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The would-be screenwriters thread
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Originally Posted by Rdmcgunner

Fifteen years and one act later, you really showed him!

Thanks for adding to the civil tone of the friendly discussion. Now go kick puppies.
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Originally Posted by Greg David

The other thing is, from everything I've read, introducing characters in the text with phrases like "former member of the Boston Red Sox" is a no-no. The problem is that you can't film "former member of the Boston Red Sox" as the character walks on camera. That's something that shouldn't be mentioned until it comes out in dialogue. If the audience doesn't know it yet, it doesn't need to be in the script yet.

I might have to nitpick your nitpick. If I remember correctly imediatly after the Red sox statement he walks past a wall displaying memorabilia from his playing days.

I had a simlar problem with keeping track of the characters earlier on but I'd put that down to me being tired when I read it. It's also one of things that is more confusing to read than it would be once shot because you'd then actually be seeing different people infront of you. On screen I picture it almost like the opening shot of serenity. One big tracking shot following the characters as the interact with eachother to give you an idea of who all the characters and the layout of the setting.

So while I think that it's fine to leave it like that if you'r going to film it yourself if you're more looking to sell the script you may want to clarify the character introductions.
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Add me to the motivated-to-get-writing list. Now if I can just follow through.
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Originally Posted by horrid

I might have to nitpick your nitpick. If I remember correctly imediatly after the Red sox statement he walks past a wall displaying memorabilia from his playing days.

That doesn't invalidate the criticism, though. If you're showing the memorabilia, then stating his background in text becomes extraneous. What's important is not that the script reader learn the character's background as quickly as possible, but that the audience have it communicated to them in an organic and non-intrusive way.

Mind you, I've seen several screenplays written by professionals that do the same thing, but apparently, it's something that rankles a lot of readers and producers.
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I don't wanna be treading Dave "Fuckhead" Morgan territory, but me and my friends thought a Suicide Circle remake was an interesting idea. There are many 9/11 parallels and comments on the streak of narcissism in American culture that could be made in a project like that. I don't know I think we were really drunk that night.

P.S Yes I am aware one would have to buy the rights for said film, I simply said it was an interesting idea.
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I thought the same thing. I can't believe the American remake hasn't been snapped up yet. I saw it just as we were enduring the height of the whole Britney/Hilary/Lindsay/Christina pop princess thing, so it seemed like a natural idea to adapt it to American culture. Apparently, nobody in Hollywood shared my vision.
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Greg, thanks for your feedback and I think you make a valid point and one that I struggle with myself -- how much is too much? I have this rule where I try to keep no more than two lines of text together, although I've been reading a lot of screenplays lately and I see that rule get broken all the time, so I'm trying to rework my style into something that's a little less sparse and a little more descriptive.

I'll respond in more detail later, but I just shoveled shit for two hours and I'm pretty braindead.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Greg David

I thought the same thing. I can't believe the American remake hasn't been snapped up yet. I saw it just as we were enduring the height of the whole Britney/Hilary/Lindsay/Christina pop princess thing, so it seemed like a natural idea to adapt it to American culture. Apparently, nobody in Hollywood shared my vision.

Sadly I don't think any major studio would take this on. A pity really, I think this is one of those rare films that actually lends itself to a remake very well.


edit: I could say that Battle Royale is also a good idea also; too bad it's the hacks who are taking a whack at it. Matter of fact I would go as far as to say, with events such as Columbine, the story seems even more relevent to American society than Japan's.
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I'd love to see a good remake of Battle Royale... kinda doubt it could top the original though, and I don't want to think about what Hollywood would do to it...
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I just started on a new screenplay the other day. It's a fun little twist on the slasher film. I'm about fifteen pages in at the moment -- inciting incident time!

I'm a bit OCD about structure, but I'm absolutely awful at writing outlines. I've found the best approach is to brainstorm. Come up with a beginning and an ending, maybe some scenes that fall in between. Then piece the rest together like a puzzle. You might find that approach more helpful than writing a plot from A to Z.

