Friday, August 29, 2008

Trailer Trash IX: Color Me Blood Red (1965)

"This is Adam, and this is a story of Adam and EVIL."

Before you check out this delightful little Herschell Gordon Lewis trailer, pour yourself a drink. Take a gulp whenever the narrator reminds you that this is just a movie, or repeats the title of the film:

Drunk? Can you even still stand?

This is just a movie.
This is just a movie.
Color Me Blood Red.
Color Me Blood Red.
Color Me oh good god...

The plot for this one is standard Gordon Lewis fare: a psycho killer uses blood as paint in his art. Shot on little to no budget, gory as all get-out... you know the deal.

Favorite moments, outside of the non-stop repetition:

0:01 - The first ten seconds of the trailer are a guy's twitchy eyes. Real selling point.
0:22 - And here come 12 seconds of a close-up of fire. Does anything happen in this movie?
0:45 - "A blood-spattered study in the mawcarb"... has anyone heard it pronounced that way before?
0:56 - And another 25 seconds of that same fire-closeup. I'm convinced that this movie is mostly shots of things burning gently.

Movie poster via (the AMAZING) Wrong Side of the Art.

Color. Me. Blood. Red. Color. Me. Blood. Red. Color. Me. Blood. Red. Color. Me. Blood. Red.

Remember, guys. It's just a movie.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A few fall previews...

Summer is (sadly) coming to a quick end. Autumn, at least, will bring new television and lots of great-looking movies. Here's a quick-n-dirty roundup of related links:

TV Writer Ken Levine's hilarious fall movie preview. (Part II is here - check back for the third installment, but really, you should be subscribing to this already.)

The first part of The Onion's fall TV preview.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Writing Week part 34

Not much writing this week. At all.

I started working on a short for that Hotel Guignol thing earlier this week, but as I was relaying my idea for it to Onyx )damn that Onyx) he told me that it sounded exactly like that movie 1402, or whatever that Sam L. Jackson thing was. I've never seen 1402 beyond the trailers, and I didn't know much about it - I think I knew it took place in a hotel. Other than that, I knew bubkes about it. Apparently, I also knew everything about it, as, little did I know, I was pretty much writing the condensed version of it.

It's funny how that can happen - all of a sudden, your great, original idea is not so original, and perhaps not so great. The basic premise behind my post-Apocalyptic spec, much to my horror, my just used as a spoof trailer in a comedy. The fact that it was a spoof was discouraging on two levels: 1) people were making fun of it, undercutting the seriousness with which I treated it, and 2) it was my "original" idea, my hook, my big break. Now, not so much. To top that string of unfortunate discoveries off, Onxy (damn you again, Onyx) had to remind me of a script a mentor of his is lending him to read, which essentially rips two of my ideas from me. Two scripts now "been done" by this, as-of-yet -unmade movie.

Ok, ok, that's a bit dramatic. Ideas get done, they get repeated. Afterall, aren't we taught that there are only like 10 real stories anyway? The point, though, is that what I thought to be my hooks suddenly aren't that unique. I know it's to be expected, but, come on, this many of them? All at one time? I can still take solace in the knowledge that I came up with these ideas on my own, uninspired by any of the - what skeptics might call - "source material." It still sucks, though, and I can't help but wonder if I've just gone back to Go without being able to collect my $200.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Trailer Trash VIII: The Video Dead (1987)

"Don't you find it a little creepy, living in the murder-house?"

Watching this trailer, you have to wonder if the makers of the original "The Ring" saw this, with all of the scenes of monsters crawling out of televisions? I can't imagine this would have ever been exported to Japan, though, but who knows. I'm sure Japan appreciates stupid as much as we do.

The movie itself is just as bad as it looks in the trailer. A demonic TV is delivered to a house - it only shows a gory zombie movie when it's turned on, and if you leave it on too long the colorful cast of zombies will come out of the TV and after you. The zombie bride is probably my favorite, though there's no explanation of why she's wearing a wedding dress.

I'm going to give away a few spoilers here, because the ending is so priceless that it's worth mentioning. A few teenagers, trapped by the zombies at the very end of the movie, throw a dance party to show the zombies they're not afraid of them. The zombies, dismayed by the teenagers' lack of fear, give up their rampage and go back into the TV. Yes, that's really how the movie ends. I haven't seen this movie since I was maybe 13, but the ridiculous ending remains burned into my memory.

