Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lancelot Link Thursday

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who think Ronald Reagan was *Bonzo's* sidekick, here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

1) Great article on DON'T LOOK NOW and Venice, Italy.

2) The Hollywood Reporter becomes a celeb rag like People?

3) PRINCE OF PERSIA screenwriters.

4) New Studio To Sell To?

5) Interview With "Mr. Raindance" - Elliot Grove.

6) My films attack the UK again... sorry!

7) Today's Car Chase: before there was THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS there was this film from Universal about an undercover cop infiltrating a group of car thieves, written by the creator of LAW & ORDER before he was a famous TV guy. Welcome to NO MAN'S LAND...

One of many car chases in the film.

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Act 2 Is Quicksand - And the first BOURNE movie.
Dinner: The new Subway chicken salad sandwich - had it with all of the lettuce and stuff, and there was too little chicken. This one needs to be eaten without anything else on the bread.
Bicycle: No.
Pages: Mostly working on the Santa Fe class.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Make A Feature In 3 Days?

Just a reminder...

Thursday May 27th at 7:30pm at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, the Los Angeles Premiere of POPATOPOLIS - a film I saw at the Raindance International Film Festival in London last year. The movie is being released on DVD, and this screening is a celebration...

POPATOPOLIS is a film that answers the question - can you make a feature film in 3 days with a crew of only 2, starring women with freakishly large breasts who may be too top heavy to stand? B movie director Jim Wynorski can... and this doc chronicles every crazy minute.

Here is a link to my review from London - POPATOPOLIS.

If you are in Los Angeles and like sleazy low-end Z movies, come on down and see this documentary on how they are made!


Over 45 minutes of adverts... at $900,000 per 30 second spot = over $81,000,000.00 for the final episode.

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Writing For Toys - and the video game for THE GODFATHER PART 2.
Dinner: City Wok - Gai Bowl.
Bicycle: Short!
Pages: um, none. Totally screwed up day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A deal at the speed of light...

My friends Bill and Terry just sold a pitch for a whole bunch of money ($3.5m) to Disney. Here's the story. They still hold the record for spec sales with DEJA VU... which got mangled a bit on the way to the screen.

Congratulations guys!

- Bill

Friday, May 21, 2010

Action Book Question

Working on the Action Book rewrites, so no Fridays With Hitchcock today, but part one of the "lost" Hitchcock interview with Tom Snyder is below.

But first... I am in the middle of rewriting the Action Screenwriting book, and so far it is going well. I have tried to rewrite it many times before, but the big problem always ends up being the half dozen chapters which contain really old and really crappy stuff always bogs me down. I get frustrated and quit - going back to fantasy land of some spec script. Rewriting the book is no fantasy. But this time I decided to just force myself until I broke through and got some momentum going. That's where I am now - it's a lot of danged work, but I'm doing it. Lots of new information, all kinds of new examples, and few original sentences remain.

Last year when I was fighting the damned page trying to rewrite the book, I wrote two articles on Action Scenes for Script Magazine that used CASINO ROYALE as examples. These were potential chapters in the book rewrite.

But here is the question (comments section) for any of you who read both articles - should I include both of them in the new book or only the first one? I would probably cut 10%-20% of the second one because it would be similar information, but should I have two very different examples of action scenes from the same movie? Or just that first article and skip the second article completely? Tell me what you think...

And while you're at it, if you have read the action book - what is your most favorite and least favorite chapter? Some stuff will get trimmed or even cut out, and I want to make sure I'm not cutting out the best part by accident.

And now to Hitchcock...

What frightens Hitchcock?

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Echo Scenes - absolutely kick ass tip with SHOOTER, THE LOOKOUT, VERTIGO and NOTORIOUS as examples.
Dinner: Blackforest Ham from Subway - one of the Jared low fat ones.
Bicycle: Medium ride - and freakin' wind on the way home again!
Pages: Finished this chapter, happy with it, on to the next.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lancelot Link Thursday

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who like your bananas stirred not shaken from the tree, here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

1) Megan Fox Fired From Transformers - Middle Aged Men Shocked.

2) Virtual Refrigerator Magnets... because real refrigerator magnets are too much effort, being out there in the kitchen.

3) Lucas News: EMPIRE STRIKES BACK... remake in 3D?

4) Help me spread the word! Click Here and add ScriptSecrets.Net or this blog!

5) Today's Car Chase is from THE HIDDEN, a *great* sci-fi action flick:

That's Chris Mulkey as the crazy bank robber - he's a regular on the TV shoiw SAVING GRACE these days and pops up on 24, but back then he was one of those great 80s actors who did leads in Indie films and supporting roles in studio films like 48 HOURS. This film stars Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Nouri... and the always hot Claudia Christian. Clu Gulager plays the angry police chief.

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Genre = Emotion - what do you want the audience to feel?
Dinner: I don't know yet - that is where I'm headed!
Bicycle: Medium ride in a north-westerly direction... where there were police cars and helicopters for some reason.
Pages: Still fighting this chapter, but also read some of my workshop pages.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spring Progress Report

Well, Bill, you can trash a $200m plus film sight unseen, but what the hell is going on with *your* career?

