31 December, 2007

Michael Cunningham, screenwriter, interview


Solving the screenplay puzzle -
Ticking clock keeps best scripts lean

Michael Cunningham, novelist ("The Hours"), screenwriter and a teacher of writing, spoke to Variety features editor David S. Cohen for Cohen's upcoming book "Screen Plays: How 25 Scripts Made It to a Theater Near You -- For Better or Worse."

Cunningham saw David Hare's adaptation of "The Hours" nominated for an Oscar and went on to adapt his own "A Home at the End of the World" and Susan Minot's novel "Evening" for the screen. He discussed the differences between writing a novel and a screenplay.

A novel can include a sort of panorama of characters, a little like the Breughel painting with Icarus going down in the lower right-hand corner of the canvas. That's one of the reasons there are novels. That's one of the reasons we need novels and we need movies. A novel can account for randomness and can include a wide range of people whose fates just barely impinge on one another. I can't think of a way to tell a story like that in a movie that I would want to see.

I think movies are more closely related to short stories than to novels. A short story actually involves the compression you need for a movie, whereas a novel is another category of thing entirely. Was it Henry James who called a novel a big, baggy monster? That's what it is. That's why we love them. I think a short story, very much like a movie, has no room in it for extra baggage. It needs to move, it doesn't need to move directly, but it needs to move swiftly. It needs to be lithe and light and nimble, and though that forty-page digression to the Crimean War and how it resembles what's happening at the family dinner may be interesting, there's no room in a short story for it. Nor is there room in a screenplay for it.

In adapting a novel, (what I do is) first to try to reimagine it as a short story. Reduce it to its fundamental elements, and then adapt that.

There's something a little bit mathematical about writing a screenplay. You have a certain number of elements. You probably have about two hours to tell the story; no one's going to make a five-hour movie, or a forty-five-minute movie, for that matter. And it's a little like solving a puzzle: Okay, these people, these events, this outcome. Tell it in two hours. Go.

That clock ticks relentlessly throughout every page and line of dialogue. There's no slack, there's no surcease, there's no room to stop and take a breath and provide a little background. It's tremendously structured. It's like doing sprints, as opposed to a marathon.

(Whatever you write), what you're doing is asking people to pause in the middle of their very busy lives and look at (your story). "Wait a minute, stop what you're doing and look at this! Don't have sex, don't have lunch, don't learn French, get someone else to pick up your kids at school and do this instead."

You'd better give them something that's tense and taut and deep and meaningful. Otherwise, the fact that you wanted to do it, (or that) it expresses some untapped beauty of your own soul, isn't enough. You're doing it for yourself and you're doing it for other people. If you don't understand that both elements are equally important, narrative in any form is not really the job for you.

-- From "Screen Plays" by David S. Cohen, HarperCollins Entertainment, February 2008

Hollywood writers threaten internet breakaway

The Guardian:

"Leading film and TV writers, accompanied by actors, directors and Silicon Valley investors, are poised to announce the creation of new ventures aimed at bypassing the studios.

"It's a whole new model to bring content directly to the masses," said screenwriter Aaron Mendelsohn. "We're gathering together a team of A-list TV and film writers, along with their A-list equivalent from Silicon Valley."

Mendelsohn is not alone. Seven groups are thought to be working on forming companies to challenge the dominance of the studios. The new companies plan to create programmes and films and distribute them on the internet, circumventing the old model of big studios owned by even bigger parent companies churning out content and controlling when and where it is seen.

The developments come as the screenwriters' strike shows no sign of a resolution. A report presented last week to a city council committee estimated that the strike would cost Los Angeles between $380m and $2.5bn."

29 December, 2007

Screenwriters: stranger than fiction

LA Times:

"It isn't often that a screenwriter gets the kind of attention that "Juno" scribe Diablo Cody has received over the past few months. But then, most screenwriters haven't invented such an interesting story for themselves.

Born Brook Busey-Hunt, the much-lauded screenwriter studied creative writing in college, but later abandoned her job at an advertising agency to begin stripping -- under her new name -- and then blogged about it the moment she got off stage.

Thanks to the stripping gig, that saucy new stripper handle, and a suggestively titled blog, it wasn’t long before Busey-Hunt landed a book deal. And when she turned her hand to screenwriting (a Hollywood agent’s suggestion), her first script was quickly acquired.

Of course, Busey-Hunt is far from the first screenwriter to use an unusual self-mythology to get a script into the right hands, and to use that same story to get butts into seats when the film gets made.

Here are a few other screenwriters whose back stories have helped them land in the media’s harsh glare:

Featuring Steven Gaghan, David Benioff, Aaron Sorkin, Antwone Fisher, Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal, Melissa Mathison and Diablo Cody

100 Movie Clichés

Mystery Man on Film:

" I used to post movie clichés periodically when I first started blogging, which were from Ebert’s Little Movie Glossary and submitted by cinephiles from around the world. I still have a 60-page word doc filled with hundreds of clichés, which every screenwriter should know by heart, right? So I thought I’d share some hand-picked favorites in posts of 100. (This group only goes up to the E’s.) "

Scripting Lives


" Striking Hollywood screenwriters may have brought the US industry to its knees, but here in Mumbai things are rather different. Anjali Thomas finds out why the Indian writers’ reality is far removed from the stories they tell us "

26 December, 2007

Heidi Thomas, screenwriter, interview

Daily Telegraph:

"Fresh from the success of 'Cranford', screenwriter Heidi Thomas turns her attention to the children's classic about three orphans. Here, she tells Adriaane Pielou how the story helped her cope with family tragedy and hardship."

24 December, 2007

Katori Hall, playwright, interview



" You are a playwright and a performer. Does knowing how to do both affect your work in both arts? What are your particular goals when you are wearing your playwright's cap versus your performer's cap? What are the similarities, if any?"

" I actually started writing plays out of frustration. I was taking a scene study class at Barnard and I asked my teacher if she knew of any good scenes for two young African-American women. She could only pull a few names from her memory. The usual, August Wilson…Lorraine Hansberry. “But even they don’t have a scene for two young African-American women,” she said. I remember staring into her blank face and saying to myself, "Well, I guess I’m gonna have to write them then."

