Posted by: Greg | June 15, 2012

Prometheus: Teh Uber WTF?!?

For the past few months I’ve enjoyed the moments of going to movies again. Sitting in somewhat overstuffed chairs designed for the ever-increasing girth of Americans. The smell of popcorn. The crackling of candy bags as people stuff more sugary goodness down their gullets. The gasps at scary moments. The laughs during a really good line or moment. The adrenaline pumping knuckles tightening around the armrests as the hero chases down the bad guy.

But today I had none of that. Today was rather meh. And why kind reader would the guy who loves movies of any genre struggle through a summer blockbuster? Why would the collection of talent gathered for this film leave me craving Howard the Duck or even Leonard Part VI?

Because the first thirty minutes to Prometheus were confusing, redundant, boring and left me not really caring about the rest of the film. Basically the start left a bad taste in my mouth that affected the rest of the pretty looking movie.

The intro to the summer blockbuster and return of Ridley Scott to sci-fi was trash. Choose a four letter word and more than likely your word choice would be perfect.

Crap, Shit, Slop, Snot, Puke, and Poop.

In the first 10 minutes I knew my mind was going to have problems. Dr. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her dopey boyfriend / finace / husband found something in Scotland (from 35,000 years ago I might add) that resembled artwork from other ancient tribal cultures, pointing (inviting according to the movie) to a new world. Dr. Shaw calls the unknown beings from the artwork the Engineers. I could watch Ancient Aliens and get more enjoyment from watching Tsoukalos talk.

Then we jump ahead 3 or 4 years. (Honestly, I don’t remember the correct one.) A ship called Prometheus is carrying everyone you would choose to create the biggest conflict in the world on a spaceship in deep space. During the next twenty minutes of the movie we are given the backstory of every possible way they got to this point and why they are there.

Now here is where my scientific side comes out. When we went to the moon we were able to use telescopes and map out landing sites. When we started looking at the Jovian planets we would send out satellites to take pictures and do some minor mapping of the moons.

For this movie the plan was to just fly the ship to the location while everyone stays in suspended animation until we are right on top of the damn place. We arrive and discover it is a planetary system. The planet we are near resembles Saturn.  We are supposed to go to a moon that apparently has an Earth-like atmosphere. Except the CO2 is higher, and very toxic to breathe. So, this means everyone gets to wear really flipping cool space suits.

Alright, STOP. Get me my hero!

This place is far enough away that telescopes could only see a star and that it had a wobble. Which denotes the possibility of an extra-solar planet. The Weyland Corporation, yes, the right-wing neo-con knuckle head that brought us androids, has a ship designed, built, and launched and it is arriving at this far off location four years after two doctors find some matching artwork. At this point my mind is reeling because there was no mention of satellites orbiting or mapping out the moon.

Really? We just flew billions of miles in two years of suspended animation. Now we are going to take the whole ship and land on the moon.

Really? At what point were we going to find a landing place and setup shop?

Really? We’re just going straight down there through storms we know nothing about and then land where the doctor of something, sitting three rows back, spots a location outside of his small window?

Really? My response would be,”Get the fuck outta here.”

As a screenwriter, aiming to write a summer blockbuster some day, I came up with the perfect way to chop off 30 minutes of WTF and keep things flowing without losing everyone.

1st – Keep the bulked up Voldemort and his X-Files black goo shot of death. A great way to hint at our beginnings or at least the death of planet.
2nd – Open up on David the Android doing his thing. Good job Mr. Fassbender!
3rd – Get everyone out of suspended animation. Let them know we’ve arrived. There really is a planet, but we’re going to a moon. As Prometheus neared the location it sent out satellites to map and study the area. Now that everyone is awake we found that we are going to the moon not the gaseous planet with rings like Saturn. Oh and we mapped it and found a safe landing spot near the damn freaky spheres in a straight line. Get suited up we’re walking on the surface folks!

BAM, no boring backstory of the multiple ancient civilizations. No get together of the crew that apparently never met each other until they woke up. And finally a chance to get us going on the strange moon and really moving the story along. Let the crew interactions occur on the surface where everyone would be tense already. Why have the crew be tense with each other right as they come out of the deep freeze?

