Friday, December 30, 2011

Underworld: Endless War


Thought I posted this already...

I was always a big advocate of taking the Underworld universe into the realm of animation, so I was excited to see a clip of the animated short included as an extra on the upcoming DVD boxset. Apparently, it's a prequel to Underworld: Awakening and explains what happened to Michael -- you might have noticed that he isn't in the trailer. Can't say that I'm a huge fan of the artwork. Reminds me of Van Helsing: The London Assignment.



At one point, I seriously toyed with the idea of creating concept art for my werewolf script and putting it on youtube. Nothing fancy, just a simple slideshow set to music. Maybe I'll revisit the concept in 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

17th Precinct


17th Precinct is was a police procedural set in a world governed by magic and intuition. Science and reason? Ha! Created by Battlestar Galactica's (SYFY) Ron Moore, it didn't make the cut for NBC's 2011-2012 season, but you can check out the pilot below...

17th Precinct from ddt73 on Vimeo.

UPDATE: Well, that didn't last very long. I'm sure it's floating around the net somewhere... *cough*youtube*cough*

A little clunky, which is the case with most pilots, but certainly watchable -- perhaps a little too fantastical for casual viewers. I don't think they'd be willing to invest the time to learn the rules of an alternate and magical reality. The cast had good chemistry. Battlestar vets like Tricia Helfer, Jamie Bamber and James Callis probably helped with that. I enjoyed the way things came together at the end. Two opposing beliefs on a collision course: head vs. heart.

Overall, 17th Precinct seems better suited as a mini-series than an episodic drama. Still, it was nice to see someone try something off the beaten path.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Pre-New Year!


It's never too early to start thinking about New Year's resolutions. I have two simple screenwriting-related goals for 2012: read and write more. Back in the day, I used to read anything I could get my hands on. But after a while, I started to focus more on screenwriting articles rather than actual screenplays. I'd peruse a script here and there, but it was no longer a priority. Guess I thought I had passed that stage. Silly me.

Meaningless contest placements and read requests aside, the shimmering Golden Apple is not yet within the reach of my scrawny fingers. My writing still has a long ways to go. I learned a great deal from reading produced scripts. I reckon they have a few more lessons to teach.

Recently, I came across a script goldmine, the BBC Writersroom. A few feature scripts, but primarily teleplays. You can find teleplays for shows like Being Human, The Fades, Luther and Doctor Who.

Enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2011

It Was All A Dream

Remember the production company that requested my script a few months back? Well, I finally sent out the dreaded follow-up email. And what was their response?



Guess I'll take that as a pass... but don't cry for me, Argentina. I received another request two weeks ago from a low budget producer. We'll see how that pans out...

Overall, if I were to grade my 2011 Script Marketing Campaign, I'd give it a C. I don't have any regrets about entering only one screenwriting contest (Nicholl). The money was better served finding contacts on imdbpro. Okay, the majority of those contacts resulted in a cricket symphony, but a few were receptive to queries, so that counts as a positive.

A stronger logline probably could have gotten me a few more reads. However, I have to be a little honest here and admit the story doesn't get a lot of points for originality. I've always suspected this was its Achilles heel in the bigger screenwriting contests like Austin and Nicholl. I might have overestimated my ability to elevate a mundane story and/or underestimated the sheer number of werewolf scripts out there. A little cockiness on my part.

So what's next? Finish up the supernatural thriller -- this one's got originality coming out the wazoo. Polish it for Nicholl. Start querying again in mid-January. Write. Write some more. Repeat. Rinse.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Horror on the 2011 Black List

You can download the complete list here: http://blcklst.com/lists/2011_black_list.pdf

Nice to see a couple of scripts on The Blood List making an appearance:

Maggie
by John Scott

As a “walking dead” virus spreads across the country, a farm family helps their eldest daughter come to terms with her infection as she slowly becomes a flesh-eating zombie.

Bethlehem
by Larry Brenner

A group of people struggling to survive a zombie apocalypse make an alliance with a vampire, trading themselves as food in exchange for protection since zombies don’t eat vampire.

Subject Zero
by Dave Cohen

A Frankenstein-like tale of a scientist who develops a powerful new drug that brings his son back to life after he dies in a terrible car accident. Unfortunately, the desperate experiment of a loving father leads to the creation of a flesh-eating zombie epidemic with horrific consequences.

That sounds much better than the logline that was on the Blood List:

It's a love story on par with Romeo & Juliet. It's a father and son movie. It's a tragedy. It's a monster movie tipping it's hat to Frankenstein and most importantly it's an origin story explaining the birth of a viral scourge.


In The Event of a Moon Disaster
by Mike Jones

An alternate telling of the historic APOLLO 11 mission to land on the moon that examines what might have happened if the astronauts had crash landed there.


A few more caught my eye:

HIDDEN

by Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer
An elevated horror-thriller about a family hiding in a bomb shelter after escaping a mysterious outbreak.

Buried in a bomb shelter?


GRIM NIGHT
by Allen Bey, Brandon Bestenheider

A family has to defend themselves from the Grims, strange creatures who attack Earth and kill thousands one night every year.



This one (supposedly) generated a lot of buzz because of the homemade trailer that went along with the script. If it was good enough to make The Black List, I don't think the trailer was that big of a factor. Nice story though.

GASLIGHT
by Ian Fried

Secretly imprisoned in a London insane asylum, the infamous Jack the Ripper helps Scotland Yard investigators solve a series of grisly murders whose victims all share one thing in common: dual puncture wounds to the neck.

I like the sound of this one. Seriously. Silence of the Lambs meets Dracula. Not the most original concept on the list, but probably the easiest to visualize. I'll bet it's a fun read.

Lots of clever ideas here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ganja & Hess


I meant to post this before it aired last Friday on Turner Classic Movies -- totally fell asleep. At first glance, Ganja & Hess appears to be a run-of-the-mill blaxploitation horror flick, but it has much more in common with films like The Hunger and Thirst. Made for $350,000, it was initially conceived in an attempt to cash in on the success of Blacula. However, writer/director Bill Gunn had other ideas...

Night of the Living Dead's Duane Jones stars as Dr. Hess Green, an anthropologist studying an ancient African civilization known as the Myrthia. Hess' wackjob unstable assistant George (Bill Gunn) stabs him to death with a sacrificial dagger, but he soon awakens unscathed and now immortal. The only drawback being an insatiable thirst for blood -- I hate when that happens. When George's estranged wife Ganja (Marlene Clark) shows up, sparks fly, and she soon becomes Mrs. Bloodsucker.


This is usually the part where I embed the trailer, but I have yet to find one. The random clips on youtube aren't especially helpful. I've never seen a film with so many alternate titles: Blood Couple, Double Possession, Black Vampire, Black Evil, Blackout: The Moment of Terror, and Vampires of Harlem.

Ganja & Hess is an artsy film that uses vampirism as metaphor for addiction. No fangs, aversion to sunlight, changing into bats, coffins, running away from crosses, etc. -- which is probably one of the reasons it was never a commercial success. Gunn does some unusual stuff with the storytelling, like presenting a key piece of exposition as a Gospel song. Still, it's a fascinating and peculiar story about a really, really dysfunctional couple. If you're interested in something off the beaten path, look no further...

