Saturday, January 30, 2010

This Time, Hitler Has Problems With The iPad

In the continuing saga of Hitler having problems with stuff and losing his temper, this time he has some issues with the new Apple iPad that ruins his day.

- Bill

Thursday, January 28, 2010

This Is The End!

Ever wonder what Bill Murray whispered at the end of LOST IN TRANSLATION? Well, NASA scientists using high tech sonic enchancing software have the answer!

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Man With A Plan - Your protagonist *always* needs a plan that the audience understands.
Yesterday's Dinner: Heart attack inducing Pastrami Sandwich at Togos - lotsa Pastrami!
Bicycle: No - but it was sunny and beautiful, so maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Now That's Inspirational!

Having a bad day at the keyboard? Just got rejected... before you even pitched them the script? Did the one person you gave your script to completely hate it... at it was your mom? What you need is *inspiration*. Here is the most inspirational speech I have ever heard:

Wow... I'm inspired!

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Forging Characters - You have to put your character through hell.
Yesterday's Dinner: *Great* BBQ Chicken at this formica table Japanese place on Alameda in Burbank (near a Little Caesar's Pizza). Not only delicious, the presentation was way too beautiful for a neighborhood place.
Bicycle: No - Rained again.
Movies: BOOK OF ELI.

Why break up a set? Get all of the Classic Classes on CD for one low price - and save on postage, too! SIX CDs packed with information! From IDEAS & CREATIVITY to WRITING INDIES to WRITING HORROR to the 2 part WRITING THRILLERS to GUERRILLA MARKETING. These classes used to sell for $15 - for a total of $120 with postage & handling. Buy the whole set and get 'em for only $70 including postage and handling (USA).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Conan's Expensive Jokes

Wednesday night... the return of the Masturbating Bear! Plus Conan spends as much of NBC's money as possible in his final week on the air...

And last night...

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Likeable Leads? - Are they required? And the mess of a movie that was SWING VOTE.
Yesterday's Dinner: Soylent Green.
Bicycle: Are you kidding? It's raining buckets!

Why break up a set? Get all of the Classic Classes on CD for one low price - and save on postage, too! SIX CDs packed with information! From IDEAS & CREATIVITY to WRITING INDIES to WRITING HORROR to the 2 part WRITING THRILLERS to GUERRILLA MARKETING. These classes used to sell for $15 - for a total of $120 with postage & handling. Buy the whole set and get 'em for only $70 including postage and handling (USA).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Team Conan

I was a big fan of Conan's 12:30 show - his skits were hysterical. Sure, everyone wets themselves when Triumph crashes some party somewhere and starts asking all of the questions that no one should ask... but the Masturbating Bear and Pimpbot and The Year 2000 and that evil puppy and Abe Vigoda and Mr T and all of those other crazy skits were gold. When he took over the Tonight Show, the powers at NBC made him give up the skits they thought were too crass for 11:30... and I think the show has suffered because of it.

Now it seems Conan is getting the boot so that Jay can have the Tonight Show back... and here's what Jay had to say about that in 2004... when he announced his retirement:

The real tragedy of this whole thing - NBC has decided that the Masturbating Bear is their property (they did the same thing with Letterman when he left) and none of the skits created by Conan's writers for Conan's show can ever be used again by Conan. See, all of that stuff was "work for hire". Now, the pisser is that NBC has no plans to ever use any of that stuff - there is no 10pm Masturbating Bear Show in the works to replace Leno - so we will never see those skits again. They go into that RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK storage facility... warehoused forever.

Those skits were written by TV writers... just as some script for a movie you might write as "work for hire" that you put your heart and soul into... but may get shelved forever. That's a pisser. Especially a pisser if you have worked hard on a script that's a work for hire, and the producer scraps your version of the story for some other version by some other writer that sucks. The sucks version gets made and your good version will never be seen by anyone. Studios sometimes have several different writers working on different versions of the same script, and then they pick the one they like and shelve the others. Frustrating. Too bad we can't at least keep our work and try to find another producer or studio... but a work for hire is a work for hire (even if it began with your pitch).

We will never see the Masturbating Bear again.

I'm going to miss him.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Edgy Scripts - and four guys in two canoes.
Yesterday's Dinner: Panda Express.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Scorsese - Golden Globes

Here's the clip montage and Scorsese's speech from last night's Golden Globes... brilliant (except for the commercial for SHUTTER ISLAND they stuck in there). Great iconic images, and his speech is all about giving the audience an experience.

