Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Penny Dreadful

Some of literature’s most terrifying characters, including Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and iconic figures from the novel Dracula ­are lurking in the darkest corners of Victorian London.

I remember reading about this new Showtime series a while back, but I wasn't aware that would be premiering in the Spring of 2014...

No Dorian Gray or Dracula in sight but I'm intrigued.

While I'm still not entirely clear on how all the parts will come together, it's probably safe to say Penny Dreadful won't be confused with something like ABC's Once Upon a Time.

BTW, there's a production blog for it here.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Strain Teaser

I remember being totally befuddled when I saw this teaser in the middle of last Sunday's Walking Dead. I thought it was some kind of weird anti-smoking ad. Instead, it's for the adaptation of The Strain trilogy (from Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan) into a series for FX. I haven't read the books yet, but it's my understanding that it has something to do with the world being threatened by a vampiric plague. Given the huge success of The Walking Dead for AMC, it was only a matter of time before some other network would try their hand at a post-apocalyptic drama. Now I might be going out on a limb here, but I don't think these vampires will be all sparkly...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Screenwriting Infographic

A reader by the name of profound_whatever posted this really cool infographic on reddit a few days ago. Basically, it's a "snazzy" breakdown of the 500 spec scripts he/she has read for various production companies. While I wouldn’t read too much into some of the stats, the breakdown of recurring problems is a handy checklist to keep nearby when rewriting.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Writers Roundtable

The Hollywood Reporter assembled a group of likely 2014 Oscar contenders for a discussion about the craft and business of writing. A definite must watch.

Friday, November 01, 2013

2013 Blood List

The Blood List was announced yesterday.  Here are the top 13 most liked, unproduced, dark genre screenplays of the year:

INK & BONE by Zak Olkewicz
Logline: When a female book editor visits the home of a horror writer so he can complete his novel, she finds that all of his creations are holding him hostage.
Genre: Horror / Thriller
Agent (s): Dan Cohan (WME)
Manager (s): Will Rowbotham (Caliber Media)
Status: Set up at Dimension.

THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE by Ian Goldberg & Richard Naing
Logline: A father / son mortician team try to uncover the cause of death on a Jane Doe. The more they uncover, the more mysterious and terrifying their world becomes.
Genre: Horror / Thriller
Agent(s): Ian: Matt Rosen (CAA) Richard: Mike Goldberg (APA)
Manager(s): Josh Adler (New Wave)
Status: Eric Garcia and Fred Berger (Imposter Pictures) are producing alongside Ben Pugh and Rory Aitken (42 Productions). Andre Ovredal is attached to direct.

PATROL by Jayson Rothwell
Logline: A group of marines, embedded in South Asia, embrak on patrol of a remote island in search og drug runners. What they end up finding is something much more deadly and demonic than they could ever imagine.
Agent(s): Rich Cook, Phil d'Amecourt (WME)
Status: Set up Paramount Insurge. Sunnyfield Entertinament producing w/Sarah Bremner attached as executive producer.

Logline: A mother and daughter find themselves stranded in the middle of the night on an abandoned road. Deep in the surrounding wood a nightmarish terror stalks them, and they must find the courage to face the beast, or be destroyed by it.
Genre: Horror
Agent(s): Jason Burns, David Kramer (UTA)
Status: Bryan Bertino & Adrienne Biddle (Unbroken Pictures) and Atlast Entertinament are attached to produce. Sonny Mallhi is attached to executive produce.

PATIENT Z by Mike Le
Logline: In a post-apocalyptic world, a man with the ability to speak the language of the undead interrogates zombies with the hopes of  finding Patient Zero and a cure for his infected wife.
Genre: Thriller
Angent: David Saunders (APA)
Manager: Jonathan Hung (Hung Entertainment)
Status: Bryan Bertino and Adrienne Biddle (Unbroken Pictures) producing.

Logline: A family embarks on a cross-country road trip, but the vacation takes a horrifying turn when they are hunted by a group of drifters.
Genre: Horror / Thriller
Agent(s): Robert Lazar, Abram Nalibotsky (Resolution)
Manager(s): Jeremy Bell, Nate Matteson, & Peter McHugh (The Gotham Group)
Status: Set up at Paramount Insurge. Daniel Dubiecki & Carly Norris (The Allegiance Theater) attached to produce.
7 Votes

SOMACELL by Ashleigh Powell
Logline: A female prison worker in the near future discovers that the virtual reality process that rehabilitates convicts is not all it promises to be.
Genre: Sci Fi / Thriller
Manager(s): Dan vang, Jake Weindr (Benderspink)
Agent (s): Bob Hohman, Bayard Maybank, Devra Lieb & J.R. Satery (Gersh) Status: Set up at Warner Bros. David Goyer (Phantom Four Films) is at- tached to produce.

