HEY! WE ALL HAD TO START SOMEWHERE: an interview with Gregory Blair, author of Deadly Revisions


This is the next post in a series of interviews with writers who have had their first films, web series, television assignment, etc. make it to the big or small or computer screen. It is an effort to find out what their journey was to their initial success.
First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
 

Next up: an interview with Gregory Blair, author of Deadly Revisions
 
GregoryBlair_DramaSmirk-0702A Southern California native, Gregory Blair has been active in the arts for many years as an actor, writer, director and producer.   His work has been published and/or produced in various venues: his editorials have appeared in newspapers, e-zines and academic texts; his poetry has been included in several collections; his stage plays have been produced across the country. His outrageous comic novella “Spewing Pulp” was honored with a 2005 Stonewall Award and he has garnered nearly a dozen screenwriting accolades, including the 2014 Claw Award for “Best Feature Film Screenplay” for Deadly Revisions (which also earned him the EOTM Award for “Best Director of an Indie Horror Film” as well as the L.A. Movie Award for “Best Narrative Feature” and the Flicker Award for “Best Picture”)

 

  1. What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced?
 
Deadly Revisions was the first screenplay that actually made it into the world as a film.  It was not the first screenplay that I sold, though, which is a good lesson: selling a screenplay—as exciting as it is—does not mean it will ever become a film.  I am still waiting for some of my sold screenplays to make it to the screen.  So you must enjoy each success for what it is…but only for what it is. And drink good martinis.
  1. Can you tell us a bit about the journey as to how it came about?
I wrote it to sell.  There continues to be a growing demand for low budget films that require only minimal locations and cast, little to no fx, take place in the present, etc. It seemed crazy not the feed that need.  But I had to keep it interesting for me, so that meant lots of twists.  That led me to choosing to write a psychological thriller.  The single location necessity, though, screamed horror genre, since people are always getting trapped in a castle, a cabin in the woods, a cellar, etc.  So I came up with a story that had elements of both genres.   Thus, Deadly Revisions, which tells the tale of an amnesiac horror film writer haunted by nightmares, is a valentine to the horror genre wrapped in a psychological thriller.  Or is it a psychological thriller wrapped in a horror film?  An interesting thing about the film is people come away with many different opinions about what really happened.  Continue reading

OR DOES IT?: It Follows and 3 Hearts


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE

Warning: SPOILERS
it followsTeen sexuality in movies has changed quite a bit over time, of course. In the 1930’s and ‘40’s, teens were seen as innocents who got caught up in chaste, but ridiculous romantic misfires (like Andy Hardy).
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, it became a social issue with fears of juvenile delinquency (Rebel Without a Cause), unwanted pregnancy (Blue Denim) and if you’re Natalie Wood, a trip to the loony bin (Splendor in the Grass). And we haven’t even got to those luridly bad, but fun movies they showed in high school about STD’s.
Then finally, with the arrival of such films as Friday the 13th, Halloween and Carrie, teen sexuality became associated with death, with all the bad boys and girls getting theirs after having done the deed and only the virgins managing to survive.
And today, we have yet another version of when teens have sex with writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s new horror film It Follows. Continue reading

My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 3/27/2015-4/3/2015


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,

 

And check out my script consultation services http://ow.ly/HPxKE

My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 3/27-4/3/2015

charlieON NETFLIX: Charlie, Victor, Romeo takes a group of actors who basically act out the black box flight recordings of various airplane disasters. Yeah, it’s one of the oddest bases for a film you’ll come across. Even odder, it’s based on a stage play. It’s also very effective and incredibly riveting. It’s in 3D, though that doesn’t seem to add anything to it.

devilON HULU: The Devil and Daniel Webster is a 1941 adaptation of the old story about a farmer selling his soul to the devil and when the soul comes due, the farmer is defended by the great title role statesman. Wonderfully shot, a smart screenplay by Dan Totheroh and Stephen Vincent Benet based on Benet’s short story, a great Oscar nominated performance by Walter Huston as Scratch, directed by William Dieterle, and music by the greatest of the great, Bernard Hermann.

