Interview (Video): Xavier Dolan (“Mommy”)

January 25th, 2015 by

The movie Mommy won the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and is just now being released in select theaters in the United States. Plot summary: “A widowed single mother, raising her violent son alone, finds new hope when a mysterious neighbor inserts herself into their household.”

Its writer-director is Xavier Dolan. Only 25, he has already acted, written and directed several movies including I Killed My Mother (2009) and Tom at the Farm (2013).

Here is an interview with Dolan at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival:

A trailer for the movie Mommy:

Movie website here.

Daily Dialogue — January 25, 2015

January 25th, 2015 by

“I’m giving you a choice. Either put on your glasses, or start eating that trash can.”

They Live (1986), screenplay by John Carpenter, short story by Ray Nelson

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Threat.

Trivia: Writer-director John Carpenter has said of this movie that it was a critique of Reaganomics, a “vehicle to take on Reaganism”.

Dialogue On Dialogue: If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s a hoot. There’s another side of dialogue even more memorable: “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubble gum.”

If you have a suggestion for this week’s theme, please post in comments.

Daily Dialogue theme next week: Espionage

January 24th, 2015 by

The Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Espionage.

“FBI, CIA, ONI… we’re all in the same alphabet soup.”

The usual drill:

* Copy/paste dialogue from IMDb Quotes or some other transcript source.

* Copy/paste the URL of an accompanying video from YouTube or some other video source.

I’d also ask you to think about why the dialogue is notable. Is there anything about the dialogue which provides some takeaway re screenwriting?

Here is our lineup for upcoming Daily Dialogue themes:

February 2-February 8: Pets
February 9-February 15: Elation
February 16-February 22: Prison
February 23-March 1: Birthday
March 2-March 8: Chase
March 9-March 15: Reunion
March 16-March 22: Competition
March 23-March 29: Ghost
March 30-April 5: Foreigner
April 6-April 12: Interrogation
April 13-April 19: Amnesia
April 20-April 26: Betrayal
April 27-May 3: Stammer
May 4-May 10: Graduation

Check this out: The GITS Daily Dialogue Topic Index! You can read about Liz and Allie, two sisters who are big fans of the blog, and were inspired to create the index. A great resource for writers looking for inspiration for their own dialogue writing. You can be a part of this proud tradition with your ideas for weekly themes and Daily Dialogue suggestions.

Please post your ideas for this week’s theme — Espionage — in comments. Thanks!

Interview (Part 6): Alisha Brophy & Scott Miles (2014 Nicholl Winners)

January 24th, 2015 by

Alisha Brophy and Scott Miles wrote the original screenplay “The United States of Fuckin’ Awesome” which won the duo a 2014 Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting. Alisha, Scott and I had a great interview which I will be rolling out in 6 installments this week.

Today in Part 6, Alisha and Scott give their advice for aspiring screenwriters:

Myers:  I like to ask writers, “What’s your single best excuse not to write?” What you just said there, Alisha, I think is quite interesting that oftentimes, our gut, our instinct is the most important thing we can bring to a project.

If for four days in a row you are finding excuses not to write this, you are smart enough to say, “You know, there must be something not working here.” I guess sometimes, you can look at those excuses or putting off the writing is actually being a way of yourself trying to tell you something important.

Alisha:  Yeah.

Myers:  Scott, you’re going to move out to LA?

Scott:  Yup.

Myers:  I know you’ve written together before or at least with your program at UT Austin, would you still be inclined to do the Skyping out there once you’re both in the same city?

Scott:  Yeah. It’s funny because I’m still not sure where exactly I’m going to be moving.

She is on the Eastside and says, “Look, you can move to Santa Monica, you can move to the valley, we’ll just keep Skyping. It doesn’t matter.”

Who knows, if I’m within walking distance of her place, then we’ll maybe get together. But, the Skype works out so nicely that we could be a block away and we still might just stick to Skype.

Myers:  Well, given the traffic in LA…

Scott:  Right.

Alisha:  I would like to add that there’s a great program called, “” It’s a free program. It has all the correct formatting for a script. But, it also has double cursors. We write in that. We have our little video up in the corner. And we have our two cursors going on the page simultaneously.

For anyone that is in a writing team, it is so efficient, so lovely to be able to just work on the documents simultaneously, not have to read changes aloud to each other as one person has a master copy, which is how we had to do it before WriterDuet.

Our writing process actually had to go through a change when we stopped doing our old system of sending pages back and forth.

Up until WriterDuet, he would write a reel, I would write a reel. Then we would trade it, edit it. He would write the next reel, I would write the reel after that, trade it, edit it.

What that meant was that you would have three or four days by yourself to constantly edit and change your first draft before the other person ever saw it. By the time they read pages you were confident that you had something you could show your co‑writer and he’s not going to run for the hills. But, when we started with Writer Duet the other person can look at their screen and watch your little blinking cursor, which means that they see you put your very first attempt of a line on the page.

That is terrifying. So we had a really open conversation about it when we first started with that program like, “Hey, I trust that your line’s going to suck, but I also trust that, down the road, it’s going to be amazing and the final version of this will be even more amazing. No judgment.” Once we had that conversation, it has been full steam, two cursors going, and no comments about the initial bad lines that are thrown up there.

Myers:  OK. Let’s jump to this thing I mentioned earlier, what do you love most about writing?

Scott:  At least for me, having the early exposure, writing and directing films, and then getting to screen those films in front of an audience. I’m writing comedy, so hearing the audience laughter is so addictive. Alisha found this out the other day when we had the live reading, that, at least for me, that’s what it is. Writing something and feeling pretty confident that it’s going to get laughs.

Obviously, on the page I don’t see the final version, but that’s always what I’m aiming for is that final audience reaction.

Alisha:  Yeah, I was definitely laughing harder than anyone else in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater the night of our ceremony. Listening to those actors do the most amazing job with that scene. I can see what Scott means by that audience reaction becoming addicting.

For me, I think my big realization of what film can be was a reaction to Harold and Maude. The first time I saw it was on a small TV, and I was blown away. I just remember crying, all by myself, watching this movie, and falling in love with it. Since then, I’ve watched it many, many, times and it’s always moving, but it’s not the same, because I know what’s going to happen in the end.

