Monday, November 12, 2007

...But there's no money, yet!

Quotes from Michael Eisner.

"For a writer to give up today's money for a nonexistent piece of the future -- they should do it in three years, shouldn't be doing it now -- they are misguided they should not have gone on the strike. I've seen stupid strikes, I've seen less stupid strikes, and this strike is just a stupid strike."

“There’s all of this rhetoric by the media companies about this ‘great new digital business’, which is a small, growing business that will one day be dominant, but it isn’t, yet there’s no money there yet.

From The Walt Disney Company President and CEO, Bob Iger: "it's about a billion five in revenue."

Mm hmm.

Great video, btw.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Picket Lines are Forming.

Here's a neat little short that boils down a lot of the issues and reasons for the strike.

The short glosses over the internet issues. It isn't simply about Internet residuals.

The Internet has already changed what content looks like, helps support alternative formats to television, and is itself a very cheap and effective tool in distribution.

Nielson ratings have changed to take a % of internet views into account. This means that advertisers are already paying a pricetag that reflects a partial Internet distribution of any of your favorite shows.

The world is changing. And mass media is at the forefront.

Writers are the engines that keep content running. Highly skilled writers are the ones keeping the quality of shows you see on television at an all time high.

The internet has brought the viewing public and those creating the content something completely new. A new contract should reflect these changes, in all their intricacies.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

To Strike or Not to Strike

Does it even matter? That is the question.

For the up and coming writer, that has been getting rave reviews on his latest script from a handful of sources, doors seem more closed than ever.


Signatories do not want to touch new material with the impending strike looming. They have their own problems to deal with. A perfectly valid excuse.

As if this business wasn't hard enough to break into.

Regardless of how the situation with the WGA and AMPTP is resolved, there is nothing I can do except sit on my hands. I can only hope that things are resolved quickly, but that does not seem to be the future I am looking at through this funky crystal ball.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Since we can't call it plagiarism... because it isn't...

Tonight after viewing ABC's PUSHING DAISIES, I found myself torn.

While I do think there is potential in the central conflict revolving around a man who brings a lover back from the dead only to never be able to touch her again, I had a hard time getting past the visuals, as well as the storytelling format itself.

PUSHING DAISIES didn't just borrow from Jean Pierre Jeunet's AMELIE. It drew itself a hot, steamy tub full of Jeunet's bubbly masterpiece and dove in head first.

Only Gus Van Sant's remake of Hitchcock's PSYCHO paid more needless detail to recreating the original. Except this wasn't a remake. It really wasn't even a similar a story.

And that's where my gripe comes in to play.

Jean Pierre Jeunet's AMELIE has been raped by such thieves. I find Travelocity's "traveling gnome" to be a ridiculous rip-off. The advertising campaign makes no sense outside the context of AMELIE. You have to have seen the movie to understand what a lawn gnome has to do with traveling the world.

From set design, to wardrobe, to the stylistic quirky vignette's told by a voice over narrator, even the choice of characters themselves -- for lack of a better expression -- pay "homage" to AMELIE.

cough*Even the very, very similar French music for no apparent reason*cough

AMELIE is a story about a woman that still has wonderful fantasies much like when she was a child. The central conflict revolves around, that maybe living in this fantasy world she has created, she has let life pass her by.

It is a coming of age story.

And the visual and directorial style, as well as the children's book narration, go hand in hand with that premise. Form follows function.

For PUSHING DAISES form does not follow function. It follows style. "Wouldn't this be cool? Have you seen AMELIE? I liked that movie. We should do that. Wasn't that great?"

I have to say that I was surprised that this effort came from a seasoned director such as Barry Sonnefeld. I have to admit, that Barry Sonnenfeld is one of my favorite directors. And I'll bet a large majority out there have no idea who he is.

Ever seen MEN IN BLACK? THE ADDAMS FAMILY? These movies have a unique personal style all their own. They brought comic book "type" movies into the mainstream without taking away their edge. Without taking away what made them work as comic books. (Granted, The Addams Family was a television show. But the directorial style is so similar to MEN IN BLACK that it is hard to dismiss it as anything other than a Barry Sonnenfeld film).

In fact, it is my own belief that such movies paved the way for the comic book movies of today, as well as the Harry Potter type movies and opening a mainstream audience to the fantasy genre as a whole.

PUSHING DAISIES, in terms of directorial and and visual style, seems to have taken a step away from the progressive.

I guess, I expect a lot from my entertainment. I want to see the bar pushed. I do not want to see watered-down versions of things we have seen before.

Especially, from an interesting, unique story that has promise on its own merits.

Monday, October 1, 2007

That Which is Lacking...

Two manuscripts. Both 110 pages. Both the same plot. Both with very similar characters.

And yet, one is utterly fascinating. The other I want to throw out the window -- and possibly myself right after.



There is a difference between writing what you see in your head and crafting a story from ideas rattling around in the old noggin'. But wait -- there's more...

Even the dumbest reader can tell the difference. And that just may be me.

I really hated reading. I read slow. It wasn't until the last year or so that I actually started to enjoy reading. For the first time in my life I was choosing books I wanted to read, and not reading something that was forced upon me. I could take my time, or stay up all night to finish a book. Hell, I could even stop halfway through and throw the book in the garbage if I didn't like it.

I was free to enjoy reading.

I find myself going to Border's and perusing the new stock. Luckily, they also have a great selection of comic books so I can bail out if need be.

Point is, reading became more than a prescription issued by a teacher.

There is a magic that happens when a reader can ignore the fact that the words are orchestrated and arranged by another person (the writer) and bask in the glow of the world that is being created. To be able to take part in the lives of those that live there and feel confident in the fact that by the time the journey comes to a close you, your participation in the story, as the reader, was well worth it.

As a writer, first and foremost, it should be your job (hell, it is your job) to instill confidence in the reader that you are going to take them on a journey. That the time they spend reading each and every word you put on the page is time well spent.


Easy to say, harder to put on the page.

If for nothing more than giving me something decent to read, I want to pass this on to you...


Each and every SCENE in a movie/screenplay needs to have its place. It needs to exist for more than the fulfillment of the plot. If a scene ONLY exists for the fulfillment of the plot, you have a very weak scene.

I find all too often "scenes" in bad screenplays are simply a scene of filler. That is, a scene in which the writer needs these characters to come together in order to fulfill the plot. So it does. And is ultimately boring.

Watch any B-Movie picture.

The plot moves forward, making sense (usually), BUT WHO CARES!!!?

Every SCENE in a screenplay should be able to answer the question posed by a future viewer: "WHY DID I JUST WATCH THIS?"

Every scene MUST contain something that is to be won or lost, while putting at risk something valuable to your central character(s), at the same escalating the tension of the screenplay as a whole. This is no small feat.


For a terrific example, watch the FREE 9 minutes of Pixar/Brad Bird's RATATOUILLE.

This IS a SCENE!

Look at all the exposition it covers. Watch how it introduces those unfamiliar with cooking (most of the main stream audience) to the inner workings of the kitchen, while trumpeting the main character's love of cooking, and managing to slip in the central tension/dramatic question, foreshadowing the conflict that you will see throughout the entire movie.

(NOTE: This is done in about a minute).

It introduces the ANTAGONIST and there is no question that this guy is the antagonist.

