Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Can't Judge A Zombie By His Poster

Another ancient blog entry (from 2007) that I'm reprinting instead of writing anything new, because I'm lazy.

A whole bunch of posts and half a year ago, I wrote that my friend Rod and I were stuck in bumper-to bumper traffic on the 405, trying to get to a movie playing in Santa Monica. That movie is now out on DVD, so I thought maybe I’d talk about it. The movie was....

FIDO



Imagine that perfect 1950s suburbia from LEAVE IT TO BEAVER... combined with the bright, well manicured 1950s soap operas of Douglas Sirk (like ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS)... and throw in that wholesome all American 1950s classic TIMMY AND LASSIE...

But Lassie isn't a dog, it's a domesticated zombie.

That's FIDO.

This is not some scary zombie attack movie, no friends, after we won the zombie war (which seems a lot like WW2 in the newsreel footage that opens the film) zombies have been domesticated and are a servant class. Every suburban family hopes to one day have a zombie of their very own - to take out the trash serve meals, mow the lawn, wash the car, and any other task that sophisticated people may find distasteful.

You end up with a send up of 1950s TV & films, zombie movies, suburbia, the class system, government, Douglas Sirk films, and all kinds of other stuff. I actually laughed so hard at one point that I almost lost consciousness. My stomach hurt. This was the best film I've seen in a long time.

Carrie-Ann Moss is mom, Dylan Baker is very repressed dad, Tim Blake Nelson is the next door neighbor and Henry Czerny (the asshole political aid who double crosses Harrison Ford in one of those Tom Clancy movies) as the pipe smoking perfect dad down the street... and Billy Connelly as the zombie Fido (an amazing performance, since all he does is grunt and growl).

The film is supposed to be the most expensive Canadian film ever made (cast, probably) but only played on a couple of screens in the USA and the showing we went to wasn’t crowded at all. The plan was to expand to more screens if the film is successful...

But it never came to a cinema near you. Instead it vanished, only to appear a couple of weeks ago on DVD.

And, just like HOSTEL 2, I think the problem was in the marketing. (That’s *twice* I’ve blamed marketing - really unusual). Here’s the thing - you need to get the people into the cinema on a movie like this, so that they will laugh and then tell their friends that have to see it. That’s where marketing comes in.

The first problem with this film is the title: FIDO. When I read a list of new films opening over that weekend, I saw FIDO and skipped right past it. G rated family film about a dog. Not even a good title for a G rated family film - tells us *nothing* about the story. LASSIE COME HOME - hey, Lassie is lost and has to find his way home! So FIDO not only makes you think it’s a family film when it’s really a horror comedy, it also doesn’t tell us anything about the film. Your title is like a mini logline - it needs to tell us what the story is about. Some of you may be thinking, “Hey, it’s about a zombie named Fido!” But we only know that *after* we have seen the movie. We want the title to tell us what the movie is about *before* we see it.

The target audience for FIDO would never see a film with that title.

Then we come to the poster...

What the hell is up with that? The poster is supposed to sum up the story in an image... Can you tell from the poster that this movie takes place in the 1950s? Or that it’s about a boy and his zombie? That it is a comedy? Or that Billy Connelly is even a zombie? He looks kind of weird in the poster, and has that punk collar thing, but that poster tells us *nothing* about the movie. The artwork that was on the NuArt Theater’s flyer was much better - it had silhouettes of the 1950s family (iconic images) and the boy holding a leash... with a zombie on the other end. That sums it up... but it’s not the poster.

The poster is in collage style - and I hate that. I was in a book store a while back and bought a Greg MacDonald book about Inspector Flynn. MacDonald created Fletch - the clever investigative journalist who always gets involved in some murder mystery - you may know the character from the Chevy Chase movie. If you haven’t read the books - check them out. Great writing and fantastically witty dialogue. The paperback versions in the 70s used to have a dialogue passage on the *cover* instead of art work. That was the selling point - really clever writing. Inspector Flynn pops up in the 3rd Fletch book, accusing Fletch of murder and chasing him throughout the book. He spun off into his own series, and this was a recent book I didn’t know existed...

