Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Magic Time

From way back in April 2008. Another movie that never got made!

So, the assignment was turned in last week, and they’ve read it and like it. There’s always a certain amount of writer’s paranoia that has me worried they will drive over to my place, light the script on fire and leave it on my porch, hit the doorbell, then drive away. *I* like the script, but you never know if anyone else will. You hope they will.

Because I have a deadline, and must be able to plan out my writing so that I have a finished screenplay on time, I use an outline. I usually outline, but I’ve done a couple of experiments working without an outline... which usually serves to remind me why I need an outline. Some people think that an outline handcuffs you, but I think it frees me. I know where the story is going, I know what has to happen... but I don’t know exactly how it happens. And sometimes that means there’s some sort of magic that happens while you’re writing a scene, and the scene is exciting and entertaining to write.

Here’s an example: The script is a fun monster movie, similar to TREMORS. There’s a sequence I called the Tides Restaurant Scene (from THE BIRDS) where the monster chases a bunch of folks into a building, where they discuss where the monster came from and how the heck they’re gonna deal with it... while the monster tries to break in to eat them. Sort of a town meeting during an attack. That’s basically what I had in my outline - I knew key story points and all of the things that I was setting up for later... but I didn’t know the *how it happened*.

While writing the scene, I came up with all kinds of funny bits that entertained me as I wrote the sequence, and then I came to the halfway point, where the monster would break in and eat some people, which forces our folks to stop talking about where this monster may have come from and figure out how they’re gonna kill it. When the people run into the building to take cover from the monster, they reinforce the doors and windows, making them “monster proof”. But the monster breaks in, destroys the reinforcements, grabs a couple of people and goes outside to chow down. Our hero realizes they have nothing to reinforce the doors with - they will have to hold them closed themselves. He asks for volunteers, and one guy says he’s crazy, the monster is right out there, it’s going to break in again, and he doesn’t want to be anywhere near the doors when that happens. They hero makes the big speech (fun to write) and then...

Well, magic happened.

One of the townspeople got up, walked to the doors, and used their body to hold them closed... then another person got up, and another, and another, and another... until *everyone* was against the doors, holding them closed as a group, except the naysayer. Who didn’t want to be left out, so he joins all of the others.

Okay, this was a scene where they find something else to reinforce the doors to keep the monster out in the outline... and that’s what happens. But in the outline I was thinking it would probably be tables and chairs, right? Which is how outlines work - you just figure out the skeleton of the story and fill in the details when you write it. They barricade the doors. Once you get to the writing stage, you get creative. Hey, maybe they barricade the doors with a car or something, right? You try to come up with something that you haven't seen before in a movie. Knowing that you need to do something different *helps* you. Your subconscious knows this is coming up, and starts to work on the problem... and that leads to the magic happening. The scene idea that isn't off the top of your head, it;s been percolating in your subconscious all of this time. Well, I guess it has - hard to tell about that subconscious.

But I think this is going to be one of those “I am Spartacus” moments. One of those amazing big moments that make the audience emotional. And it just happened by magic - I created it as I was writing the script, because *something* needed to reinforce those doors. Oh, and it’s thematic, because the story is about how all species need each other to survive (the monster was created by fooling with mother nature). Look, this is a silly monster movie... no one is going to give it 4 stars, it won’t make critic’s lists... critics won’t even know it exists. It’s just a silly movie. But I still want it to be emotional, and funny, and scary and something that you watch and don’t thing was a total waste of your time (only a partial waste). So I need scenes like that. And even with an outline, even knowing what happens next and who gets eaten before the final credits, there’s still room for lightning to strike - still room for that magic to happen on the page. I live for scenes like that - the ones that come from nowhere and have me tearing up as I type them. I live for those funny lines that come right off the top of my head. I live for that one thing you invent in the fly that turns a bunch of words into a living, breathing *person*.

That’s the magic. We take a bunch of words, and turn them into emotions.

That’s what I love about writing.

- Bill

Yesterday’s Dinner: Burrito at Tortas in Studio City.

Monday, August 03, 2020

My Films Come Back To Haunt Me...

My movies on TubiTV.

