30 October, 2008

Preview: "Life"


The best US network show of last season reaches these shores at last.

Season 2 has just been promoted from the Friday "slot of death" spot, although they are having trouble with the serial element. It's no-where near as interesting as the story of the week and new viewers are given little to no-guidance. I hope it's sorted out by the timeslot debut.

"Writer claims BBC stole sitcom idea"

Katherine Rushton, Broadcast:

"A row has erupted over BBC sitcom In My Country after comedy writer Jim Miller claimed the corporation stole his idea.

Simon Nye has been commissioned to script the series, billed as a "multicultural Rising Damp", with Jane Berthoud producing. Stephen K Amos and Omid Djalili will star.

Miller, who writes for stand-up comics such as Jo Brand, claims he approached the BBC in 2006 with a similar series also featuring immigrants in a London guest house under the working title Settle Down Now.

Miller claims the corporation paid him £500 for a treatment, which was also overseen by Berthoud. Plans for a pilot episode fell apart and he parted with the BBC after it agreed he would get 50% of future format rights.

He also claims the BBC contacted his agent in July offering to pay £2,500 for unspecified rights to work he had done for the corporation. Miller claims he did not sign any contract but that the sum was paid into his bank account in any case.

He is now seeking a joint credit on In My Country and to keep the £2,500 as payment for his alleged input. The Writers' Guild is looking into the matter on his behalf and he has complained directly to BBC director general Mark Thompson and the BBC Trust.

The BBC said both In My Country and Settle Down Now were developed in parallel, that neither writer knew about the other project and that similarities were "nothing more than coincidence".

A BBC spokesperson said: "Having fully investigated Jim Miller's claims, the BBC is certain that it has not used any intellectual property owned by Jim Miller and that he has no legitimate claim to the format of In My Country.""

29 October, 2008

"Yanks winning format war"

The Hollywood Reporter:

"It was billed as the season of foreign formats.

Of the 12 new scripted series premiering this fall on the Big Four networks, only six were homegrown. Five were based on international formats, and the other, NBC's "Crusoe," was foreign-made.

But one month into the season, all of the rookie ratings standouts are U.S. born and bred, and the imports are struggling.

Four new series -- all created by American writers -- have been picked up for a full season so far: "Fringe" on Fox, "The Mentalist" at CBS and two spinoffs of old American series, the CW's "90210" and NBC's "Knight Rider."

Meanwhile, the freshman immigrants saw their first casualty with "The Ex List," CBS' dramedy based on an Israeli format, which was pulled this week.

Despite being given some of the best real estate on the broadcast networks, format-based rookies have been stumbling."

Article in full

28 October, 2008

"Fair(y) Tale Use of Copyright"

Clever and chucklesome video from Stanford Law School. Watch it before Disney sues and has it removed. Oh, wait. They can't. Heh heh.

26 October, 2008

Soundtrack

In Case of Fire - "This Time We Stand"



**********************************

The Streets - "The Escapist"

23 October, 2008

"Broadway's glass ceiling"

The Guardian:

"Could we get real? Every year is the Year of the Man, with a couple of women who manage to crawl their way into the lineup. In the 2008/2009 season, as it has been announced, the number of plays written by women on New York stages will amount to 12.6% of the total. Want to know the same figure for the 1908/1909 season? Let's see, it was ... 12.8%!

One might put this trend down to something like, hmm, discrimination. But actually what we're told is that the plays that are produced are just the plays that were worth doing, and that playwriting is in fact a Y-chromosome gene. So women should just back off, because putting plays written by women into production because maybe audiences might like a really well-written play that was well-written by a woman would be pandering to ideas of political correctness. And art doesn't do that.

What art does is celebrate the lives and struggles of men."

Article in full

22 October, 2008

"Why Can't Drama Be More Llike Football?"

Script Doc:

"England vs Argentina, World Cup, 1998. I watched it in a pub in Bristol. Probably the smallest pub in Bristol. The place was packed.

