Writing On Spec

An award caliber procrastinator discovers a new and dangerous pursuit to keep him from actually writing another script. Why another Blog? I love to talk screenwriting. I love to talk story. I live in Richmond, VA. It's almost easier to get produced than find another screenwriter here. We are the anti-LA.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Next "Hot" movie

If you ask me, the reason all these comic book movies are doing so well, aside from the fact they are well-made (i.e. somewhat faithful to their comics and not shlock like I believe Batman 2 up to Batman Beyond were. See the last couple Supermans prior to Superman Returns) is that they are vengence stories.

Okay, maybe vengence is a little strong. Let's say they are Action movies.

Well, DUH! you say. But maybe you're not looking closely enough. These aren't the same action pictures like "Last Action Hero" or "Predator". These are action stories where people *take* action and *DO* something. People controlling their lives instead of being controlled. It's what Superheros are all about. Saving the day. Thwarting evil, etc.

If there weren't so many 'issues' surrounding the gun lobby these days, I would have expected an update of Death Wish.

You see, in our current world, frustration is the enemy of the day. You can't get anything done anymore. Worse, if you do, you're just as likely to be punished for it.

Does anybody really merge anymore? Or is it more like 75% of the people get in line and 25% of the people fucking rush down the open merge lane for the front of the line.

At the Express checkout, do people really count? Walmart says "about 15" because they know some ass is going to walk up with 16 items and pitch a fit if they're not checked out. I went into Food Lion today and some woman drops like 20 items on the belt with a sign above her reading "Express lane - 12 or less items". She has two teenagers with her bringing more items up as she waits in line.

Now. Do the rest of us say anything? No. Frustration. What if we do? Think she'll put her shit back in her cart and move to another register? Uh... don't think so.

It's a daily battle of frustration. The person who drives right on the speed limit or below, in thick traffic in the passing lane. You know they see everybody back there. And you know what they're thinking.... "if that SOB wants to pass me, he can just go around. I'm going the speed limit."

Thanks. I'd do that if it wasn't so fucking packed in all the other slow ass lanes going the same speed as you.

Work. Gee - we all love it. Countless stories from Hollywood about troublesome actors, stupid executive notes, etc. Is it really much better outside Hollywood? Management that can't make a decision because once they do, they'll be responsible for it. Outsourcing all our entry-level tech jobs to foreign countries because it's cheaper. Even though the majority of the population doesn't want it and, I'm sorry, can't understand what many operators are saying.

The price of gas is going up, yet our government, and the car industry, just keeps on pumping out the gas guzzlers. Last I heard, you had to get on a waiting list for a hybrid. Check out the upcoming movie "who killed the electric car" for more information.

So, you want to make a new movie? Make a movie where you see somebody VENT that damn frustration. In just about any manner, and it will be welcomed.

In our society you can't *do* anything without some sort of repercussion - even the absurd ones. Defend your life from an attacker? Held on charges for assault. Spank your unruly child in public? Expect a visit from the social workers. Piss of your spouse? They could screw you over by reporting you as a child abuser. You could beat the rap, but your reputation is shit now.

So find a way to get some of that frustration into a film and then figure out a way to vent it. I'll be the first in line to see it when it comes to my local theater.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Act 3

Wow...time has gone so fast, almost forget about Act 3!

With any luck, Act 3 should be easy.

Well, easier than Act 2, anyway.

It's going to start at the very bottom of the barrel. The worst moment for your character. Everything they've fought for has turned out to be a failure. They've lost (at least that's what they have to think). In the majority of Hollywood cinema, it's a false loss because eventually they will succeed. In European film it's quite often the long dark fall into total failure. Umm... that'll be fun.

Anyway, we're talking about the Hollywood film here, so at around 75% of your film, you have the Darkest Hour moment.

This is followed by a point of discovery. The main character's original plan has failed, but, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, they will be reborn with a new plan. Possibly even a plan that is born out of the B story. It's where they actually get to use the knowledge they've gained in the Special World (i.e. Act 2).

Let's say that again because it's important. The new plan your main character will create to win the day will be hatched because of what they have learned in Act 2 in the Special World.

