Genre: Crime Drama
Premise: A team of corrupt cops come up with a unique plan for a heist that involves eliminating one of their own.
About: Writer Matt Cook has been pushing his way up the seemingly endless ladder to a produced credit for awhile now. He first hit Hollywood’s radar back in 2010 with his Black List script, By Way of Helena. That’s what a lot of aspiring writers forget. The system doesn’t allow screenwriters to just barge in and start snagging movie credits. It makes them work for it, prove that they have staying power first. Then, and only then, are they given a shot at the big time. Well, Matt’s certainly making his debut count. Triple Nine will star Aaron Paul, Kate Winslet, Norman Reedus (Walking Dead), Woody Harrelson, Anthony Mackie, Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and future Miss Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot. John Hillcoat, the director, is best known for his gritty apocalyptic flick, The Road. The irony of all this? Matt’s script was originally written back in 2010, the same year he broke out. That’s the draft of the script I’ll be reviewing. But I’m sure they’ve since gone through plenty of rewrites.
Writer: Matt Cook
Details: 126 pages (June 22, 2010)

LWD_paulPinkman’s being smart by staying within his genre wheelhouse.

We love our movies, don’t we? We love them so much we strive to bring them back to life with every script we write. Why else would JJ Abrams make Super 8 (E.T.)? Or Ben Affleck make The Town (Heat). The problem with re-writing your favorite films is that they don’t have their own identity.

One of the biggest tests for an artist, and what truly separates the trendsetters from the trendfollowers, is to let the movies of your past influence and inspire you, but never overcome you. When you find that magic balance, you become a Wes Anderson or a Quentin Tarantino, someone who was influenced by something, but not dominated by it.  In the end, what you see is a unique voice, which is what everyone should be striving for.

Triple Nine has enough Heat in it to remind you of diner conversations between De Niro and Pacino, and that Val Kilmer used to be skinny and important. But I didn’t want to see another Heat. I wanted to see something new. And as I flipped through the first 20 pages, I wondered if Triple Nine was going to give me that. Let’s find out if it did…

Chris Allen is brand new on the job. He’s come over from Venice Beach patrol to the LA gang unit, where the big boys play. He’s nervous when he’s teamed up with street-wise veteran Terrell Tompkins, a 40 year old black cop who plays by his own rules, but soon Allen’s showing Tompkins that he’s not the pushover he assumed he was.

Too bad Tompkins has a secret. He rolls with a crew of cops that rob banks, using their knowledge of cop procedure against the very institution they work for, against the very people they swore to protect.

But greed does funny things to people. Somehow, by turning this into a system, they got hooked up with the nasty Richard Lustick, a tall tanned sylista who’s pissed off that they almost fucked up his last job. So now he wants them to make up for it. They’ve gotta hit one of the most heavily guarded buildings in the city, Homeland Security. If they don’t, Lustick’s going to pluck all their little families’ heads off and feed them to the seagulls.

The crew’s fucked. How the heck are they going to get into Homeland Security? Well, one of them postulates, what if they called in a “999?” What’s that, you’re asking? It’s an “officer’s been shot” call. And when it happens, every cop in the city collapses on that area to take down whoever’s shooting cops. Which, of course, leaves the rest of the city wide open for the taking.

The crew has one last decision. Which cop are they going to kill?  You guessed it. Poor little Chris Allen. Which seems all fine and dandy at first. Until Tompkins starts liking the guy and wondering if, when the time comes, he’ll be able pull the trigger. That’s all part of the fun. Figuring out if our oblivious hero’s DNA is going to become a permanent part of the LA landscape.

gal-gadot-25-gal-gadot-s-batman-v-superman-wonder-woman-costume-is-badassWonder Woman will be bringing her truth lasso to Triple Nine.

I was worried early on in Triple Nine. There’s no doubt Matt can write. But all I could think about while reading this was that I’d seen this opening heist before.  Like in at least a dozen movies and TV shows. It’s the “I love movies” problem all us writers have. We remember those favored passages from movies we’ve watched infinity times, and we want to do the same thing. We want to do what our idols do!

Luckily, Matt’s writing is strong enough to keep us engaged throughout this derivative section. What Matt does well is he doesn’t relegate the character development to our hero, Chris. He gets to know all the players, especially our corrupt cops.  You want to know the benefit of doing that?  Look at the beginning of this post and read the cast sheet again.  That’s why you do it.  Because the more developed characters you write, the more good actors are going to want to be in your movie.

You pull this off by remembering that individuals in a group always have their own thoughts, their own opinions.  How boring would it be if every one of these bank robbers saw their job the same way?  The oldest member of the group, Michael, looks at everything like a business decision, so he has no problems killing Chris. But the youngest member, Gabriel, doesn’t think it’s right, and battles back and forth between whether to stay involved.

