Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pretty Scary Stuff!

I have been working my butt off to create some new material for my class on Horror and Thriller screenwriting on Sunday. Tuesday I wrote 10 single spaced pages on Contained Thrillers (5,327 words), and Wednesday I was a slacker and only wrote 2,234 words on Creative Kills for the horror half. Thursday I'll do more on the horror half and hopefully a piece on Paranoia Thrillers. I've also been watching a stack of horror films, both old and new.

The Sunday Class - Info!

Sometimes people ask why a guy with a bunch of produced thriller and action films is teaching a class on horror... and aside from having written a bunch of horror scripts that almost got made - including a horror movie for *Lifetime* - when I first moved to Los Angeles a couple of friends of mine and I produced a series called THE DEAD BEAT (hey, I came up with that title!) that was kind of the Entertainment Tonight of Horror Movies. My friends would drive down from the Bay Area and crash at my apartment and then we'd go out and shoot interviews all day for a few days, they'd go back and edit them and then when the Fangoria Horror Movie Convention came to town they'd be crashing at my apartment and we'd sell the tapes at the show. After spending three days at Fango a little over a week ago with one of the guys - Rod - and he e-mailed me a link to this Behind The Scenes of the Dead Beat Videozine from 1992! Shot by one of Rod's friends from the crew, which is why he's the star (beard and ponytail then, now... bald). I have horror stories about shooting these...

I was so much thinner then! Did you see Frank Darabont? My old apartment was in there, too (PSYCHO poster) - we'd sometimes shoot interviews there, and Jeff Combs (RE-ANIMATOR) almost died in my office chair when he leaned back in it and it snapped... and he slammed onto the floor! But we had some of that green reanimation fluid and injected him and....

- Bill

PS: I missed free chicken two days in a row! On Monday, I biked past a KFC and there was no one there, but when I biked back at dinner time - the line was halfway down Lankershim! Pretty much the same story with Pollo Loco on Tuesday, except when I went back at 8pm... they'd stopped giving away chicken. Pisser! I ate there anyway. Wednesday was 31 cent ice cream day at Baskin Robbins... and I got my ice cream!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Battle For Terra... in 3D!

My friend Keith has a movie opening Friday in 3D - an animated sci-fi action film. I was walking through the Arclight Hollywood... and there was the poster! Cool! Animated films are almost all from Disney or Dreamworks these days, Keith is an indie producer who put this film together outside the system and landed a big 3D release through LionsGate. Here's the trailer for the film...

If that looks interesting to you, catch it on opening weekend so that they can keep it in cinemas. The real battle is for *cinema screens* - if and indie film isn't filling seats they're just going to give that screen to 5FAST 5FURIOUS. Same with family entertainment and entertainment aimed at people over 25.

And this is in *Real 3D*, not that crummy kind like DR. TONGUE'S 3D HOUSE OF STEWARDESSES.

- Bill

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Movie Business Is Booming

From an AP story...

Studios head into summer on a box-office tear, with receipts running at a record pace. Revenues for the year are at $3.06 billion, up 17.4 percent over last year. Factoring in higher ticket prices, movie attendance is up 15.7 percent.

"We have never been in this strong a position heading into the summer season, ever," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers.

And there was a fear that 2009 would be a bust due to the Writer's Strike and potential SAG strike creating a shortage of films... and then the economy going south. Instead, we are in a record year.

But movies aimed exclusively at an adult audience seem to be tanking - SOLOIST opened at #4 this weekend. There was an article in the Hollywood Reporter about this a week ago, and here's another with much of the same information but with an interesting solution to the problem...

Should Paul Walker be getting $20m a film and should Russell Crowe be paid $2m?

The 15-25 audience is driving the higher ticket sales and box office... or maybe it's just pure escapism. People are not seeing movies designed for "adults".

Screenwriters often complain that they don't make quality movies any more - but they *do* seem to be making quality movies... but very few people seem to want to see them. If you don't support quality movies, they will make fewer and fewer of them... until the only thing left with be 7FAST 7FURIOUS and OBSESSED 3.

- Bill

Classes On CD On Sale!


Yesterday’s Dinner: Teriyaki chicken.
Movies: I have seen a whole bunch of movies and am waaaay behind on my reportage of them... but I did see SOLOIST last night... and the new OSS 117 movie the night before.
DVDs: I've been watching a stack of horror movies for my class on Sunday, including...

SPLINTER (2008) - Really good low budget film, probably the only time I have ever been in suspense over a thermometer reading.

