Genre: Crime/Comedy
Premise: When the female TV star for a popular children’s show commits suicide, two low-life investigators are hired to look into claims that a dead-ringer for the actress has been seen around town.
About: One of the biggest specs out there right now, “The Nice Guys” has actually been around for over a decade, originally written in 2003. But the project has been jolted back to life, with both Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling preliminarily attached. Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3) co-wrote the script with Anthony Bagarozzi, who, despite this script being a decade old, is just now seeing his career blow up. He has four projects in various stages of development as a writer or director, including Doc Savage. Important to note: the script I’m reviewing today is the original draft written back in 2003.
Writers: Anthony Bagarozzi & Shane Black
Details: 135 pages (April 14, 2003)

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Isn’t Hollywood great? No matter how deep into obscurity you sink, the town will always give you another chance. Shane Black was on one of the biggest screenwriting streaks in history in the 90s, selling every spec that spat out of his printer for a minimum of 1.3 trillion dollars. But then the printer carton burst on stylistic over-the-top dialogue-heavy specs and, Black found himself no longer able to heat his apartment with a fire full of hundred dollar bills.

Oh sure, Black probably got plenty of money in those “lean years” doing rewrites. But once you’ve tasted the frosting at the top of Hollywood’s cake, you never want to go back to the frozen Sara Lee stuff again. So Black did something smart. Instead of waiting for Hollywood to re-recognize his genius again, he directed his own script, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And for a brief moment, Black was back.

The flick didn’t make enough money to catapult him back to the top but it just so happened to get him a strong relationship with Robert Downey Jr., who became a super star when he starred in the surprise hit, Iron Man, a few years later.

Fast forward another few years, and guess who was now calling to ask Shane to direct the newest entry in the franchise?

What’s funny about all this is that a script Black wrote all the way back in 2003, which he couldn’t get the local community theater director to read, was now the hottest script in town. Does Black’s return celebrity make this script better than it once was? Or was the script overlooked in the first place? Let’s find out.

Suzy Shoemaker is the adorable 20-something star of one of those kids shows that every 4 year old in the universe loves. She’s also dead. Or, she kills herself at the beginning of the movie after a private sex tape surfaces of her.

Cut to Jackson Healy, a “private enforcer” of sorts, the adult version of a bully-for-hire, who thin-timidates anybody who messes with you, for the right price of course.

If Healy’s low-rent, Holland March is a 20 dollar a month storage unit. The 40-something private investigator makes most of his money by taking advantage of the Alzheimer’s crowd. Say a mentally absent old woman needs to find her husband (who’s, of course, dead). Holland has no problem taking the dough and “looking for him.”

These two winners are forced to team up and find “Alice,” a mysterious lookalike for the dead Suzy Shoemaker, and a semi-professional porn actress. Is it a coincidence that Suzy killed herself over a porn tape when there’s someone who looks exactly like her that does porn? That’s what these two need to find out.

Oh, and Suzy Shoemaker also happens to be the daughter of presidential hopeful David Shoemaker. All of a sudden, these suspicion crumbs are starting to look like they may belong to a freshly baked conspiracy scone.

To throw just one more wrench into this equation, March’s 14 year old overly-inquisitive daughter, Holly, wants to help. March knows this is a bad idea, but there are so many hip young folks involved in this mystery, that having a teenager around to do some undercover snooping may end up paying off.

Of course, you know if a 14 year old girl is getting involved in a case with dead people, that at some point said 14 year old girl is going to be in danger. So March and Healy aren’t just going to have to solve this case. They’re going to have to keep Holly safe, something that becomes harder and harder to do the deeper this mystery gets.  And in case you’re wondering, it gets real deep!

Russell-Crowe

Black (along with co-writer Bagarozzi) does what he does best. He puts a couple of flawed ill-matched individuals on a case together and allows them to equal-parts succeed and stumble their way to success. It’s what made Black one of the most successful screenplay writers ever.

But as we all know, this is one well-worn genre.  The audience has seen it all.  Therefore, if you want to succeed, you have to do more than follow a formula. And The Nice Guys separates itself from its competition in a couple of ways.

First off, this is Shane Black. He’s so fucking good at writing this kind of movie, that he stands out from everyone else just by showing up. Everything from the action to the dialogue is a level above. It’s funnier. It’s smarter. It’s better. Every other page we get a line like, “Marriage is buying a house for someone you hate.” Or, “If you had me ‘figured,’ jagoff, you’d start running – and you wouldn’t stop ‘til all the signs were in Spanish.”

Then there were the descriptions: “The Counter Girl is a punkish looking freak with pierced everything.”

We even get fun little moments that your average writer never thinks of. For example, you ever wonder where those stray bullets go? In a scene where Healy’s struggling to get away from the bad guys, he barely avoids a shot to the head. Instead of that being the end of it, we watch the bullet go out the window, across the street, and strike an unsuspecting woman at her window in the shoulder. She yelps and falls down out of frame. It was hilarious.

But just being the best at a genre isn’t enough. You should always be pushing yourself, looking for little angles to make your story different from any other “buddy cop” flick out there. Here, Black and Bagarozzi do this with Holly, March’s 14 year old daughter. I mean how many buddy cop movies have you seen where the cops are forced to lug a 14 year old girl around? Not many.

And it’s not just for show. You see, when you add an unknown element to a known situation, you get a new dynamic. Your cop duo can’t just hurl predictable insults at each other for 90 minutes. Healy has to be careful with what he says, since Holly’s always around. March has to stop every once in awhile and figure out how to keep Holly out of harm’s way.

There are even situations where March needs his daughter to get the job done (fitting in with a younger crowd to infiltrate a party). So his daughter temporarily becomes the most valuable commodity of the three, giving her the power, and shifting the dynamic, once again, to something that feels unfamiliar. Which is good! The last thing you want in a buddy-cop movie is brain-numbing familiarity.

