Movie Trailer: “The Wedding Ringer”

July 23rd, 2014 by

Written by Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender

A comedy about a loner and the friendship he forms with the guy he hires to pose as the best man at his upcoming wedding.

IMDB

Release Date: 16 January 2015 (USA)

2014 Scene-Writing Challenge: Day 17

July 23rd, 2014 by

As noted in this recent post:

In May, it was 90s movies. In June, it has been 30 Days of Screenplays. What is that but the first two of three from that essential screenwriting mantra: Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages.

Can you see where I’m going for July? That’s right: Write pages!

July is Scene-Writing Month here at Go Into The Story. Every Monday-Friday at noon Eastern / 9AM Pacific, I will upload a post with a prompt for writing a script scene. Each day, write a scene per those guidelines. If you really want to get in the spirit of things, upload your scene here in the comments section of the original post. That way you can critique others’ pages and receive feedback on your scene as well.

Why scene-writing? Think about it: If the average scene is 1 1/2 to 2 pages long and a script is 100-120 pages, then a screenwriter writes between 50-80 scenes per screenplay. Thus in a very real way, screenwriting is scene-writing. The better we get at writing scenes, it stands to reason the better we get as a screenwriter.

Plus there’s this: To provide extra motivation for this series — to get people to WRITE PAGES — I am giving away some of my Core classes to Scene-Writing Challenge participants. That’s right: For free!

The Core curriculum provides a comprehensive, coherent, character-based approach to screenwriting theory, eight 1-week online classes. I only teach them once per year. Here is the schedule:

July 7 – Core I: Plot
July 21 – Core II: Concept
August 4 – Core III: Character
September 1 – Core IV: Style
September 15 – Core V: Dialogue
October 27 – Core VI: Scene
November 10 – Core VII: Theme
December 2 – Core VIII: Time

To qualify to take one Core class for free, write and submit ten [10] Scene-Writing Challenge posts. If you complete all twenty [20] Scene-Writing Challenge exercises, you get two Core classes for free.

You can choose any of the Core classes as your free gift.

That’s what I’m prepared to do to encourage you to write pages.

[Note: If you want to take Core I or Core II, which are scheduled for this month, I will hold those course sites open into August to allow you access to all of that content.]

A couple of logistical notes:

* Limit your scenes to 2 pages. First, most scenes are 2 pages or less in length. Second, out of fairness to everyone participating in the public scene-writing workshop, let’s not abuse anyone’s patience or time with really long scenes.

* Don’t be concerned about proper script format when you copy/paste your scene, rather the content and execution are the important thing. So as a default mode, do this: (1) Don’t worry about right-hand margins on scene description or dialogue, just keep typing until it manually shifts each line. (2) Don’t worry about character name position, rather do this:

SCARLETT: Rhett, Rhett... Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?

RHETT: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Today’s prompt: A scene between a senior citizen and a child.

You can go anyway you want with this scene, but one key thing to look at is to get into the world view of each character. They will be separated by at least 6 decades. This represents a massive difference in their respective life experiences. See if you can find a hook there based on their age differences. Maybe a misunderstanding. Curiosity about each others’ life.

Finally be sure to pay attention to the way each talks. Clearly they will have a different language ‘library’ upon which to draw for their dialogue.

Write a 1-2 page scene, then copy/paste in comments.

Remember: If you are interested in qualifying for 1 or 2 free Core classes with me, please note the number of scenes you have written. If today is your first effort, note that it is Scene 1. The next one, Scene 2. If today is Scene 17, please note that. And so forth.

You are on an honor system, as I don’t have time to check every post, so do the right thing!

NOTE: If you have completed and posted 10 scenes, just email me to let me know which of the eight Core classes you’d like to take as my gift to you for your hard work!

NOTE: The Challenge ends on July 31st, meaning that is the last day I will accept scenes for credit toward free Core classes.

Finally, if you have what you think is a good suggestion for a scene-writing prompt, please post that as well.

It’s the 2014 Scene-Writing Challenge! Give a jolt to your creative and writing muscles… and win 1 or 2 free online classes with yours truly.

GOOD NEWS: To date, 11 writers have qualified for a free Core course and I have enrolled each of them. In fact, a few of them are enrolled in Core II: Concept which is running this week. How about you? 10 scenes = 1 Core course. 20 scenes = 2 Core courses.