Combining two genres that have absolutely no business even being in the same room together is another way to fuel the creative fires. My senior thesis script in film school was a spy thriller with Santa Claus as the hero. Unfortunately, flicks like "Bad Santa" and "Fred Claus" as well as the comic book "Last Christmas" seemed to have picked clean all of the elements that I though in 2001 made my project seem fresh. But slapping two very dissimilar genres together will always give you something unique; you just have to beat everyone else to the punch.

As for books on screenwriting, I'd recommend David Trottier's "Screenwriter's Bible." That's an indispensible reference book, one that I've revisited the most out of any of my leftover textbooks from film school. Reading about screenwriting is something I can't encourage budding writings to do enough. Seeds of ideas will start blossoming in your head, even if you're reading McKee.

Good luck, fellas.
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That Trotter book's a little condesending, but I think it works pretty well.
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I've had very little sleep last night, so I feel like sharing the ultimate high-concept idea I came up with a friend of mine when we were drunk:

There's a top-class political summit held in the Swiss alps. The leaders from around the world are present to discuss global warming, nuclear weapons and such. Things go sour when there's an avalanche and the place is isolated. Soon people start getting killed. The rapidly detereorating group of world's leaders must find the killer among them before it's too late.

We called it The Deadly Presidents.
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This year the president will be elected...In a landslide
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Hail to the Chiefs.
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At a Global warming summit, things are about to heat up.
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We visioned the poster to have an image of a president's body covered with a torn United Nations-flag and other presidents standing around it. The tagline would be "History is written by the survivors".

Shit, maybe I should go ahead and write the bugger.
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Originally Posted by Murdoch

We visioned the poster to have an image of a president's body covered with a torn United Nations-flag and other presidents standing around it. The tagline would be "History is written by the survivors".

Do it like the Oceans Eleven teaser, where all you see are the feet and legs of the people standing around the body.
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So I stupidly ignored one of my writing rules last night. There's this trick I learned from writing short stories; don't finish a scene when you're going to stop writing for the night. Stop right in the middle of the scene. That way, when you come back to it, you're still "hot", since you know what happens next. Well, last night, I finished a scene and then stopped writing. So today, I'm facing a new scene completely cold. I hate that.

Bath time.
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So, question: When you guys are doing first drafts, or second drafts, do you get neurotic about page count? That's probably my biggest weakness as a writer, and one of the reasons why it takes me forever to finish anything -- instead of worrying about getting it written, I'm worrying about getting it right, and freaking out when it looks like my page count is spiraling out of control. That's the monkey on the back I'm currently facing -- the feature of "Redemption Falls" is at page 40 right now, and I'm about five pages/a scene away from the act being done. This, coupled with the fact that the first forty pages chronicle about 2 days out of the seven that the script takes place over, is already making me feel like Michael Douglas in 'Wonder Boys.'

However, I've begun to realize that because I have a bad back, I should go with the David Milch approach, get a tape recorder, and try dictating the action into it as I lay on the ground. It's not a bed, which is where I normally do most of my writing, so the flatness of the floor should keep me alert, as opposed to sleepy.

Another question, just to throw this out there, is there any dream project you as writers have -- i.e., properties/characters you'd love to take a whack at?
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Murdoch

I've had very little sleep last night, so I feel like sharing the ultimate high-concept idea I came up with a friend of mine when we were drunk:

There's a top-class political summit held in the Swiss alps. The leaders from around the world are present to discuss global warming, nuclear weapons and such. Things go sour when there's an avalanche and the place is isolated. Soon people start getting killed. The rapidly detereorating group of world's leaders must find the killer among them before it's too late.

We called it The Deadly Presidents.

Could work, but when Bush and Putin become locked in a desperate death struggle it's going to be hard not to think of the opening of The Naked Gun.
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Originally Posted by RathBandu

Another question, just to throw this out there, is there any dream project you as writers have -- i.e., properties/characters you'd love to take a whack at?

Where do I begin? If I had gallons more free time than I do now, I'd probably be sitting on stacks of fan scripts instead of furniture. In high school and during my freshman year of college, I cranked out two and a half Batman and Superman fan scripts. I never finished my approach to the "Superman Lives" vapor film, quitting after I got 160(?!) pages in. I did, however, feel a little like Nostradamus when a few plot threads that I'd come up with in '98 later appeared in the comics (Lex runs for President) and even Bryan Singer's film (Superman fathers a child).