City couple are going on a camping trip. He's a complete nerd botanist, she's hot. For being a guy who knows *everything* about nature, he doesn't like being outside. As soon as he screws up pitching the tent, he begs his gf to go to a motel instead. While they are driving to the motel - she's driving, he doesn't know how to work a stick - they stop for a woman hitchhiker... who has an armed and wanted boyfriend. Now they're hostages in their own SUV... which hits something on the road. A porcupine or something, It punctures the tire. While wanted guy and our leading lady fix the tire, the slightly crazy bad girl and the nerd go to bury the porcupine... which is not a porcupine. And ain't quite dead. She shoots the thing, and they take off in the SUV in a panic.

The SUV overheats, and they pull into a gas station... which is deserted. Except for the dead guy in the bathroom who seems to be half service station attendant - half porcupine.... oh, and mangled up, so he's kind of like The Thing from the Carpenter movie. Once this thing attacks, the crazy bad girl seems to be dead, the other three are trapped in the gas station/mini mart. This thing - you can cut it up and it uses it's spikes to reconnect, not necessarily in the same way the human was. A parasite that just uses the host body to get around. Oh, and the hosts grow porcupine spikes. Go out and rescue the bad girl, see if she's okay?

The film milks being trapped really well, and the wanted guy is a double threat: a violent guy with a gun... and the first porcupine thing pricked his finger, so he's trying to keep his change a secret...

The effects are pretty good, there's an early crawling hand that is kind of silly and gross at the same time, which works because they don't take it as seriously as they should. A later arm is okay, but the really messed up thing-like creatures are the best. Arms and legs twisted around and heads hanging loose and just messed up looking and dribbling black-red blood. Builds some real suspense and manages to turn a gas station mini mart into a series of locations, from the counter to the beer cooler.

You see so many of these low budget movies that look like crap, or are just filler material for 60 minutes and then 20 minutes of chase/kills. This one at least keeps things happening all of the time - whether it's a criminal with a gun and a hostage situation or those things outside the gas station. And from the start it has good lighting and some nice dolly shots (moving camera).

Shot well, acted well, good creatures, good dramatic situations with a gun or two, good twists.... One of the better low budget things I've seen.

MURDER PARTY (2007) - Much less impressive. Technically okay, but kind of blandly shot. The story tries to rely on laughs to pad it out, but just isn't funny. On Halloween, New York parking enforcement guy finds invitation to a "Murder Party" on the street, so he makes a costume and goes... to an abandoned warehouse. Where a bunch of artists tie him to a chair and then talk for 60 minutes about the nature of art and other crap while they prepare to kill him. As an art project. The mildly amusing thing is that the artists die one-by-one in crazy accidents while waiting to kill our tied up victim. After an hour of talk, one artist goes crazy after his art has been insulted by the others and starts chasing and killing people for 20 minutes.

It was mildly amusing for those 60 minutes of talk - but often seemed kind of improvised: the things that were supposed to be funny were almost funny, like they needed a little more work or thought. But most of the first 60 is that guy in the silly costume chained to a chair while everyone gabs about art, and why their art is important enough for a grant. We had all of these weapons scattered around, and people get killed by allergic reactions! Kinda of amusing - but not laugh outloud funny and a boring way to die. Even the guy who gets drunk and accidentally sets himself of fire happens mostly off camera (probably couldn't afford the stunt). Then, at like 60 minutes, everybody else gets shot - bang, bang, bang... boring! But at least that sets the chase into motion, which was exciting.

The pacing thing kills a lot of low budget movies. I know a guy who has made two awful horror flicks, and when I read the scripts the first thing I told him is that you can't have 60-70 pages of people talking and then bunch up all of the action at the end. On both scripts, he ignored my notes... and it's hard to make it through the films. Hard to wait for 60 minutes for something to happen. You need that "regular heartbeat" of pacing. You need to keep things happening, not stall to kill time... before the killing time.

MURDER PARTY seemed like a hybrid horror and mumblecore film. Was trying to say something about art, but I didn't get it.

- Bill

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sex Lessons

When I was young and impressionable, I watched a movie called KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE made by three crazy guys. At the time, I was making parody films on super 8mm film - everything from movie parodies (NIGHT OF THE LIVING LIFE INSURANCE SALESMEN - You're In Evil Hands! to FISTFUL OF MOZZARELLA - FOR A FEW PIZZAS MORE) and these guys were doing the same kind of stuff with better focus and an actual crew on 35mm... and getting *paid* for it! I wanted to be them!

Here is their lesson on sex...