Even when I saw it, I didn’t know it existed. Because the book cover was some sort of collage with the title written with every letter in a different font. It looked like someone dumped a bunch of stuff on a table, glued it in place, and that was the cover. Huh? I probably looked at this book a hundred times before realizing that it was a Flynn book. And the cover gives me *nothing* about the story - actually, under the crap there’s a sketch of a guy with a nail in his ear. That’s part of the story. But the sketch doesn’t look like a crime novel picture, it looks like something you’d find on the cover of a Gay romance. Cover doesn’t match the contents at all. Though there is a boy with a nail in his ear, the main story is something entirely different and much more exciting: someone is sending death threats to a Harvard professor and breaking into his house. Flynn has only a few days to stop the killer from striking. The nail in the ear thing is a minor subplot... but the cover of the book. Was that because they could find a sketch of a boy and add it to the collage?

When you look at old movie posters, they are amazing. They tell the story, set the mood, and usually feature the star’s face, The lower the budget of the movie, they less they could depend on the star and the more they had to find an *image* the sums up the story. I just did an article for Script about creating the poster image for your screenplay - because I think it’s important to know how they are going to be able to market your work down the line. When some producer says, “I love the script, but kid, I have no idea how the hell we’re going to market it”, you can pull out your poster. If you can’t figure out what the poster for your movie looks like, how the heck do you expect some non-creative guy in a suit to figure it out?

The thing about collage posters and collage book covers is that it’s just gluing together existing elements. It’s not creating the one iconic image that sums up the book or film, it’s using someone else’s stuff. The movie posters of the past were amazing, but somewhere along the line, movie posters have become all about star faces. Instead of finding that image that tells us what the story is about, we get George Clooney’s face. “I have no idea what the movie is about, but George Clooney is in it, so I’ll see it!” Hey, that’s great for Clooney fans, but what about everyone else? What about people who want to know what the movie is about before they plunk down their $11.50 (what I paid last night at the AMC in Burbank). What happened to those folks who created the amazing images that summed up the story?

Did collages - the concept of using pieces of *someone else’s* creation - squeeze them out? Have we been breeding humans to think “collage” instead of “creativity”?

I read scripts (and even see movies) that are just collages. Take existing elements from popular films and glue them together. Quentin Tarantino is the king of Collage Movies. Take a Ringo Lam Hong Kong cop film about a jewelry store heist gone wrong and the band of bandits in a warehouse aiming guns at each other and wondering which one of them is an undercover cop and add the color name thing from PELHAM 1-2-3 and the... well, eventually you have a bunch of scenes from other people’s films processed into a new movie. Check out Mike White’s WHO DO YOU THINK YOU’RE FOOLING and YOU’RE STILL NOT FOOLING ANYBODY (about PULP FICTION).

Tarantino is a genius - he can take the pieces of other people’s work and turn them into something uniquely his own...

The funniest thing are the collage scripts that use bits from Tarantino movies - for a while it seemed like every other script was someone pretending to be Tarantino.

None of the other “collage scripts” I read seem able to do what QT does (make it work). All they have done is lifted scenes from better films. No creation involved, just some cut & paste. These scripts have no soul, no point of view, no theme... but they often have all kinds of scenes that would look good in a trailer. I think that’s why they sometimes get bought and made.

Now, I’m not talking about those homage scenes, or those scripts that have been influenced by some other writer (FIDO is influenced by Sirk and Lassie and George Romero - three things that don't seem like they'd work in the same movie)... I’m talking about the ones that are just collages. Nothing original about them. They were made on some assembly line somewhere. Nothing was created, it was just glued together.

I think fan fiction is the ultimate in collage writing. They take someone else’s character, someone else’s world, someone else’s basic situation... and they put together some sort of story *based on those existing elements*.

For me, movies and stories are *about* characters. The most important thing is to create your own, personal, characters.

One of the message boards where I regularly answer screenwriting questions has a large number of fan fiction people, all writing INDIANA JONES and STAR WARS and LORD OF THE RINGS and PIRATES movies. *Not* creating their own characters. Whenever I feel like tilting windmills and mention this, I get the “Every writer started off writing fan fiction” from a half dozen people. Well, I have no idea if that is true today... but it was not true when I began writing. The idea then was to create your own characters and stories and situations. Sure, you may have read a lot of Raymond Chandler (like me) and your early work is about a private eye and seems influenced by Chandler (mine was) but my stories were about a private eye in my home town area who had completely different character issues to deal with than Philip Marlowe and what was cool for me was to *create* his methods, his office, his weapons, his *world* and make it completely my own - based on things I loved and problems I was going through and the world I knew. My first stories were about a Private Eye named Nick Carrico who had an alcohol abuse problem after accidentally shooting his partner when he was a police detective. Now, none of that is Philip Marlowe. The idea of writing something back then - when dinosaurs ruled the earth - was to *create* something. To *create* your own characters and situations and worlds and dialogue and scenes. Not to write about the time Captain Jack Sparrow and Will went on a pirate adventure in Cuba... and fell in love.