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Grimm vs. Once Upon a Time


I still plan to post some thoughts on the new crop of genre shows (hopefully while they're still on the air), but I thought it'd be fun to compare two series that draw heavily from the same source material. You don't need a magic mirror to see that fairy tale properties have become extremely popular. Red Riding Hood and Beastly were released earlier this year (more on them in a future post), we just got a look at not one, but two trailers for upcoming Snow White films, and a picture from the forthcoming Hansel and Gretel: Witchhunters was just released. There are probably a slew of other projects in development as well. It was only a matter of time before Fairy Tale Fever would show up on the small screen. ABC's Once Upon a Time comes from Lost writers, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, while Angel/Buffy vet David Greenwalt is one of the minds behind NBC's Grimm.



Nick Burkhardt (David Guintoli) is a Portand cop who discovers that he comes from a long line of monster hunters called Grimms. It's his job to stop the bad ones.



The residents of present-day Storybrooke, Maine are actually our favorite fairytale characters, but they have no memory of their former lives -- the result of a curse from the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla). Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), a bounty hunter/bail bondswoman who grew up outside of Storybrooke, is really the long lost daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Joshua Dallas). It's her destiny to rescue the townsfolk and lead the final battle against the Evil Mayor, who looks a lot like the Evil Queen. Now this is all according to Henry, a ten year old with an incredibly active imagination. Henry also happens to be the child that Emma put up for adoption ten years ago. Emma shows up in to Storybrooke to return runaway Henry to his adoptive mother Regina, who just happens to be the Evil Mayor. Hijinks ensue...

CONCEPTS:

Basically, we're talking about a soap vs. procedural. Both have their respective strengths and weaknesses. OUAT hit the ground running with well-defined characters and a clear goal. I like the flashbacks to the fairy tale land -- a touch of Lost? A show with magic, true love, and fairy tales has the potential for broad appeal. Averaging million viewers, it's one of the rare hits of the 2011 Fall season with an average of 11.6 million viewers. However, soaps need an especially steady hand. They can easily spiral out of control with wildly inconsistent characters and goofy plot twists (see Heroes and Desperate Housewives).

While it has a clever premise and generates a few tense moments per episode, Grimm seems to be coasting off the novelty factor and delivering very little in terms of character development. Sure, it's cool to try and guess what monster-of-the-week will be featured, but take away the gimmick and all you have is a very ordinary (at best) cop show that relies on coincidence rather than actual detective work. UPN's Special Unit 2 did it better in 2001.

Given all that, I'm surprised at its healthy Friday night ratings. Stomping on vet genre shows like Fringe (3.4 million) and Supernatural (1.7 million) with an average of 5.79 million viewers. I guess it just goes to show how much viewers love procedurals, except when Maria Bello is the lead (for the record, I happen to like Prime Suspect. I'm ticked it didn't catch on). With the recent full season order and a tryout at the 10pm, Thursday slot, NBC obviously thinks they have a show with potential. We'll see...

Advantage: Once Upon A Time


PROTAGONISTS: Emma vs. Nick

I thought the blind date in the pilot was a cute way to introduce Ms. Swan to viewers. Smart. Resourceful, but somewhat directionless and unlucky at love. She sticks around Storybrooke for Henry's sake. A little too spunky a times? Yeah. But she's a character with a personality and motivations I can understand. She's pretty effective as the audience surrogate.

Am I the only who gets Dylan Dog: Dead of Night flashbacks when watching Detective Burkhardt in action? Except Dylan was more fleshed out than this guy, which is kinda hard to believe. A cop chasing criminals who are actually monsters and only he can see their true form. That's all there is to him. Oh, he has a cute and equally bland girlfriend. I'll be shocked if she lasts the season -- probably turns out to be evil or gets offed of by the big bad.

Advantage: Once Upon a Time


ANTAGONISTS: Evil Queen vs. Captain Renard

No contest. Advantage goes to the hot, Evil Queen. Probably the most compelling character on either show. Your protagonist is useless without a great antagonist. Parrilla shows just the right amount of Regina/Queen's vulnerability so the character doesn't come off as cartoony. She's definitely got some control issues going on, especially with Henry. BTW, did I mention she was hot? Captain Renard is plotting something on Grimm... or he might be constipated. Hard to tell. You can only do so much with what's on the page. I guess you could make the argument that Renard is more like Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) as a puppet master, slowly moving towards his endgame.


KEY ALLIES: Monroe vs. Henry

Monroe is easily the best part of Grimm. He's hilarious in small doses as Nick's reluctant werewolf Blutbad sidekick, but too much of him might ruin things. Henry teeters dangerously between adorable kid and overbearing brat.

Advantage: Grimm


CONCLUSION:

I usually post a knee-jerk reaction after watching a pilot, but I took my time and formed an opinion after several episodes. Even though I enjoy both shows, my opinion of Grimm went down, while Once Upon a Time slowly won me over. It is good to see successful genre shows on television -- I keep getting an itch to write one of my own. It'll be interesting to see where they stand a year from now. Right now, Once Upon a Time has won this battle.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Trailers: Snow White vs. Mirror, Mirror





I'm not gonna name names, but the incredible badassness of one trailer got me super excited and then there was Mirror Mirror -- okay, so I named names. I wasn't expecting Tarsem Singh's lighthearted take. It could still turn out to be a good story though... or not.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (review)

You wouldn't believe the number of daily hits I get because of a post back in March commenting on the Dylan Dog: Dead of Night trailer. The film is based on a popular Italian comic -- learned they're called fumetti -- about a private investigator who deals with the supernatural. If you blinked, you probably missed its limited theatrical run, an underwhelming $1.1M total domestic gross and %6 rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Virtually an unknown property in the States, I'm guessing the majority those hits come from Europe.


At first glance, it's easy to mistake Dead of Night for a SyFy original movie because it looks hella cheap and cheesy. However, the budget was $20M and it features more than a few recognizable faces like Brandon Routh, Sam Huntington, Taye Diggs, and Peter Stormare. The story does feel like it was conceived with a much bigger budget in mind: Dylan (Routh) must navigate Louisiana's secret supernatural underworld by interacting with werewolves, vampires, and zombies in order to solve the murder of his client's father.

This is basically a poor man's Constantine (coincidentally, of which it shares an actor and a producer) with lots of failed attempts at humor -- to his credit, Huntington does an admirable job as Dylan's hilarious-sidekick-turned-reluctant-zombie and has nice arc. $20M is more than enough to produce a good film, but not the kind of fantasy-adventure the producers were trying to pull off. A link I tweeted a week or two ago called Confessions of a Low-Budget Horror Writer suddenly seems worth mentioning again. The special effects here just aren't up to par and the story was fairly weak. The big third act twist and resolution was just silly.


The splash pages from the comic have far more interesting ideas. They really put the theatrical posters to shame. It might have made more sense to adapt Dylan Dog into a TV series rather than a feature. Horror comedies have a notoriously spotty track record at the box office. For every Zombieland, you'll get ten Dylan Dogs.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Underworld Awakening 3D - Trailer



Still can't figure out why the girl was omitted from the previous trailer. She has an important role in the story. I guess revealing too much could scare off hardcore fans. Action looks better here. Werewolves and Vamps might be losing a bit of their pop culture sparkle luster, but this should make a decent amount of change at the box office.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Blood List for 2011


Here are the 13 most-liked and unproduced screenplays in the horror, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy, or dark comedy/drama genres (via The Blood List):

"Maggie" by John Scott III
15 Votes
Agents: Billy Hawkins & Dan Rabinow (CAA)
Logline: After a zombie infects a 16-year old girl, she has six weeks before she transforms.
Genre: Horror/Sci Fi
Status: Pierre Ange financing. Henry Hobson attached to direct. Casting.