A good way to start the weekend.

- Bill

Classes On CD On Sale!


Yesterday’s Dinner: Del Taco #6 combo.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ocean's 11 Remake!

They are already remaking OCEANS 11... again! First time was with Sinatra and the Rat Pack, then Clooney and his pals, now they're aiming at a younger audience...

- Bill


I saw this film last year, and reviewed it here, and now there is a sequel that takes place in Rio... and I'm seeing it tomorrow night!

Here's the sequel trailer... in French... No subtitles.

I hope it's as funny as the first one.


Classes On CD On Sale!

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Adaptation and, you know, adapting books into screenplays.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Chicken Caesar salad.
Last night I was on... Screentalk Radio.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Two Scenes Of Gundown Execution

Most of my movies are best enjoyed after drinking at least a 6 pack of beer. No matter how hard I work to make the script clever and interesting and explore interesting characters involved in making critical decisions that will haunt them forever... they end up being turned into knuckle headed action films that often don’t make any sense. This is my favorite review from a movie that may have began with my screenplay and turned into... Well, this review from some fan site explains everything:

I watched this movie last night and it is really disappointing. First i didnot understand the fact that even Seagal played in high budget movies and in this one he is at position of screenplay director there are two scenes of gundown execution, really bad performed, where shooter is firing at least one meter right or left from victim, pointless. I mean everybody have or should have paintball and other technology for filming these scenes so its no need for this. Despite all brilliant acting and fighting of main actor this is a really cheap movie. The time is set in present but they used sr-71 Blackbird spy plane shots from 1st gulf war and you can see in background airports cars from those days. Then big mistake is when admiral orders attack from the air and 4 light blue (navy) f-15s bombers take off from aircraft carrier and few minutes later they appear like 4 f-16s in yellow colour. That is also very bad cause they are not even similar cause f-16s have 1 tail (backwing) and f-15s or f-14s two. In those scenes all planes are from archive footages and videos like in old Chuck Norris movies. But in that time that was new for audience. Anyway f-16s do not ever take off from carriers cause they are not navy planes and they are to heavy.

This whole movie is a remake of Black Thunder (1998) and in one scene when the plane that is all about is become invisible even from human eye it is like they are stole that scene from remake because it is not completely unseen its like a camouflage (like in Predator) almost unseen and its look like there is no shape of f-117, but more alike f-1 bmirage (French fighter jet). And also at the end battle the pilot of f-16 chasing Seagal in f117 is saying the exact word from original movie (I do not need to see you cause i know where you are) Next, in scene when f-16 is chasing a new project prototype there are several shots of several different planes in scene. In first there is a blue f-16, in second it has a green colour but only two sidewinder rockets on the ends of wings, and in the third scene there is a grey plane with much more projectiles and fuel tanks under the hull. And at last, the scene when three US commandos armed with small machineguns and i think that third one had two pistols shooting WITHOUT any grounds cover almost wiped-out 3 times more terrorists who are surrounding them from all directions with AKs with wall pillars covers, which is even in theory impossible. Even the terrorists were kids, they sholdnot have so many dead among them, no, not on that range. Also lesbian scene between US girl (Ciera Payton) (good acting in first time in movie, in face she looks like a pornstar, i am not kidding) and terrorist girl is GREAT with Seagal (John) in "like to watch" business.

There you go folks! Doesn’t that make you want to put it your NetFlix cue just to help you understand what the heck the guy was talking about?


- Bill

Thursday, April 16, 2009

This Will Make You Happy

Yesterday was tax day, and now it's the time on Sprockets when we dance...

- Bill

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Top Five Worst Movie Quotes To Utter During Sex

You could probably use a laugh today, because it's April 15th...

I subscribe to the Top 5 List, and get comedy in my e-mail box every day for a low, reasonable, price. Probably less than a penny per laugh. Here is a great sample of the funny stuff that meshes with our wonderful world of movies...

C L U B T O P 5
Now appearing with Celine Dion in Las Vegas!

From April 15, 2003

The Top 16 Worst Movie Quotes to Utter During Sex

16> "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night!"

15> "All I wanna do is go the distance."

14> "I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself."

13> "It's not a tumor!"

12> "I feel the need... the need for speed."

11> "It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again. It does this whenever it's told."

10> "My sister! My daughter! My sister! My daughter!"

9> "Say 'hello' to my little friend."

8> "At that speed, will you be able to pull out in time?"

7> "We're gonna need some more FBI guys, I guess."

6> "I can't hold 'er anymore, Cap'n!"