It introduces the SIDEKICK who will become part of the hero team.

It manages to do all this work in a very fun, action-packed, thrilling chase sequence, without becoming muddy or confusing. The objectives of this scene are established.

This is a SINGULAR SCENE. It is completely self contained. You know where you came from before it and you know where the story needs to go after it. This is the essence of masterful screenwriting.

(If you want the Screenwriting book(s) definition of what this particular scene is, it goes by various names: The inciting incident, The catalyst, The Hook, The what the hell is this story about?)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Mystery That Is Coverage

I've been on a blogging hiatus. Mainly because I have a script that is actually gaining traction. Being the superstitious fool that I am, I don't want to jinx it.

But there is something strange that has come up. Something that I had no idea about.

Let me start off by saying, I set out to write an Action/Adventure picture that females would enjoy (yet, still be a balls to the wall action/adventure flick). I love Blockbuster movies, but I have a hard time convincing a date to come see one with me. And I understand why. I mean, this summer was atrocious.

So I did it. And the script is good. It's not just good. It's excellent. At least that's what the word that has been getting back to me has said.

But here's where the Twilight Zone music comes in...

Every positive piece of coverage on my script is from a woman.

Mission accomplished, right? WRONG. Unfortunately, Hollywood is still very patriarchal. When the script gets bumped up to producer level, which is overwhelming male, most of the producer's simply "don't get it."

The lead is a female. She's our 'in' to the story.

This creates a variety of dilemma for a producer. They can't relate to her character, simply because she is a woman. Instead they try to relate to the male character in the script, who is more or less a comic foil. And now we have real problems, because our producer is projecting himself into the embodiment of the fool in what is supposed to be a heroic action/adventure script.

And it is. Just from the point of view of the female. Which is the whole point of the story. That this female lead is overshadowed by her comic foil male counter-part.

My female readers have understood that with no problems. In fact, written coverage that has scored off the charts. A handful of male readers as well.

The problem is ... do a handful of male producers want to make it?

And that is yet to be determined.


This experience has reminded me of Bill Martell's blog about "Passing Notes," in which he discusses a similar problem. He tackles it from the POV of a writer being forced to change the intent of the story. However, I think it reflects a larger issue. Take a gander.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mike Wieringo!

This is a big shock to comic book fans.

44 years old and a powerhouse of artistic talent.

My world has just gotten a little smaller. And a little less magical.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

That Thing You Do

I owe some very nice people ... something. I don't really do reviews on this site.

I received an email asking if I wanted a free copy of THAT THING YOU DO. There were no strings attached. Just watch it. Write something about it if I felt like it.

How can I say no to free stuff?

Since this is a re-release and much of the draw to this DVD is the new EXTRAS and the extended cut I figured I'd go through all the content before posting. And that's where I found items that are actually applicable to this blog.

To screenwriting.

To filmmaking.

To collaboration at its best.

I have to warn you... The Extended Cut is pretty boring. (Luckily, the DVD provides BOTH the original theatrical cut, as well as the extended cut). It is long with scenes that really do not touch on anything other than giving minor character motivation and backstory (through dialogue). They are not bad scenes. They simply do not push the story forward, and thus, do not belong in the film.

How could you say this? These people gave you a free copy of their DVD.

Well, take a step back for a second and think about it.

That means the editor and director made GOOD choices when lopping off scenes that did not deal with the central premise of the story. In a time when extras on DVDs are expected as an additional bonus to the theatrical release, it is oftentimes easy to forget why scenes get cut out of movies in the first place.

Every "extended" cut should be WORSE than the theatrical cut. If they aren't someone didn't do their job getting the best possible cut to the viewing public.

And this is where the strength of both this movie and DVD lies.

THAT THING YOU DO was Tom Hank's directorial debut.

It is a fun movie that struggled due to a lack of genre expectation. I think it succeeds in a way I haven't seen from the hordes of 'bands coming to glory and falling apart' stories previously have. These stories tend to be overly nostalgic and overly dramatic, forgetting what it is that made these bands fun in the first place and trying to transfer that feeling to the screen. To this the movie was a success.

Secondly, actors that become directors tend to focus heavily on character to character interaction and generally forget that the director's job also includes the overall tone, attention to detail, and storytelling of the film as a whole, and not just moment to moment.

This DVD illustrates something very rare.

Tom Hanks made good DIRECTORIAL decisions on this movie.

And while it received fairly luke-warm reviews, the movie is actually able to capture the feel, tone, and vibe of a Beatles-esque type band coming up around that era.

If you are a big fan of Tom Hanks, I think this DVD is a must-have. It marks his debut into directing. Illustrates that he has potential as a future director (Hopefully, he tries directing more often (especially seeing as his looks are going.)) The behind the scenes footage, as well as comparing the Extended Cut Vs. the Theatrical Cut is also a great tool at analyzing the different toolsets that are needed from one filmmaking profession to the next.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

On the Karmic DL

Some things have come up. Things I'd really like to share. To talk about. To get out of my head and into the nether-void of the internet. Things that pertain to the struggle of the screenwriter, trying to get their first big break.

But, right now I just can't.

Really, I use this blog as a forum to gather my thoughts. To make them tangible. As much as I want to get them off my chest, at this point, I am keeping a low profile ... for karmic reasons. I am the most pessimistic optimist you will ever meet.

Things are going good. There's some potential with a few projects, but for me, personally, when there is a ray of sunshine, I am waiting for the thunderclouds to roll in and rain on my parade.

It makes me uneasy when things are up in the air. I dream big and I chase those dreams like Jason chases under-aged campers that have just lost their virginity. But the duration, length, money, time that needs to be invested to get anything off the ground as a screenwriter has me perpetually holding my breath, crossing my toes, rubbing my lucky rabbits foot, and performing a horde of other superstitious rituals in the hopes that nothing will get jinxed.

And talking about that which is yet to happen ... is very high on my list of ways to jinx everything.

So I'm letting these chicks hatch before I start counting them.

That said, I will share the inner workings of what is going on when the time comes. Afterall, success or failure, it doesn't really matter. This blog is about the journey.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Identification With the MAIN Character

In short-hand this is often referred to as making the main character "likable." Rarely is the term "likable" ever what anybody means when they use this term in reference to a screenplay.

What they really mean, or are asking, is how will the viewer/reader identify with the main character.

Why is this so commonly asked? Why does it seem like every producer and network exec all ask this very same question?

Because it is IMPORTANT.

In a novel, we get to hear the inner thoughts of every character (if the writer chooses to let us in on those thoughts). Identification in literature isn't as big of an issue as it is in film. In film, the main character is the viewer's ticket into the story. And ultimately into the thoughts of the writer.

When you can put yourself in the main character's shoes, the screenwriter and director have succeeded. However, there are two kinds of viewer identification.
  1. I feel for the character and would NEVER want to be put in the situation that main character is in.
  2. I want to be the main character.

Believe it or not, but GENRE actually plays a huge role in differentiating between the two. Almost every HORROR film plays off #1. Most FANTASY films play off #2. THRILLERS tend to play off #1.

But interesting things happen when you play with viewer identification within a given genre.

Let's take two examples. THE FUGITIVE and THE BOURNE IDENTITY.

