Wednesday, August 30, 2006

You Don't Bring Me Flowers Anymore

Remember that thrill that fluttered up your chest when you made eye contact with your first love? Mine was a sports writer who sat two rows over in journalism class. He was an excellent golfer and reminded me of Bruce Jenner. This guy would occasionally hum "Rainy Days and Mondays" or "What the World Needs Now" and to this day, I think of him every time I hear the Carpenters or catch a whiff of rubber cement.

Hey, does anyone know if there is a connection between rubber cement and migraines?

Anyway, that amazing first love euphoria is the same for me in that moment, that very special film moment, when I get a glorious shot of cinematic adrenaline straight to the heart and realize that I care desperately about a character and what happens to him.

When I was a kid, mine was an easy heart to win. I was in love with Speed Racer. Shallow me. He drove a hot car. I also flirted with Batman's sidekick for awhile. Who didn't? But, hello! Robin didn't drive and let's face it, he wore pantyhose.

But the older I get, the more cautious I am with my cinematic affection. I'm a fan of very few. Yet, I can tell you the exact moment I fell in love with Indiana Jones. (now that I've had days to think about it with a damp rag over my eyes) It was in the first act. And, I know precisely when Egon Spengler won my heart. First act. Michael Dorsey? Sid, the Sloth? Captain Jack Sparrow? All in act one.

That's the way it's supposed to be, right? Don't writers craft characters to reel us into their stories just as soon as possible?

But something odd happened to me with Dead Man's Chest and please keep in mind that I love Dead Man's Chest. The first act came and went and there was no thrilling flutter. Jack Sparrow was hysterically funny to watch and of course, I still loved him in a "leftover from the last film" sort of way, but why didn't he thrill me anymore?

I've had waaaaaay too much time to think about this so feel free to stop reading right now, go get a beer, check the fridge, take a potty break, or just find another blog to read. Also, consider this your obligatory Dead Man's Chest spoiler alert.

Jack Sparrow, in the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, took smart action without thinking and had a cocky assurance of his own invincibility despite being a terrible escapist. Jack had a fearlessness about him that stemmed from believing that no matter what, things would ultimately go his way if he could just hang on long enough.

His believing it made us believe it, too.

The Jack Sparrow in Dead Man's Chest is a fraidy cat and never once says, "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow" as if uttering his name carried the same weight as that of the king himself. But in this second film, everyone already knows Jack and there are no strangers for him to announce his fame to. Jack's quiet and sneaky self assurance is gone and so is our confidence that if we hook up with him, no matter how weird it gets, ultimately everything will be all right.

But the moment DID come when I fell utterly and totally in love with Captain Jack Sparrow all over again. It wasn't in the first act or even the second, but at the end of the film! What is up with that?

Elizabeth has been dragged across the deck by a giant tentacle, lost her firearm, and is desperately trying to retrieve it so she can shoot the barrels of gunpowder and rum that Will is about to release from a net.

Will dangling. Net breaking. Squid attacking. Elizabeth failing. And suddenly, he appears --

There he is, Captain Jack Sparrow, shining like Apollo with the sun on his shoulder as if the heavens themselves opened up and placed him on the deck.


There his is, taking the same smart, quick action that made me love him in the first film when he dove from the Interceptor to save Elizabeth from drowning.

Flutter. Flutter.

There he is, saying nothing but announcing by his very presence, "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow" and assuring us that if we hook up with him (or cling to his leg as Elizabeth does) that no matter how weird it gets, ultimately everything will be all right.

Flutter. Flutter. Flutter.

But why didn't he flutter me in the first act? Or, did he?

Pirates of the Caribbean is a trilogy. The first act is Curse of the Black Pearl. The second act is Dead Man's Chest which sets up the impossible situation that Jack cannot be extricated from. At World's End will be the resolution.


The more about screenwriting I learn and the more films I study (or evaluate in my imagination while heavily medicated), the more I know how very little I really understand about this craft.

