Tuesday, January 30, 2007

They stole my birthday!

Damn you Oscar!!!

The few friends I have are all film nerds. There's no birthday love, this year... :(

I guess I gotta do what I gotta do. Buy a cake from Albertsons, crash an Oscar party, and sing Happy Birthday to myself in the corner.


Let's not forget: drink all the alcohol and puke on the furniture. That's right Chris! And this year it's my birthday!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of The Union

Isn't it strange when your life takes big turns? Things start happening faster and projects you're half way through just seem to have no life. You can't find the energy or sheer will power to finish them. And probably, rightly so.

There's a pile of new and fresh ideas that you've been dying to dive into, but for some reason are on the backburner. For some reason, these are always the projects you "really" want to do, but for some reason the others have priority in your mind.

I recently realized that I shy away from my favorite genres. Genres I know inside and out. Genres I dream about. Genres that tell the types of stories "I really want to tell." I find myself thinking... not even able to voice to loved ones... just thinking... that one day when I get something picked up, then I'll be able to write those. Kinda sad, really.

Why is it I shy away from the very genres that I go to the movies to see, but also WANT to write?

My favorite genres are Action and Adventure. No not, Action/Adventure. Two separate genres. And I like them for their purity.

For me, the Action genre is defined by two movies:

DIE HARD marks the beginning. TRUE LIES marks the end.

DIE HARD is the pinnacle of the Action genre at its simplest and TRUE LIES is at its most complex. Plots any simplier than DIE HARD seem to be lacking. Plots any more complicated than TRUE LIES sacrifice action. Both movies make the family relationship integral to the plot, but DIE HARD skims the surface for simplicity, while TRUE LIES takes it head on and actually makes the family relationship hold bigger stakes than the threat of terrorists with nuclear weapons. In essence, they are the same movie, only complete opposites.

I hold them in high regard. And that's the problem. I don't think I can top them. So, I don't try. Instead I spend as much energy as possible, avoiding this genre. Trying to do something "new" simply by not doing what I am best suited for. And I think that is a grave mistake. I obviously love these films for a reason.

For this year's screenwriting State of the Union, I promise to write only what I want to write. Not what I THINK I want to write.

I will force myself to no longer be afraid of great movies.

I am going to write what inspires me. If my goal is to write truly memorable films, which it is, than I can not be afraid to take my idols head on. To dethrone them. Or at least try to with every ounce of my being.

The freedom of writing without fear!
The ability to write unhindered without the interference of that oh so logical brain!
To cut through to the emotional core of a story!
And a piece of masking tape for every feline!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bond... James Bond

This is one of the best spoof trailers I've seen that makes a movie I'd actually go see.

Tom Hanks, as 007, James Bond.

Pattern Finding Machines

We are humans. We look for patterns. It makes it easier for us to break down, explain, and communicate complex ideas. We do it so well that we place patterns in places where they do not exist.

A frequently asked question to a screenwriter is:
How do you come up with new ideas?

This is usually followed by a question asking,
How do YOU write a screenplay?

Well... there are dozens of books on the subject. Go to google or amazon.com and type in screenwriting and you can buy thousands of dollars worth of information on how to write a screenplay and get ideas. But that never really answers the questions, does it?

What people are really asking is: How do I write great stories?

To that there is no answer.
But that doesn't stop the questions. Nor the demand for tip books on screenwriting. Keep in mind that the majority of authors that write screenwriting books have made more money selling their "How To" book than actually writing screenplays. And most professional screenwriters complain about the flawed methodology that preaches format over content.

The overwhelming stacks of screenwriting books fall into two types:
  1. The ones that examine successful screenplays.
  2. The ones that examine failed screenplays.
They are both attempting to do the same thing. To create a working pattern by examining previous screenplays that have a known end result. Then they hand over this pattern to aspiring writers who do not know how to tell a story... which is fine. We all start somewhere.

The problem is that screenwriting books will NEVER grant the ability to tell a story. Writing will. The more you do it, the better you become. But most people don't want to put in the work. They just want to start out as a genius.

In the words of American Idol, foul-mouthed, whiny, 16 year old, brat, Jason Anderson,

"I wanted to start out famous."

How does someone with no work ethic feel entitled to accomplish something that very few people with talent, skill, and determination are able to?

