Friday, August 26, 2005

Update: TV Pilot

Decisions, decisions. Originally, I was all geared up for Scriptapaloozatv but the Slamdance Teleplay contest caught my eye (or should I say, the $45,000 prize and blind script deal). Both of the contests have good histories. I've submitted to Slamdance in the past and recieved some decent feedback. Scriptapaloozatv does a lot to promote their winners. It's still a crapshoot though.

I have a character that disappears early on and her fate isn't revealed until ACT III, but it seemed get lost among the other things that were happening in the story. I had to fix a couple scenes to hammer home the fact that so and so is missing.

Pilots are hard because you're trying to define the world where the story takes place, the characters, relationships, etc. and wrapping it up in a compelling story.

Update: Fantasy spec outline

Overcame a big hurdle, figured out the love interest. Once I did that, a lot of other things started falling in place. As far as I'm concerned, my rough outline is done. I was going to hold off a couple weeks before starting the script but I'll probably knock off a couple of pages over the weekend.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

She's My Heroine

I decided to watch "Elektra" on ppv yesterday. I heard all the bad word of mouth and bad reviews but bad buzz is still buzz. Plus, I have a spec or two that involve female protagonists so maybe there'd be some lessons to learn.

I got the distinct impression that the marketing people came up with a movie poster then gave it to a bunch of writers and said, 'Here, make a movie about this!' Before the "Elektra" came out, I read a quote from either Director Rob Bowman or Jennifer Garner talking about how the budget was going to be signifcantly smaller than "Daredevil" and as a result, "Elektra" would be more character driven. Maybe there's a ton of character driven material in the upcoming director's cut but it sure as hell wasn't in the theatrical release. Now I'm not about to beat dead horse here, the movie didn't fare well, I'm just wondering out loud why female driven action movies have a hard time at the box office. Here are a couple of theories:

1. Nobody wants to see women kick butt. Small doses are fine but too much of it makes them intimidating and masculine. There have been plenty of butt-kicking women on television ("Buffy", "Xena", "Alias", "La Femme Nikita", etc.) but even their viewing audiences (however loyal) were limited. Sure, "Charlie's Angels" and "Tomb Raider" were successful but their sequels flopped. Society is just not comfortable with women who are entirely self-sufficient. We prefer to see them as damsels in distress or in more "traditional" situations (man trouble, dealing with children, makeovers, etc.)

2. They're not marketed properly. Hollywood spends too much time catering to adolescent boys instead of the female audience. I remember one of the producers of "Catwoman" responding to the criticism of Halle's skimpy costume and high heels (how it would have been a shame to cover up her beautiful body).

3. The stories aren't that good. Period.

4. Women aren't big box-office draws. They need genres with built-in audiences like Thrillers and Horror (damsels in distress). The premise of "werewolves vs. vampires" probably sold "Underworld" more than Kate Beckinsale. It'll be very interesting to see how "Aeon Flux", "Domino" and "Wonderwoman" perform at the box office.

Any other theories?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Spider-man vs. Spider-man

Just finished reading the "Spider-man" script, circa 1985 by Ted Newsom and John Brancato (you can find it on simplyscripts). It's a much different take on the story than the David Koepp version most of us have come to know and love. For one thing, the villain is Doc Ock and not the Green Goblin. Another is the complete absence of Mary Jane. Instead we get Liz Allen as the object of Peter's (and Flash Thompson's) affection. My comic book days are well behind me and I wasn't that big of a Spidey fan to begin with (I was too busy latching on to obscure heroes like "Justice" and "Cloak and Dagger") but I thought I knew his history fairly well. A little bit of Googling filled me in on Peter and Liz's relationship. I still wish I was a fly on the wall to hear the reasoning on why her and not the more well-known Mary Jane Watson.

The plot itself, an insane Doc Ock wants to build a machine that could destroy the world (the universe actually) and it's up to Spider-man to stop him. The screenplay works but it lacks the heart that was present in the Koepp version (and the James Cameron scriptment that's been floating around the net for a couple of years). Sure, the stakes are high, there's a pretty girl (really well written, she has flaws but is also resourceful and smart), a bad guy and the world to save but it's all kind of...meh. If I had to put my finger on it, I'd say that 1985 version was written for Spider-man comic book fans, while the current movies were written for the non-fan.