The only time a group should think the same way is when it’s so big that you can’t explore everyone individually. Michael Arndt learned this while writing Toy Story 3. He realized it would be impossible to give every single one of the toys their own storyline. He conveyed this frustration to one of the other writers, who pointed out, “Yeah, outside of the big four, the toys think and act as a unit.” As soon as Arndt figured that out, everything about the script became clear to him.

Regardless of Matt’s job with the characters, though, it took way too long to get to the hook here. We don’t hear about the 999 plan until page 52. That’s super-late and should’ve come at the first-act turn at the latest (page 25-30). How do you set up 8 big characters in under 30 pages so you can get to that plot point early? Welcome to the life of a screenwriter. You have to figure it out. Because it wasn’t until we hit the 999 plot point that the script came alive, and more importantly, started to differentiate itself from Heat.

In fact, the structure then became almost genius. We have a strong line of dramatic irony pushing the central story thread. We know that Tompkins is planning on killing our poor hero, Chris, and that Chris is completely oblivious to it. Therefore there’s nothing we can do for him, which drives us nuts (and more importantly, forces us to keep reading in our desperate hope that he’ll figure it out in time).

By itself, this would’ve been fine, but Matt adds an extra layer by having Chris’s uncle, another cop, investigating the opening heist. As the movie continues, he gets closer and closer to finding out it was these cops, which gives us hope that Chris can be saved. This wisely added a sense of urgency to everything.

After the 999 introduction, the only thing that bothered me was the action writing. Action writing needs to be laid out differently than standard description writing in order to visually show that time, on the screen, is moving differently. The problem with Triple Nine was that whether we were describing a character or running down a hallway while being shot at, every paragraph was written the same – in three lines.

So for example, you’d get something like this (my version).

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 3.42.44 AM

Here’s how that action probably should’ve been written (my version).

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 3.43.57 AMThe first choice may not seem terrible. But imagine an entire page of that. It would slow the read down to a crawl, which is the exact opposite of how you want the script to read during an action sequence. Of course, every situation will be different, which means there are some scenes where bulkier-written action may work, but the second example is generally how you want to approach it.

Triple Nine wears its influences on its sleeve (Heat, Training Day), but it’s got just enough of a unique take to stand out on its own. And I’m sure the script has only gotten better with time and rewrites. Congrats to Matt for finally getting his ‘produced credit’ wings.

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

What I learned: One of the top reasons I see writers using lots of big paragraphs during action scenes is to lower their page count. Don’t do it. It isn’t worth making your action slow and boring just to hit a low page count. Use other established methods for cutting pages instead (get rid of unnecessary characters, combine characters, combine scenes, etc.).

  • andyjaxfl

    “One of the biggest tests for an artist, and what truly separates the trendsetters from the trendfollowers, is to let the movies of your past influence and inspire you, but never overcome you.”

    Great quote, Carson. It reminds me of a similar quote I read a few weeks back about why we have so many remakes/reboots/sequels: “Spielberg, Lucas, and Coppola were influenced by adventure/space serials and 30s gangster movies, and they gave us Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and The Godfather. Directors today were influenced by films from their youth and set out to just remake them instead of creating something of their own.” Wish I could remember the source of the quote… damn you, brain!

  • brenkilco

    It frustrating not having the script, but I have a lot of questions. We have a bunch of cops whose job it is to take down heavy duty criminal crews. A big time criminal approaches them and says if they dont do what he wants he’ll hurt their families. And they fold up. Huh? If he’s got indisputable evidence that they’re robbing banks and is blackmailing them it makes sense. Otherwise I have a problem

    Why do they have to kill anybody? Why doesnt one of the cops agree to let himself be wounded? Wouldnt that be about a hundred times safer? Is this even considered?

    What exactly do they have in the Homeland Security Building worth stealing? The typical Computer file Macguffin? Does the plot at all depend on the swag in question?

    A passive clueless protagonist would seem to be a problem. How does he finally tumble to the threat against him? Does he turn things around and make the story his own?

    Crooked cops plus the old pull one last job or I’ll kill your wife/child/dog bit plus innocent patsy marked for death setup is a perfectly workable combo but Carson isn’t telling us what’s unusual about the way it plays out. I want to know more.

    I know the criticism of the action description is legitimate. Action in scripts is written the way Carson has laid it out. But am I the only one who finds reading ordinary paragraphs much easier? Jumping your eye down the page where individual lines may not contain even a whole sentence or in this case may be only a single word is really unnatural unless your first language is Japanese. How about just:

    Nick tears blindly down the hallway through dense smoke, Smith close behind.

    • Cuesta

      “Action in scripts is written the way Carson has laid it out.”

      Really? Tell me movies with scripts written that way.
      I can tell you the Wachowskis, Cameron, the Nolan bros, Luc Besson, Tarantino, and Goyer, as examples, write action in ordinary paragraphs.
      And every action show or film I read, like Nikita, Knight Rider, The A-Team or Casino Royale too.