Here’s the thing with The Nice Guys, though. It has a lot of moving parts. It’s basically like “The Other Guys,” but with a brain. And while that’s certainly nice (yay for movies that don’t pander!), it feels like it needs a simplicity pass. I couldn’t figure out, for the life of me, why Suzy Shoemaker’s aunt hired March to find Alice (the Suzy lookalike) in the first place. Did she think Alice was her niece? Did she just want to see a woman who looked like her niece? I don’t know.

And I know that information is in the script somewhere.  But I had to process so much information, it slipped by me.  This happens a lot. I’ll confusedly ask a writer, “Why did Ace want to double-cross Mary if he was in love with her?” And the writer, huffing and puffing, will animatedly respond with, “Did you even read the script!? The answer is on page 55 line 12. She gives him the copy of The Grapes of Wrath, which, if you remember, he read to her on page 12 in their childhood flashback, and she said, if you ever see this book again, it means I can never be with you.” Um, right.

The point is, the more complicated a plot is, the more hand-holding the reader needs. ESPECIALLY in the early-going, since that’s when the most new information is being thrown at the reader. Later, when we have all the names and relationships down, we can handle those details.  But early on, it can be tough. So we need your help.

The only other issue I had is that it didn’t feel like there was enough conflict between Healy and March. This is always a sticky issue when you write a buddy-cop flick because, on the one hand, you don’t want to write another clichéd: two “cops” hate each other for no other reason than it leads to lots of conflict-fueled arguments!

But if you go away from this cliché, you run the risk of the relationship being bland. I mean sure, you can claim, “I didn’t do the cliché thing!  Points for me!” But was it really worth it if we’re now bored by an uninspired relationship?  I still haven’t figured out this balance.  How does one write a genre where the very core rules of the genre are cliche, and then not make it cliche (I’d love to hear thoughts on this in the comments)?

Indeed, I felt like there was something left on the table between Healy and March. While they were definitely different characters, the longer the script went on, the more similar they felt. Maybe that’s because Black and Bagarozzi were looking to avoid the “clashing personalities” cliché. Maybe not. I don’t know. But I hope in subsequent drafts, they address it.

Anyway, regardless of its issues, The Nice Guys was a fun little script. Definitely worth reading. I mean, how can you say no to the newest/oldest Shane Black joint?

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

What I learned: Dialogue set ups and payoffs. Shane Black loves setups and payoffs. But he doesn’t only do it with his action. He’ll use the device in dialogue as well. This is a great way to get an easy laugh. For example, when March is forced to take Holly to a party to help them find Alice, they first walk in and see a bunch of sketchy characters. “Dad, there’s like, whores here and stuff.” March responds with, “Holly, how many times have I told you..? Don’t say, “and stuff.” Just say, “There are whores here.” Later on, Holly finds herself in a room watching porn with an overtly sexual redhead. Holly, working for her dad, casually asks the redhead if she’s seen Alice. “What’d she look like?” the redhead replies. “Well,” Holly says, “Sorta like that woman on TV, that kid’s show chick who died—“ “The one who just offed herself? That’s rad! She’s all, “remember kids, politeness counts,” meanwhile she’s like, doing anal and stuff.” Holly capitalizes on this: “Don’t say, “and stuff” – just say, “She’s doing anal.”

What I learned 2: What I’m about to tell you may be the most important advice you ever hear. Like, EVER, and stuff. I’m serious. Tape this to your wall. Tattoo it on your forehead. Ready? Never wait for this town (or for that matter, the world) to give you anything. If you want something, you will never have it unless you GO OUT AND GET IT. Black was in a downward slope in his career.  If he would’ve kept writing scripts in his multi-million dollar basement, hoping for success again, I’m not sure we’d be hearing Black’s name today.  Instead, he went out and MADE A MOVIE HIMSELF, which led to a relationship that would later turn him into one of the hottest directors in town. If I say it once, I’ll say it a thousand times: NEVER WAIT FOR ANYTHING.  GO OUT AND GET IT.

  • Midnight Luck

    I really hope this brings Black back. I miss him, Hollywood needs him, bad.
    Kiss, Kiss was a great and funny movie, that everyone missed.
    Val Kilmer, Robert Downey, and everyone else were top notch. Black should be having a film made every year, Woody* style. [*Allen ]

    • sotiris5000

      I absolutely loved Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I’m not sure why it wasn’t as a bigger hit. It was so funny, smart and endearing.

      • brenkilco

        Not sure how much credit to give Black. Wasn’t it an adaptation of somebody else’s book?

        • Midnight Luck

          Yes it was an adaptation of a novel. But his screenplay and direction were great.

        • Jonathan Soens

          I haven’t read the book, but I’d bet Black made it his own. When a screenwriter with a distinct voice/style takes on a book, I think they usually make it their own.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Love WIL & WIL2.

  • bex01

    OT: Does anyone have the amateur script for ‘Patisserie’ by Michael Whatling from last year? Been delving through the archives on things I missed out on before I came to the site and I reeeally wanna read this one. (Logline: A young Jewish woman in occupied France escapes the Nazis by changing places with a shop owner. But as her love grows for the other woman’s husband and child, so does her guilt.)

    If you do, pretty please send to babelfish79 at gmail dot com

    Thank you!

    • ElectricDreamer

      Sent!

  • Dale T

    Hey Carson are you going to do another “10 Tips From…” article again soon? Those were always my favorite. I bring that up just cause I watched For A Few More Dollars and I’m astonished at how well Sergio Leone’s films have held against the test of time. His movies are oozing with essential screenwriting tips.

