Interview (Written): Eric Heisserer

January 3rd, 2015 by

An interview from the site First Scream to the Last with screenwriter Eric Heisserer whose movie credits include A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Thing as well as writing his directorial debut Hours.

Were you a fan of the original Elm Street, and what did (and didn’t) you want to achieve with the remake?

The original remains one of my all-time favorites, although I think of the series Dream Warriors is the best.

The reboot was tricky for a number of reasons, not the first of which was that I was inheriting a few bits of story from the Wesley Strick draft. (Strick had been hired to write a draft of the film long before I was brought in, and the studio decided to go in a new direction.) In that version, the studio and producers liked the idea that Freddy Krueger should be initially seen as some innocent man wronged by the town, and the dream murders are h is acts of vengeance. Strick had explored this a little in his draft, and they wanted to keep that in play.

The other piece I inherited was the idea that Krueger was a molester, not just a murderer – harkening back to the early versions of Craven’s first movie, before the spate of real-life cases in California made that too politically charged.

My own aim in the reboot was to build something that honored what Wes Craven built, but also introduced one or two new ideas to the character. Otherwise, it would feel too redundant. That’s a pitfall I told the studio I wanted to avoid.

Did the end product remain loyal to your screenplay, and what are your thoughts on the completed movie?

Oof. Maybe, oh… five percent? Ten? A rough skeletal structure of what I wrote remained in the final cut, but most of the dialogue and entire groups of scenes were changed, added, or removed. Now and then I recognize a line I wrote, or a horror sequence. Actually, this is not unusual when it comes to studio franchises. I’m relieved that the microsleep idea went the distance, along with the line about the brain still being active for a few minutes even after the heart stops. There were extensive reshoots, as this was such a tricky project for everyone involved.

Part of the reason it became so complicated is that everyone’s idea of Krueger was a little different. Some preferred the jokester version; the Krueger with a dark sense of humor. Others were sold on the pure evil version. In general, it seems that franchise films of the 1980s got sillier as they progressed through the films. I had an opinion on the Krueger that would work for us, but the top execs at the studio ultimately make that kind of call when it comes to tone, and thus if you see an early development draft of mine on this project, you’ll discover it bears little resemblance to the final version. That’s not shirking blame or anything, that’s just the reality of screenwriting.

As Eric notes in the interview, he writes outside the horror genre, so I’m excited to see what happens with another project he has in development: Story of Your Life. You can read about that in my April 2013 interview with Eric.

For the rest of the interview, go here.

TCM Remembers 2014

December 31st, 2014 by

Every year, TCM does an elegant visual memoriam for many of those involved in the film business who have died during the previous 12 months. Here is the 2014 edition:

A lot of talent passed away this year. But they left us with some amazing memories and cinematic moments. Godspeed to them all.

And a reminder to those of us still fortunate enough to be alive and kicking. Life is precious. For those engaged in creative endeavors, here’s to a 2015 where we make the most of our time and give ourselves fully to our stories.

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: The Sixth Sense

December 9th, 2014 by

We’ve had a successful relaunch of the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series. I say relaunch because we have done this type of thing before. For the next month, I will be spotlighting previous movie scripts we have studied.

Today: The Sixth Sense (1999)

Written by M. Night Shyamalan

IMDb plot summary: A boy who communicates with spirits that don’t know they’re dead seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist.

Links to the entire January 2012 series:

General Comments
Structure
Characters
Themes
Dialogue

For my 7-part series on How to Read a Screenplay, go here.

30 Days of Screenplays [2013]

30 Days of Screenplays [2014]

Years ago, I came up with this mantra: Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages. A link to my reflections on that here.

Cannot emphasize enough the importance of reading movie scripts.

Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Proposal

November 22nd, 2014 by

The Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Proposal, suggested by Aamir Mirza.

“At least check the pockets.”

Wedding proposals seem the obvious angle here. But what about business proposals? A deal between friends? I’m looking for seven great suggestions, folks. Thanks in advance!

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:

December 1-December 7: Leadership
December 8-December 14: Quitting
December 15-December 21: Negotiation [Michael Waters]

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 — Friendship — in comments. Thanks!

