Genre: Biopic
Premise: In the 80s, a rogue pilot becomes Ground Zero for the majority of the cocaine being smuggled into the US. The crazy thing? He’s being funded by the United States government.
About: This was a huge “spec” package early last year. Sold for 7 figures with Ron Howard attached to direct. It’s since nabbed Tom Cruise as the lead to play Barry Seale and Doug Liman (who teamed with Cruise on Edge of Tomorrow) to take over directing duties. The script also finished in the top 10 of the most recent Black List. I remember reading Spinelli’s breakthrough spec five years ago – a clever idea about a man who kidnapped criminals and auctioned them off to rival crime bosses. It didn’t put him on the top of any studio’s list, but it got the town’s attention. He kept writing and, five years later, nabbed one of the top 3 spec sales of the year. It just goes to show that you’re playing the long game here. Break through with a cool spec, don’t celebrate, put your nose back to the grindstone, keep writing, keep generating material, get more and more people familiar with your work. Then one day, that opportunity presents itself for a huge payday and the ultimate goal of being a produced writer.
Writer: Gary Spinelli.
Details: 128 pages – 10/26/13 draft


It’s a new world. A biopic world. After American Sniper, scripts like Mena, Jobs, and that McDonald’s movie are top priority for studios sick of working on the next actors-in-tights SFX fiasco (I mean seriously – is anyone really that excited to work on Wonder Woman?). Now I could go on my rant about why I’m not a huge fan of biopics, but the first half of Mena makes my argument for me.

There isn’t a single dramatized scene in the first 67 pages of this screenplay. The entire first half of the script is voice over and exposition. This doesn’t seem to bother some people and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. It’s nice to learn fun tidbits about how we stole weapons from Palestine, then sold them to secretly win wars in South America. But unless you give me a few scenes with some actual suspense mixed in, I’m going to have a hard time staying awake.

But hey, I was singing the same uninspired tune after reading American Sniper. And look how that turned out. This could be a very good omen for Ron Howard and Co.

Mena follows our adrenaline junkie hero, TWA pilot Barry Seale, through the 1980s, when he realizes he wants something more out of life. Being a commercial pilot pays well. But “light rain” on the runway is hardly enough excitement to get Barry up in the morning.

So when Barry gets an offer from the CIA to fly small planes through South America to track revolutionary movements there, he takes it. Being opportunistic, Barry then uses the contacts he makes in South America to smuggle cocaine back into the U.S.

Thinking he’s sly, Barry is shocked to find out that the CIA knew what he was doing all along. In fact, they orchestrated it! By having someone in tight with the cartels of South America, it allows them to influence the factions of government that run things down there. They also start using the money Barry makes from the drug running to purchase stolen weapons from the Palestinian war and sell those weapons to U.S. friendly forces down in South America.

Confused? I sure as hell was.

Anyway, a local cop in the tiny town Barry lives in starts to suspect that Barry is a shady character (could it be the giant mansion he’s built in the cash-strapped town?) and begins looking into his suspicious activities. To make matters even more complicated, the president at the time, Ronald Reagan, declares a war on drugs, seeking to destroy operations like Barry’s, despite the fact that he’s unofficially funding him!

The next thing Barry knows, the FBI is moving into town. The attorney general wants to know what’s up. And Barry’s supposedly untouchable operation is at risk of imploding, bringing down himself, the South American drug trade, and the CIA. You can bet your ass though, that when those organizations are threatened, the last person they’re going to be thinking of protecting is Barry Seale.

Clearly, this was written with the hopes of getting Scorsese to direct. It’s got his signature “Mythology Breakdown” opening, where he over-examines the intricacies of the subject matter via copious amounts of voice over.  Instead of Scorsese, though, we get Doug Liman.  Which, while no Scorsese, is still an upgrade over Ron Howard.  Ron Howard trying to pull off a Scorsese film is a little like Nicholas Sparks trying to write Fight Club.