If they don't go through their experiences in Act 2, they don't grow into the person that can solve the problem that is before them at the end of Act 2. A clear example is the character in Bruce Almighty. He has the power of God in Act 2 - he can do almost anything - anything but make somebody fall in love with him. It's not until he loses his girlfriend that he realizes what he had. With that knowledge, he is able to grow past his career-centric focus and find true happiness.

The finale is going to be almost the last 20% of the story and it will be putting their new plan into action. For Hollywood films it will typically be a success and will end with a final image that's 180 degrees from the opening image. Again, to use Bruce Almighty, it opens with him being embarrassed about his job. He feels humiliated doing his story. However, the last shot of the final act is him turning it around to his advantage and being a much happier person.

If you can manage it, your final image should show just how much your character has grown (or failed to grow) through the story's events. They should be bookends.

Monday, June 26, 2006

It's okay not to get it.

So I lend Lord of War and The Weather Man to my brother & sister-in-law. They didn't care for either. Didn't even finish watching either. Didn't hold their interest. Boring. Nothing happening. Couldn't get into them.

So, I immediately return home with them and watch them the next day.

Lord of War wasn't what I thought it was billed to be, but it was entertaining. I think had they ran with the "based on actual events" it would have fared worse at the box office. However, the Weather Man was much of what I expected. I enjoyed it quite a bit, which leads me to some rather uncomfortable territory.

For starters - am I "that" person who didn't like Match Point because I didn't get it? That's a distinct possibility, even though I really tried to look at it objectively from the writer's perspective.

This leads me to The Weather Man. To me, it seemed to speak to the 40 somethings out there who have found themselves at a point in life where they can't get back what they may have lost. No matter how hard they try. Dreams you had as a child, or young adult aren't as achievable any longer.

So, I'm feeling some empathy for the guy - Dave Spritz. He's not the best guy in the world, but I can see how he got to where he did and I understand why he's all fucked up in the head now.

What surprised me is that three of the people closest to me just don't get that. They are where they are in life, and that's okay. I don't know if they didn't have any dreams or ambition or what. I feel kinda mean digging around that area just because I feel like I'm saying there's something wrong with them if they don't feel that way, but it's really the opposite - why can't I?

They're happy. I'm, well, not unhappy, but feeling a little unfulfilled.

What's the point of all this?

Don't let any one person sway your story's content. There will always be somebody who doesn't get your story, regardless of content. Make sure that when you ask for critiques, you spread it out to a good mix of people. Not people that are necessarily close to you or even similar in interests. Find several "common" folk - the people that'd be going to see your movie.

I've found that most people/acquaintences are quite willing to read something. They don't have to finish the script - of course you hope it's interesting enough to finish, but whatever feedback you get will be valuable in some respect because it should be honest comments about your work from a viewers perspective. Hopefully, with some writer's perspectives combined with the viewers you'll have a good idea of what is working and what is not.

Friday, June 23, 2006

I don't need no stinkin' therapy

That's what I keep telling myself in that hollow, tinny voice. It used to be a thunderous, splendiferous voice, but not so much lately.

I don't write, but I don't have writer's block. What I have is an unexplainable desire to weep for the planet... a tad dramatic, isn't it?

There is so much good in the world, right? There's supposed to be, anyway. I saw a special on a guy from WWI, survived so much stuff you wonder how we can't overcome anything. He's got 5 kids and my first thought is, FIVE? Good god, you couldn't stop at one or two?

China's policy on children seems less and less insane when I hear pro-lifers talking about saving/keeping every conception. I know it's a big planet, but:

a) We can't live everywhere
b) We can't asphalt the rest of the damn thing

So. Ok. I have population explosion issues.

The planet is the hottest it's been in 2,000 years. More greenhouse effect stuff. Pretty soon we'll screw ourselves because of our pollution destroying the ozone layer.

I don't want to discuss the atrocities and cruelties we commit towards animal life without a thought on a daily basis.

Or, for that matter, our careless treatment of nature in general as we wipe out 100 year old trees to widen a road.

We have kids in our own 'fortunate' country who don't expect to live to 25. Don't care about getting an education to make something of themselves and parents who treat their children about as well as people treat stray animals.

People are so infrequently courteous, kind, well-mannered in person, let alone when they have the annonymity of the internet to flame anybody and everybody.

So now, for some reason, I'm a big steaming pile of empathy.

