Monday, April 30, 2012

So my movie is finally re-released, eh?

Yes, finally after all my blogs talking about Ghostkeeper, the feature film has been re-released after nearly 32 years.

It happened somewhere in the night, in the rain-drenched streets of Seattle where two brothers run 2 distribution companies. My guy, Bill, was the one who discovered 2 fairly good 35mm prints of Ghostkeeper in a film storage place in NYC.

Ghostkeeper as most of you who read the blog know of, was my first feature film. In 1980 I wrote and directed it and the film was done under my company, Badland Pictures. In the last 5 years a somewhat dubious cult following began; some people liked it, some didn't and some didn't understand it.

So what goes on now?

Well, to try to sell as many copies as is possible. Since this isn't Avatar, the distribs went with a run of around 500 dvds, to be sold "direct" from their website called Code Red. They're known for horror pics and they added mine to the catalog.

DVD's now are somewhat at the edge of the cliff, streaming has gained tremendously and many industry people think dvds might last another 2 years or so. Same goes for Blue-Ray which is just a more expensive dvd. It'll hang around for a bit more, but technology will soon make it as useful as a VHS cassette.

In the meantime, Blu-Ray can play standard DVDs so no need to upgrade movies. Ironically Blu-Ray failed to take off as much as the studios wanted. I think consumers got tired of having to renew movies from VHS to DVD and now to Blu-Ray. Most people I know don't really care about that extra quality. Hell, I don't.

Ghostkeeper is coming out on DVD and that's it.

If they sell 500, that'll pay off their investment and I might get a few bucks from it.  I don't really know what the costs were, nobody ever knows that but I assume around $3000. Those costs consisted of paying the storage fees, then making a copy on Digi-Beta which is an industry standard digital file.

It's used as a "Master", and it allows copying to DVD or any other format. This way the actual 35mm print doesn't have to be run through the scanners anymore than they have to. Film scratches easily.

We did a commentary on it, Riva Spier, the lead, Murray Ord, the male lead and me. I'd never done one before but it went okay. We sat in a music studio of Pico Blvd, in a big house that used to be a Korean brothel.

Yes, I began getting ideas for a movie; Revenge of the Hookers? Hooker Zombies? The mind reels.

All three of us enjoyed seeing each other after just over 30 years and surprisingly remembered a lot about the filming.

But the real treat was Georgie Collins, now 86, who played the "crazy old lady", her interview is also on the Ghostkeeper dvd. She is sharp as a tack and has great stories.

I also edited and included a short interview with John Holbrook, the cameraman who was the DP who filmed it.

So what does any of this matter? In the big scheme, nothing. Just another movie that, 5 billion years from now, will be destroyed with everything else.

But in the meantime, I'll enjoy a little attention from the fans who liked it and those who didn't. And everybody likes a little attention now and then.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Respect Part2

There's another joke that circulates among writers, it goes like this:

Why don't directors like writers on the set? Because writers are the only ones who know the director is faking.

A new director I met once asked if it was necessary to have the writer on the film set. The answer to that depends on the director. Good directors usually might ask the writer on the set, insecure directors won't. But again, no real rules.

But the fact that the director asked me that question is it's own answer. If you're asking you really have the answer and it's a big "NO".

I've been "on the set" for a dozen movies and in all cases was at the request not of the director but the producer. I traveled to Luxembourg to work on two movies, originally written by other writers, then to Manitoba to work on three movies, two of which were mine and then to Puerto Vallarta for another writer's script, all in one year.

Since these were TV movies (MOW's) the producer had more power over the director. This is in contrast to a few other movies I wrote where I didn't show up, usually because they really didn't need me. My last movie, Town That Christmas Forgot, was filmed in Hamilton, Ontario and I stayed in LA.

To be honest, I really don't like to go on set for movies because, frankly, it's boring as hell. I find myself hanging around the craft service table eating donuts and talking to production assistants. Some crew members ask why I even show up, after all, the script has been written.

That's the issue for some jobs; rewrites. They can be good or they can be hell, depending on who you're working with. Sometimes it's the producer, sometimes the director, and some times the star who might have some power.

