Friday, April 28, 2006

Is the glass empty, or just full of nothing?

Either way, here's wishing you a refreshing Friday!

I went right ahead with actually rewriting the script today, before doing this blog entry.

So, I'm all out of creative inspiration to come up with an interesting blog post. Instead, just enjoy the artistic healthfulness of this here picture. :)


News of note:

Sounds Good
  • Good-sounding premise to the new film Pathfinder: "the Viking hordes accidentally leave behind one of their small boys amongst the North American natives, and that small boy grows up to the the hero of his new adopted people against the very Vikings who left him behind"

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Tsotsi: Wow, wow, wow. Wow.

I finally got to the World Cinema Showcase to see Tsotsi. It's one of those films that make you go "I wish I'd made that!"

It was such an emotional experience, I had to write the review in my little notebook while waiting for a smoothie on Queen Street afterwards. Here, based on my transcription of my scribbling, is the said review:

Tsotsi. Wow, wow, wow, wow. I sat alone in the dark with a considerable number of complete strangers to go on a journey to deepest, darkest Africa. Not jungles of colonialist folklore, but the corrugated iron shanties and gated communities of the modern South Africa.

And what a journey it was.

Presley Chweneyagae gives an outstanding performance, bringing pathos and roots to a role that's hardly sympathetic when you hear it described - a thug, a thief and occasionally a murderer.

Tsotsi doesn't try to explain or excuse its main character's life of crime, it just presents it. Terry Pheto as Miriam is amazing too.

As I said, Tsotsi is a journey we take with the main character to face the demons of his past. It sounds like a cliche when described that way, but Tsotsi carries it off convincingly.


As with many great stories, Tsotsi is a story of redemption. There's a moment where he's told to put his hands in the air in surrender. On the one hand, it's bad news, but when you see him slowly raise his hands, it is a genuine Hallelujah praise the Lord moment.

There were more than a few sniffles in the theatre, which either means winter cold season has come early, or it was having the same profound effect on others as on me.


News of note:

Box Office

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The rewrite thickens ... and is stirred

When I was doing first draft, the doctrine of writing at the same place, same time every day, worked.

Now it's rewrite time, and I'm all out of whack. The best ideas are coming on the bus, as I read Making a Good Script Great.

Still, I had a good flow of rewriting creativity the other day when I opened the script, saved it as version number two and started to elaborate some of the on-the-bus ideas.

Anyway, I thought it better to spend more time actually rewriting and less time thinking of stuff to say on this blog.


But not before pointing out something really exciting I found Monday night - the Game Writers' Interest Group! If you're interested in writing for computer games, which by all accounts should become a very thriving industry, there is an industry group. I also found out that the British and Australian Writers' Guilds are also putting resource into training for this area. As for the New Zealand Guild, well... I've seen one article on the subject in Write Up magazine. Early days...

News of Note:

Distribution/Business Models
  • Walden lays out Narnia plans. I thought I'd heard them say Caspian by Christmas this year, turn out they'd meant next year, now it'll be the year after. Better good than early.
  • They're bringing back K-9 to Doctor Who. Dreadful. Or Cute. Or both.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The glorious dead

Welcome to ANZAC day. Ninety one years ago today, scores of New Zealand and Australian troops dashed themselves against the defences of the ragtag but iron-willed Turkish army. All over a narrow peninsula called Gallipolli.

When I was in Christchurch and Adelaide last year, I was deeply moved by the massive war memorial sculptures in both cities.

They're a relic of a bygone age, of course. We don't tend to see Greco-Roman idealism and nobility in art any more, nor do we scale our heroes up to gigantic size. But then again, we don't tend to have mythic heroes like we did before 1918.

Not that the myth is true. Of course, these were brave and very courageous men, but I am sure they did not see their death as glorious.

I'm rambling. I meant to say that no modern art has touched me like these monolithic figures. The raw emotion, the solemnity, the shock and grief. It communicated to me, and that's what I feel art should do.

Back to film. I was relieved when I went to Paul Margolis' workshop in March, to find that Hollywood wants simple, monolithic stories that communicate. Because I get an entirely different message from the New Zealand film industry.