Both are excellent films. In terms, of screenplay, direction, genre, and fulfillment of genre expectation they are pinnacles of the craft. Both are Thrillers. Structurally they are very similar. Both are "chase" films in which the main character is fleeing for their lives, trying to resolve the issue/problem that put them in this predicament in the first place. When the chase is over, so to is the movie.

But the identification is EXTREMELY different.


Richard Kimball is convicted of murdering his wife. When the bus transporting him to a maximum security facility crashes, Richard is given the chance to prove his innocence. This is the First Act of the film. From this point on Richard is constantly on the run.

It is easy to identify with Richard Kimball's plight. But no one would trade places with him.


Jason Bourne has lost his memory. He puts together a few clues, opens his safe deposit box, discovers his identity (or at least one of them). This alerts the powers that be to his presence, and from this point on Jason Bourne is continually on the run.

Again, it is easy to identify with Jason Bourne's plight. The difference is, I believe there are a lot of people that would like to be Jason Bourne.


The plight is the same.

The difference lies in the central premise of THE BOURNE IDENTITY. If I were to pitch the story to an exec or producer, all I'd have to say is, "It's The Fugitive, except instead of being a doctor, the guy was a hired assassin who has lost his memory."

The difference being that Jason Bourne is a trained assassin. And when he is chased, he kicks some serious ass. The stakes are innately higher because if Jason Bourne were put in Richard Kimball's situation, the movie would be 15 minutes long. This creates a much more iconic figure, which in turn makes it a much easier film to market. It also opens it up to a variety of ancillary markets. Hence, why most Blockbusters tend to be of the #2 variety.

Here's the kicker...

Viewer identification has nothing to do with REALISM. It has to do with understanding the situation of the main character, and rooting for him.

There is no right or wrong in the crafting of a story. THE FUGITIVE is excellent. I'd argue, better than THE BOURNE IDENTITY. But you won't see action figures of Richard Kimball. You could easily see action figures of Jason Bourne (or Mini-Coopers brought into popularity in the U.S.).

P.S. -- As far as GENRE EXPECTATION goes, Chase/Thrillers such as these two movies tend to also be Fish-Out-of-Water stories. Note, that THE TERMINATOR is a similar Chase/Thriller. Sarah Connor is most certianly out of her element in that story.

THE BOURNE IDENTITY does a terrific job of pretending to be a Fish-Out-of-Water story. It did this by erasing Jason Bourne's memory. Think about it... He really isn't a fish-out-of-water. He is always a kick-butt assassin, able to handle his own. He just doesn't know why he is able to do that, which gives the audience the illusion of a fish-out-of-water. Richard Kimball, a renowned doctor being placed into the realm of criminal is truly a fish-out-of-water.

In both instances, the story is about how the audience will react to it, and living up to the expectations of the genre. Not the actual nuts and bolts of the story itself.

My next post is going to be on WISH FULFILLMENT in films, which plays largely into #2 and why such movies are easier to market.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Do we really even need the MPAA?

"Clearly, smoking is increasingly an unacceptable behavior in our society," MPAA topper Dan Glickman said in a statement.

Uh huh.

~~Maybe~~ in California.

Apparently, this guy has never been on a movie set. Or in any artistic field. When I was messing around with my art career, illustration or some such nonsense, there were SMOKING BREAKS in every class, every 45 minutes or so because 99% of the people smoked.

But let's skip ahead to the real issue:


Jim Steyer, CEO of family advocacy group Common Sense Media, called the announcement "a big step forward for the MPAA to connect the dots between onscreen behavior and the impact on kids' health."

Or maybe, you know, PARENTS actually taking an active role in ... well... PARENTING. Could the ever-escalating numbers of single parent households be responsible? And not the movies. That would seem to be Common Sense to me.

What I really don't understand is... Why take a stand against cigarettes? Why not alcohol?

There's many, many, many more times the amount of deaths DIRECTLY related to alcohol than has ever been even indirectly connected to cigarettes.

What's a PG-13 coming of age, college, comedy without excessive binge drinking? I've yet to see ANY movie portray cigarettes in a light that is a fraction of the endorsement movies are for alcohol.

Or how about food consumption? Should we stop showing people eating? The number one cause of death in the U.S. is HEART DISEASE. And somehow we like to dismiss the fact that America is rapidly becoming the most OBESE nation... by a large margin. Gee, wonder if that extra ton of belly fat puts more strain on my heart, that leads to further complications, such as heart disease. Go figure.

Are we going to start warning against all the evils of the world that can be put into a film? I thought the singular LETTER was supposed to represent the general idea of how acceptable a movie is to a given age group. Not the be all, end all, final decision of every minor offensive vice held within. That decision is SUPPOSED to be made by the parent. But so many people in this day and age love to blame others for their problems. And corporations, in the endless pursuit to avoid any liability, placate even the smallest minority.

Could you imagine the warning label that would play at the start of the film if this trend continues? It would be longer than the end credit crawl for a Peter Jackson film.

There is only one word that can sum it all up:


Friday, May 11, 2007

Montage in Screenplays

Montage is a great tool in films. It can tell a lot of story in very little time. Add tension and drama through intercutting. Create tone.

The problem is... it is not a WRITER'S tool.

It really is an editor's tool. (Director too. Cause you know, he'll tell the editor, "Hey, nice montage" and take credit for it).

Here is the thing about montage in a screenplay.

It SUCKS to read.

The majority of the time when montage is used in a screenplay, it is because the writer is lazy. He wants to shortcut through necessary exposition with a montage, instead of crafting a dramatic scene/sequence. Or worse, supplements drama with a laundry list of things to "look" at.

In my experience, there are two types of montage.
  1. Symbolic Juxtaposition
  2. Series of Shots
When you link symbolic actions or items in a way that juxtaposes the images, the reader has to understand the meaning of the symbols and then figure out what the writer is trying to say by juxtaposing them. It is much easier for a reader to understand symbolism when it is placed within a scene, rather than just thrown at them.

The alphabetcal list of items in a series of shots often reads with a very sterile tone. More often than not, the reason to use montage is to CREATE a specific tone. Montage does a great job of creating tone on the screen. Montage on the page reads extremely flat.

If you are a screenwriter, your job is to create the tone of the movie on the page. Montage, more often than not, works against that goal.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Sometimes I Hate Being Right...


(MAJOR MAJOR SPOILERS TO BE POSTED. If you have plans on seeing the movie, do NOT read this).


When I heard they were doing Venom, I knew it was going to royally screw things up. Why?

  • Spiderman 1 + 2 were setting up for Harry Osbourne to become the Green Goblin 2. Along with that comes a REVENGE story.
  • The problem is the Venom storyline is not a revenge story. It is a story of an IDENTITY CRISIS.

From that point on, I knew things were going to be messed up. Here is an excerpt from The Art of Dramatic Writing, by Lajos Egri:

QUESTION; IS it possible to write one play on two premises?

ANSWER: It is possible, but it will not be a good play. Can you go in two different directions at the same time? The dramatist has a big enough job on his hands to prove one premise, let alone two or three. A play with more than one premise is
necessarily confused.

And we have located the problem with SPIDERMAN 3, before ever stepping foot inside the theater, or reading the script, or knowing anything other than the characters.