5> "And I thought they smelled bad on the outside."

4> "I call him 'Mini-Me.'"

3> "We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious."

2> "Look, man, I ain't fallin' for no banana in my tailpipe!"

and's Number 1 Worst Movies Quote to Utter During Sex...

1> "That'll do, pig."

To subscribe, go here:
The Top 5 List

[ Copyright 2003 by Chris White ]

Chris White is a screenwriter, by the way. So, if you are a producer, after you sign up for Top 5, you should buy one of his comedy scripts.

- Bill

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Miley Cyrus - Is This The End Of The World?

The number one film over the weekend was Disney's new HANNAH MONTANA movie, but is this the beginning of the end? Here, experts discuss the real issues our world faces due to this Miley Cyrus movie... and the others that will come.

- Bill

Friday, April 10, 2009

Book 'Em Danno!

A couple of days ago I was poking around on the rewrite of the action book - I'm making progress, but it's slow. I have so many things going on that the book projects keep getting pushed aside. Yesterday's blog entry mentioned the story board panel I used as a cover illustration, and yesterday someone posted on my website messageboards that a copy had popped up on e-bay:


And I thought, I should put up an image of my book on that blog entry so that you can *see* the storyboard panel I was talking about. But, not that ratty e-bay image. So I went to Amazon... where there are three people selling copies of my book for over $100!

Pisser is - I don't make a cent on any of these re-sales! It's like selling your 68 Mustang to somebody when it was just an old used car... and years later you discover the person you sold it to has now sold it to a collector for $50,000. Dang! Should have held onto it!


Even that e-bay copy is selling for more than the cover price, and it's actually kind of a deal (even though it's in crappy condition) because the *words* are all still there. I own a whole bunch of used books, some have since fallen apart and are held together by rubber bands, but I can still read the words. Many of my Parker novels are screwed up - I bought them used, and instead of preserving them so that I could sell them to some collector, I read and reread them until the binding wore out and the glue keeping the pages in place failed. Rubber bands to the rescue!

I have books I bought in high school, in junior high... and probably some I bought in the 6th grade. What's the oldest book you own?

- Bill

PS: Check out this Great Screenwriting Job!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bill On The Radio Again

So I was on the Screenwriter's Utopia radio show Wednesday night, with special guest Max Adams. I talked a bit about introducing your lead character, then they introduced Max and spent the last half hour interviewing her. Max managed to win the Nicholl and the Austin screenwriting contest in the same year (like, weeks apart) with two different scripts. That's how you know you're a good writer - you have two different scripts each win one of the top contests!

Here's a link to the podcast...

Utopia Podcast.

Hmm, maybe I should get me one of them radio shows....

- Bill

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Tenant... Remake!

So I found out a while back that they are remaking one of my favorite films, THE TENANT. Michael Bay is producing. This seems like such an unlikely movie to remake because the first time around it didn’t burn up the box office - it’s kind of a cult film - and even though it’s based on a novel, it’s success is mostly due to its director, Roman Polanski. (Hey, didn’t Bill do a post on that guy a week ago, and that CHINATOWN film he directed?)

I am a fan of Polanski - not his criminal activities, but his film direction. This guy has a real style that can make the most normal scene into something creepy. It takes a while for the plot to kick in on ROSEMARY’S BABY, but you know from the start that something is very wrong because of the way Polanski shoots things. There’s a scene in ROSEMARY where the camera is looking through a door frame, and the subject is just off camera - you can see her legs, but her face only if she leans forward. And as a viewer you try to lean forward to get a better view. He loves to have the camera slightly tilted in scenes - not enough for you to notice, but enough for you to feel like something is wrong. And he does a strange thing in THE TENANT by building a room and furniture just a little bit larger than normal for a shot - so you don’t consciously notice the difference, but get the feeling that the protagonist is smaller than he was a minute ago. Not smaller in stature as much as smaller as a person. Polanski does all of this crazy stuff to make his films creepy and odd, and it’s usually not the *plot* that makes one of his films stand out as much as it’s the way he shoots and edits and the strange little moments. THE TENANT is an amazing collection of creepy moments shot in a creepy way, with a story that is also kind of creepy.

The story is kind of what would happen if Woody Allen wrote a haunted house movie. There is a serious housing shortage in Paris, and our hero Trelkovsky comes up with a great method for finding an apartment... he looks through the obituaries. When he reads a news story about a woman who tried to commit suicide by jumping out her apartment window and is not expected to live, he figures he’s found a place to live. He goes to the building, where he meets the manager (Shelly Winters) and the building owner who lives there (Melvin Douglas) and they give him the third degree. They are really picky about who they rent to. Of course, they can’t rent him the apartment until the last tenant dies. He goes to visit the last tenant, Simone Schull, at the hospital... to see how close to dying she is. He wants this apartment!

