Genre: Crime/Drama
Premise: When a young prostitute double-crosses some dangerous gangsters, she must team up with a mysterious seizure-ridden ex-KGB agent to escape them.
About: This is a writer-director project from Academy Award winner Stephen Gaghan (Syriana, Traffic) that he’s been trying to put together for a few years now. It’s had everyone attached from Robert De Niro to Chris Hemsworth. There was a time when Gaghan was the hottest writer in town. From 2000-2005, he was THE screenwriter to go to. Superstardom is impossible to maintain forever, though, and more recently Gaghan has been making money doctoring scripts (After Earth was one of the more recent projects he worked on). Gaghan has also jumped on the TV gravy train and has a new series on Fox premiering this year with Rainn Wilson (The Office) called Backstrom.
Writer: Stephen Gaghan
Details: 119 pages

Chris Hemsworth

Poor Crime-Dramas. They don’t fall into the new studio paradigm. Think about it. When was the last big-budget high-grossing crime-drama? What happened to movies like Heat? My guess is that the genre is too concept-light. You don’t have that big hook that gets butts in seats. These movies are more execution-dependent, which is the equivalent of saying to a studio, “I want to shoot my movie in black and white.”

I think the last big Crime-Drama was The Town, but that was sort of a magic act by Ben Affleck, as he marketed it as a heist movie, a much more marketable genre than Crime-Drama. Studios favor the “kissing cousins” of Crime-Drama, lovingly known as the “Crime-Thriller.” Stuff like Taken and The Equalizer – stuff that moves fast.

This is why I stress the “U” in GSU so much. Movies powered by urgency – the need to get the job done immediately – thrill audiences more. On the flip side, you don’t get the intelligence of a crime drama, the plot machinations that make you work harder for the answers, which can be more rewarding in the long run.

All of this, I’m guessing, is why The Candy Store has struggled to find financing. But it should be noted that everything comes back in Hollywood. If someone would’ve told me that the religious blockbuster would make a comeback three years ago, I would’ve told them to go part the Red Sea. So who knows, maybe The Candy Store will be the return of crime cinema.

Suki is a beautiful teenage Estonian girl who’s been trafficked across seas to Brooklyn, New York, where an opportunistic pimp named Chiddybang employs her. When Suki’s about to be killed for undercutting Chiddybang, some Transnistrians (I guess this is a real place) buy her away just in time.

It turns out that one of Suki’s clients is the president of one of the biggest Credit Unions in America. This Union fucked over the Transnistrians in a deal, and they want revenge. Using Suki’s access to the president, her job is to kill him, for which she’ll get her freedom.

Suki, not trusting that she’s going to walk out of this alive, seduces her handler, kills him, and makes a run for it. When the Transnistrians catch up to her, she’s saved by Swann, a former Russian agent who suffered a crippling brain injury leaving him seizure-ridden.

The two go on the run together, and the Transnistrians put together their A-team to find and kill them both. As Swann and Suki fall in love, he has to make a tough decision. Does he stay with Suki even though he knows it increases their chances of getting caught? Or send her away, giving her a chance to survive. Whichever route he takes will change his life forever.

The Candy Store is complex. The above summary is way streamlined. There are also entire flashbacks of characters in Transnistria. There’s a heroin-laced-with-Chernobyl-radiation subplot. There’s a storyline with a cowardly cop named Davis who loses his partner in a traffic-stop. And there’s some time manipulation too.

This weekend was a class in complex storytelling, as I read another screenplay, this one amateur, that was also dense and complicated. Here’s what I learned. Overly complex plots are the triple-axle routines of the screenwriting world. They’re extremely difficult to nail. If you’re going to go down this road, you have about ten pages to earn the benefit of the doubt. If you fail at earning this trust, we pull away the second things get confusing.

Gaghan earns the benefit of the doubt with a sophisticated persentation. There isn’t a single formatting or style issue in his script (for example, sometimes a writer will introduce a character without capitalizing their name – suicide in a complex script). The writing itself (phrasing, sentence structure, vocabulary) is strong.  He knows to put heavy emphasis on orienting the reader (since it’s easy to get lost in complex stories). And characters all have strong memorable introductions.