One of the first things that Peter Parker tells us in the Koepp version is that this is a story about a girl and it never loses sight of that. It also flies directly in the face what most people expect out of a superhero movie. Back to the Newsom and Brancato, they did an excellent job of capturing Spidey's quick wit from the comics. The script is a quick read (light on angst and soap opera love triangles). I doubt the technology was sufficient to do Spider-man justice on the silver screen. No matter how good the script, it would have come off cheesy. Oh, by the way, Spider-man saves the day.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Writing Update: Zombie spec

Big jump, huh? Well sorta. Before this year, my biggest problem was getting the idea from head to paper. I was too wrapped up in perfecting that first draft. Guess what? Your first draft is never going to be perfect, in fact it will probably suck...badly. But it's supposed to be bad. Writing is rewriting.

Some pro writers advocate what's called the vomit draft. Basically, you pour everything, every scene idea, dialogue exchange and plot twist into your screenplay then sort it out later. At first, it seemed like a waste of time because I felt like I was writing scenes just to fill up the page, but after a while I got into a pretty good groove. I started coming up with "trailer moments" then building around them. In the end, the script isn't as random and full of fat as you'd expect but like any early draft, it needs work. So far, the vomit draft method has worked for me and I'm satisfied with the results.

Anyway, back to the script. I haven't totally figured out the ending yet (that could be an entry for another day, people who write endings first). Managed to come up with some effective dark humor and a couple of scares (another future entry). No out of this world set pieces or special effects (one scene does push it though). The hardest thing is keeping my character count low. I like lots of characters but when you're trying to do a low-modest budget script, less is best.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Project Greenlight's "Feast"

There's a new review posted on I read an interview with Matt Damon stating that unless "Feast" makes a profit there won't be another Project Greenlight. It's supposed to be released in late January. Here's the link to the review: Feast Review

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Outline update: Fantasy spec

I should be further ahead on this but I just haven't come up with an opening that grabs me. Sword and sorcery stuff. It's an idea that I kicked around in my head for a while. Once I get to around eighty-five percent with one of my other scripts, I'm gonna put this bad boy on the front burner.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Script Update: TV pilot

The script itself is done. I just keep tweaking it. I have some character profiles, a synopsis and future eps to write up. Overall, I'm satisfied with the job I've done. It's a much more traditional horror show than the trendy is-it-scifi or isn't-scifi shows like "Lost" and the slew of pilots coming this fall. It's not like I'm expecting it to make a network lineup or anything. It's a nice writing sample. A good showing in a contest might get me a foot in the door...somewhere.

Script Update: Werewolf spec

A couple tweaks here and there but nothing major. I've always wanted to do a werewolf script but the trouble was coming up with an interesting enough story. Inspiration struck and I put together a premise that really works for me. It's tricky though. Sometimes you have an idea, love it a lot then not so much. There are a lot of good things in the script but overall, I don't think the parts are coming together like they should.

There's a twist late in story that gives me pause. It's one of those moments where everything comes together for the audience or they scream, "Oh, come on!" and demand their $8.50 back. Ultimately, you gotta go with your gut and write the damn thing.

I also need to flesh out my supporting characters a bit more.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Making them suffer

There's a really good entry on screenwriterbones about why your character has to suffer. Here's the direct link:

why must there be suffering

Angel: Season 5 on DVD

I readily admit to worshiping at the feet of Whedon but I gotta admit the last season of "Angel" was mostly a mixed bag. I thought the show hit the skids in season 4: Cordelia and Connor doing the nasty, the Cordelia pregnancy and subsequent coma. It never quite recovered from all that. I also don't think it was a coincidence that "Buffy" season 6 also suffered while Joss was busy with "Firefly".

There are some good episodes here and there ("Lineage", "Harm's Way", "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" and of course "Not Fade Away") but it's mostly...meh. Of course, a so-so episode of "Angel" is still light years ahead of what passes for entertainment on tv. Considering the fact that the WB cut the show's budget, losing Charisma Carpenter and adding James Marsters to the mix, it's amazing how they were able to reinvent the show as they did. The transformation was great, the end result....meh.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Writing update: Zombie spec

Actually got that progress bar to creep up a few ticks. Zombie is a bit misleading since there's only one in the story and she's the protagonist. Horror/Thriller would probably be more appropriate. Originally, I was trying to develop this for one of those B-movie production companies but I have trouble coming up with reasons for people to drop dead every 8-10 minutes. I'm still working on the first draft but I find myself liking it more than I had expected. Really fell into some good ideas a few days ago and now I'm trying to incorporate them into the story. Right now, I feel more confident about entering this screenplay in a genre contest than my werewolf spec, even though I'm further along in that one.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Underworld: Extended Cut vs. Theatrical Release

