Thursday, May 25, 2006

Slept in

Dammit! My carefully calculated routine that began every day at 6am with prayer and screenwriting - foiled by a late night last night, and waking up too early when Marie left for work at 5.

So I overslept, which means no screenwriting today. Had to get right into the paying work.

However, during my lunch hour (and a half) I finished off listening to the superb director's commentary on How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days.

I tell ya, that DVD has so many special features they're just about falling off. There's a 5-minute featurette on just about everyone - from the stars to the producers to the location manager! (I guess because, like every film set in New York, "the city is a character", although I never heard that cliche used.)

Thankfully, they had a featurette about the writers, well two of them anyway (Kristen Buckley and Brian Regan, who I gather are married to each other - pretty useful when writing rom-com!). Burr Steer gets credited on IMDb, but nary a mention on the DVD. Ah well.

Great story, though. And another film, like Wedding Crashers, that uses a lot of improv. Funny, funny stuff.

Interesting seeing PG-13 How to Lose... straight after R-rated Wedding Crashers. The How To... story is just as racy (give or take) and yet manages to tell its story in a way that's safe for the wider audiences and presumably higher box-office takes you get from PG's.

Let's see if I'm talking through my ass:

How to Lose... released 2003, worldwide gross $177,085,826. Tomatometer 42% - oh dear!

Wedding Crashers, released 2005, worldwide gross $285,176,741. Tomatometer 74%.

I am talking through my ass. Don't listen to me.

Still, I liked How To Lose..., and my notoriously fickle movie-watching wife was transfixed as well. It kept her from her study, no less! :)

A couple of writerly points...
  • Because Kate's character does such a dastardly thing in the central plot (snares a guy only to deliberately try and drive him away), the writers go out of their way to make her sympathetic. She's a girl with a heart of gold, helping her friend Michelle come to work in order to save her career. She's got a political conscience, and she's blocked in fulfilling her dream - which is always compelling.
  • Strangely, there's not as much evidence to show us that Matthew's character is really nice. Maybe society has double standards with how we view males and females?
Okay, that's enough for today. Just one thing "of note", about NZ film Black Sheep:

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

No good, or just overfamiliar?

Weird thing about rewriting: some scenes you write make you laugh each time you read them.

I'm just hoping it's because they're genuinely funny, and not just because of my peculiar sense of humour.

But there are some scenes that I now look at with a sense of dissatisfaction. Trouble is, I'm not sure if it's just that I'm too familiar with them, or they're really not that good.

Scary thing is, they're right at the beginning. And I know how important it is to give your characters a good introduction. Scary indeed!

So today I printed out the list of scene headings from Scenewriter (I'm too cheap to have Final Draft) and put little smiley faces next to the scenes I really really liked. The smiles are all around the middle - which bodes well for my act 2 - but I need some really big ones at the beginning.

I was also thinking about what I quoted yesterday about set pieces. I think I've got what you'd call a set piece, at least I think it is.

I'm really going to be a lot clearer once I've finished this first rewrite and sent the script out to a few people to read. Not decision-makers, mind you. That could be disastrous. No, my script reading list will include:
  • Selected colleagues at Skip's Hollywood hangout
  • My fellow workshoppers from the Paul Margolis workshops (including Paul)
  • An actor friend who said he could organise a table read. That will be fantastic!
People who know movies, know the industry, and can help me avoid shooting myself in the foot.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Kung Fu fighting

My main character learnt Kung Fu today.

I'd pictured all sorts of ridiculous montage sequences, but instead just opted for "Kung Fu for Dummies" on his kitchen table.

Sometimes - most times - simplest is best.

I've reached 87 pages, and that's without padding, but instead by introducing a killer (well, I think it's killer) subplot. I'm getting closer to the magical 110 or so pages. Even though someone (apparently Woody Allen) said 90 pages is enough for a comedy; any more and it fails to be funny. Hm.

Of Note:

Box Office
  • Surprise. Da Vinci Code went really well ($224million opening weekend), despite being a load of old bollocks. (Historiographically, anyway. I haven't seen the movie or read the book so can't comment on it from an artistic POV).
  • Da Vinci code hasn't come out in NZ, so MI:3 is still on top, followed by romantic comedy Sione's Wedding, still number 2 after 7 weeks in release! :)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Back from the unexpected

Unexpected long weekend - from blogging, at least.

