"Alexander" Los Angeles Premiere - ArrivalsJared is all about Mish-Mashing!

This whole month has been nuts, giving me very little time to get 5 posts a week up. Monday has been suffering, which I apologize for. But it may stay that way for the next few weeks so bear with me.

So what’s been going on in the world? Well, this past weekend was the worst box office frame of the year, ending an even worse summer. We’re down 20% in receipts from last year. Less and less people are going to see movies, and if they don’t figure out why and stop it, something bad is going to happen.

I recently watched the Jared Leto documentary, Artifact, about how his band sold 5 million albums, only to come home from their tour and be told by their label that they (the band) owed them (the label) 2 million dollars. The band tells them to eff off. The label then sues them for 30 million dollars. The documentary is about Jared and his group debating whether to release their next album independently in the midst of this lawsuit.

The doc is good, but it was a section near the middle that really got me. It covered the downfall of the music industry over the last couple of decades. Basically, everything was changing around the music business (most prominently, the move from physical to digital) and the people working at the music lables were too dumb to realize it in time. They watched as the entire world changed around them before doing anything, and by the time they did, it was too late. A company that previously knew nothing about music, was now taking all their money (iTunes). The labels now make half as much money as they did 15 years ago.

I often wonder – is the same thing happening to the movie industry? Like the music business, are we too slow to recognize the effects of the changes happening around us? Long-form media (television) with movie-like production value has pulled more and more writers away from the movie business, and now it’s pulling the talent too.

Indie movies are simultaneously debuting in both theaters and on Itunes, slowly moving towards a world where the indie producer skips the traditional distribution method and looks for ways to go straight to Itunes without having to pay a hefty cut to a third party.

Kickstarter is allowing filmmakers even more independence. If you’re a smart young director, you shoot a bunch of shorts, post them on Youtube, gain a following, get better, so that by the time your Kickstarter campaign begins for your feature, you have a kick-ass reel to show to inspire confidence from your investors. Ditto if you’re a writer. Learn how to direct and do the same.

I’m not saying the movie industry is screwed or anything. The international grosses are too big. But it doesn’t feel like the people in charge are moving fast enough to adapt, and they look out of touch in the process. The last time the movie business did something that actually made me want to go to the theater was adding the stadium seats. And that was 15 years ago. Itunes and Netflix intermittently come up with ways to make me want to use their services every month. They’re really staying on their toes – almost like they enjoy being cutting edge. I don’t get the sense that the studios are doing this at all.

The one thing the movie industry CANNOT do anymore is raise prices. When movies were under 10 bucks, I didn’t blink about seeing the latest movie each weekend. I’d even watch Step-Up 3 if it was the only thing playing. Why not? I love film and I don’t care how I’m entertained, as long as you entertain me. Now that I’m paying 18 dollars a film, I always calculate whether going to the theater is worth it. And many times the answer is no. In other words, there didn’t use to be a barrier to entry. Movies were priced in a way where you didn’t think twice about going. Now there’s a barrier, and you can’t put up a barrier at the very moment your business is losing 10% each year.

What’s the answer? I honestly don’t think it’s difficult. People crave something new. They think they want Spider-Man 2. But what they really want is a dancing tree. Until you show them the dancing tree, though, they’re never going to know they wanted it. Look, studios will always need their Transformers and their Fast and Furiouses. I get that. But each studio needs to set aside a division for taking risks, for trying out new things. Call it R&D. It’s the reason why Apple became the biggest company in the world. They knew if they didn’t allocate a bunch of money to trying out weird and new ideas, that they’d never grow, that people would eventually get bored of their products. I want to see some products that come out of the movie studios’ R&D divisions, not the cookie-cutter Teenage Mutant Ninja Electro Boogaloo nonsense I saw this summer. A decline of 20%  in a year is your consumer telling you you need to work harder.

Speaking of R&D (if R&D stood for “really depressing”), I finally saw Draft Day last week. Now some of you might remember that Draft Day was the number 1 screenplay on the Black List a couple of years ago, a story that seemingly came out of nowhere (a sports script topping the Black List??? Unheard of!). I thought the script was worth the hype. It was a different kind of sports movie. It had urgency. It had mystery. No cliche last second touchdown. Really lived up to the hype in my opinion.

Now a lot of people ask me how a good script gets turned into a bad movie. Well, this would be how. Three crucial mistakes were made that doomed this great screenplay. First, the edgy gritty script (about football in Cleveland – one of the dirtiest grungiest cities in America) was given a romantic comedy color-popping scheme for reasons beyond logic. If you’re looking to grab your core audience, the football fan, you probably don’t want to shoot your movie to look like Dolphin Tale 2.

Second, Kevin Costner played the role all wrong. Like wrong wrong wrong. In the script, our hero was a guy who knew his job was on the line, who was desperate to do anything to help his team win. He had fire, he had energy. And you could SMELL the pressure on him in every scene. It was exciting watching this guy scramble for his life while pretending to have it together on the outside.

Costner, however, played the part like a sad disinterested IRS agent. Whenever he was approached by any character, he looked like he was going to shake his head, say “I give up,” then go take a nap. He sucked away every ounce of energy this character had with his performance.  I felt horrible for the writers.


But the most critical mistake was a directing one. For those who haven’t seen the movie or read the script, a lot of it takes place over phone calls. Costner’s character is a general manager on Draft Day, and he’s calling everyone all over the country to figure out who he’s going to pick. Every 3rd scene was a phone scene. These intense mano-a-mano scenes, in many ways, defined the energy of the story.

So it was baffling when director Ivan Reitman decided to create split screens for all of the calls. But it wasn’t just that.  It was that CLEARLY none of the actors were actually talking to each other during the shoot. For example, P. Diddy would shoot his half of a phone conversation and then two months later, Costner, talking to a stand-in, recorded his half of the conversation.

Because the actors weren’t actually talking to each other and because Reitman insisted on using split-screens (which meant no cutaways), there were these giant gaping moments of silence after each actor’s line. Costner: “I want to go with Bryant as our quarterback!” 1 Mississippi . 2 Mississippi. 3 Mississippi. Diddy: “Fuck you. He’s not good enough!” Imagine an entire day of conversations with people where, after you said your line, they waited three seconds before responding. That was every phone call in Draft Day.

And the funny thing is, I know what Reitman was thinking. He thought he’d use the split-screen to infuse energy into the calls – having both the actors right there on screen together battling it out. Ironically, it had the opposite effect. It locked him into a situation where he couldn’t cut for timing, and the dialogue just died on the screen as a result. It’s scary how easy it is to screw up a good script. I mean you know Costner, notorious for being a hands-on actor, lobbied to play this character as a slow tired broken down General Manager, despite it being completely wrong for the story.  And what can you say when your lead actor tells you that’s how he’s going to play it? “No?” He’s just going to do it anyway.  A great script down the tubes based on one bad decision made by an actor.

Luckily, I’m going to leave you with something that’ll blow your little screenwriting mind and make you forget all about the Costner! It’s the best article about suspense I’ve ever read, and the author, Lee Child (author of the Jack Reacher books) gives one of the best analogies about a writing tool I’ve ever read. Any attempt to summarize it would cheapen the article, so I’m going to let you read it yourselves.

And finally, thanks to everyone who contributed to this weekend’s Pitch Post. It was fun to see some of your pitches get so much love from the community. Did anyone tally the best five so we have some surefire amateur scripts to review? I tried to go in there a few times and count myself but got lost in the 900 posts!

  • Scott Chamberlain

    Hollywood does do R&D. It’s called other people’s novels, comic books, and miscellaneous “property”.

    There’s also a form of R&D disparagingly called Sequels and Prequels.

    20% down? is that US domestic? ‘Cause the international market matters a lot more than it used to, in turn skewing the films that get made (Last Air Bender rocked the international box office).

    I’m always reminded of the timeless quip:

    INTERVIEWER: You were so rich and successful! How did you go broke?

    FAILED BUSINESSMAN: Well, slowly at first. And then very quickly.

    • Caleb Yeaton

      I think that 20% is domestic, yeah. Transformers 4 (or Trans4mers – whatever the hell they called it) was the worst-grosser in the franchise here in North America, but still managed to gross over a billion when you factor in international numbers. It’s kind of hard to see Hollywood learning any lessons from the shitty quality of this summer’s films when a movie with a lukewarm reception (for a huge franchise) stateside still has a chance to crack the billion dollar line.

      • Scott Crawford

        Pacific Rim 2. Not for the Americans, for the Asians (as I see it).

        • Caleb Yeaton

          Pretty much.

          Hell, Transformers even took place in Asia for some confusing reason that was pretty much just the studio saying “Asian people like us better, guys”.

          • Scott Crawford

            We MAY have to embrace it, Caleb, put China in OUR scripts (as the good guys). China’s BO is now potentially greater then US, but only for films their dictatorship (yeah, I said it) approves of.

            What do you reckon the next “Flash Gordon” movie won’t have Ming the Merciless in it.

          • Eric

            Ming the Merciful, the upright and just leader of Planet Mongo, must match wits with an interplanetary terrorist known as ‘Flash Gordon’.

          • Scott Crawford

            Ming the North Korean. Ming the American Imperalist Dog?

            Did you know Oliver Stone’s Nixon was known in China as The Great Liar?

            Fargo was known in Hong Kong as Mysterious Murder In Snowy Cream. In Cantonese, “snowy cream” is pronounced “fah go”.

          • LV426

            MacMing (he’s Irish).

          • Scott Crawford

            Mingstein (he’s Jewish)
            Mingian (he’s Armenian)
            Mingsson (he’s Icelandic)

            And so on.

          • LV426

            MacMing (Liam Neeson)
            Mingstein (Woody Allen)
            Mingian (Chuch Norris)
            Mingsson (Mads Mikkelsen of Casino Royale and Hannibal)

          • filmklassik


          • Caleb Yeaton

            Either that or they’ll just have a white dude play him and pretend that he’s not supposed to be Asian, just like Iron Man 3 did with The Mandarin.

          • LV426

            I thought that one very clever angle of Battle: LA was the title and its franchise potential. Just set each sequel in different cities. So after the first one we could have Battle: NYC, Battle: Shanghai, Battle: London, Battle: Rome, etc.

            That would be an interesting way to build a worldwide franchise.

          • Scott Crawford

            I quite liked Battle: LA. I think it was originally supposed to be found-footage, a la Cloverfield. I’m glad they didn’t; all that shaky-cam makes me ill.

          • LV426

            Battle: LA! I thought I was one of the only ones!

            Sure it wasn’t a classic, but I had a good time watching it and found it an interesting approach to the alien invasion film.

            I remember reading about the pitch being something along the lines of Black Hawk Down meets Aliens. It reminded me of a not so silly Independence Day from the perspective of the grunts on the ground as opposed to the fighter jocks battling in the air.

          • filmklassik

            I like it too. Is it brilliant? Of course not. But it is rousing and effective, with a very good star turn by Aaron Eckhart.

            At the time of its release, BATTLE: LOS ANGELES was the most unabashedly pro-U.S. military movie since BLACK HAWK DOWN. (Even THE HURT LOCKER — while mostly sympathetic toward the U.S. fighting man — was still determined to promote the idea of Soldier-as-Victim, and most veterans I know hated it).

            So why was BATTLE: LOS ANGELES bankrolled in the midst of so much anti-military fervor and war fatigue? Because the bad guys weren’t recognizably human (like, say, the Red Army or Al Queda or other Islamic extremists — which would’ve left the studio open to charges of racism and xenophobia), they were from outer space!

            And that’s how you have to do it now. Unless you’re making a period movie like FURY. Unbelievable.

            But maybe that’s changing…

          • LV426

            It’s like we’re back in the 50s.

            Make the villains/antagonists mutant monsters (The Thing From Another World, The Blob) or alien invaders (The War of the Worlds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) so as not to offend anyone.

          • filmklassik

            Respectfully disagree. Hollywood in the 1950s was willing to acknowledge the danger posed by Soviet-style Communism.

            Did the McCarthy-era witch hunts overreach and destroy innocent lives? Absolutely. Which was disgusting. But no one — neither Republicans OR Democrats (the Kennedy brothers, for example, HATED Communism) shied away from the fact that Stalin and his successors were our number one enemy overseas.

            And American movies reflected that.

          • filmklassik

            China a “dictatorship”? How culturally insensitive you are, Scott. Shame on you. And shame on anyone who agrees with you.

            China may be closed-off, parochial, misogynistic, repressive, restrictive and authoritarian… BUT IT’S NO DICTATORSHIP!!

          • For The Lulz

            Well according to a news article I read today, China is set to surpass the US as the world’s biggest economy within 10 years.

            So get used to seeing more people bowing down.

            (No pun intended….Okay, there was pun intended).

          • Scott Crawford

            I almost thought you weren’t kidding for a moment! Had me scared.

            This is China the country, not the people of China, whom I’m sure are all decent wonderful people, and hopefully one day they will be able to enjoy the freedoms many of us in the west take for granted. (Serious bit over.).

  • Scott Crawford

    It surprised me – truly! – that few people pitched ideas over the weekend based on pre-existing properties, even those in the public domain. I’d say more than a dozen SOLD scripts, and even more waiting to be sold scripts, this year had pre-existing elements like Captain Nemo, or the Greek gods, Robin Hood, Three Musketeers, Picture of Dorian Gray, Santa Claus, and so on.

    Can’t blame executives. If a movie about Robin Hood in Space fails they can say, “Well, it was Robin Hood meets Guardians. It should have been successful.” And he’ll keep his job.

    If a movie about a drug-addicted used car salesman who becomes a bank robber fails, the executive will be fired. “You made a movie about a drug-addicted used car salesman who becomes a bank robber, you schmuck!”

    And they’ll be people who will say they’d rather write the latter than the former. Fine. I’m happy where I am, are you happy where you are? Because if you’re not happy, if you want to be a successful professional screenwriter, first you’re going to have to produce loglines more like the ones people are buying.

    Second, you’re going have to put more effort into your story.

    Nobody in Hollywood writes treatments…

    Dune: https://www.sendspace.com/file/kvk1r2

    … do they?

    True Detective: https://www.sendspace.com/file/1pf6vv

    I just make it up as I go along.

    This Is Spinal Tap: https://www.sendspace.com/file/kq4i4f

    • LV426

      Robin Hood is thrown forward in time, landing in present day NYC.* He is taken under the wing of a homeless vet who teaches him how to handle a gun, which leads to robbing banks.

      * I would say present day Nottingham, but this is Hollywood here. Gotta have it set in the USA. Preferably the Big Apple or the City of Angels.

      • Scott Crawford

        Jim Sheriff, Chief of Police, Nottingham, New Hampshire.

        “Sheriff” of Nottingham.

        • LV426


          Maybe they set up their HQ off the beaten path in this small town. Then go hit banks in the bigger New England cities.

          • Scott Crawford

            “Fryer” Tuck works in a diner. Getting a bit desperate. But it is true, the more KNOWN elements you can work into your logline the better. They stand out.

          • LV426

            Maddy Marian is a tough working girl punk who lives on the mean streets after running from her wealthy family?

      • Linkthis83
    • lesbiancannibal

      Shhhh! I’m working on a Robin Hood script – I’ll upload it to AF in six months. Would love for you to have a look at a logline Scott if you’ve an email I can send it to.

  • Dale T

    I remember reading another article about creating suspense that used a different analogy. This one used peeing instead of starving. Paraphrasing here…writing suspense is like wanting to pee. The longer you hold it in the more you want to go, and the urge just gradually creeps up on you more and more and more to the point that nothing else matters in the world but to find a toilet. Release at the right time and you’ll create the most satisfying feeling of elation that man can be blessed with. Hold it in for too long and it’ll backfire badly.

    Too bad I don’t know where that article is anymore.

    • Scott Crawford

      This is the trailer that inspired Quentin Tarantino when he made Kill Bill:

      It’s a great movie, but when you see the final cut, they took the split screen stuff out and – particularly in the killer nurse scene – you notice the difference. Not saying you should do split screen in your script – not stopping you either, though I’ve not seen it formatted (anyone?) – but cutting back and forth usually generates suspense.

    • Scott Crawford

      keeps crashing…

      This is the trailer that inspired Quentin Tarantino when he made Kill Bill:

      When you see the final film – and it’s great – they didn’t do all that split-screen stuff, and you notice, particuarly with the “killer nurse” bit. Not saying you should do split-screen in your script – not saying you shouldn’t either, don’t know the format (anyone?) – but cutting back and forth between action is a pretty good way to generate suspense.

      Sorry if there’s any double-posts. I’ll correct it later if there are.

      • Franchise Blueprints

        I see why the 70’s was the second golden age of Hollywood. The only movie currently in my mind that comes close to the seriousness of a mass terrorist attack is Olympus has Fallen. When the attack bomber was making strafing runs on civilians.

        What makes Black Sunday ironic is, this was the exact method of 9/11 attack.

        That blimp entering the stadium looks convincing. And this was well prior to CGI graphics. The only omission I see is the shadow of the blimp is missing.

        I wonder how many movies military analysts and foreign / domestic enemies are studying the feasibility of a fictional attack into a real life attack. I know the original Red Dawn caused a commotion.

        The movie Traitor (2008) seems very plausible.

        Makes you wonder how much art inspires reality, with negative consequences.