Here’s my big issue with Mena, regardless of who’s making it. Barry’s external life is an interesting one. He’s robbing the very government he’s working for. He’s using his drug connections to make himself rich. He’s delivering weapons that are shaping the future of South America.

But go ahead and read back those accomplishments. They’re all EXTERNAL. It’s not Barry who’s interesting. It’s the situations he finds himself in that are interesting. Barry himself is a pretty basic dude. There’s no real conflict within him. He’s not battling any demons. His relationship with his family is practically an afterthought (at least in this draft). So what is Barry dealing with on an internal level?

At least with Chris Kyle in American Sniper, you could feel a battle raging inside of our protagonist. He’s been made a hero for killing people –in some cases children. And he struggles to come to terms with that. I guess I wanted more of a character study in Mena and not just two hours of “look at all this crazy shit that’s happened to me.” Especially because we’re not so much being SHOWN this crazy shit as we’re given an audio play-by-play of it.

Earlier I was talking about the lack of a dramatized scene until page 67. What did I mean by that? Well, the first 67 pages of Mena consist of Barry laying out the bullet points of how he smuggled drugs and ran weapons back and forth between the Americas. There wasn’t a single scene between characters that consisted of an unknown outcome.

Finally, on page 67, Barry is tasked with having to kill his brother-in-law and partner, who’s been captured by the police. After getting him out on bail, Barry plans to take his partner out to the desert and kill him. FINALLY! A SCENE WITH SOME FUCKING SUSPENSE! It was the first time I actually leaned in and was excited to see what happened next. For once, there wasn’t a Wikipedia voice over yapping away at me.

And that’s how I like my stories told. I like when writers set up uncertain situations that hook us into wanting to read more. I get that we have to set SOME story up first but, man, 67 pages is an awful long time to set up story.

There’s definitely something to Barry Seale. There are too many wacky components to his life to call this an ill-informed project. But we must remember that while the external stuff is always fun, it’s not what’s going to emotionally hook an audience. If you’re writing a biopic, you’re saying that first, and foremost, this is a character study. So give us a study of the character.  Not just the shit he gets into.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: A great way to write a suspenseful (dramatized) scene is to follow this formula:

a) Create a problem that results in a difficult choice for your main character.
b) Make the stakes of that problem as high as you can.
c) Have the outcome of this issue completely unknown.
d) Draw the scene out as long as you can.

This is why that scene on page 67 brought my full attention to the script for the first time.

a) Barry knows the only way to keep his step-brother quiet is to kill him.
b) If Barry doesn’t kill him, the CIA and the Columbians will come after Barry.
c) We sense Barry is going to kill his step-brother but we don’t know for sure.
d) This all plays out over a long car ride from the jail to the desert.

  • fragglewriter

    I heard of this guy a few months back. I think with biopics, if information is not available of the person’s internal life, I think it is fine to elaborate a little, to make the character interesting. I plan to write a biopic, hopeefuly next year, and even though I do not know that much about the protagonist’s private lfe, a glimpse of who this person is in their personal life will make their cause significant to the story.

  • brenkilco

    What kind of reasoning starts with American Sniper and concludes that America is hot for bio pics? It seems pretty clear that the unexpected success of Sniper is fueled largely by a desire on the part of heartland audiences to find some measure of reassuring heroism amid an ill advised, morally dubious and largely unsuccessful military adventure. So running off and paying a million plus for a tale of universal corruption, where everybody from the president on down is operating in moral twilight and where the hypocrisies and mixed motives are so thick that even the Wiki bio of this guy can’t sort them all out seems a little bit crazy. It appears Seal’s activities are best thought of as the forerunners or offshoots of Iran Contra. The only imperative was ridding Nicaragua of the dread Sandanistas and little things like Coke and illegal arms could be safely ignored, at least until they couldn’t.

    Another odd thing. This story has been adapted twice before. Apparently Dennis Hopper starred in a made for cable movie thirty years ago and there was a latin American mini-series back in 2013. I’d never heard of either so why the feeding frenzy? Strange business.

