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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- 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.

Friday, December 30, 2005

One for 2006

I don't typically make a lot of resolutions or anything, but I did come up with one idea of something I thought would be cool to do, starting next year. Not a resolution (since I won't be too upset if I don't do it), just something I'd like to start.

So lots of people do their Top 10 lists, or evals of the year's films around this time, but I don't. Largely that's because I don't see that many films in the theaters, and I forget about some of the others. But I'd like to do better.

To that end, I'm going to start keeping a movie journal. I'm going to write down every movie I see, whether in the theaters, on TV, or DVD. I'll note where I saw it and a few comments or thoughts. Then I can look back on it for reference or whatever. Plus, I've always felt that writing notes is not just for remembering, but also as an aid to learning.

Any of you do anything like this?


Got Scripts?

Okay, I know that none of you writers in LA didn't know that the Margaret Herrick Library is one of the great script resources out there (like that double negative?). You probably also know about the Writers Guild Foundation Library. Ever wondered if they had a specific script available for your reading pleasure?

Well now you can find out relatively quickly! The Motion Picture Scripts Database offers a searchable database of six area screenplay libraries. In addition to the Herrick and WGF, it also references the American Film Institute's (AFI) Louis B. Mayer Library, the Frances Howard Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Library (of the LA Public Library), the Arts Library Special Collection at UCLA's Charles E. Young Research Library, and USC's Cinema-Television Library (Doheny branch).

Some of these libraries have restrictions on access, but at least you can find out if they have what you're looking for. And as they say, knowing is half the battle. Then get on the horn or use some connections if need be to get in there.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Grove, Las Vegas

This is the story of how, this past Saturday night, I went to the movies and ended up in Vegas (Baby).

It starts with me and two friends heading over to The Grove to see a movie. My Lord! Don't ever go to see a movie there on a Saturday night! $12.50! I could simply not believe how much they were charging for a movie there. I mean, sure, I am in favor of different ticket prices for different times, and even for different movies (if crappier movies cost less, they might actually get people to go see them anyway at the "sale" prices). But still, I was actually offended by the ticket price.

Plus, I wasn't even going to see a brand new movie. We thought about seeing Munich, but I wasn't so in the mood to see it. And while we were deciding, it sold out. So no problems there. We ended up going to see Walk the Line. Not a bad flick, but nothing special either, I thought. The acting was solid, and the music, of course, was great. But I just as if I'd seen this movie so many times before. Sure, the Cash-Carter romance aspect was a bit unique, but overall, this was not much different than so many other music-themed biopics.

Regardless, that was all besides the point here. We saw the movie, and when we got out it was about 1 or 1:30 in the morning. We're in the car, heading out, and one of my friends asks, "What do you want to do now? Feel like hitting a bar?" Surprisingly, I wasn't so interested (not that I would've said no, had that been the decision). Then my friend who was driving says, "You wanna go to Vegas?" Neither me nor the other guy said no, so we just kept driving down Fairfax. We get to the 10 freeway and start to wonder, are we really getting on? We do. I think that basically none of us wanted to be the one to chicken out, so we kept going, and by the time we passed downtown, we realized we were really in this together, and started making some minor logistical plans.

One friend called someone to check that his car would be parked legally the next day. I called my roommate, who happened to be working Vegas for the week (he's a comedian) and told him we were on our way, and would probably want to crash in his room for a bit. I also made one demand of the others -- "Whatever else we do, I need to get some deodorant!" We had nothing but the clothes on our backs.

Maybe it was the Vegas-like setting of The Grove, with its faux-European architecture and poor-man's choreographed fountain (Bellagio Lite), but somehow we were in the Vegas frame of mind, and went for it.

We traded off driving and pulled onto the Strip at around 5:30 or so. Hadn't seen the new Wynn yet, so we decided to head there first. Nicely done, but too expensive for us to play at! We headed next door to the Venetian (my favorite, aesthetically speaking, of the ones I've seen), but of course it too lacked the cheap tables this poor screenwriter and his friends sought. Thus, we figured the way to go was slightly cheesey, and headed across the street to Treasure Island. There we found a nice $5 Blackjack table (I was not of the mind to sit and play poker, and craps was too complicated for that hour. After some ups and downs, I ended up down $5. We got the car, hit the drugstore (for that deo, etc.) and went to Harrah's (where my roommate was staying) for breakfast. After that, we headed up to his room and crashed for an hour or two of sleep, then got up, got some more food, and headed out of Vegas.

But I didn't finish down! In the Harrah's casino, and then later at the gas station on our way out of Nevada, I played some (mostly Quarter) slots and actually made up my losses and then some. Finished up around $10. And even breaking even in Vegas is a win! Of course, I didn't do as well as my one friend. He had been down $30, and as we walked to our car he said, "I'm just going to put a hundred on red." He dropped a $100 bill on the roulette table, it came in, he picked it up, and walked out! Then the "big winner" bought our pizza for lunch!

