Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Autograph Styles Of The Old And Famous

Rerun from 2006...

The plan for Saturday was to hang out with my hometown friends Paul and Van and catch up on old times.

Van is one of my oldest friends, we met when I was 18 years old and making short films. He was a celebrity in the local film community because his short film about the “mothball fleet” - rusting Navy battle ships harbored in Vallejo - won a bunch of awards and was bought by the Navy - it was showing in the Navy Museum in Washington DC or someplace.

Paul was also a local celebrity - he made drive in movies that played all over the United States... he also gave me my first screenwriting job on that classic Oscar nominated drama NINJA BUSTERS. Paul lives far far away in another country with very different plumbing than ours.

The three of us, and a handful of others, were the guys who were going to make it in the film business. We'd sit around the "big table" in the back of our local Denny's, eating burgers and discussing film until close to dawn. Back in the days when making movies was more dream than reality.

Now, we could hang out anywhere... but Paul has flown back to the USA for the Celebrity Autograph Show at the Burbank Marriott. That’s where we’re meeting.

I arrive at the Burbank Marriott, which used to be the Burbank Hilton, and is where they have the Fangoria Convention every year. It’s very close to the airport... as in, planes buzz the roof as they land and take off. Yahoo’s media HQ is right across the street, and Frys Electronics is on the other side of the railroad tracks. Oh, when the planes aren’t buzzing the hotel, freight trains are whizzing by - and the occasional Amtrak passenger train. You know, prime Southern California real estate.

I arrive, and since the Show costs $25 for a 2 day pass, I decide to phone Paul’s cell (mobile to you Europeans) to see if he actually made it through customs and is in Burbank. I get no answer, so I call Van’s cell. He picks up right away.

Are you inside?


Then I’ll see you in a minute.

You’re here?

Yes... I only had to come down the street. Is Paul with you?

No. I think he’s in L.A.

Okay, I’m confused - where are you?

Home (San Francisco). Working on a novel.

We talked for a while longer, but it seems like Van flaked at the last minute. He’s done that before - in fact, so many times that it no longer matters to me. There was a time when it used to piss me off... several times I waited in bars or restaurants for him, and once he was a last minute no-show on a trip to Reno. I’d set up these trips for the old gang - well, the ones who haven’t done anything unforgivable - and we’d hang out for 3 days somewhere. I’d pay for hotel rooms and airfare and meals... and the casino/hotel in Reno actually through in a bunch of drink and gambling coupons. No one could complain that they couldn’t afford to go, I had it covered. At the Oakland Airport, we’re waiting on Van... and he doesn’t show. This was when cell phones where the size of a brick (not that long ago) and I didn’t want one. We were all kind of worried when he didn’t make the plane... and when we arrived in Reno, I wasn’t going to spend $9 million on hotel long distance charges to find out what happened. The rest of us had a great time, and when we returned, I called... and Van said something had come up at the last minute. These days, I just accept that Van is Van... He looks at life differently than I do - he lives completely in the moment. No thoughts of future or past, only *now*. I am a planner - I try to turn the chaos of my life into some sort of order. Van is a great guy, who makes decisions at the last minute, so when he does show up, I think of it as a bonus. This means I would only be hanging out with Paul...

I gave him another call on his cell - and Paul’s gravelly voice answered. He was inside.

I paid, got a wrist band, and wandered into the big autograph room and found Paul.


If you’ve never been to one of these autograph shows, here’s how they work...

The big ballroom of the hotel is filled with rows of tables, and behind each table are a bunch of TV and movie stars that you thought were dead charging around $20 for an autographed picture from one of their films, or $15 to take a picture standing next to you. They often have other items for sale - self published memoirs, scripts from their shows, self produced films, and sometimes T shirts. In the back of the room and out in the lobby are tables selling memorabilia - movie posters, toys, DVDs and VHS tapes, and anything else that might be worth something with a star’s autograph on it.

There’s a hierarchy among the signing stars - featured tables (unusually in the corners of the room) with long lines of fans waiting for an autograph. Though the fame of the star is one of the factors in being at a featured table, the more important factor is whether the star’s autographs are rare or easily available, This often means a lesser star will end up at a featured table because they’ve never signed at a show before. Saturday’s featured guests included Tony Curtis, Debbie Reynolds, Elliot Gould, and Natasia Kinski. Long lines for each of them.

Gene Barry, recently in WAR OF THE WORLDS... dumped at some normal table.

They also do “theme tables” - often with all of the surviving cast from some classic TV show or movie. They had everyone from the VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA TV show, from David Hedison to Del Monroe (who was also in the movie). When I was a kid VOYAGE was one of my favorite shows. It was like STAR TREK, but underwater.