    • carsonreeves1

      Probably not for awhile. But there’s a reason for that which will be revealed at a later date. :)

      • Panos Tsapanidis

        Oooh…mystery box.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Mystery… book ? ;)

          • carsonreeves1

            Tis a mystery that shall remain a mystery… for now. :)

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    ” How does one write a genre where the very core rules of the genre are cliche, and then not make it cliche (I’d love to hear thoughts on this in the comments)?”

    I guess, by giving the core rules a fresh take. In this case, the partners. i.e in “Turner and Hooch,” choosing a dog as the partner was a fresh take on a core rule.

    • Jonathan Soens

      Yeah, I think it often happens that casting makes or breaks a movie.

      You maybe can’t cast it yourself as a writer. But if you, for instance, simply make a character’s gender female (where perhaps 90% of writers would have written it as a male character), you’ve introduced a wrinkle. If you make a character considerably older or younger than you’d expect an important character to be in that genre or in that role, you’ve introduced a wrinkle.

  • Rotten in the State of Denver

    “If you want something, you will never have it unless you GO OUT AND GET IT. Black was in a downward slope in his career. If he would’ve kept writing scripts in his multi-million dollar basement, hoping for success again, I’m not sure we’d be hearing Black’s name today. Instead, he went out and MADE A MOVIE HIMSELF, which led to a relationship that would later turn him into one of the hottest directors in town. If I say it once, I’ll say it a thousand times: NEVER WAIT FOR ANYTHING. GO OUT AND GET IT.”

    I like this lesson, but I disagree with the specific example. Shane Black was able to get Kiss Kiss Bang Bang made, in part, due to his pre-existing relationship with super producer Joel Silver, with whom he had made Lethal Weapon. Therefore Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was distributed by Warner Bros. in conjunction with Silver’s first-look deal with that studio i.e. not an DIY independent project by any stretch.

    Additionally, Downey ended up in the film due to his pre-existing relationship with Silver, who had apparently told the actor for years that he needed to get a gun in his hands, if he was gonna be a star. Though Black and Downey began a working relationship on that project, it was befriending a powerful mogul that got them there. This doesn’t take away from any proactivity on their part, but I feel compelled to put the lesson into context.

    • carsonreeves1

      I don’t know if it was that easy though. He’d gone 9 years without a produced credit. I’m not sure even his buddy Joel was gung-ho about doing a movie with him.

      I never heard about that “put a gun in his hands” story before. That’s really interesting. It seems like such a trivial thing, and yet in retrospect, it kind of makes sense.

      • Rotten in the State of Denver

        Shane Black’s disappearance appears due, at least partially, to a conscious retreat from the industry. He was battling self-doubt after losing friends envious of his large salaries, and he medicated with alcohol. According to Black, Silver is an unchanging force in show business. The way he tells it, Silver liked it from “Fade In.” The problem was convincing studios to give him the money to make it.

        http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/apr/19/shane-black-iron-man-3

        http://www.avclub.com/article/shane-black-13960

        • carsonreeves1

          Oh wow, cool. Gonna check these out.

      • Jonathan Soens

        Downey had had guns in his hand before, though, hadn’t he?

        I think he was FBI or a federal marshall in that sequel/spin-off of “The Fugitive” where Tommy Lee Jones hunted down Wesley Snipes. Played a pretty prominent role in the end of that film.

  • paul

    Question. How many versions of this script are there? Sigh. Tracking every version is a full time job.

  • paul

    I wish Shane would bring Joe Hallenbeck back. I loved that character. More so than Riggs.

  • andyjaxfl

    RE: Go out and get it – -sage advice.

    Reminds of the Jack Nicholson quote from The Departed, “Nobody’s gonna give it to yah. You gotta go out and take it.”

    Over the last month I’ve come to realize that they only way to make it is to cut your own path. How many breakout writers have there been in the last five years? A handful? How many breakout directors? Too many to name. And after one low budget flick they are making $150-million budgeted tentpole and Star Wars movies now — the keys to the town!

    I’m married, 34 years old, just bought a house, my wife is self-employed and kicks ass, I live in Jacksonville, Florida, which would be great if it were 1914 when almost all movies were made here, I have no Hollywood connections, and I haven’t directed a movie since I did a Terminator remake in my backyard back in 1992. But I really want to make movies for a living so I have to find a way to do it here for now, and the only way is to make my own here. Consider myself motivated.

    • Steffan

      Andy,

      I hear ya. I’m a 35-year old school teacher that makes too much money in his day job to ever quit… plus I’ve a wife, a mortgage, and two babies under the age of three–so moving out to LA and getting a low level job in a studio is certainly out of the question.

      However, this year I directed and edited a ten-minute short film I wrote (well, it’s 85% done… I’ve one more scene to shoot). It was a wonderful experience that taught me so much more about “movie making” than writing a screenplay ever did. And, while I was doing it I liked filming more than writing (when I’m writing, I’ve found I enjoy writing more than filming). [Carson, what’s up with your short?]

      I often battle myself about what my goal is. Why do I wake up at 4 AM everyday to write for two hours? Why do I outline when I take a crap and write dialog while I walk the dogs? And I’ve come to realize that the answer’s tripartite:

      1) I love doing it. I love the challenge of “cracking” each screenplay’s “code” and I feel exhilarated and proud when I do so.

      2) I’m compelled to write be it due to megalomania or loneliness… but I want to write and have people read what I write and I want them to love it and be jealous of my skill and then I can feel great about myself and then I’ll start to get worried that I’ll never write again because I suck and I’ll hate myself and then one day I’ll get another idea and start thinking about it and I’ll have hope again… you know. The cycle of self-violence that’s called writing.

      3) I want to a sell something. I want to make money making something out of nothing.

      So I guess, what I’m saying is: you and I, Andy, appear to be in love with and compelled to follow the American Dream. One could do worse.