Hey, did anyone else feel strangely empowered by the giant squid that looked like an enormous vagina with teeth?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Screenwriter Cynicism

I'm on day three of the migraine from hell. Can't look at a computer monitor or television screen for very long and every noise sends pulsing daggers through my temple so I basically have had plenty of time to sit in the dark with a damp rag over my eyes and THINK.

What about? Well, are elephants really the only mammal that can't jump? When I take a shot of tequi--, I'm mean an aspirin, how does it know where the pain is? Do women need bras in space? And, does there come a time in every screenwriter's life when they can longer watch a film without dissecting it like an eighth grade science experiment?

I know an engineer who drives down new streets while wondering about the subgrade of the road, an auto mechanic who can't ride in my truck without observing every ping or knock, and a chef who simply cannot go out to eat anymore -- everyone else's food sucks.

Yeah. We're doomed.

A lot of aspiring screenwriters sound just like that chef. Look at any wannabe screenwriting board and you rarely find anything positive. I wonder if, having never opted or sold or produced anything of their own, some of these writers aren't just a little bit full of themselves. On the other hand, I don't have to win a Heisman Trophy to tell you when a college football game sucks.

Films have faults and I hate spotting them. I really, really wanted Eddie Kim to get his butt kicked in Snakes on a Plane or, at the very least, lose his family jewels to a set of exotic fangs (get your mind out of the gutter - I mean a snake). But he didn't and even my son's girlfriend left asking why we didn't get to see the bad guy face justice.

Fortunately, the film's shortcomings didn't stop me from enjoying Snakes on a Plane but I can't say that about all films and I'm growing increasingly concerned that I may be in danger of becoming the kind of writer who nit picks her senses out of the thrill of the moment.

Do doctors ever miss how attractive some people are because they've examined so many bodies that when they pass a hottie they're thinking, "that gal's excessively large mammary glands could mean thyroid disease" or "that guy took one too many little blue pills"?

Okay, that's just silly. Doctors must still find people attractive so filmmakers can surely still enjoy a movie and a bag of popcorn.

There's hope. There's always hope.

But it does give me an idea for the worst sequel ever (like I said, I've had way to much time to think) -- that guy in Snakes on a Plane whose unzipped pants became a reptilian buffet -- what if he'd had one too many little blue pills and the snake that bit off his willy survived the fall from the plane and wound up in the sewers of Los Angeles? Since the snake is still in mating mode from the pheremone soaked leis and all dangling wiggly things look like kin folk to him...

Somebody get me Samuel L. Jackson's number so I can pitch Snakes on Viagra in a Toilet!

Or -- maybe I'll just sit here in the dark and think.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

More on Battle Speeches

Still muddling through pre-battle speeches with a view toward figuring out their purposes. Surprising to me, pre-battle speeches can serve different purposes.

But, WHY is it surprising to me?

As Chris Soth mentioned on my previous battle speech post, I pretty much expect pre-battle speeches to be a reminder to the audience of what's at stake, why we're here, what we're about, what they're about, what we're fighting for and/or why it even matters. But that's not always the case and the surprising part is that very often, the speech is tied to theme or character.

In that same post, Red Right Hand drew our attention to the Henry V speech. Is the father of pre-battle pep speeches the quintessential standard that all pre-battle pep talks pay homage to whether it's intentional or not? Well, I put it to the test by looking at few more pre-battle speeches to see if they try to be or not to be like Henry V!

Here's the standard:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Go ahead, read it again. No, it's not William Wallace's speech in Braveheart but could it get any closer?

Aragorn's speech at the Black Gate:

Hold your ground! Hold your ground!
Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers,
I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.
A day may come when the courage of men fails,
when we forsake our friends
and break all bonds of fellowship,
but it is not this day.
An hour of wolves and shattered shields,
when the age of men comes crashing down,
but it is not this day!
This day we fight!!
By all that you hold dear on this good Earth,
I bid you stand, Men of the West!
Motivational and suspciously, very Henry V-ish. Yeah, that one's a no brainer so let's go the comedy direction next.

