Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday Shorts: The Lady In the Walls

This was an entry in the Youtube and Legendary Entertainment's House of Horrors contest from a few months back. Guillermo del Toro picked the 5 finalists and the winner gets a development deal with Legendary.  "Lady In the Walls" didn't make the cut but I liked its set up and overall simplicity -- the ending probably could have been stronger and there was a bit of CG that felt unnecessary. You can check out the other entries here. Interesting to see the different stories crafted around the same set...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Blade Pilot Script

While procrastinating, I happened to come across David S. Goyer's site and discovered he has a few produced scripts online, including the short-lived Blade: The Series. 2006 feels like ancient history, but if I remember correctly -- too lazy to check my archives -- The Spike Channel expected stronger male viewership and were confused by an unexpected and sizable female viewing audience. Kirk Jones didn't have a martial arts background and some fans were probably disappointed that he couldn't fill Wesley Snipes' shoes in that regard. Anyway, you can check out two drafts of the pilot below:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Shorts: Room 8

I don't want to spoil this one, but I will say it's a great example of how good dialogue can be about what your characters don't say.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

2014 Black List

So, with much fanfare, the 2014 Black List was announced this week. You can find it here. Surprisingly, my scripts were nowhere to be found. My Franklin Leonard voodoo dolls are obviously defective...

Now I was going to list all the lucky sci-fi and horror scripts that made the cut, but the good folks over at beat me to it. Seventeen scripts is a pretty good number. While there's some overlap with the 2014 Blood List,  a couple of fresh titles were also recognized. Who says you can't make a name for yourself with a good genre script?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Shorts: NIGHT SWIM

Welcome to a special Monday edition of Sunday Shorts! (I fell asleep before posting...)

NIGHT SWIM, directed by Rod Blackhurst + Bryce James McGuire, stars Megalyn Echikunwoke -- you might remember her from The 4400 and House of Lies -- as a young woman who gets interrupted during a swim.

I like the way it plays on one of our biggest primal fears: darkness. No crazy effects or exploding heads here. Our imagination does most of the heavy lifting. The setting also adds an extra level of vulnerability.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Shorts: 444-444-4444

This week’s installment is one of two shorts from Takashi Shimizu that inspired Ju-on and The Grudge. Love the simple set up and the creepy pay off.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday Shorts: Knocking on glass

This is an adaptation of a two sentence horror story posted on Reddit by therealhatman. Highlight the text below to read.

I woke up to hear knocking on glass. At first, I thought it was the window until I heard it come from the mirror again.

It's amazing what you can convey with just two simple lines.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Stephen King Interview

While I don’t keep up with Stephen King’s fiction as much as I used to, I always find time to hear what he has to say about writing. Here’s a link to a recent Rolling Stone interview:

Interesting to learn that a guy with all this incredible success still has fear of failure dreams (nightmares) -- everything hinges on passing a test for a class which you totally forgot to attend! It’s amazing how much drugs and alcohol were a factor in his work. It certainly didn't slow down his output but he readily admits the results weren't always very good, like The Tommyknockers.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Shorts: Geometria

Hellboy wasn't even a twinkle in Guillermo Del Toro's eye when he wrote/directed this short in 1987, but he obviously had an interest in demons...

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sunday Shorts: Tuck Me In


Stumbled across this *really* short film from a post over on Written by Juan J. Ruiz and directed by Ignacio F. Rodo, Tuck Me In is a perfect example of what you can do with a very little amount of time. And while it's highly unlikely that writing shorts will propel you onto next year's Black List, they can be useful exercises in becoming a more efficient writer: learning to start scenes as late as possible, cutting useless dialogue/overly descriptive action and getting straight to the point.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The 2014 Blood List

The 2014 Blood List

1. BIRD BOX by Eric Heisserer
Logline: A woman tries to lead her children to safety after the world is invaded by monsters who turn
you insane upon sight. The tale has echoes of Stephen King’s THE STAND and captures a horrific and
gripping snapshot of a world unraveling.
Genre:Sci-fi thriller
Agent(s): Rich Cook, Lindsay Dunn, Jason Spitz, & Cori Wellins (WME)
Manager(s): Julie Bloom (Art/Work Entertainment)
Status: Set up at Universal, with Bluegrass Films attached to produce.