wild tales oneFIRST RUN and OPENING: ’71, Wild Tales, While We’re Young, Wolf at the Door, Backcountry, Man From Reno, Jauja, Danny Collins, Going Clear, Run All Night, What We Do In the Shadows, It Follows, Goodbye to Language, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,

REVIVAL AND ART HOUSES:

AMERICAN CINEMATEQUE at The Egyptian: TCM Classic Film Festival starts 3/26

AMERICAN CINEMATEQUE at The Aero: Heavy Traffic, American Pop, 3/27; La Strada, Lust for Life, 4/3

NEW BEVERLY: Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, 3/27-28; Heat, 3/29-30; Red Rock West, Run, Lola, Run, 4/1-2; Boogie Nights, Trainspotting, 4/3-4

LACMA: Jules and Jim, 3/31

CINEFAMILY at the Silent Movie Theater: The Tales of Hoffman, 3/27-4/2

UCLA ARCHIVES at the Hammer Museum: The Long Voyage Home, 3/30

THE RULES OF THE SCREENWRITING GAME: Truth or clichés in a couple of screenwriting tropes


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
scream laptopThere are two sayings about rules that I hear quite often when it comes to screenwriting and I think it’s time to take a closer look at both of them and consider whether they are actually correct, or whether they are more something that we say because, well, people who write books say them, and all these gurus say them, and all my teachers said them, and all my friends say them, and hasn’t everybody been saying them since people have been saying things?
I mean, sometimes I think that if screenwriters were told that to write a good screenplay you have to jump off a bridge, they’d do it.
The two sayings are: “Rules are made to be broken” and “you have to know the rules to break them”.
The first one, rules are made to be broken, is actually one I have no strong issue with. In fact, I often say, as soon as someone creates a rule, break it. Let’s face it, if you don’t, someone else will.
At the same time, I do think in many ways that’s the wrong way to approach it. I think there is a better way to look at that attitude, something more beneficial to you as a writer.
As for the second one, “you have to know the rules to break them”, this is one that I’ve never really understood or bought. Continue reading

ASHES TO ASHES: Cinderella


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
 
Warning: SPOILERS
cinderellaThere is one absolutely lovely and magical moment in the new live action, non-musical Disney version of the animated, fully musicalized Disney version of the classic Charles Perrault fairy tale Cinderella.
Our titular character, frustrated and defeated by the cruel treatment at the hands of her step-mother and step-sisters, takes to horse and rides off into a distant woods where she stops the Prince from hunting down a stag.
What’s wonderful about this scene is that the previously optimistic (and rather annoyingly Pollyanish at times) Cinderella is finally the person she really is, beaten down, sad, furious at the circumstances she has found herself in, while the Prince, in turn, is finally the person he isn’t: here he pretends to be a mere apprentice and not royalty.
Who’d have thought something this sophisticated, clever and witty would have come from a carefully fine-tuned and micromanaged to the nth degree movie from the Disney studios, but the screenwriter Chris Weitz (who has given us such fun bon bons as Antz and About a Boy) pulled off something of a coup in this particular scene.
Other than that, for my money, Cinderella is something of a mixed bag when it comes to success. I know it’s been socking it away at the box office, but I’m afraid that it only intermittently works for me. Continue reading

My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 3/20/2015-3/27/2015


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,

 

And check out my script consultation services http://ow.ly/HPxKE

 

My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 3/20-27/2015

 

force majeureON NETFLIX: Force Majeure, writer/director Ruben Ostlund’s comedy, was Sweden’s entry in the Oscar foreign language film category. While on a skiing vacation, a family is having lunch outside when the resort causes a forced avalanche. When it looks as if the avalanche is about to hit the terrace where everyone is having lunch, the father leaves the family behind, grabbing his phone before running to safety.

 

 

fanny and alexanderON HULU: I have started watching the full televised series Fanny and Alexander, writer/director Ingmar Bergman’s study of what happens to two children leading an idealistic life when their father dies and their mother marries an austere clergyman. I only saw the original theatrical release, but the first two episodes are pretty wonderful.

