Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lancelot Link: Into Darkness

Lancelot Link Thursday! Last day of January! Where did the month go? 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 eight cool links plus this week's car chase...

1) STAR TREK behind the scenes.

2) PAPERMAN animated short.

3) Nic Cage's SUPERMAN movie mystery.

4) Winners at Sundance:

Grand Jury Prize, U.S. Dramatic: "Fruitvale," directed by Ryan Coogler.

Grand Jury Prize, U.S. Documentary: "Blood Brother," directed by Steve Hoover.

Grand Jury Prize, World Cinema Dramatic: "Jiseul" (South Korea), directed by Muel O.

Grand Jury Prize, World Cinema Documentary: "A River Changes Course" (Cambodia/U.S.), directed by Kalyanee Mam.

Audience Award, U.S. Dramatic: "Fruitvale," directed by Ryan Coogler.

Audience Award, U.S. Documentary: "Blood Brother," directed by Steve Hoover.

Audience Award, World Cinema Dramatic: "Metro Manila" (UK/Philippines), directed by Sean Ellis.

Audience Award, World Cinema Documentary: "The Square" (Egypt/USA), directed by Jehane Noujaim.

Best of Next (audience award): "This Is Martin Bonner," directed by Chad Hartigan.

Audience Award, Short Film: "Catnip: Egress to Oblivion?", directed by Jason Willis.

Directing Award, U.S. Dramatic: Jill Soloway, "Afternoon Delight."

Directing Award, U.S. Documentary: Zachary Heinzerling, "Cutie and the Boxer."

Directing Award, World Cinema Dramatic: Sebastian Silva, "Crystal Fairy" (Chile).

5) 25 Odd Things About Stallone.

6) The Joys Of Creation!

7) Leonard Maltin - NOT nominated for an Oscar?

8) Remember that cool poster?

Car chase of the week:

BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN - one of my favorite films you've never heard of. Mark Stevens (DARK CORNER) and Edmond O'Brien (DOA) are patrol car cops who work the graveyard shift and sleep during the day. Both fall in love with the same woman - their sexy-voiced dispatcher. I really liked the idea of a movie where the character's days and nights are swapped, since I worked graveyards at Safeway Grocery for a couple of years.

- Bill

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Same Old Song

A couple of days ago my friend Harry wrote a blog entry on why he would not be using crowdfunding to continue his 20 PALACES series of novels. I am a huge fan of the series, and have run banners here on the blog for the books when I probably should have been running banners for my own books. Harry is a great guy, hard working, and eventually wrote a book that Random House thought was going to be the next big thing in the Urban Fantasy genre. They gave Harry a three book deal and deadlines for the next two in the series, and also a big fat check. Awesome! Though the books sold okay, they were not the NEXT BIG THING and Random House opted not to continue the series. Harry had a prequel novel written, so he ended up self-publishing that... and it sold okay to his loyal fans. Traditional publishing has kind of become like the motion picture business - the middle has dropped out. Everyone is looking for the big tentpole hit, not the book that sells okay.

Well, Harry’s 20 PALACES series has a very loyal fan base (I’m part of that) and many of his fans have suggested that Harry could easily continue the series through crowdfunding and make okay money selling the 20 PALACES novels to the loyal fans. That what sells “okay” for Random House is actually pretty good for just a writer. That’s an interesting idea - and I’m sure many writers with mid-range series who have been dropped by their publishers because their books aren’t tentpoles are doing just that (or some variation). But Harry decided not to, and explains it in his blog entry. Though 20 PALACES may not be the next big thing, *Harry* can still be the next big thing. Harry’s goal is to be Stephen King - a traditionally published writer with a growing fan base. *Lots* of people who can’t wait for his next book. Hey, that might make Harry sound vain, so let me say that is the opposite of Harry. Read his blog - he’s the most down to Earth person in the world. Harry believes in himself and believes he can write the Next Big Thing... but that thing seems not to be 20 PALACES... so he’s trying new things.

And that is awesome.