- Bill

Upcoming Nic Cage Movies...

Can't get enough of that KNOWING star? Well, he's got plenty of movies in the pipeline, and there is a whole blog devoted to his new projects...

Nic Cage Projects!

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Playing With Time Periods - and that little film film from last year that won all of the awards - SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.
Yesterday's Dinner: Fast food between raindrops - Carls Jr Big Carl burger. It was okay.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Golden Globe Winners!


Best Picture, Drama
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Up in the Air

Best Picture, Musical/Comedy
The Hangover WINNER
500 Days of Summer
It’s Complicated
Julie & Julia
Best Director
James Cameron, Avatar WINNER
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Clint Eastwood, Invictus
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Best Actor, Musical/Comedy
Robert Downey, Jr., Sherlock Holmes WINNER
Matt Damon, The Informant!
Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 500 Days of Summer
Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man

Best Actress, Musical/Comedy
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia WINNER
Sandra Bullock, The Proposal
Marion Cotillard, Nine
Julia Roberts, Duplicity
Meryl Streep, It’s Complicated

Best Actress, Drama
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side WINNER
Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious

Best Actor, Drama
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart WINNER
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Tobey Maguire, Brothers

Film, Best Supporting Actress
Mo’Nique, Precious WINNER
Penelope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Julianne Moore, A Single Man

Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds WINNER
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones

Best Screenplay
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air WINNER
Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Nancy Meyers, It’s Complicated
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Best Animated Film
Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess & The Frog

Best Song
“The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart WINNER
“Cinema Italiano,” Nine
“I Want to Come Home,” Everybody’s Fine
“I Will See You,” Avatar
“Winter,” Brothers
Best Score
The Informant!
A Single Man
Where the Wild Things Are

Best Foreign Language Film
The White Ribbon WINNER
Broken Embraces
The Maid
A Prophet

Cecil B. DeMille Award
Martin Scorsese

Saturday, January 16, 2010

MLK Post From 2008

In honor of Martin Luther King jr Day, here is a post I wrote two years ago...

Martin Luther King Day.

- Bill

Friday, January 15, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

WGA Awards - Nominee List...

Full List of 2010 WGA Awards Nominees in Movie:

Original Screenplay:

•"500 Days of Summer" - Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
•"Avatar" - James Cameron
•"The Hangover" - Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
•"The Hurt Locker" - Mark Boal
•"A Serious Man" - Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Adapted Screenplay:

•"Crazy Heart" - screenplay by Scott Cooper
•"Julie & Julia" - screenplay by Nora Ephron
•"Precious: Based on the Novel PUSH by Sapphire" - screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
•"Star Trek" - screenplay by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
•"Up in the Air" - screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

Documentary Screenplay:

•"Against the Tide" - Richard Trank
•"Capitalism: A Love Story" - Michael Moore
•"The Cove" - Mark Monroe
•"Earth Days" - Robert Stone
•"Good Hair" - Chris Rock & Jeff Stilson and Lance Crouther and Chuck Sklar
•"Soundtrack for a Revolution" - Bill Guttentag & Dan Sturman

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Pick Up The Pace! - all about your screenplay's pacing - what makes a script fast paced?
Yesterday's Dinner: Fish & Chips & Guiness at The Belltower in San Francisco with old film friends. Food was great!
Movies: Then we went to see BITCH SLAP - and more on that later!

Why break up a set? Get all of the Classic Classes on CD for one low price - and save on postage, too! SIX CDs packed with information! From IDEAS & CREATIVITY to WRITING INDIES to WRITING HORROR to the 2 part WRITING THRILLERS to GUERRILLA MARKETING. These classes used to sell for $15 - for a total of $120 with postage & handling. Buy the whole set and get 'em for only $70 including postage and handling (USA).
It's the big deal - You SAVE $50!!!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Do Pretty Girls Fart?

Mythbusters did an unaired episode on whether pretty girls fart or not, and you will be disappointed to learn that they do.

Pretty girls are not perfect... and neither is anyone else. We all make mistakes. We are all learning. Even the smartest person in the world does dumb things sometimes, and doesn't know everything.

What does this have to do with screenwriting? (aside from - when you are on set stay away from Beyonce's butt)?