Observations throughout the rest of the movie:
1: Why are the scientists so stupid? Excluding David, they repeatedly poked, prodded, and touched whatever they came across. Do scientists in the future learn things quicker this way?
2: Why did it seem like David was there before? He touches some slime then runs his fingers through the grooves in the wall, which is writing, which in turn opens doors or turns on holograms. Was this a part of the learning he was doing with the futuristic Rosetta Stone?
3: Why would the Engineers have holograms of themselves? If what they were playing with was so horrible, how come they didn’t have better protection?
4: Why wasn’t Dr. Shaw’s love interest killed earlier in the movie for being a colossal dick? I think a quick test of airlocks would have made him nicer.
5: How come the ship’s Captain just jumped in to save the day and explain the moon was really a giant collection of weapons of mass destruction? When did he become Mr. Wizard and understand all the scientific research everyone else was frantically trying to figure out?
6: Why wait to ram the alien craft as it is getting ready to fly off? Why not do what Dr. Shaw said right away as the hangar doors were opening and fly over the top of it and burn it with your GIANT ion engines?
7: Why is it that at the end of the 21st century, on a spaceship billions of miles from Earth and stranded on a moon there is a fire axe? Dr. Shaw never even got a chance to use it.

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Posted by: Greg | September 12, 2011

Where Shadows Lie: Bay City

A writing friend of mine, J. E. Cammon, recently got his first novel published, Where Shadows Lie: Bay City. I am very excited and happy for him. I’m looking forward to the rest of the novels from this particular series. He introduces the reader into the gritty world of Urban Fantasy, where a description of an old neglected city called Bay City, the setting for the novel, gives the reader an urge to start scrubbing away the grime covering your body. With a balance of poignant moments and plot twists within twists, he gives a ride in his debut novel. In a genre overrun with the need for romance when a vampire is included, the novel is a wonderful change of pace. A vampire as a hit-man, a lycanthrope working as a vet’s assistant, and a graduate student, from a unique university, all come together to track down a summoned demon and send it back home before it tears down the world around them. Where Shadows Lie: Bay City provides a little bit of something for everyone.

Big James, best of luck to you and with your future novels!

Posted by: Greg | May 25, 2011

What I Learned from 80s Film…Commando

Matrix: Remember Sully when I said I would kill you last?
Sully: Yeah. That’s right Matrix, you did.
Matrix: I lied.

Commando was my first knowledgeable foray into over the top action films. My Dad took me to this film and I was on the edge of my seat. Guns, explosions, grown men crying, explosions, bodies littering the ground, and shopping for more guns all that’s needed for an action flick.

Oh wait! I never explained the movie. You can go online and find paragraphs explaining the plot and what the movie is about. Don’t waste your time. The simple plot is: Mr. Schwarzenegger’s daughter is taken from him, he doesn’t like that, and so he gets her back. There are nuances here and there about an exiled dictator, members of a former elite military unit dying, betrayal, and BLAH BLAH BLAH. Forget that boring crap. Arnold wants to get his daughter back from the bad guys. Enough said.

This movie quickly made it’s way onto my TV screen a year later. My friends and I would quit playing outside to come in and watch it. This is one of the first films I remember watching with my friends and acting out. (For some reason I always played Bennett!) It usually came on during the middle of the day Saturday or Sunday on TBS. (Yes, that TBS before they went all cable. And that TBS where they would replay movies in between really horrible Braves games. This was during the heyday of craptastic Atlanta Braves losing seasons!)

I recently watched it again on Netflix. Actually I listened to it while I was at work and remembered how I viewed this through my seven year old eyes…

1.) A Dad’s love is strong
I knew very well my Dad loved me and would do anything for me. (Hell, he still does love me and would move the world for me albeit with a limp!) After this movie, I was certain nothing would stand in his way to save me from peril. I figured this is how all fathers would be if something happened to their children. At times I would wonder if this show of force would differ depending on whether it is a son or daughter and I remember asking my friend Jason’s Dad for clarification because Jason had a younger sister. The answer was simple and exactly what I thought: NO. Any child taken would receive full parental punishment. Now I knew he didn’t mean a spanking and bed with no dessert. He meant what Arnold did to those creeps is exactly how he would do it. Although he hinted more at ripping arms off and beating people to death, which sounds more like Arnold in Conan the Barbarian than Arnold in Commando.