I've since discovered a work-around that allows me to tackle characters or franchises and still have a script that's saleable; producers won't even look at something you've written that's not 100% yours. You can make cosmetic changes to the hero (they do this in the comics religiously), or simply uproot him from his story world and deposit him in a completely different one. I'd love to see a Superman-type character serve in Iraq (something I tried and failed to nail in a recent script I wrote).

You can also have the hero make a dramatically different choice early in the script that makes him a different character completely from the one you've based him on. What if the first ten pages into a script the James Bond-ish hero recovers some MacGuffin, only to deliver it to the Kremlin because he's a double-agent? Out-of-the-box thinking is the best way to stay original and make sure you don't get bogged down in act two when you find yourself writing the same scenes you've seen a thousand times.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by RathBandu

So, question: When you guys are doing first drafts, or second drafts, do you get neurotic about page count? That's probably my biggest weakness as a writer, and one of the reasons why it takes me forever to finish anything -- instead of worrying about getting it written, I'm worrying about getting it right, and freaking out when it looks like my page count is spiraling out of control. That's the monkey on the back I'm currently facing -- the feature of "Redemption Falls" is at page 40 right now, and I'm about five pages/a scene away from the act being done. This, coupled with the fact that the first forty pages chronicle about 2 days out of the seven that the script takes place over, is already making me feel like Michael Douglas in 'Wonder Boys.'

Since I write in longhand first, and transfer it to Final Draft later, I often have no idea what my page count is, which I think is healthy. I've always read that you should just write it first, and worry about pages later. Losing material is good exercise for a writer. In fact, I think it's easier to edit something down than create stuff to beef up the page count. I had a really hard time getting enough scenes to populate my third act. Coming up with scenes that felt like a natural part of the story, and not padding, was quite a challenge.

Something I've learned about myself is that planning is essential. I've started too many projects by just writing away without a plan, only to burn out or run out of steam partway in because I don't know what happens next. With this project, I'm following the methodology in Save The Cat to the letter, and it really seems to be working for me. Even my page count is coming out about right.

Quote:

Originally Posted by RathBandu

Another question, just to throw this out there, is there any dream project you as writers have -- i.e., properties/characters you'd love to take a whack at?

I have two. The one I've been holding on to the longest is Doctor Strange. I would just love to march into the Marvel Studios offices and pitch my little heart out on that one. He seems to be the one major character in their stable that nobody is discussing. But it's the fact that he's problematic that makes me interested. I did have a pretty clear version of how to do a Hulk movie, too. Interestingly, Ang Lee had a lot of the same ideas about how to handle him that I did, which was actually pretty cool to see unfold.

My other big one: ever since seeing the epic-scale disaster that was the American Godzilla, I've had a very clear and detailed pitch in my head for a sequel. The premise involved Japanese representatives arriving to inform us that the creature that attacked New York was not Godzilla at all. But the real Godzilla has noticed, and is on his way to challenge the pretender. The movie would be called "Godzilla vs Godzilla".

I'd also like to be the first to really, faithfully adapt Tarzan of the Apes. There have been endless Tarzan movies, and still nobody's gotten it right.
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Yeah, I have no problem being merciless when it comes to cutting stuff -- the first draft of the pilot for "Redemption Falls" was 99 pages, and I was pretty proud I cut almost 40 pages down to the 60 that it's at right now. Thing is, most tv-pilot competitions mandate a script be 45 pages max., and I've done a pass here and there at it, but I really hate to lose any more than I have already.

I also have a tendency to write long-hand, at least the intial versions, but my stressor there is that my anal-retentive nature hates not having all of the script in one place, so if I don't start a project long-hand, I have a hard time switching over from FD to longhand and vice versa. I definitely think long-hand is very freeing, though, because you don't have to worry about pg count, you can just write and make shit up. It's usually what I'll do to start a script.

I also feel, as an aspiring writer/director, one of my biggest faults is the tendency to "budget on the page." I don't really allow myself a lot of room for imagination, especially with this "Redemption Falls" project, because there's the little line producer in the back of my head saying "Okay, how much is that going to cost? How ya gonna shoot that, fucker?!" So if I can sink my teeth into a side project from time to time that allows me to just make shit up wholesale, it helps remind me of the joy of writing.