    • Poe_Serling

      “Another odd thing. This story has been adapted twice before. Apparently Dennis Hopper starred in a made for cable movie thirty years ago and there was a latin American mini-series back in 2013. I’d never heard of either so why the feeding frenzy? Strange business.”

      I think the film role of Barry Seal is classic actor bait. Just read an article where Tom Cruise is going all out to play him, including gaining a bunch of weight for the part.

      I guess Seal weighed close to 300 lbs. in real life.

      • klmn

        I’m surprised that this is even being made. The story of drug smuggling into Mena, Ark. is certainly interesting but the real art in that script is in what is not included.

        When that movie is released it will draw attention to some details that might be embarrassing to major political figures who are still active.

        • S_P_1

          I don’t think the people involved realize how SIGNIFICANT this is. It means the U.S government is complicit and a willing accomplice in the commission of a crime.

          It also means the U.S government subverted the sovereignty of a foreign nation.

          • klmn

            It also means the U.S government subverted the sovereignty of a foreign nation.

            Of course the government has been doing that quite a bit in recent years with its policy of regime change in several Mid East countries.

          • walker

            I am shocked. Shocked I tell you. Have Clade Rains round up the usual suspects.

          • walker

            Oh Jesus Christ “Claude Rains”. Spelling is usually one of the few things I can do.

          • S_P_1

            I’ve seen maybe 3 movies he made. Can you be more specific?

          • Midnight Luck

            Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
            Phantom of the Opera (1943)
            The Wolfman (1941)
            The Invisible Man (1933)

          • S_P_1

            Also I was more so responding to the possibility of class-action litigation.

            Imagine if a well known celebrity such as Alicia Keys born under the medical classification as a crack-baby, raised public awareness of the U.S government involvement in cocaine distribution.

            I’m sure your sarcastic response referencing a movie I haven’t seen was for shits and giggles.

            But I personally know multiple individuals that are dead, due to selling or using cocaine specifically crack.

            So I have more of a vested interest in this movie. Similar to a Jewish person watching Schindler’s List.

          • brenkilco

            The movie is Casablanca, which if you haven’t seen you should immediately. Bogart runs a stylish casino in the back room of his cafe where cynical police chief Claude Rains is allowed to win at roulette. When the Gestapo order Rains to find a pretext for shutting down the club he announces that he is shocked to find gambling going on there. Hence the reference is shorthand for phony, trumped up or undeserved moral outrage. Walker was making reference to the fact that American efforts to prop up or overthrow foreign governments, or otherwise engage in what many would consider criminal conduct has a very long history and the activities depicted in this script while reprehensible are comparitivly speaking no big deal

          • S_P_1

            Thank you for clearing that up. I’ve seen Casablanca once on Turner Classics. But your description brings that scene to mind clearly.

            The U.S government foreign and domestic policy may be institutionalized, but it doesn’t mean I’m callused to governmental abuses of power.

          • walker

            Hey S_P_1, I was away from my desk. Yes I was referring to two scenes in Casablanca where Claude Rains’ disingenuous delivery of the famous lines “I’m shocked” and “Round up the usual suspects” so perfectly conveys the subtext that they have both become enshrined in popular culture. As a matter of fact it is the source of the title of the well-regarded 1995 film The Usual Suspects. And brenkilco is correct to conclude that I was using those references as an oblique way of saying that the US has long and unfortunate history of engaging in what you call “governmental abuses of power” and even blatantly illegal activities. Sadly the carnival of criminality that took place over the course of many years at Mena, Arkansas and the truly tragic story of Gary Webb, mentioned elsewhere in this thread, actually pale in comparison to many of these criminal activities, both before and since. Finally I certainly did not mean to diminish the experiences of any innocent victims of these illegal policies at home or abroad. But I must tell you that the US government is immune from most lawsuits, including all class-action lawsuits, under the universally recognized legal principal of sovereign immunity.

          • Midnight Luck

            your winnings sir.

