Saturday, October 30, 2010

More Halloween Fun!

About 15 years ago we were at KNB FX doing an interview for DEAD BEAT Videozine and they had all of these very realistic fake buffalos in the shop from DANCES WITH WOLVES, and Greg ran over and put his head up the butt of one of them. That video tape still exists, but I doubt I could blackmail Greg with it because he'd just think it was funny. Here's Greg's short film, just in time for Halloween!

- Bill

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lancelot Link Thursday

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who think KING KONG was based on a true story, 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...

Here are five cool links plus this week's car chase...

1) Most ridiculous edited for TV movie lines - including some Sam Jackson favorites!

2 United States Of America Movie Map - what movie is your state?

3) Top Ten Tech Tricks We're Tired Of Seeing In Movies.

4) Screenwriter Ryan Condal and his manager Adam Marshall on breaking in.

5) Top 25 Worst Halloween Costumes!

6) This week's car chase is in celebration of Halloween! You have seen the Paul Haggis version of CRASH and the David Cronenberg version of CRASH, but here is a clip of my favorite movie titled CRASH...

Directed by Charlie Band. I think the German dubbing and blurry transfer and small screen make it even better! Have a great weekend and trick or treat safely!

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Subtext in dialogue - and THE CLOSER.
Dinner: Ham sandwich at Togos.
Pages: Knocked out an article for Script Mag.
Bicycle: Short ride to NoHo and back.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weekend BO Smells Sweet!

1 Paranormal Activity 2 - $41,500,000 - (new) $41,500,000
2 Jackass 3-D - $21,600,000 (-57.1%) - $87,147,000
3 RED $15,000,000 (-31.1%) - $43,483,000
4 Hereafter - $12,005,000 (+5,348.8%) - $12,320,000
5 The Social Network - $7,300,000 (-29.2%) - $72,931,000
6 Secretariat - $6,917,000 (-25.8%) - 37,360,000
7 Life as We Know It - $6,150,000 (-31.3%) - $37,615,000
8 Legend of the Guardians - $3,175,000 (-24.9%) - $50,172,000
9 The Town - $2,720,000 (-31.6%) - $84,653,000
10 Easy A - $1,750,000 (-33.5%) - $54,785,000

What I find interesting - the (%) is percentage of change from last week, and often films go into a 50% free-fall where they earn half of what they earned last week. Except, the drops seem more modest this week. Did more people go to the movies? Or was it spill over from sold out showings to PARANORMAL 2?

PA2 set a new record for horror movie opening weekends, beating the long time leader THE GRUDGE. And JACKASS 3D has now made more than the first film made in its entire run! Movies (in the cinema) seem to be doing well. 2010 is ahead of record year 2009 in cash (+12%), but behind in ticket sales... and that's in a year with a lot of not-so-good movies. So, there will still be films in the near future, and those films will need screenplays... or people who come up with dangerous stunts for a bunch of idiots to try in 3D.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Late Starts - and SIGNS.
Dinner: Togos - #9.
Pages: YES! Saturday I finally finished the assignment rewrite, Sunday I wrote 4 blog entries for Script Mag Online (lessons based on tips), and worked on some other things.
Bicycle: Sat - Yes, Sun - Rain.
Movies: HEREAFTER - there will not be many people here after the first half hour of this boring film.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lancelot Link Thursday

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who think the movie HEAD (written by Jack Nicholson) would have been better starring actual monkeys, 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...

Here are four cool links plus this week's car chase...

1) Six very Misunderstood Books - including FAHRENHEIT 842 (actual temperature that paper burns).

2) 101 Movie Quotes You Should Know.

3) Horror Hostess Elvira Also Says She Is Not A Witch.

4) 3 Euros (short French film... it's *culture*!)

5) And today's car chase... Because it has been raining here in Los Angeles, here's a car chase that features a lot of slip-sliding away! It's from a not-good movie called BLAZING MAGNUM (aka SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM) an Italian/Canadian co-production starring Stuart Whitman as a crazed cop searching for his sister's killer. The best part of this movie is the car chase...

So there you go!

- Bill

Dinner: Tortas on Ventura again, and a burrito as big as my head.
Pages: An awful day for writing... If it could go wrong, it did.
Bicycle: Longer bike ride in damp weather.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Down Terrace plays Sunset 5

I saw DOWN TERRACE a year ago at the Raindance Film Festival... and now it is playing at the Sunset 5 cinemas here in Los Angeles. Here's what I said about it in an article for Script Magazine last year...