"You will be, famous. You will be, famous," his mother consoles. Slap her. Please.

Back to screenwriting. Here's a tip... 3 Act Structure, 8 Sequence Structure, The Hero's Journey, they all work. But only when dramatic content is applied... DRAMATICALLY.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Interning for Television

So I got a gig as a writer's intern for a television show. It's a show that's been picked up for 12 episodes, but aren't airing yet, so I can't really talk about it.

Just to fill in some backstory. I am a wannabe writer/director. Like 90% of the people I have met in the past week. I have been turned on to the film industry by movies. Television really never had any draw for me.

Until now...

I always thought that if I wanted to be a writer (a screenwriter), I'd have to endure the dreary solitary life of being permanently attached to the computer until I wrote something that someone, somewhere actually wanted and didn't mind taking a chance on a newbie writer. Until that time I would have to suppress the near suicidal thoughts and crushing criticism and muscle through, practice, and hope I was getting better in my isolated void, losing all objectivity on my writing and soul.

Television is a collaboration. I'm sure a lot of you know that. I did. But I didn't really understand what that meant. I am very overprotective of my ideas. I don't want anyone to steal them. Yeah, who would steal them. I've had scripts that I have kept completely to myself that have been "stolen." There's some strange collective consciousness that taps into the nether void and pulls out strikingly similar ideas. 2006 saw a ton of vampire stories. Don't worry, you'll be seeing a handful of them hitting the big and small screens shortly.

The problem was that keeping my stories to myself meant I never developed them. They never got to see the light of day. They never became anything more than ideas in my head. They never evolved.

I'm a smart guy. I come up with some pretty good ideas. My screenwriting skills are decent. The problem is nailing that idea... no... exploiting an idea to its fullest possibility. Cashing in on the premise to the fullest extent. Having a group of people toss around ideas on how to make your idea better is amazing. Seeing and hearing how a show is developed from idea to words on a page to revision after colorful revision has helped my screenwriting more than I could ever verbalize.

The scary thing is that most of the writers are also Executive or Co-executive Producers. You know, the people who are ultimately in charge. So if you mess up or piss them off, you can pretty much kiss your butt goodbye. This is their show. Their baby. Usually one person cme up with the idea / pilot and a couple showrunners become attached to develop the pilot into a series. They write a new episode, roughly every week. This also includes revisions of previous episodes. And here I am... helping?

More like, feeling like I am in the way. Who am I to even be in their presence? OMG. They're talking to me. What should I say? Should I act normal? Wait a minute... what the hell is normal?

In all honesty, I don't know how to answer any of these questions. I think it boils down to using common sense. It appears I have really lucked out. These people are very nice. They let me read all the scripts and answer some of my more benign questions about the series and television writing in gerenal. I am treating this purely as a learning experience...

...and am finding out that I am enjoying the process of television writing. There is a wamr family feel, that makes it feel like everyone in the team is appreciated.

I am the new guy... so what do I know? Nothing, really. But for now, I am watching with eager eyes.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hollywood is the Simon Cowell of Screenwriting

It's American Idol time again.

Talk about a great hook. The auditions really are the best part of the show. It's, what, season 6..? And people are STILL showing up, unable to sing, forgetting the words, leaving in tears, surprised Simon tells them they suck.

I mean... it's hilarious. But for some reason, this year, I can barely watch. It's sad, really. Don't these people get it?

SIMON: What am I supposed to say?
GIRL: I'm unique!
SIMON: It was one of the strangest auditions I've heard in my life.

And Simon is 100% correct. If only these people could take an objective look outside of themselves they would see how bad they are. Or how little place they have dealing with mainstream audiences. They wouldn't fall back on poor excuses. I can do it, I'm just nervous. All my friends tell me I'm good. I put in all this time writing... er... um, I mean, American Idol... singers... crushed dreams... uh, yeah.


Maybe I do understand. Maybe a little too well.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What do They Have in Common...?

I find it interesting that the majority of agencies, managers, and production companies require that screenwriters have an excellent grasp on how to market their screenplay. These days it seems a degree in business or marketing will get your screenplay closer to hitting the bigscreen than a background in literature and/or writing.

