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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sometimes, A Title Can Be Everything

So the word going around now is that Samuel L. Jackson signed on to do SNAKES ON A PLANE without opening the cover.

"I didn't even read the script - I just saw the title "Snakes on a Plane" and said "Okay, I'm there'" says Jackson.

(Of course, one assumes that there was probably a nice cash offer already attached).

Still, titles can be everything. I often go to my CD collection when looking for titles; skim a song list, and often something jumps out at you.

I'm having a problem with titling my supernatural thriller, though. No one really seems to like my current title, "Hiding Billy", and I guess I sort of agree.

While being vague about the plot to those who haven't read it, suffice it to say that it's sort of a cross between "The Sixth Sense" and "Sleeping With the Enemy".

Anyone have any ideas?

If I pick yours, I'll name a character after you....

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Tyler Perry's MADEA'S FAMILY REUNION, the nominal sequel to DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN, made over $30 million this weekend.


The movie is based on a play that Perry wrote, and it was even filmed as a stage play and released on DVD in 2002. It's one of a string of plays that Perry wrote, many featuring Madea, a grandmother character that Perry plays in drag.

It has no major stars, they didn't show it to critics before it was released, and the budget was only about $6 million. I don't know where they have been advertising it, but I haven't seen any TV ads for it.

$30 million. In 3 days.

I have a feeling I'm about to get innundated with black drag comedies.

Meanwhile, the Paul Walker action film RUNNING SCARED only made $3 million. Ha.

Friday, February 24, 2006

How To Spin a Blurb

The opening paragraph of Roger Ebert's review of the Paul Walker film "Running Scared", which opens today, reads thusly --

"Speaking of movies that go over the top, "Running Scared" goes so far over the top, it circumnavigates the top and doubles back on itself; it's the Mobius Strip of over-the-topness. I am in awe. It throws in everything but the kitchen sink. Then it throws in the kitchen sink, too, and the combo washer-dryer in the laundry room, while the hero and his wife are having sex on top of it."

What does the blurb on the ad say?

"I Am In Awe" -- Roger Ebert

Enough With The Homage Character Names

Last night I read a script (a major script, with agents and everything) that wasn't a really a comedy; it was more of an offbeat drama/fantasy/thriller.

Yet one of the main characters was named Rupert Pupkin. For no reason at all.

The character has nothing to do with the character Robert DeNiro played in "The King of Comedy". The reference adds nothing to the script; none of the characters remark on it; the character's mother doesn't mention naming him after anyone.

Things like this are just a pointless distraction. They don't make your script better; the joke was even getting old by the time that "Office Space" had a character named Michael Bolton. And at least that film tried to make it a joke by having other characters riff on it.

They just remind the reader that they are reading a script.

At first, I thought it was just an awkward attempt by the writers of this script to put in a little... in-joke, I guess, though it's not funny.

Ultimately, it's likely more of an awkward Scorcese (or DeNiro) fetish on the part of the writers.

How do I know?

Later in the script, there's a minor character named Rabbi Travis Bickle.

I can't make this stuff up.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Well, I've Done It Now

So I've been completely rebuilding the first act of my supernatural thriller, to try and play with a few good notes I got, particularly the one about jumping into my story later and leaving a little more initial mystery to my main character.

I figured that worse comes to worse, it's an alternate draft, that I can discard if it isn't working.

The immediate benefit is good; at the minimum, lopping off the first 12 pages tightens up my page count considerably. And though there are a few babies I'll have to kill off in eliminating the whole prologue sequence, at the same time a lot of the ideas at play here will be as effective -- if not more effective -- simply being revealed by my main character along the way.

So initially, it's all good. I came up with a scenario to reinvent the character a bit, and to completely retool her connection to the ultimate villain.

Then comes last night.

I woke up, around 4:45 AM, with some radical rewrite ideas buzzing around in my head. It has been awhile since I had something like this happen, and it's good -- shows my subconscious is chewing over the material, and that it knows how to bang on the wall when there's something important that it wants me to look at.