And in the long run, I didn't even lose on the gas money. Splitting three ways, we each owed about $15, but then last night I went to a friend's place for poker. He has a weekly game, which I don't play at all the time, but once in a while. Low stakes -- $10 buy-in and nickel ante. The guy who drove was there as well, and I handed him the $15 I owed him (we forgot to settle up on Sunday evening when we got back home). Well, last night turned out to be very good for me. I turned my $10 into $39! I'll happily take a near quadrupling of my money any day!

So, what does this all have to do with screenwriting? Well, admittedly not that much, but I'll find a few things!

On the most basic, and somewhat negative level, it pushed my writing back a bit. I was hoping to get a lot of writing done on Sunday, and did none. And then work came calling, so while I have made progress on Hell on Wheels' first draft, and may finish it by tomorrow, I still haven't completed it. But definite progress, so I'm still pleased.

On a silly level, maybe we could say that being economically sodomized by the movie ticket prices, I was extra motivated to try to get some money back.

But there's more to it. This is part of the screenwriting life (not to be confused with the capitalized The Screenwriting Life). Part of it is living in L.A. and driving to Vegas is just something L.A. people do. It's also about experiencing life, and having small adventures. People asked me, "Why didn't you just go to Commerce (a local poker room in L.A.)?" I explained that the point of the trip wasn't the gambling; it was the experience.

Being a screenwriter is about finding those moments in life that have something to them. Some resonance. Moments of spontaneity (like driving to Vegas because you have no reason not to). Moments of slight madness (like laying $100 on red). Moments of text and subtext (like none of us wanting to be the one to put the kibosh on the adventure).

And if you find those, maybe you'll even come out a few bucks ahead in the end!

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Another Common Error

"Bemused" is not a more stylish and cool way of saying "amused." Bemused means confused or bewildered, so if you're bemused you are probably not amused!


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I'm Ba-ack!

Can you be back, if you've never left? Well, whatever. Bottom line is that though I did not plan to take a blogging hiatus, like so many others, I ended up doing it anyway. I'll post about my weekend experiences (yes I know it is Wednesday already) later, but first a brief post to get me back in the swing of things!

The Library of Congress has just announced the 25 films that this year will be added to the National Film Registry. This brings the total to 425, and a unique and intriguing mix of films it is. As you may or may not know, the films are selected more for "importance" than for pure art. As the press release puts it:

The films we choose are not necessarily the 'best' American films ever made or the most famous, but they are films that continue to have cultural, historical or aesthetic significance -- and in many cases represent countless other films also deserving of recognition.
I'm not going to comment on all of the selections, or omissions (this is not meant to be a comprehensive list in any way), but I would like to comment on a few of the new inductees.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High. This has always been one of my absolute favorite movies. It was the first R-rated movie I ever saw (on cable, while babysitting), and I own it on DVD. There have only been two movie posters I've ever bought (though I own a few more), and I purchased them both for their diversity from each other, and also since they are two of my favorites. The first was Chinatown, and the second was Fast Times.

But there's more to it than just the fact that it is an extremely quotable movie (believe me, I know -- I can quote almost the entire thing) that featured some amazing future stars in early roles. The first film written by Cameron Crowe (based on his own book), and directed by Amy Heckerling (who in my mind is one of the most underrated directors in Hollywood), Fast Times is far more than another teen comedy. It defined its era, largely launched the '80s teen movie phenomenon (which Crowe somewhat brought to a close with his directorial debut, Say Anything, another of my faves), and was a cultural touchstone for most American male youths around when it was released. (What KISS was to kids who grew up in the '70s, like me, Fast Times was for those same kids as teens in the '80s.) The Phoebe Cates fantasy sequence is indelibly burned into the minds and memories of so many guys that it even earned her a more recent (if somewhat crude) musical tribute.

Lastly, I've always been impressed by the Spicoli character. He is the character everyone most remembers and loves from the movie, and yet he is really secondary to almost any of the major plotlines. And amazingly, the movie doesn't suffer at all for it. As I see it, the lovable goofball surfer/stoner he plays is something like Falstaff, particularly as he played out in Henry IV, Part I. He was a secondary character who is there primarily for comic relief, but in many ways provides the heart of the story and proves most memorable. Anyway, just remember: "All I need are some tasty waves, cool buzz, and I'm fine!"

Giant. As any film buff will tell you, James Dean only starred in three features in his short life. His most famous is obviously Rebel Without a Cause, and East of Eden is probably the best film overall of the three. But in my opinion, Giant gave us Dean's best performance as an actor, and probably his best role (at least as I remember from when I saw it). The film is flawed, particularly in its unnecessarily sprawling length, but Dean gives a great performance, and Liz Taylor and Rock Hudson are equally fabulous.

