Monday, January 31, 2011

The Two Grits

First, I have completed 32 pages of the screenplay for Ghostkeeper 2, by the end of this week I hope to have at least 70 pages done. I tend to write fast, usually about 5-7 pages a day, sometimes as much as 10 pages.

And you'll find that most pro writers all have different habits and page counts, some labor for 2 pages a day, others can do 10 pages. Neither is better or worse than the other.

But for Monday morning, before I start the screenplay I thought I'd share my thoughts on one of the Academy Award nominees, a film that actually was nominated 32 years ago.

Of course I'm talking about True Grit.

Which one is better?

Well, after watching the original version with John Wayne, I have come to the conclusion that they both are good movies. While they are based on the same novel, there are however, differences that show how different and yet how they are same the movies.

John Wayne's movie was released in 1969, with the iconic actor winning his only Oscar. Personally I felt Wayne, an actor more of personality than talent, did a far superior job of acting in two 1950's movies, my favorite film of all time The Searchers and Red River with Montgomery Clift. In each, he portrayed a bitter man coping with his demons and racism.

But it was Wayne's time and the award was basically an acknowledgment of his career. It was also the only film where he cursed "you son-of-a-bitch", which in 1969 was a ground-breaking piece of dialog for Wayne.

Jeff Bridges gave an okay performance, but he seemed to be walking through it and sometimes it was hard to understand his grumping dialog. But he was the only actor around now who could possibly match John Wayne.

The young girl Mattie, was played in 1969 by newcomer Kim Darby, who actually was 21 years old land had just had a baby and a divorce. Compare that to Hailee Steinfeld in the 2010 version who was only 13 years old and an amazing talent. She carries the movie with incredible confidence.  Yet Darby was very good in the 1969 version, unfortunately the movies she did afterwards were not really as good as she was. Today she teaches acting. What lies in wait for young Hailee remains to be seen.

The Texas Ranger, played by Matt Damon in the 2010 version was a part played by Glen Campbell, a singer who once played with the Beach Boys and became famous for his version of "By The Time I Get to Phoenix".

Damon is a better actor and Campbell himself admits he wasn't much of an actor. Campbell also is one of many celebrities who has a police mug shot of himself that you can find on the internet. Damon seems to have a long career in front of him.

Another interesting difference is that the films are shot and edited differently. TG 1969 was directed by Henry Hathaway, and done in the old studio way, with lots of lighting and wide shots and very few close-ups. (Incidentally close-ups were never done in movies up to the late 60's, they were primarily used for television).

The Coen's version has more natural lighting, darkness where darkness should be and many shades of contrast everywhere else. Today's movies allow shadows, which you rarely saw in big studio movies in the 1960's.

Their version also has nuances and ambiguity, which was rarely done in the 1960's and before, except for John Ford, who filled his movies with ambiguous characters and their pasts.

And we can't forget the bad guys.

The Coens used name actors Barry Pepper and Josh Brolin as the two main outlaws. Hathaway in 1969 used one of the best actors of his generation,  Robert Duval and Dennis Hopper and a wonderful character actor named Strother Martin. You might remember him from a line he said that became famous... "what we got here is a failure to communicate", from Cool Hank Luke, with Paul Newman.

So which one is better?  

Maybe the Coen's version is a little better as they followed the book a lot more closer. And their west was a little less romantic than Wayne's. Also Wayne's version was tailored more to Wayne than the story and it was Wayne's movie, not the girl's.

I never saw the 1969 version when it came out as I was busy protesting the war in Detroit and Chicago and John Wayne's right wing conservatism was contradictory to my politics, especially after working for Bobby Kennedy's campaign in Indianapolis the previous summer.

Wayne's last movie, The Shootist, 1976, was a tribute to his many westerns and his last. In the movie, he plays an old gunfighter who has cancer, a battle that Wayne himself would face and eventually lose.

(Thurs: Ghostkeeper progress)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

And the award goes to...