I had a real lull in productivity, where I spent many hours wishing I was asleep, but paradoxically not getting enough sleep.

It was awful.

However, I think I'm back. Got the printout of my first draft and went through it with a red pen making changes.

It's what I started to do a while back, but this time it's different. It's like now I have a clearer "birds-eye-view" of the story, and what it needs.

That's probably helped by the romantic comedies I've been watching lately: Wedding Crashers, Grosse Pointe Blank, and just yesterday, Coming to America.

I've already opined on Wedding Crashers - a very funny film.

Grosse Pointe Blank
was brilliant, absolutely brilliant, and I can't understand why Tom Jankiewicz hasn't written anything else. There were some hilarious lines in that film, as well as some great improv from the cast. Obviously the main cast were great, but so was Jeremy Piven (who I've never heard of) and Alan Arkin as the doctor.

Coming to America has some hilarious lines, but somehow they come across funnier in writing than on screen. It seemed a bit sluggish several times throughout. But the overall thing is funny. Eddie Murphy is always somewhat funny, and often hilarious. But I couldn't help thinking it was a film for its time, and is not as funny now as it was in 1988. Maybe it's just me.

Of note:
  • "Writing as always is a revelation, even to yourself, as you write." The words of Screenwriter Bones' latest post.
  • "There’s no systematic effort to keep newcomers out of Hollywood." John August.

Thursday, May 18, 2006 - Goldwyn, Fox vid arm see 'God' - Goldwyn, Fox vid arm see 'God'

I laughed at the subhead:

Duo team on biopic

...biopic of who? God?? :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


This is Jessy, the neighbour's cat.

She was yowling outside our window this morning; it was cold and raining, so I let her in for a bit.

Our Millie was not happy.

Made me think of how jealousy can be a powerful motivation in a romantic comedy. So I've slipped a bit into my script today, or rather, the seeds of jealousy. Looking forward to seeing how it pans out.


Not a heck of a lot of note today, and I can't be bothered linking.
  • Chris Rock is going to direct and star in his second directorial attempt.
  • Halle Berry's considering Catwoman 2... !?
  • Poster's out for M Night Shylaman's next, Lady in the Water. Lots of raves about just the poster.
  • World of Warcraft is going to be made into a movie.
  • 7th Heaven isn't getting axed. I didn't even know it hadn't been axed years ago. What do you do when the kids are all grown up?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Wedding Crashers

Very funny. And, as you might expect with a really successful movie, it was initially rejected by all the major studios!

Creative Screenwriting Review - shows that much of the humour comes from the script, while fully acknowledging the fun that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson had with improv.

The commentary went into that as well, and it's great to hear a director give the writers credit by name.

I got to admit this film didn't appeal to me originally; I only watched it because I'm writing a romantic comedy. It's a little too raunchy for comfort in some parts, but hey, it's R-rated, so what can I expect?

But they did a fantastic job - taking what could be some really unsympathetic characters, and making us feel really on their side.

Box Office - a very successful picture, with over $200 million at the BO!

IMDb trivia - but you'll find all that stuff out in the commentary - except for the printable purple heart bit.

74% on the Tomatometer.

A good laugh - those guys are very funny.

More Aussies than ever at Cannes

We Cannes do | Movies | Breaking News 24/7 - (12-05-2006)

Actually rewriting

Today I actually started the rewrite.

Well, restarted. I'd had one go at it before, but it kind of fell off.

Pictured, you can see all the other ways I've been "working on the rewrite". Books on screenwriting. Notes on the script itself. Notes scribbled down on the bus. Other romantic comedies. (Okay, I've got to admit I haven't actually seen Shaun of the Dead yet, but I just love the tagline: a romantic comedy - with zombies!)

So today I gathered together the benoted pieces of paper, and actually started incorporating them into the script.

And then, whaddaya know, a new idea popped into my head. It's a good 'un too. It had to do with online dating, so - having never done online dating before - I had to do some research.

I ended up reading some fascinating articles at Fascinating site. And the writers there have a habit of cleverly linking keywords in the article, so before you know it, you're reading six articles when you only intended to read one.

