Resurfacing

January 13, 2014

I’ve been insanely busy over the last several months, which is the reason (excuse) for lack of updates. I’m directing a play that goes up ten days from now, just started rehearsals for the Combat Tournament of Sherwood (which goes up in February), launching a crowdfunding campaign this week for a book I’m publishing, the film I’ve been producing–Found Footage 3D–entered pre-production last week, and I’m also in a screenwriting class to take things to the next level. And oh yeah, somewhere in there I gotta find time to be a husband and a father. Livin’ the dream.

More later, just wanted to say hi for now.


Hollywood Pitch Sales 2011

February 2, 2012

Last week, The Grid published a this report on Hollywood Pitch Sales in 2011. For anyone interested in screenwriting, or feature film development in general, it would be a good thing to check out. A couple of takeaways:

  • It’s shocking to realize how few movies Hollywood actually makes. The studios bought a combined 80 pitches and 59 spec scripts, total. I guess that’s about to be expected, but when you consider that there are probably hundreds of thousands of people trying to make those sales, it’s a little humbling.
  • 90 agents and 52 managers made these sales. Wonder how many of them are going to be getting queried by writers in the next year. Seems like it might be a good idea to find the ones that sold one, and query them to see if they’re looking for more talent.
  • Almost 35% of the pitches bought were comedies. 16% were thrillers, 13% action/adventure, 13% drama, 12% sci fi, and there was only one fantasy pitch and 1 horror pitch sold. I’m surprised by the fantasy number – expected more for that one, especially with all the adaptations that are constantly being made. Not surprised at all by horror – that’s a market that indie filmmakers have successfully taken away from Hollywood. I was a little surprised to see the comedy number that high, but it immediately made sense – it’s the easiest genre to pitch for a high concept and medium-to-low budget.

And now, for my favorite projects from the list:

6. First Man – Johnny Knoxville, of Jackass fame. “Centers on a man whose wife is elected president. A natural hellraiser, he has totally behaved himself during his wife’s presidential campaign, only to find the dynamic of their relationship changes after he moves into the White House and becomes First Man.”

5. Untitled Cook/Greenberg Pitch – Richard Donner to produce. “Follows the true story of Laura Vikmanis, a mother of two, who became the oldest cheerleader in the NFL at the age of 40.”

4. Who Invited Her? – Reese Witherspoon. “A woman insists on tagging along on a guy’s bachelor party weekend.”

3. 364 – Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. “The title refers to the number of days in a year that a normal guy spends each year figuring out the heroic deeds he will perform on the one day each year that he has super powers.”

2. Untitled Cook/Weisberg Female Action Pitch (formerly called Bitches 11) – “Pitched as an upside down James Bond movie told from the point of view of the women he fucked over. They’ve come together, 11 beautiful but angry bitches, ready to put him where no man wants to be.”

1. The Girlfriend Equation – “Loosely inspired by the true story of an MIT grad student who attempted to find the love of his life by creating a math equation.”



Review – The Spirit

December 26, 2008

I remember hearing someone argue, not too long ago, that to remake Sin City in the way Rodriguez did is almost an insult to the graphic novels.  It’s as if you’re saying that the original work was sufficient, in its original form, and it “should” have been made as a movie to begin with. For my part, I loved the movie, until I read one of the books and left with the experience that I’d just wasted my time reading the storyboard to the film.  It was almost like reading a transcript of a movie – for a writer there’s an educational value to reading an early draft script of a movie that hit it big, but reading a transcript?  Why bother?

Now I haven’t read The Spirit, but from the second I saw the coming attractions I wanted to see this movie. I loved Sin City, in film form, and I loved 300, and I loved The Matrix, so I think it would be safe to assume that there’s nothing this movie could have done to disappoint me.