So, I’ve made a point to write plays that come from my own personal and cultural experience. Because I’m an actor, I try to write parts that even I would kill to play—complex, juicy, meaty, craft-building roles that are innovative and fresh. Both acting and writing require great use of one’s imagination. It’s just with writing you create a world with your mind, and with acting you create a character with your mind, your emotions and your body. Acting is your imagination in 3D. My goals for both art forms are essentially the same—to create a true reflection of the human experience for the stage. "

Nancy Oliver, screenwriter, interview

LA Times:

"How do you battle writer's block, if you get it?"

"There's plenty of struggle, no question about that. I had had a block . . . for five years and I wasn't sure that I would ever be able to write a big piece again. I've been working since I was 21, trying to put it all together, and hit just one dead end after the next. You question sometimes, "Is this what I'm supposed to be doing? I'm following my dream and it's leading me into the gutter!"

23 December, 2007


Waitresses - "Christmas Wrapping"

David Bowie and Bing Crosby - "Little Drummer Boy"

Paul McCartney - "Wonderful Christmastime"

Death Cab for Cutie - "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"

Dean Martin - "Christmas Blues"

John and Yoko, The Plastic Ono Band - "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"

22 December, 2007

Opening Weekend

Balls of Fury

Written by Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant

Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant interview 1
Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant interview 2


I Am Legend

Written by Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman (based on the novel by Richard Matheson and the 1971 screenplay by John William Corrington & Joyce Hooper Corrington)

Akiva Goldsman interview

Mark Prostevich's original screenplay
This was called the best screenplay not produced at one point. There is a debate between those who think it's not all that and those who think Goldsman's re-write has ruined a great adaptation.


I'm Not There

Written by Todd Haynes & Oren Moverman (from the story by Todd Haynes)

Todd Haynes interview 1
Todd Haynes interview 2
Todd Haynes interview 3
Todd Haynes interview 4


The Kite Runner

Written by David Benioff (based on the novel by Khaled Hosseini)

David Benioff interview 1
David Benioff interview 2
David Benioff interview 3

Screenplay (PDF)


Paranoid Park

Written by Gus Van Sant (based on the novel by Blake Nelson)

Gus Van Sant interview 1
Gus Van Sant interview 2
Gus Van Sant interview 3 (video)


Broadcast's Hot 100 of 2007


Whether it's award-winning drama or hit comedy, the script is the key to success. We round up a dozen writers responsible for the UK's finest television.

Tony Jordan

It's been a hugely successful year for this 50-year-old writer and co-creator of Kudos drama Life on Mars. In addition to hits such as Hustle and Holby City spin-off Holby Blue, he's also set up his own indie, Red Planet Pictures. It has hit the ground running, notching up a first-look deal with Sony Pictures TV and two eagerly awaited ITV1 dramas for the new year: Echo Beach - an OC-style soap set in Cornwall - and Moving Wallpaper, its behind-the-scenes counterpart - both made in association with Life on Mars producer Kudos. According to Kudos drama chief Jane Featherstone, Jordan is a genius: "We have worked together for years and rarely have I worked with an individual so relentlessly full of so many brilliant, unique and special ideas with the talent to back them up."

"Hustle was the big breakthrough," says Jordan, who says it was one of the first big, glossy British dramas influenced by US shows such as Lost and 24. "I was born for this era of high-concept, bold ideas," he declares.

Expelled from school at the age of 14, Jordan spent his early years working in factories, fairgrounds and markets rather than writing, but it doesn't seem to have done him any harm. Although he was 32 before an unsolicited script attracted the BBC's attention, he quickly learnt his craft on EastEnders and hasn't looked back. Also on Jordan's slate is a 90-minute version of the Nativity for BBC1 and a movie script for Fox based on Hustle. And he's found time to write an episode of EastEnders - a half-hour monologue by Dot Cotton. "It's a first in soaps - I like stretching the box a little bit."

Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah

If 2007 was busy for Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham, two-thirds of the creative team behind Life on Mars, 2008 is set to be even busier. The duo's feted take on the 1970s cop show may have come to an end, but there's spin-off Ashes to Ashes - featuring Philip Glenister's gritty copper Gene Hunt, who has swapped his Ford Cortina for an Audi Quattro but is facing the end of the line - set for March on BBC1. Viewers also have the first product of Pharoah and Graham's Bath-based indie Monastic to look forward to in Bonekickers. Made in collaboration with Damien Timmer and Michele Buck's indie, Mammoth, the archaeology drama is described by Pharoah as Indiana Jones meets Time Team. Pharoah, who writes ITV hit Wild at Heart, and Graham both live in a village outside Bath and commute to the spa town to Monastic. "Running our own company is exciting and exhausting, but it does give us more say in the production process," says Pharoah.

Peter Morgan
Morgan's popularity shows no signs of letting up as he pursues his Blair trilogy to its conclusion in The Special Relationship, his follow-up to The Deal and The Queen. Says The Queen executive producer Andy Harries, who has worked with Morgan for 15 years: " He's the outstanding writer of his generation. What Peter does so brilliantly is to take major political themes in contemporary history and find the drama with his instinct for stories and his fantastic ability to simplify so the themes are clear." Oscar nominated for The Queen, this year Morgan won a Bafta for Longford and a film Bafta for The Last King of Scotland. His next feature with Harries is an adaptation of David Peace's Damned Utd, about football manager Brian Clough. But his favourite medium remains TV: "You can be far more challenging, articulate and intelligent writing for television."

Barbara Machin

Emmy-award winning Waking the Dead creator Machin is a quality writer with the Midas touch.
She scooped a Bafta this year for her work on Casualty's Christmas two-parter Killing Me Softly, described by John Yorke, controller of drama production studios at the BBC, as "a brilliant piece of popular television at its best".