For example, when Davis (the cop whose partner is taken) is introduced, Gaghan repeatedly hits on the fact that Davis is too cautious. He’s not brave enough. A lesser screenwriter introducing a cop will tell us nothing distinguishing about him. So we’ll never feel like we know the guy. When you’re writing a complex script with lots of characters, it’s essential that we remember all those characters.  Strong distinguishing introductions are the key to that.

With that said, I can see why this is a hard sell. Audiences like puzzles. But The Candy Store is a 3-D puzzle. At one point we’re connecting two storylines from two different time periods in a very complex way.

There was this geeky kid in my high school who would always be on the computers day in and day out. And one day I asked him what he was working on. He told me he was developing a program of all the possible ways a human being could juggle 14 objects. At times, The Candy Store felt like it was written for that guy.

With that said, I was a big admirer of Gaghan’s scene-writing. I noticed ample use of some staple Scriptshadow techniques, such as the scene-agitator! When Davis approaches the stopped Transnistrian car, he commands his partner, Mahoney, to stay 30 degrees behind the rear-right wheel while he questions the driver.

As the driver starts giving Davis trouble, Mahoney keeps creeping up to look inside the back window. So Davis keeps having to turn and say, “Behind the wheel, Mahoney!” A lesser writer would’ve written this scene straight up, with Davis just talking to the driver. Adding the scene agitator amped up the tension another notch.

Also, from a technical standpoint, you can tell why this guy used to be the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood. He really knows how to write. Ironically, that’s hurt him as of late. Hollywood is less and less interested in making these kinds of thoughtful movies, so you could argue that Gaghan is marginalized by his talent.

It reminds me of a couple of lines uttered by Hollywood execs. One famously said to a writer who turned in a draft: “Can you make it less… smart?” And then another exec warned the producer of The Princess Bride while he was pitching the project, “You gotta watch out for those William Goldman scripts. He’ll trick you with good writing.” As shocking as those quotes are, I can kind of understand them. The average moviegoer is not a Harvard grad. The average moviegoer doesn’t write juggling programs. The 1 percenters may love your movie. But there’s only 1 percent of them. What are you doing for the other 99?

Since we need balance in the marketplace, I hope The Candy Store gets made. It’s a solid script. But it’s definitely one that requires every ounce of your concentration.

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

What I learned: ”CUT TO” – CUT TO is one of those screenwriting phrases that isn’t used much anymore. If you write one scene and then write another scene, “cutting to” that other scene is assumed. However, the CUT TO can still come in handy when you’re writing scripts like The Candy Store, which follow multiple storylines. If you’re in a Brooklyn storyline for 15 pages, and then you need to cut to a completely separate storyline in Russia for 15 pages, a CUT TO can help the reader realize that a bigger jump is taking place. Without it, the jump can seem jarring. Like, “Whoa, how the hell did we end up in Russia so quickly?” Gaghan uses this to great effect in The Candy Store.

  • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

    I come from watching an episode of The Wire (no, not the new HD version, I need a better computer for that. I accept donations). This was the perfect article to sober me up. As much as I love The Wire and its byzantine plot which I somehow manage to keep straight, I have to remember that for all its smarts, the vast majority of the people couldn’t get into it.

    So is that a cry to give up on intelligent stuff? No. It”s just a remind we need to strike balances. Make things entertaining and emotional first and foremost. Easier said than done, but hey, a lesson is a lesson.

    And seriously, I’m accepting donations for that new computer.

    • Brainiac138

      It is truly sad that The Wire did nothing but succeed in telling its story and it still had trouble finding and keeping an audience. It still lasted 5 seasons, which is still pretty remarkable.

      • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

        I know. Hats off to HBO, because they really had no financial reason to bring back the show. It kept coming back thanks to David Simon’s impassioned pleas and the brass loving the critical acclaim it got. I’m not sure how well it did financially. I’m sure the DVDs always sold, I just don’t know how many units they moved.

        Either way, I am alwasys grateful to HBO for giving it a chance. And to fans of Deadwood, Rome, and Carnivale who complain about HBO axing those shows…well, HBO proved with The Wire that it did have the will. But your show had to be really, really good and not too expensive to shoot.

