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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Scott the Writer

So right now, kismet is teasing me.

You have to understand something about me. I'm a rather fast writer, when I have the time. But I never have the time. I've been a fulltime reader for well over a decade now, and it's impossible for me to write when I'm busy reading.

I can count the number of days in the past year in which I didn't do any reading on one hand, and still have fingers left over.

So it's a fantasy of mine to actually have a chance to do nothing but write. To have that actually be my day job.

And right now, fate is telling me to put up or shut up. Because for the last two days, I have gotten zero work to do.

I actively read scripts and books for 6 different companies. Aside from a book I got on Monday and finished Tuesday morning, none has given me anything all week long.

My $60 notes? The pile is empty.

So all of a sudden, completely randomly and unexpectedly (the pre-Labor Day lull usually isn't THIS bad), I have






And writing is what I need to do. Because right now, the iron is as hot as it might ever get. This is my shot to get an agent. My shot to move this writing thing from the back burner to the front, before the burner gets turned off.

So in stories like this, the main character either can't write, and gets very drunk instead, or he goes into a crazy writing jag.

Fortunately for me, it's the latter.

Yesterday (Wednesday) I sat down and:

- Did yet another pass on the still-incredibly-low-paid rewrite I'm doing for the producer friend. The damned thing keeps getting better every draft, but then we get on the phone, and he gives me a double-handful of perfectly good notes, and then I go rewrite a sequence or 8 and elevate it up another level. It's still not a horror/thriller masterpiece, but I still give it credit for helping me get into writing gear, and what the hell, the end is in sight. I think. Hopefully I'm getting karmic brownie points somewhere.

- Did a few more pages of my own original horror script, the one I outlined late last year, wrote about 35 pages of, then stuck in a drawer. Now it's out of the drawer, because I need something to work on between attacks on the low-paid rewrite, and my waiting to get notes back from friends on the supernatural thriller I finished a draft of a few weeks ago. It's still very bloody, and rife with sex. I know, you want to read it. It's still only about 43 pages long though.

- But then I went to the coffee shop and started ripping apart the third act of my supernatural thriller anyway, based on ideas that were spurred by a conversation with a friend who did read it. After reworking a large chunk of the script, when I came home (and then after the wife went to bed) I pounded out about 10 pages of the new stuff on that draft. I'll finish it tomorrow, and then swap it out for the last draft with the friends who haven't read it yet.

- I even got a chance to spend a couple of hours with the wife, including our nightly game of Scrabble. But the fall TV season better start soon, because I'm tired of reruns of "Dog: The Bounty Hunter", which is literally the only thing on Wednesday nights now.

All in all, a productive, satisfying day.

Could I live the writing life full time?

Absolutely. Bring it on.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

There Is Joy In Mudville...

I just got word that my script made the Nicholl semifinals :-)

Making a Flat Scene Interesting

This should be screenwriting 101 stuff, but I'm still amazed by how many scripts that I read -- scripts from people with agents -- that contain scenes that just sort of blandly exist.

Talky scenes, in which the characters aren't doing anything during the scene.

Characters should always be doing something. Movies are visual. Even if the characters aren't doing anything, it should be interesting.

A primer for this is "When Harry Met Sally", which is a very talky movie. But in every single scene, there's something interesting going on, even if it is as simple as Billy Crystal and Bruno Kirby hitting balls in a batting cage while having a conversation.

Obviously, there's a lot more leeway for this is comedies, and you don't want to do anything too distracting. But do something.

An example is the music video below (hey, I'll take any chance to play another - actually, THE other -- Mountain Goats video).

It's a low-budget video, that pretty much just consists of the band playing the song. But check out how a little early context -- and one perfect piece of bloody make-up -- gives it all a spin that makes it interesting.

Crank it up. And then go write 5 pages.

The Mountain Goats - This Year

Monday, August 28, 2006

In Storytelling, Information is Power

So I finally saw "Syriana" yesterday.

I generally liked the movie; it's very thoughtful and pointed, and there are some great sequences throughout.

But boy, was I lost a lot of the time. And from what I remember, I wasn't the only one; this is one of the more divisive movies among critics last year, with a lot not liking the film simply because it doesn't spell everything out as it goes along.

Somewhere along the line, in defense of the movie, someone (it might have been writer-director Stephen Gaghan) stated that the fact that the audience doesn't know what's going on a lot of the time works, because none of the characters know what's going on all the time either, because the Middle East situation is too complex a problem for most people to understand.

On a certain level, yeah, that's brilliant. But on another level... it doesn't really help the enjoyment of the movie.

The obvious comparison is to Gaghan's "Traffic", which similarly told an ensemble, multi-location tale around a central issue. Yet in that movie, everything was very spelled out; there was never the sense that you were trying to puzzle out exactly what's going on. I think that served that script well; it's the kind of drama that lent itself to being able to follow what was going on.

I definitely think Hollywood has the tendency to go too far the other way, in which everything is too spelled out, treating the audience like idiots. I think it's a common writing problem too; I read a lot of scripts in which the same basic point will be made over, and over, and over again.

You need to trust the audience to get something the first time, especially if it is pretty basic stuff.

So the idea of a film on the Middle East in which things remain sort of cryptic is great... but I still think they went too far. Too much of my brain was engaged in trying to figure out what was going on, and not in a way that caused me to become wrapped up in the story; instead, too often it was just sort of distracting.

At the end of the day, it's about telling an effective story, and as much as "Syriana" works -- and I applaud it for what it tried to do, and what it achieved -- it could have worked better.

But how much to tell up front, and what to reveal along the way, is tricky. When I give notes, this is often one of the things I focus on, because a lot of writers struggle to get it right.

It's one of the key choices in the script, especially for certain kinds of tales, particularly mysteries, dramas, or anything with a little suspense in it.

Too often I'll read a script in which the main character is trying to find the answer to something, but the audience knows so much up front that we are never engaged in the story with the main character; we are only impatiently waiting for the main character to catch up, already.

Meanwhile, the tale would be endlessly more engrossing if the audience only knew what the main character did. This way, the audience could get caught up in learning things as he/she does, and puzzling things out with them, effectively becoming the main character ourselves.

Other tales have so much going on along the way, that it becomes about spreading out the exposition so that it doesn't clump up. I'm a firm believer in establishing a lot of things early, just to put your audience in a comfort zone in which they can concentrate on the script's other mysteries and questions, but on the last draft of my supernatural thriller, I went too far with this, establishing too much early. In my latest draft, I start out a little more cryptically, teasing the audience with things about the main character, then dropping the info in along the way. It works better.