2. THE GARDENER by Alyssa Jefferson
Logline: In the 1950s, a neurotic florist’s strict routine is derailed after stumbling upon a murder and
finding himself at the center of a conspiracy.
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Agent(s): N/A
Manager(s): Lee Stobby (Silent R)
Status: Available.

3. TAU by Noga Landau
Logline: A woman held captive in the futuristic smart house of a serial kidnapper realizes that her only
hope of escape lies in turning the house’s sentient computer against its creator.
Genre: Thriller
Agent(s): Dana Harris, Ryan Feldman, Meyash Prabhu
Manager(s): Adam Marshall (Caliber)
Status: Russell Ackerman & John Schoenfelder (Addictive Pictures) are attached to produce.

4. INTO THE DEEP by Tony Jazwinski
Logline: A young woman who has recently lost her mother is surfing in an isolated area when she gets
stranded on a buoy, and a gigantic great white shark is between her and the shore.
Reps: David Boxerbaum, Chris Licata, Valarie Phillips (Paradigm)
Manager(s): Ashley Berns & Lawrence Mattis (Circle of Confusion)
Genre: Dark Drama
Status: Set up at Columbia pictures.

Logline: Edward and Bethany Martin are young, beautiful, rich, and in love. But their enviable lifestyle
is upended when Bethany begins exhibiting strange and alarming behavior. As her condition worsens
and doctors grow increasingly baffled, it seems as if something supernatural might be responsible.
But the truth is far more shocking…and will force Edward to confront a terrifying choice in the name
of love.
Genre: Psychological Horror
Agent(s): Jay Baker, Jon Cassir, John Garvey (CAA)
Manager(s): Jewerl Ross (Silent R)
Status: Jewerl Ross (Silent R), Russell Ackerman, & John Schoenfelder (Addictive Pictures) are attached
to produce.

6. SCARECROW by Mike Scannell
Logline: Set at a remote lake house, revolves around a mother and her two young daughters who must
fight for survival after falling into a terrifying and bizarre nightmare conceived by a psychopath.
Genre: Horror / Thriller
Agent(s): Geoff Morley (UTA)
Manager(s): N/A
Status: Set up at Screen Gems with Bryan Bertino & Adrienne Biddle (Unbroken) attached to produce

7. THE BRINGING by Brandon Murphy & Phillip Murphy
Logline: In the vein of THE SHINING and THE CONJURING – based on true events, a private investigator
is hired to investigate a mysterious murder at a downtown Los Angeles hotel and uncovers it’s
dark supernatural history.
Genre: Horror
Agent(s): Rich Cook, Solco Schuit & Theresa Kang (WME)
Manager(s): Langley Perer (Mosaic Media)
Status: Set up at Sony with Matt Tolmach & Daniela Cretu attached to produce

8. BULLIES by Michael Grebb
Logline: An outcast teenager’s revenge plot against high school bullies quickly spins out of control,
blurring the lines between bully and victim as his obsession sets off a deadly chain reaction.
Genre: Revenge Thriller
Agent(s): N/A
Manager(s): Jeff Portnoy (Heretic Literary Management)
Status: Available

9. LEATHERFACE by Seth M. Sherwood
Logline: In this prequel to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” a young nurse is kidnapped by four violent
teens who escape from a mental hospital and take her on a road trip from Hell. Pursued by an equally
deranged lawman out for revenge, one of these teens is destined for tragedy and horrors that will destroy
his mind; molding him into the monster we now call Leatherface.
Genre: Horror
Agent(s): Charles Ferraro & Peter Dodd (UTA)
Manager(s): Kailey Marsh (Kailey Marsh Management)
Status: Set up at Millennium Films. Carl Mazzocone and Les Weldon are attached to produce. Christa
Campbell and Lati Grobman will serve as Executive Producers.