Script To Screen: “Lost In Translation”

July 23rd, 2014 by

The ending scene from the 2003 movie Lost In Translation, written by Sofia Coppola.

Plot Summary: A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo.

Here is the scene from the script:

               INT. CAR - DAY

               In the backseat, Bob leans back on the little doily.

               The car pulls away.

               Around the corner, he looks down a crowded alley and sees 
               Charlotte's blonde hair.

                                     BOB
                         Can you pull over a second?

               The DRIVER, wearing white cloth gloves, pulls the car over 
               slowly. Bob tries to open the door, it won't open, he has 
               to wait for the automatic doors to open for him (slowly).

               EXT. TOKYO STREETS - DAY

               Bob gets out and rushes down the street to where he saw 
               Charlotte. The street is crowded with JAPANESE PEOPLE, and 
               different colored umbrellas, (it's sunny out with a light 
               rain).

               Music blasts from speakers on the street, and there is some 
               promo going on with GIRLS handing out little cologne samples. 
               Bob looks around for her, but only sees dark hair, umbrellas, 
               and super tan JAPANESE KIDS.

               In the distance an umbrella moves to reveal Charlotte.

                                     BOB
                         CHARLOTTE!

               But she can't hear him over the loudspeaker. He rushes to 
               her.

               C.U. she turns and we see she is crying.

               The music swells. He embraces her, holding her close to him 
               in the crowd.

                                     BOB
                         Why are you crying?

                                     CHARLOTTE
                              (sincere)
                         I'll miss you.

               He kisses her, hugs her good-bye.

                                     BOB
                         I know, I'm going to miss you, too.

               He holds her close.

                                                                    CUT TO:

               Charlotte watches Bob as he reaches his car, he turns and 
               looks at her.

               She smiles at him, and is lost in the crowd.

               Bob gets into his car.

                                                                    CUT TO:

               Charlotte walks with the crowd as they go on their way.

                                                                    CUT TO:

               INT. CAR - DAY

               Back in the Presidential, alone, Bob leans against the little 
               doily.  They drive off.

               He looks out the window, Bob's happy he's going home, he's 
               happy he came to Tokyo.

               Bob's P.O.V.-  Tokyo goes past his window.

                                                             FADE TO BLACK:

Here is the movie version of the scene:

There are some subtle, but important differences between the script and the movie, and I encourage you to compare the two and cite those changes. Let me focus on the biggie. Instead of this exchange:

BOB: Why are you crying?
CHARLOTTE: I’ll miss you.
BOB: I know, I’m going to miss you, too.

There is this: Bob whispering something to Charlotte. So we not only get a dialogue cut (three lines), we also have a mystery introduced into the story: What did Bob tell her?

There are all sorts of theories, many of which you can find here in this Vulture article.

As for me, I’d prefer not to know the answer. I like how Bob’s unknown comments frame the respective reactions of the characters as they leave each other. In the movie, Charlotte does seem to have a lighter mood, consonant with the line in the script “she smiles at him.” But I’m not so sure Bob’s mood in the movie reflects what is written in the script: “Bob’s happy he’s going home, he’s happy he came to Tokyo.” Check out the very ending of the scene as Bob is driven through the streets of Tokyo. Does he look “happy” to you?

One of the single best things you can do to learn the craft of screenwriting is to read the script while watching the movie. After all a screenplay is a blueprint to make a movie and it’s that magic of what happens between printed page and final print that can inform how you approach writing scenes. That is the purpose of Script to Screen, a weekly series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

Daily Dialogue — July 23, 2014

July 23rd, 2014 by

TYRELL: Well, Mr. Deckard?

Deckard is looking at Tyrell and wincing indecisively.

He doesn’t get it. Are they playing with him?

TYRELL: (continuing) Perhaps some privacy will loosen your tongue, Mr. Deckard.

He turns to Rachael

TYRELL: Would you step out for a few moments, Rachael?

Rachael exits looking a little shaken. What’s going on?

Deckard stares at Tyrell.

Tyrell meets his look.

TYRELL: I’m impressed. How many questions does it usually take to spot one?
DECKARD: I don’t get it.
TYRELL: How many questions?
DECKARD: In columns of four cross referenced, twenty or thirty.
TYRELL: It took more than a hundred for Rachael, didn’t it ?
DECKARD: She really doesn’t know?
TYRELL: She’s beginning to suspect, I think.
DECKARD: Suspect! How can she not know she is.
TYRELL: Well, we began to notice in them a strange obsession.

