Sunday, March 26, 2006

Update, and only a month later.

So it’s been a month, and still busy as ever. The duties on the documentary that I’m involved with have expanded to included more writing, both for interview questions and tone of the narration. There’s more shooting to be done, but from the few hours I’ve screened of the subjects recently, it’s going to be awesome. After that, time to rock and do all the post. If it wasn’t before, Final Cut is now officially man’s best friend.

Once things are tighter and there’s a more cohesive film to show, there’ll be a website and other stuff to help promote it and get the word out.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Too busy lately.

So many bad movies, so little time. Haven’t posted as much due to some previous projects taking up my time. Working on developing a behind the scenes profile of a friend of mine who’s doing a doc. Should be cool. Just waiting for winter to pass so we can shoot outside.

Also put up some new links to some movie sites that talk about promotion. Check ’em out when you have time. Which apparently is more than me.

(( Crickets chirping ))

Sunday, February 05, 2006

More movies reviewed.

So continuing my role as movie reviewer, here goes this week’s collection of you-really-gotta-see-em DVDs.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Evil motherfuckers, as Henry Rollins said a little while back on his IFC show. I thought, ok, Henry may be overreacting. He’s not. Watch this DVD and the behind-the-scenes about the making of and you won’t be disappointed – you’ll be pissed off.

I do question the opening sequence. Not for its content, but that it was a reenactment of a real event. It didn’t need it. The story was compelling enough without any cinema verite assists thank-you-very-much.

Sorry if there were no cameras around to capture the event, but recreating an event softens the edge of seeing real footage of it. It also ranks right down there with the trick of taking old archival footage and adding sound effects and music, as if those things were actually recorded at the time, as you might find in old sports footage.

The Constant Gardener.




Ralph Fiennes stars in director Fernando Meirelles’s visually beautiful and cool film, adapted from John le Carré’s novel. After hearing the director talk about it ahead of time, I thought this would be just a ‘smaller’ film focused only on one couple’s relationship – the kind of indie fare that Sundance loves. It is – and more. It’s a story of a man Fiennes, who loses his wife, and tries to figure out the circumstances behind that death. Any more and I give away too much about the story.

What I will say is that it had the feel of Michael Mann’s Heat or Collateral. The way night sequences are shot, along with breathtaking scenes of the African land and cities, creates an eerie atmosphere. Meirelles says he was at ease filming among the poor since he’s done so much of it in Brazil. It shows, with some remarkable and raw footage at times.

This film has the suspense, plot twists and intrigue of a larger Hollywood action feature while at the same time being small in scope as it focuses on several relationships. That it also functions as a taught thriller to keep you guessing is just icing on the cake.

The Aristocrats. IT’S NOT THE DISNEY FLICK. I have to say that because in the extras on the DVD, there was a grandmother who took her grandchildren to see it, and made it through 27 minutes before leaving the theatre. If you can make it through five minutes without going “Whoa,” it’s a miracle.

THIS IS NOT A DATE MOVIE EITHER. Thought I’d clear that up. I have to think the demo for this DVD is males, 18-40. Only.

Funny doc from Penn Gillette and Paul Provenza. it’s basically about a joke that all comedians tell each other behind the scenes when they’re off-stage hanging out. What’s not funny is the joke. Really isn’t. What is funny is the spin each comic puts on it though. The challenge being for each comic to come up with the most outrageous scenario to set up the punch line.

Interesting premise because through this process, you see the best comics of all-time also touch on what it is that makes a joke funny. For an added bonus, check out the extras where you see different jokes told by some of the comedians featured.

So much love you say, what was wrong with it you say? Just one thing, which 99% of the audeience might not care about. I wouldn’t have shot the joke in sequence so much and then constantly switched from performer to performer telling it. I wanted more scenes where an artist got to say his version in its entirety. The versions by Larry Storch of all people and the mime, I found to be the most unusual and hilarious.

The other thing was that ahead of time, there was a build-up from people who saw it of how Gilbert Gottfried owned his particular live rendition. Not sure. I think it was anti-climatic because they break it up so much throughout with all the people talking about great it was. It lost its context for me, as there were hardly any audience reaction shots from the Friar’s Club roast it was told at. Small knocks though for a very funny film.

Until next week.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Some new flicks to check out.