Normally, football leaves me cold. But England's clash with Argentina at St Etienne was something else. Ninety nail-biting minutes, followed by extra time, followed by a penalty shootout. A young David Beckham (whatever happened to him?) got sent off. The community of emotion was incredible.

There were groans. There were mutterings. There were roars. There was armchair analysis. There were anxious faces. We sat, transfixed. We stood, punching the air. We held our breaths.

We lost. But watching that match I wondered, through the ever-thickening alcoholic haze - why can't drama be more like this?"

Article in full

21 October, 2008

Art Linson, "What Just Happened?", article

MovieMaker magazine:

"3. “Are you sure you don’t have room for dessert?
Take as many good screenwriters to lunch as you can and make sure you pick up the check. (They are notoriously cheap.) Whether you are an actor, producer, director, studio exec or even an agent, you soon discover the screenplay is the most significant ingredient in the moviemaking process. It’s the currency of Hollywood. It’s not that directors do not make the ultimate contribution that often defines a movie, but without the screenplay you are a lost puppy in the wilderness. Inevitably it dictates the direction of the work, the cast and the financing. “C’mon try the crème brûlée. It’s on moi.” “Can I buy you a new pen?”"

Article in full

20 October, 2008

Life on Mars USA - The Pilot

The second episode of Life on Mars was stellar but it lost 17% of its audience from last week. However, its time-slot rival, The Eleventh Hour, managed to increase its audience.

I think this is more to do with the lead-in than the quality of the shows.
The Eleventh Hour gets CSI (18.8 mill) and Life on Mars gets Grey's Anatomy (14.4 mill). The ABC remake also needed an inheritance from something in the same genre ballpark, like Lost, for full momentum. The ratings still ain't too shabby so fingers crossed that they don't dip further.

Here's the first episode. Would you watch episode 2?

19 October, 2008

"The best of British"

The Independent

"Ever heard of Matt Greenhalgh? How about Adrian Hodges? No? Yet the films they have written have had audiences flocking to them and their latest work has made a secret industry shortlist of the UK's best unproduced scripts.

The Brit List comprises the most recommended screenplays by UK and Irish writers that are yet to be put into production. It is a showcase for new and established talent, and it has executives buzzing on both sides of the Atlantic. This year's fare ranges from a biopic of John Lennon, Nowhere Boy, to a London council estate under attack from aliens, Attack the Estate, by Adam and Joe's Joe Cornish.

The list was launched to bring attention to the best new works and adaptations which, either for timing or financial reasons, or due to plain under-exposure, have not been picked up. "

Article in full

Soundtrack

Emiliana Torrini - "Big Jumps"



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The Voluntary Butler Scheme - "Trading Things In"

18 October, 2008

"How will the recession affect film?"

The Times

"Recession? Global downturn? You’re joking, right? For in the alternate financial universe of film these normally terrifying terms are ambiguous, unthreatening and even, in some cases, downright exciting. In Hollywood, optimists are pointing back to the huge surge in cinema admissions after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 (audience figures jumped 58 per cent on the previous year) as a template for things to come.

According to John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners in America, in a recent interview in these pages, the numbers don’t lie. “In the past four decades there have been seven recession years in this country, and the box office has climbed strongly in five of those years,” he said. The strongest of those years was the most recent, in 2001, when US box office receipts rose by $650 million.

Yet what do these numbers really mean on the ground? And how do they affect the people who are endeavouring to keep our cinemas filled with a diverse selection of cinematic art, both from home and from Hollywood? We asked ten leading industry lights for their views. If, along the way, a whole sector of worthy, low-budget indie dramas are lost in a brutal economic cull, well, they say, if you must know, it’s about time. “You could argue that there are too many films being produced right now,” says David Kosse, president of Universal Pictures International (the studio that produced Mamma Mia!). "

Article in full

12 October, 2008

Soundtrack

TV On The Radio - "Golden Age"




*******************************************


Friendly Fires - "Jump Into The Pool"

11 October, 2008

Buzz: "Life on Mars"


This New York version sticks more closely to the original premise and characters (and pilot) than David E Kelley's LA version and is all the better for it.