I'm now about 20 pages into the Ghostkeeper sequel screenplay and am going through all the usual things; like it's really good for an hour,  then it's awful and I don't know how to write, followed by "it's not too bad", and so on and so on. 

So I thought I'd post a quick review of the films nominated for the Academy Awards. One thing continually bugs me about the way the media handles the awards. They usually only mention the actors and the movies. Sometimes they'll include directors but nobody ever mentions the writers.  They'll be buried somewhere on page 5 of the LA Times while the actors faces grace the first page.

After all, who's more important, the actors or the writers? I know people who think the actors make up all the words they speak, you don't have any idea how many times I'm asked "exactly what does a writer do?"

But that's another subject and who likes whiners.

What's interesting about this year is that it could be a landmark year for anyone under 40. Or it could remain like it's always been.

It seems that 3 movies are the leaders, The King's Speech, True Grit and Social Network. Social Network is the favorite in Las Vegas but not a sure thing.

What's interesting about Social Network is that it's essentially a movie for 20-somethings. I saw it and didn't mind it,although I thought of it as an HBO movie. But I noticed I felt sorry for the guy who started Facebook. But that was a bit of manipulation by Arron Sorkin, the writer who flat out stated that when he wrote it he had Citizen Kane in mind. I was there when he said it.

What does that mean? Well, if you remember Citizen Kane it came to the fact that even though he was ruthless and uncaring, when he died, he remembered the sled he had as a child. The point being that he wasn't happy with his riches and success. That made the rest of us feel better, you won't necessarily be happy if you have all the money in the world. It's an equalizer.

What Sorkin did was inventing the thing about Mark Zuckerberg losing a girl at the beginning of the movie. And the last scene has him being rebuffed by another girl as he watches her walk away.

We feel sorry for him now, don't we? Or at least we can think he doesn't have everything in life.

But what's more important in the race for the Oscar is this; it's a contest between hope, inspiration and loyalty and greed and betrayal

True Grit for example, is about loyalty and hope, and the King's Speech is the same thing. It's about the good that comes from people. It's positive.

Social Network, on the other hand is about betrayal and greed, sort of a Y-Generation version of Wall Street, the movie.

The average Academy member is above 40 and so this is where the contest begins to be interesting. Will the older members vote for loyalty and hope or will they vote for greed.

And more important, is this saying that greed and betrayal are the standards and values for anyone under 40. 

Blame Arron Sorkin, he made Mark Zuckerberg likeable. Ironically Zuckerberg did get the girl in real life. But that ending wouldn't have been as good.

(Monday: GKPR 2)

Monday, January 24, 2011

What you need to write

Sometime today I will begin to write the sequel to Ghostkeeper. My writing schedule has always been morning. And I usually write for no more than two hours. Today though, I have to write the blog first, which usually is around 8 am and takes me around 30 minutes or so.

There is a danger in writing so early, at least for me. You see, I like to be fresh, nothing should stand in the way of my writing. I don't want to listen to music, I don't have a coffee on my desk and I don't want phone calls.

What happens if the phone rings? Or if coffee is reachable?

Then I will find an excuse not to write for a few minutes. 

There are at least 300 books on screenwriting and most of them have their own theories as to how to write the great script. Yet, last Friday I listened to Ben Affleck at a screening talking about  how he co-wrote The Town and how hard it was to find a great script. I am not Ben's greatest fan, but that's another story.

The obvious question here is that, with all the screenwriters in the world running to Los Angeles and with 10,000 WGA writers already here... why aren't there a lot of good screenplays then?

A friend of mine and I have a theory, we realized that between us, we've probably seen every kind of genre, every twist, every surprise ending and every type of character there ever was. So what's left?

For a start, it helps to have lived a curious life, meaning that it helps if you are curious. About everything. Some of the best characters and dialog I've ever written was basically borrowed from watching real people living real life. 

And life experience is essential if you want to write, or act or direct.

For example, take Tom Selleck and Mark Harmon. As younger actors, they were considered "pretty boys", handsome in that Sears catalog kind of way but with little talent. But I watched a bit of their respective TV shows recently, NCIS and Blue Blood and I noticed something curious...