      • brenkilco

        Well with regard to the Wachowskis, Nolan and Tarantino, it’s like the old joke. How does an 800 pound gorilla write a script? Any way he wants. I was referring to most of the examples that show up on this site. Two that come to mind are The Equalizer and Carpenter’s script for The Thing. The Bourne scripts also read like this. But if counter examples not crafted by superstars are common, I’m happy to hear it.

        • IgorWasTaken

          If I understand your point, then I gotta say that action in “The Equalizer” is not written (i.e., formatted) that way. For example, this is from page 25:

          WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

          Defies explanation. There is no form or elegance to it.
          It’s not graceful or flashy. Just brutal and beautiful at
          the same time.

          McCall snapping the glass shelf in two… the jagged edge
          hisses through the first man’s neck – slaying the dragon – an
          opera of blood enters the air…

          McCall already across the room. Planting the fork deep into
          the heart of the second man…

          The OTHERS halfway to their feet when McCall scoops the Gold
          shot glass from the table, ramming it into the eye socket of
          the third man, driving it deep enough to enter the man’s
          brain… Man quivering like a frog in a science
          experiment…

          Slavi’s hand coming out of the desk drawer with a .45…
          McCall already pulling the trigger of the gun inside eye-
          socket’s pocket…

          Blowing Slavi’s hand off at the wrist… hand and gun
          twisting into the air like a dead bird…

          McCall catching the head of the fourth man. Using his weight
          and leverage to snap the neck with a nauseating crunching
          sound…

          McCall steps back…

          As THE MEN fall around him.

          • brenkilco

            Sort of midway between Carson’s example and a style that requires traditional sentence and paragraph structure. And what’s with all the participles? Active verbs not good enough for this guy?

          • IgorWasTaken

             
            Yeh, about -ing words. That’s why people who say not to use them, regardless of circumstance, are idiots wrong.

            If all of those verbs were in simple present tense, it would kill the flow of the action. It would both say and feel like each action was separate, merely starting as we saw it.

            But because of the -ing forms of those verbs, the entire moment feels fluid… Like a ballet of violent retribution.
             

          • brenkilco

            Dunno. Think most of them could be removed without affecting the flow. Some are part of clauses that are descriptive and should stay. Matter of taste I guess. I do get your point about the effect of the ing’s, everything seeming to happen simultaneously in a sort of suspended present. But I’m still biased toward whole sentences.

      • charliesb

        All the writers you mentioned (except Besson) write pretty exclusively for themselves. And Goyer is barely a writer, so I’m just going to ignore him*

        *Personal preference, to each their own.

      • Unfinishe

        I like Tony Gilroy’s action, which is almost inseparable from his regular writing — sentence fragments — separated — by double-dashes. He’s said a producer described reading one of his scripts as “falling through your story.” Gilroy pushes your eyes down the page.

    • charliesb

      I was thinking the same thing, this:

      they got hooked up with the nasty Richard Lustick, a tall tanned sylista who’s pissed off that they almost fucked up his last job. So now he wants them to make up for it. They’ve gotta hit one of the most heavily guarded buildings in the city, Homeland Security. If they don’t, Lustick’s going to pluck all their little families’ heads off and feed them to the seagulls.

      Really bothered me. Does Lustick want revenge or money? The group almost fucked up the last job so the answer is to put them in a situation where they are almost guaranteed to fuck up?

      The thing about a movie like this is that Cops know the stakes, a group of cops planning and executing robberies are going to know the art of the patience. They have day jobs, they have pensions, they can’t flash tons of money around because that would be suspect. They are either doing it for the thrill or some kind of long term endgame. Regardless, these robberies need to be about restraint and timing.

      Whatever the reason is that is going to make them break with their established and proven pattern needs to be good, REALLY GOOD, and believable. The way it reads in Carson’s review doesn’t really work (for me).

      Sounds more “Armored” than Heat/Training Day. :(

      Too bad, Aaron Paul needs a win after Need for Speed.

      • brenkilco

        If I were Aaron Paul I’d want to be in something where I got to wear a suit and act charming and mature. In short, normal. He doesn’t want to get typecast as the scuzzy, dimwitted fall guy. Nobody is competing to be the next Giovanni Ribisi.

        • Kirk Diggler

          Note to self- Cancel payment to the L.A. seminar “Being Ribisi: How you too can be the scuzzy, dimwitted fall guy in the next Hollywood action film!”

          • brenkilco

            Hey, it’s steady work.

          • Ambrose*

            Kind of like:
            “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.”
            “Yeah, I know, And such small portions.”

          • brenkilco

            What do they say? At any given time eighty per cent of the screen actor’s guild is unemployed. I guess if you were the go to actor for playing slimeballs you could make a nice living. Back in the seventies there was an actor named Paul Koslo. Not much remembered today. But if you’ve seen a lot of seventies movies you know him. All he did was play dumbass criminals and henchmen. So Clint Eastwood shot him in a couple of movies. And Charles Bronson shot him in a couple of movies. Hell, I think even the aging John Wayne killed him once. Now maybe the guy really wanted to do Shakespeare, but the bottom line is he worked a lot.