        • brenkilco

          I genereally like Frankenheimer’s work but I thought the climax of Black Sunday was technically awful and was probably done the way it was to cut corners. There’s a lot of frantic editing to cover the paucity of effects. This was 1977 remember, the year of Star Wars. They could at least have tethered a real blimp inside the stadium but no. You get some shots of what’s supposed to be the nose of the craft with extras running frantically back and forth, One static matte shot of the blimp on the field which looks like they cut a picture of a blimp out of a magazine and pasted it on the cover of a football program, Robert Shaw rolling around on an air mattress with bad back projection of the Miami Skyline behind him, and worst of all a final explosion that’s nothing more than a phony optical created in the lab. They didn’t even blow up a model blimp.

          • Scott Crawford


            In the book, Shaw’s character can’t attach the cable from the helicopter so he goes down himself, attaches it, the blimp is dragged out to sea, Shaw lets the cable go so the helicopter pilot will live… and dies a f—ing hero when the blimp explodes out at sea.

          • lesbiancannibal

            You know who the book was written by I take it – if not, I’ll give you a clue… ‘his pulse never got over eighty-five, even when he ate her tongue’

          • Scott Crawford

            Only written five books and they’ve all been filmed, one of them twice.

          • filmklassik

            Evans and Frankenheimer both said they had essentially blown their (relatively modest) budget during shooting, and there wasn’t enough left to do a first-rate job in post. More’s the pity.

            All that aside, I think the climax DOES work — barely — thanks to nimble editing, great performances, sheer narrative momentum and John Williams propulsive score.

            I adore this movie — which could never, ever, EVER get made today.

            Like I said, more’s the pity.

          • brenkilco

            Not a classic, but every inch a seventies movie, which means far superior to most genre fare today. And lots of good scenes: the opening raid, the beach side shootout, the bomb test. But that climax was a disappointing cut and paste job. The more is indeed the pity.

        • For The Lulz

          I somehow doubt the Red Dawn re-make will.

      • Eric

        Holy Christmas! Talk about giving the whole movie away in the trailer.

        I agree with the cutting back and forth bit. One good way to generate suspense is to introduce Element A (a completely normal, every day situation), introduce Element B (a dangerous and destructive force) and gradually move those two elements together.

        Character ignorance of the dangerous element is also necessary for suspense. If a character is walking around an empty house unaware that a serial killer is in there too, suspense is generated.

        And even if they know the killer’s there, as long as they don’t know where he is, suspense in generated.

        And even if they do know where he is, as long as they don’t know what situation will develop when they find him, suspense is generated.

        The moment the character knows everything is the moment they’re in control. And as soon as they’re in control, suspense evaporates.

        • Scott Crawford

          There’s still a lot left in the movie, I have to say, but, yeah – that’s how they did it in the 1970s (in the Bond trailers of the 70s they gave away how the villain dies – that’s half the fun of watching the films!).

          Hope people spot the connection between Martha Keller in Black Sunday and Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill.

          • Eric

            I just think it’s funny because people these days complain so much about trailers giving the movie away, but based on that it seems things have actually gotten better rather than worse.

          • Scott Crawford

            There’s no harm with TEASING people. The trailer for Speed had almost EVERY stunt and explosion from the movie in there, but it used clever editing and music to mix it up so it didn’t ruin the film for you. And they didn’t put in every Joss Whedon-written one-liner, or how the villain dies. (I’d post the trailer here, but I’ll save space… sure you can find it yourselves.).

          • Eric

            I think the problems with making a good trailer are similar to the problems with writing a good logline. You don’t want to give away so much info that watching/reading becomes pointless, but you have to give your potential audience enough to reliably guess what type of experience they’ll have if they dive into your material.

          • Scott Crawford

            A psychiatrist helps a young boy cope with his frightening ability to see dead people, even though he’s dead himself.

            An astronaut crash lands on a planet populated by intelligent primates, but really he’s landed on a post-apocalyptic Earth.

            An IRA gunman falls in love with the partner of a British soldier who died in his custody, but the partner’s got a dick.

          • Eric

            A woman, on the run after embezzling money from her employer, stays at a secluded hotel only to be murdered by its owner, a man who impersonates his dead mother.

          • Scott Crawford

            And Hitchcock wanted people to be SHOCKED when Janet Leigh died. Trivia question: In what movies do the following top-billed stars meet their maker early on?

            Ben Affleck
            Emillio Estevez and Kristin Scott-Thomas
            Julianne Moore
            Keri Russell
            Charlie Sheen

          • Caleb Yeaton

            Not sure about the others, but Estevez and Scott-Thomas were in the first Mission: Impossible, while Keri Russell was the third.

          • Scott Crawford

            Surprised more people didn’t get the Ben Affleck one….

          • Eric

            Off the top of my head I only know Children of Men (Moore) and MI:III (Russell)

          • Linkthis83

            I would’ve added Steven Seagal too.

          • Eric

            And I would’ve gotten that one too… Executive Decision.

          • Scott Crawford

            He was on the poster in Germany because he’s so popular there. Boy, they must have been disappointed! (I thought it was cool.).

            Actually, Steve De Souza wanted to do a similar thing with his script for Isobar: have Clint Eastwood brought in to kill the creature only to get eaten.

            That reminds me:

            Samuel L. Jackson

          • Caleb Yeaton

            Samuel L. Jackson? Which one? He dies suddenly and unexpectedly in Deep Blue Sea, but he’s also almost immediately killed off in Kill Bill Vol. 2, The Other Guys, and Basic (not counting the “twist” ending).

          • Scott Crawford

            Round of applause! Well f—ing done! You beat me!

            Sam Jackson and Sean Bean are born to die, as Lana Del Whatsherface might say.

          • LV426

            Put Sam and Sean in the same film as the leads. Who will die first?

          • LV426

            Is Isobar the one about the supertrain that is underground and travels through the core of the Earth? Kinda like the fall thingy they had in the Total Recall remake?

            Sam Jackson would be perfect, since it is set on train.

          • Scott Crawford

            Yeah, that was the one. Can’t find any of the scripts but it’s in David Hughes book “Tales From Development Hell”. I think it was more of a collection of strong elements rather than a solid idea for a film, just my feeling.

          • filmklassik

            Ha! I’ve always wanted to do this, write spoiler-heavy loglines for the TV Guide. One I had went something like:

            8:00 PM — MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (Mystery): Twelve people collude in murdering a wealthy kidnapper on a train.

  • pmlove

    Good article on suspense.

    What are anyone’s thoughts on characters deliberately not answering questions for the sake of extending a mystery? It’s a personal pet peeve but wondering if there is any argument in favour?
    I mean this sort of thing:
    Character A: Who was that mysterious person you were talking to who is the key to the whole plot?
    Character B: Ssshhh. I could tell you now but that’s the twist.

    • Linkthis83

      I tend to prefer lies. I understand about not wanting to have characters answer things directly. But sometimes it irks the shit out of me when the question has been asked, it’s not even acknowledged by the other character, and then the originator of the question has been successfully sidetracked by the avoiding reply. — It feels false because the reason that person is asking the question is because it’s the most important question at the moment — so they ask it to acknowledge to the audience that it does need to be asked — then they move on.

      Or they do it the other way, where everybody in the audience are wondering “Why don’t they ask this fucking question?” — some might say it’s to create suspense and intrigue. For me, if I’m invested in the story and the characters don’t ask the questions that they should by being in this situation, it irks me.

      So I prefer lies most of the time. Ask the question that needs to be asked, and unless the character can give a justifiable answer as to why they can’t answer it right now, then make something up that IS plausible and could actually be a true thread to the story. (of course, then this leads to the moment later in the story “but you said blah blah blah” and then that character spewing some bullshit reason that we don’t buy then) — Which ultimately highlights how hard this is and how fucking annoying people are :)

      • Dale T


        Character A: Who was that mysterious person you were talking to who is the key to the whole plot?

        Character B: Huh? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I wasn’t talking to anyone.


        Character B: Just an old friend. We went to high school together.

        That way we’ll be suspicious and cautious of Character B and we’re an inch closer to discovering the mystery.

        • Scott Crawford

          First version says “forget this and I’ll surprise you later.”

          Second version says “remember this, you’ll want to find out what happens later.”

          Second version works better.

          Imagine Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy if Smiley didn’t discover ANYTHING until the end. I mean, people found the movie difficult to follow as it is…

      • Paul Clarke

        Indeed. But I think the lies work better when instead of being a red herring (which can lead to distraction and confusion), the audience are privy to the fact that it is a lie and therefore it heightens their curiosity. A question unanswered is interesting. But when we see someone actively avoiding the answer that interest grows tenfold.

        The only time you don’t need a lie is when it’s a personal question that someone could justifiably not answer. Again, if we see their anguish, and how far they’re willing to go to avoid answering the question, it instantly inflates our curiosity.

        Or lastly – there’s often a philosophical question asked early in the story that no one answers (or answers wrong). That relates to the theme, and which the movie itself seeks to answer. Not for mystery or suspense, just to get people in the right mood/tone for the movie.

    • Eric

      Moments like this have to come naturally from the character and the situation. For instance, if revealing the identity of that secret person would also somehow reveal that the character is cheating on their wife, then we understand why they would avoid the question. If there is no common sense reason to avoid the question, and they do it anyway, the audience becomes aware that it’s merely the writer padding out the plot. And as soon as the audience senses the plot being padded, they start to get restless because they are essentially waiting for the movie to catch up to them.

    • Scott Crawford

      Slightly OT on your comment, but still in line with it… I mentioned this a LOT this weekend, but people withholding KEY information from their loglines because they want people to discover those ideas in the script. Suspense! But people won’t want to read the script without that KEY information. It’s not even Catch-22, it’s just a fact. Not this…

      A downtrodden bank manager comes up with a very clever scheme to make himself money.

      but this…

      A downtrodden bank manger decides to exaggerate the amount of money stolen in a bank robbery so he can keep the extra for himself.

      And I’m not exaggerating, I saw this a LOT this weekend. Lee Child’s article can’t ALWAYS be applied to loglines.


      Lost was really bad with this. Drove me insane because they had characters ignore what was literally the most important thing going on in their lives for the sake of extending the mystery (many of the answers never came).

      • Linkthis83

        LOST has the greatest first season of anything I’ve ever watched. Then when it began feeling like they were manipulating me for the sake of manipulation, I no longer cared what the answers were…if there were any at all (which became apparent that THEY didn’t know the answers – not really). At one point in time, I was convinced this was for a greater purpose. I thought “the others” were the creators. I mean, they just had to be because season one was just so good. It was like a movie I never wanted to end, but wanted it to so I could know the answers.

        When money is involved and you have that many people on the hook, you have to string them along. It’s just good business. I watched all of it to the end, but I no longer had to know or needed to know. I just wanted to see how they were going to explain it.

        And then subsequent shows followed this same device – get them hook and then just keep manipulating – You don’t want the great story to end too soon. Think of all that lost revenue.

        • filmklassik

          My biggest complaint with serialized TV is that it is all about the journey, never the destination. And both should be worthwhile and satisfying.

          What I’ve learned over the years is that TV does characterization well. Better than all but the greatest motion pictures.

          But it can’t do endings for shit.

    • Midnight Luck

      When it happens, I tend to feel like it is a cheat. It conveys to the audience EXACTLY what we need to now be waiting or looking for in the future. It is not a Foreshadowing, it is a spelling out of info, that is then conveniently left out to build up a minor bit of drama. I tend to think whatever the writer was wanting to build, could have been done better a different way.

      Most of this seems to happen in TV shows, and maybe they do it for a lack of time. Still, I feel it is a cheat, just about every time. And I groan. I don’t like it as a tool.

      We never saw Walter White do something like that (at least that I can recall), because Breaking Bad was just top notch writing. Instead, we had a lot of foreshadowing.

      Plus, the trick you are talking about is Verbal, not Visual. And since Movies are a Visual medium first and foremost, it becomes kind of an uninspired storytelling device.
      I think, overall it is a poor choice. Poor storytelling. Poor writing. Find a more interesting, and more creative way to do the same thing, Visually preferably.

  • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

    Great article on suspense, but I’m not 100% convinced on “making them hungry” analogy via withholding food. You have to keep making promises along the way that the food is indeed coming. You have to whet their appetite, so to speak, by continually giving them crumbs – a little here, a little there, to keep them interested and turning the pages. You withhold for too long, starvation sets in. Starvation sets in, the reader will no longer care about the promise you made in the first few pages because their mind will start to wander. When their mind starts to wander, they think about downloading hacked celebrity nude photos from the internet. When they download hacked celebrity nude photos, their computer gets a virus and they can no longer read screenplays or write them. Or make posts to Scriptshadow.

    Keep ‘em hungry and stimulate their minds with your story…not internet porn. :)

    • Sebastian Cornet

      That’s what mini-goals are there for. Deal with a minor thing tied up to the big one as things escalate and we can finally tackle the major problem.

    • filmklassik

      “You have to whet their appetite, so to speak, by continually giving them crumbs – a little here, a little there, to keep them interested and turning the pages. You withhold for too long, starvation sets in.”

      So true! Well said!

  • Scott Strybos

    Draft Day literally had a ticking clock in the corner of the screen, yet the film lacked any sense of urgency. I don’t know how they did that.

  • mulesandmud

    I both read and saw Draft Day, and was absolutely baffled at how much attention the film brought to its split screen effect.

    Characters would bleed over from their side of the screen into the other (usually just their elbows…wtf?). The line splitting the screens would shift one way or the other during the scene, shrinking one character’s space and expanding the other’s. Costner’s side of the screen would wipe away mid-phone call, then wipe back in again on the other side. Shots would cut out of the split screen and then back into it right away. Once or twice I thought I detected some meaning in those choices (oh, I get it, he’s winning the conversation, so he gets more of the screen) but overall the editing mostly seemed sloppy or arbitrary.

    Carson’s right that there are a few moments where the timing seems off on the conversations, but that’s more the symptom than the disease; I think viewers might have forgiven these moments if so much of our attention hadn’t been drawn to the split screens in the first place. I swear I spent more time looking at the black bar in the middle of the screen than at the characters’ faces.

    Movies tend to avoid letting key dramatic conversations happen by phone, the assumption being that it’s more dramatic to have people in a room together. Draft Day clearly thought of the phone call element as a ‘problem’ it needed to solve, and by doing so ended up making it more of a problem than it ever was.

    The lesson: in both writing and directing, always be cognizant of where you’re drawing people’s attention. If you find a story problem, try to minimize it rather than building out elaborate solutions that create more of a distraction than the original problem. If you want people invested in a phone conversation, whatever you do, don’t shine a light on the line separating the two callers.

  • Scott Crawford

    Carson, if you ever want to take a day off, just post a “free-for-all, off-topic day” post and let us fight it out amongst ourselves.

    Maybe we can break 1,000 comments. Maybe we can break Disqus!

    • Casper Chris

      A free-for-all off-topic day with Scott Crawford. Sounds like a honeymoon in hell.

      • Scott Crawford

        Where were you this weekend? We’ve missed your amazing contributions.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/brett-martin/52/702/72 ElectricDreamer

    “Did anyone tally the best five so we have some surefire amateur scripts
    to review? I tried to go in there a few times and count myself but got
    lost in the 900 posts!”

    Carson, I’ll re-post my AOOD notes for the best five loglines w/completed scripts here…

    I’m enjoying Carson’s newest tricks to incite mass chatter on the blog.
    Admittedly, it is very refreshing to have an entire crop of loglines that I dig!
    My choices were solely based on the quality of the loglines presented here.

    Honorable Mentions: PET and CHICKIN LICKIN.

    Top Scriptless Loglines…

    The opener reads smooth. But Evelyn comes off too Teneesee Williams for me.
    Seen that melodramatic combo way too much, it’s a bit cringe worthy.
    Had to go back and re-read about the hanging, emphasize the cord better.
    For a few pages, I thought there was a murder that needed solving.

    Doesn’t make sense the authorities would release Mya so fast.
    That scenario needs trained pros to evaluate Mya first.
    A law enforcement agency would be sued into oblivion if the kid went sideways.
    Nope, not happening in this lawyer happy culture we live in.
    I could see Jake & Mya having a moment together — in a supervised environment.
    That level of breakthrough would justify jumping forward all that time.

    I find Fred’s description just as shark jumpy as Evelyn’s.
    Doesn’t really jibe with the rest of your tempered and intriguing tale.
    Wish I knew more about Jake. What life was he sacrificing for Mya?
    And how will that old job come back into play as the narrative unfolds.
    Sometimes, the script feels like it moves almost too fast through her rehab.
    There were some great connective moments in Jodie Foster’s film, Nell.

    Find myself wishing more of this story was INTERNAL from Mya’s perspective.
    I’d like to see more of how she’s really wounded by her past.
    That would also keep me in touch with the horror elements.
    Since the opener, it’s all small town stuff, nothing horrible happening.
    EXT. ART GALLERY would be the less confusing slug choice for p. 19.

    Some night terrors, but they aren’t enticing/enhancing the mystery.
    It’s just random haunted house tropes and more of the scribble eyes.
    Time to elaborate and innovate on those all too common jump-flashes.
    We should be getting the next set of bread crumbs for the horrific tale you’re telling.
    Stopping at p. 27. I like the scene w/Early, the story’s progressing in a rewarding way.
    Fine effort, I’d read on to see where things go with Early in act two.
    But the script reads much more like a psychological drama than horror flick.