Tyrell is pacing now, lecturing.

TYRELL: After all, they are emotionally inexperienced with only a few years in which to store up the experiences which you and I take for granted. If we gift them with a past… we create a cushion or pillow for their emotions.. and we can control them better.
DECKARD: They want memories?
TYRELL: It’s the dark corners, the little shadowy places that makes you interesting, Deckard….. gusty emotions on a wet road on an autumn night.. the change of seasons… the sweet guilt after masturbation.
DECKARD: Jesus Christ,Tyrell!

Tyrell looks startled.

DECKARD: Where do you get them, the memories?
TYRELL: In the case of Rachael, I simply copied and regenerated cells from the brain of my sixteen-year-old niece. Rachael remembers what my little niece remembers.
DECKARD: I saw an old movie once. The guy had bolts in his head.

Deckard looks amazed while Tyrell looks pleased with himself.

Blade Runner (1982), screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples, novel by Philip K. Dick

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Robot. Today’s suggestion by Jon Raymond.

A note from Jon: “Note the script has been substantially changed. The production version is shorter, more concise, and direct to the point of the “memories” concept. In the released version, Deckard simply speaks the word “memories,” while in the script this is explained in much more detail.”

Trivia: Philip K. Dick first came up with the idea for his novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ in 1962, when researching ‘The Man in the High Castle’ which deals with the Nazis conquering the planet in the 1940s. Dick had been granted access to archived World War II Gestapo documents in the University of California at Berkley, and had come across diaries written by S.S. men stationed in Poland, which he found almost unreadable in their casual cruelty and lack of human empathy. One sentence in particular troubled him: “We are kept awake at night by the cries of starving children.” Dick was so horrified by this sentence that he reasoned there was obviously something wrong with the man who wrote it. This led him to hypothesize that Nazism in general was a defective group mind, a mind so emotionally flawed that the word human could not be applied to them; their lack of empathy was so pronounced that Dick reasoned they couldn’t be referred to as human beings, even though their outward appearance seemed to indicate that they were human. The novel sprang from this.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary by Jon: “The basis of robots in movies, for me, has always been the comparison with them to humans. What can they do that humans can’t? What can humans do that they can’t? Ultimately it always comes down to a reference to the abstract, such as to art, love or to the soul. Can a robot have a soul? Can a robot love? I find Blade Runner especially interesting. Rachel apparently isn’t aware she is a robot, she is so perfectly made. Even Deckard can’t detect her at first and he is the supposed expert. I love that she is a love interest in light of all this.”

If you have any suggestions for this week’s theme, please post in comments.

The Stories of Your Life

July 22nd, 2014 by

I’ll be honest. I have been incredibly busy for the last nine months or so. Good busy, but crazy. So one day recently, I was plugging along through my hectic daily ritual when — BOOM! A blast from the past flat out whacked me upside the head and stopped me dead in my proverbial tracks. It was this:

For whatever reason, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, which recently held its 41st annual weekend event, uploaded a bunch of videos from years past. And the selection above? That is the band Crossroads performing at the Festival in June, 1980. Members of the band: Pat Flynn (lead guitar, mandolin, vocals), Jerry Fletcher (drums, vocals), Dan Wilson (bass, mandolin, guitar, vocals), and me (rhythm guitar, bass, vocals).

That’s right. Me. The dude with the moustache and the platform sandals (?!?!?!)

My good friend Pat Flynn sent me the link out of nowhere. I watched us performing “Sarah and the Summer,” a song written by our musical compatriot Jimmy Ibbotson of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and my brain melted into a puddle of fragmented memories.

It got me thinking. Hard. How did I get from there, playing on stage at Telluride in front of several thousand music fans, to here — husband, father, screenwriter, teacher, blogger?

So I traced my life’s journey and it hit me in a powerful way: I have gone down so many paths, each one of them could have become The Story Of My Life.

Here is a list of some of those possibilities:

I could have majored in political science in college, my original intent, and gone on to become a political consultant.

I could have accepted my boss’s offer (my summer job for 4 years) to become a full-time salesman, then eventual owner of a rug and carpet business in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

I could have followed up my Masters degree at Yale with a Ph.D. and become an academic focusing on primitive Christianity (this was my primary goal from the third year of college through grad school).