I also remember asking my Mom and Jason’s Mom if this is how they would do it. Both of them answered with a laugh. Which led me to believe only Dads would behave like Arnold. So, to me that meant a father’s love must be stronger.

2.) Examples of Problem Solving
As a kid loads of new experiences unfold in front of you and sometimes they require some individual problem solving. Let’s say you lost your house key and you need to get inside from the rain and your parents won’t be home for another two hours. What do you do? Some would go to a friend’s house and wait for their parents. Others might just sit outside in the rain. Me? I broke into my house.

No, Arnold does not teach people how to break into homes in the movie, but he offers new ways of solving problems.

-Want to get off of an airplane taxiing for take-off without causing a panic?
Feign illness and head towards the bathroom, sneak into the elevator and head to the cargo hold, tear through a few walls, and get onto the front landing gear to jump.

-Want to go from one end of the mall courtyard to another?
Beat up a bunch of mall cops, grab a streamer draped across the ceiling and along the sides and Tarzan that mofo onto the elevator carrying your prey on the other side of the mall courtyard. Simple.

-Want to have a large assortment of weaponry?
Steal a bulldozer from a nearby construction site, drive it into the side of gun shop, and go shopping for guns.

-Want to rescue your daughter from the army of an exiled dictator and lone mercenary?
Watch this movie.

Arnold was very blunt in his abilities to solve problems. He went head first. He was quick thinking and resourceful. Sometimes life requires wrecking ball problem solving skills and it is better to learn those at a young age. When you get older you can use your quick wit and bypass the wrecking ball skill set for the laser precision ones.

3.) Kids don’t have to be victims
This was a nice thing to learn, because it applies through adulthood as well. Be resourceful. Be aware of your surroundings. Never play a victim. Now of course the daughter of super wrecking ball Schwarzenegger will be resourceful, but you never know her abilities until she is tossed in an empty room. Up until that point she was a literal rag doll being passed around. Alone in the room she took apart a door handle and used it to pry open the boarded up window. Pretty impressive. Especially for a 10 year old girl in the 80s with a very bad hairdo. Even though we were a group of 7 – 8 year old boys that hated girls, we really wanted Jenny on our team if we were out on an adventure.

4.) Bad Bad Guys
I was never impressed with the bad guys of the film. The exiled dictator didn’t scare me and Bennett was too much of an over the top crazy bad guy. He was quick to anger and lose composure. I found him, the actor Vernon Wells,  more frightening as his apocalypse surviving character from Mad Max and Weird Science.

The situation scared me more than the people invovled, although there is one caveat to that thought process, Bill Duke’s silent character scared me the most. He spoke little and when he did it was quiet. No screaming. No melodrama.

These bad guys gave me a better idea of what makes a good bad guy. Which is why Hans Gruber, played by the ever talented Alan Rickman, from Die Hard is the best bad guy.

5.) Mall Cops
Early on as a young child your parents, hopefully, teach you to avoid strangers and to trust people in uniforms. Based off of this movie I made the decision that Mall Cops do NOT deserve my trust. Then again if I am at the mall alone I would find another child my age and hang out with them and their parents. Nothing about these wanna-be-cops inspired me to go to them if I were in distress. Let alone to tell them someone resembling the Incredible Hulk was outside wanting to hurt someone. If you must know, what appears to be 15-20 mall cops fail to apprehend Arnold and they end up looking like a bunch of kittens trying to take down a tiger.

Watching Commando brings back enjoyable moments of over the top action and lame one liners, which Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright nail down perfectly in their take on buddy action films, Hot Fuzz. The downside of looking back into ones past is the regret at seeing heroes become jokes, excluding jokes over bad movies. With the recent news of Arnold’s extra-marital affair and fathering a child out of wedlock I wonder if he would brave the dangers of the world to save this child with as much vigor as his own. For shame Arnold. Another childhood hero bites the dust!