Man, I feel like I’ve turned into Ebert. Less script focus and more movie watching. Is that a bad thing?

I find I’m watching more movies and docs for inspiration and structure, trying to see how dialogue translates to the screen from the page. Not to mention trying to see how action and silence translate onscreen.

Broken Flowers, like About Schimdt, speaks to the latter. Zoned out and almost didn’t get it because I saw the name Don Johnson when I flipped the DVD cover over. Then I realized it was Bill Murry’s character’s name Johnston.

Like you needed that much info. Sue me. I found it to be a better movie than Sideways was touted as. Anyway, like Nicholson, I think Bill Murry has hit the sweet spot in his career. That point where actors take on roles like this because they are too old for the action stuff, or the falling down slapstick a la Chevy Chase. And may the comedy gods forgive me for using Murry’s and Chase’s name in the same paragraph.

As far as actor‘s being to old for certian roles, I'd say in Murry’s case, the reverse was always true. The roles then weren’t ready for him. His success in blockbusters like Ghostbusters notwithstanding. It’s a safe bet those movies from early in his career won’t be studied on Actor’s Studio anytime soon.

And so those actors find those ‘gentle’ quiet comedies the French love so much. “My Dinner with Murry” anyone? Which, on the surface seems like an odd destination for Murry to end up at. But not really. He's always had a wry, sarcastic, but very subtle edge to his humor. He couldn’t be Farley in Tommy Boy or Belushi in Animal House. Wouldn’t work.

But see it for the everyday scenes, and an ending I either felt let down about or though it perfect. Not sure. But the real pain of his past relationships comes through loud and clear in his silence. Perhaps 40 words or less in a scene is the new black? Maybe Jim Jarmusch is the Tom Waites of directors. Quircky, left-of-center personality whose style you either like or don’t. This had such a minimalist, open feel to it like Wim Wender’s Paris, Texas, another movie with similar visual and story themes to it.

It works either way.

So I shamelessly plug Quick Change again, but there’s a scene between him Geena Davis and Randy Quaid when things aren't going the way they expected after missing a deadline. The look that Murry gives in response to a question by Randy Quaid's character is Murry plain and simple: brilliant.

Let me get off that rant before people say I’m stalking the guy. What else was ‘brilliant’ recently? Yikes. A cure for cancer perhaps when they get that. Short of that?

MurderBall. Great doc on the what it’s like to live without being able to walk but still play sports. You will never bitch about your sore knee after your rec league softball game again.

Cool camera work in the game sequences and overall, very inspirational picture. But definitely not for younger teens and children because of the sexual nature at times. Too bad. They should re-edit it and release it for schools as well as everywhere else.

And another doc worthy of mention is Slasher. From John Landis. He follows a used-car salesman for three days while he runs a crash-and-burn fire sale at an auto dealership. Everything you ever hated or suspected about car dealers is right here out in the open.

They shot 120 hours on digital over one week, or about 18 hours a day. Who needs sleep? But the jump cuts are in sync with the frantic pace of the mile-a-minute carnival barker lead character. Worth a look.

Next up, I gotta’ see Hostel. The site is funky if you haven’t seen it too.

I’m out.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Small roles – great actors

Ok, so they may not all be great in your opinion, but they’re interesting as hell to me. Besides, its my blog. (And can we even say hell anymore in the current climate of Merry (insert generic seasonal holiday here)?

What I’m talkin’ about is this yo: great actors in small roles or even cameos that you may not have known. Or should know. Look, just know them, okay? And rent them. Comedy, drama, dramady. All of it:

Now, I usually spot a great cameo in a flick here and there. But there’s one movie that has a ton of great little performances by itself: U Turn from Oliver Stone.

1) Billy Bob Thornton. You'll have trouble finding him at first.

2) Joaquin Phoenix - same movie. Over the top and funny.

3) Nick Nolte in the same movie. He plays an evil motherfucker. ’nuff said.

4) Jon Voight - same movie. Also hard to spot at first.

Some others:

5) David Bowie - Into the Night. Jeff Goldblum at the end of his rope, although not as bad as Michael Douglas in Falling Down, plays a schlubb caught up in a night of adventure. David Bowie is cool as a hired killer. Real brief and worth a look. (Thank god for >> on the remote.)

6) David Bowie - Basquiat. He plays Warhol. ’nuff said.