  • Bob Bradley
    • hackofalltrade

      Love to read it as well. jdhelm{at}me{dot}com

  • brenkilco

    These movies are more execution-dependent, which is the equivalent of saying to a studio, “I want to shoot my movie in black and white.”

    Translation. In order to succeed this movie will actually have to be good. And who wants to take that kind of risk?

    • http://simplyscripts.com/ Steex

      I don’t think it’s that they have to be “good”. Execution-dependent movies need to excel in more categories than a one with a strong concept.
      If The Candy Store were to get made, since it lacks a strong hook or great concept to fall back on, it can’t rely ONLY on strong writing. It would also need strong acting, cinematography, etc.
      I know, being a Hollywood movie, you would assume that every movie should be “good” in these categories, but it’s just not true.
      The sad truth is, if you can’t picture the movie poster, good luck getting a decent budget.

  • brenkilco

    This 99% line is probably valid in terms of how movie executives think. But I’m going to stick up for the audience. A million years ago in the 1940’s when the the population of the U.S. was a lot less sophisticated, less well educated and infinitely less plugged in than it is today Hollywood routinely produced smart, complex crime dramas. And they were often big hits: The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity, Murder My Sweet, Laura, The Big Clock, Criss Cross. Viewers didn’t seem to have trouble keeping up.

    There’s a difference between the audience’s ability to keep up and it’s willingness to keep up. Even the most complex plots need to be clean and accountable. They have to add up and they have to come together. Too often when we refer to a complex plot we’re talking about stories that don’t twist but just knot, leaving loose ends, unexplained actions and a lot of audience frustration.Not getting much sense of the actual shape of this script’s plot from Carson’s post but the reference to fancy time shifts has me worried. Complex plots where the writer maintains total control of all the disparate elements and makes then snap together at the finish like a perfectly executed magic trick, i.e. Witness For The Prosecution, are and always will be movie gold.

    • ChadStuart

      Well, to be fair the demographics of who frequents the movies has changed quite a lot between the 40s and today. It used to be something adults did more often, but the theaters have been take over by teens and young adults. Adults were stolen away by TV and the double income rat race.

      • Brainiac138

        They are coming back as they retire, though. More and more we will see quality, intelligent films like Philomena and Mr. Turner be released, sure the adult stuff is more at the art house, but I think the studios have realized they still have a ridiculously large demographic to target.

      • brenkilco

        Yes, admittedly true. And the target audience for most movies isn’t even the average American teen anymore but the presumably less sophisticated world wide teen. Still think you could make intelligent adults turn up for quality product.

        • ChadStuart

          Not in numbers to justify the marketing costs for a theatrical release, though. Honestly, Hollywood has trained adults for decades to enjoy movies at home. We all have large TVs, 5.1 surround (even Doly Atmos is available in homes) and for many of us with kids it’s just easier to watch “Boyhood” and its near 3 hour runtime at home. The streaming day and date option for smaller, smarter movies works perfectly well for me, and I hope that it leads to better movies being made with that model in mind. It seems to be moving that way and doing very well.

          • brenkilco

            Yes, teens will always need an excuse to get out of the house but for the rest of us, well, in a couple of years the tvs will be even bigger and the 4k image will be every bit as good and probably better than what’s being projected at the theater, and you save the babysitter and the parking and avoid the idiots talking behind you and texting beside you and the fifteen dollar tickets. So besides the nostalgia for communal viewing what’s to get us off the couch? Phony IMAX. Don’t think so.

    • Poe_Serling

      Great comment.

      “…Hollywood routinely produced smart, complex crime dramas. And they were
      often big hits: The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity,
      Murder My Sweet, Laura, The Big Clock, Criss Cross. Viewers didn’t seem
      to have trouble keeping up.”

      Plus, I’ve always admired how those filmmakers came up with creative ways (using dialogue or bits of action) to skirt around the stricter industry moral guidelines of that time period.

      Whether it was Monty Clift and John Ireland comparing six shooters in Red River, or Joan Crawford (former saloon girl… now saloon owner) in Johnny Guitar uttering the line, “I’m not ashamed of how I’ve got what I have. The important thing is I’ve got it.”