      • Gilx

        On a semi-related note, Project Greenlight is back. 3-minute short needed to enter.

        • andyjaxfl

          Very cool. Going to check that out!

        • Hadley’s Hope

          I wonder what would happen if I pitched them…

          GOOD WILL HUNTING 2

          I’m thinking there is a time machine that sends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck back to the Boston Tea Party where they accidentally alter history, receiving assistance from the Robin Williams character’s ancestor. Minnie Driver is British, so let’s say she returns as well, portraying the villain who is a bad ass female redcoat assassin.

      • andyjaxfl

        Congrats on directing the short film — that’s no easy task for sure. I’d love to check it out when it is finished. I especially agree with your first reason for writing. I love doing it. Am I any good? Beats me, but probably not. I’m working on my first script in about ten years.

        I’ve had some chats with folks in older posts about cutting your own path, but for some reason Carson’s What I Learned really hit home this morning. It was an epiphany, a kick in the pants, a slap to the face — whatever you want to call it. I no longer believe I can make it by writing scripts and submitting them to contests and praying that one catches someone’s attention. Simply put, I think that’s improbable in this script selling climate. The out-of-nowhere success stories are a rarity in writing but are more and more common (as I mentioned in this morning’s comment) in directing.

        • Matthew Garry

          >Simply put, I think that’s improbable in this script selling climate. The out-of-nowhere success stories are a rarity in writing

          There was what I found to be an incredibly important tidbit of information by Carson in the tail of the last newsletter. Carson was talking to a producer and had asked him what he was looking for. The producer said:

          ” I want to find a script that says something about people or the human condition. Don’t get me wrong. It’s gotta be something I can sell. But if it’s not saying something, I’m not interested.”

          Even though spec sales are low, there is still interest, except the focus seems to be shifting. Buyers seem to be waiting for good material; not just decent or “good enough”, but good. “The human condition” is a tall order, but it should be what writing (screenwriting included) is all about in the first place.

          As I interpret it, it’s time for writers to step up their game and put their best and deepest material out there, and give the industry the quality they seem to be waiting for. “Same but different” is yesterday’s goal, “same but better” today’s.

          Maybe it’s an effect of quality TV breathing down their necks, but for up and coming spec writers willing to put their A-game out there I think the current situation is promising, even if sales are momentarily low.

          • andyjaxfl

            I agree wholeheartedly that writers need to step up their game. But playing devil’s advocate, there are hundreds of unproduced scripts that say a lot about the human condition that could be made and earn a ton of a money at the box office that are collecting dust in the bottom of a metal file cabinet. And the most ironic part? The studios and producers have already paid for them.

            A Killing on Carnival Row is a great example. A studio already owns the script, the story has a lot to say about the human condition, and faeries, werewolves, vampires, and other monsters are as popular as ever — yet the movie remains unmade without any news on the development front in years.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            I just had an epiphany.

            The plan…

            Execute elaborate heist where I stealthily sneak into the offices if movie studio execs and mega producers, and steal the old scripts from within these deep-bottomed metal file cabinets. I will then change the titles of said scripts, and replace the old cover pages with new ones bearing the updated titles.

            Then all I have to do is sell these seemingly new spec scripts back to the same producers and studio execs. The resold specs that get greenlit will likely be discovered to be scripts already purchased years ago. So to avoid embarrassment these movie moguls will likely revert back to the original titles with the original writer’s name in the credits.

            I’ll be helping people whose work was trapped in those metal file cabinets, left to rot in development purgatory, now lifted into the flickering lights of silver screen heaven. All while I slowly sip sweet beverages that come with tiny umbrellas on white sandy beaches as exotic babes listen to my made up war stories and tall tales of my adventuring years battling alien invaders and mythic beasts of legend. Everyone wins!

  • Citizen M

    ” I couldn’t figure out, for the life of me, why Suzy Shoemaker’s aunt hired March to find Alice (the Suzy lookalike) in the first place.”

    In smoggy 1970s Los Angeles, Jackson Healy (muscle-for-hire, recovering alcoholic) and Holland March (private eye, practicing alcoholic) are brought together by the suicide of a fading porn star. Problem is, the dead girl’s aunt is convinced she saw her niece alive and well, AFTER the highly publicized incident. March needs money, takes the case-and within days, it’s blossomed into a far-reaching murder conspiracy, bizarrely rooted in smog and the U.S. auto industry. https://www.austinfilmfestival.com/news/an-exclusive-staged-reading-of-the-nice-guys/

    • Paul Clarke

      Was going to point that out – the dottery old lady thinks it is Suzy. That she’s not dead. The police won’t help so she turns to the investigators.

      I liked the script. Very clever. Nice to see some murky characters. A writer not afraid to make them a little darker. Reminded me more of The Last Boy Scout more than his other works.

  • brenkilco

    Shane Black has enjoyed great success. And he has a certain kind of talent. But am I alone in thinking that if he had never written one word it would have been no loss to film. Lethal Weapon was a decent action picture with nice chemistry between the leads. But except for the relatively novel idea of a cop protagonist who was mentally unstable- but who miraculously managed to set all his demons aside when the chips were down- it was a thoroughly by the numbers concoction. Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero and Long Kiss Goodnight are by all measures, except the anything for a shootout or wisecrack standards of the early nineties, thumpingly bad movies.

    And now it appears Black is once again recycling his basic plot. Two mismatched investigators(Lethal weapon, Last Boy Scout and even Last Action Hero) undertake a case set off by a mysterious suicide(Lethal Weapon and Last Boy Scout) that leads to the discovery of large scale conspiracy(Last Boy Scout) etc. If I though for one minute that this new script was a cleverly wrought, engrossing labyrinthine private eye piece I’d be there but everything in the review suggests the plot is just confused and half assed.

