Rules of the Formatting Game


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Finally, I have published a collection of three of my plays, 3 Plays, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08478DBXF as well as two collections of short stories, The Starving Artists and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ and The Five Corporations and the One True Church and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF.

 

The next in my blog entries on screenwriting and film will be about common formatting mistakes I still see people make. I am surprised at some of these, that they are still committed on such a regular basis. But it still happens.

 

Probably most of you already know these rules. But it never hurts to have a refresher course. Continue reading

Happy Valentine’s Day–A Look at Rom Coms


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Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out the second edition of my screenwriting book, More Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader published on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GD1XP9Y

Finally, I have published a collection of three of my plays, 3 Plays, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08478DBXF as well as two collections of short stories, The Starving Artists and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ and The Five Corporations and the One True Church and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF.

 

Since today is Valentine’s Day, I thought I would share an essay that I wrote for my blog and that is included in my screenwriting book More Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader. The subject is romantic comedies (or rom coms as they are called in the industry) and my take on the genre as a whole; a history of it and some difficulties I find in reading them for screenplays contests, production company, etc.

 

I first published it some time ago, but I think it still has something to say. And it is, in many ways, a personal take on the genre.

 

At any rate, enjoy.

 

I have heard, over and over again (and then over and over again, and then over and, well, anyway) three observations about Rom Coms the last few years.

 

The First is that they are very hard to write.  The Second is that they make a lot of money.  The Third is that everyone is looking for one to produce because they make a lot of money. Continue reading

Renaissance: The Films of South Korea


 

First a word from our sponsor:

Check out my Script Consultation Services at http://ow.ly/HPxKE. I offer several types of service. Testimonials can be found at the blog entry.

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out the second edition of my screenwriting book, More Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader published on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GD1XP9Y

Finally, I have published a collection of three of my plays, 3 Plays, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08478DBXF as well as two collections of short stories, The Starving Artists and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ and The Five Corporations and the One True Church and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF.

 

I have been an admirer of South Korean films for a number of years now, constantly touting them as, along with the output from Romania, the most interesting films being made today, far more interesting more often than not, in comparison to American films.

 

Now that Parasite has won best picture at the Academy Awards, I thought I would list my favorite South Korean filmmakers and their films. For those who are not as aware of the movies being made there, this might hopefully serve as somewhat of a primer or introduction. I certainly am not the expert others are, but still, I think my list is probably pretty decent. Continue reading

What’s In A Name: Choosing Names for Characters


First a word from our sponsor:

Check out my Script Consultation Services at http://ow.ly/HPxKE. I offer several types of service. Testimonials can be found at the blog entry.

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out the second edition of my screenwriting book, More Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader published on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GD1XP9Y

Finally, I have published a collection of three of my plays, 3 Plays, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08478DBXF as well as two collections of short stories, The Starving Artists and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ and The Five Corporations and the One True Church and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF.

 

 

The next of my series in occasional posts on screenwriting will be a bit more fun, I hope. It’s about names and how one chooses names for characters. What are some of your favorite names in film and why do you think they were chosen?

 

This is not a how to or you must do this post. There have been various ways names have been chosen by various authors. Some are specifically chosen to make some sort of comment on the characters (Jarndyce and Jarndyce, anyone, or Eliza Doolittle). But some authors pull names out of phone books or name them after their favorite short stop baseball players. In the end, the choice is yours.

 

I tend to choose names that comment to some degree on the character. It sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. But with that in mind, I thought I would share some of my favorite names from movies past. Now, bear in mind, I could be mistaken and my interpretation of the purpose of the name could be terribly, terribly wrong (many people thing that Arthur Miller chose Loman for his Death of a Salesman character for low man, but he said it was a name he heard one time in an old film and he liked the sound of it). But at any rate, here I go.

 

Chinatown –

 

Noah Cross. One of my favorite names has always been Noah Cross, the name of the villain. There are a couple of puns and ironies here. First, he is named Noah and is trying to bring a monopoly on water to Los Angeles. Then there is “no cross”, suggestion a very un-Christian like person. Continue reading

HOW DO I WRITE A GREAT SCREENPLAY, OR BARRING THAT, AN ACADEMY AWARD WINNING SCREENPLAY? SPOILER: YOU CAN’T.


rant and rave second

First a word from our sponsor:

Check out my Script Consultation Services at http://ow.ly/HPxKE. I offer several

types of service. Testimonials can be found at the blog entry.

