EXPOSITION: CAN’T WRITE WITH IT, CAN’T WRITE WITHOUT IT or YADDA, YADDA, YADDA…THE END


For questions: hcasner@aol.com

First, a word from our sponsors: My short film 8 Conversations in 15 Minutes 58 Seconds will premiere at STUFF, the South Texas Underground Film Festival on January 27th, 2019 http://www.stuftx.org/

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

 

     Exposition seems to bring out the worst in screenwriters. I don’t mean how they use it when putting fingers to keyboard, but how they talk about it. The way some of them go on…and on…and on about it, one would think using exposition is worse than child molesting and will damn you to hellfire for all eternity…or longer.

But have no fear. In the real world, exposition is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, exposition can be your friend. You will not only invariably use it in your screenplays, you will quite possibly use it multiple times…and not once grow hair on the palms of your hands.

In fact, exposition is just about unavoidable. It’s just a fact of the writing life. Continue reading

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The 2018 Howies


 

 

 

 

For questions: hcasner@aol.com

First, a word from our sponsors: My short film 8 Conversations in 15 Minutes 58 Seconds will premiere at STUFF, the South Texas Underground Film Festival on January 27th, 2019 http://www.stuftx.org/

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

This was not the best of times for movies, but possibly not the worst. Even AFI this year, one of my last resort sources for my end of year list, only provided one addition: the hysterical dark comedy, Pig. After a rather lackluster first half, wondering if there was going to be any films to join The Death of Stalin and First Reformed on my top ten, I finally started seeing hope on the horizon and slowly, but don’t call me Shirley, managed to cobble together a worthy set of cinema. Enjoy.

 

BEST FILM – Top Ten
The Death of Stalin
The remainder in alphabetical order
22 July
Burning
Favourite, The
First Reformed
Guilty, The
Mary Poppins Returns
Pig
Shoplifters
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse Continue reading

SUBTEXT: THAT PASSIVE/AGGRESSIVE FRIEND YOU HATE, BUT CAN’T DROP or WE’RE GOING TO NEED A BIGGER BOAT


For questions: hcasner@aol.com

First, a word from our sponsors: My short film 8 Conversations in 15 Minutes 58 Seconds will premiere at STUFF, the South Texas Underground Film Festival on January 27th, 2019 http://www.stuftx.org/

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

 

    This is the second in a series of articles on various screenwriting topics. Further entries will include exposition, voice overs and passive central characters. The previous entry was on diversity in film.

 

On facebook and a myriad of other places, people put forth various requisites or must haves, do’s and do nots, they claim are needed to write, if not a great screenplay, at least a perfectly serviceable one.

 

One of the most popular ones is subtext. Now, I prefer writers not worry about things like this, at least at first. I’m on the side of the angels who say, concentrate on writing a good story that is successful on its own terms and if it has subtext, good, if not, good. I mean why tamper when you’ve got a good thing going?

 

I prefer elements like subtext to grow organically out of the writing, not be foisted upon it. Still, if you are receiving constant feedback that your dialog is too on point, or that the reader feels as if they are being told how to feel, rather than being allowed to feel, you may need subtext, taken four times a day on an empty stomach.

 

One problem with subtext is that everyone seems to know what it is, but have difficulty coming up with a clear, concise and satisfactory definition that everyone agrees with. It’s like art: no one can define it, but they all know it when they see it. Continue reading

IT’S TIME TO GET INTO THE SPIRIT OF THE ZEITGEIST or DOING THE ZEITGEIST RAG


For questions: hcasner@aol.com

First, a word from our sponsors: My short film 8 Conversations in 15 Minutes 58 Seconds will premiere at STUFF, the South Texas Underground Film Festival on January 27th, 2019 http://www.stuftx.org/

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 has been some time since I put pen to paper and wrote something for my blog. I got distracted for various reasons, some good (I wrote two books of short stories and published the second edition of my screenwriting book, see above), some not so good (I’ve been caught up in one of those downward swings moody, artsy people tend to get into from time to time). But for some while now, I’ve been mulling over an idea, a subject that has finally formed itself into something that compels me to share it.

 

In the past, I’ve written about the zeitgeist, that overall spirit in art that can define a creative period of time. However, my writing about it has been somewhat negative since for some time, mainly from 2007 and on, I felt there wasn’t one for US filmmakers and that American films suffered for it and were constantly falling short and disappointing.

 

One conclusion I came to for this state of being is that as a result of technology, anyone and everyone can and have been making movies, resulting in that ubiquitous saying that the great thing about filmmaking today is that anyone can make a movie; the awful thing about filmmaking today is that anyone can make a movie. But I think the main drawback to this advance in technology is that though we have a more than over abundance of filmmakers, at the same time, they have had nothing to say, no real reason to make a film. There was no zeitgeist.

 

      But I think that’s changed. Over the last few years, a new spirit of the times has wormed its way into the world of film, one that has taken filmmaking into a new direction and breathed new life into an art form that often seemed to be dying of mediocrity in America. And I think this has had, or should have, a serious impact on screenwriters. I suggest that new screenwriters (and even more experienced ones) should consider embracing it with, ironically, open arms.

 

The name I give to this brave new world of filmmaking is diversity meets genre.

 

Before I get any farther into why I believe this is central to what is happening in filmmaking today, I will backtrack some and suggest historically just how this came to be. And in doing so, I think I must admit to an error I believe I made earlier regarding a zeitgeist of the past, in fact the most recent American zeitgeist. I termed it post modernism and said it revolved around a group of core filmmakers: Steven Soderbergh, Quinten Tarantino and the Coen brothers, all starting in the 1990’s. However, I think it might be more accurate to call these filmmakers post post modernists.

