Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Peas Porridge Hot

My brain will not back off and leave me to rest. Sleep is interrupted by scenes and settings and locations and character development. Sure, I get up in the middle of the night and hastily scribble notes but the holiday season is no time for any meaningful stretch of writing and then there is, well you know, life!

The creative portion of my brain wants to align the crookedness of a Babylonian world gone narcissistically wild by waving my magic pen and poof! No more injustice. Meanwhile, a very annoying logical segment of my brain is calculating the folly of pursuing unattainable goals. Fortunately, the creative brain often tells the logical brain to shut up and go see what's shakin' in the verbal memory neighborhood of the left temporal lobe. Those cells always need a visit from the logic fairy, particularly if I'm trying to spell "narcissistically" which, by the way, those irksome little guys are saying is not a real word.

What? Because yes, you are irksome. It's not a bad word. It just means... Oh. Right. You know what it means. Okay, I'll be with you in a minute. Let me just finish this.

No soul within my realm of daily acquaintance relates to the peculiarities of my tormented mind. They just think I'm nuts.

It is too a word. Is there no dictionary in there? Well send somebody to borrow one from the right temporal lobe.

Only a writer knows...

Duh. They're a bunch of liars. That's what creative cells do. They lie.

Only a writer knows what my brain puts me through.

Excuse me. Can't you see I'm talking here? No. I don't know what color his eyes are yet. Go ask somebody in the occipital lobe how to describe Paul Newman blue.

"Why do your eyeballs have muffin lids?" is not a question I want to answer with "Because I'm getting to know my character's idiosyncratic responses to cheese."

Wait. You know what? I like "Paul Newman blue". Let's run with that.

And then there are the migraines and cluster headaches which are not so much a result of a story plaguing my brain as they are my body's signals that (1) I have nerve damage from a teenage face injury (2) I no longer possess a uterus and (3) I really do need bifocals.

Huh? Tell them higher cognitive functions develop personality in the prefrontal cortex? What does that have to -- NO, I DID NOT SUSTAIN AN INJURY THERE!

Some of the most creative geniuses in the world have been lunatics. Is it any wonder that many writers endure a touch of real or perceived madness?

I know I yelled at you. I'm sorry. Sometimes those parietal lobe guys just blurt things out.

Folks, I'm under a lot of intercranial pressure here. I'll finish this later.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nobody Knows Anything (or else I wouldn't plagiarize this title)

I blog so rarely now that I was stunned to see on Sitemeter that I still get regular visits. The most visited posts? The Death of the Protagonist posts and the Purpose of Battle Speeches posts. Many of these hits originate from college campuses. Geez, I hope these kids don't think I actually know something!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Can You Hear Me Now?

I've pretty much given up on trying to write in the library -- ANY library. I can't hear myself think. How's that for a tired old cliche'? But libraries are LOUD!

Borders or Starbucks is quieter than the public library. The place that once held silence so sacred that I was afraid to use my pencil eraser for fear of getting evicted is now louder than a McDonald's playground where, at least, you can drink an ice cold whatever while you're writing.

It must just be me. Nobody around me ever seems to mind all the chatter. People talk. LOUD. Using their outside voices. No, no, not just any outside voice either, I mean the "at Ranger stadium trying to be heard over drunk and screaming fans at the ALCS Yankee game five " outside voice. They joke with the librarians, argue about genealogy, talk about their degree requirements and all the while let their kids play hide and seek and shout across the aisles.

The kicker? If I covertly text on my phone to my ride that I'm ready to be picked up, I get a firm tap on my shoulder with a "take it outside, please." Really? The tapping on my touch phone is disturbing the dude with the iPod so loud that I can not only hear every word of his gangster rap through his ear phones, but I can also hear his ear drums rupturing like Jiffy Pop?

A silent place to read and write is so rare now that I think silence must no longer be golden. It must be something more precious, rare, and difficult to find. Silence must be -- silent.

Friday, September 10, 2010

This Is The Part Where We Blow Up!

Remember that? Buzz and Woody are strapped to a rocket and Woody thinks they're about to be blown to smithereens. And remember what Buzz Lightyear replies to Woody's wailing "this is the part where we blow up" line? NOT TODAY! Buzz has a plan. It's a great plan with a logical and attainable conclusion.

I need a Buzz Lightyear and instead I get the truth. What is the truth? Simply, that nobody will negate your anticipation of failure with a NOT TODAY and show you how to glide effortlessly from certain demise to your heart's desire. It just doesn't work that way.

