Monday, July 25, 2016

Rough week

Gonna have a rough week, will try to post later.

Friday, July 22, 2016

  Sorry, I got behind this morning... but here's the real reader's report. And only 3 pages of 11 pages in total.

So this is a real reader's report as compared to that 3/4 page with "strengths" and "weaknesses." So have a look at this, I just entered 3 pages but if you want more email me. The markings are mine.

So, this is only 3 pages of 11 (I lost the first 2 pages) but I think you can tell which is a good readers report and which isn't. She had the script overnight as mentioned and we went to a bar to read it over.

I was a little bit egotistic at that time but even with that I realized she was one hell of a reader. 

So which reader's report would you want to read. As I mentioned, the $50 reader trashed most of what wasn't really bad at all, but hey, they gotta make that $50. 

Go look at the lame reader's report and put it up against only 3 pages of her 11 page readers report. 

Needless to say she was worth a lot more and I would work with her anytime, anywhere.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What a real reader can do

I found a few of the real reader's pages to show you how someone with talent when reading other people's work can really help you.

I'll post her pages Friday.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Where the writer gets trashed...

 ...So this is what happens to "the rest of the story."  

So you read two stories back about being a writer and being a real writer. But it's not all that good also. 

So here's the original "strengths" as the reader at the Black List wrote it.
The premise of a presidential heart transplant is strong and commercial. It takes a personal need with a ticking clock, and transforms into a global crisis with a journey at its center. It's a smart base for an affordable political thriller which still has worldwide stakes. Making the protagonist a doctor was an intelligent decision, and introduces a fish out of water element that always plays well in a thriller. The setting - a chase from Paris to Luxembourg - is perfectly commercial.

That's the one you read last time. Sounds really positive, I should get meetings at least, if not an option. But this is where the reader begins to show how smart he or she is. I've been through a lot of readers and the only thing I could describe is this --

-- everyone is different. 

I've seen notes anywhere from 1 page to 20 pages (of which this 20 pg was good).

But this one I got from Black List is just plain dumb.
The biggest issue is undefined and unresolved antagonists. The "tease" of a conspiracy at the end is not enough, and only emphasizes a lack of answers. We absolutely need to know who Ulani is, who he's working for, and get a sensible explanation of their motivation. OK, maybe I can add the character's motivation, or not. I call this even.

From the standpoint of character, not enough romance or closeness develops between Doc and Judy. Neither Doc nor Judy are personally invested in delivering the heart: what drives them? Too much of the plot is under-explained or outright implausible. This is way too easy to say something that is basically their choice or mine. The signing of the papers to pass the presidency is not established as necessary, and is a false drama - its failure has no consequences. Here I say he/she is wrong. Using a word like implausible is just telling me he/she wishes they could write this.  And what the hell is "false drama." The reader is now showing off to his/her producer. None of that paragraph means anything.

Additionally, it's not realistic that the speaker is taking the presidency. It's not possible through the means suggested (impeachment doesn't remove a person from office, is exceptionally slow, and is only an accusation of a crime). The lack of believable usurpation seriously undermines the stakes. Again, the reader says it's "not realistic". Of course it's not, it's a movie!! Their realism and mine are clashing here. And the reader missed the point, unfortunately I can't post the entire script. Or maybe I can? Hmnn.
There are many small plausibility issues. E.g.: why would a random doctor be drafted for such a critical mission, why would the terrorists have a satellite link to the heart, how could world governments be totally incapable of securing the heart, and why wouldn't Ulani kill Doc and Judy. "Why would a random doctor be drafted for such a critical mission." Because that's what I wrote. There's too many how's and whys? Chances are that the reader is young and wants to impress their boss. 

fyi My first produced movie for Lifetime was a first draft. I finished it in 2 weeks and handed it over on a Friday to the AD and they started shooting Monday. Honest. Maybe a few changes in dialog or locations.
THE PRESIDENT'S HEART has a commercial premise and setting, but needs work on its execution before it will be seriously considered for purchase or production. This could be the death of this screenplay as this person definitely is contrary, they say it's a great script and then they tear it to pieces. If a story is good, it's good to anyone who reads it. It's a rookie, for sure. 

But if you want a good set of notes, I still have them. I had my Side by Side screenplay and didn't really want to get the production company's reader (or in this case she was an "exec". She took the script home and came back the next day. I was totally embarrassed, she came up with one great thing;

Rather than trashing it, she offered alternatives. 

