Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lancelot Link: Knil Tolecnal!

Lancelot Link Thursday! To prepare you for MAGIC MIKE here are this week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

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

1) Tom Hanks on Nora Ephron.

2) Billy Mernit on Nora Ephron.

3) Shane Black on Action Movies.

4) Timeline for PULP FICTION.

5) What happens when a Pixar illustrator turns R rated movies into a kid's book?

6) The recycled dialogue of Aaron Sorkin.

7) 10 Rules Of Hollywood Blockbusters That Hollywood Forgot.

And the car chase of the week...

From one of several movies titled BLACK RAIN.

- Bill





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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lancelot Link: Part 2

Lancelot Link Thursday! Before there was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter there was Lancelot Link: Spy! This week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff 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) Looking For Some Classic Horror Scripts To Read?

2) BLADE RUNNER in watercolors.

3) Symbolism In Novels - The Untold Story!

4) Suicide Notes Of The Rich And Famous.

And the car chase of the week...

- Bill

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mobile Phone Nightmare Continues

So, I have been without a working phone for well over 2 weeks. My old phone went swimming a couple of months ago, I got a new smart phone... and it had trouble booting right out of the box. But after that it worked well for a month (with some small issues) and then started crapping out again and again. Over 2 weeks ago it got stuck in the boot-loop, yelling DROID! every few minutes.

I took it to the Verizon store, where they did a "factory re-boot"... which worked for a day. A little over a week ago I went back and told them the danged phone still didn't work - they tried the factory reboot again and nothing happened... so they ordered me a replacement phone.

I waited for the danged thing to arrive for over a week - and it never did.

I was having dinner with a friend who was telling me about ordering a replacement credit card that never arrived, and when he called the bank they told him it had never actually been ordered. Someone forgot to push the button.

So I went to the Verizon store again yesterday to make sure someone pushed the button... and that's why my phone never arrived. It was never ordered. So we went through the whole things again - they needed to make sure the phone could not be factory rebooted before ordering me a new phone... and *this time* I asked for paperwork on the order. Got it. So I should have a phone again on Thursday. Sorry if I never returned your call...

UPDATE: I know have a working phone.

- Bill

Dinner: Popeye's Chicken.
Pages: A new chapter for a Blue Book expansion.
Bicycle: After a few long rides, some short ones.


Otherwise known as “That vibrator movie with Maggie Gyllenhaal”.

Amusing little film that seems as if it were made for an American audience by British people... who don’t really understand American audiences. The film is the result of about a dozen European production companies and studios working together, and though it takes place in London was filmed in Luxembourg. Though the love/hate relationship between Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy seems perfect for a barrage of clever zingers like the banter from a Howard Hawks movie or a Tracy/Hepburn movie; the writers decided to make it more subdued humor... at times almost a comedy of manners. Though I wouldn’t want to be the development executive giving them a note like “Should be banter instead of soft comedy” - it *does* seem like the male/female relationship and some of the story elements fit that style of comedy better. But what they did, they did well. So it’s a light comedy that seems to be made up of three different stories that somehow all manage to work together pretty well.

One story is about a wealthy doctor’s daughter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is so fiercely independent that she turns her back on society and spends her time working with the poor and destitute in a shelter - she has run ins with her father who wants her to get over this silliness and take her place in society.

The second story is about a once idealistic doctor (Hugh Dancy) who sells out and becomes the Victorian England version of a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, providing manual stimulation to wealthy women with symptoms of frustration and dissatisfaction and sometimes even anger - which is known as the medical condition “Hysteria”. He diddles them, they feel better... they make lots of future appointments. He has kind of a coming of age story when after becoming engaged to his boss’s daughter and seeing a day when he might someday take over the practice and hire other young doctors to manually stimulate wealthy women, finds his idealism again.

The third story is about the accidental invention of the vibrator by a wealthy wacky inventor (an almost unrecognizable Rupert Everett) who was trying to make an electric feather duster to help with house work.