But every tale works differently, and when info is revealed has a huge impact on any script, that impact is different with every script.

No one said this writing stuff was easy.

In general:

Respect your audience. They are smart, and don't mind figuring stuff out for themselves, if all the info is there.

If you need to repeat a bit of info more than once, there had better be a reason why.

If you are writing a mystery, wrap the audience in the mystery as well (unless you are doing a Columbo-type "watch the investigator learn what we already know" tale, but those are tricky, and you'd better pull it off).

And if you are writing any kind of tale in which key info plays an important part, play with the question of when some of these key things are revealed. Often it can mean the difference between a compelling story, a too-confusing one, or one that shoots its wad too quickly.


So today it has been one year exactly since I started this blog.

Time flies way too fast.

195 posts, and it only took me 364 days to put something visual on it.

Hopefully, as this next year evolves, I'll have some writing news to post about, while I'll continue to muse about screenwriting, and movies, and life outside of movies.

Maybe I'll even start throwing up film clips and trailers as I come across interesting ones.

Otherwise, kudos to all the other writing blogs that have sprung up over the past year, and keep it going too.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Mountain Goats - Woke Up New

So the show last night was great -- it benefitted "826LA" and the other 826 groups, which foster writing creativity among kids.

If you get a chance to see one of those shows, go for it -- though the performers rotate, they put on a good show. Even Andy Richter was funny as hell.

The real revelation was "The Mountain Goats", who have just come out with their 4th studio album -- they are essentially just one guy, John Darnielle, but he's amazing.

This is their brand new video. And to give it film context -- it's directed by Rian Johnson, who directed "Brick".


Friday, August 25, 2006

Book Eating

Though I rarely drag my ass out to go to stuff, Saturday night I'm going to Royce Hall at UCLA, for "Revenge of the Book Eaters", a concert benefitting programs fighting illiteracy.

Two of my favorite singer-songwriters are going to be performing, Aimee Mann and Jenny Lewis, along with some other performers. Authors Dave Eggers and Sarah Vowell are going to do readings. Andy Richter is hosting. Jake Gillenhaal is supposed to be there as well.

Tickets may still be available, if anyone is interested.

As faithful readers of the blog may remember, Jenny Lewis is the only concert I've actually been to all year, and she was great. Though she recently did a solo tour with the Watson Twins, supposedly she's working on a new album with her band Rilo Kiley, whose "Portions For Foxes" really should have been a hit.

Rilo Kiley - Portions For Foxes

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Strangers in a Coffee Shop

Like many aspiring writers out there, I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. For me it's mental survival; I spend way too much time locked away alone in my apartment reading, and there are days when I just need to escape for 2-4 hours, while still getting some work done.

Still, I'd hear stories of people striking up conversations with writers in coffee shops, fellow writers bonding over caffeine and laptop plugs, and it always seemed a little strange to me, because I never talk with strangers in coffee shops. Ever. And they rarely talk to me, and when they do they are usually really odd. (I sense you trying to picture this odd person. No, odder than that. No, still odder.)

I don't think it's because I look unapproachable. It's likely because I'm shy, which to people who know me might come as something of a surprise. But I'm very quiet around people I don't know at all, while I'm way too over-analytical in my head about why I shouldn't talk to someone because I'd probably just annoy them.

So yeah, I've seen people writing screenplays in coffee shops. And no, I've never, ever talked to them.

Before today.

Ironically, yesterday (Tuesday), I had an arranged-meeting with another blogger in a coffee shop, and she was the umpteenth person who'd actually brought up having struck up conversations with strange screenwriters in coffee shops.

So I had that in the back of my mind today, as I wound up in a Woodland Hills Starbucks. Thanks to one of those inexplicable things, in which a coffee shop is empty one minute and filled the next, there was only one empty table, with the seat awkwardly facing the corner, where two other guys, each at their own table, sat. On one was a guy on a laptop, with screenplay pages next to him. The other was a guy in his 50s, who sipped his coffee and people-watched.

I brought out some script pages and a pen, and I was getting ready to finally make this key sequence work when the guy with the coffee noticed me and laughed. He made a comment about how we (me and laptop guy) both brought our scripts with us, and he left his at home.

Even with this conversational opening big enough to drive a truck through, normally I would have made some small talk, then drifted back into my screenplay. But I'm trying to be the new Scott. Writer Scott. The kind of guy that actually talks to other writers in coffee shops.

So I engaged him in conversation, and we wound up talking about a bevy of things, from movies to straight-to-DVD stuff (some of which he has written; he seems very much like a man out of Bill Cunningham's heart), to residuals, to breaking into the business.

Turns out he's been writing professionally for 30 years, mostly TV, some cable stuff, and one movie I'd actually seen in theaters a number of years ago (though odds are you didn't). Laptop guy even joined in too; turns out he's got a $1 million budget movie going into production, and he's trying to pound out his next script.

And it was great, it was cool, it was everything you could possibly want in a random conversation with two guys who just out of a random confluence of events just happened to be sharing the same 20 square feet of space in a coffee shop one afternoon.

Then coffee guy got a phone call, and he was gone, and laptop guy went back to his script, and I went back to mine. Though I did say goodbye to him when I left an hour later.

Who knows when I'll talk to someone in a coffee shop again. I don't want to be the guy who is talking to you while you are working on your script, the guy who you wish would just go back to his.

I mean, what's the general feeling out there? How often does someone come up to you in a coffee shop because they see you are writing, and strike up a conversation? How often do you do it?

(And I'm happily married, so I'm not talking about meeting a potential romantic interest. That's a whole other category of coffee shop discussion. Though obviously pretty girls writing screenplays in coffee shops must get hit on a lot -- it seems like a good conversational opening if you want to strike one up).

Anyhow, I'm sure I'll be out at a Starbucks or a Coffee Bean or a bagel shop tomorrow (probably somewhere west of Burbank, south of the freeway), and if you see me, feel free to come up and say hi.

It's easy to recognize me. I'm the mute guy in the corner.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sometimes, You Can Be TOO Politically-Correct....

When I write a script, I write the characters without mentioning what race they are, and why should I? Unless the script specifically deals with race, or there is a situation in a script in which race matters, the casting should be color-blind, even in the writer's head.

When I read scripts, though, the words that are most often used are "black", or "African-American". The latter is considered the more politically-correct, and is generally the fallback for many writers.