          • brenkilco

            Yeah, but just one.

        • Ambrose*

          Arkansas? Drugs?
          Bill Clinton definitely did not inhale.

      • Midnight Luck

        or everyone is in love with LEN GROSSMAN from TROPIC THUNDER and want to make another movie about him. (I’ve heard they actually are interested in doing that, turning his character into a full on flick, fat suit and all.)

    • Pooh Bear

      Probably need to draw some more comparisons to the box office success or lack there of of movies like The Theory of Everything, Selma (maybe), The Imitation Game, etc. in order to make that assumption.

    • mulesandmud

      Part of being a pro is learning to use the fuzzy logic of Hollywood to our advantage.

      Right now, dozens of war scripts and biopics are being given a new lease on life by AMERICAN SNIPER’s big weekends. With luck, some of them may get to the finish line. A few may even be good.

      Right now in Hollywood, producers and execs are less interested in parsing out why SNIPER won big than in spinning that win into a justification for their own next project. It’s absurd, sure, but none of us picked this game because it makes sense, did we?

      Filmmakers, and writers especially, need to seize the opportunity just like everyone else. The industry is squirming in its own straitjacket, looking for excuses to break out. It’s up to us to know which excuses execs are using at any given moment, however ridiculous they may be, and make that pretzel logic work for us.

      Some of us may disagree with the politics of SNIPER’S content, but almost all of us should be happy about the politics of its success. Nowadays, just about any project that’s not a franchise is a good thing for the film world.

      • brenkilco

        As long as seizing the opportunity doesn’t mean having to write a script about a teenager with terminal cancer

        • filmklassik

          Taking aliens, wizards & spandex off the table for a moment (and would that they could be brushed aside permanently!) biopics have been the leading “boutique fashion” in Hollywood for 6 or 7 years now… a trend that is all-the-more disturbing since they crowd out other forms of non-tentpole storytelling. And all I want is a return of the sophisticated, mid-budget genre flick. Is that too much to ask?

          Apparently so.

          • brenkilco

            An unfussy, mid budget genre movie is what Gone Girl ought to have been. Don’t know what it actually cost. Once upon a time there were sharp directors who could have knocked it out in a month; a lean, mean ninety minute thriller. Nowadays, of course, this sort of material needs some kind of pop cult pedigree just to get made and winds up bloated and weighted down with faux sociology. Too bad.

            But, hey, just saw a report that Harper Lee is releasing a second novel this summer. So never say never.

          • filmklassik

            “Harper Lee is releasing a second novel this summer.”


            To paraphrase the redoubtable Miss Emily Dickinson, “Forgive me while I go bleach my bottom. I just shit myself.”*

            *Loosely paraphrased.

      • walker

        Wait a second, is it fuzzy logic or pretzel logic? Because if it’s pretzel logic then I fear the monkey in your soul.

        • mulesandmud

          Fuzzy pretzel logic. It’s a thing.

          Don’t take my word for it, though – any major dude will tell you.

          • Ambrose*

            Only when Black Friday comes.

          • Ambrose*

            Don’t believe it. Katy lied.

    • Somersby

      Last year’s “Kill the Messenger” (with Jeremy Renner) covered it from a different angle. Gary Webb, an American investigative reporter, wrote a series of articles documenting the CIA’s knowledge of large cocaine shipments into the United States by the Contras.

      Unfortunately for Mr. Webb, the agency managed to smear his credibility and ultimately ruin his career. He committed suicide in 2004 with “multiple gunshot wounds” to the head.

      …The CIA is nothing if not subtle.

      • walker

        The Gary Webb story is very sad. Major US newspapers, notably the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, participated in a prolonged campaign to smear him and discredit his reporting. When official investigations later corroborated his assertions those papers downplayed the reports.

      • Midnight Luck

        That was an interesting and really great movie.

      • Ambrose*

        Along the same lines as Gary Webb’s suicide is journalist Danny Casolaro’s “suicide” while investigating the Inslaw affair and “the Octopus”, among other things.