Favorite moments:

At 0:40- No, no - don't open the washing machine! AAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!
At 1:05- Zombie David Bowie?

"[It] may change the way you feel about your televison... forever!"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Korean Film Fes!

For all you living in the New York City, it’s time for the

2008 New York Korean Film Festival!
August 22-31
Cinema Village and BAMcinematek

They will be playing 14 feature films that cover everything from horror-romance to sports drama to chefs facing off and good old bare-knuckled action flick. They are also showing 3 short films program. So, if you got a few hours to spare the next two weeks, come and join the fun!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work We Go....

Some time back in March or April I was suddenly inspired to write a fantasy romance action movie. My main goal was to write something that'll appeal to the pre-teen/ teen girls. I wanted to create the same feeling girls get after seeing Kate & Leopold, except instead of "sigh...I want a 19th century Duke as a boyfriend", change that to "sigh...I want a thief from a distant land as a boyfriend."

Both the rough draft and first draft got very positive response from my female readers, but they also pointed out that it's a total mess. The structure was in shambles, lots of things didn't make sense. I got some bones but didn't have the flesh. But, through the murky disorderly script, they saw something they liked. Some scenes created the reaction I wanted. That was really all that mattered, since I don't mind fixing up a script as long as it has appeals. The worst that can happen is to write a perfect script, and no one wants to read it. Or just no one wants to your script, period.

The next draft I clarified a lot more of the world. Like writing any fantasy, I pulled out my hair trying to figure out how to get the logic in my head to make sense on page. Or figure out which of the logic in my head doesn't actually make logic sense. I wanted to create a Greek pantheon universe, where the people don't view the gods and rituals as a "religion" but as a way of life. Even after setting up clearer rules and putting in the god's story, my fellow leagues still pointed out a lot of things that didn't make sense, but more than that, I had to fix up my structure. The inciting incident was happening on page 50. Disaster.

I am now on the third draft of the script, and it seems to be the only thing that's going well currently in my life. The inciting incident is happening on pg 15. The end of first act at pg 37. Much closer to the mark. I've really strengthened my antagonists, and I have a clear view of where is this going scene by scene (for the next 30 pages anyway...). On the other hand, I look back and realize that, much of the rough draft is gone. The scenes that I originally wrote for the squeal factor are almost all tossed out to make way for plot-focused scenes. That, or maybe there're still there, I just no longer see it objectively. (I have a bad habit of hating all my jokes after reading it 3 times.) Sometimes I'm afraid that while making it a clearer, better, more professional script, I'm also butchering it. And maybe, the 4th or 5th draft what I have to do is to go back to the very beginning, the original goal, and have my focus for that draft be to make it young and fun again. Not that, er, it's not young and fun now.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Writing Week part 33

I did something this week, which I’m not sure how I feel about. Long story short, a literary manager in L.A. had contacted the League a while back. I sent him my “Sin City style” spec in response to his query, and he claimed to really like it. Flash forward about six months, and nothing really came of it. Since a few of us are on the verge of sending out queries, I figured I’d drop him a line, a sort of pre-query burst query to someone I already have a bit of history with. So, Wednesday of last week – following a League meeting that left me feeling pretty comfortable with the state of my post-Apocalyptic spec – I let him know I had another script. He asked me to send it over.

While I say that I left our last League meeting feeling good about my script, that does not mean that there was nothing left to be done on it. There were some (mostly minor) rewrites that I had to do. There was no timeline for contacting this manager, but for some reason, I was itching to drop him a line as soon as I could. After sending him the email on Wednesday, and getting such a rapid response from him, I felt obligated to get him the material ASAP. That is why Wednesday night I worked for nearly 4 straight hours toughing up my script. It is also why I woke up and spent another hour doing tweaks before work on Thursday.

All told, I think that the end result was successful. My hesitation to feel 100% comfortable with it, though, comes from the last minute nature with which I did the revisions. Normally, I like to be able to re-read every draft I write from start to finish, no matter how little has been changed. I didn’t get to do that this time, and even though I read the specific scenes I had changed a half dozen times apiece, I still went to work on Thursday feeling as though I’d missed something. I don’t know that anything actually did escape me, but my inability to read all 105 pages straight through this time unsettled me. It still does a bit.