Brett mentioned his favorite five pre-battle movie speeches ever and his number one, being my number one, has to be featured here as the all time greatest pre-battle speech ever:

And even if we win, if we win, HAH! Even if we play so far above our heads that our noses bleed for a week to ten days; even if God in Heaven above points his hand at our side of the field; even if every man woman and child joined hands together and prayed for us to win, it just wouldn't matter because all the really good looking girls would still go out with the guys from Mohawk because they've got all the money! It just doesn't matter if we win or if we lose. IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER! (Rest of group: IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER! IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!)
Just have fun, people, it's only a game... but still very Henry V-ish. "Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot" sounds a lot like "it just doesn't matter" to me. What about a deadlier game where it MUST matter?

Proximo's pre-game speech to the gladiators:

Some of you are thinking you won't fight; some, that you can't fight. They all say that until they're out there. Listen. [crowd - now chanting, now cheering]Thrust this [sword] into another man's flesh, and they will applaud and love you for that. You? You may begin to love them -- for that. Ultimately, we're all dead men. Sadly, we can not choose how. But, we can decide how we meet that end in order that we are remembered as men.
Did he just says "it just doesn't matter" because everyone dies so they should choose manner of death themselves lest they "hold their manhoods cheap"? Uh huh. I'm detecting a pattern here. But what if it's not a pre-battle speech, but a walk-away-from the battle speech? That kind of pep talk must be an antithesis to the Henry V speech.

Captain John H. Miller explains why the mission matters.

Mike? What's the pool on me up to right now? What's it up to? What is it three hundred dollars -- is that it? Three hundred? I'm a school teacher. I teach English Composition in this little town called Addley, Pennsylvania. The last eleven years, I've been at Thomas Alva Edison High School. I was coach of the baseball team in the spring time. Back home when I tell people what I do for a living, they think, well, that, that figures. But over here its a big, a big mystery. So I guess I've changed some. Sometimes I wonder if I've changed so much my wife is even gonna to recognize me whenever it is I get back to her -- and how I'll ever be able to tell her about days like today.

Ryan -- I don't know anything about Ryan. I don't care. Man means nothin' to me. It's just a name. But if -- you know -- if going to Ramel and finding him so he can go home, if that earns me the right to get back to my wife -- well, then, then that's my mission. You wanna leave? You wanna go off and fight the war? Alright. Alright, I won't stop you. I'll even put in the paperwork. I just know that every man I kill the farther away from home I feel.
Sounds a lot like "He that outlives this day, and comes safe home", doesn't it?

Well done, Red Right Hand. But in defense of my original post which laments the wordy and poorly executed pre-battle speech in Alexander (that basically made me wish the soaring eagle would peck somebody's eye out to break the monotony), I cannot resist the urge to quote Henry V further -- "Men of few words are the best men."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Snake Day

I hate the movie theater. I mean I really, really, hate it. I'd rather have a root canal than endure the unsupervised kids, the cell phones and laser lights, the necking teens, the lack of ushers, the cramped chairs and the overpriced food. I see very few films in the theater. Most movies must wait to get the Batchellor seal of of approval or grunt of dismay until they hit Blockbuster or Netflix. Films are better when I watch them in my den with affordable popcorn and kids whose x-boxes and car keys can be confiscated if they spoil my show.

Last summer, I didn't see a single film in the theater. Not one. But this summer, I had three films that I really wanted to see on the giant screen -- Dead Man's Chest, Superman, and Snakes on a Plane. Even if my big screen television was large enough to do the films justice (which, of course, it's not), I couldn't wait for them to come out on DVD. I had to see them now!

While Superman was a super let down for many, I was not among them at my opening day 12:01 a.m. show of DC comic geeks who had waited years for another man of steel flick. Crowd mentality made up for film shortcomings. They cheered and applauded the film title. Yeah, the film title! And, when Superman did his signature "rip open shirt & reveal logo" move to John Williams' unforgettable theme, these nerds went insane, negating my annoyance with --

* the obese guy rolling onto my drink holder
* the kid kicking my chair
* the putrid smell from vomit or old cheese under my seat
* the urine bag hanging on the wheelchair in front of me
* the eight teens I brought with me
* the $94.50 I spent on tickets

Dead Man's Chest was an even grander adventure as fans arrived in their smashing pirate attire and sporting parrots, monkeys, cutlasses & flintlock pistols. Jack Sparrow (I suspect he was an imposter) got a rowdy standing ovation when he and his double D wench entered the movie theatre fashionably late, but just in time to be revered as if Johnny Depp, himself, had just declared, "why is the rum gone?". Early moments in the film were expectant and tense until Jack Sparrow made his bizarre appearance by shooting through a casket he had just used to escape a Turkish prison. The audience exploded. Elvis was in the building and from that moment on, the ride never lost momentum.