Toy Story. Okay, not the best of the Pixar films, but definitely an excellent one, and the most important as it changed the face of animated films from then on out. So much so that even stodgy old Disney has finally jumped on the digital animation bandwagon with this year's relatively successful Chicken Little. Plus, Pixar is the most important animation studio of the recent past (and probably the most successful production company period), and deserves the accolades.

Okay, this post is already longer than I had wanted it to be -- guess I had a lot to say once I got back to blogging! So just go check out the full list, and let's hear what y'all think!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Still Time for Holiday Gifts

With Amazon, you can order today, and still get delivery in time for the holidays! And I'm sure the Writer's Store offers some kind of rush delivery as well.

So why not head over to my Holiday Gifts for Screenwriters posts and buy a gift or two? I, of course, celebrate Chanukkah, so you have even more time to get me something! Plus, I don't mind late gifts. And don't forget about my specially discounted screenplay services.

Happy Holidays everyone! And by saying that, I am not waging a war on Christmas. There are multiple holidays I'm sending good wishes out for -- Chanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice (today!), Festivus, and anything else I've never heard of. But also New Years day!

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On Test Marketing

You all know how the studios test market the hell out of movies these days, constantly sending them back for reshoots or re-edits. Recently, Elizabethtown had a pretty famous re-edit, for better or for worse (though that was due to critical response in Toronto, more than a test audience, but still).

I think we all recognize the benefits of getting feedback prior to a movie's opening, and in fact the decisions made from such test screenings often benefits a film overall. But we rarely hear about the successes. Just the failures.

Last night, I went to a preview screening of Hostel sponsored by Creative Screenwriting magazine. In fact, I wrote a whole review of it this morning, but then my Firefox crashed and I lost it. Ugh! I'll rewrite it at some point before it opens.

Regardless, Eli Roth, the writer-director-producer of the film was on hand for a very entertaining Q&A after the screening. And one of the things he discussed was a test screening that was held for Cabin Fever, his previous film. The typical question asked in these marketing sessions is, "Would you recommend this movie?" He said the film got something like a 19 out of 100%. Roth argued that they should go in and ask, "Would you recommend this movie to a horror fan?" And the hands flew up. The idea being, you need to ask the right kinds of questions to get responses that have any kind of truly predictive value.

Cabin Fever went on to gross $21 million domestic, and somewhere around $100 million worldwide, when ancillaries are included. It was the top grossing film for Lion's Gate that year.

So that was last night. Today, I'm flipping through the TV to have some background on, and I come across Empire Records. I'll admit to being a big fan of this movie. Yes it is overly simplistic, moderately trite, and a bit cheeseball. But the bottom line is, the movie is simply a lot of fun. More than that, it features a great cast and soundtrack. Ultimately, however, it is the film's closing sequence that gets me every time. I know this sounds bizarre, but I'll admit to even shedding a tear today at the happiness of that ending. Something about the exuberance with which the actors dive into their roles just sells it to me as realistic and lovable, even despite the obviously bogus and too easily achieved climax. It's just entertainment. Period.

Furthermore, I know I'm not the only one out there who loves this movie (so if you're another fan, chime in). But it is again no secret what happened. Following a tiny release with no real marketing, the film got a poor response, and the studio (Warner I believe) canned it and took it to vid and cable. Sad, because the film would likely have done decently (albeit not blockbuster numbers). Okay, true, maybe the film seems more entertaining on the small screen, and maybe it would have bombed theatrically, making pulling it the right decision. I don't know for sure.

But what I can say is that there are definite problems with the way studios test-market their films. But, as I said, there are positives as well. And there is no way that studios will stop the advance research entirely -- films simply cost too much, and anyone who thinks they should stop completely is being silly or ignorant. So what then? There needs to be a broader overhaul of the test market system. Better questions, more accurate selection of potential audiences, a broader way of thinking about marketing. I don't know. Something. Or just a bit more trust for filmmakers who have proven themselves, perhaps.

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Seeing the Sun

So, you all remember that when it rained, it poured for me. But the sun is breaking through the clouds.

First of all, looks like I've found myself an apartment to move into. Main con: $200 more per month in rent. Minor cons: the fact that I have to move at all, and the fact that I'll have to buy myself some furniture (my current, subletted place came furnished). Pros: Still relatively inexpensive for this city and neighborhood. My own bathroom, instead of a shared one with the roommate. Somewhat nicer apartment than I have currently. Outdoor patio (this is huge for me, since my current place has no outdoor space and I will be out there all the time, working, having coffee, smoking my cigars, BBQing, etc). And only 3 blocks away from here, so an easy move.

