Friday, August 23, 2013
I loved John Badham’s I’LL BE IN MY TRAILER: THE CREATIVE WARS BETWEEN DIRECTORS AND ACTORS. It’s been one of the most useful books I’ve read about directing actors for the screen. Badham, of course, is the veteran director of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, BIRD ON A WIRE, WAR GAMES and yards of other films and TV. I had the pleasure of working with him on a project about Paul Watson, the rogue environmentalist/pirate. If anyone’s qualified to do a nuts and bolts book about directing, John Badham is your guy.
In his upcoming book ON DIRECTING (pub date September 1), Badham expands his survey beyond dealing with actors to the rest of directing, from why you don’t want to shoot a master shot of an action sequence (your editor will chop it up anyway), to how to use storyboards, to the need for a point of view in your camera placement.
No one can teach you everything about directing in a book. Actors need different things from their director. Directors have different cinematic styles. ON DIRECTING acknowledges that, but still gives you lots of useful tools and nuggets of information. How to deal with an actor who is creatively blocked. Why you need to slow fast action down, and how to do it convincingly. How to deal with actors who want to do their own stunts.
And it’s not all Badham’s knowledge. Badham has interviewed director and actor friends, and the book is filled with insightful quotations.
My only complaint, really, about this book, is that I wish it were a lot thicker. It’s 240 pages long, convenient for throwing into a backpack. I wish it were two or three times as long, because there’s so much to learn from it.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Q. I would be interested in your thoughts on submitting to the WGA's Black List.
It began as a survey. In 2005, Franklin Leonard surveyed almost 100 film industry development executives about their favorite scripts from that year that had not been made as feature films. That first list - many of which have been made since - can be viewed here. Since then the voter pool has grown to about 500 film executives, 60% of whom typically respond.
Over 200 Black List screenplays have been made as feature films. Those films have earned over $16BN in worldwide box office, have been nominated for 148 Academy Awards, and have won 25, including Best Pictures SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and THE KING'S SPEECH and five of the last ten screenwriting Oscars. A complete list of Black List films is below.
Now they seem to have added a moneymaking side to it, where you can submit scripts for money.
In October 2012, we extended our mission further by allowing screenwriters from the world to, for a small fee, upload their scripts to our database, have them evaluated by professional script readers, and subject to that evaluation and our recommendation algorithm, sent to our - at present - over 1000 film industry professionals. You can begin the process of being discovered here.
This is not the same as the Blacklist. This seems to be a script reading and evaluating service, using the Blacklist brand. There's nothing wrong with using a script reading service, especially if you don't have friends in the biz who can give you honest feedback. But it probably won't get you on the Blacklist. You get on the Blacklist by having your agent send your superb script around, and having development execs love it and send it around to their development exec friends. You can't buy that service.
I would be careful of any script reading and evaluating service that says it can help you break in. I would use a service to get good feedback so you can make your script better. I think the way to break in is still to query agents
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Q. I am considering script consultants to look over my screenplay, and I noticed your services. Should one register their script with the WGA before sending it to any paid script consultants?
Q. Or, is this done after you have gotten notes and completed any changes you might make as a result of the notes?
No need to wait. No matter what changes you make to the script, it will likely retain many of the same characters, plot twists, scene order, chunks of dialog, etc., so that if someone poached a later draft, they would be using copyrighted material from the copyrighted draft.
Though, in general, very few people poach scripts. Really, very, very few.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
I'm pretty thrilled with the game. We got a slew of "Best" awards at E3. People seem to dig the story and the key game mechanic, where you can become your own shadow and run along the shadows on the walls.
If you're at PAX or Gamescom, check it out. Coming soon to a PS4 or PC near you!
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
I note that in 2006 you said no one writes/uses series bibles anymore and also went on about show runners, etc. In this day of so many cable networks, Netflix, etc., all competing for original content would you say that maybe that has changed? I had read a while back that Netflix was actively soliciting for more new content. I am wondering if all these competing networks may have opened the gates a little to let in and review new writers. I also want to ask if there are accomplished and well known show runners who may be looking for new things and how would we find them.
I have written a series bible and a pilot episode with a professional writer who has done a lot for other writers, but has no screen credits. I am satisfied we have everything properly formatted.
I have a connection with an agency through the family and have been told they would look at our screenplay when ready even though they do not work with unproven writers. I am preparing for an alternate course if they can not do anything for us.
First of all, you have an agency to go to, so that's a good first step. If they think they can sell your stuff, they'll take it on.
Yes, there are more networks looking for material. However, they generally still want an experienced showrunner attached to the material. Otherwise, who's going to run the show? They don't want to buy an idea, they want to buy an idea along with someone to execute.
I still don't think anyone buys bibles as such. That's because a bible is just a bunch of promises. To see if the show works, there has to be a pilot script. In certain cases (e.g. Canadian TV, animation), an experienced writer can sell a pitch and then get paid to write a pilot.
You have a pilot script, so if you get an agent, she can go out with it. If you sell it -- a long shot even for an experienced writer! -- they'll still put a showrunner they trust over your head. But you get a pretty decent payday even if all you do is share a Created By credit, and get royalties for each episode, and demand to be on staff.
How do you find a showrunner? Your agent approaches showrunners who have production companies, and who are looking for material. It's her job to know who these are.