  • klmn

    When are we going to get the details of the SS 250?

    From the Jan 6 newsletter, “For those of you desperate for information about The Scriptshadow 250,
    fear not! While an official Scriptshadow 250 announcement hasn’t been
    made on the site, I can confirm that June 1st is the deadline to get
    your scripts in. You can start sending submissions in on February 1st…”

  • S_P_1

    Umm I would like to read his criminal kidnapping script. Thank you in advance.

    s_price_1 AT hotmail DOT com

  • Eddie Panta

    ANSWER: Me… I am excited for Wonder Woman.

  • Midnight Luck

    It’s called BLOW.
    Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, written by Dave McKenna (Bruce Porter (book)), Directed by Ted Demme (2001).
    This movie followed the same or similar story.

    An extremely well told story, interesting, full of intrigue. Just an awesome movie.

    I guess, same but different rides again.

    Hollywood and the short memory.

    • Eddie Panta

      You beat me to it.

      • Midnight Luck

        Not a race, but similar minds…

    • S_P_1

      The difference is BLOW wasn’t billed as a biopic. Also going by the movie George Jung didn’t meet the C.I.A. I didn’t read the book so I don’t know if he did or not.

    • Pooh Bear

      I want to see the movie within the movie: Entourage’s Medellin. Complete with actors pretending to be actors pretending to be characters (how avant garde). Shot with a very self aware art-house pretension and homages to Scarface.

    • ABHews

      Ah yes, BLOW. Great movie for a multitude of reasons. Reason number one, showing the world there’s more to Paul Ruben then just a hilariously creepy comedian.

      Reason number two, everything else.

      • Midnight Luck

        I really liked Ted Demme’s Directing. Tragic he died so young.

        • LV426

          Yep. Blow was a solid flick, although very Scorsese in a lot of ways.

      • Midnight Luck

        I was never a fan of Paul Ruben’s over the top Pee Wee Herman schtick. Seeing him in a regular role like he had in Blow, I actually enjoyed him and his performance quite a lot.
        Nice to see he could hold his own in a drama.

        • walker

          Actually he got into a little bit of trouble for holding his own.

          • Midnight Luck


  • Eddie Panta

    I believe it’s Barry Seal, not Seale.

    Cocaine Cowboys was the best doc/ film I’ve seen on the drug smuggling topic.
    It proves that life is stranger than fiction. Cocaine Cowboys was so much more informative and entertaining than, let’s say a film like BLOW with Johnny Depp that was mired in every cliche possible, including the money counter montage.

    • S_P_1

      The rise and fall of Griselda Blanco is what interested me the most. Basically all the Colombian drug lords were peasants growing up in abject poverty.

  • mulesandmud

    OT: Since we’re talking about drugs, any Philip K. Dick fans in the house?

    Amazon has been doing its pilot season for a few weeks now, and one of the better-reviewed contenders is THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, about an alternate history where America lost World War II and has been divided up by Germany and Japan. The MAN in the title isn’t the main character (the book doesn’t really have one of those), but rather a reclusive figure who has written a strange novel about a different version of history where the Axis actually lost…

    Anyway, it’s the only Amazon pilot I’ve watched. I didn’t love it, but thought it made a few interesting choice in adapting a difficult novel. Worth a glance, especially if you know the source material.

    • Sebastian Cornet

      I also checked it out. Can’t say I fell in love with the characters, or that the stakes were riveting, but by Jove, the worldbuilding is impeccable. That first glimpse of Frisco swarming with Japanese motifs took my breath away. I’m pretty sure this pilot will get picked. I’m hoping the characters get better, because the world they rendered so beautifully here deserves it.

  • Sebastian Cornet

    Carson makes a good point about emotional engagement , but we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of fantastic external events, either. Those are what made The Wolf in Wall Street so fascinating to watch, and I think the same goes for Goodfellas. I don’t think Henry Hill as a character was more interesting than the stuff that happened to him (I certainly don’t think he was more compelling than Jimmy or Tommy), but I’d be damned if I wasn’t tagging along for that ride.