Somehow we've grown a culture around darkness, obscurity and unease. Thankfully that's changing, with unashamedly commercial light comedies like Sione's Wedding proving you don't have to have an art-house film to communicate a culture.

At the same time, true storytelling - whether Hollywood or art-house - must resonate with the deepest parts of us. That's where the really hard work goes in.

Back to the grindstone! :)


There's some great great GREAT advice on romantic comedy writing at Billy Mernit's blog Living the Romantic Comedy. He's done a couple of posts on what makes a rom-com last:
  1. What Endures
  2. More of what endures
News of note:

New Zealand
  • "Hollywood writers are getting younger" ... good news for me, what with my name and all, but the assumption is that younger writers know gaming. I ain't got time for gameplay! Where do these geeks find the time and money to play all those games - and have a life?
Sci-Fi / Inevitable Sequels
  • There will indeed be an AVP2! I don't know whether that's good or bad news. Hmmm. Sanaa Lathan doesn't appear to be in it ... that's probably bad news then.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Weekend romantic comedy roundup

I forgot to mention this morning that I've been keeping up watching rom-coms.

This weekend it was Runaway Bride, which I had thought was actually a sequel to Pretty Woman (it wasn't; just the same stars and director), and by chance I caught View from the Top on TV last night.

Runaway Bride
This was one of those movies I'd never seen but had gotten a generally bad impression of. Interesting how that happens! The power of one or two bad reviews...

What stood out to me most?
  • Incredibly fast pace, particularly in the beginning. No-nonsense. No time to think of any credibility issues.
  • Sometimes quite clunky writing, but always well-acted, which kind of made it okay (kind of). By clunky I mean there seemed to be a bit of tell instead of show.
  • Overall a pretty satisfying premise, particularly good was the suspense around will she or won't she when ... oh, you'll have to see it.
So in my books, it wasn't great, but it was okay. I'm not much of a fan of Roberts or Gere, but they are good at what they do. They fitted the roles quite nicely.

The critics somewhat pummelled it, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it an overall ranking of 45%. Phew.

Still, from the producers' point of view, who cares? This movie is the fifth top earner in the romantic comedy genre since 1979. Wow.

Unfortunately, there were no special features on the DVD - always a sign of a movie the makers find embarrassing, don't you think? - but I did find an interview with Josann McGibbon, one of the writers at The Writing Show. Very helpful, and interesting that they didn't like some of the changes made to their story.

Here's a summary of what she said:
  • Romantic comedies are pretty much a fait accomplis - the guy and the girl (or these days, whoever...) are going to get together. The story is about the journey. It's character-driven more than plot-driven.
  • There are some parts of a romantic comedy that are expected, and some that Josann finds kind of contrived and tedious - like the "betrayal moment". Hmm. My script has that kind of moment in it.
  • Tips to succeed: show really good talent, particularly with your first screenplay. Chances are very low that actual script will be made, but it will be your calling card and show what talent you have.
  • Josann works regularly with a writing partner, which is uncommon in Hollywood, but she doesn't know how she would've survived.
  • Character development comes from talking a lot about the character. That's where collaboration is helpful. I'm lucky I'm married to a patient wife, who will indulge my rhetorical questions about my characters.
  • On writing: a movie should be telling one big story, and the troublesome second act needs to move towards something, and avoid being episodic.. "and then... and then... and then...".
Very good stuff. And it's helpful for me to post it here too.

View from the Top
Dear Gwyneth Paltrow, she comes across so sweet, so it surprised me when I read Down and dirty pictures that she's a regular collaborator with the Weinstein Brothers ... 'sweet' isn't the word you think of with them. Still, that's just a book and I haven't met them... yet.

Anyway, View from the Top was a kind of comedy with Mike Myers that I'd never seen before. Mike was funny, Gwyneth was funny, Christina Applegate was funny. For mindless chill-out entertainment it was perfect.

Still, the writer in me rebelled with growing perfectionism as the end rushed onwards through some dodgy writing. It was as if the writers (or maybe this was done by director, editor, producer, I ain't pointing fingers here) got tired of the story and looked for a quick way to wind things up. Deus ex machina is good for that.

So the ending bugged me bigtime, but the rest of it was pretty entertaining.

