ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Monday, September 04, 2006

Blue Car

So continuing my weekend of catching up on movies made from Nicholl Fellowship-winning scripts, last night I watched "Blue Car".

Wow.

The irony about "Blue Car" is that at first glance it seems to fit the formula of scripts that do well in the Nicholl competition -- the main character is a creative young person (in this case a teenage girl poet) who blossoms under the tutelage of a male mentor, who turns out to have a troubled life of his own. It's basically the same plot as "Akeelah and the Bee" and "Finding Forrester".

But the take here is much more stark and real, it throws some nice curveballs along the way, and ultimately it doesn't actiually have all that much in common with the other two movies. There were times in this movie that I had absolutely no idea where it was going next, but I wanted to. Which is pretty much what writers strive for.

"Blue Car" was directed by its writer, Karen Moncrief. Leads Agnes Bruckner and David Strathairn do very impressive work. It's not a happy movie, but it is a very good one. A strong recommendation from me.

Ironically, in the history of the Nicholl, there have been 85 winning scripts. Only 8 have been made into movies that got any kind of real theatrical release; along with "Blue Car", "Finding Forrester" and "Akeelah and the Bee", the others are "Mean Creek", "Traveler", "Closet Land" "Down in the Delta" and "Arlington Road". Another handful were made as low-budget films, and played the festival circuit.

(1998 was a particularly stellar year, with "Blue Car", "Finding Forrester" and "Mean Creek" all winning the Nicholl in the same competition).

But it just goes to show you that even winning a big contest like this is still no guarantee that your script will ever be made. It is a tough business.

12 Comments:

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Chesher Cat said...

It would be interesting to know how many non-winners have been made. I imagine it would be more than eight.

I did key art for Briar Patch, a Nicholl winner that was made by Promark. My reaction: this won the Nicholl?

I loved Akeelah and the Bee and Finding Forrester - haven't seen Blue Car. As a writer, it may be better to visit the academy library and read the scripts since the finished movies probably aren't all that representative of the winning screenplays.

I hope your script wins and gets made.

 
At 2:43 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Well, in terms of Akeelah and Blue Car, they were both directed by the writers, so they are probably more similar than most.

Though it's fascinating to look at the number of deleted scenes on the Blue Car DVD. The movie is only 88 minutes long, but they cut out another 10 minutes or so. And they were right to do so; the movie is tight the way it is, and all the deleted stuff was extraneous.

I love watching deleted scenes, just because it's a great education on flabbiness in screenplays, and how many times the unneeded scenes don't become apparent until after they are actually shot.

 
At 2:47 PM, Blogger Tavis said...

One of the gripes I have about the Nicholl Fellowship is that it's open to ANYONE who hasn't made more than $5,000 as a WRITER, which means that if Michael Bay wrote a script (God help us) he'd be eligible to win.

This comes up because I saw that the writer/director of another Nicholl winning script, The Land of the Blind, had worked with Barry Levinson on a documentary before winning the Nicholl Fellowship.

It doesn't really seem fair that people with working connections inside Hollywood should be eligible to take away a Fellowship designed to help foster talented writers struggling outside the industry.

 
At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

I'm a big fan of Blue Car. It's a film I return to whenever I need to remind myself to keep my scripts simple and lean.

 
At 3:36 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Hey, if Michael Bay wrote a script good enough to win, then all power to him. Though it's hard to believe that he hasn't done something, somewhere in his career that would have made him ineligible.

Given that the intent of the Fellowship is to allow you to take time off from work and focus on writing, someone like Bill Gates would also be eligible, yet equally inappropriate.

 
At 3:38 PM, Anonymous kristen said...

I liked "Blue Car" fairly well, but "Mean Creek" is pretty boring and predictable. Have you watched it yet? It feels like 1,000 other movies.

 
At 8:07 PM, Blogger Tom said...

A film written by Bill Gates would be full of holes, lack cohesive structure and be an outright theft of someone else's work, but would make trillions of dollars.

Can you tell I use a Mac?

Looks to me like the Nicholl is getting better play from the studios as years go by, which is great to hear. I'm digging this ride you're on, Scott!

 
At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Joe Valdez said...

Chesher Cat had an interesting point. How many of the vampire westerns, heist movies or erotic thrillers entered in one time or another in the Nicholl Fellowship have been made, or broken a writer's career open, even if they got nowhere with a judging panel? I also believe it has to be more than eight.

I try to keep tabs on the writers racking up contest wins, and it seems like a lot are still sort of toiling in semi-obscurity. Finding Forrester, Blue Car and Akeelah are among the rare exceptions.

I just wonder if that's the kind of writing that can best serve a writer trying to break through and actually turn their talent into a career.

 
At 1:29 AM, Anonymous chris soth said...

Well, we hear that studios develop at a 10 to 1 ratio, and it looks like the Nicholl has a similar ratio -- only thing is, they're not a studio, so they're doing pretty well. What's it mean -- 80 million or so spent to bring Nicholl winners to the screen?

It ain't bad. I also have to say, didn't so much like Blue Car, nor Forrester. Akeelah does redeem them for me.

As will your script, I'm sure.

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

"I just wonder if that's the kind of writing that can best serve a writer trying to break through and actually turn their talent into a career."

It may not be the kind of story to serve a writer, but I dare say that the writing itself and ability to tell a story will help a writer immensely.

 
At 3:00 PM, Anonymous EM said...

I wish more of the winning scripts were accessible to public viewing. I know we can trek out to LA and visit them if we want.

Continued good luck!

 
At 10:27 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

I'll check out Blue Car, I'm known about it forever but never got the chance. As for Mean Creek, I loved that movie. Completely original? No. But DAMN WELL made, with phenomenal performances.

 

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