At any rate, we’ll see what happens. This week will be dedicated to going through the post-Apocalyptic spec once more and writing short horror scripts. For anyone interested, visit to find out a bit more about Hotel Guignol, a web-based series, akin to The Twilight Zone, that needs 5-10 minute horror shorts set in a hotel room. It could be good short screenplay writing practice, as well as a fun way to pick up 100 bucks.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Woody Weekend

Woody Allen's annual new film opens this weekend. The reviews I've seen so far for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" all seem to be relatively positive thus far, but I'm still a bit skeptical. His new movies movies have always been an annual outing for me, but they've become more and more of a chore. I have to see them, even if they'll inevitably disappoint. The buzz around this new one, though... I hope it's true. I guess I'll know when I get around to seeing it this week. Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz will help.

I hope I'm posing for photos like that when I'm his age. Hell, I'd take now, even.

A few links for this Woody Weekend (heh, heh):

Scott Tobias posted a recent interview he conducted with Woody Allen this week.

I know there are a few die-hard Woody fans (heh, heh) in our audience and in the league. (Backer - are you out there?) For those of you who aren't, here's a pretty good starting point:The Onion's Primer to the Woody Allen canon.

And a few promising reviews of the new movie: The AVClub, Time Out New York, The New York Times, and USA Today.

I'm surprised how many critics have danced around the Johansson/Cruz "lesbian liplock" (thank you, Page Six), considering all the hub-bub there was around it earlier this year. At the very least, dear readers, you know I'LL be blogging about it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

On the pointless remake front...

Hey, it's been a while since Hollywood had pointlessly retreaded old ground, and we've got a week to go before the next big, pointless remake hits theaters. In case you're feeling like you're having withdrawal:

MTV is remaking The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Why? Whyyyyyyyy?

Anyone wanna take guesses now for the casting?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Trailer Trash VII: Night of a Thousand Cats (1972)

"When the cats are hungry, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!"

This is one of the many "animals gone bad" horror movies I picked up during my VHS-collecting days. These genre seemed to really blow up in the wake of Hitchcock's The Birds and by the end of the 1970s it seems like humanity was wiped out by everything from chimpanzees to frogs to... earthworms. But more on those in future posts.

Obviously the highlight of this trailer is the "free burial insurance" they offer the audience right at the end. I know that's a cheesy gimmick, but what if someone DID die during the screening? (Someone REALLY afraid of tabby cats, of course.) Would the theater be legally obligated to bury them? Any lawyers should feel free to chime in here.

Other golden moments:

At 0:04 - That's a LOT of cats in that there tiny cage. If this movie were to be shot today, they would probably have to CGI them all.
At 0:27 - How long does this lady have to stare at severed heads before she screams?

Watching this trailer, can anyone guess how the movie ends? It's obvious from the minute and a half we see here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

(Belated) Competition Re-cap

Since this site is about our climb up the screenwriting ladder, from the ground up, it's only fair that we document our lack of success, as well as our successes. As you have probably read, most of us tried our hands at the competition circuit this year. Three of us entered the Scriptapalooza Screenplay Competition, and four of us entered the PAGE International Screenplay Competition. While scriptapalooza is a lump competition, PAGE is divided into genres; Onyx submitted his historical script; Zombie sent into the comedy category; DOA entered her thriller, and I was Mr. Action/Adventure. July and August was results months.

The first round of results brought good news; all four of us in PAGE advanced to the quarter-finals. Of 3,865 scripts, we had all made the top 25% - impressive, but to be honest, I think we all felt entitled to that. We didn't want to jinx ourselves, but after our four years of formal training and our continued writing since, I don't think any of us saw the results as a surprise.

Next, though, came a big hit. Not one of us advanced in Scriptapalooza. Before I go on, I should mention that we had a feeling (correctly, it turns out) that Scriptapalooza, without its genre breakdowns, would be more of an uphill battle. Of nearly 4,400 scripts, just barely the top 9% advanced. OK - we weren't in the top 9%. Unfortunately, we had no way of knowing where we stood. Were we in the top 15? The top 25? No way to tell. Good thing we were still in PAGE, at least.