Will Snakes on a Plane live up to the internet hype? I don't see how it can but do I really care as long as it's a great ride? Because of Dead Man's Chest, Superman, and the surprisingly good Monster House, I've actually ENJOYED going to the theater this summer -- and that hasn't happened in a very long time. I don't care how good SOAP is or isn't. I already bought the t-shirt.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jolly Good Theater

Ever so often, I have to take a side street and today it's because my beloved Texas Rangers are wearing on my last nerve. This little scene summoned a memory of Elizabeth Swann's lines from Dead Man's Chest during the three way sword fight on the beach of Isla Cruces:

"This is barbaric! This is no way for grown men to settle- Oh! Fine! Let's just pull out our swords and start banging away at each other!"
Okay, fellas, let's just clear the benches and start pounding away at each other. That will win you a division title. My compliments to Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and Freddy Guzman who took consecutive hits and walked to their base without even glancing at the mound. As for the rest of you --

"I've had it with wobbly-legged, rum-soaked pirates!"
-- or testosterone-soaked Rangers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Uncredited Voices

I finally semi-understand why certain writers are uncredited in films thanks to the inside peek we wannabes get at Craig Mazin's & Ted Elliott's website,

According to various pros, the crediting process is a complicated, sometimes unfair, attempt to weight the contributions of everyone who worked on a screenplay in order to decide whose name goes on the screen.

But how is that voices can go uncredited in animation? Why is Kathleen Turner not credited with the voice of the gravity defying & dangerously over endowed vixen in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Can anyone tell me that? Is it based on number of lines recorded that actually wound up in the film? I need some animation education.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Purpose of Battle Speeches

There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead
And when she was good
She was very, very good
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

Remember that nursery rhyme? Well, let's change it up a bit.

There was a handsome guy
Who gave a battle cry
Anticipating warfare cruel and torrid
And when the speech was good
it did just what it should
But when it was bad, it was so pitiful I can't finish this poem.

I just watched Alexander. He gave the longest pre-battle pep talk that I've ever seen on film. Even the soldiers were stretching, yawing and checking their sundials. It was weird. It felt like twenty minutes of boring exposition.

So, this got me to wondering -- what is the purpose of the pre-battle speech in film? Does it have a purpose other than exposition or is it just a standard prerequisite of any war story?

BRAVEHEART - In Braveheart, William Wallace gives a pre-battle speech that became a defining moment in the film. What differs it from the same narcoleptic moments in Alexander? Wallace's speech tells us as much about his character as it does the justification for the battle. It gives us another piece of Wallace's motive for being there instead of serving solely as exposition.

"Yes. Fight and you may die. Run and you will live, at least awhile. And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that, for one chance to come back here as young men, and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but the will never take our freedom?"
GLADIATOR - Maximus gives his troops a similar speech in Gladiator -- similar because it, too, is a look inside the motives of the leader. But because it tells us what the men believe about life and death, Maximus' speech also serves as exposition.

Three weeks from now, I will be harvesting my crops. Imagine where you will be and it will be so. Along the line, stay with me. If you find yourself alone, riding in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled for you are in Allysium and you are already dead. What we do in life echoes in eternity.
TROY - This film has two pre-battle speeches -- Achilles' speech to his Myrmidons and Hector's speech to battalions of Troy. Achilles' speech is about his character. He wants his name to live forever.

Myrmidons, my brothers of the sword. I'd rather fight alongside you than any army of thousands. Let no man forget how menacing we are. We are lions. You know what's there waiting beyond that beach? Immortality! Take it. It's yours!
Hector's speech is also about his character. Hector is a servant of Troy.