ON YOUR DOORSTEP by Steve Desmond & Michael Sherman
Logline: When a young journalist suspects that an abducted girl is being held somewhere in her own neighborhood, she decides to delve into the secret lives of her neighbors to determine which one is capable of the horrific crime.
Genre: Thriller
Agent(s): Adam Perry, Sheryl Petersen (APA)
Manager(s): Jenny Wood (Elevate Entertainment)
Status: Elevate Entertainmanet attached to produce.

MOMSKA by Simon Rumley
Logline: A teenage girl thinks her mother is trying to take over her life, but discovers the truth is much more sinister.
Genre: Horror / Thriller
Agent(s): Chris Ridenhour, Will Lowery (APA)
Manager(s): Adam Goldworm (Aperture Entertainment)
Status: Adam Goldworm (Aperture Entertainment) attached to produce.

Logline: A weekend get-away for two lovers turns into a nightmare of torture and psychological mind games.
Genre: Sexy Thriller
Agent(s): Mike Esola, Solco Schuit (WME)
Manager: Brooklyn Weaver (Energy Entertainment) Status: Energy attached to produce

CAPSULE by Ian Shorr
Logline: A young man mysteriously begins to receive metallic capsules containing messages from his future self.
Genre: Sci fi
Agent(s): Jason Burns, Charlie Ferraro, and David Park (UTA)
Manager: Langley Perer (Mosaic)
Status: Set up at 20th Century Fox. Hutch Parker and John Zaozirny attached to produce. Matthias Hoene is attached to direct.

LIMERENCE by Richard Hobley
Logline: Feeling ignored by her husband and child, a self-harming, sexually repressed teacher falls into a dangerous relationship with an obsessive new student.
Genre: Thriller
Manager: Jon Kanak (Jon Kanak Management)
Status: Joey Tuccio (East View Entertainment) is attached to produce.

REVELATIONS (fka LORD OF LIGHT) by Hernany Perla
Logline: A prison psychiatrist meets a death row inmate on the verge of his execution who claims to be the only thing stopping the end of the world. As she begins to investigate his predictions, she finds them to be eerily accurate, and that she may be a central figure in the events to come. 12 MONKEYS meets SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.
Genre: Thriller
Agent: Chris Sablan (Original Artists)
Manager: Ryan Cunningham (Madhouse)
Status: Set up at Lotus Entertainment.

Nice crop this year. Revelations reminds me of a classic Twilight Zone episode about a prisoner trapped in a never-ending nightmare. Patient Z is the flat-out definition of a high concept premise -- wish I'd thought of it.  Ink & Bone's logline reads like the premise of a Stephen King novel. I didn't go gaga over Troll Hunter, but I liked director Andre Ovredal's creativity. Really looking forward to see what he does with something like The Autopsy of Jane Doe.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Returned

Just a quick heads up about the series premiere on Sundance tonight:


The dead mysteriously reappear in a small town and attempt to resume their lives.

It's based on the 2004 French film Les Revenants, which, despite some slow spots and a shaky ending, I kinda liked. Interestingly enough, Brad Pitt's production company has an eerily similar, but entirely unrelated, upcoming show about folks coming back from the grave. See for yourself:

Spooky, even down to the creepy kid. Based on the 2013 novel by Jason Mott, it's set for a mid-season premiere on ABC.

We just had In The Flesh from earlier this year and now these two. Looks like reverse zombies are the new black. Makes you wonder how many zombie pilots are floating around in Hollywood. With the current success of The Walking Dead, I'd say a lot. It almost makes me reconsider my own zombie-ish pilot, but I've put in too much work already and besides, I really like it.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Agents of SHIELD

This post was a long time coming but I wanted to watch a handful of episodes before passing judgement...

Like a lot of folks, I enjoyed the heck out of The Avengers and have been a crazed fan of almost everything Joss Whedon has done on television. When Marvel announced a SHIELD series, fanboys and Whedonites like myself, came together and rejoiced aloud. Our favorite Marvel heroes would be popping up at SHIELD Headquarters every week, along with a revolving door of Whedonverse actors in juicy parts. When the news broke that J. August Richards would be appearing in the pilot, speculation about his role ranged from Nick Fury, Jr. to Luke Cage. Sam Jackson was eager to make a cameo, and Cobie Smulders was going to reprise her role of Maria Hill. Everyone was giddy with anticipation.

