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Premise: (from IMDB) With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
About: This is the next Quentin Tarantino film, coming out Dec. 25. Django Unchained stars Jaime Foxx as Django, Christoph Waltz as Dr. Schultz, Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie, and Samuel Jackson in the fearsome role of Candie’s 2nd hand man, Stephen. QT has wanted to do something with slavery for awhile, but not some big dramatic “issues” movie. He wanted to do more of a genre film. Hence, we got Django Unchained!
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Details: 167 pages, April 26th, 2011 draft
These days, much of the time, I read scripts with a workman-like focus. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy reading. I love breaking down screenplays. But there’s always another script to read, another friend or consult or review to get to. Which means I have to stay focused, I have to get everything done.
Rarely do I read a script where I turn off the script analysis side of my brain and just enjoy the story. It happens two or three times a year. With Django, it actually went beyond that. Halfway through the script, I was so pulled in, I canceled everything and made a night of the second half of Django. I cooked dinner. I opened a nice bottle of wine. I pushed back deep into the crevice of my couch. I ate, drank and read.
Okay okay, so I didn’t actually cook anything. It was a lean cuisine meal. And I popped open a bottle of coke, not wine. I hate wine. But the point is, Django Unchained was that rare reading experience where the rest of the world disappeared and I just found myself transported into another universe.
And you know what? I’m not sure why the hell this thing worked so well. It was 168 pages. There was usually more description than was needed. Many scenes went on for ten pages or longer. BUT, Tarantino found a way to make it work. What that way is, I can only guess. Maybe it’s his voice? The way he tells stories makes all these no-nos become hell-yeahs. And that’s not to say he bucks all convention. There’s plenty of traditional storytelling going on here. It’s just presented in a way we’ve never quite seen before.
Django’s a slave who’s recently been purchased by a plantation owner. Part of a bigger group, the slaves are being transported to the new owner’s farm. There are a lot of nasty motherfuckers in this screenplay, guys way worse than the brothers pulling Django along this evening, but these men are still the kind that need a good bullet in the head to remind them of just how shitty they are.
Enter an upper-class German gentleman who appears out of the woods like a ghost. Dr. King Schultz is as smart as they come and as polite as you’ll ever see, and he’d like to ask these brothers which slave here goes by the name of “Django.” Predictably irritated, the brothers tell him to take a hike or take some lead. While respectful, Dr. Schultz doesn’t like to be told what he can and cannot do. So he smokes one of the brothers, disables the other, and makes Django a free man.
You see, Dr. Schultz is a bounty hunter. He gets paid lots of dough for the carcasses of wanted men. And it appears he’s looking for Django’s former owners, three rusty no-good brothers (there are lots of siblings in Django Unchained) who’ve changed their names and are hiding out on some plantation. Dr. Schultz will pay Django a nice sum if he can identify these men so he can kill them.
Now these men also happen to be the men who raped and branded his wife, Broomhilda. So yeah, Django knows who they are all right. He’ll help the strange German. Plus, with the money he earns, he can go off and search for his wife, who’s since been sold off to another owner. Django doesn’t know who or where, but Schultz tells him he’ll help him find her.
Away the two go, infiltrating the plantation where the brothers are hiding out, and Django gets some sweet revenge on his former slavers. The two are such a great team that Schultz recommends they extend their contract and start making some real money upgrading to the big names, the kind of names that need two people to take them down. Besides, he persuades Django, if they’re going to save Broomhilda, Django has to be in tip top shape.
So the two go off, hunting wanted men, and in their downtime, Schultz teaches Django how to read and shoot. Eventually, Django becomes the most educated badass cowboy around. And it’s a sight to see. And a sight people aren’t used to seeing. When townsfolk observe an educated free black man riding into their town on a horse, they think it must be some kind of joke. And at first, Django feels like a joke. But after awhile, he starts seeing himself the way Schultz does, as a man who deserves to be respected.
Once they’re ready, the two come up with a plan to save Broomhilda. Unfortunately, Broomhilda is being held by one of the nastiest plantation owners in all the state, a detestable villanous soul named Calvin Candie, and Calvin Candie won’t just see anybody. If you want his attention, you have to pony up. Which means Schultz and Django must pretend to be looking for a fighter in one of Calvin’s favorite hobbies – Mandingo fighting. Basically, these are slaves forced to fight other slaves for white men’s entertainment.
In their scam, Schultz will play the rich interested party, and Django will play the “Mandingo expert” he’s hired in order to find the best fighter. Calvin could give two shits about the two until Scultz says the magical words, “Twelve thousand dollars.” Now Calvin’s ready to talk, and he decides to take them back to his plantation where the talking acoustics are a little nicer, the amusement park-esque estate known as “Candyland.”
While at Candyland, the two covertly scope out Broomhilda’s whereabouts, except that Calvin’s number 2 guy, groundskeeper Stephen (who’s, surprisingly enough, Calvin’s slave), suspects something is amiss with these men, and starts to do some digging. It doesn’t take him long to figure out their intentions, intentions that have nothing to do with buying a Mandingo. He lets his boss know, and for the first time since we’ve met Django and Shultz, the tables have turned. They’re not in control of the situation anymore. Once that happens, our dynamic duo is in major trouble. And it’s looking unlikely that they’ll find a way out of it.
Let me begin by saying that a big reason this script is so awesome is because of the GOALS and the STAKES. There’s always a goal pushing the story forward, which is extremely important in any screenplay but especially a 168 page screenplay. If your characters don’t have something important they’re going after, a solid GOAL, then your story’s going to wander around aimlessly until it stumbles onto a highway and gets plastered by a semi. A gas tanker semi. A gas tanker semi that explodes and starts a forest fire.
The first goal is Schultz’s goal of needing to find these brothers. Once that goal’s taken care of, the true goal that’s driving the story takes center stage – Django needs to find and save his wife. But, you’ll notice that even when we’re not focused directly on that, we have little goals we’re focusing on. It may be to kill one of the many wanted men they’re hunting. It may be to learn to read or fight or handle a gun, so that Django can be equipped for his final showdown. QT makes sure that we’re always driving towards something here, and he does it with goals. Goals that have stakes attached to them. How can the stakes be any higher than your wife’s safety and freedom?
