Friday, January 30, 2015

The theory of Brits

Finally got around to seeing The Theory of Everything and enjoyed it very much. It gets a little slow in the middle but that's pretty common for all movies. I can see why SAG (the actor's guild aka union) gave Eddie Redmayne their award. He also got a Golden Globe award for best actor also. 

And he looks about as close as anyone can with regards to the real guy.

I wonder what Michael Keaton is thinking. He still has a chance but as my director friend says, the Academy favors actors with some kind of disease or disability. I remember Gary Cooper in Pride of The Yankees, for which he got a nomination for playing Lou Gehrig and a great speech when he could no longer play baseball. It's a real tear-jerker, try and see it.

Then there was Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot in 1990. 

So Keaton has some kind of disease or ailment in Birdman, although it's more about actor ego, the "me, me and me" thing.

But there's also The Imitation Game, which has another Brit in it, Benedict Cumberbatch who sort of plays a disability of sorts, more personality than a physical disability.

So what are the odds?

Since Keaton got the attention at the beginning but the two Brits began to take over, and Redmayne looks like the winner.

Who else is there?

Steve Carell who plays a weird guy and it's about wrestling. Who cares?

Bradley Cooper? Again, he's on his best when he's with Jennifer Lawrence. But Americans like heroes.

And what about the ladies?

Who has also won in her category, is Julianne Moore. Guess what she's playing. 

Someone who's in early stages of Alzheimer's Disease.

Told ya.

The others are Marion Cotellard, she's French, Felicity Jones from Theory is a Brit and Rosamund Pike from Gone Girl is just there for after oscar parties. 

It's between Julianne and that person I dislike very much... Reese Witherspoon. So it's a challenge between Alzheimer's and a two thousand mile walk with a backpack that Witherspoon could never carry.

You tell me who will win!

We'll see.

Have a nice week-end. More Monday.

Monday, January 26, 2015

SAG and Jule

 First a little bit of awards.

Not the Academy Awards yet. This is or was last night the SAG awards, meaning the Screen Actors Guild. This is the largest guild in Hollywood, thousands of actors as opposed to the WGA (Writers Guild of America) and DGA (Directors Guild of America). 

Smallest of course is WGA, as it's only for writers whereas DGA also has Assistant Directors and a whole bunch of other "below the line" characters. Both WGA and DGA will also have their mini-awards show but the actors are the big guys.

Nobody really cares about directors or writers.

Whenever I meet someone and tell them I'm a writer the first question is; "So, which stars have you met."

Anyways, the big award (as in Actor) was a surprise, not Michael Keaton who was getting all
the awards up to now. Nope, it went to a Brit. Ouch. I was wrong. It was Eddie Redmayne.

And the female actor (or actress) was Julianne Moore (who I said would win).

But it wasn't all bad for the Birdman cast with Keaton, they all got the award for "Performance by a cast in a motion picture."

So it is possible that Keaton could win at the Oscars because it's not the whole cast. 
But usually the winner of the actors guild will win. But it's not for sure... Keaton is still possible. Personally I like Eddie Redmayne (where do these Brit names come from??)

Another win went to a netflex TV show called "Orange Is The New Black," a series about women in jail.  It was judged in the comedy category which I don't really understand as it's got some tough stuff in the shows. Anyways.

And then there was someone else I was happy to see.

 Jule Lamm.

Who's Jule. Well, he's the subject of a book he's writing and I'm helping him finish it. Jule was a pilot in the Second World War and is 91 and on Sunday, around 3pm, just a few hours before the actors hit the stage...

Jule got to fly in a P51 Mustang fighter airplane used in that same war. For me it was bigger than a bunch of vain people showing  how humble they can be to win a statue.

Jule got to fly for about twenty minutes or so and when he got down, he was glowing like a 12-year old kid. 

That was my little event, not actors wards, but a true hero who came out of the war alive and still lives his dream.

What more could you ask for?


Monday, January 19, 2015

Yes, the Oscars

Well, the Oscars are with us again and with the usual infighting and campaigning and shouts of racism and why isn't Angeline Jolie nominated. 

That and more.

The town goes a little crazy now, big ads happen in the LA Times, full page and in color. Money is being spent to convince just under 6000 eligible voters to vote for a handful of movies. These ads can work and they can also ruin it. 

Last year the Coen Brothers nice little movie, Inside Llweyn Davis had full page ads for almost two months proclaiming the virtues of that movie. So what happened.

Two nominations. Cinematography and Sound.

And it lost.