6) Gary Oldman - Fifth Element or True Romance. Bizarre in both, to say the least. But he could do a commercial for paper towels and he'd be fucking awesome.

8) Dennis Hopper & Christopher Walken - True Romance also. Their scene appears to be improv, but was actually scripted out by Quentin. It's a scene worth the rental alone.

9) Brad Pitt - True Romance again. I lied about multiple parts in movies. Sue me. It was a character based on his old roomate. Jeff Spiccoli, move over.

10) Brad Pitt - Kalifornia. Two words: Evil motherfucker. To H-E double hockeysticks with Mr. and Mrs. Smith, in my opinion, this is to date, the role of his career.

11) Catherine O'Hara - After Hours. Small part towards the end. If you’re a fan of the SCTV series from way back, you'll know her. Although this is a dark comedy, she makes Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction seem normal.

12) Larry Miller - Best in Show Continuing with the comedy thing, he has a nice little role as a suicide-prevention officer. (Co-incidently, he had a fling with the character played by the previously mentioned Catherine O'Hara.)

13) William Forsythe - Raising Arizona Evelle Snoats. John Goodman’s brother but dumb as shit and funny as hell.

14) Speaking of John Goodman - Barton Fink or The Big LeBowski. You’ll never buy insurance or bowl the same way again.


Catch him in David Bryne’s True Stories. True stories acted out. Interesting, subdued and down-to-earth, but offbeat role.

15) Alec Baldwin - Glengarry Glen Ross. The performances by the other actors are great to be sure - but he steals the movie in his only scene up front.

15) Wes Studi - Mystery Men. A great parody of live-action superhero movies. He’s the all-knowing master.

16) Tony Shalhoub - (Yes, the guy from Monk.) Quick Change. A NYC cab driver who doesn’t speak English in Bill Murray's funniest movie. Ever. (Supposed to release on DVD in Feb. by Warner Bros.)

17) Philip Bosco - same movie - Harried bus driver.’nuff said.

18) Stanley Tucci - same movie. He plays wise-guy Johnny.

19) Tom Hulce - Fearless. (Yes, Pinto from Animal House.) Here, he’s a skeezy lawyer.

20) Dan Ackroyd - Grosse Pointe Blank. Professional killer who’s a little off.

21) Edward Norton - American History X. I know this is a lead role, but he could have won an oscar for it. Very intense racial hatred subject matter.

22) John Malkovich - Rounders. Russian card shark. "CHECK. CHECK. CHECK! ALL NIGHT LONG FUCKING CHECK!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

“Sorry, already in development.”

Words I love to hear.

So I’m focused on five script ideas at once, some at various stages of writing and ideation. One I just crashed and burned on because ta-da: it’s already in development. Now, this isn’t about proceeding with a film idea although someone else already has one rushing into production either. (Armageddon vs. Deep Impact anyone?)

I know this is supposed to be about writing. But this one is more personal for me. It was based on the life of Jaco Pastorius. If you play bass as I once did, you know the name. If you don’t? Well, you heard of Jordan, Bach or maybe an older fellow with Don King-type white hair who was pretty good with math – Einstein?

He was all of them combined — and then some.

Usually, there are special talents who come along every decade or so, and are the best of that given time period – a Magic Johnson, a Pacino, a Warhol, etc. Groundbreaking at what they did to be sure, and I may take heat for this statement, but arguably not enough to transcend their profession and change it to the degree he did forever.

Somebody so incredible at what they do, that it makes you feel guily for even being in the same field or even attempting the same occupation. Oh sure, I played the bass, but Jaco?

That cat was all-time badass.

Bach. Monk. Jaco. A virtual four-letter genius. And if you were ever fortunate enough to see him live as I did, you count it as one of those great life-moments that can’t ever be taken away. All you need to knw can be found on the cuts of Amerika or Slang. And listening to Weather Report’s Birdland, you’ll notice the smooth guitar. Until you realize that Weather Report didn’t have a guitar player–that was Jaco on bass.

But like every jazz great before him that died in the grasp of alcohol or drugs, he couldn’t just fade away. The demons wouldn’t let him.

So I sent an inquiry to the publisher of the bio I would’ve based it on, but discovered it was already in development. Although the his estate has issues with the version in pre-production, I'm out of luck since I wouldn't have movie rights anyway.

