’re lying to me about it...”

Okay, I don’t understand conversations like this, because it seems he wants to convince me that I’m adopted. I don’t even remember joking about it. I’m thinking he has me mixed up with somebody else... but once I’ve said I’m not adopted, why doesn’t he believe me? Why would he even consider that he knows me better than I know me? Does he think he can persuade me that he’s right about me and I’m wrong?

People can be strange.

- Bill

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Book Report: The GREAT WAY Trilogy

The Great Way Trilogy by Harry Connolly

May contain light spoilers... but I also may lie about who survives, so there!

THE WAY INTO CHAOS


Best Movie Ever Made

My friend Harry Connolly (20 PALACES novels) has a new epic trilogy and the last book was released yesterday... but I have already read it along with it’s brother and sister. Harry’s first 20 PALACES novel CHILD OF FIRE was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s 100 Best Books Of 2009 and got a starred review. The first novel in this new series also got a great starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, so you don’t have to take my word for it’s quality. It kicks ass.

My plan with the first book, THE WAY INTO CHAOS, was to read a chapter or two every night before going to sleep, except every danged chapter ends with a cliffhanger and you end up reading the next chapter and the next chapter and the next chapter and suddenly it is 4am and you realize you have to work the next day (well, that same day), and... There’s a chapter that ends with the hero falling off a flying boat into a city overrun with monsters! How are we expected to just set the book down and falll asleep? Impossible!

There are two protagonists, and if you pay attention to the art next to the chapter number you’ll know which this chapter is about.

“Tyr” Tejohn is a legendary warrior without a war, who ends up with a cushy palace job as weapons instructor and bodyguard to the slacker Prince. A good thing, because age has crept up on Tejohn and his knees and eyesight aren’t what they once were. But he still has his hands full, the Prince would rather get drunk and cause trouble. When the Empire suddenly falls to an unknown enemy (monsters they call “grunts” who hunt, kill & eat humans), Tejohn must get the Prince and his slacker friends to safety... but what if there is no safety?

Cazia is one of the Prince’s slacker friends, a spoiled teenaged sorcery student who may be the last survivor who knows how to cast spells. She and Tejohn don’t like each other, but both are sworn to protect the Prince. So we have our sword and our sorcery... in a world which has suddenly gone to hell. All of the characters are fully formed flesh and blood people and the world created is complex and fascinating. I particularly liked how before the fall of the empire, the ability to sing a song that tugs the heartstrings of the audience is more valuable than gold. The book also does a great job of giving both male and female characters equal time, so whether you’re looking for epic battle scenes with an aging warrior or a magical story about a teen sorceress learning how to use her powers with the fate of the world at stake, this book has you covered.

Publisher’s Weekly called it “immersive, thrilling, and elf-free epic fantasy”, and even though this is epic fantasy, the story is more like King Arthur and Merlin than Lord Of The Rings. The magic is logical and well grounded: one of the handful of spells turns air into water... which might even be possible through science. In other words: I had no trouble believing any of it even though I’m more into crime fiction these days. Oh, and though there is violence there is no sex of any kind. This is something I might have read as a teenager.

THE WAY INTO MAGIC


Best Movie Ever Made

The second book in the trilogy is my favorite, it’s the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of the trilogy. That’s not to imply there are singing teddy bears who live in a tree house city in the third book (though there are talking alligators in a log city at the bottom of a lake, but they’re scary as hell!). Tejohn our warrior and Cazia our apprentice sorceress split up on two different missions to try to save whatever’s left of their world... and both face darkness within that they never knew existed.

Tejohn travels across the ravaged land to find the Prince’s wizard uncle who may know a spell that can save mankind from the grunts... before there isn’t any mankind left to save. Now that the empire has dissolved, his status is no longer currency and he finds himself struggling to survive as a commoner (and worse). In the past he could roll into a city and they would give him the best room and meals and anything else he wanted, he was a “Tyr”... now that his privilege is gone he must pay for everything in labor (which doesn’t get him much). Plus, all of the kingdoms which were in alliance as the Empire are now fighting among themselves, and Tejohn speaks the language of the enemy. No shortage of battles... and Tejohn comes to realize frightening truths about himself that he never wanted to know.