    I don’t get why they need to nab the Housewife. Even she doesn’t know what happened.
    Now you have to cover up a disappearance for a hit and run that no one saw.
    Doesn’t quite track. If things were less vague, it might help the logic.
    Maybe after the cops send her home, they go on the hunt for what she actually hit!
    Later perhaps the Housewife reconsiders and then becomes a legit loose end?

    If you let the reader know the plan, tension can be built when it all goes awry.
    That keeps me turning pages instead of feeling adrift in a scene.
    Your quippy kids don’t really come off as eco-terrorist types at all.
    Those types tend to have strong opinions and underdeveloped senses of humor.
    And I’m not sure if they’re set up this way as part of the dark comedy tropes.

    I don’t really find the snarky kids dark or funny. Mostly sitcom-like.
    Suppose it’s somewhat ironic, considering the recent flick, NIGHT MOVES.
    All the emo-eco terrorists in that film didn’t tell a single joke.
    Your kids talk/sound pretty much the same across the board.
    The magician device is a sex gag. I was hoping for something darker.
    In my mind, I saw eco-terrorists getting some DNA-scrambling comeuppance.

    If the kids really hated the corporate dwarf all along, why not attack him first?
    You should be feeding us Genotexx from the very opener. Not a bunny heist.
    The logline pulled me in, but I’m bailing out here on p. 17.
    Ditch the broad sex comedy and get to Genotexx much sooner.


    Don’t really feel the ALL CAPS in the opener does you any favors.
    It’s just a song some marketing guy will choose, hardly important.
    Thought the joke was going to be… That kids flips the Bird all the time.
    But complaining about vulgarity then right into the family flip-off, reads odd for me.

    A dozen pages in. I don’t see much hardship for Marty here at all.
    There’s some mild irritation and quips, but not any pressure building or tension mounting.
    I would expect the CONFLICT to really pile on before he blows his stack.
    And I doubt a waiter that valued his job would carry out that snotty request.

    The self-depricating cracks read more sitcom than Midnight Run to me.
    If your story was already happening, these sitcom lapses likely wouldn’t be here.
    Punking your ex in public for no reason. Not making me root for Marty.
    I’m feeling your love for some solid movie tropes, but I want *your* story.
    And then there’s the familiar “radio’s talking to me” scene compounding the issue.

    The booming mantra plays way better if Marty had some REAL PROBLEMS to face.
    But he seems to be the only one standing in his way. Zero conflict there.

    I’m bowing out on p. 20. Though Milo at least is a breath of fresh air for the story.
    But I cringed at the DOUBLE plot convenience gag on the freeway.
    As written, I’m kinda liking Milo a lot better than Marty.
    There’s a lot of COMPLICATIONS on the page, but not a lot of conflict.
    The pages were pretty easy on the eyes, writer’s prose is solid.
    But you must turn the heat up on Marty to enhance the first act.


    You’ve teased the cockfighting world twice, but no follow up.
    I’m surprised Emily didn’t engage the rooster owner on the ferry.
    Was hoping we were going to dive into progressive narrative there.
    Darn, I thought for sure that little chick would lead Emily right to the cockfights.

    Josh kinda disappeared since the opener. Are he and Emily close.
    She drifts from scene to scene, zero conflict in your story so far.
    The staccato phrasing feels more appropriate for a thriller.
    For me, the lazy island vibe would play better in complete sentences on the page.

    Carter is the first character that I actively like.
    He manipulates Emily through his disability, that’s juicy human behavior!
    And that behavior led to his GOAL in the scene, get Emily to attend the meeting.
    The PSYCHOLOGY he used to achieve his goal tells me about his character.
    This is the first scene that had a conflict and carried it out well.
    Use this abstract dynamic structure to enhance all your scenes. More of this please.

    I’m shocked that Josh and Emily are a couple. I thought roomies, at best.
    Their early scene had zero chemistry, don’t see why they’re together.
    Don’t see this too often. Josh reads a tad SHREWISH. Very lady like of him.
    He drifts in and out of the story, like a little rain cloud of meh.
    If he had a GOAL other than harping on Emily, I might like him more.

    Referring back to the logline, WIMPISH is not a word I’d use for Emily.
    Josh fits that bill. He’s the passive aggressive question-asker here.
    Emily’s act of kindness is wasted on a douche family. No brownie points for her.
    Why not at least have the water be for thirsty street kids.
    She gets mad at Mustafa for telling the truth. I’m with him in this scene.

    I’m putting the script down on p. 26. The prose reads smooth.
    But Emily is not anchoring your story well. She’s a bit of a whore.
    And she seems to like it, since she won’t go for Josh’s legit job option.
    She’d rather shake her ass for the fat man than face the 9 to 5 crowd.
    That mantra isn’t going to keep me turning pages. Ernesto rocks though.
    Use that MINI-GOAL dynamic w/Carter to pump up your overall scene execution.


    Got nothing against bolded slugs, but the DOUBLE DASHES are way out of control.
    I can’t get through a simple sentence without them hijacking the script.
    Totally on board with you finding your visual style on the page.
    But it’s time to crank down the volume on those for the sake of your spec.

    Assuming we’re dealing with flashbacks here during the interview.
    If so, these INSERTS should not be treated as part of the linear story.
    Be clearer about your flashbacks and flash forwards out of the gate.
    Couple that with the rampant double dashes, it makes for a bit of a thick read.

    The intercutting undermines the fun of these two scenes for me.
    I’d like to see the interview spread out and have more back and forth.
    There’s room to pick on Arthur much more and reveal his character better.
    I’d consider intercutting the bank heist with an ORIENTATION SEMINAR.
    Can see cutting back to that as Arthur fails his way through the bank action.
    That would ENHANCE the action w/o stepping all over the interview comedy.
    Good ideas here, but the need some distillation and reshuffling to super-pop!

    I’m assuming the moniker Arthur is a reference back to THE TICK?
    If so, the Ben E. I knew back in the N.E. Comics days would likely dig it.
    Would be funnier to me if Lori was in the dark about the new job at first.
    She flips out when Arthur tells her, play the female psychology game here…
    Of course, she’s mad at him, let’s him have it… but it also turns her on a tad.
    He’s out there providing for his family, let that vibe spice up the bland domestic scenes.
    Fun games to be had. I could see Seth Rogen & Rose Bryne in the roles.
    BTW, there’s an Austin Powers deleted scene that riffs on the very same concept.

    I’m stopping at page 25. The action set pieces work quite well.
    But the family doesn’t come together much yet. They just lay on the page.
    Perhaps having a SON that idolizes villainy would be a good foil for Arthur?
    He must learn his lessons to prevent his son from making the same mistakes.
    I can get behind the juicy parent/child psychology of an arc like that.
    Still, there’s a lot here to like on the page and the concept is genuinely sharp.


    • klmn

      Here’s Poe Serling’s comment. (I admit self-interest in posting this).

      Poe_Serling • a day ago

      If Carson happens to surprise us with a Halloween-inspired AOW next month, I wouldn’t mind seeing these projects go head to head.

      >>Corridor of Freaks by klmn.

      >>Silver Arrows by Montana Gillis

      >>Violet Sun by David Alexander

      >>Pet by Brittany Lamoureux

      >>__________________________. The fifth slot still open for now.

      • Poe_Serling

        ” (I admit self-interest in posting this).”

        Hey, you’re just taking a page from William Castle’s playbook. He had a real flair for self-promotion too! ;-)

        • Montana Gillis

          I agree! Run with Poe’s List!!!!

          • klmn

            And like I suggested on the original thread, why not review all of them for Halloween week?

            The winner gets to eat the losers.

          • Montana Gillis

            Everyone remember to bring your favorite seasoning and a side dish! Freakin Zombies got nothin on us…

        • klmn

          Up to 207 downloads. 9:15 PST

          • Poe_Serling

            Good for you!! I’m pretty sure William Castle never got that many downloads in his prolific career in Hollywood. ;-)

  • Poe_Serling

    Thanks for the Lee Child article, Carson. It’s a keeper for sure!

    Here’s another short piece on creating suspense that I always found helpful. Courtesy of Write Like the Masters by William Cane.

    “…three steps that Stephen King invariably employs to create suspense. First, he mentions or provides hints about something that can produce reader curiosity, a problem or a worry somewhere down the line. Second, he mentions this worrisome thing or idea a number of times after he first introduces it, and before the payoff… Third, King brings suspense to a peak during the payoff, the section of the story where the horror is most intense.

    In The Shining… Hallorann’s warning about the Overlook Hotel, or Wendy’s worries
    about her husband’s drinking… [followed by] Danny passes Room 217 again, or where Wendy wonders about her husband’s drinking again, and so on. Finally… the payoff where the suspense is highest, such as where Danny enters Room 217, or where Jack’s madness causes him to attack Wendy with a roque mallet.

  • charliesb

    Great minds thing a like*…

    I also watched Draft Day this weekend, and was very disappointed. You’re right Costner was completely miscast (for many reasons), so was the quirky assistant, and Jennifer Garner.

    This movie felt like it had no stakes, it was obvious from the get go who Costner was going to choose and the football rules, terminology, jargon, and politics felt forced and befuddled.

    Compare this to Moneyball, (and I know very little about baseball) where I was completely pulled in. For the first time I started to understand why people get caught up in stats. I felt like Pitt and Hill were actually attempting to make magic, while in Draft Day Costner was just trying not to look old (and failing). The stuff about his dad, was such a missed opportunity to add some gravitas to an overly light and ultimately forgettable film.

    *Though my mom would always point out that – Fools seldom differ

    • Scott Crawford

      I liked Costner in Jack Ryan. I think he’ll be good in Criminal opposite Ryan Reynolds and Gary Oldman. Didn’t see Three Days to Kill, though he looked funny in it. His laidback style suits certain movies and certain roles better than others. Like Willis or Ford, he’ll never win an Oscar (for his acting), but he can still be effective given the right choices.

      • charliesb

        I was thinking about Costner, after re-watching The Untouchables and Open Range recently on Netflix.

        I think his problem is that he has always been the laid-back good looking guy. He has no gravitas (to use that word again). He seems more suited to the young cop with something to prove, or the aging Golfer who just likes to kick back and have fun.

        Unlike Willis and Ford who’s age and craggily-ness can work for them (and I wouldn’t say never an Oscar for Ford – I can see him pulling off a “Nobody’s Fool” in his twilight years”. It doesn’t quite work for Costner, he can look the part of the wisened Hero, or Criminal or spy, but he doesn’t feel it or sound like it. He still sounds like that young guy from Bull Durham.

  • jw

    Saw the Leto doc too and that was FASCINATING. I recommend anyone to see that because it truly gives you a sense about the type of industry you want to be a part of — entertainment. Go to iTunes and download it.

    • Scott Crawford

      Is going independent any better?

      • jw

        In terms of music? Yes, if you want freedom of expression. No, if you want mass distribution and play. The fascinating part of this doc is looking at how LITTLE musicians actually make going “indie”. We all think to ourselves, and as Carson has mentioned here, digital has “opened up” opportunities. While that is correct in terms of getting something out to the public, it is not the case with making any money off of it. We look at “downloads” and think, well, if you have at least 1 million downloads then you’re making enough money to live on, but when you actually see the calculation itself, it’s not the case and that’s where the business conundrum comes in from the standpoint of the artist, who also has to look at this as a business. Because with “the system” it at least allows you to walk away with a few dollars, where as “going indie” is a larger risk where the reward is not as evident. I would say that indie is a way to get yourself out there and do some “pre-marketing” in order to become a larger household name and then at a later time be able to put yourself on that stage, but making money (or at least serious money) is much harder than it seems.

        • Scott Crawford

          Lily Allen talked about making just £8,000 from her million-selling Christman no. 1 single (it was probably double that, but still). The people who wrote the song (can’t remember) made more.

          Allen went on to say that, to make real money (millions), she’d have to get paid to sing at the birthday party for some Russian billionaire’s kid. Sad, really.

          What you say about artistic freedom vs. money, money, money is absolutely right on, and probably true for the movie industry as well. Problem with indpendents, small studios, production companies, they can’t afford failure. Disney can weather a John Carter or a Lone Ranger. Lionsgate can’t.

          • jw

            And, the irony behind it is that for you and I we would look at this particular scenario and say to ourselves, that must mean that companies are more selective of the stories they tell and therefore wish to make money with solidly commercial films that “have legs” but the interesting thing behind that is looking at the releases themselves. Everyone acted all surprised this weekend when ‘The Identical’ tanked and I just don’t understand that. How would anyone be surprised that film would tank? So, even though we have tent-poles and all that shit coming out our asses here in Hollywood, even when that’s not the case and you’re looking at a pseudo-indie picture, it’s not as if it’s blowing the audience away when it comes out. Which is sort of the BS under the surface. Talking about making indie pics because the studios won’t allow your “creative vision” but maybe it’s actually because your creative vision sucks. I guess I can see both sides of the coin here.

          • Scott Crawford

            I DO think that next year has a few more exciting movies coming out. Just ME, but as a spy thriller fan I’m really looking forward to The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Taken 3, <Mission: Impossible V, and of course the next Bond film, all out next year. Someone said the script for Jurassic World sounds like Alien Ressurection… sounds f—ing awesome! And I’m sure other people have other movies like Avengers 2 that they’re excited for.

            All sequels, though.

            The impact of Gravity in particular has an effect on studios looking for new, original properties (even though Gravity may have been developed from Tess Gerritsen’s book). But nobody wants to risk their jobs backing non-sequels, non-adaptations, etc.

          • jw

            I think you’re right, in a way. As a huge fan of thriller, the past few years have just been really fucked up. And, when I look at a legitimate thriller and ask myself if I’m on the edge of my seat, often times the answer is no. I think the last time my mouth dropped from something was when Spacey kicked Mara in front of the train on House of Cards. That was a legitimate “holy shit” moment and I think it’s because we see the characters on that show either really, really suffer or completely die, which ads an element of realism that draws the viewer in. And, I think this is also what is missing from film that you can get in TV. For me, Gravity’s story was a screenwriting 101 class at a community college. Fortunately for them, the way it was shot was out of this fuckin’ world (pun intended), thus, they triumphed. Didn’t hurt to have Clooney & Bullock either. I usually look forward to Bond films, but the last one was a horrific mess in my opinion, so I’m less looking forward to the next one than I normally would be. I loved the first Mission Impossible and it’s sort of gone back and forth since then, but I’d like to see Cruise play another character. This one is getting old for me, and so is he… pretty soon Cruise and Neeson are going to be staring in The Expendables 7…

          • Scott Crawford

            I watched House of Cards when it was a BBC mini-series. And the first series ENDED with the woman being thrown off the roof (and it was a f—ing shocker when it first shown here too, but it wasn’t the opener of the second series).

            On Gravity‘s story… I feel that sometimes screenwriting isn’t the elegant art we think sometimes like to think of it as. Sometimes, like you implied, it’s about creating a situation that when SHOT will be amazing. It kind of follows from what I was saying on another thread about not over-valuing the Black List. A script is a script and a movie is something else.

            I don’t care TOO much whether Mission: Impossible V is a sequel or they change all the names and call it an original. They’re casting Sean Harris as the villain. I think he’ll be a GREAT villain. That’s what gets me excited to see it.

          • jw

            I think that’s definitely something interesting about films more recently, is that the audience looks at the casting of the villain, rather than the protag. ahahaha! That’s making a statement that the audience believes the villain can have more fun and THAT’S what they want.
            I think there’s a legitimate argument to be made about the complexity of a story and the fact you may not need it as complex as you think, but usually it’s the story that creates “the legs” behind it. I remember watching ‘Following’ years ago and thinking that Christopher Nolan was going to likely be the most exciting filmmaker and writer of my generation, only to watch him go all “Hollywood” and make films that cost 100 times what Following did, but had 1/100th the story. Much like The Matrix, Gravity’s technology took so long to put together that the end result was astonishing for all.

          • Linkthis83

            “I think the last time my mouth dropped from something was when…”

            …that kid dove into the wood chipper in TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL — That one got me — Loved the movie.

            re: GRAVITY

            -I kept wishing Clooney would shut up and I wish that they hadn’t included the theme of “letting go” into Sandra’s character. One astronaut trying to survive and get back to earth is enough story for me in that situation. — However, some people loved it — to each their own.

          • Scott Crawford

            And now you’ve made more people want to see that movie.

            If a person is REALLY looking forward to seeing a movie, you don’t want to spoil the SUSPENSE for them. But if people haven’t seen a film (read your script) and aren’t likely to you MAY have to throw a bone their way.

            Just tying everything in to the discussion on suspense, hope it made sense.

          • LV426

            I’m bummed out here, knowing that “Edge of Tomorrow” wasn’t a hit that eventually gives us more Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt killing aliens on the beach.

            As for Tom Cruise and Liam Neeson, how about a gritty buddy cop flick with those two as the leads? Cruise as the cocky overly talkative hot shot, and Neeson as the quiet one with anger management issues. The whole time we think Cruise’s character is the loose cannon, until act three when Neeson blows up and goes on a rampage. Clint Eastwood co-stars as their gruff CO.

            If that’s not high concept enough, set it in a near future dystopia where violent youth gangs enhanced with designer drugs and cybernetic implants are the primary threat to society and the film’s antagonists. Perhaps these gangs are peddling a new drug that allows the user to feel young again and experience events from their past.