Darn it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Yesterday, I Was a Blog

Social networking is as great a form of escapism as any other but I don't learn much from Facebook or Twitter. Some of the best advice I've ever used has come from reading screenwriting blogs over the past few years. I'm not discounting the value of certain books. They are holding their own and even evolving onto phone applications, podcasts, and eReaders. Why can screenwriting blogs (good ones) not do the same? They are, instead, fading into the fabric of tired technology and I don't like it one bit.

A few really good blogs are still out there (thank you for hanging in there, Bill Martell) but with my read list shrinking, I feel like I'm watching my screenwriting parents divorce because "I'm finally adult enough to manage on my own now". Yeah, well, neither of my parents has ever really known me that well.

"Yesterday I was a dog. Today I'm a dog. Tomorrow I'll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There's so little hope for advancement." Snoopy

Monday, July 12, 2010

Counting Down

Today is July 12th and I just realized that Nicholl letters go out in less than three weeks. Wow. Time flies when you aren't obsessing!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Nothing To Do With Screenwriting

But hey, it's my blog so here's a video recorded by my nephew, Jude. Forgive the production value. He's eight years old. What's important here is (1) Jude is a future filmmaker and (2) my brother is a talented writer and performer.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Daring to Disbelieve

One of the latest posted Nicholl review comments:
“This is a simple story, fast-paced, entertaining, and a good read. The writer is capable and assured. Even when the story takes a loopy turn (or two), the writer presents these events so confidently and matter-of-factly that it's almost like he's daring us to doubt what we're being told.”
What I love is that this remark speaks of a writing style I particularly admire. This is a writer who knows his story so well that he simply watches it in his head and dictates that onto paper. He knows his characters. He knows their back stories. He's telling us just enough but if you asked, he could elaborate. There's just no need to. He doesn't worry about suspending disbelief or flowery prose because the story is what it is. He's not making it up as he goes along. It's a "this is my story and I'm sticking to it" style of writing. Wish I could read this screenplay!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Level of Suckage That's Not Negotiable

Creative Screenwriting's podcast this week is with Jay and Mark Duplass about Cyrus. Funny stuff. Give it a listen. The best remarks are about the evolution of their creativity. My favorite line: a level of suckage that's not negotiable. Ha! That's what I think when I read things I wrote two and three years ago. Also, digital versions of Creative Screenwriting are now available. That's a temporary link until they get a permanent place.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Will the Real N1 Writer Please Stand Up?

New this year is the Facebook page for the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting where we, entrants, are given access to a few reader comments. More than ever, the Nicholl folks are helping writers understand the fellowship selection process and answering our questions -- even those already answered on the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting FAQ page.

The readers' comments are interesting and give us a little window of insight. This one likes strong prose while that one likes that a script isn't overwritten. One applauds how the writer forces the reader to feel something while another is impressed by the sharp dialogue.


The replies to those posts, though, are usually the same: declarations of ownership. It reminds me of the people at ball games who watch for themselves on the jumbo tron and wave just in case. Out of 6000 plus screenplays, only 45-ish remarks are up so far and quarterfinal letters go out in about 40 days. Do the math.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tell Me Something Good

I've often been told by other writers that the prevailing theme will reveal itself as the story progresses . Admittedly, I don't like to write unless I have something to say. Now and then that "something" will reproduce and give me a secondary "something" or morph into "something" entirely different. It may even experience a sort of thematic mitosis where the parent "something" splits into two equally important "something"s and I'm left deciding whether both "something"s are still a single story or two --- which is why I don't really believe that much in writer's block. There are just way too many "something"s duking it out in my head. And I'm terribly sorry but right now, the something is this:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Diamond Lasts Forever

Old films make me smile and even though film making has evolved, many old movies endure and are current despite the passage of time.

Case in point: Mildred Pierce starring Joan Crawford. So somebody uses a rotary phone instead of a cell phone. Big deal. The situational conflicts are timeless. Mildred indulges her spoiled child to the point of excess and then ultimately, destruction. I see parents every day over-indulging disrespectful unappreciative kids. I know a lady who can't pay her utilities but her 12 year old daughter gets her hair colored and cut, her nails done, and her eyebrows waxed every month. Just yesterday, the parents spent their grocery money to get the girl her third new cell phone since Christmas. "What am I supposed to do?" asked the mother, "It wasn't her fault somebody spilled a drink on her phone and she's got to be able to call me because we can't afford a house phone."

