Saturday, October 30, 2010

Supernatural Anime (Full Trailer)



Looks good. I'd love to see a live-action, Japanese reimagination of the series.

As far as the "real" show goes, I had my doubts about the viability of this extra season, but so far it's been very entertaining.

Six Simple Questions

Some things to consider before you enter one of the bazillion screenwriting contests (and counting) out there.


1. What's their track record?

How long have they been around? Do they meet their deadlines? Provide timely updates? Check out places like moviebytes.com, read the contest report cards, get the skinny from writers on various message boards/blogs.

2. Is your script ready?

I don't know about you, but my first drafts are horrible. While writing to meet a deadline can be an excellent motivational tool, the absolute worst thing you can do is send a script out before it's ready. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to complete a draft *and* do a thorough polish.

3. What prizes do they offer?

Prizes can vary from year to year and websites aren't always up to date. $10,000 in prizes isn't the same thing as a $10,000 Grand Prize. If it's not clear, ask questions.

4. Do they offer feedback?

A peek into a reader's mind can be valuable, and you're getting something for your money. But honestly, you can join sites like www.zoetrope.com and www.triggerstreet.com, and get free feedback — well, after some peer reviews. There are even folks who give script notes at rates comparable to some entry fees, but if you still want to go down that road... Some contests include feedback with the basic entry fee, while others charge extra. The quality can vary, so ask around....

5. Does this contest carry a lot of weight in the industry?

Not all contests are created equal. If you're just looking to win some cash/prizes, go for whatever looks attractive. Stick to the prominent contests if you're trying to catch the eye of a producer, agent or manager.

6. Is your script a good fit?

A good script can get lost in the shuffle of a big contest. Smaller, niche oriented contests can give it a better opportunity to stand out. Something to consider if your story is faith-based, horror/sci-fi/fantasy, features a female or minority protagonist, etc. A win might not do much for a tentpole script, but a low budget, high concept story might garner some attention from the Direct to DVD and cable-movie types.


Whew! Glad I got that off my chest. Hope it was helpful!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Closer...

Last week brought an end to my adventures in screenplay contests for 2010. Looking back at the roller coaster ride, it pretty much met my expectations. The improved draft had limited success in the mainstream competitions, but once again, fared very well in genre oriented contests. It kinda feels like having the hottest girlfriend on your block... only to discover she's 800th hottest in a 3 block radius — right behind the blue-haired, cat-hoarding lady with the nasty boils. It's all relative, I guess. Third time's the charm?

Being a finalist, semi-finalist or quarter-finalist is cool and all, however, it doesn't carry the same amount of clout as winning. And surprisingly, even a win at the First Annual Bloody Pumpkin Screenplay Competition won't open a lot of doors. Sure, there are Cinderella stories about losing scripts being plucked out of obscurity, getting produced and winding up in theaters — Brooklyn's Finest comes to mind — but the odds aren't in our favor. I tried pimping my placement in a little contest last year... no dice. We'll see if my luck is any better this year. Already sent a couple of queries out... checking my inbox like a madman.

And to be fair, not every Austin, Nicholl and PAGE winner gets a sale and lives happily ever after. There is no easy road to success. Try anything and everything. Repeat. Rinse. I'll go for Nicholl again with a tweaked draft, and with a more conventional supernatural thriller — no creatures — that should be ready in time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Chaser



Almost skipped this a few weeks ago, but thanks to a slight case of insomnia, I found a new favorite. I usually prefer Sundance's Asia Extreme with a large helping of the supernatural — good ghost stories are so hard to find these days. The Chaser sounded like a run-of-the-mill thriller with a side of torture porn. A former cop-turned-pimp matches wits with the serial killer who's been preying on his girls.

There's some violent imagery, heart-pounding suspense and even a surprising dash of humor sprinkled along the way, but more than anything, Chaser succeeds because it manages to defy expectations. Here, the antagonist is nabbed fairly early, but the fate of one his victims is uncertain. The police are in a race against time to prove the suspect is indeed a notorious killer, while our pimp protagonist searches for a missing prostitute that he believes is still alive.