(I picture my subconscious as played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, curled over grubby notes made in crayon, in the corner of a windowless room).

So I lay there, half-awake, chewing over these ideas, which basically break down into a pair of concepts. One I discard fairly quickly; though the idea has its pluses, at the same time it brings a lot to the script that isn't going to ultimately play well in the story.

But the other idea.... Cripes. It works.

But in a dark, dark way, that changes the screenplay forever.

So I got up, and went downstairs, and sat at the dining room table, and just spent 45 minutes making notes in longhand. Figuring out how this new sequence is going to play out, and whether it is too dark and intense for the script.

And it still works. And it becomes obvious to me that maybe the script needs this... thing to happen on page 12, to really spin the story and kick into the badass end-of-act-one stuff, which will now more properly start around page 20, and not page 28.

And it's hard to retreat from now, because Pandora's Box is open. This version of the script will always be in my mind, even if I don't write it.

And it's calling to be written.

And it's going to ripple through the rest of the script. In a good way, I think. But spinning a lot, differently.

It's like the moment when you realize how incredibly, incredibly gay "Top Gun" is, and you never watch it the same way again. Not that the new idea has anything to do with homosexuality. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. But really, isn't it time to rescue Katie from building 7 at the Scientology Center, and deprogram her?)

Anyhow, the point is this --

My script will never be the script it was yesterday, even if I want it to.

Just this one idea has changed things forever.

Hopefully that's a good thing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Evaluating My Holiday Movie Predictions

Now that the entire box office top ten is made up of crappy 2006 releases that I have no interest in seeing, it's type to go back and look at my predictions for the 2005 holiday releases, and chew over what it all means. (The numbers below are domestic only).

KING KONG (predicted $280 million; made $216 million, and almost done). I don't think I'm the only one that over-predicted this; I have a good friend who thought it would be the highest-grossing movie ever. So what happened? Turns out a lot of people didn't want to see a movie they figured they'd already seen on a few other versions, while the word-of-mouth that it was bloated knocked it out as well.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA - THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (predicted $165 million; made $287 million, including $1.7 million last weekend). Surprisingly turned out to be the king of the holiday season, though never underestimate the ability of a solid family movie to perform, and this had something for kids and adults. I don't think it's a particularly great movie (and I liked Kong more), but it worked for what it was.

THE PRODUCERS (predicted $80 million; made $19.3 million). Oops. The reviews weren't great, and that's what this needed to move beyond the core audience for musical remakes.

THE NEW WORLD (predicted $70 million; made $12 million so far). Okay, I must have been high. But it didn't get the Oscar nominations that it needed, while they just never really found a good hook to sell this on other than Colin Ferrell in a historical epic with a cute underage girl, which clearly isn't enough.

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (predicted $57 million; has made $56.5 million so far). Wow. After not coming within $50 in my first four predictions, a bullseye on my fifth. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

RUMOR HAS IT (predicted $50 million; made $42.9 million). I'm surprised that it did this well, given that it became clear pretty quickly that the logline on this film was a bit creepy.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (predicted $90 million; has made $72 million so far, and is still making money). Ironically, this was the prediction I took the most criticism for, and it turned out to be pretty dead-on.

AEON FLUX (predicted $29 million; made $26 million). Close. A big bomb, given that it cost $62 million, plus they advertised the hell out of it.

FUN WITH DICK AND JANE (predicted $150 million; made $110 million). Given the dire reviews, the fact that it made this much is shocking (and probably a testiment to the box office power of Jim Carrey; though he has had his bombs, Carrey + the perception of fun equals box office). Imagine how much money it would have made if it was a really funny movie?

MATCH POINT (predicted $22 million; has made $20.4, and still made $1.4 last weekend). It's sad that even when Woody makes a good movie, he still barely crashes the $20 million barrier.

CASANOVA (predicted $22 million; made $11.2 million). Gay Heath really did kick straight Heath's ass.