A couple years ago a book festival was doing a celebration of the ’70s. And so the Alamo Drafthouse showed Harold and Maude in their theatre.

I thought, ‘This is such a fun thing for all my friends to do together.’ We all get there and get our popcorn. I’d say we were only about 10 minutes into the movie and I started crying my eyes out. Did not stop crying the whole movie. It was really embarrassing because I had no idea how much larger the connection and emotional impact a story can have when the image is blown up to the size of a theater screen.

That, for me, is what I want to be a part of, and I want to put out there. We obviously haven’t had that yet, but the idea of how much I giggle and he laughs just working on the pages, I can’t wait for it to be on the big screen, and hopefully the material, comedy‑wise, has the same effect. Not crying. The laughing.

Myers:  In that respect, the fact that Scott laughs, you giggle, and if you can make each other respond that’s a small version on a daily basis of what you hope to have happen when the movie comes out.

Alisha:  Yeah.

Myers:  Finally what advice can you offer to aspiring screenwriters about learning the craft and breaking into Hollywood?

Alisha:  Take daytime cold medicine.


Scott:  When you’re writing a spec script, I think it’s so important that you’re not chasing a trend, that you’re not chasing what you think Hollywood wants. My whole life I’ve been writing weird, little projects. I’d say “USofFA” is no different.

As Alisha said, originally my first impulse was, “Here’s this fun idea, but we can’t write this as a movie. It’s too weird. We shouldn’t even bother speccing it.” She’s like, “No, let’s go for it.”

Obviously it’s worked out for us, and I think, if left to my own devices, I might say, “Oh, let me chase this more commercial thing,” or, “Let me find something a little bit less obscure or weird to write about,” and then, either get frustrated and not finish, or it doesn’t have my heart and my voice in it because it’s not that weird, passionate thing that I love so much.

I would just advise people that it doesn’t matter how strange or bizarre your idea is, if you can find a way in and really put your voice and your passion into it, it’s going to find a home eventually.

Myers:  How about you, Alisha?

Alisha:  I would probably say find a way to settle in, because it’s going to take so much longer than you think. I’m probably still wrong in my own head of how much longer I have ahead of me. It is such a slow process, this town, that you just have to find a way to settle in and find ways to enjoy the process of it.

I love the day‑to‑day writing with Scott. I love my writer’s group. Hanging out and trading notes with them is quite literally hanging out with my friends, and doing something fun.

If you can find a way to love each part of the process, and each part of the process is being productive, if you can find the fun in it, or the way of socializing or connecting with others, it’s going to make it a lot easier than if you come here and think of it as work. Some people think you just have to work harder and more, and you’ll get there faster. You’re not going to get there faster, so just enjoy the process.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Part 4, here.

Par 5, here.

The duo is repped by Paradigm and Circle of Confusion.

Twitter: @alishabrophy, @scottmiles.

Saturday Hot Links

January 24th, 2015 by

Time for the 170th installment of Saturday Hot Links.

Today: The Poetry Feeds Your Soul Edition.

Sundance 2015: Dollars and Distribution [infographic].

Sundance 2015: Indiewire Sundance Bible: Every Review, Interview and News Item Posted During Run of Festival.

Sundance 2015: The Best Movies of Sundance Film Festival History, Part 1: 1985-1999.

Sundance 2015: The Best Movies of Sundance Film Festival History, Part 2: 2000-2014.

Sundance 2015: The 25 best Sundance movies of all time.

Sundance 2015: The story behind two Sundance successes: Short Term 12 and Land Ho!

Sundance 2015: The 9 most controversial films.

Sundance 2015: 10 films that could be the new Boyhood.

Sundance 2015: Television becomes a force at Sundance.

Sundance 2015: Buyers more cautious, but TV, docs heat up.

Is it legal to imply a pair of stockings will give you an orgasm.

Weirdly related: L.A.’s Poprageous creates ‘Cumberbitch Leggins’.

2014 studio report card and winners and loser charts.

Scriptnotes podcast: Episode 180.

American Sniper sets January box office record with $90M debut. And now a tsunami of analysis!

Related: 5 reasons for American Sniper‘s historic box office breakout.

Related: How American Sniper played like a superhero movie.

Related: Top 10 takeaways of blockbuster American Sniper and its box office appeal.

Related: Box office records American Sniper‘s opening weekend broke.

Related: An Iraq war veteran’s view of American Sniper.

Related: “I served in Iraq and American Sniper gets it right. But it’s still not the war film we need.”

22 cultural icons on spirituality.

Lessons Ron Howard has learned from 5 decades in the entertainment business.

Boy says he didn’t go to heaven, publisher says it will pull book.

Sounds like a movie plot: Hollywood screenwriter killed in 1997 “was working for the CIA”.

Science has fucking amazing news for people who curse.

How new horror movies use cameras to creep you out.

2014 breaks heat record challenging global warming skeptics.

Quick takes on Amazon’s 7 new TV pilots.

Where do baby carrots come from.

Stop. No more. Enough of this crossover schtick.

What Brazilian jiu jitsu can teach you about writing.

Marvel boss explains why comic book TV shows and movies resonate.

Renovation work on the historic UVA Rotunda reveals interesting historic tales.

Foxcatcher producer once pitched producer Brian Grazer… in a bathroom.

Millennial speak: FOBO is the new FOMO.

6 ways TV networks are spinning the losing ratings war.

Synaptic plasticity enables adaptive self-tuning critical networks… just so ya’ know.

Meet the youngest professional filmmaker in the world: She’s 12.

The bacon boom was no accident.

The top 50 most viewed YouTube channels from last week.

A letter from a sex worker to a wife about her cheating husband.

The 10 best Cary Grant films.

Four conversations derailed by baby otters.

Tom Hardy walked away from Suicide Squad over script… reportedly.

All 107 Sleater-Kinney songs listed and ranked.

The movies and TV shows leaving Netflix in February.

Related: launching a stream service.

Related: YouTube launching new original content effort by year-end.

