Saturday Hot Links

October 25th, 2014 by

Time for the 157th installment of Saturday Hot Links!

Today: The Jimi Hendrix “Voodoo Child: Slight Return” Edition.

The 50 best movie beauty moments of all time.

Science working to give us is 1,000 year-old lifespans and how that could affect the economy.

Screenwriter Bob Saenz’s latest blog entry: Hack, Like Me.

Why do car speedometers list speeds way over the legal limit.

Why technology is the friend, not the enemy, of Hollywood.

John Oliver reenacts Supreme Court cases using dogs [video].

Specialty Box Office: Birdman spectacular, Dear White People strong.

Related: How did Dear White People find an audience.

Where did last names come from [video].

‘Late Show with David Letterman’ cue card holder fired after assaulting a staff writer.

15 tales of female ghosts.

Lionsgate and Tribeca to debut online service in 2015.

Tom Hanks has a short story in the New Yorker.

Gone Girl‘s cool girl: Hero or villain?

What is cloud nine.

Adam McKay on his rewrites of Ant-Man: Bigger, more aggressive, funnier.

8 lifehacks for roommate living.

George Lucas rips Hollywood studios: They’ve “always been the problem”.

Scientists do virtual autopsy of King Tut and find shocking surprises.

London Film Festival draws record audience.

The Earth just had its warmest year on record.

Mom petitions Toys R Us to stop selling “Breaking Bad” toys.

Hoverboard!

10 of Hollywood’s creepiest demon dolls [photos].

Hey, novelists! 6 visual storytelling techniques to borrow from TV and movies.

How about $542M for a start-up outfit developing an enhanced “cinematic” visual computing experience.

Harvard says the best thinkers have these 7 ‘dispositions’.

Chicks Who Script podcast: Nicole Perlman, co-writer, Guardians of the Galaxy.

Former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee has died at the age of 93.

IFC expands original programming team.

10 sticky facts about maple syrup.

Matthew McConaughey says he understood every word Rust Cohle was saying.

6 creepy Victorian ghost stories to read right now.

Which iconic horror movie villain is the deadliest.

Related: An oral history of Nightmare on Elm Street.

Related: 30 things you didn’t know about the 5 Exorcist movies.

Related: Why we need horror movies now more than ever.

Presenting Vulture’s Taylor Swift glossary.

Warner Bros. unveils first slate from digital production unit.

Why is the Pentagon stuffing tanks into Norwegian caves.

‘John Carter’ movie rights regained by Edgar Rice Burroughs estate.

Why do we carve pumpkins.

Celebrate the 15th anniversary of Fight Club with audio commentary [video].

IMG strikes deal with MLS and U.S. soccer for global media rights.

You can stream “The Simpsons” now and here are the 100 best episodes to watch.

Ancient Scotland: Home of the first ever sex.

Related: Goodfellas actor suing Fox for $250M claiming “Simpsons” character is based on him.

Rob Reiner in war to keep chain stores out of Malibu.

5 plot holes you’ve never noticed in Star Wars.

George Harrison’s childhood home sold for $250K at auction.

Top 10 TED Talks on storytelling and filmmaking.

10 essential comedies from the early days of cinema [videos].

Here’s how you sell a haunted house.

The notorious history of drunken Hollywood.

15 lesser-known Halloween songs to put you in a spooky mood.

How Fandor’s ‘Filmmaker’s Initiative’ will help get your movie made.

Lost John Cleese TV sketches found after 47 years

50 must-see horror films directed by women.

8 films that make fascinating use of flashbacks [videos].

Related: Photographer pays homage to childhood by inserting Star Wars into real world snapshots.

Screenwriter Max Landis wrote a 436 page “Super Mario Bros.” script and you can read it here.

Finally L.M. Kit Carson, co-writer of the movie Paris, Texas, dies at the age of 73.

Screenwriting Master Class tip of the week: You have until October 31st to save $95 when you sign up for the upcoming Quest Writing Workshop.

Where: Santa Monica, California

When: December 10-13, 2014

Hours: 10AM-5PM

Plus a 16 week online site where you will work up an outline, then pound out a first draft of an original script.

I have led three of these workshops and each has been amazing. This is a chance for you to learn the foundations of Character Based Screenwriting and an approach to prep-writing that works.

For more information, go here.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you.

Great Scene: “King of Hearts”

October 25th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today: The 1966 movie King of Hearts, Daniel Boulanger (scenario and dialogue), Maurice Bessy (idea). IMDB plot summary:

An ornithologist mistaken for an explosives expert is sent alone into a small French town during WWI to investigate a garbled report from the resistance about a bomb which the departing Germans have set to blow up a weapons cache. He arrives to find a very eccentric group of townspeople, inmates of the local insane asylum, as it turns out, who have stepped into the characters of the fleeing villagers.