*Down Terrace* from England, written by Ben Wheatley and Robin Hill was the winner of Best British Feature and was shot in only 8 days, mostly in Hill’s parent’s house. This blacker than black comedy uses genre subversion to make the most of its limited locations and budget ($30k, 8 days of shooting).

*Down Terrace* opens with the welcome home party for the aging leader of a small town criminal organization and his slacker son are released from jail. Not all celebration because someone on their crew must have ratted them out... but who? Dad is an ex-hippy who got into the drug trade because he thought drugs would change the world. We would all be dropping acid and dropping out. He sings folk songs and has a guitar collection and when he gets drunk talks about the 60s. Not exactly Don Corleone.

What makes it funny is that each member of the crime family has a very human character element that is in contrast to their gangster persona - which subverts the genre. The hit man has a three year old son and can’t find a sitter, so he takes his kid in a stroller on an assassination. The kid gets away, as does the target, and the hit man must juggle controlling his child and cornering and killing the target all at the same time... and that’s funny. We don’t expect gangsters to have problems like this.

- Bill

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Final Draft Big Break 2010

October is a crazy month for me. Because every horror movie related event takes place in October, and so does Screenwriter’s Expo, and so does the Final Draft Big Break Party, and American Film Market is in the beginning of November... Often I am in London and Honk Kong this month as well, this year I just have a couple of script assignments to work on. October is never long enough!

This year I seem to be overwhelmed by all of these things. My plan was to have one of the assignments rewritten before the Final Draft party for two reasons: The Non-Fango Weekend Of Horrors begins the day after, and there is frequently a great deal of drinking at the Final Draft party, and my brain may not be fully operational for a couple of days afterwards. But I completely failed at that plan, and am still finishing up the rewrite. That creates kind of a domino effect with my other plans, everything getting pushed back... My Big To Do List gets one of those updates where I just change the months I planned to do everything... that was going to be finished in November, but now it will be finished in December. I have changed the months on that list so many times it might have been more simple to just change the years! But without the Big To Do List nothing would ever get To Done.

But October? So far it has been a disaster. One of my classes for Expo was a brand new class that I had only done once, in London last year. But when assembling my class materials at the beginning of the months (way ahead of time), I could not find the scribbled piece of paper written on the plane to London with all of the cool ideas for the class. Must have left them in London along with that 4g thumbdrive that has all of my important stuff backed up on it. I replaced the thumbdrive when I got home last year, but didn’t even notice the class materials missing. So I would have to recreate that class. Also at the beginning of the month I was invited to a film premiere... and the after party where alcohol was served... and that killed a day when I should have been recreating that class, and I missed the first day of the Shriekfest Film Festival. Well, I missed the rest of it, too - working on that class. The following weekend was Expo... and Screamfest began. Screamfest runs for a full week, and is a great horror festival. I had tickets for opening night... but it was the same day as my Expo classes, and I decided to just stick around the Expo hotel instead of fighting traffic. Though Screamfest went for the rest of the week, I had a an assignment to rewrite (a horror script, which may even be at Screamfest next year). My plan was to go to Screamfest any night that I finished my work early... hah! Like that ever happened! Though I did see some movies - friends called and I played hooky on the rewrite a couple of times. So by the time the Big Break Party came around, I was not finished with the rewrite. I will punish myself later, but first...


Oh, I forgot to mention insomnia. I’ve been averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night and was dead tired by the day of the Big Break Party... a zombie. There is always that one day in a run of insomnia where you are so dead tired that you can barely walk and can not think at all - this was that day! The good news is that means my body will just shut down and sleep very soon, the bad news is that I had to go to an event and act like I am awake. I *almost* bailed, but then I would have done almost nothing in October - since I doubted I would make any of the remaining nights of Screamfest, and there’s a good chance I might blow off Fake Fango (which I did). So, off to Beverly Hills I go!

