Monday, May 25, 2015

Lancelot Link: YesterdayLand

Lancelot Link Tuesday! TOMORROWLAND only did about half of what they expected it to do at the box office, and review after reviews points at the screenplay. You know, the one by the guy who rewrote a good script and turned it into PROMETHEUS. Here's the deal: on a big budget film, the writer often ends up a typing monkey for the director... but as a typing monkey part of your job is to make the notes work and find ways to sneak in some great material. Though Ridley Scott may have gone off the rails (look at his recent stuff), Brad Bird seems to be at the top of his game. He single handedly rescued the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE series and you can probably see my "movie boner" from space after the announcement of THE INCREDIBLES 2. So it's hard for me to believe that Bird gave crazy notes that turned TOMORROWLAND into crap. But maybe I'm wrong. The studio's crazy theory is that the audience doesn't want to see original movies, they only want to see sequels... hence, TOMORROWLAND "underperformed". Maybe that's true: maybe people only want to see movies with numbers in the title? 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 Tomorrowland.................... $32,972,000
2 Pitch Perfect 2................. $30,830,000
3 MM: FURY ROAD................... $24,815,000
4 Poltergeist..................... $22,600,000
5 Age Of Ultron................... $21,691,000
6 Age Of Adeline.................. $15,000,000
7 Hot Pursuit...................... $3,610,000
8 Furious 7........................ $2,232,000
9 That Other Tom Hardy Movie....... $2,200,000
10 You Only Blart Twice............. $1,875,000

Notice how many film had double digits this weekend! That has to be a record!

2) Daily Word Count Of 39 Famous Novelists. Just add yours to make it 40.

3) Cannes Winners.

4) Scorsese Talks Hitchcock... Best Scenes In PSYCHO.

5) How Many Hits Can We Have This Summer?

6) MAD MAX: FURY ROAD... The Stunts, And How Every Chase Is Different!

7) Furiosa's Stunt Woman's FURY ROAD Set Pictures!

8) MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Concept Art.

9) Next Film Is MAD MAX: THE WASTELAND (George Miller Interview).

10) Shane Black On Action Screenplays.

11) Legal Advice For Screenwriters.

12) Overcoming (Fury) Roadblocks To Creativity!

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

From the first MAD MAX movie... the one *before* ROAD WARRIOR.


Buy The DVDs




Monday, May 18, 2015

Lancelot Link: Cannes Cannes

Lancelot Link Monday! Everyone in in Cannes this week. Most people think Cannes is a film festival, and it is... but mostly it's a film market. A place where people buy and sell movies. The stars show up to walk the red carpet for the festival, then go pimp their films to buyers at the market. If there was no festival, there would still be a market. We don't really need festivals and awards, but we need markets. Replace movies with food and you'll see how this makes sense. Some foods win awards, and that's great... but we can do without food awards but can't do without the market where we buy food. The Film Market is more important than that Film Festival... 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 Pitch Perfect 2................. $70,300,000
2 Fury Road....................... $44,440,000
3 Age Of Ultron................... $38,837,000
4 Hot Pursuit...................... $5,780,000
5 Blart!........................... $3,600,000
6 Furious 7........................ $3,600,000
7 Adeline.......................... $3,200,000
8 Home............................. $2,700,000
9 Ex Machiua....................... $2,103,000
10 Far From......................... $1,300,000

It might seem strange that PERFECT PITCH beat FURY ROAD this weekend, but PITCH was tracking really well and FURY ROAD seemed to be appealing mostly to older males who are fans of the previous MAD MAX movies. You also have to take into account the other films playing: AVENGERS 2 is still new and FURIOUS 7 is still selling lots of tickets... and those are both probably more appealing to males (as is FURY ROAD). But what's out there for females? ADELINE and FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD both appeal to females, but are also more serious films... and girls just want to have fun! So a female directed comedy about a group of women singers was the perfect film! Elizabeth Banks proves that women directors can make hit films (and also proves that smart women can find a way to get that directing gig... Banks is a comedy actress (40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN) who started a production company to help her find better roles... and then directed some small things for experience which would lead to her directing PITCH PERFECT 2 which her company produced (along with the first film). She took small steps leading to a big goal).

That big goal along with FURY ROAD and AGE OF ULTRON continued to push this year's box office to record numbers. We are now 5.7% ahead of ;last year and a full 12.7% ahead of 2013... and summer hasn't even started! Hollywood is making the films America (and the rest of the world) wants to see! Sequels.

2) MAD MAX and the strangest series of films ever!