Cazia leads two other girls into the forbidden Valley Of Qorr, where monsters lurk... and perhaps the answers to where the grunts came from. Yes, girls. Not women. Cazia is only 15 years old, and with her is the preteen Princess Ivy who is betrothed to the Prince in an arranged marriage, plus a beautiful slave girl Kinz. The three go on an amazing adventure which could have been a full length novel in itself. When I was a kid MYSTERIOUS ISLAND was one of my favorite movies, and the Valley Of Qorr has all of the adventure and monsters of that film... or maybe of the Barsoom novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. It’s big fantasy adventure, and these three girls are challenged every step of the way. But just as Luke Skywalker learns about the darkside of The Force in EMPIRE, Cazia learns about the darkside of sorcery on this adventure... and it takes a toll that I will not spoil for you.

The great thing about these books is that *anyone* can die in them, and all of the characters are so well drawn that you care about even the minor characters. There’s an old woman traveling saleswoman who turns everything into a deal and has so much personality that she leaps off the page. Also, the world building continues in this book, and the details are amazing. The way an oxen herd is fed as it is on the move is impossible to forget. Oh, and note how fleshtone is part of the class system in this world... that’s kind of fun. One of the great things about all three books are the bits of mystery: in this book we discover that someone from the surprise attack on the castle in the first book has survived... but we don’t know who that is until it is revealed later in the book. Is it the King? The Queen? One of the other characters we grew to love who we thought died? Things like this help drive the story. The other great thing are the characters dealing with the dark sides... and throughout all three books the idea that everything they know is wrong. They see the world from their point of view, and when that world is destroyed they see things as they really are... which is often the opposite of what they believed it to be.

Though everything gets worse for our two heroes in this book, they get better for the reader!

WAY INTO DARKNESS


Best Movie Ever Made

The final book continues to twist expectations. Tejohn and Cazia are reunited and find the Prince’s Master Sorcerer Uncle, who has extremely poor housekeeping skills. They develop the weapon that can kill the “grunts”, but now they need an army to go into battle and use that weapon. Problem is, soldiers are the first casualties in any war... and now they are left with farmers and children. Tejohn and Cazia try to round up an army: Tejohn at the Twofin Fortress where he knows there are a handful of good soldiers, and Cazia in the castle of her estranged father (which is far enough away from ground zero in the grunt attack that they may not have been attacked yet). Both find situations are not exactly as they seem, and must resolve these problems before they can put together any sort of army...

Once again, anyone can die in these books. There’s a character we come to love who doesn’t make it until the end of the book. That one shocked me, and I had to reread that scene because I just could not believe this person would die. Again, well drawn minor characters make the whole story seem real. There are a bunch of old women servants to the Master Sorcerer Uncle who both love and hate their jobs, and we completely understand each of them. Because the story pushes forward, there are also characters who kind of get left behind (like Kinz) who I really want to spend more time with. The side effect of well drawn characters is that you don’t want them to die or have their subplot stories end.

The other thing that drives this final chapter is the question: why? Why did the grunts attack now? Where did they come from? What do they want (other than to eat people)? And who is behind all of this? These answers are the real solution to the conflict, because if they can find out *why* they can prevent it from happening again. This requires Tejohn and Cazia to form some strange alliances in order to get information... like those scary as hell alligators in their log city. The alligators (Lakeboys) regularly feed on humans, so you are never sure if they are working with Tejohn and Cazia to save themselves from the grunts... or if they are just preparing dinner.