What blew me away was that it not only tried to juggle two premises... it tried to juggle upwards of SIX, if not more. It was worse than I had ever imagined. The themes that are vaguely present and somewhat expanded upon in Spiderman 3 are, in no particular order:


Note: Egri intentionally makes no distinction between premise and theme. I do. I think a movie can present multiple themes, while still having only a singular premise. They can exist together in some form. You just can NOT try to PROVE more than one.

Unfortunately, Spiderman 3 tries to prove ALL of them. Symptoms include the drawn out the drawn out ending and a majority of the corny dialogue.

So let's get to the nitty-gritty.

The script sucked.

The script was 100% to blame. Whether it be the studios, the director, or the writer that made it that way, I have no idea. All I can tell you from watching the movie is that it was very obvious that the script was at fault. Evidence:

  1. The movie, in TONE, played move like a sappy romance than a Spiderman movie.
  2. Opportunities to use the VISUAL METAPHORS inherent from the comic books where completely wasted.
  3. Opportunities for GREAT CHARACTER INTROS where BLOWN!
  4. Complete lack of DRAMATIC TENSION, which resulted in melodrama.
  5. Flat and in some places just horrible Dialogue.
  6. Inconsistencies.


This goes hand in hand with genre. People are going to see SPIDERMAN 3, a superhero blockbuster, because they want to see the hero kick some badguy butt in only the way Spiderman can.

Not to see a sappy, overly drawn out romance. And a bad one at that. The love story is, will be, and ALWAYS has been SECONDARY to the plights of being Spiderman. The love story is an OBSTACLE to being Spiderman, but it is not THE story of being Spiderman.


It is the same mistake made time and time again with comic book adaptation. Particularly those of the superhero variety.

  • Comic books have this unique way of turning inner turmoil into externalized Action.
  • Movies MUST externalize inner conflict.

I think most comic book movies get OVER-analyzed to death. To put it simply, you could have the most absolutely mundane plot, as long as you cash in on the visual metaphor to its fullest.

Simply have Spiderman go around doing his thing, saving the day, being the hero, and when the Venom symbiote attaches itself to Spidey, all of a sudden he starts doing bad things.


Oh nos!

Now he starts hurting those around him and has to decide whether or not to keep the symbiote. INNER CONFLICT. See how easy it was to get to inner conflict?

Then he finds out he can't. You have both INNER and EXTERNAL CONFLICT. The act of Spidey trying to remove the symbiote is now completely integrated with his INNER CONFLICT.

That is the definition of visual metaphor. Most comic books innately externalize the inner conflict. The symbiote is an AMAZING externalization of the conflict within ones own self.

Here's where the movie got muddy...

Eddie Brock. essentially Peter Parker. A darker version.

Venom essentially Spiderman. A darker version.

See the parallel here?

Eddie Brock's "revenge" story is really Peter Parker's IDENTITY CRISIS story. The revenge aspect is simple plot, to give Eddie motivation to put Venom and Spiderman head to head. But it is not the CORE of that story. The IDENTITY CRISIS is.

Peter Parker gets the symbiote. Gets power. Cocky. Hurts those he loves. What have I become? Decides to lose the symbiote. Finds out he can't. Goes to the bell tower because he knows sonics hurts it. And removes it.

Meanwhile, Eddie Brock has been shown up by Peter Parker at every turn. Peter always gets the perfect shot of Spiderman. Spiderman saves the day. Hell, it'd even STRENGTHEN Eddie's character to have him save the day, only to be overshadowed by Spiderman. Now, you're hitting his character on all cylinders. He can't accomplish ANYTHING because of both Peter Parker and Spiderman.

In a rut, Eddie goes to the church. Praying for forgiveness of his sins... Why? Because he is about to kill himself. Suicide.

The bell rings. Venom symbiote drips on him. And what do we have? A good old-fashion, hero's journey, RESSURECTION. The symbiote knows Parker/Spiderman's secrets. And now EddieBrock/Venom does too.

And there's innate structure in that as well. Getting the symbiote is the INCITING INCIDENT (Call to Adventure). The need for Parker to get rid of it is the MIDPOINT. Parker getting rid of it is the ORDEAL. And Venom being created is the twist that propels the Third Act.

Everything else is gravy. Mind you, it should be steeped in IDENTITY CRISIS gravy. but gravy none-the-less.

There really is no room for Harry's REVENGE story in that. The one thing that actually did fit, however, was Harry's amnesia. The nice thing about his amnesia was that it opened up the door to put the REAL Harry Osbourne comic book stuff in there. You could have had Harry doping up with his own Identity Crisis, while Peter was "doping up" on the symbiote of his identity crisis.

Likewise, I thought the idea behind M.J.'s character was a good choice. But... well... to be put bluntly... obviously written by a man. It was lacking in execution, let's say.


Where the f--- were they?

I can harp on all of them, but I'm going to stick with Venom because it is by far the WORST of the bunch, that could have easily been the best.

So... Eddie Brock gets dipped in leftover Peter Parker goo. It really isn't clear what happened at this point (Bear with me, comic book fans. I know, you know what happens, but still, to tell a dramatic story, you need to pretend no one knows).

Did the symbiote kill him? Is he something new? It's up in the air.

So, you have M.J. at home. Maybe she's sad. Still pissed at Peter for combing his hair down in front of his eyes to be Emo-Parker. Spiderman swings in through. It's dark. All you see is the black suit. The black suit spider symbol. The white eyes.

M.J. rants and raves. Wants him to leave. And "Spiderman" smiles. In the darkness, a giant white, toothy grin.

See, what happened there? Nice little twist. Intro of a new character. Your Venom fans would LOVE you. Plus you're actually using the original material. The only ones left in the dark, but now incredibly intrigued (and most likely with 1/2 a clue after seeing Brock doused in symbiote) are the non-fans. But, man... you've hooked them.

A brief segway: A little backstory on VENOM.

Besides having all of Spiderman's powers. Being bigger and stronger. He does have an extra bonus, that is rarely used anymore. He doesn't set off Spidey's Spider-Sense.

Let that sink in for a moment. No one can sneak up on Spiderman because of that damn Spidey sense. No one, except Venom.

THIS HAS TO BE CAPITALIZED ON! Really, there's no point for the power other than to make a very, very frightening character entrance.

Being a movie, makes this a little harder to sell. But being a sequel, and third at that, helps. His Spidey sense has been established (Hell, it's how he kills the Green Goblin... or lives I should say). A minor scene early in the third movie to establish that no one can sneak up on him would pay off HUGE for a later Venom intro.

Pretty much all character intros dropped the ball. Peter, Mj, Spidey, Harry. They aren't really introduced. They are just there.

The Sandman with his powers intro was the one real saving grace. Well handled. I thought it was great to see him actually learning how to be Sandman.


I'll just refer back to my previous post on dramatic tension.

This happens because the movie doesn't have a central idea. Instead the only thing it has to cling to is plot. And because plot doesn't give the huge emotional swings that creating tension through a central premise does... well...

You get scenes like... Harry, as the Green Goblin, abducting M.J. for no real reason (other than that shock scare). If Harry hadn't abducted her, he probably could have had the EXACT SAME RESULT just by flirting with her a little more.

Cut that scene, and M.J. breaking up with Peter would seem fine as well. You'd never notice it missing.

You also get a lot of talking heads. And very unmotivated action.

Not to mention a predictability that makes me want to hurt someone. Did anyone seriously thing Harry wasn't going to come back and save the day at the end?