I think aspiring screewriters sometimes focus too much on finding that big idea. Anyone can luck out and trip over a high concept premise. However, the story still can't write itself. It comes down to execution. This could have easily turned into a bad Se7en clone with everyone being two steps behind demented-but-brilliant killer. Stories about serial killers, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, etc. are nothing new in Horror, but it takes a good storyteller to make them feel like they're brand spanking...

FUN FACT(S): The film was inspired by a real Korean serial killer. And don't worry, Subtitle Haters. A remake is already in the works from the folks who gave us The Departed. Oh Goody...(I'd check it out though)

And it looks like someone uploaded the original to youtube. Here's part (1/13):



Monday, October 11, 2010

Inception



I haven't said much about one of the biggest films of the year because I still need time to process it. Inception isn't one of those films that you can watch once or twice. It requires multiple viewings, rewinding, slow-mo, commentary tracks and whatever else is at my disposal. Simply an incredible piece of work. I'm going way out on a limb here, but Chris Nolan's name might be mentioned a few times when the Academy Award nominations are announced...

Hopefully, Inception's success will encourage Hollywood to take more chances on spec scripts out there. Obviously, there's an enormous difference between a spec from Joe Blow and Chris Nolan, but still... As far as I know, the release date for the DVD hasn't been announced yet, but here's something to chew on for the time being: the screenplay. Gotta join the forums in order to get it though. Happy reading!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

New Kids On The Block

It feels strange going into the new season without Lost and 24. Lotta big shoes to fill. A few quick thoughts on some of the new genre shows:

The Event

I think the alien stuff is a bit of misdirection. My theory is that detainees and their kind are advanced humans from the future with a hidden agenda. It's an intriguing show that needs better developed characters and fewer gimmicks. Thankfully, flashbacks have been at a minimum since the dizzying pilot. The cliffhangers are fairly effective. It's the other forty-eight minutes that could use some work. The show has an unusually high opinion of itself. Nowhere as slick or as engaging as the promos would lead you to believe. What is the Event? Who is behind the conspiracy? How long will viewers put up with being left the dark? I groan at the thought of Jason Ritter's quest to find his missing girlfriend lasting the entire season. Actually, I'm being a tad optimistic with that prediction. Ratings have yet to stabilize. FlashForward all over again? I complain and yet I watch. Maybe it would benefit from a time slot change.

Nikita

This isn't your big sister's Nikita. Maggie Q comes off more like a brooding super-heroine than badass rogue assassin, but it seems to be a hit, by CW standards anyway. The producers have made some clever adjustments to make the show a good fit for their teen-girl oriented network. Alex training at Division is pretty much a high school setting with higher stakes: fail and die.

No Ordinary Family

I already posted my thoughts on the pilot here. This show probably has the best chance of seeing a second season. Seems to have a better handle on how to entertain their audience than the others.

Undercovers

It's almost hard to believe this came from the mind of the man who gave us Alias, Fringe and Lost. A run-of-the-mill premise about married spies lured out of an early retirement, in the hopes of reviving that spark in their relationship.... Look, not every J.J. Abrams series requires some fantastical, mind-blowing element in order to be successful, but it certainly helps. Networks seem infatuated with spy shows these days. Not sure why. Alias never had big ratings. And even though Chuck has an intensely passionate fanbase, its ratings are just so-so. As I blog, ABC is prepping a new spy show for next summer. *shrugs*

Sexpionage and cutesy banter can only take you so far. Starting with the Blooms as a couple puts the writers in a difficult spot. Where's the sexual tension going to come from? Hart to Hart was well over twenty years ago. Kodjoe and Mbatha-Raw, while photogenic and likable, aren't Wagner and Powers. Look how much mileage Alias got out of Sydney and Vaughn. They should have ma-- I'll save that suggestion for my own scripts. Although the second episode showed some signs, the declining ratings don't suggest a lot of faith from viewers. A big disappointment.

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