I could have become a professional musician (which is what led me to take a break from academics). Indeed pretty much supported myself for 7 years playing music, averaging over 200 gigs annually.

I could have become a full-time minister in Aspen, Colorado.

I could have built on my ‘success’ as a salesman at the Guitar Center in San Francisco and become a manager at new store opening in San Jose, California, then worked my way up the corporate ladder under the tutelage of this guy.

I could have become a stand-up comedian, something I did for 2 years after my stint as a musician.

I could have followed any number of friends, girlfriends and opportunities down dozens of paths, but what I did was this.

I got married and became the father of two sons.

I became a screenwriter and worked in Los Angeles for 15 years.

I became a television producer for Trailblazer Studios for 8 years.

On a whim, I started teaching screenwriting as a hobby through UCLA Extension’s Writers Program.

On another whim, I began teaching screenwriting at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in the Writing for the Screen & Stage program.

On yet another whim, I started blogging at Go Into The Story.

Then Franklin Leonard reached out to me and this became the official screenwriting blog of the Black List.

Then Tom Benedek, the very first screenwriter I met in Los Angeles, and I launched Screenwriting Master Class.

And now I am more well-connected in Hollywood than I ever have been, plus I’ve got more work writing and consulting than I can handle.

I look back on all of this and if I consider it logically, virtually none of it makes any sense whatsoever. But in my gut, it all somehow fits together.

Through it all, there is a thread: I have always followed my creative interests.

Those aspirations took me away from several safe, secure life-paths, but they led me into and through my own tiny, but interesting dot of time on this Earth, hopefully with a few more decades left to explore whatever else lies in store.

Which brings me back to the jolt of seeing me on stage at Telluride in 1980 and my recent reflections on the past.

I realized something. As meandering and bizarre as my personal adventure has been, this is not the story of my life… these are the stories of my life.

Each a fork-in-the-road. Just like a Protagonist. Go this way. Go that. Sometimes I made good, authentic decisions. Sometimes I didn’t. But it’s all led me to this place, this time.

A wife of 29 years. Two sons. Two cats (Cassidy and the Sundance Kid).

A lifelong love affair with movies.

An endless fascination with screenwriting and storytelling.

And the community of people at Screenwriting Master Class and Go Into The Story.

So, you may ask, what happened to the other members of Crossroads?

Jerry Fletcher is still playing music with a band called Marley’s Ghost. Lives in Montana. Here is his Facebook page.

Dan Wilson is also still playing music with a band called Solimar. Lives in Oak View, California. Here is his Facebook page.

And Pat Flynn? He went on to play with perhaps the most innovative acoustic band ever: The New Grass Revival featuring Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, John Cowan and Pat. Here they are performing a version of “Middle of the Night,” a song Pat wrote, which he and I worked up in 1978 when we first started playing as a duo in Aspen as Myers & O’Flynn:

After Pat moved to Nashville, he became an in-demand studio musician, songwriter, record producer and performer. In my estimation, he is the greatest flat-picking guitarist alive today, a member of the Frets magazine Hall of Fame.

Here is Pat’s Facebook page.

Wikipedia page.

Website.

Discography

Pat has released 3 CDs, his latest “reNew” just dropped last week. You can buy Pat’s music on iTunes here. If you like Americana acoustic music, you’ll love Pat’s stuff.

As for me? I’ve moved from songwriting to screenwriting. Still have my Martin acoustic. ’62 Fender Strat. Fender P bass. And two sons who are musicians, one classical, the other a rock and roller. In fact to round out this post, tonight Luke and I are going to a rock concert: Paramore and Fall Out Boy.

I guess it’s true: The more things change, the more they stay the same…

So those are the stories of my life.

How about you? What are the stories of your life? If you feel up to it, take a few minutes to reflect on all of the paths you’ve traveled, and how they’ve led you here, this place, this time, following the contours of your creative adventure.

Life really is an amazing journey, isn’t it?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go back and watch Crossroads in performance one more time, at least to try to figure out the whole platform sandals thing.

What the hell was I thinking…

Interview [Part 2]: Jason Mark Hellerman

July 22nd, 2014 by

One script that received a lot of attention in the 2013 Black List is “Shovel Buddies” by Jason Mark Hellerman (it garnered 22 votes). I was quite struck by the story — “Over 24 hours, four teenage friends try to complete the “Shovel List” (a will/bucket list) left for them by their best friend before he died of Leukemia” — and reached out to talk with Jason about it. We ended up talking for 90 minutes, an excellent conversation covering a lot of territory. I think aspiring screenwriters will find Jason’s insights particularly relevant as we got into quite a bit of depth about his process of being outside the business to inside it.