Hey, maybe your first draft sucks? Maybe your dialogue stinks? Maybe your characters are thin? Maybe you can’t seem to finish this script or this scene... and you feel like a failure. Maybe you give the script you think is perfect to some friends to read... and they all hate it.

Hey, no reason to beat yourself up. We all make mistakes! You don't look stupid when you write something that isn't perfect, you look just like the rest of us - you were learning. It was a first draft (or a tenth draft - some of us are slow learners). You know, there is no shame in *learning*, and you have to make mistakes in order to learn.

So, don't worry so much about looking like you may not have known something - nobody knows everything. We are all still learning. The first step in learning is to realize everyone makes mistakes, and no script is perfect. Be open to that criticism. Don’t be defensive about it, don’t be depressed by it. Everyone screws up! Everyone farts. If not, they explode - and that's even worse! You think farting in an elevator is bad, exploding is worse.

It’s a new year - time to make some new mistakes and learn from them.

And, stay away from Beyonce’s butt.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Conflict Driven - how every story needs a conflict, and that conflict needs to make sense... even if your name is George Lucas.
Yesterday's Dinner: Final home cooked meal from mom before I return to LA - cornbread, scalloped potatoes, corn, chicken. Perfect!

Underpants T shirt

Top 10 Films About Underpants T Shirt: SALE $9.99

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Bitch Slap!

Rick Jacobson directed 2 of my scripts, and he's one of... I guess it's *two*... directors I enjoyed working with. A couple of months ago I posted a car chase clip from BLACK THUNDER, and that was his work. He is a nice guy (kind of amazing on its own) who can take a low budget film and make the action scenes rock. Most of the other directors I've worked with just wanted to get the action scenes over with. They disliked them, didn't understand them, and the results are some really crappy and bland action scenes. Rick *cared* about the action scenes, and tried to make them the biggest scenes possible with the money they gave him. There is a massive action scene at the end of BLACK THUNDER that is filled with explosions and stunts shot for the movie (ie: not stock footage). He put the money on the screen, not in his pockets.

Well, Rick has a new film opening in cinemas on Friday - select cities, limited release - called BITCH SLAP! It seems to be a Russ Meyers homage of some sort. You may have seen one (or more) of the female leads interviewed on some of the off the beaten path cable talk shows - I saw them on some video game talk show a couple of weeks ago. I'll be seeing the film this weekend in San Francisco before heading back to Los Angeles. Here is the trailer...

That looks cool!

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Gag Reel - how to use "gags" and details to add depth and texture to your scenes, using THE 39 STEPS as example.
Yesterday's Dinner: Salad at La Scala in Walnut Creek, CA.

Underpants T shirt

Top 10 Films About Underpants T Shirt: SALE $9.99

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Portable Grindhouse

The strangest part of my so called career are the ripples. Over a decade ago, Roger Ebert talked to Gene Siskel about me on that little TV show they had. I'm quoted in a bunch of books. I now have four novelists who either thank me in their books or mention me on their blogs. And that danged Movies For Men Network in the UK keeps showing my movies every damned week! I've stopped posting them here because I'd have to list them every week, and after a while I stopped caring (I'm sure you stopped caring the first time I posted the airdates and times... but it's *my* blog, baby!)

But the latest thing is even more of a ripple...

More of an echo from events long ago...

A book about the rise and fall of movies on VHS, focusing on the cool box art, has an example of VHS box art on the back cover...

And it is from a movie I wrote!

Someone on a messageboard mentioned a B Movie blog that I'd never heard of, so I thought I'd check it out, and yesterday's blog entry was all about buying this new book on Amazon, and they had a scan of the cover, and one of my movies was on it! This is almost as good as when I was channel flipping and passed NIGHT HUNTER in Spenish on one of the L.A. Mexican channels! That was kind of surreal.

So, I have ordered my copy from Amazon (the picture is a link) and can't wait to see if any of the box art from my other films made the cut.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Are Those Real? - levels of reality in your screenplay, and how to create the illusion of reality in your screenplay, and ADVENTURELAND.
Yesterday's Dinner: El Faro Burrito - it's a burrito bigger than my head! On Monument Blvd in Concord, CA.

Underpants T shirt

Top 10 Films About Underpants T Shirt: SALE $9.99

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Script Magazine - January Issue Is Out!

The new issue of Script Magazine is out now! It's the Awards Issue - all about the Oscar hopefuls and other best pictures!

