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:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Contest Alert!

The Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest  

Well, the early entry fee ($46) isn't highway robbery, which always a plus. I could quibble with some of the categories because I'm not sure where films like Shaun of the Dead, Warm Bodies or Underworld would fit, but I suspect close enough is probably good enough. The opportunity to be associated with The Blood List in any way, shape, or form could never be a bad thing. Looks like my wallet is about to get a little lighter...

Click the link below for more details:




Dark. Twisted. Scary. Creepy. Suspenseful. Psychological mindf***. Bring it.

We want it.

Stage 32 is already shaking up the industry, so we’ll keep going with this explosive announcement: Stage 32, the Stage 32 Happy Writers, and Literary Manager Kailey Marsh, Founder of The Blood List, have partnered to look for the darkest, scary, creepy, suspenseful, mind-boggling, most twisted scripts from undiscovered writers from all over the world in the first ever Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest.

Every year on Halloween, The Blood List is released by Kailey Marsh, highlighting the top 13 screenwriters of unproduced dark genre scripts, which is shared with over 100 managers, agents and production companies in Hollywood. The Blood List is also featured on such sites as Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline Hollywood, and The Wrap instantly placing the writers of these scripts in the spotlight.

This year, we are searching for NEW blood. We are looking for the top 3 unrepresented horror/suspense/thriller writers that come from Stage 32. That means you. Kailey will be releasing our top 3 winners on The Blood List under a designated section: NEW BLOOD. If you make the top 3 of The Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest, you and your material will be exposed to the same list of industry executives.

Holy s*** is right.

But wait, there’s more. Sure, everyone wants cool prizes, and we have ‘em (check out the Prizes tab above), but we know the most important reason you enter a contest is for exposure and opportunity. You want to speak with the decision makers, the people who have the potential to move the needle on your career. Our Grand Prize Winner and 2 other finalists will be presented with that experience. 

What Kind of Scripts Can I Enter?

Stage 32 / The Blood List are looking for scripts in all areas of horror, thriller, and suspense. If your script fits in with any of these examples below, it’s a fit for this contest!
  • Psychological Suspense: Se7en, Silence of the Lambs, The Game, The Usual Suspects, American Psycho
  • Crime Thrillers: Fargo, Prisoners, The Town, The Counselor, No Country For Old Men, Blood Simple, L.A. Confidential
  • Contained Thrillers: Buried, Phone Booth, Open Water, Hard Candy, Panic Room
  • Destruction Thrillers: Godzilla, Jurassic Park, Independence Day
  • Revenge Thrillers: Taken, Oldboy, Kill Bill, Death Wish
  • Sci-Fi Thrillers: Alien, Inception, The Matrix, Blade Runner, Minority Report
  • Spy Thrillers: The Bourne Identity, Ronin, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, True Lies
  • Horror: Saw, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist
  • Ironic Horror: Scream, The House in the Woods
  • Found Footage Horror: Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, The Last Exorcism


Oh, about those judges, you ask? Yeah, we don’t mess around with that, either. We’ve brought in some of the top executives specializing in the suspense, thriller, and horror genres. Take a look at the Judges tab above to see which executives we are working with.



Early Bird Entry 

Monday, Jun 30 - 11:59 PM PDT

Submission fee: $46.00


Midpoint Entry

Wednesday, Jul 30 - 11:59 PM PDT

Submission fee: $56.00


Final Entry  

Sunday, Aug 31 - 11:59 PM PDT

Submission fee: $66.00

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hannibal Season 2 Finale

Who will survive for season 3?

So Hannibal Lecter basically dropped the mic and walked off stage last night. Bryan Fuller pulled no punches in a season finale that could easily have been a series finale. I came across two noteworthy links regarding Mr. Fuller's process:

First up, a terrific episode of  the Nerdist Writer's Panel before the start of the season.

The second is a finale postmortem wrap-up (and hints at season 3) with TV Guide.


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