 

 

 

tales of hoffmanOF SPECIAL NOTE: The Tales of Hoffman, a new print, is still showing at Cinefamily at The Silent Movie Theater, 3/20-26

 

 

 

 

it followsFIRST RUN and OPENING: ’71, Danny Collins, Going Clear, It Follows, Run All Night, What We Do In the Shadows, Amour Fou, Dreamcatcher, Spring, Wild Tales, It Follows, Goodbye to Language, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, 3 Hearts

 

REVIVAL AND ART HOUSES:

 

AMERICAN CINEMATEQUE at The Egyptian: The Flying Camera, Drone Filmmaking, 3/20; The Long Hair of Death, The Pit and the Pendulum (with Barbara Steele in person), 3/21; 1941, 3/22; TCM Classic Film Festival starts 3/26

AMERICAN CINEMATEQUE at The Aero: The Long Goodbye, 3/20; Nashville, 3/21; McCabe and Mrs. Miller, 3/22; The Godfather, 3/26; Heavy Traffic, American Pop, 3/27

NEW BEVERLY: Unforgiven, The Silence of the Lambs, 3/25-26; Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, 3/27-28

LACMA: Love on the Run, 3/24

CINEFAMILY at the Silent Movie Theater: Island of Lost Souls (1932), 3/20; The Color of Pomegranates, 3/20-21

 

HEY! WE ALL HAD TO START SOMEWHERE


Here is a list of the interviews I’ve done in this series on new  writers so far.  Check them out.

Jason Casuto http://ow.ly/SKYaX

Julius Kelly http://ow.ly/Su2q9

Brandon Alexander, http://ow.ly/SbU5k

Linda Andersson http://ow.ly/RToCT

Nicole Jones-Dion http://ow.ly/RB049

Hernando Bansuelo and Josh Watson http://ow.ly/RmCeH

Jim Vines http://ow.ly/R0gv9

Nick Felice, http://ow.ly/QIF9O

Bryce Richardson, http://ow.ly/OWxBS

Tracee Beebe, http://ow.ly/ODrGq

Mary Krell-Oisha http://ow.ly/Olp7W

Stuart Creque, http://ow.ly/O1Ubu

P.J. McIlvaine, http://ow.ly/NIE74

Ken Lemm http://ow.ly/NoT9c

Jane Rosemont http://ow.ly/N6ep

J Todd Niemi http://ow.ly/MOfFq

Louis Pappas http://ow.ly/LxRji

Q. Allan Brocka, http://ow.ly/LfQNy

Gregory Blair, http://ow.ly/LbuWu

Josh Kim http://ow.ly/K7obx

Jim Thalman http://ow.ly/JQ8YT

David Au http://ow.ly/JwM0A

Dwayne Alexander Smith http://ow.ly/J8GJI

Haifaa Al-Mansour http://ow.ly/ITabq

Chad Crawford Kinkle http://ow.ly/HXLq0

Mikey Levy http://ow.ly/HA9Xm

Hilliard Guess http://ow.ly/HcOmr

Amir Ohebsion http://ow.ly/H8aPq

Donald McKinney http://ow.ly/GvPfn

Michelle Ehlen http://ow.ly/GvPr1

OLD AGE AIN’T NO PLACE FOR SISSIES: Run All Night and Faults


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
 
Warning: SPOILERS
Two movies have opened recently in which the central character use to be top of his game, but time and their past deeds have caught up to them, leaving a ruin in his place.
run all nightLiam Neeson has recently suggested that he is retiring from the action genre that gave new life to his career with the unexpected, but very effective, success of that modern day version of John Wayne’s The Searchers, Taken. After that, it was movies like The Grey and A Walk Among the Tombstones as well as others whose title seem to suggest just where this through line was going.
Now, he’s playing, Jimmy, aka The Gravedigger, an over the hill hit man, someone who has seen better days but now falls asleep drunk in a bar and farts while out, only to awaken in order to humiliate himself by asking for money from Danny, the son of his old boss and best friend, Shawn. In order to earn the money, he has to play Santa.
Things take a bad turn when Jimmy’s estranged son Mike sees Danny kill someone in a drug deal gone bad. Things take an even worse turn when Jimmy kills Danny in order to stop him from killing Mike. And then things take an even worse turn when Shawn has all his men focused on killing Mike and then killing Jimmy once he knows his son is dead. Continue reading