So you've become the master of marketing. You've gotten your script through all the Hollywood thresholds. They are shooting your script. Not a single word is changed. (Of course, intent of the script and what shows up on screen is an entirely different topic). You received tickets to the World Premiere in New York, but you live in L.A. and can't afford to fly out to the premiere. Afterall, you are a screenwriter. It gets rave reviews. But it tanks at the box-office.

And then you see it...

The trailer.

What the hell happened!? The screenwriter has to have a flawless sense of marketing, but the trailer editor is some schmo with Final Cut on his home computer that doesn't have enough talent to be an Assistant Editor.

I say, f--- that.

What happened to the breed of trailer editor and advertising campaign that made the ERNEST GOES TO... movies look like the funniest thing since a kick in the crotch.

It seems like advertising agencies assume that movies sell themselves. Great, if that's the case... there's a lot more money that can go toward the budget of the film, instead of the advertising agency. Just because a competent director shot an incredible movie, doesn't mean that the trailer will reflect that.

While I pause to reflect on this for a couple minutes...

On a regular interval, Scott the Reader, at ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER dishes out box-office predictions and feedback on the previous week in an effort to try and grasp what potential screenplays have the ability to generate money.

As the main point of this blog is to try and root to the bottom of the enigma that is screenwriting, I think there are things to be gleamed from box office numbers. However, I'm not sure how tied to plot, premise, character, or anything a screenwriter has control over the box-office is.

There IS a commonality.

The trailers.

STOMP THE YARD - From the trailer, I understand the movie. It looks retarded to me. I'm not even remotely interested in 1) urban movies 2) dancing. It reminds me of DRUMLINE, YOU'VE GOT SERVED, and an assortment of other "hip" movies that have been severely (and rightfully so) ridiculed in pop culture. And yet, for some strange reason I want to see it. This is probably not the best example of a great trailer. But it is making me second guess my pre-conceived notions. Give that trailer editor a raise.

FANTASTIC FOUR #2 - I had no intention of seeing this movie. The first one looked like garbage, from the trailer alone. Couple that with the unfortunate release of THE INCREDIBLES a half year earlier and I could do nothing, other than feel sorry for this movie. You'd think... the sequel... why would I go see that...?

Well, BECAUSE the trailer for it has an amazing hook and appeal. My gf who hates comic book movies, actually turned to me asking me what that movie was about. Then after that she was, like, wow. I kinda want to see that. And I have to admit... I'm intrigued.

Taking a look back on the year...

STRANGER THAN FICTION had a great trailer.

So did..



I am not saying these trailers are flawless. But unlike the other trailers out there, they don't make the movie they are selling look like a total piece of crap.

Are we really at a point in cinema history, when we have to ask advertisers, whose sole function is to appeal to a mass marketplace, to not make our product look like shit?

P.S. For a look at a really awful trailer, take a look at THE HITCHER. It looks like a really crappy remake of a 70's exploitation/slasher film.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Number One at the Box Office...?

After the death of his younger brother, a troubled 19-year-old street dancer from Los Angeles is able to bypass juvenile hall by enrolling in the historically black, Truth University in Atlanta, Georgia. But his efforts to get an education and woo the girl he likes are sidelined when he is courted by the top two campus fraternities, both of which want and need his fierce street-style dance moves to win the highly coveted national step show competition.

Looks like the fantasy genre is alive and healthy.

Ok... maybe I'm just old...

Are there really top fraternities that want and need fierce street-style dance moves to win highly coveted national step show competitions out there? If so, please... send me a brochure. I'm intrigued.

From my experience, fraternities were XXX rated versions of ANIMAL HOUSE. Is this what has become of the Greek tradition? See what happens when you remove hazing from houses full of pent up over sexed male youth. They learn tap.

Anyone who is a fan of these types of movies, feel free to educate me on their greatness. I just don't get it.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Names as clever as Story...


There needs to be another saying because "On the Nose," just doesn't cut it for these type of names. It would be like a character literally telling you what is going to happen in the movie and calling it foreshadowing.

As some of you may have figured out, I am talking about the movie CHILDREN OF MEN.

Many will argue that I missed the whole point of this movie. No I get it. There will be claims that I want the movie "dumbed down." That I'm not sophisticated enough to get it. Maybe they're right. But with names like those mentioned above, I find those claims hold very little water.