But that’s not the only reason. Outside of Mike Judge, I don’t know any writer who can make his characters come alive on the page better than Tarantino. He just has this knack for developing unique memorable people. I can go through 5-6 scripts in a row and not read one memorable character. This script has like two dozen of them. It’s amazing. Sometimes it’s because he subverts expectations – Dr. Schultz is a German in an unfamiliar land who’s as dangerous as fuck yet always the most polite man in the room. Sometimes it’s through irony – A slave bounty hunter hunting the very white people who enslaved him. And sometimes it’s just a name – Calvin Candie. I mean how perfect a name is that? How are you going to forget that character?
I tell writers NEVER to overpopulate their screenplays with large character counts because we’ll forget half the characters and never know what’s going on. But when you can make each character this memorable? This unique? You can write however many damn characters you please.
And the dialogue here. I can’t even tell you why it’s so awesome because I don’t know. There are certain elements of dialogue you can’t teach and QT is one of the lucky bastards who possesses that unteachable quality. But I will tell you this, and it’s something I’ve become more and more aware of in subsequent Tarantino movie viewings. He depends on a particular tool to make his scenes awesome, and it’s the main reason why he can write such long scenes and get away with it.
Basically, Tarantino hints that something bad/crazy/unpredictable is going to happen at the end of the scene, and then he takes his time building up to that moment. Because we know that explosion is coming at the end, we’re willing to sit around for six, eight, ten pages until we get there. The anticipation eats at us, so we’re biting our nails, eager to see what’s going to happen. In these cases, the slowness of the scene actually works for the story because it deprives us of what we want most, that climax.
For example, there’s a scene in the second act where the young man who’s bought Broomhilda and since fallen in love with her, takes her out for a night on the town. He unfortunately walks into one of Calvin Candie’s establishments and before you know it, Candie himself has invited him over to his table to play poker with the big boys. Broomhilda knows something’s not right, but the poor soul is too flattered to listen to her. This scene goes on and on and we see that Candie is becoming more and more sinister, and we just know this isn’t going to end well. We know something terrible is going to happen. So of course, we’re on the edge of our seats dying to see in what terrible way it will end.
Tarantino also did this, most famously, in the opening “Milk Scene” of Inglorious Basterds. A German Commander shows up at a farm house looking for fugitive jews, and we just know this isn’t going to end well. That’s why the German commander can ask for something as unexciting as a glass of milk. That’s why he can talk about mundane things for minutes on end. Because we know this isn’t going to end well, yet we’re dying to see how it does end. Go through Django Unchained again and you’ll see that there are LOTS of these scenes, and one of the biggest tricks Tarantino has in his toolbox. He keeps going back to it, and it works every time.
But what I think really separates Tarantino from everyone else is that you never quite know where he’s going to go. You can predict most movies out there down to the minute. But with QT, you can’t. And it’s because he already knows where you think he’s going to go, so he purposely goes somewhere else. Take the opening scene, where we see a polite white man being kind and cordial to a slave. Not prepared for that. Or when we see that Calvin Candie takes his orders from a black man, his slave, Stephen. Or how when Broomhilda is first purchased, she’s actually purchased by a shy young white man who quickly falls in love with her and treats her kindly. I was always trying to predict where Tarantino would go next, and I was usually wrong. And even better, the choice he ended up going with always ended up in a better scene.
My complaints are minimal. There was only one area of the script that felt lazy. (spoiler) Late in the third act, Django’s life is spared because, apparently, he’ll experience a much worse death “in the mines.” This allows him to be transferred off the plantation, which of course allows him to trick his transporters and go back to save Broomhilda. Come on. No way the Candie family doesn’t torture and kill him right there. No way they let him go off to the mines. So I was disappointed by that because it felt like a cheap way to give Django his big climax. With that said, the big climax was phenomenal. Average Joe Writer would have had Django go in there Die Hard style. QT took a slower more practical approach, and created a much better finale because of it.
So you know what? I can’t believe I’m doing this since I haven’t done it in two years before a month ago, but I’m giving another GENIUS rating. This script is freaking amazing. It really is. I don’t know if the Academy knows what to do with a movie like this, but if we’re talking writing alone, this script should win the Oscar. And, heck, it should win for best film too.
What I learned: Always look for ironic moments in your screenplay. Audiences LOVE irony. Django, a slave, must play the role of a slave driver near the end of the film. He must treat other slaves like they’re dirt. He must talk to them like they’re dirt. It’s tough to watch but also fascinating, since he himself was, of course, a slave a short time ago.
Premise: A married couple goes on a cruise to heal their wounds after losing their son, but when the ship rescues a strange sick man, they soon find that their own lives are in danger.
About: Hey, how often do we get to read a script by TWINS? Touchstone bought this spec back in 2010. Alexi Hawley scripted the 2004 Exorcist prequel, Exorcist: The Beginning, and more recently was story editor on the Nathan Fillion show, Castle. Brother Noah was a writer on the TV show, Bones.
Writers: Alexi and Noah Hawley
Details: 110 pages
In all honesty, had I known this was a zombie script, I wouldn’t have read it. Dead In The Water was a random script I had in my screenplay pile which I knew nothing about, which is exactly why I wanted to read it. I was hoping for another Ends Of The Earth or Dead Of Winter. But didn’t get it. I got a zombie flick.
I’ll tell you what, though. Before I knew this was a zombie script – in other words throughout the first act – it was pretty damn good. And once it became a zombie flick, the darn thing kept going. It took some chances along the way – did things a little differently – and therefore, gasp, kept me fairly entertained. I’m still not sure what to make of it on the whole. There’s a character called Suparman who feels like he’s been beamed in from a different movie…on a different planet. But all in all, I think there’s more good here than bad.
The script starts out with a great opening scene. A group of doctors are out for a spin on their sailboat when they spot a couple of men on a trawler dumping bags into the ocean. The trawler speeds away and the doctors decide to investigate, only to find that the bags aren’t just bags. They’re body bags. And as they move up to get a closer look, one of the bags…STARTS MOVING.
They open the bag up to save the individual but it turns out it’s not him who needs saving. Blood splatters. There are screams. And we CUT to a cruise ship. This is where we meet Brian and Carrie Lake, a couple grieving over their dead son. Both are devastated but Carrie’s ready to move on. Brian, a cop, can’t let go however, and would rather sleep in their room all day than go out and “have fun.”