          • jw

            Love it! But, we need a better antag. Let’s go with someone who has taken the drug and become more powerful than ever in their old age, but is still a fucking maniac — the first person that comes to mind is Mel Gibson. ahahaha!

          • LV426

            Mel as the villain. Works for me. I’m thinking he’s an ex-cop too.

            Maybe he has taken the lead of one of the deadliest of the youth gangs, providing them with needed experience and wisdom, but eventually going nuts due to the nostalgia drugs. He can’t determine past from present anymore. They are all mixed up like some sort of strange waking dreamlike memory overwriting reality.

            Mel’s gang operates from a makeshift hideout deep below the city. He’s become a sort of street legend that must be dealt with. So eventually our two detective heroes (Neeson & Cruise) must go underground to snuff him and the gang out. It’s like Lethal Weapon meets Hearts of Darkness with a touch of Blade Runner’s tech-noir.

          • jw

            Just have to be careful it doesn’t become Demolition Man!

          • LV426

            Oh yeah, I see what you mean (the underground gang stuff).

            Still though… It has been a loonngggg time since Demolition Man. And I love Demolition Man!

            I’m thinking there is an aspect of large amounts of the populace retreating indoors a lot of the time due to the violence in the streets and the popularity of the new “nostalgia” drugs. So more of a dirtier and grittier take on the future dystopia and tech-noir thing than Demolition Man.

            So far I’ve got EMPTY STREETS bouncing around in my head, at least as a working title.

  • Eric

    I’ve enjoyed 24 for some time now, so I know there’s a way to do split screens that doesn’t feel cheesy and tacked on. Part of the problem is in that screen shot. Why is that guys arm overlapping into the next frame? It’s too cute. Split screen can’t distract attention from the conversation and imbue it with urgency at the same time.

    24 also knew well enough to bring in the actors on the other side of the phone call, or else half the scenes would be shot with the actors playing off stand-ins. You can see it in some of their ‘making of’ stuff. Keifer Sutherland sitting in a car delivering lines while the “President” hunkers down in the backseat of the same car reading his part of the scene. You can never underestimate the importance of having your star talent working with actual actors.

    • Caleb Yeaton

      Yeah, 24 had the right idea. Having both actors on set is really, really important.

      In the new Sin City movie, it’s really, really, really obvious that Josh Brolin and Mickey Rourke were, at no point in filming, ever on set together. Brolin seems like he’s acting in a completely different film, and doesn’t play off of Rourke’s lines – and this is when the characters are in the same location, sometimes at the same table. No amount of editing is going to be able to make a conversation work if the actors are playing it with different people at different times.

  • ASAbrams

    I’m usually skeptical of the doom-sayer prophecies of the end of the movie industry as we know it. Last year was a record year…why does anyone expect higher than that each year? That’s not the way businesses work, with profits soaring ever upward–there are going to be some down years. And then some up years. Yet when you count the international box office (up, like, 18% or so), this year wasn’t down that much from last year

    I’d like to know the ten-year trends for the domestic box office.

    • Scott Crawford

      Ask and you will receive:

      You may want to stop asking!

      • ASAbrams

        I actually already pretty much know the domestic box office receipts. I guess I’m just too dumb to understand the problem because they look stable to me. The movie industry’s profits will be affected by our country’s (and the world’s) economic situation. Why wouldn’t it?

        The industry’s still managing to make profits (lots), whatever the comparison to previous years may be. Why must it always be more, more, more? If we were in the midst of prosperous years and box office receipts were trending down, then I’d see a big problem.

        Sorry, I must still ask.

        • Scott Crawford

          Taking inflation into account, box office is down to about 93% of what it was a decade ago.

          The biggest films today sell about 50 million ticket sales domestic, which is actually about the same as it was ten years ago:


          Ticket prices have gone up by about 25% it looks like in ten years.

          These are the movies of the last ten years that have sold the most TICKETS.

          * = adaptation
          # = sequel
          *# = sequel TO adaptation

          The Hunger Games: Catching Fire*#
          Iron Man*
          Despicable Me 2
          Marvel’s The Avengers*#
          The Dark Knight Rises*#
          The Hunger Games*
          The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey*#
          Skyfall *#
          The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2*#
          Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2*#
          Transformers: Dark of the Moon*#
          The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1*#
          Toy Story 3*#
          Alice in Wonderland (2010)*
          Iron Man 2*#
          The Twilight Saga: Eclipse*#
          Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1*#
          Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen *#
          Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince*#
          The Twilight Saga: New Moon*#
          The Hangover
          The Dark Knight*#
          Iron Man*
          Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull*#
          Spider-Man 3*#
          Shrek the Third*#
          Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End*#
          Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix*#
          I Am Legend*
          Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest*#
          Night at the Museum*
          Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith *#
          The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe*
          Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire*#
          War of the Worlds*
          Shrek 2*#
          Spider-Man 2*#
          The Passion of the Christ*
          Meet the Fockers#
          The Incredibles
          Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban*#
          The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King*#
          Finding Nemo
          Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl*#
          The Matrix Reloaded#
          Bruce Almighty

          Fifty-two movies and only eight are originals, and of them four and a half (including Avatar) are animated.

          In Hollywood, Risk is a board game.

          • LV426

            “In Hollywood, Risk is a board game.”

            So when does the RISK movie adaptation come out?

            My pitch:

            The future.

            War has become too costly and destructive, forcing world leaders to come up with a new solution. They ally with the movers and shakers of high finance and cutting edge video game and virtual reality technology to create the ultimate game of power…


            This game is a virtual battle arena that allows each country to send in its own professional “generals” to battle it out in the electronic landscape for: power, land, natural resources, and world influence. These generals are raised from a young age, trained in the art of war and global strategy. The games can be based on more current war technology, or be set in historical time periods complete with period weaponry and accurate detail.

            Everything is going great. Mankind seemingly enters a new golden age free from war. Except when the brilliant young General Cade discovers a plot by the United States and Canada to cheat and tip the balance in their favor, Cade must ally with a beautiful and talented Chinese general to uncover the conspiracy and bring balance to the game…

            Or real war will eventually break out costing millions of lives to be lost.

            We’ve got a cool and sleek young adult dystopia (think The Hunger Games meets The Matrix with an element of Ender’s Game). The stakes are huge (preventing war from breaking out across the globe and thus saving the world). The goal is clear (uncover the conspiracy). China is front and center as one of the heroes. There is the potential for romance between Cade and the Chinese girl general. Not only that, it is relevant to our high tech obsessed reality where it seems computers run everything and we are all just along for the ride.

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    I love Mish-Mash articles. Make them a weekly regular!

    • Scott Crawford

      I love mash.

      • klmn

        I love sour mash whiskey.

        • Scott Crawford

          I love mint julep WITH sour mash whiskey.

          (I wonder how long people can make this).

          • klmn

            I don’t need sugar in my hootch.

          • Scott Crawford

            I don’t need sugar in my hoochie coochie.

  • Mr. Blonde

    I don’t really have any opinions on the Hollywood R&D idea, but I just want to briefly talk about “Draft Day”, since you brought it up. Now, I didn’t read the script, but judging by the way you were talking about the three flaws and didn’t mention the script, I’m inclined to think it stayed mostly the same.


    If that’s the case, the script (regardless of its place on the Black List) could not have been that good. The reason why is, despite the fact that you may like its character portrayals, ticking clock and all the other little things in there, the moments that the script was based on (those three trades and whether or not Costner would draft Bo) were some of the worst portrayals of football I’ve ever seen.

    The first trade was a bit ridiculous, but it was really no different than the RG3 trade, so I can accept that. The second trade (trading three straight 2nd rounders for #6 in the draft) is way more ridiculous. No GM in their right mind would make that trade. Yet, somehow it gets done. The third trade, trading back to Seattle, is some of the worst “good writing” I’ve ever seen. Somehow, Seattle is trading back their three 1st rounders plus some previously-unmentioned uber amazing special teams guy that had never been mentioned before in order to get their positions back. That is the kind of trade that would get someone (namely the Seattle GM) fired immediately. So, we have the Seattle and Jacksonville GMs fired, Costner’s got the most amazing team ever (but he still lost 3 2nd rounders) and it’s a happy ending. Speaking of happy endings, did anybody think for a millisecond that Costner was going to take the QB over the MLB? Plus, it was obvious from the first time that they introduced the RB that Costner was going to end up with him as well so we could feel better about him getting his extra millions.


    This movie really irritated me because of how good it could have possibly been (as a behind-the-scenes-of-a-football-team movie), but was derailed by a bad script (yeah, I said it. Sue me) before it could have a chance of reaching its potential.

    • Scott Crawford

      Didn’t see Draft Day, but I’ve got one other problem; I don’t understand all about pick this and pick that, and 2nd rounders. And I’m not that interested to know.

      On what you said, don’t be overblown by a script being highly-placed on the Black List. Lots of highly-placed Black List scripts become so-so (or worse) movies. It’s not just that reading scripts is different from watching movies, it’s just that people who read scripts for a living (often) have a different idea of what they would like to see than the average movie goer.

      For instance, the creator of the Black List pointed out that script readers were more excited when a script about Jim Henson passed over their desk after reading a dozen knock-offs of Die Hard.

      • Franchise Blueprints

        “On what you said, don’t be overblown by a script being highly-placed on the Black List. Lots of highly-placed Black List scripts become so-so (or worse) movies. It’s not just that reading scripts is different from watching movies, it’s just that people who read scripts for a living (often) have a different idea of what they would like to see than the average movie goer.”

        If you go by Franklin Richards mission statement concerning the Black List. He repeatedly says it’s the top list of scripts not produced tallied by industry execs. So essentially they’re second tier scripts to begin with.

        • klmn

          True. And it looks like the Black List has devolved into a promotional tool for managers to hype their clients.

          • Scott Crawford

            That was the other thing I was going to say. (I’m talking about The Black List list of best screenplays; I know nothing about the site where people post their scripts.).

          • Caleb Yeaton

            The Black List site (the one where people post their scripts) is, like all other review sites, incredibly subjective. I know guys who have gotten 8 / 9 from one reader, 4 from another, and 1 from another. And the reviews – in my experience – don’t have a helluva lot of substance, especially not for what you’re paying for. To me, it’s a shitty attempt to capitalize off of The Black List name and not much else – I know as many people who have gotten signed / repped (not produced) from free sites like ISA or Zoetrope as I do people who have paid for it from The Black List.

          • Scott Crawford

            So many people lately on Amateur Offerings Weekend, or this weekend’s free “pitch fest”, boasting of how well their script has done in competitions, then the script goes on Amateur Friday and is ripped apart, mainly by Carson, but also by a few brave individuals who dare to criticize the work of others…

            ,,,, and it’s going to happen again when the “winner” of this weekend’s offerings is picked. I don’t KNOW who the winner will be, but I have a shrewd idea. It’s gonna get a 2/5 – Wasn’t for me, or even a 1/5 – What the Hell did I just read? I’ve not the read the script, but I didn’t think the logline was that hot, and when I pointed this out to the writer, he attacked me and pointed out all the accolades he had got for this script from Black List and Nicholl.

            Trust me: 1 or 2 out of 5. AGAIN.

          • For The Lulz

            Perhaps you’d like to point out who you’re referring to, since I assume you regard yourself as one of the ”few brave individuals”.

          • Scott Crawford

            You’ll find out. And no, I’m not one of the “few brave individuals”. Some people on this website scare the shit out of me, the way they keep coming after you for every comment you make.

          • For The Lulz

            Why don’t you just make it clear who you’re talking to? If you’re gonna comment, at least have the guts to face the person you’re talkng s**t about.

          • Scott Crawford

            Why, do you think it was you?

          • For The Lulz

            Dude. Stop playing games. If someone has an issue with me or my work, I’d like to discuss it. That’s all.

            You can obviously tell from the content of your post that you COULD be talking about me. If you are not, when why would I care? But if you are, we can discuss it? What’s the problem? It’s a discussion board, ain’t it?

          • Scott Crawford

            Reply disappeared as usual for Disqus. Gist of of it: Stop stalking me. (Check your comments to see how you ARE stalking me).

          • For The Lulz

            Don’t know why your other post disappeared, but I’m going to reply to it anyway:

            So you WERE talking about me. Why not just have the balls to say it straight, man.

            ‘Fat old Limey?…you have ‘issues’. Secondly, YOU were the one who struck out at me first, and I’m merely replying to it. I have the right to do so, you know. I know you like to write a lot of comments attacking people and their work, so why not be willing to get some back?

            Your opinion is just that, AN OPINION. I know some others here have been brown-nosing you for it, but not all of us are that convinced that spamming the comments, and acting like your one little opinion is an unquestionable fact, is a good thing. I value a spectrum of opinions, not just Scott Crawfords.

            It’s not a question of taking criticism. I took a fair bit of criticism over the weekend from several people, the criticism that was INFORMED that is.

            ”..he attacked me and pointed out all the accolades he had got for this script from Black List and Nicholl.”

            Wheredid I do that? I’ve never even entered Nicholl, so you’ve just exposed yourself as a liar, unless you can quote the comment in question.

            Andwhere did I gloat about BL scores. I needed something to put in WYSR, and I chose that, because some others had also done so in previous weeks. Why didn’t you bite their heads off? Why sh*t on another writer because he chooses to point out an achievement (even if very subjective) his work has gained. You just come off as sour. Did the BL f**k you over or something?

            Trust me, no one’s stalking you. Don’t flatter yourself. YOU talked s**t about another writer and attacked his work WITHOUT EVEN READING IT, by your own admission, judging only on a logline. If you were a Hollywood producer I’d accept it, But you’re not.

            AndI agree. Stop commenting on me and my work, and I’ll happily ignore you. Personally, I don’t put much value on the judgements of a ‘writer’ that hasn’t even got a screenplay to show and can only lame quite back to 1997

            Good luck with your spy script (when you finally stop spamming scriptshadow comments to write it).

          • grendl


            Did that make it past moderation?

  • fragglewriter

    Mish-Monday was a great article because it’s really about one topic: how to give the people what they want.

    I remember going to the movies every week until about the year 2000. I would see a new movie every weekend, sometimes 3. Now, with the cost of tickets (don’t get me started on the concession rip-off), I think NetFlix and Redbox are the way to go. I know that I shouldn’t say that as being a writer to break-in, but if studios continue to release the same films, it’s better just to watch them on Redbox where at least you won’t feel so bad spending $1+ tax.

    Going to television is good but also you face the problem of being an intriguing show for an entire season. Once you’ve accomplished that, can you do it for another season? I have an idea for a TV Show, but I look at long-term. Besides if my story is interesting, but do I have enough of that ua to keep it going at least 3 seasons? If I succeed to 3, can I wrap it up and now to bow out gracefully or crash and burn, just cause I’m afraid to end it?

    It will take one small film to succeed eithe financially or critically (awards sweep) for Hollywood to take risks. Until then, I’ll be waiting for the next overblown special effects movie.

    • Franchise Blueprints

      I’ve mentioned in previous posts vote with your pockets. If you saw Guardians of the Galaxy but not Chef then you’re getting what you payed for.

      • Scott Crawford

        Chef is a DVD rental (or whatever) for me. I look after my Dad. Tickets cost about $16-$18 here in London, so that’s $32, and I can’t take my Dad to see everything (he did enjoy X-Men 2014, but he can’t remember anything about it).

        • Franchise Blueprints

          Ask him does he remember the Blue Woman’s bra size.

          • Scott Crawford

            He’s gay. Seriously. And he doesn’t remember what he had for breakfast. But he still reads books and he still likes going to the cinema. Go figure. Power of stories, I guess.

    • Scott Crawford

      Since my earlier post is now languishing at the bottom of the page, here’s the link to the treatment of True Detective. Look how the writer has to really SELL TD not just for one series, but as a future franchise:
      True Detective: https://www.sendspace.com/file/1pf6vv

      And some people don’t want to write outlines…

      • Nicholas J

        Thanks for the cool link, but this is a small show bible/treatment used to sell a TV series and should be treated as such. It has nothing to do with Pizzolatto’s writing process or outlining.

        Writing an outline/treatment is a skill you should have, because if you ever get into the industry someone at some point will ask for one, but that has nothing to do with it being the best or only way to write a script.

        In fact, if at all possible, if someone asks to see an outline instead of a script, do everything you can to get the script in their hands instead. There are a ton of downsides to someone reading your work in outline form.

        As for process, that’s great that you outline, but don’t tell people they are wrong for doing it different.

        • Scott Crawford

          I disagree about outlines, and the reason I keep on about them is there is a strange committee or cabal of writers here who think you breeze into Hollywood and not have to write outlines. I take your points on the DOWNSIDE of outlines and treatments, but…

          … when I look at so many, not just scripts, but pitches, it’s clear to me (maybe not to others, but it’s clear to ME) that they have not fully developed their story. To ME these are the danger signs that the writer didn’t write from an outline (or rework the story after their first draft, for that matter):

          Boring, derivative, generic subject. No original elements, no HOOK.

          Thin story. Long scenes with lots, and lots of dialogue. People talking about what they’ve done, what they’re going to do, what they’re doing while they’re doing it, how what they just did felt, or just long, meaningless conversations about things they like (thanks, Quentin).

          Story has no direction. Thirty pages in and we have no idea what this screenplay is about.