I’m so glad you asked.

1) Just finished a new spec... and starting another.

2) *Actually* working on the action book rewrite - since that $253 used price on Amazon is kinda crazy to pay for an out of print paperback.

3) My big studio hit 80s film remake project - known to friends as Grandma’s Possum Pie because no one has sent out a press release that they're remaking this film and I don’t want to be the one who let the cat out of the bag if they have some *reason* for not wanting this known - seems to have stalled. At least, as far as I am concerned. There is probably some other writer working on it right now. I got one of those script notes that I don't know how to make work (remove the antagonist) and asked if *they* knew how to make it work and I got one of those, “You’re the writer, be creative” answers (though, in different words). There were a couple of meetings and some phone calls and some e-mails after that, but I don’t think they ever figured out how it could work and make sense. My plan has been to wait until they figure out that the note doesn't work - even if it means some other writer wastes their time doing a few drafts.

4) The 3rd Place Contest Winner - That flavor lasted a couple of months. Over a dozen production companies requested it, and only 2 managers, no agents. I thought that was strange, because there were folks who got requests from agents and managers when they announced the top 100... and even more when they cut it down to the finalists. But I only had 2 requests when I bronzed - and one of those was after sending a query which included a link to the contest winner's page. The whole reason for entering VOLATILE was that it was an experimental script (first script in decades written with no outline) and one helluva bleak story. And that’s what just about every prodco said. I had some meetings at some studios, a few places read additional scripts because they liked the writing but thought the story was too dark... and eventually that moment of lukewarm heat dissipated. I actually have one place that is still reading stuff... but no agents or managers or dentists to the stars.

5) The “new assignment”: just got a call, next week we have a meeting and then I write the next draft. That’s going smooth.

6) Looks like I got a rewrite gig after I finish that draft. Some action script is in trouble and the producer wants me to make it work. I don’t like rewriting other people’s work, and you probably will not see my name anywhere on this film unless it’s a “Special Thanks” thing. I just want to make the script work... and make some money... and get in good with the producer (who will be making other films that need screenplays).

7) Circling possible projects - that may crash and burn two months from now...

A) I sent out a zillion query letters after winning 3rd place in the contest, and got a couple of hits. One that looks like a good possibility is a producer who had read my stuff long ago and switched studio deals, and was now looking for “reboots” of older popular films in the studio library that nobody else has dibseys on. I pitched him a few possibilities (my lawyer, who is reading this, knows I pitched a stack of films - almost anything in the studio library I could think of with a new high concept twist and a fresh story) - and there was one they really liked. An 80s action flick that seems like an obvious reboot - yet nobody seems to have thought of it, yet. The producer is now talking to the studio.

B) Some folks looking for a thriller are reading an old Hitchockian project of mine that is filled with twists and has a cool concept and catchy title.

C) Some folks who need an MOW writer who knows how to write for budget are looking at something of mine as a sample.

D) A couple of other places are reading stuff from that volley of queries - including the spec I finished at the end of last year. Now, if I could only get all of those other specs I wrote out there!

8) The Italian Novel Adaptation Project - um, keep forgetting about it, so I suspect I do not have that job. It was problematic anyway - a series of mostly unconnected short stories that all happen on the same day. It worked as a book, but there was no plot thread that connected the stories. I screwed up on that one - should have at least given it a shot.

9) There is no number 9.

10) Lawyer just called - he heard of a company looking for a script with a specific type of lead that is not your usual star... and after he kept mentioning this script of mine that did not fit, stupid me realized that it could easily fit with some small cosmetic changes. I am stupid.

So my 20th year as a professional screenwriting will result with (at least) my 20th produced screenplay on screen... and maybe a couple more.

As usual, in 2 months everything will probably be dead except the assignment and the rewrite, but the key is to keep enough things in circulation so that *something* happens, and often one thing leads to another. Probably mentioned this in another blog entry, but I have this sheet of paper with “Chances To Win” on the top, and I try to keep it filled with scripts that are out in the world and meetings and anything else that may result in a sale or assignment. If I only have one lotto ticket I only have one chance, if I have a dozen lotto tickets I have a dozen chances. Here’s the thing - I’m writing my own tickets!

And so are you.

Every script is another chance, another ticket. And if nothing happens with the spec I just finished, I had a lot of fun writing it (dust bunnies that form into creatures and thousands of rats and all kinds of fun stuff in that one), and maybe something happens with the next one - that is about pirates. I love coming up with some strange idea and then living in that world for a while.

Sometimes I even get paid for it.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Always Do Your Best Work - even of it is on a monster movie for Roger Corman.