From a writing perspective, I thought including deleted scenes in the end credits was very lazy ... but from a viewer's perspective I couldn't get enough of the slapstick, Mike Myer-esque kind of humour.

Critics obviously never really liked this one, with a Rotten Tomatometer of just 15% ... one of the few positive comments says, "Not everything about this movie worked for me, but I loved its colorful costumes..."


Box office-wise, not many people viewed View. Less than 20 million dollars worldwide. Ouch! I wonder what the DVD sales were like. Maybe that's an extra service BoxOfficeMojo should have? Hmmmm...

Anyway, I'd best get back to whatever it was I was doing. Catch you tomorrow.

Life is like popcorn

Life is like popcorn. And I guess writing is too.

Go too far, and you end up with burnt, useless popcorn. Be too careful, and you're left with equally useless unpopped kernels.

Burnout, or wasted potential. That's the balance I need to find every day.

Writing this screenplay has given me the opportunity to look at the themes. Unlike some who start with a theme, I need to discover it - and that usually happens after I've been writing for a bit.

I've discovered the theme of my story is that of my life in recent times: you're either running away from life or towards it. There just is no standing still.

I prefer discovering the theme later, because knowing what my story is "about" from the beginning can make for some pretty unsubtle writing.

Today I'm pulling another tool from my writer's toolkit, Power Structure. (Well, actually the demo.)

I'm going to see if it helps to see visually the plot and subplots. If the demo fails me, or is too limited, I'll see how Excel works.

Failing that, a piece of paper!


News of note:

NZ Film
  • Nothing earth-shattering but plenty interesting in the latest NZ Film Commission update.
  • A dialogue-free film has been accepted for Cannes. Congrats Jane Shearer.
  • The latest AdMedia has a director's showcase, but aside from names and contact details, not much info about said directors. Whatever happened to those free DVDs we used to get with the mag?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Wow! Living long and prospering... - Trekkies have a new leader

This is exciting. It's really happening, and they're going with the prequel idea originally floated by Harve Bennet in the late 90s, looking at Kirk, Spock et al's early years in the academy.

Still, I wonder which actors can really pull off playing these characters?

This is so cool!

Columbia hot for 'Cool' spec

A really "high concept, high school" story, as Skip says.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Vision Clears

This rewriting thing is starting to make sense.

I have this habit of catching the bus to interviews and the like when possible - I save petrol, the planet (a bit) and I get to read.

So I'm up to the third chapter of Linda Segar's Making a Good Script Great, and I've finally got over the frustrated feeling that I've already heard all this somewhere before - not to mention the atrocious proof-reading! - to get to the heart of what the book's about.

So far I haven't read anything that wasn't in Story, albeit worded differently. I guess that's comforting - I'm getting consistent advice on the kinds of stories that 'work'.

What is good about this book - or maybe it's just where I'm at - is that I keep getting ideas on how to improve the story.

So I'll read one sentence and then grab out my notebook and scribble something down - not easy when the bus driver missed his Grand Prix calling - and try to get back to the book.

So far, I've begun to add layers of complication and identified the subplots I've already got that need fleshing out some more.

And despite feeling really tired this week, I've had to remind myself that this is fun. If it's not, there's no point doing it. That doesn't mean I'll give up as soon as it gets hard; instead, I make it fun when it's not fun.

I also had the pleasure of a few drinks with PR and journalism colleagues last night. Not being an urban dweller nor much of a drinker, I don't do this that often. I had a fantastic time and got to know some really nice people. Yes, even the PR people! :)

So I told Marie about this and we agreed, when the nasty big tax bill is paid and done with - we must get out more.

News of note:

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Nice view

It was about 15 months before I realised I had a nice view where I work. Until last week it was obscured by a net curtain.

I don't know what made me do it, but one day I pulled the curtain aside to watch the birds fighting over the spoils to be had from these trees.

Anyway... the screenwriting continues. Or rather, the note-writing does. I'm writing lots of notes on myself at the moment, like:
  • D'oh! You've set something up without paying it off... pay it off or take it out!
  • Needs subplots ... what's already there in seed form?
  • How do the relationships between each character change?
I won't get a chance to work on it this morning, however, as I slept in and need to catch the bus soon to get to a meeting. However, bus time means reading time, which is a good thing.

