Friday, February 26, 2010

Another week, another re-make

This week, the re-make of George A. Romero's The Crazies comes out. The original film, made in 1973 for $270,000 with no Hollywood stunt men (and a lot of its crew doubling as actors) has developed a cult following since its first release. I'm going to make a safe assumption that the 2010 version cost considerably more to make, but is it going to be an improvement on Romero's film? Or will people shake their heads on the way out, saying, "Why did they bother?"

I know why so many re-makes get made - clearly they're a safe bet. The original sold a lot of tickets, therefore a re-make, or a "re-imagining" as the marketing people like to say nowadays, will also shift some seats. Particularly in a time of recession, safe bets often seem like the only bets worth taking.

But the last few years has seen the Hollywood horror vaults in particular well and truly plundered. Where there is an original horror idea, it gets trampled under the feet of executives searching for something - anything! - that worked before. The remake of Black Christmas comes to mind. Nothing could be scarier than the original 1974 movie (the man living in the attic is the most terrifying idea EVER), but the 2006 remake still stank up a storm. On the other hand, a lot of people, myself included, think the Alexandre Aja version of The Hill Have Eyes is well up there with Wes Craven's original.

I heard a terrible, terrible rumour last night - that Scorsese and De Niro are thinking of getting involved in Taxi Driver 2, or even worse, a re-make. I've had enough of cutting the business types slack. Times may be tough, but they can't be this bad. Step away from the vault and go and hire some people to write some new stuff! And Mssrs. Scorsese and De Niro, that includes you. Things aren't that desperate, are they? Really?

Another week, another re-make

This week, the re-make of George A. Romero's The Crazies comes out. The original film, made in 1973 for $270,000 with no Hollywood stunt men (and a lot of its crew doubling as actors) has developed a cult following since its first release. I'm going to make a safe assumption that the 2010 version cost considerably more to make, but is it going to be an improvement on Romero's film? Or will people shake their heads on the way out, saying, "Why did they bother?"

I know why so many re-makes get made - clearly they're a safe bet. The original sold a lot of tickets, therefore a re-make, or a "re-imagining" as the marketing people like to say nowadays, will also shift some seats. Particularly in a time of recession, safe bets often seem like the only bets worth taking.

But the last few years has seen the Hollywood horror vaults in particular well and truly plundered. Where there is an original horror idea, it gets trampled under the feet of executives searching for something - anything! - that worked before. The remake of Black Christmas comes to mind. Nothing could be scarier than the original 1974 movie (the man living in the attic is the most terrifying idea EVER), but the 2006 remake still stank up a storm. On the other hand, a lot of people, myself included, think the Alexandre Aja version of The Hill Have Eyes is well up there with Wes Craven's original.

I heard a terrible, terrible rumour last night - that Scorsese and De Niro are thinking of getting involved in Taxi Driver 2, or even worse, a re-make. I've had enough of cutting the business types slack. Times may be tough, but they can't be this bad. Step away from the vault and go and hire some people to write some new stuff! And Mssrs. Scorsese and De Niro, that includes you. Things aren't that desperate, are they? Really?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Research? What research?

Oftentimes when you're writing a script, you'll be faced with a character doing something you've never done yourself. Like winching in a trawl net. Or taking an overdose of Dexedrine. Or blasting someone with a shotgun. That kind of stuff.

I once heard a story about the guys who wrote City Slickers. Neither of them had ever been to a ranch, let alone been on a horse. Did they go on a road trip? Take riding lessons? Nope, they rang a dude ranch and spoke to one of the cowboys for 15 minutes. That was their research for the film.

There's also romance writer Nora Roberts. If you've never heard of her, trust me - your mother has. Roberts has sold millions of dollars worth of books and it's usually the same story in a different exotic location. But the novelist herself doesn't leave the house to research the locations - she does it all online.

And while I do like to write about places I've been, I do a lot of the other research I need on the web too. What's it like to fire a paintgun? I have no idea, but Google can tell me. 

There's two other ways you can deal with describing something you personally haven't done. First of all, don't think , "I haven't experienced this myself, I can't write about it". You can - you probably haven't battled zombies, but most writers seem to have at least one zombie script under their belts! Use your imagination and the rest is easy.

Or - if you know someone with specialist knowledge, ask them. This is by far the best option, because there's nothing quite like someone who's actually been there and done that. For everything else, there's the intra-web...

Research? What research?

Oftentimes when you're writing a script, you'll be faced with a character doing something you've never done yourself. Like winching in a trawl net. Or taking an overdose of Dexedrine. Or blasting someone with a shotgun. That kind of stuff.