There he meets Simone’s hot friend Stella (Isabelle Adjani who was Warren Beatty’s girlfriend at the time), and he has to pretend he knew Simone. When he flirts with this girl, completely out of his league, she flirts back - they have poor Simone in common. At Simone’s bedside in the hospital - she is covered head to toe in bandages with only her eyes and mouth exposed - Simone takes one look at Trelkovsky, screams, and dies. He has his apartment!

But the apartment is, well, strange. First - all of Simone’s clothes and belongings are there. And everyone from the guy at the corner store to the local restaurant confuses him with Simon Schull - even though she was a woman and he is a man... and they don’t look a bit alike. Soon his life has gone to hell...

Here's the Trailer:

One of the cool things in the film is the use of the Luma Crane - first time it was used on a film. This device is an "arm" the camera goes on that can pan and tilt, allowing the camera to do all kinds of cool things. It's used in the opening title sequence, which has some similarities to Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW opening titles, in fact - the film is kind of like REAR WINDOW on acid...

What right does my head have to call itself me?

Filthy little brat!

Those wacky neighbors! This scene, near the end of the film, actually makes complete sense by this point in the film... The movie does a great job of making the crazy seem so normal, that we understand why he's wearing a dress and make up.

Now, can you imagine the mainstream version of this film aimed at the 15-25 year old demographic? If someone in that demo came to see this, thinking it was going to be a horror movie like FRIDAY THE 13th, what would they think?

The good news about the remake is that they have the amazing Scott Kosar scripting. He wrote THE MACHINIST, which has some similarities. Of all the screenwriters working in the biz today, he's the perfect match for this story... but who the hell will they get to direct it? And how will they sell something this weird to a mainstream audience?

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Great Character Introductions and those PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Popeye's Chicken - more grease! But *great* biscuits!
Pages: One scene on the Country-Western script, and I'd hoped to do three. But progress is progress.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Remake Fever Strikes Hollywood - Spec scripts are dead!

Last year there were only 88 spec script sales, this year?

- Bill

What's Going On?

(I love that Marvin Gaye song)

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted about my remake project, and I have a good excuse.... I didn’t know what was going on. That’s frustrating.

The last news I got was at the FRIDAY THE 13th premiere when I ran into the producer and asked him how it was going and he said, “Fine.” The producer on the project isn’t the kind of guy to just call to see how you are doing. He’s a busy man, making deals and putting together film projects. People often mistake being busy with being rude - the producer is actually a really nice guy. A friendly guy. I like him. I like working with him. He just has a bunch of things going on at the same time and must focus on what is important *right now*. My writing is over, it is no longer important. Remember this when you don't get that instant return phone call on your project. I also bumped into the company’s head of production that night, and he gave me the details - the script had gone out to some places and everybody loved it. A director they like had read it and would be interested if there was a star attached, so the next step was to get it out to some talent.

But not the star we originally wanted. When I began writing the script, there was an actor that everybody loved - including me - who would have just been perfect for the role and would have brought attitude to the part. He had been playing sidekick type roles in movies, and stealing the show. One of those guys who wasn’t the star, but may have actually been the main reason why you went to see the movie - this guy was great. While writing the script, I tried to make sure it would work for this actor... though not be dependant on him. What if he was too busy playing sidekicks in other movies to star in ours and we had to get someone else? Always a bad idea to tailor a role to an actor you haven’t signed. I remember back on TREACHEROUS doing drafts for every star the script went out to... and we *did* land Mickey Rourke based on the boxing draft... but when Hemdale went bankrupt we lost Rourke and I was back to writing drafts for other actors... most of which we did not sign. That's a lot of rewriting for nothing!

But if this remake project’s lead character could sound *close* to the sidekick guy’s voice and yet still be a fully formed character that any other actor could play? That was the goal. Except, by the time I wrote FADE OUT, someone else had realized the value of this sidekick actor and gave him a lead... in a film that was successful enough that he was now a star and his agent had booked him in as many films as he could while the iron was hot. He was now unavailable for the near future.

So, someone else would play the lead.