One of the interesting things about this book is a chapter that plays like a scene from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. I know that sounds crazy, but there is a scene in this book that has the same feel as that trippy light show end of the Kubrick film. This plays into the idea that everything we know is wrong... that we see the world around us through our eyes and we may not see the truth (which is more complicated). Sometimes we think it’s all about us, when really it has nothing to do with us... we’re just so vain we think that we are the center of the world when we don’t really matter that much. Though these are sword and sorcery fantasy novels filled with sword fights and intrigue, they also have characters who are forced to reevaluate their lives and a story that might make the reader stop and think about our world here on Earth (where we don’t have as many sword fights or giant birds).

I finished reading the third book a few days ago, and I already miss Tejohn and Cazia and Princess Ivy and Kinz. I felt as if I went of this epic adventure with them... and I want to go on another one!

(click on any of the covers above for more info on Amazon!)

Bill

Monday, January 22, 2018

Lancelot Link Monday: And The Winner Is....

Lancelot Link Monday! There are now more awards shows every year than there are movies. As we lead up to the Oscar *nominations announcement* we have a ton of award shows from critics and guilds, and lambs and sloths, and carp and anchovies, and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit-bats and... When will it end? Soon, everyone will have an awards show for 15 minutes! 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 Jumanji ........................ $20,040,000
2 12 Strong ....................... $16,500,000
3 Den Of Thieves .................. $15,320,000
4 Post ............................ $12,150,000
5 Showman.......................... $11,000,000
6 Paddington 2 ..................... $8,240,000
7 Commuter ......................... $6,685,000
8 Star Wars TLJ .................... $6,566,000
9 Insidious TLK .................... $5,945,000
10 Forever ......................... $4,703,000


The JUMANJI reboot/remake/rewhatever has now made $317 million domestic... which is amazing. The film only dropped 28% from last weekend, and has made $768m around the world on a $90m budget. When it drops out of the #1 position, it may still hang around the top 5 long enough to crack a billion bucks. So look for a sequel, and maybe an Extended Jumanji Universe. Meanwhile flop GREATEST SHOWMAN dropped only 11.8% and has secretly made $114m domestic and $231m globally on an $84m budget... so it's not a flop afterall.

2) The Screen Actor's Guild Awards!

3) The 63rd FilmFair Awards (India)

4) The Producer's Guild Awards

5) The Writers Guild Award Nominations.

6) The Image Awards.

7) BAFTA Nominations (British Film Awards)

8) AFI Awards.

9) IDA Awards (Documentaries)

10) IDA Awards (Furniture)

11) New York Film Critics Circle Award Winners.

12) Critics Choice Awards.

Oscar Nominations will be announced tomorrow morning while I am sound asleep!

And the Car Chase Of The Week:





Bill

Buy The DVDs

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

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Dinner:
Pages:
Bicycle:

Movie:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Film Courage Plus: My First Pitch

FILM COURAGE did a series of interviews with me at the end of 2014, and then again at the end of 2015. As they have been releasing the interview segments from 2015 every week or so, I have dug back into their archives and tweeted some of the segments from 2014... so they won't be forgotten. There were something like 12 segments from 2014, and probably around 24 segments for 2015... and that's 36 (or more) segments total. That's almost a year's worth of material! So why not add a new craft article and make it a weekly blog entry? All I have to do is write that new article, right?

So here is the first one. I'm still not sure whether the article should come before or after the clip, so this time around it's *before* the clip - you can tell me which way you think would work best in the comments section.

MY FIRST PITCH


Shall we talk about pitching?

For some odd reason, new writers seem obsessed with pitching... maybe because they are shy by nature and worry that they will have to become performers, or that they believe all they need to do is tell someone their amazing idea and they get to meet Spielberg and date underwear models and live in a mansion. Neither of those is really true, but the last one is pure fantasy. If you are a new writer you will not be pitching unwritten screenplays, you will be pitching to get someone to read one of the stack of screenplays you have already written. And even though statistically some writer somewhere might be dating an underwear model, that’s probably never going to be you. Sorry. We’re writers. We date normal people, if we’re lucky. There is some chance of meeting Spielberg, though.

The shy by nature thing probably isn’t as large of a problem as you may think, and we’ll get to that in a moment.