If anyone in LA is getting rid of a desk, bed, or bookcase and wants to unload it on me, let me know!

Work situation is not much different (i.e. nothing really new to report), but regular reading work has not slowed down very much this month, thankfully. A bit, but not as much as in previous years, thankfully. And though still not as much as I'd like, I have remained relatively focused on the writing and productive.

I'm aiming to get my first draft of Hell on Wheels done by the beginning of next week, and then take the following week to do a polish/tweaking. Then I'll solicit feedback for a few weeks. During that period, I'll work on rewriting the D2DVD horror script I wrote, and then get back into a serious rewrite on HoW. Though that still leaves the comedy to get a full-on rewrite, I'm hoping that at least two of the scripts will be in decent shape by mid-to-late February.

So that's where things stand with me for now. Just like the weather here in LA, it is getting sunnier once again!

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(And that was with a lower case "s" and "l" -- not a reference to Warren's blog!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Follow-Up: Scriptwriters Showcase

The deal just got a little bit sweeter. I got a discount code from scr(i)pt magazine, and with it the Showcase will cost only $125 instead of $149.

My discount code is: JHBL06


scr(i)pt magazine stuff

Hey there! Wanted to mention a few scr(i)pt-related things here, and in a later article today or tomorrow.

Firstly, I have a new article up on the web only, about various screenwriting-related resources available on the web. No doubt most of you will be familiar with many of these (and I even mention and link to a few of your blogs on there), but this is only Part I. Part II (next month) may offer you some lesser-known resources. But please check out The Screenwriter's Web -- Part I: Skill Development Tools. Part II focuses on research related tools.

Secondly, following my recent post on the upcoming Scriptwriters Showcase, co-sponsored by scr(i)pt and Final Draft, there were a few questions raised in the comments that I wanted to check on and respond to.

Someone asked about the cost of the event, and the basic explanation I received and am passing on is that with the Expo, you pay $79 to get in, plus more for each seminar and/or pitch events, etc, and here it is a single fee, and all the speakers are professionals. In addition to the seminars, there are also meet-and-greets with these people included in the fee, and networking parties and the like. So I'd say it is somewhat about quality over quantity, and even the quantity isn't as much less as it might seem.

Also, regarding the question about the keynote speaker, the reason the keynote has not been announced yet is that they are checking on the scheduling. I cannot say who it is either, but it is definitely someone who is a major player, and the second choice would be equally significant. Obviously, once the announcement is made, you'll see what I mean, but I too will stand behind the promise that the keynote will be from "one of the most influential voices in the entertainment industry."

Lastly, there was the question about why the "i" in scr(i)pt magazine's name is in parentheses. Shelly (the editor) is going to send me the "official" explanation, and I'll post it on here. ;-)

Hope that answers things!

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

I Have Not Seen King Kong

Truth be told, I'm not really dying to, either. The original never really struck a chord with me, and the only relationship I formed with the 1976 version was playing the board game on Sunday afternoons in the rec room at my local Y. While I'd love to see the effects in Jackson's version, and would be interested in examining it from a technical perspective, it is not a film that I'm running out to see.

However, I did want to point you to two reviews of The King that intrigued me, both focusing on the love story at the core of this film, in one way or another.

Billy Mernit examines the film in terms of what it offers to writers of Romantic Comedies. And for a slightly more cynical take on it, Scott the Reader compares Ann Darrow's effect on the big hairy ape to what happens when a typical guy goes and gets married. Hilarious!


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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Scriptwriters Showcase

There's a new writing conference on the block, and it comes to you from my favorite screenwriting magazine, scr(i)pt (okay, I'm biased), and my favorite screenwriting software, Final Draft.

The Scriptwriters Showcase will take place at the Sheraton Universal Studios this coming April 7-9. It is taking a unique approach, offering distinct tracks for Feature Films, TV, Writer Development, and "Other Scriptwriting" (e.g. Video Games and Reality TV). There will also be a trade show, job fair (for paying writing jobs), networking parties, screenings, and meet-and-greets with some of the A-list talent on hand.

I'm not sure what exactly I'll be doing there, but I'm sure I'll be working there in some capacity. I'll also see if I can get some sort of a discount going for my readers, though I'm not sure if that will be feasible, since this is the inaugural outing of this conference. But I'll definitely keep you posted, and I look forward to seeing at least some of you at this event that is sure to be enlightening and exciting!

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Friday, December 16, 2005

One More Screenwriter Gift Idea

My buddy Brooks gave me a good idea for one more gift to add to the Screenwriter Gift Catalog. Gift Certificates for my screenplay services!