Now, here is the problem with casting the star of a movie - all stars are equal in the eyes of a producer. That is, they are more concerned with the star power and less concerned with the actor fitting the role. Early in the project a bunch of star names were tossed around for he lead, and half of them were just plain wrong. Stars, yes. People who came even close to fitting the role, no. One actor was too young to have experienced the character’s backstory and still have time for the current story. So I had no idea who they were going to send the script out to, now.

When you don’t know what happens, it feeds into that writer’s paranoia. Are they not telling me for a reason? Have I been replaced by David Koepp? Or a trained chimp who will get all of the credit, then bite my face off at the premiere? Is Octo-Mom doing rewrites on the script? Why are they keeping me out of the loop?

Well, a couple of weeks ago I called to see how things were doing and talked to the producer who said, “Fine” again. I mentioned that if the director they liked was not available, I have a connection to a director who had done a film in the genre a couple of years ago that got all kinds of great reviews, even though the scheduling and release of the film had been screwed up and the film wasn’t a box office hit. Due to the great reviews, the director had landed a fairly big gig, he was in post on that now, and was probably wondering what his next directing job was going to be. He’s an undervalued director with a potential slot on his schedule - could I drop by the office and drop off a DVD of his first film? The onbe all of the critics loved? “Fine.”

This gets me through the gates and into the office. One of the reasons why it’s good for a screenwriter to live in Los Angeles is you can do things in person - which gets you on the lot and into the producer’s office where they will see you and remember you and you may end up with another job. Woody Allen says 80% of anything is just showing up. I probably landed a couple of assignments just by showing up in person to pick up a check or look at poster art or drop off some paperwork. If you show up at the office at the same time they are looking for a writer, you may end up with a gig. Even if they don’t have an assignment, this is a business of relationships - and showing up in person is a great way to keep that relationship with the company at the forefront of their minds. You tell a couple of jokes while you are there and shake some hands and high five some people and this reminds them of what a great guy you are to work with. Thought I don’t expect some other gig to result from me dropping off the DVD, maybe I’ll find out what’s going on... if Octo-Mom is there getting rewrite notes...

But instead of Octo-Mom, I talk to the head of production who fills me in, sort of. He tells me they have a new star who likes the script (right age, even though he doesn't look it), their director choice is still interested (but I get the feeling this guy is fielding offers and will pick the one he likes most), and everything is still moving forward... slowly.

It’s not that they are keeping me out of the loop on purpose, it’s just that at this point of the deal I am not even part of the loop. The writer has nothing to do with signing actors and directors and putting together the package that gets the producer the best possible studio deal (my deal does not change, even if he gets paid twice as much money). So they are off doing their thing and I am off doing mine. No news is not bad news...

But after a couple more weeks my paranoia is back, and I’m getting ready to call or e-mail the producer when I get an e-mail from him. From the actual producer. And it says more than "Fine". Octo-Mom *is* rewriting my script! That is why she hasn’t been taking care of her kids and Gloria Allred is fighting mad...

No. Just an update. Though I suspect there may actually be someone else doing some script tweaks (or that might just be my paranoia), the news is: it seems like they have a star interested, that director is still interested, and they are going after (and probably have by now) the sidekick actor - a TV star who has played *the lead* in at least one movie I have seen. What’s interesting to me about the casting of this sidekick role is that they have picked someone who resembles the actor who played the role in the original film... rather than someone who resembles the character in my script. The script was written to open up the possibilities for casting by giving more character to the character - making them more than just a sidekick. The actor they have is great, but one of the strange things about a remake is that everyone has a preconceived notion of what the characters should be and what the story should be and how each scene should play out... because they keep thinking of the original film. This limits the possibilities of the remake, instead of opening up the remake to something that isn’t just a carbon copy. Sometime in the future, when the statute of limitations on this project have expired, I’ll probably talk about the difficulties of writing a remake. Do you just remake the original or do you use the original as a jumping off point for something different?

But it seems like they are sticking with their initial director choice, no mention at all of the DVD I left them. This isn’t a big deal, their director is “hot” right now. But “hot” is one of those funny things in Hollywood. I am not “hot” - I’ve been around too long. To be “hot” in Hollywood, you must be mostly *potential*. Their hot director came from another occupation in the film biz where he was very successful, and has made one film which happens to be in this genre... which has not been released. The director I suggested has made a film in this genre which has been released and got excellent reviews but wasn’t a big hit. As strange as this sounds, their director’s unreleased film has the *potential* to be a massive hit! So the less actual experience you have, the more *potential* you have. More on *potential* when I post part 2 in a couple of days...