So Carrie heads out on her own, and while up on deck, spots something in the water that stops her cold. It’s a man! Drifting along on a piece of debris! She calls out to the ship’s crew and the next thing you know they’re lifting the man up on deck. Well waddaya know? It’s one of the doctors! And he’s not looking good. In fact, he starts vomiting blood all over the place! Mmmmmm…blood vomit.
Carrie relays the experience to Brian, who continues his bed brigade, so Carrie goes to take a nap on deck. When she wakes, however, something is off. There’s…nobody around. It’s like everyone from the cruise just disappeared. Oh, until she sees a man with a blood-stained mouth coming after her. And then another one. And then another one.
Carrie runs off, where she’s able to find a few more people, and the group quickly realizes that a virus has spread throughout the ship, bringing the dead back to life, dead who are hungry for human flesh. Let this be a lesson about picking up strangers.
Carrie now has a single-minded goal – finding her husband, and this is where the script does something different. It starts out with a segment called “Carrie,” which follows Carrie’s journey as she tries to find Brian. Then, when that’s over, we cut to the “Brian” segment, where we show Brian trying to find Carrie. If that were it, the script still may have been too predictable for me. But then, for some odd reason, we also have a final segment titled, you guessed it, “Suparman.” Suparman is a 22 year old Indonesian man who is some sort of circus acrobatics expert, able to wield duo-machetes which allows him to slice and dice zombies like they’re tomatoes. I honestly have NO IDEA what Suparman was doing in the script, and yet, I was glad he was. It gave the story this slight level of absurdity that differentiated it JUST ENOUGH from typical zombie faire to give it an edge.
The first thing I want to point out is what an advantage CONTAINING a horror scenario is. For those who read or saw Contagion – if you were like me, you saw a movie trying to cover so many countries and so many scenarios that it eventually lost itself. It’s hard to sell mass death when there are so many places to hide, so many islands and areas safe from contamination. On something like a cruise ship, however, there’s nowhere to run. You’re trapped. And that makes the situation a thousand times scarier.
I thought the cutting to different people was a smart move too. It broke up the conventional zombie structure of a group trying to move from point A to point B (while avoiding zombies). That’s where I think a lot of these scripts die. Because once the mystery is over, once the group knows they’re zombies and have to get to [some location] to survive, the scripts become very technical. They’re just moving on rails while avoiding zombies. All the creativity is gone. Now I’m not saying Dead In The Water completely eliminated this, but the structure break-up was just enough to keep us on our toes.
As far as the characters here….hmmmm… I guess they were okay. The whole “dead child” thing is a little stock. I’ve seen it before. In fact, it was the main storyline for another “dangerous person comes aboard a boat” flick, Dead Calm. I don’t know what it is about this backstory but I’ve never been a fan of it. First, there’s something just too sad about a dead child. It doesn’t translate well to screen. And second, it’s almost impossible to avoid melodrama with it. The couple has to be sad, they have to discuss how sad they are, and it always comes off as too much. I’d avoid this backstory unless you have a fresh take on it.
Anyway, the ultimate point is this – if I were a producer, I would buy this script. It’s a money-maker for sure. Zombies on a cruise ship? Never been done before (at least to my knowledge). You got the contained setup, nowhere to run. Zombies on a cruise has potential for a lot of fun scenarios, as proven here with the unforgettable shark climax. And then of course, you get to top it all off with Suparman – the machete-wielding alien from another planet. What’s not to like?
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: The isolated character name is a good way to imply the screenplay equivalent of a close-up during a key moment. — Remember guys, you don’t want to write “CLOSE-UP” in your script. It’s too technical. So the isolated character name is a great way to imply that the camera is on the character. Here’s an example from page 40…
They turn and run as the infected flood the stairs behind them.
reaches a doorway. Ducks through it and onto…
EXT. PROMENADE DECK – DAY
Okay guys, Twit-Pitch is alive and well. And if you were following my Twitter feed every night, you’d be seeing me analyze the first ten pages of these entries in REAL-TIME. That’s right. I actually tweet what I’m thinking AS I’M THINKING IT. What other contest does that!? This is unprecedented stuff here so if you’re not following me on Twitter yet, you best remedy that right away!
Now, I bring up Twit-Pitch because when you read ONLY the first 10 pages of a bunch of scripts in a short span of time, you REALLY start paying attention to what makes those pages work or not work. And while it’s nothing new to say “Make sure your first 10 pages are awesome,” it really hit me how important that piece of advice is during this exercise. I realized how quickly that feeling of going one way or the other comes for the reader.
The thing is, when writers hear this advice, they get the wrong idea. They believe “make your first 10 pages great” means immediately assaulting the reader with a huge car chase or a big action set-piece. I’m not saying those won’t capture the readers’ attention if done well, but a generic action scene is just as boring as a generic dialogue scene.
So I sat back and thought about all the openings I liked (both with these pages and with other scripts I’ve read) and while I can’t say I’ve come up with a definitive formula for roping in the reader, I can tell you that when comparing the first ten pages of all these scripts, I found a few go-to approaches that give you the best shot at grabbing the reader’s attention.
One of the best ways to open a script is to introduce a problem. When you introduce a problem, the reader will want to stick around to see if that problem is solved. So in The Sixth Sense, the movie starts with husband and wife having a quiet moment in their bedroom, when, all of a sudden, an old patient breaks in and starts threatening them. This patient is the *problem.* He’s threatening our hero and his wife. I don’t know any readers who would not want to find out how this scene ends.
But you don’t have to be telling a ghost story or writing an action film to start with a problem. You can inject a problem into anything. Maybe you open with a teenage girl on the subway with two menacing hoodlums staring at her from across the car. Maybe you start with a woman finding out she’s pregnant. Maybe you start with a lawyer losing his job. Just introduce a problem and you’ve got us.
The next thing you can start with is a mystery. A reader is always going to be roped in if there’s some sort of mystery presented to them. You need look no further than Inception to see how to open your script with a good mystery. We see our main character washing up on shore. We see our main character asleep in an apartment with a mob approaching. We see our main character asleep on a train. If I’m a reader, I want to find out how this is happening. I want to keep reading.