Forgive any clunkiness, as this is the first time I've set up any kind of shopping cart. Eventually I hope to have it more cleanly integrated into the overall blog, in the sidebar, but for now I'll just stick this into the body of this post, and hope it works fine. If anyone tries to purchase, and has any difficulty, email me at FunJoel[AT]Earthlink[DOT]net and I'll clear everything up!

Anyway, in honor of the holiday season, I'm running a sale! All of my services are discounted via these PayPal links. You can read more about the services I offer HERE. And if you are purchasing this as a gift for someone else, make sure you give me contact information for that person (email and/or snail mail address).

"Studio Style" Coverage -- $125.00 (normally $150)

"Development Notes" Report -- $275.00 (normally $300)

1/2-Hour Phone Consultation -- $50.00 (normally $60)

Remember that both "Studio Style" Coverage and "Development Notes" Reports come with a free 1/2 hour phone follow-up!

I hope this works! I'll keep these prices in place at least through New Years, and we'll see how much longer after that. Enjoy!

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Oh, Cooommmme Ooonnn!

If your screenplay has spelling errors or grammatical mistakes in it, it tells me that you didn't find someone who knows his or her stuff to proofread it for you.

But when your screenplay has Action descriptions that show up as a Character Cue and Dialogue, because you neglected to hit [TAB] in your screenwriting software enough times, it tells me that you were too damn lazy to even read the thing over yourself!

Come on now people. CHECK YOUR WORK! The producer will wait another day or two until you can make sure the script is in good shape!

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Taking my Solo

Way behind schedule, I finally got my completed pages for Hell on Wheels over to Michael Lee this past Monday. That brings us through the end of Act II -- more or less -- around 90 pages in. We both had other things keeping us busy for a while, but I was largely to blame for the long delay. True, even if I had gotten it to him on time, he might not have been on schedule to work on it, but we still would have been much earlier in our timeline, and therefore I take full responsibility.

Why am I saying all of this? Because now it turns out MLee won't be able to work on this until February. He has two other projects that he has deadlines for, and other people that he is responsible to. So we just spoke on the phone to discuss the best way for us to move forward. My ideal was going to be to get the first draft of this done by early Jan, and maybe get a revision done by sometime in February. But if we were to proceed as planned this would never be able to happen.

So we decided to (at least temporarily) stop working together on this script. Luckily, we both recognized that HoW was a lot more my baby than MLee's, so he didn't have a hard time saying goodbye to it. The plan currently is for me to try to push through to the end of this draft -- I'm in the home stretch now -- and then touch base again when I'm ready for rewrites. If he can be involved then, we'll restart the collaboration. If not, I'll just continue as I would with any other script.

And what about credits? Originally, the plan was to simply list the screenplay as "by Joel Haber and Michael Lee Barlin." Well, by the end I will have written 3/4 of the 1st draft, at the very least. So if he does not return for rewrites, we'll revise the credits to "by Joel Haber, story by Joel Haber & Michael Lee Barlin" (MLee definitely helped me a lot in refining my initial story concept). If he gets reinvolved, we'll probably keep the credits as they were originally.

So that's it for now. I'm pushing ahead on Hell on Wheels, ready to take my solo like Eddie Van. Rock on!

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Brief Apology

If any of you with RSS feeds for this blog got the last few posts delivered a ton of times, my apologies. I had a lot of tweaking to do for proper formatting. But I'm done tweaking now!

Holiday Gifts for Screenwriters (Part I - Top 10)

Whether you celebrate Chanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Festivus, this is the time of year for giving and getting gifts!

I've been meaning, for quite a while now, to list some of my favorite screenwriting books, so I figured I'd just make a bigger list here, sub-categorized to a degree, and list lots of my recommends. I realize that most of you reading this are the screenwriters themselves, so either buy yourself a gift, or feel free to drop the link to this to some of your friends and family members.

There are a lot of links/products here, so I'm splitting them into a few different posts. I hope you'll skim and browse a bit, and just view it as Fun Joel's mini screenwriter's catalog (that's a mini-catalog for screenwriters, not a catalog for small writers!).

Here we go:

The Soup-to-Nuts 10-pack

First off, I've selected 10 items that are essentials (I think) for nearly every writer, spanning the experience level from beginner to pro (or at least, near-pro). These are my absolute top picks!

Final Draft

Final Draft -- The top screenwriting software out there, and what I type all of my screenplays on.

Movie Magic Screenwriter Or:

Movie Magic Screenwriter -- This is, of course, an equally good option. Despite all the arguments floating around the scribosphere, it honestly makes little difference which program you use. Final Draft may be a bit more popular, but this one happens to be on sale right now!

Screenwriter's Bible

The Screenwriter's Bible -- A great guide to formatting, plus.

