Complications Ensue: The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog



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Monday, May 31, 2004

RANCE

I have been reading Rance's blog. Rance claims to be a bona fide actor/celebrity, and from his writing, I can believe it. (Rumor has it he's Owen Wilson, but who knows.) He's also very, very funny.

This though is from an even funnier guest blogger:


Name: Jacob
URL: http://www.yankeefog.com
E-Mail: yankeefog@yankeefog.com


If I were in charge of Fox, I would hire creative and talented writers, directors, and actors, and then I would leave them alone and let them do their jobs.

Hahahaha!

Hahaha!

Ha!

No, seriously, what I'd really do is, I'd buy a beautiful, sensitive script that speaks honestly about love, and then I would ask the writer to put in fart jokes, and when he resisted, I would decide he was "written out", so I'd bring in a guy whose work I've never actually read but who once worked in the business office of the Harvard Lampoon, and I'd have him do a punch up. Then I'd use that script to attract an aging action star who is smart enough to know that the public doesn't want to see him do action anymore, and he wants to broaden his range, which is why he is attracted to this script. His one objection is the fart jokes, which seem to spoil the mood of the film, and I agree with him completely, and promise to fire the writer who put them in. Once this actor is onboard, I would bring in another writer to make the script just like every other action movie this star has done. Then I'd attach a director who directed a really great Pepto-Bismal spot. Two days before production started, when the star finally looked at the shooting script and realized that it wasn't the sensitive and honest film he thought he was signing on for, I'd listen to his concerns with complete sympathy and agreement, and then respond to them by firing the director. In his place I would put somebody whose work I had never seen, but who went to USC (either the film program or the school of hotel management, I forget which) and therefore must be good.

When the film tanks, because the action star was right about the fact that audiences do not want to see him in yet another fart-joke-filled, derivative action movie, I will shrug, sigh, and point out that I did everything I could. I attached a big name star to the project, hired not just one but two promising young directors, and, above all, had three seperate writers polishing the script, which of course makes the script three times as good as one written by a single author. Hey, who can predict the audience?

About myself: I am Barbra Streisand's former hairdresser.


(Jacob, if you object to my quoting you here, do write.)

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Sunday, May 30, 2004

WINE DARK SEA: THE PREQUEL


Troy is not at all a terrible movie. It has many fine scenes and some good characterizations. Sean Bean as Odysseus is all you'd want of the man. ("Is this one of your tricks?" asks Achilles, and Odysseus responds, "You have your sword. I have my tricks.") Paris is the popinjay you'd expect, and Hector is possibly a bit too small, but you can't have him dwarfing Brad Pitt's dour Achilles, so there you go.

What's really the problem is that the movie doesn't know what it wants to be. It starts promisingly enough about Achilles's choice to abandon a happy, forgettable life for immortality and death. But then it gets lost in a love story between him and Briseis. Unlike Michael Jackson, Achilles is definitely a fighter, not a lover, and the Iliad was never a love story.

It doesn't help matters that the filmmakers cheaped out on the tragedy. Andromache makes it into a hidden tunnel with her son, the same tunnel that rescues Aeneas, his father, and a whole passel of escaping Trojans. It even looks like Paris escapes with Briseis. C'mon, all the Trojans bought it. All of them. So did almost all the Greeks, within a couple years of their return. Isn't that the point of the story? I think only Odysseus and, ironically, Menelaos and Helen make it home to domestic bliss.

Oh, and, in this movie, Hector kills Menelaos early on. Huh?

The Greeks swarming into the city at night is as awful as you could hope. It reminded me a good deal of the version I wrote, though you'd expect it would. And the screenwriter made a nice choice not to show Patroclus swiping the armor, so the uninformed audience can assume, like the Trojans, that Achilles is fighting when he is not.

But fundamentally I don't think the movie knows what it is. Is it a romance? A war story? What? Why are we watching? What are we supposed to get out of it?

That's why it's so important to our series that we figure out what our show is supposed to be. I think we're getting there...

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Saturday, May 29, 2004

TRIPE. BUT HIGH QUALITY TRIPE.

I have been meaning to see Troy ever since that amazing teaser trailer showing one Greek galley sailing along, and then the pull back to reveal many Greek galleys, and then the pull back to reveal an entire ocean covered with Greek galleys. (Though, I have to point out, why weren't the oarsmen pulling? And didn't Homer call them "black ships"?) And then the movie tanked and every right thinking individual came out against the movie for being Bad. Tonight, however, for the first time since arriving in Cape Town I had a little time for a movie after taking a pass at the latest script, and I noted that (a) the IMDB is giving it a 7.1, which is pretty darn good and (b) all the lines quoted on the IMDB quotes page are lines I would have been perfectly happy to write myself.

That's when I notice that the movie last shows at 8:30 pm and it is already 8:45. So, off I go to The Day After Tomorrow.

This movie is about the highest quality trash out there at the moment. Sure, you can compare it to 1970's disaster flicks. But I can't, 'cause I never saw them. But you have the multiple story lines following various people caught up in the cataclysm. You have the every conceivable form of jeopardy (tsunami, freak subzero downdraft, multiple Force 5 tornados). You have two kids falling in love, two divorced people remembering how much they love each other, a few clueless politicians learning how wrong they are (dead ringers for Dick Cheney and the Shrub, because Roland Emmerich is German and can get away with that). And most important, you have the main character (of course a climatologist) setting off on an entirely unnecessary rescue mission against all odds of his son, who does not actually need rescuing, which rescue mission kills one of his best friends; but we are meant to cheer at the unnecessary rescue mission.