The third thing you can start with is a good old-fashioned Scriptshadow staple – a GOAL. Just give your character a goal and we’ll want to see if he gets it or not. The prototypical example of this is Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones’ goal is to get the gold monkey in the cave and get out. Throw a few obstacles in the way and you have yourself a great opening sequence.
Another solid opening move is a surprise. I like this one because it actually allows you to start slow. You can introduce your characters. Establish a little bit of setup along the way. And then at some point in the scene, throw in a shocking surprise that jolts the reader. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Iron Man, but if I remember correctly, we start with Tony Stark in a Humvee with some other soldiers chatting away, then out of nowhere – BOOM! – his vehicle is attacked.
If none of these openings float your script’s boat, then AT LEAST start us off with some conflict. Give us an imbalance that projects a feeling of instability. If something’s unstable, we intrinsically want to stick around until it stabilizes. So in Fargo, a man walks into a bar to discuss the kidnapping of his wife with a couple of contract men. Immediately, the two parties are not on the same page. They point out how our protagonist is late. Our protagonist counters by insisting he’s on time. This conflict seeps its way into their conversation, making a somewhat straightforward dialogue scene interesting!
Now you don’t have to use any of these approaches if you don’t want. There are plenty of other ways to open a screenplay and I encourage you guys to list them in the comments. But from my experience, if you want to hook a reader right away, these are extremely solid bets. Now if all this stuff intimidates you or confuses you, or you’re convinced there’s no way to use any of these methods in the kind of script you’re writing, then there’s one failsafe rule to fall back on: Make sure something interesting is happening. That’s all. Don’t bore us with two people talking about something that’s ultimately irrelevant. Give us a scene where something interesting is happening and we’ll be intrigued.
So now that you have a good idea of how to rope a reader in with your first 10, I thought it would be the perfect time to look over the first 14 entrants I’ve read in the Twit-Pitch contest. Of these 14, 8 of them did not make it to the next round. 5 of them received “maybe” votes, meaning I’ll revisit them after I’ve read everything, and 1 received the coveted “definite” vote (“The Tradition – 1867 After losing her father, a woman unwittingly takes a job as a maid at a countryhouse of aristocratic cannibals”). Below, I’m including all the scripts the writers let me post. Check out what you can and study the first ten pages. Determine why you liked some and disliked others. Share your observations in the comments section. And if you know of any other tricks to pull the reader in in the first 10, share those too!
DIDN’T MAKE IT
The ghost of a legendary movie star gets tangled up in his own biopic when he needs the help of the heartthrob cast to play him.
A hoarder finds the girl of his dreams only to lose her in his apartment.
After running away from home, an eight foot tall teenager stumbles upon a retirement town for sideshow performers.
Nuts & Rats
An ex-cop awakes in an alternative reality where normal people are locked up in mental institutions and society is run by lunatics.
Desperate to divorce but cash-strapped, ornery newlyweds must put their feuding aside to sell their house, much less agree on a price.
Two guys have one weekend to battle for the coveted ‘Godfather’ title to their best friend’s new daughter.
Ex-CIA assassin unionizes an eclectic group of freelance hitmen to “negotiate” with their mob employers. Norma Rae meets RED
The Lipschitz Affair
When an art heist interrupts a wedding at the Guggenheim, everyone’s a suspect — even the bride and groom
The Last Rough Rider
It’s 1901. Terrorists have just taken over the White House. And only Theodore Roosevelt can stop them.
A hacker for hire finds himself in a deadly web of corporate espionage after being hired to steal the 1st sentient A.I.
Ridin’ The Gravy Train
With his favorite fast-food sandwich facing its final week before it’s phased out forever, an obsessed man leads a protest to save it.
Gino And Me
In early 1980s New Jersey, a 12-year-old decides to profile the local mob boss for his seventh grade English project despite the vehement disapproval of his mother.
Can it get any worse than living next door to a serial killer? It can if you live on CRIMSON ROAD… the whole street is full of them.
Note: No review today.
For those playing catch-up, Twit-Pitch was a contest I held where anyone could pitch me their screenplay as long as it was contained within a single tweet. These are the Top 100 from a list that included nearly1000. These 100 will send me the first ten pages of their scripts, from which I’ll pick 20-25 full scripts to read. To read a discussion of the loglines and contest, head over to the 1300-comment post that occurred afterwards. You should also follow me on Twitter for updates, as I’ll occasionally be tweeting my responses to pages.
There’s been a lot of discussion about what I picked and what I didn’t pick and I wanted to give you guys some insight into why I chose what I chose. I’ve run a few logline contests now and I’ve learned a few things in the process. The first is, wacky comedies tend to be the worst written scripts I read. The more broad something is, the less the writer seems to care about character and story (instead focusing solely on the jokes). And as you know from reading the site, character and story are the most important things to me. So that might explain why I didn’t pick that many comedies despite the fact that there were some pretty funny ideas out there. I was tired of getting burned.
The other thing I learned is that loglines that end with a vague mystery usually result in vague unsatisfying screenplays. So if you wrote something like, “A man discovers a secret room in his house that leads to a horror that he could’ve never imagined.” There’s just not enough information there. If I’m going to take two hours to read a script, I want to know what the script is about. So many of these loglines didn’t get chosen.
Now let me get into why I chose some of the ideas I did. You’ll notice that a lot of the ideas I picked contained irony. A writer who understands the value of irony in storytelling is usually ahead of the writer who doesn’t. In other words, if I was to come across this logline…
A lawyer wakes up on the day of his biggest trial only to learn that he cannot tell a lie.
I’d pick it over this one…
A lawyer wakes up on the day of his biggest trial only to learn that he can hear people’s thoughts.
Both of those ideas are high concept but the second one doesn’t contain any irony. The lawyer can really be anybody. So it’s not nearly as exciting of an idea.
Also, since everything that happened with The Disciple Program, I’ve been fortunate enough to talk to a lot of producers in the industry. And the thing I continue to hear is, “Bring me a movie I can sell.” Not “Bring me a movie that can win a BAFTA.” Not “Bring me a movie that will fill me with emotion.” But, “bring me a movie I can sell.” That’s not to say that emotion and character development and plotting aren’t important. You guys know now how much I value all of these things. But if those things aren’t inside a package a producer can put on a poster, or sell to the next guy above him, then they’re not interested. Remember, Good Will Hunting sold as a thriller. It wouldn’t have sold as a character piece.