And when negative feelings are involved with surviving family members and movies about the deceased, that usually means trouble. Think Wired after it came out and how all the supporters of John Belushi felt about Bob Woodward.

It’s also a letdown for another reason. Most biopics out there, Bird, Ray, etc., chart the timeline of that person’s life fairly well, and they give us the who, why, what and where. But I have yet to see a film that melds the story of the tortured sole with the visual style of the film in a unique way. (Only thing that comes close right now is Rescue Me with Denis Leary on FX. In that case though, Leary’s fictional character Tommy suffers from his own demons. Still, check it out.)

Turning back to cinema though, Ray has a sequence in it where he’s shown tripping. Yellow flashes, frenetic strobes, close-up camera work. Cool. Visually impactful yes, but as a friend who hung with Jaco for a while in NYC noted, it was totally out of sync with the style already established in the movie.

Bird, a bio many may not know from Clint Eastwood, and so dark and brooding it made Blade Runner look like the Sound of Music, felt like it portrayed the artist in a muted haze the entire film. Forest Whitaker is great as always. It’s also a great look at a tortured sole and how those around them suffer genius. Rent it.

There are others of course, from Pollock, Basquiat (look for Bowie in a great turn as Warhol) to Fear and Loathing with Depp. Although Fear was less I think about the greatness of Hunter than it was about depicting the effects of altered reality through chemicals.

What I’m talking about is something that also shows the spirit and joy these dudes must have had at times while they were up there playing or painting. They couldn’t have been tortured 24/7, could they?

I want a movie to take over all the senses though, not one that just pushes the same emotional buttons and cues we all have on this subject. “Oh look, he’s shooting up in the bathroom before a gig. Wow. There’s something you don’t see every day in jazz pics.”

I'm talking about something frenetic, something on the order of say, Stone’s Natural Born Killers. The scene where Woody is bathed in green fluorescents and just goes off. Jamming music–quick cuts. Something about that just exploded and worked perfectly.

And so it is with the spirit of Jaco, the self-proclaimed ‘baddest bass player in the world,’ who I now channel, that I can say that I have the baddest opening for his movie in the world written out. Yeah, it’s that good. And I wouldn’t call it Jaco either, as they surely will.

Oh it’ll look good, and they’ll get a Johnny Depp-type to play him or maybe even a Benecio Del Toro, (who has claimed Jaco as an influence in his own life). Not bad choices — certainly great actors. But I just don’t need to see another star impersonate greatness. (Sorry Mr. Joaquin Cash.)

There’s also rumor that the family is considering a straight-laced home-movie, run-of-the-mill doc. Brings to mind those publicity stills of John Lennon at home in the kitchen, trying to show he was a normal father and homebody. And now Mrs. Lennon has authorized a John Lennon action figure. What a shame.

Greatness deserves better.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Check out Elvis Mitchell and The Treatment

I discovered him while having downtime from writing and got hooked. If you’re a behind-the-scenes dude like me into the process of acting and can’t get enough of that schtuff, check him out.

He’s a funkier version of James Lipton on The Actor’s Studio and has very insightful questions of indie and mainstream actors, directors and the like. He’ll often catch subjects off-guard with an insight on a scene that only the actor might have known.

His questions are even more probing into the psyche of a performance than Lipton’s. You can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes. (Search for it next time you're in iTunes, or get the feed here. Start with the Philip Seymour Hoffman interview.

Worst film this year?

Sorry Mr. Ebert, but is it too early to vote? Good. Here it is: Christmas with the Kranks.

The end is here – its name is the on-screen pairing that is Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis. Chevy Chase must have been booked on another pic apparently. From the Home Alone braintrust of Chris Columbus and all things Chi-cah-ga.

The Home Alone-cartoon violence thing is in full-effect. Man, can Jaime Lee actually scream loud while sliding across a parking lot head first! Who knew? Yikes. I rented Audition just to cheer up after seeing this mess.

Worse still, was watching an actor in a movie he shouldn't be in. Dan Ackroyd. Had a friend who wrote for SNL back in the 70's and 80's heydays and said all those dudes take on a pic or a gig for the money. WHo doesn't right, but when the gig is this type of movie.