Still, for sheer spectacle the movie is hard to beat. The most terrifying shot, actually, was not the monster wave dousing Lady LIberty, nor the monster storms, nor the neat shot of glacier-covered North America... it was the shot of the sky over Manhattan darkening as millions of birds got the Hell out of Dodge. You know that can't be good.

Perhaps AO Scott summed it up best in the Times: "The Day After Tomorrow" is rated Pg-13. Millions of people die, but nobody swears, copulates, undresses or takes drugs.

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Friday, May 28, 2004

I've been a bit quiet lately because I am on a new gig as Head Writer for a science fiction show shooting in Cape Town, South Africa. "Charlie Jade" is a mystery show about a detective from a parallel universe who's blown into ours by an industrial accident. He wants to get back home, until he discovers that the nasty corporation that screwed up his world is trying to screw up our world...

We are working intense, long days. The part of Cape Town I'm in, Sea Point, is a dead ringer for Santa Monica, except with rocks for a beach. There are Jewish delis, white stucco 1963 buildings with names like "Avalon" and "Costa del Sol" and "Costa Brava," warm weather and irregular fog. And, of course, poor homeless people.

I don't actually see much of Cape Town. We're working long hours and 7 day weeks. It is huge fun to write a big expensive sf show after writing an intense little comic drama like "Naked Josh." It is a relief to be writing a show for which I am not actually responsible, since as Head Writer I am not the person who has final say over the scripts. (The Creator and Exec Producer does.) While it is nice to have final say, it is also enjoyable to work as a craftsman and just do the best job you can as a craftsman.

Science fiction is fun to write. It's what I most like. While I put a lot of heart and soul into "Naked Josh," if I had my druthers I'd create an hour long sf or fantasty drama... so it is good to write this.

It's also a good thing to go from being one of two people co-writing a small show, where I wasn't in the thick of the production, to supervising a staff a brief walk from the lot where they're shooting. It's nice to be in a production meeting and come up with a solution to a problem on the spot. I missed that on NJ.

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Here's a nice poem from Philip Larkin:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad,
They may not mean to but they do
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old style hats and coats
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can
And don't have any kids yourself.

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Sunday, May 09, 2004

FRIENDS FINALE

Lisa figured the Friends finale would suck, so I bet her it wouldn't. She thought the whole thing would be goopy. I thought it would be a little goopy but they'd deflate the goopiness with jokes. In the event, it was surprisingly unsentimental. Even the Ross-Rachel reunion (you knew the writers had to deliver it or face a lynch mob) was played almost entirely for comedy. Only in the last two minutes or so did you get a sad little bittersweet moment, and it was over quickly. If anything, I felt cheated. Not that I've been watching for all ten years, but I've been watching reruns for a couple years now and I may have seen half the episodes. I wanted something a little more sentimental than we got.

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WHAT CASTRO SHOULD DO

Boy, what would Bush do if Castro suddenly decided to cede Guantanamo to the US? Then it wouldn't be "foreign territory" any more. Think Bush would have to give the prisoners some rights then?

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Thursday, May 06, 2004

NEVER DOUBT

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does."

-- Margaret Mead

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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

SHOGGOTH AND FRIENDS

Read "Shoggoth's Old Peculier" again, and like the fairy story it is, in the morning, the Otherworld is gone.

But is it really? Or is it that when the hero of a fairy story wakes up to find the Faerie world gone, he has only lost the Sight? Perhaps it is still there, and he can no longer see it (by whatever accident he could see it in the first place).

Or, a more unsettling notion, is that the faerie world has Moved On. It was connected at this point for a while to our world, and now its connection point has slipped further on, in some kind of arcane orbit.

Lisa read Hunter my five page pitch for "Unseen," and he LOVED it. I'm so delighted. 9 year olds don't fake their enthusiasm for stuff, and Lisa had been clever enough not to tell him it was mine beforehand, anyway. I'm thrilled.

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Sunday, May 02, 2004

HORSE BOOKS

"Writing a good horse book is no easy thing," writes Mike Sullivan (as quoted in the New York Review of Books), "if you are writing for adults."

Lisa thought I should see What a Girl Wants, so we all watched it. It is a pretty predictable movie, which is to say its setups are pretty obvious and you are just waiting for the payoffs, and yep, you get'em. It was also a hugely popular movie for a movie made for teenage girls (though Hunter sat through it all the way, being a big Amanda Show fan).

Anyway the formula was pretty obvious. Amanda Bynes's character had never known her father, her mother had never remarried, and she didn't know what she wanted to do with her life. By the end of the movie, she had a boyfriend, she had a great relationship with her dad, and dad was back with mom.

I was tickled that I'd lucked (or smelled my way) into the same formula with Unseen, which I have to say is "What a Girl Wants among the fae." Rebecca doesn't know who her father is, doesn't have a boyfriend, her mother has never remarried... you get it. The only thing I missed, which my agent Geoff pointed out, and Lisa insisted I put in, was the dreamy boyfriend.

I'm feeling my way here, because I don't want the movie to slip away from what I care about, but the details of the plot are not really what I care about. I care about the fae, and Rebecca's following the mystery of what they want from her. So if making it a little more What a Girl Wants gets the picture an audience, I'm up for that.

Now if only I could get my novel published, I'd be a happy camper.

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