So when I looked through these loglines, there was that little voice in the back of my head reminding me: Is this something you can give Producer A or Producer B and they’ll be interested? The only real producer in town who can get significant character development movies made without having to jump through a million hoops is Scott Rudin. And it’s hard to get to that guy.
Finally, my taste factored into this. You guys all know that I like time travel stuff. I’m also a bit of a sci-fi geek. So you saw a lot of those ideas here. I’m not really into witches and covenants, so loglines like those were at a disadvantage. And you know, sometimes I just took chances. I know the loglines weren’t traditionally ‘sound,’ but something said to me, “This sounds like a unique writer.” The Detroit salt mines one. It felt different. The dwarf opening a pizza shop. It felt different. The dead whale one. It felt different. And those were simply chosen on gut. Unfortunately, that’s not something you can predict when you’re constructing your idea. You never know which gut is going to be looking at your logline.
Now, on to the Twit-Pitch 100. The first 76 were my original picks, and the last 24 were new picks. I chose these by going back through the comments section in the massive Twit-Pitch post and seeing what people liked. I also browsed back through the pitches myself and added a few that didn’t hit me the first time.
I decided to bypass the direct-messaging I promised earlier because it takes a ridiculous amount of time to direct tweet on Twitter for some reason. Therefore, anybody who was favorited and anybody who shows up in the 23 alternates here, you have until Sunday midnight (pacific time) to send me your first 10 pages (to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line: TWIT-PITCH). I’ll let you know next week what the due date is for the entire script, which will be roughly 2 months. Enjoy the pitches!
1) A pill-pushing psychiatrist must connect with his patients when a dissatisfied customer curses him with all of their disorders.
2) Early 1980s New Jersey: a 12-year-old decides to profile the local mob boss for his seventh grade English project.
3) North Atlantic, 1825. A whaling Captain and his mutinous crew are trapped on the body of a dead whale and must fight for survival.
4) A “This American Life” type documentary covering a monster attack on NYC, using found footage, like the 1st anniversary of 9/11
5) Werewolves on The Moon: It’s always a full moon on the moon.
6) After winning a nationwide lottery a man must decide what to do with his prize, fifteen minutes of advice to give to his younger self
7) Genesis Y2K: A Christian broadcasting network hires two failed filmmakers to create a TV series of the Bible before the apocalypse
8) After being framed for his father’s murder, an ex-Army medic goes on the run and uncovers a vast secret buried in Detroit’s salt mines
9) West Side story but hip-hop. Rival barber shops: Hella Cutty vs. Get Faded. Step it up 3 meets Leprechaun in the hood
10) On a dare, a young woman shaves her head… only to discover a pirate’s treasure map tattooed onto her scalp
11) When his fiancee gets promoted, a man must plan their wedding on his own. But he risks losing his bride when he becomes a groomzilla.
12) A troubled teen suspects his father may be trying to kill him for a life insurance payout when he’s involved in several “accidents”
13) A man trying to solve the mystery of his con artist grandfather must overcome his own beliefs and the resistance of his broken family.
14) An uptight half-white half-Latin man confronts his repressed heritage when he’s mistaken for a druglord while on business in Guatemala
15) An orphan grows up in a projection booth. He must use all he learned from movies to survive outdoors or lose his true love
16) A group of friends returns from a time-travel fieldtrip to find a nerdy student has altered his past turning him into a living legend.
17) A hoarder finds the girl of his dreams only to lose her in his apartment.
18) A TV executive is held hostage by the characters from a show he recently cancelled, who demand they be put back on the air.
19) An astrophysicist Jesuit priest suffers a crisis of faith triggered by the discovery of a destroyed civilization lightyears from home.
20) One man unaffected by a world inexplicably frozen in time, seeks a way to end the stasis, and finds to his peril that he’s not alone.
21) Firstclass: Mailmen vs. meter maids, battle in the secret civil servant war for control of the streets while trying to get disability.
22) A down on his luck Ice Cream Man agrees to transport stolen stem cells to Mexico only to find these cells are not from this planet.
23) A team of animals organize to fight the omnipotent Taxidermist after he inflicts their community with a deadly parasite
24) A 30 year old woman who dated twins in college believes that one of them was “The One”, if only she could remember which.
25) Two guys have one weekend to battle for the coveted ‘Godfather’ title to their best friend’s new daughter.
26) A terrorist with a $10 mill bounty, a callous soldier of fortune and a mysterious man with no name walk into a bar in Afghanistan
27) Secrets revealed, lives evaluated and relationships SLAUGHTERED after a small town reality cast deals with the murder of their lead.
28) A paranormal debunker is unknowingly invited to investigate a home by a ghost who is terrified by another evil entity lurking upstairs
29) Ex-CIA assassin unionizes an eclectic group of freelance hitmen to “negotiate” with their mob employers. Norma Rae meets RED
30) When the world’s biggest superhero agreed to grant a dying boy’s last wish, he didn’t count on the boy wishing for all his powers
31) When a suicide cult oddly resurrects in a small town, an ex-cop must uncover the truth, and find his own dead son has also risen
32) 9 strangers wake in a deserted Mexican town besieged by killing machines: they must discover why they’ve been brought there to survive
33) In 1903 North Carolina, the Wright bros attempt the first flight, but shenanigans arise when they fall in love with the same woman
34) The ghost of a legendary star gets tangled up in his own biopic when he needs the help of the heartthrob cast as him
35) Small town funeral home begrudgingly inherited is failing so the owner starts killing for business. Soon, his model goes national.
36) Can it get any worse than living next door to a serial killer? It can if you live on CRIMSON ROAD… the whole street is full of them.
37) Driven into exile by a goblin invasion, a mythological dwarf struggles to adapt to life as a pizzeria owner in upstate New York
38) When a lonely masochistic chubby chaser is abducted by two fat lesbian serial killers, it’s the best thing that ever happened to him.
39) Determined to find a date for his high school reunion, a loser hires a lifecoach who turns out to be his old school bully
40) An imprisoned Japanese-American doctor and a Caucasian nurse fall in love amid mounting tension inside a WWII internment camp
41) ORBIT – A team of astronauts orbiting the Earth find they may be the world’s only hope during a devastating alien attack.