So I watched the pilot and... it was okay. The plot was a little too simplistic for my tastes, Skye was a bit of a Mary-Sue, and J. August Richards was just a regular working stiff, but the positives easily edged out the negatives. Most pilots truly are ugly ducklings. They’re loaded with clunky exposition, burdened with the arduous task of introducing a slew characters, and still required to be entertaining the entire time.

Episode two would smooth out the rough edges... okay, episode three would really get the ball rolling... well, the fourth time is actually the charm... hmmm, five is a prime number, prime as in prime time-- look, I got nothing.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad show. The cast has nice chemistry and the dialogue has its moments, but the stories have been just average. I suspect the standalone nature of the episodes has been the main culprit. While there are several ongoing mysteries: Agent's Coulson’s vacation in Tahiti, Skye’s agenda, Centipede, etc. I’m not getting a sense of urgency. New shows like Sleepy Hollow and The Blacklist have done a better job so far, but I wouldn't count out SHIELD just yet.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

I, Frankenstein Trailer

I know this is from the producers of Underworld, but does it have to look so Underworldy? Bill Nighy is in it for pete’s sake! Why not just team up Adam Frankenstein with Selene and call it a day? All jokes aside, the visuals are pretty slick for a B-movie.

Remember when Hollywood was snapping up every comic book and graphic novel property in sight? Some stuff even before it was published. Quite a few aspiring screenwriters tried turning their specs into funny book material -- Alas, I wasn’t that good of an artist and my pockets weren’t deep enough to afford a good one -- but Hollywood’s appetite eventually subsided. However, every now and then you’ll see something like I, Frankenstein get made. That January release date is a cause for concern though...

I haven’t read Kevin Grevioux’s graphic novel, but this world appears to be inhabited with some unique supernatural characters. When was the last time gargoyles got the big screen treatment? It just goes to show that if you can find a fresh take on a well known property in the public domain, someone will pay attention.

I was just about to finish this post when a little casual googling revealed the budget is $68 million?! I was expecting half that. With all the strides Hollywood has made with visual effects, it baffles me why movies like this are still so expensive. On the other hand, why do movies like this rely so much on costly special effects and set pieces while only giving lip service to the built-in (and cheaper) horror elements?

Friday, October 04, 2013

Treehouse of Horror XXIV

While my love of The Simpsons has waned over the years, I always try to catch a Treehouse of Horror episode. Sunday’s upcoming couch gag was written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro. I’ve watched it multiple times and I’m still finding new sight gags.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Contest Alert!

I'm a little late with this one but The Weinstein Company has a FREE movie pitch contest:

As the grand prize of their awesome new "Master Storyteller" contest, the people behind huge recent films like "Django Unchained", "Lee Daniels' The Butler" and "Silver Linings Playbook" are offering one talented winner the opportunity to have their pitch or film treatment read by one of the company's Development Executives. Not buried at the bottom of a stack of unsolicited scripts or skimmed by an intern, but genuinely and carefully read by one of the few people capable of actually transforming your idea into a major feature-film. And by the time your pitch is crowned the winner, The Weinstein Company will be paying very close attention, as your idea will have been one of five finalists chosen by a sponsored judge on the merits of its creative vision, its originality, and the viability of the idea as the germ of a movie that could actually be made. While the contest naturally doesn't guarantee that The Weinstein Company will develop the winning pitch, this is nevertheless an incredibly rare opportunity to get your foot in a door that seems to be closing more and more every year.

Eligible submissions must be written treatments between 200 and 1,000 words in length, describing the premise and plot of your proposed film. The pitches have to be completely original ideas that have never been publicly published or submitted to any prior contests.

The deadline is 10-03-13 (yikes!), 11:59am (EST). One entry per household. The submission length certainly doesn't require a lot of heavy lifting, but the terms of service look a bit intimidating so proceed with caution. I entered just two contests this year, so I *might* give it a shot. My only real challenge is figuring out which idea to pitch...

Check them out on facebook for details.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thoughts on Sleepy Hollow

I wasn’t blown away, but the premiere was pretty solid. The tone and execution is very different from Orci and Kurtzman’s previous work on Fringe. Sleepy Hollow is a fun B-movie premise squeezed into a TV show. Having someone like Len Wiseman direct the pilot also helped create a cinematic atmosphere.