Writers on Writing: A Single Man
Thankfully, each awards season brings a fresh voice, full of surprises for a familial industry. In 2009, that fresh voice belonged to someone already well-known to the family, though no one could have suspected his fashion savvy would translate so readily to screenwriting. Here Tom Ford talks about what drew him to the singular A Single Man.

Win, Place & Showbiz: Handicapping the Writing Awards for 2009
An Oscar®-season tradition, Bob Verini talks to the scribes in the running for the Academy’s coveted statue. But, with a dramatic change in the Best Picture category -- the noms have been increased from five to 10 -- the race for the golden guy is truly up in the air. As usual, Verini lays the odds on 2009’s writerly offerings.

Taking on Tyson
For the past decade, filmmaker James Toback has held the idea of a special project, a story so personal to him that it had to be done just right, his way, when ready. The long-awaited result? The critically acclaimed Tyson -- a revealing documentary of the polarizing and enigmatic figure that is Mike Tyson.

Script to Screen: The Road
Stage veteran Joe Penhall toned down some of the gore in Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel The Road -- but only to keep it from getting boring. As director John Hillcoat and Penhall explain, their vision for the film was often debated but never questioned ... and both are eager to hear reaction from the audience and avid McCarthy fans.

Block Blocking
It happens to us all -- from the Oscar-winning writer to the aspirant. Writer's block is a cruel reality, but one that can be managed, according to the likes of Eric Roth, Simon Kinberg, and Stephen Susco. See if some of their tips, or the tips from some Script readers, will work for you.

Brothers: Where Art Thou?
Screenwriter David Benioff made two vows: He'd never do a remake and, after The Kite Runner, wouldn't revisit the subject of Afghanistan. He talks to Script about his new film Brothers, a remake of a Danish film about the war in Afghanistan.

The Agony of the Unproduced
Plenty of people make a living as screenwriters, but an important variable -- the screen variable -- can leave even those with a steady stream of writing gigs feeling less-than-accomplished. Read how a few writers have overcome the unproduced feeling.

Small Screen: Leverage
Showrunner John Rogers began his career on Cosby, a warm family sitcom that revolves around aging spouses. His current show centers on a family of a different sort -- a family of thieves. Find out how Rogers and his staff involve fans in the stories for Leverage's merry band.

New Media: Web Innovators
For most Web innovators, new-media projects have been high on experimentation and low on measurable results. But for BarretSwatek and Taryn Southern, the Internet has been a very stable place where both have found homes for their existing talents, and discovered talents they never knew they had.

Independents: Awards Driven
What can we learn from the winners of film festivals? Perhaps what drives each lauded story from Fade In to The End; or how each film’s engine differs from the others in competition? Bill Martell attends the 17th Annual Raindance Film Festival in London to find out.

10 Things a Rep Will Never Tell You
Do you really want to know? Are you sure? Because Jim Cirile, and a host of reps, are ready to tell you why neediness isn’t endearing, there’s no market for your masterpiece, if a script hasn’t sold yet it likely never will, and seven other daunting truths.

So, what subjects would you like me to cover in the new year? I'm about to start my article for the May issue, and have no idea what it will be about.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: What's The Plan, Man? - and planning your 2010 writing to get things done!
Yesterday's Dinner: Pizza. Frozen. Cardboard.

Underpants T shirt

Top 10 Films About Underpants T Shirt: SALE $9.99

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Script Tips & Facebook Hack

Yes, I promised new Script Tips, and they are rolling out... but there may be some delays because of one of those crazy things that happen in our new electronic world...

Someone hacked my Facebook account yesterday. For a whole day some lunatic was posting a bunch of crazy stuff and even interacting with my friends. That’s kind of the creepy part. I’d say I have no idea how it happened, but I suspect I clicked on one of those links - Hamsters Flood or more likely some famous hottie who loses her top. Those things are always scams or some kind of hack. I usually make it a policy never to click on anything from a friend that doesn’t have a message that seems like it would have come from them, but I now have so many “friends” on FB that I don’t know - so it’s hard to tell what some dude I have never met might say.

It used to be different. When I first got on FB it was going to be ONLY my actual friends. I was going to use MySpace for anyone who wanted to be my cyberfriend and get the daily tip link and blog links and a certain number of jokes and smart ass remarks, and FB would be people I really know. Then MySpace became a ghost town and I just stopped posting there... and opened the doors at FB to *anyone* who wanted to be my friend. And that may have resulted in someone else getting hacked and then me getting hacked yesterday.