I once heard a story about the guys who wrote City Slickers. Neither of them had ever been to a ranch, let alone been on a horse. Did they go on a road trip? Take riding lessons? Nope, they rang a dude ranch and spoke to one of the cowboys for 15 minutes. That was their research for the film.

There's also romance writer Nora Roberts. If you've never heard of her, trust me - your mother has. Roberts has sold millions of dollars worth of books and it's usually the same story in a different exotic location. But the novelist herself doesn't leave the house to research the locations - she does it all online.

And while I do like to write about places I've been, I do a lot of the other research I need on the web too. What's it like to fire a paintgun? I have no idea, but Google can tell me. 

There's two other ways you can deal with describing something you personally haven't done. First of all, don't think , "I haven't experienced this myself, I can't write about it". You can - you probably haven't battled zombies, but most writers seem to have at least one zombie script under their belts! Use your imagination and the rest is easy.

Or - if you know someone with specialist knowledge, ask them. This is by far the best option, because there's nothing quite like someone who's actually been there and done that. For everything else, there's the intra-web...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Jordan's modern fairytale opens JDIFF 2010...

My blogging for the (deep breath) Jameson Dublin International Film Festival started in earnest last night – you can check out the official blogs including mine and five others here.

The opening night movie was Ondine, one of the strangest films on paper that I’ve seen in ages. A fisherman finds a woman caught up in his trawl net – but is she real or supernatural? Has she come from the sea? Neil Jordan crafts an intriguing and affecting fairytale with great performances, particularly from Colin Farrell and his now real-life girlfriend Alicja Bachleda.

The party after in Lillies was a good laugh but no good for celeb-spotting cos all the big celebs were hidden away up in the VIP area with a gorilla guarding the door. Colin Farrell vanished in there as soon as he arrived and hopes on the part of the plebs downstairs that he might come out and mingle were dashed. Ah well, at least we had a stonking amount of Jameson to cheer us up….

In other news, work is still going on for this film I’m producing in April, Prodigal Son. We’ve got dates (8-11 April) and locations are still being sorted out. If anyone has a plush office and is willing to let us shoot a scene there, drop me a line! We also need production assistants! We raised nearly 1,200 euro thanks to people attending our fundraising quiz night a few weeks ago but I’m still raising funds. So if you’ve ever wanted to see your name on a movie’s credits, this could be your big chance! Get in touch via email or Facebook.

Right, now that I’ve reported and panhandled, I’m off for a lifesaving coffee….

Jordan's modern fairytale opens JDIFF 2010...

My blogging for the (deep breath) Jameson Dublin International Film Festival started in earnest last night – you can check out the official blogs including mine and five others here.

The opening night movie was Ondine, one of the strangest films on paper that I’ve seen in ages. A fisherman finds a woman caught up in his trawl net – but is she real or supernatural? Has she come from the sea? Neil Jordan crafts an intriguing and affecting fairytale with great performances, particularly from Colin Farrell and his now real-life girlfriend Alicja Bachleda.

The party after in Lillies was a good laugh but no good for celeb-spotting cos all the big celebs were hidden away up in the VIP area with a gorilla guarding the door. Colin Farrell vanished in there as soon as he arrived and hopes on the part of the plebs downstairs that he might come out and mingle were dashed. Ah well, at least we had a stonking amount of Jameson to cheer us up….

In other news, work is still going on for this film I’m producing in April, Prodigal Son. We’ve got dates (8-11 April) and locations are still being sorted out. If anyone has a plush office and is willing to let us shoot a scene there, drop me a line! We also need production assistants! We raised nearly 1,200 euro thanks to people attending our fundraising quiz night a few weeks ago but I’m still raising funds. So if you’ve ever wanted to see your name on a movie’s credits, this could be your big chance! Get in touch via email or Facebook.

Right, now that I’ve reported and panhandled, I’m off for a lifesaving coffee….

Monday, February 15, 2010

From script to movie to, uh, stinker

Ever read a great script, only to see the movie and wonder what went wrong? Sometimes they mess up the casting. Sometimes it's just edited really badly. And sometimes the original screenwriter got taken off the project and a chorus line of other writers took over. Whatever happened, the promise of the original script is gone and only a car crash remains.

If you ever sit down to watch a movie and there are more than three credited writers, walk out and get on with your day. Trust me, it's going to suck. How can it be anything else, with that many voices involved? 

I've been thinking about this because I've been reading some of the Blacklist scripts and there are some great potential movies in there. Let's hope they don't get messed up and pulled apart along the way....

I'm really looking forward to the film festival now. I've written a couple of blog posts but the real blogging will start later on this week and after that I'll either be talking about movies, drinking Jameson or writing. And watching some films of course!