Pilots tend to have a lot of exposition, but this was bursting at the seams! While I love the idea of connecting the Headless Horseman to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, there was too much info to digest. All that stuff about demons, dueling covens, conspiracy theories -- the story desperately needed time to breathe. It made me long for the days of two hour pilots or limited commercial interruptions. Unfortunately, most TV series can no longer afford that luxury. I do think a few deaths would have had a bigger impact if they occurred in future episodes. John Cho and Clancy Brown needed more to do...

The two leads, Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie, seem likable enough and had good chemistry. Ichabod Crane isn’t quite the fish-out-of-water I was expecting. He seems to be adjusting rather well for a guy dropped smack into 21st century. We’ll probably see him struggle as the season progresses. I suspect Abby will discover that she has a connection to one of the covens.

Finally, I was surprised how well Sleepy Hollow fared in the ratings. The highest FOX debut in 6 years -- 10 million viewers. My quick unscientific survey of the internets indicated most folks seemed to like what they saw. We’ll see if they come back next week...

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Wall

Worst. Summer. Ever. The above image represents my creative flow over the last few months. My muse has been sealed up behind that brick wall like poor Fortunato in The Cask of Amontillado. Now I didn’t just wake up one morning with this dreaded affliction, it was more of a creeping shadow that gradually overtook me. I usually have bursts of productivity, followed by the occasional dry spell, but the bursts became less frequent and the dry spell grew into a vast, endless desert. It all started with  missing some self-imposed and contest deadlines, until I found myself staring at a blinking cursor on a blank screen...

So here I am, sitting with an unfinished script, doing my darndest to finish it, but I don’t want to paint a completely dire picture. It’s not like I’m stuck on page ten or something like that. I just wish it was done already. My last post about Joss Whedon’s writing advice has been pretty timely. I haven’t been sitting around and twiddling my thumbs. Scribbling notes/scenes for future scripts and watching a lot of (mostly bad) movies. I have a glut of stuff to blog about so there’s that. Eventually I’ll get over that hump, I would just prefer it to be sooner than later.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Writing Advice From Joss Whedon

Back from a little blogcation with another Joss Whedon post. I tweeted a link to this article a while back, but it’s definitely worth mentioning here as well. While the majority us aren’t going to churn out the next Buffy, Firefly, or Avengers, you get a great deal of insight into his process. I especially liked the part about not writing chronologically. If you have a great scene that takes place in the middle of the story, just go for it. A good way to combat writer’s block as well...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In Whedon We Trust

I've been meaning to compile a list of my favorite podcasts for screenwriters, but in the meantime, here are two great Joss Whedon interviews:

Joss Whedon: A Life In Pictures
Nerdist Podcast: Joss Whedon

Nothing earth shattering, but you get a some useful insights into his process and how he deals with something like writer’s block.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Zombie Week: Night of the Living Dead

Since Hollywood’s love affair with zombies still seems to be going strong, I thought it would be fun to recommend a film that deserves a tremendous amount of the credit.

Surprisingly, locating the script online turned out to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated. I finally stumbled across an interactive version here. According to one of the factoids, it was originally titled, “Night of the Flesh Eaters,” which kind of lacks a certain charm...enjoy!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Zombie Week: In The Flesh

Four years after the Rising, the government starts to rehabilitate the Undead back into the society including teenager Kieren Walker, who returns home to his small Lancashire village to face a hostile reception as well as his own demons. 

I came across an article over on Wired calling In The Flesh “the Thinking Man’s Walking Dead.” Intriguing argument but definitely an exaggeration. There are obviously going to be comparisons, but television is a big enough universe for fans of  two zombie shows to peacefully coexist without having to resort to name calling. Both series have completely different agendas. Walking Dead is a post-apocalyptic survival drama, In The Flesh is more of a post-apocalyptic dramedy. It also sports the clever trick of beginning where many zombie stories end, with humanity surviving. The focus of the series is a reanimated teen trying to find his way back into the world of the living -- which is a little like Warm Bodies, except with heaps of guilt and remorse. 

Just when you start to think all the possibilities have been exhausted, along comes someone like Dominic Mitchell with clever tweaks to the genre. For instance, the Rising brought back folks who had expired in the previous year. The reanimated have to deal with the unresolved issues created by dying the first time around. Kieran’s attempt to reconnect with his family, after we learn the circumstances of his death, is the stuff of good drama. And while the show lacks a villainous character with an eye-patch and a fish tank full of zombie heads, there is the leader of an anti-zombie militia in deep denial about a lot of things. All this and it manages to throw in some gore and a laugh or two along the way. I'll be shocked if there isn't an attempt to remake it for U.S. television. So much for zombie overload...