The strange part about having your FB account hacked are the messages. Who sits around typing this nonsense:

“When lottery hits $640m, play 2, 4, 23, 38, 46, mega 23.”

Yeah, right - like the lottery is ever gonna get that high! The highest lotto payout *ever* was $390m in March of 2007. And the hacker thinks it’s gonna be double that someday? And what the hell does this mean:

“11-11-29 BofA stock - buy.”

I’m supposed to buy Bank Of America stock? Is this one of those Make Millions Buying Penny Stock scams - just with Bank Of America? I don’t even bank there, why would I buy their stock? The hacker posted a bunch of weird stuff like this. Just an endless stream of crazy things that don’t make sense to me - and probably made my FB friends (both the ones I know and the ones I have never met) think I’ve gone crazy. You post a “sorry, I was hacked” message, but how many people see it in the stream and how many people miss it and think you lost your mind yesterday... but seem to have found it today (between the sofa cushions, along with some loose change).

The worst part of all of this were the direct communications with people I actually know. There are some of these where I don’t really know what I should do - apologize? For things some hacker said? And the hacker said *weird* stuff - he/she/transgendered person posted a note on one friend’s wall telling them how much I appreciate the things they have done for me in the past, even if I never said it. Now, I actually *could* have posted that - what’s weird about this is that’s really how I feel - but, I feel that way about many other people the hacker didn’t post crap to. The message gets creepy at the end, though, when it says that when they are on vacation they should not fly from Dubai to India on Air India Express Flight 812. What the hell does that mean? Is this hacker some travel agent that gets a better commission if they take some other airline? The problem is - I want to explain that some hacker wrote that nonsense... but it’s in the same message as kind of a heartfelt thing about how much I (well, really the hacker) need to say how much I care about this person. Can’t take back the crazy stuff without taking back the good stuff (even if I didn’t post it - I really do feel this way about this person). Oh, and the weird thing is - they have been talking about going to the Middle East and India and want to compare the wealth of Dubai with the poverty of India... so this crazy thing about what airline to fly seems like part of a conversation we had a few months ago.

Yikes! What if I was sleep FBing or something! And why couldn’t I be sleep New Tip Writing instead?

But if I *don’t* tell these people all of these weird heartfelt messages were from the hacker, what do I say to them when I see them next? What it someone *asks* about the weird thing about “Don’t drive 1-35 @ 10-14-2 - just stay home that day” - what the hell does that even mean? They should *only* drive over 35mph? How do they start the car? The problem is this hacker has created a bunch of weird little ticking timebomb problems for me, and I don’t know what I should say if one of my friends asks me what that crazy stuff means. But if I tell them it was just me being hacked - it kind of means the nice things the hacker said were lies. This hacker was *devious*!

Some of you already know how I handled this - and I’m sorry if it upset you. I decided to send e-mails (not FB) saying that I was hacked and the heartfelt messages with the weird endings like “you can’t climb down a chimney to enter a house - the flue gets in the way” were fakes. Of course they were fakes - why would I send a message about chimneys to a *doctor*? And that the heartfelt parts were true - even though some crazy hacker wrote them. Problem is, I think some people are mad at me... and feel like I said something nice, took it back, then tried to say it again. Freakin’ hacker has hurt some of my real relationships, and that’s worse than any of the weird posts like “10-11-2 - bag of money BofA MDR Admirality - dye pack!”. (Hacker has a thing for BofA!) So, if you are one of those who are angry with me now, I’m sorry. It wasn’t my fault, it was just part of this crazy high-tech world where someone pretends they are you and ruins your life... then vanishes. I have no idea how you recover from stuff like this - it reminds me of the Harlan Ellison story SHATTERDAY about the guy who has an exact double... who is *nicer* than he is. That’s the biggest problem with this devious hacker - he/she/tyransgendered person said *nice* things along with the crazy things, so if you take back one you have to take back the other.

So, that’s why the new Script Tips may take a while to post this month. I’m still dealing with having my FB account hacked for *one day* (imagine if this hacker had decided to post crap for a week or a month!). Everything seems to be normal now... so I’d better get back to work on the tips.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: That's Episodic! - and one of 2009's worst films: YEAR ONE.
Yesterday's Dinner: Three Brothers Chinese in Pleasant Hill - Shanghai Porkchops.
Bicycle: No - I'm home for the holidays without a cycle, but I walked a few miles to burn off some of this holiday weight.