And a lot of people not in the "business" wonder what writers do at all. I really believe most people think the actors make up the words. Every year when the oscars are announced, the media afterwards mention the actors and directors.

Never the writers.

How's that feel for being insecure. Hey, we're over here. We're part of the movie too. In fact there wouldn't be a movie without us.

Regardless, movies are mostly a director's medium. But TV is the writer's medium and this is where we strike back.

Because episodic TV has to have new shows every week, writers learned fast that nobody can do anything without a script. And because writers stay on the shows and write new episodes every week, it's the directors who come and go. They're often referred to as "traffic cops", they show up, they say a few "action's" and they leave.

But the writers stay. Without them there's no show next week.

When you watch the credits on TV shows, you'll notice, at the beginning of course (nobody wants tail credits, the ones that fly past at the end of the show), show producers and executive producers.

The truth is almost all of them are writers. I've seen as many as 15 "producers" in the first few minutes of a TV show but they're not producers in the sense that they sign paychecks.

And when the Emmys are broadcast, you always hear the actors thank the writers.

But when it comes to respect, this is my take on it.

I don't really care if they (producers and actors and network execs) respect me or not, just pay me. I've written great scripts, good scripts, okay scripts  and sometimes not great scripts and the better the producer, the better the writing goes.

A good producer will recognize the writer's value and will give good notes and suggestions. A bad producer will make your life a living hell.

A writer friend of mine who passed away a few years ago was always quick to tell me to demand respect.  He would challenge anyone on the set who dared to even ask about what writers do. It was always a little too far for me, but he demanded respect.

But again, respect is what you create, not what anyone else thinks. Maybe it comes with confidence, maybe some of it is built into some of us and not in others.

But even then, if I happen to walk onto the set of a movie I may have written, someone will undoubtedly ask...

"So why are you here?"

I usually say "for the donuts".

Monday, April 23, 2012

Schmucks with Underwoods

Sooner or later the idea of respect hits many writers, if not all. The saying in the title was said by Jack Warner of the Warner Brothers studios, now in Burbank. Then there's the joke about the not-too-smart Actress who slept with the writer.

Nasty, huh, you have to wonder though, who got hurt the most, her or the writer.

This is also a touchy subject, a lot of writers will agree with me, a lot won't. But after 32 years of writing and making films, I have a bit of an edge over someone who's experience is reading Robert McKee or Truby (two of "how-to" books on screenwriters).

Why no respect?

Again, everyone has a different answer. For example, consider this:

I was hired by a Vancouver producer to write a screenplay on a book about a true murder in Vancouver in 1923. It was a great story, a Canadian version of Chinatown and I really wanted to do it. A handful of writers had already taken a shot at it, but none of them nailed it. I was hot after doing a couple of series and hand 2 screenplays in development so producer "Rob" hired me.

Rob was known as a somewhat dishonest producer, he owed money all over town and was pretty difficult. But I had the Guild behind me, in this instance, Writer's Guild of Canada. I wrote the screenplay after a few weeks of research, including meeting some actual people from that era.

When I finished it, the author of the book loved it, said it was different than he expected, but good. Very good. I was paid my first advance and now was ready to hand it in to Rob. However Rob was going to Hawaii. But I caught him at the office, and in front of his staff, handed him the screenplay.

Two weeks later he returned and refused to pay me, saying he didn't get the screenplay. Really, he said that. He owed me $10,000 and finally after I kept at him, he offered me a deal. $6000 and that's it. Take it or leave it.

I read the contract, his lawyer neglected one thing; to say that I was accepting the lower amount and that I could not go after him again. Dumb move as I had an out. So I signed it, he paid me $6000 and after I deposited the check...

But where's the Guild? Why aren't they told?

When the check cleared, I immediately called the Guild, told them the whole story and they immediately asked him for full payment. I got it within a week. And needless to say he told others that "I'd never work in that town again."

Producers like Rob, and there are many, feel that writers are just there to use and throw away. After all, there were others who tried to write that screenplay and some of them never got paid as they weren't in the Guild.