They also had a James Bond group - with Richard Keil (Jaws) and George Lazenby (Bond in O.H.M.S.S. - probably the best Bond story, but nobody’s seen it) and Martine Beswick (FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE) and Shirley Eaton (the hot babe who gets covered with gold in GOLDFINGER). I’m a huge Bond fan. When I look back on the movies I loved as a kid, the movies that would turn me into a film junkie and eventually into a screenwriter; Bond movies are right up on the top of the list. When I was a kid, my parents would see movies at the Drive In, let us kids watch the cartoons that came on first, then have us sleep in the back seat during the movies... but I always secretly stayed awake and watched the movie reflected in the back window of the car. For years I thought everyone in the movies was left handed. I don’t know if I saw GOLDFINGER reflected in the back window of my parent’s Plymouth, but the Bond movies were the first films I saw that had nekkid women in them. Ursula Andress getting hosed down after radioactive contamination and Daniela Bianchi running nude into Bond’s room and Shirley Eaton naked and covered in gold. As a little boy, seeing a nekkid girl was, well, amazing. I was too young to know why I liked nekkid girls, but I liked them. So seeing Shirley Eaton in person should have been a big thrill. Except she looked like my grandmother. She was really really old.

Of course she was old. Robert Culp from I SPY and GREATEST AMERICAN HERO was there - and he was really really old, too. In fact, everyone there - all of the stars I used to watch on TV and in the movies - were old. Wrinkled. Hunched over. Look, we all get old - I’m old - but when you can pop in the DVD of GOLDFINGER and see the hot, sexy, young version of Shirley Eaton - that’s how I want to remember her. That film image is who they are to me.

There are two ways to react to one of these autograph shows - either be excited to see all of these stars from the past and run around collecting autographs and photos (that’s what Paul did) or find it all kind of depressing and sad that these childhood idols are now old people selling their signatures for $20 (that’s me). Hitchcock tells a story in Hitchcock/Truffaut about a film late in his career where someone suggested he hire Graham Cutts as a lowly assistant. Hitchcock was embarrassed, because Cutts was the studio head who first hired Hitchcock when he was just starting out. Hitchcock thought it was demeaning to hire him for such a menial job... but then he’s told that Cutts really needs the job, so Hitchcock reluctantly hires him. That’s kind of how I feel about the stars at the autograph shows - I’m embarrassed for them, but I also worry that they need the money. These folks were stars when stars weren’t paid much.


While wandering down the aisles, I bump into a bunch of the guys from the Thursday Night Drinking Group. Grabbing autographs and dishing about who was there and how they looked. Dan was standing in the very long line for Tony Curtis’ autograph... which is kind of funny, since Dan has probably been in more movies than Tony Curtis (he’s Agent Cody Banks’ dad and Tommy Lee Jones right hand man in THE FUGITIVE and was a regular on a half dozen TV show like MATLOCK). Duane was there, and I introduced him to Paul, who is a big fan of PULP FICTION. Again - Duane wasn’t there to sign autographs, he was there to collect autographs. Strange how these people are on one side of the table now, but may be on the other side of the table doing the signing someday.

After Paul collected a bunch of autographed pictures of stars from his childhood, he and I went out to the lobby, had a drink, and talked about old times and current projects. About ex-friends. About the old days when we’d bump into each other at the movies, or the gang would get together for an almost all night conversation in Denny’s about movies. That gang consisted of Paul, me, Van, Vick, Bruce, sometimes Debbie (assistant director on THE DEEP END), Tom, Mike, Hurley, Willy, Rhomboid Goatcabin (real name Michael) , and sometimes Rob the cameraman. Some of these people are, like Mad Max, just a memory now. All of us brought together by our love of movies.

Paul is no longer directing movies, now he is writing and directing these audio books... well, really they are audio movies. He puts together these great casts - often the same stars who are here at the autograph show - and top of the line sound effects and musical scoring. The result is a movie without the picture. He’s done a couple of them, now. HARD ROCK LOVERS (with a voice cameo by me) and now McKNIGHT’S MEMORY starring Robert Culp. He also did a 77 minute true crime story from Ed “Kooky” Burns from 77 SUNSET STRIP (before my time, but one of those kick ass 60s TV private eye shows). To bring everything back to Bond - Paul’s first audio thing was a seminar - LIVING THE JAMES BOND LIFESTYLE that I was director on.

Stars from the past. Friends from the past.

In the film that plays in my mind, we are always that bunch of young guys around the back table in Denny’s talking about movies. We never grow old. None of us ever go on to do things that are unexcuseable and criminal. None of us will die before our time. Just like the movie stars on film - we are in our perfect time, our perfect state. We may grow old, but like film... memories never age.

