The best films I've seen at Cannes have been Canadian shorts. I actually did get to see a bit of Joss Whedon's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. You know the story behind it, right? Joss has been having actor friends over to his house to read Shakespeare for some time. He had an empty month in his schedule after THE AVENGERS, and rather than going somewhere on vacation, he just decided to shoot a Shakespeare play, in black and white, in modern dress, at his house.
It's a very nice house. And it's fun to see Amy Acker (from DOLLHOUSE and ANGEL and CABIN IN THE WOODS) and Fran Kranz (ditto) and the other usual suspects performing Shakespeare. But Joss Whedon is not an outstanding film director. He's an outstanding storyteller and dialoguist. The problem is that here he's filming Shakespeare's story and dialogue. Though he keeps the visuals interesting and gives the actors interesting things to do amid all that dialog, he just doesn't bring enough to it to make it new.
Or so the buyers seemed to feel. The folks at the desk were holding back hordes of Joss fans with badges, hoping to save seats for actual buyers. By the time I got to the theater, maybe eight minute in, the place was almost empty; and it was not a big theater.
Possibly the most inventive film I've seen here is Chris Landreth's animated 3D film SUBCONSCIOUS PASSWORD, in which C'thulhu, James Joyce, Ayn Rand and Chris's childhood babysitter, among others, try to help Chris remember the name of the guy who seems to know him at the party.
I was also terribly fond of Monica Sauer's whimsical silent THE PROVIDER, about a woman musher who needs a man to provide food for her huskies; and I dug Mark Slutsky's THE DECELERATORS, a parable about a group of kids who want to freeze time so they can stay in their favorite moments. Monia Chokri's QUELQU'UN D'EXTRAORDINAIRE (en français) tells the story of a not-so-young-anymore woman experiencing a surprising moment at the end of a day that starts badly and then goes to Hell in a handbasket. And Elise de Blois has a really clever and funny story called FOU, RIEN PIS PERSONNE.
I haven't seen all the Canuck shorts yet; I'll try to catch more tomorrow. It was interesting to see on the Cannes program that only Canada and Quebec are providing screenings in the market for their shorts. Cannes has a festival program of shorts, of course, and I know the American Pavilion is holding a screening of student work in their tent; but only Canada and Québec (separate pavilions, of course) are helping their filmmakers this way.
But what's really incredible is the wide variety of technique and style and story and theme in the shorts. A narrative feature has a lot of restrictions on it. A short isn't going to make money anyway, so you can do anything you want; and the audience will tolerate more elliptical story telling over the course of ten minutes than they will for ninety. So you're free to execute on your extraordinary vision. And these guys have.
So, I have absolutely no idea what makes a film worthy of screening at Cannes. Your market badge entitles you to a certain number of red carpet screenings. There's no special hijinks involved, you just have to sign onto the website with your badge number at the exact time a given screening goes up for grabs, and spend your points, and if you're online in, say, the first 7 minutes, you'll probably get a shiny holograph end ticket.
So, I'm here in Cannes, with my tuxedo and all; no way I'm not going up that red carpet at least once, right?
Thing is, most of the films selected for red carpet screenings sound not fun at all. I can't remember the premise of ONLY GOD FORGIVES, but you can guess it's not a Kate Hudson vehicle. And my old UCLA classmate Alexander Payne has a movie about a son traveling with his father, who has dementia. It's the tragic sequel to AS GOOD AS IT GETS; I think it's called IT'S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE. Okay, that last sentence I made up. But you get the idea.
So WARO NO TAKE (STRAW SHIELD) is about a team of cops tasked with bringing a giggling psychopath child rapist/murderer 1200km across Japan to Tokyo. Obstacle: a multibillionaire whose granddaughter he murdered has offered a billion yen to whoever takes the guy out. So potentially, anyone they meet could be an assassin. And many of them are. And cops have been bought. And as teammates die over the course of the mission, they themselves will begin to question why good cops are dying to preserve a giggling child murderer who is destined for the noose anyway.
So, this sounds like a good premise for a John Woo movie, right? And, therefore, exactly the sort of movie that gets programmed at Fantasia, and not at Cannes. I mean, it's got good guys and bad guys, and a plot, right?
Goes to show, I have no idea what gets something programmed at Cannes. The movie is exactly as cheesy and on-the-nose as it sounds. Linear narrative, lots of yelling, looooooots of expository dialog, fair amount of blood. And at least five conversations among the teammates about, "why don't we just shoot him and take the money, instead of letting good cops die to preserve the life of a scumbag" (the actual word used in the subtitles). Until I was asking myself, "yeah, why don't you?"
The answer is, apparently, that honor and duty are important to Japanese people. I know, right. Who knew?
And then, tacked-on happy ending.
The only thing I can figure is, a cheesy cop story with a heavy-handed theme is okay for Cannes so long as it is Not Actually Fun.
Bear in mind, of course, any number of my friends saw the movie and liked it. So there you go.