    Now, I haven’t read Mena, so maybe that story wasn’t as dynamic as the examples I mentioned. Maybe anyone else can pitch in?

    • Magga

      “As far back as I remember I always wanted to be a gangster”. The establishing line of the film, and it tells me I’ve never seen a character with this attitude before. Goodfellas also has the very best supporting character in any movie ever in Tommy IMO, and the psychology behind Karen’s attraction to Henry makes her very interesting. Much of Henry’s character comes from his voice, as in how he tells the story, and the way he, and the movie, digress from what would be the main point of the different story sections to others, like when the story of his prison sentence is what they ate, how they cooked it, how they got it into prison, how they made the money to pay off the guards, or when his last day of freedom is pretty much all about the stress of his daily chores and how to stir the tomato sauce. Or better yet, how the moment that would normally be of regret and redemption is all about how he’s pissed because he has to wait in line and gets noodles delivered to his door instead of pasta. That character has a unique point of view, thought process and storytelling prowess.

  • Linkthis83

    “And that’s how I like my stories told. I like when writers set up uncertain situations that hook us into wanting to read more. I get that we have to set SOME story up first but, man, 67 pages is an awful long time to set up story.”

    The first question I felt like asking is: What story is actually being told? This reads more like the story of HOW these events came to be told via the most interesting thread that spans all of it. And it is interesting.

    Movies I’ve watched that fall under this similar style of storytelling: American Sniper, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, Foxcatcher, Lone Survivor. The differences between these is that some cover a specific goal, or surviving a specific event, or a vast amount of time covering something overall. I find the catchalls harder to get invested in. Especially when there’s no definitive statement of what we are heading for (AS, TTOE, F, and even MENA).

    What worked for me in the majority of these pages, especially the first 40, is the information. While we can say this story is about Barry Seal, it’s more about the events that lead to cocaine being mass delivered to the U.S., funded by the U.S. Those are fascinating details. Also, HOW Barry was able to do this was also fascinating (especially the bit about using his plane to fly over the gulf and to fly it in a manner that made it appear like it was one of the oil rig helicopters). We’re finally getting some very important and revealing details regarding the origins of cocaine in America. I’m not about to address the political aspects of this because this is not the website for it, nor am I informed enough to do so. (when I first started trying to understand the our issues with Iraq and Saddam, I was surprised to learn that we had previously support, funded, and aided Saddam – so now learning details about America’s role in events is no longer surprising)

    (And after seeing THE IMITATION GAME recently, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if all major events in the world weren’t decided by governments using mathematicians. In fact, I’m now thinking God is a mathematician – or he took Alan Turing in order to operate his creations more effectively.)

    Anyway, back on topic, MENA is a highlight reel story using Barry Seal as the thread. So I get why we aren’t talking about how complex his character is or his INTERNAL issues. And while there are dramatic moments, there is so much to cover that there’s really no time for drama. Or to dwell on moments. I felt the scene with the brother-in-law ended way too quickly (the dramatic portion of will he or won’t he).

    On a lighter note, I don’t think anybody but Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell could be the guy to play Barry Seal. He’s the only guy I know that could take aerial photography while flying inverted. I just hope he asked to buzz the tower in Columbia…

    “Negativo, Ghostrider , el patrón está llena.”

    It also sucks that he got gunned down at the Twin Pines Mall – Doc Brown style.

  • Nicholas J

    Creative exercise for the day:

    Carson’s seemingly endless disdain for Ron Howard exists because _____________________________________________.

    • wlubake

      …Carson’s father’s big acting break was to play Chuck Cunningham.

      • wlubake

        Damn. Looked up who played Chuck, and he actually went on to have a pretty decent career. On to the next theory.

    • Nicholas J

      he spent 12 years in a coma at a special care facility, completely aware of his surroundings but unable to tell anyone, and the only thing on TV was the episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Opie starts a garage band.