Machin, formerly one of the Casualty writing team, returned to the hospital soap as a consultant to inject fresh vigour into the production team. "She elevated the work of the team to standards they haven't reached for years," says Yorke. Now Machin has an innovative BBC1 crime two-parter, Blood Rush, under way, which will tell the story from each character's point of view. "Every point of view tells a different story," says Machin. "In fact, there's always more than one perspective to a crime. Each time you think you understand the truth, immediately afterwards we will take you somewhere new."

Jimmy McGovern
Cracker creator McGovern enjoyed a welcome return to form this year with Granada's Emmy award-winning BBC1 hit The Street, which combines hard-hitting storylines with impressive ratings. The series, on which McGovern is lead writer, also acts as a showcase for new writing talent, with McGovern collaborating with less experienced writers.

Born in Liverpool in 1949, McGovern is from a large working-class Catholic family and has spent much of his career battling to get working-class voices on TV. In his early years that was expressed through his writing on Brookside, as well as series such as The Lakes and Hillsborough. More recently McGovern has turned to movies, with his film Mary Queen of Scots in production starring Scarlett Johansson. According to BBC fiction controller Jane Tranter, McGovern's signature dramas make him one of Britain's foremost writing talents: "Jimmy's ability to engage an audience with thought-provoking and challenging dramas sets him apart."

Stephen Poliakoff

Poliakoff's distinctive style of drama is, for some at least, the perfect antidote to the fashion for fast-paced, frothy narrative. This autumn's double bill, Joe's Palace and Capturing Mary, c ertainly split the critics. but more than any other current British writer Poliakoff has carved out a degree of creative freedom which shows in the measured, lingering shots that characterise his work. His most recent intricately interwoven tales are expected to be strong contenders at next year's awards and continued his key themes of unearthed secrets and investigating archives.

Now he's working on more scripts through Talkback to build on the success of work such as the multiple award-winning The Lost Prince and Shooting the Past. When asked by BBC2 to cut the latter by 35 minutes, he refused point blank. Says Talkback Thames chief Lorraine Heggessey: "Stephen is one of the leading writer/directors of our time. His films are beautiful, compelling and unique and always attract the best talent in the business both in front of and behind the camera."

Andrew Davies

Davies' furious work rate never seems to slacken. He is to follow BBC4's Fanny Hill - BBC4's highest-rating show ever - with his latest three-parter, Sense and Sensibility for BBC1. There's more Dickens due, with Little Dorrit getting the Bleak House half-hour serialisation treatment for the BBC, while ITV is screening Affinity in January, his second adaptation of a Sarah Waters novel after Tipping the Velvet in 2002. The man said to have done more to popularise the classics than anybody is also beavering away on more contemporary work. ITV1 has greenlit an adaptation of Joanna Briscoe's "sexy thriller" Sleep with Me, set to air in the autumn. Davies is also adapting James Hawes' satire Speak for England for the BBC. "It's a wild, Evelyn Waugh-ish satire on English values - traditional and contemporary," he declares. Says BBC head of drama series and serials Kate Harwood: "He has this incredible knack of cracking open quite complex books like Little Dorrit." A lot is made of Andrew and sex but that's really undervaluing him."

But he knows what makes a modern audience care about characters and he doesn't bow at the altar of the novelist. He doesn't slavishly respect novels to the extent that he puts in stuff that won't work on TV."

Bryan Elsley
What's a 46-year-old writer hitherto best known for ITV hit Rose and Maloney and BBC1's The Crow Road doing making Skins, C4's hit drama series about a group of thrill-seeking teenagers? Fair question, says Skins creator and executive producer Bryan Elsley, who breached the 30-year age gap by creating a 16-strong scriptwriting group featuring some of the youngest and hottest writers in the country.

The writing team is led by Elsley, who started his writing career as a stand-up with Ben Elton, backed by Skins three main writers Ben Schiffer, Jack Thorne (Shameless) and Jamie Brittain, Elsley's son. C4's forthcoming second series, set to kick off in March, features one episode written by 18-year-old Daniel Kaluuya, one of the show's actors. If - or rather when - C4 commissions a third run, Elsley is planning to take a back seat and shake up the series with fresh acting talent. "All of our actors will have reached the age of 18 and are leaving school, which means they'll leave the show," he says.

Dominic Minghella
"Dominic Minghella has it all - heart, humour and a great gut instinct for story," declares Tiger Aspect drama chief Greg Brenman, who executive produces Minghella's hit BBC1 series Robin Hood.

Minghella, brother of feature director Anthony, has a sure touch for popular drama, with Robin Hood now commissioned for a third series and Doc Martin going from strength to strength on ITV1. Next year he plans to become one of the new breed of drama writers who run their own companies. His indie, Plain Vanilla, already has its first show under way: a BBC1 adaptation of Eleanor Updale's Montmorency. Says Minghella: "When I started out I thought I'd be Alan Plater, but I've turned out to be a crowd pleaser." His first popular drama outing was as script editor on Hamish Macbeth, where he almost became a producer. "Producing is the only game in town in British telly," he says. "It's where a lot of the creative choices are made."

Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain

The writers behind Peep Show have established an award-winning partnership that has minted some of our best comedy and satire, including The Thick of It and That Mitchell and
Webb Look. Armstrong and Bain's rise started on a creative writing course at Manchester University. Both attempted to establish a career outside comedy writing - Bain as a novelist while Armstrong worked for the Labour party - before the duo -reunited in 1997 to bounce gags off one another. Credits on a wide range of comedy followed, from the Big Breakfast to 2DTV and Smack the Pony, before their breakthrough C4 series Peep Show, starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb. Since then their comedy has included Magicians and Ladies and Gentlemen - a film for C4's Comedy Showcase. Says Objective head of comedy Phil Clarke: "Everybody wants to work with them because they are talented, hard-working and are brilliant re-writers who are happy to listen to the comments of others."