      • brenkilco

        As George Carlin used to say: Train going into a tunnel. Don’t have to be no Fellini to figure that one out.

    • Midnight Luck

      I agree.
      I am surprised Carson even said that.
      I think audiences are smarter than most people give them credit for. I think audiences are smarter than said audience even believe themselves to be.
      Audiences are smart, they can pick up on nuances, they can get hidden meanings if they have been created and orchestrated well.

      I do not believe the 1% are somehow more intelligent than the 99% and therefore the more intelligent films have been written for them. This is, honestly, an incredibly ignorant comment.
      The 1% are more privileged, but that is very different from being more intelligent.
      In fact the people who have to work hard and break through this ceiling that has been constructed above them are by and large the most intelligent individuals around.
      The 1% are either at that level because they were born into it and have led a life of boredom and very rarely strive for much of anything, or have worked hard to screw over about anyone they can to make the vast sums of money they have, or they managed to do both those things at once.
      Now the ones who have screwed over others are most likely skilled and intelligent at business level things, but that is about all.
      Most of these 1% however, have little interest in going to the movies.
      The 99% are the ones who go. This is where $40 million dollar weekends come from.
      Because they love movies (like myself), or To forget about their own troubles (I do that as well sometimes), to imagine a different universe than the one they inhabit (I do that a ton), and to expand their minds (I believe, and I do that all the time).
      This is what movies are for. To expand our minds (I do believe again. Just like books and music are for that as well, and only maybe, rarely, some TV).

      But intelligent movies only being made for the 1%, please.

      • brenkilco

        I too disagree with Carson but I honestly think and I hope I’m right that he was not referring to Mitt Romney’s plutocratic one per cent but to some imagined minority of super smart, cultured movie watchers too few in number to insure a profit for truly smart entertainments. For one thing I would argue that movies that are truly great can reach nearly everyone at some level. And wasn’t there some famous director who said something to the effect that no matter how dumb the individual spectators are, collectively the audience is always a genius.

        • Midnight Luck

          I do believe you may be being incredibly hopeful about what he actually meant by that comment about the 1%.
          But I will optimistically hope the same thing was meant as well.

      • http://simplyscripts.com/ Steex

        It isn’t that the audience isn’t smart, it’s that they don’t want to have to think during a movie. A good majority of the people I know and/or work with prefer a passive moviegoing experience, as opposed to an active one. They want to just watch, and have the movie happen to them. They aren’t as much interested in having to use their brains. A lot of casual moviegoers (whom may or may not be smart) want to shut off their brain. After working a long day, and being mentally strained, they don’t want to expend any more energy. It’s what my girlfriend calls an “easy movie”.

        I just worked a twelve hour shift, and I’m exhausted, just put on an easy movie.

  • https://twitter.com/rich_trenholm Richard Trenholm

    “Transnistria”? I dunno…

    One advantage of a complex story is that it rewards repeat viewing – you’d think that would be a consideration in terms of DVD or streaming sales. Even after I’d seen Heat I spent money on it a few times – I bought it on DVD and also went to see it when it was screened at a local cinema, and I was happy to do that because I saw something new or made a new connection each time

  • fourjacks

    I’d love to read a complex, intelligent script – if any still exist!

    asieger@yahoo.com

    Thanks.

  • wrymartini

    So, yeah, Transnistria isn’t actually a real “country” but it is a real place (essentially a slice of Moldova occupied by the Russian army) – and by all accounts a pretty messed up one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transnistria.

    And if anyone has the script I would deeply, deeply appreciate a copy! wrymartini2000 at gmail dot com. Thanks!

  • Eddie Panta

    Re: The question of what was the last big crime thriller that appealed to the 99%.

    I would have to say The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo ( 2011) falls into this category.

    It is very much a procedural, as well as a complex story that jumps time and has two leads in two different story lines. It’s amazing how many layers the story has.

    The Candy Store has a proactive female action lead. A strong female character is essential in contemporary screenplays.

    You’ll note that in the American version, it is not the girl that seeks out the journalist.The American version gives the male lead: Daniel Bond Craig, the initiative. The “girl” ( Rooney Mara) is more passive than her foreign counterpart. A seemingly small change in the script completely changes the dynamic of the characters.