An odd thing about the red carpet is that they will not actually let you exit the theatre via the red carpet. You have to get on line to exit the Palais. And that takes some time. No idea why, but the French do not seem to be too good at managing crowds. The other day I was in the worst river of human traffic I've ever been in, just trying to get up the Croisette to the Scandinavia Terrace. The cops blocked the street to traffic, prioritizing cars. So there you go.
Today is my second real day at Cannes. Saturday I was only semi-coherent, at least to myself, on only about three hours of sleep on the plane, followed by one of the most harrowing descents I've ever been in, second only to landing in Palm Desert many years ago.
It's odd being a writer-director at the Cannes market, or indeed at any market. Film markets are about you, but they're not really for you. Markets are for producers to sell to distributors, and for distribs to sell to buyers. So I keep having conversations that end with, "we'll that sounds really interesting. Let me know when you have a few more pieces in place."
So, oddly, I'm hanging out with the other Canadians. It is, after all, good to get to meet the up-and-coming talent. And it is always good to let old friends know what else you're up to.
One odd thing about screening your short at a market is that very few buyers or producers are likely to come to your screening -- they'd have to sit through nine other shorts. But it gives you an excuse to hand people the postcard with your poster on it, and direct them to your online screener. So your actual presence, or your film's actual screening, is just the tip of the iceberg.
The rest of it is just walking around the festival looking at the posters -- it's an education in what people worldwide want to see.
In another version of the story, three were offered the same choice. Achilles chose glory and death, Homer chose to sing of others' glory, and the third, whose name is not recorded, became the ancestor of most of the human race.
The anthropologist Gregory Bateson used to tell a story:
New College, Oxford, is of rather late foundation, hence the name. It was founded around the late 14th century. It has, like other colleges, a great dining hall with big oak beams across the top, yes? These might be two feet square, forty-five feet long.
A century ago, I am told, some busy entomologist went up into the roof of the dining hall with a penknife and poked at the beams and found that they were full of beetles. This was reported to the College Council, who met in some dismay, because where would they get beams of that caliber nowadays?
One of the Junior Fellows stuck his neck out and suggested that there might be on College lands some oak. These colleges are endowed with pieces of land scattered across the country. So they called in the College Forester, who of course had not been near the college itself for some years, and asked him about oaks.
And he pulled his forelock and said, "Well sirs, we was wonderin' when you'd be askin'."
Upon further inquiry it was discovered that when the College was founded, a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the beams in the dining hall when they became beetly, because oak beams always become beetly in the end. This plan had been passed down from one Forester to the next for six hundred years. "You don't cut them oaks. Them's for the College Hall."
That's the way to run a culture.
From How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand.
I remember seeing a table in Colonial Williamsburg with incredibly wide planks. It had to have been cut from a pine tree at least two feet thick. And this table used these planks, not because they were convenient, which they weren't, but because it was illegal for the colonists to cut down trees that big, because they were reserved for masts for the British Navy. So the table was someone's way of thumbing his nose at the redcoats.
I guess there are some stories that just don't fit in a movie.
Meanwhile, I've been playing a bit of My Singing Monsters on iPad. (I heard about it watching the Canadian Video Awards. Congrats, Nels Anderson! Mark of the Ninja is a great game.) Remind me never to play another free-to-play game again. I would happily have paid ten bucks for this initially adorable game, where you grow an economy of bakeries and decorations so you can breed happy singing monsters. But it's free to play. Which means that as soon as it gets interesting, the game design's goal becomes sucking you into paying cash to keep it interesting. Everything becomes incredibly slow and tedious to do -- you have to leave the game alone for hours, Farmville-style, and then come back to it again and again.
Which means you are not actually playing the game. And it gets more and more tedious and chore-like as you go on.
Sure, I could pay the ten dollars anyway, and get a bit more game play. But I have a feeling that ten dollars would run out pretty fast, leaving me feeling cheated.
I played through BIOSHOCK INFINITE. Once again Irrational Games has created a really fresh and clever and convincing world, with a freaky and surprising narrative. This time, instead of an Ayn Randian dystopia under the sea, it's a racist apartheid state floating in the clouds around 1912. With a film noir anti-hero trying to complete a dubious mission that gets more complex as things go along. And you can jump on these "sky-lines" and zip around the clouds at high speed, which is pretty awesome.
Most of the game you're with Elizabeth, the feisty heroine, who you are initially trying to rescue from her captors -- except that you are rescuing her in order to deliver her to some guys you owe gambling debts to. I did a MIGS talk a few years ago about how games need flawed characters, because flaws are what make us care about characters. I liked that in BI, I care about my hero because he's kind of a rat, and I'm hoping he'll redeem himself. And I care about Elizabeth because she didn't always help me, and didn't even always like me. She's not always the helpful sidekick. She can be very helpful, but she has a will of her own.