From script to movie to, uh, stinker

Ever read a great script, only to see the movie and wonder what went wrong? Sometimes they mess up the casting. Sometimes it's just edited really badly. And sometimes the original screenwriter got taken off the project and a chorus line of other writers took over. Whatever happened, the promise of the original script is gone and only a car crash remains.

If you ever sit down to watch a movie and there are more than three credited writers, walk out and get on with your day. Trust me, it's going to suck. How can it be anything else, with that many voices involved? 

I've been thinking about this because I've been reading some of the Blacklist scripts and there are some great potential movies in there. Let's hope they don't get messed up and pulled apart along the way....

I'm really looking forward to the film festival now. I've written a couple of blog posts but the real blogging will start later on this week and after that I'll either be talking about movies, drinking Jameson or writing. And watching some films of course!


Friday, February 12, 2010

To budget or not to budget....

Two thoughts are rattling around in my head as a result of a screenwriting group session last night. High concept versus low concept – and should you think about the budget when writing a movie?

High concept ideas are brilliant for pitching and really allow you to imagine the finished movie from very few initial details. Are the end products any better than low-concept movies? Generally not – but they’re easier to sell and therefore more likely to get made.

There is, too (for me at least!) something joyful about a high concept idea. Someone tells you the logline – or you’re telling a group of people yourself – and the response is “Right. I get it! That’s great!”. Compare this with ten minutes of explaining your historical epic about a cross-dressing soldier during the War of Independence who has issues with his mother and has a brother with a drink problem.

On the other hand, try and sum movies like Little Miss Sunshine or Dog Day Afternoon up in one sentence and you’ll run into problems . But the end results are two fantastic movies.

On a slightly related note, should you bear budget in mind when it comes to writing a script? What if your movie about a space battle or the end of the world will cost 100 million to make? Should you shelve it and write something that could be shot for 2 million?

Here’s my take on both questions: you have to write the movie that you have in your head, begging to come out. Whether it’s high/low concept or high/low budget doesn’t matter – write it. That doesn’t mean it’s going to get made. Yet. But what you do is when it’s done, stick it in a drawer. Pour yourself a large cup of coffee. And start preparing a modestly-budgeted thriller with a killer logline. Once this has been made and you have a bit of a rep built up, it’ll be time to unearth the intergalactic space battle….

To budget or not to budget....

Two thoughts are rattling around in my head as a result of a screenwriting group session last night. High concept versus low concept – and should you think about the budget when writing a movie?

High concept ideas are brilliant for pitching and really allow you to imagine the finished movie from very few initial details. Are the end products any better than low-concept movies? Generally not – but they’re easier to sell and therefore more likely to get made.

There is, too (for me at least!) something joyful about a high concept idea. Someone tells you the logline – or you’re telling a group of people yourself – and the response is “Right. I get it! That’s great!”. Compare this with ten minutes of explaining your historical epic about a cross-dressing soldier during the War of Independence who has issues with his mother and has a brother with a drink problem.

On the other hand, try and sum movies like Little Miss Sunshine or Dog Day Afternoon up in one sentence and you’ll run into problems . But the end results are two fantastic movies.

On a slightly related note, should you bear budget in mind when it comes to writing a script? What if your movie about a space battle or the end of the world will cost 100 million to make? Should you shelve it and write something that could be shot for 2 million?

Here’s my take on both questions: you have to write the movie that you have in your head, begging to come out. Whether it’s high/low concept or high/low budget doesn’t matter – write it. That doesn’t mean it’s going to get made. Yet. But what you do is when it’s done, stick it in a drawer. Pour yourself a large cup of coffee. And start preparing a modestly-budgeted thriller with a killer logline. Once this has been made and you have a bit of a rep built up, it’ll be time to unearth the intergalactic space battle….

Monday, February 8, 2010

Time to call in the pros....

So you've written a decent first draft, an alright second draft and the third and fourth ones nearly killed you.

You're now on draft five and there's still something not right about your baby. Something is rotten in the State of Courier 12 and the truth would set you free - if you only knew what the damn truth was!

What to do? You get your nearest and dearest to read it. You get your screenwriting group to read it - and they come up with some great ideas. You iron out some of the faults. Bluebirds sing,  but it's still not perfect. There's only one solution - to get a pro to read it.

I've only paid for one bit of professional coverage before; this was through The Page Awards, who operate a year-round coverage service. I have to say that they did a good job and really helped me finally get things on the right track. But I'm now thinking of paying a bit more, and getting a script consultant to take a look at a script that's defeating me and coming between me and a good night's sleep.