    “If you had me ‘figured,’ jagoff, you’d start running – and you wouldn’t stop ‘til all the signs were in Spanish.”

    Look, if you think that’s a clever line, well, you think it’s a clever line. If I were paying someone a million plus I’d be looking for a little more wit. And his habit of writing wise ass descriptions as if he’s chatting with the reade( Hey, you really want to know how ugly this guy is..) always gave me a pain. What can I say? Not a fan. But I suppose there’s no arguing with success.

    • davejc

      A couple weeks ago I watched Last Boy Scout and Training Day back to back. Similar plots but in terms of the writing there was no comparison. In the shadow of Training Day The Last Boy Scout had me cringing. And The Last Boy Scout sold for what, 1.7mil.

      • brenkilco

        Unbelievable. That much cash for a script where the protagonist figuratively disarms the bad guys by telling bad jokes while wearing a sock puppet.

        • davejc

          Lol! Yeah, whenever I’m about to execute meddling detectives I always let down my guard to listen to a sock puppet.

    • ChadStuart

      I disagree. Without Shane Black, the world would never know that Wolfman’s got nards.

    • mulesandmud

      Chalk it up to the fundamental truth of Hollywood screenwriting careers: quality of work is not the deciding factor. It takes a back seat to professionalism, networking ability, market savvy, prolificity, and even dumb luck. A dedication to quality may get you noticed early on, but it’s just as likely to get you in trouble further down the road.

      Whether by cynical design or opportune convergence, Black wrote exactly what Hollywood wanted to make, exactly when they wanted to make it, and wrote it in quantity. If a young writer’s goal is to play the studio game, they’d be wise to take notes.

      That said, I admire his writing more than you do, I think. Lethal Weapon’s share of indelible moments is well above average.

      • brenkilco

        I have no problem with Lethal Weapon. Just don’t know how anyone can think of it as a classic. Actually I think Lethal Weapon 2 is more entertaining and Black appears to have had little or nothing to do with it. He didn’t really have that many scripts produced and all of them seemed to do little more than recycle the LW elements. He certainly deserves credit for regenerating himself professionally.

        I seldom get the chance to use prolificity in a sentence, but maybe I just don’t write enough sentences.

        • mulesandmud

          Heh, I did try to find a synonym for the p-bomb since it seemed like such overkill, but couldn’t think of another English word that meant exactly what I meant.

          Contrary to the credits, Black was all over LW2, but removed himself/got removed from the project, allegedly because he was dead set on killing off Riggs at the end, and the studio wouldn’t have it.

  • Randy Williams

    A 14- year -old girl sits in front of porn to help her dad with his job?

    Even that doesn’t get a pass. LOL

    • Hadley’s Hope

      Sounds like a typical event in a regular old run of the mill episode of Shameless.

  • Linkthis83

    OT: Carson, I know you are a busy man, so I wanted to make this suggestion regarding newsletters:

    Receiving a newsletter is a luxury, so I don’t get too bummed when one doesn’t show up. Between the site, the newsletter, and everything else you do offsite, I completely understand if the newsletter gets less attention.

    My suggestion: If you find yourself in a week where doing a whole newsletter is going to be daunting, then don’t (which you already do :) — However, at least send out what you think MIGHT be the lineup for the week (mostly I only care about what’s in the AF slot) and the 5 scripts for AOW — getting that alone in the newsletter would make me happy — if you can fit the other stuff in great, but if not, just the lineup and AOW scripts will suffice.

    If that’s not possible, no big deal. Just throwing it out there.

    • Citizen M

      I second the motion.

  • ElectricDreamer

    The evolution of this spec’s journey in the industry reminds me of CHILDREN’S BOOKS.
    You’re up against Seuss, Dahl and Silverstein if you want to break into that industry.
    Those classics are always in print and making it nigh impossible for new breakouts.

    Seems that certain specs linger until the known creative behind them has a new success.
    Suddenly, being The Cool Guys is hot again. And another spec slot fills up.

    Can’t help but wonder if a dearth of spec sales in recent months led to this happening.
    Studios claim they want to buy, but there’s a lack of “execution” in what’s currently available.

  • Logic Ninja

    Re: writing in a cliche genre.

    I’d say this problem isn’t confined to the buddy-cop genre. If you’re writing a western, the “final showdown” is usually necessary but cliche. If it’s a romantic comedy, the guy has to get the girl.

    As always, screenwriting is problem-solving. I guess if I were writing a buddy-cop movie I’d shoot for a kind of conflict we’ve never (or rarely) seen before. What if one cop’s a huge homophobe and the other is openly gay?

    What if you’ve got a female cop and a male cop–and the chick is this pink-sweater-nail-varnish-barbie-doll type. Does Zumba, reads Cosmo and People, eats vegan, etc. Hugely cliche character. Except she’s got this sick obsession with blood. Turns her on. She literally steals blood transfusion pouches from hospitals and pours them over herself on weekends for a turn-on. It’s her big secret.

    But the male cop is terrified of blood–that’s HIS big secret. And she can tell.

    I think the conflict in buddy-cop movies is cliche because it’s always the same KIND of conflict. You’ve got the idealistic newbie vs. the jaded retiree. Young vs. old. Black vs. white. We’ve seen this stuff before.

  • Craig Mack

    Not trying to highjack the thread — but does anyone have the screenplay for You’re Next? I’m plugging in holes in my collection. email me at thecraigmackATgmail . I have a ton of older horror if you are looking to trade.

    • Linkthis83

      Hey Craig. I’d posted a request for this script back in May with no luck. Poe did reply with an article that Barrett stated they might release the script:

      http://www.dreadcentral.com/news/73289/adam-wingard-aj-bowen-and-simon-barrett-talk-youre-next#axzz30zsZfgJ0

      I think somebody (Drifting maybe) actually Barrett up on Twitter about the script and the reply was a no go.