THREE TYPES OF PITCHES


There are at least three types of pitches: Elevator, Pitching Takes, Pitching Projects. There may be more, but this is just a short article to accompany the film clip!

ELEVATOR PITCHES: That’s the common term, but basically it’s when you briefly pitch a written screenplay. You’ll do this at Great American Pitchfest or some film festival or screenwriting event. Thought they give you 5 minutes at GAPF and most other events, but that’s *total* time in front of some junior development executive - you won’t be pitching that whole time! You’ll need time to introduce yourself and for a little small talk. These events are really more about making connections than selling screenplays - so you want to get to know them and for them to get to know you, *then* pitch. And that only gives you a couple of minutes for your pitch. I’ve been on the panel at Raindance Film Festival’s pitching competition Live Ammunition! and they start out giving the contestants 5 minutes, then it goes down to 3, and sometimes it gets down to 1 minute. So think 2 minutes, you can always go longer if they give you more time. Basically - think of how you will pitch your screenplays if you are on an elevator and Steven Spielberg steps on after you. You have to get the story across before you get to his floor! That means you will be focusing on the *concept* of your story and not actually telling the story. The key elements in your pitch will be the concept, the protagonist, and the conflicts (emotional and physical). Basically an elevator pitch is like a logline... but with a few more sentences. The seed of idea, not whole tree and all of its branches! Never bore people with the details. Keep it focused! Big idea, person, problem.

PITCHING TAKES: I have a whole Script Tip on pitching your take - basically that’s what you do when a producer has read a couple of great screenplays you have written and think you would be perfect for an assignment, so they give you the Intellectual Property to look over and have you come back and pitch how you would adapt that property into a movie screenplay. I have a stack of books and magazine articles and even a bunch of old VHS tapes (old movies a producer owned the rights to and was interested in remaking) from these meetings... and each one I came back and pitched my take for. If you complain that so many movies are remakes and sequels and you just wish someone would give a new writer a break and buy something original, you haven’t yet realized that even remakes and sequels are written by *somebody*, and that somebody might be you. Pitching your take is all about how your would adapt the material - and your unique spin on the material or the way you would crack a difficult book or the theme within the material you want to explore. One of the magazine articles I was given (a producer at Universal whose Oscars were on display in the lobby of his office) was a xerox of a xerox of a xerox - and every single screenwriter in Hollywood had been given a copy to pitch. So they aren’t looking for a standard, “Well, I’d just put it in screenplay format and then clean it up” type of pitch - they are looking for what *you* as the writer will bring to this... what you will do that makes it unique and interesting. I was up for a sequel at once, and what they were looking for was an *additional* amazing high concept idea to graft onto the one from the first film. These pitches range from something similar to an elevator pitch where you just explain your angle, to a full telling of the story scene-by-scene. Everything depends on what the producer wants - just ask.

PITCHING PROJECTS: You have sold a screenplay or landed an assignment or two and you are now an in demand screenwriter... with a cool idea for a movie. Now, you could write the screenplay on spec and sell it to a producer, but your reps decide it would be more advantageous for the producer to hire you to write the screenplay. There are all kinds of reasons for this, including keeping you on the project for rewrites... because they have originally developed the screenplay with you. This is a long form pitch that goes scene-by-scene and can include everything from props to flip charts to images and “look books”. You are basically performing the story to the executives, and they will decide if they want to pay you to write this script or not... after they give you notes (Does it have to be on a ship? Why couldn’t the Titanic be a *space* ship?).

Though we already had a screenplay on the HOUSE remake, it was decided to do a longform pitch at each of the studios we had meetings with... and I’d never formally done this before at the studio level. I’d done longform pitches to producers I’d worked with in the past - in fact, I’d pitched several different versions of this story. But it’s different when you’re pitching to a studio VP for a producer. More pressure, less casual. One of the things I did was use a Hot Wheels car as a prop in part of the pitch, and at the end of the pitch I would zoom the car across the conference table to the executive. If he caught the car before it went off the end of the table, I figured he or she was interested. Not many cars hit the floor. But this was kind of a frightening situation for me because I’m not a performer, I’m a writer - and these pitches depend to some degree on the performance.