You remember Empathy? It's what you're reaching for when you write that script you're toiling over. You want, hell, you need that person in the audience to feel just like you're making that character feel. It's what draws them out of their normal life and into your Special World.

Well, guess what, I read the other day that you can de-empathize people. Yup. If at a young age, they are not shown, taught, made to believe in empathy, then they have none. What do we get? Serial killers, psychopaths or people who just don't give a shit about anything. Value in an item or person is strictly in relation to them. How it makes another feel is inconsequential.

So if you can manage it, try and empathize a little. Before honking the horn and flipping somebody off, imagine it was you - we all make mistakes. Before you intentionally bypass a line of traffic to speed to the end of the merge (where you will bring traffic to a complete stand-still), just imagine what it's like to wait in line and see everybody else cut in front of you.

For your stories, create a character that has something to lose. Something at risk. Something they care about. Something that we can relate to and take that journey with them. Every story should have empathy, just like every one of us should be able to empathize with one another, the world around us and a great story.

Monday, June 19, 2006


At least that's all I can think of to call them right now.

Just saw one in In My Shoes, a pretty good movie. Was surprised to see Curtis Hanson directing, but after watching, it was a good story, so I can see how he would be drawn to it.

Anyhoo... one of the big questions in the movie is "why wasn't grandma around?" The question is the elephant in the room as soon as she's introduced. However, it's not just blurted out. It's not ripped out by one of the main characters in a forced, overly dramatic scene. It's teased out by one of the side characters in a private, emotional moment between the her and the grandma. She reveals the secret, adding that she's never told anybody, not even her husband.

It's a significant piece of the story and explains a lot about the relationship between the son in law as well.

It was extremelly well acted and well written.

It was much like the Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid classic reveal where the Kid has to reveal that he can't swim right before they jump off the cliff into the water. You knew the Kid was afraid of something - swimming hadn't come up until that moment. That's when it was most important.

It's a difficult thing to keep a secret in a story. The question is always there and you would figure *somebody* would just HAVE to talk about it -- but they don't.

It's left hanging there, scene after scene, minute after minute, for the audience to wonder and squirm about when it will be revealed.

Another film with a strong reveal was Gross Anatomy. The burning questions are, "why is she pushing him so hard? Why does she care so much?" Of course, once it's explained, you understand completely. However, it would have been a completely different movie had this been explained up front. The same with The Dead Poet's Society - if you know the big secret up front, the story isn't the same.

So next time you're answering questions left and right in your exposition, think about if it's worthwhile holding back a little and letting the audience stew a little before revealing all your information.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Bad Guy

There's a great couple page article in the new Writer's Digest about writing good bad guys (or three dimensional bad guys). It's a great excuse to mosey on down to your local Barnes & Noble or Borders, grab a cup o java (or water), the latest Writer's Digest and have a good read (then return the magazine and leave).

Still astounds me that concept isn't a problem with the stores.

But... moving on.

Creating a good bad guy. I say bad guy, but really, from their perspective, they aren't the bad guy (typically).

My first suggestion is don't dilute your nemesis. The first Batman was a great flick - one nemesis - The Joker. Played great. Every other one (until the most recent Batman Begins) felt that the more bad guys the better. No. The more the worse. With all the Batman sequels, the drama was divided and there just wasn't enough time to devote to a good nemesis. The makers relied on the history of the series to make up all the backstory, but it just didn't work in my opinion.

One of the best bad guys, and the movie wasn't bad either, was the general from The Rock. Here was a decorated soldier with a deceased wife who cared for the soldiers who served under him. His problem was that these soldiers were not being recognized for their sacrifices and their families not rewarded appropriately for those said sacrifices.

From his perspective, he has chosen the only action left to him. Threaten to blow up a city to get the attention of the government who has swept their servicemen's deaths under the rug. Obviously, this is not the appropriate action (according to our writer).

Another good nemesis was in Unbreakable. From his perspective, there was a logical reason for doing everything he did, and there was no other alternative.

The popular advice is to make your bad guys three dimensional as well. Make them as big and bad as you can so that the hero's task of defeating them seems impossible. While this is good for the plot, it doesn't always involve the audience in the character's struggles. If the audience can understand where the nemesis is coming from, then it puts them in an uncomfortable position of wanting the hero to win, but not wanting the nemesis to lose.