      Do you happen to have the script for WOLF CREEK? That was another one I was after while pursuing YOU’RE NEXT.

      • Craig Mack

        Link — Thanks for the info. I have Wolf Creek 2 if you are interested in that.

        • Linkthis83

          WC2 would be great if you don’t mind.

          linkthis83 at yahoo dot com

          Thank you very much.

    • Casper Chris

      You sure love your horror, Craig :)

      • Craig Mack

        It’s wither that or comedy for me… and I’m not funny enough to write comedy.

  • Poe_Serling

    The one Shane Black project that I wish made it to the big screen: Shadow Company.

    It had all the ingredients for an ’80s action classic. At one point in time…

    John Carpenter was attached as the director. Walter Hill as the producer. And Fred Dekker as the co-writer (he’s currently working on the remake of Predator with Black as the director).

    • Nate

      Hell yes! I read that script three times in the space of an hour a few years ago. It was definitely a script I’d love to have seen made into a film.

  • TomG

    This brings up an interesting question: what does today’s Shane Black think of scripts he wrote a long time ago? Surely his perspective has changed (???). On a somewhat related note I came across this somewhat dated ‘Where are they now’ review of (not Shane) Black list scripts dating back to 2005. Talk about needing your stars to align…

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/the-black-list-where-are-the-top-scripts-of-previous-years-now-20121217?page=1#blogPostHeaderPanel

  • Midnight Luck

    Why with a stellar cast and crew like they had would they only release Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang on 160 screens? It’s production cost was 15 million to make and it only brought in 4.2 million. Maybe Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr weren’t considered big at the time. I went to see it because of the cast and because of Shane Black. Now i know nobody in the average world has a clue who he is, since a screenwriter is only really known in Hollywood and to people who care about the business, but it had big enough production value it should have opened on more than 169 screens. But man, Val’s Gay Perry and Robert Downey were absolutely awesome together. They were just hilarious, i couldn’t stop laughing throughout throughout the movie.

  • Art

    So here’s a question.

    Let’s say you scrape together enough money to go out and make your own little indie film. What if that film sucks big time? I’m thinking on the one hand you have proven that you’re serious and willing to work hard to make it happen, but if the film is complete rubbish maybe that could end up hurting you more and damage your reputation?

    Thoughts on this?

    • Guest

      You better make sure the film aint rubbish, then
      Starting with a good script

    • Mallet

      Well, is no reputation better then making one bad film? At least if the movie didn’t turn out well you have shown that you can make something. Your name is known and you can always do better the next time. If you never make anything out of fear it will turn out bad, then no one in the industry will even know you exist.

      If a writer writes a dozen scripts but never sends them out out of fear people won’t like them and that he/she will get a bad reputation, is that worse then never sending them out at all? I think so. If you never send them out, then why spend the time writing them? Might as well spend that time with family, friends, or learning other skills or working on another career.

      Fear of rejection and failure can lead to people wasting a whole lot of their lives pursuing a dream that they never fully try and realize.

      The other truth of the matter is that maybe the person isn’t good at it. Maybe their writing is bad. Maybe they shouldn’t be making films. It would be best to learn this fact, as hard as it might be, sooner, rather then later after wasting years on something that will never happen.

      If writing (or film making) is just a hobby or interest that someone never plans on fully pursuing, and spending a lot of time and money on their hobby doesn’t poorly effect other aspects of their life, then that is fine. But if it is adversely effecting their lives, then they need to either stop and spend their time/money/effort on more productive activities, or go full out and commit to making something and getting out there for people to see (and yes, judge).

      That’s my take on it. Better to have one not-so-good produced project, then absolutely nothing at all.

  • will

    I don’t know… I think i see why this was on the shelf for so long, the premise is pretty bland. If Black gets some of his famous buddies to star it in it has a chance to rise above the rest. One of those actor elevating the material situations.

  • Linkthis83

    Yeah. I’d love to get the AOW scripts earlier in the week. However, I can also make a case why we shouldn’t get them early. Wouldn’t want the script discussion for the weekend to show up during the middle of the week – which I believe would happen.

  • Kirk Diggler

    Wow, remind why/how Ryan O’Neal was ever a movie star?

  • Matthew Garry

    As opposed to someone who hangs around in bars long and often enough to actually meet thousands of guys and then pretends to be someone in the business so you can mooch a free beer of them?

    >you’re self-centered, selfish and self-focused.

    Something about motes and eyes and beams I think…

    I’m sure you have a point somewhere, and you didn’t mean for it to come across as it did, but it’s lost in all the bitterness.

  • tobban

    A while back a friend of mine gave me a hardcopy of The Last Boy Scout.
    I couldn’t stop reading. Images got in to my head. Loved it.
    Number of times I checked my email: 0
    Number of times I got a snack: 0
    Number of times I read the script: 2 – on the same day.
    Number of times I’ve read the script while screening the film: 3
    You can’t take that away from Shane Black.

    • Poe_Serling

      I have hard copy of The Last Boy Scout, too. I love Black’s character intro for Hallenbeck:

      Inside the car, a lone man is asleep, arms akimbo. Sprawled across the seat. Half-empty bottle of Seagrams. V.O. RADIO on, playing tinny JAZZ music.

      Picture the tiredest, meanest, grouchiest son of a bitch self-hating loser you can.
      Now give him a two-year-old suit from C & R Clothing. Such is the aforementioned HALLENBECK.

      • Casper Chris

        That’s nothing compared to the sex scenes.