So Dan Ackroyd, what are you doing in this mess man? From a quircky and brilliant little turn in Gross Pointe Blank to this? Bill Murray is doing the pics you need to do. Rent it again (For the first time! as they say) and watch his turn as a professional killer – out there to say the least.

And to another actor in a mess he shouldn’t be in, (in a movie on my worst list also), William Forsythe in Devil’s Rejects. This guy is an on-screen presence. Rent The Waterdance from 1992 and/or Raising Arizona. From drama to spot-on parody, these are great performances.

So, out of what I've seen this year, these are the worst so far:

1) The Longest Yard (The remake)

2) Christmas with the Kranks

3) The Devil’s Rejects

Add ’em if you got ’em.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

First script coverage is back.

Been a while since I've written on this side of the pond. NYC ad stuff taking a lot of my time recently. Anyway, got back coverage on my first script.

I decided to go the route of sending to a professional reader. Now, before anyone says there’s no way they’d pay to get someone’s opinion, fair enough. I just know for me at this point in my development, it’s the best thing to I could do to improve my writing and awareness of script problems.

Sending to friends and family is problematic and limiting. First, you’re imposing on their schedule. ‘Oh hey, by the way, could you take two-three hours tonight, read my script and make notes?’ Secondly, they can only go so far in their critique. They may say the dialog was good, or ‘I get the point,’ or my favorite comment from family “it’s really good – I liked it.”

That kind of blind faith and support has gotten many an American Idol contestant in over their head. Problem is with a ‘friendly’ critique, deeper issues of plot and story need evaluation too. Bottom line, at some point, a writer has to cross that bridge and get professional evaluation.

Like I tell art students when I review portfolios, your friends and family will always love your stuff. The real world doesn’t have to. Plus, it beats sending blindly to competitions and production companies where you may never hear back, or at best, find out it’s a ‘Pass’ with no more info than that.

So I ponied up.

Guy I used, Joel Haber, can be found here. Good comments. Followed up even on the phone to discuss his comments, all for a fair price. Check him out.

Although the results were a ‘pass,’ I wasn’t shocked at all. I knew it was just a benchmark for me to gauge how I perceive my writing as compared to an objective script reader in the biz.

Specifically, I got poor marks in story development and plot connection, while receiving fair remarks on dialog and character. Story idea was viewed as being a viable one commercially, but it needs work in those other areas to fully realize it. There you have it – the good, the bad and the rewrite.

But in discussing it after with Joel, it became even more apparent what I was doing wrong. As you’re writing, you have your suspicions, (at least I do at this point), about what’s working, what’s not. But sometimes it takes an outsider to see what it is you’ve been missing right there all along.

Is this dialog too flat, is this scene not funny, etc. This may be the biggest disadvantage to working alone, in that you don’t have a partner there to act as a bullshit detector when something isn’t working.

Regardless, the major flaw is that I’ll need to get to the main story line sooner, and get the characters more in line with it. So I’ll let it sit for a few days, then get back to work on it. It’s a start, and just one more step in the journey.

Just this past March, I wasn’t even sure how to go about the scriptwriting process. Now I have a first draft completed on one heading into rewrite, another script 50 pages in and a third started. Who’d a thunk it?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Out for reading.

Sent my recent ‘first’ first draft out to be read by someone other than family and friends. It’s like taking the SAT’s, then waiting for the score. Hopefully, mine won’t fall in the ‘400-combined = sucks’ range. I’ll post the results either way after I get the results.

I know it’s got rough spots and needs work, editing and the dreaded rewrite, but this read is more to calibrate my writing style and technique. Since it’s my first script, I have nothing to compare it to, except great scripts which various writers suggest doing. However, I think it would be really ballsy of me to compare my first draft to that of, say, The Godfather. Not until I have a little more experience. And I can’t do that until I feel I have a grasp on the process, or at least have it in sight.

Now while I wait, I have no choice but to go back to the first script I started and overcome the hurdles it still has.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

First script done!


I typed those words to my first script about 45 minutes ago. A week ago, I never thought I would. It wasn’t the script I had started, rather, it was the second one I started that actually got done first.

Now it goes into hiding so I can take a fresh look in a few days at it. Until then, it’s whoo-hoo, and oh no, what have I done?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

AFI top 100 movie quotes

Saw this list today. Read it and all I have to say is this:

“My precious,” from the The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers makes the list but “He slimed me” (or any other line) from Ghostbusters gets left off?