After rival forces have slaughtered each other in the town’s square, Plumpick (Alan Bates) watches as his new-found friends decide what to do… leading to his own decision.

This is a little gem of a movie, definitely of the 60s era, but well worth the watch. It poses a fundamental question about humanity: Which is crazier… war or insanity?

The images of the asylum inmates rejecting the insanity of real life, shedding their trappings of that world, then locking themselves inside the safety of their shelter are profound and beautiful. And Plumpick’s ultimate decision is a lovely touch.

Has anyone seen King of Hearts? You can screen it online free here.

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

Interview (Written): Theodore Melfi

October 25th, 2014 by

A WGA.org interview with Theodore Melfi, screenwriter-director of the movie St. Vincent.

This film has personal origins for you, yes?

In a nutshell, when my brother passed away, which was just completely out of the blue as you can imagine at 38, he left behind Taylor at 11. Her mom was in jail for selling crystal meth, so there was no mom. Coming from a mob family, I ended up being kind of the only sane one in my family, and that was from 10 years of studying psychology. So my brother died – he was a gun nut and into drugs and everything – and my other brother was in jail at the time. So my wife and I adopted [Taylor]. We ripped her out of Tennessee and brought her to California. We put her in Notre Dame High School. She’s not Catholic, but we just put her there ‘cause we thought, Gosh, she’s gotta have some sense that the world is worth something, bigger than her, and good or kind.

So four years ago we put her in Notre Dame, and she goes to a world religion class, and gets a homework assignment – find a Catholic saint that inspires you, and find someone in your real life…

Just like in the film.

Yes, exactly. The film is partially based on a true story. She picked Saint William of Rochester – the patron saint of adopted children – and in real life, she picked me. So it was very touching, and, you know, Hallmark-y.

Vincent seems like he’s a projection of you, your father, and your brother?

He’s a projection of partly me, partly my father, but mostly my wife’s father, who was a Vietnam vet and a complete asshole. Abandoned all of his children. Abandoned my wife at nine. Never talked to her again. Drank, cursed, just did everything you could possibly imagine that was wrong. Then 10 years before he passed away, my wife went to one of these [self-help] seminars…and one of the assignments is to write a letter and get complete with everyone whoever did you wrong, or you did wrong to in your life, clear it up. She writes a dear dad letter, and mails it to this address she finds in the white pages back in East Hampton, Long Meadow, Massachusetts. Two weeks later the phone rings, “Kim, it’s your dad.” And she starts crying. And then she spent the next 10 years of her life with her father, having a love affair with this guy, as a father-daughter, they just became father-daughter, instantly. It changed both of their lives forever, for the best.

Here is a trailer for St. Vincent:

For the rest of the interview, go here.

Daily Dialogue — October 25, 2014

October 25th, 2014 by

“I hope that when the world comes to an end, I can breathe a sigh of relief because there will be so much to look forward to.”

Donnie Darko (2001), written by Richard Kelly

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Dying Words.

Trivia: The song that plays as Donnie is riding his bike home in the theatrical version is “The Killing Moon” by Echo & The Bunnymen. As Gretchen waits for the school bus, a Volkswagen Rabbit vehicle quickly passes in front of her. When Elizabeth Darko is sleeping on the recliner, there is a stuffed rabbit next to her. As Donnie reaches for the car keys, there is a Polaroid picture of him and his sister in Halloween costumes on the desk. Donnie is dressed as a rabbit. When Donnie is talking to his sister after his mom leaves near the end, a “jack o lantern” bunny is seen on the table. Frank, the rabbit, often appears near a water source (sprinklers, water main, faucet).

Dialogue On Dialogue: Like so much of this movie, Donnie’s last line is enigmatic and laced with different meanings.

Twitter Rant: Craig Mazin on the Working Relationship between Studio Execs and Writers

October 24th, 2014 by

On Wednesday, @MysteryBritExec went on an informative Twitter ‘rant’ about life as a feature development executive, which I posted here. Inspired by her rant, Craig went off on one of his own. Reprinted in its entirety here by permission.

First, make sure you are primarily motivated by fear. This will be easy, as it’s that thing you’re soaking in at work.

You’ll likely be working at a studio or production company in which everyone is frightened to death. And of what?

They’re frightened of everything. There is no formula for success. Movies succeed because they magically connect with millions of people.

Sometimes they do not magically connect with millions of people. The “magic” part isn’t actually magic. It’s substance, but here’s the catch.

It’s not substance that you, the development exec, provides. It’s substance the writer provides, at least initially. So you have a choice.

Believe in their ability, and guide and help them to do the best they can, or attempt to mitigate your fear through CONTROL.

