Monday, October 31, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Happy Halloween!

Lancelot Link Monday! Happy Halloween - this week's links offer some pretty scary stuff for screenwriters and film folks, from the Best Unproduced Horror Screenplays Of The Year to Tippi Hedren's new Memoir... and everything in between. What's in Between? 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 Boo! Madea ..................... $16,675,000
2 Inferno ........................ $15,000,000
3 Jack Reacher:NGB................. $9,550,000
4 Accountant....................... $8,475,000
5 Ouiji -1 ........................ $7,070,000
6 GOtT............................. $4,270,000
7 Peculiar Children................ $3,975,000
8 NOT Keeping Up................... $3,375,000
9 Storks .......................... $2,785,000
10 Mushkil .......................... $2,135,000

2) Happy Halloween! Here's *The Blood List* - Best Unproduced Horror Scripts!

3) Rise Of The Planet Of Great Female Horror Directors!

4) Shane Black's Writing Process.

5) The 1000 Monkeys Selected To Write SHERLOCK HOLMES 3 (Robert Downey, jr)

6) For Your Consideration: Legal PDF Downloads From Sony's Films.

7) Other For Your Consideration Scripts You May Have Missed.

8) How A New Writer Landed Idris Elba In The Starring Role!

9) Yesterday I Walked Past FFC's Restaurant In San Francisco - So Here's An Aricle On His DISTANT VISION.

10) I Joke About "Direct Plug" TV... NetFlix Is Actually Working On It!

11) Tippi Says Hitch Sexually Assaulted Her In New Book.

12) AFM Starts At The End Of The Week: How To Work It!

And the Car Chase Of The Week:


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Monday, October 17, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: October Country

Lancelot Link Monday! It's actually fall in Los Angeles. The temperatures have dropped from the 100s, to the 90s to 70s! Where did I put my swaetshirt? Today it's overcast and we've even had some rain... it must be October! The time when pumpkins show up in grocery stores and Halloween decorations spring up. My favorite time of the year - not summer hot nor winter cold. Just right. And Halloween is a great "holiday" - a time of imagination and make believe, when adults even put on silly costumes and play let's pretend. I often wonder why we "grow out of" pretending and playing... aren't these the things that keep us young? Keep us *interesting*? Keep us having fun? 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 The Accountant ................. $24,715,000
2 Kevin Hart...................... $11,984,245
3 Girl Train!..................... $11,974,915
4 M. Peregrine..................... $8,900,000
5 Deepwater........................ $6,350,000
6 Storks........................... $5,600,000
7 Magnificent...................... $5,200,000
8 Middle School.................... $4,250,000
9 Sully............................ $2,960,000
10 Birth............................ $2,715,000

Box office is still breaking records even before that STAR WARS movie that comes at the end of the year. We are 3.4% above this time last year, 9.5% over 2014, 4.7% over 2013, 5.1% over 2012 and 9.5% over 2011... and this week's top film is about an *accountant*!

2) Specialty Box Office - What Indie Films Sold Tickets?

3) Ang Lee OPn BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK And Hyper Realistic Images.


5) For Your Consideration: Universal's Oscar Bait Screenplays In Legal PDF For You!

6) Darren Aronofsky On His Writing Pricess.

7) The Screenwriter Of SULLY Explains His Process.

8) TV Showrunners Survey.

9) Amblin Finds Chinese Funding... What Does This Mean?

10) The CIA's Sabotage Manual... For Real!

11) Jim Jarmusch's 5 Must See Movies (one is my gavorite!) (Two others are also favorites of mine!)

12) How Hollywood *Really* Works.

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

Another film about an accountant!


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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Man In The Mirror

From 2011...