How we went from that to fan fiction is beyond me. At what point in time did people say, “I’d rather not go through all of the trouble to create my own characters... I’ll just use somebody else’s work”? When did *not creating* become the norm? When did people begin thinking that someone else’s creation was better than theirs? That their original work wasn’t good enough, so they should use someone else’s? That collage is art?

Collage is not better than creation.

YOUR individual creation is YOURS.

George Lucas can send of C&D letters from his lawyers closing down fan fiction sites - because *he* owns those characters... but no one can take away original characters that you created. Original situations and worlds you created. Those are *yours*. The thing about fan fiction is that it diminishes the writer.

The collage poster for FIDO was used on the DVD box... what a mistake! Was this because no one in the marketing department is capable of creative thought? That evolution has created a generation of people who can cut & paste, but not create? Or was it just some lazy guy in marketing who thought the collage was good enough for the poster (that managed to kill a great film) so why not use it on the DVD?

Whatever the case - create your own material... and check out FIDO on DVD. It's really good on a bunch of different levels.

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Character Goals, The Hulk and Hulk 2 (with Ed Norton)... but not Hulk Hogan.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Fish Tacos at Islands in Burbank.

Movies: BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD. Okay... Marisa Tomei is nekkid in about a quarter of the movie. That may be a selling point for some of you - I read an interview where she said she didn't wanther parents to see the film because she's nekkid all the time. That is damned good PR work for a film with a story that is very low key, and looks like they dug it out of a 1974 time capsule.

My friend joked that it looked like they ran out of money and couldn't color time it.

Good dramatic thriller that escalates as one thing after another goes about as wrong as it could. Story does this thing where it backtracks and takes another primary character's POV for a bit - but there's no connective tissue between the segments, so there's no flow. It needed visual linking (like Sayles used in LONE STAR - that stuff has to be in the script). And sometimes it pulls you out of the story - or, at least, pulls you out of a character just when things are getting juicy.

You can also see a bunch of stuff coming from *way* down the pike - which is kind of lame plotting (in one instance) - setting up something that solves a problem later in the story, but actually creates a logic problem.

But I forgive all of the problems because what you end up with is some really tense material - basically a family drama with firearms. It's relentless.

DVDs: PULP... not PULP FICTION, but the film with Michael Caine playing a writer. One funny thing of note were the sight gags - all kinds of them. Many having to do with taxi cabs. The *same* taxi cabs heep coming back throughout the story - more and more banged up. Film is one of those comedies where you smile, but don't bust a gut. Mystery-based, with clues you can follow.

Pages: Nothing lately...

Monday, May 27, 2019

Happy Memorial Day!

Today is the day in the United States where we honor our fallen soldiers: soldiers and sailors and marines and air force folks and everyone else who have died defended this country. I grew up during an unpopular war (Viet Nam) and the mistake then was to transfer feelings about the war to those people who were fighting it - usually poor kids who had no way to avoid the draft, and were doing their best to serve their country. I think we have all learned from that mistake - no matter what we think about war, the people fighting it who *gave their lives* to serve their country deserve our respect. Defending our freedom is the most important thing someone can do. Those who want to take away or limit our freedom must be fought, both abroad and in this country.

And note: Memorial Day is set aside for those who *gave their lives*, not those who are still alive (that's what Veteran's Day is for). So please, honor our fallen soldiers and sailors and air force and marines today.

These are from of my favorite war movies that show the courage of our men and women in uniform...

THE BIG RED ONE (1980) written & directed by the great Sam Fuller. Unfortunately this is the trailer for the re-release...



GO FOR BROKE (1951)...

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THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946) directed by William Wyler. I cried while posting this... in a Starbucks.. I'm sorry.


A clip from STEEL HELMET (1951) directed by Sam Fuller...



FIXED BAYONETTES (1951) also directed by Sam Fuller...