Though there’s a title card that says “based on true events” or some such thing, I believe the third story probably has some truth to it and the other two are pure fiction. Fiction created to take what’s probably a fairly boring story and make it fun. And the writers actually make it work as one story (with some rough edges from time to time). The father of the independent woman is the doctor who owns the diddle practice our once idealistic doctor goes to work for, and the wacky inventor is our idealistic doctor’s college chum and best friend. There are times when the film cuts between the three where it becomes obvious that these are three different stories glues together by that montage. Other scenes that work perfectly in their own story seem to intrude on one of the others - especially a longish courtroom scene. And in order to tie the stories together with a happy ending, some things are resolved waaaaay too easy. But if you are an American who enjoys British films, this will probably be an enjoyable couple of hours in the cinema.

Oh, stay for the credits to see a history of vibrators - photos that run along the side of the credits.

- Bill

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Any Questions?

I did a pair of talks within the same week - one at Universal Studios along with Zak Penn (AVENGERS) to the Scriptwriter’s Network... and 6 days later to a group of Highschool students downtown (as in - near the criminal courts building) for my friend Emily. One was kind of formal, the other was just talking with kids. One had a moderator asking Zak and I questions, the other was just me showing a clip from BLACK THUNDER and telling a little bit about the job of screenwriter. And then both went to the audience for question and answer sessions - and that’s what I want to talk about today.

Between film festivals and writer’s conferences and websites and magazines and everything else, I’ve done hundreds of interviews and answered thousands of questions... and many of those questions were a waste of time. My time, and the time of the audience and the time of the person asking the question. I swear, at every single event where I’ve been on a panel someone asks “How do you get an agent?” Stuff like that seems like cart-before-horse and wouldn’t that be a better question to ask *an agent*? Yet that question is always asked, and questions about *writing screenplays* sometimes never come up! I’ve been on panels where I thought I might be in the wrong room!

And it’s not just the audience - I’ve been on panels and interviewed where it seems like the moderator or journalist was asking all of the stupid questions. One of the odd issues with moderators or interviewers is that they often have their own agenda or personal interest and ask questions based on them - creating some really weird interviews. I was on a panel of action writers once where the moderator was a sci-fi geek... and all of the questions were about writing science fiction and STAR TREK - and none of us had ever written an episode or one of the movies. Often you get moderators who think Hollywood sucks because of (fill in the blank) and the questions are all about (fill in the blank) When a panel of screenwriters is getting hammered with questions from the moderator on why Hollywood is obsesses with making films in 3D, it’s just wasting *everyone’s* time. We don’t have anything to do with that decision. Please, ask us about dialogue or plants and pay offs or something! But in cases like this - the moderator is in control and we will talk about what the *moderator* wants to talk about.

I moderated an action panel for Sherwood Oaks College once - it was a 2 day even with a dozen panels and I was doing one of the last ones... and afterwards a *bunch* of people came up to tell me how great my moderation was. WTF? I just sat there and asked questions! But, it seems some other moderators had steered the conversation to whatever they wanted to talk about and some of the panels were a waste of time. By the way, I love Sherwood Oaks - Gary does great events - I’m using it as an example only because it’s typical. Many of the events I attend have odd moderator issues, and you really appreciate someone who seems to have done their homework and asks great questions. I was on an action panel at Austin where the moderator had actually read at least the capsule descriptions of all of our films so that he seemed like he’d seen them (including mine). But guys like that are rare - usually you get a moderator who will ask an action panel something like why does Hollywood put up with Lindsay Lohan’s antics? Um, we don’t know.

I was interviewed once by a guy who wanted the interview to be all about *him*. He thinks (fill in the blank) about screenwriting, how did I feel about that? So my answer could only be about some odd belief he had... but maybe no one else has. Yikes! When you are reading some writer interview and the writer is talking about stuff you don’t care about, that’s usually because the interviewer *asked* those questions.