Syd Field: Screenplay


Screenplay -- The classic study of screenplay structure, by the master, Syd Field. Now in a brand new, revised edition!

Writer's Journey

The Writer's Journey -- A great study of how the motifs of the mythic Hero's Journey can be applied to modern storytelling, and screenwriting in particular.

Hero With 1000 Faces

The Hero With a Thousand Faces -- Or, you can (and probably should) go back and study one of the major sources. Campbell, in this classic, elucidates how the majority of world myths, across cultures, are really just retelling of a single uber-myth (hence, one hero with many distinct faces).

The Godfather -- One of the greatest films ever made, and an excellent and audacious screenplay. The script is out-of-print, though you can probably find one online. But the film itself is a great gift as well!
Jaws -- Another out-of-print script, but a film that is often mentioned as having perfect structure.

scr(i)pt magazine

scr(i)pt magazine -- The magazine I write for regularly. Buy a one-year subscription!

HCD: Representation


Hollywood Creative Directory - Representation -- Once a screenwriter is ready to look for an agent or manager, this is the absolute best resource for finding them.

Reading for a Living


Reading for a Living -- I've often said that becoming a pro reader is the best training for a screenwriter, or for any other job in film. Well, this is the best (and only, that I know of) book about how to do the job. I recommend it to anyone interested in becoming a reader, and I still consult it on occasion myself.

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Holiday Gifts for Screenwriters (Part III - Greats, Genres, and Odds & Ends)

For this last gifting post, I'm just going to list links, and only comment on a few. These are pretty self explanatory!

Greats/Pro Stuff

Adventures in the Screen Trade Goldman: 4 Screenplays Lumet: Making Movies

That Lumet book is one of the best books I've ever read about filmmaking. He's one of my favorite directors, even though I am much more of a comedy guy, and he primarily does dramas.

Big Fish Adaptation

We all know and love John August's blog, but Big Fish is also an awesome screenplay. Perhaps his best, certainly one of the few to allow Tim Burton to express his vision while also delivering a strong story, and a moving tale that successfully adapts a difficult to adapt book into a film.

Two of my favorite screenplays by the Coen Brothers. Lebowski really grows on you (and if you've only seen it once, I beg you to watch it at least two more times). Lebowski's character is an empty glass, a special kind of everyman stuck in an extraordinary situation. And the film is eminently quotable. Hudsucker is a visually beautiful film and features some juicy parts for powerhouse actors (Newman, Robbins, and Leigh) to sink their teeth into. You know, for kids!

For Genre Writers

Writing the Romantic Comedy When Harry Met Sally

Romantic comedy, Romance, and the book on writing RomComs, from fellow blogger Billy Mernit.

Writing the Comedy Film

Some great comedies, and a book on applying mythic structure to comedy screenplays.

How to Write for Animation

Compare the book and film of Shrek, and learn to write for animation.


Great adaptation, primo biopic, and auto-bio of one of the king sellers of the spec screenplay.

Two great horror films, and one of the most unique and chilling Best Picture winners of all time.

Buffy Season One

A fabulously moody modern western and a super popular TV series.

Odds & Ends

How about some "stocking stuffers?" (And don't the other holidays have a parallel phrase we can use?)
Most screenwriters (except those who get their scripts professionally copied and fastened) can use some more brads (brass fasteners). And no, I still have no idea the origin of that name.
Moleskine notebooks are compact, good quality, and have a literary tradition behind them. Plus they have a cool inside pocket!

Writer ShotglassesSome people think that alcohol is a great gift for any writer. And hell, who am I to disagree! I love a good scotch as much as the next writer! But that can get a bit expensive, so maybe you want to deliver years of future drinking pleasure. These are Great Writers Shot Glasses, with quotes that are wry on a glass for your rye. ;-)Film & TV Contracts

Not really a stocking stuffer, but this book didn't really fit anywhere else. Still, I'm a big fan, and have used it on more than one occasion. Not all these contracts relate to writers, but a number of them do!

Last but not least, I know you're wondering what you can give me, right? Cool. For starters, I'd probably be happy to get anything from any of these entries, and if I already have it, I can always exchange it for something else.

But if you'd prefer to get me something specific, I have set up an Amazon Wish List. I'll definitely add more things there as days go by, but I figured what the hell. Why not set it up?

Of course, money is nice too. It is always the right size, and that particular shade of green matches everything! Feel free to give me money as a gift as well -- I promise not to complain about it! Here's a PayPal link:

And if anyone feels like buying me a car (or even a Vespa scooter), I'll be happy to give you my address!

(I am kidding of course. At least a bit. I don't expect presents from any of y'all!)

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Holiday Gifts for Screenwriters (Part II - Story and Character)

In this part of my Screenwriter Gift Catalog, I'm going to focus on items related to story structure and character development.