News of note:
  • Found a quicker way to get a super-fast top up on movie news: Cinematical's video podcast. Not sure how to get the podcast from the site; but just go into the iTunes store and search for "Cinematical" and you'll be right.
  • Actually today's news wasn't that new: Catholic request for da Vinci disclaimer, Apocalypto release delayed .. actually, this bit was new: mi:3 might be great.
  • Vodafone NZ will be streaming live news on cellphones. Ups the stakes; not sure how many will want to tune in.
  • NY Screenwriter agrees with Hemingway that "all first drafts are shit". Oh great.
  • From the "this makes sense department", Lost looks set to become a global interactive experience.
  • Romantic comedy dept: Numb is coming. Matthew Perry starring as a screenwriter! Sounds a goodie.
  • Another book by Witi Ihimaera (Whale Rider) is to be made into a movie. Screenplay by playwright Hone Kouka.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

HealthyEye! (Mostly)

That's better! My huge swollen left eye has reduced to manageable proportions. Ah the relief.

Today's the first day of going through my printed-out screenplay with a red pen and pick, pick, picking.

I suspect what I'll need to inject into the story are subplots. Trouble is, I've heard so many commentaries on films where they had like 3 subplots and in the end had to cut them out.

However, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I need to build up some mental endurance, and get out of the short story mentality.

I'm also going to try something James Mangold said he does for every film, and that is to draw a diagram with all the characters on it, and map out the relationships between each and every character. Apparently Alexander Mackendrick taught him that, one of many very thorough things he learnt from that great director who was also a great writer.

I learnt all of that through the Creative Screenwriting podcasts. Gotta love 'em!

News of note:

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The rewrite begins

I did it. I finished draft one yesterday, as I said I would.

Now the sun of fresh inspiration sets and the night begins, illuminated by the moon of my original vision and the stars of common sense (hopefully!).

As you can see, it's a little cloudy. I'm a little tired, so I'm not forcing it. I've heard some people leave a week between first draft and first rewrite. I'll try a day and see what happens.

Already in reading through the finished, printed out script I've found one spelling mistake (just one! Hah!) and two continuity errors.

The best thing is, the gags that made me laugh and the emotional bits that made me feel deeply still have the same effect. My greatest fear was that I was just caught up in the moment when I wrote them, and actually was writing crap. Thankfully, not the case.


News of note:

Monday, April 17, 2006

All-bran for the brain

(NB: This photograph does not show All Bran. Instead, it's Hubbards cereal (I can't recall which), Crunchy Gronola and banana. But "All-bran for the brain" sounded better to me than "Hubbards, Crunchy Gronola and banana for the brain". Sue me later.)

I used the phrase "All-Bran for the brain" last week to describe to someone what it was like to have a regular time every weekday to write my screenplay. It's particularly helpful when I get stuck - as we all do - and don't know what to do. The temptation is to leave it for later - but you can't do that if you've set an appointment for yourself.

So, you write something - anything. And there's something about rewriting something awful that 99% is easier than writing something from scratch.

Having said that, I failed to keep my appointment on Friday - Good Friday, as it happened. I had it all planned, including this lovely photo and the All-Bran guff. But instead, Marie and I talked and talked and talked all day. I love holidays like that! We didn't have any appointments or anything, so we just talked with each other until one of us realised it was 4pm and we'd better eat something.

That's true love!


I'm currently at about page 70 of my screenplay and frighteningly close to what should be the end. I mean, I could pad like crazy to get it to 100 pages, but that's missing the point. I need to get draft 1 finished so I can go back over it and see where I've underdeveloped.

When I was 14 my high school English teacher Miss Evans said my writing was too concise. She was right (this blog excepted, of course!).

I hear about these scripts, and sometimes finished films, that come out at 3+ hours, and then have to be cut back to 2 hours (or not, if you're Peter Jackson), and think, how? Why? Don't they know not to overwrite?

I guess I've learnt to write lean, which is good, but I need to get expansive again. I've written plenty of 30 second radio spots and only a few 15 - 30 minute programmes in my life. I've written many magazine articles, but nothing more than 3000 words. I've never written a book, and I'm feeling it!