Antarctica’s very weird place names.

The 12 weirdest times movies were turned into video games.

We need more police officers like this [video].

The top 15 mistakes beginning filmmakers make.

50 books to make you more interesting.

Here’s a good idea: Why not sorority house parties?

23 Network Chiefs on Frustrating Trends, Coveted Reboots and the Series They Can’t Miss.

The 100 best websites for writers in 2015.

Vimeo pacts with web publishers to sell VOD titles on their site.

Twitter can predict rates of coronary heart disease.

Why is popcorn the default movie theater snack?

Why do rivers curve?

Fifty Shades of Grey won’t include infamous tampon scene.

Good news! India’s tiger population on the rise.

Pedro Almodóvar to receive 2015 WGA Jean Renoir Award for International Screenwriting.

6 easy hacks for hard-to-open things [video].

Watch Brad Bird play with new Iron Giant toy [video].

Kinda related: Disney invents an adorable robot for making giant sand drawings.

How much does it cost to self-publish a book.

Why do flammable and inflammable mean the same thing.

Your scene sucks: Know 35 stereotype styles.

Behold! The hotel made of salt.

Italian directors protest proposed smoking ban in films.

80 rich people now have as much wealth as 50% of the rest of humanity combined.

A Mrs. Doubtfire musical in the works.

Watch every shot of Klay Thompson’s record-breaking 37 point quarter [video].

Inversely related: UVA vs. Vanderbilt hoops, December 6, 1952 [video].

Barely related: 10 things done to balls to give athletes a competitive edge.

Alan Turing handwritten notebook to go up for auction.

14 movie characters who were supposed to die but didn’t.

Museum curators accidentally ruin priceless King Tut burial mask.

George Lucas slams Oscars: “It’s a political campaign”.

Watch Chinese viral sensation “Mini Bruce Lee” [video].

53% shun movie theaters citing high ticket prices.

Bob Dylan giving AARP subscribers a free copy of his latest album.

Luc Besson’s Lucy helps drive French B.O. to record year.

NASA has released the largest photograph ever taken and it will shake up your universe.

Fox hoping for an “X-Files” return.

13 secrets of Amazon warehouse employees.

What “Girls” got wrong (and right!) about the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Protect your cat with a suit of armor.

The 10 most iconic dresses in cinema.

Why rain has that particular smell.

Tony Verna, inventor of instant replay, dies at 81.

There are about as many solar jobs as coal jobs in the U.S.

Your taste in music can reveal how smart (or dumb) you are.

How owls can rotate their heads 270 degrees without dying.

An iceberg flipped over and its underside is breathtaking.

Air catalog SkyMall files for bankruptcy.

Finally Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader at the Golden Globes reminds everyone to watch Skeleton Twins [video].

Screenwriting Master Class tip of the week: Studying the writing craft online is great. I’ve been teaching part-time that way since 2002 and have probably offered more online classes than anyone else, so I have a lot of experience. The convenience of doing the work snuggled in bed in your pajamas while savoring a cup of coffee or however you choose to engage the class is wonderful: You can do virtually everything in your own place and on your own time.

However there is something to be said for face-to-face interactions. And as satisfying as online education can be, at least the way I teach, over the years I kept hearing this recurring refrain: “Will you ever do something in-person?”

So in October 2013, I hosted the first ever Quest Writing Workshop in Santa Monica, California. It was an incredible success for participants, a 4 day immersion in the principles of storytelling, practices of writing, and wrangling of each writer’s original story.

Since then, I’ve run three more Quest Writing Workshops, each remarkable in its own way. Also remarkable is how its evolved into a truly unique educational opportunity:

* There is the 4 day on-site workshop in Santa Monica that goes from 10AM-5PM Thursday-Sunday. In it, we learn screenwriting theory focusing on Character, Plot and Theme, then use a series of writing exercises and feedback sessions for each participant to develop an original story. This is all based on lectures and content I have used, created and taught for years.

* I added a 16 week online program which participants can use to build off the work they do in the four day workshop by prepping their original story (6 weeks) and writing a first draft (10 weeks). That is a free benefit for writers and an optional choice. Most use the 16 week program as a structure to motivate them to write a script, but others simply do the 4 day weekend.

* Then this: Many of the participants continue to stay in touch becoming in effect a writers group. This pleases me no end because for an individual to have other writers as a resource — critique loglines, give feedback on pages, provide emotional support — can be a huge boost to one’s productivity and psychological well-being.

Here are some thoughts on the Workshop from writers who participated in the most recent session:

“In the ten years I have been writing screenplays, the four days of the Quest Writing Workshop are by far the most valuable and intense days of learning I’ve had. In addition to the excellent instruction, the input from the small group of fellow writers was invaluable, especially as we all worked together to break our stories. My only regret was that the workshop was over so quickly; fortunately it continued over the internet and with conference calls as we prepared and completed our first drafts. I can’t recommend the workshop highly enough.” — Tom Peterson

“Scott and the Quest Workshop with Scott (or whatever the official title may be. I’m not into titles, man. I see people for who they are.) was a great experience. I came in with a nugget of an idea for a script and with the help of my fellow workshoppers I polished that nugget into a gleaming chunk of pure gold. All of this occurred under the watchful eye and bearded face of Scott. He led each of us down unexplored paths so our stories would come to life. But what is the benefit of an unexplored path if all of the sudden a giant bear or lizard jumps out and eats your confidence at the Act II turn? No, you need the proper tools and structure for that path. That’s what Scott gave us all. It was informative, fun and a fantastic way to spend that tax refund.” — Patrick Connelly

“Scott’s innovative exercises, tested techniques, and the amazing passion, talent, and energy, from both him, and our dynamic group, made this workshop easily the best investment I’ve made in my screenwriting. Scott pushed me, and my characters into brave new worlds, and because of that shove, I saw a drastic improvement in my writing after four amazing days.” — Kirsten Foe

The next Quest Writing Workshop in Santa Monica is scheduled for Thursday, March 12 through Sunday, March 15. We meet in a cool space called The Writers Junction where we can walk to any number of places to eat lunch together, then afterward a nice wine bar where we continue to talk story and the craft, as well as just have a great time. There are plenty of nearby places to stay via Airbnb. And there is this:

There is a special 10% discount for GITS readers who enroll early. To take advantage of that, when you do your transaction and are checking out, include the promo code Discount10 in the Apply Discount box. But jump on that soon because enrollment is limited.