I've always thought that producers don't like us for a handful of reasons;

1. They hire us before anyone else and have to pay us first, even if the movie eventually doesn't get made.

2. They don't really know if we wrote it, after all we go home and write in total privacy. For all they know, the cat could have written it. Our job is the only one that the producer doesn't see work. When the film is shooting, he can see people work. But not us.

3. They stand the chance of not liking the screenplay (and I sympathize with them on this as sometimes the script doesn't work. And that means more money to pay the next writer.

4. They know they can hire another writer to "punch up" the script and maybe even another writer. Some movies have had a dozen writers on it, even though only 3 writers are allowed credits.

5. They know that most writers are only too happy to rewrite another writer, I've done it a dozen times or more. We are not a faithful bunch and they know it.

There's a joke I'm sure I said in other blogs but it goes like this:

 "Having a writer on the set of a movie is like having a hooker that you've used and paid for and is now hanging around" 

Another writer joke:  "Writer comes home, his house is burned down, cop says his wife has been attacked, kids are taken away and his agent called. Writer looks at the cop and says; "My agent called?" 

And I was using polite language for that joke, it's a lot darker.

So where does respect come from?

I'll tell you Thursday.

(Thurs: gimmie, gimmie respect)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Film & Digital

                             Good news is everyone can make a movie...
                             Bad news is... everyone can make a movie
                                                  - Unknown on digital age

There's a great article in this week's LA Weekly about the end of film, or at least of real acetate films shown in theaters. Digital screenings are taking over, they're cheaper and smaller than those huge projectors that film demanded.

My first memory of film was when my parents took me to the Crest Theater in my little home town way back in the "olden days". I also remember how a huge rattlesnake hissed at me from the 30-foot wide screen. I was outta there, kicking and screaming.

I could have been done with movies forever. Gone.

But my mom instead took me up to the projection booth where the projectionist sat, I actually think he lived there in a small upstairs room. His name was Leonard and like everyone in a small town, knew my mom and dad.

Mom sat me down on a chair and said I'd be ok and she left to see the rest of the movie. Leonard was too busy to show me anything but I watched the projector, a dinosaur-like contraption that rattled like a train.

There was heat too, warm and cozy, since it was winter outside. It wasn't long before I got the rhythm of the machine, 24 frames per second just like film cameras.

Whatever it was, I was hooked, movies became my life. We moved to a smaller town but it also had a theater, in fact every little town across the country had theaters.

Now, after over 100 years, film is readying itself for it's death. Many directors still prefer to shoot film and Christopher Nolan (of the Batmans) is urging his friends to keep shooting film. The studios, as they always do, think of money.

While some directors are still shooting film, a lot more are going digital for the obvious reasons; smaller, faster, cheaper. Although it's debatable in terms of cheaper as more computers and hard drives become involved.

What's really at issue now revolves around showing movies in digital theaters. It costs $1500 to make a 35mm film print whereas a digital print costs 10% of that. It's an argument that filmmakers will lose, money always wins out.

While I sat in a warm room watching a huge monster roll film through it's jaws and rattle all the way, a kid today couldn't even get to see a projection room, and if they did, they'd be looking at a small hard-drive.

Imagine the inspiration that would give.

The expression at the top relates to the fact that one can film in hours, rather than minutes. And the fact that the easier it is to shoot, the less interesting it gets and the less craft that is shown.

With film, because you had 10 minutes in a 1000 ft magazine from a 35mm and then you had to change film, you tended to be careful with every shot. You made sure it was good. Digital allows you to take more photos than any human could ever watch over their lifetime.

Are they better?

The bigger question with film and digital is this; what about storage.

Have you looked at any of your old VHS tapes lately?

Not only are they bad, they are losing resolution and will soon be useless. And does digital do that too? You bet it does. But there's even more. Digital formats change all the time, how many of you had 35mm cameras, changed to digital and then bought new digital cameras every 2 years or so... because they had more resolution even though the camera you bought earlier could make a perfectly good print.