"Bethlehem" by Larry Brenner
13 Votes
Agent: Martin Spencer (CAA)
Manager: Mitch Soloman (Magnet Management)
Logline: In a post-apocalyptic world overrun by flesh-eating zombies, a benevolent vampire teams up with a group of humans to survive.
Genre: Horror
Status: Joe Roth & Palak Patel producing. Julius Sevcik directing.

"Subject Zero" by Dave Cohen
13 Votes
Agent: Emile Gladstone (ICM), Kathleen Remington
Manager: Jeremy Platt (Generate)
Logline: It's a love story on par with Romeo & Juliet. It's a father and son movie. It's a tragedy. It's a monster movie tipping it's hat to Frankenstein and most importantly it's an origin story explaining the birth of a viral scourge.
Genre: Horror
Status: Available

"Mr. Allen" by John Hulme
11 Votes
Agent: Adam Levine (Verve)
Manager: John O' Morisano (Powder Room Graffiti)
Logline: When his childhood boogeyman returns, a father must fight toprotect not only his inner fears, but also his family.
Genre: Horror
Status: John Hulme is attached to direct.

"The Boy Next Door" by Barbara Curry
7 Votes
Manager: John Jacobs (Smart Entertainment)
Logline: A lonely woman in her 30s has a one-night stand with the 17-year-old boy next door but his obsession proves to be deadly. In the vein of "Fatal Attraction."
Genre: Thriller
Status: Available

"The Devil's Punchbowl" by Alex & Max Schenker
6 Votes
Agent: Greg Pedicin (Gersh)
Manager: Jeremy Platt (Generate)
Logline: Upon inheriting a ranch, a man becomes mired in an age-old blood feud with his new neighbors.
Genre: Thriller
Status: Available.

"In The Event Of A Moon Disaster" by Mike Jones
6 Votes
Agent: David Kopple (CAA)
Manager: Lindsay Willams (Gotham Group)
Logline: A re-telling of the first moon landing, but in this version disaster strikes the astronauts.
Genre: Thriller
Status: FilmNation producing.

"Martyrs" by Mark L. Smith
(Based on the French film of the same name that was written and directed by Pascal Laugier)
6 Votes
Agent: Stuart Manashil (CAA)
Logline: Two best friends who grew up in foster care take revenge on those that brutalized them.
Genre: Thriller
Status: Temple Hill & Morgan White producing. Daniel Stamm is attached to direct.

"Washington Square Park" by Scott Milam
6 Votes
Agent: Adam Levine (Verve)
Manager: Brad Kaplan (Evolution)
Logline: After a girl wakes up from a brutal attack, she begins to have supernatural visions, which leads her to unravel a disturbing truth about NYC's Washington Square Park. In the vein of "Poltergeist" meets "Salem's Lot." Based on true events.
Genre: Horror
Status: Daniel Alter & Caliber Media Co.'s Jack Heller producing and looking to partner.

"No Good Deed" by Jessica Chandler-Fay
5 Votes
Manager: Ken Freimann (Circle of Confusion)
Logline: After saving the life of a young woman left for dead in an alley, a good samaritan couple realize the dying girl was just bait and quickly find themselves in an escalating game of cat and mouse with the twisted family who set the trap. In the vein of "The Strangers."
Genre: Horror
Status: Available

"Cul-De-Sac" by Evan Hoyt Wasserstrom
4 Votes
Agent: Ryan Saul (APA)
Logline: When a group of teenagers carpool to a Friday night party together,looking for a good time, they end up at the wrong house which is occupied by squatters (a murderous husband and wife) who will do anything to get their hands on a young female to procreate for them.
Genre: Horror
Status: Available, Dan Scheinkman attached to produce and looking to partner.

"The Faces" by Eric Reese
4 Votes
Agent: Stuart Manashil & Matt Rosen (CAA)
Managers: Jeremy Bell, Nate Matteson & Peter McHugh (Gotham Group)
Logline: A newlywed couple finds themselves the target of an organizationthat uses terror as a means of entertainment.
Genre: Horror
Status: FilmNation producing. Paul Solet directing.

"Rattle Man" by Victor Salva
3 Votes
Agent: Abram Nalibotsky (Gersh)
Manager: Dave Brown (Artist International)
Logline: 3 brothers encounter the evil Rattle Man, a shadowy figure that terrorizes them and their small coastal town.
Genre: Horror
Status: Available

A few quick thoughts:

The two highest rated screenplays involve zombies. The living dead are seemingly everywhere these days, but the majority of zombie-centric stories aren't especially unique or compelling -- doesn't stop folks from churning 'em out though. Maggie's logline seems like a fresh take on what it means to become a zombie. Bethlehem sounds somewhat generic. It's going to depend on execution, execution, and execution. Did I mention execution?

Hard to judge something like Subject Zero because it's so darn vague...

Washington Square Park is described as being in the vein of Poltergeist meets Salem's Lot, but it's also based on true events. Huh? Perhaps Mr. Milam knows something we don't...

Interesting crop of loglines. I don't know how effective they'd be in a query letter. Some are a little too ambiguous for my taste. Hopefully, most of these projects will be produced. There's always next year for the rest of us...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grim Night



Cool story about a recent spec sale: Writers Brandon Bestenheider and Allen Bey made this low budget teaser trailer to generate some heat for their script, Grim Night. Nice job by those guys, but don't think it hasn't been tried before. Take a look at these script trailers:







Very creative stuff. Last year, Hollywood Knights was lucky enough to catch the eye of Nikki Finke and got a write-up on deadline.com. Not sure if it resulted in a sale or representation, but who wouldn't kill for that kind of exposure? Perhaps loglines will become passé and we'll be expected to include a two-minute visual pitch with our query letters.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chronicle



"Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. Soon, though, they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides." - IMDB summary

Chronicle, written by Max Landis, was on the 2010 Black List.

FUN FACT: Max is 26 and has already written 59 screenplays -- raise your hand if you feel like crap at this very instant. The kid's a machine.

Kind of looks like Misfits meets Cloverfield. While some might say the superhero/superpower genre is burnt out, there's always room for a fresh take. I've seen some of Landis' stuff on Fear Itself ("Something with Bite") and Masters of Horror ("Deer Woman"). Both were very well-written -- didn't love the ending of "Deer Woman" though...

BTW, he's also involved in a new Frankenstein film. Check out the interview below:





Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Raven Trailer



A serial killer using an author's work for inspiration is hardly a groundbreaking concept, but I'm intrigued by the Poe angle. A while back, there was an Edgar Allan Poe TV series that never came to fruition. John Cusack is a great choice for the lead. It looks pretty tame when you compare it to the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and FDR vs. Werewolves projects -- and no, I'm not joking.

I'm not one to chase trends, but scripts about historical figures involved in crazy adventures sure seem to get a decent amount of attention these days. At the very least, they could make for a decent writing sample.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Pirate Commentaries: Fright Night


I might have tweeted this a while back, but it definitely deserves a mention here. Icons of Fright has a handful of unofficial DVD commentaries (mp3 format) available for download. I'm a huge Fright Night fan and commentary junkie so you can imagine my delight when I saw two tracks with cast and crew (William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, writer/director Tom Holland, etc). This is a trend that I'd love to see catch on. DVD extras aren't incredibly popular with the general public, but they can be invaluable tools for aspiring filmmakers.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Fades



Stop me if you've heard this one before: a teen outcast must fulfill his destiny by fighting the forces of evil and preventing the apocalypse. The Fades is a new fantasy/horror series co-produced by BBC America and BBC Three (scheduled for a January 2012 premiere on BBC America). What the show lacks in originality, it attempts to make up for with strong execution and appealing characters. The big problem with many genre shows is that they require lots of set up. Viewers are usually forced to sit through long and clunky bits of exposition before they can get to the cool stuff. The more fantastical, the more exposition required. Not only do you have to do the basics like establishing characters and their relationships, but the rules of the show also need to be explained -- all in the context of a compelling story. Piece of cake, right?