This Save The Cat book sounds really fascinating, and I think I'll have to pick it up sometime soon.

Greg, I think a Dr. Strange movie could be very cool. I agree, like Iron Man, that character has a lot of untapped potential. And as a pulp-hero fan (I think I mentioned this elsewhere, but I recently wrote the pilot for a LXG spin-off set in 1942 as an exercise and it wound up being a lot of fun for me as it helped remind me of the pure joy of writing and making shit up...pretty injokey, but fun), I'd love to see "Tarzan" done right.

Here's another discussion question: We talked about when you decided to be a would-be screenwriter, but where do you guys find inspiration? Obviously, I'm getting really energized from this thread, but one of the constant sources of inspiration for me has been Inside the Actors Studio. I know, that can sound incredibly bizarre, but for all of Lipton's sychophanting, I love hearing people talk about their art, talk about what goes into it, talk about the craft and their experiences. I guess because if I wasn't a writer, I'd be an actor, but acting -- like cops, lawyers, and doctors -- is one of those professions that I'm fascinatined by that I could never do myself. I really believe there's a kind of magic to it, something wonderful and unexplainable, but getting that peek behind the curtain -- seeing how the trick is done -- always leaves me inspired and always leaves me wanting more, hoping one day I can help an actor achieve that kind of magic, through either my writing or my directing. Pretension ho!
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Originally Posted by Greg David

I'd also like to be the first to really, faithfully adapt Tarzan of the Apes. There have been endless Tarzan movies, and still nobody's gotten it right.

You don't think Rosie O'Donnell voicing a purple ape in the Disney version was what Burroughs was originally going for?
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Originally Posted by RathBandu

Here's another discussion question: We talked about when you decided to be a would-be screenwriter, but where do you guys find inspiration? Obviously, I'm getting really energized from this thread, but one of the constant sources of inspiration for me has been Inside the Actors Studio. I know, that can sound incredibly bizarre, but for all of Lipton's sychophanting, I love hearing people talk about their art, talk about what goes into it, talk about the craft and their experiences. I guess because if I wasn't a writer, I'd be an actor, but acting -- like cops, lawyers, and doctors -- is one of those professions that I'm fascinatined by that I could never do myself. I really believe there's a kind of magic to it, something wonderful and unexplainable, but getting that peek behind the curtain -- seeing how the trick is done -- always leaves me inspired and always leaves me wanting more, hoping one day I can help an actor achieve that kind of magic, through either my writing or my directing. Pretension ho!

I find a lot of inspiration in the proper type of DVD extras; the kind that really get into the process of storytelling. Unfortunately, those types of extras are becoming increasingly rare in the rush to just have movie stars on screen at all times. We really, really need more writer commentaries. Books about my favorite filmmakers, such as Janet Leigh's Psycho, or Cronenberg on Cronenberg, really energize me as well. I love getting into the heads of these people.

I actually have done some acting, and I think there's still an actor inside me someplace. It's not something I feel a great drive to pursue, but I do tend to write dialogue that I would enjoy speaking.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by RathBandu

Here's another discussion question: We talked about when you decided to be a would-be screenwriter, but where do you guys find inspiration?

Reading. Comic books and James Bond novels usually do the trick for me. Really detailed "making of" books that have all sorts of pre-production materials and interviews with the creative teams about the various drafts and different approaches that they could've used but didn't always get my creative juices flowing.

Bad movies are also an excellent resource for ideas. Take all the missed opportunities and poor decision-making in front of and behind the camera, then reason out how you'd tell the story better. Usually you'll come up with something vastly different from the movie in question. And then you can sell your script to someone who'll turn it into a piece of shit as well.
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Yeah, there's nothing better than a good commentary, whether it's a Kevin Smith or Judd Apatow roundtable, where you get the sense of collaboration and friendship between the principals, or just a director talking about his experience making the film. I know he's hated around here, but I've actually found Ron Howard is a fascinating guy to listen to talk about directing. I like a director who's engaged and who can keep me engaged, and Howard certainly does that. And yeah, I'm a special features whore, too.