This need of the industry to create new formats makes it hard as hell to save movies, old ones, not so old ones and even recent ones. What happens if you want to replace your Jennifer Aniston collection only to find that the new technology won't work with the old one.

I have a friend who works at a library and confirms that film can last, if stored right, for 1000 years.

Remember your VHS?

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Three Stooges

The movie version of the Three Stooges opened in theaters over the week-end and pulled in around $17 million, not anywhere near The Hunger Games but enough to keep going for a couple of weeks.

Several of my friends, my brother and I were anticipating this film for a few years after the Farrelly Brothers, who did Dumb and Dumber and Something About Mary, announced that they were going to make it.

They, like me, were dedicated fans for years.

It goes back to the late 50's for me, when I would see one of their short films before the main feature. Back then we usually saw a cartoon, a short subject and the movie. Later, when I moved to Windsor it got even better.

Because the Stooges were being played twice a day on a local Detroit TV station, hosted by a guy who called himself Johnny Ginger. It was also where I was introduced to Curly, the fat guy, as the Stooges I saw back in the 50's had Shemp.

For those who don't know much about the Stooges, here's a mini-bio. They came out of vaudeville and specialized in slapstick comedy, where someone was always hitting someone else, thus "slapstick". There were 3 brothers, Moe, Shemp and Jerome Howard and a friend, Larry Fine. Jerome used "Curly" as his nom de plume, a takeoff on his shaved head.

They made almost 200 10-12 minute short films that seemed to always be shown somewhere. While there were 4 brothers, only 3 were featured in films. Shemp took over after Curly passed away in the late 40's.

There's an old saying that women never liked the Stooges, they didn't understand why anyone would like the somewhat violent slaps and kicks and eye-gouges and hammers, saws and anything else they could find.

But we all knew it wasn't real, and I never thought that I should eye-gouge anyone. Sort of like cap guns, they weren't real guns.

But the interesting thing about the Stooges is that they're still playing on TV, on Turner and other networks. And they have the strangest audiences; old men in their 80's, my house cleaner, Yolanda from Columbia who confessed that Larry was her favorite and many others.

One thing is consistent, Curly is the most liked. There's something good in his innocence while Moe is the leader and Larry is the follower. I sought out Curly's grave in east L.A. several times where his orthodox grave marker is the only one in the cemetery with coins, pictures, words on paper and almost anything else that fans could put on the grave stone. I've read where Curly's grave is second only to Marilyn's in Westwood.

Along with my brother and a friend, we sought out the famous "stairs" in one episode where the boys have to carry an ice block (in the days before fridges) up a long stairway. The joke was by the time they reached the top, the ice block melted into an ice cube.

And every year, the faithful would go to a theater in Glendale where 5 of the best of the Stooges films were shown. Members of their family would often appear as well. And in spite of the old saying, there were women there.

But there was something about the Stooges that transcended a slap or a punch. My brother once said that all he needed to know about life he learned from the Stooges. They were always out of work in every episode, and they always turned the tables on the rich with an innocent-like behavior that us kids liked, and that as adults we still liked.

They seemed to live in hard times and somehow found a place in those times that offered us inspiration and hope.

They are often put down by the Chaplin and the Laurel & Hardy fans and maybe Keaton was a true artist. But for those of us with average lives, the Stooges were the best.

In life, they never fared as well as some of the others, Columbia, the studio kept the rights to their shorts and they never saw residuals. After the end of the short films, they managed to movie into a handful of movies.

I haven't seen the new Stooges movie yet, I'm holding back a little as are my friends. There was something real about the original Stooges, they were the guys they were portraying. The new movie has actors playing them and somehow it doesn't feel as good. Sort of like if you saw a movie about Will Ferrell with someone playing him. It just isn't as good

But I will go see it out of respect for the real Stooges, Moe often said he hoped there would be a new Stooges group to take up where they left off.

All I can say is "Soitenly".

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Writers - they always want to change things

Last week I had an interesting meeting about a potential job a director friend of mine had in mind for me.  It was a screenplay written by a model from Europe who had raised a small amount of money and was anxious to make it.