You may learn more about the Quest Writing Workshop and sign up here.

Classic 60s Movie: Repulsion

January 24th, 2015 by

January is Classic 60s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Kate Hagen.

Movie Title: Repulsion

Year: 1965

Writer: David Stone, based on a story from Roman Polanski and Gerald Brach


Lead Actors: Catherine Deneuve

Director: Roman Polanski

IMDb Plot Summary: Left alone when her sister goes on vacation, a young beauty finds herself besieged on all sides by the demons of her past.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 60s Movie: While it’s impossible to discuss Roman Polanski without bringing up his incredibly troubling personal life, he created two of the most singular depictions of female madness – madness sprung forth from the violence that men allow and perpetuate – Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby, just before the emergence of second-wave feminism in the early 1970s. The latter film (based on Ira Levin’s bestseller) follows a more traditional structure and has a more sensational narrative hook, but Repulsion, Polanski’s first English language film, is devoted to occupying one woman’s fractured point of view and deteriorating mental state as the horrors of modern sexuality, dating, and the male species as a whole overwhelm her entire existence, an existence that soon becomes confined to the four walls of her empty London apartment. The focus on a female protagonist who is completely paralyzed by her fears of progressive 1960s sexuality provides this film with a cultural viewpoint that reflects the changing of the guard for 1960s women headed into the sexual revolution: for Carol’s swinging sister, relaxed, changing attitudes about sexuality and dating are liberating, but for Carol, they’re absolutely debilitating.

Carol, played with distant, doe-eyed restraint by Catherine Deneuve, is a protagonist steeped in contradiction of the “right” ways a woman should look and behave: she’s a manicurist who can’t stop biting her nails and struggles to feign interest in the dating woes of her co-workers. She’s a rare beauty who could have any man she wants, but can barely make eye contact during a lunch date with a potential suitor. Trappings of the traditional feminine – preparing a meal, having a spa day, being kissed in a convertible – are transformed into grotesque tableaus of rotting rabbit and potato skins, a distorted reflection in a silver tea kettle, a thick white face mask flaking off, compulsive teeth-brushing following the kiss. The kitchen, traditional domesticity personified, is a place of particular horror for Carol, as flies gather on the aforementioned rotting rabbit, a faucet (one of many phallic symbols in the film) leaks relentlessly, dirty dishes pile up.

It’s one thing to present a female character who is a stark-raving lunatic and monstrous to those around her, but it’s a much more impressive trick to create a protagonist like Carol, who is her own antagonist throughout the film. Predatory men like a faux-paternal, lecherous landlord come into play in a major way in the film’s third act, but it’s Carol’s own fractured psyche and perception of those around her that create the most believable obstacles for Carol, especially, as with the landlord, when the imagined, nebulous horrors become personified and must be destroyed.

My Favorite Moment In The Movie: As the film draws to its inevitable conclusion in the last fifteen minutes, Carol’s apartment becomes a full-on horror show of trashed furniture, a kitchen in total squalor, and two pesky corpses Carol has no way of disposing of. Repulsion’s most famous shot – Carol moving down a hallway filled with outstretched male hands coming from inside the walls – occurs in this stretch of the film, as she’s literally pulled into the apartment in her state of extreme, male-driven paranoia. Polanski chooses not to dwell on the murder that happens on the third act, but rather its aftermath, as Carol’s sister Helene and her lover Michael return from holiday, and must deal with the results and consequences of Carol’s time alone in the apartment. Deneuve is remarkable in these final moments, as we see her lie catatonic in a room full of neighbors and family. Finally, after Carol is taken away, we end on an old photo of Carol as a child, blankly staring down an older man who we can assume is her father. It’s of course easy to assume that all of Carol’s issues regarding men and sexuality likely stemmed from an abusive father, and Polanski leaves the audience with the message that the madness of women doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and is often the product of violence that has been perpetrated against them by men.

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie: For me, there’s no single line of dialogue in Repulsion that stands above the rest, and because the film is so based in symbolism, it isn’t particularly dialogue-driven. I have pulled a couple key lines that explore the film’s themes, and are reflective of the changing times in which the film takes place:

“She’s a bit strung up, isn’t she?”

“She’s just sensitive.”

“She should see a doctor.” – An exchange between Helene, Carol’s sister, and her boyfriend, Michael. Michael would rather pass Carol off than deal with her problems, which was the most common choice for men dealing with “unstable” women in the era before information regarding mental health was readily available.

“They’re all the same, just like children. They want to be spanked then given sweets.”- one of Carol’s salon patrons, an older woman, discussing men’s unrelenting sexual desires. The older women at Carol’s salon are presented as sage, but not at all oblivious to the changing times, and what it means to be a young, unmarried woman in swinging 1960s times.

One of the most interesting dialogue curiosities is the use of “bitch,” which was obviously far less ubiquitous in 1965 than today. One of Carol’s salon co-workers refers to their supervisor as “that old bitch,” while later, that same supervisor (an elderly woman herself) calls her boss “the old bitch.” When Michael’s wife calls Carol looking for Helene, one of the first things out of her mouth is to call Carol a “ lying bitch,” unaware she’s not speaking to Helene. To have three different women refer to each other as bitches within the dialogue is quite progressive, and when coupled with “old” and “lying,” it shows that the worst thing a woman can say about another woman is that she is old, lying, or a bitch within the context of this film.

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie: Repulsion is all about sexual symbolism: a tear in a bedside wall Carol can’t stop fingering, a candlestick used as a blunt murder weapon, a platter of that persistently decaying rabbit with a man’s straight razor in its blood, the rabbit’s heart carried in Carol’s handbag, potatoes that have sprouted, seeping bathroom walls. This sort of symbolism may seem a bit obvious today, but to present such an imagistic look at a modern London woman’s fear of sexuality and men in 1965 was truly radical. When bludgeoning one suitor with a candlestick or taking a razor to another, Polanski places the camera in the POV of the suitor, and we feel each desperate, trapped strike from Carol.