    • Nicholas J

      as a young kid and leader of a Willow fan club, he once wrote a letter to Ron, asking him to make an appearance at the club’s upcoming Willow Watching Wednesday event to do a filmmaking Q&A, but that dream was destroyed when a prompt reply came two weeks later that simply said “Get a life, kid.”

      • LV426

        Now that Disney owns Lucasfilm, I want my Willow sequel(s). Val Kilmer as a plump king. Elora Danan all grown up (get a tough blond Jennifer Lawrence type actress) and getting into all sorts of mischief as a wild sorceress type. Ron Howard’s daughter Bryce could be another daughter to fat Kilmer and Queen Sorsha (even has the red hair). Make the Bryce Dallas Howard character the voice of reason while wild child Elora Danan is off on her adventures in the wilderness.

        And of course, Warwick Davis would return as Willow, getting caught up in all the crazy warring and politics of the larger world.

        We’d need a new villain and villainess, plus more scary creatures, dragons, etc. Those trolls and devil-rat war dogs scared me as a wee lad seeing Willow on the big screen.

        Now that The Hobbit trilogy is done, it’s the perfect time for this.

    • wlubake

      he is a member of the Illuminati who, because he favors movies over books, blames Ron Howard, not Dan Brown, for exposing all of the group’s secrets.

    • Poe_Serling

      For the first five seasons of The Andy Griffith Show, Opie Taylor and his dad had the audacity during the opening credits to stroll right across Carson’s TV screen in glorious black-and-white.

      And we are all aware of Carson’s legendary aversion to black-and-white films/TV programming in general.

    • Nicholas J

      one time Carson was behind him in line at In-N-Out Burger and Ron took a slightly unreasonable amount of time to order.

  • IgorWasTaken

    So where are all the FLASHBACK haters?

    This entire movie, all but 5 pages, is a flashback.

  • IgorWasTaken

    I think structuring this as a flashback – flashing back from the interview/confession/tape-recorder that appears on page 1 – has a significant upside here.

    It tells the reader: This story (whatever it is about, no matter how slowly it develops) is worthy of someone wanting to record it. It makes the long setup, which is otherwise not so suspenseful on its own, feel suspenseful.

    • magrittesapple

      This. Fantastic observation.

  • SecretAgentMan

    Drug War?

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    Now, this will make a great script-to-screen review, because, Carson, if Mena wasn’t for you, then you’re probably missing something. Hell, it might spawn a self-exploration article too. A literary hara-kiri, of sorts. :)

  • Eddie Panta

    Bio pics like The Right Stuff and Chariots of Fire are my favorite.

    At the time, there was little star power to dim down the subject matter.

    In the Right Stuff, there were single scenes, mere moments that gave us a window into the characters lives outside of the spaceships, outside the plot. Sometimes, that’s all that is necessary. We shouldn’t milk the scene to point where the camera is no longer a tool to tell the story, but merely a recorder. A cinematographer can capture moments that in an instant are become memorable, singular to the character, and more poignant than forced conflict.

    Escalating conflict does work, so do steroids, but too often the writer becomes present in these scenes. Greater conflict can erase previous conflict, resulting in a movie you only want to watch once, for the answers.

    Little Tommy Cruise is going to turn each and every
    scene of this BIO PIC into how he is saves the day, despite all odds.
    He don’t need no internal conflict.

    There called MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, which by design was to be an ensemble cast, like the RIght Stuff, or a story like A-Team. Little Tommie Cruise had the entire crew killed off in the first 5mins. And bingo. Tommie Cruise is the last man standing, our hero takes center stag

    So Opie makes more traditional school kid friendly Bio pics, there’s nothing wrong with that, they
    should exist.