Okay, you are going to some screenwriting event where there will be panels or guest speakers... what are you going to ask them? Don’t wait until you get there to come up with some questions - if you know who is going to be on the panel in advance, do some research on who they are and what they might know about *writing* that could help you and come up with some questions. Don’t try to be clever and ask a pointless question just to show that you saw that writer’s long lost first film or something - the purpose is not to have the famous writer think you are clever (they won’t) but to get some actual information and guidance from someone who does this for a living.

At Scriptwriter’s Network there were some great questions to Zak about working on the Marvel films leading up to THE AVENGERS, and how he was involved early on in all of those films planting elements that would later be used in AVENGERS. That was an interesting question because it’s like a series of interlocking movies - how do you write something like that?

I’ve seen a bunch of movies where I want to run of out the cinema and search for interviews with the writer to see if they talk about some unusual or clever aspect of the story and explain how or why they did it. Hey - those are the questions to ask!

Though writing process questions can be good - there was a question at Scriptwriter’s Network about outlining vs. freewriting - some questions just seem pointless to me. “What software do you use?” Who cares? You use whatever you use, and there are writers who use typewriters and some who write longhand and have typist key it in to a computer (on some program) - it doesn’t matter! Zak uses Final Draft, I use Movie Magic. Doesn’t matter - when you hit “print” both spit out a screenplay. The important part, the thing that *does* matter - what’s on the pages of that screenplay. The story, the characters, the actions, the dialogue, the scenes, the situations, etc. Ask about the writing part!

But come up with some good questions about craft and technique and story... and ask them. What I would do is look at the problems *you* are having with your screenplay (and screenwriting). Making sure each character has a unique voice? Coming up with that great ending? Making the love interest plausible? Turning emotions into actions? Adding depth to your protagonist? Whatever *you’re* having trouble with - this is a great chance to have an expert give you advice!

Next thing to do is look at who will be speaking and become familiar enough with their work to figure out which writer is the best one to ask. One of them may have a film that tackles that problem, and you can find out how *they* did it. The better you can match question to person, the better your answer will probably be.

*How* you ask the question is important, too. You want to ask the question in a way that *everyone* benefits from the answer. That means, you’ll need to phrase it in a way that is general to screenwriting and not specific to your screenplay. A panel or speaker doesn’t want to hear you describe your story for 5 minutes before you get to the question. So, *before* the event, take the time to figure out what your question *is*. Find the way to phrase it so that it’s a general question about screenwriting so that you don’t have to explain the situation. By the way, if you do that - half the time you can figure out the answer *without* the expert’s help - but ask anyway. You may get methods you never thought of. But it’s all about being prepared *before* the event, rather than trying to figure out questions without knowing who the speakers are and how to explain what you need to know.


The kids in Emily’s class had all just made short films as an assignment, and had lots of questions about how things are done in “real movies” and how they could do things like that in their movies. These were great questions because they were all about *how to do things* and those kids might do some of those things in future short films. There were also some good questions about the clip I showed them - including one on how a scene where a star is flying a jet fighter plan is filmed. My clip had a scene like that with Michael Dudikoff, and one kid asked if they did the same thing with Tom Cruise in TOP GUN - yes, they did. And I talked about how scenes like that are written. Oddly enough, I think the kids asked better questions than I get when I’m on some film festival writer’s panel. Maybe that’s because they just want to know *how* to do things. Even the smart ass questions from the kids were pretty good - one on why were there so many explosions in my clip, and another on whether actors and actresses really have sex in sex scenes (I didn’t show them a sex scene - they must have seen one somewhere else). Both were jokes - but still had to do with how movies are made and why Michael Bay movies are so popular. Even when they were joking, they wanted to know how things were done and why things were done - practical questions!