  • walker

    “He really knows how to write. Ironically, that’s hurt him as of late.”

    • Poe_Serling

      Yogi Berra would be proud of that one.

      • walker

        “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”

      • brenkilco

        As Sam Goldwyn said: The problem with this business is the dearth of bad pictures.

      • Kirk Diggler

        He became so popular nobody calls him anymore.

      • Eddie Panta

        Everyone in town wants that Gaghan feel, just not from Gaghan.

  • wrymartini

    This Entourage clip is a pretty funny reminder of Gaghan’s time at the top:

    • wrymartini

      Sorry, didn’t realise it wouldn’t embed; Google it and you’ll see.

    • Midnight Luck

      I remember this so well. I found it just hilarious. I loved that Entourage had screenwriters as characters in the show (last time that happened was Charlie Kaufmann in ADAPTATION). They played off how people in Hollywood both simultaneously hold them as high and mighty while also treating them like shit and screwing them over.
      Having both Gaghan and Sorkin as characters on that show, it was just plain, well, enlightening. The screenwriter is overall a completely forgotten person when it comes to finished films / tv. I love that the show put them front and center many times.

  • jw

    The “crime drama” became largely TV, thus it’s now looked at as a small-screen genre. Not to mention the fact that every time you read a script that revolves around “crime” in some way, no doubt that the opening sequence has you stopping and going, “wait, that feels just like an opening to Criminal Minds.” Therein lies the issue. If you cannot write a crime drama that feels BIGGER than the small screen, you’ll get pigeon-holed. And, then even if you CAN write a crime drama that feels BIGGER than the small screen, you then have to make sure that it’s BETTER than shows like Homeland, because if it isn’t you’re screwed. In short, if you’re writing a crime drama, it needs to be BIGGER & BETTER than EVERYTHING that’s on TV, and all I have to say to that is… GOOD LUCK!

  • BigDeskPictures

    paul at big desk pictures dot com
    Many thanks in advance.

  • https://twitter.com/deanmaxbrooks deanb

    Transnistria? Isn’t that right next door to Transexual, Translyvania?

  • Nicholas J

    Carson, you had a prime opportunity to make a joke about writing “Gaghan style” and you blew it! 2012 Carson would’ve been all over that!

  • fragglewriter

    Thank you for explaining the CUT TO fucntion in scripts. I felt somehow I shouldn’t use them, but without them, it would confuse the reader.

    This script seems interesting except for the KGB point. I don’t know how that fits in, but I would love to read it. Please send to me at fragglewriter at yahoo dot com

  • Brainiac138

    It is essential to finding an audience, since more and more it is female-centric films that are succeeding at the box office.

    • Eddie Panta

      Correct. It’s no secret that studios are looking for strong female leads a la Gravity.

  • Brainiac138

    Has anyone seen the remake of The Gambler? I have had the script forever and probably got about half-way through it, it just didn’t pop like I am used to with William Monahan scripts. With it being probably the biggest crime drama out right now, I was just curious what the commenters of Scriptshadow thought of it.

    • Midnight Luck

      I saw it when it opened here last, last friday. It looked like it had some good things going for it. The right kind of story for Wahlberg, I really like Brie Larson, and she deserves a big break, thought it might be this. Jessica Lange is of course always a winner. John Goodman is an incredible actor on every level.

      But this wasn’t it, for any of them.

      The script didn’t instill any urgency. Bumbled on every level making it impossible to feel for any of the characters.

      It was stylish, it looked “cool” (don’t get me started on looking “cool”), but it was just a boring, meandering nothing.

      No one was utilized to any degree.

      Brie Larson was the absolute best part of this movie. She sparkled with light and energy, and was on screen for MAYBE 6 minutes of time. Sad waste. Everyone went gaga over her movie Short Term 12. I saw it, and well, it was just like almost every Indie movie out there. I didn’t see much to it or in it. Except her, and her wonderful energy. I really think she could go far, if she gets a great part in a bigger movie, and I am not talking about 23 Jump Street.

      Same with Lange, she takes over the screen, but was there for five minutes or less.

      So, my impression, wait for the video, or even Netflix.