I’ll cut them some slack on Samuel Jackson’s “Does he look like a bitch?” but, not even “Royale with cheese?”

Here’s the top 20 and the rest.

1. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” “Gone With the Wind,” 1939.
2. “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse,” “The Godfather,” 1972.
3. “You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am,” “On the Waterfront,” 1954.
4. “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” “The Wizard of Oz,” 1939.
5. “Here’s looking at you, kid,” “Casablanca,” 1942.
6. “Go ahead, make my day,” “Sudden Impact,” 1983.
7. “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up,” “Sunset Blvd.,” 1950.
8. “May the Force be with you,” “Star Wars,” 1977.
9. “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night,” “All About Eve,” 1950.
10. “You talking to me?” “Taxi Driver,” 1976.
11. “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” “Cool Hand Luke,” 1967.
12. “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” “Apocalypse Now,” 1979.
13. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” “Love Story,” 1970.
14. “The stuff that dreams are made of,” “The Maltese Falcon,” 1941.
15. “E.T. phone home,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” 1982.
16. “They call me Mister Tibbs!”, “In the Heat of the Night,” 1967.
17. “Rosebud,” “Citizen Kane,” 1941.
18. “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”, “White Heat,” 1949.
19. “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”, “Network,” 1976.
20. “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” “Casablanca,” 1942.

Script: form and function.

Yikes. Eight days since my last post. Ok, I’ve been busy. Sue me. I’m also trying to work out shortening my posts on this side. The AD blog works fine in that regard. Code issues. But regardless, at least it’s been time well spent on my script. 85 pages now written on the second one.

Which brings to mind a problem I ran into. The more I wrote, the more scenes unfolded and became dependent on one another. I had an emotional breakthrough that one of my main characters had to go through at some point in the story. Although it was a very self-contained scene, it was critical to the story’s plot.

Problem was, I just didn’t know where to put it that made sense. Things got worse when I did move it around, as a disconnect developed between the scenes before and after it. It’s then I realized that sometimes beyond the mere surface layer of a scene’s meaning, no matter how important, is its other purpose – to connect to and keep the other scenes going.


Scenes movie stories forward. I get that part from all the books and blogs. But, unless the structure of your film is a literal Tarentinoesque non-linear fest of scenes-before-they’re-scenes, you have to be careful where they go. Bringing other professions into the mix, designers might call it form and function. Form – how scenes are structured and where they go in the script – and function – what the actual words mean in the scene.

Yes, it could be argued that a scene’s true function is to be put where it will best move the story along, but we’re splitting hairs. I’m talking style over substance. Brains over brawn.

That concept never sunk in until I moved the scene, then the problem became obvious.

It’s not the scene and its meaning, but the effect it has when placed between, before or after other scenes. In design, it’s like focusing on the negative space two shapes create, rather than looking at the shapes themselves. Look at the ‘arrow’ created by the negative space between the “E” and “x” in the FedEx logo. Move the “E” hasta la vista arrow.

But, let me bring it back around to film and scripts. David Mamet describes this a little more in his book, On Directing Film. He refers to it as “the juxtaposition of two disparate and uninflected images in order to create in the mind of the viewer a third idea, which would advance the plot.”

As an example elsewhere, he describes how a shot of a clock in a hall by itself is boring. Likewise, another shot of a man walking. Intercut between them though, and you now have a third “image,” that of tension, or someone running late. Without the editing together, those two scenes on their own mean something different entirely.

It also made me realize how unstable the whole script can become, like a house of cards, when one scene that supports others gets moved. It’s like, “Wait, can’t put that there, so-and-so will never be born if I do that.” So I then have to start checking out the scene carefully to see that all the parts will work no matter where it gets moved to.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Finding the write time.

Finally getting back to posting. Forgive me, but I’ve been writing, er, trying to find time to write that is.

I've got nearly 50 pages finished on script two. Which got me to thinking about something. After seeing more than a just few questions from people about writer’s block, I wondered if I was the odd man out. I may be too new to the process, but I don’t get it.


Yes, I understand what it is, I just mean I don’t suffer from it like others do. Not yet at least. Perhaps it will rear its ugly head during the rewrite phase.