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Diversions & Plot Twists
Yesterday’s Dinner: Broccoli Beef at CityWok.
DVD: Watched THE PARALLAX VIEW, one of my favorite movies. I saw it when it first came out, I was a kid, and it's one ofthe major influences on my writing. Warren Beatty plays a screw up reporter who discovers that all of the witnesses to a Kennedy-like assassination have died in mysterious accidents. He decides to investigate, and discovers a company that deals in assassinations - including the social misfit loners who get caught afterwards. So, he does what any reporter would do, he gets a fake ID and applies for a job. Great suspense, one of the best fist fights on film, and a very very dark ending. One thing that is interesting about the film is the use of *stillness* - the film is mostly big panoramic long shots with *nothing moving* except one person or thing. That draws your eye to the movement... and creates instant tension. There is a huge contrast between the still background and the violence. It's the *opposite* of Paul Greengrass and the last two BOURNE movies.
Pages: Still only a couple of pages on SLEEPER when I'm supposed to be doing *more* than 5 pages, and now I have to set it aside to prepare for my Expo Classes.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Lancelot Link: Adam Sandler's Hitflop

Lancelot Link Monday! So, Adam Sandler's new film PIXELS did not do all that well in the USA. It came in #2 after last week's (and this week's) #1 movie ANT MAN... even though many of you are waiting for the ANT MAN / MAN FROM UNCLE double bill. So Sandler is obviously a failure. But PIXELS also opened well overseas, so it may end up a worldwide success. So Adam Sandler is obviously a success. Except Sandler used to do well in both the USA and the other 3/4s of the Box Office that is now the USA. Sandler has a new deal to make movies for Netflix, which (unfortunately) targets a USA audience. Did Netflix make a bad deal? 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 Ant Man......................... $24,765,000
2 Pixels.......................... $24,000,000
3 Minions......................... $22,100,000
4 Train Wreck..................... $17,300,000
5 Southpaw........................ $16,500,000
6 Paper Towns..................... $12,500,000
7 Inside Out....................... $7,356,000
8 Jurassic World................... $6,900,000
9 Mr Holmes (not John)............. $2,849,000
10 Terminator (Phil Collins)........ $2,400,000

ANT MAN is doing pretty good so far.

2) BBC's 100 List Vs. Oscar Winners!

3) Jake Gyllenhaal's Boxing Lessons.

4) International Film Noir List.

5) BIG LEBOWSKI Live Reading. Dude approved!

6) And the #1 Film In China Is...

7) Interview With The Writers Of Paul Newman's HUD.

8) Illegally Streaming Movies? Better Call Saul!

9) When the X-MEN met THE FANTASTIC FOUR... I won't have what she's having.

10) George R.R. Martin: GAME OF AVENGERS?

11) Peter Bart & Mike Fleming on Relativity's Problems.

12) SPECTRE Trailer, in case you missed it.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

Doesn't it make you want to see the Burt Reynolds original again?


Buy The DVDs




Thursday, July 23, 2015

William Castle Noir Flicks

From 2011...

Noir City is underway at the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian - a couple of weeks of Film Noir movies that were not on DVD and some that were not on any sort of video - and I'm not there. Busy prepping the Reno class. So here is a blog entry from a couple of years ago...

The idea behind Noir City is to find the obscure gems that people may not have seen before, and show them on the big screen for a couple of weeks. They often have any of the cast and crew who are still around show up for Q&A afterwards. I believe they also restore - or push for the restoration - of these films. A big studio star vehicle from the 1940s might get restored by the studio, but some cheap little noir film may not. It's great to see these films on the big screen... and often the audience is packed with VIPS who are fans of the genre. Here are two films that I saw a couple of years ago...

HOLLYWOOD STORY (1951) directed by William Castle, written by Frederick Kohner & Fred Brady. Richard Conte plays a producer who decides to make a film about a 20 year old unsolved murder in Hollywood - a famous film director who had no shortage of enemies. He interviews the suspects and finds new clues and... the killer keeps trying to kill him. But who is the killer? Will he find out before the killer snuffs him? The victim 20 years ago: A big time producer who was involved in a love triangle. The story is based on a real Hollywood murder - William Desmond Taylor who was killed in 1922, still unsolved! The cast of suspects is great - hottie Julia Adams (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) is the woman in the love triangle's daughter (and Conte’s love interest) - and there's a great LAURA-like painting on her mom in the victim's office, Jim Backus is an agent, Richard Egan is a homicide detective, Henry Hull (LIFEBOAT) is a once famous screenwriter who now lives in a shack and is constantly drunk, Fred Clark is a producer who once worked with the victim, and there are relatives of the victim and studio guards who sleep through the shifts and about a dozen movie stars making cameos as themselves (possible suspects!) including Joel McCrea.