Yes. Alternatives.

I still have those notes and I should maybe post them, if I can figure out how to do it on this darn thing...

But you can see the notes from the kid, just killing the story rather than helping the story. I learned that teaching UCLA classes, "if you trash someone's work, then offer some ideas."

I'll try to fit the exec's notes on this blog, if I can, I still read them now and then. She knew her business and loved movies and looked for the best in a screenplay, not the worst.

And more readers than you think envy the writers often and trash them just because they can. It's easier to trash a script then to champion it. So if you ever get trashed, there's more chance that they are envious but also that you can recognize good readers among them. After all a lot of them get paid $50 to read your script. This one did I know for sure.

And you will find good readers.

And you'll know it.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Who ya gonna call...

Bill Murray, Rick Moranis, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Dan Akyroyd.


Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate Mckinnon and Leslie Jones

Okay, so it's unfair. Or is it? 

The reviews are "mixed" as they say. The studio hopes the new version make at least $40 million. We will see. 

There's already been some trashing, actually a lot of trashing of the new female version, directed by a male.

What do I think?

Well, it's not really fair. For instance I dont'e care for Kristin Wiig, she's more of a character actor, not a star. Melissa is definitely a star and the other two I don't know at all.

And when you look at the 1984 version, you have 5 solid stars. Everyone in the world knows them. So it's not really fair to compare. 

Will I see it? Maybe somewhere up the road, when it's on netflix or any other streamer. 

As a boomer, I'm getting to realize that the GenX'ers are starting to crowd the field of movies being made. In my mind, we had the 2nd great stars; names like Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Doris Day, Elizabeth Taylor and many more with the first ones who were Bogart, Tracy, Hepburn, Gable.

And the millennials have Kate McKinnon.



Nobody can match the originals, in the same vein as Brad Pitt being Frank Bullitt in the new version of that movie, coming soon to your personal venue.

But Ghostbusters will make money and the movie industry will make money.

And that's what it's all about. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

When are you a writer...

I have a friend who lives across the street and who is totally sure that he will win with his latest screenplay at some screenwriting contest. Actually two contests. He's sure because he's a writer.

I told him to not waste his money.

But he tells me that his scripts are really different. He's a lot smarter than the average writer and his scripts would show it. After all, he's a writer.

I hate to tell him, but his title is more like aspiring writer. You don't get to be a screenwriter until you get a film made, or at least optioned. Bummer.

And as I said, most of my writer and director friends agree that most of those screenwriter festivals are scams in a way -- a chance to get aspiring writers to spend their $50 or more to be discovered as the genius they are.

I always measure aspiring writers by two different takes;
The first one is the person who doesn't really need to ask a pro writer questions. 
The second is the one who asks the pro.

A few days ago I met two writers; one I knew and who has written one screenplay and now another. He's the one who knows it all -- and his work is poorly written as he copied a real script from a real movie. But he knows it all.

The second aspiring writer across the table was more humble, he still hasn't made a sale but he keeps trying. Then he mentioned that he taught some classes in screenwriting. Which leads me to my book.

Yeah, yeah, my book on screenwriting. The template of the book was that it was based on one of the screenplays that was made for Hallmark. 

I know. Hallmark?

Well, women love those movies and I even got a few letters from them. And Hallmark pays. 

The book also has a lot of real-life episodes, how to handle producers and actors and directors as well as a multitude of good real-life anecdotes from the battlefield. 

Which makes me wonder how deep the above screenwriter could go without actual battle scars. 

A week ago I had a nice email about my book in that an online screenwriting group was using my book in some of their classes. That always makes me feel good as I think that online screenwriting classes are better than on-site classes.

But getting back to the beginning.

You are a writer when you have made a sale, or even an option as I mentioned before. And I still feel that most of those screenplay contests are just a way to get some money from aspiring writers.

So what do you do?

I always recommend The Black List, which I mentioned before this blog. I don't own any stock in it, it's just that they are real. No contests, just readers from studios who will tell you if your screenplay is good or bad.

Here's an example of what a reader said about my screenplay --

“The premise of a presidential heart transplant is strong and commercial. It takes a personal need with a ticking clock and transforms into a global crisis with a journey at it’s center. It’s a smart base for an affordable political thriller which still has world-wide stakes. Making the protagonist a doctor was an intelligent decision and introduces a fish out of water element that always plays well in a thriller. The setting – a chase from Paris to Luxembourg – is perfectly commercial.”  Black List Reader.

