Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Advanced Screenwriting

Acquiring accurate feedback is an obstacle all aspiring screenwriters face. We need to know if the movie playing in our head is being effectively translated onto paper.

Screenwriters, lucky enough to live near or in metropolitan areas, have a wealth of opportunities and populace from which to choose. Writers groups, college classes, like-minded Starbucks patrons etc.

Those of us living beyond the pale, cope with a different situation. Even though everybody and their brother are writing screenplays, a small town may not offer up enough screenwriters to form a writing group. A writing group made up of three poets, a non-fiction chronicler and a screenwriter will not help the screenwriter.

So, what is the isolated scriptwriter to do?

There’s the Net. Peer feedback forums are all over the place. I post on American Zoetrope. Sometimes a basic –do they GET the story—is all I receive, and that is an important part of the process, but not all of it.

And if they don’t get the story, I always consider that my fault. I’ve developed a minimalist writing style and occasionally I leave out something important.

That doesn’t mean that I never rave to the dog about the pea-brained idiocy of some readers, but
she’ll never tell. And, neither do I.

I haven’t quite reached the point where I’m ready to pay for coverage. Brother, that is a scam-filled tar pit waiting for the unsuspecting. What I do instead is enter contests that offer coverage to all.

This has worked quite well – Slamdance provides excellent feedback – BlueCat does too. A few contests whose directors call to inform the finalists who won (or didn’t) often offer remarks about the “close”* scripts. That’s happened to me a couple of times.

And then, there’s the time, coverage for all, is at best a ploy.

Recently, I received my coverage from a contest where my script finished 62 out of 286. Their feedback was a bar graph.

I was not enlightened or amused.**

Even in my lowest expectations, a bar graph does not represent feedback to me.***

But what really annoyed me. What occasioned a private diatribe about inept, ill-informed, stupidly opinionated readers is the scoring and comments on the Advanced Screenwriting Elements.

According to this contest, Advanced Screenwriting Elements are subtext, visual storytelling, creative presentation of exposition and hooks.

Here I am, finally getting to the point.****

I learned subtext from a Montana literary novelist named Deirdre McNamer. She said you have to trust your readers. Write it in. Trust they’ll get it.

Yeah, okay, but I wanted to point to it in some way to make sure they saw --
  • 1. how clever am I
  • 2. the point.
No, dear. Write it in. Trust they’ll get it. Or it isn’t subtext, it’s badly written exposition.

Now, the bar graph for this portion of the feedback***** was -->

The scene they refer to in the comments section is this:

A young man listens while the old man who raised him, confesses that he (the old man) is going blind and there is nothing doctors can do. He needs help.

The young man doesn’t say anything for a beat, then looks up, sees an old truck in a shed near where they’re standing, says, “You kept the old truck.”

The old man says, “I can’t drive anymore.”

The young man goes to the truck, looks it over and says, “I can fix that.”

The comment was “Jack’s reaction to the news that Will is going blind is a little odd.”

“I can fix THAT.”

Hello. Is this mic on?

Is it subtext if they don’t get it?

Or is it subsubsubsubtext no one sees because, afterall, there is no window into my head. My movie plays to an audience of one. Alas.

Subtle is in the mind of the beholder.

Too subtle is a judgement call.

I still believe that it is my responsibility, if the reader doesn’t get some part of the story, not just because they’re ignoramuses.******

I haven’t decided if I should make the subtext more clear. How clear can it be and remain subtext? Or leave it alone and trust.

Trust. A high wire over a flaming pit.

*close. A level of Hell devoted to screenwriters only.
**ok, that’s not really what it said –“Needs Improvement--Excellent” but you get the drift.
***although, technically, I suppose it is some jackass abbreviated version.
****that minimalist writing style only applies to my scripts.
***** :P

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Double Feature

Back in the day* audiences could see two features and a cartoon on any given night at the movies. Today, I decided I wanted an old-fashioned Double Feature, so I went to two movies.

VENUS starring the lovely Peter O'Toole and The Number 23 starring the imaginative Jim Carrey.