Even though 20 PALACES is a success - how many of us would kill for a three book deal with Random House? - and Harry could continue to write books in that series and make a living, he sees something better on the horizon... and is going for it.

He's taking the next step up.


One of the problems with the Hollywood culture of sequels and reboots is that it’s all about the sure thing instead of the next big thing. They have taken the gamble out of the process - so they can not win. A hit film spawns a hit sequel - and people who loved the first film will buy a ticket for the second film just to relive the experience of the first film. But if that sequel is a lesser experience? The *third* film suffers. We’ve had a lot of third film flops of late, because the thing that usually makes the first film a hit is that it is *different* and new... and the studio often decides not to change the formula and the sequel ends up a search-and-replace version of the first film. Problem there is: a major part of what made the first film successful is that it was different. The better plan is to look at what makes the first film successful and copy that - which includes that it was different. When we look at second films that were successful and *continue* to be successful, like ALIENS, they have taken elements of the first film and added new and different elements to make the second film. It’s all of the great stuff from ALIEN *plus*.  Just doing a cut-and-paste job without adding something fresh and different is all of the great stuff from the first film *minus*, and that’s no way to run a successful business.

As screenwriters we can easily get stuck in a rut. That might even be a successful rut - we may be making a living writing screenplays but seem to hit a brick wall. (Um, this may apply to me.) What we need to do is continue experimenting. Continue learning and expanding and trying new things. We don’t want to become complacent. We don’t want to *not* write the Next Big Thing because we have this current thing working. In fact, when things are working is the exact time to experiment - there’s a certain degree of safety. One of the main complaints I hear from friends who have managers is that they often strike down their experiments - focusing on the sure thing instead of the Next Big Thing. *Mistake!* Since a writer can just write another screenplay, why not let the client take some interesting chances every once in a while? I’m not talking about some wild-ass weird script (though, nothing wrong with writing one if it’s burning inside of you and needs to get out), I’m talking about searching for the Next Big Thing. Something that fits a market, but is different than anything in the market now. Something, you know, *creative*.  If everyone is writing DIE HARD IN A — , maybe it would be fun to write an epic adventure quest? That may not be what is selling this minute, but might be exactly what everyone wants one minute from now?

One of my stupid little jokes is that the world is revolving even when I sleep, so sometimes I wake up and don’t know where I am. We have to run to catch up with our spinning world. We need to be creative and innovative to survive. If we do the same thing all of the time, the world still spins and we become old fashioned.

We need to step up.


Imagine you are a rock star.

Groupies. Limos. Trashing hotels. Millions of fans.

You are the hottest name in music in the world today.

But what about tomorrow?

Music is one of the fastest evolving art forms on the planet. The music I loved as a teenager sounds silly today... but at the time was too radical for my parent’s generation. And the music my parents listen to as teenagers was too radical for *their* parent’s generation. This has probably been going on since the beginning of time. What is interesting is how each generation’s music *builds* on the last generation’s music. This year’s sound isn’t something out of the blue, it’s based on what was popular last year - just changed. No one is inventing a new type of music, but music is *evolving*. Every “new” type of music has its roots in some earlier type of music which had its roots in some even earlier type of music. As the world spins, music keeps moving to keep up with it. When you watch BACK TO THE FUTURE and hear the music that Marty’s parents first danced to... that’s completely different than the music we listen to now. But if you were to listen to music one year at a time (do they still have those Top 10 Hits of 1976 compilations where you can hear the Top 10 from every single year? Or have those gone the way of CDs?), you can see how gradual changes add up to what seems like radical changes. Why an old fart hears today’s music and thinks it’s just noise. The innovative steps are small, but they add up over a couple of decades. That search to find the Next Big Thing in music just keeps moving along... even while we sleep!

Music is not complacent. It is not satisfied with being okay. It is always trying to be better - to explore - to find that new sound that is the breakthrough (for this year or generation... but the world is still spinning!). As creators, we can become trapped in what sounds good today... or what sounded good when we were at that dance in High School, and stop being creative. We can stick with what works *now* and forget that the world spins even while we sleep. Tomorrow really is another day!