But maybe it has become too ingrained. I recently read a script in which characters were described as being "African-American" throughout.

The problem? The script was set in Africa. The characters were African people, with dark skin, who lived in Africa their entire lives, who had never been to America, nor knew anyone in America.

Note to writers -- if you want readers to take your script seriously, try to avoid the things that will make them erupt into dumb-founded laughter.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back In The Groove

So I had one of the best weekends I've had in a long, long time.

I wrote. A lot.

Ironically, the thing that kicked it off was the return of the low-pay rewrite that I keep doing for my producer friend; I've probably done 4 drafts now, and the little checks he sends me still only add up to the three digits.

But I'm not complaining, because I enjoy it, and it's a great experience, for the following reasons:

-- As has been talked about before, because it's someone else's script, I can be merciless in losing the things that don't work, and revving up the things that do. It's a freeing experience (which makes it easier to do to your own script), while there's no question that it has improved the script immensely.

-- The core storyline of the script is the original writer's, and it is solid enough to where the bulk of the writing is just coming up with new setpieces to hang on it, and better characters and character moments. The premise lends itself to imaginative ideas, and I've been coming up with a lot of them.

-- This is the first time I've ever worked with a producer in shaping something, and it has been a great experience. We talk on the phone, hash out ideas, then I bang stuff out, and he generally likes it -- and when he doesn't, his objections are usually right. Plus I find that turning stuff around for someone else makes me more disciplined, something that I'm hoping will translate easier to my own stuff.

Plus I've been elevated to a "revised by" credit on the screenplay itself, probably the first step toward actually getting credit on the damn thing. But at this point, I'm unconcerned (I probably should be, but I'm not). If it ever sells, great. If it doesn't fine.

Because it has gotten me off my ass and writing again.

So after doing phone calls with the producer all week, and reworking some of the first act, I buckled down on Friday night/Saturday and did a cover-to-cover polish, working in changes we had talking about, tightening down some incredibly fatty scenes, and adding two fairly major setpieces along the way.

The climax still needs to be figured out, but that's for the next phone call. At this point he's reading the rest of it, in preparation for the final polish.

Then Sunday, with that off my desk, the wife out with a friend for the day and little paying work to do (ah, those good-old summer doldrums), I tackled my supernatural thriller, which for the moment is still called "Hiding Billy", because A) Everyone seems to remember the title, and B) No one has come up with one I like better yet, at least none that have stuck.

I've been frozen in mid-rewrite for a few weeks, so I printed everything out, took it to a Starbucks, and just spent the afternoon going through it with a pen, cutting what needed to be cut, moving some exposition around, chopping out two entire subplots that never really worked and fixing the last (hopefully) batch of stubborn typos.

Then I came home, curled up with the laptop, and stayed up until after midnight, making all the changes, until I was left with a complete draft. Rough, but not-that-rough; hopefully it's in the get-a-few-notes-from-friends-before-the-final-polish zone, and I sent it out to a few.

If I smoked cigars, I would have smoked one.

So, amazingly enough, my comical treatment for "Alligators in the Helicopter" was only the third-best bit of writing I did all weekend.

It's become clear to me that this needs to be my time; this needs to be my push. I've been noodling around as a writer for two long; spent too much time licking my wounds after I couldn't get an agent in the big push of 5-6 years ago.

Suddenly, the window of opportunity is opening for me, and I have to seize it. Turns out becoming a Nicholl quarterfinalist is huge for someone like me who deals with people in the business, because suddenly I'm not just a reader who, like everyone else in town, has written some screenplays. Now I'm a writer who has been annointed capable of writing (though I acknowledge the crapshoot of it all -- I personally read a half-dozen scripts that didn't make the Nicholl cut that were as well-written as mine).

Suddenly I have people offering to get my scripts to agents -- people who actually know agents. And between my Nicholl script, my supernatural thriller and my frozen-time script, I actually have three solid scripts to go out with, plus the thing I rewrote for the producer, which nothing might ever happen with but it's out there too, and who knows.

It's all coming together. 15 years of screenwriting, about a dozen scripts (many of which suck and have been properly relegated to the bottom shelf), and a monster education in screenplays by being a fulltime reader for 15 years. On the downside, I'm 43, and if I don't do it now, when?

So even if I don't make the Nicholl semis, this is my time. This is my push.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Snakes" Not So Boffo At The Box Office....

Estimates are only $13.8 million for the weekend, $15.2 million counting Thursday night.

Not terrible, but disappointing, and lower than most predictions.

I wasn't really tempted to see it. In fact, the other night, I closed my eyes for a minute, and thought about the previews, and about what I'd heard about snakes attacking penises, and vaginas, and crawling up a fat woman's butt, and I decided that I could pretty much imagine the whole film. So I did, in about 22 seconds. Saved myself $10.

Sadly, "Alligators in a Helicopter - The Movie" is destined to go into drydock, one of the great unmade movies in history, right up there with "Freddy Got Fingered Again", "Bubble Man", and Episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga. Wait, the last ones got made? Cool.

Ultimately, the fact that "Little Miss Sunshine" is likely going to make more money overall at the U.S. box office than "Snakes on a Plane" can only be seen as a good thing.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Alligators In A Helicopter - The Pitch

The setting is a producer's office on a studio lot. On his desk, a copy of Variety -- "Snakes Bite Off $80 million Weekend". The producer looks at the writer. He wants the next SoaP. Everyone does. The writer clears his throat.

"Okay, picture this. There's this guy, the mob is after him. He's going to testify in a trial, he saw the mob boss whack some dude. I'm thinking big opening setpiece; mob boss on the roof, pushes nerdy accountant, who goes flying off the building, falling 20 floors, lands on a car, car alarm, ouch. Plus it's foreshadowing, you see? Because later on other things will be falling out of the sky.

So our hero is on the roof too, and he sees all this. Why is he on the roof?.... Better cellphone reception. He's trying to patch things up with his wife, she's pissed that he's working all the time. He's an ex-cop, but she got him to quit, but now he's a... bond trader, and it's worse, he's never home. What's his name? Stone. Stone Rockford. Think Bruce Willis, in a suit, but really pumped, like he works out all the time. Sure Bruce will do it...

So Stone sees the killing, he goes to the cops, he agrees to testify, they put him in protective custody. His wife is there, too, she can be hot, I'm picturing Eva Mendes; when they aren't looking out windows for hitmen, then can be having sex or showering.