  • S_P_1
  • shewrites

    Totally OT for which I apologize: I am writing a period comedy and would love to get my hands on “United States of Fuckin’ Awesome”. Thanks! my mail: O dot hodge at outlook dot com

  • fragglewriter

    Interesting article titled “There’s More to Winning an Oscar Than Meets the Eye” by the New York Times. It gives an overview of the money promoting the Oscars and the Golden Globes. The ending argument is that revenue wise, the Golden Globes is the preferred target.

    In 2013, the data analyst Edmund Helmer put the relative box-office value of an Academy Award win at $3 million — often less than half of what a studio spends in its Oscar promotion. A Golden Globe win, by contrast, was worth $14.2 million to a prospective film.

    The below is the article’s closing paragraph:

    “How many films are on the tip of people’s memories for two months? Very, very
    few,” he said. “Whereas the Globes are happening soon after those films have to
    be out. If a film wins a Globe, you can go see it the next day. With the Oscars,
    when something wins, everyone’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that film from last

  • Breezy

    Can some kind person kindly send me the Death Wish script by Joe Carnahan?
    rumandwords at hotmail
    Much appreciated.

    • Midnight Luck


      • Breezy

        Thanks, girl!

  • Ken

    I didn’t like CASINO because the entire film was voice over and exposition.

  • jw

    Am I the only one who thinks that Carson MUST provide an explanation (now and moving forward) as to how something made it to one of the most successful producer / directors and one of the most bankable international actors in Hollywood, and sold for 7 figures, if it wasn’t ready for primetime? Maybe moving forward we do a category called WHY THIS SOLD:

    • LV426

      I wager this will get reworked to add more suspense to the first half of the story.

      Maybe it sold because Tom Cruise or Ron Howard found it interesting, then went to the studio with it? Some of the development execs at a studio might have issues with the exposition heavy first two acts, but they got Tom Cruise, Doug Liman, and Ron Howard on board. I imagine it’s hard to say no to something like this (which is a marketable concept) with those kinds of actor/director attachments.

      • Gregory Mandarano

        Scripts change. A great script can nab a sale, but so can a marketable concept and interesting project with the right attachments, just like LV said.

  • davejc

    a) Barry knows the only way to keep his step-brother quiet is to kill him.
    b) If Barry doesn’t kill him, the CIA and the Columbians will come after Barry.
    c) We sense Barry is going to kill his step-brother but we don’t know for sure.
    d) This all plays out over a long car ride from the jail to the desert.

    On The Waterfront

    • walker

      Great observation Dave.

  • Montana Gillis

    Life’s new survival mantra “Don’t be the Brother in Law” has now replaced the long standing…

  • Gman

    Hmm, I never made it to page 67, which bugs me as I found the premise fascinating and the writing above par. I don’t know, I guess it felt like a travelogue through time without a lot of dramatic thrust, which goes to Carson’s point.

  • klmn
  • andyjaxfl

    If I absolutely have to see a dramatization of the import of cocaine into the United States, make mine COCAINE COWBOYS. I loved the documentary and I think there’s more than enough there to make a compelling movie.

  • klmn

    OT. The History Channel is showing some nonfiction programs on Snipers tonight. Check it out if you’re interested.

  • Marija ZombiGirl

    Sent :)

  • filmklassik

    Which begs the question of how, exactly, one goes about “writing with Hollywood in mind.”

    Leaving aside for a moment the fact that “Hollywood” is hardly a monolithic entity (I picture some imposing steel edifice on Sunset and Doheny with “Hollywood Inc.” emblazoned over the front door) and that producers and studio execs often disagree about scripts and properties… and ignoring the fact that today’s hot trend is tomorrow’s cold leftovers…

    How exactly does one “write with Hollywood in mind”?

  • Malibo Jackk

    Hollywood needs material.
    The fact that his story is real suggests that the story is already there.
    The fact that the story is grand in scale (a big story) is a big plus.
    The fact that an actor would love to play such a dynamic character — another plus.
    (Did someone already mention The Wolf of Wall Street?)

    Haven’t seen the script so I can’t judge the quality of the writing.
    Most likely it’s a script that will be written and written.