Actually, I really liked the movie, I have the soundtrack, great songs too. So what happened?

I think they overdid it. 

Now to the 2015 Oscars, I've seen most of them and it's a ho-hum year. Nothing really good, really, really good.

American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Theory of Everything

What it looks like from the dozens of critics and websites and so on, is this;

Boyhood will win. Imitation Game was not bad, more like an HBO movie, same as Theory of Everything and these two could cancel out each other. How many brains can we handle. 

Now let's get into some of the mumbling.

Okay, Selma didn't get director or actor nods and there's a few possible reasons; first Selma didn't send around DVDs and every other movie did. Movie stars are lazy, they don't want to go to the movie theater to see it. They want to watch it at home.

And so do I. Writer's Guild also gets DVDs. Any ways, being Canadian, I don't have a dog in this fight.

Is it racism? I really don't think so, the Academy is as left wing as possible. Maybe the director wasn't all that great, maybe the actor wasn't, or maybe it just fell through like that. I also wonder when an Asian or Mexican actor will be nominated?S

So who's gonna win Best Actor?

I think it's going to be Michael Keaton because he's won everything else up to now. And it's that "comeback" that Americans like, who can forget the first Batman movie or Beetlejuice?

And for the ladies?

Julianne Moore. Because she deserves it and in spite of the money Jennifer Aniston spent on her pain killer movie, Cake, she still can't get a nomination. 

Now - Angelina.

This I do not understand. Unbroken is a very good movie, not great, it's no Bridge On The River Kwaii but it's a solid movie, done very well and you can see the work in it. Most of the film people I know agree. So why isn't she nominated for anything. It's almost like the Academy is ignoring her totally.

There is evidence of this; Chairman Amy Pascal's emails were hacked by the North Korean hackers (or someone else, who cares) trashed Angelina in an email because she was supposed to do Cleopatra (yes, one more time)but instead went to direct Unbroken

Is that the reason Angelina didn't get a single category, not even sound effects? 

It's a good movie. See it.

And then there's Nightcrawler.

This movie with Jake Gyllenhaal is also a good movie with no nominations either. Nightcrawler was reminiscent of movies in the 70's, especially with a very 70's ending. I really liked it but it reminded me of my TV Newscamera work way back in the early 70's. I wasn't a nightcrawler stringer but I knew a few.

Two movies completely ignored and both very good. I think there was some nomination for Nightcrawler but I'm not sure. 

One last note about Boyhood, which is just a boring movie to me at over two hours. 

If you want to see a really good movie about growing up try to find 7-Up. This was a series of documentaries in England where a director would film kids of different upbringing every seven years, thus it starts with 7-Up and then 14-Up and now is around 56-Up. 



These docs are fascinating to watch as you see them from seven all the way up to fifty-six, and a new doc is sure to come at 63, if it hasn't already.

So much for all that. Really try to find some of the
7-Up docs, they are much better than a bunch of
actors pretending to be real. At least in this

Monday, January 12, 2015

I wrote the damn thing so how can I sell it?

Okay, got your attention.

Didn't watch the Golden Globe awards, don't really care for most of the movies and haven't seen any of the TV series that won. I think Nightcrawlers is the best film this year.

 The previous blog talked about working for free and where does it get you, more or less. The cold, hard facts are these;

There are fewer agents than when I arrived here in LA in 1995. This is due to a bunch of the big boys like Creative Artists Agency (CAA), William Morris/Endeavor, United Talent Agency, International Artists Managementy (ICM) and arguably Paradigm.

What did they do?

They began gobbling up the smaller agencies, taking the best talent and throwing out any agents and or talent (I hate that term) that wasn't making money. Big money. There were a lot of agents out on the street besides talent, some became managers and others just disappeared.

Where does the writer come in?

Like everything now, you have to be established before you can get some attention.

But you might ask, how can I get established if I don't have any credits?

Answer: Sell a screenplay for half a million dollars.

Well, that's the easy way but it's not going to help the hungry person who just graduated from some film courses like UCLA, USC, NYU and AFI and a whole bunch of other universities that seem to be growing with film courses. 

And if you think that's a head start, it really isn't. Unless you already have contacts. But that goes back to how I get contacts and credits if I don't know anybody. I know several people who went to USC among others who still haven't been able to find an agent or a manager or, for that matter, anyone who would read it.

It was a lot easier in some ways for me twenty-five years ago coming to LA. I even had an agent BEFORE I arrived. But I was coming from a couple of movies in Canada and even that didn't carry much weight.