42) When a billionaire sociopath is sent to death row, he offers $100 million cash to anyone that can successfully break him out
43) SPECIMEN – An amnesiac surgeon who wakes up chained to a steel slab must uncover why doctors are performing grisly operations on him.
44) While investigating a popular student’s unexplained disappearance, a high school psychologist realizes her stepson is a prime suspect.
45) After a series of murders, three survivors must help police piece together the previous night’s events. Rashomon meets Reunion
46) RE-ENACTMENT: A civil war expert and his son must fight to survive a reenactment organized by a dangerous southern cult
47) Douche Patrol: Two partners in the newly created Douche Patrol try to expose a plot to douchify the masses through a reality TV show
48) An ex-cop awakes in an alternative reality where normal people are locked up in mental institutions and society is runned by lunatics
49) After checking into a hotel to escape her abusive husband, a woman realizes guests in the next room are holding a young girl hostage.
50) 3 days after his wife and child die, a man discovers he can travel into the past, one day at a time, as long as he never falls asleep.
51) ActingCoach:a hi-school drama teacher becomes coach of the varsity basketball team, forcing his theater philosophies on the jocks
52) With his favorite fast-food sandwich facing its final week before it’s phased out forever, an obsessed man leads a protest to save it.
53) 3 men kill a friend for suspiciously losing their winning lotto ticket, only to later discover the missing ticket was in fact a loser
54) Head of time travel program learns world’ll be destroyed in 25 years and must stop the terrorist responsible: his 25-year-older self.
55) Desperate to divorce but cash-strapped, ornery newlyweds must put their feuding aside to sell their house, much less agree on a price.
56) AIRBORNE An outbreak of a lethal, unknown virus threatens the passengers and crew of a commercial airliner, forcing it to stay aloft
57) Futuristic re-imagining of SLEEPING BEAUTY. A young woman, cryogenically frozen for 100 years, is discovered in deep space.
58) A warrior sets out to track and kill the last giant – a lonely, anguished creature… and last link to an ancient, beautiful world.
59) The little known true story of how Matisse & Picasso went from being fierce rivals to BFFs.
60) To save his Mom’s home, an obnoxious 40 year old is given one chance: enter the teen TV quiz he had a meltdown on 25 years ago.
61) A group of last-minute shoppers trapped in a mall on Christmas Eve are stalked by a demon-possessed Santa. Horror/Comedy
62) A lowly museum curator races to find Pandora’s box before the resurrected Greek gods destroy the modern world.
63) A famous chef has a nervous breakdown and recovers while working at McDonald’s, where he rediscovers his love for food.
64) RomCom-Man loves woman whose dreams predict future, but future she sees isn’t with him. Can he convince her to choose love over fate?
65) A car thief finds a drug mule tied up in the trunk of his latest grab, then finds himself in the sights of the man who wants her back
66) Emilie can control time at will. When she’s hired to change a key event in a mathematical genius’s life, time begins to collapse
67) A lifelong bachelor accidentally proposes to his clingy girlfriend then tries to trick her into dumping him, but the tables soon turn
68) After forced to choose between her two children during a fire, Sarah fears she is now being haunted by the dead son she left behind.
69) A divorced dad adopts a puppy to fix his family but troubles arise when his ex’s new boyfriend joins his Puppy Kindergarten class
70) DEVIL’S DUE: A cave rescue team fights to escape a collapsing abandoned mine stalked by inhuman ghouls who can mimic victims.
71) After running away from home, an eight foot tall teenager stumbles upon a retirement town for sideshow performers.
72) When a U-Boat vanishes in the 1940s, it leads a team of American GIs to a terrifying secret trapped beneath the ice of Antarctica
73) A dwarf on the run from the mob impersonates the 7-year-old host of an irreverent children’s TV show.
74) After thwarting a terrorist hijacking, passengers debate what to do with the surviving bomber, who’s still set on finishing the job
75) ‘The Tradition’ 1867 After losing her father, a woman unwittingly takes a job as a maid at a countryhouse of aristocratic cannibals
76) After perfecting the ability to send data backwards in time, a brilliant quantum physicist must avert his future murder.
AND NOW – FOR THE ALTERNATES (YOUR PICKS!)
77) The Lipschitz Affair: When an art heist interrupts a wedding at the Guggenheim, everyone’s a suspect — even the bride and groom
78) The Shit List: With the help of his best friend, an underachiever seeks revenge on the people he blames for ruining his life #tp12
79) When a solar storm strands a lonesome geologist in the Canadian wild, she must journey through the dark to survive. “Borealis”
80) When fired by God, a hardworking guy decides to change path and ends up appointed CEO of Hell (, Inc).
81) A bridge appears over the Miss. river. A city official forms a blockade, but news that it travels you back in time starts a hysteria.
82) A chicken farmer watches in horror as his simple life is manipulated by a documentary filmmaker into a feature film.
83) Documentarian interviews Environmentalist Leader only to discover he’s a pawn of the Mob, disposing of bodies in newly created parks.
84) 22yrs old and tired of the pain and suffering of being a real boy,Pinocchio embarks on a journey to get turned back into a puppet.
85) A team of scientists lands on Mars to begin the terraformation process, but Mars fights back in RED MENACE.
86) A mundane father returns to his childhood imaginary world, only to find it has been corrupted by his life as an adult.
87) After a chance encounter, a young couple reunites a few months later only to find their love threatened by a dark secret.
88) It’s 1901. Terrorists have just taken over the White House. And only Theodore Roosevelt can stop them.
89) A high school senior discovers there is a conspiracy to stop him from having sex before graduation.
90) 3 girls spend their last summer before high school rebuilding a old fort and their crumbling friendship.
91) A bounty hunter has 30 days to catch his nemesis before the last spaceship departs, leaving him stranded and alone on a dying earth.
92) BLACKHATS: A hacker for hire finds himself in a deadly web of corporate espionage after being hired to steal the 1st sentient A.I.
93) Haunted by his daughter’s death, a reclusive CIA interrogator saves a suspect he’s ordered to torture; a young girl of alien origin.
94) Ecotourists stranded in a radioactive ghost town at Chernobyl face the threat of wolves, disfigured locals & their own social meltdown
95) 1022 BC. Family corruption and fierce enemy tribes plague the young warrior David as he plots his own rise and ascension to Israel’s throne.