Dinner: Turkey sandwich again.
Bicycle: Up to a coffee shop in NoHo then back to Ventura & Vineland for the evening shift, where there was an available table. It was a miracle!
Pages: A chapter on the Action Book.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A 99 Cent Book

Just a quick note - my friend Chris Valin is one of the writers of a science fiction book about how an alien artifact destroys everyone who gets their hands on it. It's a Kindle book, and it's on sale for a limited time for 99 cents. If you have a Kindle and are interested, here's a link:

The Artifact.

Chris also wrote This Book on Naval History, which just came out in paperback.

- Bill

Friday, May 14, 2010

Robbing From The Poor (Writer)

ROBIN HOOD opens today, a year late, and with a Tomatometer rating of 44% (and falling - it was higher on Wednesday when I began this entry) - and it is not expected to unseat IRON MAN 2 as #1 film over the weekend. Oh, and they disliked it at Cannes. Oh, and the budget is rumored to be $250 million and maybe even more. Would you believe this film began with one of the hottest screenplays in town? A screenplay that *was not about* Robin Hood?

(This is not a piece of investigative journalism, it’s an opinion piece, so my facts come from other sources (mostly newspapers and entertainment websites) and I didn’t authenticate any of them. If I get something wrong, feel free to correct me...)

Probably close to 3 years ago, a hot script by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris called NOTTINGHAM went out to buyers. The script was the Robin Hood story told from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s point of view - as he used period “forensics”, like tracking and arrow trajectory, to find a terrorist who was robbing respectable members of society. Shelock Holmes in Sherwood Forest.

One of the things a screenwriter needs is an idea that is both unique and universal. There have been over a hundred movies and TV series about Robin Hood - we all know the story. We’ve seen it all before... But making the “villain” into the protagonist is something we have never seen before - the unique part of the idea. We know this can work, because of that long running musical WICKED and a bunch of other stories that flipped the POV and shown the story from an angle we have never seen before. So we have a story that is universal - Robin Hood - and add the unique element of telling it from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s point of view.

I am all about finding the unique idea, my friends Terry & Ted have their theory of “mental real estate” - the “pre-sold” universal idea that we all know about, and twisting it to make it unique. Hey, we’ve probably all taken the Pirates Of The Caribbean ride at Disneyland, or at least know about it. That is prime mental real estate. Add the magical curse to make it unique and come up with one heck of a great story and great characters and clever dialogue and make sure it’s exciting, and you have a hit. (And if it were that easy, we’d all be the hottest writers in town!) But taking a story we all know and telling it in a way we have never heard before is genius - and NOTTINGHAM didn’t stop with the great idea, it was written well, had a great star role, and an exciting read.

There was a bidding war. Everybody loved this screenplay, everybody wanted to buy it. This is what screenwriters dream about.

We all want to see our stories on screen. But most of the time, your script ends up just a sample so that you can get an assignment writing BEETHOVEN 7 or something. And that’s if you are lucky and get a gig! Sometimes it feels like we are just shoving screenplays into a black void... they just disappear, so we write a new script, and that disappears. Even if you land assignments, it’s not unusual to write for a decade - paid to write - and have nothing ever go to screen.

Okay, there is a bidding war, and Imagine Entertainment wins - that's Opie’s company - and they love the script so much they “fast track” it - they get Russell Crowe onboard to star as the Sheriff of Nottingham and set a release date. The film is going to be made and in cinemas - no protracted development process because they can’t figure out how to make the script work - everybody loves this script!

It’s ready to roll!


They needed a director that Russell Crowe likes - he’s the star, gotta make him happy - so they hired Ridley Scott. That sounds great, doesn’t it? You write a script, everybody loves it, you sell it for a bunch of money in a bidding war, and now Russell Crowe is going to star and Ridley Scott is going to direct. I’ll tell you - I would be dancing on clouds if that happened to me. So excited I could not sleep for months.

Except if everyone loves the script, the director is ranked #2... and that can not be! Film is a director’s medium, right? The director must be the most important person on the film! Hey, I’m just guessing about Ridley Scott’s motivations, I don’t really know. What I do know is that he wanted massive rewrites done to the screenplay that everybody loved.

And the script began to evolve...

Brian Helgeland was brought in to do rewrites, and he’s an Oscar winning writer. If he were brought in to rewrite one of my screenplays, I would be dancing on clouds...

Except the rewrites are kind of weird. Ridley becomes *obsessed* with archery, has always wanted to do a movie about archery, and has NOTTINGHAM rewritten to focus on archery and archers. Huh?

Two years ago, when the film was supposed to be going into production, Ridley Scott had them postpone production because “we don’t have a script, yet”. You hear directors say that in interviews fairly often - “We started making the film before there was even a screenplay!” - but you know it’s bunk. What they mean is, “There was this brilliant screenplay that everybody loved and all of the stars signed to... but I thought it needed some work so I brought in some new writers and they tore it apart and we began filming before they actually had a new draft that worked... and everything we shot was *not* that polished draft that came out of development that everybody loved... it was a sloppy first draft where some pages were written on the set as we were filming.” Though CASABLANCA was being written as they shot it, that’s kind of the exception to the rule. Usually the more time you have to work out the problems in the script, the better the script will be... and the easier it will be to shoot. You tend to spend a lot of money when you are making it up as you go along.

