Monday, April 26, 2010

3D - the future of home entertainment?

Reading this highly entertaining interview with James Cameron over the weekend, I got thinking about 3D TVs and how our future living rooms are going to look. 

It's funny - up to 2 years ago, 3D seemed like a washed-up experiment from the 1970s and 80s. The only 3D films I'd seen were Jaws 3D and Friday the 13th 3D, neither of which were very good advertisements for the format. Apart from the fact that the effects themselves looked crappy, the 3D tricks were shoehorned into the plots. They didn't so much add to the pictures as distract from the terrible dialogue and acting. 

Flash forward to this year and Up and Avatar blowing everyone away. Now 3D TV is only 12 months away from domestic reality and the reach of any household. For the moment, any household with more than a grand to spend on a TV, but it's only a matter of time before the prices come down. Plus Sky is about to launch a 3D TV channel.

So here's my question - and forgive me if I'm being blonde about this - but doesn't this mean that you would have to sit in your living room wearing 3D glasses (to take total advantage of the format)? Should someone be starting a business making little cabinets to house all the family's 3D specs? Is it not slightly disconcerting to have a whole sitting room of people wearing 'em?

Or is this just the future - and it's about to be widely distributed....

3D - the future of home entertainment?

Reading this highly entertaining interview with James Cameron over the weekend, I got thinking about 3D TVs and how our future living rooms are going to look. 

It's funny - up to 2 years ago, 3D seemed like a washed-up experiment from the 1970s and 80s. The only 3D films I'd seen were Jaws 3D and Friday the 13th 3D, neither of which were very good advertisements for the format. Apart from the fact that the effects themselves looked crappy, the 3D tricks were shoehorned into the plots. They didn't so much add to the pictures as distract from the terrible dialogue and acting. 

Flash forward to this year and Up and Avatar blowing everyone away. Now 3D TV is only 12 months away from domestic reality and the reach of any household. For the moment, any household with more than a grand to spend on a TV, but it's only a matter of time before the prices come down. Plus Sky is about to launch a 3D TV channel.

So here's my question - and forgive me if I'm being blonde about this - but doesn't this mean that you would have to sit in your living room wearing 3D glasses (to take total advantage of the format)? Should someone be starting a business making little cabinets to house all the family's 3D specs? Is it not slightly disconcerting to have a whole sitting room of people wearing 'em?

Or is this just the future - and it's about to be widely distributed....

Friday, April 23, 2010

What's in a name? Quite a lot, actually...

Reading Terry Rossio’s excellent Wordplayer site, I came across this article on character names, a subject dear to my heart.

Now, you might wonder, are names in films really that important? I think so! Boring names can make a dull film worse. Inappropriate character names can make you wince. And sometime they just go overboard. Why on earth did someone decide to call Jason Statham’s Crank character Chev Chelios? Why was Giovanni Ribisi called Kip Raines in Gone in Sixty Seconds?

Joe Eszterhas claims to give his characters solid, old-fashioned names because they won’t date. Well, it might be boring, but maybe some of the overexcited action writers could learn from him – and stop called characters things like The Sphinx.

Movie names I think rock:
Scarlett O’Hara (hello, we know right away she’s a scarlet woman!)
Tyler Durden
Lando Calrassian
Keyser Soze
Snake Plisskin
John McClane (this just really suits the character)
Crash Davis (again, exactly what it says on the tin)
Marge Gunderson
Castor Troy
Michael Myers. Real guys called Michael Myers must get fed up with all the Hallowe’en references, mind.
Egon Spengler. Brilliant!

Movie names that make me want to claw my eyes out:
JarJar Binks
Riley Hale. Like fingernails on a blackboard.
Mikaela Baines (horrible spelling!!)
Alotta Fagina (there’s funny-bad and there’s gynaecology-bad..)
Mason Storm
Jonathan Cold (yes, this is a Steven Seagal character)

What's in a name? Quite a lot, actually...

Reading Terry Rossio’s excellent Wordplayer site, I came across this article on character names, a subject dear to my heart.

Now, you might wonder, are names in films really that important? I think so! Boring names can make a dull film worse. Inappropriate character names can make you wince. And sometime they just go overboard. Why on earth did someone decide to call Jason Statham’s Crank character Chev Chelios? Why was Giovanni Ribisi called Kip Raines in Gone in Sixty Seconds?