Last year, after they kicked us out of the Paley Center (Big Break venue), we went to Nic’s Martini Bar a couple of blocks away and drank until 2am. They have a walk in freezer there, where you put on a coat and fur hat with ear-flaps and drink Vodka From Around The World by the shot, until your private parts freeze and you must leave the walk in freezer. Last year, Mark from Final Draft was picking up the tab, so I drank many shots of vodka. Many shots. Then, when the bar closed, I had to ride my bike to Hollywood where I picked up the homeless bus over the hill. Balancing was difficult. That is the great thing about drinking on a bicycle - if you have had too much, you can’t really ride. Though, this did not seem to stop me last year. This year, I was too tired for marathon drinking... and I wasn’t on my bike.

Bamboo Killer Emily was my guest for the awards and party (we are not an item, her boyfriend could easily kick my ass).

At the Paley Center, we rode the elevator up with movie star (and Oscar nominee) Robert Forester and his date. Because most people probably recognize him from JACKIE BROWN, I told him how much I liked him in MEDIUM COOL - a great film from the late 60s directed by cinematographer Haskell Wexler. After the elevator ride, Robert was ushered to the red carpet and we went in to find drinks and finger food. Drinks were easy to get (just stand in line), food was more difficult to come by. I never saw any, but heard rumors of it and saw waitpeople with empty trays. Oh, there were sightings of Jeremy Piven, but I never saw him personally. At one point I thought about going out and walking the red carpet, just to see if anyone cared, but it seemed like too much trouble. Talked to Peter Hanson - cowriter/co-director or TALES FROM THE SCRIPT - if you have not seen this movie (or read the book), check it out - it is the *truth* about being a screenwriter. Also talked to Bill Lundy, who used to be Chairman of Scriptwriters Network, and Robin and Max Adams and all of the folks from Script Magazine... including editor Shelly’s Mom, who I have not seen since the first Santa Fe Screenwriting Conference (I think). By then my first beer was almost gone, and they were about to begin the awards ceremony.

Last year, I was at the front of the line to get into the auditorium - when they announced they will be starting in 2 minutes, I figure it’s time to get in line. A prompt man is a lonely man, as they say - but he also gets the best seats. This year I was in the middle of a conversation with Emily and by the time we got in line, the auditorium was full. We had to watch on the monitors as Shelly gave her speech and winners were announced and given their awards and then Mark gave a speech and then gave the Writers Hall Of Fame Award to Aaron Sorkin, who gave the obligatory speech about how he uses Final Draft. I knew Sorkin was going to be there and hoped to bump into him and have a conversation - one of the perqs of being Editor At Large for Script Magazine is that I can probably get past security and handlers and talk to people - but did not see him before they gave him the award and did not see him after they gave him the award... and only saw him get the award on TV. The good news about watching the awards on TV is that you are allowed to drink beverages, so I ordered another beer... but they were all out, so I drank red wine. I was actually feeling better by then. Oh, here are the winners:

First Place: Tejal Desai of Austin, TX for Cowboys and Hindus
Second Place: Mick Connolly of Melbourne, AUSTRALIA FOR CRIMS
Third Place: Larry Brenner of New York, NY for FLESH AND BLOOD

Congratulations to them all! One of the great things about the Final Draft Big Break Awards is that there is *always* at least one winner from outside the USA. The contest really is open to everyone who hasn’t had their big break, yet.

After the awards, they rolled out dessert, and I stood in line to get some mini-cupcakes and puffy cookies and fruit slices. 2 drinks combined with no sleep and I was leaning against the walls to prop myself up. Not the best plan when there are pieces of art from movies on the walls... though I did not destroy any priceless works, I did knock the protective plastic sheet off one. Tried to put it back, and failed. What a lightweight! Talked to more people, and told the story about going to the Ft. Lauderdale Film Fest years ago when Shelly’s daughter was a little baby... and how Sir Richard Attenborough was staying on the same floor of the hotel as the Script Folks, and held Shelly’s baby. It’s strange, he was our friend during the festival - we hung out with him! Of course, I was telling this story because they whisked Sorkin away in a limo and I never got to meet him.


As they were kicking us out of the Paley Center, the rumor went around that Mark had bought out Nic’s Martini Lounge again, and we would be going over there. Last year it was easy - my bike was locked in front of the Paley Center and I just followed he crowd. This year - vehicle in the Paley’s garage, and the garage was closing for the night. After it was re-parked, the crowd was gone... and where was Nic’s? Emily and I wandered around looking for it, bumped into Robin on her scooter who was also looking for it, but said that Max Adams had gone with a group to the Beverly Wilshire’s cocktail lounge... so that’s where we went. Later, I mapquested Nic’s - we were standing a block away.

