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Archive for March, 2010

How NOT To Handle Theme Mar 30

The best movies use theme to subtly convey a viewpoint, message or idea.

Ideally, a theme should behave like parents watching their child perform on stage — easy to spot when looked for, but not so obvious as to be embarrassing.

The dream team of Stephen Baldwin, Tom Berenger, and yes, Dennis Rodman, challenge that assertion in the unintentionally hilarious film, Cutaway.

See if the message becomes clear to you after watching these clips.

Link via Mental Floss


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Category: Diversions, Theme  | 5 Comments
Originality in Storytelling vs. Artwork Mar 29

About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment.
– Josh Billings

Glart and OtokThe Year is 30,000 B.C.

Otok and Glart have returned from a successful hunting trip (i.e. they didn’t catch anything, but both survived).

Otok, captivates his fellow cavemen by retelling the story of the hunt… with certain embellishments to minimize Glart’s role in the heroics.

Glart, gets back at Otok by painting representations of the hunt on a cave wall. He makes his stick man twice as tall as Otok’s.

Later that night Otok sneaks into Glart’s cave with a club and bad intentions. Glart, who it turns out actually is freakishly large, overpowers and mortally wounds Otok.

As Otok lies dying, he uses his powers of language to spin a convincing tale of Glart’s treachery. On the day Otok is buried, Glart is fed to a saber-toothed tiger as punishment for his crime.

Since that day, the war between artwork and storytelling has been raging.

Unfortunately for us screenwriters, on the battle front for originality, artwork appears to be winning.

They’re making Godzilla again? Now they’re recycling their own recycled regurgitations! Just like the burst housing bubble, this one’s going to blow. Only a matter of time before the snake realizes it’s eating itself. Or does the youth market always forgive?
– Anonymous Scriptwrecked reader

Originality

As screenwriting descendants of Otok, we’ve all heard the mantra that, “there are no more original stories.” Well I’m not buying it! The art world certainly doesn’t adopt that philosophy.

In the last few months alone, take a look below at some original works of art that have been produced, 32,000 years after Glart first scrawled on a cave wall.

May they inspire you in your storytelling endeavors when you search for your own original idea. Because if they can do it, so can we!

Aggravure by Baptiste Debombourg

Aggravure by Baptiste Debombourg

Click the photo or link to see more pics, and closeups. You’ll never guess what this masterwork was created with.

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Egg Art Master Franc Grom sells egg artwork by creating approximately 2500 to 3500 holes in each egg shell.

Egg Art Master Franc Grom

This guy makes beautiful artwork from eggs by creating approximately 2500 to 3500 holes in each shell! Click the photo or link for more pictures.

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Jimi Hendrix by Erika Simmons

Jimi Hendrix by Erika Simmons

This artist has created some highly original works of art out of cassette tape. Worth clicking the photo or this link to see more examples.

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Muhammad Ali and Bob Marley by Mark Evans

Muhammad Ali and Bob Marley by Mark Evans

Click the photo or link to see more of Mark Evans’ amazing work. Can you guess what medium he uses?

Who says there are no more original ideas out there? If artists are still coming up with new ways to make artwork after 32,000 years, we screenwriters have lots of time left to explore exciting new stories and possibilities.

“The greatest trick Glart ever pulled was convincing the followers of Otok that there were no more original story ideas.”
– Verbal Otok

Dig deep and find your original idea or vision. I know it’s in there. I believe cinematic originality is about to make a resurgence in Hollywood… Riiight after I sell my screenplay adaptation of Tick Tack Toe. ;)

Do you think originality is dead in Hollywood or is it ready to thrive once again? Any non-film sources inspire you?


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Category: Links, Motivation  | 2 Comments
Avatar 2 Trailer Mar 26

Looks like Avatar 2 will be even more original than its predecessor!

Category: Diversions  | One Comment
Tales from the Script: Director Peter Hanson Mar 24

Dozens of acclaimed Hollywood screenwriters get the last word in the documentary, Tales from the Script, which is currently in limited release.

Curiously the Netflix average rating for the movie is a measley 2.3 stars (out of 5), while the IMDB rating is a stellar 9.3 (out of 10).

I don’t know what that means, but with interviews from John August, Frank Darabont, Shane Black, David Hayter, William Goldman, and many other amazing scribes, it’s on my must-see list.

The film’s director, Peter Hanson, was recently interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. I found some of his comments, refreshingly bleak. :)

Here are a couple excerpts from the article:

Writer/director Peter Hanson jokes that his documentary Tales from the Script is a “scientific study of the life cycle of a screenwriter, from stupor to carcass.” But there’s a ring of truth to his words. In Hollywood, it’s presumed that set designers know more about set design than anyone else on a film production, and a boom operator is the boom expert. But when it comes to a film’s script, everyone feels they’re as capable of shaping the story as the writer.

Hanson — an author and struggling screenwriter himself (he’s never sold a full-length narrative script) — said he wanted to give would-be writers a reality check about how films got made in Tinseltown. “I have seen too many friends flame out because they discovered the disappointments of this career in the course of trying to pursue it,” Hanson said. “As Paul Schrader says in the film, if you can’t be happy doing anything else but film, then it’s the right career for you. But if you could be happy doing something else…then why not be happy?”

For the full article, click here.

What’s in a name? Mar 21

Brent + Hildred?That Wily Shakespeare

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet makes the argument:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Bollocks to that!

If the play had instead been called Brent and Hildred, or Addison and Payton, or any other combination, I’m not sure it would even have survived for us to study in high school.

A name is part of the package, not separate from it. A great name can make a character, or person, more special. Why do you think Frances Gumm changed her name to Judy Garland, or Mark Vincent changed his name to Vin Diesel?

Name Choice

In screenplays, you only have a small amount of space to introduce your characters. Ensuring they have the perfect names can immediately:

  • give the reader a heads-up as to what your characters are all about
  • help a reader keep track of numerous characters
  • suggest a character’s station or status in life
  • enhance a character’s personality and identity
  • make your main characters stand out from the pack

The Name Game

And why do well-chosen names make characters pop? Because that’s the way it works in real life. There’s a power in an aptronym — a name aptly suited to its owner.

  • Of course Megan’s last name is Fox.
  • Of course Usain’s last name is Bolt (world record holder for the 100m and 200m sprint)
  • Of course Tiger’s last name is Woods (these days his name has a double connotation).

The other night I saw a commercial for a show called “High Society” on the CW network. It’s a reality show about Manhattan socialites and their less than upper crust behavior.

The main celebutante is a woman by the name of Tinsley Mortimer. Tinsley Mortimer! Seriously, could she be anything other than a socialite?

Final Thoughts

Here’s a great quote by George Axelrod (The Seven Year ItchBreakfast at Tiffany’s, The Manchurian Candidate) on the subject of character names:

Someone said to me recently, “Computers are wonderful. You can just push a button and change a character’s name.” Change a character’s name! In my opinion, you’ve got to go to court and throw the whole script out if you have to change a character’s name. The name is part of his identity.

H/T to this Go Into The Story post for the quote.

Speaking of Go Into The Story, Scott Myers (I love that guy’s blog!) has this terrific article on character names that I highly recommend reading. In addition to discussing the importance of appropriate character names, he lists some of the pitfalls to watch out for.

The moral of the story: make your names count.

What are some of your favorite character names, or appropriately named people?


Want me to personally read your script and let you know if it’s ready to go out? Please take a look at my professional script services.

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Category: Characters  | 9 Comments