For a bit. PAGE announced their semi-finalists not long after Scriptapalooza's news came out. Onyx and I were actually on our way to D.C. that weekend. We both got out of work early and were hoping to catch a 4PM bus. I'd asked Zombie to text me if word came in after 3PM, when Onyx and I left for the bus. At 3:06, my phone dinged. Results were in. After bumbling on the sidewalk for a minute, trying to decide whether we had to know right then or if we could wait an entire bus ride from NYC to D.C., Onyx and I decided to head back to my office and see if we'd made it. Again, disappointment across the board. Not one familiar name popped up. C'est la vie.

While we were on the bus, Zombie actually shot me another message, saying that one of the guys who had advanced in Onyx's historical category had actually won first place in another competition a year earlier. That got me thinking: what do the competitions accomplish? In theory, they can earn a writer representation or a deal. In practice, it seems that so few of the winners get anywhere with their scripts because of the competitions, and those that do most often find success with small companies based in Europe or elsewhere. I know I have no right to be picky at this point, but the truth is that the magnitude of the script I'd submitted was such that I don't think I would have felt comfortable with a small, Eastern European company I'd never heard of producing it for a couple million dollars. I'd submitted a blockbuster, a behemoth of an action movie the likes of something Warner Brothers would do.

We ended the competitions feeling a bit down, a bit turned off to the whole process. Then, came one last email. PAGE informed all contestants that the competition was extremely close this year, and a tie-breaker round had been used. Ok, fine. Well, it turns out that DOA, Onyx, and I had made it to that round, and though we didn't advance, we were informed of the strength of our scripts and urged to refine and keep submitting them places. It actually took me some time to decide how I felt about knowing that. One the one hand, it was solid reassurance that the script I'd worked on for a year and a half was not complete crap. On the other hand, the script wasn't good enough to move forward, and I wanted to know why. Of course, that information didn't come.

In the end, I decided to feel good about my script, rather than ruin myself wondering why it didn't go further. Success in the competition circuit, much like finding an agent or a producer, is probably dependent upon luck - at least after a certain point. Maybe we got a judge who just wasn't into our stuff, or not digging it that day, or just in a foul mood. Maybe we had one typo, whereas the competition had zero. Maybe it just wasn't our day. Maybe we have work yet to do. At the end of the day, though I didn't win either competition, I wouldn't say I failed. I don't think any of us did. And we're certainly not giving up. The climb continues.

4 Quadrants of Growth

Working at a small movie distribution company in the less-than-usual nonsense New York, I don't really get much big company pep talk. I do, however, have them relayed to me through my sister. One snippet that really caught my attention was the Quadrants of Growth (or something like that). Here's how it goes: you start out Unconsciously Incompetent (1), and move to Consciously Incompetent (2), then (hopefully eventually) move to to Consciously Competent (3), and finally one day you (will hopefully) be Unconsciously Competent (4).

The example given is driving. You start out as a kid sitting on your dad's lap turning the steering wheel and thinking you can totally do this. That's Unconsciously Incompetent (1). Then come 16 and first few days at driving school, you realize, wow, I totally suck, and become Consciously aware of your Incompetency (2). Because of this, you start practicing, and with hard work you become Consciously Competent (3) where you can actually drive well. But only when you pay attention and not be stupid and cocky. This is why there are so many teen driving accidents. Then over the years, driving well (should technically) become a second nature and you are Unconsciously Competent (4). Congratulations.

If you don't factor in the talent limitation and go for the be-all-you-can-be view, this quadrants can easily be applied to writing. Everyone who writes continually are moving their way through the 4 quadrants. The question is, where are you? The thought deeply bothers me. There are time which I feel I'm at Consciously Incompetent (2) moving toward Consciously Competent (3). During my more cocky moments I feel I'm already at Consciously Competent (3), and soon I'll become Unconsciously Competent (4). This is usually when I finish a draft (usually the first draft) and feel, hell yeah, this rocks! Give it 2 drafts and I'll be done ...Then the first round of critique comes around and I go home thinking, wow, I'm probably still Unconsciously Incompetent (1), moving to being consciously aware that I REALLY GOT TO STEP UP MY GAME. After sleeping on the comments, I then usually look back on the script and think, it wasn't bad, it just wasn't good enough. Yet. Hopefully. Maybe. Please?