Trojans, all my life, I've lived by a code and that code is simple -- honor the gods, love your woman, and defend your country. Troy is mother to us all. Fight for her!
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN - This pre-battle speach is not a speech. As Balian prepares Jerusalem to defend itself, he gives no pep talk. But he believes that no man is a servant to another and makes each man a knight by administering the same oath to them that he took at his father's deathbed. This serves no expository purpose that I can see but solely demonstrates the character of the leader.

Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless. This is your oath (he slaps a young teen as his father slapped him) and that is so you remember it. Rise, a knight!
I think all of these examples work, but why do they work? The one thing I see in each one is that the battle speech, like other dialogue in the film, also serves to reveal character.

ALEXANDER - So why does the speech in Alexander not work for me? Aside from being entirely too long and boring, it has several long pauses of silence as we watch an eagle or inaudible shots while the opposing army looks at each other. Even if we wanted to care at the beginning of the speech, by the time it's over we're too exhausted to give a rip how the battle turns out.
You've all honored your country and your ancestors and now we come to this most distant place in Asia where across from us Darius has at last gathered an army-- (cut from speech to no audible dialogue and follow long descent of an eagle and then go back to Alexander mid sentence) -- but look again at this war and ask yourselves, who is this great king who pays assasins in gold coins to murder my father, our king in a most despicable and cowardly manner? Who is this great king Darius who enslaves his own men to fight? Who is this king but a king of air? These men do not fight for their homes. They fight because this king tells them they must. When they fight, they will melt away like the air. We are not here today as slaves. We are here as Macedonian free men! Some of you, perhaps myself, will not live to see the sun set over these mountains today but I say to you what every warrior has known since the beginning of time, conquer your fear and I promise you, you will conquer death! When they ask you where you fought so bravely, you will answer, I was here this day at Gaugamela for the freedom and glory of Greece! Zeus be with us!

Conclusion? Well, first of all, I think pre-battle speeches have to serve some purpose other than pure exposition but what I don't know is if it's critical that the speech also reveal character. And second, typing that last speech made me drowsy. I'm going to take a nap now.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Way Too Proud of Texas

So, okay I’m the “way too proud of Texas” gal. We have it all, you know – piney woods, prairies, mountains, coastlines, plains, hill country and Lubbock. Oh sure, a lot of us actually do wear ten gallon hats and ranch for a living or rodeo every weekend (FYI- do NOT wear sandals to a rodeo) and no, you don’t have to drive far to find a Mexican guy selling his wife’s homemade tamales from the back of their station wagon, but not everything Texan is stereotypical. Just today, I was driving through Smithville when a guy in a parachute landed on the side of the highway right beside my Chevy pickup truck. I was still marveling over this anomaly when I drove past a mobile home sales lot with a sign that said, “free beer with every new home purchase”. Yeah, I love Texas.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Can You Hear Me Now?

I am woman, hear me whimper -- at least until I buy a better microphone. While cartoon me (look to the right) may be temporary, I really wanted to give it a try. We'll just see how it goes. Meanwhile, no cracks about my accent. Like you didn't KNOW I was a Texan?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

When a Hole is Not a Hole

Wandering around in blogville the other day, I ran across a post by an aspiring screenwriter discussing plot holes. Now, I can't say for 100% sure exactly what a plot hole is but I am pretty sure I know what it isn't. A plot hole ISN'T an unanswered question. That would make it a plot question instead of a hole, don'tcha think?

Wait. Side street. Here's something you don't read every day. "Three penguins were killed by oncoming traffic; one died in the crash when a truck spilled about two dozen penguins, tropical fish and an octopus onto an east Texas highway near Marshall."

Sometimes, I genuinely worry about these meds they give me for tooth aches.

Okay, where was I?