        INT. DINGY DRESSING ROOM – NIGHT

        Cory and Jimmy are engaged in very hot sex. This is not a love scene; this is a sex scene. Sigh. I’m not even going to attempt to write this quote-unquote “steamy” scene here, for several good reasons:

        A) The things that I find steamy are none of your damn business, Jack, in addition to which —
        B) The two actors involved will no doubt have wonderful, highly athletic ideas which manage to elude most fat-assed writers anyhow, and finally —
        C) My mother reads this shit. So there.
        (P.S.: I think we lost her back at the Jacuzzi blowjob scene.)

        Suffice to say, they fog the screen.
        At last, Jimmy rolls over and pours champagne into two crystal glasses. Lifts one in a toast.

      • tobban

        Yes, That is a great intro. Then the three kids throw a dead squirrel in his car ! . The C & R clothing reference was funny too. At least if you live in L.A.
        Inexpensive mens wear at its finest on Wilshire and Fairfax.

  • mulesandmud

    Wow. Utterly toxic, hypocritical, and vacant of empathy or life experience. Impressive even by internet message board standards.

    This comment goes right into the character research bin, and not, mind you, into the folder marked ‘Heroes’.

  • andyjaxfl

    You’re obviously not well-read as most writers are. Otherwise, you’d know that the world is filled with people who’ve had a successful career (and sometimes not) in one area and moved onto to success in another field. Not everyone shares your narrow, ignorant, and weak-minded approach to life. Not everyone quits at the first sign of adversity.

    • Kirk Diggler

      Edwin Hubble studied to be a lawyer at U Chicago and Oxford before he changed his mind and decided to teach while pursuing astronomy. He made his scientific breakthrough when he was 35 when he published his expanding universe theory, which went against the prevailing wisdom of the time.

      To hell with naysayers.

  • Linkthis83

    Troll bait.

  • Malibo Jackk

    First off — Shane Black has charisma.
    You can see it on display at Austin. And in the respect that other writers at the conference give him. And he’s very open about the problems that he’s faced — and still faces.
    
    As for writing ability — read the opening from the LETHAL WEAPON script. And the AMAZING opening sequence from a recent copy of THE NICE GUYS. In addition, his scripts have style, craft, and a sense of humor.
    And CHARISMA, WRITING ABILITY, STYLE, CRAFT, AND HUMOR are qualities that are all helpful in a business that is tough on writers.
    
    Here’s what I don’t understand: Shane has his critics who bring up the money business. Why would ANY WRITER complain that another writer is paid too much?

    I’m don’t mean to offend anyone — but I think it says more about the complaining writer than it does the writer that they’re complaining about. And yeah, I think they’re f*cking nuts.
    
    A movie can earn up to a billion or more. It doesn’t even have to and some actor can earn more than 40 million for reciting lines that you wrote. But you… you’re worried because you think some writers are overpaid??

    • Midnight Luck

      Writers are the Interns who get payed shit but make the place operate.

      Why wouldn’t a writer want to make as much as they can? Who knows when your next paycheck is going to come? Black is a perfect showing of this. You can be the best in the business and then disappear for a decade. That money you made needs to last. As far as i can tell Writers don’t make royalties like Directors or actors.

      And yeah, Shane Black is pure cool and charisma, on the page, and in life.

      • Linkthis83

        Writers do get residuals. And I would guess for Shane and LW, he did pretty all right in the residual department.

        http://johnaugust.com/2011/how-residuals-work

        • Malibo Jackk

          Last I head it was 5 cents for each DVD sold.
          (Unless you cut a better deal than the WGA.
          Not sure about the current WGA contract.)

          Looks like the residual graph for GO is not measured in millions.
          But thousands.
          Didn’t add up all the numbers but looks like lifetime residuals
          of somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000.

          (Note to self: Write a movie that people will continually want to purchase.)

  • Steffan

    Dearest Why Start Now:

    I challenge you to a write off. We get a logline from the community. We have a deadline. We offer it up what we write anonymously to the community and they vote on which is better.

    I bet my safe, regretful little yarn applies the proverbial barbed-wire to your story’s taint and wipes its ass clean. That is, of course, if you’re not too busy hanging out in bars and throwing away my email address which is, by the way, steffanralphdelpiano at gmail dot com.

    All the best. I’m sure I won’t hear from you again.

    Yours,
    Steffan

  • Thunk24

    I read Nice Guys about a week ago and thought it kicked arse and stuff. Sorry, didn’t mean to say and stuff. It reinforced the importance of giving your characters attitude, Did you tell me that or was it one of your rivals, Carson? Robert Downey had lots of that Shane Black attitude in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (equally confusing but just as much fun) and took it with him to Iron Man.

  • Random Logline Generator

    Hmm..discus ate my first post lol good thing I saved. Apologies if this is a double post…
    ——-
    Christmas on a cracker, glad I joined the discussion today! Yes, yes, yes, 100% yes to the ‘What I learned #2′. I don’t have any tattoos, but totally agree with the ‘Go Out and Get It’ attitude. Far too often is the case where you write something and think it’s done. No flipping way! That’s just the beginning of the trek to get it filmed and out there for the public.

    First step is promotion, get other people interested in what you’ve probably spent a year (or more?) on. Sites like Scriptshadow are great at generating some of that buzz, if you’re lucky enough to get the shot. But I believe it goes deeper than just sitting back and either waiting on notes or positive (or the dreaded negative) feedback. Get out there and shine a light on your hard work. If some 12 year-old girl can twitter what she had for lunch, then you can use those same social sites to promote your own work. As mentioned by a poster above, it helps to have those insider connections. Mr. Black probably wouldn’t get to far without some sort of insider connections. If you’re like me, and looking in from the outside, anything that screams “Hey Over Here!” will help.

