Video: Coen Brothers proof-of-concept trailer for “Blood Simple”

June 25th, 2016 by

For Coen brothers fans, this is wondrous! Via One Perfect Shot:

What you’re about to see is a slice of cinema history never before available to your unworthy eyes. This is a proof-of-concept trailer shot for BLOOD SIMPLE, the Coen Brothers’ first feature, starring family friend and cult icon all on his own, the one and only Bruce Campbell. I’ll wait for you to start breathing again before I continue.

The video will be a part of the bonus features when The Criterion Collection answers every cinephile’s dream by releasing BLOOD SIMPLE this September. Vanity Fair had the early score.

As the story goes, the brothers were having a little trouble raising the money they needed to shoot their western neo-noir when their friend and fellow up-and-coming filmmaker Sam Raimi – you know him, right? – suggested they shoot a short video to show to investors.

They did and used it to raise $750K to start filming their first – and one of their best – movies Blood Simple. Here is that trailer:

Watch this on The Scene.

For the rest of the One Perfect Shot article, go here.

Video: “The Evolution of Pixar”

June 22nd, 2016 by

With Finding Dory now in theaters to a record-breaking box office performance, this video hit online a few days ago: “The Evolution of Pixar”:

I love Pixar for many reasons, but primarily because they are 100% committed to Story. If you don’t believe it, check out my March 2012 interview with Mary Coleman, Senior Development Executive at the studio in which Mary goes into detail about the comprehensive process Pixar uses to develop and craft their scripts.

For some of the gazillion posts I’ve done on Pixar over the years, go here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Two recent videos on writing dialogue

June 19th, 2016 by

Two videos about the craft of writing dialogue hit online in the last week:

Now You See It

Channel Chriswell Extra

Both worth watching. Movies are primarily a visual medium, but great dialogue is a major plus in creating a good script read.

Video: “The Directors Series – The Coen Brothers” (Part 2)

June 16th, 2016 by

Here is Part 2 of “The Directors Series” on Joel and Ethan Coen, focusing on three movies: Miller’s Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991), and The Hudsucker Proxy (1994).

If you are a fan of the Coens, as I am, you will enjoy this video as well as Part 1.

For The Directors Series Vimeo site, go here.

Video: “How Much Everyone Working On a $200 Million Movie Earns”

June 10th, 2016 by

Ever wanted to know who earns what on a movie production? Here you go!

Video: Steven Spielberg, Harvard Commencement Address (5/26/2016)

May 28th, 2016 by

Video: “The Directors Series – The Coen Brothers” (Part 1)

May 26th, 2016 by

Perfect timing. With my 1-week online class Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling starting on Monday, May 30, along comes Part 1 of what looks to be an excellent series on the cinematic efforts of Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. Here the video covers how the Coens got into filmmaking and their first two movies: Blood Simple. and Raising Arizona:

I saw Blood Simple. when it was released in 1984 and Raising Arizona will always have a soft spot in my heart as one of the very first industry screenings I attended when I first broke into Hollywood in 1987. Also it features my first agent Peter Benedek as a prison counselor.

The Coens are part of my Holy Trinity of filmmakers along with Billy Wilder and Pixar which is why I’m excited to teach this upcoming class on the duo. For more information, go here.

“Everything is a Remix: The Force Awakens”

May 26th, 2016 by

I have been tracking Kirby Ferguson and his “Everything is a Remix” videos since the very first one came out in 2010. So when Kirby reached out to me via email about his latest video — “Everything is a Remix: The Force Awakens” — I had to check it out. Here it is:

While the video notes numerous similarities between Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Kirby makes some more important points for screenwriters:

* Since everything has pretty much been done before, it is inevitable we will be ‘remixing’ content from previous stories. So the challenge is to Copy, Transform, and Combine — this is Kirby’s language — and that fits in with what I’ve blogged about since I launched this site in 2008: That Hollywood’s philosophy in choosing what movies and TV series to make comes down to this: Similar but different. As I articulated in this 2013 post:

Sequels. Prequels. Remakes. Reboots. Why do Hollywood studios choose to go this route with such familiar material? Why not fill their development slates with bold projects full of fresh ideas and innovative stories?