I want the story to be sophisticated as possible, but still entertaining. In truth, CHILDREN OF MEN is neither.

I love the world that CHILDREN OF MEN creates. I am a big fan of futuristic films that are reminiscent of our own, but given certain liberties that let it tell a story you couldn't otherwise. Make a movie like this and I'll gladly hand you my 10 bucks. For that, CHILDREN OF MEN succeeded. My 10 bucks was worth it. Especially considering the alternative movies this year... BLECK!

But it is not a great movie. It is not really even all that entertaining.

I could go to great lengths to describe all the flaws with this movie, but I'd rather people see it for themselves, since it is actually one of the better movies of the year. I'll stick with two problems that really bother me.


1) Clive Owen's character.

SETUP THE CHARACTER!!! We need to know who this character is before he crosses into the second act.

His, is a story of redemption, but it is somewhat half-hearted. The main reason for this is that, from the audiences perspective, he is never really in need of redemption. He is a luke-warm character throughout the entirety of the film.

Here's a question that'll stump all the "you don't get it" people. What did Clive Owen's character do for a living?


We even see where he works, people in his office at work, and you have no idea what he does.

I bring this up because... the reason Julianne Moore gives for abducting Clive would actually play better if Clive had a different line of work. Perhaps one that actually had access to what she needed...?

My guess, is that the writer and director fell in love with the scene in which... well, the art scene. It really is a darling that should have been axed. (Or developed further, which would mean completely changing the story). And don't get me wrong. I like that scene too. I also like the dinner scene in THE BLACK DAHLIA, but that doesn't belong in that movie, either.

So #1 is Clive's character should have been developed better.

2) The stakes and jeopardy are rather amorphous.

In CHILDREN OF MEN, you do not know what is at stake, nor what the consequences are should they fail. I'm not dumb. I understand that the child being born in a world where children cannot be born has significance.

The problem lies in the fact that there are questions that are never answered that needed to be in order for the plot to work.

What happens if she gives birth?
What happens if she dies?

Let's take TERMINATOR as an example.

Sarah Connor will give birth to John Connor who will lead the war against the machines.
If she dies, John will never be born and the machines will exterminate mankind.

That's clear cut.

Key is a single woman able to have a baby in a world that cannot. How does that impact the world? We never find out. Furthermore, we are left to use our best judgement at what the death of her baby might mean. I can only guess that it means that man's existence is doomed, but for all I know it is doomed even with her baby in it.

If it doesn't have the potential to change things then why should anyone care?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

Eye opening on so many levels.

The 99% approval rating at RottenTomatoes may be a little misleading, as PAN'S LABYRINTH is clearly not for everyone. There are scenes that are difficult to watch, but oh-so worth it in the larger picture of the film. The trailers also don't acknowledge the fact that the film is entirely in Spanish. I knew this going in, but I don't think your average viewer knows the background of films outside of what they see on a trailer. I could hear the reactions of some as they learned that the movie was not in English after they had paid their 10 bucks.

That said, I loved it. Whatever that's worth.

It is really hard to go into detail about this movie without spoiling it for those who haven't seen it yet... which judging from the domestic box-office is a lot of you out there.

All I can say is... if you are interested in making films and enjoy seeing the combination of artful storytelling combined with blockbuster craft... SEE IT. Guillermo del Toro proves that a filmmaker's unique vision and a commercial product are not mutually exclusive elements.

I also find it interesting that this movie, along with CHILDREN OF MEN have found a large foreign marketplace before being released in the US.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Shane Blackisms

I was reading a blog, Scriptwriting & Script Reading in the UK, WATCHING THE SCRIPT.

Pretty much every book I have read, every class I've attended, every bit of information I've read about screenwriting says the exact same thing. And to the extent that you should be communicating through visuals in as terse a manner as possible, I agree...

But how do we explain writers like... Shane Black. He repeatedly defies this convention, gets scripts made, and no one seems to care that a large portion of his scripts are literally being told directly to the person reading them in a manner that could never "literally" be translated to the screen.

Note, that Shane Black isn't the only one. Lawrence Kasdan does it. Quentin Tarantino does it. The list goes on and on... but Shane Black is probably best known for it.