The cool thing about the story is that almost everyone involved in making the movie *about* the murder is a *suspect* in the murder. Hollywood is a small world, and when you hire the victim’s favorite screenwriter (Hull) to write the screenplay, because he *is* research as well as a writer; you not only end up with a guy who knows every detail of the crime, you end up with a guy who had all kinds of motive to kill the victim. Every single person hired to make this film is a suspect! This concept could be used for a fake documentary film or for a movie about an America’s Most Wanted kind of TV show that stumbles into the middle of the crime while investigating it. The more Conte digs into the case, the more the real killer (one of the people he is working with to make the film) tries to kill him. Nice little film - cheap to make because they shot it at the studio. Not on VHS, not on DVD.

Between the films, Julie Adams (that hot chick from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) did Q&A - and was filled with great stories about the film. Her memory is better than mine! And, for however old she is, she looked great. She is still a working actress, doing a bunch of TV work now (she’s on LOST in flashbacks). She was at MONSTERPALOOZA a few days later as part of the CREATURE group.

Next up, UNDERTOW (1949) - also directed by William Castle, screenplay by Arthur Horman and Lee Loeb. Kind of a riff on THE FUGITIVE movie made decades later. Scott Brady plays a guy framed for murder in Chicago who has cops chasing him night and day and must find the real killer before the cops find him. Because the cops have staked out all of his friends' houses, the only one who can help him is this gal he met on the plane to Chicago (cute Peggy Dow) - a complete stranger. This creates kind of a THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR kidnapping thing... and lots of suspense. Brady is an ex-mob guy who is now a legit businessman in Reno, but is in love with the Mob Boss’ daughter (Dorothy Hart in the femme fatale role). He’s going back to propose to her and take her back to Reno with him... but the mob boss gets killed and he gets blamed. Bruce Bennett (from every movie ever made - he played Tarzan and was in TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE and DARK PASSAGE and MILDRED PIERCE and co-starred with Elvis in LOVE ME TENDER and one of his last films was Terrence Malick’s DEADHEAD MILES) plays the cop chasing him - and much like in THE FUGITIVE, if Brady can convince the cop that he is innocent, they will start looking at clues that might lead to the real killer. There is a *great* scene where Brady shows up at Bennett’s house, holds a gun on him in his basement den, and tries to convince him that he’s innocent... while Bennett’s son watches through a window... tells his mother that dad is being held at gunpoint by a desperado... and mom tells him to quit making up stories and get ready for bed. The kid *knows* dad is in trouble and can’t get anyone to believe him... so he grabs his cap gun and goes to rescue his dad. Lots of chases and double crosses and a great plot - part of the story revolves around Brady being kidnaped by the (unseen) killer and shot in order to match the actual wounds the real killer sustained in the crime - all of the evidence created against him by the real killer is insurmountable. The film is full of twists and shot on location in Reno and Chicago - the Chi-town location work is fantastic - all kinds of great local landmarks wove into the story.

The amazing thing about both of these films is that they were low budget throw aways, but really well made, clever, well acted, and are better than some of the big budget crap that is released today. Both were directed by William Castle, who would become famous later in his career for gimmick horror films like THE TINGLER. He was a creative and competent director who knew how to squeeze a buck so that you never knew the film you were watching was made on the cheap. Neither of these films looked low budget - and UNDERTOW looks bigger budget than many of the films I’ve seen from the same period that cost a whole bunch more.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: No Script Before Its Time - is your script ready to be sent out?
Dinner: Some sort of bunless burger thing at Dennys.
Bicycle: Medium ride to a far off Starbucks, then to another, then back home (which hasn't happened as I type this).
Pages: Finished a new draft on the assignment treatment and also wrote a one pager for Cannes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Is Hollywood Dead?

From 4 years ago, the gloom & doom!

On message boards, there are always people who think that Hollywood is dead but just doesn’t know it, and there’s gonna be this whole new non-corporate paradigm. Look, we have the internet, and these cheap digital cameras - the movie industry as we know it will be dead in no time. We will not longer be *forced* to watch the movies that Hollywood makes, we can watch *good* movies for a change. No more TRANSFORMERS movies and no more sequels and no more HANGOVER lowest common denominator comedies. Once the evil corporations are gone, once Hollywood is dead and buried and being eaten by worms; we’ll be living in a freakin’ Entertainment Utopia! Only great films!