Bad choices also lead to a lack of dramatic tension... the first example of Sandman's power is to become a giant sand monster. Umm, that's really cool. I actually leaned over to my g/f in the movie and was like, that's a bad choice. You have no where to go from there, without being redundant or less cool.

Show him making rock fists. And sliding under stuff to start.

My g/f laughed with a "You were right" when you see the even bigger Sandman at the end. It's like... oh yeah... great... an even bigger sand man. Didn't we see this already?


M.J. and Parker sitting in a web. Looking at the stars. A couple lines about the play. And how much she likes to sing. Followed by a TOTALLY unnecessary:

"I love you."
"I love you, too."

And then they kiss.


How about... her return line being something more like... "But you have to stop singing along." And then they kiss.

That says more about the playful nature of their relationship, while still saying I love you, without actually saying it.

Similar comments for the majority of "deep" conversations between M.J. and Parker. There is a hefty lack of subtext. The scene in the French restaurant nearly killed me. It was a great scene up until the point where M.J. shows up and becomes a total rag. Good job on that characterization boys.

For future reference, the overwhelming majority of female leads/co-stars/etc in comic books are BADASS! Tough as nails. They have to be to keep pace with their superheroic counterpart. Lois Lane in SUPERMAN RETURNS, is NOT Lois Lane. M.J. is not M.J. in this flick.


I never knew sand could fly.

Apparently, a bomb going off next to someone's face, only disfigures half their face. Yet, that same bomb going off next to Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote completely disintegrates them.

Hmm... Do you think Sam Raimi hated Venom? /grumble Make me do Venom. Fine! I'll just make sure no one else can use him. So much for the Carnage storyline, eh?

The whole movie is one large inconsistency.

This movie was a let down on all fronts. As a screenwriter. As a Spiderman/comic book fan. As a fan of blockbuster tentpoles. As a normal person that wants to see a good movie at the theater.

I don't typically like doing movie reviews. And to be honest, this isn't much of a movie review. This was a dissection of SPIDERMAN 3 and why it is so heavily flawed. Gotta keep those screenwriting skills honed and sharp.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

At the Start...

I just finished an adventure screenplay. Finally got it to a place where I'm happy to send it out into the world. Final page count: 107 pgs.

At the start of the year, I made a New Year's Resolution to write 3 specs by the end of 2007. This is the first.

So, now the question is: What's next?

I have a horde of ideas on the backburner. But those are mostly in their primordial, soupy idea state. A handful of visuals. Interesting scenes. A character or two. But nothing really substantial that makes me want to get off my butt and push them to the forefront.

And then there are the ones that keep vying for my attention. These tend to have the legs to at least put together the semblance of a story. They are...

  1. An old idea I had written to ~ 80 pages before deciding it was flawed. And not worth writing another page until I found a new way to approach it. Essentially a Page One rewrite.
  2. An old premise that has been fleshed out once. But most people want in a different genre than it is.
  3. A wacky genre bending modern fairytale.
  4. And of course, the incredibly personal story, that burns a hole in my soul to tell, even though it is the most non-cinematic idea I have ever had.


1) I don't have a new approach. Re-writing this would most likely result in another Page One rewrite. Why waste the time, right?

2) I have had lots of feedback on this script. Both positive and negative. Rave and dire. I probably could sell this one if I gutted the core of the story and pushed it into Comedy of the Thriller genre. But I just don't have the heart.

3) This one is so ridiculous. A wacky genre-less modern day fairytale. So not commercial. That it almost is. Basically, I could never sell this script as a first time writer. It's not the type of premise you break in with when you have no credibility.

The irony is, I'd love for it to be the first feature I direct. Shhhh.... That's on the DL. We're all writers here. /wink

To give you guys an idea of what I was going for...

The ultimate compliment ... The reaction I want when people leave the theater after seeing this movie is that they will be struck dumbfounded. Upon being asked their opinion of the movie, these viewers will only be able to make weak eye contact and nod mindlessly.

POTENTIAL VIEWER: How was the movie?
JUST SAW IT: I. Don't. Know.
JUST SAW IT: No. It wasn't bad.
POTENTIAL VIEWER: Oh? So it was good.
JUST SAW IT: I'm not sure.

But I also want it to make money. I won't start something that I think has no possibility of a return (I'm not always, right, but hey... Nobody's perfect). Which is a nice segway to...

4) Isn't this the piece of crap screenplay every aspiring screenwriter tries to write their first go at it?

I'm hoping that I have the willpower to just ignore it.

Either that, or get some random Indie Prod. Co. to buy it as a pitch, so that I can write it to be the overbudgeted piece of crap, that hits as limited an audience as possible, that it was meant to be. But hey, maybe Naomi Watts will star in it, as the character that is barely veiled as me.

...And that leads us back to the essential question.

Where to start? Where to start?

I have no idea how I am going to start my next spec. And a vague idea of which of the 4 it will be. I bet, you can tell I favored one. I didn't mean to. I actually only realized it, after putting it down on paper... umm... Internet... digital... numbers... thingy? Whatever.

The last screenplay I wrote was (The Adventure) with the intent to write something that my father would pay 10 bucks to see.

On Jan. 4th of this year, I wrote a post about the neglected demographics in Hollywood.

Strangely enough... Coincidentally... Through sheer serendipity... Who am I kidding? It was on my mind. I was hating the script I had been working on previously (which was actually #1) probably because it was a little too reminiscent of a #4.

And I started anew.

What I am missing now, is that fire under my rear. The kind that makes me write blogs about what I want to do until I realize the stupidity of ranting and raving about what I could just as easily be sitting down to do.

A couple more lightning strikes. A blog post or two. And I'll probably sit down and write #3.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Summer of BLOCKBUSTERS!!!

It's no secret that I love Blockbuster movies. Not the video store. The actual huge tentpole movies that come out every summer.

I can't remember a summer I have been more excited for.

In fact, I'd be willing to bet there has NEVER been a summer that has had as many tentpole pictures in it.

The one stat I find amazing is the number of 3rd movies are coming out.

Spiderman 3
Pirates of the Carribean 3: At World's End
Ocean's 13
Shrek the Third
Rush Hour 3
The Bourne Ultimatum (The third installment)


Resident Evil: Extinction (The third installment), which is set to be released Sept. 31st, hitting the Halloween season.

That makes 7 movies that are not just a sequel, but a second sequel. Right on.

Other tentpole sequels include:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (5)
Fantastic Four #2, which actually look better than the original, but is going to once again get slaughtered due to the high volume of tentpoles this summer.

I'm probably missing some, but seriously, who can keep track?

John August's Great Character Intros

When you google "Great Character Intros" this site comes up as the first choice. Second is John August's blog.


In fairness I did write mine first. But, really, who wants to hear me over a professional right? John has two or three seperate posts on creating great character intros. When I read them I was like, "Damn straight, I hit the nail on the head. Even the pros agree with my little discovery." It was a nice ego boost.

So, here's a link to John August's articles. Read the man's thoughts. They are $$$. Especially since he does get paid $$$ to write screenplays.

The one thing that I think he hasn't gone into much depth about is that the SCENE in which the (main) characters are introduced should reflect every aspect of that character.