So wish me luck, as I probably finish my first draft today and begin the harrowing process that is... rewriting! :)

News of note:

Over the weekend I saw Sweet Home Alabama, Alien, and, of course, The Passion of the Christ.

Sweet Home Alabama didn't grab me at first, so I spent the two hours listening to the plot while reading about it online. The story - more accurately, the characters - did grab me further into the story, but it wasn't a strong opening. Fifteen minutes before there's any significant conflict!

However, it was a pretty successful film - 10th top romantic comedy of all time - and built Reese Witherspoon's career momentum, coming straight after Legally Blonde.

Alien is as good as everyone says it is, so I'm glad I've ticked that one off my absolutely-must-see-or-it's-embarrassing list. What's greater still is the special features available, which go into amazing detail about just about everything.

Perfect for me was hearing how the story came about, in an interview with Dan O'Bannon the original writer, and Ron Shusett, his writing partner. Here it is in point form:
  • O'Bannon was involved in a feature project in France that fell through
  • He returned penniless to the USA and had to live in Shusett's living room
  • While living in said living room, O'Bannon got the IBM typewriter out and began working on a script about pure fear
  • He wanted to take a comedy script he'd done in 1974, and turn it into a sci-fi/horror flick
  • He drew on many, many sources of inspiration to create the story. He details this in the intro to his first draft script, which is included in its entirety on the DVD. Priceless!
  • He and Shusett sold it to Gordon Carroll, and the other two Alien producers who went on to make the whole series, David Giler and Walter Hill. They changed the character names and some story elements
  • The rest is history
Also interesting was how Ridley Scott, a virtual unknown at the time, got involved. Particularly how his detailed storyboards got Fox to double the budget!

Great story, Alien. And good to see the "behind the scenes" stuff where you realise what a new thing it was at the time, having a truck driver crew instead of the usual, I guess, Star Trek stuff.

And last night we saw The Passion for the first time since seeing it in the cinema 2 years ago. As powerful as ever. Two years ago, it was a religious experience for me; last night I was also seeing it as a film - and a very well-made one as well.

Of course some people didn't like it, the violence was too much, etc. It hasn't worked as many Christians hoped as an evangelism tool, but it is very helpful to Christians to make real what is a very familiar story.

What's remarkable about the Passion is how universally accepted it was within Christian circles. Even adaptations of so-called cult comics divide fans between the "it's great" and the "it's nothing like the real thing", so imagine the difficulty of presenting the Gospel.

As for accusations that the movie is anti-Semitic, what?? I know this is going over old ground but having seen it again last night, I really can't see how anyone can pick up that message either from the movie or from the original Gospel texts. If someone is going to manipulate Christians who should know better to persecute and hate Jews, the truth is not going to get in their way. A movie will not make any difference, and is certainly not the cause of the anti-semitism.

Interesting that this was Mel Gibson's first writing credit. I think he and Benedict Fitzgerald did a fantastic job, considering this is an often-told tale that needed a new angle. I was going to say it didn't conform to three-act structure, but I guess it really does in a very profound way.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Blurry perseverance

I look a little better today ... at least in the bathroom mirror.

Eye still swollen. Energy still low. Still, only today to get through and then there's the Easter holiday... which is starting to look busier and busier with little bits of writing projects. We'll see how they go.


I successfully passed the halfway point in my script yesterday, and I think it won't be too short (please God?). Anyway, the important thing is finishing the first draft and then seeing where it needs some help.

All I can say is that there was confetti and happiness in yesterday's writing, and while that's normally the end of a romantic comedy, there's another big suspense thing that's looming over our characters.

Did I mention that this is such fun? It's hard work, sure, but some of the most satisfying work I've ever done.


I finished The Writer Got Screwed. Even for a book published in 1997 it is so helpful in understanding the basics of copyright law (very similar to NZ copyright law, thankfully!) and laying a foundation of useful knowledge.

There was even a chapter on writing for the gaming industry, which I had naively thought was fairly new. Nope! The same questions I'm asking in 2006 were being asked in 1997. It'd be great to know how much has changed in that industry since then. One thing's sure - I don't hear anyone talk about "Silliwood" (Silicon Valley meets Hollywood).