If you are in the audience at one of these panels or events and you have *one chance* to ask Shane Black or Aaron Sorkin a question... is it really going to be what software he uses? Take the time before the event to come up with questions where the answers will help *your writing* - those are the ones to ask.

- Bill

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lancelot Link: 2 Lancelot 2 Link!

Lancelot Link Thursday! This week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, 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) Francis Ford Coppola interview.

2) The 22 Rules Of Screenwriting... from Pixar.

3) Exploitation Movie Posters Throughout History.

4) How Not To Write A Screenplay.

5) *Prehistoric* Movies... and the first directors were women!

6) 70mm Film Festival - $20!

And the Car Chase Of The Week...

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER - just before Roger Moore and hick cops became the new low for Bond movies, this moon-buggy chase.

- Bill

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Take Him To The Rack!

So, you may be wondering why the promised new Fridays With Hitchcock was *again* delayed...

A coupled of weeks ago I rode my bike to Big 5 Sporting Goods to buy a new backpack. My old one - a couple years old and an ugly powder blue - was starting to tear. It was still usable, but why not get a new one? When I pulled up at Big 5, there was a banner announcing a bike sale. Though my trusty Schwinn is about 3 years old, it’s in okay shape (one of the shifters is loose) and I just replaced both tubes and even took some furniture polish to the frame to make it look pretty. No reason to replace it. Rides well. Broken in but not broken.

But at Big 5 - no place to lock it. Though they had that big banner announcing a bike sale, there was no place to lock a bike outside. No bike rack. The best you could do is lock to the pole announcing that this space is Handicapped Parking. There were two of those... and the other one had two bikes locked to it. When I began locking my bike, the couple came out of Big 5 and I joked about the bike sale banner but no place to lock up... and as fellow members of the chain gang, they joked back... and we had a conversation about all of the places where they don’t provide anyplace for you to lock a bike... yet they’ll gladly sell you one.

And that makes no sense.

Here in Los Angeles we have pollution problems (you may have heard) so there’s this thing called Ride Share Thursday. You see, the smog was so bad at one point that 7% of all natural cause deaths in Los Angeles were directly related to auto pollution. So the EPA demanded the city clean up their act - which is where this toy subway came from. But also a bunch of voluntary things like Ride Share Thursday, where people are encouraged to car pool and bike and use public transit to work. I don’t think anyone actually does it - but the city is promoting the idea of people bicycling... yet many business have no place to park your bike once you get there. Imagine driving to the mall in your car... and there being no parking at all! Slowly the city has begun putting up these upside down U shaped “racks” all over town, so there are now some places to lock up. Still some sections of town where you have to lock to a light pole or something.

I often go to the AMC theaters in Burbank... which have no place to lock a bike at all. A couple of years ago at the AMC North, I locked my bike to the little fence that separates the parking lot and sidewalk - and a Security Guy told me I couldn’t park there. I asked him *where* I was supposed to park, and he said not his problem. So I had to take my bike off the mall property and lock it to a light pole. The problem with that is - locked next to the cinema is safer than out on the street.

When I went to see AVENGERS at the AMC 16 (the big new cinema in its own outdoor mall) there were at least *60* bicycles parked around the outdoor mall - locked to light poles, trees, stairway railings, etc. Because there are hundreds of parking spaces for cars and not a single place to lock a bike - anything you could lock to was taken! I ended up parking my bike way down the street on one of Burbank City’s bicycle shaped “racks”. But I wondered why the mall didn’t have anyplace to lock a bike, when obviously they have plenty of customers who ride there? One of the other malls I go to regularly (an uncrowded Starbucks) has a section of their parking lot designed for bicycles and motorcycles. A couple of okay bike racks (there are good bike racks and basically pointless ones) - and they are always filled. But the AMC and mall have no place to park cycles of any kind. It’s not uncommon to see motorcycles sharing a space between a couple of parked cars. Just seems short sighted... and unfair, if not somehow illegal. I mean, if the city *requires* so many parking spaces for the mall - when they built the new cinemas they had to build a new parking structure to get their permit so that all of those people who go to the movies will have a place to park... and it’s still mega-crowded on Friday and Saturday night and you have to park your car in the city structure a few blocks away and hike - why doesn't the city require places for bikes and motorcycles to park? And why doesn’t the property owner do it without regulation? Nobody does *anything* without regulation and laws! If there weren’t health codes, you’d be eating plate scrapings from the last customer... and some places, you still might. But with bicycles - nobody cares. So, well over 60 customers on opening night of AVENGERS get screwed and have to fend for themselves.