Steven Moffat

The twin successes of BBC1 dramas Doctor Who and Jekyll single out Steven Moffat this year. His interpretation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic was described as "ingeniously playful". The same could be said of his work on Doctor Who, where he's tipped to take over from head writer Russell T Davies in 2009. Moffat's work has attracted attention from Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, who recommended Moffat to Steven Spielberg as the writer for the duo's new Tintin trilogy. Moffat's break into TV was with BBC series Press Gang. He went on to create comedy drama Coupling, produced by wife Sue Vertue. The partnership continues with his next series for the BBC, Adam and Eve. There's even talk of Moffat updating Press Gang. "I'd love to do a return visit to the characters," he says. "They'll all be sad and fat, decaying in middle age."

Simon Armitage

Commemorating tragedy has become something of a theme for Bafta-winning poet Simon Armitage. Last year it was his Five film 9/11: Out of the Blue from Silver River, commemorating the New York terror attacks of 2001. This year it was his Channel 4 film marking Remembrance Day, The Not Dead from Century Films, which followed three soldier's stories from the war in Malaya in the 1940s to the current conflict in Iraq. It's the latest in a series of ground-breaking creative collaborations between Armitage - who many expect to become the next poet laureate - and Century's Brian Hill, which includes Songbirds, Pornography: The Musical and Bafta-winning Feltham Sings.

Says Hill: "Simon's incredibly good at picking up people's speech rhythms and understands that in order to be effective on television you need to be immediately impactful.Together we've tackled drug addicts, alcoholics, porn stars, war veterans - the common link is we do work about people who are in one way or another dispossessed or disadvantaged."

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20 December, 2007

Screenwriters walk a fine line translating literature into film

Bend Weekly:

" They don't give out an Academy Award for best adaptation for nothing. You've got to please the studio. You've got to please moviegoers. You've got to please devotees of the book. So how do these screenwriters do it? "A lot of it for me is very instinctual," said Mark Protosevich, who's adapted Richard Matheson's novel, "I Am Legend," into a screenplay for the Will Smith movie that opens Dec. 14. "It's an emotional reaction. I hadn't read it ('I Am Legend') in a number of years. ... What happens is that I start seeing a movie in my head. Images start coming up, scenes start coming up. I scribble notes.

"I'm not thinking too much about whether this is going to please the fans or admirers of the book. What I'm doing is going through my own process; I've always likened it to musicians covering songs. You're either going to do a very faithful cover of that original composition, or you're going to try to approach it in your own way."



Stella Street, the cult celebrity comedy that first aired on the BBC, is moving online with new episodes based at LOG TV, a new Internet channel.

LOG TV is running in beta at the moment and the "About" page is empty but they appear to be going for a mix of new commissioned material and UGC. Head over now and you'll find an intermittently amusing topical news satire which might be a regular feature.

Christopher Hampton, "Adaptation", interview

Cinema Blend:

" I love doing the big crossword puzzle. You know, all screenwriters get fired from time to time, and I have been five or six times. And it almost always has to do with an issue of my saying ‘You know, this is not how it is in the book. Why do you want to change it? The change you’re proposing is not as interesting as what the book is proposing.’ "

19 December, 2007

Mike Jones, Celtx, interview

LA Screenwriter podcasts:

Mike Jones explains the current and upcoming features of the free Celtx screenwriting software.

Download (mp3)

I Will Survive: 13 Lessons From Watching Scary Movies


"Read our scary-movie survivor's guide."

18 December, 2007

Diablo Cody, "Juno", interviews


" Q: Did you read screenwriting books?

DC: No. I've never read a screenwriting book. I'm really superstitious about it too. I don't even want to look at them. All I did was I went and bought the shooting script of "Ghost World" at Barnes and Noble and read it just to see how it should look on the page because I like that movie. So it was kind of a weird coincidence that the producers wound up producing "Juno" as well. "

Pop Matters:

Diablo, where do you pick up your slang? I mean, I think I talk like a 15-year-old, but there were phrases in this movie I’ve never heard before.

I just make it up. I felt very free writing the script because I’d never written one before. So I thought, you know, I’m not even going to bother writing something formulaic. I want to be noticed, I wanted to do something fresh and new, so I’m just going to go crazy with the language."

LA Times:

"It's a grim time for women. I feel sometimes like we live in 'The Matrix'. People are completely blinded to the patriarchy because we're so used to it. I try to live every day completely alert and aware of how I'm being marginalised. I don't have a persecution complex, but I look for it.

"I have a responsibility to write strong female characters. I'm going to continue to do it."

New York Times:

"The attitude toward women in this industry is nauseating. There are all sorts of porcine executives who are uncomfortable with a woman doing anything subversive. They want the movie about the beautiful girl who trip and falls, the adorable klutz."


"Sometimes, I write specific characters or certain scenarios to fill a void in entertainment that I perceive. I want to see a movie about a teenage girl who is articulate and intelligent and offbeat, so I just wrote it.

"I wanted to write a multi-dimensional female adolescent. I have said that she was a reflection of myself as a teenager, but I was never that smart. I was never that self-assured. I was that vulnerable, but I wasn’t as cool."

Seattle PI:

"Writing is writing. Any time you're writing you're exercising that muscle. Any medium that makes you sit down and write every day is going to be helping you as a writer regardless of the genre.

Writing a screenplay, though, is unlike anything else because you're just making a skeleton. Your story is really not complete until it becomes a movie. With prose it's more of a one-man show, you know, everything has to be on the page. I actually think writing prose can be a lot more challenging."


“The point at which I wrote it, I really had nothing to lose. I figured there are a lot of scripts out there that sound the same and are a little vanilla and formulaic, so I would rather do something different and be accused of going too far than hold myself back.”

The Times:

“I have radical beliefs about feminism, so sometimes I get defensive – like, ‘Don’t tell me what is or isn’t good for womankind.’ I don’t understand why anything involving sex or sexuality is an issue, ever. It’s base human instinct, as natural as it comes.”


"Q. Did you look up anything that told you how to write a screenplay or construct a narrative?