      It wasn’t much of anything in the end. Sadly.

      • Brainiac138

        Seems like they didn’t remedy any of the issues in the script then. I remember thinking the gangsters are some of the most understanding, philosophical villains that have come around in a long time. There was no sense that the protagonist was in trouble, the gangsters always came in hard on him and then just talked to him.

        • Midnight Luck

          Yep. Exactly.

          It made for a great trailer.
          The student hot for teacher. The big bad mob boss bringing down the law on Marky Marks head. The mother angry and abusive toward her miserable son.
          And then Mark Wahlberg’s character, just kind of gliding through without a care in the world. Pushing the limits of what he could do at every step, without the viewer ever feeling there was any danger of anything along the way. You just KNEW he would come out ok in the end and everything would be resolved.
          The gangsters did a lot of TALKING. Without much threat, I mean REAL threat. There was MOVIE THREAT, but not something you feel deep down. You are never truly scared for him.

          I was hoping for an exciting great story like HEAT, but sadly, this was more like an inconsequential Saturday afternoon teleplay.

    • Rzwan Cabani

      It took me 4 tries to finish it — I read THE DEPARTED and instantly became a Monahan fan, but this shit was hard to get through man. Some great lines though — but other than that — wasn’t for me.

      • Ryan Sasinowski

        Have you checked out his “Tripoli” script? That was what got Ridley Scott interested in him.

        • Rzwan Cabani

          No, actually. I’ve heard of the script — that’s what put him on the map if I’m not mistaken. I’d be interested in checking it out, for sure.

          • andyjaxfl

            Leave your email and I’ll forward you his 1st and 2nd drafts of Tripoli.

          • Rzwan Cabani

            r.cabani@hotmail.com — really appreciate it Andy! Thanks man.

          • Jeaux

            Hey would you be so kind as to send Tripoli to me as well? joe_lbp@yahoo.com
            Thanks!

          • andyjaxfl

            Sent

        • andyjaxfl

          Tripoli is excellent. It’s another in a long line of screenplays I cannot believe remain unproduced.

          Monahan’s original Kingdom of Heaven draft (the one that is 160+ pages) is my favorite thing he’s ever written. Amazing, visual writing.

  • Midnight Luck

    I have to say the Rock Star screenwriters seem to be William Goldman on top.
    Stephen Gaghan and Aaron Sorkin next and most recent stars (both of whom also acted in ENTOURAGE, oddly), along side Charlie Kaufmann and Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under, True Blood).
    Of course there are a bunch of older time rock stars, most are Writer / Directors though, like Spielberg, Lucas, though I believe Lawrence Kasdan was the best of the best during those times. Also there are people like Orson Welles and Hitchcock, of course.

    I have always liked Gaghan, I mean he killed it with a one-two punch of Erin Brockovich and Traffic. Those movies were just spectacular.

    I hope he finds his way back in and creates something new for all of us to see and marvel at.

    I would give anything to have more movies like Erin B. or Traffic.

    I think ARGO was of that breed. Similar to movies like Traffic or The Town, or Heat. It was complex and dramatic. Probably more of a Drama-Thriller than a Crime-Drama, but still, who needs to pigeonhole everything? So many movies spill over into multiple categories.

    • Ryan Sasinowski

      Gaghan didn’t have anything to do with Erin Brockovich, at least to my knowledge.

      Steven Soderbergh directed that one and Traffic.

      • Midnight Luck

        he was the screenwriter for Traffic.

        Sadly, now that you made me actually look it up, I guess I was wrong.
        I thought he and Soderbergh were connected on both Erin B. and Traffic, he doing the screenplays and Soderbergh directing.

        Right on one, wrong on the other. Oh well. Memory good, yet not.

  • mulesandmud

    A few (hundred) words on that tricky phrase, ‘execution-dependent’.

    Execs love this one, usually as a explanation for why they’re not buying your project.

    It’s not a compliment. Or at best, it’s a passive aggressive one, a swipe at the fact that your concept doesn’t sell itself.

    There’s an argument, though, that this is exactly what kind of script you should be writing.

    Because a writer who pulls off an ‘execution-dependent’ script proves without question that he can EXECUTE. That she can build a story that doesn’t lean on the crutch of its concept. Execs notice that.