Perhaps not. All I know is I can sit down and average 6-7 pages a day. Maybe not a lot for some, but it’s consistent enough for me to make steady progress.

Being a rook at this game, I’ll take what I can get.

But the real problem for me is finding the time to write. After hours, after my job, after the family goes to bed, then I can finally sit down to write. But by then, it's 11 or 12 at night. Which means something’s gotta’ give. But aren’t writers supposed to have - insert gasp here - a life?

No. Not when they are supposed to be at their desk working on the next big thing. (Whatever that next big thing may be.)

The only time I ever run into a block of any type, is on the art directing side. When coming up with a visual solution for a problem is just kicking my ass, I can’t seem to let go of it, like a pit bull on a mail carrier’s leg. If I spend more than an hour or so, I find I may be getting too focused on it.

That’s when I know it just won't reveal itself no matter how much more time I put in on it. That’s also when I have to walk away for a few minutes. Almost as if I’m restarting the Mac after an application hangs too long.

The key is, I need to do something, anything to take my mind off focusing directly on the problem.

So I’ll take a walk, watch TV, get a drink, etc. 99% of the time when I do that, a solution reveals itself — just because I’m doing something else. Maybe when the pressure’s off, the solution has the freedom to move about without obstacles in the way. All I know is, that’s what works for me.

Now, if someone has an idea on how to free up more time in my schedule, I’m all ears.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Who invented the remake?

I was watching a family load their cooler, umbrella and small child into a Radio Flyer and pull it across the field of an outdoor music-fest I was at this weekend. Ah, the Radio Flyer. What memories. But wait, upon further review, the ruling on the field has determined that the fucking thing was plastic.


Rubbermaid bought out Radio Flyer? Since when? I couldn't believe that my beloved childhood icon had gone the way of my other favorite – the metal lunchbox.

Who decided to remake that? Who decided that kids needed a safer experience while being pulled? I loved the fact that my old piece-of-shit with sandblasted red paint was about as stable in turns as Courtney Love at a PTA meeting. (Allegedly.) Which reinforced something that happened the day before.

On Saturday, I gave in and took my son to see the remake of The Longest Yard. I didn't want to, but the marketing forces that be had flooded the airwaves with countless trailers for weeks. We were powerless to resist.

So after making it to the 26-screen mega mini-plex, spending an extra quarter on top of the $14 I already spent just to upgrade to a large combo, then sitting through more commercials about stuff I just bought, my quest to see if Billy Madison could convince me he was an NFL-caliber QB began.

Now, I have to admit, I was a huge fan of the original Burt Reynolds flick. Arguably one of the best sports movies around at the time, so I was skeptical they could do it justice. I also admit that not all remakes and sequels suck. Most do though. Don’t even get me started on the Freddie/Halloween/Friday the 13th/Scary Movie franchises. They’re not sequels, they’re the latest installment in a miniseries that runs for 15 years, but without Joan Collins. Another rant for another time though.

As I sat back in my deluxe reclining mega-plex-o-matic chairs, I was willing to give the movie a shot. Let me just say, save for the original Caretaker, the legacy of the original is intact. Without blowing the story for anyone yet to see it, I couldn't help but think the whole time, this is just a bunch of product placement shots riding the back of that original script.

But, hey, swap out Chris Rock for James Hampton of F-Troop fame, (not to mention Teen Wolf, and the sequel, Teen Wolf Too), cross-promote with major brands and it's a winner!

I’ve done promotions for large agencies that tie-in products with movies, so I kind of expect it every time a movie comes out. That tall figure of Shaq in Burger King to promote his new movie? That's the stuff studios need to put butts in seats, and I’ve done that shit for too long.

And if you thought Last Action Hero was a waste of two hours on a weekend, try spending the entire weekend preparing 30 promotional boards for Monday morning just to convince Burger King why Ah-nold would make a great promotional partner.

At least I got paid for that.

Even now though, after knowing the marketing blitz that goes behind it all, there's just something so annoying about it in The Longest Yard, because it was a remake. Wayne’s World poked fun at their placement. At least they were honest about it.

A remake has a lot riding against it. Sure it has a built-in audience that remembers the original. Studios count on that. But it also has a lot to live up to in the collective hearts and minds of those same movie peeps that remember it. What's the first thing someone always says after seeing a remake? "Nah, not as good as the original,” or “it was better than the first one.” 50-50 chance at best, right?