Oh yes, so, ever the screenwriting sleuth, I called my mother -- who told me that at four o'clock in the morning, she was only qualified to discuss sex, hot flashes, breast implants and lyposuction. Who else is a gal supposed to turn to with a complicated question? Couldn't find a Howie Schwabb hotline so I went to Wikepedia which says that:

"A plot hole is a gap in a storyline that goes against the flow of logic set-up by the plot or that undermines the basic premises of the story."
I know. I know. I need to see what my screenwriting books and screenwriting buddies say about it. But before I made it to the trunk of books in the garage, I began to wonder if the term "plot hole" was a derivitive of "wormhole" which, in science fiction, is used to bridge the gap between two areas of space or time.

Sounded plausible enough. But, who to ask?

I called my mother back. You know, I don't think she was thrilled to hear from me and she didn't believe me about the penguins either. However, she did give me some information about Schwarzschild wormholes, Einstein-Rosen bridges and some kind of wormhole metric theory that I couldn't quite follow because, come on, it was four o' clock in the morning!

Point. I always have one. It's occassionally vague and sometimes involves Smurfs and an ostrich named Curtis who sticks his head in my car window to change the radio station, but I do always have a point. The point here is that I need to delve deeper into this plot hole issue because it seems to me that the omission of back story or explanation isn't a plot hole unless it causes, you know, a hole! -- something illogical, irreconcilable or contradictory.

Couldn't a deliberately unanswered question sometimes be clever manipulation used to ignite the viewer's imagination instead of orchestrating it?

Hey. Good news. The octopus survived.

Crash of the Penguins - and you thought I was hallucinating.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Deciphering Subtext

Mystery Man on Film has been doing a series on subtext by using the contributions of readers and screenwriting friends. It's a good exercise in muddling through what subtext is and what it means. I have to disagree with some of the subtext examples given, but the blog makes for good reading. Since one of the contributions is from me, I thought I'd repost it on my own blog, but make sure you visit Mystery Man on Film to read the others.

Aspiring screenwriters have widely differing ideas, opinions and misconceptions of what subtext actually is. Many believe it's a simple matter of reading between the lines while others believe that speaking metaphorically is also subtext. Neither is categorically true. There is nothing simple about writing subtext and metaphors aren't subtext unless the metaphor is being used for one example but also means something else. And, there's a difference between story subtext with double entendres and story subtext that has a single entendre but says what it means without saying it. What is a good definition for subtext? I don't know but if I had to make up one, I'd say it was "saying what you mean without really saying it."



RICK: I congratulate you.
RICK: Your work.
RICK: We all try. You succeed.

Rick means what he says, but he also means what he doesn't say. He's also talking about Victor's relationship with Else.

--Apollo 13--

JACK: Now the important thing when you're penetrating the lunar module... is your attitude and your relative speed.
He demonstrates with a beer bottle and a drinking glass.
JACK: Now let's say this is me here in the command module, and this is you.
TRACEY: All right. Uh-huh.
JACK: In the LEM. This thing sticks out here in front, that's called the probe.
He inserts the neck of bottle into the glass.
TRACEY: Is that true?
JACK: Absolutely. And, Tracey,I'll tell ya, when you feel that thing slide in, everything's clickin', it's like no other.

Yeah, he's demonstrating the probe all right.


--Raiders of the Lost Ark--

INDY: I never meant to hurt you.
MARION: I was a child! I was in love.
INDY: You knew what you were doing.
MARION: It was wrong. You knew it.
INDY: Look, I did what I did. I don't expect you to be happy about it. But maybe we can do each other some good.
MARION: Why start now?
INDY: Shut up and listen for a second. I want that piece your father had. I've got money.
MARION: How much?

The word "sex" isn't used here. But that's obviously what we're talking about. She's saying he used her. He's saying she wanted it.


Now, A word of caution to amateur screenwriters -- be careful what advice you take to heart from other amateurs. That includes me. Discussion is good. Discussion is healthy. But read what I have to say and draw your own conclusion. I am neither a professional screenwriter, nor script analyst.

And, while I strongly advise seeking out what the experts have to say about subtext, like this post from Ted Elliott on Subtext, I think it's also critical that every writer know his own story well enough to read any subjective comment by any expert OR amateur and be able to say, "yeah, that might work for me" or "pfft, doesn't apply in this case." But (there's always a but) don't get cocky and dismiss objective remarks. Some things are what they are and no amount of arguing will change it.