Diablo Cody: No and now I’m really resistant to the idea because I’m superstitious. But the wonderful thing about the world is that movies are so accessible to most of us; we’ve all seen a lot of movies and I grew up watching a lot of movies, clearly. I’m not one of those people that gets the AFI’s top 100 list and sits and watches every single one to analyse them. But I love movies and anyone who loves movies is familiar with that kind of structure. If you were watching a movie and it unfolded in a strange way, you’d feel that even if you didn’t have a formal education on film. For me, it was just instinctual – what kind of movies did I like? What’s the tone? What was the dialogue like? How long are the scenes? How is it paced? And I just wrote a movie according to that formula."

Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages:

"And it also bothers me when—this is a real paradox for me: My entire life I've been told I wasn't pretty enough. My entire life I was told by people that I was ugly, that I was too tall, that I was flat-chested, that I was this, that I was that. When I was a stripper I was never quite pretty enough. I was never one of the beautiful girls. I was never one of the top earners. Suddenly I achieve something in my life that is purely intellectual and purely creative, and I'm being told that it's because I'm pretty. To me that is the weirdest, most ironic thing ever. Like all of a sudden I'm attractive when it suits people's purposes. But in the past when I needed to be attractive I was ugly. So let's pick. Which is it?"

"You know what I'm proud of? It's one thing to write something like Juno and you hear the resounding cries of "Fluke!" You know, like, "Oh, she wrote one good script." But then the fact that I wrote subsequent scripts that were well received, even though they are still in development. To me, that's the hardest jump to make, from beginner's luck to, "All right, I am actually going to do this."

Obviously we don't know for sure if I've pulled it off because none of these things have been revealed to the world yet, but I do know that some people I really admire believe in them already, and to me that is an accomplishment."

"...There's a lot of pressure. I suffer from feelings of unworthiness on a daily basis. I think of myself as a novice writer, and I am. I have so much to learn."


"Juno" screenplay


Juno has entered the IMDB top 250 films, broken the 100 million dollars domestic box office barrier and has been nominated for a few awards.

WGA Strike - Week Six Summary and Analysis

Script Enabler:

" Week six of the writers strike has concluded and I have some thoughts.

Next week the force majeur blood letting will begin. Most talent deals allow six weeks of suspended services due to an act of God before they can be terminated without penalty. I’ve always viewed this as the first of the unfortunate milestones the studios would let pass before any serious negotiations could begin.

I’m guessing that the next milestone would be the results of the February 2008 sweeps. By then, scripted shows will be gone and reality shows will be in heavy rotation. The third milestone will be if and when negotiations begin between the DGA and the AMPTP and we finally get a peek at the DGA’s demands and resolve.

NBC has quietly begun refunding television advertisers for under-performing in the ratings. What’s sad is that this fall season was supposed to be their ‘make goods’ from last year’s underperforming season. One can only guess where NBC’s ratings will go come January when they run out of scripted shows. "

The WGA Writers Strike Back: Hollywood Rumble!

17 December, 2007

Locations, Locations, Locations

Mystery Man on Film:

"Ironically, little has been written in screenwriting books (and around scribosphere) about how to pick locations for your screenplay. This is important stuff! And it is such a pet peeve of mine when writers are so thoughtless, unoriginal, and uncreative about locations in their scripts. (Or they keep returning to the same boring location again and again. Or a protagonist goes halfway around the world to Italy only to spend the majority of the time in a hotel room. Are you kidding me? If you’re going to Italy, then show me Italy! I don’t need the country to be showcased like some vacation video, but please, let me soak up the sights and sounds and culture within the story.)

I have a number of thoughts about locations."

Studios release more screenplays

Simply Scripts:

Miramax has followed the lead of Universal and Paramount and Warner Independent in putting up their scripts that they want considered for nomination for best original screenplay and best adapted screenplay for the 80th Academy Awards. "

Film of the Week: "O Brother, Where Art Thou"

Loosely based on the Odyssey, this film is about chain gang escapees in the rural U.S. South in the 1930s who head north to find buried treasure.

You really don't need to know anything about Homer's tale to enjoy the film - the Coens claim not have even re-read it before starting work - but if you know the epic then the parallels are amusing. It's really more of a tribute to the music and movies of that time but you don't need to be a cineaste to enjoy the film.

The title derives from one of Preston Sturges' film, "Sullivans Travels" (in which the idealistic writer-director wants to make a socially conscious epic entitled "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"). While fans of the genius hyphenate Sturges would have got it, I do wonder if calling the film "The Wacky Jail Break Adventure" would have improved its commercial prospects.

The advantage with episodic stories is that you can have a a wide range of subject matter but the disadvantage is that unless you have a strong narrative drive and clear goals for your main character then it's going to be dull. Luckily this film doesn't fall into that trap.

Look at how distinct those three fugitives are in terms of characterisations and especially how their flaws contribute to the humour.

It's been said that the Coens have used deus ex machina endings for previous films that didn't make sense but this time it does make sense. Do you agree?

The soundtrack changed my musical tastes for ever; Americana now figures prominently on my shopping list.

Wikipedia is worth reading but only after the film due to its spoilery nature.

Monday 17 December
Channel 4, 10:00pm

AFI Awards 2007

American Film Institute:





















    30 ROCK



    America's cultural legacy resonates around the world through movies and television. When placed in an historical context, these stories archive a complex, rich, visual record of our modern civilization.

    AFI was created to protect and preserve the legacy of the moving image art form so that future generations will have a greater understanding and appreciation for the proud heritage reflected in the realities of a new modern day.

    Each year, AFI AWARDS honours excellence in the moving image arts within the context of a Year in Review. This is the next chapter in AFI's national mandate — specifically, the creation of an annual almanac that records and preserves the evolution of the moving image arts in the 21st century.

    AFI AWARDS adds a volume to the history of American film and television each year by documenting the collective opinion of the moving image communities, recognizing the year's significant moments and honouring the individuals and creative ensembles who have created the year's outstanding achievements.

  • 16 December, 2007


    It's all very well saying that we can get rid of music companies and download music straight from the artist like we did with Radiohead's album but it costs money to make a record. That's where this site comes in.