Max had a contest - win a date with Max to the Nicholl Awards, and the runner up won a date to the Big Break awards. I should have had a contest. She was in the BevWil with the tall guy who won, and two other guys, and Emily and Robin and me. We had some expensive drinks as Max held court and told tales of script meeting disasters (writer horror stories). It was Max’s date’s birthday, so they were buying him shots - many of them - and everyone was getting toasted. I milked my one Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, still a lack-of-sleep lightweight.

Kind of wished I was at Nic’s, because all of the VIPs would be there (except Sorkin) and there might have been an agent or manager there I could casually pitch my new script to. I had a pocket full of business cards and hadn’t given out a single one! The reason why I go to these things is to make some connections that could further my career - and drink free booze and eat free food. Max’s horror stories were fun, but I have a bunch of new specs that *no one* has read. Would be nice to get one read by someone who could help me get it to the screen...

Eventually, it was time to split (leaving Max and some of the others to continue the tequila shots) and get back to the valley. I have a script to rewrite... and Friday begins the Fake Fango Convention in Burbank... which I have ended up slipping. The next night I slept hard, woke up groggy but feeling much better.

Congratulations again to the winners, hope this launches a long career... so that you can tell amusing horror stories about it in the BevWil bar sometime in the future!

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Cut The Wandering - and that scene from FARGO, you know the one.
Dinner: Denny's chipotle chicken breast.
Pages: This blog entry, so that I can get back to work in the rewrite tomorrow.
Bicycle: Short ride - in damp weather.
Movies: RED - Killer cast, killer concept... lame execution.

One of the problems I see more and more often are films where it seems as if they thought they could get by with the premise and trailer based around that premise and a good cast. I don’t know whether it’s a script that goes through so many rewrites that what they end up shooting is a first draft, or if there’s a new generation of development executives that don’t care, or maybe aren’t educated enough to know that the script they think is ready to shoot is really a rough draft. I suspect the reason why the direction is so crappy on many films is that the directors come from adverts or videos and really don’t know how to tell a story visually or work with actors.

Whatever the reason, we end up with a bunch of crap-action and crap-horror and crap-other-genre movies that make me long for the competency of an H. Bruce Humberstone or John Farrow behind the camera and one of those B movie geniuses like John Latimer or Steve Fisher writing the script. It’s funny that Hollywood used to turn out *better* B movies back in the day when they were grinding them out like sausages and a director might be making a film every other month. Today, we have these films like RED and last year’s TO PARIS WITH LOVE, that have big name stars in movies that look like they were slapped together at the last minute. PARIS was strange, because it was really well written (the protagonist has real emotional issues and a real character arc, it was funny, and the action scenes were character related), but directed all wrong. The action scenes were boring in that film, and all of the character-related elements were practically removed. It’s strange to see traces of a really good script in a really not good movie... but RED can’t even boast traces of a good script! (Unless the director *really* screwed it up!)

I have no idea how faithful the script is to the graphic novel, but it’s positively lethargic. It ambles along from scene to scene without anything driving it, even though our protags are targeted for murder. There is no feeling of immediacy to any of it. They go from place to place as if that’s what the script says to do, but none of it seems motivated by the story or the characters. Just, “We should go see what crazy John Malkovich is up to!” and they go there and there are some crazy scenes, and then they go to the next place. The script has basic structure problems.

And in a film like this the dialogue needs to be breezy and clever, but here it’s leaden and dull. There are a couple of funny lines, but compare any 10 minutes of 48 HOURS dialogue to the whole danged film of RED. It's a script that thinks it is more clever than it really is. 95% of the dialogue is perfunctory and 5% is funny... and that's not a good split for a script that goes into production. Where is the banter? Where are those amazing witty lines? Okay, think about how bad that dialogue would have been *without* this cast of great actors! Morgan Freeman can read a damned phone book and make it sound dramatic. Here, his lines are kind of blah. Hey - if the dialogue isn’t witty, you can hire someone to fix it... but *please*, hire them before you shoot the film!