Story Structure/Writing

Million Dollar Screenwriting
Million Dollar Screenwriting e-Book -- Chris Soth is a fellow blogger, teacher, and writer, who expounds on 8-sequence method. And he's a nice guy to boot. I will also soon write a review of his 4-DVD set.
Power Structure
Power Structure -- I have not used this software extensively, but I have checked it out. If you're interested in a good organizational tool, this may be it!

Dramatica Pro
Dramatica Pro -- Not for everybody, but a very intriguing (though somewhat cold and mechanical) different approach to screenplay structure.

Dramatica -- The book that started the Dramatica system, and explicates it. Where the software is somewhat automated, this book is more of a do-it-yourself take on the material.

Crafty Screenwriting

Crafty Screenwriting -- Another product I need to write a review on soon. Alex Epstein's excellent book on writing scripts that get made. I am a big fan of his philosophy, having long viewed myself as more of a craftsman than an artist.
Eats Shoots & Leaves

Eats, Shoots & Leaves -- Not strictly about screenwriting, but an entertaining book about writing in general. This is for all the stickler grammarians out there!

Chinatown -- Another of the greatest films ever made, and a long-time favorite of mine. Towne does a masterful job of building his story slowly, but deliberately, while maintaining a subtlety throughout.

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction -- For anyone interested in taking a few more chances with their structure. Examine this script, pull it apart, and see what makes the various storylines tick!

Memento -- Another one worth studying for its audacious structure. Here the storyline is less convoluted, but is equally intricately detailed.

Character Development

Character Pro

Character Pro -- You all know how much I love the Enneagram personality typing system. This software helps you build characters utilizing that system. I've only looked it over a bit, and have not used it extensively, but I enjoyed what I saw of it.
Literary Enneagram

The Literary Enneagram -- An excellent book that uses well-known characters from literature to illustrate the various types and subtypes. Excerpts from many novels and plays offers a window on each personality.

Writer's Guide to Character Traits
The Writer's Guide to Character Traits -- A more psychologically based study of personality types. This book looks at different character types, and examines likely childhoods, jobs, and potential psychiatric disorders, among other things.


Network -- More than just a biting satire about broadcasting and the media, Chayefsky's excellent screenplay also delivered incisive portraits of madness, greed, and duplicity.

Taxi Driver -- Unlike many of Scorsese's other films, this one was primarily a character study, in this case focusing on paranoia and madness. Schrader's screenplay is lyrically poetic, and utterly moving.

Annie Hall -- I've never got why people consider this a romantic comedy. Though it's certainly a comedy, and focuses on love and relationships, that's where the comparisons end. Maybe it is a tragicomic romance. Regardless, it works as a character study of its humorously neurotic protagonist.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Snakes+Plane+Blogs = Awareness

First there was Josh Friedman's mention of it in his memorably titled post "Snakes on a Motherfucking Plane." (Forgive the language, it's a quote.)

Then, Scott the Reader spoofed it for his blog title: Alligators in a Helicopter.

Matt Waggoner decided to up the ante and try to out-do (or out-silly) Scott with his blog title: Velociraptors on the Space Shuttle.

Now the movie title that started it all has become a catchphrase, and it's so big that even Variety picked up on it!

Here's part of the article:

Posted: Sun., Dec. 11, 2005, 6:00am PT

New Line's 'Snakes' slithers into zeitgeist
Pic's title enters vernacular six months before release


When it comes to titling films, Hollywood studios sometimes settle for the bland ("Prime"), the bizarre ("Zathura") and the incomprehensible ("XXX2: State of the Union").
Not so with "Snakes on a Plane."

Though New Line has done no publicity and the thriller is eight months away from release, buzz has reached epic proportions -- surprising for a high-concept, moderately budgeted film that would ordinarily be dismissed as late-summer horror fare aimed at teens.

The title alone has already inspired songs, merchandise and growing use of the phrase to signify something on the order of "It could always be worse." A recent Google search of "Snakes on a Plane" yielded more than 77,000 hits.

Or take this recent posting in the Urban Dictionary site explaining just what the phrase "snakes on a plane" means: "How's your relationship with Chloe going?" "It's getting close to being like snakes on a plane, man, seriously."
Crazy, huh? And the article even quotes our scribospherical friend, Josh Friedman (and properly credits him for his efforts on WOTW):

[Changing the title back to Snakes on a Plane from Flight 121] was music to the ears of screenwriter Josh Friedman ("War of the Worlds"), who gleefully posted his reaction on his blog: "I love 'Snakes on a Plane.' Love it. It makes me giggle like the fat, lazy schoolgirl I am."