Today in Part 2, Jason discusses how moving to Los Angeles turned out to be a smart decision and the importance of finding mentors to help steer a young writer through the Hollywood minefield:

Scott: So you move to LA. What next?

Jason:  Boston University has this great extension program. They call it Boston University in Los Angeles and, basically, what they do is they set you up with two internships and they let you ‑‑ of course, you have to pay for it ‑‑ they let you pay for this university a certain amount of money to say that you’re still in school, even though you’ve graduated, and then you can intern.

I interned for the TV show “Mad Men,” and I also interned at Scott Free, Ridley and Tony Scott’s production company.

Scott:  What did you do with that?

Jason:  I did “Mad Men”, it was great, and I learned a ton about research and just honestly the stress and the amount of work that goes in the producing an hour of television. It was really inspiring.

At Scott Free, what was great was I was interning there, learning about coverage, learning a ton about features and I became really close with the president at the time who was Michael Costigan. He was leaving to open his own production company and he was backlogged with work. I said, “Look. I can help you move some boxes, if you want.”

He was so generous. “We can use all the help we can get. If you’re free after Christmas, when we come back from the break and I’m opening my own place, maybe you could help.”

One day, I was stocking a moving van, moving some scripts. The next day, I had unloaded the boxes in his new office, and I was unpacking all of these uncovered screenplays, and he was sitting there at his desk saying, “Oh, my God. We’re going to have to read all of these.” I said, “I can write coverage. I can read them.”

He goes, “Great. Let’s do that. I can give you a month’s worth of work, and we’ll go from there.”

That month quickly became a year. I parlayed that back into his assistant lineup. I was like, “I could answer phones while I read.” Then he wound up hiring more people. I just sort of got to be the first in the door, from moving boxes, to reading scripts, to writing coverage, to answering his phones, to sitting in on development meetings. I really got the full sense of what it takes to be an assistant in Hollywood, what it takes to be a top-of-your-game producer, which is the most invaluable information I could ever have come across.

Scott:  People ask, “Do I have to move to LA in order to make it in the business?” There are some things which can’t happen unless you’re there.

Jason:  You can get a PDF anywhere. You can get on a call and talk to anybody anywhere. Case in point, this conversation. But you cannot sit next to Michael Costigan, producer of Prometheus, American Gangster and Brokeback Mountain unless you’re in L.A. One on one wisdom, whether it’s driving him to the airport and listening in on roll calls, and how he deals with things, or just watching him sit across from an A‑list writer‑director, seeing what gets them enthusiastic and parlaying that into doing a project together. Those are the tips and tricks.

It’s not even you sitting there and telling me it, it’s just something I get to view. It’s something I will always be grateful for. He kids, he’s like, “Put me in your memoir.”

It was, for me, the “kid stays in the picture” moment, just sitting with him. I’m doing these things and really understanding what Hollywood is, what the game you play is, which is be nice to everybody, but really loving only certain people.

For me, I was very, very lucky, blessed, whatever you want to call it, that Michael took me under his wing and exposed me to a plethora of different people. It has helped just knowing people Michael works with or even Zac Roth who went to BU. Roth Films is huge.

Having that connection so that later, when I have an agent, and he’s like, “Oh, I’m going to send it over there. I’m going to sweeten the deal by saying, ‘Hey, this kid went to BU just like you.’”

Also, I met Bruce Feirstein, who wrote the Bond movies in the ’90s and Tomorrow Never Dies and Golden Eye and The World is Not Enough.

He went to BU. I had a professor at BU who hooked us up via email. He’s been a great confidante and support system. A source of encouragement when the times weren’t great with “Shovel Buddies,” when I’m getting weird notes from people I’m not sure I want to sign with, he was a really great sounding board, someone who had been there professionally, who had worked at the top, who was willing to give me ten minutes, which is, sometimes, all I really needed to explain how to not get taken advantage of, what I’m owed for certain treatments and different things like that.