Even though there are past relationships in the script, and actors like Helen Mirren and Brian Cox make them seem real, when you look at what they have to work with it often seems like a sketch of a relationship. Some of the relationships just don’t work - and none are really tested by the story. So the characters often come off as a bag-o-quirks, but not a real person. You may not think a film like this needs real characters, but *all* films need real characters - look at AIRPLANE if you don’t believe me. The film is a parody, but Ted Stryker has real emotional issues he is struggling with, and they may be played for laughs - but he is struggling with them like a character in a dead serious Oscar nominated drama would. In RED, everything seems sketchy and surface, including the characters... and it’s supposed to be “real” rather than parody!

But the biggest problem is probably direction - the tone is all over the place. It’s as if the director thinks “comedy” means “farce” - so everything is over the top wacky when it should just be standard 48 HOURS / LETHAL WEAPON action-comedy. And the action? This director doesn’t have a clue - all of the action scenes are boring. No reversals, no character, just endless shooting. That gets old fast. The best action moment is stolen from the movie HOPSCOTCH - I mean, lifted almost exactly from that film! The problem is, directing action is an *art*, and if the director doesn’t know how to direct an action scene maybe they should be directing another movie? Everyone has a skill set, and should be hired due to their abilities. Hey, you can expand your skill-set by learning and practicing - but hiring some guy who doesn’t have a clue how to direct an action scene to make an action movie is a bad idea. Seriously - hire Rick Jacobson or someone instead. Action scenes should not be boring.

And talk about clumsy direction: there is a plot twist in the film (no spoilers) where a character we thought was no longer part of the story comes back as a major player... and instead of a cool reveal, the character is just in the shot. It was shot as it it wasn’t a twist at all, just another event in the story. And that’s the problem with bad direction - it’s just a bunch of shots that aren’t trying to tell a story. Blanding the whole film instead of making it more exciting.

RED has a great idea, an amazing cast... but thinks that’s all it needs to be a movie. Hey, you still need a well executed screenplay and a director who isn’t just trying to do cool shit that undermines the story. The cast makes it enjoyable, but it could have been so much more.

- Bill

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Under A Thousand Bucks!

So, my out of print book SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is being sold on e-bay and at Amazon second hand. The price has been as high as $750... and that just got beat by someone selling it second hand on Amazon for $999.00

Used Copy Of My Book For Under A Grand!

I don't get a cent from that! I already got paid my $4 when they person who is selling it bought the book in the first place.

- Bill

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lancelot Link Thursday

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who wonder why that development executive is giving you the note that you don't have enough actual monkeys in your remake of The Marx Brothers MONKEY BUSINESS... 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...

Here are five cool links plus this week's car chase...

1) Now that we have the FaceBook movie, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, look what else Hollywood has in the pipeline: More Website Cinema!

2) The Bachelor's Degree 60 Top Blogs For Screenwriters. Check out #10.

3) Your Female Character Flow Chart.

4) The World Clock... with all sorts of things you don't want to know about.

5) And you have probably already seen this... Sesame Street's Smell Like A Monster.

6) This week's car chase - more rural fun from the 70's, when the cops were the bad guys and the crooks were the good guys. DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY... and a Charger vs. a Chopper!

Sorry the blog has been so sparse of late - I'm working on assignments and had Screenwriting Expo and tonight is the Final Draft Big Break Party. Busy! Soon, all will settle down and I'll be posting some new fun stuff.

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: You Have The Wriong Idea! - and conflicts, deadlines, and emotions need to be part of your *concept*.
Dinner: Hometown Buffet, only because I could do salad bar and it's closer to the cinemas...
Pages: Um, got side tracked doing an online interview.
Bicycle: Not really.
Movies: BURIED - more later on this one.

Monday, October 11, 2010

18th Raindance Film Festival Awards

Last year I did the Raindance International Film Festival in London instead of Screenwriting Expo, this year I was at Expo and missed Raindance. But here are a list of the winning films:

Donoma - FRANCE
** Son of Babylon - IRAQ [winner]
Symbol - JAPAN
Woman With A Broken Nose - SERBIA

** Five Daughters [winner]
Jackboots on Whitehall
Rebels Without A Clue

Armless - USA
Cannibal- BELGIUM
Donoma - FRANCE
Huge - UK
Robert Mitchum Is Dead - FRANCE
** The Story Of My Space [Vidrimasgor] - RUSSIA [winner]

Camp Victory, Afghanistan USA
Rouge Ciel - FRANCE
** Sounds Like A Revolution - CANADA [winner]
** There Once Was An Island - USA/NZ [winner]
This Way of Life - NZ

Armless - USA
Flooding With Love For The Kid USA
Incredibly Small - USA
Lovers of Hate - USA
** Macho - MEXICO [winner]

The Golden Boy
Natural Selection
** Stanley Pickle [winner]

Happiness Is Hate Therapy CANADA
I Am A Fat Cat USA
** LIN UK [winner]
Moustachette USA

The director of I AM A FAT CAT was chosen to make next year's Raindance Fest trailer, which either plays in cinemas to advertize the festival... or is banned from cinemas by the censors and becomes a big hit online.