There was I time when I would have scoffed at the thought of watching a series with a three episode season and then waiting a year for more, but I’ve gotten used to it. Looking forward to series two.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Canceling The (Zombie) Apocalypse!

This isn’t a Pacific Rim post  -- I’ll save my grim box office predictions for later -- but rather a reference to an article from The Wrap last week. Due to the glut of zombie projects in development, Hollywood isn't clamoring for more material. Apparently, an A-Lister like Brad Pitt starring in the big budget ($190 million!?!) World War Z was the final nail in the coffin. I guess its like teens abandoning slang after Mom and Dad start using it...

Folks, you might as well delete that zombie spec needlessly taking up space on the hard drive. As a matter of fact, get rid of specs about superheroes, aliens, ghosts, found footage, heists, fast cars, horny teens, monsters, time travel, vampires, exorcisms, serial killers, assassins, spies, psychics, werewolves, fairy tales, westerns, robots, wizards, witches and you’ll be fine.

The article probably makes sense if you’re constantly trying to chase the hot trend of the moment, but I’m a firm believer in writing what I like. Crazy, I know. One producer suggested that we have to innovate, but isn't that always the case? So while mainstream Hollywood might be suffering from zombie overload, there’s always going to be a demand from horror fans. Besides, by the time I finish my zombie pilot spec, the genre might be hot again...

Anyway, this topic is a perfect opportunity to fill out the rest of the week with thoughts on a bevy of zombie tv/films that I’ve neglected to blog about. Expect some musings on Warm Bodies and In The Flesh shortly.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Writing Tip From David S. Goyer

I came across an insightful interview with David S. Goyer on writing Man of Steel. This excerpt is what caught my eye:

Goyer: Yeah, and it was a really difficult script for me to write. I remember when I sat down to actually start writing page one. I'd written maybe twenty pages of notes and outlines and things like that, but I just got severe writer's anxiety. I was like, "Oh, my god, I can't take the pressure!" The first scene I wrote was the scene in which Jor-El and Lara give up baby Kal. And I said, "Alright, I'm going to write it initially as if they're not on Krypton. I'm going to write it generically as two parents that have to give away their son. The kid could be saved from the concentration camps... whatever." I just wrote it like that. And from the emotion of "What would it be like to give birth to your son, and then half an hour later have to put him in a pod and hope that he won't get killed?" I wrote that scene, and it felt emotionally right to me. And from that point onward, anytime I was writing something that was heavy science-fiction or involved crazy superpowers, I would write the scene as if Krypton didn't exist first, and then I would go back in and add the science-fiction stuff. That was the way that I found that I could make it make sense and relatable, I guess. 

I guess it really does comes down to writing what you know. Stripping away the fantastical and focusing on the heart of the story. 

Saturday, June 08, 2013

The Rains of Castamere

Despite the fact that I’ve been a loyal viewer for the past three seasons, this is actually my first Game of Thrones post. It only took one of the most shocking scenes in television history to get me off my butt and start blogging. The season finale is tomorrow but I’m still chewing over the now infamous Red Wedding. George R.R. Martin is a cruel, cruel man. He creates these likable characters, gets us to root for them, and just when it seems like they’ll triumph--BOOM! They’re dead. He especially seems to relish punishing the Starks for their bad decisions.

Here’s a good interview with Martin in Entertainment Weekly explaining why he wrote Red Wedding. He’s all about suspense and defying expectations. If anyone can die at any moment, we can’t take the outcome of any scene for granted. Sounds like good advice. Check out this snippet from a recent Conan appearance:

The beauty of television is how we can see characters grow and change over the course of many episodes/seasons, as opposed to a two hour film. Watching that all change creates emotional attachments. Twitter went berserk when those deaths occurred. Viewers can be so indifferent because some stories are so predictable, it’s fun to see them lose their frickin’ minds when the writer pulls a fast one on ‘em.

Game of Thrones has taught me a few things: no good deed goes unpunished, a just cause doesn’t guarantee success, and don’t mess with the Lannisters (or cross Walder Frey). It’s impossible to predict how this series will end, and I imagine that’s exactly the way Mr. Martin likes it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Mini-Movie Method

ScreenwritingU had a pretty good teleconference last Sunday with Chris Soth discussing his Mini-Movie Method. Basically, it's a way of breaking your script into several "mini-movies" in order to give the story a cohesive and concrete structure. They've posted a link to an mp3 of the interview here. Even if you know this kind of stuff already, it's not a bad refresher course...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Contest Alert!

Screamfest just added a last minute sweetener for this year's screenwriting competition:  a first look deal for the winning script with Chiller TV. Final deadline is June 15th. Details here. Decisions, decisions...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

In The Flesh

Set after a zombie uprising, treated zombies are rehabilitated back into society.