If you’re read the IDEAS BLUE BOOK or been on some message board where I went on a rant after reading your script idea, you know that my biggest issue is *creativity*. Often writers want to write the exact same idea that has been done before. They want to copy instead of create. They want to find the easy way instead of the best way. The IDEAS BLUE BOOK has assignments - kind of like games - to get your creativity rolling. To help you see that there are other routes to the same destination - routes we haven’t seen before on film. It’s a new year which is always a good excuse to hit the “reset button” on our lives and careers and dreams.

Success in screenwriting or any kind of creative endeavor isn’t some door that will open for you or some wall that you climb over - it’s more like a series of steps... going up. Not those easy steps that go down where gravity *helps* you, the ones going up where gravity fights you every single step. One of the first blog entries I did was on my trip to Honk Kong to teach at the Hong Kong Film Academy - and after a day of sight seeing I walked up the steps that go from “ground level” city central up the side of the danged mountain to the condo I was staying at that overlooked the city. It almost killed me! One step up after another! At some point, you just want to stop on one of the landings and take a nap - maybe just spend the night there. But there is a bed in that condo - way up there - so you keep climbing. That is screenwriting. A bunch of steps going up a damned mountain. You may get to one level and stop to rest - but if you rest too long you will lose some momentum. You have to keep climbing. There is no magic point where you have broken in and can stop climbing... because there is always more mountain. When you get to that level where you are higher than everyone else - remember that they are still climbing and if you rest too long they will pass you! Plus, just like with music, screenwriting is evolving and changing - and you may find yourself playing 1940s ballads at a rave. Old fashioned. Out of touch.

So, what is your next step?

What are you reaching for this year... that is just slightly out of your grasp?

What is your challenge?

What are you learning how to do?

How are you working to become better than you are now?

We’re all climbing those stairs - even the people ahead of you are climbing (or should be). Take it one step at a time - but keep climbing. You’ll get there... and then have to keep climbing to get to the next “there”!

I can't wait to read what Harry comes up with next!

- Bill

Monday, January 21, 2013

Countdown to PARKER

Okay, I'm back!

After returning from the holidays I got swamped with a pile of things - and pulled a muscle in my back. Oh, and it was (literally) freezing cold in Los Angeles... which makes me want to stay in bed and watch movies and drink cocoa. The main thing I did was see HOW DO YOU WRITE A JOE SCHERMANN SONG (winner at Raindance) again at a cinema just down the street from me - Los Angeles Premiere. Director Gary King and uber-cute star Christina Rose and that actor who made me cry twice with his performance Mark DiConzo and composer Ken Lampl flew in from New York and did Q&A afterwards, then we all went across the street to the Federal Bar. Oh, Victoria Westcott producer of TRAPPED IN A GARAGE BAND also showed up... from Canada. I rode my bike, she probably flew (though I once drove to Vancouver - so that's possible). The movie was great the second time around, and it was great to meet Mark (who wasn't in London for Raindance). A few days later my parents blew through town... and I've been trying to get this Act Two Blue Book finished...

My New Year's Resolution was to write more blog entries - and so far I seem to have failed. But I promise some new stuff is coming - including some new Fridays With Hitchcocks... I hope to finish them off this year and start on something new.

But Friday, a new film comes out... PARKER starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez and directed by *Taylor Hackford*. Oh, and based on a book by my favorite writer, Don Westlake (in his Richard Stark disguise). This is *not* a filmed update of PARKER LEWIS CAN'T LOSE, it's a crime drama from the same series as POINT BLANK with Lee Marvin. So, I'm excited by that.

In the planning stages is the First Ten Pages Blue Book, and one of the new articles is going to be about the first *sentence* in your screenplay. The Parker novels always began with a great first sentence... so here they are:


Hunter (1962): "When a fresh-faced guy in a Chevy offered him a lift, Parker told him to go to hell."

The Man With the Getaway Face (1963): "When the bandages came off, Parker looked in the mirror at a stranger."