My next book is Making a Good Script Great by Linda Segar. It's perfect for where I'm at, because I'm nearly (kind of) finished first draft, and soon will be going for the rewrite. I read the intro last night - I kept on having to stop because each paragraph was giving me so much food for thought. Or maybe I was just tired.


I discovered something amazing last night: I'd heard of 43folders before, but I hadn't heard of this, with its feature where you enter "What do you want to do?"

I typed in my response: "Finish my screenplay". Then it brings up everyone else in the network who also wants to "finish their screenplay"! Amazing. You can see it here.


News of note:

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I feel better than I look. Mostly.

That is one swollen eye! I look a little wasted here because I've just woken up, but thought this blog could use a little visual stimulus.


Perhaps my next movie should be Red Eye, or maybe Goldeneye? As it is, my next movie just arrived in the post yesterday: Alien. A little break from the romantic comedy, and finishing up the Alien series which I've been carefully studying.

Anyway. I got over the crucial emotional mid-point of the script yesterday, and then hit a bit of a blank. Went to prayer meeting at our church last night, and in a silent moment got the inspiration for what happens next. Silence is cool; and sometimes we need to go somewhere else to get some really good quality silence.

Now the only thing I'm worried about is that it's become too short. I'm up to card 24 of my 28 index cards, and the screenplay is only up to page 60.

I guess the only way I'll find out is to finish it as is and then rewrite. Some writers talk about starting their writing day with a rewrite of the previous day. I'd never get anything done if I tried that. I'm writing the whole thing first, then worrying about rewrites. It'll be interesting to see if I can see the 'join' from that euphoric first three hours of writing where I got 17 pages in one night, compared with the 1 or 2 page spurts that have ensued.


Seems like my plan to rule the world - or at least make a living - writing for magazines about the film industry won't work out so well as I'd thought. Maybe everyone else had the same idea; otherwise why would two of Australia's leading film publications pay their writers 5 and 10 cents per word respectively? At least they take freelance submissions; NZ's excellent industry mag has no freelance budget.

Still, there are plenty of other industries and opportunities there, and a story is a story is a story. The bright side is, writing about other industries opens me up to ideas I can make a movie about. Writing about the film industry isn't so conducive to a great script - we don't want to turn the mirror on ourselves, and rightly so.


Today's news of note:
  • Billy Mernit of Living the Romantic Comedy has a great post on Titlemania. I didn't realise "nuh-uh" was so translatable. I could hear it as I read it to myself in my head. I'm really lucky to have a title already for my script that even brings a smile to people's faces when I tell them it. Not so for my next two ideas, percolating away. Early days.
  • Be afraid! Be very afraid! Bean is back.
  • Happy endings please audiences. Surprise.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Now that's entertainment...

I found New York Hack quite randomly from the Blogger homepage when I should've been working.

Nothing to do with filmmaking or screenwriting, but definitely great writing. It's the everyday adventures of a female cab driver in New York city. And she's got a book deal. A well-deserved one.

When I was just a little writer, I used to feel threatened by people who didn't write for a living but told a fantastic story. I'd like to think I'm secure enough in myself now to spot talent like New York Hack's and celebrate it. Absolutely awesome!

The miracle of discipline

Discipline is an amazing thing.

For weeks now, I've been imbibing the message "write every day", whether from books or blogs or workshops. It's working.

I feel under par today. Got a big tax bill on Friday. Got a client who hasn't paid yet. Weather's getting colder, it's raining more often. My left eye is swollen up and it looks like I've been in a fight. Probably a sty, which happens when I get run down. Obviously doesn't take much to run me down!

Meanwhile, I'm up to the halfway point of my romantic comedy. In fact, the scene I'm writing now is probably the most important in the whole film.

Should I wait till I feel better perhaps? No. Because I am a professional. I write every day.


The more I learn about Hollywood, the more thankful I am for my "day job" as a freelance journalist. Everything I do prepares me to be a Hollywood screenwriter, even though the journalism is (hopefully) non-fiction, and my scripts are usually fiction.

*Every day I listen and read, looking for leads that can turn into a story.
*Every day or so I write, keeping a close eye on structure, cohesiveness and plain good writing.
*Every month I pitch, otherwise I won't have enough money for the month.

Swollen eye, unpaid tax and all, I have it pretty sweet. Might as well make the most of today!