It donned on me as I read this from the afore mentioned blog:

"The irony of having a ‘sparse script’ to read is that readers and execs will appreciate the ‘easy read’ but they may not ‘get’ the key elements because of ‘what the writer hasn’t written’. That’s where the actors and director come in; that’s their job."

True. But does anyone honestly think that a script that producers may not 'get' because of 'what the writer hasn't written' is going to even get the chance for an actor or director to "come in?" More likely than not, the reason a producer will assume he did not 'get' the script is BECAUSE of the writing. That is not a good reflection on the writer.

Get real. You're the writer. Not just a writer... a screenwriter. It is your job to be understood... by anybody!

If you look at Shane Black scripts... the places where Shane Blackisms run rampant are places in which writing a screenplay pales in comparison to a movie. He makes sure that the reader sees his vision of the story -- in cinematic terms.


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.

Shane Black is one of the most terse screenwriters around. And yet he does this... and it works.


I'd even go so far as to argue, Shane Blackisms are the parentheticals of description.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Dramatic Tension

I hear some people saying that the most important thing in telling a story for the screen, and telling it well, is a flawless logic. A straight forward unhindered cause and effect.

After much thought, I'm going to have to disagree. It is much more important that there be dramatic tension from scene to scene, a reason to want to see the next scene, than the actual logic of the scene.

Sometimes believability requires things to be less realistic.

TERMINATOR, in my opinion, has one of the biggest gaps in logic and cause and effect of any film. And yet it holds no bearing on the film.

Many people are quick to point out the paradox that the time-travel creates is a big flaw in logic of THE TERMINATOR. If the Terminator is successful, there is no reason for Skynet to send him back to the past to kill Sarah Connor. If he doesn't kill Sarah Connor, then she gives birth to John. And now Skynet has a reason. It's a paradox. It doesn't bother me.

But that's NOT the hole I am talking about. What I am talking about happens right smack dab in the middle of the movie.

After being chased at high speed by the Terminator, as well as the police, Sarah slams on the brakes and the Terminator drives straight into a wall. The police catch up, presumably thinking that Reese has kidnapped her and is responsible for the other murders. So they arrest him.

The hole is... where did the Terminator go?

It simply vanished! Hell, that's even the word used in the script: VANISHED.

There is no way a machine that, as we see later in the film, can be shot repeatedly, launched off a motorcycle at 100 mph, run over by a semi truck, set on fire in an explosion, and blown into bits, and STILL chases after Sarah as just a head and a hand would EVER simply walk away without finishing off Sarah.

So why does this obvious gap work, and no one really care? Most people spend more time arguing the semantics of time-travel than this... Why?

I'll go out on a limb and say it is because any other result would have weakened the film. What are the options?

1) The Terminator busts out of the car and attacks Sarah Connor.

This would make the movie much shorter. Either it ends right there. Or you do the whole finale chase... but you lose a lot of exposition that we need, the small love story, the reason why Sarah is being chased. Plus the cops see the whole thing, so you lose that nice piece of tension created by nobody believing them.

2) The Terminator is thrown from the vehicle and has been damaged to the point that it needs to fix itself, before pursuing.

Could happen...? Yes.

But at the expense of this flawless unstoppable killing machine. The Terminator "will never stop." To do anything less, would be to undermine the Thriller aspect of this film and weaken the character of the Terminator, not to mention the threat to Sarah.

So why undermine it?

This scene is where the split genre of the Terminator takes its biggest toll on the believability of the story. It is a SciFi Action Thriller. This means not only does Sarah need to be pursued relentlessly with a bunch of twists and turns to fulfill the genre of Thriller, she needs to be pursued in a manner that can also be called Action. There is no walking out the back door, sleight of hand trickery that will satisfy an Action Thriller junkie at this point in the film. If Sarah is to walk away... stop the chase in the middle of the movie... it needs to be big.

And it is.

My heart still races when I watch that chase sequence and the action buff in me is so satisfied when you see the head on -- CRASH!!! into the concrete wall to end the chase.

The Terminator vanishing? Eh. Who cares? He'll be back. He even tells us so. And you can be sure to bet that the s--- is really going to hit the fan then.