On the flip side, when I was watching The Damned Don't Cry, another Joan Crawford film, I was struck by the opposite. The film doesn't translate today and it's not the lack of 3D or CGI. The gold digging seducer is unconvincing and the gangster element is even less believable for today's audience. I am unable to overlook the dated cars, guns, and phones the way I do in films like Mildred Pierce, Sunset Boulevard, and All About Eve. Everything about The Damned Don't Cry has me stuck in 1950 and the dialogue bounces between stale and on-the-nose to somebody-please-make-it-stop. The bloodless acrobatic shootings don't even render a bullet hole and remind me of Bugs Bunny saying "you got me, Doc, you got me." Part of my reaction may have been brought about by my recent viewing of Johnny Depp's Public Enemies. In fairness, there is no comparison. But the point is that The Damned Don't Cry was probably a great film in its day. Today is no longer that day.

A lot has changed in 60 years. But, a lot has not. Those films that capture the "a lot has not" are timeless and have eternal themes. They are the ones that have sipped from the cinematic fountain of youth.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Can You Drive My Car?

Perhaps it was the reports of the death of Mystery Man on Film, I don't really know, but whatever the reason, I got a bee in my bonnet and decided to start reading more screenplays from aspiring screenwriters. Zoetrope and Triggerstreet are places I don't frequent much but they're a good place to go read what other wannabes are writing. I usually take the time to read the screenplays people email me (heh, as if I know anything) but I thought I'd take it a step further. So, I looked at some scripts being "workshopped".

O. M. G.

About 99 % of my time and oxygen would have been better spent teaching my dog how to use a stick shift. He already believes he's the one driving the car anyway. He sits on the arm rest, looks over the windshield, observes passersby and barks at anything red: stop signs, cars, school uniforms. The only time he takes his eyes off the road is to lick himself.

But I digress.

There are, of course, a few gems worth reading and those exceptions are why the goal of the Nicholl Fellowship is to identify and nurture the screenwriting skills of talented writers. But most of us need a reality check. So here it is. Most wannabe screenwriters:

  • Cannot write a complete sentence
  • Have no storytelling skills
  • Don't understand screenplay structures
  • Wouldn't know a theme if it was tattooed on their butts
  • Have a better chance at winning American Idol than being produced
  • Don't have a decent command of the English language
  • Have no idea what's behind the door they're knocking on
  • Think all pronouns are possessive
  • Actually want fame instead of a writing career
  • Do not know the difference between "effect" and "affect"
  • Are under the mistaken impression that screenwriters get wealthy
  • Have never heard of a misplaced modifier or split infinitive
  • Believe that they are the exception to every bullet on this list

Here's the brutal truth. Most of us can't write. I'm sorry but it's true. If screenwriting is a hobby, have fun. But stop whining about not getting produced. Most of us have no business even attempting to write screenplays and quite frankly, the movie industry doesn't want us right now anyway. The only films being distributed right now are proven commodities, sequels, prequels, re-do's, CGI's and those distributions necessitated by nepotism.

We think because we can use screenwriting software or self publish, that makes us writers. It does not. It makes us people using screenwriting software and self publishing. We think because we go to film festivals and shake hands with produced screenwriters and film executives that they are now our friends. They are not. They are people who shook a few hands. We think because a few indie producers are polite to us or we advanced in an obscure screenwriting competition run out of somebody's garage that we have a shot at making real industry contacts. We do not. We are people that found a sympathetic ear or a hungry wallet.

Wake up, schmuck. You are not a writer.

If you are the exception to those bullets, good for you. If you are not -- and make no mistake about it, most of us are not -- stop throwing your money away on gurus, books, online gimmicks and contests. You may learn formatting and structure but nobody can teach you creativity. Nobody can make you something you are not naturally inclined to be.

I'm sorry. I really am. But this is the truth. You can't write. Have you already given five or ten years of genuine effort to screenwriting with no results? Then get out. Find something fun or meaningful and go after it.

Life is short. There is more to it than screenwriting UNLESS you know know know know know that you're the exception. But remember this: my dog knows he's the one driving my car.