The black and white cinematography by Gilbert Taylor (A Hard Day’s Night, Dr. Strangelove, Frenzy, Star Wars) focuses on shades of mundane grey early on, then develops into murky blacks as Carol’s mental state declines. Polanski often fills the frame with Carol’s body rather than her face, providing a unique self-aware presentation of the male gaze. Carol’s wardrobe – whites, yellows, beige – obviously mirrors the safety and security she finds in purity, as do the nearby nuns she can’t stop spying on and their white frocks. Polanski makes Carol’s imagined rapes just as terrifying as the real thing with tight shooting and total silence on the soundtrack as Carol’s screams go unheard, The scenes are far from exploitative or tawdry, and serve as a clear screen test for the demonic rape in Rosemary’s Baby. Still, even as part of Carol’s imagination, the rapes in Repulsion are much more horrifying in their plausibility. As the film progresses, the distortion of space within Carol’s apartment – whether it’s something obvious like hands grabbing at Carol from within the walls, or something more grounded, like forced perspective on Carol’s living room through a fish-eye lens – allows the viewer to inhabit the same external space as Carol, as we’ve already been occupying her internal space.

Polanski and his co-writer, Gerald Brach, used this film to help fund Cul-De-Sac, which would also be shot in the UK. Repulsion marks the first time a female orgasm (though as heard through a bedroom wall only) was allowed on film by the British Board of Film Censors. Repulsion is clearly a major influence on Black Swan, and features another gnarly manicure mishap in addition to sharing the film’s overarching themes. Another less obvious ancestor, Lucky McKee’s May also features a sexually stunted female protagonist who resorts to violence when exploring her own sexuality yields disappointing results.

Thanks, Kate! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

Twitter: @thathagengrrl.

We already have a set of classic 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 60s Movies.

We have 32 volunteers. I have put in bold those who have already sent their guest post to me.

Ipsita Barik – Rosemary’s Baby
Ipsita Barik – Bonnie and Clyde
Mike Dobbins – The Sound of Music
Brandnewusedcar – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Markham Cook – Jules et Jim
Steve Cook – The Blue Max
JasperLamarCrab – 2001: A Space Odyssey
N D – Lonely are the Brave
Drew Dorenfest – Easy Rider
Rick Dyke – Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Rick Dyke – Fail Safe
Felicity Flesher – The Music Man
PaulG – Lawrence of Arabia
D.L. Gill – Zulu
Jeff Guenther – Cool Hand Luke
Kate Hagen – Repulsion
John Henderson – Night of the Living Dead
John Henderson – The Odd Couple
John Hörnschemeyer – The Graduate
Zach Jansen – They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
Will King – The Pink Panther
William Leitch – If…
Lisaisfunny – Blow Up
Jack McDonald – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Nick – Lonely are the Brave
Daryl Powell – The Apartment
jprichard – Persona
Ally Shina – The Jungle Book
Mike Sweeney – Planet of the Apes
Mark Twain – The Loved One
Liz Warner – The Manchurian Candidate
Michael Waters – Dr. No

For those who have signed up, but have yet to email me your post, please do so ASAP.

Thanks in advance!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

Declare Your Independents – Vol. 46

January 24th, 2015 by

GITS development assistant Wendy Cohen here, and welcome back to Declare Your Independents, our new series highlighting the latest developments in the world of independent film

This week…

The 13 Most Anticipated Films At Sundance 2015

5 Must-See Shorts at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival

Sundance 2015 Infographic: Most Festival Films Will Land Distribution Deals

Why The Success of Boyhood Should Make You Excited For Sundance 2015

Why The 2015 Sundance Film Festival Ends in February

Scott and I encourage any of you who go to see an independent movie to post your reactions to the film in these posts. Good, bad, indifferent, whatever. If there’s a film you want to recommend, do it. Use your words to inspire readers to transport themselves into a local cinema.




A passionate widowed single mom (Anne Dorval) finds herself burdened with the full-time custody of her unpredictable 15-year-old ADHD son (Antoine Olivier Pilon). As they struggle to make ends meet, Kyla (Suzanne Clément), the peculiar new neighbor across the street, offers her help. Together, they strive for a new sense of balance.

Watch THR’s interview with writer/director Xavier Dolan here.

Red Army

From Oscar-nominated and Emmy award-winning filmmakers, RED ARMY is a feature documentary about the Soviet Union and the most successful dynasty in sports history: the Red Army hockey team. Told from the perspective of its captain Slava Fetisov, the story portrays his transformation from national hero to political enemy. From the USSR to Russia, the film examines how sport mirrors social and cultural movements and parallels the rise and fall of the Red Army team with the Soviet Union. RED ARMY is an inspiring story about the Cold War played out on the ice rink, and a man who stood up to a powerful system and paved the way for change for generations of Russians.

Watch an interview with the film’s director, Gabe Polsky, here.


Claire Simmons (Jennifer Aniston) is in pain. Her physical pain is evident in the scars that line her body and the way she carries herself, wincing with each tentative step. She’s no good at hiding her emotional pain either. Blunt to the point of searing insult, Claire’s anger seethes out of her with nearly every interaction. She has driven away her husband, her friends — even her chronic-pain support group has kicked her out. The only one left in Claire’s otherwise solitary existence is her housekeeper-cum-caretaker, Silvana (Academy Award nominee Adriana Barraza), who barely tolerates her boss’ need for liquor and prescription pills. But the suicide of Nina (Academy Award nominee Anna Kendrick), one of Claire’s fellow chronic-pain group members, prompts another fixation. In pursuing questions about the death of a woman she barely knew, Claire explores the boundaries between life and death, abandonment and heartbreak, danger and salvation. As she inserts herself into the lives of Nina’s husband (Sam Worthington) and the son Nina left behind, Claire just might find salvation.

Watch a Q&A with director Daniel Barnz and screenwriter Patrick Tobin here.