    Secondly, it’s probably time to look beyond the written word. Some of you probably have, or know people who have, some sort of visual skills. This can either be free-hand drawing, computer generated art, or even some simple photography. The ‘judge a book by it’s cover’ is true. I’m much more inclined to check out a book with a cool cover, or artwork on the inside, than just a witty title. Use that to your advantage! I’ve noticed that there’s a link for concept art at the top of the page, probably a good start. One of the things I like to do is draw out three or four iconic shots that might be in whatever I’m writing. This helps out immensely when trying to visualize whats on the page.

    Finally, take that artwork and buzz and DO something with it. Don’t just let it sit there like a limp dick. Maybe start off on YouTube or Vimeo. Move on to something like Kickstarter. It’s one thing for people to tell you they like your script/project. It’s something else for them to GIVE YOU MONEY. If the guy who’s making potato salad can raise money, so can you. And if not, maybe it’s time to move on to something better. If someone on a fundraising site won’t give you 10 bucks, what makes you think a big name producer will give you 1 mil?

    One last thing, practice and believe in yourself. I’ve made my share of shorts, most of them sucked. It got to the point where if I ask another friend to be in one, they hang up the phone. But you know what? Even though they sucked, I learned something each time. Same goes for writing. I’d rather learn on a $100 dollar budget that a $100,000 or 1 mil budget. Write it, tear it apart, then build it back again. You’ll be in a much better position than if you hadn’t, believe me. And believe in yourself, not the overly cocky ‘I can do anything’ belief. But if you’ve been working on a project for a year (or longer?) then you must believe in something. If your trying to promote yourself or project, confidence comes across much better than meekness.

    Well, didn’t mean to write a whole book for the first post, but the what I learned comment really got to me. Glad to finally be commenting, learned so much from the site and you commenters as well. Been following along since I found the site looking for a review of the (dreaded) Superman movie last year. Mr. Carson, hat tip, and keep on keeping on!

    • Casper Chris

      Welcome!

      And well spoken. I live by these words. I created quite the pitch package for my latest script. It includes not only a verbal (written out) pitch, but also posters/one-sheets, sizzle reel, page-to-page visualizations/concept art, audio read by a professional voice actor (first page only), dedicated website etc. It was a lot of work, but I hope it will make more people curious to check out the script. And of course give them a better sense of how I envision the story world.

      But the most important thing is always going to be the script. Don’t spend time on that other stuff until you feel you have a winner. Hell, when you feel you have a winner, go write a few more drafts just to be sure ;)

      btw. this article is quite pertinent:
      http://filmmakermagazine.com/66393-the-image-comes-first/#.U77_yfmSySo

      • Hadley’s Hope

        Interesting article. I actually love the idea of being more proactive in establishing a look and general aesthetic framework, even for just a spec script. I kind of get bummed out when I write a scene with some cool visuals or a kick ass set piece, knowing it is only going to be words on paper (or just words in a PDF) if someone doesn’t throw millions of dollars at the script.

        We live in an age where authors and publishers often make book trailers for novels. It only makes sense that screenwriters, directors, and producers would make visual communication a major component of their pitches. The odd thing is we always hear how it is something we shouldn’t do, especially as amateurs looking to break in to an industry centered on a visual medium.

      • Random Logline Generator

        Cool beans, if you have a website I’d like to check it out! And Thanks!

        • Casper Chris

          Soon!

  • Linkthis83

    The SP line was me. But it wasn’t just the line, as it’s been a running gag on the show. And it was a “heads up” just in case kind of a thing that others turned into oh I’ve heard that line before sentiment. And the other thing I noted is that it was a set up to a joke, which gave it a different context. But hey, who likes truth around here :)

  • fragglewriter

    I’m not much of a fan of Shane Black except for his movie “The Long Kiss Goodnight.” I saw that in the movie and it just doesn’t get enough love. I think Shane Black was ahead of his time, cause if that was made now with Angelina Jolie (maybe pre-Brad), then that movie would of made millions of millions of dollars over.

    It should be every writer’s goal to direct a project no matter of it’s budget. I’m hoping that after I write a few scripts, that I can direct a road movie/coming-of-age.

  • Poe_Serling

    Thanks for the article. That was a nostalgic blast from the past. I remember it as one of the go-to horror movies for kids to scare themselves silly during sleepovers.

    Even though the plot from the original Phantasm doesn’t often make a lick of sense, the nightmare imagery is still memorable: the ultra creepy funeral home run by the Tall Man, weird shifts in both time and dimensions, flying spheres, and the poor kid being pulled through his bedroom mirror.

    It also sorta set the template for other horror flicks such as Nightmare on Elm Street.

    And it’s great to see that Don Coscarelli, the original stars, and Angus”The Tall Man” Scrimm are all involved with upcoming sequel Phantasm: Ravager.

    • Nick Morris

      Pumped.

  • Hadley’s Hope

    I think you have something that could work there. The main issue I have is that if the PI is incompetent enough to be spotted by the mob guys, then it seems a bit of a stretch to have him then save the cop. Sure the cop is old, but that also means he is experienced and likely able to look out for himself. Perhaps it is dumb luck that allows the bumbling PI to save the old cop’s life during the shootout. Think Jamie Lee Curtis dropping the Mac 10 down the stairway in True Lies.

    After the shootout you could have the PI mention that the old cop now owes him for saving his life. The cop could then say “you got lucky kid. I don’t owe you squat.” Then have the young PI tag along, only because the cop allows it due to the cop’s wife confiding in the young PI. So the cop who has trouble communicating with his wife, sort of relies on the PI to tell him what the wife has been saying about him. The wife basically lets loose on all the problems in their marriage, using the PI as a makeshift therapist. The PI becomes a middleman between the cop and the wife. Perhaps he is like the son they never had. Meanwhile you have your mob stuff going on, which is where a lot of the action and set pieces come into play.