Whenever either of them were not in the scene, the scene felt empty. I've long said that the supporting casts of the procedural TV shows like CSI and NCIS are so bland that they could change shows and nobody would know the difference.

But Selleck and Harmon stood out. And I began to realize why.

They were older. Their faces had wrinkles. And they were relaxed and enjoying themselves because they had the comfort of confidence as well as years of experience and the access to options that they didn't have when they were younger.

They were easy to watch and comforting to an audience, and that's what made them interesting to watch.

The same thing goes for writing, the more you have lived, the more you have to write about. There are exceptions of course, but those are the talented ones. I've told you before that I'm not particularly talented, but I am stubborn has hell. It took me a long time to learn how to write good, maybe 6 years of writing bad scripts.

I'm still not good on story, my characters are colorful and believable and my dialog is pretty damn good. But stories are not the easiest thing for me. If they were I would have sold the 34 specs I currently still own.

Why haven't they sold? Well, because so far nobody likes them enough. Does that mean I'm a bad writer? No, it means that nobody's come along who likes them.

It's kind of like decorating your home; some friends will like it, some will be ambivolent and some will dislike it.

And like Tom and Mark, I am comfortable in my abilities. I'm never sure if anyone will like my screenplays, but like those two guys, I don't really care. With having written and/or rewritten 18 produced movies and having worked on at least 30 unproduced movies I know that I have accomplished my initial goal.

To be a working writer in Hollywood.

Now, I am forcing myself like crazy to end the blog and start writing. Maybe I should have a coffee first though? 

(Thurs: Progress?)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Writing and Software wars

So it's begun, I have started writing Ghostkeeper 2. Well, sort of writing; I'm doing what is called a beat sheet, which means establishing the beats to the story. In simpler terms, it's a version of index cards which have been used in the film business probably since silent movie days.

Of course today we have the software version of index cards, software that even asks you questions. There are several out there, but my favorite is Power Structure, which I've been using for at least 10 years, maybe even more.  It was created by the people who created ScripThing, the first real screenwriting software that went beyond a Word stylesheet called Scriptor, first used in the mid 1980's.

*A note here;  There often occurs a debate as to which software is better. In my mind there are only two standards, Screenwriter and Final Draft. Yes there are others, some even free, but those two are the standards, like it or not. Does this mean your screenplay won't sell if it's not one of the two? Of course not, you can write your script on stone tablets if you want, just as long as someone can read it.

I used Screenwriter as it originally was ScripThing but I also keep a copy of Final Draft just in case someone wants me to rewrite a screenplay in that format. I don't particularly like FD as I feel it's just a Microsoft Word template. And Screenwriter software support is free while FD charges. But also because of the politics of The Writer's Store who always suggest that FD is "the professional's choice".

This feud goes back years, the Writer's Store never really liked ScripThing because it had a sense of humor in it's program. There was a cute little monster icon and I remember that if you left ScripThing for ten minutes or so and came back, an icon would pop up and say "I've been looking at your screenplay and I think you need more character development". It's a joke, of course but apparently some writers and the store didn't think professional writers should have funny software.

However I did, and so did others. When I taught UCLA screenwriting I always suggested Screenwriter because I thought it was easier to use and more intuitive towards screenwriting. But in at least 2 examples, the Writer's Store told my students that they really should have FD as it was "the professional's choice".

So I called Jesse at Writer's Store and told him that it wasn't fair to do that, being that his people had promised not to change buyer's minds anymore, something I was told by Screenwriter staffers, suggesting that the Writer's Store did it more than I even knew. In the end, the Writer's Store exchanged FD for the students who preferred Screenwriter.

Both softwares are used by professionals, some writers still use typewriters, others use a writing pad and pencil and ultimately it doesn't matter what you use, as long as the screenplay is good. But that's another blog.

Back to Power Structure; what it does is help me figure out the beats to the screenplay, as in simple sentences like: 

"Riva arrives at the hotel"

 "Murray sees a stranger"

"A dark figure watches them"

"Evening around the camp fire". 