Came across this trailer for a BBC zombie drama that aired in February. Zombies aren’t at the top of my favorite movie monster list, but if the premise is interesting enough, I usually give it a shot.  As much as I enjoy shows like The Walking Dead, it’s certainly refreshing to see a different take on the zombie apocalypse story. Anyway, I did a little googling and found three scripts over at the BBC Writersroom. There’s also a blog entry from writer/creator Dominic Mitchell.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Tips From Hitchcock

Found a great bunch of clips where Alfred Hitchcock discusses some important storytelling tools.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013


I came across this really cool short from an article posted over on io9. No gore, splatter or flashy effects needed. An excellent example of how suspense can be a horror screenwriter's best friend.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Cold Feet

The Nicholl final deadline came and went last week without my entry... I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times, but I trust my gut. Something wasn’t working. I finally realized that inserting crazy twists and reveals into the story was ultimately doing more harm than good. Instead of working on something like character development, I made a rookie mistake.

Anyway, there’s still the Austin Film Festival. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make that deadline...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Contest Alert!

Only twenty bucks for early submissions. Seriously considering this one...

2013 SCREAMCRAFT  Horror Script Contest In Association With The Blood List

Is your script the next “Paranormal Activity” or “Saw” franchise?  Whether you have a contained thriller or a big effects-driven horror film, WE WANT TO READ YOUR SCREENPLAY.  The judges panel includes 3 development executives at Lionsgate, Paramount and Sony.
    • First place prize is $1,000 cash + consultation with agent Kailey Marsh, founder of The Blood List, + personal recommendation of your script to the list’s 100 industry insiders who determine the top 13 dark genre scripts every October!
    • Second place prize is $100 cash and a phone call with a top literary manager.
    • All Top 10 Finalists will receive a page of development notes from one of our judges.
    • Early submission fee is only $20 until April 30th.  Enter now:

Orphan Black

Sarah Manning discovers that she has multiple doppelgangers, and someone is killing them off.

Absolutely fantastic premise but the pilot really didn’t grab me. Too much time spent on Sarah’s crummy life, crummy ex-boyfriend, stolen cocaine, etc. However, I suppose that information was necessary in order to justify why she would swap places with a recently deceased cop/doppelganger.

Tatiana Malsany is quite the chameleon. I didn’t realize that she was in one of the Ginger Snaps sequels until I looked her up on the imdb. She really seems to enjoy juggling all the wigs, outfits, and accents. 

All in all, the pilot reminded me of a grimier version of the CW’s short-lived Ringer starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. But instead of a soapy melodrama, Orphan Black has great potential to be an effective police procedural and sci-fi thriller. My biggest criticism would be the pacing. The entire episode felt like several episodes of a web series stitched together into a loosely connected 60 minute movie. Subsequent episodes have been much stronger.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

R.I.P.D. Trailer

Based on the trailer, it would be difficult to ignore the obvious similarities between R.I.P.D. and Men in Black: a secret organization, mismatched partners, gruff older guy and the cocky younger guy, fish out of water, special effects driven, etc. We’ve come a long way from the days of 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon. Audiences have shorter attention spans and demand lots of spectacle. I do like the concept of otherworldly cops though. I haven't read the comic that it's based upon, so R.I.P.D. could very well be a completely original idea, but the marketing folks probably thought this was the best way to sell it. Only time will tell...

Sunday, April 14, 2013


The only thing I hate more than deadlines is missing them... The Nicholl final deadline is May 1st. Now I don’t want to jinx myself and say that I’ve finally gotten over the hump, I but feel pretty good about meeting that deadline with a completed polished script. I even have time to throw up a few posts this week. Stay tuned...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Awakening

Looks like I broke my New Year’s resolution regarding big gaps between posts -- gotta work on that. Even though I’m in the middle of my Nicholl script, I managed to squeeze in some time for a few quick words on The Awakening.

Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall), author/skeptic/paranormal debunker, arrives at a boarding school to dispel the rumor that a ghost is responsible for a boy’s death.

The murder mystery angle works well and surprisingly gets wrapped up at the halfway point. It’s at this junction in the story where Florence begins to suspect that something supernatural is also going on. Unfortunately, this is also point where everything starts to become incredibly muddled and twisty.

You could make the argument that The Sixth Sense and The Others were the two worst things to happen to ghost stories. Ever since those films, there’s been this overwhelming emphasis on a huge, mind-blowing Third Act twist. The Awakening decides to up the ante by attempting to throw so many twists at the audience that they’ll end up with whiplash by the closing credits.