My first reaction was obviously somewhat apprehensive, as in model/screenwriter? Can models do something else besides wear clothes? And I'm talking about both men and women.

A note first, on modelling. It started, naturally, in France, sometime around the Belle Opaque era which started in the late 1800's and signified a "beautiful time" that lasted until World War 1. With it came new inventions, telephones, electricity and, for the first time, clothing design for the average person.

French designers decided that they needed women for their designs and with one particular quality. They didn't want the model to attract more attention than the clothes they wore. In other words they used tall, thin women upon whom they could "drape" their clothes and whose bodies were not particularly shapely. Thus the tall, thin, flat-chested models were created and set the standard for every designer in the world.

Back to screenwriting. This model was of that mold, tall, thin, pretty in that catalog sort of way and she had written a screenplay about the "beautiful people", titled Jet Set. And my friend asked if I would do a rewrite because he felt the screenplay wasn't very good.

I knew it would be one of those under-the-table quickie jobs, wherein I would be a ghostwriter and not take any credit, just a couple of bucks. I've done this before with some success. 

I got the screenplay and it was, in few words, awful. Full of cliche scenes from a dozen movies with no real character or plot. It's theme seemed to be "don't hate us because we're beautiful".

My friend kept after me as he said he knew it was bad, but it was a job too. So I asked to meet her.

Marianne (as I'll call her), was full of energy and ideas, she was convinced that the movie should be made as written. In fact, her and her friends read the screenplay out loud to each other and it worked just fine. Whenever someone tells me it's just fine, it signals a warning to leave.

I had made 2 pages of notes on her script and she said she agreed with some, but not with others because, in her heart, she knew this was a winner. And I knew the best thing was for me to get out of there.

I have read a lot of bad scripts over the last 22 years in L.A. which included UCLA students and professionals. I've written bad scripts too. My first screenplay was really bad. 

But there was another aspect that bothered me. Her screenplay was, at this point, unmakeable for a bunch of reasons. It was too short, a movie has to be at least 75 minutes to qualify as a feature. Hers would have been far short of that.

And with less than half a million dollars, she had jetplanes, trips to Italy, car chases and much more. All pretty much impossible on her budget. And then when I suggested she needed to re-work the story she said those immortal words...

"Writers, they always want to change things".

I wasn't really mad, I just wanted to get out because it was clear she wasn't going to listen to anybody. She said that I could be on set with her and whenever her English wasn't proper I would write dialog for her.

I said she could get a secretary for that. And cheaper than me.

It became a stand-off, on one hand I liked her youthful enthusiasm, where everything was possible, but on the other, she was not experienced in filmmaking and some of her ideas were dangerously troubling.

And that was the fact that she was spending her own money for this adventure and if it failed, I wouldn't want to be part of the reason for it. I could have maybe helped her out on some things but I know from past history, that this kind of scenario would end in arguments.

Because writers do change things, hopefully for the better and I really didn't think it was wise of her not to listen to people who have been through it before. I didn't want to be part of the problem as every detail became more and more impossible.

We left it with her saying she'd do another rewrite, as I'm still busy editing the Walsh trailer and writing my own screenplay but I don't think I'll be writing her adventures in modeling story. I'm too  honest for that.


Monday, April 9, 2012

The "other" film writers

I briefly mentioned some work I did a few weeks ago in which I filmed interviews on HD video for a woman who is trying to put together a documentary on Raoul Walsh. She had recently written a book called Raoul Walsh, The True Adventures of Hollywood's Legendary Director.

A director friend of mine had met her and she mentioned that she wanted to interview the last few actors who had worked on Walsh films. Walsh himself passed away in the 60's. He started in silent films and went on to work on movies with Bogart, Cagney, Flynn and almost every major actor of the 40's and 50's.

My friend suggested I could film the interviews as at least half of me is a camera guy, working as a news film photographer way back when. Naturally I said yes, as I love shooting film and video.

The job turned into a few other things that I could do to help here and along the way I met a type of people I never really knew.

The other film writers.