THE BOYS IN COMPANY C (1978) directed by Sidney Furie...



Those are some of my favorites, and if there are any that you haven't seen - check them out. And take some time today to thank and be thankful to those people who have given their lives or gave their lives for this country.



- Bill

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Patients

From way back in August 2010...

I am not a doctor and I don’t even play one on TV, but I have seen many movies with serious problems and read many screenplays with fatal problems. I'm not even a script doctor, so my job is not to cure these patients - just the blather on and on about them in my blog. Complaining is free, I might as well get in as much as I can, right?

A couple of months ago I went to a BBQ at Bamboo Killer Emily’s new house and everyone was talking about screenwriting and movies and the upcoming UFC fight (which is different than a KFC fight - me wanting more fried chicken and knowing I shouldn’t have any). One of the subjects was that insane writing you do the last day of Nicholl submissions - “Sure, I can knock out an entire Act 3 by 11:59!” and then the horror of finding all of the typos and screw ups *after* you have submitted you script to the contest. I always say, if you want to find all of the mistakes in your screenplay, send it to someone really important and then reread it. Suddenly you can see all of the typos you’ve missed!

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It’s like that episode of HOUSE where he is sure the patient is fine and discharges him from the hospital, only to have the patient bounce back an hour later ten times worse... and maybe even *blue*... like some extra from AVATAR.

Our job is to make sure the patient is in perfect health before we discharge them from the hospital, and that takes patience.

Writing is rewriting. A script you finished at 11:59 on the last day for Nicholl’s submissions hasn’t been rewritten at all. Probably hasn’t even been proof read. Probably has all kinds of weird and confusing stuff in it - remember when you changed the female lead’s name when you were writing the script? How many places does she have the old name? Remember that scene on page 57 where the villain captures the hero and takes his gun... how does the hero get it back for the big shoot out at the end? Remember that scene where the guy buys the gal dinner in the cute little restaurant? How about three scenes before when he lost his wallet?

And those are the big obvious problems! What about consistent dialogue? Do all of your characters have a unique vocabulary and a different way of speaking? Or do they all sound just like you? Once you get the story down, there are hundreds of *details* in the way that story is told that must be consistent - character details, dialogue details, action details, etc - things that you will probably not get right on first pass... or even second pass! Things that you may not even notice if you do a quick read through before hitting the “send” button that sends your PDF to a contest or producer.

Being a freelance writer is tough - you have to be your own boss and impose your own deadlines. Having a deadline like the Nicholl or some other contest is a great way to get us off of our lazy butts and in front of that keyboard turning out pages. I understand the need for outside motivation tools... but eventually you will reach a point where there are no contests deadlines to spur you along and you have to finish screenplays on your own. This is not easy, but a skill you need to develop. You don’t want to be the writer who never gets anything finished... or gets an assignment and waits until the last minute and turns in a crappy draft. And because we are all human and those contest deadlines *are* great motivators, how about this: give yourself three weeks to rewrite your script before the deadline... which makes your first draft deadline three weeks *before* the Nicholl deadline. Then hold to that. Use the deadline to get you off your butt, and also leave enough time to polish your script before you turn it in.

This works on assignments, too. Mentioned this in a tip rewrite recently - I always give myself at least 2 days to do a quick rewrite before handing in an assignment... even if my deadline only gives me 2 weeks to write the script. On this recent assignment, the character of the detective changed completely in that little rewrite. The Detective character had been a last minute addition to the treatment before I turned it in: I had several people die, and policemen at each crime scene, and realized I could consolidate all of those policemen into one Detective so that instead of having a bunch of one day SAG cops, it could be one actor for all of those days... and we could find some recognizable character actor to play the role. So the Detective character got shoved into the story at the last minute, and when I went to script he was under developed. When I did a read-through on the script, his character didn’t pop. No character actor would want to play this role - it was boring. So I came up with a more interesting character for the detective and did a pass through the script changing and improving his dialogue, actions, etc - to reflect this new character. Another last minute pass turned a one line joke into something more subtle (and I think more funny) where the set up is 20 pages before the punchline. Now, this is *still* a first draft, and will go through many more rewrites, but I want to hand in something that makes me look good so that I don’t get fired...

I *have* turned in the rushed script before - and it was a big mistake. You always want the script to be *better* than they expect it to be. If your first draft reads like a first draft, there is no reason *not* to replace you later on with some other writer whose first drafts read like first drafts.