But then the hitmen come, they kill Eva, and Stone flees, into the woods, but there's like 150 bad guys, he's cornered, he doesn't have a chance. But then there's this loud sound, and this huge helicopter is hovering above him, dropping a rope ladder. Stone knows he has no chance on the ground, so he climbs up that rope ladder, as bullets zing around them. But he doesn't see that the bad guys are missing on purpose.

So he gets up to the helicopter, which quickly zooms higher, and Stone is stunned to see that the helicopter is full of alligators. There's at least a dozen 10-footers, and... no, no, this is a BIG helicopter. I mean it's HUGE. It's like the size of a really big living room.

So Stone sees that he's in trouble, because it's just him, a dozen hungry alligators, and the pilot, who is in some sort of unbreakable glass bubble; there's no way to get to him.

And Stone starts shaking, and we wonder why, because this is Stone, we've seen he's pretty badass, but then suddenly we're in a flashback, see?

Turns out when Stone was 18, he and his girlfriend were hiking in a swamp -- picture Jessica Alba -- when she got her leg bitten off by an alligator. No, no, of course she'll have a lot of bikini scenes first. So she's got no leg, and Stone's trying to save her; he's carrying her through the swamp, fighting off anything that gets in his way -- there's a lot of freaky stuff in those swamps. But there's blood in the water, and the alligator finally eats the rest of her.

Yeah, of course young Stone can have a tearful scene when he talks to her head before it's gulped down. It's an Oscar caliber role for Jessica.

Anyhow, we have this whole sequence, and then we're back in the helicopter, and only an instant has passed, because we were in Stone's mind. The alligators see him now, they smell his fear, they are moving towards him. Stone looks behind him, to the open door; he realizes that that's his one way out. But now it's 1000 feet down, and he has no parachute.

And he realizes that that's the bad guy's plan. The mob boss wants Stone to jump, because then it will be suicide, and not murder. "Brilliant fucker" mutters Stone.

He looks at the pilot, who gives him the finger. And then Stone will say the line. "You think you have me beat. But I won't stop breathing, until I get these motherfucking alligators off this motherfucking helicopter."

I know. Trailer shot, right? It gives me shivers.

So he starts taking on the alligators. I can see giving them little differences, to tell them apart. There's one really big one, he's the leader, he waits in the back. One's albino, one's darker, one's got someone's sneaker poking out of its mouth, because that's messed up, right? He's already eaten someone, and he wants more.

So Stone starts going off on them. He stomps one, kicks a few others in the head. It's a combination of Jackie Chan and that Australian guy on TV. The albino alligator takes a chunk out of Stone's leg, but Stone picks it up by the tail, spins it around, and throws it out the door.

Comic moment. There's some redneck below, yelling at his wife. Then the alligator lands on him.

What? Is there enough action? He's in a helicopter, fighting alligators. Did you see World Trade Center? Nic Cage spends most of the movie pinned under rubble. He can't move. Compared to that, this is huge. This is Braveheart.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Redneck. Anyhow, back on the helicopter, Stone fights a couple more alligators, and his shirt gets ripped off in the process. And he's built; I mean, Bruce is really going to have to work out for this one, but I bet he will, because this is the comeback movie he's been waiting for.

Then the one alligator with the sneaker in its mouth comes after him. Stone grabs it by its head, and pulls its jaws apart. You can see the muscles in Stone's arms bulging; this would have been a great role for Stallone about 40 years ago. Anyhow, he pulls the alligator in half, and he's stunned, because the sneaker is attached to a woman.

Stone performs mouth-to-mouth on her, while holding off the alligators by kicking them. She starts breathing; she's okay. And she's hot, and we can tell, because the alligator's digestive juices have left her with almost no clothes. I'm picturing Scarlet Johannsen. That's right. You get it now. Bra at the most.

So Scarlet pulls herself together, and she's helping Stone fight the alligators. More alligators go flying out the door and land on people below; it's funny. Plus the movie gets padded out with flashbacks, as Scarlet tells Bruce her story. She was a stripper, and we see some of this. She saw the mob boss kill someone else; she was in protective custody too, and the helicopter stopped at her house first. So it's all there now; it's not contrived at all.

Anyhow, eventually it's just them and the last alligator, the really big one. Maybe it only has one eye, and Stone realizes that it's the same alligator who ate Jessica Alba, because after they said their dying goodbyes, he poked the alligator in the eye. I know, great, right?

So they take it on, and there's this huge battle, because now with only one alligator left, this helicopter is positively cavernous. I mean, you get rid of 11 big alligators, you're talking a lot of room to move around.

So the fight goes on for like 20-30 minutes. It's like the King Kong T-Rex fight in the last King Kong movie, only this will be cheaper, because there's no digital effects; I'm thinking that Bruce can make most of it work with a rubber alligator. Or a midget in an alligator costume. Or a puppet.

Anyhow, Scarlet gets knocked down, and the alligator is about to gobble her leg. And Stone gets really mad now; we see Jessica's death flash before his eyes. Of course more bikini shots. And Stone grabs that alligator, picks it up, and throws it into the pilot.

The pilot's glass case explodes. The alligator eats the pilot, and turns for Stone. But now the alligator is fuller, and a little more sluggish. He and Stone have their final face-off, while Scarlet jumps in the pilot's seat; Stone yells at her how to fly it, while also telling her where to go.

Stone and the alligator battle. The alligator slams him with his tail, and Stone goes flying out the door, but holds on. Stone dangles outside, the alligator drools on him, Stone looks down. New Jersey. The mob boss' estate.

So then Stone pulls himself up, as the rockin' theme music plays. Stone hits the alligator 3, 4, 5 times. The alligator is dazed. Stone picks it up, and throws it out the open door.

The mob boss is below. He looks up, and sees this huge alligator coming at him. Splat. Happy ending.

Scarlet lands the copter at some cabin in the middle of nowhere, and when the feds finally show up, they find Stone and Scarlet in bed, smoking cigars. Just like a James Bond movie.

Of course the sheet doesn't have to be pulled up.

The writer looks at the producer, hopefully. The producer looks at the writer, and smiles....

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bruno Kirby, RIP

My friend Tom has a really nice Bruno Kirby anecdote here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

And In The Fall, The Directors Come Out To Play

Now that summer popcorn movie season is almost finally over, it's time to look forward to the fall, when the real movies come out.