The slaughtering is a bit tougher to take than the first two Bioshocks. In those, you're primarily slaughtering "splicers," deranged zombie-like people who are no longer really human. In this one, you're primarily slaughtering cops, guards and soldiers. You know, ordinary guys with jobs. It bugged me a little that this is one of those games where the hero's goal -- in this case, clear a gambling debt -- is so completely out of proportion to his means -- kill hundreds of people who have nothing to do with the debt. If he's that badass a dude, couldn't he have just killed the dude he owed the money to?
It seems unfortunate to me that with all the effort Irrational put into this world, the only way you can interact with it is to kill people. An FPS should have lots of ways to kill d00dz, yes. But I think it's more interesting if there are other interactions you can have with NPCs, and I prefer if there's at least some opportunities not to kill some people.
What I regretted most about the game is how linear the flow is, and how free of consequences. It's not sandboxy at all. You're sent on your basic scavenger hunt: find the gunsmith. What, he's not here? Find him there. What, he has no tools? Find his tools. There aren't a lot of different ways to play the game, except for which weapons you wield and how you use magic, er, "vigors". I'm into the epilog, and there are maybe three or four permanent choices I can remember. (Throw the baseball at the couple or not; which pendant Elizabeth gets; whether to draw first on the shifty teller; euthanize an NPC or not.) The consequences for most of them seem trivial, from what I can tell from articles and forums. Considering the mammoth amount of resources that went into this game, it's a shame that there are so few decisions to make beyond which ways to slaughter NPCs. Considering the budget of a AAA game, these days, there ought to be room for at least one real moral choice.
Of course it's possible that there was an intention to make these choices more meaningful, and that got triaged out as the game moved toward completion. I suspect a lot of teams talk about putting consequence in their games, but in the end they figure they absolutely must get the gameplay and the environment polished and working, whereas the game doesn't absolutely NEED consequence, so out it goes. I've seen that happen. It's a shame our industry is so secretive, because we could learn more from our mistakes if it weren't.
So, all in all, it's a good game when I feel the urge to kill some dudes at the end of a day. And it's a beautiful game. And the world is truly original and convincing. And the story gets reasonably mind-blowing in the finale. But for me, it missed its chance to be a great game. It's just very hard to have your main character's moral choices carry emotional weight when the game makes those choices for you. So for me, the game mostly left me cold.
I remain convinced that injecting real choice into a game like this, if done cleverly, could add no more than 5%-10% to the production cost, while leaving the player with a much deeper emotional commitment to the ending. (I mean, even at the very end ... do you accept baptism, or not? Do you become one, or the other? And that wouldn't require much programming at all.)
And now I'm wondering -- would PAPO & YO have been even more powerful if you had a choice in the end?
Various friends have been posting this article about a perfessor who will, for $20,000, run a script through his Big Datametric Model, and tell you if it will be successful, based on how similar it is to other movies that were successful, or not.
A chain-smoking former statistics professor named Vinny Bruzzese — “the reigning mad scientist of Hollywood,” in the words of one studio customer — has started to aggressively pitch a service he calls script evaluation. For as much as $20,000 per script, Mr. Bruzzese and a team of analysts compare the story structure and genre of a draft script with those of released movies, looking for clues to box-office success. His company, Worldwide Motion Picture Group, also digs into an extensive database of focus group results for similar films and surveys 1,500 potential moviegoers. What do you like? What should be changed?
“Demons in horror movies can target people or be summoned,” Mr. Bruzzese said in a gravelly voice, by way of example. “If it’s a targeting demon, you are likely to have much higher opening-weekend sales than if it’s summoned. So get rid of that Ouija Board scene.”
Oh, if only THE EXORCIST, HELLRAISER and HELLBOY had involved targeting demons rather than summoned demons.
But let's take the idiocies one at a time.
First of all, the company tells you how similar your movie is to successful movies, and assumes that's a good prediction of how successful your movie is. The problem is, the more similar your movie is to IRON MAN, the more people are going to think you ripped off IRON MAN. Unless you are bringing a new twist, I tend to think that the closer you are to recent successful movies, the less successful you'll be.
Second, as fans of Nate Silver know, there's such a thing as data overfitting. If you analyze a data set with enough factors, you can come up with all sorts of correlations, of the nature of "candidates from cities with winning football teams never win the presidency" or "always win the presidency." Unless you can explain exactly why a targeting demon is better for box office than a summoned demon, I'm going to assume you have the box office equivalent of a cancer cluster: a meaningless correlation.
Third, the data set is not really big enough or precise enough to draw conclusions of. How many movies have targeting demons, anyway? Probably not that many. In a small data set, one big flop or one big hit can change everything. Prior to RETURN OF THE JEDI, you might have guessed that having little teddy bear creatures fight gigantic killing machines with stone age weapons would not be indicative of a successful movie. Now, of course, it's a guarantee of >$400M box office.
This isn't Big Data. It's Small Data.