A few years back I had a producer *very* interested in an action script of mine, so he wanted to meet with me at his offices on Wilshire. Now, these first meetings are similar to first dates – they like your work and want to enter into a business relationship with you, but want to make sure you're compatible. You're going to be spending time doing rewrites through pre-production and then production and maybe even post production – and if you may end up locked in a room together (with a bunch of assistants and other execs) arguing about the story, they want to make sure they can work with you and you don't smell bad. I think I mentioned in a Script Tip about the time I was up for an assignment – and they liked my work and another writer's work and met with both of us... and the other writer showed up sweaty and smelly and generally unkempt. My guess is that he'd done a hard night of partying the night before and not at his best... and I got the job. That was another project that never got made – an invisible credit. (I've also been the “smelly one” - I once had a meeting with a producer in Ah-nuld's building in Venice and got a flat tire on the way there, so I ended up late and greasy and dirty. Gas station bathrooms aren't the best place to clean up really greasy hands and sponge off your clothes. Even though I explained the situation, my fingers were crusty looking. I did not get that job).

So these first meetings are usually to size you up and generally discuss the script and the situation and see if you bring anything else to the table in addition to the script... or if there's some “leach” attached to the damned script that will cause them problems in the future. Sometimes they don't want to buy your script at all, but they have another project that needs a writer. And sometimes it's one of those first dates where you really hit it off... and then he just never calls you again – there was something going on behind the scenes and they may have *wanted* to buy your script or hire you for a project, but there was some political reason they couldn't do it. I've had situations where the company had two partners who were secretly fighting and because one really loved your script, the other had to hate it (even if they also loved it) just to screw with their partner. Been there a couple of times. Also *many times* been in the situation where the development executive loves your work but producer doesn't seem interested at all... or the other way around. You're there to “sell” the other half of the equation, and the fact is – that is sometimes impossible.

But the other thing that often happens at these meetings is that they ask you to do a free rewrite. Usually they say they are going to take the script to the studio or the cable network or whatever for funding and think the script could use another pass. Now I'm supposed to Just Say No to that, but if they have great notes that will actually improve the script, I'm probably going to do it. Everything depends on the notes. If the notes really do improve the quality of the script, I'd be a fool to say no. A better screenplay has a better chance of being made (or, at least, getting me paid). But if the notes will screw up the script or if they are trying to anticipate the studio of cablenet's notes, the answer is usually no. Not for free. If Ashok had asked me to put a sex scene in CRASH DIVE because HBO will want one, I'd have said no – that would ruin the script and since none of us are mind readers, we don't really know what HBO will want changed. Once the money is there – I'm an employee and I might have to add that sex scene (well, I did – after a great deal of debate), but I'm being *paid* to make that change. I wouldn't make it for free. And, just to show you how pointless it is to try to anticipate notes – though HBO *insisted* on the sex scene in CRASH DIVE, it never came up in STEEL SHARKS. That film has no sex scene at all – and it was all the same people involved! So unless the note is making an *artistic* improvement in the screenplay, you have to pay me first. And until I've been paid... it's *my* screenplay.

So, back to this producer and my action screenplay – he had some notes and was wondering if I might do a free rewrite to improve the chances of the studio giving him the money to buy my script. “What kind of changes did you have in mind?” “Well, I just don't believe this villain.” “Why not?” (others had really liked the villain – but maybe this guy had some notes to improve the character). “He's kind of a cliché, don't you think?” The villain in this script was a businessman who was egotistical and verbally abusive to his employees... and he'd screwed up a major business deal and turned to a criminal activity temporarily in order to make up for his financial loss... but he found himself *liking* the illegal work because it allowed him to screw the rules and do his own thing. He was kind of modeled after DeLorean... but as a bad guy who would rather kill than be caught. The producer continued, “Why couldn't he be something like a Middle Eastern terrorist or something?”

Hmm, the fallen businessman is cliché, but Middle Eastern terrorists are not? Was I missing something?

I explained that I wanted to get away from the Middle Eastern terrorist because they had become cliché, and asked him for the titles of some films with legit businessmen who had done something criminal... and found themselves liking it. (Okay, Craig T. Nelson in ACTION JACKSON.) But he didn't come up with that film or any other, it just “felt cliche” (but Middle Eastern terrorists didn't?).