It’s likely the people you work for are big believers in the CONTROL method. Because this is what the fear tells you:

1. Writers don’t have the answer. The only answer is to repeat a past success, because that’s controllable.

2. Writing isn’t a proper job like “put in x hours to assemble y widgets of measurable in z units of quality.” So writers are suspect.

3. The harder you beat a writer, the more work you get out of them, and quantity is quantifiable, ergo CONTROLLABLE.

4. Your job and your livelihood are unfairly tied to the output of this self-important non-real-job artiste, so you must CONTROL them, or…

5. …the will control YOU. Then you will be seen as weak by your coworkers and bosses. You will be the wounded gazelle.

It also requires you to downgrade the importance of the quality of the script. A script is just a script anyway. Who knows?

By the time the movie comes out and flops, you’ll be developing THE NEXT BIG THING and you won’t be fire-able.

Remember, the CONTROL method is about making your emotional state Job #1. Risk is for idiots. It rarely pays off. In fact, you’ve noticed—

–almost NOTHING pays off in development. Go ahead. Try and be good. Congrats. Your movie didn’t get greenlit. Or did and flopped.

Meanwhile, the sociopath in the office next door just got promoted, and their output is no different than yours. So why bother?

You were told that there was the promise of great power in development. You could be the Big Shot with the Green Button.

And THEN… on THAT day… you could finally do some good and make some terrific movies. At last! Ah, but even now, you know that’s a lie.

You’ve been trained by those people, and you can see there’s only fear and desperation for control in their hearts. That’s all there is.

And the higher you climb the ladder, the worse it gets. You’re not just afraid for your job. Now you’re afraid for EVERYONE’S job.

There are some development executives who seem to have succeeded by caring for writers and putting the movie above all other concerns.

But they’re the rare ones. Keep telling yourself that. There’s far more people doing your job worrying about what you’re told to worry about

So keep worrying. Hold on tightly. Show no faith. Control. Compromise to mitigate risk. Chase past success. Aim for quick, easy approval.

If you can do all that, there’s a .001% chance you’ll run a studio one day. But there’s a 99% chance you keep your job today.

There’s also a 99% chance you’ll burn out and move on in ten years, because one morning, you wake up and think “Wait. What am I doing?”

“What’s the point?”

Maybe then you will remember why you cared in the first place. Maybe then you will understand the true nature of risk and reward.

It’s easy to be the wrong kind of development executive. It’s hard to be the right kind. But there is no reward for being the wrong kind.

If you want to make money, you’re in the wrong business. Go work in finance. If you want power, you’re in the wrong business. Go to D.C.

You do not make movies. You love and support and guide and challenge the people who do. That’s the heart of it. And I promise you this:

If you can truly love us, we will love you back in a way you can’t even imagine. Because we are desperate for people like you.

End.

Addendum: WHO is as important to me as WHAT. I love the people I’m working with these days. I won’t work for anyone I don’t.

Final addendum: when dev execs truly put the writer first and control of the writer second, they invariably get more control of the writer.

There you have it, straight from the front lines from a writer who knows both the craft and the business. Insight into what it’s like to work on both sides of the desk and a plea to aim for our higher angels when it comes to actual act of developing and making movies.

Thanks, Craig!

Follow him on Twitter: @clmazin.

David Milch: “The Writer’s Voice” (Part 4)

October 24th, 2014 by

Back in September 2010, I ran a week-long series featuring key excerpts from a memorable series of presentations by David Milch at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills. Then this week, I stumbled upon this: An entire series called The Idea of the Writer by Milch now available on YouTube. In recognition of that wonderful news, I will reprise my posts and embed video from each of Milch’s presentations.

David Milch is a talented writer. Check out these credits:

Television credits (as creator)

Awards and recognition

  • 1993 Emmy Award, Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series (Hill Street Blues)
  • 1994 Edgar Award, Best Episode in a Television Series Teleplay (NYPD Blue, “4B or Not 4B”)
  • 1995 Emmy Award, Best Drama Series (NYPD Blue)
  • 1995 Edgar Award, Best Episode in a Television Series Teleplay (NYPD Blue, “Simone Says”) (shared with Steven Bochco and Walon Green)
  • 2006 Austin Film Festival, Outstanding Television Writer Award recipient

Not to mention the 259 episodes of “N.Y.P.D. Blue” he’s credited with writing.

I did this post back in July that featured some great video of Milch sharing his thoughts about writing. At the time, I noted this:

What leaped to mind when I read the news about the new HBO series was a series of presentations Milch gave at the WGA Theater several years ago. They were covered and excerpted in the fine WGA journal “Written By” over the course of several months. I remember reading them, both fascinated and inspired by Milch’s ideas.

I contacted “Written By” and they have kindly offered to create electronic versions of the original hard copies, so I can excerpt them on GITS. Look forward to that sometime soon.