10. DEAD ANIMALS by Sawyer Perry
Logline: When a young woman’s estranged uncle comes back into her hometown, she finds herself
strangely attracted to him while at the same time suspicious that he might be involved with a series of
grisly murders.
Genre: Horror
Agent(s): N/A
Manager(s): Sarah Smith (Fake Dare Productions)
Status: Ross Putman is attached to produce

11. UNSETTLED by Jesse Wheeler
Logline: Cole Tanner, one of the millions buried in debt they’ll never be able to pay off, is used to harassment
by collection agencies. But nothing has prepared Cole for his new debt collector, Ray Loomis,
a man dead set on getting what he’s owed - one way or another.
Genre: Thriller
Agent(s): N/A
Manager(s): Marc Manus (Manus Entertainment)
Status: Available

12. A MAN CALLED DEATH by Matthew Kennedy
Logline: A reclusive author is visited by a stranded motorist, but we soon realize the two are world renown
killers, seeking revenge on each other.
Genre: Contained thriller
Agent(s): Solco Schuit (WME)
Manager(s): Brooklyn Weaver (Energy Entertainment)
Status: Russell Ackerman & John Schoenfelder (Addictive Pictures) are attached to produce.

13. THE WILDNESS by Evan Dickson
Logline: A hard partying ski instructor finally gets his dream job in Aspen only to find the town threatened
by a malevolent force that must be tamed.
Genre: Horror/Action
Agent(s): N/A
Manager(s): N/A
Status: Available.


This might be a first because I can't recall another year where a script involving a vampire, zombie, or werewolf was not on the list  -- as far as I can tell with those cryptic loglines. No found footage either. A shift towards psychological horror and abstract supernatural thrillers? I doubt it. There's probably a glut of zombie scripts in Hollywood at the moment, but a good one can still get noticed. Bird Box, Tau, and Dead Animals strike my fancy. Looking forward to seeing them produced. There's always next year for the rest of us!

Monday, October 13, 2014


So there's this new show on FOX ABC set in New York called New Amsterdam  Forever. Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Ioan Gruffudd, it's about an immortal cop medical examiner who wants more than anything to be normal. Each week, he solves crimes with the help of an impossibly beautiful but damaged, brunette cop. We often see flashbacks of his colorful past as they relate to the episode. Oh, our protagonist also has an unusually close bond with an elderly man. I've never seen anything quite like it...

Coincidences aside, Forever is more like Elementary (with a dash of fantasy) than New Amsterdam -- there was even a Sherlock Holmes reference in the second episode. When it comes to death, Dr. Henry Morgan is the smartest guy in the room. Two hundred years worth of wisdom often allows him to determine the  cause of puzzling deaths with just a cursory look at the body. Henry also happens to suffer from a rather peculiar condition, one that prevents him from staying dead. Any mortal injury causes him to instantly disappear and then reappear, good as new, in a body of water -- naked as a jaybird.

I like supernatural protagonists but they never seem to catch on in a big way with viewers. NBC's Dracula came and went last season without much fanfare, and we all know what happened to New Amsterdam. The procedural aspect here is okay, but Elementary and Sherlock already have the know-it-all-British-guy ground covered. The setting doesn't help matters either. You'd think an eternal being would take a more low profile job and reside in a nondescript small town. Honestly, I'm not sure if the fantasy element is that compelling. What's Henry's goal? Break the curse of immortality, grow old, and die. Yeah, because that whole living forever thing really gets old after a while...   