A movie is about the rollercoaster ride of audience expectation and not the perfect flow of logic. That is not to say large gaps can't knock a viewer out of the movie. They can. But if having to make a choice between the two... as is the case in Terminator, go for the rollercoaster ride.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Dissecting the High Concept Logline

I've been wondering what makes something high concept versus anything else.

According to the Unknown Screenwriter a HIGH CONCEPT must follow these guidelines:

* The story idea is unique.
* The story idea appeals to a wide audience.
* The story idea can be said in ONE SENTENCE and you can INSTANTLY visualize the entire movie in your mind’s eye and that alone would entice you enough to go see the movie. (logline)

Hmm, high concept includes a logline. The Inside Pitch, says a logline must contain:

who the story is about (protagonist)
what he strives for (goal)
what stands in his way (antagonistic force).

In general, it is acknowledged that LIAR LIAR, starring Jim Carrey is HIGH CONCEPT. But there seems to be a wide variety of loglines associated with the movie that are sited as examples of a high concept logline.

-A-An attorney, because of a birthday wish, can't tell any lies for 24 hours.

-B-The story of an attorney who suddenly couldn't tell a lie...

-C-What if a lawyer who lied for a living couldn’t lie for one day?

-D-When his son wishes he will only tell the truth, an attorney, and pathological liar, is magically compelled to be honest for one day and struggles to win the biggest case of his career - without telling a lie.

Let's go through the checklist. Logline first.

A) Has a who and an antagonistic force, but no goals. NOT A LOGLINE.

B) Has a who and an antagonistic force, but no goals. NOT A LOGLINE.

C) Has a who and an antagonistic force... and barely has a goal. BARELY A LOGLINE.

D) Has a who (a laywer), a goal (win the biggest case of his career), and an antagonistic force (he can't lie).

On to the next check list. Is it HIGH CONCEPT?

Both have loglines. Check.

C) The story is unique. Would a mass audience want to see it... I don't think so. Mainly, because the goal is so amorphous it is hard to care for the character.

D) The story is unique. Would a mass audience want to see it? Can we really answer this? I'd say, yes. In retrospect, the box office agreed with me.

Only one is a HIGH CONCEPT LOGLINE, but all four "loglines" are from the SAME movie (and two aren't even loglines). Great... Now I've made things even more confusing.

Let's look at what a LOGLINE is...

A protagonist, with a goal, with some force opposing his goal.

That's pretty basic. I mean, if your story doesn't contain this...
So, maybe it is just the ability to write loglines that is the culprit here. Maybe this is why so much weight is put on loglines? If a writer can't put together a simple thesis statement of what his screenplay is about... maybe they shouldn't be writing?

So you're a writer. You can do the logline thing. Okay, then that leaves high concept.

The story is unique.

Isn't this sort of a given? I mean, the only way for it not to be unique is to violate copyright... Right?

That leaves us with only one possibility of what makes HIGH CONCEPT...

The story idea appeals to a mass audience.

That's it?

Litmus Test

So, I'm a little stuck on my latest screenplay... tends to happen when I get to about 80 pages or so.

I went to Best Buy to check out some similar titles. I wanted to pick up some classic movies that were in a similar genre, that dealt with similar material. These were also fairly recent and had won a variety of awards including Oscars. I think the oldest was 1976, the rest were made in the 90's.

Not one was at Best Buy.

That is kind of scary. The best movies ever made in the genre and with a similar plot to what I am working on now... had no representation at a store that sells en-mass to the consumer.

I got to strolling around. Checking out the sheer volume of certain genres. Little bit of Action. Whole lot of Comedy. Decent size of Drama. The leader by far was Horror. Care to take a guess what the second biggest was...?



I like anime.

But it isn't really a genre. Anime has representation in every genre. Fantasy. Crime. Epics. Adventure. Action. Drama. Hell, even Porn. But there it is sectioned off, all by its lonesome.

This is perplexing to me... live action films are so rigidly segregated by genre. And anime is not.

There is this myth... well not so much a myth... as it is believed to be true in Hollywood, that in order to sell your product effectively you need to be within a specific genre of filmmaking. That way people can "find what they are looking for." That way they know what kind of story to expect going into a theatre, or better yet, when buying it in DVD form to take home. At least, that's how the myth goes.