The other question is, how long before I become Unconsciously Competent (4). There are days and nights which I wave my fist at the sky and think (due to poor sound proofing) I WILL BE GOOD DAMN IT! But when? 30? 40? 50? The number keep growing. I don't mind hard work, but traveling two-steps-forward-one-step-back is a honest but slow journey. A friend recently told me that she does believe that my writing has improved. But how much? An inch? A pound? If 1 is for monkies at typewriters and 100 is for the Bible/Shakespeare/What-Will-You, where am I? Meanwhile, I guess there's nothing to do but to keep trucking along. At the very least, I got my inciting incident happening at page 15 this time. I can still hear Zombie cheering at the news.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Writing Week part 32

It’s amazing how much a group can push an individual to be the best possible. As Onyx mentioned in his latest, good cause for a drink post, we had another meeting last week. He went in thinking things in his script were in order. As did I. As, maybe, did DOA. We all got more than we had expected in the notes department. Due to that, I left the meeting very impressed by the League. While our scripts are all far and above what they would have been after two drafts just a few years ago, we’re still forcing one another onward, not allowing each other to settle for “OK” when our material has the potential to be great.

There we were, expecting probably a much higher ratio of pats on the back and golden stars to wagging fingers of shame (I actually did wag my finger in shame at DOA for something). However, we all were told that: this doesn’t work, why would you do this, this character’s actions don’t make sense, and this needs to be answered. Perhaps I’m being a bit stubborn, but I actually don’t plan on changing too much at this point. Backer and Blades on the Brain raised some important issues – Blades had a few critical things that need clarity. For the most part, though, the points brought up about my script require little more than a tweak here or there. Onyx had a good idea for replacement of a scene, which I’ll do, and there are a few lines that will clarify other important beats greatly. As a whole, though, the script is much farther along than it had been, and I think it’s ready to be shown the light of day.

I’m actually pretty excited. Zombie and I are gearing up to do a big round of query letter (and email) sending. He’s done one burst in the past, but I am new to it. The plan, I believe, is to test the waters with about a dozen (or more) emails to companies that accept queries that way, see what drops, and then do the snail mail round. Frankly, I’m arguing for this because it’s cheaper (i.e. free), and probably no less effective – though it is easier to bury an email, I would think. Though we’re going to query as many people as possible (within reason), I’ll be focusing primarily on people who have done a lot within the action genre, since that’s what I have at the moment. We’ve set a deadline of sending out by September 1st, more so because we’re just so busy and this will help ensure that we do it soon than for any other reason. We’ll let you know how it goes, for sure.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Trailer Trash VI: Return to Horror High (1987)

Special George Clooney edition.

"Stand up, sit down, FRIGHT! FRIGHT! FRIGHT!"

Admit it, you were scared when she turned around, weren't you? And despite the movie being called "Return to..." there was never a first Horror High movie. I will not let you be misled!

At 1:05 - Yes, that schlub opening the door to murderville is a young George Clooney.

A bit of trivia for ya: this poster for Return to Horror High was the first thing I ever purchased on eBay, way back in the 8th grade. What does that say about me?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Weakness Sighted, Commence Destruction

The other day the League had what was probably our most loaded meeting yet. Aside from blog business, we had notes to share on three feature length scripts and one outline. My feel good sports movie was the last order of the night, but apparently it didn’t make my peers feel as good as I had hoped it would. Not that the script got trashed. I think I executed several elements very well, but our meetings tend to focus on what’s not working rather than what is working. In the end that’s the more important route, but a few notes on a what was done right could have lessened the blow of seeing my house of cards topple.

It really is so important to have trusted eyes to put on your work. I think it’s impossible for any writer, no matter how good, to be able to distance his/herself from a script and be able to see all the little or big kinks. You get so absorbed, having the world of your script shrink so tightly around you that your perspective on the greater potential of individual lines, scenes, and acts becomes diminished. You need that person or persons to be able to pull you away from your work to show you what you might not be seeing.

What I ended up seeing was a problem with my protagonist’s motivation. There were other issues, but the rewrite starts with my protagonist, and it wasn’t until earlier today that I realized that most of my rewrites tend to start with issues around my protagonist. At some point during my time at NYU I was asked to consider my weaknesses as a writer. I didn’t devote much thought to it, and I can’t tell you why exactly. I was probably a little naive and didn’t really like the idea of dwelling on my...weaknesses. What a disgusting word. I can however recall several conversations discussing strengths, something much more fun to talk about. But I wonder how many of us in the League have truly sat back and thought long and hard about what our weaknesses might be as writers.