Not much here, except a prettier package and "extended" footage. By extended, they mean a couple of shots of people walking around doing nothing, some exposition heavy dialogue between Michael and Selene, a scene with the blonde vampire who kinda looks like Julia Stiles, throwing herself at Kraven (btw, what ever happened to good ole fashioned nudity in R-rated films? It's perfectly fine to decapitate someone on screen but heaven forbid you see a boobie) and a genuine kiss between Michael and Selene. My eyes glazed over the rest. The bottom line is that the extra footage was cut for good reason. The "Fang vs. Fiction" documentary aired on cable a couple times ("I'm a real vampire! Look at my fangs!"). The commentary from Scott Speedman, Kate Beckinsale and Len Wiseman is pleasant enough, but not a lot of insight for screenwriting geeks like myself.

I saw an interview with Wiseman and wifey Beckinsale talking about the sequel, "Underworld: Evolution". He promises more action and gore. A little hand to paw combat would be nice. Hopefully, they've done a better job with the werewolves this time around so they don't look like shaved hamsters. We'll see. If I'm not mistaken, it's supposed to be released in December. Nothing like a little Christmas cheer to put me in the mood for a horror movie. Good luck against the Narnia crowd.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Mother of the Matrix

I love a good conspiracy theory and this one has being floating around the net for a while now. Sophia Stewart is a sci-fi writer who claims that she is responsible for "The Matrix". The Wachowski brothers and Time Warner/AOL have conspired to keep the truth from the masses and the profits from her coffers. According to Ms. Stewart, "The Matrix" is based on her comic book script, "The Third Eye", which she mailed to the Wachowski brothers (or someone high up the Hollywood ladder) many years ago. I'm leaving out the wacky details so here's a link to an article about a recent court ruling regarding her lawsuit:,1,6817238.story

Anyway, I say this all to say, this is part of the reason why it's so hard to get anyone to read our material. Everyone thinks their ideas are unique. A couple months back, I read about some guy suing the Wayans brothers because he claimed to have written "White Chicks" (who would want to admit to that). Stuff like this happens all the time. Every idea has been done already, a thousand times over. Any teenager can plot your basic action flick. Most of us know the 36 dramatic situations without ever studying them. I think the biggest downfall of most newbie scripts is that they regurgitate the plots of existing movies. Ideas and concepts don't make a story unique. It all comes down to execution, how the story unfolds. Most newbie writers ignore all this, if a movie is similar to their screenplay, those bastards MUST have stolen it!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"The Inside" Out

Originally, this was supposed to be the new "21 Jumpstreet". When Tim Minear took over, it became the new "Silence of the Lambs". Kept the same lead actress, Rachel Nichols, which probably was a mistake. I mean, yeah, she's got the hot-model-turned-actress thing going for her but seemed in over her head in this dark and occasionally gruesome drama. The rest of the cast was okay, I thought Peter Coyote was the only stand out. It's one of those shows that might have been a hit ten or fifteen years ago. Audiences have seen this sort of thing for a while now so there aren't a ton of surprises. Fox axed it not too long ago. Depending on what kind of goodies are on the DVD, I might consider picking it up.

There's a good interview with Tim Minear in Here's the link:


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Oh, the horror!

For vampires, it's sunlight. Silver bullets for werewolves, unsold screenwriters? One word, "remake". Over the last couple of years, a thought process in Hollywood has become increasingly popular and it goes something like this: if a movie, tv show, comic book, etc. from the past was a big hit or even somewhat successful, it can be modernized and adapted for the big screen. Twentieth Century Fox is busy putting together a new version of the "Omen" for a June 6, 2006 release. Get it? 6-06-06? 666? Muhaha. They're in the process of looking for a spooky little boy to cast as Damien.
I'm not gonna say this is a terrible idea and the movie will bomb because it might work. "Blade" was an obscure comicbook character from the seventies, languishing in the back of the file cabinet at Marvel Comics before it was transformed into a movie trilogy that grossed hundreds of millions worldwide; but lately the gamble doesn't seem to be paying off. Movie audiences aren't filling the seats as much as they used to, and the grumbling about the quality of today's films seems to be getting louder.
In all fairness, for all the rehashed crap we see on screen, there's tons of unsolicited, original and stinkier crap sitting in the mail rooms of literary agencies and production companies. Most unsold screenwriters are like bad American Idol contestants. We have absolutely no idea how terrible our stuff is. If I got invited to the cool table and had some of my scripts produced, you'd probably think they were crap. But I would be at the cool table and wouldn't care.


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