Scott:  You’re speaking to the importance of finding those mentors who can help steer you through some of the booby traps out there…

Jason:  If I didn’t have Michael or Bruce or all of my old professors in my life… These are people who know so much more than me, who have sat through it and then be like, “Here is a mistake I made. Don’t make this one.” They taught me invaluable lessons about humility but also how to deal with all sorts of personalities, then also going the extra mile to expose me to all sorts of personalities, so I know what it’s actually like. Again, those are things you cannot get outside of the industry.

Scott:  So at this point, working for Michael, you’re writing scripts?

Jason:  Yeah, I’m getting up very early in the morning and staying up very late at night. My Saturdays and Sundays are just kissed goodbye. I sit in a coffee shop, and I write and write and write. I was in one writing group, but then I’d wind up having to stay late at work, so I had to drop out of that one. I started another one, then I started bouncing ideas off random people.

Michael would give me 10 minutes on Fridays to pitch him loglines. He would say, “Nope, bad, bad, bad, nope, that’s good, try that.” Just utilizing the time I had. I knew coming out here I wanted to be a writer. That’s true for a lot of people. They come out here wanting to do one thing, then maybe find out they love development.

I work closely with a friend right now, who came out here thinking he wanted to write sitcoms, but he’s so obsessed with development. He’s like, “This is so much more fun to me.” For me, it was always writing. I knew that if I stopped for a little while, that I would never start again.

Tomorrow in Part 3, Jason recounts what inspired him to write “Shovel Buddies”.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Jason is repped by CAA and Management 360.

Twitter: @JasonHellerman.

Interview [Video]: Diablo Cody

July 22nd, 2014 by

One might not normally expect an Academy Award winning screenwriter to be interviewed by Glamour magazine, but here is a 6-minute sit-down with Diablo Cody, writer of such movies as Juno and Young Adult, both terrific films:

One of the more interesting developments I’ve noticed in the 27 years I’ve been in this business is how the craft of screenwriting and the people who practice it are getting more publicity than ever before. It’s still not equivalent to that of directors and actors, but it’s getting incrementally better. And if non-trade magazines like Glamour are catching on that someone actually writes movies, perhaps we are reaching a cultural tipping point.

HT to Amanda Pendolino (@amandapendo) for the link.

Has “Snowpiercer” shifted the VOD / theatrical model for indie films?

July 22nd, 2014 by

If you are interesting in the business of movies, especially in emerging trends, this is a must-read from Indiewire by Anne Thompson and Tom Brueggemann because it suggests we are witnessing a paradigm shift happening before our very eyes that could have enormous implications in the indie film world.

Thirty years in, Harvey Weinstein knows the distribution business. While he’s a wily theatrical animal who knows when to spend big on a wide release and when to dump a movie, he took a radical route with Bong Joon-ho’s action adventure “Snowpiercer,” starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, seizing the chance to try something new. Weinstein’s decision to open an action picture with major movie stars via autonomous subsidiary RADiUS with a video-on-demand release two weeks after its theatrical opening is rippling through the film community.

As the Hollywood studios struggle with a depressed summer box office, losing the fickle young male demo and locked into a standoff with theater chains on release windows, they’re watching the independents experiment with video-on-demand release models. “Snowpiercer” marks a tipping point in the movie industry’s shift from analog to digital. Why? It marks the most commercial movie to ever open in theaters and quickly go to VOD.

According to Weinstein, following two weeks in theaters, “Snowpiercer”‘s first week on VOD earned $2 million, a company record.

—-

Recognizing the shifts in the market, Weinstein banked on the VOD future three years ago by starting an autonomous division at The Weinstein Co., RADiUS, headed by two presidents, Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, who had pioneered theatrical/VOD releasing at Magnolia under president Eamonn Bowles. Believing passionately that there’s a bigger audience to be found on VOD, the duo have been experimenting with different models for multi-platform releases, from premium video-on-demand, which makes a film available at a high premium price-point ahead of theatrical, to theatrical with a much shorter VOD window.

The traditional model is at least a 90 day window between theatrical and VOD release. From an exhibitor’s perspective, this makes sense because it gives theaters an exclusivity period which “incentivizes” people to get out of their homes and into the local bijou. That model still stands for major studio releases, but things are changing rapidly in the indie world.

The Indiewire article goes into great length about how Weinstein determined not to go the traditional wide theatrical release route for Snowpiercer [bottom line, he didn't think the movie was mainstream enough to warrant those P&A costs], but rather opted to do two weeks in limited theaters, then to VOD — to generate revenue and build buzz — and then to increased theatrical exposure.