P.S. -- about 53-ish days before Nicholl letters go out.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Music in My Mind

For as long as I can remember, my two passions have been music and writing. I'm an absent minded singer. The music plays in my mind and I don't always know how it will manifest itself. A song? A story? Flowers down the sidewalk? A painting on the wall? Or this.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

RIP Mystery Man on Film

I'm hoping this a very poor joke or Mystery Man is retiring and thus killing off his pseudonym to sun on a beach and drink out of little cups with tiny umbrellas. But what I'm hearing is that Mystery Man on Film has died.

I "met"-ish Mystery Man on his first blog and spoke to him many times via email, this blog, and Triggerstreet. He was quick to encourage and even compliment but didn't hesitate to point out flaws and room for improvement. Mystery Man was intuitive. Learned a lot from him.

Here is a comment about Mystery Man's passing where Scott Myers also posts a conversation he had with Mystery Man eight months ago. His present blog is flashy and impressive and he's become a regular writer for Script Magazine. And, of course, he's on Twitter and he's here and he's -- well, he's just about everywhere screenwriters go for advice, reviews, and analysis.

Or, he was. I hope this is a mistake and I'll be taking this post down. Meanwhile, I'll end this sad news with Mystery Man's closing remarks in the latest issue of Script magazine.

I know writers love to know the "rules" and "formulas" and "principles" of writing, but truthfully, there are no great truths about writing. A great writer knows the pitfalls and takes a concept and creatively considers the most compelling way to tell that story - structure be damned.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Speaking of the Nicholl Felllowship

Actually, I haven't spoken of it in a very long time but the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting reader comments on their facebook page make sure I don't forget the coveted screenwriting fellowship. Even though this pic must be from last year since only electronic submissions were accepted in 2010, it demonstrates clearly in the show/don't tell spirit of screenwriting how much work is involved in the administration, reading, and selection process. Only 60-ish days until we get our letters. How time flies when you're nurturing delusions that every positive remark pertains to your script.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thus Sayeth the Writers

I've ranted about this before (here and here). So, I'll be brief. Sort of. But, as long as writers in my realm of influence insist that something couldn't or wouldn't happen in somebody else's story universe, I'll keep making this point: it can happen if the writer says it can happen.


I stopped watching Lost after Season One so I wasn't invested in the finale. But one comment I saw about the wrap-up said that the island could not possibly have been purgatory since people do not meet and fall in love in purgatory.

Interesting. But, not so.

Maybe in purgatory, as you see it, people do not meet and fall in love. But this isn't your purgatory or my purgatory or God's purgatory. If it's purgatory at all, then it's Lost's purgatory. Your opinion doesn't count. Nor, does mine. It is what the writers declare it to be.

Writers are the gods of their own universes and if, for example, a story reality establishes that all birds are flightless, then they are. If writers decide to leave the question open to interpretation, then birds may be flightless and they may not be, depending on individual perspective. The Lost finale may be open to interpretation. I really don't know.

What I do know, however, is that finales disappoint. They must. There's no way to please everyone. But there's a difference between failing to suspend disbelief enough to make something work and something not working because it's not possible.

We're writers. All things are possible.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Viewpoint of a Fish

When Sunset Boulevard was made, they didn't have the same options filmmakers have today so to get this underwater shot, cameras filmed from above looking down into a mirror. The shot is just distorted enough to give it the necessary creep factor that was lost when Billy Wilder ditched the original opening: Joe Gillis, dead on a slab in a morgue, talking to other corpses. It looked like the toe tags were talking to each other and test audiences laughed. Introducing Plan B.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Image in the Mirror

While it might be a little cliche for a person to study himself in the mirror, this image from Master and Commander feels unique and fresh to me because it's in a rain barrel and we're watching upside down as the lieutenant looks at himself, trying to decide if he really is a Jonah dooming his ship. I tried, but failed to capture the very moment he puts his hand in the water to wash his face and it mutilates his image; a parallel of how this lieutenant orchestrates his own demise. It's a beautiful thing on film but in a still, it's just a hand in water.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Image of Acceptance

Of all the quirky fun images in Little Miss Sunshine, this simple shot of isolation is my favorite scene. Dwayne and Frank beat a hasty retreat from the pageant but, in the process, accept their demons even if they don't make peace with them. Why are all the best shots so short? This one lasts about four seconds. For me, though, it speaks volumes and reminds me that sometimes an image can say more than pages of script.
"For after all, the best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cue the Whimsy

