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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog

(OR EL DUDERINO IF YOU'RE NOT INTO THE WHOLE BREVITY THING)

-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

FFFJ: Fanboys

I saw the following on Done Deal's daily Script Sales board and decided it warranted another FFFJ post:

Title: Fan Boys
Log Line: A group of young, hardcore 'Star Wars' fans from the Midwest are determined to take their dying friend to Skywalker Ranch so that he can see the seminal sci-fi film in its perfect setting before he dies.
Writer: Adam F. Goldberg and Ernest Cline
Agent: n/a
Buyer: The Weinstein Company
Price: n/a
Genre: Comedy
Logged: 10/31/05
More: Preemptive purchase. Trigger Street's Kevin Spacey, Dana Brunetti,
Evan Astrowsky and Matthew Perniciaro will produce. Kyle Mann will direct. Dan Fogler will star.

I read this script a few months ago, and though I didn't think it was an excellent script, I did feel the concept had some strong commercial potential, based on its subject matter. The version I read was dated 5/21/05, and may have changed slightly for the version that was just purchased.

By the way, on a side note, in case any of you out there are wondering how loglines get written, let me show you my own logline for this film. Be aware that the one you see above is for selling purposes, and mine was for review/summary purposes. I almost always keep my loglines at 20 or fewer words (rarely I'll allow myself up to 25). So I think this can be mildly instructive as to how to boil a script down and distill the core of it's essence. So compare the Log Line above with the following 19 words:

Star Wars nerds take dying friend on cross-country adventure to the Skywalker Ranch to preview The Phantom Menace.

Not much that the version above adds, is there? Sure it includes a bit of color and context, but in actuality it says virtually the same thing in 18 more words. You can cut your loglines down the same way I did, and should.

Regardless, the one change that I'm curious about is the difference between my log line that refers to The Phantom Menace by name, and theirs which refers to it as "the seminal sci-fi film in its perfect setting." I wonder if this means they changed the film from a period piece set around 1998 to one set now. In the version I read, they wanted to see a copy of Episode I before it came out, while this seems more about simply viewing a perfect version of Episode IV in a pristine setting. Hmmm.

Anyway, my basic comments on Fanboys (my version titled it as one word, not two) were that while it was mildly entertaining, it was also utterly unoriginal. Nearly every road movie cliche has been recycled in this script. However, the fact that Star Wars fans are such a rabid lot, and form a massive potential market, I felt this film held some decent commercial potential nonetheless. It remained a PASS for the company for whom I read it, simply because it was not appropriate for them -- not in keeping with the type of films they make by design. But it could definitely prove profitable in the long run.

I also noted the fact that similar films, such as Detroit Rock City and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, generally underperform at the box office, but still are usually good for strong DVD income. Thus, even if the film fails at the box office, it could potentially gain cult status. I also want to make clear, that while the details were highly cliched, the script itself remained entertaining and humorous. It wasn't a bad or poorly written script, just a generally unoriginal one, cleverly set in a commercially promising context.

***

Incidentally, the "dying friend on his last trip" element also reminds me of another film, that I just rewatched this morning, and since I wasn't planning to mention it in a separate post, I'll mention it here. A number of years ago, I caught Ocean Tribe at the IFP Market in NYC (though it may have still been called the IFFM -- Independent Feature Film Market -- back then). I really loved this film and had wanted to get a copy for a while. Only recently was I able to score a copy after I saw the DVD laying around at one of the offices where I read.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this little gem (and I'm sure that means most of you), it was written and directed by Will Geiger (I also recently read his upcoming Elvis and Annabelle), and centers on some boyhood friends who grew up surfing together in a small California coastal town. When one of them, as an adult, is dying of cancer, the others reunite, kidnap him out of the hospital where he is recovering from chemo, and take him down to Baja California for a final surfing trip.