The thought that writing a strong protagonist might be my weakness is terrifying, especially seeing that those guys and gals tend to be pretty damn important in a script. One of my earlier scripts was a secret society drama/thriller. I wrote a few drafts of that script before deeming it unfunctional due to a protagonist that wasn’t making any decisions to drive the story forward. Flash forward, I learn more, become a better writer, and I write a historical romantic dramedy. This would be the first script I ended up executing very well, but in the early drafts my biggest problem was that my protagonist had two central story purposes that were competing with one another and pulling the script in two different directions while trying to move forward. I imagine it to be the script version of siamese twins. Flash forward again, learned more, better writer, wrote a western horror/action. My main problem was that the protagonist is too small when compared to the awesome colorful characters around him. The trend continues in a couple other scripts, so I’m left to conclude that in my early writing career my primary weakness is writing a clean, strong protagonist. Every writer struggles with this to a degree, but it has been the focus of my script notes too many times for me not to consider it the area that I need to strengthen most.

I really was surprised when thinking of how little deep thought I had put into my weaknesses as a writer. If they haven’t done so already, I invite the League to do the same and perhaps share a few words about it. As Lokor would say, write on.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Death Neglected II: Time of Your Life

When most people think about "heaven", clouds, fat lil' cherubs, rivers of honey and fruits (especially grapes, which I hope is seedless), and formless white robes come to mind. Not really the way people want to spend eternity, but I guess if the only alternative is being engulfed in flames while simultaneously stabbed by red-dudes with sharp objects, then, I guess playing a harp ain't so bad. Still, I mean, THAT'S the ultimate prize? The boringer and less painful of the two evils? And really, how is one judged? Does good or evil thoughts count? What if you've done one giant good thing (save bus load of kiddies) but also tons of tiny bad things (say, litter)? Is there some kind of point system, just to be fair?

Japanese film, After Life, (or Wandafuru Raifu, literally, "Wonderful Life") suggest a great solution to these dilemmas. Set in "limbo", the newly deads find that there is no heaven, no hell, just 7 days for you to decide on the best moment in your life where you want to spend eternity. Sounds like a wonderful thing right? Until you start to really think back on your life. How many truly worth while moments have you accumulated? When are the times which you really feel good about yourself? Feel safe, feel happy?

(I can't find a good trailer, so here's a little poster)

This quiet and thoughtful movie not only focus on a group of newly deads' search for a single, defining moment, but also on the "limbo staff", who are there because they themselves were never able to pick a memory. The film covers a variety of people: a teenage girl who wants to pick a shallow, happy moment, an average joe who upon watching hours after hours of his mundane life still can't find anything, a punk rebel who refuses to make a decision, a quiet old woman who seems content picking leaves and flowers rather than al. Director Hirokazu Kore-Eda interviewed over 500 people to create this wonderful documentary/ fiction style film. Thankfully, you can buy this film on Amazon rather than struggle with china town bootlegs. You can even Netflix it! Look how far we've come!

While the rules of afterlife in this film is quite different from the typical Christian thought of heaven and hell, if Wandafuru Raifu's rules WERE the standard belief, and people work more toward making their lives more "meaningful" rather than "good", perhaps the world would be a better place. Afterall, if you're told that your life is your heaven, maybe people would try to be a little less afraid, and a little happier.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Writing Week part 31

It’s odd; the things that can change from week to week. Last week, I wrapped up by saying that I was having major doubts about the direction of my re-write. Almost as soon as I hit “publish,” though, I flip-flopped. I finished reading the dreaded second act, slept on it, and woke up thinking to myself that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had imagined.

Then, I went out of town for the weekend. No writing or further re-reading was done. That didn’t stop me from doing plenty of talking about it with Onyx, though, as we rode the bus back from Washington, DC. I was happy to hear that he (and Zombie later agreed) felt as though the major problems with Act Two were largely solved. He had many small sized notes, and a few medium ones, which I’ll get at our next meeting on Wednesday. For the most part, though, he said things read well and were much smoother. Zombie agreed that it read much better – and I’m sure that being seven pages shorter didn’t hurt none.