But it wasn't all good... stay tuned.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sorry, post is a little late

I'm late again, had a hard wk-end and a lot of preparation for a shot at a pilot I wrote some time ago and it resurfaced. At least the heat isn't all that bad in good old Sherman Oaks. 

I'm considering putting a script on The Black List, it's a good place to put your screenplay on and you can get some attention if your script is good. Basically the Black List (not the TV show) is where producers and writers and anyone else who wants to see scripts that might get made.

It's not a contest, rather scripts get read from so-called professional script readers and it costs $50. Then your script can be shown to other writers and also producers as Black List has a very good reputation.  Very often, some of their choices of films, which may be hanging around for years, get made.

But most of the scripts don't really get too far because the ones that Black List picks out often become award winners.

Have a look anyways, The Black List. I think it costs $20 to join.

You can see it on the blog, first one under STUFF.

Anyways, more tomorrow... 

Monday, July 4, 2016

It had to happen...

...sooner or later.

It is something that I dreaded. More than anything. 

I noticed it accidentally while I was driving last Friday, going somewhere. Then, at a stoplight I noticed one of those film crew signs, usually taped or stuck onto a stop-light pole.

I always have a look to see what movie was being shot. It's pretty common here in the valley since several studios are in the area. But that's when I saw it.


One word and a generation is going to be very unhappy. I shook my head, cursed and drove away. Why?   Why?

Bullitt is going to be remade.

Bullitt is one of our signature movies, one of the best. So if you don't know the movie, this is a quick study. The movie was released in 1968 and became a classic cop and bad guy movie that virtually everyone saw.

And it was arguably the best movie that Steve McQueen made, even if there were a few other good ones. He was great in The Magnificent Seven and even better in The Great Escape

But Bullitt belonged to him.

San Francisco cop Frank Bullitt. Get it? Who loses a bad guy and has to find the guys who killed him. Simple plot, right?

But the movie  belonged to McQueen with the exception of one other item. And that was his 1968 Ford Mustang with more power than any five car today. 

So now, back to the crew sign. I had remembered someone would probably remake Bullitt but somehow we boomers thought nobody would dare remake it. I glanced through the Hollywood papers and there it was.

Bullitt was going to be remade, and to bring more insult, Frank Bullitt would be portrayed by Brad Pitt. I will not say those two words again.

Why was the original so good? It was one of those "Perfect Movies," like the original Terminator, like Casablanca or The Searchers. Perfect movies aren't always the biggest or the best, they were just... perfect. Casting, location and the 1968 Mustang.

You can ask any real filmmaker what their perfect movies are. You'll be surprised but chances are you've seen them too.

Now, you will hear about the "Best car chase ever," although the millennials will have their own choices. Bullitt didn't have CGI effects, just real driving and some of which McQueen did himself. And racing through the hills and streets of San Francisco at high speed still works when you watch it. Because it's real.
 Whenever you hear someone say "the car chase", everyone else knows which one.

Sure, the car chases now, all fixed with CGI are ballet-like but the Mustang was real and the bad guys and their Dodge Charger were real. Everything was real.

So what's my beef?

How about this...
Yep... my own 1968 Mustang. Bought it in 1969 and had it for years. The perfect car even today. I paid just under $2000 in 69.

Yep, my own 1968 Mustang. I bought it one year older, 4-gear 302 Ford engine. All I wanted in life. 

Me an' my Mustang 2nd-hand, waiting for me in a car lot on a winter cold evening many years ago. I was in my Jim Morrison mode, my ex and I had problems with the Mustang in 1972 on a road trip across Canada and had it repaired in a small town called Kamsack, Saskatchewan. It was also where a cafe refused to let us have lunch and told us to get out of town.

So keep your eyes open for Bullitt, now played by "that actor." But between then and now, go screen a copy of Bullitt.

There will be protests. I think many will refuse to even say the name of "that other actor" who's married to Angelina.

Friday, July 1, 2016

One bad week...

Sorry to be so late, this week was one hell of a time, reworking several things as well as a potential move from a place I really like, actually 25 years. Hard to deal with that. 

I should be back Monday for sure... although that's a holiday for Americans, but I'll do the blog anyways.  I'm beginning more work on a potential website where I would have the blog, but also classes in screenwriting.

I'm thinking of 5 to 10 students and would be totally identical to the UCLA classes I taught before. I have excellent recommendations from my previous UCLA students.

Could be interesting and a whole new world.