MUNICH (predicted $75 million; has made $45.4 so far). They never really figured out how to sell this; it came across as too much of a serious movie initially, and only now are they trying to focus on the characters in the ads and make it more accessible (though a newspaper ad a few days ago, in which they have the five guys lined up walking down the street, was a bit too eye-rollingly similar to "Reservoir Dogs").

HOODWINKED (predicted $68 million; has made $49.6 million so far, including $1.7 million last weekend). Solid for an independent cartoon.

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 (predicted $125 million; made $81.2 million). It got fairly bleak reviews, and Narnia swamped it. $81 million isn't bad, but if it was good it would have made a lot more.

THE RINGER (predicted $32 million; made $35 million). I was close. This movie is actually supposed to be pretty funny, as well as respectful of the Special Olympics, but that probably just confused audiences; mainstream people who don't like Jackass didn't go see it, while Johnny Knoxville fans probably thought it was a little tame.

THE FAMILY STONE (predicted $23 million; made $60 million). Ultimately, this looked like it was going to be a lot more fun than Rumor Has It, and that and the cast made it perform much better than I thought it would, given the previews for it.

WOLF CREEK (predicted $23 million; made $16 million). The buzz on this was that it was a good, original horror movie, but it wound up getting underethusiastic reviews, and underperforming.

Ironically, the #12 movie last weekend was WALK THE LINE, which made another $1.8 million, good for $116 million total; it wasn't on my prediction list because it had already opened, but it has hung on longer than everything but Brokeback Mountain.

The problem is that Walk the Line is coming out on DVD on Tuesday. Forget BUBBLE; it's when movies that are still making money at the box office start coming out on DVD that theaters should really be concerned, because it only reinforces the idea that the window between theatrical release and DVD release is shrinking.

Walk the Line is coming out on DVD 14 1/2 weeks after opening in theaters (November 18/February 28). Though that's a fairly standard interval nowadays, it has hung on so long at the multiplex that it seems like a lot less.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Joy of the "What If?" (Script Slip, Part II)

So even as I keep pounding out notes on other people's scripts, I'm getting more notes back on mine, which again is a process I've only recently gone back to.

It was an uncertain one, too. I slipped my script to a lot of new online friends whose response I wasn't too sure of.

So far I'm thrilled, and excited about my rewrite. Because the notes I'm getting are great, and some are even truly extensive.

The problem, of course, is that aside from a few key things (the last scene needs work, the villain needs better establishing), a lot of the notes are really very different. I've had readers extensively pick at certain scenes or ideas that all the other readers haven't even mentioned.

Many people don't realize what a tapestry a screenplay really is. Screenplays have a myriad of choices along the way, and though there may be one best way to tell any story, there sure as hell are a half-dozen pretty good ways, and several-hundred slightly-better-than-mediocre ways, and some times it's hard to tell which is which.

So I'm getting notes now that make me reassess a lot. That make me chew over plot points, and character backstory, and even key relationships in the script. Is it necessary that these two characters be related? Does it make sense that this character would have that job? Would this minor character really behave in that fashion to someone that they don't know?

What I'm realizing, is that there really isn't any particular right and wrong to these questions in and of themselves. It's how they feed into what the story is that you are trying to tell.

What it's all getting me to get back in touch with is the joy of the "What If". These notes are pushing my to grab corners of my script and shake it, to see what will fall out. Too often, I tend to accept sequences that work, and not ask myself if they could work better.

So the What If. What if this reader is right, and this might be a more interesting option? Where could that lead? Is that better? What about what that reader said; wouldn't that go with this other suggestion, and make that whole segment of the script tighter and more interesting?

I think this is the key to the whole feedback debate. It's not about blindly taking the suggestions of someone who may or may not know what is best for your script, but letting these suggestions (which generally are inspired by some flaw in your script, real or perceived) lead you to where the What If? is. Where the choice in your script is, that really turns out not to be as tightly-stitched as you thought it was.

(It's also another reason why "I liked it" really isn't helpful as a note. When you are giving someone notes, try to find ways to jumpstart the What If? in their own head).