Those Faber & Faber books of "Blank on Blank" are really great. There was a series also put out by an American University of "Blank Director Interviews" that collected long pieces with the director done by various publications at various points in their career that I thought were really great, too.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by RathBandu

Here's another discussion question: We talked about when you decided to be a would-be screenwriter, but where do you guys find inspiration?

This is going to sound strange, but when I see a film -- it doesn't even have to be a great film -- that has a great ending that segues into some great end title music, there's this soaring feeling I get, that even if it was for the final five minutes of the film, I was transported. And if it is a great film, that feeling is even stronger, the music evoking all the feelings and images from the last two hours.

I want something I write to be part of making someone feel the same way when they walk out of the theater.

As for the dream property, it's a toss-up between Dirk Gently, an really epic version of Redwall, and the Shadowrun RPG setting.
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Originally Posted by Brad_Lohan

Bad movies are also an excellent resource for ideas. Take all the missed opportunities and poor decision-making in front of and behind the camera, then reason out how you'd tell the story better. Usually you'll come up with something vastly different from the movie in question. And then you can sell your script to someone who'll turn it into a piece of shit as well.

Oh hell yes. There's something about seeing a movie with a good idea that gets completely botched that really gets my creative instincts going. Seeing something like Children of Men makes me despair, since I doubt I'll ever create anything on that level. Seeing Daredevil, on the other hand, caused a flood of ideas on how it could have been done better.
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Originally Posted by Richard Dickson

when I see a film -- it doesn't even have to be a great film -- that has a great ending that segues into some great end title music, there's this soaring feeling I get, that even if it was for the final five minutes of the film, I was transported. And if it is a great film, that feeling is even stronger, the music evoking all the feelings and images from the last two hours.

Case in Point as to why I think this is true: The Passion, which I hated in all kinds of ways, but damn if that ending -- with J.C. getting up and looking ready to kick some Roman ass -- didn't make me want to see the next chapter of Gibson's Religious Torture Porn Chronicles.
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Originally Posted by Greg David

Oh hell yes. There's something about seeing a movie with a good idea that gets completely botched that really gets my creative instincts going.

Or seeing a big budget movie that contains no good ideas whatsoever. You figure if this total junk sells, there's no need to stress oneself trying to craft an Oscar nominee.
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Count me amongst the suddenly motivated. I don't know why I'm bothering to start a project now, since school is just going to force me to immediately shelf it for a couple months.

Anyway, I wanted to get people's opinion about something, that being voice-overs in mob/crime films. I didn't originally plan on using one, as I was worried it would let me get lazy with stuff that could be done in more inventive ways. But one keeps trying to pop up, and I can't decide if it's a good idea, or just that my love of Scorsese has convinced me that every crime flick needs one. I'm going for more of a comedic vibe, if that makes a difference. Thoughts?
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I think voice-over, like anything, is another tool, another color in the pallete. When it's used right, it sings. When it doesn't, it's sloppy writing. But I think it's definitely something that's gained a lot of ground in recent years, moving from something to be depised and used to cover sloppy writing, to something not worth dismissing outright. I think the fact that films other than Scorsese's -- Adaptation and Thank You For Smoking are two that spring to mind -- are using v.o. has done a lot for the field.

But the trick there is to make sure that you're not using it because the genre mandates it, but because your story does. I know that's something I struggled with in developing one for my vampire/werewolf crime drama.
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Originally Posted by Brad_Lohan

You don't think Rosie O'Donnell voicing a purple ape in the Disney version was what Burroughs was originally going for?

O'Donnell notwithstanding, I thought it made perfect sense to have the apes talk to each other and to Tarzan. It made them more significant characters than we've seen in other versions-- even Greystoke doesn't quite succeed at placing Tarzan between two equally compelling families.

Me, I've always wanted to adapt Fahrenheit 451. In silhouette animation, for some reason.
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The thing is, I want to use it for the beginning, but after that the need for it seems to recede, and that indicated to me that I was looking for a crutch to get past the part that was hardest to me. Then I thought hey, the Departed discarded it's voice-over after the opening, and if that movie were a guy, I'd suck it off in a bathroom.
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