Look for the winners if they are released in the USA, and any of the other films. One year when I was on the jury the winning film went on to win Best Foreign Film Oscar - Raindance always has the most interesting films. Too bad many never make it here.

More info on RAINDANCE.

- Bill


Dinner: Plate-Of-Shrimp at Denny's.
Pages: Yes - worked on rewrite.
Bicycle: Yes - short ride to a different writing venue.
Movies: LET ME IN - and more on that later.

- not really funny, but that’s okay, because despite all of the comedians in the cast it’s a faux edgey-indie story of a suicidal high school boy (Keir Gilchrist) who is admitted to a mental institution for a week of observation. Sort of BOY, INTERRUPTED or ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST in high school.

Because of construction on the mental hospital’s young people’s floor, he’s thrown in with a bunch of crazy adults. Zach Galifianakis is his guide in the looney bin, a psuedo-rebel who sneaks out of the mental hospital to get ice cream - so I guess he’s rebelling against hospital desserts. Lauren Graham and Jim Gaffigan are the boy’s suburban parents who are kind of bland - in the voice over Gilchrist says that his father never has time for him because he’s always working... but in every flashback to home, there’s dad... and he’s constantly visiting the hospital... and the story has him constantly pressuring Gilchrist to get into a good college. Doesn’t make much sense.

Viola Davis is the kind, understanding, doctor - not a bit like Nurse Ratchet - who wants to help Gilchrist with his problems. Jeremy Davies is a hip - something - at the hospital. He wears street clothes and hangs around in the background, in the event we need someone for a little exposition or a leading question. There are a bunch of *almost* colorful crazies - like the Hasidic Jewish guy named Solomon who dropped too much acid and now has amazing hearing, and the guy who is sex-obsessed and Gilchrist’s room mate, an agoraphobic Egyptian who never gets out of bed.

Oh, and Emma Roberts (Eric’s daughter) whose face is sliced with scars... and so is the rest of her body. She’s the only other teen in the loony bin, and that means she and Gilchrist with fall in love for no apparent reason. The only other potential love interest for Gilchrist is his best friend’s girlfriend, played by Lisa Bonet’s teenaged daughter, who talks to him on the loony bin’s pay phone which seems to work without ever putting money into it. Lisa Bonet’s daughter is really cute.

The strange thing about this film is that it looks like one of those 1970s indie films were shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm - grainy, and flat lighting, and crude camera work - when all of that is an affectation. No reason it had to look like that, except that’s what those old edgy-indie films looked like. But the story isn’t really edgie-indie - no one in the loony bin is really crazy, they are just a little eccentric. These are TV sitcom crazy people. And despite the kid being suicidal, he never really tries to kill himself and his depression seems like a typical high school kid’s anxiety (not that being a typical high school kid is easy). This kid never *does* anything suicidal, the way the same character might in one of the 1970s films. And the kid draws pictures, so that we can have some animated sequences that are kind of cool. And the kid has to sing in “musical group therapy”, so that we can have a really fun music video number. And all kinds of other things happen that take time away from any actual look at serious depression or suicide... making this an edgy-indie film that I can recommend to my parents, because nothing particularly edgy ever happens in it. One scene, where I thought for sure something serious and dark might happen, ended up a happy scene where the dark possibilities were never even acknowledged!

So... where is the conflict?
Where is even the *potential* conflict?
It's like the whole film is on Zoloft!

The biggest conflict in this movie about a suicidal teen: he tells one girl he loves her while another girl is listening. Um, that’s the conflict for a subplot in an episode of BEVERLY HILLS 90210, not a conflict in a movie about a kid who contemplates suicide (though, as I said, he never even gets close to suicide).

