Monday, October 27, 2014

Lancelot Link: Board Games Edition

Lancelot Link Monday! OUIJI is based on a Milton Bradley board game... the people who make Monopoly are helping you invite Satan into your house! While you're thinking about that, 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 ten links plus this week's car chase...

1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Ouiji........................... $20,006,000
2 John Wick....................... $14,150,000
3 Fury............................ $13,000,000
4 Gone Girl....................... $11,100,000
5 Book Of Life..................... $9,800,000
6 St Vincent....................... $8,058,000
7 Alexander Terrible............... $7,023,000
8 Best Of Me....................... $4,736,000
9 Judge............................ $4,345,000
10 Dracula Untold................... $4,302,000

2) The Brown List: Which Execs Are Mean, Nasty, Shitty?

3) Isaac Asimov on Creativity.

4) The Next Generation Of Female Screenwriters... are here *now*!

5) David Fincher's DP With SIX Tips For Low Budget Cinematography.

6) Everything You Need To Know About Digital Cameras!

7) Ted has Hope that HBO & Netflix will lead to quality films.

8) My Portland pal Daniel Wilson says ROBOPOCALYPSE is on Spielberg's schedule.

9) Someone else I know: Larry Wilson on BEETLEJUICE sequel!

10) Keanu On JOHN WICK! Your Must See Film!

And the Car Chase Of The Week!

Okay, horror movie chase scenes...


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The 13 Days Of Halloween:
Black Christmas (1974)

Before there was John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN there was Bob Clark's BLACK CHRISTMAS - the original "We've traced the call... it's coming from INSIDE the house!" movie. I caught this at a drive in on a double bill with Larry Cohen's IT'S ALIVE - and IT'S ALIVE was the "A" feature! But this film really creeped me out, and also had me laughing outloud. Margot Kidder's phone number had me laughing for months - because this was a time when people didn't say things like that in the movies.

But the main thing about BLACK CHRISTMAS is that it's spooky and probably the first "kill a bunch of people in a house" movie. Okay, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was released the same year, so it may have technically been the second movie with that basic plot - but BLACK CHRISTMAS is the version of that basic plot that you can trace through HALLOWEEN to SCREAM. In fact, HALLOWEEN began as a sequel to BLACK CHRISTMAS.

The great thing about this film - other than the call coming from inside the house - is the way the characters turn against each other when the bodies begin to pop up. Also a great cast - Olivia Hussey who was Juliet in ROMEO & JULIET plays the lead, Keir Dullea from some damned Kubrick movie was her boyfriend, John Saxon plays the cop in a horror movie for the first time, Andrea Martin from SECOND CITY is one of the gals, Margot Kidder is *hot* as one of the other gals - she had already starred in Brian DePalma's SISTERS and the next year would play the female lead in THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER opposite some guy named Redford. SISTERS is coming up in a couple of days...

What the heck, I love Larry Cohen, so let's look at the trailer for the "A" film on the double bill many years ago...

What I love about Larry Cohen movies is that the guy always has a social or political message in his weirdass horror films. His films like THE STUFF are complete cult flicks, but underneath it all are about something important. Here we have mutant killer babies caused by prescription drug side effects - kind of the ultimate Thalidomide baby. By the time Cohen got to IT'S ALIVE 3: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE he was doing a cult horror film that dealt with AIDS babies (except they were the killer mutant babies in the series).

He's one of my favorite filmmakers and one of those prolific screenwriters who is hit and miss - but when he hits he knocks it out of the park. Still alive and kicking and making films. He wrote PHONE BOOTH and CELLULAR! His last screenwriting credit was a couple of years ago... but his first writing credit was 1958. Oh, and he created the TV show THE INVADERS.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: EVERY STORY ASKS A QUESTION - Is yours asking the *right* question?
Dinner: Chicken, potatos, corn at Boston Market.
Pages: Almost finished another chapter - but got sidetracked.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Lancelot Link: Gone Girl Edition

Lancelot Link Monday! A bunch of new movies opened over the 3 Day Weekend, but GONE GIRL remained on the top of the box office. Though the film has become controversial, mostly it's a twisty roller coaster ride. They have crowned Fincher the new Hitchcock, which just goes to show you how little people know about Hitchcock. Is anyone who does a movie with plot twists the "New Hitchcock"? I thought GONE GIRL's twists were more like BODY HEAT, so maybe he should be the "New Kasdan"? While you're thinking about that, 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 a dozen links plus this week's car chase...

1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Gone Girl....................... $26,800,000
2 Dracula Told.................... $23,457,000
3 Alex Terrible................... $19,100,000
4 Annabelle....................... $16,365,000
5 Judge........................... $13,330,000
6 Equalizer........................ $9,725,000
7 Addicted......................... $7,600,000
8 Maze Runner...................... $7,500,000
9 Box Trolls....................... $6,676,000
10 Left Behind...................... $2,909,000

This is the first weekend that GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY was not in the Top 10. It was #12.

2) SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION Anniversary... How The Novelette Became A Film.

3) GONE GIRL and PSYCHO... do I need to add a page to my Hitchcock Book?

4) TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: Brilliant Script Analysis.

2) Favorite Books Of Your Favorite People.

2) Power Show Runners.

7) Ex Studio Heads Create New Companies... New Places To Sell Screenplays?

8) Insane Idea Prompts.

9) Complete Episode Guide and Analysis of WEST WING (all seasons)

10) Sacramento's Joe Carnahan's Unproduced Screenplays... There's A Stack Of Them.

11) Test Screenings: Help & Hurt.


And the Car Chase Of The Week!

GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS and it opens with a girl, best I could do...


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Raindance Film Festival Winners!

Sorry, another week without a THRILLER entry, and FINGERS OF FEAR was a pretty good episode starring hulking character actor Robert Middleton as a mentally challenged dishwasher who may also be a child killer. But my sleep patterns are all messed up and I didn't get the entry finished in time.

To the rescue: the RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL, where I am usually at this time of the year, announced it's winners on Sunday night.

Special Jury Prize for Short Film – Heart / Coeur
Best Documentary Short – Our Curse
Best Animated Short – Tea With The Dead
Best International Short – Rangzen
Best UK Short – Nosferatu In Love
Short Film of the Festival – Rangzen
Best Music Video – Subtunes
Best Documentary Feature – Days of Hope
Best Debut Feature – Kebab & Horoscope
Best International Feature – The Light Shines Only There
Best British Feature – Luna
Feature Film of the Festival – Take Me To The River

Hopefully I'll be back there next year!

Heart / Coeur
The story of two young women spending a night out in the small town of Kortrijk. This night will take them to different places, random conversations, and a confrontation with a man who has a dark secret.

Our Curse
This painfully sincere documentary portrays the parents of a baby boy born with a rare and incurable disease. Leo Hueckel-Śliwiński is affected by Ondine’s Curse. The illness causes the complete cessation of breathing while he is asleep, meaning he must be attached to a ventilator for the rest of his life.

Tea with the Dead
Frank is a gentle unassuming embalmer from a small town in Connemara. After Frank has washed, disinfected, removed and replaced fluids, applied cosmetics and dressed the deceased, he always makes two cups of tea: one for him and one for the dead.

A film about a 8 year old Tibetan boy, Tashi - growing up as a refugee in a small hill town in Indian - the exiled home of the Dalai Lama. The film maps a crucial day in his life when he stumbles on his exiled refugee identity. When he's told at school that there is an invisible 'R' written on his forehead - Tashi goes on a quest to unravel this mystery.

Nosferatu In Love
In a fit of rebellion against his director which masks his own dark demons, a tormented movie actor (Mark Strong) starring as Nosferatu runs away to a nearby small Czech town. Loss and failure lead to a redemption, of sorts.

Days of Hope
A close look at the shocking struggles of illegal immigrants travelling across the Mediterranean, from Africa to Europe.

Kebab & Horoscope
Two down-and-out men, Kebab and Horoscope, go on a quest to re-establish themselves as marketing experts.

The Light Shines Only There
Tatsuo and Chinatsu, two deeply wounded people, fall in love – but their trials are far from over.

Dave McKean’s lyrical blend of live action and animation in a stunning sophomore film.

Take Me to the River
A star-studded documentary telling the story of the musical and socio-economic history of Memphis.

Congratulations to all of the writers and directors and everyone else involved!


Wednesday, October 08, 2014

I Threw That Script Away!

From 4 years ago...

Sometimes, instead of rewriting a screenplay, you have to throw it away and start from scratch. The problem is, most people never want to do anything this drastic. They become married to their writing and try to find some way to salvage what they’ve written, even though the best case scenario is to part it out... and the more likely scenario is that even the parts are defective in some way. It’s human nature to want to save what you’ve written, but often a first draft or second draft or even third draft is just a way to organize your thoughts and show you how *not* to write this story. In a couple of months I plan on throwing a screenplay away and starting from scratch - and last night I scribbled some notes on the new screenplay.

Usually outlining prevents you from having to scrap a script. You devote a creative step to making sure the story works and is the best that it can be, then you go to script. When you are finding your story with your first draft, you are more likely to have to scrap all sorts of things that are not the story when you go to second draft - and this may also be part of a larger refining process where you keep throwing away drafts until you have figured out the story and know which scenes matter and which scenes don’t. But even with an outline you can screw up and have to scrap the first version of the script. And that means you have to be objective enough to reject that draft and get on to the next draft.