Four months later, Friedman professes he's still enamored of "Snakes on a Plane." "I got more reaction to that posting than anything else on my blog," he adds. "I think I accidentally tapped into the zeitgeist."

I guess you never know what will work, eh? I've just got one question for the filmmakers:

Where's the Beef?

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Stoning 9/11

An interesting article HERE about Oliver Stone's upcoming film about 9/11.

For those wary of Mr. Stone's conspiracy-theory-riddled/paranoiac views and his take on this, be aware that the film is supposed to be an uplifting story, focused on the lives of the last two Port Authority police officers pulled out of Ground Zero alive. Hopefully they will succeed in creating the tribute this film is intended to be.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Answering the Challenge

I like this idea. Red Right Hand has issued his "One Page Challenge." I've already seen a few others from around the scribosphere taking him up on it.

The idea is, we all talk a lot about writing, but most of you haven't read any of our writing. So he asks us to post a single page from a script we've written.

It is true that I've already posted 3 1/2 pages that I wrote for the Scribosphere Group Script Project. But here's one more anyway. This is the very first page of a comedy I wrote that awaits one more significant revision. But this page will likely stay as is. I haven't spoken much about this script on here (though I've spoken a relative lot about my vampire western, and a decent bit about my D2DVD horror script). And perhaps I'll talk more about it when I'm into revisions on it. But for now, please enjoy Page 1:

  • Over a BLACK SCREEN we HEAR grandly bombastic orchestral music. Think Chariots of Fire or 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • FADE IN:
  • runs in SLO-MO on an exercise wheel. More intent than content, he runs and runs and runs.
  • Unexpectedly, a mystical fog rolls in. The Hamster perks up. His whiskers twitch as he looks around.
  • Gradually, we PULL BACK to reveal the Hamster is inside a massive Habitrail environment. Its vast size is surpassed only by the complexity of its twists and turns. But there's also a beauty to his habitat -- an architectural quality.
  • Continuing BACK, we find CARSON GOODMAN (28) with his lips pressed tightly against the end of one of the Habitrail tubes. He is relatively clean cut, with dirty-blonde hair, on the slightly longish side.
  • Carson's hand holds a cigarette lighter, and is extended up to the "Observatory" of the Habitrail, high above the rest of the Hamster's living quarters.
  • As Carson SUCKS on the end of the Habitrail tube, smoke billows down from the observatory, BUBBLING through the Hamster's water bottle. We FOLLOW it along the twisty tubes of the Habitrail, past the Hamster's exercise area, and finally into Carson's mouth.
  • Yes, this is, in fact, the largest bong we've ever seen.
  • (exhaling slowly)
  • That's goooood. But it'd be a lot cooler if your hamster didn't bogart half the smoke.
  • No longer on the exercise wheel. He now sits still, staring at the wheel as it spins, around and around, mesmerized by its swirly motion.

  • And maybe we spot a little hamster grin forming on his face.

Now let's read some more one-pagers from the rest of y'all!

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Looking Forward to Oscars

No, I'm not the type to do much handicapping on who's likely to get noms, or whatever. But as I'm sure you can tell by now, I'm nothing if not opinionated! And if you've ever been in L.A. on the day of the Oscars, you know it is like a city-wide holiday. Serious business! So I felt it was appropriate to comment a bit...

News recently came out that Chris Rock is out as host of the 2006 Oscar telecast. (BTW, don't forget BugMeNot if you don't want to register to read that article.) The article mentions Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, and Whoopi Goldberg, all former hosts, as forming the "short list" for hosting. Well, of them, I'd definitely cast my vote with Steve-o. I'm a huge Martin fan. Regardless, someone recently mentioned a different idea in a conversation I was having. I can't remember who brought it up -- so if you read this, and it was you, chime in -- but it might have been my friend Annabel Lee. Anyway, I liked the suggestion, so figured I'd toss it out here:

Jon Stewart!

I mean, sure, they may be hesitant after the Dave Letterman debacle (though I liked him), seeing as this is another TV talk show host. But Dave and Jon are way different. And Hollywood has a love affair with Stewart. Plus he's hip, irreverent, and still intelligent. I'd love it. I say they make that short list a little longer!

What do y'all think?

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A Few More

I hope y'all find that last post helpful, and to all who thanked me, you're totally welcome.

I have a few more to add, based on comments below, emails I received, and a bit more scribospherical trawling. Of course, if anyone has any others I've missed, feel free to chime in again.

Also, I should say that I plan to update my links in the sidebar in the not-too-distant future. Some of the links in these two posts will be added. But I'm also probably going to remove a few of the less active (or completely inactive) blogs that I currently have up there. So, let this be your fair warning! ;-) As Shawna likes to say, "Post or you're toast."

Anyway, here's a few more:

I don't know about you, but I'm impressed with how many of us are doing this!