In LETHAL WEAPON, Riggs is introduced at the beach, as a drunk, who protects a dog that bums are picking on. We also find out he is a cop in this scene. The scene nails tone of the entire movie, Riggs "crazy" character, his job, his kind hearted/protective nature, and his fighting skill. Not to mention the scene itself is a great hook.

That is some heavy lifting for an intro scene. And you should expect no less from your own.

Sometime in the future, I will be posting more great character intro scenes, making a series out of it. That is, if I can find the free time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


As of today, production on The Riches Season 1 has wrapped. That means my job, along with 100+ others, has come to its conclusion.

I started this blog because I had absolutely no idea what it would take to find success as a screenwriter. I hoped that through my trial and error, my failures, my triumphs ... maybe someone would gleam some insight.

So I'll start with a short list of my misconceptions:

1) I thought that by the end of season, we would know if the show (The Riches) had either been cancelled or renewed for a new season.
(Note: By we, I mean everyone in the producer and writer offices ... which includes the producers and writers)


As of today, FX has not decided one way or the other. This may have something to do with being on cable.

The Riches has generated critical acclaim, much to the delight of Dmitry the show's creator. In addition, its ratings have been good by cable (and FX) standards.

Crazy, huh?

My best guess is that FX will renew the show. They are probably just waiting till more episodes have aired to give the final say so. But who knows?

2) Executive Producers, Producers, and Writers are NICE.

I know. Who knew?

I can honestly say that everyone I worked with in the producer's office was a genuinely nice person. Sure, they got stressed, tired, were overworked, but man ... were they a pleasure to work with.

3) The Network - Sometimes gives good notes.

Granted, they give like ... I dunno ... somewhere in the ballpark of 5 trillion notes per episode, so a couple have to be good by sheer volume, right?

But some execs do know what they are talking about. And they'll conference call the creative types with 6 other execs that have a hard time figuring out how the Mr. Coffee works.

4) Bad scripts - can make good episodes.

I know books and school and everyone tells us, screenwriters, that a great script can make a great movie, but not the other way around ... Well, that's not really true.

Granted the best episodes usually come from the best scripts (watch 111 and 112 - the season finale - 112 was my personal favorite), but oftentimes the collaborative process makes up for a deficiency in one area.

5) Television is a much different beast than film.

I knew this going in. I just did not know the extent. Let me talk about story theory here just for a moment...

A film is this self contained thing. Whether it is a blockbuster or a small indie, when you reach the end of the film there should be some huge dramatic conclusion that pays off the premise of the movie.

Television is different, in that ... you aren't looking for a conclusion. Duh, right? The point I am making is that I believe The Riches does so well because the premise itself is very open-ended.

A family of Travellers adopt the rich life of a family they accidentally killed.

The possibilities are limitless. However, the threats, the dilemmas, the payoffs, the rewards, the benefits, and the consequences are all very specific.

For Americans, we tend to like our movies closed. But we love open-ended television. Lost. Alias. Heroes.

Anyway. That's about all my brain can handle for today. Ciao.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Getting an Agent

Here is the key to getting an agent:



Since any more explanation is not only unnecessary, but will invariably get you thinking about this imaginary world, in which agents are magical fairy creatures that can materialize jobs out of thin air, I am not going to write about getting an agent.

Instead, I am going to tell you a story.

THE RICHES is shot in a studio in Santa Clarita. Santa Clarita Studios to be exact. Imagine that. The stages lie at the bottom of a hill. But at the top of that hill is where the producers and writers reside (at least for the interim of the season).

This too, is where I find my happy little home.

Believe it or not, but this kingdom on the hill runs perfectly without any input at all from me. I know! Unbelievable. I find most of my time is best spent reorganizing the goodies in the snack room. Restocking. And cleaning out the fridge. Primarily anything I can do to be helpful, but stay out of the way.

One day a new show joined us on top of the hill. A show called DRIVE. They rented the office space next door. And built a make believe convenience store, called Preston's ... right into the back of our office building. Right where our parking use to be.

Not a peep was heard from anyone at THE RICHES. We are a friendly bunch.

But due to the, now, strange layout of the building, people from DRIVE were often seen roaming the halls. This became commonplace. And luckily the people involved with DRIVE reciprocated our friendliness.

The weeks went by. And there I was ... with not much to do. So I took it upon myself to empty out the fridge of a week's worth of take-out that still managed to look edible despite the contrary smell.

As I walked into the snack room, what should I see, but a small little man in nice shoes and a wrinkled sport coat. He was filling his pockets with candy and gum galore. A forty year old kid in a candy store.

My presence didn't seem to dissuade him from his pillaging. A few more chocolates and his pockets were overflowing. He popped a piece of gum into his mouth and chewed rather vigorously.

I returned to my desk. The small man strutted into the room and asked Ralph a question. (Ralph is the main man. He is the assistant to the producer and anyone that wants to talk to anyone in our building atop the hill must first go through Ralph. He is the gatekeeper. And a chill laid-back one at that).

This strange little man in his nice shoes and wrinkled sports coat, smacked on his gum and asked, "I was just visiting a client from DRIVE. Do Dawn and Nicole work here?"

For those of you that don't know ... Dawn and Nicole are the showrunners of THE RICHES. And very happily represented writers at ICM.

Ralph replied, "I think they are upstairs. May I help you?"
"Nah. That's all right. I'll just go on up and ask them myself."
To which I replied, "I 'd be happy to check and see if they are available."
"Sure thing."

The small man shoved his hands in his pockets spilling a few pieces of candy. He paced around the room in what would appear frantic for most, but seemed to simply be the man's natural state.

I relayed the message to Dawn and Nicole's assistant, who promptly responded, "Who?"
Then I relayed the message to Dawn and Nicole, who promptly responded, "Who?"

When I came back downstairs I informed that, yes, in fact, Dawn and Nicole were upstairs. To which he proceeded to climb the stairs for an impromptu meeting with them.

They were gracious. Inviting the small man into their realm, where they were otherwise busy with a grueling day's work. They listened to his pitch, but ultimately Dawn and Nicole really did like their present representation and saw no reason to switch.

So the small man headed downstairs. Even in defeat, there was an eerie gleam of triumph in his eyes. He made his exit in much the same way he entered. A wrecking ball of energy. No sooner arrived, than vanished.

But his mark had been left.

Take from this story what you will. But rest assured that given enough hard work, perseverance, and practice honing your craft, and yes, even you may have a small, creepy man pursuing you.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Too Much Story / Too Little Story

It's funny. As I read more and more screenplays one thing has become clear.

Most people do not know how to communicate a story (in any medium, let alone screenwriting).

It is the one defining element that a professional writer can always manage to accomplish that hordes of amateurs can not. And most likely never will.

The majority of screenplays I have read have two problems.

1) Too much story
2) Too little story

It gets even stranger. Most bad scripts have both.
And it is for the SAME reasons that the script has both too little and too much story at the same time.

How can this be?

The key word of telling a story is FOCUS:

What is the story about?
Every scene (or damn near every scene) should relentlessly tell your story.

If your story is about... how the loss of his father effects poor little Johnny, then EVERY scene should reflect that.

  • Most pros do this without even thinking about it.
  • Most amateurs think they are doing this, but they aren't.
What I see in the majority of spec screenplays (I have read) is a writer who doesn't know how to expand on their central premise...

...So instead, they (at least the better ones) throw more plot at it in the hopes that it fixes the problem.