You may think that pitching your project is great because you will get paid to write it, but the fact is - you pretty much have it already written (at least a very detailed outline) to pitch it in the first place. Much of the really hard creative work usually has to be done first. I really prefer to spec a script than pitch it and hope someone says yes. That way, the script goes all over town and I just stay home and wait by the phone... instead of me driving all over town having to do a bunch of performances in hopes someone says yes. I kind of hate pitching.

THE PITCH ITSELF


Wait, Bill, you said we shouldn’t be worried about performance when pitching... and now you say you hate pitching? Both can be true, you know. I hate longform pitching because it requires some performance skills, but chances are you won’t have to worry about longform pitching for a while (if at all). You will mostly be pitching scripts that you have already written in order to interest someone in reading them, or pitching your take on some project (which is usually short and to the point and not doing a one man show in front of a bunch of bored studio suits). Those are more about the concept than the performance. The Live Ammunition Pitch Competition at Raindance is a great example of how performance doesn’t matter that much. The panel are a bunch of top Executives from British film companies - BBC, Channel 4, and others. Here’s a picture of me sitting next to the producer of THE CRYING GAME on the panel.



There are usually 75-100 people pitching at the event, and many are nervous writers who screw up their pitches or get stage fright or whatever... they are far from perfect. But they may have an amazing idea or a character we’ve never seen on film before, and that’s what is interesting. The “judges” are people looking for a great story, not looking for the actor to star in that great story. One year, a writer actually got an actor friend to pitch their screenplay. This was an amazing performance by a talented actor... and it wasn’t even in our top ten! Why? The story was bland - something that no one would stand in line for an hour in order to pay to see. The winner that night was a writer who stumbled through their pitch and gave a *terrible* performance - but had a great story! And that’s really what matters - the great story. So don’t worry about performance, worry about have a great *concept* - something that is both unique and universal. Worry about have a great star role, that will attract an A-lister who can open the movie. Worry about having an idea that can generate a bunch of big, juicy, emotional scenes... and will also generate big spectacle scenes that can be used in the trailer along with that amazing concept to sell tickets. Don’t be afraid of the performance side of pitching - just make sure you have a great story to pitch! When you hear 75-100 pitches in a single night at something like Raindance’s Live Ammunition, you realize how many bland ideas are out there.

And now the Film Courage clip...

My First Pitch:




Good luck, and keep writing!

- Bill

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Seriously - TEN TIMES larger than the paper version (still on sale on my website)! That's just crazy!



Thank you to everyone!

Bill

Monday, January 15, 2018

Happy Martin Luther King jr's Birthday

From 2008....


Long ago, when DUMB & DUMBER came out and became an unexpected hit, Rolfe Kanefsky, a film director I know (I think I’ve talked about him before) came up with a movie idea called BLONDE & BLONDER - basically a collection of “dumb blonde” jokes dramatized into a comedy story. This is a great example of Terry Rossio’s “Mental Real Estate” theory. Rolfe wrote the screenplay, sold it to a producer... and about a decade later they got around to making it with Pamela Anderson and Denise Richards. The film was released on this long MLK weekend, I have no idea how it’s doing against CLOVERFIELD.

Decades after Dr. King’s death, we still have serious racial divisions in the United States. Whites are under-represented in our prisons. Whites are also under-represented in the lower income levels and lower paying jobs... and the unemployed. Whites are under-represented in the military. Last year we had the Jena Six - a great example of how race enters into the decision to prosecute one crime over another. And in Jena today we have a rally - not for racial equality, but for the KKK and racial hatred. Hey, it’s the United States, even racists have rights.