What’s really informative about the article is this:

Here’s TOH box office analyst Tom Brueggemann’s financial projected breakdown based on a 2500-screen theatrical release reaching a projected $50 million, based on sources inside and outside TWC and RADiUS.

The theatrical breakdown:

  • Marketing expense of $25 million
  • Film rental (45%) of $22.5 million
  • Weinstein has an ongoing deal with Netflix (RADiUS as an autonomous company owned by Weinstein doesn’t fall under this). Sources familiar with gross-based Netflix deals suggest that the payout to TWC could have been around $10 million.
  • Blu-Ray/DVD would have grossed around $6 million (split revenue, with around $3 million net to TWC).
  • Cable, depreciated somewhat by Netflix exposure, perhaps $6 million more.

Using those figures (again, all of this comes from discussions with multiple players who have worked on specialized films that have grossed in this range, but these could vary widely) show that at $50 million gross TWC would end up netting around $18 million after marketing is deducted when all initial platform revenues came in.

The VOD breakdown: VOD earnings are harder to calculate and project, but here’s a stab after discussing details with multiple industry sources:

  • The first week’s reported total earnings on VOD and iTunes was $2 million, ranking #1 on the latter. Industry estimates on the distributor return — RADiUS would not confirm any specific deals — ranges from 60 to 80%, much more than theatrical.
  • Theatrical gross is up to $3.5 million, with $5 million or higher possible. That would mean film rental of between $2-2.5 million. Marketing of about $5 million is a fraction of what TWC’s would have been (increasing VOD sales), but likely could equal the film’s theater gross.
  • Radius cites 85 million potential customers (multiple people can view the same purchase). 1-2% of these potential buyers actually purchasing the film — a high number for a first-run or shortly thereafter VOD title — would mean somewhere between 850,000 and 1.7 million buyers.
  •  Cable VOD and iTunes costs vary — different cable markets have different price points (it’s $6.99 on Time-Warner LA right now — this often decreases in later weeks). ITunes started at $14.99 to buy the film. Let’s estimate that between the two, the average price ultimately will be $9.
  • A 2% customer purchase level would mean, at a $9 average price, $15.3 million in revenue. RADiUS’ share estimated at 65% would be about $10 million. Based on the first weekend of $2 million in purchases, this could be a high, but again, the holds for VOD are much better than for theaters.
  •  Blu-Ray/DVD and cable would still bring in revenue, but with the lower theatrical gross and the early VOD, at a lower level than with a pure theatrical release. Figure an additional $5 million return to RADiUS.

By this model, RADiUS gets an after-marketing initial return of $13 million including theatrical gross and subtracting marketing. Again, this is calculating at the high end of possible performance from this multi-platform pattern. The theatrical-driven alternative model was calculated at a slightly less optimistic ($50 million) estimate and again looks like it might have shown a profit of $18 million.

In context though, and as a test of an unproven model, this is more than a respectable showing. It’s a strong enough result to suggest RADiUS and others will continue to experiment with this.

As a writer, I have a choice: Learn about all this business stuff or not. Personally, I prefer knowledge to ignorance on these matters, although I certainly respect writers who find the more they know, the less creative they are. That said, if you’re ever in an admittedly rare situation where you write an indie feature that is so low-budget and does really well at the box office, you could actually see net profit returns, it’s wise to know the lay of the land how the revenue streams break down on the VOD side of things — hence the value of this breakdown above.

Meanwhile as a consumer, I am thrilled about this approach to VOD. On a personal level, it meant I was able to see Snowpiercer weeks before it opened at a local theater. Granted it’s a movie I will have to see again on a big screen (which I will gladly do) because of the mind-blowing visuals, but knowing I can watch movies the same day or close to when they are released in NY and LA is a major plus. In addition, as a fan of indie films, the more VOD penetrates into the consciousness of consumers living outside major urban areas, I have to think that will grow the overall revenue stream for this market segment which in turn will mean more product for us fans.

Finally, another plug for Snowpiercer. It’s an amazing accomplishment with a story that works on all levels: emotional, intellectual and visceral.

For the rest of the Indiewire article, go here.

UPDATE: Here is a featurette on Snowpiercer:

See Snowpiercer!