There is this theory on message boards that people are hungry for quality intelligent cinema, but Hollywood just keeps making this crap and people are forced to watch it because there are no alternatives... but now that we have inexpensive digital cameras plus streaming download as a method of distribution, Hollywood’s days are numbered and soon people will get the great movies they are craving!

If you build it they will come, right? The big problem with movies today is that Hollywood is building the kinds of movies Hollywood wants to see, not what *people* want to see. They make there crappy films that appeal to lowest common denominator, and if people were given a choice they will select the great films over the junk and the whole entertainment world will change - giving us more great films. The good forces the bad out of the market, right? The problem is the Hollywood monopoly, now that the truly talented have access to the equipment to make films, they will overthrow Hollywood and we all benefit! Throw away those 3D glass, you will never need them again. Forget about movies about boobs and blood and fast cars and explosions and superheroes! Michael Bay - find your place in the unemployment line now!


Sixty years ago, everyone thought Hollywood was dead - due to TV. Hollywood started doing all kinds of things to make films an experience you couldn't get anywhere else - like 3D. Sixty years later, Hollywood is still here, and all of this new media is scaring them into making films an experience you can't get on your iPhone - like 3D. Hey, I think 3D is a bunch of crap, but one of the reason for the success of GREEN HORNET earlier this year was 3D, and one of the reasons why PIRATES 4 is doing so well overseas is 3D. Some people like the 3D experience - it’s something that they can’t get at home. But, wait! PIRATES 4 is not doing well in 3D in the United States! That 3D bubble has burst and Hollywood is dead!

The only thing wrong with that - what are people paying to see *instead* of 3D movies? Were they seeing the uplifting drama SOUL SURFER? Tom McCarthy’s great new drama WIN WIN? The romantic drama WATER FOR ELEPHANTS based on the big best selling novel? Or Werner Herzog’s beautiful new film about prehistoric French cave paintings CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (oh, crap - that’s in 3D!)? No - the people who were not seeing PIRATES 4 in 3D were seeing PIRATES 4 in 2D! The others were seeing BRIDESMAIDS, THOR, FAST FIVE, or the junky comic book action flick PRIEST. People may be cooling on 3D, but not on Hollywood films.

2009 broke box office records at the cinemas, and *ticket sales* increased as well. It was a record year for cinema ticket sales - more butts in seats than in any recent previous year. Meanwhile, home entertainment (from Hollywood) took a nosedive. 2010 sold fewer tickets and made less money - but was ahead of 2009 as far as money was concerned until mid-December. The problem seemed to be there was no huge Holiday movie - TRON: LEGACY was no AVATAR... and all of the second tier films also did much less business. Hey, that was good for the Coen Brothers - TRUE GRIT is their first real hit! But that happened because there was no “mainstream” hit movie to go to. This year began slow, but box office rebounded to record levels in April. With $791 million, April of 2011 was the top-grossing April ever and was up five percent from April last year. And with 101 million tickets sold, April 2011 was the third highest-attended April in history. And it didn’t stop there - we just had the highest-grossing Memorial Day weekend of all time at $277 million... and summer has just begun!

Hollywood is giving people the movies they want, even if they may not be the movies that *you* want to see. The major mistake in the theory that good films will force out the bad is the definitions of “good” and “bad”. I have a Script Tip on the two kinds of good - there is “critical good” and “entertainment good” - and when people have been working all week and want to just escape their crappy lives for two hours, most of them are not interested in movies that are challenging and intellectual - they just want to be entertained. When some critic says that FAST FIVE is a good movie if you just check your brain at the door, they mean it is well made entertainment... and that’s what most people want to see when they buy their tickets. They just want to be transported into some fantasy world where their problems do not exist. Sure, there are some people who *do* want to be challenged and *do* want to think... but that is a small percentage of the audience - a niche. If you fill the cinemas with “more intelligent films”, more people will not be watching them.

Already we *do* have films like WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (wide release) and SOUL SURFER (wide release) and LINCOLN LAWYER (wide release) that are the “adult” and “intelligent” alternatives to guys in tights fighting crime... and those films aren’t selling many tickets. They appeal to that limited audience that wants to see more intelligent films. LINCOLN LAWYER, based on a best selling novel, with real movie stars in it, well reviewed (83% on RT), and playing in every cinema in the USA... made a grand total of $57 million in it’s theatrical run... which is about what X-MEN: FIRST CLASS made over the weekend, and they’re calling it a flop! The problem is - if you make a bunch of “better movies”, most of the audience will still want to see explosions and poop humor. They *want* to check their brains at the door, and more films of quality won’t change anything.