The Outfit (1963): "When the woman screamed, Parker awoke and rolled off the bed."

The Mourner (1963): "When the guy with the asthma finally came in from the fire escape, Parker rabbit-punched him and took his gun away."

The Score (1964): "When the bellboy left, Parker went over to the house phone and made his call."

The Jugger (1965): "When the knock came at the door, Parker was just turning to the obituary page."

The Handle (1966): "When the engine stopped, Parker came up on deck for a look around."

The Seventh (1966): "When he didn't get any answer the second time he knocked, Parker kicked the door in."

The Rare Coin Score (1967): "Parker spent two weeks on the white sand beach at Biloxi, and on a white sandy bitch named Belle, but he was restless, and one day without thinking about it he checked out and sent a forwarding address to Handy McKay and moved on to New Orleans."

The Green Eagle Score (1967): "Parker looked in at the beach and there was a guy in a black suit standing there, surrounded by all the bodies in bathing suits."

The Black Ice Score (1968): "Parker walked into his hotel room, and there was a guy in there going through his suitcase laid out on his bed."

The Sour Lemon Score (1969): "Parker put the revolver away and looked out the windshield."

Deadly Edge (1971): "Up here, the music was just a throbbing under the feet, a distant pulse."

Slayground (1971): "Parker jumped out of the Ford with a gun in one hand and the packet of explosive in the other."

Plunder Squad (1972): "Hearing the click behind him, Parker threw his glass straight back over his right shoulder, and dove off his chair to the left."

Butcher's Moon (1974): "Running toward the light, Parker fired twice over his left shoulder, not caring whether he hit anything or not."

Child Heist (1974) (a Parker book they read in the Dortmunder novel Jimmy the Kid): "When the guard came to open the cell door, Parker said to the big man named Krauss, 'Come see me next week when you get out.'"

Comeback (1997): "When the angel opened the door, Parker stepped first past the threshold into the darkness of the cinder block corridor beneath the stage."

Backflash (1998): "When the car stopped rolling, Parker kicked out the rest of the windshield and crawled through onto the wrinkled hood, Glock first."

Flashfire (2000): "When the dashboard clock read 2:40, Parker drove out of the drugstore parking lot and across the sunlit road to the convenience store/gas station."

Firebreak (2001): "When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a man."

Breakout (2002) : "When the alarm went off, Parker and Armiston were far to the rear of the warehouse, Armiston with the clipboard, checking off the boxes they'd want."

Nobody Runs Forever (2004): "When he saw that the one called Harbin was wearing a wire, Parker said, 'Deal me out a hand,' and got to his feet."

Ask the Parrot (2006): "When the helicopter swept northward and lifted out of sight over the top of the hill, Parker stepped away from the tree he'd waited beside and continued his climb."

Dirty Money (2008): "When the silver Toyota Avalon bumped down the dirt road out of the woods and across the railroad tracks, Parker put the Infiniti into low and stepped out onto the gravel."

Great stuff, huh? PARKER is based on the novel Flashfire, where Parker pulls a robbery with a crew he has never worked with before... then gets stiffed when they tell him this robbery was just to get the money to do the next robbery... and they need his share. So, Parker pulls a string of small robberies to make enough money to go after these guys to get the money they owe him. In the book (though - it doesn't look like they're doing this in the movie) Parker has to play a role as a trust fund idiot in order to blend into Palm Beach society... which is great fun in the book, since this is the opposite of Parker's personality.

One of the great things about the Parker books is that they are all armed robberies, and all completely different. Probably four or five deal with armored car robberies - and each is done differently and has a completely different story. How Westlake could take the same situation and find an original way to do it again and again is a great example of creativity and originality. Could you come up with five *completely different* ways to rob a bank?

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Sundance Film Fest & Indie Films
Yesterday’s Dinner: Carnitas burrito @ Chipotle, black beans, brown rice.
Pages: Working on the Act Two Blue Book!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Oscars: Who and what got snubbed?