I called the first remake 'OK' and didn't feel it deserved all the opprobrium heaped on it but the remake of the remake is clearly better in terms of the additional writing, casting and production values. Patriotic fanboys will still whinge but normal people will acknowledge it has got off to a good start this time.



However, as Phill pointed out (in the comments section of the Scott Rosenberg interview), Harvey Keitel seems too old. I'm not being ageist, I just don't buy a cop staying on 10-15 years past retirement age. It's not a dealbreaker and I'm not so sure I would turn down the chance to have a cultural icon in my series if I could.


The real test is when Rosenberg and his room start breaking their own stories and making the series their own as their previous show, October Road, was quite bad. However their re-version of the pilot suggests they might just pull it off. Let's not forget they have bettered David E Kelley's version and he is a writing legend with several hit series behind him.


According to Metacritic, reviews were "generally favourable". In terms of getting viewers, it is battling another limey import, Stephen Gallagher's Eleventh Hour, in the same time slot and managed to beat it but that might be more to do with their respective lead-ins and promotions. It's next week's ratings that count. If both shows manage to keep all those viewers, they're unlikely to be cancelled. Both of them beat ER, which helps.

10 October, 2008

"Making It As A Screenwriter" by Adrian Mead

Book Cover The Aims of the Book

  • To teach you how to get work and build a career as a professional screenwriter.

  • To raise money for ChidLine in order to support children in danger and distress.

    I changed careers from bouncer and hairdresser to professional screenwriter and director. I did it despite having no formal training or contacts in the industry. I now have a career that excites, challenges and constantly inspires me.

    It happened because I planned it.

    This book will give you the tools and the info to do the same.

    BUY How To make It as a Screenwriter for £7.79 + VAT - All proceeds "to ChildLine

  • Further details

    09 October, 2008

    Red Planet Prize 2008 - 3

    I started my RPP a couple of weeks before the deadline and the first 10 pages flowed quite quickly (because I was thinking about it for a few weeks beforehand perhaps). Although I was pre-occupied with sucky life stuff, I still found time to think about how my show was going to work and it was a welcome distraction. It made me realise that professional writers, with sucky life stuff, still have to meet deadlines.

    We have another two or three weeks to add the 50 or so pages but due to the disappointment of last year some writers may not want to finish their script until they know it has reached the next stage. I think I will finish mine because a) I'm enjoying writing it and b) if RPP don't like it (or it didn't reach before the deadline...) I can send it to other prodcos. Red Planet is but a fleck in the firmament - although it shines brighter than all the others put together.

    As I've been saying, comps are just added motivation to do what we should be doing anyway. The main thing is completing a 60 minute TV pilot/sample script for our portfolio - the competition is a side-issue. A very nice side-issue if we win or place but not an unmitigated disaster and a waste of time if we don't.

    Last year's new script was only a waste for me only because it wasn't a pilot for a series (a friend suggested it should be but I bottled out). Also it was too short for a feature and too long for a short. This year is different in that it had to be a pilot and it focussed our minds on creating something for a specific slot for a mass market medium.

    The problem now is I just want to get started on the show and write all the episodes - which is something I share with a lot of writers. But I know that would be foolish as feedback from Red Planet and ITV may result in making the show much better.

    Part of my delay in starting was that one idea morphed into two equally good ideas and I couldn't decide which one to go for. I went for the comedy-drama as opposed to the drama-drama as everyone likes to laugh and not everyone likes to cry. But I'm probably doing that next after Channel 4's Comedy Lab.

    Other RPP posts:

    Jon, Dom, Danny, Sheiky, Rach, Chip, David, Lucy, Stephen, Oli

    05 October, 2008

    Soundtrack

    The Teenagers - "Make It Happen"


    From the awesome debut album "Reality Check". "Check" it out!

    ************************

    Pop Levi - "Semi-Babe"

    04 October, 2008

    Scott Rosenberg, "Life on Mars", interview

    Out of Time:
    Life on Mars' Scott Rosenberg


    By Jason Davis


    The BBC's drama about a 2008 cop who awakens after a car accident to find himself in 1973 finds itself reimagined on ABC, and executive producer Scott Rosenberg tells CS Weekly about the challenges he and his colleagues faced in traversing time and the Atlantic Ocean.