For romantic comedies it might be the person who is trying to prevent the relationship from developing. They may have a very good reason for this - and if we can show the audience how valid that reason is, then they should struggle with the romance as well. They will want it to take place because they love our main character(s); yet feel for the nemesis because they have a valid desire for the relationship not to solidify.

A good exercise when creating your nemesis is to tell the story from their perspective. Why are they doing what they are doing? Why is our hero opposed to them? Why should they win and not the hero?

It may be that the only thing flawed about the nemesis is their interpretation of the information they have or the method of implementation they choose that makes them fall on the bad side of the story.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Act 2

Ah... the long, dry wasteland of Act 2.

First of all, let's get out where you're going from and to in the second act.

We're starting at our main character entering the special world, right after they've made a significant decision which should end up changing their life. Act 2 will go all the way up to the "all is lost" moment, where things just can't get worse for the main character.

So. Starting out we have some scenes of our main character adjusting to their new decision. It had to have some consequences or involve something more than 1 minute long. This is where it goes. It's where our main character starts to implement the plan they made and acted on to throw us into Act 2. An example from a recent flick I watched (Under the Tuscan Sun) is her purchase of the old house. Once she makes the purchase, there are several scenes following which are her adjustment and implementation scenes. This is often where your B story would be introduced. In Under the Tuscan Sun, it's the introduction of "false" romantic leads (since this isn't a story about meeting the right person, but becoming who you need to be before you can meet that special person).

What we're talking about here is the distance of 25% of your script to 27% of your script - from 110 pages, about 5 pages worth of material. Not much. One sequence or a few scenes.

Now we're at what Blake Snyder calls the "Fun and Games" section. This is where he says all your poster stuff goes. All the stuff that made you want to write the script goes here - 25 pages worth. For Frances in Under the Tuscan Sun, this is the renovations in the house, meeting new friends, the cooking for the workmen, etc. This is where Bruce (in Bruce Almighty) goes crazy with the god powers. The only downside to all this fun is that you do have a direction. That direction, or culmination, is your midpoint. It's your half-way point. This is where the plans that were set in motion with the end of act 1 are paying off (for better or worse). In Under the Tuscan Sun, it's where the house is coming along, she's meeting friends and making Italy her new home. The culminating scene is when she meets Marcello. After this, she's on top of the world - everything has come together and she's finally got the confirmation she's been looking for that she made the right decision.

Problem is that whatever happens at this point (good or bad), the character is mistaken - it is never as good or bad as it appears. In this instance, it's not the love she believes it to be (but more on that later).

Well, we should be at page 50ish now - or 50% through the script. You've had your fun and games scenes and they've finally either hit bottom or are walking on clouds. You've got about 5 pages to show them go through these emotions (from start to finish). It's also a point at which they are closer to achieving their goal than starting over. A place from which they cannot turn back. A great example is the Firm with Tom Cruise - he's told by the FBI that his life as he knows it is over. He either helps them bust The Firm or he goes to jail with them - either way, he cannot go back to his old life. In Under the Tuscan Sun, it's right after she returns from Marcello's. She has mentally made up her mind that it's working out and that her thoughts of failure are behind her.

Now it's time to head towards another checkpoint - the All is Lost moment. The place at which it cannot get any worse for our main character (in terms of achieving their goals set out at the beginning of Act 1 (in Under the Tuscan Sun, she mentions that she wants a family at the house, she wants a wedding and she wants children in the house). So... now she's well on her way. She's got the house, it's improving day by day, she's met this great guy, everything is just rockin' along. Time to screw up her life.

For our good friend Frances in Under the Tuscan Sun, while she's making plans to meet Marcello, her good friend from the USA surprises her with a visit - and she's pregnant. This part of the script is where things begin to unravel. Whatever was working in the first Act now begins to break or fail. For Frances, she's unable to meet with Marcello, her friend Katherine is having some major emotional problems and the house still isn't finished. In fact, the faucet *still* doesn't work. You've got about 20 pages worth of material to dig up. This is about 2 full sequences. It's also the place where the main character realizes that things are not going as smoothly as they had planned, and they need to take an all or nothing approach to achieving their goals. It's a big risk, but they need to take it (no balls, no blue chips). For Frances, this entails driving up the coast to visit Marcello - a surprise visit. This leads us right into --

The All is Lost moment. She discovers he's with somebody else. It's all over. She's back to square one again with her love life. You've got to dig up about 5 pages worth of despair and sorrow for your character as they realize that all their plans have gone up in smoke. They're screwed. No idea what to do. Bottom of the barrel, etc.Once that scene is over - hey! It's Act 3.