It's no coincidence that many of the more-interesting ones are director-driven. Generally, when Hollywood decides to take a chance on the kind of movie that needs to be very good or it won't make a dime, they turn to the best directors, who thus tend to get first crack at the best material.

Anyhow, it's turning out to be a potentially-solid rest of the year. Among the directors with movies coming out in the next four months are:

MARTIN SCORCESE. His movies are no longer automatic slam dunks, but "The Departed", a remake of the Hong Kong police thriller "Infernal Affairs", stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson (Oct 6).

STEVEN SODERBERGH. "The Good German" stars George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Toby Maguire, and was written by Paul Attanasio. I don't even care what it's about, I'm there (Dec 8).

RICHARD LINKLATER. "Fast Food Nation" is an ensemble drama loosely based on the non-fiction book of the same name, about the abuses of the fast food industry. Looks good (Oct 20).

CLINT EASTWOOD. "Flags of Our Fathers" is about the soldiers putting the flag on Iwo Jima. Eastwood has proven that he knows how to direct, while this could be three Best Picture Oscars in a row written or co-written by Paul Haggis (Oct 20).

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN. "The Prestige", with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as magicians circa 1900, is another trailer that looks great (Oct 20).

SOFIA COPPOLA. Sue me, but I love "Lost in Translation", and she's one of the few female writer-directors getting any real respect nowadays. "Marie Antoinette" got mixed reviews at Cannes, but I'll be there (Oct 20).

ROBERT DENIRO. "The Good Shepherd" stars Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie and DeNiro, who is directing for the first time in 13 years, since "A Bronx Tale". Eric Roth wrote it (Dec 22).

DARREN ARONOFSKY. "The Fountain" is one of the more memorable trailers I've seen in a while, and hopefully the movie works, because it could easily be terrible. Still, his track record is good enough to give one hope, as is the fact that this has a prime release date (Nov 22).

ANTHONY MINGHELLA. "Breaking and Entering" stars Jude Law and Juliette Binoche (Oct 6).

BILL CONDON. "Dreamgirls". Beyonce Knowles, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson Dec 21).

ALFONSO CUARON. "Children of Men" looks like a thoughtful futuristic thriller, with Clive Owen and Julianne Moore (Sept 29).

MICHEL GONDRY. I was underwhelmed when I read the screenplay for "The Science of Sleep" (Gondry wrote it, not Charlie Kaufman), but the trailer looks trippy (Sept 22).

ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU. Inarritu directed "21 Grams"; his new film, "Babel", stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Gael Garcia Bernal (Oct 27).

MARC FORSTER. "Monster's Ball" and "Finding Neverland" were both solid, so it's interesting to see what he can do with "Stranger Than Fiction", in which Will Ferrell hears a voice narrating his life (Nov 10).

EDWARD ZWICK. "Blood Diamond" deals with the strip-mining of Africa for diamonds. Leo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly (Dec 15).

PEDRO ALMODOVER. "Volver" toplines Penelope Cruz; the female cast shared the best actress prize at Cannes (Nov 3).

RIDLEY SCOTT made "A Good Year", with Russell Crowe and Albert Finney, a gentle comedy set in France. The trailer looks predictable, but Scott and Crowe could make it work (Nov 10).

TONY SCOTT took "Deja Vu", a script that sold for $5 million, and word is that he screwed it up. But it has Denzel Washington, so we'll see (Nov 22).

BRIAN DEPALMA. DePalma has been more than a little spotty too, but with "The Black Dahlia" (written by Josh Friedman, from the novel by James Ellroy), he might have a solid script to work from for once (Sept 15).

BARRY LEVINSON. As much as I love Barry Levinson, "Man of the Year" stars Robin Williams, Christopher Walken and Lewis Black, so who knows. Hopefully it's not "Toys" (Oct 13).

CURTIS HANSON. "Lucky You" is a poker movie, with Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, and Robert Duvall. (Oct 27).

PHILLIP NOYCE. "Catch a Fire" is a serious South African prison tale, starring Derek Luke and Tim Robbins. (Oct 27).

STEVE ZAILLIAN wrote and directed the remake of "All The King's Men", starring Sean Penn, Jude Law and Kate Winslet. The trailer looks great (Sept 22).

TODD FIELD. "Little Children" is his first film since "In the Bedroom"; it stars Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Connelly (Oct).

LASSE HALLESTROM. "The Hoax" stars Richard Gere as Clifford Irving, who faked a book on Howard Hughes (Nov 17).

NANCY MEYERS. "The Holiday" stars Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black, and the ever-present Jude Law; does he ever spend time at home? (Dec 8).

RYAN MURPHY. Though "Running With Scissors" is his first movie (he wrote it, too), he got the shot based on his work on "Nip/Tuck", and the trailer looks great (Oct 27).

MARTIN CAMPBELL. Hopefully "Casino Royale" will do something interesting with the Bond canon, though the fact that they changed baccarat to Texas Hold 'Em feels like heresy (Nov 17).

JOEY LAUREN ADAMS wrote and directed "Come Early Morning", with Ashley Judd; festival word is good.

MIKE JUDGE. Sometimes, you just need to laugh. "Idiocracy", with Luke Wilson, is about a guy who wakes up 500 years in the future, when everyone is stupid (Sept 1).

CHRISTOPHER GUEST satirizes the Oscars will a lot of his usual cast members, in "For Your Consideration" (Nov 17).

EMILIO ESTEVEZ. I know; what's he doing here? But "Bobby" (which he wrote, too) is getting some good buzz, and it has a big, impressive cast (Nov 22).

JOHN GULAGER. "Feast" is finally supposed to open. We'll see (Sept 22).

SYLVESTER STALLONE. "Rocky Balboa". Yes, Stallone is 60. Yeesh (Dec 22).

MEL GIBSON. "Apocalypto" is supposed to be brutal, I hated "Passion of the Christ", and turns out he's an anti-Semite, too. So he gets the bottom slot (Dec 8).

Release dates are subject to change, and I'm sure some of these movies will get bounced until next year; 8 of these films are scheduled to open in the last two weeks of October alone.

Still, there's some potentially-good stuff here. Plus. like Bill Martell, I'm also looking forward to "Jackass 2".

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Putting a Bag Over Your Movie's Head

There's a column in the Los Angeles Times today, about the fact that moviegoers care less and less about what critics say. The piece cites a stat that only 3% of moviegoers between the ages of 18-24 consider reviews the most important thing about determining whether they see a movie.