And finally, you can write a stupid movie with all the right elements and have it flop. And you can write a ground-breaking movie that proves the conventional wisdom wrong. All the models in the world will not predict THE FULL MONTY or THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT or, for that matter, STAR WARS. Remember, at the time A NEW HOPE came out, there hadn't been a hit science fiction movie in years, and the studio was convinced they had a flop. Built on hindsight, Mr. Bruzzese's analysis would have told them that STAR WARS was a losing proposition.
And SNOW WHITE. When that came out, there had never been a successful full length animated movie. So, obviously, SNOW WHITE was a terrible idea.
And TOY STORY. Big animated movies were done for, right?
What this really is all about is Cover Your Ass behavior. Studio execs don't like to be responsible for big, expensive flops, because it gets them canned. If they can spend $20,000 of the studio's money on a former perfessor's analysis that says it's a great script, then when the movie flops (as movies often do), they can say, "Hey, how was I to know it was gonna flop? The perfessor said it was a sure thing!"
This is similar to why studio execs hire overpriced stars. Many analysts have run the numbers and movies without big stars tend to make more profits -- because big stars get gross participation and it's hard for the studio to break even. But studio execs keep hiring Tom Cruise. Why? Because you can always say, "How was I supposed to know OBLIVION would flop? I got you Tom Cruise!" And then, maybe, they don't get fired for poor judgment.
(I have no idea if Oblivion flopped, or made back its money overseas, or what. Replace OBLIVION with WATERWORLD, if you like.)
Let's not confuse Mr. Bruzzese with actual metrics and data crunching. I am all for putting 20 civilians in a room and hooking them up to video game style sensors, showing them the movie, and building heat maps, and determining when they're excited and when they're bored from their skin galvanic response. That's Real Data. Like any tool it can be used well or stupidly, but it has the potential of being used well.
What's interesting is how it's not all film schools. NYU, USC, UCLA and UT Austin are there for their film schools, I imagine, though they are also universities that graduate lots of people who go on to live in New York and LA; ditto Columbia. Cal Arts is there for all the animators it turns out, undergrad and grad.
But Beverly High also gets on the list because it is where the Hollywood aristocracy's kids go to school; a disproportionate number of them become filmmakers, and they help their friends get into the biz.
The FAME school, New York's Fiorello Laguardia High School for Music & Arts, graduates a lot of kids who know early on that they want to be creative in the performing arts.
Northwestern is sort of the go-to school for undergraduate dramaramas.
HB Studio and the Actors Studio are on the list along with other legendary actors conservatories like RADA and AADA.
Yale (my alma mater), Harvard, Stanford and Brown get on the list just from graduating a lot of smart go-getters.
I think this list goes to prove that you don't need to go to a film program per se. If you can get into a top film program, great. But there are multiple roads into the biz. Some of them have to do with simply living where films are made. Some of them have to do with learning how to get'er done.
The school that would be at the top of the list if it handed out rectangles of parchment, though, is the School of Hard Knocks. That school generates more real filmmakers than all the other ones put together.
With all the talk about rape culture, I find the Audi "Prom" ad a bit disturbing. A shy kid gets to drive Dad's Audi, so he's empowered to kiss a girl without any consent on her part. Sure, he gets punched by the prom king, but who cares? He got what he wanted.
The girl is purely an object. She seems neither happy nor unhappy at being kissed, just sort of, well, ovewhelmed. Because the way to a girl's heart, obviously, is to grab her and kiss her.
I'd like to see the version of the ad where the girl smacks him in the face. If she wanted to kiss him, maybe she'd already be going out with him instead of her actual boyfriend?
UPDATE: What I'd really like to see is the ad in which he goes up to her and talks with her. And she digs him. And he drives away with a black eye ... and she's in the passenger seat.
I wrote for the Nick series, [very well-regarded animation series] 2004-7.
Flash-forward to a horrendous divorce which began in Northern California, and a judge who knows nothing about Hollywood, the entertainment business, TV hiring/staffing, etc.
Recently I was court-ordered to pursue TV writing again even though:
I never had an agent
My only job was in children's animation where I worked part-time
I have not written a single script since leaving the job (2007)
I am a woman over age 40 (and not a minority)
My ex-husband, my former boss at [series], managed to convince the court that I should return to work as a TV writer. The only reason I was hired to write for [series] is that my husband staffed it.
My question is how can I effectively show the court that I really have no chance here?
Do I cold-call agencies and ask if they might decline me in writing (to document) why I'm not a candidate for representation? I do not want to waste anyone's time, and yet I'm forced into the position of providing the court irrefutable "proof" of rejections to my work efforts.
If I cannot provide proof of effort to be hired as a TV writer, I will lose the support I currently receive from my ex-husband. We have a child with autism, and we can't afford to go without my ex's assistance.
If you are, by some chance, thinking that this is someone's bass-ackwards way asking me to reassure her that yes, she can make it at 40 -- nope, it's not.