And I wasn’t disappointed.  The movie is actually quite different in tone than the coming attractions would have you believe.  Rather than being purely black and white with only the bright red tie glowing in color, it’s predominantly a muted grayish palette, like Sleepy Hollow or Sweeney Todd.  Rather than being purely animated backgrounds, as Sin City was, or animated rotoscope foregrounds, the animation is more of an accent, used frequently and unapologetically, but in completely different ways from one moment to the next.  Even the shoes are inconsistent in their white glow and the tie inconsistent in the brightness of its red.

Remember when The Matrix came out, and all people could talk about was that camera technique where they rotate around the action? And then, over time, movies like The One used that technique in a way that incorporated it into what we already know from films.  Frank Miller has done the same thing here: taken the technique made famous by Sin City, and rather than copying it, has blended it with the comic film genre with which we’re already familiar.

From a script perspective, it’s quite campy – after a few years of intense absorption in comic book films, we’ve reached the fourth stage of development: parody.  Not that The Secret is a complete parody, but it’s a comic book movie that makes fun of comic book movies, much like Scream was a horror film that made fun of horror films or like Lyle Lovett is a country singer who sings songs that make fun of country music.  It hits the high points of the genre, subverting it all at the same time.  Get ready for more parodies in the coming years, and genre blends in the years to follow.

Overall, great movie.  Loved it.  Go see it.  It’s just different enough to make the grade.


Review of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”

October 23, 2008

Meh.

Having just read a redefinition of genre that puts Die Hard and Schindler’s List in the same category, I was naturally watching this movie with an eye on what category it might fall into. What are the rules of that genre? What is it that works and doesn’t work about this story?

I was, to be quite honest, disappointed, and I’m trying to figure out whether I’m just being brainwashed into formulaic movie writing, or whether there really was something about this movie that didn’t work. At the outset it seemed like a “Night of Chaos/Buddy Movie,” similar to Superbad, Go, American Graffiti, or Dazed and Confused, but it didn’t seem to know the rules of that genre. Of course, what makes that genre work is that young, immature individuals are after something, encounter a number of hiccups along the way, eventually get what they want and realize that they don’t really want it.

While Nick and Norah may not have missed the boat, they didn’t make it either. They’re sort of straddling the boat on that one. Nick starts the movie in love with Tris. Then it’s obvious he doesn’t want Tris, but goes back to her knowing he doesn’t want her, and then goes back to Norah. Norah starts the movie wanting someone like Nick, then gets Nick and sort of decides she doesn’t want him, then sort of decides she does, then goes back to her ex-boyfriend she knows she doesn’t like, before leaving him and winding up back with Nick.

Meanwhile, they’re trying to find a secret concert and trying to finding Norah’s drunk friend (Caroline). But these quests, too, are moving all over the place, and we’re never sure what they’re really after.

An accurate high school rollercoaster ride, maybe, but it made for surprisingly uninteresting cinema.

At first I was really happy that it didn’t just become a boy/girl rehash of Superbad, after they lose Caroline but find her only 30-45 minutes later. But by the time they found her, the heroes had lost their other quest, and were never really able to get it back.

There, I think, is the lesson we must take from this film – the hero must always be searching, and he must be clear on what he is searching for. Or if he’s not clear on what he’s searching for, we need to be clear that he’s not clear; that he’s searching for something to be searching for. We can all relate to being an aimless teenager, wanting to fit in, wanting to find the hot spot to get drunk, wanting to find the awesome band, wanting to be successful, wanting to find the girl and get laid, and not really knowing which of these is our priority. (For me it’s the last one.) The problem is that neither character was clear about any of this, so the film ended up being a jumbled mess.

There was, however, one gem recurring from yesterday’s post on finding the hammer. When drunk Caroline asks random guy at train station (a cameo by Kevin Corrigan) to hold her gum while she eats half of his turkey sandwich … he takes the gum and holds it. I realized, in that moment, how much more awesomely hilarious that was than the attempted rejection that would be obvious response to such a heinous request. And it completely worked. Don’t try to argue, just take the f***ing gum.

Overall, quite a few entertaining moments, but the amusing obstacles to their quest were lost in the swamp of structure that was this movie.


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