They don't write screenplays, at least most of them don't and they live in a world of admiration and frustration, envy and to some extent, are rewarded with meager book sales and attention. Unlike screenwriters who even among the lowest paid still get, if they're WGA, around $42,000 for a screenplay that they might have taken 4-6 weeks to write.

Writers who write books on famous film people rarely make that much and Marilyn, the author, for example, worked 5 years on her book. It has recently been released in paperback and she will earn more, but nowhere like a comparable mid-successful screenwriter.

People who love trains and follow them across the country just to take photos of them call themselves "foamers", in other words, fanatics.  Like foaming at the mouth.

As I met and talked with more of these film foamers I entered a world I never really knew. There's a guy who works at an average job all day who puts together film noir festivals and eagerly tells you about the stars he's driven around. There's another person who quotes movie dialog lines at parties. Another tells me secrets about Katherine Hepburn.

There are critics now on the internet who look for attention by reviewing movies in hopes of getting invited to premieres where they can feel at par with the famous people.

There's also the book writers, like Marilyn, who spend hours and days and years on a book and there are some of them who are only too anxious to put down writers who might be more successful. Marilyn, to her credit, has written the definitive book on Walsh and did a great job.

Watching these people talk about movies and movie stars makes me feel like an outsider, they swap stories about the living and dead actors and directors and even the classic screenwriters of another era. Their world is far more immersed in movies than even I am, even my Sundays with the guys breakfasts at Venice Beach bring discussions of politics and other subjects.

But these other writers only talk about film, and the books they hope to write and the latest revealed secrets of the long dead movie people. Watching them watch old movies is almost voyeuristic, it almost seems to be a religious experience, the faithful watching their gods and goddesses in black and white.

In fact it really is worshiping the past when "movies were great", as they would say and they repeat lines of dialog from a Bogart movie or Gene Tierney (how's that for a reference), arguably the most beautiful actress of the 1940's.

Most of them have massive collections of movies and books on movies and often stacked in piles and seem to have a love/hate relationship with each other. And yet it's a strange passion that brings together people who love the movies and yet are distant from the reality of movies. I probably have a dozen movies and copies of the ones I wrote, and I rarely look at them.

My world is contrary to theirs, I live in a world of writing these movies, and we couldn't be any more different than them. We make the movies, while they talk about them and hang around the outside of the real film world of writers, actors, directors, cameramen and technicians.

My director friend jokes that they all live in basements but they don't. However the ones I met live in Hollywood and along streets that they can tell you were used in movies made a hundred years ago and who directed those movies and who starred in them and who had an affair with the lead actress. Marilyn has problems coming into the valley, as it's too far away from Hollywood.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why some writers can't write without a job

I have 34 spec scripts "on the shelf" as the saying goes. They've accumulated over the 20 years I've lived in California. Specs as most of you know are screenplays written purely on the premise that an idea I came up with and wrote without being paid, will be interesting enough for someone to buy it.

And since they're still unsold, some people would say it was a waste of time.

For many years, under the studio system, screenplays were assigned to writers from the idea stage. Sometimes it was the writer's idea, sometimes it was the producer's. Sometimes it was the actors idea if they were big stars.

Basically you weren't writing a screenplay until you were hired. And then after you wrote it, the screenplay would most likely go to another writer who would "polish" it, make some changes the studio wanted, or, again, the actor wanted.

Television was the same, writers were hired for each show and were given assignments, or they came up with ideas.

Somewhere around the 60's, some writers would decide to write a complete screenplay without being hired. There were 2 reasons for this; either they just had a great idea and nobody offered to hire them to write it - or - they just might be able to sell the screenplay.

And there's another reason; because the writer felt so strong about their idea that they would write it for free, without the hassle of constant notes from the studio. Simply put they were working for free.

As an example of what can happen when you're hired, I was hired a few times to write a screenplay from the beginning and for the most part was lucky in that the producers were smart and knowledgeable,  and their notes are almost always good.

On the other hand I've worked with people who can drive you crazy with stupid ideas. I had one producer who told me I shouldn't wear plaid shirts to meet an actor because it would suggest I was too old for the job. I wore plaid.