    Premiering October 9, Life on Mars tells the story of Sam Tyler (Jason O'Mara), a New York cop who's hit by a car in 2008 and awakens in 1973, where he finds himself working for the bigoted Gene Hunt (Harvey Keitel) in an era of intolerance, the Vietnam War, and flared trousers. Executive producer Scott Rosenberg, a veteran of feature films like Gone in 60 Seconds who adapted the series with his cohorts Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec, discusses his second foray into television and the difficulties in adapting a British TV series for an American audience.

    How did you get involved with Life on Mars?
    We had a show last year on ABC called October Road. It was my first foray into television, 'cause I'm a movie guy, and I had an amazing experience. Then, when it got canceled, I was very angry and vowed I would never work for ABC again. Then, they came to us and made us an offer we couldn't refuse. I'd never seen it, but I remember reading about the BBC version and thinking A) it was the coolest title in the world, and B) what a great idea -- I was so annoyed I hadn't thought of it. I said the only way I'll do it is if you let me set it and shoot it in New York, 'cause originally they wanted it set in LA. I don't even know what 1973 LA means. I have a place in New York, and I just wanted to get back here. They said yes. You have to let us recast the whole thing. Absolutely. We wanted to know that we were going to have a good time slot. They said, "How do you feel about Thursdays at 10 after Grey's Anatomy?" So, it just kept getting better and better. You can't pass up 13 guaranteed on the air post-Grey's Anatomy. You just can't do it, otherwise you can't even look your agents in the face.

    What were the problems you saw with the British series, the things you would need to address in adapting it for an American audience?
    Well, right off the bat, it took place in Manchester. Manchester's very small. We put it in Manhattan. They had a lot a serendipitous moments -- he kept bumping into the same people over and over again on the street. Obviously, it's very different when you do it in New York, where it's large. The one thing we did like was that they basically patrol a precinct. Quite frankly, we were trying to create a little village, because it is 1973, and you want to get that feeling that it was a lot of hippies, gangsters, and black militants. We're trying to create a world of the 125th precinct, so that was how we addressed that part of it.

    Did you have any interaction with original series creators Matthew Graham, Tony Jordan, and Ashley Pharoah?
    We got to know the creators. They came and visited us here in New York, and I remember bringing it up to them. They didn't employ the fact that it was 1973 a lot. Every now and again, he would see T-Rex at a nightclub or something, or he would make references, but I don't think they did it to its maximum. They didn't need to, quite frankly. The episode that we're shooting today was not based on the BBC ones. The title is "My Maharishi is Bigger than Your Maharishi." It's about the death of a returned Vietnam vet, and everybody thinks it's this group of hippies who are known to beat up Vietnam vets. It turns into something much more scandalous and crazy, but, again, we're truly using the era as a backdrop. The thing that's so fascinating about it is -- and I think this will really resonate with viewers, even if it's on a subconscious level -- 2008 is 1973. We're in an unpopular war with an unpopular president. There's an energy crisis. The blacks, the youths, the gays, and the women are becoming politicized. There's a lot going on that is not dissimilar from what was happening then. Watergate was '73. It was the year that we pulled the last troops out of Vietnam. It was sort of the year the '60s became the '70s, in a lot of ways.

    That's what Matthew Graham said when CS Weekly interviewed him about the original series.
    Did he really? That's so funny. By the way, that was my favorite moment. We said to them, "Why 1973?" This was before I really started to analyze it. If I were doing this show -- because I'm not as clever as they are -- he'd wake up in 1968, in San Francisco, and you'd do that show. Why '73? And they said, "Honestly, Scott, that's the year the Bowie song came out. We just loved the title." And I said, "Touché." Absolutely perfect answer.

