Austin Film Festival: Do you have questions for John August, Richard Kelly and Jim Uhls?

October 20th, 2014 by

The Austin Film Festival and Conference begins later this week and I’ll be there as part of the Black List team speaking at three events and moderating three others. For those of you who will not be attending the Festival, I want to give you a virtual opportunity to participate with the possibility I will select some of your questions to ask panelists during my moderating sessions.

Austin Film Festival

The Sanity Spectrum: Friday, October 24, 10:45AM-12:00PM
St. David’s Episcopal Church, Bethel Hall

The protagonist is often the audience’s guide through a narrative, the anchor for all the twists and turns a story reveals. So what happens when that character is not what he or she seems, and when the very core of the film’s veracity is called into question? Screenwriters who have crafted characters that range from psychotic to psychopathic will discuss the difference between the two, as well as their own mental decisions when crafting such complex characters. Join the brains behind Fight Club, Big Fish, and Donnie Darko for an inside look at exploring distorted realities and the sanity spectrum in screenplays. We promise they’ll tell the truth.

If you have any questions for John August (Big Fish), Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), and Jim Uhls (Fight Club), please post them in comments. Make sure they have some relevance to the subject of the session as detailed in the paragraph above and I will consider including the best questions for the discussion.

You may follow these screenwriters on Twitter:

John August: @JohnAugust
Richard Kelly: @JRichardKelly
Jim Uhls: @wohojak

For those of you who will be at this year’s AFF, be sure to look me up. Also we will have a very casual Go Into The Story / Screenwriting Master Class meet-up in the Driskill Hotel bar area on Sunday, October 26 beginning at 4:30PM. Spread the word and see you there!

Video: “The Wire” cast reunion

October 20th, 2014 by

Via Slate:

On Thursday night, as part of the Paley Center for Media’s PaleyFest 2014, the cast of  The Wire reunited for an hour-long panel discussion, which you can watch in full above. Though not everyone could attend—Dominic West and Idris Elba chimed in via video messages—the panel included the show’s co-creator David Simon and executive producer Nina Kostroff Noble as well as cast members Michael K. Williams (Omar), Wendell Pierce (Bunk), Sonja Sohn (Kima), Seth Gilliam (Carver), Jim True-Frost (Prezbo), John Doman (Rawls), Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. (D’Angelo), and Jamie Hector (Marlo). More cast members—Tristan Wilds, J.D. Williams, Bob Wisdom, and Michelle Paress—were seated in the audience.

Here is video of the event:

Just makes me miss “The Wire” even more.

Slate article here.

Movie Trailer: “The Humbling”

October 20th, 2014 by

Screenplay by Buck Henry, Michal Zebede, novel by Philip Roth

An aged and addled actor has his world turned upside down after he embarks upon an affair with a lesbian, in this acidulous adaptation of the Philip Roth novel.

IMDB

Release Date: 23 January 2015 (USA)

Great Scene: “Life of Brian”

October 20th, 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 1979 movie Life of Brian, written by Graham Chapman & John Cleese & Terry Gilliam & Eric Idle & Terry Jones & Michael Palin. IMDB plot summary:

Brian is born on the original Christmas, in the stable next door. He spends his life being mistaken for a messiah.

Brian (Graham Chapman) attempts to escape a crowd of devotees who believe that he is the Messiah.

Given my background in theological studies and my adoration of the Monty Python troupe, I found Life of Brian to be both provocative and extremely funny. This scene encapsulates just about every theme and dynamic in the movie: mistaken identity, Brian denying his divinity, believers so desperate for hope their ‘faith’ trumps all logic, along with lots of inanity. The debate between Brian and the crowed reaches a peak with this exchange:

Brian: I’m not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!
Girl: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.
Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!
Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!
Brian: Now, fuck off!

[silence]

Arthur: How shall we fuck off, O Lord?

The use of the F-word is the ultimate expression of Brian’s frustration. It’s also quite a shock to think that a Messiah would use such foul language. All that is funny enough. But then the topper: The believers are so cocksure they have found a Savior, they are willing to embrace the profanity as part of a possible path to follow Brian.

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!

On Writing

October 20th, 2014 by

“If there is no possibility for change in a character, we have no interest in him.”

– Flannery O’Connor

Via @AdviceToWriters

Daily Dialogue — October 20, 2014

October 20th, 2014 by

Doc Holliday: What did you ever want?
Wyatt Earp: Just to live a normal life.
Doc Holliday: There’s no normal life, Wyatt, it’s just life. Get on with it.
Wyatt Earp: Don’t know how.
Doc Holliday: Sure you do. Say goodbye to me. Go grab that spirited actress and make her your own. Take that beauty from it, don’t look back. Live every second. Live right on to the end. Live Wyatt. Live for me. Wyatt, if you were ever my friend – if ya ever had even the slightest of feelin’ for me, leave now. Leave now… Please.
Wyatt Earp: Thanks for always being there, Doc.

Tombstone (1993), written Kevin Jarre

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Dying Words. Today’s suggestion by Kalen.

Trivia: Doc Holiday’s last words “I’ll be damned” were uttered when he realized he had bare feet. Doc swore he would “die with his boots on”.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Admonishing the living to live well is a common theme for characters who die on screen. There is a kind of nobility to this sentiment.

