Monday, February 28, 2005

Choose your own adventure screenwriting

I loved those books as a kid. If you were a child of the 80's as I was, you may have memories of "if you look in the box, turn to page 28" and then when you went to page 28, a horrible death awaited you. Or not. Anyway...

I'm kinda playing out one of those books on my computer right now, except mine reads "If Sean leaves the dental practice and starts his own, go to page 44. If Sean stays with the practice and something else happens at the dinner table yet to be defined by the writer, delete the last 5 pages."

I hate not knowing what to write. And I blame my outline. It sucks. I need to go back and rethink the structure.


Creative corner

New feature here on the blog (we'll see how this goes over with the 5 of you who continue to visit). I'll post a scenario, you come up with the spicy creative dialogue!

Dinner scene: Mother, Father, 2 kids. One of the kids has a secret. Mom does too.

So, are the secrets related? Not? How will the family react? Age of the kids?

I'll post my scenes later. For now, think on it. Get your creative juices flowing...

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Writing update

It's been awhile since I've updated anyone on my current projects, so here's the latest:

China Joe: Awaiting a rewrite. I think Joe's going to become a more active character thanks to great notes I've gotten on the first draft. Biggest problem I had with this script was that my main character is too passive. The secondary characters were really moving the story forward, rather than him. That will change in the second draft (and the screenplay will be better for it). Logline (for those who don't know what I'm talking about): A Chinese man travels to Juneau, Alaska during the gold rush and faces prejudice and hardships (action/western) Yeah, I'm working on fixing the logline since it sounds lame. Sue me.

Arch Rivals: I'm on page 43. I had only written the first act of this and it had stalled but I'm picking it back up and working on it. This is my primary writing project right now. Logline: After his partner retires, a middle-aged dentist faces new competition in the form of his partner's grandson who takes over the dental practice in a small town. (Comedy)

Untitled Winery Prison Story: On hold. My sister and I are still banging out the second act. Logline: A controversial rehabilitation program is started in a California prison as prisoners become wine makers and must fight to win respect for themselves and their wine. (Yeah yeah the loglines suck. I'm working on it!)

The Rosemont: This is the horror film, which I'm giddy about, but I still don't have a 3rd act, so on the shelf it goes while I work on finishing Arch Rivals. This is the scary condo building story.

Untitled sitcom: Sister is currently focused on her own project so this collaboration will have to wait until she finishes her short film.

That's it for now. Too many irons in the fire. I'm hoping at least one of these ideas doesn't suck.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Shouting into the Rain

It is windy, but this rain is un-freakin'-believable. I've lived in Florida with hurricanes off the coast. I've lived in the Midwest with tornadoes randomly striking. I've never been through this much rain! Fortunately, I am safe from mudslides (I hope). Time to check the patios to see if we are flooded yet...

The Dead Zone

January and February are notorious for being "dumping months" for films. Films that are terrible or won't attract a large audience are slated to be released this month and then die a slow death.

But something strange is happening this year.

Some of the films being released are still terrible or at least not worthy of summer or Christmas marketing dollars, but people are going to see them. Some of these movies aren't just making money, they are making A LOT of money. Let's look at some examples:

Hitch: It's been out 2 weeks and has made $94 million. This is a new record for romantic comedies released for Valentine's day. Of course, it was pricey for a romcom, but it is still in the profit zone at this point.

Are We There Yet?: By rights, this film should have made $10 million and disappeared into the ether. Instead this juvenille Ice Cube helmed comedy has made $71 million and counting. The cost? $32 million. I see an Are We There Yet Again? in the future with that kind of bank rolling in (and still rolling in!)

Boogeyman, White Noise, Darkness and Hide and Seek: Varying levels of profit for these four horror films, but each has made a profit, and that's the point of this. These films are making money!

Of course, there's always the exception. I'm sure the studio thought Elektra could do no wrong -- hot chick, action movie, dead release schedule. However, people could smell the stinker from miles away and stayed away. This weekend Son of the Mask was released and made about $10 million. It cost $84 million, so this one proves the point too. There is no saving a truly horrible film, no matter what time of year you release it.

But here's my point. There's clearly an audience out there to see even halfway decent films (and even some terrible ones). Shouldn't Hollywood get its act together and start taking advantage of this? A few films have this year and I'm sure some of the success was a shocker.

Now The Dead Zone that is post-Labor Day pre-Halloween...that's going to need some work.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Chris Rock Conspiracy

So, you've probably read in the last few days the 'furor' over some of Chris Rock's raunchy comedy. You've heard the Academy is "concerned" or "worried" what he might say during the Oscars. And today, Rock has said that he won't drop the F-bomb at the rate of people thanking their agents at the awards show.

Don't pay attention to any of it.

Let me tell you something, Gil Cates and the Academy know exactly what they are doing. No one was talking about the Oscars. Nobody. Until this news started hitting early in the week, barely anyone thought about the Oscars. Why is that? Well, let's take a look at the nominees:

The Aviator $83.6 million made to date
Ray $74.7 million made to date
Sideways $53.9 million made to date
Million Dollar Baby $46.9 million made to date
Finding Neverland $42.5 million made to date

The Best Picture winner last year, Return of the King made $377 million dollars. These five pictures have grossed $303 million. COMBINED. Hardly anyone has seen any one of these films! None of them have broken $100 million, the first sign that a large number of people have seen your movie. Now, does box office equate to quality? Not necessarily (just look at some of the films that have made $200 million or more in the last few years). But, box office does translate to popularity of some degree. People watched the Oscars last year and the year Titanic won Best Picture and lots of other awards because they had actually seen the movie. They had something to root for. Who watches a show when they haven't even seen what's nominated.

Enter our friend, controversy.

How do you get people to watch something when they have no personal stake in the proceedings? You create controversy. They way they chose to gin it up this year was to a) tap Chris Rock as host and then b) remind people how "risky" a choice this was for the Academy. Gil Cates, the producer of the Oscars, is sitting back laughing himself silly while people worry whether Rock will "slip up" during the show or "offend people". That's the only way Cates can assure ABC that there will be any audience for this show.

So, if you were going to watch the Oscars anyway, ignore all of this. If you weren't going to watch it, do you really think any of this controversy should really change your mind? Do you really think he'll do anything that could land him a brand spanking new indecency fine of 500 grand?

I don't think so.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A needed Oscar category

Ran across this item today. Groups representing the stuntmen on films want the Academy to create an award for 'Best Stunt Coordinator.'

In a joint statement that the groups plan to release next week, they wrote: "Stunt performers are the only faction of the movie industry that must literally risk their lives for the sake of their art. ... The talent and expertise that is required of a stunt coordinator to be both creative and safe is enormous and highly deserving of academy recognition."

I have to agree. If costumes, makeup, sound and visual effects can be nominated, why not stuntmen and women who work hard to a) make us believe the stunt is dangerous and yet are able to do it safely and b) make us believe it is the actor or actress actually performing the stunt. That is hard work, and it deserves to be recognized. Of course, the Academy is blowing them off.