I do maybe 30-40 of these "beats" and then go back and expand them into more, sort of like this:

"Riva arrives at the hotel-- finds it empty -- cell phone doesn't work -- notices figure in hallway that walks away - her room has been rummaged." 

Slowly and carefully I keep adding to the beats, sometimes deleting a beat or phrase, sometimes adding a whole paragraph.

Remember that thing I said about the software asking questions? It does that too, it will ask me what the backstory is for any particular character, or what is the purpose of that character, what is their greatest success or greatest failure. And it asks questions about the story; what has to happen in this act, how is the story moved forward, what's the ticking clock, and much more.  Like my own development executive but cheaper.

It sounds strange, but by filling in the pieces of character by answering those questions, you get a more detailed person. You can even chart the conflicts between characters, I never really got that part of the software, but it's handy to have around.

And as always, is this software essential? Of course not, neither is a computer for that matter. But it sure helps me. And I am a professional. At least sometimes.

So today and Friday I will continue expanding my beat sheet, filling in details and answering questions until it's ready to go to screenplay. With this my job is at least 50% over, the second 50% is the fun part where the characters come to life.

(Mon: Start)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Moving along with the Ghostkeeper

After a week of indecision, apprehension and just not wanting to write, I finally settled on what has to be done first.

And that's Ghostkeeper, which, if you read the last blog is almost as sure as a sure thing can be. At the very least, Ghostkeeper 1980 will be re-released by late summer, maybe in time for the Deer Lodge hotel reunion which the hotel managed told me about, wherein every living employee who ever worked there were expected  to attend. 

And my cast, crew and myself were also invited.

If it seems odd to attend a reunion where I made a horror film, remember, I didn't ask, they offered. And truthfully, Ghostkeeper is more cerebral than gory.

So today, Monday, I officially started the Ghostkeeper project which includes the following:

1. Sign and mail the distribution contract for Gkpr 1.

2. Notify the British horror magazine writers who wrote great reviews of Gkpr 1 as well as interviews with me.

3. Began writing an outline for Gkpr 2 to be followed almost immediately with the screenplay.

4. Begin looking for funding partners in the U.S. along with tax credits and/or incentives from Canada.

So here's what a few people thought of Gkpr 1:

"Ghostkeeper is one of those gems that are hard to come by but rewarding when discovered"
"The acting is solid and the atmosphere of fear and total isolation is well-captured."
"A film I recommend to all true horror buffs"
"One of the better 80's horror films; the storyline is original and the atmosphere is creepy."
"There's a feeling of dread so thick you could cut it's bloodied heart out with a knife".
"The imagery wedges it's way under your skin and sets up camp there."

 How's that for compliments? And I do agree with the creepiness of Gkpr 1, but admit the screenplay was not great, my first one,  as well as having to compromise the ending due to budget constraints.

But then there's also these reviews: 

"I don't know what this movie is about because there is hardly any story... even at the very end you don't have a single clue what was going on there."
"Quite possibly the worst film I've ever seen."
"This has to be possibly the worst-acted film I've ever seen."
"The whole film is a long build-up to nothing." 
"An awful screenplay, laughable performances and a copious lack of flesh, a sorry piece of trash that should be avoided at all costs."

 See what I'm up against?

The best thing is that the good reviews are quite long and detailed, while most of the bad ones are a few sentences. And I'm going to use all the criticisms as my guide to the new screenplay for Gkpr 2, even incorporate them into the dialog in some instances.

In this way I can not only come up with something that has suspense and a sense of humor but also write a way better screenplay than I did 30 years ago. And this time I won't be forced to cut back the ending due to lack of money.

While I am going ahead with Gkpr 2,  at the same time, I will do short 3-page outlines for my two series ideas as well as the same for the two Christmas stories. Once the Gkpr screenplay is finished I will throw myself into both Christmas stories in order to have them ready to show by the end of March or April. Just in time to hopefully sell one or the other in time to film in late summer.

In the same way as Town that Christmas Forgot was filmed, in the heat of August yet when viewed you'd think they filmed in December.