    Aside for the obvious transatlantic details, what further modifications have you made to the format?
    The minute we took the job, it occurred to me that he's surrounded by cops. So, he moved into this apartment and we added the character of the hippie girl who lives across the hall from him named Wendy (Tanya Fischer). She is 100-percent inspired by Goldie Hawn in a movie called Butterflies Are Free. It's a beautiful comedic performance, and I wanted that because it allows them an entrée into other worlds. It doesn't all have to be the underbelly of New York City. She takes him out of the police station to parties. Because she's so ethereal, he can run some of his theories by her and she would never think he was crazy.

    Did you get any feedback from the British creators on Wendy?
    We turned in the first draft and the studio loved it, the network loved it, and everybody loved it. But when we got the call from those guys to say how much they loved it and how we thought of things they wish they'd thought of, that was all the validation that we needed. They're very happy. They're very supportive. One of them said, "Why didn't we think of the hippie across the hall?" That's what you want to hear.

    How do you plan to tackle the ambiguity of Sam's journey to 1973?
    [The British original] committed, early on, to saying the dude's in a coma. Every single episode was about the dude in a coma. In [our] episode two, he writes on the blackboard 13 possibilities of what could be going on with him and below the 13 is a big question mark. Annie says, "What does that mean?" And he says, "That's the one I haven't figured out yet, the one that scares me the most." So, in every episode we're constantly playing with that. There's the episode where maybe he's died and gone to heaven. There's the episode where maybe the whole thing is a mind experiment. There's the episode where it's The Truman Show. If everyone knows that he's in a coma… if everyone knows the end of the story first, then we're dead and no one cares. No one wants to watch a show where you know it's all a dream.

    The one thing that was important was that I didn't want to get into that situation. You've heard of that other show -- I will not name -- who only last year figured out where they were going. They had to do a lot of explaining about polar bears and things like that. So, we had to figure it out right now. We don't tell anybody. In fact, only me and two other people know. One of my co-executive producers doesn't know yet. We haven't told him. It was me, one of my partners, and one of our writers. The network doesn't know. The studio doesn't know. I can explain every single thing that we're doing because I know the endgame. It's one of those endings that 50 percent of the people will think is genius and the other 50 percent will find out where I live and burn down my house. At least it gives us a horizon line.

    Is there any fear the network or studio might not like your solution?
    If the show's a smash hit and we say this is where we're going, they'll say, "Okay, fine." If the show isn't a smash hit, we're never going to get there anyway, so who cares?

    Are you adapting original UK episodes?
    Yeah, absolutely. Some we're doing straight -- let's just do that episode. With most, we're cannibalizing the best bits or using it as an A story and injecting a B and C of our own. Some are wholly original.

    Given how un-PC Gene Hunt was in the UK series, how have ABC Standards and Practices impacted that character?
    They've been really good because it's a 10 o'clock show. They were very difficult with us on October Road. The TV sponsors were told October Road was about shiny, happy people in a small town. So there it was very difficult to be truly off color. This, they sort of know it is 1973 and it is a gritty cop show, but as far as the racist and homophobic stuff, they've been pretty lenient with us. You get to forgive him, because he's a man of his time.

    We got this enormous gift from God in casting Ray Carlings. All these great actors were coming in for what, in our original script, was seven lines. We got a call and our casting director said, "What do you guys think about Michael Imperioli for Ray?" I said, "Does he think he's doing the Jamie Foxx movie?" So, when he came aboard, the part of Ray became richer then it was in the BBC version. He's really the angry racist guy. Michael is really bringing the nastiness to it. We never want to sell out; we never want to beige this thing, but at the same time, we have to keep in mind that it's ABC.

    Do you look for writers old enough to remember 1973 when you're staffing a show like this?
    I don't think you're allowed to hire writers in Hollywood that are old enough to remember 1973. No. We have tech advisors and researchers up the wazoo, but the truth of the matter is I hired writers who could tell good stories. The 1973 of it all has to inform everything, but, again, if you watch the BBC version, you could remove the 1973 and all you'd have to know was that he was a man out of his time.