3) Natalie Portman Interview.

4) First Pictures From Upcomming Films.

5) Return Of Ealing Studios...

6) Paul Schrader, Nic Cage, Eddie Bunker, DOG EAT DOG.

7) New Trailer For MINIONS.

8) Cannes Deals.

9) Legal Tools For TV Content Creators/

10) Collin Farrell Talks About THE LOBSTER.

11) More Of Those PLANET OF THE APES Movies.

12) Interview With Woody Allen.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

From one of my favorite movies about the film biz AN ALMOST PERFECT AFFAIR, about a film maker trying to sell their movie at Cannes.


Buy The DVDs


It's Not About Time - Structure has nothing to do with chronology.
Dinner: Pork chops & brown rice & broccoli.
Pages: Working on the FURIOUS WRITING class.
Bicycle: Short ride.

Movie: A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT on DVD. Beautifully shot, but I'm not sure the intended story made it to the screen.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sorry, I Don't Have One Of Those!

From this time five years ago (2010)...

I have a big stack of completed scripts, but when I read the ads on Ink Tip’s free newsletter looking for specific types of scripts - I don’t have any scripts like that. And some of the requests are even for normal types of scripts. Sure, there are lots that are looking for a musical western with two roles for little people and one for a 70 year old blond haired blue eyed ex-movie star which can be filmed in Romania and feature some nudity... but there are also some for Family Holiday Scripts - and I don’t have one of those. When I read those ads I think I should just spend a year writing one of everything, so that when someone asks for a disaster script, I have one.

I have an old horror-western about the ghosts of Native Americans that get revenge that needs a serious rewrite. Plus a Western outlined, and it’s a cool story called THREE DEADLY GUNS about a town that is a haven for retired gunslingers - and how two old men and the daughter of a famous desperado have to fight the three current top gunslingers to protect a convicted man from the town’s lynch squad... so he can he legally hanged in Yuma Prison. I had this idea 20 years ago and never wrote it - and I’m glad... because now that I’m an “old man” I think I can write it better than I ever could have 20 years ago. I know what it’s like to think you have the reflexes of a 20 year old... but don’t. I know what it’s like to understand your limitations. One of my old notes says “Lethal Weapon as a western - nonstop action”, and what is funny about that is how leisurely paced LETHAL WEAPON looks these days. That is scheduled to be written and the horror-western will someday be rewritten.

I also have an unusual holiday story I want to write from a thing that happened to my sister. The fictional version is about a band whose van breaks down in a small town on their way home for Christmas, and they have to earn enough money to get it fixed... by playing a different kind of music every night. Jazz, country, classical, punk, metal, folk, etc. At first they just want to *use* the town to make enough money to spit, but they end up becoming involved with the people through playing music at these events.

Because people always seem to be looking for disaster movies for TV, I made a list of different types of natural disasters and was surprised to see a few that have *never* been put on film - probably because they are kind of weird. But weird is a great thing - and I may generate a couple of treatments for those in my spare time... if I ever find any.

I have an old comedy script that is perfect for Jonah Hill or any of those other new comedy guys - but the script doesn’t work. I've figured out what is wrong with it - it’s not very funny, but that is due to a weak plot - and it’s on the big board for a rewrite. I have realized that comedy - which most people think doesn’t really need strong plotting - really does need a solid plot to build jokes on. Otherwise, the jokes can seem forced and contrived. I learned this from PINEAPPLE EXPRESS which often seemed to have the story reach for the jokes, instead of finding the jokes within the story. The stronger the story, the easier to find the jokes within it. So I’m going back to the drawing board on that story to make sure it’s solid. I hope that I can write it funny enough for someone to see the potential in it if an actual funny person does a rewrite.

That is my only comedy script, though I do have a couple of outlined comedies that are ready to write - except they are more comedy-dramas... and those do not sell at all. One is about my years working the midnight to 9am stocking shift at Safeway Grocery called THE NIGHT STALKERS - that one has had act 1 written for a couple of decades.

I do not have a rom-com, nor do I have any good ideas for one. I should come up with *something* for that, right?

I also have a handful of outlines & synopsis for “stunt” contained thrillers like PHONE BOOTH or PANIC ROOM or BURIED. The one of those I like best is called BREAKING NEWS and it’s on the To Write List - about an overly ambitious female news reporter who ends up a hostage in her news van as it is part of a high speed chase.