    It offers a new model for the music industry which is being applied with various things from film-making to money-lending. You listen to a band's music and if you like them you invest in them. If enough people do that then they get to go into a studio and record an album, which they wouldn't have been able to do otherwise.

    On one level Sellaband is a source of free new music via the 'Jukebox' or downloads but on a higher level it's a chance to make a real difference.


    Quinn Sullivan

    8 year old child plays a mean guitar. At first it made me want to throw my guitar out the window but - more positively - with more practising and less dossing, all of us three chord wonders could achieve that. But isn't it child abuse though? Making him learn guitar so young? He should be playing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Pokeman like every other kid.

    15 December, 2007

    Opening Weekend

    Bee Movie

    Written by Jerry Seinfeld & Spike Feresten

    Jerry Seinfeld interview 1
    Jerry Seinfeld interview 2 (video)



    Written by Martha Fiennes

    Martha Fiennes interview 1
    Martha Fiennes interview 2
    Martha Fiennes interview 3
    Martha Fiennes interview 4


    The Comedy of Power (L'Ivresse du pouvoir)

    Written by Odile Barski & Claude Chabrol

    Claude Chabrol interview (en Français)



    Written by Bill Kelly

    Bill Kelly interview (video)


    Love Songs (Les Chansons d'amour)

    Written by Christophe Honoré & Gaël Morel

    Christophe Honoré interview
    Christophe Honoré Profile


    Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

    Written by Zach Helm

    Zach Helm interview 1
    Zach Helm interview 2 (audio)


    We Own the Night

    Written by James Gray

    James Gray interview 1
    James Gray interview 2
    James Gray interview 3 (audio)


    Youth Without Youth

    Written by Francis Ford Coppola (from the Mircea Eliade novella)

    Francis Ford Coppola interview 1
    Francis Ford Coppola interview 2
    Francis Ford Coppola interview 3
    Francis Ford Coppola interview 4

    Allan Weisbecker, screenwriter, interview


    "I was in New York at the time, holed up in a suite at the U.N. Plaza hotel. I’d just had a run-in with the U.S. Coast Guard off Puerto Rico, had scuttled a boat crammed to the gunnels with Colombian gold buds, and which didn’t sink quite fast enough, and was under intense surveillance by various law enforcement agencies. I suspect they got confused at my subsequent movements and behavior, given the sudden, disorienting change in the drift of my life.

    I bought a book on screenwriting so I knew what the fucking thing I was about to write was supposed to look like, hunkered down at the Plaza, wrote a story I’d been thinking about based on some maniacs I’d been associated with in the smuggling business, then flew out to L.A., showed up at my friend’s Bel-Air mansion and handed him the script.

    This was during a strike, actors this time, so he had time on his hands. He sat right down at his pool with a margarita and a blow-laden mirror, read the thing in one sitting, me napping in his guest house. Wrote an option check that same day. The movie biz is a piece of cake, is what I was thinking. In fact, that may have been an all time record for least time elapsed between a wide-eyed jerk showing up at H-wood and getting a deal. What I didn’t know at the time was that the business I was about to get involved with was more vicious and duplicitous, plus ridiculous, than the one I was bolting from.

    My friend wasn’t able to put the package together so six months later when the option ran out, Michael Mann grabbed it. By then I had an agent and a Mercedes and was banging starlets, the whole predictable screenwriter nine yards. Meanwhile, my ex-associates in Colombia and the States were one by one dead, in jail, or in one case, both. The timing of my career change was good. The decade of the 1980s was when the life expectancy of a fun-loving international criminal got iffy."

    WGA strike: of movements, moments, and the DGA endgame

    Monsters and Critics:

    " So the second round of WGA/AMPTP "talks" have failed, and the great Hollywood Shutdown of '07 will become the Shutdown of '08. Both sides are accusing the other of bad faith, at a minimum, or even deliberate deception.

    Michael Winship, president of the WGA's eastern wing, sent out a letter to members with the first words being "they lie."

    "They," of course, referring to the AMPTP.

    The AMPTP, for its part, claims the writers have blindsided them, bringing up issues that are more cultural, than pragmatic. Indeed, the NY Times' ever-able Michael Cieply, in an interview with WGAw "prexy" Patric Verrone, reported that "during an interview in his office here, Mr. Verrone described the looming negotiations with employers as a confrontation much grander than a simple fight over pay formulas. This battle would be about respect. "

    14 December, 2007

    2007: The Awesomest Action Scenes


    " With as many mindless explosions and shoot-outs that the film industry churns out every year, there are almost more mindless condemnations of them. So we'd like to take a moment to celebrate the technical expertise and genuine imagination that are needed to create these so-called empty-headed exercises in bloodsport. "

    The Sci-Fi 25


    " Step into our time machine to explore EW's picks for the genre's greatest moments from the past 25 years "

    Hammer comes back from dead


    " The recently revived Hammer Films will produce its first feature in three decades and distribute it via social networking site MySpace’s web TV arm.

    Legendary Brit production company Hammer built its name on a string of genre pics released in the 1950s and 1960s under the Hammer House of Horror label.

    The new pic “Beyond the Rave” will be released in 20-minute online webisodes on MySpace TV and then be made available in its entirety on DVD to buy or download.

    The youth-skewed vampire story set in England’s underground rave party scene follows a hedonistic soldier in his quest to track down his missing girlfriend in the last 24 hours before he flies to Iraq.

    Cast includes Sadie Frost (“Bram Stoker’s Dracula”), Jamie Dornan (“Marie-Antoinette”), Nora-Jane Noone (“The Descent”) and Tamer Hassan (“Layer Cake”).

    Matthias Hoene directs. Ben Grass and Tom Grass of Pure Grass Films produce for Hammer.

    “ ‘Beyond the Rave’ was inspired by Tom and my own experiences of raves: the great highs, and the demons that can lurk in the dark before dawn,” said Ben Grass.