Two years ago, when Scott postponed production, Patrick Goldstein at the Los Angeles Times wrote a blog entry about the problems this caused: Nottingham Stalls.

(I actually began this blog entry two years ago... but only that link remains from the original piece.)

The big problem was that the film would not make its release date, and this was supposed to be the big film for the season. The tentpole. Remove the studio’s big tentpole and the whole thing collapses! On top of that, there was a potential SAG strike, plus escalating costs to stop that runaway train of filming and then restart it later. All of this because Ridley Scott wanted a new draft that focused on archery, and he is the director, and the director is always right.


Except here is the problem - what if the director is wrong?

We currently have a system where that isn’t even considered. The fear is that once a director is “let go” (fired) from a project, they will not be able to find another director and the project will fall apart. And that has happened enough times to be a legitimate fear. If you fire Ridley Scott, you need to replace him with a director that Russell Crowe approves of - that’s some other big name director who may be booked for the next 2 years. But how is that any different than waiting on Ridley Scott for 2 years? And we have seen some new, young (cheap) directors who have done amazing work and everyone wants to work with them... maybe you could convince Russell Crowe that this new guy is worth sticking around to work with?

Look at Christopher Nolan - before MEMENTO he was nobody, and afterwards he was directing an Al Pacino movie... and then the new BATMAN movie. Doug Liman makes GO and gets THE BOURNE IDENTITY... and after he’s “let go” they hire Paul Greengrass, who made a couple of low budget shaky-cam art house films before that. There are always these hot new directors that everybody loves because they are creative and interesting - if Imagine had fired Ridley Scott when he removed their tentpole movie and replaced him with whoever was the hot new director 2 years ago, could they have kept Crowe? Maybe.

Problem is - producers and studios are of the mindset that the director is the power when *they* are the power.

If a director becomes a problem - no matter how big they are, even Spielberg - get the ef rid of them. Fire their butts. Send them to the unemployment line. There are new directors with new ideas every month - and they cost less and may be easier to reason with (because they don’t think they are the 300 pound gorilla). You know what? If enough people fire Ridley Scott because he took away their tentpole or ruined their script or spent twice what was budgeted, I’ll bet Mr. Scott would consider becoming more cooperative.


Brain Helgeland is stuck doing press for this film and cheerleading for it. But he was also in that tough spot of being the writer trying to make the 300 pound gorilla's strange ideas into a screenplay that could be made into a movie. I've had those crazy notes where what you want to do is say, "Are you out of your effing mind?" but instead, your job is to make the note work. Okay, there may be some discussion first, but the director is always right, and if you refuse to execute the crazy note you will be "let go" and they bring in some other writer who will. This is not an easy job and I'm sure Hegeland did the best he could with what he was given.

So, Ridley Scott wanted to change the NOTTINGHAM script which featured period forensics to a script about archers and archery...

Then he came up with a brilliant idea! What if the Sheriff Of Nottingham and Robin Hood were the *same person*! Kind of like FIGHT CLUB. He’d be chasing himself for the whole damned movie! And there were some drafts of the screenplay written like that, until someone (maybe Helgeland) must have hinted that it might be a little silly.

And draft after draft, they script changed - evolved - twisted - becoming something completely different. The way the most expensive meal you have ever eaten turns into something else when it goes through the digestive process.

Eventually, they ended up with a script about Robin Hood - the same story we have seen a hundred times before (according to imdb there are 111 movies about Robin Hood, first one made in 1912). Nothing unique about it. Just a rehash of someone else’s hash. Oh, they say it’s gritty. But the Costner version was gritty for its time - remember? He wore leather instead of tights and there was more realistic violence and Sherwood Forest was muddy and... well, it was gritty. We’ve had that version. And all of the versions feature archery - even the Disney cartoon. So what Ridley Scott did was take a script that was both unique and universal and remove the unique aspect so that it’s bland. They keep trying to find some hook to the story in the trailers and adverts, and can’t find anything. It’s Robin Hood... again. They’ve settled on star and director and GLADIATOR... but I think the bad reviews are making the GLADIATOR comparisons a tough sell.

Oh, and about those bad reviews - several that I have read single out the big problem with the film as the script, and then name the writers - including Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris and in some reviews giving Oscar winning screenwriter Helgeland a break and *focusing* on them (because they do not have Oscars, so it must be their fault). I have yet to read a review that mentions the original screenplay... but have read a couple that said Scott and Crowe get bogged down by this terrible script.

You know that dream come true of having your script sell and get fast tracked and star Russell Crowe and be directed by Ridley Scott?


I’ve had many films that do not resemble my screenplays at all - and some like CROOKED where they changed the concept. The stupid idea in that film was not mine. The stupid story was not mine. The stupid characters were not mine. Nothing in that film was mine. Yet, I get sole credit for the screenplay! None of the changes were written material, just stuff the director and star came up with on the set. So, I was the only actual writer on the film... that is nothing at all like my screenplay. What am I gonna do? Run around town and tell them that wasn't my script?