The best twists are the ones we should have seen coming. All the clues hidden in plain sight. On the other hand, nobody wants to feel hornswoggled because the film omitted or totally misrepresented certain story elements. It's quite the balancing act...

Some good performances here from Rebecca Hall and Dominic West, but the film simply tries too hard...

Friday, March 08, 2013


One of the better sci-fi films in recent years. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's prosthetics didn't turn out to be such a big distraction. This is probably old news, but Rian Johnson created a commentary track while the film was still in theaters:


Here's a link to a Jeff Goldsmith interview with Johnson:


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Contest Alert: Austin Film Festival

Got my annual call for entries from the Austin Film Festival the other day. Their screenplay competition has an impeccable reputation and industry awareness, but my werewolf script didn’t fare too well when I entered a few years back so I usually pass. I know, I know, it’s all subjective but [whine] that same script made the finals and semi-finals of reputable genre contests and received two positive reads from Nicholl!![/whine] I’ve been reluctant to take another shot... until now.

“Due to an increasing demand by our industry judges, we’ve created a new horror award category for the Screenplay Competition. This category is open to any feature horror script including dark suspense, thriller, sci-fi and macabre themes.”

Austin has always had a genre category, but I like the new emphasis on horror. Not sure if my odds will be any better though.  Check out the details here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Impending Doom


I’m really enjoying the heck out of FX’s new espionage drama The Americans. Set in the 80s, Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys star as Russian spies posing as an all-American married couple. The pilot had a great cinematic quality and pacing that grabbed me from the start. The third episode ("Gregory") had a terrific scene last week, where a character thinks they’re going to have a happy ending, but there’s this (figuratively) black cloud looming above. While everyone is saying all the right things, you just know this person is doomed. It was fascinating to watch it play out. Instead of punctuating the scene with garrotte around the neck, a muffed scream, or a gunshot, the character cheerfully gets into a van. The camera lingers on the two stars as they wrestle with what they've just done. It takes a lot of trust on the part of the writers to let the actors emote and not force a few words out of their mouths. One of the pitfalls of some newbie writers is an overdependence on dialogue. Characters say exactly what’s on their minds, or respond verbally to everything going on around them. It might be a good exercise to try out one of those elephant-in-the-room scenes...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Do No Harm Axed!

A brilliant neurosurgeon who has to battle his own alter-ego so that he can live a normal life.  

Not as compelling as BBC’s Jekyll, but certainly watchable. I am surprised that NBC went this route after similarly-themed Own Worst Enemy fizzled a few years back.

The marketing could have been stronger. After you get past the Jekyll & Hyde stuff, what kind of show are viewers dealing with? Medical procedural? Crime drama? Thriller? Viewers want a clear sense of what they’ll be getting every week. On the other hand, the marketing folks can only work with what they’ve been given. The “all of the above” approach to the concept probably contributed to the muddled advertising. I don’t understand the image of Ian's face in Jason's hands. Is that supposed to be scary?

I hope the produced episodes eventually find their way online or on SyFy...

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Following

FOX was Fringeless last Friday -- gonna take a while to get used that -- so I took the opportunity to check out the encore premiere of The Following. Aside from Silence of the Lambs, Se7en, Scream, and Luther on the BBC, I’ve never been especially interested in shows/films dealing with serial killers. The deal-breaker for me is that too many of them focus on being gruesome rather than suspenseful. I don’t mind gore, as long as it goes hand in hand with good storytelling. The Following’s promos seemed interesting enough, and the involvement of Kevin Bacon and Kevin Williamson were a definite plus to get me on board.

A brilliant and charismatic, yet psychotic serial killer communicates with other active serial killers and activates a cult of believers following his every command. 

A couple of well-worn tropes are front and center: the burnt out (ex) FBI agent (Kevin Bacon) who got way too close to his quarry, the brilliant professor-turned-serial killer (James Purefoy), his obsession with a Edgar Allan Poe, the love triangle, a paternity question -- I’m probably missing a few, but you get the idea. Bacon helps. A lot.

Maybe there’s more to come, but I don’t think the pilot illustrated how social media helps these twisted followers come together. Nobody wants to watch people pointing and clicking for 45 minutes, but viewers should get a sense of how they communicate. Note to self: start working on a Techno-thriller.

The other thing that caught my attention: the Hero’s Journey stuff. Joe Carroll (Purefoy) fancies himself an author, and Ryan Hardy (Bacon) is his protagonist. He actually explains to Hardy that a killing was necessary so he would have a call to action. I’m curious to see how much The Following adheres to the stages of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth.