    Hammer’s latest resurrection came in May when it was bought a consortium led by Dutch producer John de Mol. "


    Jase's report on Hammer Films from the Screenwriters Festival
    (6- Hammer of the Gods)

    13 December, 2007

    Poly Stenham, playwright, interview

    The Independent:

    "It would be completely possible that I now write four or five terrible plays. You lose your innocence a bit. The first one you just write for you and the complete joy of it."

    Rebecca Gilman. playwright, interview

    San Jose Mercury:

    " There's not a lot of room in our culture for complicated stances on things. People don't want ambiguity right now, because if they stopped for five seconds to think about what's going on in the world, it would be a really depressing picture. Theatre may be one of the last outposts for an extended conversation about things. "

    20 Best Revenge Movies


    "Some say revenge is sweet; some say revenge is a dish best served cold. And the bitter barber-turned-chef played by Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd would probably say revenge is best served in the form of mystery meat between flaky layers of pie crust. However you slice it, revenge is served often at the movies, perhaps never so delectably as in the 20 movies that follow in this gallery. Does Sweeney Todd belong on the menu alongside these films — some of the most visceral, violent, and vindictive vengeance classics in all of cinema? Dig in and see. Just remember: this time, it's personal."

    Fine Finales


    "Check out 20 movies with awesome endings (and then see 20 more in part 2!)

    SPOILER ALERT! This gallery contains specific plot details about 20 film finales."

    12 December, 2007

    More scripts take non-linear route


    " Forget Screenwriting 101. Some of the year's most audacious screenplays throw out the rulebook, jumping back and forth in time instead of unfolding in a linear, three-act fashion. Such experimentation is as old as the movies themselves, dating back to such storytellers as D.W. Griffith ("Intolerance") and Abel Gance ("Napoleon"). But the tendency has become increasingly common in recent mainstream releases, from "Michael Clayton's" car-bomb opening to "Atonement's" fragmented, time-jumping intrigue.

    "I think there's a mistrust, especially among younger audiences, of traditional Hollywood narrative," says Oscar-winning writer Marc Norman ("Shakespeare in Love"), who examines the history of American screenwriting in his new book "What Happens Next." "I've never bought the explanation that people are growing up with shorter and shorter attention spans, and that's their notion of life. I have to think that it's deeper than that. It's a question of how can I get at a truth in movies that hasn't been done before?" ..."

    Chris Weitz, "The Golden Compass", interview


    " Q: From a writer's point of view, your adaptation of 'About a Boy' was updated to the time that you were making it. How much more faithful were you to Pullman and why would this have been maybe less flexible in adaptation?

    Weitz: Well, let me see. 'About a Boy' is focused so much on the songs of Nirvana and there was no way that we were ever going to get them anyway and I think it's one thing to sort of have a period film which is set, say, in the '50's or what have you, but to have a period film that was set seven years earlier just didn't make any sense in terms of 'About a Boy'. I mean, I hope that I've been really faithful to Pullman. I had a similarly good experience, my brother and I did, working with Nick Hornby. He was more occupied actually writing stuff at the time and I had more access to Pullman than we did to Nick, at that time. So I was able to sort of check in with him at various points to sort of check the fidelity of something that I was doing and he was also really gracious about allowing me occasionally to elaborate or improvise on things that he hadn't come up with yet. So I think the movie tries to be very faithful to the spirit of Pullman. It's not always faithful to the letter of Pullman, but I think it's important that we tighten down and that the second and third books become more and more faithful to the letter of his books. "

    Woody Allen, Speechless

    11 December, 2007

    How to Write a Screenplay in Two Weeks



    So you want to write a screenplay. It's not as daunting as it may appear. Follow these simple steps and you'll churn out a masterpiece in just two weeks.


    Difficulty: Moderate

    Things You'll Need

    * Paper

    * Pens

    * Wordprocessing or Screenwriting program
    * Coffee

    * A good idea "

    All the Views Fit to Print?

    Jon Robin Baitz, Huffington Post:

    "Yesterday, Charles Isherwood, one of the two main theatre critics at the New York Times, published an interesting essay about how it was time for playwrights who have abandoned the New York theatre for TV to come back to the form they love, and write a play during the Writers Guild strike. Of course, one would have to be insane to disagree with this admirable exhortation, but, sadly, the source of the sentiments has - with all due respect - the merest hint of a credibility problem. I am able to say this without fear of it being written off as sour grapes, because generally he has been respectful of my work, even when critical. The same applies to Mr. Brantley, his fellow reviewer.

    In his first paragraph, the following words stand out: "for all those writers lying on the couch in Hollywood perfecting their video-game scores, or weeding the backyards of their Laurel Canyon haciendas." He goes on to challenge them to name the author of a bit of dialogue from a certain classic American play. His supposition about what the writers are doing is faulty. They are on the picket lines. Many, who are currently unemployed, including a number of playwrights, are figuring out what to do about mortgages. "

    The Hottest Unproduced Screenplays of 2007


    On Friday, the annual Black List was released. The list is compiled with a poll of 150 development executives and high-level assistants, and contains a ranking of the hot screenplays making the rounds in Hollywoodland, which were written in, or are somehow uniquely associated with, 2007 and will not be released in theatres during this calendar year. Basically, the black list contains the hottest projects in Hollywood that you haven’t heard of yet. Note: the headline is a slightly inaccurate, because a few of these projects are in production now.

    Started two years ago by a young executive at Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company Appian Way, who polled 90+ peers to send him their 10 favourite new unproduced screenplays to read over the holidays. The underground list was e-mailed around and quickly became a Hollywood phenomenon. To give you an idea, the top three entries of the 2005 list where Things We Lost in the Fire, Juno, and Lars and the Real Girl. However it should be noted that a warning appears at the beginning of the list:

    “THE BLACK LIST is not a “best of” list. It is, at best, a “most liked” list.“

    10 December, 2007

    Catherine Eaton, "Corsetless", interview


    Catherine Eaton takes Shakespeare's canon and re-works it into a new story about a woman in the present day who speaks only Shakespeare's dialogue and is sectioned as result.