TubiTV is kind of the old folks home for movies. When a film has played every cable channel and every broadcast channel (including Spanish language) and been released on DVD and Blu-ray and done it's theatrical run in every country - even the ones that show movies on a bed sheet, and every single cent has been made... They go to TubiTV. It's free streaming with lots of commercials. But R rated films are uncut.

I had 7 movies there last month, only 6 this month. You missed IMPLICATED from MGM home video. Here are the 6...

Crash Dive! HBO World Premiere Movie CRASH DIVE, made for HBO as a "World Premiere". Played theatrical overseas and was Top 10 box office in some countries. Catherine Bell's first lead role and the reason why she was cast in JAG. We originally had Scott Glenn signed and he ditched us to make a Clint Eastwood movie. Our last minute replacement from the HBO approved list was American Ninja (the theatrical films from Cannon Pictures, not the TV show) Michael Dudikoff. Last minute script rewrite turning lead from brainiac to Kung Fu guy. Oh, Chris Titus also got his own TV show after this... though I don't think this film had anything to do with it.

Steel Sharks, HBO World Premiere Movie STEEL SHARKS, also HBO, also theatrical overseas. Starring Billy Dee Williams and Gary Busey fresh out of rehab and some guy who was on the HBO approved list and was starring on BAYWATCH. Billy Dee told me that he had 3 scripts to choose from and chose mine... but he may say that to all the screenwriters. Also a US Navy Co-Op movie. Reason why I hate the director - we had 3 days on a real aircraft carrier with Billy Dee... and it all looks like stock footage. This guy made everything look like crap. Our pyro guy did the largest fireball on screen - going for a record - and the director forced the DP to shoot the base of the explosion - you have no idea how big the fireball was.

Night Hunter, Cinemax World Premiere NIGHT HUNTER, was a Cinemax Original Movie, which is what happens when an HBO movie goes wrong. This began as a cool vampire movie, but they cut out all of the horror in (my) rewrites. Star didn't want to make a horror movie. Some of the practical FX stuff we had planned was amazing - a Samurai vampire who gets sliced in half... and keeps fighting! A cool hall of mirrors chase scene (vampires don't reflect). A rooftop chase scene - where the vampires flew! More cool stuff... cut from the script! The director did a great job - very atmospheric. Made 3 years before BLADE. Oh, first shaky-cam film. Sorry.

Virtual Combat, HBO World Premiere Movie VIRTUAL COMBAT (aka GRID RUNNERS). Also HBO World Premiere and theatrical overseas. We were on the cover of Sci-Fi Entertainment Magazine a year before VIRTUOSITY script was bought. Same star as NIGHT HUNTER, same issues with the special effects scenes... but many of the FX stuff was *built* but never used! On this we had FX stuff made - crawling half formed bodies from the cloning tank... never shot. We were the 2nd film to shoot on LA subway (after that Keanu movie). Act 3 was rewritten overnight when we lost our original location.

Cyberzone, Made For Showtime... the Roger Corman deal CYBERZONE (aka DROID GUNNER) - my Roger Corman robot hookers from outer space flick. Began as a female lead BLADE RUNNER ripoff about the underground railroad for androids... But Roger's Production guys asked if I could do a page one and make it about robot hookers from outer space. Sure. They had a deal with Showtime and just had a film rejected - could I write this in 9 days so the film would be finished in time to plug that hole in Showtime's schedule? Sure. Film was written to be shot in 9 days (a week plus a weekend of 35mm equipment rental). I actually like this movie despite all of its problems. I wrote it for the guys I used to work with in the warehouse. Oh, special effects by some guy named James Cameron.

Invisible Mom, direct to vide INVISIBLE MOM - direct to video. Dee Wallace from ET played the mom. Barry Livingston, Ernie from MY THREE SONS played the dad. Rusty Tamblin from TWIN PEAKS and WEST SIDE STORY played the boss. Written as a favor - the producer, 80s heart throb Andrew Stevens had started a new company and one of his deals was with Corman's new family film video label. We called them "babysitters" - mom plugs in the video and the kids are busy for 90 minutes. Spawned 4 sequels that I didn't write. I pitched a great idea, they wanted to go in a blander direction. My nieces liked this one more than I did.

My two favorites are not here, but those 6 are free on TubiTV - use their search box to find them. I apologize in advance.

- Bill

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