That would run entirely counter to the working ethos which informs the studio system decision-making process, a business mantra that can best be summed up in this manner: What they are inclined to buy, develop, and produce are projects, including screenplays, that are similar but different.

Again the question: Why? There are many reasons. Here are the biggest two.

The increasing importance of marketing: The simple fact is after the acquisition of a project, years of rewrites, talent falling in and out, battles over budget, months of pre-production, production, post-production, none of it matters one whit unless the studios can sell the movie. And in an increasingly noisy world with consumers bombarded by advertisers on all sides, a studio’s task of getting the message out about a movie has become harder and harder.

If the movie’s concept or storyline has a familiar ring to it, so the marketing theory goes, it’s more likely to connect with consumers. And if a consumer remembers some aspect of a movie’s ad campaign, the odds increase exponentially they will be motivated to get off their fanny, drive to the local Cineplex, and actually buy a movie ticket.


So from a purely marketing standpoint, similar but different is supposed to make selling the movie easier and more effective. That’s the first reason. The other reason lies at the heart of the studios’ decision-making process regarding movie deals:

Fear of making a mistake: Studio executives are afraid to commit to projects because if a movie they’re associated with bombs, it doesn’t bode well for their careers. This is especially true with the current climate where the major Hollywood studios are all part of major corporate conglomerates which means pretty much everything boils down to profits.

Flops make bad things happen.


This should put a personal spin on why Hollywood puts out so many sequels, remakes, and film adaptations of TV shows. Even if they fail (Cats & Dogs II, The A-Team), studio execs can defend themselves because there are equally, if not more, hits based on similar but different content (Iron Man 2, The Karate Kid, Star Trek).

* Given these dual realities — Every new story is in some way a remix of old stories / Hollywood actually embraces the idea of ‘similar but different’ — the task of the creator, as Kirby lays it out in his videos, is to find the sweet spot between the Familiar on one hand and the Novel on the other.

In a nifty bit of synchronicity, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie made this precise point on Twitter yesterday:

Screenwriting tip: It’s as simple as giving them exactly what they expect in a way they’ve never seen before.

So there’s the takeaway: Give ’em what they expect, but with a fresh combination of narrative elements.

Here is the combo plate of Kirby’s first four videos in the Everything is a Remix series:

For the rest of his videos, go here.

Video: “Everybody Dies, But Not Everybody Lives”

May 22nd, 2016 by

For many people, Sunday is a time for reflection. Here is a video to do just that:

Joseph Campbell said the central theme of the Hero’s Journey is this: Follow your bliss. Discover what your rapture is and do that. This video by Prince Ea makes that point in a poetic and dramatic fashion.

Each one of us is born with an expiration date. If you are called to a creative life, make the most of each day.


For Prince Ea’s YouTube channel, go here.

Video: How Does an Editor Think and Feel?

May 15th, 2016 by

This is excellent from Tony Zhou who keeps producing terrific and informative videos. Here he delves into the craft of film editing including interviews with several notable editors, attempting to get into their minds about their process. Bottom line: They choose cuts based primarily by instinct. Check it out:

Two takeaways for writers:

* We can bring our own inner editor to work in our writing. How and when to enter and exit scenes. How and what to focus on with our scene description, each line a potential camera shot. Transitions between scenes. Lines of dialogue, what to keep, what to cut. Even choices of INT. and EXT., DAY and NIGHT, moving from scene to scene can created editorial opportunities. When you write, especially those final drafts, bring your inner editor to bear on the material.

* Watching this video reminds us – yet again! – that movies are primarily a visual medium. Obviously directors, cinematographers, and actors have much more say as to the visual nature of movie simply because they are involved in the production stage of the process, and yet writers should almost always default to thinking visual first, dialogue second. If we can convey in words what we hope the production team to accomplish in a visual moment, we stand a chance to have a greater influence on the final product as well as play to movie’s strength – visual storytelling.

HT to One Perfect Shot.

For Tony Zhou’s Vimeo channel, go here.