Saturday, June 30, 2012

#goodreads - Take Shelter

If I made a list, Take Shelter would be among my favorites of 2011. This overlooked gem is a hard one to classify. Not quite horror/thriller, but calling it purely a drama would be a mistake. Maybe understated thriller fits best?

A working-class man (Michael Shannon) begins to have disturbing dreams about an impending disaster.

Reminds me of M. Night Shyamalan's early work like The Sixth Sense and Signs. Not in terms of big twist endings, but rather a quietly rising tension. Shannon gives a terrific performance, as does Jessica Chastain. Sony Pictures Classics has the screenplay online. Read it here.

I also came across this interview with writer/director Jeff Nichols. It starts off on the wrong foot, but gets good after that.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

V/H/S Trailer

I can't say I'm a huge fan of found footage films. The mere mention of the words "Blair Witch Project" is enough to get my blood boiling. And while the first Paranormal Activity had a certain spooky effectiveness, I haven't gone out of my way to watch the sequels. However, this trailer for V/H/S caught my eye. Looks like a nice mix of practical effects and CG. I'm sure the producers are downright giddy when they see headlines like this:

The horror movie so terrifying it made audiences SICK: Ambulances called to screening at Sundance festival

Sounds like it was taken directly from The William Castle Handbook of Movie Promotion...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hemlock Grove

I came across a good interview on The Business with Eli Roth and author Brian McGreevy on adapting McGreevy's novel Hemlock Grove into an original series for Netflix.

A young girl is brutally murdered and found near the former Godfrey steel mill. As rumors mount, two of the suspects in her killing--Peter Rumancek, a 17-year-old Gypsy trailer trash kid rumored to be a werewolf, and Roman, the heir to the Godfrey estate--decide to find the killer themselves.

I know what you're thinking: Another cheesy paranormal romance with teenagers and werewolves? Curse you, Stephenie Meyer!!! Well, unless Roth has gone soft, I doubt that's what we'll be seeing. The novel has an edge and supposedly reinvents the werewolf myth. Not quite sure what that means, but I am definitely curious. I'm even more curious about Netflix developing original content.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Storytelling Rules (According to Pixar)

I retweeted this from io9 last week, but it's worth mentioning here as well.

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?>

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Although some of these rules might sound like common sense, it never hurts to restate the obvious. I especially like Rule#19, regarding coincidences.


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