I've already completely rebuilt a bit chunk of my first act. It's not due to any particular note, but in filtering a lot of responses through my own take on my script. And it's better.

So thanks to those who took the time, and got me to start asking the tough questions about my script.

And I'd like to hope that, while I'm giving notes, that even if I roar off down a tapestry thread that the writer ultimately doesn't have any interest in going in, that at least I'll get them to grapple with a whole bunch of What Ifs.

Because at the end, that's how the great scripts are built.

Friday, February 17, 2006


So sometime last month, when I wasn't paying attention, I wrote my 9,000th piece of paid coverage. Now I'm up to -- yes -- 9,052.

Putting me on track to break the 10,000 barrier sometime in late 2007. Unless I sell a script. Then, maybe not until mid 2009.

Because this is a business I can never really see leaving. Even if I did sell a script, and got a writing gig or two, there are a lot of pluses to continuing reading, at least on a part-time basis. It's a steady source of income, it's a way to keep in touch with what's out there, hell, it's a way to keep in touch with the screenplay form.

And who can write 8 hours a day?

I'd probably feel different if I was reading slushpile stuff. But I'm not; most of the stuff I read is from producers or agents, so generally it's in the upper level of the vast mediocrity, with the occasional impressive script passing over my desk now and then.

Even the $60 script notes screenplays generally aren't bad. People can generally write readable scenes; it's the whole storytelling thing that most writers seem to trip over.

Still, 9,052. Damn.

When I moved out to Los Angeles in the summer of 1998, I was at 4,175 paid coverages. I naively hoped that I wouldn't hit 5,000.

That number passed a long time ago.

(And if you wonder how I know these numbers, it's because I have a succession of notebooks, in which I have logged everything I ever read and for who. Plus I have a tattered old Film Writers Guide, in which all the screenplays are entered by writer. Most names are scrawled in the margins. It makes it much easier to track when I get a script that I know I have read for someone else, sometime before).

Fortunately, I love what I do. I guess I'd have to.

Still, when I hit 10,000, someone better buy me a drink. Or at least a taco.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

So We're Driving Up The California Coast...

So we're driving up the California coast last Tuesday, the wife and I, because it's our anniversary, and we're just hitting small towns and endless antique shops that all know that the tourists are coming, because everything is overpriced.

(Example -- two old books in the Wizard of Oz series. Neither in really great shape. Marked $75 and $95. Jesus.)

Anyhow, we're hitting the small coastal towns north of San Luis Obispo, and cruising past Hearst Castle (though we did wave at it), and we see a bunch of people standing, looking out at the ocean.

We wonder what's going on, but figure they are just waiting for the sunset, even though that's kind of weird, because it's about 4:00 and the sun won't be going down for a while.

I made a joke that maybe Pamela Anderson was skinny-dipping. Not a very funny joke, as jokes go.

So we drive on, wondering what's north (because we didn't bring a map, because that's part of the adventure).

Only there really isn't much north. Empty highway over every hill.

So after ten miles, I turn around, and head south again.

And there are all the people. Looking out at the sea.

So we pull over, and get out of the car, to see what's going on.

Hell, maybe it is Pamela Anderson. I make sure my wife brings the camera.

Only it's not a naked girl.

It's hundreds of elephant seals, happily sprawled out on the beach. Huge males, smaller females, cute little babies.

Some splash in the water, others roll around in the sand, or chase each other making a bellowing noise that defies description.

All about 30 feet away.

And the big males are amazing looking. The name elephant seal is appropriate; they have these big ugly noses that look like trunks.

Just an amazing sight. A great experience.

So the next time you see a bunch of people looking at something, sometimes the lookie-loos really are looking at something cool.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Worst Name For An Alien, Ever

I've never written a script with an alien in it, so I've never had to go through the process of coming up with interesting, fresh names for space aliens.

Though if I did, I'd try hard.

But I have a feeling that some writers aren't trying hard enough.

I read a script today about an alien who comes to Earth, to try to get help for his people, who are suffering on another planet.