Fades' pilot tries to give us the cool stuff early on (with very little backstory), trying to hook us out the gate. Interesting approach. Did it work? Nope. Felt rushed and confusing. At first I couldn't figure who the good guys were, then I wasn't sure what they were trying to accomplish -- the second episode is a much better effort... because things were explained! We might not like it, but exposition is a necessary evil. A show like Lost is one of the rare exceptions to the rule.

Overall, the characters aren't anything we haven't seen before: the geeky best friend who's a pop culture savant, mean older sister, concerned but clueless mom, etc. The last few seasons of Supernatural have covered the subject matter extensively, so it lacks that completely fresh feel, but I'm probably going to stick around for the six episode run...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Finally!


The monkey is off my back -- creepy little thing, isn't it? I was just about to label my query campaign a major disappointment when a read request magically appeared in my in-box yesterday. Hopefully, there's more where that came from. The last two months have been really frustrating. I had carefully researched my targets on imdbpro.com and expected much better results. Aside from a few polite passes based on my query letter, nada. Still, two months on imdbpro is a better bang for your buck than a lot of screenwriting contests out there -- cheaper too.

What makes this request somewhat interesting is the fact that the same production company totally ignored me when I tried querying them last year. What changed? Better presentation on my part I guess. Anyway, I'm not going to look a gift horse too closely in the mouth.

Also, I learned my lesson from last time: you only get one chance to make a good first impression. I'm going to give my script a once, twice and thrice-over before signing the release and mailing it back to them.

Meanwhile, I've got the first draft of a sci-fi thriller to finish...

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Awakening Trailer



I was really looking forward to the release of Dream House this Friday... until I learned that it wouldn't be screened for critics -- DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! DANGER! BAD MOVIE ALERT! I'll wait for the DVD.

The Awakening looks like a suitable replacement. I enjoyed Rebecca Hall's performance in The Town and this trailer certainly seems to have the goods. I think I like it better than Daniel Radcliffe's Woman In Black. It's funny, we see plenty of female psychics in the movies, but I'm having a hard time coming up with female debunkers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Scream Queen: Amber Heard


Originally, I had planned to compare The Ward and Suckerpunch, but aside from Dawn of the Dead, I've never been a big Zack Synder fan. While Suckerpunch is on my Netflix Qwikster queue, I'm in no real hurry. Instead, I opted for two genre films featuring the fetching Amber Heard. Hey, I gotta get those hits somehow. Maybe this might be the start of a new semi-regular feature...

Now here's a rarity, an actor who doesn't seem overly concerned with a filmography peppered with genre films. Horror is often treated like Hollywood's red-headed stepchild -- despite the fact that it consistently helps pay the bills when the "real" movies flop. There's always a risk of being pigeon-holed, but that can be the case with any genre. Tell me, will poor Kate Hudson or Jennifer Aniston ever climb their way out of the dark depths of Romantic Comedy Hell? Although horror has its faults, the good stuff often gives up and coming starlets the chance to be more than just the girlfriend. *gets off soapbox*

Back to Heard, she's been making some interesting choices over the last few years: Zombieland, Stepfather, etc. Some haven't paid off in a big way, but she appears to have a good team behind her -- I'm a little iffy on that Playboy Club series though...


Drive Angry is -- Wait. Before I start, I just want to say that is perhaps the dumbest title of the year, possibly of the last decade. It was produced by Angry Films so maybe that had something to do with it. A production company tie-in? I pray that never catches on.

Now don't let Nic Cage's toupee and the ridiculously goofy title scare you off. Drive Angry is a fun, trashy throwback. Far more entertaining than a misfire like Death Proof. It's something you would've stumbled upon in the wee hours of the night on 90s cable -- starring Jeff Fahey, Kristy Swanson and Lou Diamond Phillips. The kind of flick that you only plan to check out for a few minutes, but an hour and a half later, you're watching the closing credits with a big, dumb grin plastered across your face.

Cage plays a damned soul who breaks out of hell -- yes, H-E-double hockey sticks -- to avenge the death of his daughter and save his baby granddaughter from the clutches of a wackjob cult leader bent on making a human sacrifice. Heard tags along for the ride as his spunky, but strictly platonic sidekick, Piper. William Fichtner, The Accountant, has been sent by Old Scratch to bring him back. If you dig over the top violence and gratuitous nudity (minus Ms. Heard) served with tongue firmly planted in cheek, this one's for you.

I have one quibble about the film and it has nothing to do with the story or the acting: why the heck did it cost $50M to make!? Despite the fact that it was an epic bomb at the box office, pulling in only $10M domestically -- not opening weekend numbers, TOTAL DOMESTIC GROSS -- I believe there's an audience for this kind of film, but not at that budget.

BTW, check out the excellent online journal by co-screenwriter, Todd Farmer. Lots of insight into to the process.


The Ward isn't a bad movie, just a victim of unrealistic expectations. When this project was first announced, fans were thrilled at the thought of a John Carpenter comeback. Maybe he'd give us another Halloween or Escape from New York? The Thing? Big Trouble in Little China at least? Nope. Not that kind of film. It's a small, low-budget script driven by internal conflict more than anything else.

Female patients at a Psychiatric Hospital are being targeted by a vengeful spirit. As usual, no one in authority believes them. Newcomer Kristen (Heard) must unravel the truth and overcome her own personal demons before she becomes the next victim.

Look, John Carpenter has probably forgotten more than most of us will ever hope to learn about horror -- it's a clumsy expression but I think you get my point. Guys like him don't see movies/stories the way we do. He's not worried about preserving his legacy or trying to appease fans. At this point in his career, he's looking for stuff that challenges him. I'm not saying he's above criticism, just offering a different perspective.

I saw quite a bit of bitching and moaning on Twitter and the imdb. If this had been a J-Horror import, fanboys would be jizzing in their pants. Is it a perfect film? No. The big mystery isn't that difficult to figure out. Although the performances were fine, there could have been stronger character development. I really thought the film could have used some of Carpenter's magic as a composer. It's also one of the rare occasions where I would have favored cg effects over some of the practical stuff. The Ward isn't Carpenter's best film, but it's still worth watching.

Check out co-screenwriters, The Rasmussen Brothers on Twitter.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dog Soldiers: Red



After several false starts, it looks like Dog Soldiers 2 might finally become a reality. The producers have put up a teaser for an upcoming web series, Dog Soldiers: Red, that will tie in to the sequel of the cult favorite. Sounds like a cool enough idea. However, I'm surprised the whole thing took so long. I don't have the numbers, but I've always assumed the original made a nice piece of change on DVD.

Bold move or cheap attempt to appeal to the gore hounds with the werewolf killing the kid? Although the target audience won't mind or even notice, it's the sort of thing that makes some folks uncomfortable. Trick 'r Treat was stuck in limbo for quite some time because of hand-wringing over kids getting killed.

It didn't bother me, but that's not the route I would have taken. I prefer to focus more on suspense than the kill. Still, I'm looking forward to this...

Friday, September 09, 2011

New & Improved

Wanna know how my new and improved query campaign's been going? Well, so far it's been a lot like this...