          Story has TOO MUCH direction. Thirty pages in and we could write down the rest of the story on a piece of paper and at least 50% of it would be exactly what the writer wrote in the last two acts – of we bothered to read the rest of the script.

          Lack of character development. Character is revealed through action, CHOICES, not dialogue. If I tell you I’m a great writer, means nothing, right? If I show you a great script, I don’t need to SAY anything.

          Once people get into writing dialogue (and this is where the old-fashioned treatments I HAVEN’T posted come in) they tend to leave story alone. They confuse overwriting for good screenplay. But as Roald Dahl says, a story without a story is a “mood piece”… and they stink.

        • filmklassik

          “…if someone asks to see an outline instead of a script, do everything you can to get the script in their hands instead. There are a ton of downsides to someone reading your work in outline form.”

          Very good advice. When something is less than fully cooked — as with a treatment, an outline, a pitch, etc — more often than not, people REACT TO IT like it’s less than fully cooked — and proceed to put their apron and chef’s cap on.

          People in this town love to meddle. Whenever possible, you’re better off giving them something that’s fully realized.

  • Acarl

    That Lee Child article is gold, Carson.

    • JakeMLB

      Was it though? Let’s talk about it.

      To me that’s not suspense. Establishing a question only establishes a mystery and in and of itself does not create suspense. However, as Child does allude to, teasing at the answer to the question can build some anticipation but true suspense is when the audience is in a position of privileged perception; in other words, the audience has to be made aware of all of the facts involved in order for there to be suspense, some of which will be unknown to the character or characters that we care about in certain moments. A suspense story then is one in which our protagonist or other characters are frequently placed in suspenseful situations and where the stakes tend to rise until the mystery is solved (if there ever was one).

      Hitchock himself says that mystery is seldom suspenseful. Curiosity isn’t itself emotional whereas suspense requires emotion. My reading of this is that suspense exists on more of a micro scale from scene-to-scene or sequence-to-sequence whereas mystery tends to operate on a grander scale.


      • Scott Crawford

        In the book Vertigo is based on, we don’t find out that the second Kim Novak is really the first (and all that twisty stuff) until the end. Then Scottie strangles her to death. During the writing, it was Sam Taylor who suggested to Hitch that they should just give it away in the middle. Worked well, I think.

        • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

          Yes, exactly – which is interesting considering most people thought he originally spoiled the movie by making the revelation too soon. I wrote about Vertigo and that twist at length in another article I thought I linked in the one I posted, but didn’t. It’s here if interested: https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/empathy-the-key-to-audience-connecting-with-your-characters/

          Vertigo is my favorite film so I could probably spend hours talking about it – I certainly did enough papers on it in college.

          • filmklassik

            And it’s ONE of my favorite films… certainly in my top-20… but — no lie — it would’ve worked even BETTER for me if the Big Reveal had come closer to the end instead of at the 90 minute mark.

      • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

        I agree. Suspense tends to require a bit of dramatic irony, something I wrote recently about with regards to Hitchcock’s North by Northwest: https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/the-audiences-perspective-north-by-northwest-and-dramatic-irony/

        Funny that I actually mentioned the issue with holding information too long vs giving too much, too soon, too.

        • Scott Crawford

          Nice article. See what I wrote on Vertigo below/above. Totally agree. Better to know (sometimes).

        • JakeMLB

          Very nice article. I’ll have to rewatch Vertigo now and return to it since it’s been a while.

          • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

            Thanks – I should clarify, and I’m sure it’s well understood, suspense doesn’t require dramatic irony; certainly a film like Diabolique is suspenseful (as is Clouzot’s Wages of Fear) without the audience being privy to more or less than the characters themselves – but I think its usage lends to more audience involvement.

          • Scott Crawford

            But it’s not ALWAYS best to push everything to the back of the script. Even if the writer isn’t so bored he won’t get there, by the time he does you get a FLOOD of information. Drip, drip, drip. Sometimes.

          • JakeMLB

            Yes it would be interesting to see what makes for suspense outside of dramatic irony. Obviously a scene can be suspenseful with the audience knowing no more than the characters involved. I imagine then it’s some combination of likable characters and a goal, stakes and urgency.

          • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

            If you haven’t seen Diabolique, that’s one to check out. Classic. This is the scene I was referring to (huge spoiler because it’s at the end), but we don’t know anymore than the main character so whether her husband has come back to life, is a ghost, or something else is afoot remains a mystery and the strange occurrences up the suspense with it climaxing at this scene when all is revealed (well, at the end of this clip and shortly thereafter.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-P8SAWWcYTE

          • brenkilco

            Always wondered how Ira Levin avoided a plagiarism lawsuit for Deathtrap. I guess you can’t copyright a twist.

          • brenkilco

            Well, The Wages of Fear is often cited as the ultimate suspense thriller. We never know more than the characters. Just share the soul grinding fear that they might die at any instant. GSU turned up to eleven. And yeah, I prefer Sorcerer too, but WOF is the original.

          • filmklassik

            Very true. In DIABOLIQUE, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, BODY HEAT, DIAL M FOR MURDER, THE GETAWAY, etc, the suspense comes largely from the danger that the main characters (and therefore the audience, who identifies with them) will be caught for their crimes.

            God how I love movies like that.

      • Eric

        So… Suspense = Mystery + Danger

        Sounds about right to me.

  • Midnight Luck

    It is a bit sad though, to me, that so many things getting made and picked up are different takes on, or mash ups of, or retelling of classic Fairy tales and stories. There are like 3 or 4 movies coming out by Christmas I believe, which seem to be stories where the entire kitchen sink of Fables and Kids stories are crammed into one movie. I mean we already have ONCE UPON A TIME, but now we are going to get an onslaught via the Movie Theater as well.

    I don’t get jazzed about that stuff like many do. Even the mash ups of Lincoln Vampire Hunter kind of stuff seem desperate and kind of corny to me.

    I am just saying that I think this kind of thing is going to become too much, just like the proliferation of Spandex movies on the market. I wish there was more interest and more room in the market for all kinds of work. I wish someone could write and make, if not a Great, at least a GOOD, Rom-Com again. That would be something. The only Humor we get in the theater are stupid Adam Sandler movies, or other equally lame and poorly written fare.

    I think though, that society and the public have changed. Too many wars, too much hardship, losing homes, jobs, the struggle of everything, has caused people to reach out to Fantasy movies to help them deal. No one wants to see a SHAWSHANK right now. Hell, I don’t even think people would want to see a RESERVOIR DOGS in the current market. TOO SERIOUS…What doesn’t make sense, is back during the worst hard times and the Great Depression, people actually wanted to go to the movies to escape the harshness, and they wanted to see fun Romances and Rom-Coms then.

    Now everyone is staying home, and only going out in large numbers to see relatively unintelligent mindless fare. GUARDIANS, LEGO MOVIE, things that take very little brain power. But when was the last time anyone saw a good DRAMA in large numbers, or heaven forbid, a Great ROM-COM? The last one that was good I remember was LOVE, ACTUALLY. (2003) Really? 11 years ago!

    • Nicholas J

      Forgetting Sarah Marshall!

      • Scott Crawford

        I’m not joining in on this one!

      • Midnight Luck

        Forgetting was a good one, but in the end, something wasn’t quite as top notch as Definitely, Maybe and Love, Actually.

        • Nicholas J

          I think it’s brilliant. That nude break-up scene was the most hilarious, gutsy decision I’ve seen in a romcom. It’s got a lot of quirk (Dracula musical) but not too much. The characters are all funny as hell and have their own issues going on. Watching it really feels like going on vacation. Super quotable. Great acting. Not over-the-top or too subdued, it’s a perfect balance of comedy IMO. Tons of more subtle humor as well, like Aldous Snow’s character contrast of being all worldly and Bono-like, mixed with his aggressive sexuality is hilarious. That music video where he’s singing “we’ve gotta do something” while simultaneously humping the air is fucking gold. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mI4XLhY10VA

          Brb, watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

          • Kirk Diggler

            Mila Kunis made that film for me. One of her best roles.

          • Midnight Luck

            I did enjoy the movie, it was definitely one of the better ones. I felt that the opening fight with Full Frontal was a bit too over the top. Now mind you, it worked, as everyone ended up talking about it and people WENT to see it in numbers (and I am no prude at all, so it isn’t because of anything like that). So, if that was their reason for doing it, that worked. But I didn’t feel as a story choice it was a very good one. There was really no point to it, other than an obvious laugh & shock.

            Then you have other aspects of the story that were over-the-top, like Huxley. I did enjoy a lot of it, but much of it was a bit too corny. The odd thing is that I Loved SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, and it definitely had a ton of over-the-top stuff. Maybe it is just a preference for certain kinds of humor, but MARY worked so well in every way. MARSHALL had a lot of good stuff in it, I just didn’t feel it was as great as a Rom-Com as some others. It was going for more crazy comedy laughs than it was creating a funny, yet heartfelt Rom-Com.

            As they say, to each their own. But even if you say MARSHALL(2008) and I say DEFINITELY MAYBE(2008), what about the other Rom-Coms in between these last 6 years, or 11 years since LOVE, ACTUALLY?

            My point is that there has just been terrible, poor scripted, poor obvious storyline material. MONSTER IN LAW, or THE UGLY TRUTH or JUST GO WITH IT or LOVE HAPPENS or HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU or THE BOUNTY HUNTER (uggh).

            While you might be able to find ONE that you can point out, and I can find TWO or Maybe THREE decent ones in 10+ years of movies, that isn’t great.

            I am hoping for more.

          • JakeMLB

            It depends what you consider a romcom. I thought DON JON was fantastic. BRIDESMAIDS could be considered romcom. SUBMARINE was quirky and different. I didn’t love 500 DAYS OF SUMMER but it was well-received. CRAZY, STUPID LOVE was good. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is another. It’s been pretty barren but those are a few of the top of the noggin.

          • Midnight Luck

            Yeah, like I said above, I don’t consider most of these Rom-Com’s per se. Bridesmaids was awesome, but I think it would be considered a straight comedy. You could consider it a Homance, if someone felt it was mainly about the best friends and their love of each other. Which is exactly what it is about. Friendship. The love interest thing is a very background story. I haven’t seen Submarine, so I can’t say there. Don Jon was its own version of a Rom-Com, and it was very interesting and sometimes fun and funny. However I think it missed on several cylinders in how it told its story. Wasn’t as effective as it could have been. I enjoyed most of it, but felt it wasn’t quite there.

            I guess that is what I am eluding to. That it seems the actual Genre of Rom-Com has been altered. No longer are people OK with two people who meet and spend the movie going through a will they – won’t they get together setup. It now has to be relegated to the background, and there needs to be a BIG idea that is the thrust of the story. Something over the top. Something to draw the people’s attention away from this being a boy falls for girl, or girl – girl or boy – boy, whatever. Somehow I think those kinds of straight Rom-coms make people incredibly uncomfortable. Be those people Studio Exec’s or the Public.

            Why? I can take a million guess’, but in the end I think the audience has decided TED or A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST are how they want their Rom-Com’s rolled up.

          • JakeMLB

            “Homance”. Brilliant.

          • Midnight Luck

            if that is too vulgar for some,
            could call it a

    • Scott Crawford

      I think it’s important that screenwriters, in their portfolio of scripts, have at least one screenplay (preferably more) based on known, pre-existing elements. It’s playing the odds; the people who buy scripts are more interested on scripts with known elements like King Arthur, King Henry VIII, or King Kong than they are in another Tarantino-esque crime drama. You can write the Tarantino-esque crime drama, but make sure you also have a “King Arthur meets King Kong” script up your sleeve to catch his attention.

      And I know mash-ups and whatever often suck, stink of desperation, throw it all the wall and see what shticks, but I (personally, me, what I’m saying) is that’s it amateur – worse than amateur, rookie! – to dismiss trends as just trends. I think the known element remixed trend is here to stay.

      On romantic comedy, I was disappointed (personally) with how many Dark Comedies there were (yes, spelt with two capital letters). None of them seemed particularly dark OR funny. The only romantic comedy there was about Cupid the Greek god (I remember Kurtzman & Orci writing something about Cupid as one of their early scripts and laughing about it, but whatever). ONE problem is that people who write romantic comedies (or horror or action or…) tend to be pigeon-holed AS romantic comedy writers.

      This is something else I noticed looking at ALLLLL those loglines over the weekend: some people submitted multiple pitches (OK) in different genres (bad move). Agents (the good ones), managers (ditto), and the people who hire writers like BRANDING (or pigeonholing). I love romantic comedies, and I have a few ideas for some, but I don’t write them because I don’t want to be a “romantic comedy writer”. Lee Child writes crime novels. He probably enjoys reading historical romances. But the Lee Child brand (Lee Child is not his real name) is crime. Novelists can use pseudonyms to write novels in different genres, like J.K. Rowling writing crime novels as Robert Galbraith. Screenwriters don’t do that (to the best of my knowledge).

      Drama? That’s mostly gone to TV, in America and here in England. France still produces good drama films, but that’s because their TV is shit (according to Kristin Scott-Thomas).

      • Nicholas J

        I agree with sticking to a genre as a writer, but many different people at various stages of the writing journey read this site.

        I wrote for 7 years before dedicating myself to comedy, and I still debate going to something else. How do you know what you’re good at if you don’t try different things?

        So I’d encourage writers to explore their options in the early years rather than sticking to a genre. Think of it like high school. You don’t just take chemistry, you also take biology, math, gym, art, shop, etc, hoping that you find your calling by the time graduation rolls around.

        The people pitching ideas yesterday are not professionals, or else they wouldn’t be pitching ideas in the SS comments section. Until you get to that level, feel free to write in whatever genre you want.

        • Scott Crawford

          Agree. I’ve just heard the advice from industry insiders – and I agree with it, and I’m not an industry insider – that you should BRAND yourself, within reason. People CAN write different genres, but you MAY, ultimately want to become the “go-to guy” for your particular genre or sub-genre, like David Goyer with comic books. And many other examples.

          (My feeling, I don’t know about you, with some of the weekend’s pitches, they’ve been around for some time. Not being nasty, I just get that feeling. It didn’t fly then, maybe it will take off now. Just my feeling.).

      • Midnight Luck

        I disagree with the writer doing only one kind of thing. Now, the choice could be out of their hands, the people with money could choose to never hire you again for anything other than touch ups or new stories in your genre. That could be out of your hands. I however, have no interest in only writing one kind of script. I have stories that run just about all the gamuts (except Musicals, and Sports).
        I definitely think the writer needs to be pushing themselves all the time. If you cannot do Comedy, then write and write and try to figure out how to make a Comedy. Yes, sometimes a certain kind of genre just isn’t in your field. But I believe, if you are a good writer, just about every field should be possible for you. I don’t want to write a Horror story, and then never be able to do anything but Horror, and the same goes for Romantic Comedies. (and I have both). So, which one do you come out with first? Just whatever sells? If you have 2 different mash up scripts using pre existing properties, what if one of those sells and you get stuck writing Romeo & Draculiet for the rest of your days. If you LOVE writing that, well I guess it would be like heaven. If you like writing all kinds of things, and don’t want to keep writing the same story again and again, or at least the same vein of story, then this could be hell. (or at least really boring)

        • Scott Crawford

          A ROMANTIC COMEDY version of Romeo and Juliet… well, it wouldn’t be that original, but… get you noticed? Probably.

    • Linkthis83

      For me, it was DEFINITELY, MAYBE (2008).

      I’d almost kill to get a SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION at the theater right now. However, I agree with the sentiment overall. One of my issues lately is how a story has to be dark and every character broken. There’s just so much (yet I’m currently working on a horror script – lol).

      The Lincoln Vampire Hunter bit makes sense, but because it was a book. There’s quite a few like that our there where they mash up a classic with a horror twist:

      Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: http://www.amazon.com/Pride-Prejudice-Zombies-Classic-Ultraviolent/dp/1594743347

      Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters: http://www.amazon.com/Sense-Sensibility-Monsters-Quirk-Classics/dp/B005GNJOUI

      • Scott Crawford

        I thought Pride and Predator was a better idea, but I guess Elton John’s company (who bought the pitch) couldn’t get the rights from Fox. Shame.

        • Midnight Luck

          haven’t heard of that one. Not sure if that is a good or bad idea. would have to know the story (even though I can probably guess) to see if it was interesting to me.

          • Scott Crawford

            Ignorant rich people dancing while the predator kills the poor people outside.

            Predator killing people during a fox hunt.

            The army find their muskets are no match for laser beams.

            The girl they try to marry to some rich dullard, last survivor, shows what women can REALLY do in the final show down with the alien.

            Dunna-dunna-dunnna, dunna-dunna, dunna. Dunna-dunna, dunna-dunna-dunna. (Trumpet)

            Writes itself!

          • Midnight Luck

            hmm. Ok, it could be brainless fun I guess. To be really entertaining I think it would need to play off the assumptions of people, how society works as a whole, and prejudices of the time (which it most likely would, considering it is called Prejudice).

            I could see it selling for sure in the market we have now.

      • Midnight Luck

        Oh, absolutely.
        I can’t believe I forgot that one, thanks for highlighting.
        DEFINITELY, MAYBE was an absolutely awesome one. Thanks for reminding me.