What I hope to illustrate here is the randomness of screenwriting, the ability to turn your world around and force you to choose a direction that came up unexpectedly, even if it might be harder and to leave behind that which isn't as solid. And even if it might have been the wrong choice.

So hang around a little more, see what happens in the next 2 months.
 (Thurs: The new Ghostkeeper)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Whadda do, whadda do?

I'm worried. And frustrated.

It sounds great, I have some interest in another Christmas screenplay, potentially for Hallmark again. Interest in that the producers are ready to look at an idea. 

And Ghostkeeper interest is growing; besides the distribution deal which I am signing this week and the potential of a Ghostkeeper 2 sequel that I would write and direct. Already a producer friend of mine pitched the sequel to a well known studio and they like it.

And then there's Casualties of Love, which I still am hesitant to rewrite. 

You might think it's the start of a great year for me.

But I've been there before. Many times. And mostly by the time April comes around, every project seems to have gone away. History is always there to remind you of the failures. I have worked on projects for money or on spec many times,  I think maybe around 30 or 40 screenplays. And they were never made.

But that's not unusual, ask any writer who has been in the business for years, they'll tell you the same thing. And on top of those 3 projects above I have a few others:

A pilot for a series about a 40-ish faded former child star who is raising a teenager daughter who herself is becoming a star.

A pilot about a family rock and roll band that is getting interest from record labels.

Another Christmas movie set on a train. 

So my next moves have to be thought-out and not random. It all comes down to one major consideration;

Which project has the best chance of getting made. 

By that criteria, it would seem that Ghostkeeper is at the top of the list. Distributing the original film is a no-brainer. The distributor who wants to re-release it has sent me the contract. It's not talk or promises, it's a done deal.

And the idea of a sequel, even though it's quite funny if I think about it being that the original was not a great film, although we got some good reviews recently and a minor cult following. Add to that it's a 30-year old movie. Interestingly enough, there's nothing in the movie that dates it,  3 people in ski outfits and ski-doos, all of which looks the same as today.

And if someone wants to finance the sequel, why shouldn't I be the one who makes it? 


After that is the Christmas story, yet to be determined, seems to be solid too. The producers of last year's Town that Christmas Forgot want to see my ideas. But, at this point I haven't come up with a plot, I know it is about the same family, in fact a sequel to the original.

But the catch here is that there's no guarantee that they'll like it, so this deal isn't quite as solid. And I do have a back-up Christmas story that isn't a sequel to Town That Christmas Forgot.

But the odds are still better than the Casualties of Love script.

Casualties is something I figured I could make for very little money and as an experiment of sorts. But all I have right now is a script that the actors liked and no interest in making it from anyone besides me and the actors.

And I have been bouncing all of these ideas for the past 2 days. A month ago I was totally involved in Casualties, but now, I have two far more lucrative projects with interest from parties that could make them.

And what about the integrity of the projects? Is it better to go for the money rather than the project. Casualties is an art-house film idea while the other two are sure winners in terms of getting made, getting shown and making some money.

Money or art?

Well, with money I can make art. Meaning that doing the money jobs would offer me the freedom to do Casualties later.

All I know for sure right now is that I have to be writing something Monday morning. In this business, interest isn't worth the time it takes to describe it.

(Mon: Write!!)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Just when I start a project...

... something comes out of thin air.

Well, not actually thin air, maybe more like cold air.

Most of you remember me talking about Ghostkeeper, my first feature film, written, directed by me and produced by my company way back in 1980. And if you're following the blog you remember the screening in late October in Toronto by a film group's screening theater. Aptly named Trash Palace. I had a great time with some 20-somethings talking about my movie and also watching it.

Well, when I was in Calgary for Christmas, my brother Dave and I decided to drive to Lake Louise on a sunny Christmas Day with temperatures near zero. We were headed to the Post Hotel, home to a restaurant that is actually known in many European countries for it's cuisine.  

More on the Post later.