I was there once and saw two Bike Cops trying to figure out where to lock up when they went into Chipotle to get a burrito. They ended up handcuffing their bikes to a tree!


So, at the end of week before last I go to see BATTLESHIP at the AMC 16, and there are about a dozen bikes locked to light posts and stair rails, and I go to lock up on a tree and a passing Security Guy says I can’t do that. I ask where I’m supposed to lock, he says not his problem... and I wait until he leaves and lock up to a light pole. I grab a burrito and see the wonderful fabulous imitation Michael Bay movie and go down the stairs to grab my bike... and it’s not there. I look around - maybe I parked it somewhere else? The problem with somewhere you regularly go to is that your memory may play tricks on you - so maybe I parked it on that pole last time and this time I parked it on the other side of the outdoor mall? Nope. No bike.

So I call Mall Security on my new phone - which has problems - and get them to send a guy over so that he can take down my info and tell me I wasn’t supposed to park there and there isn’t a place to park bikes at the mall and I should file a police report... and that *maybe* they have the thief on tape, because I managed to lock to a light pole right in the line of sight of a security camera. None of this makes me happy.

I go home (an adventure!) and the next day take the bus to Target and buy a new bike (driving one vehicle to buy another vehicle makes no sense to me... and then I have a bike hanging out of my trunk). Because I was stinging from having my bike stolen, I bought a cheap bike and an expensive lock. One of those $100 Made In China bikes. As soon as I rode it away - heading down Victory into Burbank to the police station - I regretted not just buying another Schwinn - because even if Schwinns are all made in China now, they are better made than the $100 bike... which was heavy and sluggish and the brakes and gear shifters were too close together and difficult to operate. You don’t really want brakes that are difficult to use.

So I get to Burbank Police Department, where I wait 45 minutes for an officer to come out and fill out a police report... only to tell me I should have reported the theft immediately after it happened, because they may have pulled over a truck filled with bicycles and recovered mine. I asked if they *had* pulled over a truck full of bicycles the night before, he said no. So, um, why are you giving me a hard time? Yes - I said that out loud. I’m lucky I got out of the police station without being arrested. Oh, by the way - no place to lock a bike at the police station. I locked to the stair railing.

The officer told me they seldom recover bikes... even though the mall had video of the guy stealing my bike! He also told me bikes get stolen from there often.

Oh, and this was *right before* the Great American Pitchfest.


Meanwhile, my new phone is a piece of junk. After working fine for a month, it suddenly has begun freezing and getting stuck in a reboot-loop yelling DROID! constantly. One night the phone wakes me up yelling DROID! over and over again for almost an hour... then just dying. The problem is - my phone is now my watch and my phone book and my calendar and all kinds of other things. When my phone dies, I’m lost. This new phone replaced my old one that accidentally went swimming. It was just a regular phone, this new one is a *smart* phone.

The old phone came with an instruction book. The smart phone came with a quick start guide... and the instructions on the phone itself. Some instructional videos, too. The problem was - there were no instructions on how to find the instructions on the phone. I found them once, and then couldn't find them again. So some things the phone could do... I didn’t do because I couldn’t figure it out.

Okay, here’s the problem: when the phone starts going crazy and yelling DROID! all day, and you want to look at the instructions and see if there’s something simple you can do... the instructions are on the phone. You know, the phone that isn’t working.