WHY 98% OF INDIE FILMS SUCK


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It gets even worse if you are making the film yourself. The Los Angeles Times had an article a few years back that said 98% of indie films find no distributor at all - not even DVD. They just end up in people’s garages. And one of the reasons why these films are no good is that the screenplays have obvious story flaws that should have been fixed in rewrites... only I suspect there were no rewrites. They were impatient and shot the first draft.

Which is less expensive: rewriting the screenplay or refilming the movie?

A couple of years ago I was invited to a cast & crew screening of a movie made by a friend... and the story was impossible to follow and made no sense at all. It was supposed to be a thriller, but it was muddled and characters were constantly doing stupid things to help the plot and the dialogue was awful, and just about everything was inconsistent in the story - as if this were a collection of completely unrelated scenes about unrelated characters that were put in the same file folder and lead characters were all given the same name and romantic interests given the same name, etc. So the lead character who hated guns on page 6 had a gun collection on page 23 and then didn’t know how to shoot on page 42 and then kills seven bad guys with six bullets in the big end shoot out. Okay - now imagine that with *every* trait the lead has, and then imagine all of the other characters being just as inconsistent. And the story being just as thrown together, too. This film was impossible to watch - even though the acting was okay and the cinematography was really good. The story was a mess. I just looked it up on IMDB - still looking for a distrib. Lots of shoot outs, there’s nudity, there are some minor names in the cast... but the story is so screwed up no one is taking it.

Don’t film a first draft! Rewrite the hell out of it so that it’s amazing, *then* film it!

Sometimes the problem may be that the writer thinks the script is ready to film, when it is far from it. This is why it’s good to get a second opinion from some outside source before you film it. Get some coverage on it or get some people to read it. Then, when you get notes - listen!

There are several blog entries about people I know who ask my advice on their projects... then completely ignore it. I always wonder why they asked in the first place, and it pisses me off to read a script for a friend and give notes on *real problems* and then have my time wasted when they don’t fix the problems. Maybe there’s the feeling that indie films are art from the heart of the creator without any meddling from the outside world - but a major story problem is a major story problem - fix it! And, all of these films that friends ask me for advice on are genre films (thrillers, action, horror) and not some artistic self expression piece that will play at art houses. If you want to see messed up low end horror films, check out Brain Damage.... then realize that these are the films that were in that 2% that were good enough to get distribution!

DETAILS MATTER

There’s a great scene in GET SHORTY (screenplay by Scott Frank, based on a novel by Elmore Leonard) where Delroy Lindo explains screenwriting to John Travolta...



Chili flips through the script a moment . . .

CHILI
You know how to write one of these?

BO CATLETT
There's nothin' to know. You have an idea, you write down what you wanna say. Then you get somebody to add in the commas and shit where they belong, if you aren't positive yourself. Maybe fix up the spelling where you have some tricky words . . . although I've seen scripts where I know words weren't spelled right and there was hardly any commas in it at all. So I don't think it's too important. Anyway, you come to the last page you write in 'Fade out' and that's the end, you're done.

CHILI
That's all there is to it, huh?

BO CATLETT
That's all.


And some folks think it’s just that easy... but the “tricky words and commas” is really the hard part. Once you’ve got the basics of the story, the way it is told and the details are what make that story live or die... and the first draft is a first draft. Filled with little problems you may not have noticed while writing it. You need to go back and fix it... Writing is rewriting.

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The first draft of your script is raw materials that must be refined into something valuable. You want to catch and correct the problems *before* someone else sees them. You don’t want them to judge your script on that raw first draft, because everything can change in the next draft or the draft after that - even in a two day quick read-through and rewrite your script can change. They might reject your script based on the first draft, not knowing that by the third draft all of the obvious problems will be gone and the script will be amazing...

The UFC fight at Bamboo Killer Emily’s party was #114, and somewhere in one of the undercards leading up to the main event, favored-to-win Todd Duffee fought pudgy Mike Russow. When they stepped into the ring, we all thought it was a waste of time - Russow was downright fat and Duffee was rock hard. For the first two rounds Duffee pummeled Russow - just kept hitting the fat guy in the face and body *hard*. This fight was over. You wanted the ref to move in and stop it before Russow really got hurt. But somewhere in round two I noticed that Russow had taken a bunch of direct hits to the face... and was still standing. Russow wasn’t doing much hitting back, he was just getting hit - and it didn’t seem to be slowing him down. Everyone was sure that Duffee was the easy winner - he was landing punch after punch. But in round three, the fat Russow SLAMMED Duffee in the face and knocked him out.