96) Chris Kartje @chriskartje
When, on Xmas Eve, Santa lands on a frat house & eats all the pot cookies, itʼs up to the last sober Jew to be his designated driver.
97) A failed Elvis impersonator travels back in time to steal the life & career of the real Elvis.
98) New York 2029. The whole city is a walled in maximum security town for the wealthy. The world most dangerous criminal just dropped in.
99) Trapped in an increasingly nightmarish limbo, a dead boxer keeps returning to the ring, desperate for the win that’ll change his fate.
100) A rising young actress struggles to keep her sexuality a secret while falling for her female castmate & trying to succeed in Hollywood
As many of you may have heard, I took a year off from Los Angeles to move back to Chicago and reclaim my soul. But I’m moving back in August and as I started looking for places, I realized, like Liam Neeson in Taken, that I had a particular set of skills. I’d lived in LA for 8 years, bounced all over, been to every neighborhood at least once. If there was anyone who could help future LA screenwriting transplants find the right neighborhood to live in, it would be me! So even though this KIND Of article has been written before, it’s never been written Carson-style. So buckle up beanbags. Shit’s about to get square footage.
SANTA MONICA ($$) – Santa Monica is one of the best places to live in Los Angeles because it has one of the most active beaches in LA, one of the best shopping areas in 3rd Street Promenade, and it’s the most centralized beach town in the city. Now you will be taking most of your meetings in the Hollywood/Beverly Hills area, and Santa Monica is about a 30-40 minute drive from there, but it’s a small price to pay for being close to the beach, right!? The only real downside is that Santa Monica is the homeless capital of the United States. I don’t know if this is official or anything but it’s impossible to go anywhere without running into homeless people. And be careful, since LA’s homeless crowd is the best dressed in the nation, they often look like normal people. I once thought I’d made a new best friend only to have him screaming at me five minutes later that I was working for the government. Very embarrassing. Especially since I had just bought him ice cream.
BRENTWOOD ($$) – Brentwood is a really cool place situated just west of UCLA, about 20 minutes from the Santa Monica beach. It’s sectioned off from the university by the notorious parking lot known as the 405 freeway. Very clean and pretty. It has this nice (if humongous) central street with all these nice little shops around it. The crowd here tends to have a young, slightly upscale feel to it. I love going here every once in awhile but my impression of the community is that they’re a little stuck-up. Maybe I’ve just had bad experiences there but I didn’t quite gel with the people. However, if you consider talking to others overrated or you’re stuck-up yourself, Brentwood is perfect for you! (p.s. Conan lives in Brentwood)
VENICE ($$) – Venice is one of the places I’m looking at. It’s another beach town, just south of Santa Monica. It’s less pretentious, and the clientele reflect it. You’ll find a lot more tattoos and piercings here. Venice is also home to the famous Venice Boardwalk. And if you Google that, you’ll get a feel for what you can expect. There’s a community further inland in Venice that’s a little more sophisticated, yet maintains that sort of rebel edge. This is where I’d like to live, unless I have enough dough to live beachside or on Venice’s famous moat-river thing. That will depend on how many of you buy my book. I should start a slogan. “Books for beach!” Someone go trend that on Twitter right now! (I still don’t know what trending means btw). Keep in mind Venice is even FURTHER from the Hollywood/Beverly Hills area (45 min), so meeting transit times might become an issue.
PALMS/WEST L.A. ($) – (about 25 min from Beverly Hills) I lived in Palms for a while. It’s about a 20 minute drive directly east of Venice Beach, and since you’re much further off the water and south of high priced Santa Monica, the property is cheaper. Like a lot of places in LA, you can weave in and out of Palms and find some pretty nice buildings as well as some pretty not-so-nice ones. This is a great starter neighborhood though, because you’re right next to the two major highways in the city (the 405 and the 10), allowing you to get anywhere you want to go.
CULVER CITY ($$) – Culver City is located adjacent to West LA. Much of Culver City used to be the MGM lot, so it’s a really neat little place, tucked into the trees, with a lot of history to it. I like it because it has sort of a Midwest suburban vibe to it, how I grew up. And recently, within the last 10 years, the downtown area has really picked up. The Sony lot is right in the heart of Culver City, so you have lot of young hip people coming from over there. I really like Culver City but since I lived there already, I want to try a new area.
MARINA DEL RAY ($$) – Oh, the stories I could tell you about Marina Del Ray. My first girlfriend in Los Angeles lived on a boat in Marina Del Ray. Wasn’t the brightest bulb on the tree. Once, while in the boat, we started shaking, and she said, “Oh, here comes another earthquake.” I looked at her and I said, “Huh?” And she said, “Yeah, there’s a lot of earthquakes in Los Angeles. Sometimes like ten a day.” I said, “That was a boat passing us.” She kind of squinted at me and went, “Ohhhhh.” Anyway, Marina Del Ray is south of Venice and is sort of an unknown spot in Los Angeles. But it’s got some really cool beachfront property that’s reasonably priced. And it’s reallly quiet there. The downside is that you’re on the southern tip of what would be considered “reasonable driving distance” between everything in LA. It will take you an hour to get to Beverly Hills.
IN AND OUT ($4.99 – double double and a fry) – In and Out is the most popular burger joint in LA. It sells just burgers and fries, nothing else. Nothing is frozen and everything is made to order. It’s ridiculously delicious. Now while you’re not technically allowed to live inside an In and Out, you can sit inside for a few hours before an employee notices you. And even once you do get kicked out, they have tables outside that you can sleep under. There are about 50 of these stores throughout the city and the last time I checked, about half are available.
BEVERLY HILLS ($$$) – There’s no doubt that Beverly Hills is prime real estate. The houses are a lot bigger, the lawns are a lot wider. It even makes you ignore the insane amount of concrete that dominates the city (some streets in LA will take you 3 minutes to cross they’re so wide). Having said that, there are a few places on the fringe of Beverly Hills that aren’t too expensive. They’re pretty small, but you can have that coveted Beverly Hills zip code if you really want it. There’s also an area called “Beverly Hills Adjacent” that’s basically like the ghetto of Beverly Hills. However, the ghetto of Beverly Hills is still pretty nice! I lived there once. And what I found is when someone asks you where you live, you can just say “Beverly Hills ashsushaa,” and slur the last part. If you’re lucky, they’ll think you just said Beverly Hills. Oh, and Beverly Hills Adjacent is also the central hub for the Orthodox Jew community. So if you want to live here, you gotta grow a beard and get a top hat.