In the end, watching this film again enhances my enjoyment for the film Taken with Liam Neeson.

Same concept but Liam does scalpel like problem solving over Arnold’s wrecking ball.

Next Wednesday is…Howard the Duck!

Posted by: Greg | May 22, 2011

Get Your Act Together

With many months of dithering here and there on rewrites of a horror script, I’ve decided that I need a break. Now I say break because honestly as I am going through this horror rewrite I’ve realized one major factor…it’s a whole new script!

Yes, of course it is a BETTER script. But when you think about the time and energy spent in doing a new script treating it like a rewrite slows you down even more.

So, for right now I have set down the horror film. I will focus my energies on my first full length script and aim to get one script fully rewritten and ready for people to see. And by people I mean other screenwriters, readers, or people of the biz. I feel confident that the story flows. There are tweaks to be made and scenes to delete, but it will not need to be a whole new script.

I’m tired of jumping from one to another and never quite finishing. The foot is down, the line is drawn, and whatever other cliche could jump from my brain I would use in saying I am setting up a time frame for completing the rewrite. I will give myself one whole month. I figure a solid 5 pages a day would get me through and then the remaining days could be used to fine tune other areas.

Also, during my “Get Your Act Together” moment I will focus on providing a regular post to this blog weekly. During the past few weeks in stolen moments or at least early morning work distractions I am rewatching and/or listening to movies I grew up with in the 80s. Seeing these films again as an older fella bring back memories and also a few WTF moments.

Playing off of my reactions to seeing these films I am starting a new category called “What I Learned from 80s films…” where I sort of review movies I remember watching and how they affected my way of thinking as a child. Of course this will be done through the wonderful eye of 20 years later me. Even now I remember thinking a certain way, like Teen Wolf, and watching it recently I realize how dumb those thoughts were.

Now, my selection of movies from the 80s will be those films I remember watching again, and again, and again, and yes AGAIN. I will refrain from movies I watched once in the 80s but many times during the 90s. A majority of the movies were either on cable (HBO, Showtime) or local stations such as TBS, channel 17, or WATL, channel 36.

The stage is set. My mind is focused. There’s writing to be done.

Posted by: Greg | March 6, 2011

A Cringe and a Flinch

So, there you are all comfortable, reclined even, on your super comfy sofa. Netflix is up and running for some gorgeous Watch Instantly movies. You have a (fill in the genre, not horror) coasting along. Then all of a sudden WHAMMO, a scene comes up and you flinch or cringe.

What the hell? Your movie going experience was perfect until then.

I’m not talking the abrupt cut shot or the camera pan to reveal the henchman standing there. I’m talking about a scene which could, in bizzaro world, belong in the film but in reality does nothing to move the film or the characters along. Like the obligatory nude scenes in horror films or sex scenes in action films, these scenes really don’t belong. I’m excluding the obvious cringe scenes of any Eli Roth film, Quentin Tarantino film, horror film, or Jackass movie. These are scenes where they just don’t belong.

Here are my 5 most cringe / flinch worthy scenes in films:

1.) Nurse Betty

I don’t think many people saw this film to provide any sort of remarks on it, but I will give some credit to the funny moments of the film. Give me a moment to find them in my memory banks. In the meantime, the scene in question is early on in the film where Freeman and Rock are questioning Eckhart in his home. Rock gets a little too excited during the questioning and starts to scalp Mr. Eckhart. I say starts because there is some thrashing and Eckhart breaks loose running about with half his scalp peeled back.

There was no reason for the scalping. There could have been a few gunshots of torture. Maybe a few punches. But a scalping? It did not help the movie along or the characters involved.

2.) The Departed

Yes, this movie again. I liked it but in the same breath I didn’t like it. I covered it earlier, in a previous post, my main reason for disliking it.

*Spoiler Alert* The shot to end DiCaprio’s day. I flinched just like Vern from Stand by Me. Out of nowhere. POP. Simply put this form of death does not belong to DiCaprio. Kill him in a gunfight, but not in a flash of a door opening.