Another reason was to stop at the Deer Lodge hotel, which had special significance. It's where we filmed Ghostkeeper 30 years ago, or as I like to remember, when I had a lot more hair.

The Deer Lodge was closed in winter when we filmed but now it's open all year round. The hotel hires mostly students and transients to service the hotel and a few years ago, my brother mentioned it to an Australian girl he knew who had worked there and told her about the movie.

She was interested enough to find a copy on the internet and showed it to the staff. Well, since then, the movie has become a cult favorite of the hotel staff, with new staff discovering it year after year.

It was a little strange for me as I entered the hotel. For one thing, it was warm. When we filmed it had no heat and we brought in construction heaters which we heated a room or hallway, then turned them off and filmed for as long as we could before it got cold.

We met the current manager and when I told him I made the film he was totally surprised and, most of all, a fan of the movie. They even have an early poster, framed in the recreation room. He also wanted copies of the movie to sell but I don't have a really good copy. Through the last 30 years the main 35mm prints have disappeared. Or so I thought.

At any rate, we joked that maybe we could have a "Weekend with the Ghostkeeper" sometime in the future, wherein I call back the actors and some crew and we could do one of those week-ends with anyone who'd come to spend the night with us.

Over dinner later, my brother Dave and I talked more about the possibility of a reunion of the crew and actors.  The dinner at the Post was as always, excellent. And considering I got kicked out of there during the filming at the Deer Lodge, nobody refused me entrance this time.

Actually that time,  we were kicked out because the lead actress, angry with the crew's dislike of her, threw a glass of wine at me, mostly because I was the only one who was nice to her. More wine was thrown and the restaurant maitre'd asked us to leave.

So, back in LA last week, I check old emails and find one from a distributor in Seattle. I call  him and he says he has access to a pristine 35mm print of Ghostkeeper. What's more, he wants to distribute it.

How's that for coincidence? 

So, since last week, the entire thing has grown. I will probably sign a deal with him, and the reality of it is that Ghostkeeper will probably do modest sales at best. But that's not the best part.

The best part is this; I have been asked over the years to remake or do Ghostkeeper 2 by a number of people, but I said I didn't have a good story. But, now I think I do.

What if the cast and crew of Ghostkeeper decided to have a reunion at the Deer Lodge and what if strange things begin to happen. Like someone's killed. Or at least scared to death.

I think I have an idea, based on the above. A movie within a movie.  The actors in the original will be the actors in Ghostkeeper 2 only this time, one of them has a secret and, just like the original movie, the place gets a little scary. I have to work it out a little more clearer.

The reality of this is that, with a distribution deal for GKPR 1 already made and soon to be released on DVD, and another distribution deal for GKPR 2, I should be able to find money to shoot GKPR 2, and at the Deer Lodge. Getting a distributor is one of the hardest things to find, and here, it's practically being handed to me.

Even though the idea of  a sequel to a movie that really wasn't that great is debatable, I'd be crazy not to take advantage of it. At least the screenplay would be a lot better than the original.

And what happens to Casualties of Love which I've started rewriting. And also with two Christmas movies which I hoped to write in a few weeks.

When it rains, it pours.

But I know all too well that good things can disappear if I don't act on them.

(Thurs: the new dilema)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Reasons to not write...

Now that the new year has started almost officially, although most of the industry is still in holiday mode... I face the inevitable. 

I have to begin rewriting Casualties of Love. 

Which means so far this week I have done the  following;
Returned from the frozen north.
Replenished the fridge.
Did laundry.
Did lunch with a producer friend.
Set up meetings and lunch for next week.
Sent a script to a producer in Canada who might be interested.
Asked for the 5th time for the Christmas movie producer to send me a dvd of the completed film.

Have you noticed something? 
I haven't started the rewrite.

 I passed by the script with notes from the cast reading in December and considered picking it up. But just for a second, as I also had to vacuum the place. And I had a dental appointment with the hygienist who liked my movie and had to tell me again how much she liked it.