The worst part of this is that the NOTTINGHAM screenplay that everybody loved and caused that big bidding war? We will never get a chance to see that movie. Never. You see, that script became ROBIN HOOD. That script has been “made” - just made into something else and then filmed. The writers have lost the chance to see their work on screen... forever!

On TREACHEROUS, I was invited to the screening by the producers (ITC) who apologized to me in advance, and I laughed outloud once when a line I actually wrote came out of a character’s mouth. The whole film was completely different (again - not even my idea survived) and it was funny to watch this story that I had nothing to do with and then suddenly have a character say something I actually wrote. It’s surreal. And I’m sure Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris were sitting in the cheap seats at the premiere - no red carpet for them I’ll bet - and when something they actually wrote happened, they got a good laugh out of it. You have to laugh to keep your sanity sometimes. And when your script, your baby, gets mangled like this, if you can’t laugh you are in trouble. The only other thing left to do is cry.


I am not anti-director, nor am I against a director’s input. I have had some great input from directors that improved the screenplay. I have also had the other kind of input... um, more of that. But film is a collaborative medium, a team sport, and I just want to be a team player. But when one of the players on the team is doing things wrong, I expect the coach to step in and tell him or her to knock it off. And if that player keeps screwing up, it might be a good idea to bench them and bring in another player. Right now we have a system where the director is always right, even when he’s wrong. That’s not a good system!

How many directors did THE WIZARD OF OZ have? How many directors did GONE WITH THE WIND have?

My theory is that the screenplay and screenwriters are part of that team. We do not tell the DP what lens to use, we do not tell the gaffer what light to use, we do not tell the actor how to read their line - we just write the script. That is our job. We are in charge of the script part of the movie, and other people on the team are in charge of other parts of the film. We work together.

For better or worse, a screenplay goes through development and is supposed to come out of that process the absolute best that screenplay could ever be. And if the producer decides that it is ready to be filmed, and attaches the stars and director to it, and the studio (or whoever is financing it) puts up the money - that is the screenplay that should be filmed. It should be locked. Once that screenplay is the best it can be - the whole thing is locked and the star can’t just decide he wants to wear his lucky leather jacket in the film (happened to me), so the character has to be changed to someone who would wear a leather jacket... and the director can’t just throw in a bunch of BS to put his stamp on it. I think part of the “director’s stamp” thing is that many directors have no idea what they are doing and can not use their visual style / directorial style to “put their stamp on it” so they mess with the story (the writer’s job). Fridays are usually about Hitchcock films - even with the experiments, you can tell a Hitchcock film from directing style from a handful of shots. No need to know what the story is. Same thing with Nick Roeg. Same thing with Don Siegel. Same with Orson Welles. Same with Kubrick. Same with Kurosawa (check them out at the Egyptian Theater NOW!). Same with Bergman - even though his stories are often very different, his directing style is his own. It’s when you have a director who doesn’t know how to do his job that he starts messing with yours.

So, we have this screenplay that everyone thinks is the very best it can be, and we lock it. What happens if the director comes up with a great idea? Or the star? Well, like anything that is locked, someone has the key - the producer. The *default mode* for the screenplay is *LOCKED* (which is the opposite of how it is now). So when the director comes up with an awful idea, the producer just says, “I’m sorry the screenplay is locked. We are only going to unlock it for an exceptional change.” And if the director gets snooty about that, fire his butt. Bring in the kid. But, I think if locked is the default mode for a screenplay it stops being personal - because all scripts are locked. The producer makes the decision to unlock it. If the director comes back with another idea that is brilliant, the producer pulls out that key and we make it a better screenplay. I think that is what we all want - as a writer that is what I want. The best screenplay possible.

But how do we know that Ridley’s idea that the Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood being the same person chasing himself like a dog chasing his tail wouldn’t have ended up a brilliant movie? Well, maybe it would be... but I think an important part of my job as a screenwriter and a producer’s job as a producer is to be able to see down that road to see if it works. When I look down the road, the best case scenario I can see is some wacky bow & arrow version of FIGHT CLUB, and FIGHT CLUB was a movie that flopped so hard it almost took down a studio. That’s a hard sell when you’re looking for the studio to put up the money to make the movie. Also, though FIGHT CLUB did it right and is a great movie, having the hero and villain be the same person is one of those new screenwriter ideas that just doesn’t work 98% of the time. The odds say it would have been much worse that the script that everybody loved.

Though none of us is Miss Cleo, we can usually look at past performance and get a good idea whether something will work or not. Sure, there are flukes - and maybe this idea of Ridley’s is one that would work. In that case, I’d say you write that up as a new and different screenplay, and then return the rights of NOTTINGHAM back to the writers and let them keep the money you paid them - as your penalty for switching horses in the middle of the stream. The producer is responsible. And you know what? Probably wouldn’t cost them a penny more than they way it transpired, because once you hire Brian Helgeland to start from scratch with a brand new idea, you have to pay him - the credits for ROBIN HOOD give Helgeland a "Story By" along with the original writers. In fact, it might actually *save* you money - because part of giving back the script means the original writers do not get a piece of that production bonus, and if you make your deal with Helgeland right...