Song One

Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway (Interstellar, Les Miserables) stars as Franny in SONG ONE, a romantic drama set against the backdrop of Brooklyn’s vibrant modern-folk music scene. After Franny’s musician brother Henry (Ben Rosenfield, Boardwalk Empire) is injured and hospitalized in a coma following a car accident, Franny returns home after a long estrangement and begins to use his notebook as a guide to how his life has evolved in her absence. Franny seeks out the musicians and artists Henry loved, in the course of her journey meeting James Forester (Johnny Flynn), his musical idol, whose success and fame belie a shy and private man. As a strong romantic connection develops between Franny and James, the question becomes if love can bloom even under the most adverse circumstances. The film also stars Oscar-winner Mary Steenburgen (The Help) and features original music composed by Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice.

Watch Vanity Fair‘s interview with writer/director Kate Barker-Froyland and star Anne Hathaway here.

Black Sea

A suspenseful adventure thriller directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald, centering on a rogue submarine captain (two-time Academy Award nominee Jude Law) who pulls together a misfit crew to go after a sunken treasure rumored to be lost in the depths of the Black Sea. As greed and desperation take control onboard their claustrophobic vessel, the increasing uncertainty of the mission causes the men to turn on each other to fight for their own survival.

Watch an interview with screenwriter Dennis Kelly here.


Juggling some angry Russians, the British Mi5, his impossibly leggy wife and an international terrorist, debonair art dealer and part time rogue Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) must traverse the globe armed only with his good looks and special charm in a race to recover a stolen painting rumored to contain the code to a lost bank account filled with Nazi gold.

Watch an interview with screenwriter Eric Aronson here.


AMERICONS tells the story of a broken down collegiate football star who gets a shot at real-estate stardom during the eleventh hour of LA’s nihilistic sub-prime mortgage boom.

Against The Sun

In one of the most harrowing true stories of World War II, three US Navy airmen crash land their torpedo bomber in the South Pacific and find themselves on a tiny life raft, surrounded by open ocean. No food. No water. No hope of rescue. Against incredible odds, these three virtual strangers must survive storms, sharks, starvation – and each other – as they try to sail more than a thousand miles to safety.

Son of a Gun

When JR (Brenton Thwaites) is sent to prison for a minor crime, he becomes the apprentice to Brendan Lynch (Ewan McGregor), Australia’s public enemy number one. When JR helps Brendan break out, they go on the run and form a complex co-dependent relationship. JR quickly learns in the criminal world, life is like a game of chess. To gain control, you have to stay a few moves ahead of your opponent. Lose that control, and you risk becoming a pawn in their very dangerous game.

Watch an interview with writer/director Julius Avery here.

We’ll Never Have Paris

In a story based on true events, Quinn (Simon Helberg) has been in a devoted relationship with Devon (Melanie Lynskey) for several years, and is ready to propose marriage until a gorgeous blonde co-worker reveals her love for him. Quinn immediately has second thoughts about matrimony and ends up terminating his relationship with his long-time better half. After a brief relationship with the blonde, Quinn quickly realizes he’s made the mistake of a lifetime, so he sets off to Paris, where his one and only true love has moved, to win her back.

Watch an interview with the film’s co-writers and directors, Simon Helberg and Jocelyn Towne, here.


From abject poverty to becoming a ten time boxing world champion and history’s first boxing congressman, international icon Manny Pacquiao is the definition of a Cinderella story. In the Philippines, he first entered the ring as a sixteen year old weighing 98 pounds with the goal of earning money to feed his family. Now, almost twenty years later, when he fights, the country of 100 million people comes to a complete standstill to watch. Today at the height of his career, he is faced with maneuvering an unscrupulous sport and political duties, while still maintaining a personal life. The question now is what bridge is too far for Manny Pacquiao to cross?

The Humbling

Over-the-hill stage actor Simon Axler (Al Pacino) struggles to find his passion for life again. Near his breaking point, he finds motivation in the form of a young and lustful lesbian Pegeen Stapleford (Greta Gerwig), but as their relationship heats up Simon has a hard time keeping up with the youthful Pegeen.

Watch an interview with screenwriter Michal Zebede here.


Nao Ohmori (star of Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer) plays Takafumi Katayama, a mildmannered father who escapes the pressures of daily life by joining a mysterious S&M club, where the so-called Queens visit clients in real-life settings. While at first the rough treatment and humiliation he receives from leather-clad women in cafés and restaurants is enjoyable, Takafumi soon realizes that he’s opened a door that cannot be closed. Unable to end his relationship with the club, he finds himself pursued by a gang of ruthless dominatrices, each with a very unique talent. Takafumi must either find a way to turn the tables, or walk even further down this dark yet sexy path. A massive star in Japan, where he is best known for his zany television comedies, director Hitoshi Matsumoto has bewildered and delighted Midnight Madness audiences twice before, with Big Man Japan and Symbol, each time one-upping himself in terms of both strangeness and imagination. With R100, he returns with a distinctive take on the sex comedy. The title is itself a play on the Japanese movie ratings R-15 and R-18, and represents just how far Matsumoto is willing to go to slap, tickle, and lead his audiences into a world that is unlike anything they have ever experienced.


Spare Parts

With the help of their high school’s newest teacher (George Lopez), four Hispanic students form a robotics club. Although they have no experience, the youths set their sights on a national robotics contest. With $800 and parts scavenged from old cars, they build a robot and compete against reigning champion MIT. Along the way, the students learn not only how to build a robot but something far more important: how to forge bonds that will last a lifetime.

Watch a featurette about the movie here.

Appropriate Behavior

For Shirin, being part of a perfect Persian family isn’t easy. Acceptance eludes her from all sides: her family doesn’t know she’s bisexual, and her ex-girlfriend, Maxine, can’t understand why she doesn’t tell them. Even the six-year-old boys in her moviemaking class are too ADD to focus on her for more than a second. Following a family announcement of her brother’s betrothal to a parentally approved Iranian prize catch, Shirin embarks on a private rebellion involving a series of pansexual escapades, while trying to decipher what went wrong with Maxine.