Any judge in Santa Monica (where the shards of the former couple live) would know that you can't just order someone to go back into TV writing. That's like ordering someone to go get a job playing in the NBA. A career in TV writing is a prize that many people try for, and some succeed at. To even give it the old college try would entail a year, or years, of writing scripts for free and going on endless meetings in the hopes that you catch a break.
People do that when they're young and can afford to be poor, or when they're half of a couple, and the other half has a steady job and boundless faith. They don't do that when they're the custodial single parent of a kid who needs attention, whom you can't leave alone till 10 pm every night...
Unfortunately, the judge is not in Santa Monica, where it would not be hard to bring in a small posse of hard-workin' older women tv writers to 'splain to the judge how hard things are. He is in Northern California, where it would be pretty hard to find any TV writers to come in as expert witnesses.
Obviously, I have only one side of the story here, and I can't vouch for any of the facts. Nor am I an expert in divorces, having only had a miserable one, not a horrible one.
But how the heck do you prove that you can't get a job in TV?
Here's a $15,000 device that replaces a Steadicam. It might be a small for some cinematic HD video cameras, but you ought to be able to get a RED on there. Interestingly, the MOVI camera allows one operator to move the camera, while a second, remote operator aims the camera, freeing each to concentrate on one job instead of two.
I'm a big fan of Steadicams -- we shot ROLE PLAY almost entirely on a Steadi. Anything that makes it easier to move the camera around flexibly is a big plus. Obviously, with a Steadi you can go down stairs, climb into a car, go in and out of an elevator. Less obviously, your cameraman can easily compensate when an actor goes off his mark, saving everyone time and energy.
I'm not 100% sure that this is a big moneysaver. You can get a Steadicam guy to show up with his rig for, say, $1500 a day (Montreal/Toronto rates), less if it's a favor. Even if you have two operators (who can do things the single Steadicam guy can't), you're still probably paying less than that for the rig plus the operators. But not an order of magnitude less.
On the other hand, it allows any working DP to afford a Steadicam-like rig, so he can bring it into work as an option over the dolly instead of having to rely on the availability of top Steadi operators.
Q. Is there any specific size that the washers need to be?
Any washer that fits over your Acco #5 brads is fine. There are standard brass washers that do.
Q. And does the paper need to be 80 lbs?
The paper for the screenplay should be standard office paper (inket paper or laser paper or multiuse paper). 80 lb is what you use for your cardstock covers. Any cardstock that looks professional should do it.
Q. And is celtx an appropriate application for printing the screenplay?
Anything that formats normally is fine. I've never used Celtx, but some people do and I've never heard any complaints. Once it's printed out, no one will know what formatting program you used.
It's rarer and rarer that someone will actually need your screenplay printed out and physically delivered. Personally, I don't keep any cardstock covers around the house any more. But I also almost never have to send someone a physical screenplay. (Except for SODEC, which wanted 6 copies delivered. I hope that's not what threw my back out this weekend!)
Everyone in my neck of the woods has been chatting about PBS hiring JJ Abrams to
reboot SESAME STREET, and I’m of two minds about it.
On the one hand, isn’t it enough with this guy? Rebooting
STAR TREK and now STAR WARS? Does he get to reboot anything that has two words
starting in “S”?
On the other hand, SESAME STREET has been ripe for a reboot
for some time. The original show was edgier – literally more “street.” If you
watch vintage STREET from the 70’s, they’re now adorned with warnings that
“some parts of this show may not be suitable for children.” I guess we were
tougher then? Standards have got snippier. These days who would dare introduce
Oscar the Grouch? He’s a terrible role model. He’s almost always in a bad mood,
and he revels in garbage. Ernie is clearly an obsessive-compulsive, with his
obsession over his bottle cap collection. He’d have to be clearly marked out as
Special Needs or On The Spectrum.
Back in the day, only Big Bird saw the Snuffleupagus. That’s
sort of disturbing -- if you’re the kind of parent who agrees that a kid who
bites his Pop Tart into a gun and goes “bang!” should be suspended from school.
And then there’s Cookie Monster, who has no impulse control. Terrible role
models, all of them.
So now a huge long tract of every STREET is Elmo, who is
perpetually, psychotically happy. Elmo talks to babies and a fish. Elmo's only claim to being a bad role model is that Elmo talks about himself in the third person.
I always thought sort of the point of SESAME STREET was it was clever enough that parents could watch it. Basically, a lot of it was muppet schtick, which is so old, it never gets old. "It's not a good joke," as Jim Henson used to say. "But it's worthy of us."
So I actually have hopes for the reboot. I don't know for a fact that Abrams is going to get back to the original, edgier impulses of the show that have, like Elmo, been medicated into submission, but I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with it.
I am sort of inclined to wonder how you can do a daily show using all CG characters replacing the fabled muppeteers, but you can do amazing things with mo-cap these days. And it's certainly true that Montreal (STREET's new home) has enough skilled mo-cap artisans to support a big chunk of the video game industry. So it's good all round.