A while ago, a former board member of the company I work for, and a man who happens to be a TV writer, mentioned that he would be happy to read “any piece [I] feel represents [my] best work.” At first, my instinct was to send something right away, so as to not lose the opportunity. When I thanked him for the generous offer, he reminded me that the reading could wait – he wanted what represented my best efforts. For the longest time, I was sure that singled out my comic book style spec script; it had been my thesis project, I’d worked on it the longest, and I submitted it to competitions (post to come soon about those). Today, I asked Onyx and Zombie what they thought; both said that the post-Apocalyptic spec I’m working on now represents my strongest material. In a way, that does not surprise me. I still need to hear it from the other Leaguers on Wednesday, but I am certain that the action is clearer, the story less complicated, and the production more manageable than the comic book spec. I’d still love to see that made – Hell, I’m already toying with the sequel. Their affirmation of the post-Apocalyptic spec as representing my best work, however, reaffirms something else, something all young writers should experience and success – the growth (in ability, in maturity, in style) that comes with practice.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Trailer Trash V: Viking Women and the Sea Serpent (1957)

The title alone gives you the clue that this will be one of those cheesecake movies teenage males would go see before Hollywood could openly advertise that a movie had no other purpose than gratuitous cleavage shots.

The trailer is rife with sexual innuendo (the description of how gi-normous the sea serpent is enough to elicit a few immature giggles), but it features probably one of my favorite narrator lines. At about 42 seconds in:

"Turning them over to men who take pursuit in violent pleasures, pleasures that must end in the the thrust of a spear into warm flesh."

Whoa. How did THAT line ever get past censors? Is it even possible for them to not mean what I think they mean?

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Collaboration: Mexican Writing Standoff

A little while back Cake Man, Zombie, and I decided that we wanted to come together and collaborate on an idea. There are a lot of successful writing partnerships out there, and for me personally, the ability to work well with other writers is something I very much want to develop. You have to start somewhere, so what better place than a bar?

Sixty beers later I think we were all agreeing for the tenth time that we’d like to write something together. Eventually we decided to start a collaboration thread on gmail. I found this very helpful and if our collaboration trio continues down the road, I imagine that the gmail thread will be a mainstay. It’s just good to be able to click over to a record of all your ideas and see some of their little evolutions or de-evolutions, see what’s hitting chords and what isn’t. The thread also keeps things organized and it’s easily accessible for everyone involved. Flash forward another sixty beers.

We’re in a bar again, sober. We’re all supposed to have brought a page with a logline for each of our 14 possible collaboration ideas. Zombie didn’t bring his, I left mine on my printer, but thankfully Cake Man remembered. Good thing too, because that was a great meeting that probably wouldn’t have happened without the sheet. Anyway, with the ideas in front of us we talked it through, basically testing their potential as movie ideas as well as collaborative pieces. We narrowed the 14 ideas down to 3. It just so happened that we were left with an idea from each of us: my Historical Dark Comedy, Zombie’s Historical Horror/Suspense, and Cake Man’s Comedy. Thus began the Mexican writing standoff. Cue Ennio Morricone music.

We finally had our nominees. Two had to die (for now); only one would prevail. We were all open to each, but I was definitely standing by mine, and Cake Man was standing by his. I had thought that Zombie would be standing by his, making the elimination as interesting as the finale in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. But it turns out that Zombie was leaning towards Cake Man’s. If you’ll allow me to further characterize our script ideas as gunmen, the shootout played out something like this in my head.

High noon. We’re in the middle of the hottest fuckin desert, in the middle of the ghostiest fuckin town. Tumbleweed rolls by, gets snagged on a steer skull. Cake Man, Zombie, and me, triangle formation, hands inching to our peacemakers. No peace here. I’m looking to arrange a meeting with Cake Man and his maker, and he’s looking to send me to hell. Zombie is already buddy buddy with Cake Man, so I reckon he’s got his eyes set on me. I’m going to have to be faster than a whore’s prayer. That’s when the vulture flying over our heads lets out its call and we draw. Goddamn…that was quick. Cake Man has shot me the through the heart. I fall into my own grave. Zombie’s still trying to shoot at my corpse, but he discovers that his iron was never loaded. He looks to Cake Man, but finds a smoking barrel instead. Zombie gets his face shot in. Cake Man wins, walks off into the sunset.

But it’s nobody’s loss when you think about it. We’re all excited to be working together and with a good idea. But nobody really knows what to expect aside from more beer. This is our first collaboration, and we’ll keep you posted regardless of whether we’re cruising or sinking. Anybody have some advice for the collaboration rookies? DOA?