If I have to say more I will get mad.

3.) Van Wilder

Alright, before I go any further about this film, I know it is a raunchy comedy. I know it is a National Lampoon film. But the pastries delivery and consumption did it

Oh screw it! The whole scene from doctoring the pastries to consumption. I might have laughed during the doctoring of the pastries. But I cringed and staved off dry heaves during the consumption. Alright, I laughed during the whole thing. But I still cringed. Knowing how crafty Van Wilder was…a simple concoction in the pastries would have sufficed. Anyone who can watch this entire scene without a slight hint of dry heaves has an iron constitution!

4.) Ricochet

Thank you John Lithgow! I will now consult with him on all of my future knee surgeries. A quick summation of the incident. Shot in the knee by the amazing Denzel. (Do you really need a last name if I say Denzel?) Recovering in the prison hospital with leg elevated. The obligatory old man with a trolley of books rolls up. A bunch of blah and blah. The guy goes away and Lithgow rethinks things when he spots Denzel on the TV. He calls old man back and asks for the two heaviest books. He tapes the books to his ankles and move his leg over the edge of the bed. He releases his leg. The sound effect alone makes one cringe.

Needless to say his orthopedic surgeon passed out watching this scene. In all fairness so did I.

5.) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I highly recommend this movie, great story with great acting. But all I will say is…revenge rape scene. My anus and fists clench tight thinking about it. I would say it doesn’t belong. We know Lisbeth Salander is a bad ass from her encounter with a few douchebags on the subway. The implied rape scene and the subsequent revenge rape scene is disturbing on all counts. I don’t find the scene worthy of moving Lisbeth’s character or the movie along to show her badassness or resourcefulness.

Some contenders in the group:
– Robocop – The ED209 screwup in the beginning. Overkill to the max. The nice close-up shot of the next fifty rounds to the body
– Wild Things – New forms of dentistry by Neve Campbell and a bottle of something stiff!

Let me know if there were some scenes that made you flinch or cringe that did not belong in the movie!

Posted by: Greg | December 14, 2010

I can feel it

It’s buried deep, but I can feel it writhing. In spots it itches my skin. Never enough to make me cry out or scratch maniacally. But still it moves. Why can I not nail it down? Why does it anger me?

I’m in the process of getting notes and paperwork together to do the rewrite of my horror script. Thanks to an enterprising young man with a flair for some spooky movies, I am now aware of where mistakes were made.

The problem with this is my mind and my body will NOT cooperate. My mind wants to work on this. Get the process started. Get the new beginning to the script down. My body wants to sleep. My body would rather unwind from a crazy day at the office and watch Netflix.

Damnit, I didn’t work this hard on being a screenwriting only to fail because I can’t get a mind/body balance to do a REWRITE! I’ve been working on my brain and keeping it primed for a good sit down and write session. I limit my new ideas. The moment one pops up I quickly pull of my idea spreadsheet and put down everything flowing into my brain. One sentence, two sentence. Good now back to the horror script.

I can’t tell if I am scared of doing a rewrite because of the changes made in the beginning and how those will affect the rest of the script. One part of my mind thinks the body is already pieced together. It is time to get some muscles and skin on this thing. The other part of my mind sees the pieces scattered about and is not looking forward to doing some Dr. Frankenstein-esque surgery.

Maybe this is the price you pay for not clearly defining your main character and their goal. Maybe this is the price you pay for not clearly defining how this demon arrives and lingers in a certain area. Maybe this is the price for thinking you had the ability to write a horror film.

Geez, that might be too negative of an outlook. I don’t think right now I am limited in any genre. But I think I need to keep my focus and turn these three scripts into something.

I’m still not sure about the softball one, but I think a light hearted make-you-feel-good movie never really hurts anyone…maybe just their sanity!

Things to worry about for another day. In the meantime, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. I can do it and it will NOT be a completely new script…just a buffed up and shiny new script!

Posted by: Greg | December 2, 2010

What the hell man?

So, a small amount of time has passed since I was throwing things up here.