The downside is that that script that everybody loved will be picked up by somebody else, and the Nottingham-chases-his-own-tail version will be in direct competition with the screenplay that everyone loved. See how that would make a producer actually consider the changes?

(The original writers might also consider sticking around - because maybe the changes did make it better.)

And even though we are not Miss Cleo, we can look at the results: NOTTINGHAM - both unique and universal vs. ROBIN HOOD - not unique at all. So there is some objective criteria that would make the changes to the screenplay everybody loved look like a bad bet in the first place.

Hey, what happens if a producer does unlock the script for a bunch of stupid ideas? Well, he probably isn’t a producer for long, right? There are several producers who probably need to be escorted to the Los Angeles city limits and told not to come back any time soon. (I mentioned in a messageboard post a couple of weeks ago that lawsuit that Sean Connery had against a “producer” who didn’t produce anything - he had a development deal with a studio and *only* developed scripts... no intention of ever making them into films. That way, he could never make a flop, and keep getting his development deals. Only problem was, one script had Connery attached to star... and it just never seemed to be getting any closer to getting made. I think we could stand to lose guys like that.)

At the end of the day it’s all about being responsible for the product you create. Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris had to be responsible for the product they created, or no one would have loved it and no one would have bought it. Writing a spec script is a big gamble where the odds are against you - such a small percentage of spec scripts sell that it seems crazy to write one. Except unlike buying a lotto ticket, the reason a spec script becomes one of those one in a million winners is something *we control* - the writing. Sure, there’s a timing factor, too - but if you have written a great script it’s going to stand so far above all of those crappy ones that your odds are suddenly much better. We control the odds. We are responsible for writing the best possible screenplay... or it doesn’t sell to anyone in the first place.

Once it has sold, it is the producer’s responsibility to make sure the best possible movie from that screenplay ends up on screen. And if that means firing Ridley Scott, that’s what you have to do. By the way, the producer on ROBIN HOOD is Brian Grazer, who is a smart guy and a good producer - but like every other producer, stuck in a business where directors are right even if they are wrong. That’s the thing that has to change. It’s not Grazer’s fault, nor his odd hair’s fault - he’s just trying to get films made. And Ridley Scott is not the villain, either - he's just doing what directors have become used to doing - being always right. It's not Helgeland's fault - he's the guy caught in the middle trying to make bad notes work. And it's not Opie's fault - though I know that sucker is up to something. The *system* is broken, and ROBIN HOOD is a perfect example of that. If producers used this as a call to arms, they might be able to get the business back on course and not turn that screenplay that everybody loves into a film with a 44% Tomatometer rating.

Tonight I’m staying home and watching the Errol Flynn version.

- Bill

Blog Sampler - some other cool entries.

Fridays With Hitchcock entries.

Today's Blog Entry.


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Okay, Who Started It? - the guy who throws the first punch is the villain... even if he's a priest.
Dinner: Tortas - a burrito bigger than my head.
Bicycle: Short, due to laundry.
Pages: Instead of doing something productive, I wrote these 16 pages.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lancelot Link Thursday

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who like your bananas stirred not shaken from the tree, here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

1) Help me spread the word! Click Here and add ScriptSecrets.Net or this blog!

2) All star cast movie that you have never heard of... watch the trailer and you will klnow why.

3) Producer Linda Obst on Why Movies Suck.

4) Roger Ebert's Screenplay for a Sex Pistols movie.

5) Dueling 3D opinions: James Cameron vs. Roger Ebert.

6) Today's car chase (I have this film on DVD):

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Sledge Hammer! - how to make a point without forcing it.
Dinner: Turkey sandwich.
Bicycle: Up to a coffee shop in NoHo then back to Ventura & Vineland for the evening shift...
Pages: Um, not as many as I had planned. The plan was to get a toe hold on a new spec I'd jotted down notes on last year about pirates and a dude who specializes in ship security. But I only wrote a page and a half. The other part of the plan was to rewrite some book chapters - that didn't happen either. Instead: I BSed with Duane about movies all night.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Most Disturbing

So, my friend Harry's second book GAME OF CAGES is coming out, and he thought it might be a good idea to create a "book trailer" to help increase sales. You've probably seen James Patterson's book trailers on TV, and other writer's book trailers are on YouTube and Amazon and B&N and I've seen them play on airport monitors and once on a bar's TV!

When Harry mentioned this on his blog, one of his fans created this disturbing trailer and sent it to him...

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

My plan was to post this today just for fun, but a strange thing happened yesterday - Harry had it posted on his blog, and his publisher - Random House - thought it was strange-funny and posted it on their website, and Publisher's Weekly saw it on the Random House site and thought it was strange-funny and posted it on the magazine's website and... well, I *joked* about the trailer going viral, and now it has!