Joe Eszterhas claims to give his characters solid, old-fashioned names because they won’t date. Well, it might be boring, but maybe some of the overexcited action writers could learn from him – and stop called characters things like The Sphinx.

Movie names I think rock:
Scarlett O’Hara (hello, we know right away she’s a scarlet woman!)
Tyler Durden
Lando Calrassian
Keyser Soze
Snake Plisskin
John McClane (this just really suits the character)
Crash Davis (again, exactly what it says on the tin)
Marge Gunderson
Castor Troy
Michael Myers. Real guys called Michael Myers must get fed up with all the Hallowe’en references, mind.
Egon Spengler. Brilliant!

Movie names that make me want to claw my eyes out:
JarJar Binks
Riley Hale. Like fingernails on a blackboard.
Mikaela Baines (horrible spelling!!)
Alotta Fagina (there’s funny-bad and there’s gynaecology-bad..)
Mason Storm
Jonathan Cold (yes, this is a Steven Seagal character)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Do those who can't, teach?

A work colleague who also writes just came back from a Robert McKee Story Seminar in London. I have mixed feelings about McKee and other screenwriting gurus. On the one hand, would I like to see the grand theatrical event that is a Story Seminar? Yep! Do I really think he is God's gift to screenwriting? No.

Granted, Story is an excellent book on the world of script. But McKee himself has only had one film actually made. He's sold a lot more than that, but they've never been filmed. So what can we deduce from this? Is he a man who knows a lot about screenwriting and very little about selling cinematic screenplays? Is he a teacher, not a scriptwriter?

I had a the same reservations about the late great Blake Snyder, who admittedly had had a lot more than one film made. He, too, seemed to have sold a lot of scripts that hadn't been made. But is this just realistic? Perhaps most screenwriters would regard a lot of script sales as a success, even if their work never hit cinemas?

Personally, I'd love to see a much-produced screenwriter write a book on the subject of scripts. Why haven't William Goldman, Shane Black or John August written books on writing great screenplays? 

Is it because they are out there, doing it? Is it really true that those who can't, teach?

Do those who can't, teach?

A work colleague who also writes just came back from a Robert McKee Story Seminar in London. I have mixed feelings about McKee and other screenwriting gurus. On the one hand, would I like to see the grand theatrical event that is a Story Seminar? Yep! Do I really think he is God's gift to screenwriting? No.

Granted, Story is an excellent book on the world of script. But McKee himself has only had one film actually made. He's sold a lot more than that, but they've never been filmed. So what can we deduce from this? Is he a man who knows a lot about screenwriting and very little about selling cinematic screenplays? Is he a teacher, not a scriptwriter?

I had a the same reservations about the late great Blake Snyder, who admittedly had had a lot more than one film made. He, too, seemed to have sold a lot of scripts that hadn't been made. But is this just realistic? Perhaps most screenwriters would regard a lot of script sales as a success, even if their work never hit cinemas?

Personally, I'd love to see a much-produced screenwriter write a book on the subject of scripts. Why haven't William Goldman, Shane Black or John August written books on writing great screenplays? 

Is it because they are out there, doing it? Is it really true that those who can't, teach?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Learning from a trip to the cinema

I'm going to the movies tonight. Earlier, the usual discussion ensued with my movie-going companion about what to see, which went something like this:

ME
So what do you want to see? There's this thing called The Ghost, and there's Remember Me, and Dear John...

SIDEKICK
Nah, Dear John looks shit. What's The Ghost?

ME
Roman Polanski flick. Pierce Brosnan is a dodgy politician and Ewan McGregor is his ghostwriter, who gets caught up in all kinds of bother when he agrees to do the guy's biography.

SIDEKICK
Yeah - it's that or Clash of the Titans? You're on.

Now, this was a particularly nerdy piece of pre-cinema discussion, because I am a film-geek and all. But this happens in a lot of houses on a weekend night all around the country. Movies get mentioned, dissected and dismissed in a five-minute conversation, and very often a film gets picked for the slimmest of reasons. It's a comedy and you feel like something funny. It's a thriller, and you want something you can get your teeth into.