Anyone who said it gets easier with age and experience doesn't know what they're talking about. As I've said before, it gets harder. Harder because there's pressure on me to do better than I've ever done before. And that means exceeding what I have accomplished over a lifetime of writing.

And that's not easy. The irony is that the pressure comes not from a producer, but from me.

So I make excuses, I go for lunch with someone or just myself, I read magazines and newspapers. I recently bought an 8 mm film viewer and editor so I can edit 40 year old Kodachrome 8mm films so that they can be scanned into digital files. I also am editing a short documentary on Highway 50, called "the loneliest highway in America". Well, editing over  a period of 4 years. But this year I will finish it. Promise.

The link is:
( Or you can find the link in the Materials section on the left side. Look for Lonely Highway 50.

Oh, yeah, back to writing. See how easy it is to get off track. In fact I can make more imaginative ideas not to write, than some of my screenplays.

I got two emails from two of the actors in the script reading also. This means they're serious about my screenplay and also encourages me to write.

But it's a sunny day in LA, and the temperature is gonna be close to 70F. And I have a lunch with Ira, and I'm doing this blog.

But I think that Casualties script seems to be doing a Vulcan mind-meld on my brain. Write, write, write...

But wait, that lunch isn't wasted, actually I can drop by Eddie Brandt's, the ultimate video store ever, so I can pick up two Christmas movies from 30 years ago to watch for the screenplay The Christmas Train, that I am thinking of writing. Well, more than thinking... sort of.

Just have to get that damn Casualties of Love script out of the way.

So now in front of all of you, I am giving myself the challenge of at least getting halfway through the Casualties reading video and rewrite. 

But right now I have some online shopping to do.

(Mon: Progress)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sometimes they like it...

Okay, last time I blow my own horn, I promise. But then my whole blog is about me and what I do, with the exception of Shirley, of course, who is far more talented than I ever could hope to be.

This is about The Town That Christmas Forgot, the Hallmark movie I wrote and talked about a few blogs ago. But first, read this;

 "It was amazing watching that movie, sometimes going through life without having your family I get a sense of not being beneficial because my family is not here. But when I watch that movie, there's so many other people that you have an impact in their life and make them feel better as I do." 

And no, I didn't pay her. Well, actually I did pay her boss, she's a dental hygienist, foreign born and a single mother. She's not a screenwriter, an avid movie-goer, a development executive or anything associated with the "industry". She's the audience.

While the reviews were just about 60% positive, her comments made my day, at the beginning of a new year, it can't hurt.

What's good about it is that somehow, the movie made her feel better and in a world where changes come about every day and the future uncertain, that's a good thing. And that's what writing is about, giving people hope.

Hallmark movies are a genre onto themselves. Ask any guy and he'll say they're horrible, ask a woman and chances are they will say they like them.  At least that's my own  survey over the last 2 months.

The basic rule of Hallmark movies is this; that anyone can walk into the room and sit down and watch a movie that won't offend, embarass or make them feel awkward. Simple as that. My script was a little bit heavier but they somehow managed to soften it in some places which I don't really mind. You write for the market you choose.

And you write what you know.

Town That Christmas Forgot comes from my own upbringing in a town of 546 people and, if what they say is true, that the person you are at seven is the person you'll be for the rest of your life, then I'm living evidence of that. Many of my screenplays are about small towns, something I didn't even realize until a few years ago.

Another theme in my screenplays, as I've said before, is forgiveness. And I still don't know where that comes from, but I like not knowing why I write those kinds of stories. They seem to work for an audience and I seem to like writing them.

And not all my screenplays are soft, I have two that are quite dark and definitely not family fare, at least I think so. And I have adventure screenplays and action screenplays. But the ones networks and studios like the best are my small town scripts. Maybe because they're the most honest.

But for now, I'll just let that little muse that drops in on me now and then to keep up the good work, keep me thinking that even if my words can comfort and inspire just one person, it gives me a sense of worth as well as it does them.

A famous radio personality once told me that when you write or say something soft and inspirational, always end with a joke.

So... of course, a nice residual also gives me worth.

(Thurs: That damn Casualties of Love)