Okay, it hasn't been that bad. I did get a few responses: not for me, no unsolicited, and try us again next year. I guess the silver lining here is that two out of the three contacts are open to queries. Over the next couple of weeks, I expect a few more responses to dribble in. Hopefully, a read request will be among them. That first request (temporarily) takes away all the anxiety and second-guessing.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

2011-12 Fall TV


Honestly, I'm more interested in mid-season genre shows like Alcatraz, Awake, and The River than anything the new fall line-up has to offer:

Once Upon A Time (Sundays, 8pm, ABC, 10/23)
Terra Nova (Mondays, 8pm, FOX, 9/26)
Unforgettable (Wednesdays, 10pm, CBS, 9/20)
Person of Interest (Thursdays, 9pm, CBS, 9/22)
Secret Circle (Thursdays, 9pm, CW, 9/15)
A Gifted Man (Fridays, 8pm, CBS, 9/23)
Grimm (Fridays, 9pm, NBC, 10/21)

Based on the talent involved, I should be all over Person of Interest, but I have to stifle a yawn whenever I see the promos. Looks like a humorless version of Burn Notice.

Flawed as they were, I kinda miss The Event, No Ordinary Family and even the goofiness of The Cape. Hey, at least they tried. Sure, Terra Nova *looks* expensive, but does that make it a good show? I'll give Once Upon A Time some props for being different -- unfortunately, maybe a little too different.

Sarah Michelle Gellar's return to TV with Ringer should pull some nice numbers for the CW, but if there's a breakout hit to be found among the new shows, I certainly can't see it.

Suddenly, I have a strong urge to yell at some kids and tell them to get off my lawn!

I am, however, very interested in the new FX series from Ryan Murphy,
American Horror Story (Wednesday, 10pm, 10/5).



Cable just seems to be where it's at these days...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Malkovich's Mail



You've probably seen this already, but in case you haven't, it's a glimpse of what happens to our query letters (and unsolicited screenplays) when they end up at a small production company -- Mr. Mudd, which was created by John Malkovich, Lianne Halfon & Russell Smith. Those poor, poor people. Constantly deluged with tons and tons of scripts. The filmmakers also trace back to some of the people behind these scripts.

Watching the doc, I got the impression that some of the writers just wanted to feel like they mattered more than anything. The guy with Pterodactyl Man was the most passionate by far -- for obvious reasons. And yet I could easily picture his script as an animated short for kids... now I gotta find out what happened to these people.

Another thing, it was shot way back in 2003, so I guess a lot of folks were still using snail mail, but I can only imagine what their in-boxes look like today. Picture some Creative Executive sitting at his or her computer with a thousand yard stare. Although it can be disheartening, we still have to plug on.

I'm not gonna spoil, but I can say that I really liked the ending. Malkovich is a pretty cool dude.

You can check out Parts 2-5 here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Caller (2011)



Two thoughts immediately spring to mind:

1) Haven't heard of this before and it comes out on Friday.
2) Wish I'd thought of it! Kinda like a horror version of Frequency.

But what's up with the limited release? Rachelle Lefevre (Twilight) and Stephen Moyer (True Blood) can't get you more than 10 theaters!?! Guess I'll be waiting for the DVD.



Confessions


(This post has absolutely nothing to do with that Usher song...)

It's been almost 270 days since I last queried. I ended that unfortunate streak last week. It felt really good to get back in the saddle again. I spent a significant amount of time writing and trying to come up with creative ways to make my query stand out. For the record, this wasn't me. Creative, not crazy. At the end of the day, it comes down to a compelling logline.

As I stated in previous posts, I only entered Nicholl this year. Despite some moderate success, contests didn't give my script the boost that I was hoping for -- got some nice t-shirts and magazine subscriptions though. Instead, I used the extra cash for a few months on imdbpro. I'm still querying production companies, but once my supernatural thriller is finished, I'll expand to managers and agents. Although I could query them now, I'd feel more comfortable with another script that's ready to go.

I haven't said much about my current spec because I've come to conclusion that I hate writing about something before it's completely finished...

'Looks like I'm done!!
Oops. Not yet.
Maybe next week.
Next month?
OMG! Just discovered a huge plot hole!
How could I have been so blind!?'

Enough of that. I might put up some progress bars or tweet about my weekly output, but that's about it. When I'm really done, I'll let you know.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Underworld Awakening



I never imagined Underworld would have spawned two sequels, a prequel and comic books -- wasn't there a video game too? And let's not forget the recent talk about an animated series. Think about some of the sure thing films from 2003:

Bulletproof Monk
Dark Blue
Duplex
Gilgli
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The Order
The Rundown
Timeline


Remember Gigli? Ha! Anyway, here comes this genre mash-up about vampires vs. werewolves with a $21M budget, the British chick from Pearl Harbor, and a music video director at the helm. Nine years later and Underworld: Awakening is almost upon us. Kinda impressive. Original ideas can still be profitable, Hollywood.

I still have a hard copy of the 2003 script that I got off eBay. Great example of how to write action.

The trailer is interesting because it suggests a story that differs from the early synopsis. But it wouldn't be the first time that a film had a misleading trailer.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Woman In Black



Creepy kids? Check!
Creepy mansion? Check!
Creepy ghost? Check!

Nothing we haven't seen before. Still, it's just a teaser. They're probably saving the good stuff for the official trailer.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Netflix & Me


Netflix's algorithm for suggestions continues to mystify me. I gave high ratings to Tales from the Script, Project Greenlight and Dreams on Spec. Heck, I even have a few Joseph Campbell DVDs in my queue. So why I do have to hear about The Dialogue series from Scriptwrecked!? Thanks for the heads up, BTW.

Meanwhile, I'm on a steady diet of mostly thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural horror and foreign (thriller/supernatural) films. But for some reason, Netflix thinks that a Scandinavian drama, After the Wedding, is right up my alley! WTF!?

Anyway, here's a youtube snippet from The Dialogue Series with David Goyer. Can't wait to check out the full interview.



Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Faces In The Crowd Trailer



This sounded like such an intriguing concept when I first heard about it, face blindness, but the final product seems a bit lacking. No complaints with Milla Jovovich and Julian McMahon as the headliners and yet.... I can't put my finger on it. High cheese factor? Clichéd dialogue? Maybe it's just a weak trailer. We'll have to wait and see.



Friday, August 05, 2011

Tales From The Script



Another excellent screenwriting documentary. This one gives us a glimpse into the life of a working Hollywood screenwriter. Pretty diverse group of writers interviewed. I was surprised by the number of genre folks included. If you think getting past the gatekeepers is the toughest part of the battle, well, you're in for a rude awakening...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

INSIDIOUS


Punch yourself in the face.

RIGHT NOW!

Don't ask any questions. Just do it!

That's for not writing Insidious. Another successful low-budget, well-executed concept that a lot of us probably never even considered -- or quickly dismissed. Instead of dreaming up crazy, big budget, high concept stories like werewolves on the moon (which is a real project in development btw), maybe we need to pull back once in a while. Think small. Execute big. There are a lot more people capable and willing to make a film for $1.5 million dollars than for $50-100 million, especially in this economy. Just something to ponder.

As far as the film goes, it delivers what the trailer promises: scares. I'm not a gambling man, but I'm willing to bet that the filmmakers might have seen Poltergeist once or twice. Instead of a special little girl, we have a special little boy. And what starts off as a run-of-the-mill haunted house story soon becomes something entirely different. When a simple fall puts the boy into a comatose state that baffles doctors, family secrets are soon revealed. Mom (Rose Byrne) and Dad (Patrick Wilson) will have to risk everything in order to save their son.

Director James Wan makes excellent use of shadows and sound here. Screenwriter Leigh Whannell does an absolutely terrific job with foreshadowing. The only misstep is when the story attempts to inject some comedic relief. Almost takes you right out of the film, but it's rescued by a strong ending.