Very clever.

The upshot is, I only made amendments to one page today. Here's hoping for a better effort from me tomorrow!
Of note:

Truly Important
Box Office
  • Poseidon didn't live up to expectations. I don't really understand why people like disaster movies anyway. Although I did kind of like Titanic; probably because it was based on a true story. Interesting too to see Lindsay Lohan's rom-com Just My Luck didn't do so well.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Sitting by the dock of the bay...

Wasting time is what I've been doing the last two days. Watching lots of Star Trek, and setting up some really cool Yahoo! Widgets on my desktop.

Ah well, it felt like work at the time! And that's the danger - activity so often feels like work unless we're very diligent to tell the difference.

I had a thought this morning as I was getting my hair cut. The barber asked me what I do, I said I write, he said what do you write, I said mostly magazine articles.

He didn't seem the genuinely conversational type, so I shut up. But the conversation continued in my head.

I said in my head that I'm writing my first screenplay. Then I said dreams are free. That thought floated around a bit, and then it dawned on me...

Dreams are not free if you intend to do anything about it.

It may not cost me any money to write my romantic comedy script, but it surely costs me in time (which may result in lost income potential), effort, and creativity - which is incredibly hard to measure.

A dream must cost you something if it's to be worthwhile.

So I'm finished with meaningless activity today. I'm back on the "doing something worthwhile" wagon.

Of note:

  • Uh-oh. The new Cybermen in Doctor Who look like the old Cylons. (Well, I think there's a passing resemblance)
New Zealand
  • Blue Willow, a short film by Wellington's Veialu Aila-Unsworth, has screened at Berlin and is "stirring interest around the world".
  • 10,000 BC starts production.
  • Feeling lucky, punk?
  • Fascinating breakdown of where April script sales came from. Heartening to see that a lot of scripts purchased were specs! "Drama" is the leading genre, but that's kind of a broad category...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Why does this happen to me...

I worked on my articles all day yesterday. Literally 8am till 1am.

Sometimes I wonder if my brain slows down to fill the time available.

Anyway, a short post this morning. I've got an article to finish.

Worse, it's not the usual case where I've spoken to lots of people and have to choose which comments to include or exclude. For some reason, only one - yes, one - of the people I contacted was actually contactable and able to give me an interview. I've been speaking to everyone else's voicemails and/or receptionists.

So, I find myself scouring some of the regular blogs I visit, making sure I don't quote too much from any one blog lest I accidentally commit plagiarism.

Plagiarism's sort of in the memeosphere at the moment, with all the talk about Kaavya Viswanathan's book and the bits that are almost word-for-word copied from Megan McCafferty's book.

Malcolm Gladwell has some interesting thoughts on the strange nature of plagiarism, but it seems most of his readers do not.

I don't intend to try the bounds of plagiarism today, either.

One thing though - I'm looking forward to finishing this article. I'm going to then jump on my script before anything else. I've been writing down changes to make; my next step is to gather them all together and actually apply them to the screenplay. Yes! That will be fun.

Of note:

Unbelievable stream of derivative movies instead of brand new concepts
WTF? (What the Fried?)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Monday monday - tips from the script coach

Sorry, there's not a full-length blog post today because I'm battling journalistic deadlines. :(

Not even a photo.

But here's an article called Tips from the script coach - May 1, 2006 about Skip Press, whose email list, Hollywoodwriters, provides such an awesome resource for budding writers like me.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Limitless possibilities

26 letters. 9 digits. All manner of other bits and pieces. And unlimited possibilities.

I'm not going anywhere today. Today is a day of writing, pure and simple. The music is turned up loud, the kettle is nearby, and the brain - hopefully - is in full cooperation.

All the best to you in your writing efforts today!


Of note:

  • Actors high salaries are causing studios concerns, apparently. "A bit of a gamble", they're saying, even if it is Nicole Kidman or Jim Carrey they're talking about.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

$9.5m Coup For NZ Animation Studio

BusinessAndMoney: Small Business: $9.5m Coup For NZ Animation Studio

Flux Animation Studio has begun work on Master Raindrop - a series based on Asian myths and legends which will screen in 26 half-hour episodes.