The script I’m throwing away had an interesting path to the page. A creative exec had asked me what I was working on, and I said I was trying to figure out this thriller script - and I pitched him the concept. Cool high concept - and the CE asked if he could read it when I finished the script. “Sure.” (Why else had I pitched him the concept? Part of the “what are you working on?” question is for them to see if they can get dibseys, and for us to pitch a script.) That would have been the end of that, but the production company connected with a distributor who was looking to do upscale action and thriller films... so the CE called me and asked if I could come in and pitch it to his boss. I had imagined the script as a big studio budget thing, they were looking for something a step down from that - but still a theatrical release with a star in the lead. Not a summer tentpole, but one of those genre films that comes at the end of summer - maybe $20m budget.

I pitched it, they liked it, they asked me if I would write a treatment for free that they could take to the distrib... I agreed... and wrote up a theatrical budget version of the story. There were still story problems that I hadn’t solved, but I did a good job of covering those up uin the treatment and hoped to solve them when we went to script. Everyone was happy with it - the producer gave it to the distrib and they were happy with it. They wanted the title changed - and I was cool with that...

And then something happened and the production company’s relationship with the distrib hit a bump and the project was dead before we went to script and before I was paid a cent. Welcome to Hollywood. But a couple of months later the CE called me again and asked if I would be interested in doing the low budget version of that idea for a cable network? I said I wasn’t sure it would work - though it had a cool concept, the treatment also had some big action set pieces and those wouldn’t work on a lower budget. Plus, the difference between an anything goes theatrical budget and a really tight cable budget meant lots of restructuring - I had to trim down the number of locations, get rid of crowd scenes, etc. But I was willing to write a new treatment - again for free. That new treatment didn’t work as well, and required that a bunch of set pieces that I thought were critical to the story be changed to small scenes at existing locations. Well, they liked the concept so much that they didn’t think the other things mattered... and they thought they had a star signed (I had two meetings with him to get his input - a guy who had starred in a couple of B theatrical action flicks). Because I was worried about the story problems that I still hadn’t ironed out (and they still hadn’t noticed) I thought I would get a jump on the project and start writing the screenplay - even though we didn’t have a contract, yet. Well, the whole thing crashed and burned when I was about at the end of act 1, so I never got paid a cent... and I still owned the script. I have actually bought back a couple of scripts that were shelved, but didn’t have to pay a cent for this one because I hadn’t been paid a cent.

At the time, I was doing other cable movies for other producers and though maybe this script would be something I could sell if I finished - so I got to Fade Out... and then set it aside because I had writing jobs lined up, and when I came back to it a couple of years later I decided the idea was too good for low budget, so I did a page one rewrite to bump the budget up to theatrical level and add some of the big set pieces... except not all of the big set pieces, because the story had changed. What I should have done at that point was throw the existing script away and started from scratch - but instead I tried to save what I had written. I ended up with big budget flesh on a low budget skeleton, and it just didn’t work. But a handful of big companies read it based on the concept... and almost all said they would read it again if I did a rewrite that fixed all of the problems. One producer asks about it every year... and every year I tell him that I have not done that rewrite, yet.

So, now I’m going to throw away the script and start from scratch. There may be some scenes from the earlier version that end up in this version - but they will be typed from scratch so that I don’t try to save something that doesn’t work. Basically I’m writing a new script with the same concept - only this time, hopefully it will work.

Sometimes you just have to throw all of that hard work away and just start from scratch.

- Bill

Monday, October 06, 2014

Lancelot Link: October Country

Lancelot Link Monday! Welcome to the fall, where Hollywood box office takes a break after summer... Except we just had a slow summer and we have kicked off fall with a record breaking weekend! This was the biggest weekend in October *ever*. Everybody went to the cinema this weekend. I have no idea why... maybe to avoid all of the Christmas stuff that's already going up in department stores? Or are we in an Endless Summer, where the seasons don't matter and films can be hits (or misses) all year long? One of the main reasons why Summer went from dead box office to the big box office season was *air conditioning*. Once cinemas got A/C people flocked from their hot homes to get cooled off and watch a movie. But now most people have A/C in their homes, and maybe the pattern is shifting... maybe there is no such thing as seasons in cinemas? While you're thinking about that, 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 ten links plus this week's car chase...

1) Weekend Box Office Estimates:
1 Gone Girl....................... $38,000,000
2 Annabelle....................... $37,200,000
3 Equalizer....................... $19,000,000
4 Boxtrolls....................... $12,425,000
5 Maze Runner..................... $12,000,000
6 Left Behind...................... $6,850,000
7 Where I Leave.................... $4,000,000
8 Dolphin 2........................ $3,530,000
9 Guardians Galaxy................. $3,034,000
10 No Good.......................... $2,500,000

2) How did pro screenwriters get their first big breaks?

3) How Much Do The Stars Really Make?

4) Universal Emerging Writers Program Is Taking Applications.

5) Joss Whedon On Story.

6) Tarantino On Film Vs. Digital.

7) Billy Wilder On The Art Of Screenwriting.

8) How To Hire Bill Murray.

9) Fall Films In Pictures.

10) The Best Movies About Hollywood.

And the Car Chase Of The Week!

Hey, it's *seasonal* (if there are still seasons).

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