While the film definitely bears the mark of an indie feature debut, it remains a cut above. The surfing footage is nice, the dramatic moments are moving, and the comedic moments are funny. While this is by no means a perfect film, it is definitely one worth seeing, and I highly recommend it, if you can find it somewhere!

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8 Comments:

Blogger Esther Kustanowitz said...

A fangirl myself, I totally get the reason for the change from Ep 1 to Ep IV. If your dying wish is to see Ep IV, all you have to do is watch it at home, and that'll put you out of your misery quicker than being sat on by a Hutt. I kind of see this as a chick flick masquerading as a guys' road movie. Like Terms of Endearment meets Sideways, with a side of Triumph's front-of-theater slaugher of sci-fi fans from a few years back.

And thanks for illustrating the difference between a summary and a sales pitch--although your use of nerd is more descriptive, I would imagine it lands strangely in the ear of the person you're pitching to.

So many variables to consider when pitching a script, and so many ways a pitchee can hear what you're pitching. And then, in the end, stars have to be aligned (metaphorically and probably literally as well) in order to make a picture. It's a wonder anything gets done out there!

5:47 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Just to clarify:

In the version I read, the film was set in 1998, so the idea was to see Ep. I before it was released, and before he died. Had nothing to do with the quality of the film, and in fact, if I remember correctly, they actually made some jokes in there about how bad Ep. I was, after they saw it!

6:21 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Personally, I hope more movies like this sell. Especially ones that involve a bunch of ALIEN fans taking their dying friend to another planet to get killed by an ALIEN like in the movie before he dies.

(I have personal reasons, of course.)

4:54 AM  
Blogger Grubber said...

"Not much that the version above adds, is there? Sure it includes a bit of color and context, but in actuality it says virtually the same thing in 18 more words. You can cut your loglines down the same way I did, and should."

Fun Joel,

Should we try and keep it that short and sharp for specs? I can fully understand why the development execs would want that from the reader, absolutely, but I find the first one, a bit more fun to read, so to speak.

Your version gives the info but is more, for want of better word, raw. Which I can see might work in some situations(e.g. selling SAW).

Just wondering.
cheers
Dave.

8:10 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Good question Dave. I wasn't clear about that. Sorry.

When I mentioned that the longer version was a sales tool, I meant that when trying to sell yours you should use something closer to that. Though I would still recommend trying to keep things shorter rather than longer. I wouldn't want to go over 30 words in a log line anyway.

But when I said that you should still use a shorter log line for your own scripts, I mean as a writing tool for yourselves. It is helpful to have a logline for any script you are writing, because it helps keep you focused. If something is too far off plot from the log line, you know you can cut it. For those purposes, I'd want to be as brief and narrowly focused as possible, closer to the studio-style log line.

Hope that helps! :-)

3:19 PM  
Blogger Grubber said...

Thanks for the clarification Fun Joel, makes sense.
cheers
Dave.

1:09 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I agree that the Fan Boys premise doesn't get me too jazzed but I think you could make it work (especially for the liner-upper types) if you took sort of a Lucas in Love angle. Make the plot's arc and scenes follow or evoke Episode IV and other OT stuff. One of the guys is a dorky Luke type, the other snarky Han. A big burly Chewie guy. Truckstop they stop along the way is the Cantina. Car breaks down in the desert, they have to go to Jabba's palace kind of place to make a deal to get it fixed. All leading to the "final assault" on Skywalker Ranch to get in and see George ("The Ranch was designed around the concept of a direct, large-scale fanboy assault... Lucas doesn't consider a small force to be any threat, or he'd have a tighter defense.")

It's a fine line to walk between evoking/homage and outright stealing scenes to fill up the story but if you did it right it could be fun.

"Outrunning the Arkansas State Police ain't like dusting crops, boy!"

8:33 AM  
Blogger Bill Cunningham said...

And in an amazing instance of 'art imitating life', none of the Star Wars fanboys gets laid...

7:58 PM  

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