Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lancelot Link - The Final Chapter

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who wonder if the new PLANET OF THE APES movie is based on a true story, here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz plus some fun stuff 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) Book Cover Paintings - fascinating artwork!

2) Crime writer Lawrence Block does the blindfold test.

3) Interview with director Nic Roeg (DON'T LOOK NOW).

4) The story behind Short Films at Palm Springs Film Fest.

5) Chart Your Star Or Director! (near the bottom of the pages is a radiobox - enter the star or director's name and see how they did on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Plus this week's car chase...

Michael Bay in all his glory! You will believe a cable car can fly! (even though they are attached to underground cables.)

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: On The Nose Scenes - And the STAR WARS prequels vs. EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
Dinner: El Pollo Loco - okay, here's the problem: I always order black beans because they're tasty. But now they have "premium sides" that are more expensive, and they put black beans on that list... except there is no listing for how much more expensive they are in a combo, and no one at Pollo Loco knows. So, it's impossible to order them!
Pages: Insomnia issues persist. I'm sleepwalking - and that isn't getting pages written.
Bicycle: Mostly short rides because I'm half alseep - though yesterday and Monday did longer rides to get the blood flowing in hopes that would wake me up. I think it helped... though still could be an extra in a zombie film.
Movies: Have seen both BAD TEACHER and GREEN LANTERN.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mondays With Hitchcock... on TCM

Thanks to Richard for mentioning that TCM is showing 5 Hitchcock films from the 1950s on Monday June 27th. Here's the line up, along with links to the Fridays With Hitchcock blog entries and the screenwriting lessons:

STAGE FRIGHT - 08:00 PM - Flashbacks The Lie, Not My Problem (wrong protag).

I CONFESS - 10:00 PM - Character & Story Flow, Chess Dialogue, Misunderstandings, String Theory.

DIAL M FOR MURDER - 12:00 AM - Focus Objects, Suspense Triggers, Unlikeable Leads.

THE WRONG MAN - 02:00 AM - Passive Protagonists, Verite, Faith On Film.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN - 04:00 AM - Transference Of Guilt, Sound Triggers, Suspense.

- Bill

Thursday, June 23, 2011

You Have Been Warned!

A couple of my films are invading the UK again...

6/23 Movies4Men Channel- 15:30 - Crash Dive - The crew of a nuclear submarine rescue supposed victims of a boat disaster, but the victims turn out to be terrorists intent on capturing nuclear weapons aboard the sub.

6/28 Movies4Men 2 - 1:05 - The Base - A US Army Investigator is assigned to bring down a drugs ring from within. Only when infiltrated does Major Murphy realise how high the corruption runs and now the danger he faces.

I am sorry.

- Bill

Sunday, June 12, 2011

What *Everybody* Wants To See!

I am not a fan of IMDB's user ratings, and not just because they all give my films bad grades. Their Top 100 is filled with fan boy films and often excludes great films... and that's just strange. The problem is, people go to IMDB in the first place are film fans and fanboys rather than the general movie going public, and we have already learned from movies like WATCHMEN that you can have a film that seems to be the hottest movie ever made according to those on the internet... but it doesn't turn into the hottest movie at the box office. The avereage ticket buyer probably doesn't even know what IMDB is. The main purpose of IMDB is to list credits, and how many ticket buyers are interested in the credits in the first place? Most people don't even sit through them any more.

Here is some dramatic proof... Every week IMDB prints a little chart of the new films users are most interested in seeing this weekend, and here's that chart from Thursday:

So, was JUDY MOODY the number one film over the weekend? Was TROLLHUNTER number two?

I have no idea how JUDY MOODY ranked higher than TROLLHUNTER on their interest list, doesn't seem to be a fanboy pick or a film snob pick... but maybe those film snobs have little kids? Whatever the reason, both of those films are freak picks.

I may have mentioned Cinemascore in a past blog entry, and that is a scientific poll. They poll *every* ticket buyer in cinemas all over the United States on opening night with a simple card that asks them to grade the film A to F and asks their sex and age range. Everyone in the cinema gets a card and responds, not just the fanboys and film fans. You end up getting not just the opinions of those with strong enough opinions that they're going to rush home, get on the computer, and say how much they lover or hated a film - you also get the middle ground. And the middle ground is where most ticket buyers are... and where most word of mouth recommendations come from. If you get every ticket buyer in the cinema, and cinemas all across the United States (a good cross section of the country) you get a realistic look at what ticket buyers thought of the film. Not just the fanboys and filmsnobs.

Cinemascore is also a good barometer for how many tickets a film will sell next weekend - though whatever else opens next weekend is a big variable. If a film gets A+ to A it will have great word of mouth. Even a B+ usually means that a film will keep selling tickets, like BRIDESMAIDS. When we get to a B grade we are in that gray area - the audience thought the film was good but not great, and sometimes that has their friends thinking they might wait for Netflix. And, yes, people do give films an F grade sometimes - remember THE BOX? But by polling *everyone* you get a much better idea of what people really think.

It's easy for us (screenwriters) to think that because we like a movie and everyone we know likes a movie, that the rest of the world likes that movie. But we know about IMDB, right? Chances are, we are either fanboys or film snobs - and often some weird extreme version because we are often literary people as well. We might see TRANSFORMERS and think it is the worst piece of garbage ever made (I did) but the average ticket buyer did not share those feelings. It managed an A grade from Cinemascore... and the box office showed that despite the reviews the word of mouth from the ticket buyers was good. That A grade meant they thought the film was great and told their friends to go see it. Often films that I think are terrible get great scores from the ticket buyers and are huge hits. On the website I have a Script Tip in circulation on the Two Kinds Of Good - quality good and entertainment good - and how as much as we may not like it, Entertainment Good is more important. People go to the cinema to be entertained.