It's important to note that all of Act 1 will take place in the character's original "ordinary world". For Frances, this is the good old USA and her married life.

All of Act 2 will take place in their "special world". For Frances, this is Italy & Tuscany and her life as a single woman.

All of Act 3 will take place in the character's NEW "ordinary world". For Frances, it will be her newly discovered life in Tuscany - the one in which she will remain.

To break it down briefly, we have:

5 pages of transformation into Act 1
25 pages of fun and games
5 pages of hitting the wall (or ceiling) - depending on your story
20 pages of spiraling downwards as everything in the fun and games goes wrong
5 pages of transition from act 2 to act 3.

Act 2 all done - smaller chunks - definable goals.

The whole act can also be broken down (the Ackerman Way) into 6 major scenes - 1 for Act 1 break, 2 in the first half, 2 in the second half and 1 for the act 2 break. These are pivotal scenes for the main character.

Next, Act 3...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Backing up your blog

For those of you out there keeping a current blog, but not backing it up, Michael Gilvary (of "Who Are You People?" blog) would have a suggestion.

Back it up!

Unfortunately, the server holding his site went down and took everything with it. He has been able to cobble most of it together again, but it's been quite awhile.

I'm not sure how I would go about restoring my blog if it were deleted, but I can at least have a current (as current as I like) copy of it on my local drive.

I found a free (opensource) program that with a simple wizard allows you to do just that - copy your blog to a folder on your hard drive.

The program is HTTrack Website Copier (http://www.httrack.com/).

Blog safely.

Oh, this also would be a cool feature if you're going to be offline for a little while - you could copy a few blogs to the hard drive for reading (or something like Wordplay) or reference.

Act 1

Wulp, after reading Save The Cat, Write Screenplays That Sell (the Ackerman way) & The Writer's Journey, I've sort of combined them a little to make a little more sense. So, from me, to you... my thoughts on what goes in the first act.

First of all, this is the introduction of the main character in their ordinary world. It's their normal life. Here you want to introduce your main character in such a way as to get the audience to bond with them. This can be done in many ways, but here's a few examples:

a) Show the character as being particularly skilled at their job/work. This would be them having some insight, performing a tricky action, etc.

b) Have them treated unfairly or unjustly. We've all felt the pang of injustice so it's a quick way to get the audience in with the character.

c) Make the character funny/humerous. Tying back into Jane Espenson's blog, this would mean (typically) creating a comic character (one who is serious, but what they say/do is so goofy that it's funny) or a serious character whose dialog is intentionally funny.

d) Create a character who has power (be it political, fantastic or whatever). Gordon Gecko from Wall Street is a character that jumps to mind. So does Magneto from X-Men.

e) Put the character in jeopardy right away. Audiences have a natural tendency to root for the person shown to be in danger.

So now we have about 10 pages (or 10%) of our script to come up with some good "ordinary world" scenes that will bond our character wth the audience. There are many scripts which have the first scene be one bookend and the last scene be the opposite of of that scene to show the development of the character.

At about the 10% mark, something should happen (typically called the 'inciting incident'). This should be an event that starts the story going in the direction it does. It's an event which makes the main character want to in a new direction. This is also called the "call to adventure".

Typically, the character at this point in the story will be lacking something very obvious to the audience, but not them (love, compassion, confidence, etc.).

After the inciting incident, the character will often deny or refuse the call to adventure. They will spend the next 15% (up to the first act break) trying to avoid accepting the call to adventure.

Should the story dictate that the character desires this change, then that 15% (up to the first act break) would consist of the character adjusting to the situation into which they have put themself.

Once the character decides to accept the call to adventure, then they will take an action that should be (in our best case) irrevocable. It should be a point after which they can no longer return to their old life unchanged. Taking the Firm as an example, once Mitch hears about the Firm from the FBI, he can no longer ignore his inklings. He must pursue their suggestions to discover the truth himself (which is the push into act 2).

By breaking things down into smaller chunks and having regular checkpoints, it seems to be easier to approach (it's not, but I feel like it should).