A grad student named Ben Schmidt (I think), has applied Bayesian statistics to film and tv transcripts, comparing them to books of various periods, to help determine which phrases are most likely anachronisms.
Spotting anachronisms can be fun if you're into that sort of thing, as when Downton Abbey's folks talk about a "steep learning curve." And it's fun to learn that "snipers" didn't exist in Lincoln's time; they were "sharpshooters."
It's also instructive, because when there weren't words for things, sometimes there weren't the ideas for them, either. Though sometimes, you discover that the ideas, and the words, are very old indeed. For example, "colonialism" seems like a modern, snippy word. But it is what the Romans practiced, and "colonia" is their word for a, well, colony of Romans they stuck in some patch of land they wanted to keep.
Anyway, go have some fun at Prochronism and see what a brute force linguistic approach can do for your appreciation of a period piece.
My rule in writing period dialog is to make the characters sound like they are talking in the modern era -- no "what hath thou" nonsense -- because everyone is modern when they're alive. The ancient Greeks didn't speak ancient Greek, they spoke the very latest up-to-date Greek of the time. And you can be earthy. "Son of a bitch" has to be at least ten thousand years old (depending on when you believe canis familiaris was domesticated). Just, keep modern slang out of it. Can't have those ancient Greeks saying, "I am so totes over him."
Q. I graduated last year with an MFA in Screenwriting from Loyola Marymount University. I’m Canadian and my visa expires this summer (they give you 1 year to work “in your field” post-graduation and that’s it). So it looks like I’ll be returning to Canada. My career goal is to be a TV writer. Is it wiser for me to move to Toronto or to Vancouver?
From reading your blog posts, Toronto seems to be the answer because the networks + guilds are headquartered there and most shows are staffed there. Does that still hold true in 2013? I know Toronto since I went to college there, but Vancouver appeals to me because of its milder winters and proximity to LA.
According to the CMPA’s 2011 report, Ontario had 47% of domestic Canadian TV production whereas BC only had 11%. The opposite is true for foreign/American production in Canada. If I want to be a camera operator or key grip on a US-produced pilot or series, BC would be the best choice. If I want to be a writer in Canadian dramatic TV, Toronto is the place is to go. Am I understanding this right?
A few of my friends who are big deal TV writers have moved out of Vancouver to Toronto. I don't know anyone successful who has moved from Toronto to Vancouver. I think shows are more and more getting written out of Toronto. So enjoy the Big Smoke, and be sure to go to lots of Ink Canada and Writers Talking TV events when you get there.
UPDATE: See DMc's excellent explanation in the comments below.
This blog post points out that a substantial part of Rob Thomas's Kickstarter for the Veronica Mars movie would go to making a slew of t-shirts for those who contributed $25 or more. Let's say, with labor costs, that it only costs $10 to make and ship a t-shirt -- Rob's only clearing $15.
The flip side of this, I should point out, is that cash has a multiplying effect in film financing. The hardest 10% of a film's financing is the last 10%; that's the rock so many independent films crash on. Rob doesn't have to make the movie only with Kickstarter funds. If Rob clears $2 million in his Kickstarter, he can probably get backing for another $3M, say, from people who will get paid out of the revenues of the picture -- which the Kickstarter gang won't. It's a pretty good gamble that a $5M picture will make them at least $3M, which, considering it's based on a TV show people have heard of, with a TV star, ought to be possible. (I'm making these numbers up. Maybe it's a $4M picture for $2M. Maybe it's a $10M picture for $8M.)
(Whether Warners will let him make it for only $5M, who knows. But let's assume they're sane, and see no drawback to having a creator take a dead series of theirs and turn it into the first in potentially many movies, or even another series, which they would own.)
And, of course, the Kickstarter money also proves the value of the franchise. There are rabid fans out there. If there are 45,000 people willing to pay $10 and up for schwag, how many would be willing to pay $15 to actually see the movie? How many will buy the DVD?
And, there's 45,000 people talking about the movie. There's your word of mouth campaign. 30,000 t-shirts is a lot of publicity. That's a lot of billboards that people are paying to walk around in.
So, sure, $3M in Kickstarter funds is not the same as $3M in the bank.
On the other hand, in many ways, it is substantially better.
Here's a précis of the proposed JOBS Act. Title III would allow crowdfunding portals such as Kickstarter to allow crowdfunders (you) to actually invest. That's important, because right now, if you invest in the Veronica Mars movie, all Rob and Kristen can give you is schwag and perks. Under the new act, they can promise you a return on your money. If there are 32,000 people who'll pay for a PDF of the script, there must be a lot more people who'd gamble some of their spare cash that the new movie will be a hit.
The portal has to jump through some hoops, but nowhere near what companies now have to jump through in order to raise investment money through, say, a boiler room operation. Those are a colossal pain, and involve yards of expensive legal paperwork. The $1M funding limit is a bit low, but it's a start.