But the most interesting thing I learned is that a lot of tv writers couldn't write a spec feature at all. I'm not even sure why but it seems that the people who write half hours can't really stretch it out for a 90 minute movie.

David Kelly, one of the smartest and most talented TV writers ever, wrote 2 features that were flops.

Having written for TV series I know that it's more of a communal thing than a feature and often you write together with a few others whereas a screenplay for a feature is with one person -  you.

Another thing with series is that you are writing the same characters every week and writers begin to learn more about the characters, and of the actors. I know we would find the strongest actors after a few episodes and begin to give them more dialog, simply because they could handle it better.

Features don't give you that luxury, once the movie's finished, it's all done. No way to change or improve it next week.

I have a few sitcom writer friends and only one ever tried to write a spec. The other two said they'd never do that, either because they couldn't, or because they wouldn't be paid.

And that brings up the question; is it art of is it a business.

The one thing for sure is that everyone will have their own opinion.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Who's a writer and who isn't.

"I don't think many screenwriters can write. They pass as writers"
                                       - Elmore Leonard

Before you make any judgement on that, I'll tell you a little bit about Elmore Leonard. He's 86 and still writing and has written a stack of novels as well as screenplays. He's written movies for Quentin Tarantino and Clint Eastwood and many others. He also wrote Get Shorty, which became a Travolta movie.

He's also had a lot of his novels made into movies, and currently has 2 novels one of which has finished filming and another ready to go. And a series, Justified, about a U.S. Marshall has entered it's second season.

Leonard lives in Detroit and keeps in contact with the series writers, who reportedly wear wristbands with the letters WWED -- "What would Elmore do?"

Now, getting back to writing and who can and who can't.

As some of you know I wrote my first novel in 2011. Well, sort of a novel. After all it was based on the screenplay, Emperor of Mars, so in some eyes it wasn't really a novel. One thing I discovered after writing it is the prestige a novel seems to attract.

A screenplay is a screenplay, but a novel - it's much bigger. After all anyone can write a screenplay, there are literally hundreds of books on screenwriting. Count the number that tell you how to write a novel.

When I embarked on the novelization of my screenplay, it was after several people encouraged me to, and since I had time on my hands, I figured I might as well. That's when I found out the differences between a screenplay and a novel.

Screenplays are basically shorthand, there are no real rules as to how to write them, there is a format but software covers that. But there are other things; for one, screenplays are in present tense, novels are (for the most part) in past tense.

In a screenplay I would write "he walks to the door". In a novel it would be "he walked to the door." Simple. Yet I had to check and recheck every page for those tenses.

Another advantage I had, and a huge advantage was that my story was already written and all I had to do is "flesh it out". But that's where I also discovered something.

You can tell more story in a novel. This is what I mean;

Remember the tenses? In a screenplay I write "he walks to the door" and in a novel "he walked to the door." What's the difference?

In a novel I can add stuff like "and as he walked he remembered the first time he saw her, it was a day like today and he still can feel the way he did...

 See what I mean? I can add what goes on in his head. I can't really do that in a screenplay, I can try and hope the actor gets it, but ultimately the actor has to show that somehow and even then it's never as complete as a novel.

The actor has maybe a minute or two to convey the character's life, the novel can take 5 pages or even more.

And even though some writers will dispute this, it is easier to write a screenplay because of that reason, and also because the screenplay really isn't finished until the movie is made. A novel is finished when the writer finishes it. A screenplay can go thru many re-writes and not necessarily by the original writer before it is finished.

And don't get me wrong, writing a good screenplay is hard. But writing a novel is harder. But not always. A lot of novel writers, for example, never quite get screenplays, people like Fitzgerald and Faulkner and many other famous novelists never really figured out screenplays.

And many screenwriters never figured out novels.

And man sitcomy writers never figured out either. But that's mostly because sitcoms are a series of jokes; setup and payoff. Plots are basically non-existent.

(Thurs: Why some screenwriters can's write without being hired & other stories)