New Amsterdam's protagonist would become mortal when he found his true love, Highlander was about winning the prize, and Forever Knight was about a vampire struggling to regain his humanity. Even though it shares similar elements, Forever seems a little aimless compared to those shows. Obviously, things could become clearer as the season progresses, but I have my doubts. Ratings have been a little shaky, but ABC might stick with it a while longer and so will I...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Shorts: Spawn: The Recall


Impressive special effects for a fan film. According to writer/director Michael Paris, they were all done on one computer -- post production took two years though. Maybe Todd McFarlane's plans for a low-budget Spawn film aren't so crazy after all. Tension and atmosphere can go a really long way. You can read an informative interview with Mr. Paris here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Shorts: DUST

Came across this fantastic short starring Alan Rickman and Jodie Whittaker (written and directed by Ben Ockrent & Jake Russell). Dust manages the difficult task of keeping the viewer in suspense throughout the story -- seven and a half minutes, but still. It's also an excellent example of how less is more when it comes to dialogue...

Saturday, August 30, 2014

How to Write a TV Pilot

Gray Jones (@GrayJones) hosted a panel on TV writing at Comic-Con and graciously posted it on youtube.

Lots of good information here--actually picked up some new things. Writing an original pilot used to be considered a fool's errand, but times have changed. I've been kicking around a few ideas that don't work as features, so why the heck not?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Guillermo Del Toro on Alfred Hitchcock

Stumbled across this great interview with Guillermo del Toro discussing Alfred Hitchcock. I didn't know he wrote a book about him -- probably because it's in Spanish.

Monday, July 28, 2014


We're about three episodes in and I still can't shake the feeling that Extant would work better as a feature film rather than a TV series. 

An astronaut returns to Earth from a lengthy solo mission and discovers she's pregnant.

Fantastic premise, but how is this supposed to work past 6-7 episodes? What happens in season three? Molly turns out to be a clone and the real Molly has been held captive on an alien spaceship the whole time? The writers have done an admirable job creating various subplots (android son Ethan, government conspiracy, shady billionaire, etc.) and some cool sci-fi worldbuilding, but nothing seems as compelling as Molly's bun in the oven.

Hey, I could be wrong -- wouldn't be the first time.

Extant is an intriguing mash-up of ideas: Rosemary's Baby, A.I, The Astronaut's Wife, Contact, and Gravity -- in case you didn't notice, all movies. I question its longevity but I'm still watching.  The script was apparently decent enough to get the attention of Z-Listers like Steven Spielberg and Halle Berry so there's that. If the ratings continue to hold up, we might get to see how it all plays out.

Check out this inspirational interview with show creator Mickey Fisher:

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Strain - Night Zero

A few quick thoughts...

This was loads of fun. I was glad to have finished the first book before the premiere so I could do a little compare and contrast. However, this is a NO SPOILER ZONE. I won’t be discussing plot points beyond the episode one.

The biggest departure from the book has to be the pacing. For instance, the book doesn’t tell us what happened on the plane before it landed. But the show introduces a few characters and immediately presents a tangible threat. While I might not agree with the change, I certainly understand....

Viewers have the attention span of gnats. If someone isn’t being disemboweled within the first five minutes there’s a strong possibility the channel will be changed. I thought the advertising was a reflection of this thinking as well. Now call me crazy, but this:

 Is a heck of a lot more compelling than this: 

But the conventional wisdom says that viewers prefer to know as much as possible rather than being teased. A parasitic vampire worm gets to the heart of the matter -- literally. I suspect it won't be long before The Master takes off the hood...

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this 2007 TED talk with J.J. Abrams before but it’s worth repeating in here:

There are no right or wrong answers here, just storytelling choices. I prefer a suspenseful slow burn over the gotcha moments. The ‘dead’ plane on the tarmac and 8 foot coffin are excellent mystery boxes. Imagination is your best and cheapest special effect. The more you can prolong the mystery, the more invested they’ll become -- in theory anyway. There’s always the danger of the build up not living up to the payoff. I’m sure executive producer Carlton Cuse knows this all too well....