Now, this wasn't a comic character. The name isn't meant to get laughs.

The alien's name?





Sunday, February 12, 2006

Odds and Ends

According to Blogger, this is my 100th post (if you count the three lonely posts over on $60 Script Notes). Considering I didn't even know what a blog was 6 months ago, that's not bad.

TV series usually run a clip show for their 100th episode, or have something exciting happen, like Superman propose to Kristen Kreuk, as if that is a stretch.

Not that I've ever watched Smallville. Or The Bernie Mac Show.

Or Charmed, which apparently is the longest-running show with female leads (a factoid which makes me throw up in my mouth just a little bit).

I read the other day that this new Steve Martin Pink Panther movie cost $80 million. Assuming (generously, given the reviews that I have read) that there are 20 laughs in the movie, isn't that $4 million per successful gag?

Isn't it time to have a contest, in which people submit gags for the next movie? Winning gags get $50,000 each. 100 good gags for only $5 million. A bargain for the producers.

Otherwise, the plant has slowed it's growth, but it's still growing at least an inch a day. Up to 23 inches now. Leftovers are disappearing.

No sign of David Carradine in my supermarket recently. I promise, if I see him again, to check out what he is buying. Since that seems to be people's first question.

I'm running off up north with my wife this week, to celebrate our 6th anniversary. We were married on Valentine's Day, a year after having our first date on Valentine's Day.

(I know, you just threw up in your mouth a little bit. But it gives me a lot less dates to remember. So who's the genius now?)

I'll be back Wednesday. While I'm gone, use the 2 minutes you'd spend checking this blog to write.

Unless you live in L.A. In which case, scroll down to the post about making the 48-hour short film, and think about joining in. I'm considering it.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Script Slip

So I'm currently going through the agonizing process of slipping my latest script to friends to read, in preparation for what hopefully will be the last rewrite/polish before it reaches that temporary stage known as "ready".

The irony, of course, is that I analyze scripts for a living, and in theory I should be perfectly capable of telling if my own script is good. And to a certain extent, I can. Maybe.

Sort of.

But like all writers, I suffer from just being way too close to my work to analyze it effectively. Familiarity breeds contempt. I've lost touch with what it is that really grabs someone the first time they experience a story, a moment, a character, a surprise.

I can remember reading an interview with Andrew Kevin Walker years ago, where he talked about hating all of his scripts. And this was after he had written SEVEN.

More recently, Paul Haggis sat through an early screening of CRASH, listening to the audience react appropriately to every beat, and still he was thinking "These fools! Can't you see how flawed this is?"

(Those of you who hated CRASH, and think he was right? Nah. It's a great script).

You get to the point where you just can't tell any more. Which I like to think explains Woody Allen's struggles. I'd like to believe that he could benefit from someone reading drafts of his scripts before they go into production, and telling him "Hey Woody, what if you..."

M. Night Shyamalan too.

So, the script slip. We've had debates about this on websites; some experienced writers claim that an important step in getting to be a great writer is not needing to show your scripts to anyone, to be able to fix them yourself.

Others point out that most great writers -- screenwriters or novelists -- still had a close group of friends they'd slip their work to along the way.

I'm in the latter camp. It's fine to say that you can tell what's wrong with your script and fix it, but a fresh, knowledgeable eye can be a major help.

The secret, of course, is finding the right friends to slip it to, the ones who will give you honest, helpful feedback, and just not tell you that they liked it.

I mean, it's nice to hear "I liked it". But it isn't really helpful.

I'd much rather get a bunch of notes from someone who understood what I was going for, and can delineate the things that didn't work for them.

Then yesterday, I got a bunch of critical notes from someone who didn't get the script at all; clearly he wanted the script to be something that it was never intended to be, and he was unhappy when it went down a different path.

He had some interesting notes, but at the same time it was clear that, as a whole, the main problem was that the movie I was trying to write wasn't his kind of movie. So there was a disconnect there.