          • Ambrose*

            Or another “character actor”, Andrew Robison, who’s been around since the ’70s.
            His place in movie history has to be the scene in ‘Dirty Harry’ on the football field, Harry Callahn asking him if he feels lucky, and stepping on his wounded leg.
            He hasn’t been working much lately. He teaches at USC.

          • brenkilco

            On the blu ray of Dirty Harry he explains that the great flying somersault he does when Eastwood shoots him in the stadium was suggested by him and that he actually did it. Years later he played Liberace in a TV movie. Guy has range.

    • IgorWasTaken

      brenkilco wrote:

      I know the criticism of the action description is legitimate. Action in
      scripts is written the way Carson has laid it out. But am I the only one
      who finds reading ordinary paragraphs much easier?

      For me, it depends. I think you can get the pacing right even without breaking up the action into a bunch of lines. And so – If you want a scene to feel faster than the others, first you should consider how those other scenes are written?

      It’s like if someone says, “I can’t hear you. Could you speak louder?” Well, how loudly were you speaking the first time?

      I haven’t seen the script. But just based on what Carson excerpted, I’d just change the last sentence of the original:

      There’s smoke everywhere, leaving them with less
      than a foot of visibility. But the barrel through
      recklessly anyway.

      brenkilco wrote:

      Jumping your eye down the page where individual lines may not contain even a whole sentence or in this case may be only a single word is really unnatural unless your first language is Japanese.

      If the script never uses breakouts to suggest a faster pace, then using it only here would seem make it tougher for me to read smoothly.

      And consider (while screenplays are not books), that when you read a Tom Clancy novel (just for example), the pace goes from normal to way-up without breaking up/out the paragraphs.

    • MGE3

      Put Lustick in a police uniform and kill him, carry out the heist, blame it on Lustick’s rogue crew and don’t pay him commission. 4 birds, 1 stone.

  • thedudespeaketh

    Would really make my day if this script was to magically find its way into my email box at thedudespeaketh@gmail.com :)

    • JakeBarnes12

      If no one sends, check Write to Reel forum — it’s there.

  • Randy Williams

    In the real world, I think Los Angeles’ elite police squad, “Metro” would hold back from the police shooting and engage to protect a federal building. They don’t play. That would be interesting.

  • Randy Williams

    Congrats on finishing that screenplay, well done!

    I’m kind of the reverse. I’m so “lost” that any script that “looks” like me is unique, all right, uniquely a mess.

    It takes guidance from others to keep me on the straight and narrow. My scripts now look more and more like the dedication others (diamonds, you know who you are) have put into helping me along.

  • leitskev

    Ironically, isn’t it more the pro writer who consciously rewrites a proven film structure than the amateur? Just asking.

    Isn’t it true that the pro writer recognizes that the studio sees value in a proven formula? In fact, isn’t the astute pro writer adroit at adopting successful story patterns into his own work? Careful, of course, to provide something different, but nonetheless following the beats.

    Everyone has different sensibilities when it comes to something being too “familiar”. It seems to me that the highest sensibility exists with those who analyze films and scripts for a living. Not saying that’s good or bad, but I think it’s true and worth considering.

    Just wondering, that’s all. What the heck do I know. Billy Wilder said ‘no one knows nothing’, or something like that. I hope so, that way I won’t be alone!

    • Montana Gillis

      William Goldman (Butch Cassidy & Sundance kid – Princess Bride etc…) said “nobody knows anything” and I believe he is right. You bring up some interesting points worth considering. Good post.

      • leitskev

        Oh, it was Goldman! See, I proved his point!

  • Midnight Luck

    Thursday Article Possibility:

    I think there is something to what you said Carson. It really got me. I want to know more about it. It is intriguing. Is there enough to make an article of it? I hope so.

    “The system doesn’t allow screenwriters to just barge in and start snagging movie credits. It makes them work for it, prove that they have staying power first. Then, and only then, are they given a shot at the big time.”

    How do they make you “prove” yourself? How did they make the author of this prove himself without getting any produced credits? How did he work his way up an endless ladder, again without getting any produced credits? Is everything he does as a Ghost Writer? Or are you only talking a Produced Movie Credit? Has he been working in TV and that is considered something else. Is a Produced TV Credit not very impressive in Hollywood? And why? Even with a bunch of TV Credits behind you, are you still not very interesting to the Movie side of Hollywood? At what point doing TV writing does it Hurt your chances of writing for movies?

    Maybe as a Thursday Article break down the paths of a few writers. The long winding one, the success out of the gate one, the bizarre path one, etc. Mainly pointing out how Hollywood makes you “Prove” yourself before they give you the Greenlight? Before they buy that big Spec and actually turn it into a Film. What does this mean, Proving yourself, and how do you go about it, if being on The Black List isn’t enough? How do you repeatedly show your writing has the goods, without getting any Produced Credits?