WESTWOOD ($$) – (25 min or less to Bev Hills) Westwood, or “Tehran East” as I like to call it, is a strange place. There are two types of people you’ll see here – college students from UCLA (where the university is located) and Persians, who make up 60% of Westwood’s population. I just made that number up but it’s reasonably accurate. Westwood is the first town east of Santa Monica, so it’s about a 25 minute drive to the beach, straight down Wilshire Boulevard, which is the biggest street that’s not a highway I’ve ever seen. The area itself is pretty nice. It has an okay downtown area whose highlights include large old-school movie theaters that are great for premiere parties. And if you’ve got a sweet tooth like yours truly, it has two GREAT places to get your fix – Diddy Reese (where the cookies are always fresh) and Stan’s Donuts (which has the most unique donuts in town. They actually bake a reeses peanut butter cup into one of their donuts. Need I say more?).
PACIFIC PALISADES ($$$) – (55 minutes to Beverly Hills) Pacific Palisades is one of the nicest areas in Los Angeles. It’s the main beach area north of Santa Monica. You gotta take this windy twisty road to get there so it’s a bit of a hassle to commute. But this place is like a prettier Beverly Hills (at least in my opinion). It’s hilly and vegetative (is that a word?) and has places on the beach. If you’re drowning in money and don’t need to drive a lot, this place is for you.
THE VALLEY ($) (BURBANK, STUDIO CITY, OTHER TOWNS) – In Los Angeles, you have these hills that split the city in two. On the south side of those hills, you have proper Los Angeles (which I’ve been talking about) and to the north, you have the valley. I’m just gonna come right out and say it. I hate the Valley. I worked there once (in Burbank) and I didn’t like anything about it. The heat gets trapped in the valley so it’s always hotter there. The smog also gets trapped in the valley, so you’re sucking down soot wherever you go. And there’s just this feeling of depression whenever you’re in the valley. Like it never made it out of the 70s. The huge plus side of living in the Valley, of course, is that it’s a lot cheaper. So it’s a good starter place. And if you absolutely have to live in the Valley, I’d recommend Studio City. I can’t say I know much about it but the few times I’ve been there, I liked it better than anywhere else in the valley, probably because it actually has current stores. Plus it’s right across the hill so should you wake up one day and realize you’re actually in the valley, you’re just a 15 minute car drive from freedom.
LOS FELIZ AND SILVER LAKE ($$) – (I think 35 min to Beverly Hills?) These are two places I’m thinking of moving to. The crowd here is young and hip and artsy, but, from what I’ve been told, not the pretentious kind of young and hip and artsy. The people are more genuine. It’s kind of a hilly interesting area with some unique houses that date back to a long time ago. It’s just northwest of downtown, so you’re not gonna like this place if you’re a beach person because it’s a good 45 minute drive to the beach, but I’m hoping that the energy and the people here will make up for that because I want to find some cool folks in my second stint in LA!
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – Up until I left, there was a huge push to make downtown Los Angeles trendy. And they have put a lot of cool lofts up, which is nice because you don’t really have many loft options in LA. But when I went down to look at these places, it was as dead as a door nail and you would walk one block and find yourself in a sketchy part of the city. Also, I’m 95 percent sure they hired actors to walk around with dogs in order to make it look like cool hip people lived there. It has been a year though, so maybe that’s changed.
HOLLYWOOD ($ – $$$) – Oh boy. I have mixed feelings about Hollywood. Here’s the thing. Los Angeles is so messed up and their layout so confusing, that I’m not even sure where Hollywood extends to. But the part of Hollywood I’m familiar with is dirty, grimy, and desperate. Because it’s one of the most popular town names in the world, it’s where all the clueless people live when they first arrive in LA. All these people care about is becoming famous. So there’s a dominant young narcissistic vibe on top of all the dirtiness. However, if Hollywood does extend as far west as I think it does, there are some places at the west end of Hollywood, off Sunset, that are nice. But that area might actually be “West Hollywood.” I don’t know. It’s confusing.
WEST HOLLYWOOD ($$) – West Hollywood is one of the cleanest nicest most centralized areas in LA and, like I said, where most people want to have meetings. So very little driving (except when you’re going to the studios, which are freaking spread out all over Los Angeles). I don’t like it though. It’s just packed so tight, I feel like a sardine whenever I’m there. But it’s right next to the famous Sunset Strip so if you’re a partier, this is a good area to live in. West Hollywood is also the central hub for the gay community in LA. Which may explain why it’s so clean. And last I checked (which admittedly was awhile ago) there were some rent control areas. So you might really luck out with a sweet affordable pad.
ORANGE COUNTY ($ or $$) – I actually really like Orange County, which is South East of Los Angeles and the home to Disneyland. There are a lot of nice little apartments and houses there, many of which are very affordable. And if you don’t like the pretentious LA scene, Orange County is a great alternative because many of the people there don’t even consider themselves Los Angelites. But if you expect to be taking meetings or coming to Los Angeles a lot, I’m gonna save you a lot of time and tell you to steer clear of Orange County. On an average day, it can take you an hour and 45 minutes to get to town. Or longer!
OTHER – Los Angeles also has a bunch of tucked in tiny areas that are really nice. For example, further inland from Marina del Rey is Mar Vista, which is like this secret little perfect community with all these awesome places that only a few people in LA know about. There’s Pasadena, which is really nice but a bit of a hike out east so I’d stay away from there unless you’re only planning to come to LA every couple of weeks. And if all else fails, Los Angeles is a great place to be homeless. The weather is always nice. The thrown away clothes are often designer-quality. And if you fall asleep on the sidewalk, you’ll wake up with seven full burritos from Baja Fresh laying by your side. Yes, homeless people in Los Angeles get fed well! Maybe next article I’ll highlight the best park benches in Los Angeles to sleep on. They have some great ones up at Griffith Park.
So guys, where should I live?? And where do you live now?? Pros? Cons?