I'm not sure what enchants me more; the scene in Coraline where stop gap animated characters perform nearly nude or the trapeze sequence that follows. Any place I pause the film, I'm struck by the complexity of setting up the shot.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another Fav Film Shot

It's a march to the scaffold, yes, but this shot from What's Eating Gilbert Grape also reveals so much about the story. There's the adult who's been a child and the child who has been the adult, the piano used as a toy box and the art on the wall revealing there is yet another adult child in the house, the dust on the floor, the neglect on the walls, the light fixture that probably once illuminated a beautiful home. It just makes this shot so poignant for me. It's a beautiful thing that speaks volumes. And it lasts only a couple of seconds.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Favorite Movie Shots

This one scene in Public Enemies gives me chills. The music, the color, the framing, the coats blowing in the breeze, the not so speedy get-away because the police don't have cars fast enough to catch them anyway. I love this scene. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing! And it only lasts THREE SECONDS.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Assumptions without Grounds

Got an email the other day from somebody who decided that since I have not been blogging, I must not be writing anymore. One variable to draw a conclusion? Not good in life, math, or even video games.

It's funny how people read a blog and think they know the author. I liken it to a person who reads a book or watches a film and decides the voice behind the pen or the camera is a soul mate. That's stalker mentality.

A blog may give clues to a person's insight but, if I am indeed a writer, I could be a 90 year old man in a nursing home or a 25 year old girl finishing college. On a blog, the choice is mine.

One way or another, this Mary Anita Batchellor character is my creation. Either figuratively or literally, I am responsible for who she is and what she becomes. While "Mary A Batchellor" may sound like no brainer relationship advice, it also happens to be my name and I am still responsible for what kind of character she is. And, except for a handful of people who read this blog, you don't know me. I am a writer so you know only what I want you to know.

All of this leads up to the question about writing. Of course, I'm writing. I'm still breathing, aren't I? Got my Nicholl application in but haven't had a lot of time to blog. I've been busy traveling in time and space as I alternate between my story worlds and my real one.

Ran across this today. Exhibit A. Thank you, Craig.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Best Pre-Battle Speech Ever

I could talk about the motivational techniques, rhythm of the scene, character exposition and reverse psychology going on here but it just doesn't matter. Great scene. Period.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mighty Pen - Part 2

Some days, I shudder at the lack of integrity I witness in people but most days, I think that I simply expect way too much. Today is not one of those days. Expecting new, or at least clean, 3D glasses, after forking over a fortune in tickets, is not unreasonable. Expecting the guy handing me the glasses to admit they had not been washed or sanitized instead of insisting I was looking at soap residue when I could clearly see the fingerprints and heaven only knows what else that was. Soda? Snot? Slobber?

Thank you, AMC, for treating me like a paranoid germaphobe.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Creative Screenwriting Needs YOU!

Let me preface this by saying that Creative Screenwriting Magazine does not want or need your hard luck or struggling writer story, your "peed next to Clooney in the can" story, or your amateur advice. However, they ARE looking for contributors. Here's what they say:

We continue to receive a lot of "interview with a writer" and "Q&A with a producer" proposals. We're currently overstocked with ideas in those two areas. Here is...

What We Need Most And Now-- See Below For Details:

#1 A regular (possibly weekly) reporter/blogger to cover new feature script sales, hot scripts, and script subjects being sought.

#2 A regular (possibly weekly) reporter/blogger to cover new scriptwriting opportunities in TV: new shows just sold, when to seek writing work where, and script subjects being sought.

#3. For our May-June issue: Articles on screenwriting contests. An overview of the major contests, sidebars listing contests and their deadlines and contact information, success stories arising from contests (we have several ourselves from our own contests).

For our July-August issue: articles on screenwriting education, the film schools, scriptwriting schools, and other articles on the value of formal screenwriting education.

Needed soon For an upcoming issue: articles covering all the other (non-contest, non-school) resources for screenwriters: software, web sites, services, online script services of all kinds, great web sites for writers.

A new regular bimonthly column on craft, by an expert.

More "Know Your Show" articles and updates.