Of note in the blogosphere/trades:
  • Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick are teaming up for a Christmas comedy. As the Movie Blogger notes, the premise is a little formulaic, but the talent is guaranteed to make it funny. That's the one thing a brand new writer can't say, unless they know, say, Danny DeVito or Matthew Broderick.
  • Oh wow. And not in a good way. Rambo 4? What's with the sequels, everyone? Then again, could be good. Who knows.
  • Keifer Sutherland has signed on for 3 more years of 24, plus exec producer, plus a deal. And, he's talking about a 24 movie. Hopefully not a 24-hour movie, though if it's as well done as the TV show, I'm sure we won't mind!

Monday, April 10, 2006

TIME Magazine Archive Article -- Apocalypto Now -- Mar. 27, 2006

TIME Magazine Archive Article -- Apocalypto Now -- Mar. 27, 2006

I was just wondering what Mel Gibson was up to the other day.

The New Force at Lucasfilm

The New Force at Lucasfilm

I missed this this morning. Lucasfilm is merging film and video game departments. Fascinating!

Good morning Monday!

It's just shy of 6am, and I'm feeling good about writing the script before I do anything else (except this blog, of course). It helps me feel like a screenwriter first and foremost, and all the other things (journalist, email answerer, and administration person for Simon Young Writers Ltd) second.

Great weekend. Saw Love Actually and Pretty Woman yesterday - pretty essential for someone writing a romantic comedy! Because I've actually bought the DVDs of those movies, I didn't go overboard on watching the extras, listening to commentaries etc. Plenty of time for that - just a basic familiarity with the story's what I need right now.

I gotta admit it, even though I haven't been a frequent rom-com viewer, I am a sucker for the medium. Love Actually brought a tear to my eye more than once; it was brilliantly done. Pretty Woman I didn't like at first, but it grew on me to the point where I really cared about these characters. Not an easy job, to make a hooker and a hard-nosed rich guy sympathetic characters. It deserves to be a classic, fairy tale that it is.

A skim-read of the weekend trades:
  • Innovative! The BBC is launching "mobisodes" - prequel or teaser clips before each episode sent to your mobile. Wow.
  • Casablanca's the best script, according to US writers. I agree, inasmuch as you can decide on something so subjective. BBC, Filmfodder, Cinematical.
  • 48Hours has opened. Sigh. And I'm still not part of a crew. Next year maybe.
  • Ice Age 2 keeps melting box offices around the world. Meanwhile here in NZ Sione's Wedding has broken box office records. That means $630,000 is the most any film has made in one weekend in New Zealand. Wow, we really are a small country. That news report has one thing wrong, though. John Barnett did not direct, he was one of the producers.
  • Horror-comedy flick Slither has been a poor performer at the BO. Post-mortem analyses here and here and well that's all.
  • Starbucks wants to make a movie - and this is not the story about "How Starbucks Saved My Life" either.
  • Sometimes it's too much to keep track of Hollywood, plus the film festivals. But this caught my eye, because I'm familiar with the story of Burke and Wills. Pity the movie doesn't sound that great.
  • And to round all that off, some advice. "The only way to learn how to write is to write."
I write now. Okay?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Writers get treated like crap!

...but it's not something you notice unless you are a business-minded writer trying to make a career out of something you do well, and believe benefits others.

But thank God for other writers. Yesterday I was at a meeting of freelance journalists in Auckland, the first meeting of its kind, discussing, among other things, how poorly we are paid compared to inhouse journalists, and the outrageous rights we give away for the small amount we get.

Unbelievable. And yet, I've known about these issues before; it was only being in a group of 200+ writers that I really took it seriously. That when I accept a bad contract, I'm making it harder for all of these other people as well as myself. Gee, I sound like a union rep.

But the same issues are true for screenwriters, both here in New Zealand and in Hollywood. Apparently the UK is really good to their writers, which is somewhat reassuring.

The answer is knowledge and confidence. So, through events like yesterday, books like The Writer Got Screwed and online resources like the Artful Writer, I'm getting armed up with knowledge.

And I'm writing first today, before getting onto the emails, phone calls etc. One hour.