    And often that writer is the one who gets to have a career.

    A breakout spec sale is a statistical longshot, and your odds are not necessarily proportionate to the quality of your work (in certain cases, as C says, great writing can even be a handicap). Let’s say you pull it off, though. Pump out the draft, roll the dice, and hopefully score that sale. Then what?

    We don’t talk enough here about the long game. About the parts that come after the break-in, after the first sale and the agency signing. The endless slog of meetings, handshakes, prelims, pitches, and negotiations. The juggling of potential projects as you guess which ones are worth pursuing. The inevitable collapse of projects that you’ve spent serious time and energy on. The unreasonable and often contradictory expectations foisted on you during the development process.

    Suddenly, those late nights slaving away over your amateur spec after work seem like the good old days. Sure, you’re getting paid for it now, but it seems like you spend more time defending your babies than actually raising them. It’s amazing how small a percentage of a pro screenwriter’s day actually involves writing scripts, and how little say you can have in the conversation.

    And don’t think for a second that you’ll be given time to acclimate to this new version of being a writer. It’s fuck or walk, as the man says. Don’t like working this way? That’s fine; there’s a line of people out the door, all waiting for the spot.

    Most people, I imagine, write better if it’s not their day job.

    For a working Hollywood screenwriter, the only thing that everyone really wants to know is: Can you execute?

    And let me tell you, nothing prepares you for that responsibility like developing a concept that absolutely depends on your ability to execute it.

    So yeah, tricky phrase. Especially because the truth that everybody in Hollywood hates to admit is that all films are execution-dependent, period, regardless of how high the concept is, or whether the marketing department can cobble together a big opening weekend from your crapfest. Good is good, and the proof is in the telling.

    • Malibo Jackk

      John Truby once said that most amateurs ask — “How can I get an agent?”
      When they should be asking — “How can I become a better screenwriter?”

  • Eddie Panta

    Mainly in terms of getting your script developed. You want your project to appeal to a female actors, which goes hand-in-hand with “marketability”. A script with a female character that needs rescuing just seems dated in 2015.. Just look at the new Terminator trailer.

  • https://twitter.com/rich_trenholm Richard Trenholm

    Fair enough, I stand corrected and humbly apologise to the nation of Transnistria (it does sound like a place the Fantastic Four would have travelled to in the 1960s though)

  • Kirk Diggler

    “The Drop” starring Tom Hardy, Jame Gandolfini and Noomi Rapace was a great little crime drama that came out last year and was criminally ignored by most everyone.

    See what I did there?

    • Poe_Serling

      Yeah, never heard of it. Great cast… and a script by Dennis ‘Shutter Island’ Lehane. I’ll definitely check it out.

      I see it’s being released on DVD next week.

    • Midnight Luck

      I saw it. I enjoyed it, didn’t love it, but it was definitely better than most.
      I was saddened by the fact that

      —-spoilers——

      the entire movie seemed to be set up so the last 5 minutes would be hugely impactful. There wasn’t a lot going on for most of it, but you could feel it building, and then, yep, they were waiting to explode everything at the very end.

      still, even with all that build up, it wasn’t amazing, it was just decent. Even that big explosive ending seemed muted and not exceptional. I pretty much knew what would happen and how it would go down.

      Again though, I did enjoy it, and was glad I saw it in the theater.

      • Kirk Diggler

        Hmmm, I’m surprised you don’t think a lot was going on. There were a couple good subplots. Gandolfini’s story line was well done. So was the whole Eric Deeds bit. And Noomi Repace and the dog.

        It was a character piece and not an action film, but there was still plenty going on of you ask me. The ending, the way it turned, the way I came to a new understanding about Hardy’s character, I just though it was brilliant. And yes the last 5 minutes were impactful, but only because of what they did the first 90 minutes. Isn’t that what it should be about? Getting you invested in character relationships so the end has more meaning?