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out the second edition of my screenwriting book, More Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader published on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GD1XP9Y

Finally, I have published two collections of short stories, The Starving Artists and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ and The Five Corporations and the One True Church and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF

 

I often see on facebook, as well as other media, screenwriters asking, how do I write a great screenplay? Or I see gurus offering advice on how to write a great screenplay or, falling short of that, how to write an Oscar nominated screenplay. Well, I am here to tell you the truth.

 

You can’t.

 

I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but you just can’t. No matter what people tell you, you can’t and they can’t. I mean, yeah, they say they can, but, hell, I could say the words as well, but that doesn’t mean I can help you do it.

 

There are reasons for this of course. A screenplay gets a nomination for an Oscar for all sorts of reasons, with the quality of the screenplay being only one, and sometimes the least important one, of how this process happens. One of the myths (though I don’t believe enough people actually believe this, but you never know) is that screenplays, like the other fields, just naturally get voted for simply because they are the best, they are the cream of the crop, and cream rises to the top.

 

And I have the deed to the Brooklyn Bridge in my back pocket.

 

And for proof, I give you Love Story, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, …And Justice for All, and last year’s Greenbook (the most edgy film about race relations of 1972).

 

Screenplays, like all the Oscar and other award group movies, tend to get nominations if: you have a producer and distributor willing to spend a small (ha, small, right) fortune on an Oscar campaign; they open it at the right time of the year (getting  a movie nominated in the non-technical fields is almost impossible if it opens earlier than September, and even more difficult if it opens earlier than that); and there is enough buzz, critical and otherwise (film fests can help here) before and as the film opens.

 

There are exceptions to the early opening rule. Get Out was a huge one, opening in February of its year. It also is a horror film, which is a genre difficult to get noticed at awards time no matter when it opens. But here, the Oscar campaign commenced almost simultaneously with its release and it never let up. It was also popular enough with the audience and the critics to give the campaign that much more energy to get the awards buzz going throughout the year.

 

This year, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood opened in July. But that is a movie by Tarantino. And the Oscar campaign really began long before the movie even opened.

 

Movies of high quality do get through. Last year, First Reformed, written by Paul Schrader, got an Oscar nomination for original screenplay. But Schrader is considered one of the finest screenwriters working in Hollywood and the movie got much critical acclaim, which helped with the Oscar campaign, so that the screenplay did manage to sneak in. (Ethan Hawke, however, did not manage to get into the Best Actor field.)

 

So how do you write an Oscar nominated screenplay? As I said, you can’t. You can write one and if all the various factors come together just right (and these are factors the writer has absolutely no control over), then you might, but only might, get one. But you can’t write that. You can only write the screenplay.

 

Writing a great screenplay is actually probably easier, but that’s because greatness in art is something that isn’t dependent on how much money a movie makes, how many awards it receives, how it is received at the time, or factors like that. The only determining factor in whether a screenplay is great is time, with the irony that the author may very well be dead long before the film is ensconced in the pantheon of greatness.

 

Since greatness in a screenplay isn’t dependent on those factors, what factors is it dependent on? The intrinsic quality of the script helps. Bad screenplays almost never are considered great no matter how much time has passed.

 

But the most important ingredients that will help in this area is the author writing their vision, writing something that really means something to them, that is original and unique. And if the author succeeds in writing a good screenplay with those qualities (because you can actually write your vision and do everything else I mentioned and still fall short-), it may one day achieve greatness.

 

However, at the same time, such screenplays can be much harder to get greenlit in the United States.

 

About the only thing a guru can really do to help here is to guide you in making your script the best it can possibly be. They might be able to give some insight into marketability and such, but generally speaking, when it comes to that, to paraphrase the old saw, nobody in Hollywood knows anything (if they did, they wouldn’t be making any flop movies).

 

But nobody can write a great screenplay or write an Oscar nominated screenplay. And no one can teach you how to do it. That’s just not the way the system, or life, works.

 

 

The 2019 Howies


rant and rave second

First a word from our sponsor:

Check out my Script Consultation Services at http://ow.ly/HPxKE. I offer several

types of service. Testimonials can be found at the blog entry.

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out the second edition of my screenwriting book, More Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader published on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GD1XP9Y

Finally, I have published two collections of short stories, The Starving Artists and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ and The Five Corporations and the One True Church and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF

It is the time again to list the best films of the year and give out my awards for The Howies. Please keep your thank you speeches to a reasonable length or the orchestra will play you off.

