Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Class Acts:
Santa Fe Adventure 4

I wake up before the alarm... 4 hours of sleep again. Hey, the good news is that I have time to go over student’s pages and the last minute redesign of my class... but first - which pages belong to my problem student. One of the two really good ones? Nope... her script is one that needs work. But she has sent me a revised version, and I read it before sunrise, and it’s 100 times better. All of the lessons from the previous day have been incorporated, and it’s like reading a different script. That’s great - I jot notes on her new pages and a couple of other student’s new pages... then try to figure out what part of the original lesson plan they will best illustrate.

When the alarm goes off, I shower and shave and dress and drink some more coffee. There are coffee urns at a couple of key places in the hotel’s “convention area” and I grab a cup downstairs to drink while climbing the stairs and a cup upstairs to drink during class. But something catches my eye downstairs...

The $2,500 a script Consultant has taken over half of the registration table with copies of her book. She has someone behind the table to sell them, but there doesn’t seem to be a “show discount”. So that’s why her bags weighed a ton when she made me lift them!

Now, I have brought enough Classes on Audio CD for an event of 300-400 people, which is 80 of them. The event has about 100 people due to shrinkage (cue George Costanza) and I could have brought about 20 CDs and packed lighter. I had to pay for my bag myself... damned airlines! But all 80 CDs are in my room still packed. There is no dealer room, and even though the Consultant went out of her way to mention her book and her services on the panel yesterday, I have not mentioned my CDs or even my website... though I did put out postcards.

I have not mentioned the CDs in my class at all, and feel it would be inappropriate. These students did not pay for commercials. At Screenwriting Expo, there are *many* teachers whose classes are basically commercials for their consulting services or products. This has been a problem there since year one, and seems to *still* be a problem. I bring CDs when I do Expo, and sometimes forget to mention I have them. A couple of years ago, I had the wonderful Emily from Bamboo Killers over there —> as my assistant, and part of her job was to remind me in that last minute before class was over to mention the danged CDs, and then help me sell them in the hallway after class. Even then, there were times I forgot to mention them.

The bag of CDs was never opened in Santa Fe. I brought 80 and took 80 home and never even unpacked them. No one in my class even knew I brought them.


I have decided to begin my class with an hour on Your First Ten Pages - since I brought that material and planned on doing an hour on your first ten and your last ten on the final day of my class. This went well, and everyone was scribbling notes. Then I grabbed the first 10 pages I was going to tear apart without mentioning the writer’s name, announced the title... and the writer said, “Hey, that’s mine!”

Hmm. The anonymous part of my plan was no longer going to work. I was going to end up tearing apart people’s scripts and look them in the eye. I hope no one brought weapons to class. I don’t want this to be BLACKBOARD SCREENWRITING JUNGLE.

And I manage to be honest without being cruel, and we have a good discussion of the flaws in about half of the first ten page samples. I had set it up so that a sample with dialogue issues would be used to get us to planned lessons on dialogue, and there were lots of questions and discussions and I think it worked out better than I expected. Nobody cried. Well, almost nobody. One of the two really not good samples took it personally and even fought the notes... but eventually accepted them. The issues with those first ten pages is that there were 3 separate protagonists and 3 separate story threads and tons of plot information and all of it was crammed into 10 pages in the most confusing way... plus a dozen key characters were set up as well in scenes that were “pre-story”. Nothing that could not be fixed, but many problems in one ten page sample. The writer had the reaction that I was afraid my problem student might have...

But the problem student’s 10 pages won't be discussed until *tomorrow*.

Many of the student’s whose pages had not been discussed on that first day asked if they could rewrite tonight and resubmit them. Um, sure - I’m not sleeping, why not read new pages?

One of the strange things about the class redesign is that I keep hearing loud movie music from Ian’s class next door - he is showing a zillion film clips! I have no idea if he is tearing apart student’s pages or not, but the clips seem non-stop.


Had lunch with Josh and Ian again - and again the Hotel Restaurant has reduced the menu to those 3 entries or the salad bar. Today I order a roast beef sandwich and potato chips - the students are paying $10 for this, I am getting it for free... and feel ripped off. The waitstaff in the restaurant are good, even if they don’t understand my jokes.

