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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.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Screenwriter Holiday Gift Catalog

Especially during this holiday season, but somewhat so throughout the year, I get people landing on my blog in search of good gift ideas for what to give to screenwriters. Always eager to please, I would like to remind you of my gift catalog from last year, geared towards the developing screenwriter, and I would also like to add a few more new links to some fresh presents.

I've checked all the links from last year's posts, and all but 1 or two are still active. (I think the only main one that I can no longer get to work is the one for the shotglasses with quotes from famous writers. Oh well. Maybe it is a sign that we all should drink less? I know my parents will be happy seeing those words on my blog! Still, I'm sure if you do a Google search, you can find them.)

Fun Joel's Holiday Gift Catalog for Screenwriters
Part 1 featured my top 10, my absolute top picks of essentials.
Part 2 featured 9 selections geared towards developing good story structure, and six focusing on character development,
Part 3 featured close to 30 links for "the greats" and stocking stuffers.
Part 4 was an addition -- special discounted rates for my coverage services. I will again offer these through the holiday season.

Now a few new links...
First, a couple of links to new product from friends around the Scribosphere. My cohort Chris Soth has an interesting new DVD out. Sold! How I Set Up Three Pitches in Hollywood offers just what it sounds like -- a view of Chris repitching the three pitches his made, and explaining their development.

I loved Alex Epstein's book Crafty Screenwriting when I read it. In brief, it was the kind of screenwriting book that I would write -- no BS, and to the point. Well, I don't do any TV writing, but this past year Alex published the follow-up book, Crafty TV Writing and I'm sure it must be at least as good!

I have not read Blake Snyder's Save the Cat, but I've heard great things about it from many people. So I'll suggest it as a gift! And as far as useful reference books go, Talk the Talk seems pretty promising. It offers slang from 65 American subcultures, and while I'm sure it might get out of date quickly, and one might be able to find much of this online, it might still be a nice gift!

Next, some of the better films of the past year or so. I really enjoyed Stranger than Fiction, and saw it as similar in many ways to Adaptation. Though already two years old, I'll also recommend the screenplay to Batman Begins. One of the better superhero films of the past 10 years, or ever I'd say.

You all know that one of my favorite movies of the past year was Brick. The screenplay hasn't been published, but the DVD is now out. And then you can compare it to the amazing script, by downloading it from screenwriter/director Rian Johnson's website! The Proposition was another of the more unique scripts from this past year -- a solid western film set and shot in Australia. The genre translated suprisingly well.

How about a few more classics? Of course, one of the more beloved and acclaimed (in retrospect, though unfortunately not during its release) films of the recent past is Shawshank Redemption. This script has a lot of subtlety and great thematics, and is also worth studying for some of its specific technical feats, such as voiceover narration.

One of the better film noirs (or more accurately, films noir) ever made was Double Indemnity. Read Billy Wilder's script to discover one of the most perfect femme fatale characters ever written, among other things.

Steve Martin has written and starred in some of the better comedies of the past quarter century. Here are the scripts of two of his best, L.A. Story and Roxanne.

No, of course I love Charlie Kaufman's work as much as the next developing screenwriter. And, in my opinion, none of his scripts are better than that for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But at the same time, I think it can be heartening -- and perhaps enlightening -- to see that even he has written stinkers. Human Nature was a pretty bad film, and it can be instructive to try to examine it and see where he went wrong.

Does the screenwriter for whom you're purchasing a gift have writing aspirations outside of the purely cinematic? For one related field, I'd suggest the book Writing and Illustrating the Graphic Novel. And for freelancers, there is the 2007 Writer's Market.

Finally, a few fun, odds-and-ends type gifts. These pens feature antique typewriter keys on top. Or a similar gift here, the vintage typewriter key charm necklace.

Got an low-budget writer-director type on your list. Maybe he or she can use these B-Movie Victim Action Figures to do some pre-vis!

Lastly, if you want to help support indie film while giving a stocking stuffer type gift, check out the Pistoleras movie bracelet. With it, you'll be able to help my friend Liz Fies make her indie film, Pistoleras.

So I hope these gifts (and those from last year) will hit the spot with your screenwriter friends and family. And if these gifts help the screenwriters in your life sell a script, they might be buying you something nice next year! Enjoy your holidays everyone!

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Edward Scissorkicks

Faithful readers may remember a post I made just over a year ago about an adaptation of the awesome film Edward Scissorhands as a ballet.

Well, I just wanted to let you all know that it is finally arriving in Los Angeles for a brief two-week engagement at the Ahmanson Theatre. It will be up from December 12 - 31. Tix are $20-90. I would love to go see this. If anyone else is interested, drop me a line!

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

When Truth Actually Is Stranger Than Fiction

One of the cool things about having this blog is that I've become known to lots of new people who didn't know me before. I've traded emails with people from across the country and around the globe. And occasionally, some of them contact me to offer me something free, or ask me to participate in something cool. I've received books to review (and I have one in particular waiting to be read that I hope to review for you guys in the not-too distant future). A few months ago I was asked to judge a short screenplay competition. And last week I got invited to be a judge over the weekend at the HD Fest, a festival of films made on high definition, digital cameras.

I ended up judging one series of four short films, one of which I thought was terrible, one which had a good concept and only adequate execution (in my opinion), and two that I thought were quite good. Perhaps not coincidentally, both were comedic (I think the short film medium lends itself better to comedic subjects, in general). The bigger winner at the awards ceremony was called The Lost Cause, and was an entertaining and bittersweet blend of comedy and touching characterization.

Runner up to The Lost Cause in a number of categories (so much so that it was almost becoming a joke in itself) was my personal favorite of the night, a film called Le Petomane: Parti Avec le Vent (written, produced, and directed by Steve Ochs). In the style of the film itself, the title is a dryly witty, tongue-in-cheek highbrow name for a movie that is actually a long, extended fart joke. (Loosely translated, it means "The Fart Maniac: Gone with the Wind.")

This was really a hilarious film with funny dialogue, and great attention to detail. There were little one-off lines that you could easily miss if you weren't paying attention, but which really added up to even more comedy. And the fact the the film was played largely straight, making it a subtle humor, made the film even funnier overall (as long as you "get it").

But what made it even funnier, in retrospect, was when I started poking around a little bit. Apparently, the character that the film is about was an actual French vaudeville artist (or as some have called him, a "fartiste"). Here's another story on the dude, named Joseph Pujol. Ah, yes. Leave it to the French to create an art form that is actually an arse form.

A quick search on IMDB for Le Petomane indicates that this isn't even the first film project to focus on this unique individual. There have been at least three or four other films about Le Petomane! And according to the trivia one of those film pages (which I can neither confirm nor debunk), both Peter Sellers and David Niven were interested in playing Pujol at some point in their careers, but their agents counselled them against it.

Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. And Ochs really knows how to make the most of a real "stinker" of a joke!

Here is a clip from the film.

And here is their MySpace page.

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