    • SandbaggerOne

      I’ll preface my reply by first stating that I consider
      “proving yourself” as being closely linked with “trust”, to the point where
      they are almost synonymous.

      I think the thing with proving yourself is that there are a
      lot of ways to do so, and a lot of different standards that producers might
      have, both for their company and for individual projects. There is no real way
      to gage what it might take because, like beauty, “proving yourself” is in the
      eye of the beholder. Also, you have to
      differentiate between proving yourself to get a writing assignment vs. selling
      a spec and getting the opportunity to work on it and develop it with the
      director and producers.

      For example, “proving” yourself to Disney so that they give
      you a chance to write on the next major Marvel or Star Wars blockbuster is a
      lot different then “proving” yourself to write Sharknado 3. Another possible
      complication is that a producer might think you have “proven” yourself (or
      trust you enough) to write a $1 million horror film, but that same producer
      would never even consider you for the $12 million action thriller.

      From my experience at the studios I’ve worked at, and this
      won’t thrill most amateur writers reading this, but proving yourself and trust
      is done/created by personal connections and being “good in the room”. A strong
      writing sample (and being available to meet in person with the execs) will get
      you a meeting, how good you are at “selling yourself” will get you the job. Sometimes you don’t even need the writing
      sample.

      Here is one story that will sicken most people reading this,
      like it did me when I heard it, there was a small studio making lower budget,
      (almost) straight-to-dvd, movies and they wanted to make part three of a
      minorly successful franchise (that had done pretty good overseas (at least good
      enough to warrant a part three)). The producers didn’t really give a crap about
      this film, it was just a way to get fees and make a little extra cash to
      finance other films. They were taking pitches from a few local writers but
      didn’t care enough to invest a lot of time in the process. A PA at the studio
      who had never written anything before (literally not even a writing sample)
      tossed out a pitch to the producer and since the producer knew the PA, and
      didn’t care one way or another (and also knew they could pay him next to
      nothing) said sure and the PA got the job. The PA recruited one of his friends
      (who had also never written a script), bought some screenwriting books, and
      wrote the script. It got made, they got their produced film credit, and have
      since gone on to have pretty decent scriptwriting careers (well they earn their
      living as writers, making enough money to live and take nice vacations, and own
      condos).

      So, yeah, there was that.

      The best advice I could give to any writer not living in
      Hollywood or any other major film city (Vancouver, Toronto, New York, London,
      etc…) (and not able or willing to move) would be A) Connect with the local film
      scene, people making short films, etc… and volunteer (in any position) to get
      experience, network and get any sort of “official” credit on a produced short
      film that screens at festivals, etc… at the same time B) find the nearest small
      studio to where they live, doesn’t matter if they make weepy “true story”
      MOV’s, low budget, straight-to-dvd sci-fi films, or whatever it is, find out
      what movies they are making, what budgets, etc… and write stuff (even if you
      aren’t a fan of the genre) geared directly towards selling them a script or at
      least giving them a solid writing sample of stuff they are making and be available
      to meet with them in person and “sell yourself”.

      Proving yourself and gaining trust is not just about being a good writer, or even a competent writer, there are hundreds of those around for any producer to chose from, it is about making human connections, being social, having good ideas, being able to adapt yourself and writing to what is needed at any given time.

    • SandbaggerOne

      I’ll preface my reply by
      first stating that I consider
“proving yourself” as being closely linked with
      “trust”, to the point where
they are almost synonymous. 

I think the thing
      with proving yourself is that there are a
lot of ways to do so, and a lot of
      different standards that producers might
have, both for their company and for
      individual projects. There is no real way
to gage what it might take because,
      like beauty, “proving yourself” is in the
eye of the beholder. Also, you have
      to
differentiate between proving yourself to get a writing assignment vs.
      selling
a spec and getting the opportunity to work on it and develop it with
      the
director and producers. 

For example, “proving” yourself to Disney so that
      they give
you a chance to write on the next major Marvel or Star Wars
      blockbuster is a
lot different then “proving” yourself to write Sharknado 3.
      Another possible
complication is that a producer might think you have “proven”
      yourself (or
trust you enough) to write a $1 million horror film, but that same
      producer
would never even consider you for the $12 million action thriller.
      

From my experience at the studios I’ve worked at, and this
won’t thrill most
      amateur writers reading this, but proving yourself and trust
is done/created by
      personal connections and being “good in the room”. A strong
writing sample (and
      being available to meet in person with the execs) will get
you a meeting, how
      good you are at “selling yourself” will get you the job. Sometimes you don’t
      even need the writing
sample. 