But it's tough. When I give notes, I try to think about what the writer wants to do with the story, and where it is falling short. Sometimes I'll give notes on how to make it better, and there are times when my suggestions are probably totally not where the writer wants to go.

But I like to think that I'm being helpful anyway. I like to think that any note can be helpful, if you know how to take it.

And that's the juggling act, both as a note-giver and a note-taker. My best advice to someone giving notes is to be honest; if you read someone's script, and it really doesn't work for you, try to communicate this to the writer, rather than just saying "I liked it".

Make the "I liked it" really mean something.

And, as someone getting notes, it's all about learning which notes to give weight to and which notes to let flow off your back. It's not easy; I've listened to notes from people that sounded good at the time, but which led my scripts down the wrong path, because I believed the criticism too blindly.

It's best to just send the notes through your own creative filter. Pay attention to what the notes are saying, but ultimately it needs to make sense for what you are trying to write.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to sift through the notes I'm getting back, and try to figure out if my script has merit or not, and how to make it work better.

I'm not a great writer yet. But I'm trying.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Feed Me, Seymour

I have never been a plant person. My wife has never been a plant person.

Still, for Christmas, I gave her an amaryllis bulb.

It came in a box, that I bought at Target, when I was doing one of those "stuff to put under the tree" random present sweeps.

I wasn't sure it would actually grow, but what the hell -- it was on sale, for $3.50.

And the box had a pleasing square shape, that would look good in wrapping paper.

My wife thought it was nice, and then the box sat on a side table for a few weeks after Christmas, waiting.

Finally, my wife opened it, and followed the instructions, which involved combining bulb, pot and soil and whatever else was in the box, and then putting it on a nearby bookshelf.

For the first few weeks, not much happened. There was some growth, but nothing too thrilling. The box said it took 6 weeks to flower.

Then, last weekend, it started to grow, and grow. Soon it was about 6 inches high, looking a lot like, well, a penis. Shaft, bulb. I resisted the temptation to look under the soil for little amaryllis testicles.

It kept growing, and we finally moved it to the kitchen. Opened the window blinds, to give it a little more light.

I think it likes the light.

At noon yesterday, it was 15 1/4 inches high. By midnight, it was 17 inches high. Almost 2 inches in just 12 hours.

No sign of a flower, yet.

No sign of teeth. Yet.

I talk nicely to it. I think it is my friend.

But if I disappear, look inside the plant.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Disconnect

I think that one of the things that helps me do my job, is that I'm fairly mainstream in my tastes, while at the same time appreciating things that are art-house-interesting.

It helps me identify what the really good things are in what I read.

Still, I have blind spots, a sort of disconnect from projects that I don't really love, but which turn out to be the favorite movies of a lot of people.

Mostly, this shows up when scripts become movies, and are put out there to be filtered through everyone's tastes.

A while back, I read the book that Mystic River was based on. I thought there were some interesting things to it, but that the central story was flawed. Movie comes out, and I feel the same way.

But a lot of people loved it.

And that needs to be a concern of mine. I need to try to understand what people are getting that I'm not (not that I thought that Mystic River was a bad movie, I'm just saying that good acting almost saved a bad plot -- in my opinion).

I need to understand (and so do critics, though many don't) that reading/seeing a ton of movies changes the way I approach all movies, something that the average moviegoer doesn't experience.

This past year, the one movie that I didn't love that a lot of people did was A History of Violence. Though I think that I know the disconnect on that one.

I think the problem with that movie -- for me -- is that I read a lot of bad scripts with a similar premise. There's an ordinary guy who is pushed to his limits, and it all gets violent at the end.

So for me, ho-hum. Other than the thing that happens in the middle of the script (in the front yard, no spoilers) there wasn't a single thing in the movie that surprised me.

Plus it all felt so unresolved; I don't think it explored the whole family dynamic at all.

Yet for many people who weren't me, who weren't burned out on what is sort of a b-movie violent showdown plot, it worked. There was enough to it that was still surprising to make it a gripping tale for them, and I get that -- and I think I need to get that.

My jadedness hurt me on this one....