Movie Trailer: “The Judge”

July 22nd, 2014 by

Screenplay by Bill Dubuque, Nick Schenk

Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

IMDB

Release Date: 10 October 2014 (USA)

2014 Scene-Writing Challenge: Day 16

July 22nd, 2014 by

As noted in this recent post:

In May, it was 90s movies. In June, it has been 30 Days of Screenplays. What is that but the first two of three from that essential screenwriting mantra: Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages.

Can you see where I’m going for July? That’s right: Write pages!

July is Scene-Writing Month here at Go Into The Story. Every Monday-Friday at noon Eastern / 9AM Pacific, I will upload a post with a prompt for writing a script scene. Each day, write a scene per those guidelines. If you really want to get in the spirit of things, upload your scene here in the comments section of the original post. That way you can critique others’ pages and receive feedback on your scene as well.

Why scene-writing? Think about it: If the average scene is 1 1/2 to 2 pages long and a script is 100-120 pages, then a screenwriter writes between 50-80 scenes per screenplay. Thus in a very real way, screenwriting is scene-writing. The better we get at writing scenes, it stands to reason the better we get as a screenwriter.

Plus there’s this: To provide extra motivation for this series — to get people to WRITE PAGES — I am giving away some of my Core classes to Scene-Writing Challenge participants. That’s right: For free!

The Core curriculum provides a comprehensive, coherent, character-based approach to screenwriting theory, eight 1-week online classes. I only teach them once per year. Here is the schedule:

July 7 – Core I: Plot
July 21 – Core II: Concept
August 4 – Core III: Character
September 1 – Core IV: Style
September 15 – Core V: Dialogue
October 27 – Core VI: Scene
November 10 – Core VII: Theme
December 2 – Core VIII: Time

To qualify to take one Core class for free, write and submit ten [10] Scene-Writing Challenge posts. If you complete all twenty [20] Scene-Writing Challenge exercises, you get two Core classes for free.

You can choose any of the Core classes as your free gift.

That’s what I’m prepared to do to encourage you to write pages.

[Note: If you want to take Core I or Core II, which are scheduled for this month, I will hold those course sites open into August to allow you access to all of that content.]

A couple of logistical notes:

* Limit your scenes to 2 pages. First, most scenes are 2 pages or less in length. Second, out of fairness to everyone participating in the public scene-writing workshop, let’s not abuse anyone’s patience or time with really long scenes.

* Don’t be concerned about proper script format when you copy/paste your scene, rather the content and execution are the important thing. So as a default mode, do this: (1) Don’t worry about right-hand margins on scene description or dialogue, just keep typing until it manually shifts each line. (2) Don’t worry about character name position, rather do this:

SCARLETT: Rhett, Rhett... Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?

RHETT: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Today’s prompt: A scene where no words are spoken… but something important gets communicated.

Yes, I know: Another exercise in visual storytelling. I do it out of love, friends. By now, you’ve seen me say this a dozen or more times: Movies are primarily a visual medium. But there’s more to it than the experience of the movie viewer.

Think about the actors. They are not called talkers. No, they are actors. They act. So the more you can create moments and scenes where the characters convey things of importance through their physical actions, the more you give actors a chance to use their biggest visual tool — their bodies — to communicate with.

For this exercise, a unique challenge: You not only have to convey something significant through action, but also set up the scenario so that we understand what’s going on so what’s being communicated makes sense.

And no, you cannot have characters writing dialogue back and forth on a pad of paper or typing on a computer, etc. Your characters must communicate through their physical actions.

Write a 1-2 page scene, then copy/paste in comments.

Remember: If you are interested in qualifying for 1 or 2 free Core classes with me, please note the number of scenes you have written. If today is your first effort, note that it is Scene 1. The next one, Scene 2. If today is Scene 15, please note that. And so forth.

You are on an honor system, as I don’t have time to check every post, so do the right thing!

NOTE: If you have completed and posted 10 scenes, just email me to let me know which of the eight Core classes you’d like to take as my gift to you for your hard work!

NOTE: The Challenge ends on July 31st, meaning that is the last day I will accept scenes for credit toward free Core classes.

Finally, if you have what you think is a good suggestion for a scene-writing prompt, please post that as well.

It’s the 2014 Scene-Writing Challenge! Give a jolt to your creative and writing muscles… and win 1 or 2 free online classes with yours truly.

GOOD NEWS: To date, 9 writers have qualified for a free Core course and I have enrolled each of them. In fact, a few of them are enrolled in Core II: Concept which starts today. How about you? 10 scenes = 1 Core course. 20 scenes = 2 Core courses.