Underpants T shirt

Top 10 Films About Underpants T Shirt: SALE $9.99

Movies: AVATAR - I saw AVATAR with a couple of old friends over the holidays... and everybody wants to know what I thought of it. We saw it in 3D but not in IMAX - I’m not really a fan of IMAX showings of movies not shot in that format - and the first thing I would say to anyone who hasn’t seen AVATAR yet but is planning on it, is to see it in 3D. I’ll get to the reason why in a minute. My friends - one is an award winning documentary film maker who actually won an award for a film he made last year, and the other is a theatre (stage) director in the San Francisco Bay Area (oh, and a produced playwright, too) - and both of them liked AVATAR more than I did. That doesn’t mean I disliked it, just that these two guys wanted to race out and buy a ticket for the next showing... and I thought I might see it again... sometime.

Wait... but what did I think of it? Well, someone at the New Years Eve party I went to asked me that, and here’s how I answered...

Story-wise, AVATAR isn’t anything new - it’s basically the same story as DANCES WITH WOLVES and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (which also co-starred Michelle Rodriguez). We have our young soldier going undercover to bring down an enemy. In F&F he hooks up with the enemy chief’s sister, in AVATAR he hooks up with the enemy chief’s daughter. In F&F there’s another member of the gang who does not accept him... until he proves himself, and in AVATAR it’s the chief’s daughter’s fiance who doesn’t accept him until he proves himself. In both films our undercover guy reaches a point where he isn’t sure what side he’s on - he’s left the reservation and gone native. In F&F the undercover guy has a foot in both camps until he realizes that he has to take down the enemy... but tries to find a way to do it without hurting his new friends too much. In AVATAR the undercover guy has a foot in both camps until he comes to realize his side is wrong... and he joins the enemy side to take down his own people. That’s more like DANCES WITH WOLVES. But the story follows the path created by other movies without ever veering too far into the jungle.

And the dialogue in AVATAR is just there to get it from one point to the next, nothing as cool and memorable as “You have to look with better eyes than that.” from THE ABYSS, but also nothing as awful as “Jack, this is where we first met!” from TITANIC... though the name of the planet and the mineral they are mining come damned close. Mostly the dialogue is just there. Sometimes it’s the most obvious thing to say, but it’s never just awful. I wish someone had been brought in to make it more clever, more memorable, more interesting... but we just get bland and average dialogue.

While they were rewriting the dialogue they could have taken care of some of those nagging little things like the military not firing a nice big missile in one of the end battles, but flying some sort of barge filled with pallets of C4 and just dumping them on the Navi stronghold. Sure, there was that line of dialogue about how missile guidance systems didn’t work in that region, but we fired missiles long distances and hit targets long before we had guidance systems... and the helicopter missiles seemed to work okay in that region. This stuff needed some work!

Same can be said for the characters - we kind of get the same major characters as in ALIENS, just taken from the other side. We have the Corporate Creep who will do anything to make sure the company makes a big old bag of money - Giovanni Ribisi playing the Paul Riser role. We have our gung-ho military guy who has all kinds of nice weapons for use in close encounters - Stephen Lang playing the Michael Biehn role. We have a scientist who starts out a company flunky and ends up saving the day - Dileep Rao playing the Lance Henrickson role (Dileep’s second scene stealing role after working for Sam Raimi in DRAG ME TO HELL). And we have the bad-ass babe soldier - Michelle Rodriguez from FAST AND THE FURIOUS playing the Jenette Goldstein role. Plus the guy who panics and the protective mother alien and, of course, Sigourney Weaver. Everybody does okay with what they are given, and even though we are often missing some character shading, each character serves their purpose and even has that little scene where they shine. Basically, “okay” but not “great”... so what the hell is good about AVATAR?

The world.

I have a Script Tip in rotation called “Take Us Someplace Cool” about the importance of taking the audience into an interesting world, whether it’s the world on con men or the world of wizards or that world in LORD OF THE RINGS... and this is where AVATAR gets bonus points. For two and a half hours you are not on Earth... you are in a very real alien world filled with all kinds of interesting details. It’s like watching a National Geographic special that takes you somewhere that humans have never seen before... maybe the bottom of the ocean. In fact, so many of the elements of this world look like things you would see on a voyage to the bottom of the sea... and Cameron has been down there... that I suspect that world was the main inspiration for “Pandora”.