The days of me getting spooked by horror movies are long gone, but later on, I woke up in the middle of the night and for just a split second... there was a moment of
*uncertainty*.

So don't go stepping over some obvious or "easy" ideas. Find a way to make them work (especially on the cheap).

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any injuries that might have been sustained while reading this post.



Intruders Official Trailer



I mentioned this back in April and now we finally have the official trailer. Reminds me a little bit of Insidious — I'll be posting some thoughts on that shortly.

Although I wasn't crazy about what Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo did with 28 Weeks Later, aka The Misadventures of Zombie Dad, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. This looks creepy and the mystery has me hooked!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Déjà vu all over again


The 2011 Nicholl Quarter-Finalists were announced this morning. Didn't make the cut, but I received the same P.S. as last year: two positive reads. My scores just aren't high enough to qualify for a third read. The premise might not be strong enough, or maybe the writing is lacking. It's all so subjective.

I was really hoping for at least a Top 10-15% finish. Would've been a meaningful tidbit to add in my query letters. C'est la vie.

Almost finished with my potential 2012 entry: a character-driven supernatural thriller. I feel really good about its chances in contests and querying.

Congrats to the Quarter-Finalists!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Let Me In


It took me a while, but I finally got around to the DVD. Matt Reeves directs a solid film with some haunting performances. Chloe Moretz plays Abby with slightly more sympathetic guise than in the original and Richard Jenkins rates high on the creep-o-meter as her servant. So how does it compare to Let The Right One In? Although it takes place in the United States, the setting is almost identical. The subplot about Owen being bullied is intact... It's really difficult to point out the minor differences. There's no cat attack scene...and um, uh.... Look, there's not a whole lot to be said here. I tried to keep an open mind, but this is one of the most unnecessary remakes ever -- soon to be replaced by The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Just watch the original.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dream House Trailer



I try to keep abreast of all the major upcoming supernatural/horror releases, but Dream House totally flew under my radar. I vaguely remember reading about it in the trades, but other than that, nada. The September release date doesn't inspire a ton of confidence. Looks intriguing though.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dreams on Spec

Twitter has made me a lazy blogger. Whenever I see a cool article or have a semi-interesting thought, my initial impulse is to tweet first and (maybe) blog later. I totally forgot to mention the excellent screenwriting documentary from 2007, Dreams on Spec. Ironically enough, it was an innocuous tweet that got me back on the right track. You can watch the entire film below:

Watch more free documentaries

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Howling Reborn



High school setting. Supernatural creatures. Angsty, horny teens. Yet another attempt to capitalize off the Twilight phenomenon. Fans of the original will not be amused. It also bears more than a passing resemblance to MTV's Teen Wolf series. But unlike Teen Wolf, this seems unfocused. Wants to be a paranormal romance for the tween girls, but also an action horror flick for the dudes. Might not please anyone with that strategy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cronos


My vampirism theme continues with yet another questionable and misleading poster...

Mimic was the first film that introduced me to Guillermo Del Toro. While I didn't care for the Super Cockroaches Gone Wild story, the creature design really caught my eye. After Blade II and Hellboy, I became a huge fan of his work. Until recently, Cronos was the only Del Toro feature that I hadn't seen, but I finally got my hands on the Criterion Collection DVD. While Del Toro's often praised for dreaming up beautifully bizarre creatures and gorgeous sets, his talent as a storyteller is incredibly underrated.

An antique dealer winds up with an ancient device that can grant immortality — with the only drawback being a nasty craving for blood — but a dying tycoon will do anything to get his hands on it.

It's difficult to neatly place Cronos in a specific genre box. I guess the closest would be Dark Family Fantasy. It's kind of fitting that this post comes right after my thoughts about We Are The Night. There are several instances where the film could have gone down a schlocky b-movie path, but Del Toro's just too smart for that. This is an intimate and relatable story with a few fantastical trappings.

The DVD itself is excellent. Lots of extras: commentaries, interviews and a tour of Del Toro's Bleak House -- a shrine to all things horror, sci-fi and fantasy. A must for fans. Check out the trailer below:



Thursday, July 07, 2011

Wir sind die Nacht (We Are The Night)


The posters are curious. They all showcase three female vampires when there are actually four in the film. I wonder why that decision was made. More aesthetically appealing? The fourth actress must be ticked!

Back in the day, there was always talk about a Lost Boys sequel with female vampires, The Lost Girls. I even remember Britney Spears being rumored for the lead — waayyy back in the day. The project languished in development hell and never came to fruition. Instead, we got those Direct-2-DVD sequels starring the two Coreys. We Are The Night is probably the closest we'll ever get to a Lost Girls movie.

For centuries, a Vampiress has been searching for her soulmate and comes to believe that a homely delinquent is the one. It's kind of like Lost Boys mixed with a dash of Cinderella and pinch of Sex In the City (plus a dab of the L Word). Although the budget wasn't particularly high, the film certainly makes the most of it. Many of the special effects are subtle, but effective — there's a really cool makeover/transformation scene with the protagonist that you can see in the trailer below. Action sequences are above average and well done. To put it simply, this is a good-looking film. But when it comes to story...

There's a reason why newbie screenwriters are often advised not to write about ghosts, werewolves, vampires, aliens, etc. Everyone does them and it's very difficult to make yours stand out. The story here is predictable — especially the second half. Attempts to flesh out the supporting characters fall flat, the love triangle is forced, and there's a lot of telegraphing going on. Not every film needs Inception-like complexity, but you never want the audience/reader to feel bored. Even Lost Boys had a twist or two. Overall, a nice B-movie, but a stronger third act would have made a world of difference.

Here's a link to a great interview with writer/director Dennis Gansel.



Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Blade Anime

I've got a backlog of vamp-related material, so I'm going with Vampire Theme Week:



Looks like they borrowed the Kirk "Sticky Fingaz" Jones look from the defunct Spike live-action series. Surprised this didn't happen sooner because it seems like a no-brainer. There's definitely an audience out there for more adult-oriented animation. Cost is obviously a factor, but Spawn had a pretty good run on HBO and the Afro Samurai movies seem to do well on Spike. Heck, remember my post about the Ultraviolet anime from a few years back? Perhaps it's a question of demand. Despite the success of the films, Blade has never been that successful as a solo comic.

On the surface, Blade appears to be an excellent character for anime. However, he's not much of a talker (not especially deep either). You'll need to surround him with a strong supporting cast. On top of that, your protagonist is only as compelling as his antagonist. This seems decent enough. It might generate enough interest for Marvel to consider that often rumored Blade reboot.

Monday, June 27, 2011

On Second Thought...


I decided that I wouldn't start querying until after the Nicholl quarter-finalists are announced — which is only about a month away. Mentioning my success in genre contests didn't appear to increase read requests. A well-crafted query letter, minus the awards, probably would have fared the same. In fact, I did get a few requests just off my logline.

However, a solid showing in one of the more well-respected contests carries more weight than say placing in Evil Eddie's Screenwriting Extravaganza. As much as I'd love to make the Nicholl quarter-finals, a top 10-15% finish is perhaps respectable enough to mention in a query. It certainly can't hurt.

Now I haven't put all my hopes and dreams on contests this year. I've been playing around with youtube. More and more filmmakers are using it as a calling card. There's a strong possibility that I'll try that route. Nothing too elaborate, but strong enough to get my concept across. Who knows, maybe I'll get lucky...