Here is one story that will sicken most people
      reading this,
like it did me when I heard it, there was a small studio making
      lower budget,
(almost) straight-to-dvd, movies and they wanted to make part
      three of a
minorly successful franchise (that had done pretty good overseas (at
      least good
enough to warrant a part three)). The producers didn’t really give a
      crap about
this film, it was just a way to get fees and make a little extra
      cash to
finance other films. They were taking pitches from a few local writers
      but
didn’t care enough to invest a lot of time in the process. A PA at the
      studio
who had never written anything before (literally not even a writing
      sample)
tossed out a pitch to the producer and since the producer knew the PA,
      and
didn’t care one way or another (and also knew they could pay him next
      to
nothing) said sure and the PA got the job. The PA recruited one of his
      friends
(who had also never written a script), bought some screenwriting books,
      and
wrote the script. It got made, they got their produced film credit, and
      have
since gone on to have pretty decent scriptwriting careers (well they earn
      their
living as writers, making enough money to live and take nice vacations,
      and own
condos). 

So, yeah, there was that.

The best advice I could give to
      any writer not living in
Hollywood or any other major film city (Vancouver,
      Toronto, New York, London,
etc…) (and not able or willing to move) would be A)
      Connect with the local film
scene, people making short films, etc… and
      volunteer (in any position) to get
experience, network and get any sort of
      “official” credit on a produced short
film that screens at festivals, etc… at
      the same time B) find the nearest small
studio to where they live, doesn’t
      matter if they make weepy “true story”
MOV’s, low budget, straight-to-dvd
      sci-fi films, or whatever it is, find out
what movies they are making, what
      budgets, etc… and write stuff (even if you
aren’t a fan of the genre) geared
      directly towards selling them a script or at
least giving them a solid writing
      sample of stuff they are making and be available
to meet with them in person
      and “sell yourself”.

      Proving yourself and
      gaining trust is not just about being a good writer, or even a competent
      writer, there are hundreds of those around for any producer to chose from, it
      is about making human connections, being social, having good ideas, being able
      to adapt yourself and writing to what is needed at any given time.

      • SandbaggerOne

        Sorry for the huge block of text above. Seems the formatting got erased during the copy/paste from my word doc.

      • klmn

        It’s not generally known, but Hollywood writers prove themselves by going through the sun ceremony of the plains Indians (notably Cheyenne and Sioux). Don’t tell anyone I told you.

      • Midnight Luck

        I appreciate your words, and thanks for the comments.

        However, the points you are making aren’t the ones I was.

        I know what you are saying, and understand all the ideas of what it means to “Prove Yourself” in a typical situation. I get the theories, and completely understand how it works in most situations.

        I was talking about what Carson is describing in this one particular situation. The idea that a writer can get on the Blacklist with a script and then be put through the ringer, forced to prove themselves for years, before anyone will take a chance on them.

        I am interested in exactly how that works in the Real World environment of Hollywood. What is actually happening to these people. What they must do to prove themselves. What they may have gone through between the time of getting on the Blacklist and the time a script is actually bought and Produced.

    • andyjaxfl

      It’s amazing that a director can barge in and start snagging movie credits with $150-million budgeted flicks after one low budget movie that turns a nod worthy profit, yet writers are left to fight each other like gladiators just to get a script on a pile.

      But I like the idea for Thursday’s article…

      • Midnight Luck

        Hey thanks. Appreciate the props.

        I am not sure if Carson reads the posts that much, or if I should send it along to him. I have posted other ideas before for Thursday articles and none have come to fruition. So maybe it needs to be emailed off to be considered.

        I agree completely with you.

        Directing is wonderful, and good Directors can make a script into an amazingly beautiful, spectacular piece of art.

        But none of that would have ever come about without the words on the page.

        I know this argument has been made forever, but why is the screenwriter the lowest life form in show business? Why is the writer considered the most replaceable and lamest kid on the dodgeball team? The geekiest individual at the Star Trek convention.

        None of the stories in all of Hollywood Time could have been made without the screenwriter creating it, FIRST.

        It is crazy that the Writer has been known as the odd man out, the one who is seemingly unnecessary to the whole process. In actuality, they are the Most necessary to get the whole thing going. Without them, without their story, all the Actors, Gaffers, Foley people, Location Scouts, and even the Producers would be twiddling their thumbs wondering what to do. Yet they are treated like nothing. Like less than nothing in some cases.

        • andyjaxfl

          Re: Why the screenwriter is considered the most replaceable and lamest kid on the dodgeball team?

          I think it’s because everyone thinks they can write, but they don’t because of a variety of excuses. If they put any time and effort into researching the craft they’d know just how frigging hard it is. But they think it’s just sitting at a computer clacking away until you’ve copied every beat in your top-five favorite movies until you reach page 120.

          And people always simplify what they don’t understand. They don’t understand that in that 120 pages you have to have setups and payoffs (structure, structure, structure, people!), believable characters, meaningful dialogue that doesn’t ramble on for pages at a time because this isn’t a novel, it’s screenwriting, and we have a time limit of sorts with an industry wide limit of 120 pages (at least for us newbs).