The strange problem with this film is that it is fake. Unlike those 70s film, IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY has no point to make, no point of view of the world, no anger or passion - it’s just this movie where stuff happens. The closest thing to a point it has is that if you are a mostly spoiled upper middle class suburban kid whose dad wants him to go to a good college - don’t worry so much, that’s not really a big deal nor any different than any other kid like you’s problems. There is more drama, more actual thoughts of suicide, and more of a *point* to the silly comedy BETTER OFF DEAD. And if we look at spoiled upper middle class suburban kids who think about suicide? Well, ORDINARY PEOPLE (made at the tail end of the 70s, but not meant to be edgy - it’s a *glossy* film) the troubled teen actually attempts suicide... and then tries again, later in the film! And he’s not just worried about getting into a good college - he feels guilty for an accident that killed his brother! His brother is DEAD. And his mother isn’t just a little weepy, his mother is a stone cold bitch who BLAMES HIM for killing HER FAVORITE SON. Compare KIND OF A FUNNY STORY to ORDINARY PEOPLE - and you wonder why they wanted to make it. Hey, it is based on a novel - is the novel as wimpy as the movie? ORDINARY PEOPLE was also based on a novel - and was angry and dramatic and tragic and explosive and actually had something to say - a point to make. If we’re talking about edgy 70's movies, you can’t help but think of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST - which takes place in a mental institution - and is dramatic and explosive and angry and really has something to say. Those edgy-indie films they made in the 70s weren’t just grainy camera work, they HAD A POINT TO MAKE. They didn’t pull any dramatic punches, they HAD SOMETHING TO SAY. Many of these current edgy-indie films are imitations - they have no point to make, no real passion, and the film makers have nothing at all to say. It's funny, we get fake grindhouse movies like MACHETE and THE EXPENDABLES and PIRANHA 3D and fake edgy-indie movies... everyone loves the 1970s! But no one seems to want to make movies for 2010.

IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY is a mildly amusing movie, and you really want Gilchrist and Emma to hook up at the end, but it’s lightweight drama. The fake grainy cinematography and fake edgy look and feel of the film is an insult to the films it mimics. Why not just shoot it with the good lighting the film makers could afford? Why try to make it look like some movie it isn’t? I would have liked this film better had they shot it less faux ragged and more like any other competently made film.

- Bill

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Today is 10/10/10.

Though we will have an 11/11/11 and a 12/12/12, after that? We have to wait almost 100 years before we get more cool dates like this.

So, throw a party or something.

- Bill

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Tomorrow (Friday) Is My Expo Day

It's like I'm cramming for an exam in High School again! Today is putting my notes together and preparing for my classes tomorrow. I have tried to catch up on sleep, because there is a good chance I will be awake much of tonight worrying that I have forgotten something, and worrying that I will not be able to fall asleep.

The LAX airport hotels - not my favorite location.

Notes for the new portion of the ideas class - left in London last year or something. So I've been trying to recreate that over the past couple days. I'm sure I will go off book and just wing it.

I'm supposed to be working on one of my assignments, but I'll get back to that after Expo is over...

And hopefully get it done before the Final Draft Big Break Party on Thursday. Because Fake Fango starts the next day.

Oh, and Screamfest starts Tomorrow, too. I have tickets for opening night, but don't think I'll make it. I already missed Shriekfest last weekend. Instead of fighting rush hour traffic to try to get across town to Screamfest from the Airport, I think I may just hang around the hotel bar or attend whatever mixer event Expo has.

This is a busy month...

- Bill

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Story Meeting

Writers often wonder what a story meeting is like. And how often do they read your screenplay, think it is perfect, and just film the sucker?

When we had message boards over on my website one of the regulars, James Patrick Joyce, would jump in and offer spot on advice when I was ignoring my own message boards by being on other website's message boards. Some day he will either win an Oscar or have James Cameron bitch about his latest movie in 3D conversion. He sent me a link to this perfect recreation of the average Hollywood story meeting...

Be prepared - this is in your future!