Your script may win by a knock out, but not if you get impatient and hand in that first round first draft that’s fat and slow and looks like a complete loser. Be patient. Take the time to rewrite your screenplay before you give it to someone else to read. Make sure it is the very best you can make it before you send it out into the world. And whatever you do - make sure it is *great* before you film it. Once it is on film, it is too late to do anything about it.

Don't discharge the patient before they are ready to leave the hospital.

- Bill

WARNING: UK's M4M channel: 8/11 - 14:50 - Black Thunder - When the world's most powerful stealth jet fighter falls into enemy hands, only one man can get it back.

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: 3 Acts = Conflict - It's all about conflict!
Dinner: Togos Hummus sandwich.
Bicycle: Medium.
Pages: Had planned to do all kinds of work last week... and only did a little bit.
Movies: THE OTHER GUYS - This is the movie PINEAPPLE EXPRESS should have been. A cop comedy that has a basic cop structure to hold all of the gags together. The Tuna vs. Lion speech is worth the ticket price, and even though the first half is funnier than the last half, it has great running gags and call backs that keep it going. The story is wild Will Ferrell comedy, but is grounded with heart... you care about these two losers. Michael Keaton is great as the Chief who is the *opposite* of all of those action flick yelling Chiefs: he has a part time job at Bed Bath & Beyond to help pay the bills. Eva Mendez is hot - and that's part of the joke. Sam Jackson and The Rock had me laughing non-stop in their scenes. This probably isn't one of those films we'll be talking about ten years from now, but you can laugh at it now. Stay for the lesson in white collar crime in the closing credits.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Zombie Projects!

From exactly nine years ago...

So, today I want to talk about Zombie Projects. No... not projects about zombies like my super-cool zom-com JUST BEFORE DAWN about a guy afraid to commit to his girlfriend and then a weird outbreak of “space herpes” makes everyone ultra-horny... after it kills them... and now our relationship-phobic hero is forced to live with his girlfriend forever or deal with the horny dead.

I mean those dead projects that unexpectedly come back to life.

Last week I had two long dead projects suddenly come back to life. One was a script I wrote a few years ago that was shelved... I thought forever... then the producer called to set up a meeting. Seems he bumped into a distrib looking for a specific type of genre film - and danged if my old script doesn’t more or less fit what they are looking for. I suspect at the meeting he will want to see if I will make it more like what they want, and I did a quick re-read of the script, and I think a couple of cosmetic changes will do the trick. I had completely written this one off as dead back when they shelved it.

The other project is something I’ve been pushing. Three years ago I had a meeting with a producer on a studio sequel project. I worked out a detailed pitch - which basically means I did an outline for the script and figured out characters and scenes and all kinds of stuff. I put a great deal of work into it behind the scenes... and then the whole project crashed and burned. Well, a producer who has never bought anything from me but has read a couple of my scripts just landed at that studio after leaving Fox, so I thought I’d e-mail them and pitch this 3 year old project to them. They liked it, and are taking it to the studio. If the studio likes it, maybe they’ll hire me to write it. It’s a sequel to a hit movie that spawned a TV show - but couldn’t star the original star (unless he became a zombie). So it’s kind of a sequel/reboot kind of thing. Two projects I thought were dead have come back to life.

Now, both may be dead by the end of this week - or the end of May. There are a bunch of people who can say “no” - and that’s even their job: to make sure the studio doesn’t waste money. But if they always said no there would be no movies playing in the multiplex, so they have to say “yes” sometimes. Usually when Will Smith or some other movie star is attached. I don’t have any movie stars attached to either project.