But here’s what’s going on with the remake project - star, sidekick and director are close to signing, then some other stuff happens, then they schedule it and then they make it and then Octo-Mom goes on Dr. Phil to talk about her new movie coming out...

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: The DVD Explosion Part One.
Yesterday’s Dinner: El Pollo Loco... I *must* eat more green stuff in the future. I used to eat salads regularly, but for some reason I am not near the places where they serve the green stuff. I do eat a lot of chicken, though.
Pages: After beating my head against the wall on my country-western bar script, I finally figured out the problem and think it's smooth sailing until the end. Of course, this may all change if I hit another roadblock tomorrow.

I am on the radio tomorrow: Screenwriter's Utopia Script Talk - with that smokin' hot Nicholl's Fellowship winner, Max Adams. My guess is that we'll be discussing contests, and breaking in by just being a damned excellent writer.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Hidden Meaning of THE WIZARD OF OZ

When we think of THE WIZARD OF OZ we think of a fun kid’s story about a farm girl named Dorothy and her little dog Toto who are whisked away by a tornado to a magical kingdom populated by fantasy characters and she must sing and dance and skip down the yellow brick road to see the Wizard so that he can use his special powers to send her back home... to Kansas.

What we don’t think of is an economic treatise on the importance of maintaining the gold standard even in the face of rapid deflation, and the bureaucratic issues of early 20th century politics. You probably wouldn’t see the Tin Man as symbolic of the industrial worker and the Scarecrow as symbolic of the small time farmer and the Cowardly Lion as politician William Jennings Bryant who was endorsing the Silver standard instead of gold.

Okay, all of that is about to change... because THE WIZARD OF OZ isn’t really some fun kid’s story, it has a hidden meaning...

The True Story Behind The Wizard Of Oz!

What's the hidden meaning in *your* script?

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Forward Momentum and superheroes... and DAREDEVIL.
Yesterday’s Dinner: A massive burrito.

Movies: Saw ADVENTURELAND Friday night (is that the sequel to SAW where the college kids wake up at a crappy theme park handcuffed to a game, and have to eat a bunch of bad corn dogs to escape?).

The film is a coming of age story, not an Apatow stoner comedy, even though it was directed by the guy who directed SUPERBAD. Though it’s not a crazy comedy, I think it has enough funny stuff to entertain someone who thought it would be SUPERBAD 2 - ELECTRIC BUGALOO. The hero’s crotch punching ex-best friend is always doing something funny and just plain wrong, and Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig manage to be funny and still remain real characters. There is enough comedy to keep that SUPERBAD audience watching... while the story and characters suck them in.

Story in a nut shell: James (Jesse Eisenberg) has to skip his summer Europe trip and get a job when his parents run into hard times. Before the hard times, his family was upper middle class, so James has never had a real job... his resume consists of editing his school literary magazine and mowing a neighbor’s lawn when he was a kid... So he ends up working at a crappy theme park where he learns about just about everything important in life. Oh, and it's a comedy so he's also trying to get laid.... since he is branded with "The Scarlet V".

James would like to work Rides, where the cool kids work... but ends up working Games with all of the other social misfits. There he meets uber-geek Joel (Martin Starr) and troubled Em (Kristen Stewart) ... and they become the three musketeers of the rigged games at the theme park. James and Em may not seem like they have much in common, but they seem to be at the same place in life at the same time... and a relationship begins to build. James may be able to lose that Scarlet V if he plays his cards right.

Ryan Reynolds plays studly rides repair guy Connell, who becomes Mentor and Friend and... antagonist... to James. Connell is rumored to have once jammed with Lou Reed. He’s married to a hot waitress at the local night club, and all of the gals think he’s dreamy. What’s interesting about this character is that he might have easily become just a good looking villain, but instead he becomes a tragic figure by the end. When you feel sorry for the antagonist, that’s a great movie!

The relationships in this movie were very realistic - messy and screwed up and yet, people love each other and care about each other. There were no clear cut villains, everyone is a shade of gray. And the film is deceptively well written - it seems like things happen naturally, just like in real life, and seems there is no larger plot... except every single scene in the film is there for a reason and every character and moment are actually leading somewhere. This script is so tightly written, so precise, that you can not see any of the plot points. They are there, and once we get to the end of the film, those little moments you thought were throw aways are revealed to be important parts of the overall plot.


The hottest girl working at the theme park is Lisa P (Margarita Levieva), every guy wants to sleep with her. She knows she's hot. She shoots down guys right and left.

There's a little throw away scene where James and Lisa P have a conversation at work. It seems like one of those small, natural, not plot oriented scenes.