        Yeah, I know about all those books, and it was a fad for a while. Sadly, that Kind of thing is being carried over into movies, but right now it seems to be in the Fantasy, Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, whatever arena. They are just being mashed together, reworked and pulverized. I don’t find them interesting in the least. And I don’t think they are being inventive. Yes, when the first one appeared, I will give it that it was different and interesting. But all the ones after it aren’t doing anything new. They aren’t coming up with their own new perspective. Just feeding off what came before. I also get that this is pretty much how all of Hollywood, and just about every aspect of society functions as well. I just find it boring and repetitive.

        I would say we have SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN to thank for this, but I believe some of those books came before that. And THANKS Huntsman for being a terrible and boring movie as well!

    • Stephjones

      Love, Actually and Link’s choice, Definitely, Maybe are Working Title Productions. I will watch ANYTHING they produce.

      I agree with a need for the up beat. I want to laugh these days. Please, don’t frighten me or make me sad when I go to the theater. I can easily get that from the news.

      • Midnight Luck

        Definitely was great, and I should have included it. Working Title was just tops with choices for a while, as was Focus Features.

        Horror movies used to be my thing when I was a kid and in my young years. At some point though, I lost the interest. And I think it was because the movies became mostly about shock scares, and gore porn, and things that weren’t rooted in a base Human thing, or a psychological premise. This is why Silences of the Lambs was so amazing. It fed into our base fears and the psychology of who we are and how we function more than any of the recent Horror movies. Even one of the best Horror movies of all time A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET goes for the throat of our fears. Dreams. Who hasn’t had a nightmare of such scary proportions that when we woke, we believed it was real, or was still happening? So even awake we are afraid. It took that and imagined that, not only could we possibly get killed in our dreams (scary), but we cannot tell if we are awake or still asleep since the two are so similar (ultra scary). Add to it the fact that we cannot STOP ourselves from falling asleep no matter what we do when we reach a certain exhaustion point, and you have a movie base in real life psychology. Deep, and terrifying.

        • Caleb Yeaton

          I agree 100% about horror movies. I’ll admit to loving a couple modern horror flicks (The Conjuring – although that was more from a filmmaking standpoint than a story one), but the whole genre is pretty much “When’s the ghost / demon / zombie / oogley-boogley gonna pop out to annoyingly loud, obnoxious musical stingers?” these days.

          I mean, just looking at the original Evil Dead (not a great movie by any means, but one that manages to be both scary and memorable) and last year’s dogshit, comically over-gory remake really makes me lament how far the horror genre has dropped. I can’t remember the last time a new movie legitimately scared the shit out of me.

          • Scott Crawford

            I only like horror if there’s a story and characters. Exorcist, Omen, others. Not a big fan of chop ‘em up or “mood pieces”.

          • filmklassik

            Yeah. For me, those two are the best of the 70s. Throw ROSEMARY’S BABY in there — from 1968 — and you’ve filled out the (un)Holy Trinity.

          • LV426

            Same here. The Exorcist, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (sci-fi/horror), a lot of what M. Night Shyamalan was doing during his peak years. I suppose that was more of a suspense mixed with supernatural, but still fun and with a foot in the horror mode.

            There hasn’t been a lot lately. The Ring remake way back in 2002 was one of the last really creepy and effective horror flicks that got to me as well as having an interesting story. I liked how they had a kind of detective story as the main plot, yet it all took place inside of the trappings of a horror film.

          • For The Lulz

            Bet you loved The Wicker Man remake.

        • Poe_Serling

          “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…”

          Just the beginning of that ominous rhyme pretty much sums up the basic premise of Nightmare on On Elm Street… and boy does it work!

          “Who hasn’t had a nightmare of such scary proportions that when we woke, we believed it was real, or was still happening?”

          You’re so right. And with Freddy K., no matter where you run or try to hide… he’s ALWAYS right there to get you. Scary stuff, especially for kids with the lights out.

          Another earlier flick that used dreams to generate a goosebump or two: Phantasm.

          Though a bit on the campy side, I thought the original had some creepy moments with its nightmarish imagery in the morgue and with the Tall Man.

          • Linkthis83

            “Three, four, better lock your door…”

            Man, I can still hear it. NOES was the scariest for me growing up. The other scary stuff (Jason or Chucky or Michael Myers) was frightening, but once you fell asleep you were safe. Not with Freddy, and you knew you couldn’t fight sleep forever. Such a great concept/story.

          • Midnight Luck

            Yeah, I didn’t find any of the others that interesting or scary. Jason, Michael, or others just didn’t tap into anything that realistic. The Children in Children of the Corn were creepy, and anything with DOLLS kind of Freaked me out. Like the scene in POLTERGEIST when the kid wakes up and the giant F-ng creepy doll (why would ANYONE have that thing in their room at the foot of their bed?) is no longer at the end of the bed staring at them, but where is it? Under the bed? Dolls turning living, those freaky smiling faces, always made me a bit freaked. (except Chucky, he was waaaay too cornball)

          • crazedwritr

            midnight — you seem to be the resident expert on Rom-Coms. I have one that I would love you to take a look at. I’d love your critique. If you have a few free hours and are interested — please email me at moviegurl at me dot com. If it helps, Poe enjoyed it, although it’s not in his typical wheelhouse.

          • Midnight Luck

            Definitely wouldn’t call myself an expert. Just a huge fan.

            I just sent you an email.

          • Midnight Luck

            That is why i LOVED it so much! I absolutely loved the idea that it messed with reality. I thought it was so cool when you would be watching and think it was really happening and then, BAM! nope, we are in a dream, and by the way, there’s Freddy and you are chopped meat! Just genius idea. And for being made for $50k it was amazing. Yeah some of the effects don’t hold up (and they didn’t even work back then, like the phone / mouth / tongue licking her) but hey, the concept was so good, it just worked.

            “Nine, Ten, Never sleep again…” – my favorite.

            Creepy as shit, and stays with you for the rest of your life. The jingle song is great, but those girls jumping rope, AND the song, killer.

            There was another that played with the Dream / Reality thing and came out soon after Nightmare, called DREAMSCAPE(1984). It was really creepy as well, some giant Lizard / Snake thing that was coming after them in their dreams I think. I can’t remember much of it anymore. But it played heavily as well on the Die in your Sleep, can’t tell if it is real or a dream stuff as well.

            Never saw Phantasm. I should check it out.

          • Poe_Serling

            Yeah, Phantasm is sort of a hit or miss film for most people. There’s a lot of parts that don’t make much sense, but the dream imagery and the creepy Tall Man keep things jumping in silly/scary way.

            I remember enjoying Dreamscape when I watched it for the first time.

            Whether it was intentional or not on the writer’s part, one of the AOW selections – Hellscape – had me thinking about Dscape for obvious reasons.

        • charliesb

          Nightmare on Elm Street and Candyman*, are the two horror movies that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The first time I saw Nightmare I couldn’t sleep alone in my room, I had to sleep in my brothers room I was so terrified.

          *Oh and Hellraiser 2, because that was some freaky ass shit.

      • Scott Crawford

        Did anyone in US or elsewhere see I’ll Give It A Year? I didn’t, though some of it did look funny – mostly Stephen Merchant and Minnie Driver’s characters. Just wondering whether it got to you guys.

        • Stephjones

          No, but I’ll check it out now.

          • Scott Crawford

        • Midnight Luck

          I don’t think I’ve seen that one. I remember something about it before it came out, as I remember a movie with Minnie Driver in it that I wanted to see. Must have been this one.
          I don’t remember this scene from the Best Man’s Speech, so I think it is possible I missed it.
          It kind of sucks when you have seen so many movies in your life, because you love them so, and can’t get enough, that you don’t always remember them all, or know for sure if you have seen them.
          I remember watching KISSING JESSICA STEIN because I hadn’t seen it, and it was a big award winner at Sundance and critically, and then realizing that yes, I HAD seen it, and sadly wasn’t a fan of it the first time.
          Either that, or my memory is going.
          I need to drink more.

    • Nicholas J

      I think the success of the super hero movies has more to do with people wanting BIG stories at the theater (world saving, explosions) rather than them not wanting dark stuff. Horror seems to be as popular as ever, and movies like Prisoners have found too much success to say that people don’t want dark.

      • Midnight Luck

        I want dark. I am not saying people don’t want dark. But we aren’t getting dark. Even the BIG stories in theaters aren’t very dark. They are spandex wrapped in superficial darkness. They are ridiculous stories made up to be pseudo dark (2012, NOAH, PACIFIC RIM). The better dark stories are infused with THINKING and DEPTH, and people don’t want that. They want something that comes with needless explosions, lame one liners and a Happy Meal plastic toy tie in.

        I just happen to want more GREAT Rom-Com’s and more laughs, and more honesty in feeling and storytelling.
        I would love a BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S kind of thing, or WHEN HARRY MET SALLY (of course, the king of them all) or SAY ANYTHING, even a ROMAN HOLIDAY (though it is getting a bit more Romancy and less Com).

        • Nicholas J

          Sorry, wasn’t saying the super heros were dark, they aren’t. Was saying they’re popular mostly because of their BIG qualities.

        • LV426

          This seems to have exploded after The Dark Knight hit in 2008. A pseudo-darkness in a lot of genre movies that was used more for the stylistic sheen than true exploration of our darker nature.

          • Midnight Luck

            Yes. I agree totally.

            People could see what was done with The Dark Knight and The Joker and how well it worked, so they just slapped some pseudo-darkness look and feel to the movie, hoping to capture some of that coolness. It doesn’t work. It has to be central to the Story and characters, not just some afterthought style.

          • LV426

            Oddly enough, at least with the superhero flicks, is the current change towards a brighter and more colorful aesthetic and attitude (Marvel films for instance).

    • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

      I honestly thought about writing a farce where a tornado sweeps the Wicked Witch of the West’s home up from Oz and drops it atop Dorothy in Kansas. Somebody’s probably already thought of it, I’m sure. Would make a great satire on illegal immigration.

      • Scott Crawford

        Don’t tell us, WRITE IT!!! SELL IT!!! Or are you allergic to money?

        • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

          Well, sometimes ya gotta throw something against the wall to see if it sticks. It beats slaving over the preparation of a meal nobody’s interested in eating!

      • Midnight Luck

        I like that. I could see it, you should write it and send it on over, or throw it up on a weekend AoW.

        It sounds like something someone would have already thought of, but have they WRITTEN it? So, go write it, I want to see how it comes out.

      • pmlove

        Or this, which popped up on Reddit yesterday:


        Essentially a scenario where Midas is real but becomes the target for assassination / capture when he threatens to drive down the price gold to inconsequential levels.

        • Scott Crawford

          DON’T give away your ideas for free on the internet, not the good ones anyway. Personally, I couldn’t do much with this; nothing personal in it for me. But you don’t want to be the one who wrote that, told someone else, then your Deep Impact and he’s Armageddon (or variations thereof).

          • pmlove

            True that. Better get on my Mr Universe script pronto.

          • Scott Crawford

            Entertainment law 101, rule 1: Can’t copyright an idea.

          • For The Lulz

            Ooooooooo. Hope that’s a joke, hahaha.

          • Scott Crawford

            The writers of this film…

            … got their idea from someone in their writing group who didn’t want to do anything with it. Not exactly Avatar, but still, made them money, got their first credit on imdb.

            Sound advice from Mr. C.

          • For The Lulz

            Personally I think writers that aren’t creative enough or smart enough to come up with their own ideas don’t deserve to be in the industry.

            But then again, a writer that only has one or two ideas is probably in the same boat. I’ve got about a dozen I would NEVER share anywhere.

            I’d add to your original post as to say never give ALL your ideas for free on the internet (or anywhere).

          • Stephjones

            Don’t even think about stealing my PMS idea! ;)

          • Linkthis83

            You mean…SUPER CRAMPS!!!!

          • For The Lulz

            I wonder how Hollywood would react to a writer that sold an amazing hot spec to a studio, but then promptly brought a lawsuit down on them. Would that writer ever get work again, or would they be ‘blacklisted’? Career over.

          • Scott Crawford

            Not sure…

            … if this answers your question.

            David Hayter reckons some of his ideas MAY have ended up in Spider-Man 2 (2004), but he let it go and is still working.

            Most lawsuits are by loonies.


            You can’t copyright an idea, only the execution of that idea, which is why it’s PROBABLY best to get your script down on paper before anyone else (and I should PROBABLY follow my own advice in that respect).

            But I think anyone who pitched an idea over the weekend, whether they have written a script or not, is safe. Hollywood is not short of IDEAS, it’s short of STORIES and CHARACTER (take that, f—ing Inktip!).

          • LV426

            Hell, I am not short on ideas myself. It is time and lack of expertise that is the true enemy.

          • LV426

            Haven’t there been a few ideas/pitches posted to Reddit that eventually lead to a studio or producer buying it up to make as a film? And from non-writers I believe. Basically people just throwing something out there for fun. Not aspiring scribes attempting to get their spec out there.

            God forbid they read and buy actual spec scripts, but instead option Reddit feeds and concept art books.

          • Nicholas J

            Rome Sweet Rome

          • LV426

            Yeah, that’s the one I remember the most vividly.

            I believe there had already been novels written with that same premise though. That sort of takes some of the oomph away from it IMO.

          • pmlove

            Whatever happened to that? I know they drafted in a pro to do a rewrite but never followed beyond that.

          • Scott Crawford
        • Midnight Luck

          Who? Carson or Crawford?

          • pmlove

            Very much the latter.

            I’ll also be outlining heavily.

          • Scott Crawford

            Not TOO heavily, you want to finish the script. And don’t forget to write biographies of your main characters. And do research. That may be the difference between your script and someone else’s, you’ve done the research. Best of luck in all you do!

      • LV426

        That’s not a bad twist on that story. It sounds fun. I’d watch it (read it) to see how you flipped things, as well as how many elements from the land of Oz could be transposed to 1920s Kansas.

        Maybe set it in Kansas during the depression. Dust bowl imagery might be an interesting juxtaposition to the vibrant colors of Oz. I could see it working as a sort of magical realist western.

        Speaking of Oz, I always thought it might be fun to give it the Avatar treatment and set it on an exotic alien planet. Dorothy would be a starship pilot who gets sucked into a wormhole (tornado) that leads to a distant part of the galaxy, or perhaps to an entirely other galaxy altogether. Her ship heads towards an Earthlike world and crash lands on the home of a high priestess (witch). Short alien fairy type creatures show up (Lollipop people). Instead of a dog, Toto is a little robot sidekick.

        Dorothy sets off following a bio-toxic yellow river (alien water is yellow due to microorganisms living in the water of this particular river).

        Flying monkey minions and a green-skinned evil priestess (Wicked Witch) all slot in pretty easily. Melting the witch at the end would be accomplished via a capsule of that bio-toxic yellow water.

        The Cowardly Lion (half human, half lion genetic hybrid), Scarecrow (Groot-like alien plant man), and Tin Man (old Earth robot who also crashed on this Oz planet) all work with minor tweaks to the initial story. The Emerald City would be a nano-crystal metropolis grown thousands of years ago. It is ruled by a strict artificial entity (The Wizard, also an old Earth AI that came via a ship sucked through the wormhole several centuries ago).

        • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

          I’ll kick it around some. I know I did the same thing here with an idea a few years ago and that one turned out well after people had the same, positive reaction (stop giving ideas away!). Honestly, I’ve never been worried about that – the idea posted this weekend about Miss Universe is a good example: sounds great, but it’s all about its execution (it could easily turn into a one joke story depending on the writer.)

          • LV426

            Yeah, I don’t worry as much about ideas being stolen. Especially if I want to test out an idea and get reactions. Writing the script is the real work and time commitment.

    • ripleyy

      Someone seems to love “Love Actually” more than I do, which is impossible. I watched it a year ago and I couldn’t get over that Andrew Lincoln (now `Rick Grimes in TWD) was in it. “Love Actually” was-and-wasn’t gushy at the same time, and still enjoyable.

      • Scott Crawford

        Andy Lincoln was in the LEAST successful film of all time, something called Offending Angels:

        Wonder why they don’t release it on DVD or On Demand? A few sales to Lincoln fans should make their money back.

        Edit: They did, but it’s EXPENSIVE:

      • Midnight Luck

        So did you like it, or not?
        Maybe, Definitely? Sort of?
        I am so confused.

        • ripleyy

          I like “Love Actually”, but it’s gushy in some parts. I watch it every time it’s on, though, because it’s very entertaining.

          With “Definitely”, it’s a very cute movie that I watch everytime it’s on as well. That’s what I was basically saying.

          • Midnight Luck

            I know, I was joking, and playing off the Definitely, Maybe title. (though in actuality was a bit unsure if you did or didn’t really like Love Actually. Your last sentence made it seem like you were possibly joking.

            Nothing will ever be as good as WHEN HARRY MET SALLY it seems. That movie was able to be just hysterical, as well as romantic, without even a tiny bit of schmaltz or gooshiness or other lame things Romance type movies go for. There was no Nicholas Sparks there basically. I will always love WHMS because of that. It is just a perfect movie on so many levels.

            None of the other Rom-Coms come even a smidge close to that kind of perfection.