I haven't seen the ratings yet but the horror crowd should have been satisfied. Suspenseful moments, jump scares, and lots of disturbing imagery. There were some predictable tropes and cliches but they all seemed in good fun (splitting up, ignoring the crazy old guy, etc). Great job with the casting -- though I expected Setrakian to have a Jewish accent. Guillermo Del Toro's direction was masterful. Loved the cinematography, especially the scene where Ephraim and Nora are on the plane. Someone had a spot on tweet last night about the plane sequence being very reminiscent of the ill-fated Demeter in Dracula. My favorite scene was the grieving dad looking up to see his little girl standing in the doorway. The book did a great job of juggling multiple characters. It'll be interesting to see if the show follows the same course or makes a few tweaks. Looking forward to episode two.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Orphan Black

I've put it off several times, but my list of podcasts for writers is coming... sometime... in the near future. In the meantime, here's something from the Nerdist Writer's Panel: Orphan Black creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Dialogue: Learning from the Masters

THE DIALOGUE: Learning From the Masters is a groundbreaking interview series that goes behind the scenes of the fascinating craft of screenwriting. In these extensive in-depth discussions with savvy industry interviewers, 27 of today's most successful screenwriters share their work habits, methods and inspirations, secrets of the trade, business advice, and eye-opening stories from life in the trenches of the film industry. Each screenwriter discusses his or her filmography in great detail and breaks down the mechanics of one favorite scene from their produced work. These incisive discussions are essential viewing for anyone wanting to learn the screenwriting trade, film lovers of all types, and industry professionals in other fields. The writers' insights about the screenwriting life are rare and indispensable tools for how to make your screenplays better and crack the Hollywood code: the hard-earned practical and tactical wisdom of those already thriving in the industry. It's powerful knowledge - straight from the source.

I watched quite a bit of this excellent series on Netflix a few years back. And now, through the magic of the interwebs, it's now available on youtube for your viewing pleasure:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Contest Alert!

The Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest  

Well, the early entry fee ($46) isn't highway robbery, which always a plus. I could quibble with some of the categories because I'm not sure where films like Shaun of the Dead, Warm Bodies or Underworld would fit, but I suspect close enough is probably good enough. The opportunity to be associated with The Blood List in any way, shape, or form could never be a bad thing. Looks like my wallet is about to get a little lighter...

Click the link below for more details:




Dark. Twisted. Scary. Creepy. Suspenseful. Psychological mindf***. Bring it.

We want it.

Stage 32 is already shaking up the industry, so we’ll keep going with this explosive announcement: Stage 32, the Stage 32 Happy Writers, and Literary Manager Kailey Marsh, Founder of The Blood List, have partnered to look for the darkest, scary, creepy, suspenseful, mind-boggling, most twisted scripts from undiscovered writers from all over the world in the first ever Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest.

Every year on Halloween, The Blood List is released by Kailey Marsh, highlighting the top 13 screenwriters of unproduced dark genre scripts, which is shared with over 100 managers, agents and production companies in Hollywood. The Blood List is also featured on such sites as Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline Hollywood, and The Wrap instantly placing the writers of these scripts in the spotlight.

This year, we are searching for NEW blood. We are looking for the top 3 unrepresented horror/suspense/thriller writers that come from Stage 32. That means you. Kailey will be releasing our top 3 winners on The Blood List under a designated section: NEW BLOOD. If you make the top 3 of The Search for New Blood Screenwriting Contest, you and your material will be exposed to the same list of industry executives.

Holy s*** is right.

But wait, there’s more. Sure, everyone wants cool prizes, and we have ‘em (check out the Prizes tab above), but we know the most important reason you enter a contest is for exposure and opportunity. You want to speak with the decision makers, the people who have the potential to move the needle on your career. Our Grand Prize Winner and 2 other finalists will be presented with that experience. 

What Kind of Scripts Can I Enter?