Well, after raving about GHOST RIDER last post, I hesitate to denigrate the film that’s everyone’s darling now, lest you decide I have a cretin’s taste in film. But, c'est la vie, as the French would. I thought this film was vile.

It might be that O’Toole is such a good actor, he made the lech so real, or maybe because they used humor to ingratiate the old tosser to the audience.

Whatever the reason, by mid-story, I didn’t like the characters or anything they did. I almost walked out twice, but kept thinking, it’s gotta be over soon. Alas, not soon enough.

I KNOW we’re all going to die, we seldom get exactly what we want, old age can be a lonely, painful time, and when some men say they love you, they only want to fuck. I don’t need a movie, no matter how well acted, to reveal this to me. I was not entertained.

The Number 23

I’m in that generation of women who have math anxiety. Do not try to get me to do math. I cringe when I read scientific articles that proclaim the universe can be explained with numbers; that mathematics is the universal language.

Excuse me, why can’t the universal language be colors or music or art?

I just finished a novel the premise of which was that God is explained by math. Well, God save me.

Anyway, the opening credits to this movie are intriguing. The film that follows is okay. 23 could have been better, The pacing was off. Too much voice-over. But I didn’t guess the end to the mystery, and I think Jim Carrey is a better actor than he gets credit for.

All in all, a blah day at the pictures. I must have jinxed myself raving about two good movies in a row. I was interested enough to look up the #23 Enigma, which, apparently, is actually something. Go figure.**

The 23 Enigma

The Number 23 -- a frequency chart.

The 23 Synchronicity

*and I say this at the reveal of my advancing age.
**just don't try to get me to do math.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Movies, Movies, Movies

This weekend I saw The Departed, Music and Lyrics and Ghost Rider.

The Departed

Finally, rented this on DVD. Can't believe I missed two theater runs of this one.

Stop reading now - SPOILER --

Stopped? Ok.

Cops and Robbers. Everybody dies.

Scorsese should have won the Oscar for Gangs of New York.

Music and Lyrics

This soft, innocuous bit of fluff was still fun, generated genuine laughs and most of the audience left with silly grins on their faces. What's wrong with that?

Ghost Rider -- (some spoilers)

Ok, this one is getting bashed all over, pro movie reviews, screenwriting boards, and yet ...

I liked it.

It's definitely a boy movie. Little boys (about 9 years old), teenage boys and those twenty-something slacker boys.

Really, single girls want to know where all the boys are? Go to a comic book movie. (Except possibly Spiderman, where the audience is all the girls looking at Tobey.)

Anyway, the effects are cool(ish), not awesome as in Pan's Labyrinth, but neat.

Nic Cage's sincere, energetic, all-out acting style is perfect for a guy being turned into Fire. And just when one might think all the scenery's been chewed, Cage does something so subtle, it kills any preformed smirk.

He's about to reveal to his old girlfriend, what's wrong with his life. He looks at her earnestly, sincerely, and says, "I sold my soul to the Devil." And s l o w l y raises one eyebrow. In boy movie parlance, Sweet.

And the scene where Sam Elliot's character and Nic's character head toward the final showdown and the soundtrack fades up Ghost Riders in the Sky. Ok, sue me. It was way cool.

I followed one long thread on a screenwriting board about the stupid state of Hollywood and how bad GR is and brother, they are missing the point.

The audience enjoyed this movie. And that's what it's about.

Monday, February 12, 2007

2 Good Movies in a Row

Pan's Labyrinth

Oh my. Intricate, beautiful, dark and disturbing like a genuine fairy tale.

So nice, I reviewed it twice. :P

The Painted Veil

Stunning visuals. Involving story. Fascinating historical period.

Pan's Labyrinth has grossed $26,619,057 so far.

The Painted Veil, $6,376,914.

Eddie Murphy's vulgar Norbit, $34,195,434, in one weekend.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

This or That

randomness got me started on this one (#1-9) and suddenly I couldn't stop.

Pick one!

1. peanut butter or jelly?