This business is always hard, no matter how long you stay in it. A director friend complains about how bad the new writers are and how the kids now don't know a good film from a bad film.

I disagree with that, there were a lot of bad movies from the very beginning. The only difference now is that those bad films cost a lot more than the old bad films.

So how can you break in?

Here's an excerpt from my book "Working Writer's Screenplay" from the best way down to the only way left:

1. Have someone famous recommend you. Even semi-famous works. It would be great if they were directors, producers and/or actors but sometimes a grip or even a day player or an assistant camera person might know a reasonably famous movie person. I got in through a director who know a writer friend of mine who recommended me. Unlike most writers my friend shared the director who led to my first agent.

2. Have someone you know who works at an agency. If not someone who knows someone that works at an agency.

3. Win a Nichols award run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (the Oscar people). They probably get a few thousand entries. Yes, a few thousand. 

4. If you didn't win or even get entered into the Nichols, then enter as many screenwriting competitions as you can afford. Most of these competitions are just scams to get money from aspiring writers but, if you win even a small award, it will help.

5. And finally, the hardest way. This means emailing, calling, texting, doing anything to try to get someone to read your screenplay. And this would include anyone who's not famous but has connections.

Finally, never give up. Ever. Someone will be out there waiting to read your screenplay, you just have to find them. One writer I knew had never sold his screenplay and was waiting for that big break anyday. He refused to give it to low-level producers instead he was waiting for Paramount or Fox to call.

He's still waiting. 

Never wait for someone to call. Even if they have your script, the only time you don't show it, is when someone puts some money down.

And most of the time, when you get someone to read your screenplay, the second thing they will say are five famous words --

"What else have you got?"

Monday, January 5, 2015

The writing life 2015

Okay, 2014 is gone, I didn't get to make Ghostkeeper 2 and I didn't get my new book published yet and I didn't do a lot of things I should have done.

Was the year a complete loss?

Nothing of mine was made although the French company assured me they would be making my script Chase in summer of 2015. Also the actor script is getting closer to being made.

So what?

Well, I'm trying Ghostkeeper 2 with a new strategy as well as writing a new spec screenplay and I will publish the book maybe by the end of January.

Now I want to talk about getting work as a writer as compared to the "old days."

There's an ad in in the "looking for writers" page wherein producers are looking for writers to write stuff. If you've never gone to then go there. It's got job postings from everything from writing to directing or producing or any job related to film.

But beware.

For writers it's a mix of jobs, today there's one where an "international film company" who are looking for top quality scripts. Sounds good?

Well, the job is only for reading screenplays for the company. 

And the pay is...  NOTHING.

But think of the experience a new writer could get, or an old one needing a job, right?

They're even asking for experienced readers! To work for nothing. And I love this line; It will advance you in the film business.

While there are some good gigs to be had on mandy, mostly they're there looking for free work from starving writers and almost-writers.

Someone once said that everyone in America is writing a screenplay. And sometimes I think that person was right. Just buy Screenwriter or Final Draft, the two best softwares for screenwriting. Mine is Screenwriter, the oldest and to me, the best.

In the last twenty years, there has been an explosion in courses for screenwriting and it seems almost everyone is a screenwriter. I have a coffee joint near me, not Starbucks, and I see many of these writers, or at least they call themselves writers. I really don't know how they can write with noise around them. Cars, trucks, music, talking people.

I wonder if these writers look around them. 

There's a joke that goes like this for those writers; 

"Starbucks has banned screenwriters from writing in their shops because nothing written there has ever been made."

 Okay, it's a joke. But it's also real.

Personally I don't call a writer a writer until they've sold anything, or have written some screenplays. I say some screenplays, because if you get a meeting with an agent or producer they probably won't want to make the film you wrote, rather they will as that famous question;

"So what else do you have?"

This goes back to working for free which writers get asked to do over and over again, even with Writer's Guild writers. 

So, is there any worth working for free?

I suppose you can read those screenplays above for free. But becoming a reader for no money will lead to other jobs with no money attached, or at the very least. Some producers will pay $10 for you to read a screenplay. Ten of them in a day is $100. But reading ten will make you crazy.

There is money offered on mandy and on a dozen other sites for screenplays. One of them is Screenwriters Market in which anyone from a washed-up screenwriter to an old lady in Iowa has screenplays to sell. And everyone in between, including all those screenwriters who graduated from universities and schools.

And when a job is offered on Screenwriters Market, it becomes a shark frenzy as everyone offers their screenplay, or partial screenplay or idea.

But lets examine this and what your chances are in my next blog this week. 
And there is hope!