Has anyone out there used a script consultant before? Any good recommendations? I have a Snickers bar for the person who gives the name and email of a good 'un....

Time to call in the pros....

So you've written a decent first draft, an alright second draft and the third and fourth ones nearly killed you.

You're now on draft five and there's still something not right about your baby. Something is rotten in the State of Courier 12 and the truth would set you free - if you only knew what the damn truth was!

What to do? You get your nearest and dearest to read it. You get your screenwriting group to read it - and they come up with some great ideas. You iron out some of the faults. Bluebirds sing,  but it's still not perfect. There's only one solution - to get a pro to read it.

I've only paid for one bit of professional coverage before; this was through The Page Awards, who operate a year-round coverage service. I have to say that they did a good job and really helped me finally get things on the right track. But I'm now thinking of paying a bit more, and getting a script consultant to take a look at a script that's defeating me and coming between me and a good night's sleep.

Has anyone out there used a script consultant before? Any good recommendations? I have a Snickers bar for the person who gives the name and email of a good 'un....

Friday, February 5, 2010

And the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay goes to...

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who made it to the quiz on Wednesday. We raised over 1,100 euros, which was amazing for a pub quiz. So Prodigal Son has at least some of its budget together already!

I’ve also posted my first blog post on the Jameson Dublin Film Festival website, which is here http://www.jdiff.com/index.php/news/blog/

Most Oscar articles seem to focus on the nominations for Best Picture, Best Director or the acting noms, but I’m going to focus on the most important categories of all (to me, of course), which are Best screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.

I’m going to make a terrible confession – I haven’t seen all of these movies. I have, however, read all the scripts. So based on that: I think The Hurt Locker should win. Mark Boal does a fantastic job of conveying the bizarre and terrible world of a bomb disposal team, taking in all the tension and paranoia that goes with it. His (anti) hero William James is the sort of part any actor would kill to play (always the mark of great script). He is a guy who doesn’t care if he lives or dies – but does this make him the ultimate bomb disposer or a dangerous loose cannon? Check out the bit on page 17 where we meet James for the first time.

An awkward silence ensues allowing us to get a better look at James. Though a former Army Ranger in his mid-thirties, fit and good-looking, one of the lucky ones, he possesses an unusual demeanor. In a world of outgoing young men, James seems markedly self-absorbed. Sanborn notices this trait instantly and is puzzled by it. The truth is that after so many years down range, racking up kills and disarming bombs, James has lost some of the ability and most of the need to connect to other people.

Right now, however, James is doing his best to act like a regular nice guy.

A piece of description that gets right under this character’s skin. This is the stuff Oscar-winning scripts are made of – and I hope it’s Mark Boal up on the podium with the little gold man on Oscar night.

To read some of the nominated scripts – and quite a few others that got pipped at the post, see:

http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/article/new-oscar-scripts-basterds-nine-the-road-and-a-single-man

And the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay goes to...

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who made it to the quiz on Wednesday. We raised over 1,100 euros, which was amazing for a pub quiz. So Prodigal Son has at least some of its budget together already!

I’ve also posted my first blog post on the Jameson Dublin Film Festival website, which is here http://www.jdiff.com/index.php/news/blog/

Most Oscar articles seem to focus on the nominations for Best Picture, Best Director or the acting noms, but I’m going to focus on the most important categories of all (to me, of course), which are Best screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.

I’m going to make a terrible confession – I haven’t seen all of these movies. I have, however, read all the scripts. So based on that: I think The Hurt Locker should win. Mark Boal does a fantastic job of conveying the bizarre and terrible world of a bomb disposal team, taking in all the tension and paranoia that goes with it. His (anti) hero William James is the sort of part any actor would kill to play (always the mark of great script). He is a guy who doesn’t care if he lives or dies – but does this make him the ultimate bomb disposer or a dangerous loose cannon? Check out the bit on page 17 where we meet James for the first time.

An awkward silence ensues allowing us to get a better look at James. Though a former Army Ranger in his mid-thirties, fit and good-looking, one of the lucky ones, he possesses an unusual demeanor. In a world of outgoing young men, James seems markedly self-absorbed. Sanborn notices this trait instantly and is puzzled by it. The truth is that after so many years down range, racking up kills and disarming bombs, James has lost some of the ability and most of the need to connect to other people.

Right now, however, James is doing his best to act like a regular nice guy.

A piece of description that gets right under this character’s skin. This is the stuff Oscar-winning scripts are made of – and I hope it’s Mark Boal up on the podium with the little gold man on Oscar night.

To read some of the nominated scripts – and quite a few others that got pipped at the post, see:

http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/article/new-oscar-scripts-basterds-nine-the-road-and-a-single-man