How do you learn the difference between subjective advice and objective comments? The same way you learned the difference between your grandfather's real stories about war and depression era living and the ones about miniature monkeys operating the red, yellow, and green lights inside traffic signals -- time, maturity, and hearing them over and over until you separated fact from fiction and opinion.

By the way, if you read that Ted-thread, be sure you also read his reply to a question about sub-subtext.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Nicholl Numbers

4,899 entries
I am one of them.

245 quarterfinalists
I am not one of them.

244 more named Miss Congeniality (top 10%)
I am one of them.

Bummer -- with a little sugar on top.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Still No Nicholl Letter

This is the point where the woman in me wants to know why he hasn't called, if I'll ever see him again, and was he hitting on that blonde at the payphone or did he really go to the men's room?

Still no love from Greg Beal so I've been mapping locations of the writers I know of who've received dink letters, top ten percent letters and quarterfinal congrats. Know what I discovered? Squat.

No pattern that suggests the delay means I'm in.

You could just call me, Greg, and save me all this estrogen driven "will he or won't he" nonsense. Do you really want my overzealous singleminded Nicholl obsession to lead to an onion ring addiction and a Jenny Craig endorsement?

What's that? Well yeah, Greg, I know there were over 4800 entries, but don't you have free minutes after 7:00 p.m.? Got Skype? I have email and instant messenger...

I need closure!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Watched Mailboxes Never Deliver Nicholl Fellowship Letters

Or, is it a watched pot never boils?

Maybe standing guard over my mailbox dressed in Vera Wang, Ferragamos, and cascading hair extensions makes me look more like Norma Desmond than an anxious screenwriter waiting on her little white envelope with the gold Oscar on it. Maybe the champagne bottle resembles a billy club and is frightening off the mail carrier. Or, maybe I'm --- wait. I think a small aircraft just landed in my back yard.

Okay, never mind. The pilot said he thought he saw a distress signal from the air. Good to know if I'm ever stranded in my backyard, I can signal for help with rhinestones and cleavage.

Where was I?

Oh yes. Maybe I just jumped the gun a little since my regrettably letter last year arrived on July 29th (yeah, I remember the exact day) --

"Quarterfinalist letters are mailed by August 1 of each year; fellowship recipients are announced in late October. All entrants will receive notification of their status by mail sent no later than August 1" says the website page called Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Basics.

Mailed no later than August 1st. Not received? Argh. Oh well, that gives me a potty break and time to look up past quarterfinalists and winners.

2005 Nicholl Fellowship Winners
“The Days Between,” Morgan Read-Davidson, Downey, California
“Fire in a Coal Mine,” Seth Resnik, West Hollywood, and Ron Moskovitz, Los Angeles
“No Country,” Michael D. Zungolo, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“Pirates of Lesser Providence,” Colleen Cooper De Maio, Los Angeles
“Ring of Fire,” Gian Marco Masoni, Santa Monica, California

2004 Nicholl Fellowship Winners
"Fenian's Trace," Sean Mahoney, Nicasio, California
"The Gaza Golem," Daniel Lawrence, Los Angeles
"Letter Quest," Doug Davidson, Baldwin, New York
"The Secret Boy," Whit Rummel, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
"Split Infinity," John Sinclair and Nova Jacobs, Los Angeles

No, advancing in the Nicholl is not a crap-o-meter, but wouldn't it be cool to forever have your name on the website's Quarterfinalist Lists?

Yeah. So, this song goes out to Greg Beal and my letter carrier.

Mister Postman, look and see
If there's a letter in your bag for me
Why's it takin' such a long time
For me to hear from that boy of mine

So many days you passed me by
See the tears standin' in my eyes
You didn't stop to make me feel better
By leavin' me a card or a letter

Mister Postman, look and see
If there's a letter in your bag for me
Why's it takin' such a long time
Why don't you check it and see
One more time for me,
You gotta wait a minute
Wait a minute
Wait a minute
Wait a minute