          I think Carson does read the comment. I find the comment section pretty helpful, but I don’t have time to keep up during the week and I’ll revisit over the weekend and read everything. I’ll sometimes sees a few responses he wrote to people a day or two after the article was published.

          But maybe an email would work best. II love the idea for an article — can’t say that enough! — and while I’d love to direct my own scripts some day, writing is cheaper than financing an entire film. That’s my (hopefully) ticket in!

  • Acarl

    If anyone has this script can they send it my way? hagpok @ hotmail dot com

    • Linkthis83

      sent.

      • Acarl

        Thank you, kind sir!

  • Midnight Luck

    Check out a great Thriller done in 2009 called BROOKLYN’S FINEST, Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) with Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle, Richard Gere, Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lili Taylor.
    It had a lot of what this movie seems to have in it. A very complex mixture of who’s on who’s side, corrupt cops, doing corrupt things for the right reasons, the wrong reasons, bad partners, etc.
    It was a really great movie, that no one saw.
    I mean the Training Day Director, and it landed flat on the Movie landscape.
    There was even a 999 call (I believe) after the cops dressed someone else up in one of their cop uniforms, shot him and threw him out the back of an Ambulance they had stolen. They were using it as a getaway vehicle, all to throw the other cops off, and as a way to get the bystanders to pay attention, which led to the 999 call. (who knows, maybe even now I might be confusing this with HEAT, THE TOWN, and maybe another)
    Anyhow, many similarities.
    You have to work so hard to make sure that, even if you do put something in your script that has similarities to other films, there is something so unique about those scenes, so different, they don’t automatically call up exact scenes from a bunch of other big movies.

    • charliesb

      I forgot about this movie. It started off pretty generic if I remember correctly, and then a character got killed rather suddenly and it actually became a pretty good thriller.

      • Midnight Luck

        I enjoyed it. I thought it kept things interesting throughout.
        I wouldn’t put it up there with my favorites, but I did find it very enjoyable to watch.

    • Unfinishe

      Re: BROOKLYN’S FINEST: According to Netflix, I rated it 2 out of 5. As I recall, it profiled a rookie, a jaded (alcoholic) veteran, corrupt cops, an undercover cop, and there was probably a white hat somewhere in there. Forgettable.

      • Midnight Luck

        well, we all have our own likes.

        It was no Training Day, but I still enjoyed it a lot.

    • Somersby

      Midnight, if you haven’t seen Internal Affairs – also featuring Richard Gere – I recommend it. It’s a pretty soldi corrupt cops story. Great performances from Gere and Andy Garcia. And Nancy Travis is sizzling hot. (Sorry, I don’t mean to be sexist… but damn it, she really is!)

      • Midnight Luck

        I believe I saw that one, but it was years ago. I don’t really remember it.

        Best movie with Nancy Travis in it? SO I MARRIED AN AXE MURDER. Just hilarious. Where did the good Mike Myers movies go?

        For that matter, where have the good comedies gone?

        Thanks for the call out. I will check it out again.

  • Linkthis83

    In regards to TRIPLE NINE, the opening scene is quite similar to that of TRAINING DAY: waking up, husband/wife, feeding child, packing gear that let’s us know he’s police, dynamic chatter about the day ahead…

    Congrats on finishing your script.

  • Logic Ninja

    OT:

    I’ve got a question about everyone’s writing processes.

    I’ve always found music helps me come up with story elements and tone; I’ll have five or six songs that make up the heart of a given script–a playlist of inspiration music.

    But I’ve also found it doesn’t help to write while that music’s playing. Whenever I do, the music convinces me what I’m writing is good; but later I’ll come back and find I’ve written a pageful of garbage.

    Has anyone had a similar experience? What do you guys do for inspiration?

    • Kimmo Häkäri

      I also like to listen to music while figuring out the story / outline, but when it comes to producing pages, absolute silence is best by far.

    • Linkthis83

      I agree regarding music and story creation. When actually typing, this is what I listen to:

      • Poe_Serling

        It’s like walking down the hallway in a Stanley Kubrick film… and I even had the feeling that someone/something was about to jump out and grab me. ;-)

        • Linkthis83

          When I was working on TOMMY TUCKER, MOTHERF*CKER for the IISC contest, white noise was fantastic to write to. It helped me stay focused on the scenes I was in. Even when I wasn’t typing but working out what needed to happen in a scene and how it should play out. It’s so easy to get distracted otherwise. And real life silence is too silent. That background drone noise is great. I recommend trying it. Unless it makes you too tense for Kubrick reasons. Then I totally get it :)

      • Logic Ninja

        This is a really interesting idea! I’ve never come across anyone who uses white noise before. I’m gonna try this today, see if it works out. Thanks, my friend!

        • Linkthis83

          I hope it does. I love it.