But every time I think about all of those outlined scripts I have, and all of the one page synopsis for potential scripts, and all of those treatments I’ve written, and... well, where would I find time to write them all? I mean, the stuff I have now will probably never get written, let alone one of every popular genre I don’t have a script for. Some of these things I will write, because they are great ideas and I have them on the big to do list - um, at the bottom. Others are thing that I can pull out a treatment for if someone wants a female lead jungle action flick or a horror movie about people who wake up in a maze of booby traps handcuffed to the person they most want to kill... who is now their partner, or a cool horror movie version of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. Hey, I got that!

Maybe I should just be happy with what I have and not try to have everything. I’m never going to have a rom-com, anyway, and that’s what makes the most sense to write to sell. And I already plan on rewriting my old unfunny comedy script.

You can’t have everything. You can’t play every position on a baseball team. You have to look at your strengths and focus on those. Sure, part of selling a script is having the exact script that someone wants to buy - and then having them read your script (that’s the luck part of this business) but if one company is looking for those rom-coms I’m not interested in writing, all I have to do is wait for the next company or the company after that or after that and eventually we get to the producer who is looking for a thriller or action script or something else in my “wheelhouse”. That’s what they call your specialty genre(s), your skill set, the genre(s) where your talents lie. Your “wheelhouse”. Nobody does everything well - we all have strengths and weaknesses. If you could never see yourself writing a horror screenplay - don’t write one. Find the kind of screenplay that studios buy and millions of people want to pay to see that you *do* see yourself writing... then don’t just “see yourself” writing those scripts - actually do it. (Writing while looking in a mirror might qualify as “seeing yourself writing that kind of screenplay” but it’s also kinda weird.) Figure out what you do best, then do that.

Even if the Ink Tip script requests are for weird things, eventually there are requests for a great script in a popular genre... and there’s your open door.

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Chapters & Split Screens - SISTERS and CITY OF GOD.
Dinner: Taco salad.
Bicycle: Saturday rode a little farther north than usual to a BBQ at Bamboo Killers Emily's new house. I had brought a sweatshirt in one of my light backpacks, but it was nice at 10pm when I rode home. Shirt sleeve weather.
Pages: Not much done.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Lancelot Link: TV or Not TV?

Lancelot Link Monday! TV shows cancelled by the dozens! New shows announced! All of this while movies are breaking box office records! 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 Age Of Ultron................... $77,203,000
2 Hot Pursuit..................... $13,300,000
3 Age Of Adeline................... $5,600,000
4 Furious 7........................ $5,272,000
5 Blart!........................... $5,190,000
6 Ex Machina....................... $3,470,000
7 Home............................. $3,000,000
8 Woman Gold....................... $1,652,000
9 Cinderella....................... $1,574,000
10 Unfriended....................... $1,412,000

2) Tom Hardy On Filling Mel Gibson's Shoes.


4) VACATION reboot Red Band Trailer.

5) AVENGERS: Age Of CGI Overkill?

6) The Science Of GAME OF THRONES!

7) Orson Welles Mercury Theater Archive.

8) The Real World Of Indie Film Distribution.

9) Professor X Is Bald In New X MEN movie...

10) How To Get Elijah Wood To Produce Your Film.

11) Trailers For NBC's New Shows.

12) A Sequel To The THREE STOOGES FILM flop? Elevated Genre Screenplays Meet Descended Genre Screenplays!

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

Yesterday was Mother's Day.


Buy The DVDs




Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Movies Are Ancillaries Of Toys!

From 2009...

And Soylent Green tastes a little weird...

A week ago I did a Doom & Gloom blog entry about the state of the biz after from a dead American Film Market and realizing that indie films and indie genre films are in big trouble these days... and studio movies? Well, it seems like movies today are now an ancillary of toy companies - Hasbro is a film producer now! For real. And Marvel comics is a film producer, they have a deal with Disney. And this just sucks for screenwriters who don't want to write GI JOE 2 or SLINKY: THE MOTION PICTURE...

The biggest mistake of my career is that I am a writer who really wants to tell his own stories and seems to have a bunch of stories to tell. I would much rather write an original script than adapt someone else’s material - and have turned down jobs I should have taken. I always joke about ANGELS & DEMONS, but had I said yes instead of no my name would probably be on a big Ron Howard / Tom Hanks movie right now instead of on some cool spec script I wrote instead that still has not sold. Hey, and that was *before* movies had become just an ancillary right of Hasbro and Marvel and Sony Playstation.

They are making MONOPOLY THE MOTION PICTURE and Ridley Scott is directing.

They are turning a guy’s *Twitter account*, SHIT MY DAD SAYS, into a TV series.