So what can we learn from this about screenwriting? First of all, pay attention to the film you yourself dismiss when you read the title/logline. Why are you ruling them out? Do you not like the actors? Does it sound boring or grim? Or is it just a confusing, low-concept idea that you can't get your head around? Has it had terrible reviews?

I personally think the reviews aren't that important. A lot of comedies get terrible reviews and still manage to be hits. What is partially very important is genre. Sometimes I just fancy going to see an action movie or a romcom, and within reason, will go and see anything in that genre. I reckon I'm not the only one.

So a trip to the cinema is not just fun, it can be educational. That, and a chance to eat peanut M&Ms mixed with popcorn, but that's a whole other story.....

Learning from a trip to the cinema

I'm going to the movies tonight. Earlier, the usual discussion ensued with my movie-going companion about what to see, which went something like this:

ME
So what do you want to see? There's this thing called The Ghost, and there's Remember Me, and Dear John...

SIDEKICK
Nah, Dear John looks shit. What's The Ghost?

ME
Roman Polanski flick. Pierce Brosnan is a dodgy politician and Ewan McGregor is his ghostwriter, who gets caught up in all kinds of bother when he agrees to do the guy's biography.

SIDEKICK
Yeah - it's that or Clash of the Titans? You're on.

Now, this was a particularly nerdy piece of pre-cinema discussion, because I am a film-geek and all. But this happens in a lot of houses on a weekend night all around the country. Movies get mentioned, dissected and dismissed in a five-minute conversation, and very often a film gets picked for the slimmest of reasons. It's a comedy and you feel like something funny. It's a thriller, and you want something you can get your teeth into.

So what can we learn from this about screenwriting? First of all, pay attention to the film you yourself dismiss when you read the title/logline. Why are you ruling them out? Do you not like the actors? Does it sound boring or grim? Or is it just a confusing, low-concept idea that you can't get your head around? Has it had terrible reviews?

I personally think the reviews aren't that important. A lot of comedies get terrible reviews and still manage to be hits. What is partially very important is genre. Sometimes I just fancy going to see an action movie or a romcom, and within reason, will go and see anything in that genre. I reckon I'm not the only one.

So a trip to the cinema is not just fun, it can be educational. That, and a chance to eat peanut M&Ms mixed with popcorn, but that's a whole other story.....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's a wrap on Prodigal Son!

Three and a half months. 43 cast and crew. 10 locations. A fair bit of camera and lighting equipment. Four fake guns. Oh, and two horses and a dog.  That's  just some of the stuff that went into making Prodigal Son, which was shot over 4 days last week, mostly in Finglas.

And I have to say, while the days were long, the sun beat down more than I could ever have hoped for. People even got sunburned! All in all, it was a seriously cheerful and positive shoot. Everyone worked together so hard and the screen grabs and footage I've seen so far look amazing. You can see the screen grabs here.

Thanks to everyone who contributed and I hope you're all able to see the finished film soon!



It's a wrap on Prodigal Son!

Three and a half months. 43 cast and crew. 10 locations. A fair bit of camera and lighting equipment. Four fake guns. Oh, and two horses and a dog.  That's  just some of the stuff that went into making Prodigal Son, which was shot over 4 days last week, mostly in Finglas.

And I have to say, while the days were long, the sun beat down more than I could ever have hoped for. People even got sunburned! All in all, it was a seriously cheerful and positive shoot. Everyone worked together so hard and the screen grabs and footage I've seen so far look amazing. You can see the screen grabs here.

Thanks to everyone who contributed and I hope you're all able to see the finished film soon!



Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Transmedia Producer- Transmedia Writer?

I saw this post on Nikki Finke today re. the introduction of a new PGA credit for producers: Transmedia Producer. This will basically cover a producer's work over a wide range of platforms - comics, broadband, mobile, DVD/Blu-Ray/CD ROM and animation, in addition to film and television. 

This is interesting because to date, Hollywood has seemed unsure about how to handle all these new media formats and how they're going to fit into the existing system. This hasn't been helped by the fact that some of the new formats have unclear financial benefits for studios. Possibly as a result, they haven't yet led to a flood of good quality content (I'm thinking primarily of online film and TV, which up to now has been the poor cousin, content-wise, of mainstream film). A TV series might have a secondary online show, but as shows like Harpers Island and it's online spin-off Harpers Globe demonstrated, the real money is being pumped into the TV version.