Go Into The Story Week In Review: September 29-October 5, 2014

October 5th, 2014 by

Links to the week’s most notable posts:

2014 Nicholl Fellowship winners announced

Black List initiatives

Break your story in prep

Classic 70s Movie: A Woman Under the Influence

Classic 70s Movie: Dog Day Afternoon

Classic 70s Movie: The Godfather

Classic 70s Movie: The Godfather: Part II

Classic 70s Movies: The Complete List of Posts

Daily Dialogue Theme for Next Week: Punishment

Declare Your Independents: Volume 32

Great Character: Beetlejuice (Beetlejuice)

Great Scene: Heat

Great Scene: Saving Private Ryan

Great Scene: Source Code

Great Scene: The Spy Who Loved Me

Great Scene: True Romance

Interview (Audio): Mark Heyman, Craig Johnson

Interview (Video): Joss Whedon

Interview (Video): Margaret Nagle

Interview (Written): Gillian Flynn

On Writing: Richard Linklater

Reader Question: What are some ways to visualize the inner world of a character?

Saturday Hot Links

Screenwriting 101: Joseph Wambaugh

Screenwriting News (September 29-October 5, 2014)

Script To Screen: Say Anything

Spec Script Sale: “May You Live in Interesting Times”

Twitter Rant: Katherine Fugate on Black Facts About Hollywood

Writing and the Creative Life: Routine or Ritual

Spec Script Sale: “Moonfall”

August 21st, 2014 by

Audax Films acquires science fiction spec script “Moonfall” written by David Weill. From Deadline:

Audax had company for a film that centers on an FBI agent who travels to a moon colony to investigate its very first death.

Weill is repped by CAA and Unified Management.

By my count, this is the 40th spec script sale in 2014.

There were 70 spec script sales year-to-date in 2013.

Movie Trailer: “Mood Indigo”

June 16th, 2014 by

Scenario, adaptation, dialogue by Michel Gondry & Luc Bossi, novel by Boris Vian

A woman suffers from an unusual illness caused by a flower growing in her lungs.

IMDB

Release Date: 18 July 2014 (USA)

Daily Dialogue — March 7, 2014

March 7th, 2014 by

“Welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club! Third rule of Fight Club: someone yells “stop!”, goes limp, taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight. Fifth rule: one fight at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: No shirts, no shoes. Seventh rule: fights will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at Fight Club, you have to fight.”

Fight Club (1999), screenplay by Jim Uhls, book by Chuck Palahniuk

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Lecture.

Trivia: After the copyright warning, there is another warning on the DVD. This warning is from Tyler Durden, and is only there for a second. “If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this is useless fine print is another second off your life. Don’t you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all who claim it? Do you read everything you’re supposed to read? Do you think everything you’re supposed to think? Buy what you’re told you should want? Get out of your apartment. Meet a member of the opposite sex. Stop the excessive shopping and masturbation. Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive. If you don’t claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned… Tyler”

Dialogue On Dialogue: Here is one definition of lecture: “A speech read or delivered before an audience or class, especially for instruction or to set forth some subject.” That’s what Tyler does in this scene, schooling the ‘class’ on the rules of Fight Club.

“One [blank] at a time”

October 23rd, 2013 by

This is a handy screenwriting mantra:

“One [blank] at a time.”

When you write a script, you will have ups and downs, good days and bad days. And while it’s great to set writing goals [when I write a first draft, it’s 5 pages per day], sometimes that just ain’t gonna happen.

When your single task with a first draft is to “get the damn thing done,” if you are wallowing in a triple biorhythm low trough and every cell in your body is resisting the call to deposit your butt onto chair to write, your personal goals [daily, weekly, monthly] can feel like this strapped to your back:

Goals are only helpful if you can keep them. Hence: “One [blank] at a time.”

The [blank] can be any of the following:

* One scene at a time: Use this when you are feeling a general sense of funk.

* One page at a time: Use this when your funk has become malaise.

* One sentence at a time: Use this when your malaise has become despair.