Of course, the reason why X-MEN: FIRST CLASS made so much money over the weekend is all of the Hollywood Hype! That’s why no one goes to see Indie films - no big hype machine *telling* people to see WIN WIN! If everything was equal, and every movie had the same amount of hype, the audience would pick WIN WIN over X-MEN!

The problem is that theory doesn't work. You can't force people to see a movie they do not want to see - no matter how much you spend on adverts. The dollar store down the street is still trying to get rid of all of the tie-in merchandise for SPEED RACER - no one wants it. They did not want to see the movie, either - even though we had non-stop adverts for two months before it came out and Warner Bros thought it was going to be the #1 film of the summer. It flopped. Big time.

And every year there are massive flops that the studios think will be hits and advertize the hell out of. People did not want to see them or did not like them. Word of mouth is still more important than any amount of advertizing Hollywood can throw at a film.

One of the big problems is text messages - people in the cinema are texting friends in line telling them that the film sucks. They have charted bomb movies on opening day - they might have a good first couple of performances in New York City, but by the time they hit the West Coast word is out that the film stinks... and all of those adverts the studio bought are meaningless. There was a big drop on IRON MAN 2 between Friday and Saturday of opening weekend... and then a big drop the second weekend. It's just okay... and word is out. HANGOVER 2 had a great opening weekend, but just took a nose-dive. I suspect the reason is that everyone thought the film was funny, just not quite as good as the first film... and that qualification made the second weekend’s audience think twice about seeing it in the cinema... hey, we’ll just wait for Netflix. People’s opinions of the film control ticket sales.

If Hollywood could manipulate people into seeing movies, they would *all* be hits - but they are not. They have big budget summer films that just flop. You can not sell the public on a movie they do not want to see, nor sell them on a movie their friends told them was dreadful. Hype might get butts in the seats for the first few showings, or for the first weekend... but after that, the audience decides. They make a film a hit or a flop by paying to see it, telling their friends to see it, and liking it so much they pay to see it again and maybe again. A film that makes it into the Top Ten for the year is probably something that many people liked enough to see more than once.

People see what people want to see. They control Hollywood... not the other way around.

I honestly don't know how more indie films can bring about the demise of "Hollywood" (The Man, The Studios, Those Michael Bay Movies) because Hollywood is just a follower. Studios follow the money... and the money comes from the ticket buyers. If people want to see Indie films, studios make and release films that seem indie (see the 1970s). If people want to see big dumb action films, studios make and release big dumb action films. Studios always release these trial balloon movies too - just to see if people want to see medical dramas starring Harrison Ford or mature rom-coms starring Meryl Streep or musicals based on Fellini movies. If those films strike gold, they follow the money and more like them - maybe a musical based on Bergman's THE SEVENTH SEAL (they've already done one musical based on a Bergman film - it did not do well). If people are not interested in paying to see some type of movie, they don't make those. Hollywood just follows the audience.

So the only way to kill Hollywood is to kill the people who enjoy going to the movies. This does not sound like a good idea.

The good things that will come out of this new indie revolution are that niche audiences that Hollywood ignores - be it intelligent adult oriented films or movies for minorities or genres that have fallen out of favor - will get some films to watch. Those films may be streaming to their home entertainment systems, but they will be available. If you don’t like what Hollywood is making, there *will* be something out there for you to watch. They won’t be “mainstream” films with stars and Hollywood production value, but they are not being made for a mainstream audience. Niche films for a niche audience. I have no idea whether the film makers will be able to make a living doing this or not, but at least they can do it - make the films they want to make. The problem is, if you make a film aimed at the majority audience there are a lot more ticket buyers than if you make a film for a minority audience. You also kind of enter The Octagon - if there are 100 films aimed at a particular niche audience and only so many hours in the day that niche audience is going to watch films, some of those films will not be seen. The weirdest thing about do it yourself movies is that if everyone has a camera, who will be watching the movies?

But that’s the other good thing about low cost film making - if you are mostly making movies for self expression and you don’t care about the audience, you can make your movie! Maybe no one will ever see it, but you can still make it and get it out there! If it is all about self expression for you, you can now afford to express yourself! Your voice can now be heard (even if no one is listening)!

But Hollywood is not going to die any time in the near future - this may be a record year for cinema like 2009 was. The majority of the people who buy tickets like what Hollywood is dishing out. They like explosions and poop jokes. They may even like exploding poop jokes... DUMB & DUMBER made money, right? If you don’t like the kinds of movies that Hollywood is making, you can grab a camera and make your own.

Meanwhile, there’s a new TRANSFORMERS movie on the horizon. If people don't text their friends that it sucks, Michael Bay may be able to stay off the unemployment line for another year...