I have a Script Tip called Writing For Toys that gets me a dozen angry e-mails whenever I run it, because it says we should consider the ancillary rights when we write our original screenplays, because that is an elements that the producers are considering. If they have two specs on their desks and one is a perfect for games and toys and Happy Meal tie ins and a Saturday morning cartoon spin off, and the other can only be a movie; guess which one will make them the most money? Hey, you may think this is art, but the guys buying our scripts are businessmen and are making an investment in our screenplays with the hope of making a good return on that investment. They are going to pick the screenplay that will make them the best return. That Script Tip is now out of date because movies are the ancillaries now. They aren’t looking at our spec scripts any more, they are looking at what board game hasn’t been filmed yet, what toy line can be a summer tentpole, what comic book might be the next IRON MAN. It’s long past thinking about the ancillary rights when you write a spec...

Depressing, huh?

As I said in the Doom & Gloom blog entry - Uwe Boll is a genius! He was the one who figured this out before anyone else, before any of the studios, and began making the movies of video games while studios were still thinking the business was all about making movies and then making the videogames of movies.

Terry Rossio (and Ted Elliott) have a column on their site called Mental Real Estate that foresaw all of this a decade ago. This column used to be one that I understood but disagreed with - my theory was that popular movies required original ideas, not some idea so worn out that everyone on the globe knew about it. Of course, that little PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie and its sequels proved me wrong. The Mental Real Estate model is the one Hollywood loves right now. “Hey, everybody knows Solitaire! We play it on our computers when we’re supposed to be working! And old people play it with actual cards! That makes SOLITAIRE: THE MOVIE ‘four quadrant’! We get the young *and* old audience! And SOLITAIRE has built in sequels that are also part of our Mental Real Estate - I can’t wait for the scary excitement of SPIDER SOLITAIRE, can you?” If you have an idea on how to turn solitaire into a movie, you can sell that to Hollywood. The business is more interested in the Universal than the Unique right now.

Depressing, huh?

Everything runs in cycles, so this trend will eventually burn out... but it may takes years, probably a decade. Now, the way we land a job like SLINKY: THE MOTION PICTURE is to write a great original spec with an amazing original idea... and that leads to writing a movie that is just an ancillary for a toy or game or comic book. So we still need to be writing original material... unless you can crack that SOLITAIRE movie (because that games is public domain). But this doesn’t satisfy someone like me, whose motivation is to see *my* scripts on screen. Though I have realized the error of my ways and would now probably take the ANGELS & DEMONS assignment or any of the others I turned down, because for some mixed up reason the biz respects the guy who adapts a popular novel more than the guy who can actually create their own story and characters... and more than the writer of that popular novel. I have learned that I need to play well with others rather than go to my own little corner in my own little room where I can be whatever I want to be. But am I going to write stuff like ETCH-A-SKETCH: THE MOTION PICTURE for the next decade until this trend dies out?

Depressing, huh?

So, Bill from Pulp 2.0 and I were talking about this... and instead of looking at this as The Death Of Cinema, we've decided to use this as an opportunity. To make lemonade out of the lemons. Basically, I’m taking my own advice and looking at projects with strong ancillary possibilities. I have a script called ANDROID ARMY that is often a bridesmaid, but so far has not been a bride. People keep *almost* making this script. The great thing about it is that it’s affordable sci-fi, and has some really strange characters. It is the only thing I've ever written that screams: "Action Figures!" It also screams video game and comic book and game cards and all of that other stuff. The stuff that used to be ancillary rights but now seems to be driving the market. So, we are going to try to set it up as a video game and a comic book and maybe even a toy line *before* we try to set it up as a movie. Instead of looking at the movie first and the ancillary stuff second, the plan is to reverse that - and look at video games and all of those things that used to be “after markets” as equals to cinema. To play this ancillary game Hollywood seems to be playing.

Hey, the economy sucks - games and comic books and all of those things that used to be ancillaries are hurting. We understand that. This is not a case of thinking that setting this up as a comic book is going to be easy, this is trying to break down some other door - find some other way in with this project. If we do all of this and nothing happens, how is that any different than trying to set up the script with a bunch of producers?

I did not start writing screenplays to sell dolls, but many of my favorite films have action figures... no, not CASABLANCA, but ALIENS does. So, for a while, if I have a choice between the story idea that can sell to multiple markets or a story idea that can only be a movie, I'm going to pick the additional markets one. I'm not writing anything I don't like, just selecting from ideas I do like or twisting an idea a little to give it additional chances to be bought and made. I’m kicking down different doors.