    • IgorWasTaken

      Can This “Neuroscience Based” Music App Really Boost Your Brain Power By 400%? – Wired

      http://www.wired.com/2014/07/neuroscience-music-app/

    • Bifferspice

      i find i do better with mellow instrumental music. anything too upbeat or with anything in the way of lyrics distracts me, but some mellow classical music or jazz seems to do the trick :)

  • IgorWasTaken

    Balsamic Reduction wrote” “Here: ‘…They charge through the smoke. A reckless maneuver…’

    No. The way you wrote it: That’s a summary; it’s not visual.

    It should be written as we see it. In a way that unfolds it before us. IOW, you need to mention the smoke first. And then tell us they run through it.

    If you wrote, “They charge through the smoke”, I’d ask, “The smoke? What smoke?”

  • Poe_Serling

    To be honest, I’m not really a fan of either the four/five action paragraph (too blocky for my taste) or the single action line/doublespace /another single action line (too much like reading a shopping list).

    My sweet spot is the happy medium between the two styles. Something more like this:

    KIMBLE

    slams Nichols hard against the glass. The WIRED
    GLASS CRACKS and bellies with the form of their bodies.

    Nichols’ head rocks from the impact.

    The GLASS GROANS. The wire stresses. The caulking begins
    to drop.

    Nichols struggles but Kimble has him in control. Slams
    him down hard again.

    HELICOPTER

    Circles, illuminates the struggle in its spotlight and
    Gerard closing.

    >>I find this sort of action sequence to be more creative and dynamic as a reading experience.

    But, hey, that’s just me.

    • IgorWasTaken

      I know this style is done. I know it will continue to be done. But…

      “… The WIRED GLASS CRACKS”?

      No, it doesn’t crack. (OK, technically it does, but…) What really happens is: Those two guys SMASH the window.

      And if you want, you could add: reducing it to just glass fabric held together by its embedded wire mesh.

      It’d be like writing: “He SLAMS into the door. The DOOR opens.”

      See, I’d rather go with: “He SLAMS through the door.”

    • andyjaxfl

      I love that style of action writing. I guess it’s personal preference. My main man Walon Green writes his action that way, and I noticed in my recent read-everything-Brian Helgeland-wrote phase, he writes his action that way too.

      It’s weird, when I’m reading a book I don’t mind long paragraphs and I consume every word, yet when I’m reading a script I tend to skip five or six words at a time. I have screenplay ADD apparently.

  • Poe_Serling

    “Is it just me (being a newb) or doesn’t this sort of writing actually slow down the read?”

    Yeah, it could… I guess it just depends on the particular reader’s taste in style and format.

    I don’t mind the the mini-sluglines here and there. So, when I read:

    HELICOPTER

    circles, illuminates the struggle…

    For me, it’s a visual CUT TO another bit of action within the same scene. Plus, I like how the structure of the descriptive lines keeps pulling my eyes down the page and gives the scene a sense of movement and energy. ;-)

  • brenkilco

    Personally, I’m with you. Helicopter in caps sitting alone unconnected to anything brings me up short. And does the line refer to a circle of light or the fact that the helicopter is circling overhead? I’m honestly not sure. Wouldn’t it be simpler if the line just read The helicopter illuminates the struggle in its spotlight. I’m sorry but this pulling down the page stuff is lost on me. I don’t read down. I read across. And if it’s interesting and clear I keep reading.

  • Lou Rawls’ Ego

    The gang member banter lacked gravitas for sure.

  • andyjaxfl

    Brad Ingelsby broke in outta nowhere few years back with a script that eventually became Out of the Furnace. I found the script incredibly difficult to read because of the chunky prose and lots of ink, but I enjoyed the story so I kept plugging away page after page.

    Reader friendly may help, but so does writing something so freakin’ good that the reader can’t put it down. Now I just have to figure out how to do that myself!

  • jw

    This premise sounds utterly preposterous and another example of recycling Hollywood storylines, mashing up The Town and Training Day and End of Watch and, and, and… Jesus Christ, get an original storyline and try to tell your own story. We’ve seen this bullshit before.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Would like to read David Chase’s screenplay LITTLE BLACK DRESS.

    David, if you’re listening — send me a copy.

    malibujackk at gmail dot com.

  • Cfrancis1

    Denzel a boring actor? Are you serious?

  • kenglo

    LOL…just read this — as they say in textland – SMDH!

  • maxi1981

    When you mentioned David Ayer it reminded me of a movie called Street Kings, which he directed. It also had some decent actors in it, Keanu Reves, Forrest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, and some good moments but overall it was forgettable.

    I guess Ayer has made a name for himself writing these kinds of movies that follow similar themes and beats.

    I do have to say that Training Day is one of my favourite movies, definitely in my top 10 favourites ever, and End of Watch was also really good, but I think that was because of the way it was directed and the acting by Jake Gyllenhaal.