Before I went online and found the instructions and read them (not very informative when it comes to things going wrong, but *really* informative when it comes to buying aps), I pulled out the battery to force it to reboot. And *sometimes* that worked... and sometimes it got caught in the DROID! cycle again. Then, my phone wiped all of my contacts and phone numbers and past texts and everything. This happened overnight without me pulling the battery or playing with it in any way. I can’t call anyone - I don’t know their number! And the damned phone still keeps yelling DROID!

Meanwhile, that new backpack I bought? Begins tearing like crazy. The fabric is cheaper than the old backpack, and every seam begins to tear open. Guess what? I threw out the old backpack! So now I need to get a new backpack and a new phone and...


I ride the cheapo bike all week, and don’t like it anymore. I have drinks with friends in downtown Hollywood - where you wouldn’t want to park your car - and lock my bike on a U on the street with the expensive lock and my phone yelling DROID! from my shirt pocket. I have to pull the battery to shut the damned thing up, and when I come out of the bar my bike is still there by some miracle... and not gang tagged or defaced in any way.

A couple of bikes back I had a side-saddle basket on back, and when I parked it on the street I would return to a basket full of trash. I’d ride to the nearest trash can and throw it away... then find someplace to wash my hands. But no one left garbage on my bike that night.

I need to take my mind off the phone and backpack issues, so at the end of last week - seven days after my old bike was stolen - I park my crappy new bike outside the AMC 16 in Burbank, using that super-strong lock to lock it to a light pole... my phone yelling DROID! the whole time. This time I pick a light pole in front of a restaurant, where people might notice someone with bolt cutters or a torch stealing bicycles. I go see SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, pull the battery fron my phone so that it will stop yelling DROID! Two hours later I leave the cinema and go to my crappy bike... and it’s gone. The lock sliced by some freakin’ industrial boltcutters or something. I walk directly to the police station and report it stolen to a cute Aussie or NZ female officer, and have another exciting trek home by bus.

Two bikes stolen in one week!

My phone completely screwed up!

My backpack falling apart!

The next day I go back to Target and buy a fucking new Schwinn and a kryptonite lock *and* a cable lock. Oh, and a can of flat gray spray paint. When I get the bike home, I deface it with the spray paint. Then I go to the Verizon store where they tell me my DROID! yelling phone is just stuck in a loop and they can do a factory reboot... but my contacts are gone forever. I have a old phone somewhere that can be used to transfer them... whenever I find that old phone.

They fix the phone, I get on my defaced bike (not stolen) and go home.

I am awoken in the middle of the night by the phone yelling DROID! over and over again. It’s still broken.

That was my week. This one *has* to be better. It will begin with me buying a new backpack and then shoving my phone up the butt of someone at the Verizon store.

I will never see another movie at AMC Burbank again, and plan to boycott all businesses that do not have bike racks.

- Bill

PS: On Saturday - with my DROID! yelling phone turned off - I spoke to the Scriptwriter's Network on the Universal Lot along with Zak Penn. It went better that the week that had preceded it... almost anything would have.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Lancelot Link: Vampire Hunter

Lancelot Link Thursday! This week's links to some great screenwriting and film articles, plus some fun stuff that may be of interest to you. Brought to you by that suave and sophisticated secret agent...

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

1) Blog about making a no-budget film - is filled with valuable lessons.

2) PROMETHEUS screenwriter Jon Spaihts.

3) Indie Blockbusters? How the LOTR movies saved indie films... until WB killed them!

4) Turn any website into Samuel L. Jackson's website with this handy gizmo!

5) DJANGO UNCHAINED trailer...

6) Super 8mm behind the scenes footage from REVENGE OF THE JEDI!

7) James Bond at 50... this is the 50 year anniversary of Dr. NO.

Car Chase Of The Week:

Top 5 James Bond Car Chases...

- Bill
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