Watch DP/30’s interview with writer/director Desiree Akhavan here.

Still Alice

Alice Howland (Julianne Moore), happily married with three grown children, is a renowned linguistics professor who starts to forget words. When she receives a diagnosis of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Alice and her family find their bonds thoroughly tested. Her struggle to stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring.

Watch DP/30’s Q&A with writer/directors Wash Westmoreland & Richard Glatzer and the film’s cast here.


SELMA is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernays SELMA tells the real story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history.

Watch the Urbanworld Film Fest Q&A with director Ava DuVernay and actor David Oyelowo here.

A Most Violent Year

Set during the winter of 1981 — statistically one of the most crime-ridden of New York City’s history — A MOST VIOLENT YEAR is a drama following the lives of an immigrant and his family as they attempt to capitalize on the American Dream, while the rampant violence, decay, and corruption of the day drag them in and threaten to destroy all they have built.

Watch an interview with the film’s writer/director J.C. Chandor, here and DP/30 interview with Chandor and star Oscar Issac, here.


The latest drama from Andrey Zvyagintsev, the acclaimed director of The Return (Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner and Golden Globe nominee). Kolya (Alexeï Serebriakov) lives in a small fishing town near the stunning Barents Sea in Northern Russia. He owns an auto-repair shop that stands right next to the house where he lives with his young wife Lilya (Elena Liadova) and his son Roma (Sergueï Pokhodaev) from a previous marriage.

Watch a DP/30 interview with the film’s writer/director Andrey Zvyagintsev, here.

Two Days, One Night

Sandra (Cotillard) has just been released from the hospital to find that she no longer has a job. According to management, the only way Sandra can hope to regain her position at the factory is to convince her co-workers to sacrifice their much-needed yearly bonuses. Now, over the course of one weekend, Sandra must confront each co-worker individually in order to win a majority of their votes before time runs out. With TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT, the Dardennes have turned a relevant social inquiry into a powerful statement on community solidarity, once again delivering a film that is simple on the surface but alive with both compassion and wisdom.

Watch an interview with writer/directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne here.

Many thanks to Wendy for today’s post. Remember to Declare Your Independents by going to a theater or use V.O.D. to watch an indie feature this weekend.

Daily Dialogue — January 24, 2015

January 24th, 2015 by

“But I hope you leave enough room for my fist ‘coz I’m going to ram it into your stomach and break your goddamn spine!”

The Running Man (1987), screenplay by Steven E. de Souza, novel by Stephen King

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Threat.

Trivia: This film is loosely based on a novel written by Stephen King that he penned under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. He wrote the story in 72 hours.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Can’t have a series of movie threats without quoting Arnold.

If you have a suggestion for this week’s theme, please post in comments.

Time for reader questions

January 23rd, 2015 by

You got questions? I’ve got answers. Well, at least opinions. And oftentimes, the GITS community will weigh in with some great insights.

While you’re at it, check out the archives of reader questions I’ve aggregated during the nearly 8 year run of this blog. Over 300 questions and answers.

Screenwriting. Craft. Business. Whatever. The transom is open. Feel free to lob your questions this way. Happy to give you my two cents.

Interview (Part 5): Alisha Brophy & Scott Miles (2014 Nicholl Winners)

January 23rd, 2015 by

Alisha Brophy and Scott Miles wrote the original screenplay “The United States of Fuckin’ Awesome” which won the duo a 2014 Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting. Alisha, Scott and I had a great interview which I will be rolling out in 6 installments this week.

Today in Part 5, Alisha and Scott answer questions about the craft of screenwriting:

Myers:  Let’s jump into some craft questions here. How do you come up with story ideas?

Scott:  We have a whole list, a running document that we’re constantly adding ideas to it. I’d say we have 20 on there now. Some are just a one sentence log line that’s in no way fleshed out.

Alisha:  The pilot that we’re writing now is a version of an idea that’s been on that document for years. We just talked through a new fun way of breaking that story.

I highly recommend people keeping lists, because what doesn’t work now, a version of it three, four, five years down the road might be a really brilliant project.

Myers:  Are you actually proactive on this? Are you every day trying to think of ideas?

Alisha:  To be completely honest, Scott and I have both been working jobs all of these years, and then writing nights and weekends. Our output has been, unfortunately, very limited based on the fact that we had to keep a roof over our heads.

So, what’s been happening is that when we do have a project done, people get excited about it, and we have a bunch of meetings around town. The town asks,  “What’s next?” And then we start pitching projects we haven’t written yet.

So, people get excited and then we get excited about how excited they are. We’re like, “Oh, man!” That cycle tends to inform what project we’re working on the most.

Simultaneously, we’ll have one that is in pages, one that is in outline form, one or two that are purely like, “Oh, we’re still trying to crack this. It will be something like…”

Fortunately, because of the Nicholl, Scott was able to quit his full‑time job. And I’m able to work around our writing schedules. So, we’re now really turning out material a lot faster.

So, we’ll add to the Google docs, but we are not in there trying to break any stories until we get another project off our current plate.

Myers:  How important do you think the story concept, the high concept or the conceit of the story is to the overall strength and commercial viability of specifically a spec script.

Alisha:  Recently, we spent months working on a feature that took us, I’d say, a paragraph to explain to people, because we’d go into the reason why we wanted to write it, and what we were exploring with it, and the gist of it.

We wasted months spinning our wheels, and then one day realized that this side character who’s only in two scenes was more interesting than anything else we were doing with this project.

We said, “Screw it.” Scrapped the whole feature. Started a new idea that was based on this one character because it was instantly like, “Oh, it’s this!” There was a single log line idea about this guy.

Now this is our favorite project. It’s so easy to pitch in one sentence. The writing, it’s coming more easily because the one simple log line gives you the through line for the whole project. When you’re writing the pages as long as you’re sticking to that through line, it’s sticking to the promise that you made in that log line. You’re golden.

Scott:  I think for a spec, it’s crucial to have that clarity if you can. One, to help you actually finish it, but two, to help the readers know instantly what it is before they even pick it up.