Stage 32 / The Blood List are looking for scripts in all areas of horror, thriller, and suspense. If your script fits in with any of these examples below, it’s a fit for this contest!
  • Psychological Suspense: Se7en, Silence of the Lambs, The Game, The Usual Suspects, American Psycho
  • Crime Thrillers: Fargo, Prisoners, The Town, The Counselor, No Country For Old Men, Blood Simple, L.A. Confidential
  • Contained Thrillers: Buried, Phone Booth, Open Water, Hard Candy, Panic Room
  • Destruction Thrillers: Godzilla, Jurassic Park, Independence Day
  • Revenge Thrillers: Taken, Oldboy, Kill Bill, Death Wish
  • Sci-Fi Thrillers: Alien, Inception, The Matrix, Blade Runner, Minority Report
  • Spy Thrillers: The Bourne Identity, Ronin, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, True Lies
  • Horror: Saw, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist
  • Ironic Horror: Scream, The House in the Woods
  • Found Footage Horror: Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, The Last Exorcism


Oh, about those judges, you ask? Yeah, we don’t mess around with that, either. We’ve brought in some of the top executives specializing in the suspense, thriller, and horror genres. Take a look at the Judges tab above to see which executives we are working with.



Early Bird Entry 

Monday, Jun 30 - 11:59 PM PDT

Submission fee: $46.00


Midpoint Entry

Wednesday, Jul 30 - 11:59 PM PDT

Submission fee: $56.00


Final Entry  

Sunday, Aug 31 - 11:59 PM PDT

Submission fee: $66.00

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hannibal Season 2 Finale

Who will survive for season 3?

So Hannibal Lecter basically dropped the mic and walked off stage last night. Bryan Fuller pulled no punches in a season finale that could easily have been a series finale. I came across two noteworthy links regarding Mr. Fuller's process:

First up, a terrific episode of  the Nerdist Writer's Panel before the start of the season.

The second is a finale postmortem wrap-up (and hints at season 3) with TV Guide.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Penny Dreadful Pilot

Although I'm subscribed to its official youtube channel, somehow I missed the fact that the Penny Dreadful pilot has been online for the past two weeks. Initially, I was excited about a series that weaves famous supernatural characters into a dark drama, but all the vague teasers and promos wore me down a bit. Once I get a chance to check it out, I'll have a follow-up post. Embedding has been disabled, so click the pic above to view the episode.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Oculus Trailer

Really looking forward to this. I especially liked the sequence with the apple and the light bulb. Even though we see Karen Gillan pick up the apple, we know something isn’t quite right. When she takes that bite, our worst fears are confirmed aurally then visually. A little bit of suspense and dread really can go a long way...

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Babylon Fields

Fun Fact: Back in the day, NBC passed on The Walking Dead because the network didn’t want to do a zombie show. Well, Well, Well. Look who’s coming back to the zombie genre with hat in hand...

Formerly deceased residents of a small town attempt to resume their lives.

Babylon Fields was originally developed years ago for CBS, but the 2007 pilot never aired. Thanks to the power of the interwebs, you can check it out below:

Not your typical brain-eaters, more like ‘reverse-zombies,’ which seems to be the trend these days: In The Flesh, The Returned, and Resurrection. I’m surprised it got this far because CBS isn't exactly known for genre shows.

All in all, it wasn’t bad. Not as captivating as In The Flesh or The Returned. Aside from folks coming back from the dead, nothing else pulled me in. The acting was solid, but the characters and situations were a tad predictable -- 'cept for the off screen necrophilia. The set-ups weren't particularly strong either. A good pilot should leave you wanting for more.

I do like the casting for the new show (Virginia Madsen, Skeet Ulrich, Meagan Good) so far. Since the same creators are involved, it’ll be interesting to see the choices they’ll make in this incarnation.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Making I, Frankenstein

While in the midst of some podcast hunting on SoundCloud, I came across these interviews from an I, Frankenstein press junket.

Three different perspectives on the same material. Eckhart was under the weather during his interview, so there's not a lot to glean from his segment, but you get a sense of what attracted him to the part of Adam Frankenstein.

Grevioux has a pretty good attitude about the development process.Your script is going to be rewritten. Deal with it. Still, it must have been jarring to see all the changes. I think his original concept of Adam as a hardboiled private detective dealing with classic movie monsters in a noir-styled setting could have been fun.