I think, wow, there is a fan who is willing to pay $10,000 to put on a waiter uniform and say a line to Kristen Bell in a movie. There are fans who are willing to pay thousands of bucks to travel at their own expense to a movie set in order to be an extra.
I think, dang, Rob Thomas raised $2,000,000 in less than one day.
I think, how the hell are they going to make a VERONICA MARS movie for two million bucks? (Not that there is, intrinsically, any reason VERONICA MARS couldn't be made for the budget of BRICK.)
I think, it is très cool that the creator and the star got together and bravely put themselves out there to get this thing going. This could have blown up in their faces. Kudos. Rob and Kristen for the win.
I think, this is going to make things interesting. What if all those STAR TREK fans in 1969 had been able to do more than bombard the network with letters, but could have actually funded another season of their favorite show? What if Joss asked the Browncoats for the money to make another season of FIREFLY? Or if he and Eliza Dushku decided to go rogue and make their version of DOLLHOUSE where, you know, we got to see what she did with that whip?
HBO changed the rules for greenlighting a series. For HBO, it's not about how many people you can get to watch your show every Monday at 9 pm. It's about how many people are so unwilling to go without THE SOPRANOS that they will pay $15 a month to keep it on their TV.
If Rob Thomas pulls this off, then there's going to be more room for series that fans are rabid about. More X-FILES, more LOST, more BUFFY. Maybe there will be an AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER live action series for grownups. Who knows?
It encourages creators to go smart and edgy. If Thomas had dumbed down VERONICA MARS, 32,000 fans wouldn't have fronted their own cash for, basically, a chance to see a movie, and get some schwag that says you're a part of it.
I keep wondering about Kickstarter. We're putting together a dark little million dollar drama/thriller called ALICE IS PERFECTLY FINE NOW. We'll go to funders, sure, of course. But could we seriously raise some additional funds to make it bigger and better?
Of course, I'm not Rob Thomas or Joss Whedon. I can reach, say, a few thousand Faithful Readers. This is more a model for proven geniuses to leverage their fan base. Aaron Sorkin should be thinking about this. Chris Carter. Ron Moore.
(Jane Espenson, obviously, is thinking about this, but I don't want to see a sitcom farce from her, I want to see badass science fiction. I'm thinking, where are the Cylons? She's thinking, what can I shoot on $60,000 with two dudes?)
Thursday, I auditioned 39 people for six roles in my next short, which I'm shooting in the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatres in two weeks.
I've always been amazed by dancers. They can look at someone do a bunch of moves, and then do those moves almost perfectly, bringing their own artistry and feelings to them, making them their own. I could never even manage the Hustle.
Actors come in the door with an idea how to play a scene, and then you change the meaning of the scene in the audition. They come in playing a scene straight, and you give them an adjustment: "Nope, you're completely insincere when you say that -- you're lying, covering up." And they reinterpret the whole thing, and bring it back to you with the new imaginary circumstance, filtered through their own instrument, their personality, their soul. Really crafted actors can turn a scene around on a dime, with precision and depth.
Actors are amazing people.
Editors have the amazing ability to carry all the footage in their heads and rearrange it in their minds, resculpting the whole structure.
Composers, good ones, have the ability to add an entirely new layer to your piece, made out of music.
For my part, I can feel a story. I can turn it around in my mind, look at it in three dimensions, feel where it's weak, where there's a crack in the structure.
Film is a collaborative medium. That's its challenge. It's hard to get everyone on board. It's hard to communicate what you want to people who work in entirely different media -- lights, or hair, or set design.
But the joy of it is that everyone brings an amazing specialty to it. They tell the story in different dimensions, and it all comes together as one experience for the audience.
Jeff Lin posts a very thoughtful essay on the six years in Ang Lee's life where he was an unemployed film school graduate working on scripts and hoping someone would let him direct one.
From age 30 to 36, he’s living in an apartment in White Plains, NY trying to get something — anything — going, while his wife Jane supports the family of four (they also had two young children) on her modest salary as a microbiologist. He spends every day at home, working on scripts, raising the kids, doing the cooking. That’s a six-year span — six years! — filled with dashed hopes and disappointments. ...
Put yourself in his shoes. Imagine starting something now, this year, that you felt you were pretty good at, having won some student awards, devoting yourself to it full time…and then getting rejected over and over until 2019.
As research for a cop comedy I'm writing, we rented Emile Gaudreault's DE PÈRE EN FLIC again. (It's called FATHER AND GUNS in English, but don't hold that against it. The French title is meant to be a play on "de père en fils," "like father, like son.")
Michel Côté is a tough cop; Jean-Louis Houde is his son, also a cop. The father thinks the son is a wuss. The son thinks the father is an overbearing jerk. To save a cop who's been kidnapped, they have to go on a fathers-and-sons group therapy canoe trip together.