Leaving online content aside, there is also the supporting marketing that shows and films can do through other formats, such as mobile phone clips, DVD extras, online advertising, stuff like that. Some of that content uses additional footage, even additional characters and it's fitting that there is now a credit for producers that covers all these "other" formats.

But where does this leave the writer? What if you not only write the script, but also the comic book that supports or even inspires the film? What if you write the dialogue for the online advertising or write a short animated script for the DVDs extras? What if it's your online comedy show that leads to a script which you've written getting to the big screen? 

I guess my question is: should the WGA be thinking of introducing a Transmedia Writer credit over the next few years? 

Transmedia Producer- Transmedia Writer?

I saw this post on Nikki Finke today re. the introduction of a new PGA credit for producers: Transmedia Producer. This will basically cover a producer's work over a wide range of platforms - comics, broadband, mobile, DVD/Blu-Ray/CD ROM and animation, in addition to film and television. 

This is interesting because to date, Hollywood has seemed unsure about how to handle all these new media formats and how they're going to fit into the existing system. This hasn't been helped by the fact that some of the new formats have unclear financial benefits for studios. Possibly as a result, they haven't yet led to a flood of good quality content (I'm thinking primarily of online film and TV, which up to now has been the poor cousin, content-wise, of mainstream film). A TV series might have a secondary online show, but as shows like Harpers Island and it's online spin-off Harpers Globe demonstrated, the real money is being pumped into the TV version.

Leaving online content aside, there is also the supporting marketing that shows and films can do through other formats, such as mobile phone clips, DVD extras, online advertising, stuff like that. Some of that content uses additional footage, even additional characters and it's fitting that there is now a credit for producers that covers all these "other" formats.

But where does this leave the writer? What if you not only write the script, but also the comic book that supports or even inspires the film? What if you write the dialogue for the online advertising or write a short animated script for the DVDs extras? What if it's your online comedy show that leads to a script which you've written getting to the big screen? 

I guess my question is: should the WGA be thinking of introducing a Transmedia Writer credit over the next few years? 

Friday, April 2, 2010

And the Frenzy has started!

This last few weeks have been mad busy, but Good Friday has forced me to relax, with it's no booze, no buses rule. So it's on with some writing, in between TV watching, trips to the cinema and eating chocolate, and what better motivation than ScriptFrenzy?!

The Frenzy, for the uninitiated, is a month-long challenge during April to write 100 pages, or a rough first draft of a script. That's roughly 3 and a half pages of script a day, for 30 days.  At the end, yes, you might have a piece of crap, but you'll still have written a script, in a month! And there's bound to be some good nuggets in there that you can use. It's quite similar to Viki King's legendary (and even more extreme) How to Write a Movie in 21 Days, which I highly recommend and have used successfully in the past.

The best of luck to my fellow Frenzies and I hope to report a 100-page result on April 30th. 

Also, thanks to everyone who came to the second fundraising quiz for Prodigal Son, despite some horrific weather and a Champions League match the same night. You're all stars!

To everyone else, have a lovely Easter - and happy writing....

And the Frenzy has started!

This last few weeks have been mad busy, but Good Friday has forced me to relax, with it's no booze, no buses rule. So it's on with some writing, in between TV watching, trips to the cinema and eating chocolate, and what better motivation than ScriptFrenzy?!

The Frenzy, for the uninitiated, is a month-long challenge during April to write 100 pages, or a rough first draft of a script. That's roughly 3 and a half pages of script a day, for 30 days.  At the end, yes, you might have a piece of crap, but you'll still have written a script, in a month! And there's bound to be some good nuggets in there that you can use. It's quite similar to Viki King's legendary (and even more extreme) How to Write a Movie in 21 Days, which I highly recommend and have used successfully in the past.

The best of luck to my fellow Frenzies and I hope to report a 100-page result on April 30th. 

Also, thanks to everyone who came to the second fundraising quiz for Prodigal Son, despite some horrific weather and a Champions League match the same night. You're all stars!

To everyone else, have a lovely Easter - and happy writing....