Okay, some of you are wondering what BLONDE & BLONDER has to do with a KKK rally in Jena, LA, and here’s the answer:

Why is it that color of eyes and color of hair don’t really matter in our society, but color of skin does? It’s all pigmentation. We may joke about dumb blondes, but nobody really takes that seriously. There isn’t any serious hiring discrimination against Blondes. There is no version of the KKK that wants Blondes to go back to where the came from (those Nordic countries). There was no time in history where Blondes had to use different drinking fountains than people with other hair color. Prisons are not over-flowing with Blondes.

There also doesn’t seem to be much discrimination against people with Hazel Eyes, even though they are clearly a minority. No one tries to exclude Hazels from their country club. Why is that?

Why is skin pigmentation different than hair pigmentation or eye color? All are just one little piece of genetic code. Someone with Hazel Eyes is the same as someone with Brown Eyes - except for the eye pigmentation, that is. Someone with Blonde hair is no different than someone with Red hair - except for the hair pigmentation, that is. Someone with Black skin is no different than someone with White skin - except for the skin pigmentation, that is. Why the hell would anyone hate someone just because they were Blonde? How does that make any sense?

I think the real problem is hatred. People need someone to be pissed off at, so they make some strange arbitrary decision to hate people with Hazel Eyes. All of my problems are caused by those damned Hazel Eyed people! My failure is their fault!

Hey, there *are* bad people out there who are Blonde or who have Hazel Eyes or have some skin color different than yours. And there are bad people out there named Bill. But imagine how silly it would be to decide that all people with Hazel Eyes are bad, or all people named Bill are bad, based on those few. That’s dumb and dumber.

So, on this Martin Luther King Day, let’s not look at what makes one person look different than another, let’s look at what makes us look the same as each other. We are all part of one race - the human race. Don’t hate. Forgive. Help people. You know, we’re all stuck on this planet together, why not try to make it a pleasant experience - even a fun experience?

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Symbolism. .
Yesterday’s Dinner: Sandwich at Togos.

Movies: NATIONAL TREASURE 2 - there's a place in this film where Ed Harris' character identifies the problem with the movie's script, when he says that there is only one way to go. This film seems predictable because it's "too linear". In the first film, every clue to the treasure was open to interpretation. Sometimes the clues would lead in one direction, unless you knew the other piece of the clue - which lead you in the opposite direction. And there were points in the first film where there was a fork in the story road and the characters had to decide which path to take... and often took the wrong one. In the sequel - no forks in the road. Every clue is exactly what it is, and only leads in one direction. In RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK we have that headpiece on the staff with directions on where to place the staff on the map and how long the staff should be... but on the opposite side of the headpiece are more directions that *change* the length of the staff - and that only changes everything. Things like that make the story seem alive and unpredictable. When we come to a fork in the story road and the character makes a choice - if it's the wrong choice, that makes the story seem unpredictable... it also makes the story seem exciting, because the hero now must scramble to get back on course. But there is only one direction in NATIONAL TREASURE 2 - only one way the story can go. That makes it seem prectable and dull.

DVD: COLT 45 with Randy Scott. Okay, here's the weird thing - as a kid, I did not like Westerns. I watched a bunch of Western TV series, and liked them, but never really got into Western films. That may be because of RIO LOBO, a really cruddy John Wayne movie I saw in the cinema. So, except for a handful of classics, I'm not that familiar with the genre. Leone, Ford, Hawks? Big fan. But I'm trying to fill in the blanks on the others, and finding some gems and some stars I like. I know Randy Scott from a couple of great films - RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY and SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, so now I'm watching some of his other films.

COLT 45 is about a war hero gun salesman who has his personal Colt 45s stolen by the completely evil Zachary Scott (I don't think any relation) in a jail break. Now that Zachary has superior firepower, he and his gang start a major crime spree across the west... and no one can stop them. When Randy goes after them to get his guns back, he is mistakenly thought to be the leader of the gang by local sheriffs. Now he must get his guns back and clear his name and catch the bad guys... and in Randy Scott movies there is always a girl. Usually a girl on the wrong side of the law who changes sides and ends up with Randy for that closed mouth kiss at the end. Here we have Ruth Roman from STRANGERS ON A TRAIN who plays Lloyd Bridges wife. Bridges has joined Zachary and the bandits to make enough money to open a saloon. One of the strange elements of this film is that the desperados take over a town (where Alan Hale is the law... who knows how to take a bribe) - so Randy ends up facing off against "businessman" Zachary at the end. Oh, and there are Indians - Zachary kills some Indians, steals their clothes, and robs the stage coach disguised as Indians. The tribe is wrongly accused, just like Randy, and they work together to set things right. As you can see - lots of plot twists, lots of action... and an entertaining film.