But anime defies this.

Maybe it is just some ill-conceived dream of mine, that one day all movies can live in harmony without the barriers of genre. I can't wait for the day that a movie lives or dies on its merits as a piece of film. But until that day:

I can dream...

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Neglected Demographics

Look. I get it.

I understand why certain demographics are targeted over others. There is a huge source of spending money, particularly in the under 25 male category.

But does every single Hollywood movie really want to compete for that same pool?

Why are the baby-boomers being dismissed? Their money was what drove film through the 80's and into the 90's. You've hooked them. They're addicted. Why let them go now?

Here's where I see the biggest dilemma in the latest marketing trends towards the youth markets. There's much more competition for the youth dollar than ever before.

Video games, in particular, are a huge source of competition for the youth dollar.

However, this isn't true for the baby-boomers. Most are not into video games like their kids are. Most were weened and grew up on movies, as the only source of entertainment. They also got to see the evolution and explosion into blockbusters, which has become like an addiction they need to feed.

And they are shaking from withdrawl!!!

Give them a fix! You'll cash in, I swear it!

Look at the huge boom in family movies. The Shrek's, the friendly comic-book movies, Pirates of the Carribean, anything Pixar does... there is a REASON these movies are grossing so much money. There is nothing else for the parents to watch.

It is no coincidence that the majority of family movies that put up the huge box office numbers, are those that have appeal to parents as well.

Maybe it's time to rethink key demographics?

You're Paid to Make Me Care

I remember the saying, "He was such an incredible salesman that he could sell an icebox to an Eskimo."

Now, maybe this was just a saying. But I do have to believe that this was an ideal that people aspired to live up to.

So, why do we see multi-million dollar movies with advertisements that make the film look like a flaming pile of terd?

You know there were execs that asked the question, "Why do we care... about this movie, this character, the plot... whatever..." But why do the majority of advertising campaigns just limply throw up the garbage they have been presented with.

BLARG! There it is.

Make me care!

In a day and age when there are amateurs that can recut incredible trailers to appear to be from any genre they feel like, regardless of content (TITANIC as a thriller, THE RING as a drama, THE SHINING as a romantic comedy), why are companies whose sole function is selling to an audience more concerned with the actual product?

It seems to me, that if more time was spent on figuring out how to sell the icebox, rather than determining if the icebox was what their customers wanted, if it was the right color, shape, fit perfectly into that measured hole near your other appliances.. and let the filmmakers do their job, you'd see a higher quality of product than is currently available.

I like a wide variety of genres and movies. I am an avid movie goer. I am predisposed to spend money on movies. Hell, I spend money to see movies I don't want to see because there is NO ALTERNATIVE!

In the past three years or so, there has only been a handful of movies that I wanted to see. And of these, it was mostly because I would have gone to see them, regardless of the advertising.

I want a reason to go to see a movie.

Make me care! You're paid enough to do it.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Is Satire a Dirty Word...?

I am going to attack this question as a reader, and not as a writer, seeing as I have yet to write satire, and have read many screenplay attempts at satire.

If movies are a genre medium... where does satire fall?

Satire is a genre in literature. However, it is not in film.

I believe there are two reasons for this.

1) Readers have a hard time dealing with satire.

Is this supposed to be funny? Is this supposed to be dramatic? What is it? Because a script is not a final piece of work, a reader will often assume that something confusing is the writer's fault.

In literature, the author is given much more freedom. A reader will assume that the author knows what he is doing and go back and try to figure out the meaning behind confusing passages.

And honestly, the biggest reason is...

2) Most people do not know what satire is.

The majority of scripts I read that have any shot at being a satire are in 99% majority, parody.

For me, the biggest difference between the two are that satire depicts real situations that are true to life. Upon further inspection, there may be nothing funny about satire at all. Satire is a visual definition of cognitive dissonance.

Parody points out how absurd a situation is. Satire is just an absurd situation.

Monday, January 1, 2007

New Year's Resolution

While I'm still coherent...

It's that time of year again. Time to psych myself up with a few deadlines and goals I would like to accomplish for the year. This year I'm keeping it simple.

My New Year's Resolution for 2007:

I will finish three spec screenplays by the end of the 2007 year.