        ‘Decent’ just doesn’t do it for me, but I know how it goes, everyone has their own taste and interpretation. But this quote from a reviewer at Rotten Tomatoes sums it up perfectly for me;

        “Lehane’s climactic plot twist is all the more laudable because it springs directly from complexity of character; you realize the truth has been obscured not through a writer’s trickery but through your own simple reading of the action.” J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader

        • Midnight Luck

          Well, I don’t think that is exactly what I meant.
          I also do believe I need to see it again (to really be able to take in how I felt about it).
          Sometimes (most times in fact), what has been going on in life with me, how I am feeling emotionally at the time a see a film, and about a million other things going on at the time, affect how I take in a movie, at that time.
          So THE DROP affected me in a very specific way, at that moment. For some reason it played slow for me until the very end, and I seemed to know where it was going a lot of the time as well, Which can have a way of slowing down the movie for me also.
          I agree that how the writer builds the story is the very reason the ending will be effective or not, and how effective as well. I do think it was done quite well, I am just not sure how well right now. My impression, at the time, was that it wasn’t done as well as I was hoping. But I very well could be incredibly wrong about it. I might watch it again and be blown away at how I felt about it earlier.
          Sometimes, If I am feeling down at the time I go into a viewing of a movie, it can also have a profound effect on how I view it as well.
          So many, many things go into it as well.

          I really should see it again. And let you know.

          • Kirk Diggler

            Don’t get me wrong, I know people feel differently about films. I recommended a couple friends go see Whiplash.. so they went and saw whiplash today and I ask them how they liked it…. they said they liked it. then I asked her if it was in their top three films of the year and she said nope because The Raid 2 came out in the last year and that would probably nudge it out.

            now I know the Raid 2 was a sort of fun film and all, but no way in bloody hell does it compare to Whiplash. but ultimately that’s just the opinion of one person. I totally get your comments about being affected by how you feel emotionally or physically when you’re watching a film. I remember when I saw Punch Drunk Love I literally had to take a piss for about the last 45 minutes of the film and I ended up hating it….or at least not really enjoying it and I always wonder …..man was it because I had to go take a leak?

          • Midnight Luck

            I understand.
            I think WHIPLASH might possibly be my favorite movie from last year. Actually it was probably #2, after HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS (did $1.1 million total), which sadly no one saw. I really enjoyed both those films.
            BAD WORDS was in there as well.

            I liked a few more that all probably would fight for #3: The Theory of Everything, Boyhood, Under The Skin, Kill the Messenger, The Judge, Nightcrawler, Wild, Birdman,

            Having said all that, I can agree about talking with others about movies and good ones. I don’t know a single person in my life who has seen a single one of the movies in my list, except ONE person who I saw WILD with. Other than that one movie, I couldn’t get anyone to see any of those movies.

            Yet I saw JOHN WICK and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY with my brother, and he enjoyed them a lot. I repulsively hated both, they were two of the worst movies I have ever seen (John Wick most of all). If I try to tell someone about a movie and it isn’t playing at the mall no one will go. If it is at a single screen theater, an Indie house, not a 20 screen-plex, I cannot talk anyone into going.

            Never drink a six pack before a movie.
            Or coffee.
            Or tea.
            Unless you want to have a religious experience with your bladder as you are trying to hold it.

  • Malibo Jackk

    My scripts appeal to the 1%.

  • Sullivan

    Me. Me. Me. Please.

    Jasondiggy at hotmail

  • Buddy
    • Eddie Panta

      Excerpt from the article:

      Film-makers who do not understand the subtleties of storyline,
      characterisation and dialogue are “only interested in the crudest
      storytelling, and the most banal and superficial elements of character”,
      Caine said. “The writer tries to put in subtleties, but they sometimes
      end up being excised from the script.”

  • brenkilco

    Has anybody gotten through the script? Am on page twenty one. All due respect to the heavy hitting scribe but so far it is strictly the old one two. Russian – or close enough- mobsters, sympathetic prostitute, involuntarily retired secret agent, Blofeldy type mob boss who likes to yak formally and endlessly. I’ve seen it before. I’ve read it before. I’ve seen and read it before. Just jumped back to the police shooting so I guess the thing is not entirely linear. OK. But could somebody tell me when the seriously smart starts to kick in.

  • drifting in space

    What is this bullshit of no new post today? I’m bored at work here, Carson.

  • andyjaxfl

    Sent!