In the same column, the writer mentions that 2006 is setting a record pace for movies not screened for critics in advance.

The problem is, that these two facts contradict each other. If critics have less and less power, then why would studios care if they saw the movies in advance or not?

The irony is that not screening your movie for critics should be even a bigger red flag than the movie getting a bad review. All movies get bad reviews in places, but not letting critics see it? It's essentially saying "We know it sucks, and we're trying to trick you into going to see it before you find out just how bad".

It's like a blind date making you buy her dinner, before she takes the bag off her head.

As much as I rant against a lot of movie critics nowadays, at the same time they do perform an obvious service. They are the taste-testers, the ones who wave the white flag when a movie is really bad, or bring attention to the gems that might otherwise be missed. Sure, critics get it wrong, but at the end of the day they are much more reliant than picking a movie based solely on who is in it and what the ad says.

You don't have to see the true stinkers, because they are there to take the bullet for you.

The irony is that, for me, I'm more likely not to see a movie if it isn't screened for critics, than if it gets a bad review, because if the studio isn't willing to stand behind it, then there have to be major problems. Helpfully, many newspapers also happily list the films not screened, just so you know, and I wish more moviegoers were canny enough to realize this, and factor it in heavily.

Last weekend, "Zoom" and "Pulse" weren't screened for critics. Not a hidden gem among them. "Pulse" still made $8 million, and it's hard to think it would have made less if your local critic had blasted it, because it's a horror movie, and what the hell? And if they did screen it for critics, and it got a couple of good reviews here and there, those reviews would have been more likely to get people to see it, than bad reviews would have gotten people not to see it.

The bottom line, of course, is that this business is about money. And because of this, the studios have broken a key covenant with audiences, because they have to release a movie, even if it sucks, and they have to do what they think it will take to maximize their profits.

But wouldn't it be refreshing to have a studio that promised that they'd only put their name on good movies? A studio that doesn't try to sneak crap into theaters, by not screening them ahead of time? Instead, the studios wonder why people aren't going to the movies as much any more?

If you went to a restaurant, and the food was only good half the time, would you keep going there?

Last weekend, "Step Up" was also released. It didn't get great reviews, but the studio didn't try to hide it. And it made $21 million in its first 3 days. The people who wanted to see it went to see it, the people who didn't could read the reviews, and see it probably wasn't for them. In a perfect world, "Step Up" would have been a great movie, but here at least the system sort of works.

So I'm spreading my dogma from coast to coast. If a film isn't screened for critics, don't go see it. It's gonna suck. It's pure cause and effect; only bad movies don't get screened. They don't hide the good stuff from critics.

But it's not going to matter. Because the next movie that's not being screened for critics?

"Snakes on a Plane".

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Lessons From the Weekend's Box Office

Every once and a while, it's good to take a close look at how the movies in the theaters are doing at the box office. Because the people who make the movies certainly are.

Weekend of August 11-13. All numbers are official estimates.

#1 TALLADEGA NIGHTS ($23 million; total of $92 million in 10 days). It dropped over half from the opening week, which indicates it probably won't hang around too long. But the numbers are very solid. LESSON: Make a fun movie, aimed at a wide audience, and people will come. Will Ferrell can still bring them in, too.

#2 STEP UP ($21 million, first 3 days). Very impressive, for a movie without stars, and with a rather bland title. LESSON: Some teen romantic formulas still work, if you make sure to add music and dance. Generally-poor reviews made no difference, either.

#3 WORLD TRADE CENTER ($19 million; $26 million, first 5 days). Solid, but since it cost $65 million and they are advertising the hell out of it, not really that great, particularly since one can't imagine foreign box office being huge. Still, box office could have been a lot worse, and generally-good reviews helped, while Nic Cage has to be relieved to be in a movie that's not seriously underperforming; he hasn't had many of those recently. LESSON: Tragedy mixed with heroism will bring people in; Oliver Stone making a mainstream movie that the conservatives love certainly didn't hurt.

#4 BARNYARD ($10 million; $34 million, first 10 days). The market is oversaturated with cartoons right now, while none of them has much wannasee factor for adults. And what's with the udders on the male cows? LESSON: If you want your animated movie to break out, it needs adult appeal, and good reviews would have helped too.

#5 PULSE ($8.5 million, first 3 days). Not bad, for a horror movie that is apparently so subpar that it wasn't screened for critics. Dimension did a good job making it seem scary. LESSON: Supernatural horror movies will make money, even if they suck.

#6 PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST ($7.2 million; $392 million, first 6 weeks). The only big budget movie with legs (it only dropped 34% from last weekend, despite losing 495 screens), and who ever would have thought that it would do over twice as much as Superman Returns? Despite the fact that Superman Returns (wrongly) got better reviews? LESSON: Sometimes audiences just want fun, adventure and spectacle. This movie had that. Superman, not so much.

#7 THE DESCENT ($4.6 million; $17.5 million, first 10 days). I'm a bit surprised that Pulse beat this for the weekend, but Pulse advertised a lot more, and by the end, The Descent will outgross it by a lot. LESSON: Actually making scary horror movies will make you more money than simply making generic ones.

#8 ZOOM (4.6 million, first 3 days). Huge flop. Not surprising, because they never figured out a way to make it look interesting; instead, it just looked like a bad version of Sky High, which wasn't all that great either. It wasn't screened for critics; the current Tomatometer reading is 0% for the 20 critics who have weighed in. LESSON: Just because you are making a family movie, you still have to make it good, or at least do a better job tricking people into thinking it might be.

#9 MIAMI VICE ($4.5 million; $55 million, first 3 weeks). Mediocre results at best. They just never found a real hook to interest most people in seeing it, while they didn't recapture enough from the show to give it much camp appeal either. LESSON: Have a better reason to make a movie out of a TV series than "People will probably come see it".

#10. MONSTER HOUSE ($3.3 million; $64 million in 4 weeks). This probably should have performed better; it got pretty good reviews. But the animation looked a bit underwhelming, while I just sort of felt, seeing the trailer, that I'd seen most of the movie. LESSON: Good mainstream animated movies don't automatically make $100 million any more; they need to have that little extra hook sometimes.

#11 JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE ($3.0 million; $36 million in 3 weeks). A solid performing movie with a good hook for teens. LESSON: High-concept teen comedies that can be made for $18 million will always have a place in theaters. But if they figured out how to give it adult appeal (as Mean Girls did), it would have done even better.