Still in rewrite mode with the current supernatural thriller. I lopped off a big reveal at the end of Act II and planted it earlier in the story. Hard to say when I'll be finished, but I'm anxious to get it out there. The concept is less niche than my last effort. In terms of querying, I'll have a lot more options.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Teen Screams


Meet MTV's Teen Wolf and ABC Family's The Nine Lives of Chloe King. Nice to see the cable channels trying out some genre fare. One is a re-imagining — I hate that word — of the popular Michael J. Fox film from the 80s; the other is based on a series of YA books. The jury's still out on both shows, ratings have been okay, but they already seem like smarter plays than last summer's Gates (ABC). The adults have been relegated to the background, while the teens are front and center.

Nothing especially groundbreaking in terms of story: being a teen with super powers can be cool and suck at the same time. I'll catch a few more episodes before passing judgment though. In the meantime, here's a pretty good interview with Teen Wolf Executive Producer Jeff Davis.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Vanishing on 7th Street

I've come to the conclusion that I enjoy the concept of a contained thriller far more than the finished product. I might find the occasional gem like Splinter or [REC], but that's after sifting through a tons and tons of forgettable films. I’m always getting snookered by some cool-sounding premise, seemingly unable to learn my lesson.

Meet my latest regret, Vanishing on 7th Street. A group of strangers struggle for survival after an inexplicable darkness begins to prey on the living. This sounds cool!!! Sure, there were some obvious red flags, namely Thandie Newton and Hayden Christensen. I’m not a huge fan of their work, but the concept beckoned me like a ship sailing towards the beautiful maiden singing on jagged rocks.

The first twenty minutes are extremely effective at building tension. It paints a vivid picture of a desolate city littered with abandoned cars and empty clothing — the darkness only has a taste for human flesh. It’s somewhat reminiscent of 28 Days Later and (probably a little Left Behind). There’s a fantastic scene where a bewildered Rosemary (Newton) wanders into an Operating Room. But then... the story just kind of settles into familiar and uninspired territory.

Nothing of interest happens after that. Now I don’t mean that characters sit around and stare at the camera for the rest of the film, because they don’t. The usual stuff: someone’s hurt, they have to find X, etc. But does the film make an attempt to address some nagging questions like: WHY IS THIS HAPPENING!? WHAT DOES IT MEAN!? Aside from a few references to the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island and the mystery of CROATOAN, nope. And that can be fine, as long as we have interesting characters. Not the case here. Barely fleshed out. Weak arcs. Which is odd, because based on the audio commentary with Director Brad Anderson, he wanted to focus on the characters and not the mystery. Something about how each chooses to deal with death... I guess. The performances are fine and the effects solid. Just wasn’t for me. Your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Trailer)



I might be in the minority on this, but the trailer is just... okay — cool music though. It's going to be incredibly difficult to meet the standards set by the Swedish film and Noomi Rapace's fantastic performance. *sigh* I don't why this film was remade. Okay, I know why, but still... Daniel Craig is an excellent choice for Blomkvist, but I'm not sold on Rooney Mara as Lisbeth. We barely see her in the trailer. Hmmm. Do yourself a favor, watch the original. You'll thank me later.



Speaking of the Swedish films, I was somewhat disappointed with The Girl Who Played With Fire. Felt like one of the most unnecessary sequels ever (which sounds like a good topic for a future post). Ridiculous coincidences, a nonsensical plot and some forced action sequences — borderline cartoony at times. Sometimes the more we learn about a character with a mysterious background, the less interesting they become. I'm still a fan of the protagonist, so I'll check out The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest at some point in the near future.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Upcoming Shows...



AWAKE (NBC, ???) - This looks amazing! But I have no faith in NBC. They'll find some way to screw it up.



GRIMM (NBC, Fridays @ 9pm) - Interesting enough. Reminds me of that proposed Van Helsing TV series that never got off the ground. But why pit it against Fringe and Supernatural!? Oh, it's on NBC. Never mind...



ONCE UPON A TIME (ABC, ???) - Don't know about this one. Feels more like a cable movie than a series.



PERSON OF INTEREST (CBS, Thursdays @ 9pm) - CBS is taking a huge gamble here. It could get crushed by Grey's Anatomy. Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams sounds like a dynamic duo on paper. I really want to like this, but... it feels a little cold. The number stuff is also vaguely reminiscent of an element in another Abrams show...



SECRET CIRCLE (THE CW, Thursdays @ 9pm) - I guess witches are the new vampires. I'm not the intended target audience, but even I can see that it will pair up nicely with The Vampire Diaries.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Contest Alert!

Haven't made up my mind yet. There's plenty of time before the early deadline...



THE TRACKINGB.COM SCREENPLAY CONTEST:

**NEW THIS YEAR! THE FIRST 1000 WRITERS TO EACH ENTER TWO SCRIPTS WILL RECEIVE A FREE 1-YEAR SUBSCRIPTION TO TRACKINGB.COM!! ($79 VALUE)**

We don’t offer any of the usual screenplay contest smoke and mirrors… No coverage from someone being paid $10 per script (please ask Mom). No cash (please ask Grandma) or writing clinics from gurus who have never sold a screenplay (Dad?). What our winners do receive is: INDUSTRY ACCESS AND INDUSTRY READS.

THE PRIZE:

Three finalists will be promoted on trackingb.com to our community of entertainment industry insiders AND will also be read by each member of our esteemed judging panel who will pick an overall winner. Five honorable mentions will also be selected to receive exposure on trackingb.com.

HOW TO ENTER:

Early Entry deadline is: July 31st, 2011. ($65)
Late Entry deadline is: September 4th,2011.
And the Really Late Deadline is: October 30th, 2011.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Alcatraz Trailer (FOX)



The premise didn't grab me, but the trailer has me hooked! I really wish it premiered in the fall instead of midseason.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Been Around The World

In search of inspiration for my thriller, I've been watching a lot of foreign films and TV lately. They're not better than what we have in the States, but sometimes the perspective is different enough to get the creative juices flowing. Several caught my eye:


Idris Elba plays a cop on the edge who'll stop at nothing to get his man (or woman), even if it means breaking the rules. No inside the corpse camera shots, slick music video montages, or cheesy one-liners here. It's just a good old-fashioned cop show with an emphasis on detective work. Good acting and writing all around. Ruth Wilson steals every single scene.

Luther also has a messy enough personal life to keep you interested, especially when both worlds start to collide. While the character isn't as iconic as his creator intended, he certainly has his moments. I wasn't crazy about how the first season wrapped, spins too much out of control, but I'm looking forward to series two in the fall.


The things I do to improve my craft... Monica Bellucci... Sophie Marceau. Together... on screen... exchanging seductive glances. That poster is just oozing — get your dirty mind out the gutter! It's not *that* kind of film. Don't Look Back is actually an above average psychological thriller with some nifty special effects.

Marceau plays a woman who starts to have trouble recognizing her home, family and even her own reflection. In her eyes, she's slowly transforming into an even hotter woman, Bellucci. The exposition heavy payoff is interesting and not entirely preposterous.

The director has a lot of fun playing around with our perception. At one point, the protagonist's face looks like a hybrid of Bellucci and Marceau — which is not as hot as it sounds.