Right about then, the producer's assistant came in with a message, and the producer *yelled* at him for interrupting our meeting, then proceeded to do many of the things the egotistical businessman had done in my screenplay... basically treating this guy like crap.

And it suddenly all made sense to me.

The reason why the producer didn't like the villain was because *he was just like him*!

And as he screamed at (and maybe threw things at) his assistant, I decided I would not make this change because it would not improve the script if the bad guys were a bunch of Middle Eastern terrorists... and they did not buy the screenplay (and I still own that sucker!).

But I realized one of the issues with screenplays not selling (or whatever) is that the characters or story make the producer uncomfortable... because he “resembles that remark”. There are characters and subjects and scenes that are difficult to get to the screen, not because they are taboo or non-commercial or some other reason... but just because someone on the food chain from script to screen sees their own flaws and wants that part removed.

A cousin to this are those things that *work too well*, and make the reader or producer or studio executive feel things they would rather not feel – so they want them out. Can you imagine the rape scene from DELIVERANCE making it all the way to the screen today? I don't think it would be cut because the audience might not like it, but because the executive would be really horrified by it – which is the intent of the scene.

And this made me wonder how many subjects and scenes and characters *I* avoid because they make me feel uncomfortable? How many *good things* do I leave out because they frighten me or expose me or make me feel things I would rather not feel? Would my scripts be better if I included those things? I have said before that a script should scare you – that it should be personal enough and real enough and deal with things that cut right into you. Emotional things, rather than bland things. But the first step to writing those things is to realize that you may be avoiding some subjects *because* they are painful or too personal or make you look bad. Instead – be brave and dive into those things. Here's the thing – we can't really control our subconscious, so those things are going to come out anyway. That producer had no idea what a freakin' dead giveaway it was when he wanted to change the egotistical businessman into a bunch of Middle Eastern terrorists.

I refused to do the free rewrite and did not sell that script or work with producer on any future projects... but I did learn something.

- Bill

Sunday, October 09, 2016

RIP: Danny Grossman

I’ve been in a daze... Last night I learned that my friend Danny Grossman had passed away. This confused me, and I am still confused. Danny’s a relatively young guy, in his 40s, in good physical shape as far as I know (he’s an actor, and a leading man type - so he has to stay in shape to land roles), and he was a hell of a nice guy. If he had been in a car accident it would have been a major shock... but things like that happen. But it appears that he died of natural causes, which makes no sense at all to me. I can’t get my mind around it. If he’d been morbidly obese or had substance abuse problems or some other thing that might have prepared my mind for his passing... but no. I’m probably a decade older than he is, and in crappy shape, and only miss Taco Tuesday when I stand in line for Popeye’s fried chicken. I should be dead. But I am alive and Danny has passed away. This makes no sense at all, and makes me mad as hell at the world.

Danny was an actor, a screenwriter, and a director of amazing short films. One of his films, FINDING SPACE, makes me cry every time I see it. Seven minutes long, and packs more of an emotional punch than most serious dramatic features. He was incredibly talented. This is also something that confuses me and makes me mad at the world - if someone has to die before their time, why this talented guy? I don’t get it. There are a whole lotta idiots in the world - why take the guy who created things that make the world a better place?

I know Danny from a group of people who met on a screenwriting website and through meet ups and dinners became friends. This was a fairly close group, though many on the group knew Danny better than I did. But the year I was a guest speaker at Austin, just about the whole group was there due to some of their projects and it was like an extended meet up in exotic Texas. Harold Ramis was there that year, and Danny got to hang out with him... which was really cool. Even though we haven’t had a meet up in years, the group still stays in contact with each other and we care about each other.