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Your Inciting Incident - and why it creates the rest of the script.
Dinner: Togos - pastrami.
Pages: More work on my Expo classes, a bit on the rewrite.
Bicycle: Yes - it was raining, but I rode up to the NoHo Panera for the afternoon shift, then rode between the raindrops back to Vent & Vine for the night shift.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Expo Screenwriting Contest Semifinalists


A Far Signal - Noelle Foster
Aitu - Sean Malcolm
Alamo-Duluth: Anatomy of a Lynching - Dale Botten
An Unromantic Comedy - Andy Silverman
Army Ants - Andy Cannistra
Battlecruiser - David Hitchcock
Black Friday - Greg Ernstrom
Blood in the Snow - Susannah Petty
Bronco - Ryan McDonald
Caliburn - Nicholas Horwood
Chasing 4 A.M. - Claudine Huffman
Chuck Hodges Conquers the Universe - David Ball
Clear Cut Love - Tanner Givnan
Cold Barrel Zero - Ronald L. Ecker
Dead Air - Walter Bauer & Paul Loeschke
Dirty Wars - Elizabeth L. Silver
Facebook Revolution - Marc Fienberg
Fugue - Laura Lee Bahr & Andrew Gettens
Get Over It - Natalie Ellis
Gluttons - William Sikorski Jr. & William Sikorski III
Holiday - Philippe Forest
How Do I Love Thee - Susu Langlands
Lifestyle - David Hanson
Monster World - Pat Carey & Wyatt Carey
New Mommy - Hamilton Mitchell
On the Fly - Sammye Pokryfki
Rail Brothers - Jonathan Holly
Salvation, TX - Michael G. Gorman
Served Cold - Steven Pryor
Suck It - Kamal Moo
Summer Camp - Diane L. Hanks
Summer Villains - Macon Blair
The Home Front - Richard Herstek
The Lost Treasure of Captain Kidd - David A. Hernandez
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell - Dane Edward McCauley
The Moonbeam Fisherman - John Dummer
The Price of Babylon - Dean Espinoza
The Switch - Derek Domino
The Wind Riders - Jeff Ryback
To A Dancing God - Robert S. Horvath
Transit - Nicholas Julius
Truthies - Carlo DeCarlo
Whitey Don't Learn - Stephen Kunc
Wrath - John Semikan


30 Rock: "Doppelganger" - Justin R.Schoenfelder
30 Rock: "The Agedly Feeble - Carolyn Kras
Alaska is a Drag - Shaz Bennett
Bodies of Work - NYC - Jorge C. Perez
City of Nights - Grainne Godfree & William Joe Saunders
Curb Your Enthusiasm: "Spic N Span"
Dexter: "Sins of the Father" - Anuradha Vikram & Stephan Vladimir Bigaj
Fight Club and the 5th Street Gym - Tyrone Booze, Mike Kaplan & Dick Zimmerman
How I Met Your Mother: "Identidating" - Wayne Chiang
Incognito - Scott A. Peterson
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: "The Gang is Haunted" - Jeremy McCann
LP - Jonathan Brainard
Mad Men: "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" - Alex Simon
Medium: "From Here to Fraternity" - Tony Eichberger
Modern Family: "Friendly Fire" - Charity Paniamogon
NCIS: "Countdown" - Tammy Olsen & Shawna Moore
Parks and Recreation: "The Election" - Rahom Kazeem
Scalpers - Mike Jelinek
Serial - Matt Sagona
SkinnyMax - Brian Chin-You
The Big Bang Theory: "Head Six Penny" - Jessica Rondash
The Debate - John S. Bushman & Ruth Baird
The Office: "Puppy Love" - Andrea Abel
Two and a Half Men: "Quite Possibly, Definitely, The Next Mrs. Alan Harper" - Augustine Covert
Ultimate Swag - Nicole Wright


An Unromantic Comedy - Andy Silverman
Clear Cut Love - Tanner Givnan
Get Over It - Natalie Ellis
New Mommy - Hamilton Mitchell
Transit - Jason Groce

Above Water - Andy Cannistra
Aurora - Kristi L. Simkins
Broken Me - Maurice Blocker II
No Cigarettes in Space or Untitled Russian Moon Landing - Sundae Jahant-Osborn
The Soil and the Taste of the Grape - Richard Herstek
Weeping Willow - Dennis Shutty

Oh, and I am teaching 2 classes at Expo this year:
Noir & Mysteries on Friday 10/8 @ 2pm, and
Generating High Concept Ideas on Friday 10/8 @ 4pm.

Screenwriting Expo 2010.

- Bill

Friday, October 01, 2010

RIP: Stephen J. Cannell

Here, some idiot forklift driver interviews Stephen J. Cannell and the writers of the A-TEAM movie...

- Bill
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