I’ve got ideas floating around my head that I would never try to write on spec because, like Alisha says, it takes a paragraph just to do the set up and explain all that. It’s just not a commercially viable strategy. Not in the current climate.

Myers:  Both of you mentioned something that most people will think of log line in terms of its marketability, trying to get the idea out and communicate the story to someone, a buyer or what‑not.

But you mentioned something that’s also important about the story concept. It becomes a touchstone for you, doesn’t it? It helps steer the entire creative process. If you’ve got something simple and fundamental that you can always have in place as you’re writing the script that can really help guide your process.

Scott:  Definitely.

Myers:  It’s a dual value.

Scott:  It helps us keep everything straight, helps us finish the project. It has the added bonus of it being readable and more–

Alisha: –Pitchable.

Scott:  And exciting for the creative execs to read.

Myers:  You’ve talked about how in‑depth your outlining process is. I’d like to pry into that a little bit more, your process in prep writing. How do you go about developing characters? Are there any specific tools you use there?

Alisha:  Right now, we’re writing a feature. Our outline is 30 pages long, single‑spaced, and has morphed into a beat sheet. We have it all scene by scene.

The very first page is every main character, who they remind us of, maybe actors that would fit the bill. We put down their goal in the film. We put down their external want and their internal need. We keep putzing with it until those are opposite of one another. We also put down the theme of the project.

Myers:  How much time do you spend brainstorming and what type of brainstorming do you do?

Scott:  That’s pretty much our entire process because the nice thing about having our setup on Skype is we just talk through each scene. We may have a vague idea of our beginning, middle and end, but then we just go through scene by scene and brainstorm, “How does this look? What are things that we can do? How is this keeping on our theme and what our characters want?”

We’re also always looking for those setups and payoffs, so we may towards the end of a script be talking through a scene, realize, “Oh, wouldn’t it be great if we had this here?” Then we’d jump back up and find a way to layer that in in a clever way so that it doesn’t seem like a setup. We work backwards in that way.

Alisha:  What’s great about having a writing partner is that what goes on the page is never a true first draft. Because if you’re talking about something, you’ll be like, “Oh, what if blah, blah, blah,?” Then the other person says, “Oh, yeah, but what if it’s blah, blah, blah.”

By the time you’re like, “Yeah, write that down” it’s at least the third option from where you started. Everything that hits the page for us feels more like a third draft than a first draft, because we’re already talking through better versions before we type anything.

Myers:  You mentioned theme. Are you the type of writers where you start off with a theme or themes, or do they emerge as you go along in the writing process?

Alisha:  It definitely is something we solidify before we go to pages, but it usually comes out maybe a couple of drafts into our outline. With USofFA, it was very much about maturity and respect.

With the project we’re working on now, it’s all about control and who controls you. We have this fun, big broad concept about controlling the world. But, our character is all about, “Should he get married?” He’s fighting that because he feels like marriage is giving up all his control to someone else.

Myers:  It sounds like you use that as a touchstone as well. That theme to align yourself to what’s going on at any given moment?

Alisha:  Yeah. Your theme, and your character tend to be very–

Scott:  –Closely aligned.

Myers:  What do you think about when you’re writing a scene? Do you have any specific goals in mind?

Scott:  I see it as us trying to make each other laugh while still not pushing the jokes so far out of what the character would actually do that it’s a joke for no reason. It still has to be character‑based. That’s the nice thing about comedy. We know, instantly, if it’s working or not.

If I write a joke, and she doesn’t laugh, it’s time for me to go punch up that joke.

Myers:  That gets into this idea of your writing process. I’m sure people will be curious. You do Skype, but do you have a set time that you do? Do you work every day? I know now the job situation’s changed a little bit.

Alisha:  Scott has been amazing over the years, and his wife, too, for putting up with his schedule. So, he would commute an hour to work. I’m going to tell everybody your life schedule, Scott.

Scott:  Yeah, go for it.

Alisha:  [laughs] He would commute an hour to work. Put in a full day at this insurance company, commute an hour back. Write with me for an hour and a half. Go have dinner, spend time with his wife. Come back online and try and get one more hour in, if we were lucky, before bed. Weekends, we would try and fit writing in around our lives as best we could.

Now we have our new schedule which is 10 to 4pm, writing straight through. It is amazing how much faster and better the ideas and pages happen, when it’s not having to come after a full day’s worth of work and frustration. When you can start the day fresh with your cup of coffee and dive into a scene, it is magical. I want this to never change.

Scott:  That being said, I mean even when I had that crazy schedule, the only reason we were able to get so much done is because we stuck to that schedule pretty rigidly. It was pretty rare that we would take off time because we didn’t feel writing. That’s another nice thing about having a writing partner is that you feel, “Oh, I don’t feel like writing,” but the other person is so jazzed. So I’ll think, “I don’t want to let them down. So I’ll go write a few scenes.” Then once you get on the flow, you’re loving it just as much.

Having that checks and balances of, “Nope, I’m definitely writing tonight because the other person is waiting for me.” Without it, it would be too easy to just say, “Well, I’m not writing tonight. What’s on TV?”

Alisha: Though, I would like to point out that, the writing schedule was also a great litmus test whether a project is worth exploring and if you should continue working on it. That last feature that I said that we scrapped?  We’d been working on the outline for months.

Our writer’s group told us, “It’s ready. Go to pages.” And it was. It would have been a perfectly acceptable, fine studio comedy. It worked on the page.

The truth was for about, I would say for about four days, I kept coming up with excuses as to why I couldn’t write that night. I just couldn’t bring myself to dive in. We finally just talked through why, and it turned out he wasn’t feeling it either.

We realized if we’re going to write for free, this is on spec, so no one’s paying us, we have to want to do it. It just wasn’t a strong enough project to keep us writing.

Fortunately, from that we have the feature we’re writing now that we love. As soon as we get off of Skype with you, we’re diving right back into our pages. We were already working on it this morning.

Tomorrow in Part 6, Alisha and Scott give their advice for aspiring screenwriters.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Part 4, here.

The duo is repped by Paradigm and Circle of Confusion.

Twitter: @alishabrophy, @scottmiles.