Reporting On/Analyzing The Niche Scriptwriting Markets

New resources: brief descriptive reports (reports, not book reviews) on new books, software, and other resources.
Your best chances of writing for us lie with the subjects above. Please see the "What We Do Not Want" list before pitching your favorite idea. Also, be aware of our deadlines.
Read all the info here. And, by "all the info" I mean read all the info. Then go here to pitch your article. Don't submit your ideas to them by mail, by email, or by contacting one the editors directly. They only accept via their pitch form.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Bastard Words

The only bastard word I've found in the dictionary -- a word the dictionary defines and then says NOT to use because it's not legitimate -- is "irregardless". There must be more. "Ain't", maybe? No matter. Sooner or later, we will cave. We will eventually accept "irregardless" and its gross violation of grammar the way we have accepted split infinitives and words like "dang" which is a legitimate interjection, adjective, and noun, and "uh-oh", which is listed in the dictionaries --yes OUR dictionaries -- as an official interjection.

Go figure.

"Irregardless" is a double negative. It is redundant. Actually, saying that a double negative is redundant is also redundant. The "ir" cancels out "regardless" so a literal definition would be "not regardless" which would make its definition "worthy of regard". Or, the "less" cancels out "irregard" which would mean "without irregard" and since "irregard" can't stand alone, we're left with the "less" cancelling out the "ir" which would mean "without lack of regard" which again, means "with regard" so the whole word is a big fat mess.

Yet, "irregardless" is used as a synonym for "regardless" which, of course, is unacceptable to educated people. But the word "unacceptable" is acceptable because the "un" does not cancel out the "able".

Well, "redouble" is redundant and I don't hear people wailing about its crime against the English language. Is it because "redouble" doesn't offend itself with both prefix and a suffix? "Redouble" only offends the root word with its prefix. But if we "re" and "double", we are doubling twice which makes its literal meaning what? Quadruple?

Let's face it. In speech, there are no backspaces. But in writing? No excuses. And yeah, I could end this with some not-so-cutesy attempt at irony like "let's redouble our efforts irregardless of how many times we've proofed" but I've already done the irony thing with my split infininitive so no. We're writers. Come on.

Friday, February 05, 2010

How Many Bests is Best?

So the last time there were ten best picture nominees was 1943? In the 30's and early 40's, it was common to have a long list of nominated contenders but since the winner will still be the winner regardless how long the list, why, after six decades, are there ten nominees again? Could it be that the Academy is sick of hearing how this film or that one was "snubbed" (gawd, I hate that word) when it was actually just further down the list? Whatever. I'm just amused that in this "Hangover", "Role Models" and "Superbad" generation, two contenders for Best Picture begin with the word "up" --- and "yours" isn't part of either title.

Former Best Picture Winners

2008 - Slumdog Millionaire
2007 - No Country for Old Men
2006 - The Departed
2005 - Crash
2004 - Million Dollar Baby
2003 - Lord of the Rings, Return of the King
2002 - Chicago
2001 - A Beautiful Mind
2000 - Gladiator
1999 - American Beauty
1998 - Shakespeare in Love
1997 - Titanic
1996 - The English Patient
1995 - Braveheart
1994 - Forrest Gump
1993 - Schindler's List
1992 - Unforgiven
1991 - The Silence of the Lambs
1990 - Dances With Wolves
1989 - Driving Miss Daisy
1988 - Rain Man
1987 - The Last Emporer
1986 - Platoon
1985 - Out of Africa
1984 - Amadeus
1983 - Terms of Endearment
1982 - Gandhi
1981 - Chariots of Fire
1980 - Ordinary People
1979 - Kramer vs. Kramer
1978 - The Deer Hunter
1977 - Annie Hall
1976 - Rocky
1975 - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
1974 - The Godfather Part 2
1973 - The Sting
1972 - The Godfather
1971 - The French Connection
1970 - Patton

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

How Does This Happen?

For those of you who read a ton of screenplays from wannabes ...

How is it that many screenplays sound like a commentary from somebody watching their first game? Nothing tells me the writer even understands the depths of what his own characters are experiencing. The story feels forced and out of touch with itself.

"A guy in a red shirt with the number 5 is throwing the ball to his left. Nobody there. A tall guy in a striped shirt throws a yellow square of fabric onto the grass near where the ball hit the ground."

It's not just amateurish flat writing. It's something more.

Since nobody knows the story better than the writer and nobody knows the characters' fractured worlds of pain and wonder better than the writer, this Dick and Jane casual observer writing is an enigma to me. It's easy to spot but I don't understand how it happens or how to recommend a fix. "You suck at writing" seems like cruel over-simplification.

Does it boil down to "anyone can write but not everyone can tell a story"? I can't come up with an academic explanation.