GOD DARNIT, MR. LAMARR, YOU USE YOUR TONGUE PRETTIER THAN A TWENTY DOLLAR WHORE: some reflections on how to write effective dialog


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
The problem with writing an essay on how to write dialog is that who hasn’t written an essay on how to write dialog? You’ve read millions of them and I have to be honest, I can’t guarantee that you’ll discover anything here that you haven’t read somewhere else or already know.
But still, I think, for whatever reason, it’s time for me to codify my thoughts on the subject, putting it all in one place. Yes, it might be repetitive, what I have to say, but sometimes it still can be useful to have it all in one location.
Now, before I jump in, I first want to make one general observation about dialog in movies. I know that people say that film is a visual medium. You hear it over and over and over again. So often now that you’re never quite sure if the person believes it or understands what it means or whether he’s just repeating the mantra of the day.
You can often tell who these people are: if they look at a couple of pages of a screenplay that has almost solid dialog and, without even reading it, say there’s too much talking? They’re one of the mantra people; avoid them.
So, to all that I say, bull…whatever. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether the people who further the idea of films being a visual medium are directors who can’t write dialog. Continue reading

My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 3/13/2015-3/20/2015


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,

 

And check out my script consultation services http://ow.ly/HPxKE

 

My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 3/13-20/2015

 

gpbON NETFLIX: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, written by Charles Lederer, based on the musical comedy by Joseph Fields and Anita Loos, and directed by Howard Hawks, is a fun little cross-Atlantic boat ride as two alpha females try to decide what sort of man they want to be involved with. It stars Marilyn Monroe in one of her best roles (and she does a marvelous Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, George Chakiris can be seen in the all male chorus) and Jane Russell, who can’t quite keep up with Monroe but works very hard. It also has Charles Coburn as a slithery millionaire and the very young George Winslow as a frog voiced child millionaire. “Isn’t there anyone here for fun?”

 

 

revancheON HULU: Writer/director Götz Spielman’s film Revanche was Austria’s entry for the 2009 Academy Awards and received one of the five nominations for Best Foreign Language Film. An ex-con wants to start a new life with a prostitute, so he decides to rob a bank. But the prostitute is killed by some policeman who are coincidentally at the bank. The robber hides out in the country, but then finds out that the policeman is nearby and considers revenge. And exciting and moving thriller.

 

tales of hoffmanOF SPECIAL NOTE: Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater is presenting a restored print of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Tales of Hoffman

 

 

 

 

71FIRST RUN and OPENING: Faults, ’71, Wild Tales, What We Do in the Shadows, Cinderella, Going Clear, It Follows, Run All Night

 

 

REVIVAL AND ART HOUSES:

 

AMERICAN CINEMATEQUE at The Egyptian: Fusion: LGBT People of Color Film Festival, 3/13; Hiroshima, Mon Amour, Last Year at Marienbad, 3/15; Bringing Up Baby, Holiday, 3/19; The Flying Camera, Drone Filmmaking, 3/20

AMERICAN CINEMATEQUE at The Aero: The Navigator, Seven Chances, 3/13; Sherlock, Jr., The Cameraman, 3/14; Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, 3/15;

NEW BEVERLY: Dazed and Confused, Swingers, 3/13-14; Ed Wood, In the Soup, 3/15-16; The Killer, Once a Thief, 3/17

LACMA: Bed and Board, 3/17;

CINEFAMILY at the Silent Movie Theater:  The Color of Pomegranates, 3/20; Island of Lost Souls (1932), 3/20

UCLA ARCHIVES at the Hammer Museum: Private Property, 3/13;