Beattie had his personal take on the material and focused on elements that interested him. I can understand why he felt another Lakeshore movie featuring vampires and werewolves would be overkill at this point. There are countless mythical creatures just waiting to be introduced to movie audiences.

Interesting to see how the project came to be, the subsequent changes, and the final product. I, Frankestein's box office was a bit of a disappointment -- hey, it happens -- but I get the impression the concept might find life in video games and/or comics.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The World's End (Outline)

The World's End was one of my favorite movies of 2013 and as luck would have it, look what Simon Pegg tweeted today, a one page (first) outline of the script:

Click to enlarge

This is arguably more informative than the actual screenplay because we get to see the how and why of the story.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

2014 Nicholl Screenwriting Competition

Well, that time of the year is upon us again, the 2014 Academy Nicholl Screenwriting and dream crushing Competition is now accepting entries. Last year, I went Nicholl-free for the first time in a while. I’ve run out of things to tweak with the current script so it looks like I’ll be jumping into the fray with my supernatural thriller.

You know the drill:

Early deadline: 5:00 p.m. PT,  February 28; entry fee US$35
Deadline: 5:00 p.m. PT, April 10; entry fee US$50
Late deadline: 5:00 p.m. PT, May 1; entry fee US$65

Details can be found here:

When the notifications are sent out in August, I'll probably be shaking an angry fist the sky and cursing Greg Beal, but I still think it's the best bang for your buck when it comes to screenwriting contests. Good luck!

Friday, January 31, 2014


The mythical inhabitants of American forests are supposedly big, hairy and smelly but over in Norway, they're hot chicks with tails. Thale is a clever little fantasy/thriller about two crime scene cleanup guys who stumble upon a mysterious young woman in a secret laboratory...

Just when you think all the possibilities for low budget, cabin-in-the-woods stories have been exhausted, something like this comes along. There isn't much to spoil because the story itself is fairly simple -- running time is under 80 minutes. Some people will be bored to tears with the film's slow place, but I thought it helped build tension and pays off in Act Three. Ultimately, this is a nice calling card for the director and the visual effects folks. However, it's also a good example of a writer not settling for the usual B-movie suspects: aliens, bigfoot, zombies and the like.

Snagfilms now has it available on their site (for free) but I couldn't, for the life of me, get the embed code to work on blogger so you'll have to watch it over there.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Creature Features

Came across a fun little list from Mike Mendez, director of Big Ass Spider (2013),  the Top 5 Elements of a Great Creature Feature. It’s probably a little more geared towards writer/director types but some of his advice can be applied to plain ole screenwriters.

If I could tack on one more thing, it would be the importance of a good build-up. Suspense and imagination are your best special effects -- especially on low-budget horror scripts.  The tease of the creature is often more effective than the eventual reveal of a guy in a rubber suit or a fuzzy CG creation. I mean, sure, you could reveal the bat-winged, monkey-bird on page 10, but then what? Take a look at this:

The second I got a good look at the Creeper in Jeepers Creepers, the movie lost me a little bit. My rational brain could explain that it was simply a guy in a rubber mask. Cool design though...

While a lot of creature features leave very little to the imagination these days when it comes to marketing *cough*SyFy*cough*, the scripts themselves shouldn't be approached in the same manner.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Helix Season 1: First 15 Minutes

Check out the first fifteen minutes of Ron Moore's Helix before it premieres Friday on Syfy. I kinda wish Moore's 17th Precinct had gone beyond the pilot stage but this seems interesting enough...

Helix is an intense thriller about a team of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control who travel to a high-tech research facility in the Arctic, Arctic Biosystems, to investigate a possible disease outbreak, only to find themselves pulled into a terrifying life-and-death struggle that may hold the key to mankind’s salvation or total annihilation. However, the lethal threat is just the tip of the iceberg, and as the virus evolves, the chilling truth begins to unravel.

Given the setting, The Thing comparisons are inevitable. And while I could do with out the soap opera elements, I'll hold my tongue for now. It's just good to see the science fiction channel actually producing a Sci-Fi show.


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