The result is a screenplay that has too few scenes that address the central premise (too little story). But they also have extra material that "fits" logically into the narrative, but has nothing to do with the central premise (too much story).

In both cases, too little and too much story, is a result of the exact same thing: a screenwriter that doesn't know how to tell a story.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Premiere is Here

Don't miss FX's THE RICHES, tonight at 10 PM.

Tonight's version is a 50+ minute cut of the series premiere. That means less commercials, more story. It also means, it will most likely never be aired in its full duration again.

Here's a little behind the scenes vid that's recently been put out.

See it as it was meant to be seen. Tonight at 10 PM.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Life is Rich

Cat's out of the bag. I am a writing intern for FX's new show THE RICHES.

It airs March 12th, at 10PM on FX. Check it out.

There is a movie length trailer floating around that does a great job of capturing the tone of the show. I'll see if I can find it online.

I've had such an enlightening time watching this show come together. The concept is a breath of fresh air. From the scripts I've been reading, to seeing the content onstage, I think people are going to be pleased.

But who knows?

Television is a harsh mistress.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Post Oscar Post

All these screenwriting blogs are posting post-Oscar wrap-ups on their blog.

Can you say BORING?

They're all identical. Oh I thought so and so should have won. Marty Scorcese... what a tribute... About god-damn time! Seriously, did it need to come down to the three most prolific directors of our time getting on stage to present his award for him to actually win one?

They knew ahead of time. No shock there. Why'd they even bother opening the envelope? Spielberg barely even looked at it.

And here I go. Getting lost in the minutia of... well, minutia.

This post is here for one reason:

I like what they did with the screenwriting categories.

Actually reading along with the script as we saw onscreen what was chosen by the director to be depicted. That was a nice touch.

I also liked how it shows weaker screenwriting. For instance, THE QUEEN. I'm not knocking the movie, or even the screenplay. But the scene they chose to show (the queen looking at a deer, while the screenplay described the deer in a rather flowery language) was very average screenwriting.

The scene they chose to show from LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, was masterful. Short. To the point. Less words than the entire description of the deer and yet there is still tone, setup, and payoff. AND... a big 'and' here... the reader understands the meaning without having to hazard a guess.

Huh? you don't make sense. what's your point?

My point is... the LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE section they chose did not need the visual to understand it. The visual was just gravy.

And that's how good screenwriting works.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Hook -- The First Couple Pages

Isn't the hook always a pain in the arse?

It needs to establish tone. Mood. Hint at what the driving forces in the movie are going to be. And lay out the world in very broad terms. Most screenplays that are made into movies accomplish this. Even bad ones. But there is one other thing they do, as well.

They make the reader want to read more.

Here's an offbeat example. I like it because it accomplishes the above without using the main characters (probably why it was cut). It also is a scene that would be an otherwise boring day. Plus, it's a favorite guilty pleasure. BENEATH PERFECTION, better know as 1990's TREMORS.


The high desert -- absolutely silent -- a vast, hard landscape stretching away to distant mountains. The silence is broken by hoof-beats.


It's a simple cabin dwarfed by a big, ramshackle barn. EDGAR DEEMS (60s), a weathered desert rat of a hermit, is walking his donkey around in circles. Now, rattling toward them down an endless dirt road, comes an old, sun-bleached Buick. It stops and out leans OLD FRED (70s) wearing a sweat-stained fedora. The two friends nod.

How's she doing?

She wants to lay down. I'm a
little worried.

Old Fred climbs out with a bushel basket of carrots.

Well, I brung her something I know
she likes.

Damn, Fred, you can't give away all

Forget it. I got vegetables coming
out my ears. Usually the varmints
eat up half my crop, but lately I
ain't so much as seen a gopher or a
jack-rabbit nowheres.

If that ain't the truth. And I
count on them for a little bit of
stew meat...Thank you, Fred.

Edgar takes the carrots and feeds one to the donkey.

EDGAR (cont'd)
Here you go, Justine. Look what
Fred brought you.

We playing cards tonight?

I think I'm gonna be sitting up
with her.

I'd do the same. Well, catch you

You bet.

The men nod, and Old Fred drives off.

CLOSE-UP of the donkey's hooves thumping along as Edgar leads her to the barn.

EDGAR (cont'd)
Let's get you out of the sun for a

EDGAR (cont'd)
I'll get you some fresh water.

But, suddenly, we hear the donkey restlessly stomping its
hooves and braying. Edgar turns, concerned. Now we hear an odd sound. Distant thunder? The wind? The donkey gets more and more frantic.

The barn shudders violently. Frightened birds explode from the eaves. Dust puffs from every old seam. Roof shingles rain down. Edgar stares in amazement.

EDGAR (cont'd)
...some kind of earthquake!?

Then another sound -- the donkey starts screeching in wild

EDGAR (cont'd)
Justine, hang on! I'm coming!

Edgar races back to the barn and flings open the doors.


Dust swirls through the air. But -- the barn in empty. No donkey. Now Edgar is hit by a ghastly stench. He staggers back, and covers his nose with a handkerchief. Then he sees, splattered across the walls -- blood!

What in the name of Jehovah...?

He raises his arms above the door frame. When he lowers them he's holding a 12 gauge shotgun. He races outside, ready to shoot, but there's nothing -- as far as the eye can see.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Great Character Intros

First impressions make or break a job interview, a blind date, pretty much any form of social interaction. This goes 100-fold for movies. The introduction is PRICELESS. I think we can all agree on that.

The answer always seems to be stated that it is not what the character looks like, but what they are doing that contributes to their character. I couldn't agree more. However, the majority of examples simply add an activity thinking that's all that is needed.

JOHN TOUGHGUY smokes a stogie and spits.

That's not enough. The introduction of a major character needs to be incorporated wholly into the scene. Not just four lines of description after you write his name in caps for the first time.

Watch HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE. Could you care less when Cedric dies? Why?

How was he introduced?

Can't remember?

Harry and Co. are looking for someone. They wander through the forest and find him. It is Cedric's father. All of a sudden, Cedric falls from the sky. "Ah, there's Cedric. A strapping young lad."

So far, so good. But this is the equivalent of "JOHN TOUGHGUY smokes a stogie and spits." We don't really KNOW who this character is... yet.

And we'll never get the chance. Cedric immediately walks off screen with everyone except Harry and Cedric's father. What should have been a scene about the introduction of Cedric (a character that play a rather significant role in the supposed drama of this film), it instead turns into a scene about Harry. A pointlessly expository one at that.

I can't tell you if it is the writer's fault or the director's. Frankly, I could care less. The scene doesn't work.

Let's go with a good example. Like his writing style or not... Shane Black knows how to write an introduction. Here's the scene that introduces Riggs for the first time in LETHAL WEAPON.


FOUR TOUGH-LOOKING DOCK WORKERS are camped out under the pier, warming themselves around a small bonfire, laughing loudly. Christmas decorations dangle above them from the pier, and empty beer cans litter the sand around them.

CAMERA PUSHES IN to discover an old collie tied to one of the pilings. Then we realize that the dog is being tormented by the dock workers. They flick lighted matches at him. Shake their beers and spray him in the face. These guys are not rocket scientists.

The dog cowers, tugging bn the rope. Tries to get away. All to the great amusement of its tormentors.