I don't consider this to be a formula, but more like the components of a story.

There are many folks who talk about the formulaic approach in hollywood, but if after reading Vogler's book, I can't help but think that Hollywood is just focusing primarily on the fairie tale type stories, and thus, there are certain requirements in order for a story to meet the requirements of a fairie tale.

Act 2 next...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

More Movies

Watched Tootsie again - man, that is such a solid flick. From setup to payoff, start to finish, an excellent movie.

Coach Carter - Great movie. It's been done before, but this was pretty good. Brought up some issues some other films similar to this didn't do as well (the education thing). This is based on a true story. I watched some of the "real Ken Carter" and it's amazing that the parents were the hardest to deal with in this situation.

I don't get how parents don't want more for their kids than they have. How can so many be so blinded by the lure of professional sports that they abandon everything else in favor of it? Albeit some dedicate their youth to it and it pays off, but it just seems like some folks treat it as a given. They might be pretty good, but they don't train and work at it like they're training to be a professional.

I'm not even talking about the fact that if these kids fail to make it as a pro athelete they have nothing.

Just the fact that if you're going to put all your eggs in that basket, then you need to be training for it. I watched the film about Sebastian Telfore's last year. Now that kid was training. He worked hard in school, got up early in the morning to workout/train, went to school, then did more after school either with friends/family or with the team.

Such a shame that we live in a country that has so much to offer so many, yet there are people who don't take advantage of it and the people that are really giving up a lot to help. Teachers and public service folks are some generous people and yet they are just taken for granted so much. What can they be making teaching in some of these inner cities? It's sure as hell not close to what they could be making at a private school or even an upper scale public school in a "good" neighborhood.

A lot of true statements in Coach Carter.

Also watched Under The Tuscan Sun. Wow. If only we could all live that way. It's all about living your life as you desire/need rather than settling for what you believe others think you should be/do.

Was listening to Imagine (by John Lennon) and was struck for the first time at how insane that song really is when he sings:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Hey! We're doing that now, in our inner cities. Living for today. Kids that don't believe they'll make it to 24, so why bother with rules? Why bother with being good? Why bother with education or anything that will pay off 10 or 20 years from now? Why think about falling in love and settling down?

It would be total anarchy, not peace. If you lived every day like it was your last, who would work? Who would be doing those shitty jobs day after day? Nobody. The reason they're done is because they pay money and people anticipate living past today and they need food, shelter and necessities.

While I enjoyed Under the Tuscan Sun immensely, there really is a limited audience of folks who can seriously take it's advice. People with no money worries. Young people with no major attachments (past family/friends), divorced people with no major attachments (friends/family). For the majority of us, we can't just "do what we feel". There are consequences.

Of course, things may turn out great, too. But the old phrase, "no balls, no blue chips" or "all or nothing" didn't come about because everybody who took a big risk landed safely.

It reminds me of the Sunscreen Song - treasure your youth, oh, nevermind, you won't appreciate your youth until you don't have it. Under the Tuscan Sun should be seen by young people so they *know* - take a risk now. Make every effort now to be who and what you want while you have the ability to do anything, go anywhere. Once you've either made it (woohoo) or determined that you will stop trying (it does happen), then you can settle into mid-life in peace with "what if's" or "I wonder's".

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Latest Movies

Seen a few lately.

The Man... better than expected. Seemed like a good structure, well-written. They did a good job of making character likable, establishing risk, setting a plant up all within the first few minutes.

The Family Stone - was expecting something much funnier than I got. Good film - but I seem to recall the previews showing all the funny parts, not the drama-downer parts. All in all, entertaining and fun to watch.

Grandma's Boy - As expected. Nothing new really, Porky's (dating myself) humor with a minor storyline. Some amusing jokes. Really solidifies Jane's blog about dramatic versus comedic characters.

The Grudge - so-so. Watched the extras where they talked about how original it was, but it sure didn't feel like it. It was by the original film's writer/director and felt like it (that is foreign). Again, not bad, but perhaps not the grab I expected. This might be in part to what makes it a horror film for the Eastern audiences isn't a familiar belief with Western audiences.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose - ungh. Creepy as hell. Glad I watched it during the day. Brought back memories of the Exorcism. I thought it was quite well done. Although I find it ironic that one of the lines IN the movie is almost a quote from a writer friend of mine who wrote a similar script years before this came out - that is (paraphrasing), "nobody has ever tried to prove the devil exists in court". If this is a year old now, was two years in the making, I can see why my friend's script probably didn't get much attention - perhaps this was in the works.