The lesson in all of this? I think many of us (me included) think "I can't do that because I do not have the money, or do not have the resources, or do not have the connections" and we do nothing. Mistake! Just do it. Do it even if it's silly. Do it, even if it has no chance to succeed - because we don't know what will succeed and what will fail.

There's a guy on a message board who says he has a script with a great idea that he is passionate about... but he thinks it may be a tough sell. Though I am in favor of considering the odds before you write the script, if you *have* considered the odds and still need to write the script? Write it! None of us has a crystal ball. We can use our knowledge of the current market and successes from the recent past to help us figure out what has the best chance of selling or getting read or breaking in, but there are always exceptions and weird sales and what may be a dead genre today could be a hot genre in a decade - and you will already have a finished script ready for that market. If you have to write it, you have to write it. Hey, it may not sell, but every script is a step somewhere.

Harry's new book GAME OF CAGES comes out August 31st, but you can preorder it on Amazon now. But I should warn you - many scenes from this book trailer do not appear in the book. I know. It's kind of a cheat. Maybe Harry will put a dance number in the third book...

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Self Discipline - and why it is easier than self bondage.
Dinner: El Pollo Loco - breast & wing, corn, black beans.
Bicycle: Short. My legs were still throbbing Monday morning - I didn't want to ride at all, but figured I needed to teach them damned legs who's boss. They felt better by the time I rode home, so maybe that was a good plan.
Pages: FADE OUT - 102 pages total.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Friday's Secret Message...

The Hitchcock entry is running a little behind, should be up later today, but to tide you over I am posting this...

I will be teaching a workshop in less than a month at the...

The Screenwriting Conference in Santa Fe (SCSFe)

I think there are still a couple of seats open. This is the best run event I've ever done classes at - and the whole thing is designed for maximum interaction. The workshops are kept small on purpose so there is more individual attention, and the event includes some great activities where teachers and students are sitting together. In the past all meals were taken together - no VIP dining room - and there was a BBQ at a film studio where we all sat together at picnic tables. There are people from the event who have become my friends.

The other thing that is great about the Screenwriting Conference in Santa Fe are the instructors - every time I'm there I want to skip my own class and sit in on one of the Oscar winners or nominees or just big name writers doing a class there. The theory seems to be skip the gurus and find professional screenwriters who can teach.

So, that's where I will be the first few days on next month:
June 1st - June 6th.

For more info:
The Screenwriting Conference in Santa Fe (SCSFe)

And the Secret Message? Here:

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Planned Unpredictability - and SEVEN MEN FROM NOW.
Dinner: A can of generic food.
Bicycle: Short ride up to NoHo.

Lancelot Link Thursday

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who worry that your back-hair may not make you popular with the opposite sex, here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

1) Indie Films - Is Online The Answer?

2) Second film in the new DIE HARD trilogy...

3) Why you always need to have directions to the nearest hospital and someone with CPR training on the set, even on a student film.

4) Fake Guns, Fake Bad Guys, Real Cops.

5) Real DUI Arrest Footage.

6) Today's Car Chase...

Part 2: The Next Ten Minutes Of Chase.

Part 3: The Next Ten Minutes Of Chase.

Part 4: The Next Ten Minutes Of Chase.

And there are a couple more segments, but that gives you most of this little chase. Yes - just about the whole film is a car chase!

7) Last but not least... This woman won $224 Million in California's Lottery... and went to work today. She has no plans to quit her graveyard shift, kinda cruddy job (in TV news) - because she likes working and likes her job. I think this is a lesson to screenwriters everywhere - if you would quit writing because you won $224 Million or because you *didn't* win anything - you aren't writing screenplays because you love writing. This woman loves her job - it gives her something to do every day. The people she works with love her, and love her attitude. I've said this before - the world is what you make of it. If you are a miserable person, winning $224 Million isn't going to change that, nor is selling a screenplay. Life can suck, but we need to laugh off our problems (or at least deal with them without letting them get to us) and find some way to enjoy our lives. Having $224 Million probably creates more problems than it could ever solve - so don't look for some sort of outside success to make you happy. Make yourself happy. We all have the choice whether we are going to be miserable or happy - happy is more fun.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: The Conflict Act - and the films of master thespian Keanu Reeves.
Dinner: Togo's ham sandwich.
Bicycle: Not really - a couple of blocks to Starbucks.
Pages: Only 3... but I have a good excuse! It was some sort of freak day at Starbucks where I bumped into a bunch of people I haven't seen in months! Chris White who runs the TOP 5 comedy website - haven't seen him in months! My friend Louis who works at a studio - haven't seen him in a couple of months. My friend Rick The Stuntman - haven't seen him since the middle of last year! My friends Richard & Monica - also haven't seen them since last year - and she's preggers, with twins! So, I spent more time visiting than writing. But it was worth it.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Script Magazine - May Issue (2010)

Iron Man 2
Writer Justin Theroux, director Jon Favreau, and comic-book legend Stan Lee discuss the next chapter of Tony Stark in the lead-up to the highly anticipated sequel to 2008's summer blockbuster Iron Man.

