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Archive for July, 2011

A different way of looking at creativity Jul 29

Creativity CatWhat’s the job of a creative person?

When you think of what it means to be creative, your mind might run to fanciful worlds that have never been seen before, or stories that have never been told. The more original, the better, right?

Well not according to John Cormack, creator of popular video games such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake. He has something different to say about it. Granted, he’s talking about video games, but the same principle applies to movies.

“If they buy the next Call of Duty, it’s because they loved the last one and they want more of it. So I am pretty down on people who take the sort of creative auteurs’ perspective. It’s like ‘Oh, we’re not being creative.’ But we’re creating value for people – that’s our job! It’s not to do something that nobody’s ever seen before. It’s to do something that people love so much they’re willing to give us money for.” [Emphasis mine]

[full article]

In reference to the above quote, Sean Malstrom goes into quite an insightful discussion of Cormack’s philosophy on his blog. He reminds us creative types that while we need to be inspired by what we write, ultimately our enjoyment needs to come “from the audience getting enjoyment.”

Are you writing for just yourself? Or are you writing for both yourself and a mass audience?

Photo: YJGM


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$59 Script Notes Jul 29

$59 Dollar Script NotesI’m always telling my clients to streamline things, so I followed my own advice and whittled down my script services to one…

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Basically, I took my most popular offerings and bundled them at my lowest price. That may not make me a smart businessman, but I’m sure you guys will love it.

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How do you spell iPod? Jul 26

Hermione-iPodTypoSpellOne of My Pet Peeves

I don’t know why, but I’d say over 75% of the amateur scripts I read spell iPod in some bizarre way.

Some examples:

  • I-Pod
  • I Pod
  • IPOD
  • ipod
  • Ipod
  • I-pod

I’d be curious to hear from other readers about their experiences. But for me, this mistake pops up with alarming regularity. And whenever I see it, it yanks me out of the script.

My mind starts to wander…

I bet they don’t have an iPod themselves…

What else are they simply winging?

Is this symptomatic of other sloppy errors I’m going to find?

Mind wandering = bad

It’s definitely not the end of the road for a positive review, but it is a bump in the road. The more bumps you have, the less enjoyable the journey.

So please, no more crazy spellings of iPod or iPad!

The one possible exception is inside of dialogue — where you need to spell out odd terms or acronyms to ensure they’re read correctly by those who may not be familiar with the term. Even though I still don’t think it’s necessary, you could make a case for the following use:

MARY

Where’s that rectangular thingy? I need to shove it under this table leg.

JACK

You mean, a newspaper?

MARY

No! It’s small and shiny... well not so shiny any more. I always use it to balance the table. Where did it go?

JACK

Wait, are you talking about my I-Pod?!

Perhaps when the iPod was first introduced, it could have been worth it to clarify the pronunciation by capitalizing the first letter, etc.  But these day, I don’t think it’s necessary.

And it’s absolutely not necessary in your action lines. So I’m officially banishing all future iPod misspellings with a Harry Potter spell — Typo-iPodio!

What are some of your pet peeves when reading a script?


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Important tip for your action movie’s climax Jul 24
Captain America Poster

"I'm coming to save you, faceless multitude!"

Note: There’s a very minor Captain America SPOILER directly below, but it’s worth braving because this tip is a really good one.

Ready?

Let’s get the minor Captain America spoiler out of the way first. In the climax of the the movie, Captain America saves the world. Duh.

Okay now let’s get on to the tip. And this one’s a doozy. I’m tempted to call it “Save the Cat… Again!”

In an action movie’s third act, make sure your hero is saving someone specific.

Captain America was actually quite an enjoyable movie. The first half, especially, was very strong, and even emotionally moving at times. But the last act left me wanting for some reason. Sure, ol’ Cap was doing his action hero thing, and the stakes were high (the aforementioned saving of the world), but there was something missing.

And that’s when it hit me. There was no one specific to save.

“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”
- Joseph Stalin

It sounds paradoxical, but if your hero is fighting to save a faceless multitude (even if it’s millions of people), it’s less compelling than if he’s fighting to save even one character you know.

The best action movies

Think of all your favorite action movies. There’s always someone specific that needs to be rescued. It’s either the hero him/herself, or at least one character you know, or both.

If it’s only the hero him/herself that needs saving, then that means the hero needs to escape from a situation that they didn’t willfully put themselves into in the third act.

  • The Matrix - Neo had to save Morpheus and the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar (as well as defeat Agent Smith)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark - Indy had to save Marion (as well as defeat the Nazis)
  • Die Hard – McClane had to save his wife (as well as defeat Hans Gruber)
  • Aliens – Ripley had to save Newt (and defeat the alien queen)
  • Alien – Ripley had to save herself and her cat (and defeat the alien)

Think how much weaker those movies would have been if they were only about defeating the bad guy(s). Keep that in mind when you’re writing the ending of your next action movie.

Can you think of any brilliant action movies that break my rule?


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Is quadruple mumbo jumbo killing True Blood? Jul 19

Blake Snyder

Blake Snyder, the late author of the superb screenwriting book, Save the Cat!, coined the term: “Double Mumbo Jumbo.”

I propose to you that, for some reason, audiences will only accept one piece of magic per movie. It’s The Law. You cannot see aliens from outer space land in a UFO and then be bitten by a Vampire and now be both aliens and undead.

That, my friends, is Double Mumbo Jumbo.

Of course, as Blake goes on to say, this rule is broken all the time in Hollywood. Sometimes it works fairly well – Monsters vs. Aliens. Most times it doesn’t — Howard the Duck (A trash-talking alien duck that has sex with Marty McFly’s mom — what could go wrong?).

Obviously True Blood is an adaptation, where characters and situations from the books need to be incorporated to stay true to the source material. I’ve never read the books, but I have to wonder — has the cable show gone off the rails recently?

More shapeshifters than you can shake a stick at

True Blood Mumbo JumboTrue Blood used to be my favorite show. In season one, it was an intense exploration of the vampire genre with very adult themes and a wicked sense of humor. Now it tends be more of a bizarre mishmash, where every other character turns into a different animal or creature.

We’ve seen vampires and demons and shapeshifters — who can turn into anything, and shapeshifters — who can only turn into wolves, and shapeshifters — who can only turn into panthers, and faeries and witches and possessed babies and now there’s talk of werewolves…

I don’t know how loyally Alan Ball has followed the Sookie Stackhouse books, but it seems to me there’s way too much mumbo jumbo going on in Bon Temps these days.

Why did Buffy work so well?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a very similar universe, and worked exceptionally well. So what’s the difference?

I think Buffy works, where True Blood doesn’t, on a few levels:

- Buffy had a lighter feel to it. The focus was usually on the snappy banter and most scenes were played for laughs. Whereas True Blood definitely has a darker tone. That more adult vibe makes it harder to get away with the sillier elements of the story.

- Every season of Buffy had a “Big Bad” — a main foe that the characters had to face. True Blood seems to be lacking that this year. Perhaps the witch lady is gearing up to fill those shoes.

- The core group of “Scoobies” on Buffy were usually pitted against one particular opponent. It was rare that two dissimilar foes would be brought into the picture per episode. You definitely can’t say the same for True Blood. It feels like there are a dozen different storylines per episode.

Anyone else think True Blood has suffered from some growing pains these last couple of seasons?

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