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Forward Momentum - and superhero movies like X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and IRON MAN 2...
Dinner: bag lunch: ham & cheese on 12 grain, apple.
Pages: Cold almost gone, but this blog entry and some other stuff got today's energy instead of the screenplay.
Bicycle: Short bike ride.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Lancelot Link: Incredible Shrinking Man

Lancelot Link Monday! There was this rumor that ANT MAN was going to be Marvel's first big flop... I suspect DC started that rumor. It ended up not being true. Though the film opened $2 million under predictions, it still raked in money and the audience loved it (A grade on Cinemascore). Not bad for a "lesser" Marvel movie about a character none of us have ever heard of. But Marvel is still fighting a BLACK WIDOW stand alone movie. WTF? Do think think male audience members don't want to see a strong woman in a skin tight catsuit kick ass? 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 Ant Man......................... $58,040,000
2 Minions......................... $50,200,000
3 Trainwreck...................... $30,200,000
4 Inside Out...................... $11,660,000
5 Jurassic........................ $11,400,000
6 Terminator....................... $5,400,000
7 Magic Mike....................... $4,500,000
8 Gallows.......................... $4,005,000
9 Ted 2............................ $2,700,000
10 Holmes........................... $2,489,000

July Box Office is up 28.8% over last year... so this has been a pretty good summer so far. The movie in the #10 slot, MR. HOLMES, was playing on only 363 screens!

2) Judd Apatow on TRAIN WRECK.

3) Black List Script Optioned...

4) THE REVENANT Trailer.

5) SPECTRE World Premiere...

6) Michael Sheen joins PASSENGERS.

7) Jack Nicholson & Marlon Brando in DELIVERANCE?

8) Matt & Ben Do SyFy!

9) Mark Hamill On Amy Schumer's Princess Leia...

10) One of my favorite films, DAYS OF HEAVEN, analysed.

11) National Lampoon's SPIDER MAN???

12) The Last Drive In....

And the Car Chase Of The Week:



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Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Secrets Of Action Screenwriting

For the past 25 years I have earned a living writing movies.

Back in the year 2000 the last version of my book Secrets Of Action Screenwriting came out in paperback and went through a couple of printings without any revisions, and sometime before those books were gone I realized I needed to rewrite the first 6-8 chapters of the book - especially the first 4 - because they were pretty much unchanged from the xeroxed pages I had given friends before there was even the thought of a book. That stuff needed work! Plus, the book had gotten old. So I decided to do a rewrite before it went back into print... then life happened and it got shoved aside. Again and again.

Soon the book had gone out of print... and people began paying crazy prices for used copies on Amazon and eBay. Here is the price of a used copy on Amazon the day the Kindle version was released:

Yes - that says $510 for a book with a cover price of $21.95!

And it sold on eBay once for $999.00 (um, almost a thousand bucks! Wish I got some of that! I guess that means people thought it was good.)

All of this has amused me over the years.

And people keep asking me when the new edition was coming out, and just when I get ready to start the rewrite, some script job came up.

It just kept getting pushed back on the Big To Do List again and again... never getting To Done.

One of those years, the big Publishers Convention came to Los Angeles and I took what few copies of the book I had left and gave them to interested publishers - and there were a few... and I got some e-mails and some calls about the book and how I was doing on the rewrite... but what I had really wanted out of that was a contract with a firm deadline so I would be forced to rewrite the book. Funny thing is: one of those publishers is still interested but still can't seem to get me a contract and a check.

But in 2011 I decided I HAD to get it finished no matter what.

About halfway through 2011 I did a Kindle experiment with the Ideas Blue Book, then the Protagonist Blue Book, then the Dialogue Blue Book... and all three ended up in the top 10 on Amazon! That gave me some incentive to finish SECRETS OF ACTION. Over 460 pages. (Kindle doesn't have page numbers, so I had to go by number of words divided by average page of the paper book version - and that doesn't include title page, bio, etc junk - and *that* was 463 pages.)

The new edition was completely rewritten, has new chapters and new information and - like the old version - is technique based. Tools, no rules.

I thought about pricing it at $510... but the last version sold for $21.95, so I thought a fair price might be... $9.99.

So, twice as many pages, for less than half the 2000 original price.

Now fully revised! The Screenwriting Book recommended by an Oscar Winning Screenwriter and a Screenwriter with *Four* of the Top Twenty Box Office Movies Of All Time! The old version sells on Amazon for $399 (check it out!).