Well, I am sorry. I was working on a script and I was preparing for a marriage. Which has already passed and was fantastic. And the script is done, but like most of my writing it lives in the rough draft format while I venture off onto other ideas. Yeah, focus is tough.

Actually, I am just now getting back into the groove of writing. Because of the hiatus and so many new things going on idea generation was in shutdown mode. Having that section closed off limited my desire to write.

So, this little blurb is just a refresher to get me going again. More of mental jump start to get back into the discipline of writing.

More writing topics, movie lists (yeah, how many more freaking movie lists can there be on the internet), screenplays I’m reading, and meetings with fellow writers.

Posted by: Greg | July 26, 2010

Reading is Writing

Oh, you know, reading is fundamental an’ shit, we just excited.” – Maurice “Snoop” Miller  Out of Sight

Not long ago write.play.repeat pointed out to me that “reading is writing”.  I consider her one of the most intelligent individuals I know, and that particular line made her sound a couple donuts short of a dozen.  She proceeded to explain that to be an effective writer, or communicator, you need to have a wide range of reading under your belt.  I didn’t quite put writing and reading as complimentary forces until one of my writing group meetings.

The Scene:
A good friend’s apartment, Deap Wasp Fiction, littered with an odd assortment of old and new furniture. Quite the bachelor pad.

The Cast:
A group of six writers. Five physically present writers and one Skype writer on video chat.

The Discussion:
A script that parodies 50’s and 60’s Sci-fi and horror.  One of the few times we discuss scripts.  (The writing group mostly reviews short stories.)

The Result:
Those writers not used to reading scripts had problems providing constructive feedback.

And then it hit me like a Mack truck skidding on an icy patch!  Unless you regularly read scripts it can be a jarring experience to look at one!  And to try and provide constructive feedback when things look like a chemistry equation, it can get pretty ugly.

Most of our reading is done in the prose format, from elementary school onward.  There are manuals, newspapers, textbooks, encyclopedias (yes, those really thick books in a library where the real research was done!) and popular fiction books.  The more of these styles you read the more you understand and can even recreate in your own voice.  The more newspapers you read the quicker you can skim over the fluff and get the real meat of the story from the journalist.  The more manuals you read the quicker you can skip steps 1-5 because they are always the same, except for making sure you have the correct tools in front of you.  The more encyclopedias you read…OK, maybe not the encyclopedias, but you could still write a really cool report on tarsiers because they look funny and made you laugh when you were seven.  (Or maybe that was just me!)

At no point in my twelve years of education (note: I am excluding college) were movie scripts part of an English class.  There were multiple plays from Bill Shakes, a couple of Beckett, a few Oscar Wilde, and if you were lucky, Sophocles.  There were poems from Billy Blake, Bill Shakes, Sylvia Plath, and E.E. Cummings.  When you first read any of those you are completely lost.  If there is any sort of interest in that style of writing you would read more.  The more you read the more you understand word choice, sentence structure, punctuation, and emotion.  And should you wish to write in that particular style the better your writing will be.

Yeah, those memories of high school English are hard to shake, but sometimes a trip down memory lane can be eye opening.  So, how many scripts did you read?  I’ll give you a moment to revisit high school.

Wow, you read just as many as I did!  NONE.

Why is that?  I think reading a script would be another great form of writing to understand and study.  Think of how an image is conveyed in a minimal amount of words.  Creating dialogue that sounds real but in reality is a brief version of how we talk to each other.  Working within the confines of a set amount of pages to build characters and plot.  It opens up an unlimited amount of possibilities for creativity!

I think knowledge of other styles of writing will improve your preferred writing choice.  Give it a try.  Read something you are not familiar or comfortable with.  Test yourself as a writer and try to write in those styles you are uncomfortable with.  I bet you will improve as a writer!