One of them turns, laughing --

As a shadowy FIGURE strides calmly up to the fire:
Long hair.
Cigarette dangling from-lower lip.
Shirt-tails hanging loose below the waist.

Nothing threatening in his manner as he plops down beside the men, smiling. They are immediately on their guard.

Happy holidays. Mind if I join


Fuck off.

Riggs smiles at him innocently. Strokes the collie's fur with one hand. With the other, he reaches intb a paper sack and produces, a spanking new bottle of Jack Daniels, possibly the finest drink mankind has yet produced.

I need help drinking this. Cool?

The dock workers exchange glances. There seems to be no harm in this. One of them frowns:

You a homo?

Do I look like a homo?

You got long hair. Homos got long

I hate homos. Arrggh.

Riggs shakes his head, laughs.

Boy, you guys are terrific. You
make me laugh, you just do.

At which point, appropriately enough, Punk #4 shakes a beer and sprays it in the old collie's face.

The DOG pulls away, WHINING.
Riggs leans forward.

This your dog? Nice dog.

And then, he proceeds to do a peculiar thing:
He starts to talk to the dog --
in what seems to be the dog's own language.
Very weird, folks...
He coos, snuffles, barks softly, then withdraws, listening, his ear to the dog's muzzle.
Riggs nods. Frowns.
The others look on, puzzled.
Then Riggs looks at each of the four dock workers.

Huh- You know what? He says he
doesn't want you to spray beer in
his face. He says he just hates

A pause. Uncomfortable. Then --

Oh, he does ... ?
Well, mister, why don't you ask
him what he likes...?

The others snicker. Riggs simply nods.


And once again, begins to confer with the dog. Listens intently, piecing together what he is hearing.

What ... ? You want ... oh. Oh,
hell no, I couldn't do that ...
Nossirree bob, you little nut.

He ruffles the dog's hair.
The men are more puzzled than ever as Riggs turns and says:

Get this: He wants me to beat
the shit out of you guys.

Everything stops. A cloud passes over the assembled faces and a pin-dropping silence ensues.

Riggs, completely heedless, once again attends to the dog:

What's that ... ? The one ... in the
middle... 'is a stupid fat duck'...
What ... ?
(listens again)
Oh ... Oh! A 'stupid fat fuck!'

He looks up, shakes his head.

Boy, this dog is pissed.

The one in the middle grabs Riggs by the collar. Hoists him to his feet. Gulp.

Stands, staring down at Riggs, whose eyes are completely neutral, like a snake's.

Buddy, you're shortening your
life span.

He flicks open a mean-looking switchblade.

Riggs is dead meat.

So why then, does he choose this moment to execute a Three Stooges' routine, consisting of nose tweak, eye gouge, and rotating fist that bobs the dock worker on the head... ?

He's nuts or something ...

Riggs steps back and adopts a neutral fighting stance. The others begin to circle.

The DOG BARKS. Riggs turns to the dog, but his eyes never leave his grinning attackers.

(to the collie)
What's that ... ? You want me to
take the knife away... and break
his elbow... ?

Circling ...

Riggs, watching them, his eyes beginning to dance ... Breathing slow and even...

But that would be excruciatingly
painful ...

Something inside Riggs is gearing up ... the others can perhaps sense it, their smiles falter a bit, they crouch, combat-ready...
Riggs, eyes blazing ...

And if I separated the fat one's
shoulder... he'd probably scream...

No doubt about it. We know from the look in Riggs' eyes he's nuts. He wants the fight, badly, all four of them at once ...

And then Punk #1 springs...
Big mistake.

Needless to say, mincemeat is made of the four meddlesome dog-torturers.

The beach is littered with their writhing forms as Riggs does, finally, what he set out to do:

Unties the dog.

Starts to go.
As he does, he pats his shirt ...

Pats his jeans ... Realizes his wallet has flown free during the fracas.

Scoops to retrieve it from its resting place on the sand, where it lies open, and as it lies open, yes, folks, that is a badge we see.

Riggs, we realize, is an officer of the law.

Monday, February 12, 2007

In the Writer's Room

Last week, was a busy one for me. My car broke down. It needs a part, I can't afford. Things are taking off in my g/f's life, so it's hectic, but in a good way.

As I have mentioned before, I am interning on a television show. What I haven't mentioned is that I drive a fair distance to and from this internship each day. And it's starting to add up. Wearing me down. Time spent in the car (and normally I love driving) could be spent doing other things.

But they let me sit in the writer's room and listen to them break story. Somehow, this makes it all worthwhile.

And yet, I am afraid I may have made a complete jackass out of myself.

You see, I am the type of person that is very shy. I can not possibly ask to be let into a room like this. I beat around the bush. A lot. It also doesn't help that the writers are also Executive Producers of the show. Not only do I look up to them as possible mentors, but they are the ones in charge. Every reason in the world to be nervous, right?

I have read all their scripts, kept up to date with the story, and am writing a spec based on the show (Not necessarily for them, but I figure if the show takes off, being a front-runner with a spec in a medium where speed is prized couldn't hurt). And here I was... simply listening to them break story. The really interesting part is that they are down to their last three episodes of the season. So, things are really heating up story-wise.

There were numerous ideas pitched back and forth and not one was shot down. I know! All of you writers, and soon to be writers, out there gasp in amazement. There was no teacher, agent, or anybody criticizing. The good ideas would stay afloat and bad ideas would simply fall out of discussion. Very interesting. Film school, nor any experience I've had with features (which admittedly is limited) has had anything to do with developing ideas into the best they could possibly be. Usually they are deemed interesting enough to read (send your script in) or not. There is none of the back and forth to really make a story shine. In the old days, I believe this was called development.

I listened for hours, and they finally hit a sticky point that had split the room.

The problem was... I was bursting with ideas. I wanted to add to the discussion, so badly... but who am I? I am just an unpaid intern. Bite your tongue peon! I had been for the duration, but at this lull, I politely asked if I could give my two cents.

And they said, "Go ahead."

I don't know how it happened, but my body was instantly covered in sweat. Head to toe. The room was red-hot. My face was flushed. I immediately regretted piping up. I stammered out an idea that I thought would not only up the stakes for the episode, but provide jeopardy for the remainder of the series.

But I could hear it. I probably shouldn't have said anything. They were all very quiet. They let me explain, but I don't think they liked the idea. In fact, at that moment I had the feeling that they thought the idea was stupid and undermined the concept of the show. It may have. Then I politely, if not awkwardly thanked them for letting me speak. As soon as the words "Thank you" left my mouth, they rung in my head as if a judge had made his final verdict. Solid. Definitive. God, I hope it didn't come out like that. I think it only sounded like that in hindsight. In the echo of my memory.

I was truly honored that I was given a chance to say anything. My thank you was very sincere.

Luckily, it was treated as such. They very politely thanked me for my idea, told me it was a good one, but not to be surprised if it wasn't used. And the session continued on.

Now, I have no idea if they were just brushing it aside or if they really felt like it had merit. But you know what? I really don't care. I was able to sit in on the process of a television show as it is being created. Not only that, but I got to speak up, even if just for a moment. And I did so without making a complete jackass out of myself.

To me that was worth it. Especially, the not making a jackass out of my self part. I tend to be a master at that, unintentional or otherwise.

Now, I have to work up the nerve to see if I can sit in again, and this time not say anything at all.