The trailer, in 2D, made it look like a bunch of blue cartoons running around. Watching the movie in 3D I believed that these were living creatures. And there were a million different types of creatures and plants and birds and... well, it was like a travelogue - which is another mark in the plus column. We got to experience a world completely unlike our own - to be somewhere else for 2.5 hours. Complete escape.

That’s one of the things some writers may underestimate - creating that world that is a complete escape from reality. Many writers think that screenwriting is about the facts, about reality... but that’s what *journalism* is. Screenwriting, from Melies' magical silent films to Lang’s Mabuse spy films and METROPOLIS to STAR WARS and James Bond, movies are traditionally not reality. They give us larger than life stories and exciting fantasies. It’s “Let’s Pretend” on a mass scale. Kids play cops & robbers and cowboys & indians and all kinds of fantasy role-playing games... and movies offer the same thing without the wooden horses. Creating that world that provides an escape into an exciting fantasy world is *job one* for a screenwriter - and AVATAR’s fantasy world is rich in details... plus, just about everybody is nekkid except for a loin cloth and way too much neck jewelry on the women.

AVATAR is an *experience*.

That’s why you have to see it in 3D... it’s not so much a story as a chance to live in another world for 2.5 hours... and 3D makes that world seem as if it is all around you. You could reach out and touch it. None of the 3D is DR TONGUE”S HOUSE OF 3D BEEF with gotchas and paddle-balls zooming out of the screen, the 3D in AVATAR is just used to create depth. Took me a while to get used to it, but after a while the 3D was a natural part of being immersed in this world. Cinders from a fire float down on you. Seed pods float on aircurrents past your head.

I’m saving some of the AVATAR stuff for a new Script Tip, but here’s one of the things that was a stroke of genius: A big problem I have with story notes is that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t - there is no “yes” in the word “notes”. If you don’t motivate a character to do something unusual, you will get a note about it. But if you *do* go to the trouble of creating a motivation for a character to do something that is “movie stupid” like going into that haunted house where the legend has it a dozen people were brutally killed, you’ll get the note “We don’t really need that, it’s a movie convention that high school kids go into the haunted house - no explanation required!” So you end up with more stupid unmotivated high school kids walking into a house where no one has ever walked out alive. I would rather have them motivated - and always make sure anything that a normal person would not do has some reason behind it. The audience may not go into that death house themselves, but when a character with some sort of *reason* goes inside, instead of thinking “They’re complete idiots” they think “That’s a mistake”. Hey, people make mistakes. You can still care about someone who makes a mistake... but someone who does something downright stupid? They deserve whatever happens to them.

So, a major element that allows us to understand why Jake Sully would want to keep going back to the Navi world and even turn against his own people... is that wheel chair. That’s one of the things that pulled me into that fantasy world and made the blue cartoons into *people*. When Sully can walk again as a Navi... and then starts *running* with his new Navi legs... it’s something I can completely understand. That was a great moment - a big emotional human moment (even though the dude was a blue alien at that point). When Sully keeps going back - even though the Navi world becomes less attractive - I completely believed it because he *had legs* as a Navi. He could walk, run, climb! And if you had to choose between a world where you could walk and a world where you were a physical person who could no longer be physical - which would you pick? Even though you may not personally turn against the humans invading the planet, you can *understand* why Sully might. The military guy promises if Sully helps bring down the Navis they will give him the best doctors available to try to get his legs working again... but as a Navi he already has legs right now. Making Jake Sully an injured soldier in a wheel chair is one of those little things that pays off big time.

There were *many* other great visual things in the film - places where a picture really was worth a thousand words. Easy for some writers to miss those things and focus on the bland dialogue. But the main thing that AVATAR has going for it - the reason why it seems some people may be seeing it again (it is the third fastest movie to make $300m domestic... and is just broke $1 *billion* worldwide) is the world it takes us into. That escape into an interesting place we have never seen before, filled with wonder and details and all of those things we watch National Geographic to experience. It’s a 2.5 hour vacation... and I suspect if I were to see it again I would notice all kinds of things about that planet that I missed the first time. It is a film rich in detail... and somebody *created* that world and those details.

Somebody *wrote* that.

- Bill
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