Again we talk about the classes and students, and the new conflict for Josh is that someone has told him that actors will be part of his afternoon class... and he does not want nor need actors in his class. Josh wonders if many of his students took his class just so that he would have to read 10 pages of their fucking scripts... I think that’s funny. Today he’s wearing a T shirt with the logo from the crop dusting company in CHARLIE VERRICK... and I recognize it. Josh is also a big Don Siegel fan, and mentions that he did the film’s commentary on Trailers From Hell with the son of the film’s screenwriters. Cool. He asks why I’m not over there doing commentaries on trailers, and I run down my list of things I already do, including this blog. As lunch ends, Josh gets a text from Joe Dante who runs TRAILERS about this guy’s great blog entry on ROBIN HOOD... um, mine. Small world.

My 90 minute class is small. All of the non-Academy teachers have a 90 minute afternoon class that is open to anyone at the event. I’m doing Finding Ideas, and hoped the room would be full. It was not. I mention this to the dozen people who show, and am told that some of the other classes have even fewer people... one yesterday had 2 people. This class goes well, and now I’m off to do my consults.

The consults go well - even though one of them is a script with very serious problems. Which brings up a good point about all of the stuff I read for Santa Fe: do a good read through before you give anything to anyone. Look for the problems and typos and really try to whip the pages into shape before anyone else reads them. One of my class samples had 2 characters having a phone conversation (without any VO or OS designation) and somewhere in the middle of the scene they were sitting across the desk from each other having a face to face conversation. Obviously there was a phone call version of the conversation that became a meeting version - but the phone call stuff was all still in the opening of the scene! This was confusing to me... and something that should have been spotted and fixed before it even got to me. Hey, there are always going to be a couple of typos you miss - happens to everyone - but really go over your stuff and try to find all of them, okay?


Again, I am splashing cold water on my face in my hotel room to try and stay awake. I have also done a “pre-pack” since tomorrow is the last day and room check out time is noon... and my last class ends at noon. I wander downstairs to see who is up for dinner and the Dallas people have already split, but Darren Foster is talking to some other people and grabs me. We head to dinner - and decide to go Chinese instead of Mexican or Southwest. Friday night and we do not have reservations and the restaurant is... empty. Last night was grad night and tonight seems to be “everyone is hungover” night. We take a table on the patio - and watch the sunset as every type of bug in Santa Fe tries to feed off our blood. Food was good, and we talked about how tough the business is, and how much time is spent just trying to get a damned job that will pay your expenses for the next year. He has a film in post and an assignment on the horizon. I have an assignment that has just gone to script and a rewrite gig on an action script and am trying like hell to get another deal set up while the iron is hot. The last time you want to look for work is when you need work... but that’s usually exactly what I do. Darren teaches film in Colorado and lives on the grounds of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park - the haunted hotel that the Overlook Hotel is THE SHINING was based on. I think he does some caretaker stuff there off season, making he and his wife Jack and Wendy from THE SHINING. Kinda weird.

After dinner we head back to the hotel, and park near the bar’s patio entrance... where someone calls my name. I go up to the bar’s patio, where a group of folks are talking movies and I join in the conversation. Though I will also not read your fucking script, I will answer your fucking questions about scripts and the business in the bar if you find a way to squeeze it into conversation without being obvious. “Hey, I saw IRONMAN 2 and it wasn’t as good as the first one, why was that... and if my script doesn’t have any direct conflict in Act 2, is that a bad thing?” Well, there’s one guy who is playing International Man Of Mystery and is talking about Los Angeles and his film career, etc every single night. I think he’s trying to get laid, since he’s always telling these stories about his upcoming film career to women. My problem is that my default mode is to believe people (with a grain of salt - I’m not an idiot). Hey, maybe later it’s proven that they are full of shit, but why *start off* believing that everyone is full of shit?

Well, the volunteer that I offered to do a free consult with today cancelled, so I happened to overhear this International Man Of Mystery’s consult... and even though talking about it here would be wrong... um, he had written a script that was almost 300 pages, and had cut the page count in half by removing every single line of dialogue. Yikes! And it’s symbolic, and an epic adventure, and...

Well, I half expect this guy to start asking me questions about his script... because I also overheard the professional screenwriter doing the consulting on his script mention that he should talk to me because I have written adventure stuff. Except he never does ask me a single question that isn’t about his upcoming move to Los Angeles to further his career. Other people are asking me stuff about their scripts, but not this guy.

I get another beer, just as I hear my name yelled from the parking lot - it’s Josh. Do I want to go to dinner with him? I chug the beer and head to the parking lot.