The Great Raid - Pretty good. Excellent treatment of a horrible subject. The only bad thing I can see about movies like this are that it reminds us of what transpired before. While it's good to remember the great deeds and hero's, it also brings back the hatred and atrocious acts committed against people by certain countries (Germany & Japan being the most featured).

I feel that although you can't just forgive and forget, the people there now just aren't the same, but very likely could be viewed that way because of the films.

It's a difficult situation for us as human beings who want to recognize the sacrifices of those that came before yet grow beyond our prior selves of 50 years ago.

Stupid Work Sh*t

ok - so being a screenwriter for a living is horrible, right? We've all heard the crazy notes, the insane suggestions, the re-writes, replacements. Oh My God. How can anybody do it?

It's a job. That's why. It's a job that some folks (well a lot of folks really) love. And when you love a job, you'll be willing to put up with some major bullshit.

Take, for instance, the bullshit I have to put up with just because I need a job.

We have 9 employees on my team. They are all working full time, 40-40+ hours/week. Three of them quit. Now we have 6 people trying to do the work of 9. We finally get 2 new people hired, but not the third.

What we get, instead, is - "our management has seen that some of us are working 40 hours a week and some 50-60 hours a week. We've been told that we need to even it out."

Say what? When we were 6 people, we were all working 60 hour weeks, when we were 7, fewer, 8 even fewer. Give us that other position that was working 40 hours/week and, Presto! We're not working 60 hour weeks anymore.


That's not an option.

WTF? How do you lose a position that's necessary, get bitched about for working extra hours (that by the way are NOT overtime, just plain screwing the employee) and then refuse to hire the position that's needed?

By the way, this is all "because we care about those individuals putting in so many hours." Yeah, that makes sense. It's much better to put all of us at 50-55 hours a week than to just let a couple people suffer. And I must insert here:

1) We all go through times like this on our team
2) The one person is doing 2 jobs (remember the last position that needs to be hired)

So it's not just being mean saying they should suffer - it's just, if we all work 50 hours, the "problem" is solved and now we've found a way to evenly distribute the workload so we can take on more work. Huh?

How about paying them extra? Perhaps then it wouldn't be so bad. Oh, that's right. No money in the budget for salary. Only executive perks.


Reading out loud

One of the greatest times at the Virginia Screenwriters Forum was at Christmas, we'd all write 2-3 page scenes and we'd call actors from the local scene in and they would read them. We'd all bring in food and drink, sit back and we'd have about 10-15 scenes read by professional and aspiring actors.

There's nothing quite like having your work read - be it live, on stage or on screen (can't testify to the others, but I do believe the "wow" factor increases with each). You get to see how your characters are intepreted. How others might see the speech patterns. What plays verbally versus what plays internaly to you.

Many writers recommend reading your script, or at least your dialogue out loud, but I would go another step and have somebody (preferably an actor or student actor) read it. They will offer more enthusiasm and want to interpret the material rather than regurgitate what you have written.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Jane Espenson

I can't imagine any aspiring TV/film writing not reading Jane's blog, it so chock full of interesting information.

This one really caught my eye: http://www.janeespenson.com/archives/00000116.php

A really interesting tidbit of information about comedy, drama and characters. Be sure to read it if you haven't.

I've ready quite a few blogs and it's interesting to see who has what to say about writing. Jane's blog peaks my interest because it makes me wonder if writers on shows, or even professional feature writers for that matter, actually think down to the level o a joke. "How can we best play this joke?" or "We need a joke here, what kind should we use?"

I like the idea of breaking the writing down to that level. Although writing is primarily a singular pursuit, it's quite appealing to to discuss the art with others - what works, what doesn't, how to improve, etc.

That's the best thing about the blogs - you can read any book to get the information you want, but the web allows interaction with others. So, don't hesitate to post folks! Not just here, but anywhere you visit. Not only do the owners get a perk, but there have been some great conversations started in blogs.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Rocking Chair Stories

Here's a story from back in the day.