The ratings were pretty solid, around 10 million viewers, so there’s a pretty good chance we’ll get to see all 14 episodes.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Contest Alert: NBC Drama Challenge

NBC is honored to partner with the annual New York Television Festival to discover inspiring, fresh writers. From the network that brings you hit shows like REVOLUTION and GRIMM we are looking for our next big, splashy drama. Here at NBC, no topic or genre is off limits. What excites us most are passionate ideas and strong, bold characters with specific points of view. We are offering a $25,000 prize along with the chance that we may develop your winning script and/or engage you to write additional ideas.

What do I need to submit?

    Produced Pilot Scene (not to exceed 10 minutes in length)
    Pilot Script (1-2 Acts, not to exceed 40 pages in length)
    Series overview (not to exceed 2 pages in length)
    Signed Entry Packet

Click here for details.

I'm currently up to my elbows with my 2013 Nicholl Fellowship entry, but a free contest with a $25,000 prize is mighty tempting. Really wish I had heard about it in November. I have a pilot idea on the back burner, but I doubt it would be ready for the March 15th deadline. The last thing I need right now is distraction. Great opportunity though...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

#goodreads - Prometheus

I’m really late to the party with this one... A few months ago, Hitfix posted links to some early drafts of Prometheus. One from Jon Spaihts (back when it was called Alien Engineers) and a subsequent version from fanboy favorite Damon Lindelof. Haven’t read them yet, but hopefully the links aren’t dead. While many critics and fans felt the film was somewhere between big disappointment and awful, there were a scant few of us in the “liked it” camp.

Maybe it’s my geeky weakness for sci-fi stories about space exploration and beings from other worlds -- I dug John Carter as well -- that made me looked past the *many* nitpicky gaps in logic. Your favorite film has dumb character moments and convenient coincidences. They all do. When a story works for us emotionally, we overlook the flaws. I can’t even begin to explain why I liked Lockout. *hangs head in shame*

Honestly, who could resist a face like that?

As much as some people complained, things could have been worse. Ridley Scott said in an interview that at one point in the story, it would have been revealed that Jesus was an Engineer. His death is what caused them to turn on mankind -- even I would have bailed on that lame plot point.

Don't the Engineers look like Powder on steroids?

The influence of Erich von Däniken’s book, Chariots of the Gods?, is pretty hard to miss here. Technologically advanced race from another world, tinkers with the puny humans. Prometheus probably connects more with fans of Ancient Aliens than moviegoers looking for Round Two of Ripley vs. The Xenomorph Queen. There was a little too much teasing of it being (or not being) a direct prequel to Alien. The final scene felt tacked on just to appease fans.

I absolutely adore the first two Alien films, but I wasn’t clamoring for someone to solve the mystery of the Space Jockey. Some questions are better left unanswered. Not to mention the futility of trying to catch lightning in a decades old bottle. And while it made good money at the box office, I’m not sure if we’ll ever get a sequel. Lindelof recently announced that he wasn’t going to be involved in writing a sequel. Maybe in another 20-30 years, someone will try to tackle the franchise again.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Mama Trailer & Original Short

Here’s the really short film by Andrés Muschietti that attracted Guillermo Del Toro to executive produce the upcoming feature length version. I can’t believe two minutes is all it took to get the attention of a big-time director/producer. Short films, especially on the web, seem to be an effective calling card these days...

Talk about a bad hair day. Wonder how much it cost to produce. And now the trailer...

Although feral children and a ghostly creature certainly sounds like a winning formula, I don’t see a lot beyond the typical jump scares. When Del Toro puts his producer hat on, he goes for out-of-the-box genre stories like Julia’s Eyes and The Orphanage, so I’ll reserve judgement.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

A New Year

First post of the new year ...and it only took me five days! Up this point, I had completely forgotten about my 2012 screenwriting resolutions, so it was quite the surprise to discover that I had met most of them. I didn’t finish the screenplay in 21 days, but I managed to read and write more often. Sorely lacking in specificity, but I’ll take those tiny victories where I can find them.

And while contests and querying didn’t get me anywhere in 2013, there’s nothing like the whiff of a new script to make you believe things will be different this time around. I started it last January, but things only started to come together in the last few months. I stayed away from ghosts, zombies, vampires, and werewolves with this one. The story is a big shout-out to those classic Twilight Zone episodes. I’m really anxious to see how it fares in contests.

My other writing resolution deals with this blog. No more two week gaps between posts.


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