 

2019 was an odd year for films. For the first half, even up to September, it was on of the worst years in movies in ages. There seemed little to nothing to like and I despaired of even wanting to create a year end list.

 

Then something happened. We reached what it is now called in the industry the Oscar season or the Awards season, when the movies that are released are the ones the distributors and production companies believe have the best chance of doing well at the various award ceremonies creeping up on us-especially the Oscars.

 

Now that in and of itself is no guarantee of quality in film. The Oscars (and other awards that are outside the many critical societies), are generally not the best movies of the year, but the best in middle-brow entertainment with some edginess sneaking in. I don’t look at the Oscars to find out the great films of the year, but to tell me something about Hollywood and the films that are getting made. I mean, c’mon, Greenbook, the edgiest movie on race relations of 1972, won last year and that should tell you everything you need to know.

 

But somehow this year the best of the year also seems to correspond with the movies that are the strongest contenders for awards. This is a rare event, rarer than all the planets lining up together I would almost venture. Is something in the air or is it just serendipity? I suspect the latter. But happy I am with awards seasons this year.

 

This doesn’t mean I liked every one of these films. You will find a noticeable absence of The Irishman (poor Scorcese and De Niro-Scorcese thought he had his second Oscar guaranteed and De Niro thought he definitely had another nomination to notch onto his belt-but as of this writing-things can change-both look to be sorely disappointed). But generally speaking, this time around the end of year awards’ films are also of generally high quality. Praise the lord and pass the ammunition.

 

I have written this in another blog post, but I will repeat. 2019 may be one of the most important years in the new millennium when it comes to American films. Not only has Netflix revolutionized the making and distributing of movies (even more so than last year with Roma), their slate of films equaled that of many or most studios and independent production companies.

 

But also, the new generation of filmmakers have definitely staked their ground. They have arrived and have had major movies that have been received well critically; made a lot of money; are up for awards; or some combination of the above. From Under the Silver Lake, to the Lighthouse, to Midsommer, to The Last Black Man in San Francisco, to Queen and Slim, to You Were Never Really Here, to Uncut Gems, to the Farewell, to Little Women: they’re here, they’re your peer, get used to it.

 

As a final note, I have missed many films this year for various reasons. Sometimes financial, but more often, as in these last six weeks, due to some sort of cold or flu I simply can’t get rid of. So I have failed to see what I understand are some strong films. Also, since AFI now costs money to attend, I did not see a number of films I would normally have seen there.

 

So now on to my list of the best of the best. Seeing as it’s my awards show, I don’t have to limit myself to a certain set of number of entries in each category. I only do the major top categories, plus a couple of special ones. So on to the 2019 Howies:

 

Best Picture: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

1917

Jojo Rabbit

Joker

Little Women

Marriage Story

Pain and Glory

Parasite

Transit

Uncut Gems

 

Best Director: Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

Bong Joon-ho – Parasite

Greta Gerwig – Little Women

Todd Philips – Joker

Sam Mendez – 1917

Benny and Josh Safdie – Uncut Gems

Taiki Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

 

Best Actress: Renee Zellweger – Judy

The remainder in alphabetical order:

Awkwafina – The Farewell

Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story/Jojo Rabbit

Saoirse Ronan – Little Women

Charlize Theron – Bombshell

Zhao Tao – Ash is the Purest White

 

Best Actor – Joaquin Phoenix – Joker

The remainder in alphabetical order: (an extraordinary year for male performances)

Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory

Roman Griffin Davis – Jojo Rabbit

Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Adam Driver – Marriage Story/The Report

Eddie Murphy – Dolemite is My Name

Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes

Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems

 

Best Supporting Actress: Margot Robbie – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell

Annette Benning – The Report

Da-Vine Joy Randolph – Dolemite is My Name

Shuzhen Zhao – The Farewell

 

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

John Lithgow – Bombshell

Al Pacino – The Irishman

Song Kang-ho – Parasite

Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

 

Best Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

The remainder in alphabetical order:

Pedro Almodovar – Pain and Glory

Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story

Boon Joon-ho, Jin Won-han – Parasite

Ronald Brownstein, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – Uncut Gems

Greta Gerwig – Little Women

Todd Phillips, Scott Silver – Joker

Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

 

Best Ensemble: Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Parasite

 

Special Awards:

Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood – Costumes, Production Design

1917 – Cinematography

Little Women – Costumes, Production Design

Jojo Rabbit – Costumes, Production Design

Joker – Production Design