The old version was 240 pages packed with tips and techniques - the new version is fully expanded with new chapters and is around 500 pages! Real techniques from a working professional screenwriter that you won't find anywhere else! Let the other books tell you about the 3 act structure! This book covers: How to write a plot twist, the four kinds of suspense (and how to create it), reversals to keep your description exciting, ten ways to invent new action scenes, secrets and lies, creating the ultimate villain, five kinds of love interests, creating effective violence, is sex necessary?, theme, using magnification to create kick ass stories, weapons for weirdos, plans for world destruction and/or domination, four ways to explode cliches, twelve steps to a more focused script, *every* type of hero, emotional action scenes, your script's DNA, pre-story goal and the connection to story goal, pacing, *how* to plot, giving them something extra, and more.... Plus a complete analysis of the classic DIE HARD!

Though this book focuses on the Action and Thriller genres, the information can be used in any genre. This is the book professional screenwriters recommend!


Monday, July 13, 2015

Lancelot Link: ComiCon Edition

Lancelot Link Monday! Okay, you may have heard of this thing going on in San Diego right now called "ComiCon". This could be a million links this week, just for the trailers being revealed. But I've kept it to a dozen. I expect most of you have already seen all of these, anyway! 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 Minions........................ $115,200,000
2 Jurassic World.................. $18,100,000
3 Inside Out...................... $17,108,000
4 Terminator...................... $13,700,000
5 The Gallows..................... $10,015,000
6 Mike (Magic)..................... $9,640,000
7 Ted 2............................ $5,600,000
8 Self/Less........................ $5,379,000
9 Baahubali........................ $3,575,000
10 Max.............................. $3,420,000

MINIONS... so that swearing Minion helped sell tickets! Cool!

2) Joss Whedon.


4) Tarsem.


6) Why Batman and Superman Broke Up!

7) Del Toro.

8) Bryan Singer.

9) Solo (Napoleon, not Han)

10) Suicide.

11) Tarantino.

12) Gonzo.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:


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Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Darth Vader on the NYC subway

From 4 years ago...

I may have posted this before, it's from Improv Everywhere. They posted an April Fools clip where Jar Jar Binks gets the beat up on the subway a few days ago, which wasn't fun to watch. (As much as I dislike Jar Jar, I don't want to see him get beaten the crap out of.) This clip is fun...

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: When You Want To Hurt The World - and James Bond movies.
Dinner: Hawaiian BBQ chicken.
Pages: Saturday - not much sleep or writing, Sunday - not much sleep again, but I did some outline work.
Bicycle: Good rides on both Sat & Sunday - though both days were overcast and I feared rain.
Movies: SOURCE CODE and INSIDIOUS and SUPER... was going to see BATTLE: LA, too but was tired.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Lancelot Link: Put On A Shirt!

Lancelot Link Monday! JURASSIC WORLD and INSIDE OUT continue to be neck and neck at the finish line, but newcomers TERMINATOR GENYSIS and MAGIC MIKE XXL both "underperformed". Why? Well both TERMINATOR and MAGIC MIKE contain scenes with shirtless men. This is obviously a box office problem. Shirtless men. Hollywood take note! 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 Jurassic World.................. $30,900,000
2 Inside Our...................... $30,105,000
3 Terminator: Phil Collins........ $28,700,000
4 Magic Mike XXSM................. $11,600,000
5 Ted 2........................... $11,000,000
6 Max (not mad).................... $6,610,000
7 Spy.............................. $5,500,000
8 San Andreas...................... $3,030,000
9 Me & Earl........................ $1,320,000
10 Dope............................. $1,098,000

Oh, and overseas where shirtless men are more accepted, TERMINATOR GENYSIS is doing great business and is on track to make $300 to $400 million just in those overseas shirtless countries. So this may actually be the start of a new trilogy (as planned).

2) Best Films Of 2015 Part 1.

3) CHIPS: THE MOTION PICTURE. (This is not a joke! Hey, I saw Estrada in Starbucks about a week ago!)

4) Tarantino Discusses HATEFUL EIGHT.

5) Wozniak On The New JOBS Trailer.

6) DEADPOOL... rated R!

7) Herzog's New Film... about a female spy.

8) Marky Mark & Ronda Rousey At MILE 22?

9) Liam Neeson's Son Cast In Role Liam Neeson Played For Prequel?

10) Next Reboot Of SPIDER MAN Movie Will Be Like A John Huges Movie... BABY'S DAY OUT... Says Kevin Feige. Casting Toddlers Now!

11) LONDON HAS FALLEN First Trailer...

12) Chris Pratt Is PSYCHIC! Predicts Future! Dramatic video proof!

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

From the low budget original...


Buy The DVDs




Thursday, July 02, 2015

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