This week each day, I’ll feature some of Milch’s comments from those presentations at the WGA Theater from back in 2001, excerpted from the “Written By” journal. Here is Part 4:

I’m sure that a lot of you want to know what gets you “in” [the entertainment industry]. And the answer is this: If you generate a passionate, humble connection with your work, you’re in. And the paradox is that you don’t need whatever you thought you needed, and when you don’t need it, that’s when they want you. But them wanting you is, by that time, an utter irrelevancy. When I said, “The price sometimes is terrible,” of trusting in the world, of turning over our manuscripts, of offering up our child—a sustained commitment to the enterprise that you’ve begun sometimes has a terrible, terrible price. There are all sorts of distractions and accommodations made available to us in our journey, to take a lesser path rather than absolute loyalty and devotion to the separate life of our work.

The extraordinary thing for me as a parent was that every day my child taught me more. When we had another child, it was geometrically more. You think that your heart will burst if there’s any more love. And it just keeps growing, and that’s what will happen with your engagement with material, to the extent you are able to sustain a selfless connection with it.

The process will be variable, and there will be days when it’s not so good, and there’s deep instruction in that as well. If you keep coming back in humility—without wanting to belabor the analogy—as a parent, then you can’t ever say, “Okay, that’s it.” Even if you say it, it doesn’t stop. Even if you blow town, it doesn’t stop. If you say it’s over, that’s okay, but the child still lives.

As much as one aspires to selflessness in connection with the work—and selflessness does not mean the denial of the self—whatever our heads are telling us is ultimately irrelevant to the living thing, the living breathing thing with which you have entered into a kind of parental responsibility for a little while. And then, at a certain point, it [the thing] gets up and runs away from you.

I remember the first time that happened to me. At first I was terrified, and then I thought I could fly. You’ve entered into a connection with something else, which is not limited by your selfhood.

Day 4: David Milch on The Idea of the Writer.

For Part 1, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Tomorrow Part 5 of “The Idea of the Writer” with David Milch.

Spec Script Sale: “Plus One”

October 24th, 2014 by

The Weinstein Company acquires spec script “Plus One” written by April Prosser. From Deadline:

The script is about a woman who emerges from a long-term relationship only to realize all her friends have married off and there’s no one single left to go out with…except Summer, the loud, sexually-oversharing wild card who is now Rachel’s only option for a wing woman.

Prosser is repped by UTA and Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment.

By my count, this is the 51st spec script sale in 2014.

There were 83 scripts sold year-to-date in 2013.

Documentary: “The Final Shot – A Farewell to “Boardwalk Empire”

October 24th, 2014 by

As “Boardwalk Empire” heads into its last season, HBO put out this half-hour documentary about the series:

Via Indiewire.

Movie Trailer: “John Wick”

October 24th, 2014 by

Written by Derek Kolstad

An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.

IMDB

Release Date: 24 October 2014 (USA)

Great Scene: “Up”

October 24th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today: The 2009 movie Up, screenplay by Bob Peterson and Pete Docter, story by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson and Thomas McCarthy. IMDB plot summary:

To avoid being taken away to a nursing home, an old widower tries to fly his home to Paradise Falls, South America, along with a Boy Scout who accidentally lifted off with him.

Carl (Ed Asner) has achieved his Want: To transport the house he and Ellie shared for so many years to Paradise Falls.

Normally if you mention the words “great scene” and the movie Up in one sentence, people will immediately chime in with this:

Yes, that is stellar storytelling. But the mini-story of Carl and Ellie’s married life is a setup for the scene I have spotlighted above. Carl has made it. He’s fulfilled his promise to Ellie. He has won.

However it is a Pyrrhic victory, filled with emptiness, a reality visualized by the shots chosen in the scene. No sound. Lots of space. And the lonely presence of Ellie’s chair.

Then the picture book. It is a little story itself told in three parts:

Beginning: Carl looks at photos of he and Ellie as children, images of Paradise Falls.
Emotion: Sadness that his wife is not here to share the experience of achieving her dream.

Turn: Carl discovers new photos.

Middle: Carl flips through photos of his marriage through their adult years.
Emotion: Surprise tinged with sadness.

Turn: “Thanks for the adventure – now go have a new one! Love, Ellie”

End: Carl picks up Russell’s merit badge, looks at Ellie’s chair… then crosses his heart.

Such a fantastic scene because in effect – from beyond the grave – Ellie has given Carl her blessing to be with a new member of the ‘family’: Russell. Functionally, he is a surrogate for Ellie. And now when he crosses his heart, Carl is making a new pledge, a new Want: To retrieve Russell. Which sets up the rest of Act Three.

I adore this movie. How about you?

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!