One thing that I wondered about was this "superior firepower" thing, so I did a bit of research after seeing the film, and was surprised to discoiver that the "six gun" we think of as part of the old west, came kind of late in the game. The Colt 45 was the first modern revolver - and didn't really come into use until *after* the Civil War (the guns became popular in 1873). Hard to imagine that a gun that could fire 6 shots in a row was "superior firepower" - but it was. There were no "six guns" before the Colt 45.

Pages: No.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Lancelot Link Monday: Top Ten Of 2017

Happy New Year! It's Lancelot Link Monday! This is the time of year where movie critics print their top ten lists, so here are ten random major publications' critics top ten lists! Why don't they all agree? Plus last night's Golden Globe Winners! Why don't they agree with the other critics? 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 ten top ten lists plus this week's car chase...


1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Jumanji ........................ $37,234,000
2 Insidious 4 ..................... $29,581,000
3 Star Wars LG .................... $23,729,000
4 Showman ......................... $13,771,000
5 PP3 ............................. $10,298,000
6 Ferdinand ....................... $7,698,000
7 Molly ........................... $6,857,000
8 Darkest ......................... $6,050,000
9 Coco ............................ $5,383,000
10 All The Money ................... $3,571,000


Way to go Insidious: The Last Key! Second largest opening weekend for the series, and it beat #3. This low budget Blumhouse series has now made of $400 million worldwide.

2) Ty Burr, Boston Globe.

3) Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times.

4) Pete Hammond, Deadline.

5) Entertainment Weekly Staff.

6) Stephen Farber, Hollywood Reporter (and rest of critic staff)

7) Anne Thompson, Indiewire.

8) Manohla Dargis, NY Times.

9) People Magazine Staff.

10) Peter Travers, Rolling Stone.

11) Owen Gleiberman, Variety.

11) Golden Globe Winners!

And the Car Chase Of The Week:



From THE SHOW (1922).

Bill

Buy The DVDs

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

Know When To Hold 'Em - When To Reveal Information & Christophen Nolan Films
Dinner: Pork Chops at the Buttercup in Oakland - awful. Cold mashed potatoes!
Pages: 0.
Bicycle: 0.

Movie: DISASTER ARTIST for the second time.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Push To Open

From 2008...

Part of writing is understanding characters - understanding human nature - and I am stumped.

I am confused by people who don’t get it. One of the Starbucks I regularly write is kind of shaped like a T - with the seating area on the top of the T and the register at the bottom of the T. The bathrooms and some other things are actually at the bottom of the T - so the area between the counter and the back wall is *also* a passage to get to the bathrooms, and for Starbucks employees to get to the counter entrance, and for customers to look at the pastries... also, of course, for customers who have just ordered their coffees at the counter to get to the seating area at the top of the T. So, it’s *obvious* that the line can not block the passage. The first time I walked into this Starbucks, I could figure that out. In fact, *most* people can figure it out.

But obviously some people can’t figure it out. Today I am standing at the “next” position in a short line at this Starbucks with a gap in front of me so that people can pass... and this guy walks in, ignores the line, ignores me standing there with money in my hand, and blocks the passage by standing behind the customer at the register. Someone else in line said, “Excuse me, buddy, there’s a line” (I wanted to - but I’m usually the person who just grumbles to myself and lets the guy take cutsies) and the guy looks at the line, shakes his head, and *doesn’t move*... but when the customer in front of me is finished ordering - he *must* move so that they customer can get to the drink pick up place and the tables... and that’s when I step up to the register and kind of force the guy to stand in line. He’s pissed off...