This doesn't mean we have to lower our standards and start thinking that TRANSFORMERS is the greatest film ever made, but it does mean we are in a strange position as screenwriters: we are writing for those ticket buyers who thought TRANSFORMERS was "great" and yet we can easily see a million reasons why it was not great at all. Instead of hacking out some piece of garbage we think the stupid audience might like, we need to write something that we think is great and that they will think is great. Some *quality* entertainment. You know, those popular movies that *you* thought were great. And it also helps to stay in touch with folks that aren't film snobs and fanboys - those regular ticket buyers. Over the holidays I always see movies with my friends from back home and (over beers) discuss what they liked about the films or what they hated about them. This helps me to understand why they liked some film that I did not like, and vice versa. Usually, I am patient with a film... and they want the rollercoaster ride to begin as soon as they sit down and never let up. This is why I pay close attention to pacing when I'm writing a screenplay. I am fascinated by those films like TRANSFORMERS that I really don't like but my friends did like, and want to figure out what, exactly, made that film work for them. These are lessons that I can apply to my (hopefully more intelligent) screenplays. I do my own form of audience research, and am more interested in talking to people who disagree with my opinion than those who agree with me. I already agree with myself, I don't need that information.

Though I love movies and have strong opinions on which ones are great and which ones suck (and try to figure out why), I try to find the common ground between what I love and what that mass audience of ticket buyers love. I love fast paced films, they love fast paced films - so I can write a fast paced script that would be a film that *I* would love to see, and I hope they would, too. I love cool big scenes, they love cool big scenes. I love emotional scenes, they love them, too. My personal audience research has found plenty of common ground between a guy who lists AMARCORD as one of his 5 favorite films and all of those ticket buyers who have never heard of Fellini. I can write my scripts in a way that appeals to those other people... even the fanboys and film snobs!

(WATCHMEN is on IMDB's Top 500 List, AMARCORD (Oscar Winner) is not!)

So, how many of you were most interested in seeing TROLLHUNTER over the weekend?

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Cool World - Is the world your story takes place in interetsing and unusual?
Dinner: Ruben at Togos.
Pages: Getting back on the horse... 4 pages.
Bicycle: Mostly short rides.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Lancelot Link Thursday: The Revenge

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who want can't wait to see that documentary about the family who raised a chimp as their child (mom actually breast fed it!)... here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

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

1) Intelligent comedy vs. the other kind.

2) The top loglines at Amazon Studios.

3) Film School Thesis Generator.

4) The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema doesn't want you to talk or text during the film.

5) Actor Richard E Grant on development hell.

6) My friend Jonathan King isn't only the brilliant director of BLACK SHEEP and UNDER THE MOUNTAIN, he is also a talented cartoonist... and here is his new comic strip THREAT LEVEL. Enjoy!

This week's car chase: Maybe it's just because I grew up in the Bay Area, but is there a better city for a car chase than San Francisco? Lots of variety, lots of hills, lots of things to crash into...

And you thought it was going to be BULLITT, didn't you!

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Adaptation - and what I learned adapting a New York Times best selling novel for a producer at MGM.
Dinner: Italian Hoagie.
Pages: Nope - still snotty.
Bicycle: Nope - went to the movies.

Movies: THE DOUBLE HOUR - Italian. A twisty thriller about Sonia (Kseniya Rappoport) a hotel maid in her early 30s who meets ex-cop Guido (Filippo Timi) now working as a security guard, at a speed dating thing. Both are emotionally damaged. At first they decide not to go out with each other... but they have sadness in common, and start dating. He works as a guard at a huge country estate while the owner is away - watching monitors all day. She cleans up after messy people and is learning Spanish from CD classes. Because she loves the country, he invites her to hang out with him at work, and they go hiking around the country estate... on the day a violent crew of thieves comes to rob the place. They steal all of the antique furnishings, all of the paintings and ceramics and sculptures... and then the couple is shot.

But who is killed and who is alive is a mystery, as Sonia wakes up in the hospital alive and goes back to work at the hotel. But is she really alive? And is the ex-cop Guido she grew to love really dead? Or is it the other way around?

This film has a great triple twist that has your questioning what is real... And at its heart is a sad romance about people trapped by their past mistakes.

- Bill

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Lancelot Link Thursday...

Lancelot Link Thursday! For those of you who want HANGOVER 3 to be that monkey getting married and the four guys have a bachelor party for the moneky and go to a monkey strip bar and then wake up the next morning and... here are some articles about screenwriting and the biz plus some fun stuff 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) How about a free Film Festival Guide?

2) How to tell if you're a writer.

3) Totally cool retro movie posters - I love the one for ROCKY!

4) Did Robert Redford write ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN?

5) Pencil art... *unusual* pencil art!

6) And this week's car chase...

Cool! Reminds me of the stuff I was doing when I was a kid.

I'm suffering from an awful summer cold, so the planned new entry in the Fridays With Hitchcock series will be next week. Sorry! There will be a rerun tomorrow... but it'll be a good one!

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Genre Is Emotion - and why the audience liked HANGOVER 2 and the critics hated it... with cameos by Hope & Crosby!
Dinner: Panda Express - sweetfire chicken & orange chicken.
Pages: I wrote 2 pages - I am fighting a head cold right now and my brain is 93.7% snot. I'm sorry I had to share that with you.
Bicycle: Short bike ride.
Movies: PIRATES 4 on Monday, because the cold was starting to take hold and I didn't feel like working. More on that later - but mostly I thought it was bland and had boring action scenes and wasn't as fun as previous films.
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