And that’s kind of exciting.

Instead of looking at something like SHIT MY DAD SAYS and complaining that some guy sold his *tweets* to Hollywood and they are making it into a TV series... I’m looking at things like tweets as a possible market that can lead to a script deal. Instead of looking at Diablo Cody breaking into the biz because she wrote an amusing blog about working as a stripper, I’m looking for a job as a stripper! Okay, I tried applying for a job at Bob’s Classy Lady in Van Nuys and they wouldn’t hire me to strip, even though my boobs are larger than many of the women on the pole. So I’ll have to blog about something else.

But the thing about Diablo Cody and the SHIT MY DAD SAYS twitter guy is that they are *writers* who are *writing something*, just in a different medium than screenplays. If you think about his tweets, it's not just a basic twitter account - it's very specific and all about one character (or maybe two) and it's funny. I can easily see this as a TV series. Yeah - you have to adapt it, but how is that any different than adapting Ray Romano's stand up routine into a series? This guy is writing 140 character scenes about a character! He has found a way to show off his comedy talents. Of all of the twitter accounts in all of the world, his is the one that will be turned into a TV series. Not mine... not even Roger Avary’s tweets from prison (though, he’s funny as hell, too).

The thing with tweets and blogs is that it's a writer getting attention with *no money* because they found a unique character or world to write about. One of my "FB friends" has a blog with all kinds of attitude and a very distinct voice and "world" - she writes hardboiled kick ass action stuff. Carole Parker, it’s over there –> She's damned smart, and FB spams the hell out of her stuff (usually with a smokin' hot picture of some babe with a gun to get your attention). I know her blog is going to land a screenplay deal because it’s unique and she’s working her butt off to get it in front of people. She has kicked in some other door that may lead to Hollywood. That’s one of those inexpensive things you can do to get Hollywood’s attention. I'm looking at something like that myself - a fictional blog that is really a novel in disguise. Costs me nothing to get that out into the world.

I think the challenge for us now is to find stories that have some sort of additional market. Something that makes this script a "web natural" or a comic book or game or action figure or whatever else *in addition* to being a great screenplay. This ancillary thing isn’t a problem, it’s a solution. Before we only had the one door that we could try to get through - the movie door. Now we have dozens of doors, dozens of possible ways in. We can write a blog or tweet or make webisodes or write a novel or write a comic book or create a game or toy or... well, don’t let me make a list that *limits* the possible doors. Find the door that nobody has thought of, yet. Be like Uwe Boll!

Okay, maybe not that last part.

But find where the door is and see if you can kick it open. The blog thing and the tweets and toys and comic books and videogames and whatever the hell else you can think of are doors. Kick 'em open if you can.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Research - Who Needs It? - and many of my awful films.
Yesterday's Dinner: Fuddruckers bacon cheddar burger.
Bicycle: Rode *West* to a Starbucks with a bad layout.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Lancelot Link: May The 4th Be With You!

Lancelot Link Monday! It's STAR WARS Day! So we're going to look at STAR WARS news and MAD MAX news, because the two are closely tied to each other: ROAD WARRIOR and EMPIRE STRIKES BACK are often compared to each other, and they were released right after each other (1980 and 1981) and I remember having ROAD WARRIOR quench some of my awesome movie thirst while waiting for REVENGE OF THE JEDI... and now we get a new Mad Max movie and a new STAR WARS movie in the same year! Cool! What would the cross over film be? Max ends up on Tatooine? 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 Age of Ultron.................. $187,656,000
2 Age Of Adeline................... $6,250,000
3 Age Of Furious................... $6,114,000
4 Age Of Blart..................... $5,550,000
5 Age Of Home...................... $3,300,000
6 Age Of Cinderella................ $2,357,000
7 Age Of Machina................... $2,231,000
8 Age Of Unfriended................ $1,988,000
9 Age Of Longest Ride.............. $1,700,000
10 Age Of Woman..................... $1,681,000

2) THE FORCE AWAKENS on Vanity Fair.



5) Home Entertainment Makes A Comeback?

6) Kris Kristofferson Was Han Solo?

7) Is FURY ROAD A Feminist Triumph?

8) George Lucas On THE FORCE AWAKENS.

9) Full Cast List From THE FORCE AWAKENS?

10) Jar Jar Binks in THE FORCE AWAKENS?

11) Guillermo Del Toro Interview.

12) Behind The Scenes on FURY ROAD.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

Hang Onto Your Asteroids!


Buy The DVDs




eXTReMe Tracker