Because he was primarily an actor, he was often on stage in some little theater in North Hollywood (easy bike ride for me) so I’d ride out to see him in things. I think the last show I saw him in was about a year ago in some little theater on Vineland near Little Tony’s Pizza. He was great, as ususal. The thing about people who come to Los Angeles to become actors is that many of them just want the fame part without any of the hard work... but Danny seemed to care nada about the fame and loved the work. He wasn’t chasing some impossible dream, his dream was acting so he was acting.

Danny is probably the nicest person I know. I think everyone who knows him will say the same. This is a competitive business, but Danny was never someone who thought of themselves before others. I’ve had “friends” who have stolen jobs from me, but I suspect Danny was the opposite of that - the kind of guy who might give you some job he landed if he thought you would be better (not that the biz works that way). He was a sincere, giving person who seemed to go out of his way to make sure *you* were doing okay. Another reason why I’m mad as hell at the world - why take a nice guy? There aren’t enough of them in the world. It’s just wrong. Unfair.

The world has lost a great guy. A very talented guy. And I don’t know how to process this. It’s just too strange to be true.

This is probably a good time to tell your friends and family that you love them, because we have no idea when it will be too late. And also probably a good time to contemplate our own lives and think about ways that we can be kinder to each other, be less selfish, be more encouraging, remove hate and distrust from our lives and focus on love and acceptance. We don't only know when the people we love may pass unexpectedly, we have no idea when it might happen to us. We don't went to go out on a note of anger or hatred or any of the negative emotions we may experience. Better to clean up our act while we still can. Be kind to people. Think of others before ourselves. Just be as nice as Danny was.

Even though I’m confused and angry at the world, I don’t think Danny would like that... I think Danny would want us all to be happy. So why not celebrate Danny by watching some of the great short films he made? Here’s a link to his Vimeo page....

Danny's Short Films - Check Out Finding Space!

And one of Danny's last roles on camera... with Amy Schumer. Amy Schumer Wants To Be A Real Housewife.

PS: Lancelot Link's Links are taking Monday off because it's a holiday in the USA. - Bill

Monday, October 03, 2016

Lancelot Link Monday: Welsh Diversity Edition

Lancelot Link Monday! So MISS PERIGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN is getting some flack because there is little diversity among the children, who all seem to be pasty Welsh kids... because the story takes place on an island off Wales in the 1940s. I'm not sure how much diversity there was at that location at that time. I think films need more diversity, but it has to make sense. I thought Denzel was fine in MAGNIFICENT 7 because the West actually had Black cowboys... but I'm fairly sure there is a Chinese actress who could play Tilda Swinton's role in DOCTOR STRANGE (Michelle Yeoh?). And JUSTICE LEAGUE is looking very white... what's up with that? Hey, Superman is from another freaking planet - who says he has to be white? 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 Peculiar Children .............. $28,500,000
2 Deep Water...................... $20,600,000
3 Mag Seven....................... $15,700,000
4 Storks.......................... $13,800,000
5 Sully............................ $8,400,000
6 MasterBehinds.................... $6,600,000
7 Queen............................ $2,608,000
8 Breathe.......................... $2,375,000
9 BJB.............................. $2,330,000
10 Snowed In........................ $2,029,390

2) What Does A Key Grip Make Per Year?

3) Well Paid Screenwriters!

4) Nick Hornby On Screenwriting.

5) William Wheeler On QUEEN OF KATWE.

6) Bleeker Street Released Their "For Your Consideration" Screenplay PDFs! Free, Legal!

7) Writing Tips From Tarantino, Oliver Stone, many more!


9) Nicholl Fellowship Winners.

10) OXFORD DICTIONARY: THE MOTION PICTURE... Yes, Every Book You Can Imagine Has Been Optioned By Hollywood! Mel Gibson Is Starring!

11) A Look Back At THE BIRTH OF A NATION - And Art Vs. Content Questions.

12) Film News Grab Bag!

And the Car Chase Of The Week:

Okay... missile chase.


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