Though I do not remember the name of the restaurant, I think it might have been The Shack - which is not a shack at all. It had a wine list that was like a paperback book! Because I have just eaten dinner, I order an appetizer that sounds good - a smoked salmon dip and hand made tortilla chips. Josh orders a steak and we both get drinks and then talk about Low Budget Producers Who Have Screwed Us. It is a long conversation. The food arrives, and my appetizer is literally 4 tortilla chips with some salmon dip on them. 4 chips. Um, at an upscale restaurant’s appetizer price. They tasted great... wish there had been at least 12 chips, though. The service was great, Josh had funny stories and listened to stories that I thought were funny, and then we had a slight adventure getting back to the hotel (called a taxi, and when it arrived the driver came into the restaurant looking for us as we went out to the street looking for the cab and found it empty... and missed each other a few times).


Back at the hotel, Josh goes to bed... I end up at the fireplace with the Dallas people. Tonight in the hotel bar is a live band playing techno, and the Screenwriting Conference has taken over the little theater (where we had the mentor panel) with Karaoke. Neither interests me, nor interests the Dallas people who sit by the fireplace. So we just tell jokes and talk about movies until the last karaoke song... which we go into the theater to *listen* as everybody else sings.

That night I actually sleep 6 full hours! A miracle! I still wake up before the alarm goes off and manage to read all of the new pages for the class. Everyone is getting dramatically better... so the class is working. Usually I just talk, and the students go home and write, and I have no idea if they actually learned anything. Here, I am *seeing* them learn with their new pages. Some people have sent me 3 sets of pages now - and I can see the day-to-day improvement. My problem student is one of these people, and comparing the 10 pages I read before class to the 10 pages at the end of class is amazing.

The last day’s class works well - the last half of the 10 page samples match up with lessons really well, and I think everyone is happy. I know the problem student is happy. The original plan was to talk about their loglines as well, but we end up doing question and answers and run out of time. I tell people I will go over a little to get in all of the questions, and that’s when Josh walks past the class and flips me off. I decide to take that as a good thing, and answer the last few questions before racing up to my room to grab my luggage and check out. Now I have a couple of hours before my plane takes off, just enough time for a last free lunch! And there is one item on the reduced menu that I have not yet selected! Today, I dine on Chicken Fingers!

Last Day & Leaving Santa Fe.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Basic emotional involement - and the movie BASIC with Travolta and Jackson.
Dinner: Daphne's Greek Food - which does not have lamb.
Bicycle: Medium - weather is nice in LA right now, warm but not hot.

Movies: GET HIM TO THE GREEK - Laughed a lot, and the film has heart and had more story and character than I expected... which I think is Apatow's secret weapon in all of his films. You go in expecting raunchy comedy, it delivers on that... but also has some strong dramatic scenes that elevate the story.

I love that this is kind of an ALIENS to ALIEN sequel - takes the first film and goes in a different direction with one carry-over character but still delivers. It's Brand's film - he has the big character arc... and does it without ever not being Brand (or Snow). The other great carry-over from SARA MARSHALL is that no dramatic moment is left unexplored (there's a Script Tip coming about SARA MARSHALL and not avoiding drama). In GREEK, Aldous Snow has a son, has pictures of his son on his phone, and in some other movie that might have been it... but here he has a big gut wrenching scene with his son that would have a great scene in the serious dramatic version of this film. The scene is brought down quality-wise by the kid not being a very good actor, but still works.

I wanted to know who wrote the songs, because they are real rock songs except the lyrics are exaggerated just enough to be funny... and Jason Segel wrote many of them ("Inside Of You" was Snow's song in FSM). Cool that the guy who created the character in the first film is part of this film. I haven't mentioned Jonah Hill or Elizabeth Moss (who played President Bartlet's daughter) or P. Diddy - but all three deliver great performances and are laugh-out-loud funny and still real characters. Diddy steals the show as the head of a record company who is crazy... and there is a *genius* scene showing him at home with his family watching WORLD'S BIGGEST LOSER that is both hysterical *and* grounds his character in reality.

Not just funny, GET HIM TO THE GREEK is also *good*. For a movie that is filled with montages and songs and other stuff that takes up a bunch of screen time, it probably delivers more character scenes than most other films. Now I wonder who they will spin off next from these films... Snow's dad? The religious couple from FSM? Diddy's character?

- Bill


JabberWocky said...

The STand? do you mean The Shining, Bill?

wcmartell said...

A "Moon" moment...

Thanks, I fixed it.

Anonymous said...

The Sante Fe exploits were awesome, thanks

Jim Endecott said...

Enjoying your travel log Bill.

Thank you!


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