It is being lauded as a groundbreaking deal for the New Zealand industry as it is the first time a local company will work with animation producers from Singapore and Australia.
Congratulations Flux! Fantastic news!

Never slows down

I got my beloved sleep last night, but not after watching a couple of Star Trek: TNG episodes and having a good chat with Marie. We are such geeks - I always was, but my geekiness is wearing her down.

This morning: a business breakfast on the subject of usability. It's a really interesting topic, and even more interesting was the fact that actors make really good people for user tests, because they can articulate the emotional response that good or bad usability sometimes evokes.

Deadlines continue apace, so not much happening on paper (or screen) for my romantic comedy, but the ideas keep popping up and I keep scribbling them down for closer attention on the weekend.

One thing that's kind of puzzling is the whole area of conflict. In Making a Good Script Great, the chapter I'm on is all about conflict. If your script is dragging, there's not enough conflict, and it needs to be diametrically opposed conflict, not just little conflict. And you need to fill in all the cracks with conflict too...

E.g. an expository scene where a detective asks a policeman about the evidence, could be just:
Detective: Has the photographer been yet?
Policeman: I don't know, I'll find out.
Apparently the better thing to do dramatically is to put a bit of attitude into it, like:
Detective: Has the photographer been yet?
Policeman: Not my department, mate.
Theoretically, that makes for more interesting viewing.

Meanwhile, I'm reading a book called Change Your Thinking, all about cognitive behaviour therapy, including how to deal with ... you guessed it, conflict.

It struck me that while "the media" point out that they're not there to shape society or educate, they surely do. I mean, how can you not learn about how to deal with life - whether well or not - from the TV programmes they saw growing up?

So I wonder to myself, is there a role for films that actually portray healthy relationships? Healthy ways to deal with things? You've definitely got conflict there, but you don't have people trying to bring each other down all the time.

Or would that make the viewing experience boring? I think the answer is what it is most times... it depends.

It all depends on the context of the story. If it moves the story forward to have everyone against your protagonist, go for it. If it's helpful to the story to show some good communication practice, go ahead. I've answered my own question. Thanks to all who were going to answer for me!


Of note:

  • A piece about Australian author Luke Davies and his journey from novel to screen with the moviefication of his novel Candy.
Demographic Trends
  • Billy Mernit confirms two puzzling trends about movies I heard yesterday: women like rom-coms, even with male protagonists (they loved Sione's Wedding), and women account for a lot of the growth in horror movies. Weird!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

People, places and learning

That's what I want to be doing fairly soon. Sleeping. It's been a long couple of days, hence the later-than-usual posting time.

Yesterday I caught up with an old workmate, John Butterworth, who is headed to England to fulfil his dreams. They have something to do with film, TV, and English football. All the best John!

It was a great opportunity to catch up with all sorts of other old workmates and find that one of them has set up a production company. Interesting...

Then I got home, caught up on a few phone calls and ended up working till 2am finishing a couple of stories.

This morning I got up at 7 to get ready, do a phone interview (I got the guy's voicemail - grr) and go to the NZFC's free seminar on distribution.

Very, very interesting. Mostly common sense marketing, but it's always an eye-opener to see just how un-lucrative filmmaking is in New Zealand. (Unless, of course, you're Peter Jackson!) This is not Hollywood, movies are (theoretically) still art, the government plays a big part financially in just about every NZ film that gets made, and piracy actually does hurt NZ productions big time.

There was a fantastic case study on Sione's Wedding from John Barnett and Paul Davis from South Pacific Pictures, the people who brought us the movie. A really professional marketing job, and a fantastically successful result.

I was kind of surprised how much information was volunteered in all the sessions, but that's the neat thing about the NZ film industry. There aren't really competitors, just collaborators we haven't met yet. Okay, yes, pass the bucket, that's gag-inducing. But close to the truth.

Good comment from John Barnett on language - sometimes in NZ scripts we think we need to add in lots of colourful language to make the story more gritty and realistic, but they actually toned down the language between script or screen. "You'll find that adding one more expletive doesn't add one more viewer," he says. Too bloody right, mate.