Bringing Back The A-Team
Joe Carnahan, Stephen J. Cannell, and Brian Bloom talk about big action scenes, CGI effects, villains with moustaches, and their work on the upcoming feature-film version of The A-Team.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Scribe Melissa Rosenberg dishes on the experience of writing The Twilight Saga and discusses why she was on the edge of her seat while penning the screenplay for the third, and latest, installment in the series—Eclipse

From Script to Screen: Winter's Bone
Winter's Bone writers Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini relied on the authentic voices and settings of the Ozarks to guide the adaptation of Daniel Woodrell's "country noir" novel.

Rushing the Reveal: ScriptShadow
Screenplays have been reviewed online before, but a year-old blog called ScriptShadow is raising the sneak-peak game to a new level.

Timing, Prayer, and a Powder-Blue Pantsuit: Selling and Creating Just Wright
For someone who once experienced homelessness and came out successful on the other side, obstacles in Hollywood seem far less daunting. Screenwriter Michael Elliot recounts his inspirational journey to Tinseltown and the pitch meeting that sold his modern-day Cinderella story, Just Wright.

WGA Arbitration: The Good, the Bad ... and the Ugly
Think because you wrote a produced movie that you'll receive screen credit? Don't be so sure. Script takes an in-depth look at the WGA arbitration process.

Lights, Camera, Confidence
With more writers making the move from desk chair to director's chair, the question on many a scribe's mind becomes: How can I do it, too?

Potluck Cinema—Finding Your Voice & Finding Your Film Festivals
Did you know your film has a treasure that can be given only once? This is known as the "World Premiere" ... and it is what every film festival wants. Find out what festivals are looking for, asking for, and whether or not your film fits with their focus.

There are several paths to making a career as a successful professional screenwriter. For many aspirants, one excellent route is to participate in screenwriting competitions. Find out which contests best suit you and your script.

Your Script is Finished, Now What?
A finished screenplay gives a well-earned, heady sense of accomplishment to a writer. But it is a literary work that has never been seen before. Here's a guide to choosing a script-consulting service that can help take your project to the next level.

To Hell With Structure
Every aspiring writer should be an expert on structure, especially the three-act form. But not every compelling story out there can be so easily shoehorned into the sometimes simplistic format ... much success can be had in scripts that break structure.

Script Secrets: Method Screenwriting
For a script to be good, it needs to be something personal and emotional. But, for a script to sell, it needs to be something commercial that millions of people will pay to see. Learn how to use events from your own life to create a box-office hit that is actually your personal story in disguise.

For more info, click here!


- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Dramatic Decisions - and a GREAT Ben Affleck movie.
Dinner: BBQ Chicken Salad and sweet potato fries at Fuddruckers.
Bicycle: Yeah - had to get there.
Movies: HARRY BROWN at the Arclight.

MACHETE trailer - For Cinco De Mayo

Wow - not only is this a great day to release this trailer, Arizona managed to unknowingly do publicity for the film. I can't wait...

"We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us!"

Here is the original fake trailer from GRINDHOUSE (rated R - NSFW - boobies)...

"You better make damned sure the badguy isn't you."

- Bill

Monday, May 03, 2010

I've Gone To Hell!

*Blog only* word count for last week: just over 8,000 (half of that was Friday's Hitchcock entry).

In standard pages = over 32 pages.

Number of weeks of similar word count before I'd have a standard book = 7.5 weeks.

So, if I put the same amount of effort into writing a book, I'd have one in 2 months.

Or a screenplay in (under) 3 weeks.

I also did a tretament for my assignment last week and all kinds of other writing.

Must change priorities!

Time to get back to working on the spec...

Sometime last year I started writing this semi-new spec script called 2ND SON, and it kept getting swept aside by other projects. A few times it was swept aside by other specs (which I finished), a couple of times swept aside by assignments... and sometimes I would try to jump back into the script only to have forgotten what the danged thing was supposed to be about.

But over the weekend I placed nose to grindstone and forced myself back into the story... and made some actual progress. The story has now gone to hell... in a good way. I am 15-20 pages from the end, and most of that will take place in Hell. My current problem (which will be fun, so maybe it isn't a problem) is to figure out what sort of hell this will be - the things that make the hell in this script unique. A lot of that will be a play on what is expected in Hell - okay, a 3 headed dog, but what kind of dog? Hey, what if "dog" is "dawg"? All of those decisions - and the first half of today will be designing my own version of Hell - then the second half will be having my characters deal with it.

So, after last week's wall-to-wall blog entries, this week may be a little lighter.

Or not.

I may feel the urge to avoid writing one thing by writing a blog entry.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Emotion Pictures - it was the very first Script Tip in 1998.
Dinner: Grand Slam with whole wheat pancakes and turkey bacon.
Bicycle: Yeah - medium rides in NoHo.
Pages: 5 pages yesterday... Yeeees!
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