One of those moments that when I'm 90 and sitting in the rocking chair staring into space, there's a good chance my mind will replay this one for me.

I'm in my mid 20's and my best friend and I have been going to concerts for years now. All over the state, but not much further. We've been attending the concerts of one Sara Hickman (http://www.sarahickman.com/) . She's a folk musician, plays solo, or did 99% of the time.

She was always entertaining, plays some wonderful songs and is easy on the eyes.

Now I've seen her twice before.

The first time, I had nothing for an autograph but a 3x5 index card (I've been a Guerilla Screenwriter* for years). So I got her autograph and things were swell.

Next time I saw her, I brought the same 3x5 and got it autographed on the other side.

This is the third time.

Have I mentioned the rule of 3's yet? It's strong - like the force - even in real life. Make sure you make it so in your scripts.

So, we're out at the Tobacco Club, this is a bar in downtown Richmond, VA. It's a pretty nice place, 3 floors (see the 3 again?) and caters to the fiancial district for it's customers. They have a fair sized stage and have performers in on a regular basis.

So, we're up front - I mean, it's a bar, so we're there early (free food at 5pm). Anyway, we're watching her for the first half of the show and when she comes down for her break, I make a point of getting her attention and calling her over.

We do the usual fawning that 20-something nerds do and I show her the card that I have (signed on both sides). She gives me this radient smile and after that much of the experience (sadly) blurs. You see, she sits in my lap, puts her arm around me and sings a song to me. A James Taylor/Carley Simon duet (not me singing of course).

I'm young, my best friend is 5 feet away from me and a beautiful woman with a lovely voice (who we both love) is sitting in my lap singing to me. It was absolute heaven.

As expected, my friend (whom is still my best friend) doesn't care for me to recollect that fantastic memory - no doubt a little sour from the outside of the experience.

Thanks, Sara, for a fantastic memory.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Quotes to live by

I have friends that can just about recite some Monty Python movies.

Others who know all the big lines from movies.

Me, I have a few that stick, but that's about it. For me, they've been ingrained through life into my head. I've actually taken these lines and made them a part of my life. Something I would be honored to be able to achieve.

What I find peculiar is that the lines aren't from huge films or the oft listed 'great' writers.

#1 - Wall Street - Carl Fox - Stop going for the easy buck and start producing something with your life. Create, instead of living off the buying and selling of others.

Always took it upon myself to create something. At the end of the day I had something to show for myself

#2 - Cocktail - Brian - All things end badly, or else they wouldn't end.

Ain't that the truth. It was lame, but solid advise for myself and all others who came to me awash in tears over something ending badly.

I've learned that may not be the case 100% of the time, but I think it's true more than it's not - at least for one side.

What quotes from characters have you taken to heart?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Match Point Sucks

ok - that's just my opinion and i'm interested in hearing why you don't think it does. I want opinions from writers like me who should have something more than to say than "it was boring" (which it was - like watching paint peel under natural conditions).

First off - I'm not a Woody Allen hater. I actually own at least one of his films. So this is purely a discussion on the film as it stands.

My perspective:

1) Going off traditional advice to make the main character engaging. This one wasn't. He wasn't "good at what he does" because as a professional tennis player, he quit because he wasn't good enough. He wasn't funny. He wasn't doing anything "special" just a tennis pro. There was nothing supernatural involved. He had nothing or no-one to care for to show him as a concerned person or a person with a love of somebody/something. So right off, I could care less what happens with/to him.

2) There was a tension in the film like something was about to happen - it just never did. Or at least not in a satisfying way. It was completely predictable and very minor - very "every dayish" in nature. Almost like watching somebody's life go by - minute by minute.

3) The stakes were rarely raised during the story. What if he doesn't get the tennis pro job? He'll get another job. What if he doesn't meet the girl? Oh well... What if he doesn't marry her? Whatever... no consequences until the big P issue and then what happens is SO predictable and lame.

4) There was rarely *any* conflict at all in the whole film. Little bits here and there, but largely it was one slice of life scene after another.

5) Entertaining. I don't believe that this was really entertaining - although that really is subjective.

6) It doesn't pass the MC (friend of mine) test. If you came into this movie 30 minutes late, what would I have to tell you to catch you up? In this film, "he's a tennis pro dating that girl. Her family has a lot of money."

Your thoughts?