I can best describe it as What Dreams May Come meets House of Flying Daggers. Star-crossed lovers reunite in the afterworld and must prevent vengeful spirits from re-entering the world of the living. Dazzlingly visuals. Good story. Lots of fun. And as luck would have it, someone was kind enough to upload it to Youtube. You can check out Part One here:



Friday, May 13, 2011

Fright Night (2011) Trailer



Disturbia much? I'm a little disappointed. Aside from the cast, nothing really stands out. Lacks the atmosphere of the original. Today's teens will probably eat it up though.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

April Foolishness


Looking back, it probably wasn't a wise idea to simultaneously work on two scripts for two contests with looming deadlines because I didn't get very far with either. My supernatural thriller is far from finished, the sitcom script sank, and blog posts were scarce. I'm tempted to shoot for the Austin deadline, but I doubt that I'll be satisfied with Draft X by then. Frankly, I'm a little down on screenwriting contests. It's Nicholl Fellowship or bust with my early entry and that's it.

It's time to start querying again. My unfinished supernatural thriller spec gives me too much of an excuse to procrastinate. I would love to have 3-4 red hot specs at the ready for prospective agents and managers, but I don't. And the reality is that it just takes one...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Deadgirl


I briefly mentioned this film a few years back. Finally got a chance to see it...

Two high school buddies/losers stumble across a restrained female zombie and -- wait. Let's try something different. Do they....

a) use her as a sex slave.
b) run like cowards, forever scarred by the encounter.
c) free her and unwittingly unleash her zombie minions.
d) clean her up and take her to the prom.
e) none of the above

The correct answer is "a." Seriously. A premise like that would never have occurred to me in a million years, but it obviously caught the eye of a producer. I watched a featurette with the screenwriter and even he didn't expect to find any takers when he wrote it. We choose our stories for all sorts of reasons. Commercial appeal be damned! But from what I understand, Deadgirl has somewhat of a cult following and there are rumors of a sequel. Go figure...

Although it strives to make a statement about the objectification of women, I'm not sure if Deadgirl ever rises above gratuitous zombie torture/necrophilia porn flick. The lesson to be learned here is that it pays to think outside the box. Don't be afraid to go to that deep dark place within and start writing — well, maybe not *that* dark.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Know When To Fold Em


I've slowly come to a realization: I suck at writing sitcoms! The majority of my ideas sounded like something ripped straight from the program listings of an 80s-90s copy of TV Guide. I really don't think the world needs another "Small Wonder" or "Harry and the Hendersons." Most sitcoms aren't high concept. They're usually about families, couples, single people, etc. dealing with everyday situations in comedic fashion.

Trying to come up with a compelling low-concept idea was driving me nuts. Whenever I attempted to add a genre element into the mix, it came off as pure cheese. I just couldn't find the right balance. For whatever reason, I seem to be better at mixing genre stuff with dramas. Time to cut my losses. I'm done with sitcoms, but not television. At some point this year, I'll probably take a stab at a sci-fi/fantasy/supernatural drama script.

My wacky misadventures in sitcom writing weren't a total loss. One of my characters gets to live on in my still unfinished supernatural thriller spec. Still trying to beat that May 2 deadline for Nicholl...

Monday, April 04, 2011

MIA

Yeah, it's been a while since my last blog entry. I've been up to my eyeballs with unfinished projects. Although I got carried away with some tweaking/rewriting, I was still able to submit one of my screenplays before Nicholl's early deadline. It finally dawned on me that minor revisions aren't likely to significantly alter my chances in the contest. Bottom line: the story either works or doesn't.

Meanwhile, I'm still hammering away at the Fox sitcom contest. The script is a little bit — okay, a lot — of eleventh hour inspiration. Frankly, I don't like my odds of finishing before the submission period closes, but concept is a keeper. At the same time, I'm trying to prep another script before Nicholl's regular deadline. I see many sleepless nights ahead of me...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Noooo!

So I'm reading about SyFy's upfront presentation and I come across this:

In the Dark -- In the Dark follows a misfit group of third tier ghost hunters whose misguided efforts tend to highlight their incompetence rather than any paranormal activity.

There goes one of the sitcom ideas that I've been kicking around for the last few years. I had gotten pretty deep with an outline/treatment, but was still waffling with other show ideas. A workplace comedy with a fantastical element seemed interesting and different enough to stand out. Apparently, SyFy thought so as well.

This happens to me more often with ideas for television than features. I really can't complain too much, because the story wasn't coming together the way I would have liked — probably would've gone back to it at the eleventh hour though. On to sitcom idea B...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mark of an Angel (2008)



aka Angel of Mine aka L'empreinte de l'ange

Found some time to write a couple words about this deceptively effective thriller.

An unstable woman becomes obsessed with a little girl and comes to believe that she is, in fact, her long dead child.

Creepy, I know. Crazy stalker flicks are usually a dime a dozen. It’s almost impossible to get the full attention of the audience these days, because they’re so familiar with the (often clichéd) beats — this was my complaint a few weeks back about Alone With Her. Mark of an Angel manages to elevate the genre with a smart script, excellent direction and some incredibly nuanced performances.

I’m not going to spoil it, but this is one of those rare thrillers where you actually feel sympathy for the antagonist. A lot of the time, there’s too much emphasis on showing the audience, 'Look how crazy he/she is!!!' Clearly, the woman appears to be slowly unraveling, but it isn‘t handled in over-the-top fashion. Although a remake is probably inevitable, Act 3 would receive an extreme Hollywood makeover. If you’re looking for a more subtle take on this sub-genre, definitely check it out.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Strategery!

The Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting is now accepting submissions! I plan on entering two scripts: my tweaked entry from last year and a "new" script that I've been kicking around for several months. It's a supernatural thriller that still needs a quite a bit of work, but the May 2nd regular deadline should give me enough time to get things straight. And if that wasn't enough on my plate, I'm still working on the sitcom script for the FOX contest.

I was a lot more active querying and entering screenwriting contests last year, but all my sound and fury didn't amount to very much. As a result, I've decided to be less hare and more tortoise in 2011. Fewer contests, better targeted queries and stronger concepts.

While getting read requests from production companies can be a huge boost to the ego, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're on the right track. Send out enough queries and *someone* will eventually ask to read the script. I'm far more interested in catching the eye of a reputable agent or manager these days.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Dylan Dog Dead of Night



UPDATE: You can read my review here.

I think I posted a leaked international trailer last year. This looks much improved. Still has that 80s vibe going on though — like something you might have seen right next to Fright Night, The Lost Boys and Monster Squad at the corner video store. We've come a long way since then. Aside from a few notable exceptions like Shaun of the Dead, horror mixed with comedy is usually box office poison. The comic has a huge following in Italy, but I'm not sure Dylan Dog will pique the interest of American audiences.

The Fright Night remake comes out later this year and Monster Squad is currently in development. It'll be interesting to see if producers and writers were successful in taking 80s camp and updating it for 21st century audiences.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

#amwriting


It's been kinda quiet around here... busy working on my sitcom script for the pilot contest — aka banging my head against a wall. My approach is a little different from last time. Less set up and more jumping right into the story.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Alone with Her


Image is everything. Here's a film that takes a familiar premise and presents it in a clever manner: we see the story entirely from the POV of several spy cams — most are placed inside the home of the victim (Ana Claudia Talancon) by her stalker (Colin Hanks, who gives an absolutely chilling performance). It's a nifty presentation that makes the story seem fresher, but also doubles as an incredibly creative way to handle the obviously limited budget.

Initially, Stalker Doug seems content with just watching the lovely Amy play with her little doggie, undress and take showers. But voyeurism can only take your so far, so he attempts to insert himself into her life — "hilarity" ensues.



Exceptional presentation, some strong performances... but a terribly predictable plot. The story beats are almost identical to every crazy stalker flick you've ever seen. And that's unfortunate, because writer/director Eric Nicholas, really might have had something here. I remember a recent spec sale about cops having to solve multiple murders and the only pieces of evidence were several video cameras found at the crime scene. Maybe that script got it right...

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