Go Into The Story Week In Review: October 13-October 19, 2014

October 19th, 2014 by

Links to the week’s most notable posts:

9 Interviews with Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship Winners

Black List Live! presents Brian Duffield’s “Your Bridesmaid Is a Bitch”

Daily Dialogue Theme for Next Week: Dying Words

Declare Your Independents: Volume 34

GITS Interview: Damien Chazzelle (Whiplash)

Great Character: Rosemary Woodhouse (Rosemary’s Baby)

Great Scene: Apocalypse Now

Great Scene: As Good As It Gets

Great Scene: Back to the Future

Great Scene: Cast Away

Great Scene: Full Metal Jacket

Great Scene: On the Waterfront

Great Scene: Schindler’s List

Interview: Frank DeJohn & David Alton Hedges (2013 Nicholl winners)

Interview: Stephanie Shannon (2013 Nicholl Winner, 2013 Black List)

Interview: Barbara Stepansky (2013 Nicholl Winner, 2013 Black List)

Interview: Michael Werwie (2012 Nicholl Winner, 2012 Black List)

Interview (Video): David Ayer

On Writing: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Ron Meyer on Hollywood ‘Assholes,’ CAA ‘Monsters’ and Advice for the Next Generation

Saturday Hot Links

Scene-By-Scene Breakdown Challenge in November

Screenwriting 101: Ashleigh Powell

Screenwriting as Problem-Solving

Screenwriting News (October 7-13, 2014)

Script To Screen: Blue Velvet

Spec Script Sale: “Low Tide”

Spec Script Sale: “The Feud”

The ‘shortening’ of movies

THR: TV Agents Roundtable

Word Cloud Logline Challenge Winners!

Writing and the Creative Life: Seeing… Hearing…

Video: “The Silence of the Lambs” – Who wins the scene

October 19th, 2014 by

Deft analysis by Tony Zhou of a key scene from The Silence of the Lambs.

The positioning of the camera is interesting, but that’s something over which screenwriters have little control. Sure, we can write “Clarice sits down” which can create an image in the mind of the reader that Lecter is standing above Starling. But our job isn’t to direct the camera so much as it is to direct the psychological interplay between characters. Obviously we can do that through dialogue, which character assumes a power position through attitude, information, revelations, etc. But we can also convey it through scene description.

Here are some actual description lines of this scene from Ted Tally’s shooting script:

Clarice stops, at a polite distance from his bars, clears 
her throat.

She complies each time, trying to hide her fear.

A tense beat, then a smile from him, at this small boldness.

He rises, glances at it, turning a page or two disdainfully.

Suddenly he whips the tray back at her, with a metallic CLANG 
that makes her start. His voice remains a pleasant purr.

His every word has struck her like a tiny, precise dart. But
she squares her jaw and won't give ground.

He steps backwards, then returns to his cot, becoming as still 
and remote as a statue.

Notice the combination of action and emotion in these excerpts. The scene is most definitely a battle to see who will win it and the description helps to convey that.

Check out Tony Zhou’s Vimeo site for more excellent videosl

Screenwriting News (October 13-October 19, 2014)

October 19th, 2014 by

Matthew Altman and David Matalon sells spec script “The Feud” to Vandal Entertainment.

Andrew Barrer and Gabe Ferrari sell thriller spec script “Low Tide” to Twentieth Century Fox.

Jeffrey Hatcher writing World War I drama “Megiddo” for Warner Bros. Pictures.

Rob McElhenney sells family action adventure pitch “Figment” to Legendary Pictures.

Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales writing remake of thriller Vengeance for Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Nicole Perlman writing new comic book series “Gamora” for Marvel Studios.

Mike White adapting novel “Love May Fail” for Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Great Scene: “Back to the Future”

October 19th, 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 1985 movie Back to the Future, written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, Jr. IMDB plot summary:

A young man is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his friend, Dr. Emmett Brown, and must make sure his high-school-age parents unite in order to save his own existence.

Discovering himself to have traveled back in time to 1955, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) stops into a diner for something to drink.

Background:

* The inspiration for the film largely stems from Bob Gale discovering his father’s high school yearbook and wondering whether he would have been friends with his father as a teenager. Gale also said that if he had the chance to go back in time he would really go back and see if they would have been friends.

* In the original script, Doc Brown and Marty sell bootleg videos in order to fund the time machine.

* In the first scene at the diner, Marty asks for a Pepsi Free. This refers to a brand of Pepsi that was the company’s first caffeine free cola. Ironically, in the same scene, Marty asks for a Tab, which was actually a diet cola brand produced by Pepsi’s rival Coca-Cola.

* The script was rejected 40 times before it was finally green-lit.

There a number of great scenes in Back to the Future, but this one stands out because of the way it handles several subplots:

* Marty and George (Crispin Glover): This is where Marty is ‘introduced’ to his father.

* Marty and Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson): This is where Marty first ‘meets’ his uncle Biff.

* George and Biff: We see how the bullying dynamic between the pair as evidenced in 1985 has its roots in 1955.

* Goldie Wilson (Donald Fullilove): When Marty blurts out, “You’re going to be mayor,” that sets into motion this character’s eventual election to city-wide office. This also sets into motion the dynamic that what Marty says and does in 1955 will have an impact on the future.

It’s a testament to the writers that they managed to handle all of these subplots intersecting in this one scene and do so seamlessly. It is a skill manifest in multiple scenes as Back to the Future is perhaps the single best example of how to use subplots to great effect.

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!