Posted by: Greg | June 16, 2010

Get Over It and Just Keep Writing

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve read six or seven screenplays. I will admit I do this because I like to see how movies are written. I enjoy reading the descriptions of scenes and how much the writers put down to give enough of an image for the director to film. This past week I read Batman Begins, The Incredibles, and The Hangover. All three were phenomenal scripts. All three entertained me in different ways. But one stood out from the others. It wasn’t the dynamic action scene. It wasn’t the mystery and intrigue of the plot. It was the fact that what I read barely resembled the film I saw. The movie in question was The Hangover.

But Greg, it’s a comedy. Everyone knows comedies have parts where the director wants different lines from the actors. Everyone knows actors will improvise if they do not find the line something their character would say. Everyone knows another writer or writing team is hired to “punch up” a script. (Note: this applies to all scripts not just comedies!)

Yes, all of the above is true and I’m alright with this.

What? Why? What about that situation is okay?

If my comedy script or action script gets produced and Steve Carell or Bruce Willis improves a line, I will just say “Yes, sir that’s fantastic.” I’m not doing that to suck up. These are professional actors and have been in the industry for decades, they have a little more knowledge of what does and does NOT work. The same goes for directors. Film is a collaboration for art. I welcome further advice. I welcome others ideas. The various groups of people involved have wonderful things to offer the film. (Yes, sometimes too many cooks in the kitchen ruin the dinner, but it is still the largest collaborative art form!) I am too new in this field to expect my script to be what I see in the theaters. An easy way around the issue is to just direct it myself, but I have no wish to direct. I just want to write.

So, I started pondering the issues with The Hangover and what happens from sold script to final film? I was intrigued. Really no tiger in the bathroom? No baby? No police car in the valet? If all of these changes are made to a purchased product, is the original screenwriter recognized as a writer? Who gets their name on the credits? Why bust my butt if my script isn’t going to be the one I see on the screen?

I interviewed a script analyst, Xandy Sussan, of CoverMyScript, and a script reader, Mike Lee, from Screenwriting Foxhole. I learned of these two helpful people from Twitter and Scriptchat. (All four locations are highly informative places to learn about the art & craft of screenwriting and to meet fellow screenwriters!) Xandy and Mike provided me with some fantastic insights like issues of writing and rewrites not clearly explained in my screenwriting books or brutal honesty of what happens out there in Hollywood.

Although maybe some things should stay behind the curtain! I’m not sure if they were trying to scare me off or being perfectly blunt for an overly sensitive writer. (Honestly, I think overly sensitive screenwriters should have Don Rickles stand behind them during a writing session. Nothing better than being berated by a master to knock out one’s sensitivity.)

After picking their brains with a few questions a clearer understanding of the screenwriters place in Hollywood became apparent. We sit pretty close to the bottom of the totem pole. It doesn’t thrill me too much, but I can appreciate what it means when the whole process is complete. (Think of all the names seen during a film’s final credits, a few of them got their input in the final cut.) Xandy says,

“while you’re slaving away making your script “art,” it’s really a utilitarian blue print for a group to make art from. So, yes it needs to be well written and beautifully executed, but you always have to remember that you’re outlining instructions for what people are to do. Movies do not exist in a vacuum. They are made from collaboration, whether you like it or not. You’re giving a team of people a “How-to-Build-Art” step-by-step and then it’s up to them to follow your instructions and get the project done. The difference is who works on it with you. Good people = A good result, especially in the beginning. But most of the time, you don’t get to choose who you work with. You only get to start choosing when you’re big and fancy.”

I’m alright with doing a couple rewrites based of what the buyers expect of my script. I understand there are better writers out there and they are brought in for specific reasons such as improved jokes or snappy dialogue. I’m comfortable enough in the knowledge of my own writing skills to shake hands and take a check. If I can’t make the changes in the script to your liking, please pay me for my time and energy. Thank you for the opportunity maybe we can work on another project together. (The more articles I read about writers and writing credits the more I realize that you’re usually fired before you get the chance to be polite and turn away!)

This line of thinking brings me to “Writing credit” on a script. If all these people get their fingers in the pie, who gets recognized? There are set rules defined by the WGA. Mike explained,”The WGA determines who gets credit for a screenplay based on what % of work makes it into the final.” Hey, I like the sound of this. I kind of already assume some changes will be made for funnier lines or something. Of course Xandy found a way to bring reality crashing down on me again. She sent me this link regarding The A-Team and it’s 11 writers. Yes, that’s correct 11 writers. Pay close attention to who ended up with “Writing credit”, the director and his writing partner and one other guy. Not the original writer. So, 3 out of 11 get credit.