But it’s not just the line at this Starbucks - there are all kinds of situations where some people don’t seem to get what everybody else figures out instantly. Why is that?

Another Starbucks has doors with handles on both the inside and outside - and it clearly says “Push” on the inside next to the handle. Yet, when I sit in that Starbucks writing, there’s always one or two people who pull on the handles. And when one door doesn’t open by pulling, they try the other door - pulling on that one. And they keep pulling despite the sign that says “push” and never even *try* to push the door open. When I pull on a door and it doesn’t open, I try pushing. In fact, most of the people who go through those doors and may not have noticed the (obvious) sign will push if pulling doesn’t work. But there is this percentage that will not push no matter what. It takes them forever to figure it out. It’s like - if they keep pulling on the door, maybe it will open.

I have no idea how this applies to screenwriting (or characters) but I can’t figure out why these people can’t figure out those things that nobody else even has to think about. I don’t think they are stupid - the guy who took cuts in line was wearing a suit and a Rolex and looked like a successful business guy - probably not “mentally challenged”. I don't think he was being rude, he just didn't seem to be able to figure out simple things. Is there some form of intelligence that governs things like this? Can you be a brilliant businessman and not understand how a line works?

- Bill
IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Plot Twists Are The Answer - and STAY vs. GET OUT!
Yesterday’s Dinner: One of those Starbucks Thanksgiving sandwiches - it was free.

MOVIES: ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD. Did Michelle Williams practice Katharine Hepburn's accent? Did Christopher Plummer study John Houston in CHINATOWN? Was that Kevin Spacey getting off the train in an early scene? The interesting thing about this film is that it's based on a true story about the richest guy in the world who refused to pay the ransom for his kidnapped grandson... and that's the premise. After that it's kind of a dry, just the facts story. The trailer makes it look like a suspense film, maybe with Michelle Williams kicking ass along with Marky Mark in order to get her son back. But much of it takes place in boardrooms where lawyers look over offers. One of the interesting things in adapting a true story is *how* you adapt it, what you decide is the important part of the story and what you leave out - and maybe what you create (was Marky Mark's character truth or fiction or composite?). I've done Script Tips on "casting a story" in a genre to take what might be a little dry and making it exciting... and here they didn't do that. This *could* have been a race against time thriller, with the decision by Getty not to pay the ransom as a big twist, and the machinations to get the grandson back as conflicts and twists with time running out. But they didn't take that path, here. They even downplay the emotions when it comes to the boy's mother - played by Williams. There is a scene near the middle of the film that could have been a big emotional twist - and seems to have maybe been written that way - but ends up filmed so "matter of fact" that it's just a scene.

The best scenes of the movie are when Williams and Plummer are on screen together, basically playing a high stakes chess game against each other with the boy's life in the balance. But that's just business. Which is maybe the issue here - there's a line Getty has about how emotions and even caring about *anything* is how you lose a business deal. You need to be cold. You need to be able to walk away. But the problem is - that ends up what the story is about. William's character doesn't get what is necessary to get her son back by *caring*, but by being cold and besting Getty at his own game. She becomes just as cold and calculating... and that may be intellectually interesting it's not very emotional. There *are* some exciting and emotional scenes - it's hard not to feel for the kid when the kidnappers, um, remove a body part as "proof of life", and the end sequence in the village which reminded me of that early scene in GODFATHER PART 2 builds some suspense (though not through techniques, more just because a kid is being hunted by killers) but the film often feels dry. A scene where Williams' character comes face to face with her ex-husband might have been about two strangers. In addition to the good scenes with Williams and Plummer, the scenes between the kid and the lead kidnapper character (who steals the show) work well. Plummer does a great job considering he's a last minute replacement in a pivotal role. It's a well made movie with good performances, but it's like reading a non fiction book that sticks to the facts... or one of Getty's pieces of "investment art".
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