#12 LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE ($2.6 million; $5.6 million so far). It has still only expanded to 153 screens, so that number is impressive. It'll be interesting to see how wide it gets, and how it does. I've only heard good things though (except for the review in the ever-doubtful Entertainment Weekly), and I'll probably see it today. LESSON: Make a funny movie, and people will want to see it, even with funky character actor types in it.

#13 THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA ($1.9 million; $117 million, 7 weeks). An unqualified success, and still rolling along. And it cost only $35 million. LESSON: "Women's movies" can do fine, even without much of a hook, while the fact that this also didn't need a big-name young actress in the lead is a good sign as well.

#14 YOU, ME AND DUPREE ($1 9 million; $70 million so far). Not bad, considering the mediocre reviews. LESSON: Audiences will see "fun". But if they had made a great movie, think how much more money it would have made.

#15 THE ANT BULLY ($1.8 million; $22 million, 3 weeks). It got decent reviews, but the story didn't look all that interesting, and again there are a lot of animated movies out there. LESSON: Should have released it in a family-movie dead period.

#16 THE NIGHT LISTENER ($1.4 million; $6.3 million, 2 weeks). It got some good reviews, but they absolutely didn't find any way to sell this. LESSON: Summer counter-programming only works if people are aware of your movie.

#17 SUPERMAN RETURNS ($1.2 million; $192 million, 7 weeks). Again, imagine what it would have made if it had been really good. Or even dumb fun. LESSON: Next time, do better.

#18 LITTLE MAN ($1 million; $57 million, 5 weeks). Dumb movies exist because even when they get bad reviews, sometimes they make $57 million anyway. Though this movie cost an apparent $64 million (!) so it's not a home run. LESSON: I'm sure Little Man 2: Electric Boogaloo is right around the corner.

#19. SCOOP ($1 million; $8 million total). Match Point made $23 million, which I think is his highest gross in decades. But now he's back to having his characters talk like himself again. LESSON: Hard to think anyone thought it would do all that much better. You bankroll a Woody Allen movie, you pretty much know how it will perform.

#20. LADY IN THE WATER ($874,000; $41 million in 4 weeks). Sank like a stone, after making $41 million on ads and M. Night's rep alone. LESSON: That rep isn't going to be nearly enough to open one of his movies soon.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Dream Cast

I've been attacking my rewrite of my supernatural thriller with renewed vigor (and yes, Ian, I named a character after you).

Sometimes, when I think about the characters, and making them deeper or more interesting, I think about who my dream cast would be. This can sometimes be handy, because it'll add an edge to a character that wasn't there before; it's when I started picturing Clive Owen as my bad guy that he started coming to life for me.

Ironically, I started writing my Nicholl script so many years (and drafts) ago, that the main character, an 18-year-old girl, has now seen a bevy of actresses pass through the role in my thoughts, only to age up and pass the torch on to someone else. Initially, it was Winona Ryder (yeah, the original idea is that old). Then Drew Barrymore. Natalie Portman owned it briefly. Two years ago it was an Anna Paquin role. Right now, it's probably a Jena Malone part.

But the lead role in my supernatural thriller is a woman in her late 20s, and I can't really picture her. When I first started writing the script, a few years ago (when it was rather different), I was picturing someone like Maura Tierney in the part. But now I don't see her in it anymore.

I'm not sure who is perfect for it now. Maybe Natalie Portman, though she's a bit young. Still, reuniting her with Clive Owen can work (yeah, yeah, in my dreams. Exactly.)

I'll have to ponder over it some more.

Anyhow, I just thought it might be a fun thing to throw out there, for the writers who haunt this space. Who is the dream cast for your current script? Who do you picture roaming its pages?

Don't have to give any plot. Genre, maybe, with the names. Let's see who people are writing for.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


When I'm reading a screenplay, there are two elements that are particularly tough to predict how they are going to play on screen.

One is humor. The other is heart.

Humor, of course, isn't going anywhere. People want the funny, and studios will continue to chase the elusive great comedies, because even okay comedies tend to perform well.

Heart is a dicier element, because its commercial aspects are more ephemeral. Plus, while it's hard to make a movie that is too funny, heart is an ingrediant that can be overdone; no producer wants their movie to be called sappy.

So too often today, movies tend to be shying away from heart. It's rare that you see pure romances any more; now they tend to be romantic comedies, in which the heart is undercut with a dumb premise, as in something like Failure To Launch. Forget teen romances; now it's all about attitude and dance sequences.

Small love stories, like "Dirty Dancing"? You just don't see them much any more.

Yet there are signs that the public is really crying out for solid, romantic movies, or movies in which characters aren't afraid to put their heart out on their sleeves.

"My Big Fat Greek Wedding" is a lingering example; it's still the highest grossing romantic comedy ever. One of my theories for its appeal? The romance at the center remains fairly strong throughout; the comedy comes from all the family stuff around it.

"Titanic" was amazing-looking, but it also had one of the best pure romances of a movie in the last 20 years. Don't discount that element.

One of the purest romances of the past few years was "The Notebook", which starred Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, two unknowns at the time. It made $81 million.

The most honest, emotional romance of last year was "Brokeback Mountain". Even though the romance was between two gay men, it made $83 million.

The two best comedies last year were "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" and "The Wedding Crashers". Both had romances at their core that really worked well.

And both had good friendship stuff too -- don't underestimate the emotional power of the buddy scene. The best buddy movies are often ones in which we really feel that these two guys are friends, and wish we had a friend like that. Don't laugh, it's true. In Shrek, Shrek has more chemistry with the donkey than the princess (though he has chemistry with both). It works.

The downside, of course, is that bad romances tend to sink without a trace, and they also tend not to have the big foreign sales and DVD potential that makes producers salivate. Though even a mediocre romance like "The Lake House" still made $51 million. Imagine if it had been really good.

So heart too often gets short shrift, in favor of more special effects. Movies like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, in which three men are all eyeing the same woman, can be remarkably devoid of any real heart -- compared to the first one, in which we felt throughout that the main characters at least formed a wary friendship, here too often they are working at cross-purposes, and it makes us less invested in the story.

Superman Returns is frustrating because despite an easy set-up for a lot of heart -- reunited lovers, an unknown child -- the movie almost aggressively avoids it; Superman and Lois Lane just don't have any honest emotional moments here, while the kid is a plot construct, his relationship with Superman almost completely unexplored.

In comparison, in additional to its romantic-triangle plotline, Clerks II has a subplot about the friendship between the two male main characters that works really well -- and which was still blasted by some critics for being too sappy.