It's going to be hard to approach showrunners without an agent. But you can try. Look up the credits for a show you like. Find out who the Executive Producers are. See if there's a production company associated with one of them. (Often there's an animated logo for the production company at the end of each episode.) Google that production company. Find out their contact info, and contact them.
Wednesday, August 07, 2013
(I'm particularly thrilled that they called out our story.)
Contrast (PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Release: Fall 2013
What It Is: Compulsion Games' platformer/puzzle hybrid, where shadows paint your surfaces in a 3D world inspired by the film noir of the 1940s and the 1920s vaudeville theater scene.
Why You Should Care: One look at Contrast's visuals is enough to garner interest. Still, Contrast isn't looking like a one-trick pony. Not only does the gameplay look varied with the main character's 2D shadow ability being used in different ways such as to transport her around the 3D world, but the story, which focuses on a girl named Didi and her imaginary friend, Dawn, is more mature than you'd expect. It centers on Didi's strained relationship with her parents. This promising title could be the next indie darling, and so far it's looking anything but conventional.
Tuesday, August 06, 2013
Vulture.com has a really terrific New York Magazine
piece interviewing Damon Lindelof about writing blockbusters
. Lindelof has some interesting things to say about his work on WORLD WAR Z, where he took an over-the-top third act and brought it back to something human. One of the interesting things he says is that, if he'd been the previous writer, he would almost certainly have written an over-the-top third act, and he explains why. "
"It’s hard not to do it, especially because a movie, if properly executed, feels like it’s escalating ... Once you spend more than $100 million on a movie, you have to save the world. And when you start there, and basically say, I have to construct a MacGuffin based on if they shut off this, or they close this portal, or they deactivate this bomb, or they come up with this cure, it will save the world—you are very limited in terms of how you execute that. And in many ways, you can become a slave to it and, again, I make no excuses, I’m just saying you kind of have to start there.
“It sounds sort of hacky and defensive to say, [but it’s] almost inescapable,” he continues. “It’s almost impossible to, for example, not have a final set piece where the fate of the free world is at stake. You basically work your way backward and say, ‘Well, the Avengers aren’t going to save Guam, they’ve got to save the world.’ Did Star Trek Into Darkness need to have a gigantic starship crashing into San Francisco? I’ll never know. But it sure felt like it did."
Where it gets really interesting is when the interviewer proposes he Hollywood up the legend of John Henry, Steel Drivin' Man. Of course John Henry has to be childhood friends with the inventor of the steam hammer. Of course they have to be in love with the same woman. But if it's a blockbuster, there have to be stakes
. What is John Henry driving the steel for? Lindelof starts small, but by the end of it -- say he's channeling Writer C in the eventual arbitration -- well, read the article.
Thursday, August 01, 2013
Andrew O writes:
What are your thoughts on crowd sourcing and crowd funding, especially with regard to TV? Is it good, bad, the future of the industry? Are crowd funded Web series a good launching pad for TV writing careers?
I'm curious because I'm working with some friends on the Web's first full length, multi-camera, shot in front of a live audience sitcom. We taped the pilot last month at a theater in Hollywood and we're getting ready to launch our fundraising campaign soon. Are we blazing a trail or trying to push a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll all the way down at the end?
"It's hard making predictions, especially about the future," said Yogi Berra. Time will tell if he was right. It's impossible to say whether crowd funding will be a flash in the pan (probably not) or the Next Big Thing (probably not). It is becoming clear what works well in crowd funding, though. If the principals are famous people, more citizens are likely to chip in money for their projects. If the designer of a well-loved computer game puts out a call for his passion project, he'll probably get money. After all, people want to play his game and they know he can execute. I think Felicia Day would be able to crowd fund a Guild Wars-like project easily enough.
It's harder for someone to crowdfund something that's a stretch for them. Jane Espenson was able to raise $60,000 for HUSBANDS; I think she could have raised more for something more Whedonesque.
If you're not a known quantity, then I think crowd funding becomes a more official way for you to hit up your friends for money. If you have a lot of rich friends, that could work.
You can crowdfund for other reasons than funding your project, though. You can crowdfund to prove to a distributor that there are people who want your movie. You can crowdfund to develop a cadre of supporters for the project who will talk it up on social media once it's made.
Regardless, crowdfunding is a huge amount of work. Count on spending a month prepping your Kickstarter, and then figure the month of your Kickstarter you are doing nothing but pushing your project on Kickstarter by any means necessary. So you're hoping you can raise more money doing than than you could, say, doing your day job.
As for crowd sourcing
TV, I'm not even sure what that would mean. Are you looking for 1000 people to help you do punch up? I'm not sure how many good jokes you'll get. Writing talent and skill are rarer than many people realize. But why not? Try it and see.
Thanks. Most of us are gung-ho about going all out and raising the funds to do at least two more full length episodes. But, a few people think we should hold back, put the pilot on the Web and see if we can build a following before going to Kickstarter or Indi-gogo.
Absolutely put the pilot up first. If it's a hit -- ideally if it goes viral -- then you start your crowdfunding with a bunch of people already interested in your show. If it's a flop, you can then decide not to spend a couple of months crowdfunding more of it.
As with most financing, the more you have, if it's good, the easier it is to get the rest.