An unexpected surprise from today was meeting two guys I'd met ages ago, who I didn't know knew each other. Tom, Wayne and all the rest of the crew, all the best for the aliens you're building in the basement!

Now I'm back home and it's time to check through the emails, do some stuff, eat some dinner, and eventually... sleep...
Of note:

  • I can't stand MySpace, but it's working for the makers of Stick It, a film targeted at teenage girls. That's the way to market - find your core audience and speak to them first and most importantly.
Trailers and Teasers

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Computer Angst

I continually amaze myself with my capacity to waste time on useless frustrations.

This morning I couldn't connect to the internet. Well, I sort of could, and that was the problem.

The modem said it was connected, I could get my email, but most websites, not to mention my weather widget, wouldn't load.

A sensible person would have figured out that something was wrong with the network, and got on with other stuff. (Yes, there was stuff I needed to do that didn't require the internet)

But not me. After saying a few things to the computer to try and hurt its feelings, I went over to my wife's laptop and checked if the same thing was happening there. It was. So it's not the computer. Sorry.

So I plugged the lappie into the phone line and used dial up. No problem! It's all working okay.

That does it, I say to myself. No more Woosh Wireless. I'm sick of being disconnected every time it's a windy day. So I went ahead and changed ISPs. Instead of doing useful work.


I've been watching the video podcasts from Four Eyed Monsters and, while I still don't have a clue what the film is about, I can identify with the latest episode, where Aaron self-sabotages himself. Hopefully my behaviour doesn't go to such extremes.

I would say, at least I'm aware. But so is he, and it doesn't stop him sabotaging himself. Never mind, Simon, just keep taking the pills and practising your affirmations...

The thing about Four Eyed Monsters is that it is extremely compelling and at the same time takes itself way too seriously. I don't know if we have ever had such a self-psychoanalysed culture. I see these people and feel like yelling "Do something normal!" at them. And on the other hand, I feel their pain.

Maybe the movie itself is more coherent. Sounds like a goodie anyway.

So the upshot of all this ranting is that I'm not getting any script writing - or rewriting - done so far. It's 9:13, and I need to be out of the house at 9:55 for an appointment, then there's a farewell lunch for an old friend who's jetting off to the UK. Then back here to catch up on the paying work... then out tonight... maybe the script will get some TLC tomorrow.. (sigh).

Of note:


Monday, May 01, 2006

What characters want

Monday at last. So glad the weekend is finished, all that relaxing over with...

I'm kidding. It's actually getting really hard because I've got quite a bit of paying work on. But I'm not kidding about doing this blog - and more importantly, the screenplay.

I've been reading some helpful stuff in Making a Good Script Great, like this gem on character spine:

"The spine of the character is determined by the relationship of motivation and action to the goal. Characters need all of these elements to clearly define who they are, what they want, why they want it, and what actions they're willing to take to get it.

If any of these elements are missing, the character line becomes confused and unfocused. There's no direction. We're unclear who to root for and why we're rooting for someone at all."

I had no problem with character motivation for my main protagonist, but still the story needed fleshing out. So last week I began to write down what each supporting character wants. A very interesting exercise! And even though subplots were covered a fair few chapters ago, this new information is helping me develop good subplots.

Well, hopefully good.

I've been realising that sometimes I'm too smart for my own good. I don't mean that in a bigheaded way... by 'smart' I mean too analytical. I find it far easier to write a non-fiction piece on most subjects; only when I really start applying myself can I envisage a fictional treatment of a topic.

That's where some of the nonsensical exercises from The Writing Experiment come in. The use of random words, etc.

Recently I joined the workingstories email group, which has some very interesting thoughts on the parallels between Jazz music and organisational storytelling. It's not Hollywood, but it is an emerging use of the craft of story in a practical setting.

News of note:

Screenwriting resources
  • Apparently there are over a million words about the screenwriting industry at ... including some great message boards I've just discovered.
  • How the Alligator man became a script reader.
  • It's not writing a "great" script that counts, it's writing the right script, according to ICM's executive story editor Chris Lockhart.
  • Adrien Brody and Lindsay Lohan to star in Speechless. Good premise: "an introverted type (Brody) ... is asked to give a speech at a friend’s wedding and ends up hiring a service that lets someone else (Lohan) speak through him."