Every guy in the park - both employees and customers - hits on Lisa P... but James asks about her parents. She tells him about her dad, who lost his job and is depressed. The conversation has this great built in suspense, because James is a major dork and will eventually blurt out something stupid. He's terrible with women. His awkwardness is funny. And even if James doesn't say something stupid, Lisa P *knows* she's hot and *knows* James is a dork, and she will probably just shoot him down for practice. As they keep talking about Lisa's dad, you keep waiting for James to say something stupid or Lisa to realize she's talking to a loser...

And that tension is entertaining.

What they are talking about is their parents, their relationships with their parents, and themselves. It's all about character. And the most amazing thing about this scene and a few others between the two characters is that Lisa P's dad is a very real character in this film - even though we never see him.

Now, this scene seems like a throw away, but it really is all about the plot - it secretly sets up romantic possibilities between the dork and the hot chick. And those romantic possibilities throw a major curveball into the story and the relationship between James and Em.... this little scene creates a *major* change in the story... but we won't know that until later.

This scene, and all of the dialogue in it, moves the story forward, is entertaining, and reveals character big time. The film is deceptive - you think it’s just a collection of scenes, but really it is tightly plotted and even the smallest moment is there for a reason.


One thing I really liked about the movie - something very difficult to do - are the characters who are *never seen* who you know and care about. Lisa P's dad and Em's mom are never seen on screen, but are parts of the story. These are real people off screen who are just as real to us as the people on screen.

Another thing I liked that very few will notice - one of the guys who interviewed James for a job in the first scenes of the film was a customer in the restaurant scene much later in the film. That made this whole world seem real to me. Kind of a SLACKERS moment - Hey, I know that guy!

And I really liked what wasn't said in the film - the scene with James and his father after James gets drunk and in big trouble... where the father says nothing, but he is the focus of the scene. The great scene with James and Joel in his backyard while the kid is mowing the lawn (some important things are not discussed, but are still in that scene). Even if you came for SUPERBAD, I think you'll still want James and Em to get together... and feel the heartbreak when things don't happen the way they usually do in a Hollywood movie. I liked this movie while I was watching it, and thinking back over it - like it even more. It’s one of those films that sticks with you. Funny and real and heartbreaking and you’ll remember that first really crappy job you had... and the first time you fell in love with someone who had many more problems than you have.

There’s some dried puke over there, could you clean it up?

- Bill

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The SAW Game

I am a smart ass and a practical joker. If you’ve ever heard the long version of selling my first script to Hollywood, the version that includes the back and forth practical jokes my friends used to play on each other, and how I was *sure* this phone call was my buddy Van Tassell getting back at me for a prank I pulled on him after we both attended a party where alcohol was consumed, you already know this. One of my scripts that has been on the drawing boards forever - NIGHT STOCKERS - is about my years working at Safeway grocery and all of the pranks we used to pull on each other. On the midnight to 9am stocking crew, we often did crazy things like take all of the tennis shoes from that strange catch-all aisle of the supermarket and wrap them in the meat department with labels that said “Fillet of Sole” - then set them out for the morning butchers to deal with. The butcher would figure out some way to get back at us... often involving raw meat in our lockers.

On another message board, whenever one of the folks posts a thread called “Saw Watchmen” I will reply with...

“Is that the sequel to SAW where The Comedian and Night Owl wake up in an abandoned warehouse handcuffed to the wall with a rusty old saw on the floor between them and fight over who will saw off their own legs to escape first? But The Comedian just rips his own leg off and then shoots Night Owl for fun? Yeah, I heard about that... was it any good? Did Silk Spectre 2 get that booby trap off her boobies before it exploded? Did Dr. Manhattan make it through the maze of crotch high cactus okay?”

“Saw Duplicity”

“Is that the sequel to SAW where Julia Roberts and Clive Owen are ex-spies who wake up in the room surrounded by a pool of common face cream and rusty old experimental five blade disposable razors and they’ve got to walk through that stuff without slipping to get out... before a bomb goes off... and the key to stop the bomb was hidden in a martini olive that Roberts drank in the scene before, and now it’s in her stomach... and she’s not sure she can trust Owens to get it out, and he’s not sure he can trust her about anything, but they are in love with each other? Yeah, I heard about that, is it any good?”

Okay, folks, now it is your turn to play the SAW game on the comments section! Have fun!

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Sledge Hammer Of Subtlety and BLOOD DIAMOND.
Yesterday’s Dinner: KFC - I needed my yearly minimum requirements of grease... it's the word.
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