It's really one of the best cop movies I've ever seen. It works on every level you'd want, really. It's a good cop story. It has heart. And it is terribly funny. It's all about fathers, and sons, and two generations, and it is so specific to Québec that any American will immediately get it. It is a cop movie, but only in the way that SEMI-TOUGH was a football movie. Really, it is a relationship movie with a few guns in it.
We had Jean-Louis Houde in BON COP/ BAD COP -- he was the mile-a-minute-talking coroner. I tend to watch Québecois movies with the French subtitles on. In the case of JL Houde, I suspect there are francophones who watch with the subtitles on. There were times he spoke too fast for me to read all the subtitles.
But anyway, rent the movie if you possibly can. It is just beautifully done.
I liked SKYFALL more than I thought I would. It is a truly gorgeous picture, from the very first shot where a blurry Bond approaches camera, steps briefly into the light, and then charges off into shadows. The things I remember Bond films for are all the spectacles -- a car doing a 360 twist as it vaults a canal, Bond's Union Jack parachute, the laser cuttings its slow way towards his crotch, the eject button in the Aston Martin, the spaceship-eating-spaceship. But I can't remember seeing a Bond movie before where I thought, wow, that is really a lovely shot.
Which goes to show: the Oscars did their job in promoting a nominee.
It is still a funny hybrid, this new Bond. The Bond franchise had got really silly and preposterous -- basically the plots were trellises to hang stunts off.
I once heard an interview with Pierce Brosnan, where he said, "Some of us actors can play anyone. The rest of us have this one thing that we hone and hone. I, for example, can wear a suit."
With Daniel Craig the producers picked a guy who projected an inner toughness. They made him a little less invincible, and less cocky. They took away his exploding pens. They allow him to get beat, and not just at the end of the second act, where he was traditionally taken prisoner.
It's an interesting choice, and an interesting direction to take the series. (I guess we can start talking about it as you would a TV series. Lord knows there have been enough episodes.)
The challenge, of course, is that Bond is still a fundamentally silly franchise. Nobody's watching him for his existential crisis. We're watching a ninja.
(Possibility of SPOILERS up ahead, not that you wouldn't have guessed everything everything when you were watching the movie.)
So, you have this tougher new Bond, who isn't an elegant manbot. When he feels betrayed, he can abandon his duty and go on a bender. And you still get to see the beautiful spectacles -- the train crashing through the hole in the ceiling, the motorcycle chase along the rooftops.
They don't quite go together. The plot is full of silly. There's the bad guy who wants to punish M, but goes about it in the most roundabout, baroque way possible, rather than just, say, kidnapping her from her flat and torturing her, which could not have been harder to achieve than his actual plot. And of course the bad guy is apprehended with surprising ease, but then it turns out he planned being captured (or possibly just planned for being captured, I wasn't clear), and the head techie at MI6 is dumb enough to plug his laptop into MI6's computer network, and the room in which he's being held happens to have an escape hatch into the sewers.
And then Bond takes M to his Stately Manor House with the intention of having a confrontation with the bad guy, not bothering to pick up a single sniper rifle along the way, or notify the SAS.
And then Bond, who did all this in order to protect M, completely fails in his mission. It's a beautiful moment, but hey, Bond failed. And that's never brought up or dealt with.
But why am I trying to pick holes in a Bond plot? They're not meant to be taken seriously, are they? After AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY and THE INCREDIBLES, who needs to remark that there are easier and surer ways to kill a hero than lowering him slowly into a pool of mutant sea bass? I've got a gun, I'll just go get it. --Shhht!
Because they have opened up the franchise to be taken seriously. If Bond is drinking beer now, and growing stubble, and getting shot, then he is taking a few steps in the direction of being an actual human being, as opposed to a Savile Row suit that Pierce Brosnan puts on and wears oh so well.
I found myself enjoying the movie, but not really in an engaged way. I found myself going, Oh, that's a lovely shot. But I was torn between the two horns of the hybrid. On the one hand the movie asked me to treat it as a real story, not just a bucket of eye candy. But on the other hand the plot was still utterly preposterous in a way that really, it did not have to be. After all, half of the movie makes some kind of sense. You could make a spectacular Bond movie where Bond getting trapped in a safe house without artillery was a result of pressure from the bad guy, rather than a cinematically lovely choice that no eight year old Call of Duty veteran would ever make.
Or, you could just go back to the eye candy Bonds, where we're never asked to take anything seriously, ever. Those are fun, too.
Obviously this movie worked for a lot of people. Lots of people swallowed the contradictions without worrying about it. After all, if you do something fundamentally flawed well enough, it can still work on many levels. Daniel Craig has a tremendous presence on screen, the supporting cast was superb, the spectacles were terrific, and the cinematography was a delight.
But if you're planning a mashup of some kind, especially if you don't have Daniel Craig and $200 million, do look at the internal contradictions between the things you're mashing up. You can get a lot of hybrid vigor. But you can also wind up with a movie at odds with itself.