Or maybe it just helped me see that this Emperor wore less clothes than many people thought.

So was it a good movie, or only a good movie for a certain (big) slice of the population? Who is really wrong, and who is right, and is it even possible to say that on any kind of firm level?

It's hard to tell sometimes.

I liked King King, though I admit that it's way too long, and too slow in spots. I liked a lot of Harry Potter 4, though the story there has some real holes too.

Yet if someone loves a movie, and honestly thinks it is great, who are we to say it is wrong?

When I was 14, I thought Steven Spielberg's "1941" was the best movie ever.

It isn't, of course. But maybe, for a certain 14-year-old boy in a certain time and place -- it is.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

One Of Those "Only In LA" Moments....

To set the stage, it's Super Bowl Sunday.

I'm about to make a run to the supermarket for Super Bowl snacks, and I mention to my wife that I read a poll the other day.

Only 3% of people under 50 who were going to watch the Super Bowl planned to do it alone. But 22% of the over-50 crowd who were going to watch the game were going to do so alone.

My wife thought this was sad. So I jokingly told her that if I saw a senior citizen alone at the grocery store, I'd bring him home.

So I go down to the grocery store, and I'm prowling the aisles, and there he is, pushing a cart of his own.

The perfect LA senior citizen.

A bit crazy-looking.

Wild gray hair.

Colorful shirt, unbuttoned to his belly-button...

Revealing a gray-haired chest, and a few tattoos.

All alone, shopping.

And I should have brought him home.

I should have gone up to him, and said, "Hey, c'mon back to my place, we'll have some beer, and some chips and salsa, and we'll watch the game".

But I didn't.

But I should have.

Because it would have meant I was a nice guy?


Because it was David Carradine.

Only in LA.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Brokeback Parody

It's amazing what some music and good editing can do to spin a story you thought you knew.

If you haven't seen it, it's here.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Anyone Interested in a Lost Weekend?

My friends over at the SoCal Film Group (good people, one and all) are involved in organizing this year's "Lost Weekend" short film competition, which takes place on March 24-26, the first weekend of the Silver Lake Film Festival.

Teams of contestants have 48 hours to conceive, write, cast, film, edit and premiere a short film. Storylines will be inspired by a random factor provided at the beginning of the contest, and an object will also be chosen that must be featured in each film. Filmmakers will be assigned a genre randomly.

Entry fee is only $20 per team, with it recommended that you have between 5-10 people per team. You must supply your own cast, crew and equipment. Sign up early; the number of teams will be limited.

The completed films will be shown at a special Silver Lake Film Festival screening at the Monte Cristo club on March 28. There will be prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd, as well as an Audience Choice award.

There's more info here, even though I already cribbed a lot of it. Anyone interested in this who wants to use my comments section to try and recruit more people for their team, feel free.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Sometimes, Characters Don't Speak Your Language

So I read a really awful screenplay yesterday about two teens who time-travel to the past, and bring Mozart back to present day, where he joins their garage band and they become stars.

Don't ask.

Anyhow, one of the things that really irked me about this script (which was nominally for kids, and was trying at least in theory to sort of be semi-educational) is that the teens land in 1791 Vienna, realize they are in Mozart's house, have a whole conversation with him (he thinks they are the angels of death), and then bring him back to the future.

Yeah, they have a whole conversation with him. In English.

Now, I get it that it is a comedy, but still. It isn't the first time I have seen something like this.

We've become so use to the idea of people in other times and other cultures speaking English, that it feels almost second-nature to use now.

I suppose there are good reasons (okay, no, it's money, because people hate reading subtitles) why movies like "Memoirs of a Geisha" need to have everyone speaking English.

And it's a conceit that works, as long as everyone in the movie speaks the same language to start with.

But if there's a language barrier, it really needs to be reflected in the tale, and not glossed over. Because, you know, if all your character speaks is English, and he's in 1791 Vienna, it's going to actually be a problem.


Of course, when Mozart starts trashing his hotel room and hitting on groupies, it all probably becomes moot anyway.