          • ripleyy

            Oh, I see! You’re also definitely right. Romances don’t need to be gushy and sugar-coated, they just need to be honest and no romances or rom-coms have come close to honesty. It’s a fabrication of what love SHOULD be and not what love IS. :)

          • Midnight Luck

            Again, this is why Harry-Sally was the best there is. It came as close to “truth” as any Rom-Com ever has. It put the people in very real situations, with very real life happenings and consequences. Most Rom-Coms are just so out there and unrealistic. All the while WHMS was also incredibly entertaining. (definitely dislike the gooey and sugar coated style)

          • Montana Gillis

            Harry-Sally is “smart” too. The top “Clever-Witty” RomCom of all time IMHO is “Philadelphia Story”. Of course it had the benefit of running on Broadway for a number of years before Hepburn bought the film rights to resurrect her sinking Hollywood career. so many great films of that era were from plays or novels. The ones made from plays had an added advantage of being “tweaked” night after night as they ran on the stage. Talk about your re-write Heaven – “See your Afternoon Re-write” tonight at 7:00pm! (or that could be Hell… just sayin)

    • For The Lulz

      I don’t know if I’m the only one. But I did not care for CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE. I did not care for it at all.

      Yet it got 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. What do I know…

      • Midnight Luck

        I enjoyed it, I thought it did a lot of things right. I did think about it as a Rom-Com, but again, I don’t think it quite fit. I think it had too indie of a feel, was another dysfunctional family story with a love story on the side.

        • For The Lulz

          Yeah, true.

          One Rom-Com that completely numbed my mind was ”Something Borrowed”. I think my conscious mind has suppressed the memory, since I can’t remember anything of note from it.

          ”You’ve Got Mail” is right up there in my opinion, but I wonder how a re-make today would look…..

          ”You’ve Been Tagged…On an embarrassing photo on Facebook….That you immediately untag yourself from…..But you know people saw it…..People definitely saw it.”

          • Midnight Luck

            I am embarrassed to admit that I saw SOMETHING BORROWED Twice! It was so bad. It was so bad I had NO MEMORY I had already seen it. So I thought, oh, I like young Goldie Hawn and that girl from that MORMON show, so I’ll check it out. By the time I was half way through, I finally realized that I had ALREADY seen it, damn it! I was so distraught I just kept watching it. Too traumatized to turn it off or change it. And it was twice as bad the second time!

            “You’ve Been Pinned”
            “Of No P-interest”

            “In a world where everything is available to the masses, One woman strikes out on her own, Determined to find a lost stockpile containing millions of lost unclaimed naked jpg’s, and bring them back to their rightful owners.”

          • For The Lulz


      • Caleb Yeaton

        For the most part, I agree. I like parts of it, but I absolutely hate Ryan Gosling’s character – not so much the way Gosling plays him, which is fine, but the way the movie kind of farts him out of the ether. For me, he’s basically the story equivalent of “The Magical Negro”. Okay, with a half-assed attempt to integrate him into the plot better by playing up a very deux-ex-machina angle where the one girl who rebuffs his douchey advances and wins his heart turns out to be Carrell’s daughter.

    • gazrow

      Well, I’m not really into Romantic Drama/Comedy but SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012) is much more recent than LOVE ACTUALLY and in my humble opinion is a truly great film. It also did really well at the box office which suggests that there is still an audience for this type of movie.

      • Midnight Luck

        Yeah, I thought of that one, but to me, while I enjoyed it, it seemed much more what I would call a Quirk-Com. It just had too much Quirkiness going on it. It didn’t feel like a Rom-Com in any way. More about a dysfunctional family, dysfunctional person who falls in love. Kind of a One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest with an added Love Story thrown in.

  • brenkilco

    Given Child’s definition of suspense there would appear to be little difference between a mystery and a thriller? And I would argue that the differences are vast.

    • Scott Crawford

      Plot vs. story.

      A man murders his wife and buries her body in the garden. Then a gardener his dead wife hired comes around to dig up the garden. Will he find the body? Will the husband have to kill him too?

      Police find a body buried in a garden. Who killed her? The husband? The gardener? The gay theater director?

      • brenkilco

        Quite right. The difference between say Murder on The Orient Express and Strangers On A Train. BTW your thriller example is very close to an old Alfred Hitchcock episode where a husband kills his wife, buries her under the basement floor and heads off on a business trip, only to come across the receipt for the wine cellar his wife had arranged to have installed while he was away.

        • Scott Crawford

          There’s a lot of stories like that, yeah. I love Agatha Christie-type stuff but, Sherlock aside, it seems to have gone out of fashion.

          I do think SURPRISE is overrated and ANTICIPATION underrated.

        • filmklassik

          Once heard a prominent detective novelist (Lisa Gardner, maybe?) say that in a mystery, suspense comes primarily from what has already happened, while in a thriller, it comes primarily from what is going to happen NEXT.

          Gotta love the brevity there.

          • brenkilco

            Nicely put. It also seems that suspense is generally based on what you know and mystery on what you don’t know. Mystery is what lies over the next mountain and suspense is what’s making that strange sound right outside the door.

    • JakeMLB

      See post above.

  • PoohBear

    JJ Abrams did a Ted talk about mystery boxes. I think it should be required viewing for all writers… similar vein as the Lee Child’s article on suspense.


    • Linkthis83

      Also required: Lindsay Doran TED Talk

      • filmklassik

        Duran’s a smart, experienced lady but she’s wrong here. Dead wrong. Those final “relationship scenes” she refers to in ROCKY, THE KING’S SPEECH, THE KARATE KID, etc wouldn’t have meant jack shit to audiences were it not for the dramatic and powerful “plot scenes” that preceded them.

        Those codas may work emotionally — I’m not saying they aren’t effective — and they absolutely leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling as you grab your coat and make your way down the aisle toward the exit…

        — but they are NOT what is “scratching the itch” for us dramatically or providing us with our main catharsis, cause if they were, we wouldn’t NEED to see Daniel squaring off against Cobra Kai — so long as we see him winning the girl and the love of Mr. Miagi.

        And we wouldn’t NEED to see Rocky stepping into the ring to fight Apollo Creed. Hell, Rocky could actually BAIL on the Big Fight if he wanted, so long as we hear him telling Adrian that he loves her.

        Right. I’m sure that would’ve been just as effective.

        Last example: If Duran thinks the sight of Princess Leia passing out medals at the end of STAR WARS would have been .000000001% as effective if we hadn’t just seen the Death Star going up in a big honking fireball, well… agree to disagree.

        Don’t misunderstand: I’m not trivializing the effectiveness of a moving coda or saying it can’t be a necessary bow around the present. But I’ve watched this video twice now, and Duran’s suggestion seems to be that the bow IS the present. And it’s not.

        • Malibo Jackk

          Could be wrong of course
          (usually wrong less than 90% of the time)
          but I think she’s saying it’s not whether Rocky wins or loses the fight.
          but whether the ending is satisfying. And relationships help make it satisfying.

          The reason she’s saying this is because Hollywood wants happy endings. And she counters with — audiences want satisfying endings.
          (What? You didn’t like Casablanca?)

          • filmklassik

            My problem with Doran’s little theory — and I’ve watched this video two times so far — is that her priorities are completely skewed.

            What she’s saying is that everyone — boys, girls, EVERYONE — who goes to these sorts movies cares more about the characters and their relationships to one another than they do about the outcome of the main story. That is, the story from the poster. The story from the commercials. The story from the trailers. The story that 80-90% of the movie is supposedly about.

            According to Doran, JAWS would have worked just as well for audiences if we hadn’t actually watched Brody blowing up the Great White Shark at the end, but rather HEARD about the explosion later via some dialogue. As long as Brody’s seen bonding with Matt Hooper in those last few moments, audiences would’ve been satisfied.

            So just imagine if Spielberg had cut from the fisherman, Quint, being chomped to death right before Brody’s terrified eyes to 2O MINUTES LATER, and Brody and Hooper are kicking those yellow barrels toward shore:

            Hey, what happened to the shark, Martin?

            The Great White? Oh, I shoved one of those
            air tanks in its mouth and blew it to hell and gone
            with my rifle.

            Pretty sweet.

            Yeah, made quite a spectacle.

            Nice work, Martin.

            Thanks. Say, what day is it?

            Seriously. Doran isn’t saying that a nice warm coda between the principals makes for a more satisfying movie. That’s something ANYONE can get behind. She’s saying that that nice warm coda is ALL anyone cares about — even if they’re not aware of it.

            She’s saying the nice warm coda isn’t the icing on the cake, it IS the cake. And she’s wrong.

        • Linkthis83

          I’ve been trying to figure out a way to respond that I thought might stand a chance of being effective. Let’s see how I do :)

          I don’t think that she is saying that it’s not necessary for Rocky to step into the ring. What she is saying is that we don’t end on the big moment because it’s seeing the affect of the big moment on the relationship that makes it fulfilling. Malibo used satisfying, but I think fulfilling is more accurate.

          Most of the time the main character is the emotional connection to the audience, thus, when we’ve gone through the battle and we are exhausted, we want the relationship(s) that matter to us most to be present. And in her examples they are, and that’s why those movies and moments leave an impression.

          After watching that a couple of times, she keeps mentioning these movies being inspirational, yet the characters don’t get what they want. This is where I’d say she is incorrect – at least with two of example I can say this with confidence:

          1) ROCKY – Rocky doesn’t want to win the fight. He wants “to go the distance.” That is his stated goal…and he accomplishes this.

          2) THE KARATE KID – Again, Daniel doesn’t want to win the tournament. He doesn’t even need to win the tournament. What he wants is “balance” with the relationships in his life, and he won’t have that unless he can face Johnny in the final match. It’s such an honest moment and so consistent with the story. Personally, I believe he earned Johnny’s respect just by showing up to finish the fight. And we even get growth from Johnny as well – this is such a fulfilling ending all around…because of the relationships surrounding Daniel leading up to the final kick.

          • filmklassik

            Totally hear you. And if Doran is suggesting that the aforementioned codas are what give the Big Moments their resonance and staying power, thus making the films they appear in more satisfying… well, yeah, I can get behind that. (And really, who’d argue with that?)

            But I think she’s saying something else here. I think she’s saying that those codas matter MORE than the Big Moments do (and rewatch the part where she expostulates about subjecting male moviegoers to a “bait n’ switch” tactic for empirical proof of this).

            So to her I would just like to say: Ms. Doran, if those codas work at all, it’s only because of the Big Moments that preceded them.

            Finally — I’m afraid I have to disagree with you about the KARATE KID, because if Daniel had merely found “balance” at the end of that story, it wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying for the audience.

            A movie like the KARATE KID makes an implicit Contract With The Audience, and filmmakers violate that Contract at their peril.*
            So whatever Daniel THINKS his goal in the story is doesn’t matter, because the Contract With The Audience fairly DEMANDS that he whip Johnny’s ass. Or at least prevail in the final tournament. Why?

            Because Johnny beat the shit out of him on the beach and then later in the bathroom, and humiliated him in front of Ali. So anything less than payback for that would be unsatisfying.

            The first ROCKY didn’t require that kind of retribution. ROCKY 3, on the other hand, (where Mickey is killed by Clubber Lang) absolutely did.

            So Daniel merely finding “balance” at the end may have been all well and good for Daniel, but not for the audience.

            *And yeah, I know NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN flipped the bird to audience expectations (Coen Bros: “You think we’re gonna give you a Showdown here? Fuck you!”) and made a ton of money and wound up winning the Oscar, and I know many people who love that movie — but I find it profoundly unsatisfying.

      • davejc

        This is a tad Studio propaganda. As is in studios only want happy endings regardless of the material.

        Of course the audience invested in a relationship will derive satisfaction from its outcome.

        But that’s not the only ending that can satisfy an audience(and we have thousands of years of story telling behind that statement).

        One thing we do know, and that is: audiences applaud the hero more for his efforts than they do for his accomplishments. So its a no brainer that Rocky can lose and the audience still gets their money’s worth with or without Adrien. It’s just more satisfying with.

        • Linkthis83

          I disagree with the studio propaganda angle. She’s basically doing what we do here and explaining what she think’s she has learned regarding why the most inspirational movies are in fact the most inspirational – especially when the main characters don’t get what they want. I think it’s about fulfillment. — I just responded to filmklassik with this:

          “I’ve been trying to figure out a way to respond that I thought might stand a chance of being effective. Let’s see how I do :)

          I don’t think that she is saying that it’s not necessary for Rocky to step into the ring. What she is saying is that we don’t end on the big moment because it’s seeing the affect of the big moment on the relationship that makes it fulfilling. Malibo used satisfying, but I think fulfilling is more accurate.

          Most of the time the main character is the emotional connection to the audience, thus, when we’ve gone through the battle and we are exhausted, we want the relationship(s) that matter to us most to be present. And in her examples they are, and that’s why those movies and moments leave an impression.

          After watching that a couple of times, she keeps mentioning these movies being inspirational, yet the characters don’t get what they want. This is where I’d say she is incorrect – at least with two of the examples I can say this with confidence:

          1) ROCKY – Rocky doesn’t want to win the fight. He wants “to go the distance.” That is his stated goal…and he accomplishes this.

          2) THE KARATE KID – Again, Daniel doesn’t want to win the tournament. He doesn’t even need to win the tournament. What he wants is “balance” with the relationships in his life, and he won’t have that unless he can face Johnny in the final match. It’s such an honest moment and so consistent with the story. Personally, I believe he earned Johnny’s respect just by showing up to finish the fight. And we even get growth from Johnny as well – this is such a fulfilling ending all around…because of the relationships surrounding Daniel leading up to the final kick.”

          • davejc

            It just feels like she’s painting all movies with a wide brush. Inspirational movies like The Passion Of Joan Of Ark that ends with a timber post being scorched by flames is no less inspirational than Rocky.

            Oddly enough all three of my scripts end on a relationship note. I never gave any thought to it.

  • klmn

    Musicians have always gotten fucked by the music companies. Kokomo Arnold recorded some tracks in the thirties, then went north and took regular jobs. When the blues revival occurred in the sixties, he had a chance to resume his career. He refused, preferring to work in a steel mill.

    Because of that kind of abuse, American copyright law was revised to allow creators to regain their copyrights after I believe 34 years. James Cameron will benefit from this when the clock runs out on Terminator.

    Willie Dixon was influential in the revision of copyright law. Keeping with my habit of posting blues videos, here’s one of his classics.

    • Acarl

      Willie Dixon was THE man.Son House, Muddy and RJ were amazing, but Willie was the tops for song writing/composing.

      • klmn

        Yeah. Any fan of the Stones or Zeppelin has heard Willie’s music. The Stones had the class to credit Willie, but he had to sue Zeppelin to get paid.

        • Acarl

          Yup, Eric Clapton was a big crusader for these artists getting paid. I believe he testified against Zeppelin.

          • Kirk Diggler

            I don’t believe Eric Clapton ever gave court testimony against Led Zeppelin. Why would he?

    • ripleyy

      Trent Reznor (who I’m a gigantic fan of) famously went against the music industry and ended up selling an album (The Slip) online for free – and it’s a great album!

      The music industry is a different kettle of fish, but has the same ebbs and flows of the movie industry. It’s also more brutal than the movie industry, a vicious sector that can be easily saturated – just as much as the movie sector can.

  • LV426

    I often wonder if it still makes sense to attempt to break in to Hollywood via a hot spec script. It all seems to be changing so fast. Now we have the Chinese and foreign box office rising in importance. How much longer until they just go to foreign writers and directors? Probably partially due to how much cheaper that route might end up being to procure scripts and talent. If they’re looking to make a splash in those markets, perhaps having a non-American voice behind the film is an easier sell overseas? Just as here in the States it is all about having American and British stars and directors making the movies (Canadians too, and sometimes Australians).

    Then we’ve got more technological change on the near horizon. In late 2015, the first wave of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players are going to hit store shelves. While I don’t expect this to take off right away, it will likely be adopted at a faster rate than regular HD and Blu-ray, partially due to the fact that there is no format war like last time (Blu-ray Vs HD DVD). Not only that, but streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as YouTube are already preparing or starting to offer Ultra HD streaming for some content. The 4K/UHD TV sets are still pricey, but also dropping faster in cost than HD flat screens did approximately a decade ago. So now everyone’s home theater is going to get better over the next five years.

    In addition to that, we have what looks to be decent viable virtual reality coming in another year or two. Both the Oculus Rift and Sony’s PS4 peripheral Morpheus will first focus on games and more interactive applications. Think ahead though. Ten years from now, VR may have completely changed the landscape of cinema as we know it today.

    • Scott Crawford

      People would rather buy SPECS than PITCHES, as was the practice in the past. Oscar winner Eric Roth started in the 1970s and says he’s NEVER written on spec, always paid in advance.

      Foreign writers, ultimately, still have to pay them a share of the profit. Can’t see them being cheaper (I hope – it is a fear (among $2 million a script writers) that newcomers will be so keen to work on movies, they’ll do it all for $20,000. Try stretching $20,000 over three years before your next job.).

      They’ve been threatening a computer game, virtual reality takeover of movies for years. I’m old enough to remember playing one of those virtual reality games with the giant helmet on your head that made you look like Rick Moranis from Spaceballs).

      And I remember the threat of interactive fiction, like “Choose Your Own Adventure”. Didn’t happen. As Terry Pratchett said, when you buy a book by a particular author, it’s because you like the decisions that that author makes.

      • LV426

        Ahh, I replied with a thought out comment, but Disqus ate it.

        Dang it!

        • Scott Crawford

          Up yours, Disqus! I’m losing comments like Republicans lose elections.