But the lesson in all of this - even if both are dead again by the end of May - is that nothing is ever dead for sure in Hollywood. Though Quentin Tarantino is famous for resurrecting stars with dead careers in his movies, there are plenty of stars whose careers came back even without being in a QT movie. One of my favorite directors, John Frankenheimer, had his career dry up by the mid 60s after making a bunch of great films. Cannon Pictures, makers of those AMERICAN NINJA movies and Chuck Norris movies hired him to direct 52 PICKUP, based on an Elmore Leonard novel that Cannon had already made once with Rock Hudson in the lead. This time around, they put Roy Schieder in the lead... and Frankenheimer hit it out of the park. Though the film wasn’t a big financial hit, critics loved it and people began hiring Frankenheimer again. His second life. That was when he made this little film called RONIN which you may have seen. Writers also drop off the face of the earth and then return - my friend John Hill who wrote QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER and is one of a handful of pro writers I know who do consulting, says that every once in a while a writer needs to reinvent themselves. In a way, we have it the easiest of everyone in Hollywood - an actor has to be cast, a director has to be hired, but we can just write ourselves a job. If our careers die for some reason, we can write a bunch of new spec scripts and go from “What ever happened to that guy?” to “Have you read the new script by that guy? It rocks!”

And our old scripts - sitting on their shelves or sitting on ours - always have a chance at coming back from the dead. If you have an old script that doesn’t work, you can always rewrite it so that it does work. I’m always looking for the solutions to scripts that didn’t work, and when I figure out some way to make them work - they get a rewrite. Sometimes it’s an easy fix, sometimes it’s a complete overhaul where everything changes. But no script is completely dead - you become a better writer as time goes on, and even those first couple of stinky scripts can be rewritten to remove the smell. In that out of print book of mine I tell the story of DIE HARD... which began as the shelved sequel to a film from 1968. Back in 1968 the star didn’t want to make the sequel... and Fox shelved the project. Over a dozen years later, Joel Silver was looking for a property the studio already owned to make into a film... and found DIE HARD (called NOTHING LASTS FOREVER at the time). A dead script is resurrected!

So, you don’t just have one chance - you have millions of them. That script that may not work today may be the perfect script for 5 years from now. Sometimes timing is the problem. Sometimes finding the right star is the problem. Sometimes that script that nobody likes in 2010 is just ahead of its time and needs the world to catch up with it. And sometimes we can’t figure out how to make the story work until a couple of years after we’ve finished it. But no script is even really dead.

Recently someone on a message board was celebrating being read and rejected by a big producer at Warner Bros - and that is totally the right attitude. Because we do not have crystal balls and can not read minds, so we have no idea whether that script will be the one that the development executive can’t get out of his head... and a couple of years later he’s working for some other company and tries to get them interested in that script. Things like that happen all of the time.

Just as these two projects of mine have seem to come back to life, your dead projects may come back, too. So here’s to your zombie projects! Hope they come back!

- Bill
IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: They Gave It Away! - they are going to show all of the good parts of your script in the trailer... so you need even more good parts!
Dinner: Some storefront Teriyaki place - Salmon and brown rice.
Bicycle: Did a bike/bus combo on Thursday to Westwood to have lunch with a fellow writer and complain about the biz, did a medium ride on Friday, Saturday took the subway to the Convention Center for Showbiz Expo - more on that later.

Movies: THE LOSERS... okay, but either the direction or the script was downright unemotional. I suspect the direction, because there were some okay twists in the script that seemed like they might have been designed to make us feel something - yet the direction distanced everything in a shaky cam / Michael Bay "people are products and this is a commercial" camera placement. When shots should have been some form of POV or over the shoulder to put us in the character's shoes we get these quick cut externals that are outside of the action instead of inside the action. Jason Patric plays a psycho ultra-evil villain from some 1980s movie who kills people for making simple mistakes - but doesn't seem to be smart enough to realize that now no one is doing that task. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a freakin' movie star - the American Jason Statham - he kicks ass and *is* tough without having to act it. Zoe Saldana is hot and kicks ass - there's a cool shot in the film where she is on a rooftop with a rocket launcher that is ultra sexy. Chris Evans plays a geek... who can run faster than anyone else in the film - great semi-parkour scenes. Columbus Short is the soul and heart of the team - he worries that he will miss the birth of his first child. Oscar Jaenada is the cool, quiet, sniper who never says anything... unless you touch his hat. Idris Elba is the effing badass of the group - when he's not beating the crap out of bad guys, he's beating the crap out of team members. The characters are well defined, which is why I suspect the direction was the problem. Lots of big action scenes, some good humor... but it just feels flat. The plot is kind of stupid. This ends up being the studio version of a B movie - grab a six pack go in with low expectations and enjoy it on DVD.
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