* One word at a time: And this one? Use only in the most extreme and dire circumstances, when you it seems as if the entire universe has conspired against you, your creativity feels like a deceased anchovy, and the very act of even thinking about your story reduces you to a quivering heap of epiglottal spasms.

The point of writing a first draft is to make progress. Some progress. Any progress. One scene, one page, one sentence, yes, even one word puts you closer to FADE OUT.

Eventually you will cycle out of your own blue period, the bright light of creativity will shine on you again, and pages will flow from your fingertips with the succulence of a robust zinfandel.

But if you find yourself in a writer’s tomb, you know what to do:

“One [blank] at a time.”

“The Quest” has entered Week 15! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core – 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep – 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages – 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Today and every Monday through Friday for the next 10 weeks, I’ll use this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here.

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.

Onward!

Dispatch From The Quest: Miranda Sajdak

September 27th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Miranda talks about wanting to see more three-dimensional women characters and a trip to Nashville:

Once again, it’s been another eventful Quest week. This week, our focus was on brainstorming. We both felt like we’d been brainstorming for months – but it was actually really revealing to sit down and do a solid brainstorm on our own. We each came up with new/different ideas that hadn’t occurred to us in the past, and allowed us to really get a lot out there on the page. There are a number of things that we’re still unclear on – certain character archetypes aren’t fitting as organically as others into our world – but, that said, we’re peeling back the layers to see what might work in the context of our story.

I also had a creatively inspiring week in other arenas; one of the scripts that Sandy and I optioned had a really solid, fun rewrite. We enjoyed getting to look over the new pages, and were excited about the changes made.

I also found inspiration earlier this week, when my fiancee and I sat down to finish Season 3 of BORGEN. Talk about compelling female characters! I know Scott posted a Twitter tirade with Mystery Exec a few weeks ago regarding screenwriters needing to craft more three-dimensional women in their writing. Definitely something Sandy and I find when we read scripts, and it was really refreshing to see so many complex women in one series. I’m finding more and more inspiration from overseas in that regard, as Europe seems to have a greater grasp of how to create multi-dimensional women (who aren’t prostitutes). Some great food for thought. The series also reminded me a bit of Christian’s story this week, and it was nice to see some affirmation of one of his leads’ emotional journeys.

This week was also eventful in that I made a cross-country trek to Nashville for the first time. My flight fell literally at the time of our regular Quest call, so I was sad to miss the weekly recap/discussion, but glad to get to venture out of the usual LA confines and take in a new city. When Sandy and I work with writers, we always encourage our clients to explore new venues – to get out of the confines of solitary writing, and go try something new. This weekend was definitely that for me, and I’m glad I got to experience a region I’ve never explored before. Within the first day, I got to do lots of Southern-y things. For instance: we were driven to the airport by a shuttle service called “Driving Miss Daisy.” You guessed it – the driver was an older black gentleman. Don’t get me started on my reaction to that one. We also got to eat in cafes with guitars on every wall – and, of course, a restaurant with taxidermied animal heads all around. As a foodie, I was consistently caught between perplexed and intrigued – both by food and decor. The restaurant “Batter’d and Fried” seemed to sum up the options pretty nicely. I will say, though, that “southern hospitality” really is a thing. I haven’t had so many people ask how I’m doing in years – I keep expecting them to follow-up with a request for spare change. Tennessee really is its own world.

I’ll be glad to be back in LA, land of avocados-at-every-meal. It looks like next week is plot – and I’m sure to have lots of inspiring/strange stories on my return!

The post Miranda mentioned in which I aggregated a twitter rant by @MysteryExec can be found here. We absolutely need more multilayered, compelling female characters. Hell, we need multilayered, compelling characters of all kinds. And chances are about 99 to 1 the best way to do that is spend the time immersing ourselves in those characters’ lives. Then they become real to us.

But yes, more well-crafted female characters, please.

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Miranda: New Englander turned Angeleno by way of New York. Enjoys: high-powered action films, dark dramas, and ’90s legal thrillers. Does not enjoy: the dentist. Mushrooms. @ScriptChix.