          • LV426

            We’re losing comments like space marine casualties in the midst of an alien onslaught.

  • peisley

    Lynda Obst’s book Sleepless in Hollywood has a lot on the current state of the industry and how to cope with it. Basically, you have to embrace change and find your niche in each new wave, otherwise you’re dead in the water. You point out about big stars interfering with projects and that’s another disturbing trend. They often can’t see beyond their own carefully crafted image. Some even have their own screenwriters to tweak a script. There’s a lot of money at stake, so I can see reluctance from the stars and the producers to take risks, but somebody has to say eff it let’s do it right or it’s just more banality. Even the foreign markets are going to get saturated at some point.

    • jw

      She was on Fareed Zakaria the other day talking about the shift in female protags that were once non-existent in Hollywood. That was a pretty interesting conversation.

      One thing that I find interesting, and it doesn’t matter what medium it is, but often exists in any creative medium, is the idea of “not taking risks” as a way to ensure reward and then you find the risk taker and they absolutely become a sensation, completely negating the idea altogether. So, whether it’s Eminem when there were almost zero white rappers or at least zero in terms of his skill and ability, or The Hangover in terms of a rated-R comedy, or The Matrix / Gravity using technology that took a decade to develop, and the list just goes on and on and on with people taking risks that reap rewards and you sometimes look at that and ask yourself why people don’t take more risks. And, I’m not talking about stupid risks, but calculated risks that go against the grain enough to pay off.

      • peisley

        Sometimes it appears to be just the way that artist is. Their take on things isn’t so much deliberate as listening to their own drumbeat. Other times, it does seem to be more calculated. They’ve figured out a unique twist and made it their own. Whatever the path, their work is usually so strikingly good or unusual nobody can ignore it, whether they like it or not.

        • jw

          I think my point, however inarticulate it may have been, was just that — people who go against the grain (calculated or authentic) seem to have a better chance at making a name and it’s strange for me that people (especially in Hollywood) don’t see how starved audiences are for anti-mainstream and move in that direction. I think this is why horror and films like The Purge tend to do well. People want edge, and there’s an element of the “inappropriate goal” or in that film’s case, the “inappropriate premise” that is intriguing to people. Clearly commercialism will always be there because we don’t tend to live in a society where the masses are all that intelligent, but at the end of the day I think people are sort of craving for something that rocks the boat instead of something that floats gently downstream.

  • Scott Crawford

    Didn’t think you drag and drop pictures but here you go.

    Is a movie worth £53 (USD$85) a ticket?

    Sorry for the poor quality of the picture, but this is taken from the top floor of John Lewis opposite the Olympic Park. Recognize it (again, apologies from the poor quality of the picture)? Hill Valley from Back to the Future:

  • Scott Crawford

    People have said this about, say, James Bond video games. In the books, movies, you can’t kill Bond. In the video games, Bond dies all the time… and is then brought back to life again. But Bond is supposed to be indestructible, so it’s not really… also, too many video games are just beat ‘em up/shoot ‘em ups with GTA knobs on. I mean, The Godfather video game. Negotiating concessions with your enemy? No. Killing everyone.

    I posted this photograph on another post no-one’s read, so I’ll post it here again. This is interactive cinema. Back to the Future. £53/$85 PER TICKET.


  • Scott Crawford

    Problem was, most of the “Up Voted” pitches were made early on, most by well-known Scriptshadow regulars. Some people (understandably) lost interest as the comments grew, and the later pitches got less attention (most from non-regulars, or Lookie Loos as some people have taken to calling them!). Like most people, I tend to sort comments by BEST, but after a while at the weekend, I knew I had to sort by NEWEST, because each pitch was a new thread, and they were coming thick and fast.

    Don’t mind people Up Voting things they like, less keen on people Down Voting anything. Don’t like something, don’t have any CONSTRUCTIVE comments (I think you should change this, stick with that) best to say nothing. There were some WEIRD pitches over the weekend as you might expect.

    Not sure what the winner, or winners, will actually be like. Tend to feel people didn’t choose the best loglines, but instead went with people they know or who boasted of having lots of competition success, etc. Either that or it really was a poor showing.

    I think, give it another six, eight months before the next Pitch Post; that’ll give people time to take it all in and write something NEW, rather than dredging up that screenplay you’ve been hawking around for the past year.

    Also, maybe we should have a Pitch Post for people to test out their ideas BEFORE writing their screenplays. Pitch three to five ideas and Scriptshadowers can choose the best one for you.

    • klmn

      “Pitch three to five ideas and Scriptshadowers can choose the best one for you.”

      I think you’re better off trusting your own instincts.

  • Scott Crawford

    I would pay SERIOUS money so that I could watch the next James Bond film (MASSIVE James Bond fan) in my own home rather than a movie theater full of bratty kids and smelly food. I mean I would pay, and other people would MUSIC CONCERT prices for that, even if I could only watch the movie once.

    They tried it with Tower Heist, why not try it again?

    • jmscriptwriter

      I agree. They’d have to make the theaters happy–you can’t let them disappear, but just do it, even on a trial basis.

  • Scott Crawford

    But you know what, I will be happy. There’s some good Sequels coming out next year, and I have not problem with that. It’s silly to pretend you only want to see originals. Bring on 2015!

    • filmklassik

      Then call me silly, I guess. A percentage of sequels among the wider studio output is fine, bring ‘em on. Sequels have played a role in mainstream Hollywood filmmaking since the 20s, and some of them have been wonderful.

      But holy crap, the proportions are completely out of whack now. The studios are running out of originals to cannibalize and sometimes it feels like we’re watching a snake swallowing its own tail.

      What’s more, sequels just aren’t as INSPIRING as originals are. Has anyone set out to write movies because they fell in love with a sequel or a remake? I’m sure it’s happened, but it’s probably rare.

      People write moves because they fell in love with STAR WARS. Or CASABLANCA. Or BACK TO THE FUTURE. Or RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. (Or, if you’re of an indie bent, something like MAGNOLIA, or PULP FICTION, or MEMENTO).

      These are just examples, of course, but chances are the films that have inspired you over the years… the ones you find yourself watching over and over again… are probably not sequels.

      You may not be worried, but I sure as hell am.

      • LV426

        I agree. I’m not against sequels in theory, but nowadays it seems lopsided. Too many sequels, prequels, remakes, reboots, and other spin-offs.

        As for sequels inspiring writers and filmmakers, I can list a couple in my case: Aliens, T2, Dawn of the Dead (original), and the Star Wars trilogy in general (SW, Empire, and Return of the Jedi). I wouldn’t doubt some writers being inspired by The Godfather Part II.

  • For The Lulz

    You dare insult the Costner!…….You DARE!

  • Midnight Luck

    why, oh why do so many postings disappear? slip through the cracks?
    Spend time writing them, laying down words, and they vanish, into the ether.

    • Kirk Diggler

      What if you click on your own name? You might see your own post and it might have “pending” next to it.

      • Midnight Luck

        nope, it shows it posted. And I saw it up for about ten minutes. then I came back and refreshed the page and it was gone. never to return. Says it posted 2 hours ago. But I haven’t seen it since.

  • filmklassik

    It’s funny, I actually like him more now. Since OPEN RANGE, he has acquired a gravitas he was lacking during his heyday. Then again, I haven’t seen DRAFT DAY yet.

    Sounds like NO ONE on here liked his performance in that one.

  • Kirk Diggler

  • jmscriptwriter


  • Ambrose*

    I, too, have cut back on my visits to movie theaters, Carson.
    Years ago I would see two, three, even four movies per week. Well over a hundred movies each year. Studio films, independents, foreign films.
    Not any more.

    • Midnight Luck

      I don’t either. But not by my choice.
      There is absolutely nothing like seeing a movie in a public theater. A home theater is amazing, but it isn’t the same, and never will be.
      The reason I don’t see as many, is there aren’t the choices. I used to see 5, 7, even 10 or more a week, easily.
      Now, with a 20 plex theater, sometimes 14 of the screens are taken up with multiples of the same 2-3 movies, and multiples of those same 3 movies in 3d and IMAX.
      There is no width in theaters anymore. No choices.
      I suppose if you happen to live in LA, or possibly NY you have all kinds of choices. Anywhere else? even big big cities? you are stuck in Mall movie theaters that only book the biggest EVENT movies, and as i said on many multiples of their screens.
      If you happen to live in smaller towns, you are lucky if they decide to put ONE lesser known movie in the theater, then it is gone by the next week.
      So on slow weeks, like this last Friday, NOtHING new comes in. Nothing!
      I would still see films, but there aren’t any out there.

      I went and saw THE CONGRESS with Robin Wright on Saturday, because it was literally the only thing I either hadn’t seen that had any value, and the only NEW thing out. You couldn’t force me to see THE IDENTICAL. Sadly, The Congress was really really rough. The first 20 or so minutes had shades of possible interest, and then it just got really bad, and went on Forever. People were walking out of the theater, by 3/4 of the way through, in droves.

      I wish I could go back to my old ways. I could spend so much of my time and money in the theater and be happy as a clam. The options just aren’t there anymore though.

      • Meta5

        Maybe I’m old or my recollection is off but it seems like great films used to play in theater for almost a year or more. Jaws, Star Wars, Rocky, Exorcist, Raiders, E.T., Gremlins, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Diehard. For sure we all agree that these are iconic, internationally known films. Even newer generations recognize and love these films. Back then, there was plenty of time to get to the theater to see these big films. Am I remembering it wrong?

        What was the competition at these times? I don’t remember. I don’t think there was a lot. There’s too much these days. I think that’s part of the problem. Time isn’t being spent on development. It’s in and out, assembly line production. A couple of months is spent on the script then a couple of months on production then a couple of months in theater then it’s forgotten in the same amount of time.

  • Ryan Sasinowski

    I myself haven’t been to the theaters in six months. A few free screenings of classic movies, yes, but commercial ones, no.

    This is mainly due to one major letdown in 2012 and two in 2013. The one from 2012 was “The Dark Knight Rises” with its miniscule pacing and Batman not showing up for 45 minutes into his own movie.

    2013 held “The Man of Steel” and “Iron Man 3.” My problem with both of these was from their respective trailers. Yes, TRAILERS made me leave the theaters.

    “Man of Steel” promised a deep, personal story of Clark Kent trying to find himself in a world he isn’t apart of. Instead, what we got was a bland, excruciatingly long film whose story careened around like a pinball for the first hour. Not to mention one of the worst action scenes I have seen in a long time. It looked so much like a video game, I actually laughed out loud at it in the theater and promptly gave up any lasting hope.

    “Iron Man 3″ was the nail in the fucking coffin. I was anxious as hell for this. I loved the first two, and they got Shane Motherfucking (yes, his real middle name — don’t look it up) Black to co-write and direct it. The god of screenwriting behind “Lethal Weapon” being reunited with the star of “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” was nothing but promising. Add to that, the trailer.

    It was dark, foreboding, giving an air of mystery and menace to The Mandarin, and Tony Stark reaping the consequences of his risky actions. It had all the potential in the world going for it.

    Then, I saw it, and man, I was pissed. It didn’t know what genre it wanted to be. It wasn’t funny and it wasn’t serious. The other two films found a great balance, and Shane Black has built a career on that balance.

    Once I saw it wasn’t going to get any better, I decided to just sit back and enjoy the witty banter that is Shane Black’s bread and butter. And nothing. Not a single memorable quip in the entire running time. I remember NOTHING about the movie. NOTHING. How does that happen??

    I tell a lie. I do remember one thing from the movie: that stupid, twist about the villain. Anyone who knows of Ben Kingsly’s “Without a Clue” already knows what I’m talking about. It was stupid, audience-insulting, and completely without cause.

    The last movie I saw was “Sabotage” with Arnold. Not particularly remarkable (except for the horrific sound mix for any dialogue withing a car), but a nice turn for the Governator. Thanks to all the previous experience with trailers, I think I even made it a practice to intentionally be late to a movie so I could avoid getting excited for what would ultimately be a stinker.

    For my money, this practice is one of Hollywood’s biggest faults. I think that they should have the people working on the films cut their own trailers, and not a separate company that completely screws up the tone.

    If the audience responds well to the tone of a trailer (I’m sure Youtube analytics for trailers can be used), then they should strive to search for movies that have those tonalities and not try and fabricate a movie.

    It’s because of these problems I haven’t gone to the movies in six months, and I’d like to think I’m apart of the dip in ticket sales. I’m hoping a big reason other people aren’t going is the same reason as me. Maybe some studio scrub will point this out, and they can fix the problem.

    It’s wishful thinking, I know, but, hey, a guy can dream. It just makes me thankful for my library system.

    • Meta5

      This is the last great trailer that I can remember.

      It shows just enough so we know that it’s something different than guys fighting in a jungle. It shows the big star, the tone, and something we hadn’t seen before but it doesn’t reveal too much. We want to see the reveal.

      I used to love going to the theater. Now, it’s not worth the time and money.

      But I will see the next Avatar in theater. Gravity was worth the visit. And I must see Quentin Tarantino movies when they are released. Other than that, theater just isn’t what it used to be. Maybe I’m getting to wise a.k.a old.

  • For The Lulz

    Oh, that is such a deal and let’s stick to it. But one final note before then, which I can’t avoid since you just had to say it, didn’t you?

    If you don’t want to talk about my work, trust me, that’s perfectly fine with me. In fact you haven’t talked about my work at all, you’ve just thrown out ignorant, ill-informed opinions.

    But don’t you DARE start telling other people that they shouldn’t comment on my work. Who the hell do you think you are? You are not the king of scriptshadow. I know you think if you write 10,000 comments some people will consider your posts as sacred. Well not me. The quantity does not matter, the quality does.

    The REAL contributors here are the one’s who read people’s scripts and offer HONEST and CONSTRUCTIVE feedback. It’s a real time commitment to do so, and those that do should rightly be appreciated. Not the POSERS who think their comments are a statement of fact that you MUST agree with and are too lazy to offer REAL USEFUL feedback (or even write their own damn script).

    The fact is I can’t take criticism…..FROM YOU. The tone of your posts were arrogant and offensive. You act like some Hot-Shot Hollywood Executive, but the fact is you’re an amateur like the rest of us. This site is an aid to help AMATEUR writers improve their work. A big part of that is people reading your script and giving back CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. NOT having some doucheb*g with an axe to grind constantly trash talking you and your work to other people. Making cracks to other posters about Orci and Kurtzman laughing at a Cupid script….you’re a child, man. Pathetic.

    Ask Electric Dreamer, Randy Williams, Kirk Diggler and pmlove if I can take criticism. I think they’d disagree with you. Four people gave me notes on the script (out of 493 downloads, which was kinda disappointing, but I’ll roll with it) and some damn good points were raised which I appreciated and intend to implement. YOU offered NOTHING worth a damn, so I rejected your comment. Simple. Sounds like YOU’RE the one who can’t take people not accepting your ‘wisdom’.

    While you’re at it, ask Kimm and Caleb Yeaton if they valued my reading their scripts and offering constructive notes, you know…something useful, while you were acting like Hot-Shot Hollywood Executive Wannabe spamming the comments board all weekend. If they don’t want to comment on my work, that’s fine. But let it be THEIR choice. Not Scott Crawford’s command.

    I have NEVER EVER seen another ‘writer’ act in such a manner towards another writer’s work.

    You read my script and think it’s sh*t. Fine.

    You read the first 10 and didn’t get pulled into the story. Fine.

    You think the concept is ridiculous and would never watch it. Fine

    You want to offer a true critique of what doesn’t work. Brilliant.

    But to say things like ”It’s gonna get a 2/5 – Wasn’t for me, or even a 1/5 – What the Hell did I just read? I’ve not the read the script…”

    Pathetic. Just pathetic.

    Firstly, I don’t know where you got the idea that my script will even get picked. Only a handful of people even referenced it, and I don’t think it will get picked ahead of some others like Pet, Chickin Lickin, Corridor of Freaks, etc.

    Secondly, HYPOTHETICALLY if it did get picked and got ”What the Hell did I just read?” from Carson, or from anyone else, that’s fine with me. BECAUSE AT LEAST THEY WOULD HAVE READ IT! If it’s a negative review from a full or partial read, at least it’s an INFORMED and HONEST negative review. Not some chump who decided months of work, will get the lowest rating based on a two sentence logline. Loglines are NOT a 90-120 page script. You can judge if you want to read the script or not from a logline, but you can NOT judge an entire script’s quality by it. Well…I wouldn’t judge a writer’s entire script on only a logline.

    The point. I will not take a person who attacks ANYONE’S work in such a disgusting and petty manner, especially without even reading a single page, seriously. Simple. Especially when that very writer lacks the discipline to write their own script, and probably the courage to post it here (which is not easy to do by the way).

    You don’t like me. And I definitely don’t like you. Fine. Let’s leave it here. Don’t comment on me or my posts and I won’t reply. Stalking? Seriously?…Pathetic and Childish. I’m pretty sure your a lot older than me. To even have this conversation is hilarious.

    For the record, if you ever do post your script here, you can rest assured that I will not behave in the DISGUSTING and DEROGATORY manner towards a fellow aspiring writer’s work in the way you have. I would offer the same honest, constructive feedback that I have done for others, and they have done for me.

    Let’s end it here. I’ve wasted enough time on you, and I have to go to work, so I can’t respond anyway.