    An extreme way of taking something and making it your own but it can be done on a much smaller scale as a way of evolving our own stories. Perhaps an interesting minor character in a soap developed some further, a location used in a movie or a dialogue exchange could give a theme.

    Writers finding solace, stories on picket lines

    LA Times:

    "On the positive side, the strike is forcing them to meet people, share career tips and get some exercise.
    As the Writers Guild tries to fortify itself against the inevitable slow bleed of numbers and commitment among its membership in its fifth week of striking, many gung-ho writers continue to find novel ways of surviving the monotony and social awkwardness of the picket lines.

    Notwithstanding the occasional field trip to a location shoot to disrupt filming, most writers have been stuck walking in tight loops in four-hour picketing shifts that can ultimately amount to a daily 10-mile hike. Though the guild leadership has decreased the weekly picketing requirement, the weariness is taking its toll. "

    The 2008 PAGE Awards

    Entries are now being accepted in the fifth annual PAGE International Screenwriting Awards competition.
    The PAGE Awards have become one of the most important sources for new screenwriting talent within the Hollywood community and worldwide. Many PAGE Award winners have gone on to land writing assignments, secure representation, and sign option agreements on their winning scripts, and several now have movies in various stages of production and release.
    In the latest news:
    Amy Garcia and Cecilia Contreras, authors of the 2007 Gold Prize winning family film AMELIA EARHART AND THE BOLOGNA RAINBOW HIGHWAY, have just been signed by ICM and manager Marti Blumenthal.
    Larry Postel’s 2005 Grand Prize winning Christmas comedy X-MAS FILES was sold to a 3-D animation company in India and the film is now in production. Larry also recently optioned his spec script KID SPAGHETTI to Eric Pham of Phame Factory.
    2004 Gold Prize winner Danny Howell has just optioned his new feature VISIONS to producer Michael Grais (POLTERGEIST, GREAT BALLS OF FIRE!)
    2006 Gold Prize winners Scott Perlman and Leo Simone have optioned their new spec BREAK FREE to Emmy-nominated producer Mitchell Galin (DUNE, THE NIGHT FLIER, THE STAND).
    Eric Stein and Michael S. Bandy have inked a deal with Candlewick Press to publish their 2005 Bronze Prize-winning short script WHITE WATER as a children’s picture book.
    Radar Pictures has signed on to produce and co-finance Christian Parkes’ 2006 Silver Prize winning action flick THE GOD BRINGER.
    And Shohreh Aghdashloo (THE HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, X-MEN) has signed on to star in Sarah Skibinski’s 2005 Gold Prize winning drama GO AHEAD, BACK UP.
    The 2008 PAGE Awards competition promises to be bigger and better than ever. This year, the judges will present over $30,000 in cash and prizes to the winning writers in ten different genre categories, including a $10,000 Grand Prize. Most importantly, the contest is judged entirely by working professionals in the film and television industry, so by entering the competition all contestants have the opportunity to get their scripts read by Hollywood professionals currently in search of new talent.
    For more information about the 2008 PAGE International Screenwriting Awards contest, please visit: http://InternationalScreenwritingAwards.com

    09 December, 2007


    I have just downloaded music by hundreds of bands using file-sharing software. The bands won't get a penny but I don't care. Because I used a legal torrent by the South by Southwest Festival. (Did you see what I did there?)

    The South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) is an annual showcase where musicians from all over the world gather in Austin, Texas. I'm still working my way through the songs but I haven't heard a duff track yet. I began to wonder if I was losing my ability to discern good music but the bands chosen for the showcase are chosen from about 8,000 who apply, so they're going to be of a certain standard.

    This eclectic electric collection is like the ultimate sampler CD and features over 700 bands (about half of the acts who attended) and is ideal for just shoving on your mp3 player and just making a note of the artists you want to investigate further.

    The torrent is about 3gb and is on the Toolbox page on the right hand column or use this direct link to launch your BitTorrent software. If you don't have one, I recommend the ones linked below.

    If you don't want to use file sharing software then the bands are streamed on the SXSW website in the Player v.07, where you get some details of the artist and a link to their homepage.

    Having heard about a third of the songs, I want to hear them again immediately and yet, at the same time, I can't wait to hear the rest.

    BitTorrent applications

    µTorrent (Windows)
    Transmission (Mac)

    08 December, 2007

    CEOs Form Street Gang

    Graham Linehan gave the heads up about a weekly strip called Tom the Dancing Bug a while back. I have since subscribed and this week's is particularly appropriate considering what happened yesterday in LA.

    Strike talks halted


    "Talks between striking writers and the majors have collapsed, five weeks after scribes walked off the job - with no indication of when negotiations will resume.

    Friday night's cratering of negotiations followed two weeks of bitter and mostly unproductive negotiations with no indication of when -- or whether -- they'll resume.

    The AMPTP issued a statement early Friday evening announcing that talks had broken off, listing half a dozen areas in which it will not make a deal with the WGA -- new media compensation, access to revenues unrelated to producers, establishing fiar market value outside the marketplace, reality TV and animation jurisdiction and sympathy strikes.

    The move came at the end of a day of dueling news releases, which saw both sides blame each other for the lack of progress at the negotiating table.

    WGA negotiating committee chief John Bowman said he wasn't surprised at the AMPTP's departure from negotiations. "They had drumrolled this all week," he added. "We wound up being engaged in fake negotiations. I suspect they're trying to do this so that writers will suffer during the holiday season."

    Bowman said the resumption of negotiations would probably take place through back-channel efforts.

    In a statement issued early Friday evening, the AMPTP said that the negotiating strategy by the WGA is designed to keep stalling the negotiations rather than reach a deal.

    "Their Quixotic pursuit of radical demands led them to begin this strike, and now has caused this breakdown in negotiations," the AMPTP asserted. "We hope that the WGA will come back to this table with a rational plan that can lead us to a fair and equitable resolution to a strike that is causing so much distress for so many people in our industry and community." "


    WGA's Response to AMPTP Breaking Off Talks