Still, it says a lot when a movie like Clerks II, which no parent should take their child to see, has more heart than Superman Returns does.

I'm not saying that all movies need to be drenched in heart. Still, it wouldn't be the worst thing to see more at least try to embrace it, and risk taking their characters in a more human, vulnerable, emotional, real direction.

Dontcha think?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Clerks II (No Spoilers)

Kevin Smith has always been sort of a love-him-or-hate-him kind of guy, and he isn't the best director in the world, but at his best (as with the original Clerks), his movies have a shabby, talky charm.

Yeah, Clerks has some bad acting and it looks like it was shot through a dirty lens, but given the budget and the learning-as-we-went-along feel of it, it works.

Ironically, one of the reasons I wound up enjoying Clerks II is that he balances off gross humor with some likable characters who are given some real, human moments together; by the end of the movie, we actually care what happened to these guys.

Some critics have come down on Kevin Smith for getting soft recently -- and I didn't see Jersey Girl -- but anyone who thinks Clerks II is getting too soft is just too hard. There's a place for drama and good character moments in the best of comedies, and though Clerks II isn't great, it does a lot right.

Plus it has interspecies erotica. And Rosario Dawson.

Ultimately, if you liked the first, you'll probably like the sequel, and if you didn't, you won't. About as basic as movie reviews get.

I'm not sure what they thought they were seeing, but a family (mother, father, two boys about 12 and 9) sat in front of us in the movie. They lasted about 30 minutes, until the first discussion of the interspecies erotica, and then they bolted. Fast.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Why We Pick Particular Movies To See

This is a riff on a discussion in the comments two posts below, where there was a mini-debate over who decides what movie that a couple is going to see, the man or the woman.

The wife and I see maybe 2 movies a month, and we tend to see more big stuff than obscure stuff. So we saw Superman Returns, and Dead Man's Chest, and X-Men 3, and Mission Impossible 3. Yeah, we're pretty much sequel whores. Oh, and we saw Cars. And the Da Vinci Code.

Because of work and writing demands, I rarely go out and see movies on my own any more, unless I really want to see it and she refuses to. She passed on The Lady in the Water, because she doesn't like scary movies (turns out it isn't scary, but she doesn't like bad movies either, so I guess it evened out) and I saw it on my own opening day while she was at work.

But generally we see what we both want to see, though we're lucky in that we have similar tastes, and I don't mind going out to see what are thought of as "chick flicks". Generally I just ask her to rate movies from 1-10 on whether she wants to see them, and whatever she rates highly that I want to see, we see.

Still, it's that elusive "want to see" that Hollywood is always chasing.

And that's why so many movies are made for kids and teens. Because they see more, so the movies that only rate a 5 on their "want to see" list will still get play.

This weekend, for instance, we'll probably see something, but it's an odd group of movies. The wife has no interest in seeing Talladega Nights, so that's out. Barnyard looks like it skews young, while the review in today's LA Times is dire.

The Night Listener looks interesting, but I haven't seen a single trailer or commercial for it, so I'm not even sure what it's about, other than that it has Robin Williams in it. Say what you will about Robin Williams, but his non-comedies tend to be better than his comedies -- but they just aren't doing a very good job of selling me this movie. The Descent is supposed to be pretty good, but again the wife won't see scary.

So it's back to the holdovers. So far, there's nothing about Miami Vice that makes me want to see it in a theater. John Tucker Must Die is too teen, Ant Bully looks too young, the wife wasn't enthused about Monster House. My Super-Ex Girlfriend, You, Me and Dupree and Little Man have the see on cable/avoid completely feel about them. Little Miss Sunshine hasn't hit my neighborhood yet. Scoop doesn't look good enough.

What's left? Clerks II, which my wife wants to see, and which could be dumb fun. And The Devil Wears Prada, which I guess I should see, given that it has made $110 million.

And that's how somehow, despite some 30-odd movies in theaters, those are our two main choices.

And completely different versions of this same debate are going on in tens of millions of households.

And that's Hollywood. Figuring out how their movie can be the one that rises to the top of the most what-shall-we-see discussions that takes place in families, and couples, and in your own head.

And that's why we get sequels, and Miami Vice, and other safe fallback choices.

What is the movie you are most likely to see this weekend?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Nicholl News

Sorry to interrupt the discussion on the post below, but I got some news today.

This year I submitted two scripts to the Nicholl Fellowship competition, and fully expected them to sink or swim together.

But today I got word that one made the quarterfinal cut, and one didn't.

Good news, I guess :-) Though the other script is crying in the corner, so I need to go assure it that this doesn't mean its sister is more beautiful.

I hope everyone else did well, and if not, well, take another swing next year.

Now you can return to commenting on the post below...

Why Aren't There More Female Screenwriters?

So three posts below, where I rambled about not wanting to direct, I had people list their favorite screenwriters, and they did.

Counting everyone that everybody mentioned, there's about 40 names.

And they are all male. Which I didn't even realize, until Amy F. pointed it out in comment #24, and wondered why.

I made some lame response to her about how women are drawn to more relationship tales/serious dramas, and that that's the kind of stuff that usually winds up on TV, but that's obviously not the complete answer (though it's less badly-stereotypical than you might think).

There are a lot of women working in film today, and a lot of high-profile movies have been written by them. Susannah Grant wrote Erin Brockovich and In Her Shoes, Nora Ephron has written a ton of stuff including When Harry Met Sally, Callie Khouri wrote Thelma and Louise and Something to Talk About. Allison Anders has written a lot of stuff, including Gas, Food, Lodging. Sofia Coppola has to be listed, just for Lost In Translation.

I can go on and on, but obviously not that long, because yeah, it's a profession dominated by men. White men. And lists like the one below, of respected screenwriters, tends not to include any -- or many -- women at all.

Speaking from experience, women tend to write "softer" scripts, but not all women do. Hollywood executives seem to be increasingly female, so men hiring men would seem to play less of a role... wouldn't it?

I'm sure there are a slew of reasons that contribute to this imbalance, that I'm barely touching on. Maybe women are much less willing to write genre crap. Maybe it's something genetic.

It's a fascinating imbalance, because on certain levels, it doesn't make all that much sense.

Anyone have thoughts on this inequity? Favorite female screenwriters I haven't mentioned?

And for the aspiring female screenwriters out there, do you worry about this? Does it affect the kind of things you try to write?