So who got snubbed... and who didn't deserve a nomination?

I'm excited that BUZKASHI BOYS was nominated due to winning Best Short at the Raindance Film Festival (where I saw it). Great film!

Best Picture:
"Beasts of the Southern Wild"
"Silver Linings Playbook"
"Zero Dark Thirty"
"Les Miserables"
"Life of Pi"
"Django Unchained"

Best Original Screenplay:
"Zero Dark Thirty"
"Django Unchained"
"Moonrise Kingdom"

Best Adapted Screenplay:
"Silver Linings Playbook"
"Life of Pi"
"Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Best Supporting Actor:
Christoph Waltz, "Django Unchained"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "The Master"
Robert De Niro, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Alan Arkin, "Argo"
Tommy Lee Jones, "Lincoln"

Best Supporting Actress:
Sally Field, "Lincoln"
Anne Hathaway, "Les Miserables"
Jacki Weaver, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Helen Hunt, "The Sessions"
Amy Adams, "The Master"

Best Director:
David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Ang Lee, "Life of Pi"
Steven Spielberg, "Lincoln"
Michael Haneke, "Amour"
Benh Zeitlin, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Best Actor:
Daniel Day Lewis, "Lincoln"
Denzel Washington, "Flight"
Hugh Jackman, "Les Miserables"
Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Joaquin Phoenix, "The Master"

Best Actress:
Naomi Watts, "The Impossible"
Jessica Chastain, "Zero Dark Thirty"
Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Emmanuelle Riva, "Amour"
Quvenzhané Wallis, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Best Animated Feature:
"The Pirates! Band of Misfits"
"Wreck-It Ralph"

Best Foreign Feature:
"A Royal Affair"
"War Witch"

Best Visual Effects:
"Life of Pi"
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
"The Avengers"
"Snow White and the Huntsman"

Best Cinematography:
"Anna Karenina"
"Django Unchained"
"Life of Pi"

Best Costume Design:
"Anna Karenina"
"Les Miserables"
"Mirror Mirror"
"Snow White and the Huntsman"

Best Documentary Feature:
"Searching for Sugar Man"
"How to Survive a Plague"
"The Gatekeepers"
"5 Broken Cameras"
"The Invisible War"

Best Documentary Short:
"Open Heart"
"Kings Point"
"Mondays at Racine"
"Snow White and the Huntsman"

Best Film Editing:
"Silver Linings Playbook"
"Life of Pi"
"Zero Dark Thirty"

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
"Les Miserables"

Best Music (Original Score):
"Anna Karenina"
"Life of Pi"

Best Music (Original Song):
"Before My Time" from "Chasing Ice"
"Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from "Ted"
"Pi's Lullaby" from "Life of Pi"
"Skyfall" from "Skyfall"
"Suddenly" from "Les Misérables"

Best Production Design:
"Anna Karenina"
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
"Les Misérables"
"Life of Pi"

Best Short Film, Animated:
"Adam and Dog"
"Fresh Guacamole"
"Head over Heels"
"Maggie Simpson in 'The Longest Daycare'"

Best Short Film, Live Action:
"Buzkashi Boys"
"Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)"

Best Sound Editing:
"Django Unchained"
"Life of Pi"
"Zero Dark Thirty"

Best Sound Mixing:
"Les Misérables"
"Life of Pi"

- Bill

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Lancelot Link: Happy New Year!

Lancelot Link Thursday! Happy New Year! I hope this is a great year for you - and that you sell a big one! 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 eight cool links plus this week's car chase...

1) Pulp Novel Covers!

2) Lowest Grossing Film of 2012?

3) Old Paramount Map Of Los Angeles Look Alike Locations.

4) Special Effects Guy Arrested As Psycho... But It Was Just His Demo Work!

5) Whatever Happened To Hollywood Endings?

6) William Monahan on Dialogue.

7) LOOPER Prrof Of Concept Trailer.

8) Writer I know makes the Black List... and ends up in every newspaper and magazine in the world!

And the car chase of the week!


- Bill
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