Reading between the lines of Xandy and Mike’s responses it’s clear, as a screenwriter, there is only one place to be appreciated in the industry, as a Script Doctor. No, I am not referring to the people you hire to help improve your screenplay before selling it. These elusive people go beyond just adding a few jokes or witty lines. They do rewrites, polishes, and “punch ups”. They do their jobs. They do them effectively and efficiently. They have great reputations and because of their reputations they can get their script made they way they want it. Well, almost…the directors, producers, and actors get some say.

I feel better knowing all this before I start making my marketing plan to get my scripts out. I will bust my butt for recognition within the industry and for the realization of a nice check. I am not scared of having someone rewrite me. Hell, I even expect it. I don’t feel overwhelmed with wishing what I write will get on the screen. I think that is a colossal waste of time.

Mike put it best to bring humor to the somewhat bleak life of an early screenwriter:

The thing to remember is yes, you’re getting screwed but you’ve received a big pay day and you’ve established a track record which means you can pitch directly to studios. Enough of that and maybe YOU’LL be the one they call in to rewrite the other guy’s crap.

I actually have something to aim for beyond just being a screenwriter. I want to be the one called in to “doctor” up a script. Looks like my future will be dealing with other people’s crap! I can’t wait!

Posted by: Greg | March 26, 2010

The Overthinking Beast

Relax. You’re thinking too much. Get outta your fuckin’ head, Crash. – Crash Davis, Bull Durham

Important safety tip. Thank you, Egon. – Peter Venkman, Ghostbusters

This post is not supposed to be here. A continuation of my screenwriting jouney discussing Daydreaming should be here instead. I started that post and something happened to my internal editor and I began to suffer from “Overthinking”. And that vile creature pushed me into this post.

So, what is Overthinking?

To me it is when your internal editor consumes copious amounts of performance enhancing drugs to write some of the most eloquent and robust words ever read on one page. Well, the downside is that your internal editor builds themselves up so much they turn into the Incredible Hulk inside a glass shop. This is the equivalent of setting a bull loose in a china shop. Massive destruction and complete loss of anything useful making it to the page. Everything looks good for a second. Then it gets erased. Then something else. A nice cycle of creating and deleting! What every writer enjoys!

No matter what you write the Overthinking behemoth squashes it. I don’t mean this thing just dismisses the idea and looks for a new one. It flat out drop kicks, stomps on, grinds down, and flushes anything you, the writer, creates. It wears you down to the point of exhaustion and all you have to show for your hour of work is a title and maybe a heading and that’s if you are lucky!

There is no direct way to fight back. It’s not like there are weapons in your head to stop this thing. The more words you force on the page the more they get erased, crossed off, or even deleted. The more ideas you think up the quicker the beast grabs them and pukes on them. So, how do you proceed?

Quit. This will be the only time in my life I call it quits. I will stop working. I will go do something else. Watching cats play with a toy after some catnip appease the beast and basically ruin all thoughts. In other words clear your brain! I will play an internet game, only if I think a thirty minute game will reduce the beast back to my internal editor. Otherwise I just call it a lost hour and leave the office, my chair, and my computer alone with the hope of returning to move forward in my script.

Usually I can deal with my internal editor. I’m still learning to keep her silent during first drafts, where I just need to empty my brain on the page. But on rare occasions she wants to nudge in there and point out spelling or sentence structure. I find ways to tell her to cram it. Sometimes she wins and sometimes I win. She only wins by becoming the beast though.

There are no warnings. You can’t prepare. Recognize your internal editor. Should that editor start getting a little uppitty just recognize the beast is growing. And when it rears it head turn and run! Now, I know that sounds like the warnings everyone gave to Neo in The Matrix, in regards to agents. But should you wish to fight the beast, I will not be held responsible for the drooling husk of a human left behind!

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