Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Shorts: DUST

Came across this fantastic short starring Alan Rickman and Jodie Whittaker (written and directed by Ben Ockrent & Jake Russell). Dust manages the difficult task of keeping the viewer in suspense throughout the story -- seven and a half minutes, but still. It's also an excellent example of how less is more when it comes to dialogue...

Saturday, August 30, 2014

How to Write a TV Pilot

Gray Jones (@GrayJones) hosted a panel on TV writing at Comic-Con and graciously posted it on youtube.

Lots of good information here--actually picked up some new things. Writing an original pilot used to be considered a fool's errand, but times have changed. I've been kicking around a few ideas that don't work as features, so why the heck not?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Guillermo Del Toro on Alfred Hitchcock

Stumbled across this great interview with Guillermo del Toro discussing Alfred Hitchcock. I didn't know he wrote a book about him -- probably because it's in Spanish.

Monday, July 28, 2014


We're about three episodes in and I still can't shake the feeling that Extant would work better as a feature film rather than a TV series. 

An astronaut returns to Earth from a lengthy solo mission and discovers she's pregnant.

Fantastic premise, but how is this supposed to work past 6-7 episodes? What happens in season three? Molly turns out to be a clone and the real Molly has been held captive on an alien spaceship the whole time? The writers have done an admirable job creating various subplots (android son Ethan, government conspiracy, shady billionaire, etc.) and some cool sci-fi worldbuilding, but nothing seems as compelling as Molly's bun in the oven.

Hey, I could be wrong -- wouldn't be the first time.

Extant is an intriguing mash-up of ideas: Rosemary's Baby, A.I, The Astronaut's Wife, Contact, and Gravity -- in case you didn't notice, all movies. I question its longevity but I'm still watching.  The script was apparently decent enough to get the attention of Z-Listers like Steven Spielberg and Halle Berry so there's that. If the ratings continue to hold up, we might get to see how it all plays out.

Check out this inspirational interview with show creator Mickey Fisher:

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Strain - Night Zero

A few quick thoughts...

This was loads of fun. I was glad to have finished the first book before the premiere so I could do a little compare and contrast. However, this is a NO SPOILER ZONE. I won’t be discussing plot points beyond the episode one.

The biggest departure from the book has to be the pacing. For instance, the book doesn’t tell us what happened on the plane before it landed. But the show introduces a few characters and immediately presents a tangible threat. While I might not agree with the change, I certainly understand....

Viewers have the attention span of gnats. If someone isn’t being disemboweled within the first five minutes there’s a strong possibility the channel will be changed. I thought the advertising was a reflection of this thinking as well. Now call me crazy, but this:

 Is a heck of a lot more compelling than this: 

But the conventional wisdom says that viewers prefer to know as much as possible rather than being teased. A parasitic vampire worm gets to the heart of the matter -- literally. I suspect it won't be long before The Master takes off the hood...

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this 2007 TED talk with J.J. Abrams before but it’s worth repeating in here:

There are no right or wrong answers here, just storytelling choices. I prefer a suspenseful slow burn over the gotcha moments. The ‘dead’ plane on the tarmac and 8 foot coffin are excellent mystery boxes. Imagination is your best and cheapest special effect. The more you can prolong the mystery, the more invested they’ll become -- in theory anyway. There’s always the danger of the build up not living up to the payoff. I’m sure executive producer Carlton Cuse knows this all too well....

I haven't seen the ratings yet but the horror crowd should have been satisfied. Suspenseful moments, jump scares, and lots of disturbing imagery. There were some predictable tropes and cliches but they all seemed in good fun (splitting up, ignoring the crazy old guy, etc). Great job with the casting -- though I expected Setrakian to have a Jewish accent. Guillermo Del Toro's direction was masterful. Loved the cinematography, especially the scene where Ephraim and Nora are on the plane. Someone had a spot on tweet last night about the plane sequence being very reminiscent of the ill-fated Demeter in Dracula. My favorite scene was the grieving dad looking up to see his little girl standing in the doorway. The book did a great job of juggling multiple characters. It'll be interesting to see if the show follows the same course or makes a few tweaks. Looking forward to episode two.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Orphan Black

I've put it off several times, but my list of podcasts for writers is coming... sometime... in the near future. In the meantime, here's something from the Nerdist Writer's Panel: Orphan Black creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Dialogue: Learning from the Masters

THE DIALOGUE: Learning From the Masters is a groundbreaking interview series that goes behind the scenes of the fascinating craft of screenwriting. In these extensive in-depth discussions with savvy industry interviewers, 27 of today's most successful screenwriters share their work habits, methods and inspirations, secrets of the trade, business advice, and eye-opening stories from life in the trenches of the film industry. Each screenwriter discusses his or her filmography in great detail and breaks down the mechanics of one favorite scene from their produced work. These incisive discussions are essential viewing for anyone wanting to learn the screenwriting trade, film lovers of all types, and industry professionals in other fields. The writers' insights about the screenwriting life are rare and indispensable tools for how to make your screenplays better and crack the Hollywood code: the hard-earned practical and tactical wisdom of those already thriving in the industry. It's powerful knowledge - straight from the source.

I watched quite a bit of this excellent series on Netflix a few years back. And now, through the magic of the interwebs, it's now available on youtube for your viewing pleasure:


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