2. hiking or swimming?


3. football or baseball?


4. christmas or thanksgiving?


5. grade school or high school?

I preferred college.

6. summer or winter?

Spring and fall are nice too.

7. romance novel or mystery novel?


8. mickey mouse or barney?

No one really likes Barney.

9. road trip or airplane?

I haven't flown since 9/11.

10. Democrats or Republicans?

Snakes on a Plane.

11. Cat or Dog?

Dog, although the cat doesn't bother me all that much.

12. Car or Truck?

Since I currently drive a truck that is masquerading as a car, I don't think I'm qualified to answer this one.

13. Spring Break or Summer Vacation?

Summer Vacation.

14. Morning person or Let Me Sleep?

Don't mess with me 'til I've had coffee person.

15. Sunday drive or read the paper in bed?


16. Coffee or Tea?

See #14.

17. Cell phones: invention of the devil or wonderful modern convenience?

Satan rules.

18. Windows or Mac?

Both. Alas.

19. In Love or Out?


20. Optimist or Pessimist?


21. Right handed or Left?


22. Pen or Pencil?

Fountain pen or perfect pencil.

23. Library or Google?

I still go to the library, but less frequently. Alas.

24. Up or Down?


25. Go fast or enjoy the view?

Enjoy the view.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Few Friday Memes


Q1 - Shopping Carts: When you're done using a store's shopping cart (bricks-and-mortar, not online), do you return the cart to the store, leave it in the parking lot, or push it into one of those storage areas that takes up all the great parking spots?

I park it in one of the cart corrals. Usually.

Q2 - Global Warming: Do you think global warming is an environmental problem that is causing a serious impact now, or do you think global warming isn't having a serious impact?"

I think fluctuations in the earth's temperature occur over a span of time, the length of which, we haven't been able to measure. It looks bad now. It maybe normal for earth.

Q3 - Prison: At the Southeast State Correctional Facility in Windsor, Vermont, inmates have been told that the facility's prison cats must go. According to SSC's new superintendent, the facility, which for years has allowed cats to come and go as they please, is not conducive to a pet program. If you were in charge of the facility, would you voluntarily parole Ziggy, Marmalade, Smokey and Shane, or would allow them to stay?

I think Vermont may have slipped a cog.

Q4 - Taxes: After federal taxes are collected from the public, do you think the U.S. Congress thinks of the money more as taxpayer money to spend carefully or as their money to spend as they wish?

You're kidding, right? They may act like they will spend responsibly, but inside, I suspect they're really more like frat boys who just spotted a free keg.

Friday Five

1. American football: good times or couldn't care less?


2. Do you have a favorite sports team?

The Mets. God help me.

3. What's your favorite junk food?

Starbucks Double Shot Expresso in a can.

4. Are football players paid too much?

Yes. And celebrated too much and watched too much.

5. Who do you think will win this year's Superbowl?

Hmm. This must be last Friday's five. Well, didn't care, didn't watch, looked in the paper to see who won and already forgot. Next.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Movies and Memes

This weekend we saw PAN'S LABYRINTH and THE MESSENGERS.

Pan's Labyrinth is excellent. Well-made, intriguing and disturbing like a genuine fairy tale. In Spanish with English subtitles.

The Messengers is too long. Never escalates beyond the same BOO scare over and over. Dylan McDermot should sue his agent.

From Ten on Tuesday - 10 Movies That Made You Cry.

1. Honkytonk Man
2. Seabiscuit -- three different times.
3. Steel Magnolias -- every time I watch it.
4. Mr. Holland's Opus -- had a moment that took my breath, an almost cry.
5. Cool Runnings -- same deal.
6. One of the Star Trek movies, but I was pregnant at the time so that one might not count.
7. World Trade Center
8. The trailer for Flight 93. What a big baby I am.
9. I seem to remember getting a little misty at that one with Nick Cage as an angel and Meg Ryan, his love interest. Oh, how he yearned for her. Sigh.
10. Life is Beautiful.

Anyone else want to play? Have at it.