PS: No writing yesterday because 1) stayed up till 2am the night before, 2) out all day, 3) one too many glasses of smooth red wine at the drinks after the conference yesterday (one too many for me is two glasses!).

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I'm freakin' tyrannising myself...

This daily post ends up later and later in the evening ... yarh.

I'm going to a conference tomorrow but starting Friday I'm gonna try and turn the tables, and make my stab at writing a great script first thing in the morning. Of course, the danger then is that's all I'd do all day, and not get paid and end up dragging up fishbones from other peoples' trash just to eat.

Highly unlikely, but there you go. It's late.

Still, tired as I am, I'm going to write tonight. And read the trades.

You have no idea how many times I had to re-spell alternative. My fingers aren't cooperating. Uhg.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Give me a break! No, don't...

Living the Romantic Comedy: The Practice

More advice on writing every day. This stuff really works! Nuff said, now I write, bye!

Sione's Wedding

The Writing Effort
I'm late but great - had intended to write before going out tonight, but hey, I seem to get better as the night gets on.

That's another piece of advice I'm still 'working on' - writing every day, at the same time each day. Well, at least I'm writing in the same place. Helps that I don't have a laptop I guess.

It's our 8th wedding anniversary today, and to celebrate we went to see Sione's Wedding (and it was cheap 'cos it's Tuesday - that's why there were a lot of other Samoans in the audience I bet! :)

Brilliant! At last a movie that is authentically kiwi, uniquely Pacific and thoroughly commercial. Yes folks this is a movie, not a film. I'd love to know if it's being released overseas (apart from Samoa, where it has done really well apparently) because some of the humour might not translate.

It was great seeing this one with an audience. Laugh-out-loud jokes just got funnier because of the way some people cracked up at them. That's what I like about the Pacific Island culture - there's a willingness to laugh at life, and that laughter is contagious.

Skimming The Trades
(or my version of the trades - what I can get for free on an RSS feed, which is pretty good!)
Okay, that's enough for today. On to writing an actual script!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Even if it's only 15 minutes...

Hey, this is working (one day in!). It's 10:13pm on Monday night, about an hour before Marie gets home, and we talk, talk, talk, and the day is over for writing.

So, even though my 'day job' is fairly urgent (deadline last Friday!) I must write something on my script today. Tonight.

It's been a good day. Slept in (went to bed at 2:24am last night - getting my tax stuff ready to send to the accountant... love business), cooked breakfast and lunch today - I was in a cooking mood - and before Marie went to work in the afternoon we listened to a podcast on Psychology. I'm kind of learning over her shoulder; astounded how much I already know from marketing and being crazy.

Then I listened to a podcast of an interview with Tyler Perry. Wow that guy is inspiring. Looking forward to seeing his movies soon.

Then another podcast from the Writing Show, an interview with an Irish author who's done a bit of everything. Cool finding from that: he wrote one play about women who'd been murdered and got actresses to fill in the backstory by way of a questionnaire. As it happened the actresses moved on and other actresses played the parts, but it's kind of an interesting way to write a play.

Then, as I was doing the dishes tonight, I finally caught up with the producers' panel - Movers and Shakers - from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. I love the internet.

Right! After fulfilling my promise to you, my hordes of loyal blog readers, I shall now actually write the script. Some of it. Okay. Simon out.

... oh, really enjoying The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have to) as well. Thanks again to Adam for the original recommendation, so many moons ago.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Films coming from non-fiction books

I'm noticing a lot of non-fiction books getting film deals lately.

By 'a lot' I mean I can only think of two specific examples right now: How Starbucks Saved my Life which Tom Hanks has just got attached to, and Marcus Buckingham's film about achieving your goals. (Okay, that's probably not going to be a story type of film, but by the sounds of it a feature length film anyway.)

Oh, and also Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. And Wired magazine has a few more ideas.

I'm continually amazed at how we can sabotage our own success by compartmentalising. I'm a non-fiction writer, but with New Zealand's rather dark and non-commercial film culture, I assumed I'd have to unleash my own inner Sam Hunt before I could be a successful screenwriter. The short films I saw from NZ were dark, depressing, and to me, largely meaningless.

Now I'm finding to my joy and delight that I can be myself, and myself may be the creator of some very marketable properties in the hopefully not-so-distant future.