    Today, we're doing this big festival in the park scene and I got here and there were 150 extras all dressed in their hippie regalia and I see there are four Hari Krishnas. My God! We need to do the episode where Hari Krishnas are being murdered, because it's so specific to 1973. Someone is murdering Hari Krishnas and maybe we find out Gene Hunt's estranged son is a Hari Krishna. Who knows if we'll do it, but I give you that as an example of the kind of the stuff only we can do. I don't even know if there still are Hari Krishnas. I haven't seen one in a long time at an airport. But I remember, when I was nine in 1973, being so scared whenever we saw Hari Krishnas. They scared the shit out of me. I guess I'm the one who remembers 1973… although I don't really.

    Jason Davis has been the DVD Manager for CS Weekly, a contributing editor for Creative Screenwriting Magazine, and has written for Cinescape.com, MSN.com, and created the TV series Studio 13, which ran on Lorne Michaels' Burly TV network. He lives in the small space left over by his ever-expanding library of books, movies, and music.

    ------------------------------------------------------

    Taken from

    CSWeekly
    A free magazine on screenwriting delivered to you weekly via e-mail. Each issue of CS Weekly features screenwriting news of the day, an original feature article (topics rotate on a weekly basis), and the DVD of the Week review.

    Subscribe and read archived content here




    02 October, 2008

    Son of the Pitch


    "The competition, which is in association with 4Talent, will run from 17.00pm (GMT) on Monday 8th September until 17.00pm (GMT) on Friday 31st October 2008. After which ten lucky finalists will be chosen to come to the SWF'09, take part in a pitching masterclass before standing up in front of a live audience and pitch that idea to a panel of industry experts.

    Last year we had over 1,600 entries that were finally whittled down to ten which were then, after going through the public humiliation of the live pitch, were whittled down further (there was a lot of whittling last year, more than in a ‘phones4u' advert) and three winners were chose.

    How to enter:

    * Write down your pitch in 25 words or less, then on a separate page, expand the synopsis to 150 words and email it to us at:

    pitch@screenwritersfestival.com "

    Details in full

    01 October, 2008

    Back Up Your Files Day

    A reminder about Matt's suggestion three months ago which does seem both simple and effective:

    "I have never been able to get the hang of proper backup software and procedures. I always end up getting into a complete pickle about the various full backups, interim backups and how the bloody hell I'd back everything up if my hard-drive became shot with the backup software on it. So these days I just have a complete clone of My Documents on a portable drive and use Microsoft's Synctoy to keep the files up to date."

    However I would suggest backing up your entire Documents and Settings folder and not just the My Documents part of it as it which would include emails and favourites. This link has more details.

    I asked Lee about the Mac equivalent:

    "Things like emails, bookmarks, fonts, templates, RSS feeds, Applescripts - anything used by an application, but not created by it when you hit Save - are kept in your Home folder, in the Library. In Mac speak, that's ~/Library. Apple apps such as Mail, Safari, and iTunes may have their own folders. Non-Apple apps like NetNewsWire, Montage, Final Draft, Scrivener etc, will keep all their stuff in ~/Library/Application Support. The truly paranoid might want to back up their preference files as well. I know I do. These are in ~/Library/Prefences.

    For safety's sake, back up the entire Library folder, it's probably only a few hundred megs."

    *******************************************

    Don't delay, do it today. It's Back Up Your Files Day, hooray!


    How to decide what data to back up

    Back up manually or use Windows XP Backup utility

    How to choose an external storage format for backup files

    Mac OS X: How to back up and restore your files

    Michael Hirst, "The Tudors", interview

    CBC:

    "How accurate did you feel you had to be in writing about this time period? With regards to balance between research and imagination, how much license did you feel you had?
    I’ll answer that, partly, with a story. In 1588 the painter Veronese was dragged before the Inquisition to answer questions about his great painting of the Last Supper. They asked him why, instead of just Christ and his apostles, there were dozens of figures in the painting? Veronese said the canvas was very large and he had to fill it!…Then what is the meaning, they asked, of the dwarf whose nose is bleeding, or the German soldiers? Veronese replied: “Here I must say something: we painters, like fools and poets, claim license…” Well, I claim some license too. Art is different from life. It has to have form. What I always say is that I’ve written a soap opera based on historical material!"

    Article in full