For my money, I love the first time I see a movie, listen to a CD, read a book, an article, etc. That first reaction you have to any new material is locked in your brain forever. Hate it, love it, whatever. At least it’s a genuine reaction you live with that a remake or sequel can't touch.

Nor did it this weekend. So a major brand will get a sales blip from this movie. Big fucking deal. What's next, Hannibal Lechter reaching for a bottle of Tums in Silence 9 - Hannibal's Revenge?

All it did was make me appreciate the original that much more.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Starting out on my first script, and other stuff...

April 1st, 2005 – the start.

That's the day I said, fuck it, I'm going to do a script based on an idea I've had rolling around in my head for years. Not really earth-shattering news. In hindsight though, I hadn't noticed the date. April Fool's might've been telling – was I really serious about writing, or just fooling around. Time and multiple drafts will tell.

I had been the Rebel Without A Crew for a few years on videos and :30 spots with microscopic budgets, and had always loved film, and I understood the technical side of things. But as for writing, well now was the time after seeing too many short films I felt could've been done better, reading too many 'How-To-Write-Star-Produce-Distribute Your Own Film all for $75' books and saying to myself, if not now, when?

Regardless, that marked the official start of my first feature-length script. Since then, I've endured a few things in just trying to find time to write the damn thing. Maybe it's the A.D.D. kicking in. Especially after late nights at a day-job that while paying well, is a black hole of creativity for an art director slash writer. It leaves little time for anything but three hours or so of sleep and 10 minutes to say 10 words to my teenage brood.

But, to eat, starve and go without sleep, isn't that an artist's fate? Especially if they are to ever be considered a true artist? Well, there are worse day jobs as Tarantino will tell you. And as an old professor in art school once said to me, 'how the hell can you do any work when you're cranky and tired. Eat something for Christ's sake.' Since he hung around with Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning back in the day, I figured he must've known something I didn't. So much for the cliché of the starving artist.

So there we are, here we are.

I should get back on task and mention the events that have transpired over these first two months. I wrote, (make that agonized over) my script’s first 15 pages, now at 40, put together an outline and submitted it all to the Sundance Filmmaker's/Writer's lab. It's a long shot given what I've heard about the chances of getting in, (20 or so out of 2,500). But I don't care, I'm trying anyway.

I also added a bunch of ideas to the mix after trying to work out some plot points on the first script, resulting in my having started a second script simultaneously.

I've also discovered many blogs on writing and screenwriting that have been invaluable in improving my craft. I list them on the right. Some of these were the spark for me to start yet another blog among the masses. My intention is to document where this whole thing is going, be it good or bad, so that maybe someone else might attempt this at home. Updates on the progress of the script(s) will be made as time allows.

So I guess that makes me a writer now?

A friend has a good way of looking at it. He believes no matter what it is you hope to be or do in life, art director, writer, whatever, that you must first 'inhabit the role'. In other words, if you write, then say you're a writer, not just someone who does writing on the side. A director? Then say it. I'm a director. I'm a son-of-a-bitch, etc. Inhabit the role.

Because once you do, then you'll become it.

I fought this Zen realization years ago after seeing yet another superstar in the world of (insert industry here) who burst upon whatever scene as a 22-year old wunderkind. Wow, they must be a great director, since all the media seems to think so. Just out of school and they are already the world's greatest (insert profession here)! You mean the People Magazine Top-50 Next Biggest Phenom Issue isn't accurate after all?


I used to think it presumptuous of someone so young, with little or no experience save for a relative in the biz that gave them their first break, to call themselves a 'director'. Hitchcock was a director. Scorsese is a director. Not some kid two weeks out of college. It takes years of paying dues, doesn't it.

But I realized after my friend said that to me, that maybe it's not having vast amounts of experience that makes one a director, a writer, a son-of-a-bitch. It's the realization that above all else, they know that's what they want to be. Thing is, am I mad because they realized it sooner in life than I did, or mad because I didn't.

So I go down this new path because I am now, make that, have always been, a writer-scriptwriter-director-(insert profession here). I don't have a degree in journalism or English Literature, and my writing may need plenty of time well spent on craft, but I'm trying like hell regardless.

And once I sell that first script, I can change my title to screenwriter, not scriptwriter.


more to come