 

     It might be more exact to attribute post modernism to the period from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. There are few reasons why I think this may be more exact. And here I am defining post modernism as artists taking everything from the past and treating it with equal value, from the lewdest of scatological humor to the highest of philosophical debate. Everything is of worthwhile fodder in creating art.

 

It was during this period, possibly for the first time in the history of film art in the U.S., that filmmakers were more influenced and inspired by movies and directors and writers and stylists that had come before them than anything else. These were artists who learned how to make movies by watching movies as they grew up.

 

These filmmakers lived, breathed and almost totally existed within the history of cinema. And not just art, foreign and prestige films, but also the lesser films, the B-films and lower budgeted genre films that were not held in as high a regard as many others. And this led to many changes in movies when these younger viewers became adults.

 

     One major one is that filmmakers began taking B-picture genres and making A films out of them. These included horror (Jaws, The Shining, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby); sci-fi (2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Star Wars); crime/film noir (Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, Night Moves, The Late Show, The Long Goodbye); comic book movies (Superman); and serials (Star Wars and Indiana Jones).

 

Another change was the introduction of existentialism from post war Europe, especially in the films of Paul Schrader and Woody Allen, as well as the films of other filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick and Paddy Chayefsky.

 

Finally, this was the period of great satires of film genres including Take the Money and Run (documentaries), Sleepers (Sci-fi), Love and Death (epic films), Blazing Saddles (westerns) and Young Frankenstein (horror), leading up to the great satires of Airplane and The Naked Gun franchise.

 

     Then came the 1990’s and the triumvirate of the period, the aforementioned Soderbergh, Tarantino and the Coens. They continued to emphasize genre, but often with a post post modernistic smirk where it felt as if the movies sometimes were also commenting on themselves and the genre conventions.

 

Which leads us to the new zeitgeist which takes the post modern emphasis on genres, but breathes new life into them by having a new and diverse set of filmmakers making them. And these movies are doing well, both from a critical and money making standpoint. These films either having diverse characters in the lead (and I include women here with recent films having some of the best roles for female actors in some time), or have a diverse cast, or have diverse screenwriters, directors and producers, as well as other more technical aspects of film, behind their creation.

 

These include:

 

  Comic book movies (Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Spider-Man Into the Spider Verse, Aquaman);

 

Horror (Get Out, Hereditary, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus);

 

Rom Coms (The Big Sick, Crazy Rich Asians, Love Simon);

 

Film Noir/crime (Widows, Dope, Jackie Brown and the upcoming Scarface);

 

   Thrillers (Searching, A Simple Favor, The Girl on the Train);

 

Fantasy (Mary Poppins Returns, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, Moana);

 

Sci-Fi (Gravity, Annihilation, Arrival, Under the Skin, The Hunger Games).

 

This can also be seen in more non genre films as well, straight dramas or stories of social commentary (Boy Erased, Monsters and Men, If Beale Street Could Talk, Call Me By Your Name, Moonlight, Roma, The Favourite). In fact, there are studies that suggest the more diverse a cast is, the more money that film will make at the box office.

 

     So what does this mean for up and coming filmmakers, for writers, directors and producers? To me it suggests that diversity, especially diversity meets genre, is the zeitgeist of the day and this should be embraced and taken to heart. If you are a member of a diverse group, then don’t be afraid, in fact, be proud to tell your story from your own background, with that special insight that being a member of a diverse group can give you. For others, it might be something as simple as changing your lead or setting. Can your white-bread male lead, as well as supporting cast, be made female or gay or a member of a diverse group?

 

And generally speaking, it means making your world larger rather than smaller and be open to all possibilities in the world today.

 

In closing, I am going to talk about two movies that have core similarities: Into the Woods, the film made from the Stephen Sondheim musical, and the live action remake of the animated film, Beauty and the Beast, both fantasies, both musicals.

 

About halfway through Into the Woods, where on stage the intermission comes, everyone is singing Happily Ever After at the castle. Standing next to the main characters is a black woman, the only character of diversity I remember seeing in the film. And at that moment, all I could think is that, my, this movie is incredibly white. Cut to Beauty and the Beast which had an amazingly diverse cast, including two gay characters.

 

    Now, I’m not saying that this was why Into the Woods didn’t do as well as expected or hoped and Beauty and the Beast was such a success. Into the Woods had other problems. And there are many reasons why one movie fails and another succeeds.

 

But still, I couldn’t help but take notice. And I think this is an area where filmmakers should probably start taking notice.

THE STARVING ARTISTS and other stories by Howard Casner available on Amazon


Hello, everyone. I have now released a book of exciting new short stories called The Starving Artists and Other Stories. It is available from Amazon at http://ow.ly/yTMD30l5qiK.
For those who like the weird, the odd, the out there, here are nine stories with supernatural and sci-fi themes, from a DJ who might or might not be the last person on earth, to a visit from aliens about our nuclear capability, to a young boy whose life changes when “he” came out of the desert. Expect the unexpected.
If this is the sort of thing that floats your boat, I would love you to check it out and if you like it, leave a review (reviews are extremely important for this sort of thing). I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Continue reading

THEY ONLY COME OUT AT NIGHT – a sci-fi short story


Check out my other stories
And check out my other stories:
MOMMA ALWAYS WARNED ME http://ow.ly/Ifwe30kKIOy sci-fi
ONE FOR THE AGES http://ow.ly/2uPR30kAV0a horror
I KNOW http://ow.ly/ROFs30kg8v0 supernatural
EAT S**T AND DIE http://ow.ly/gwEi30jKUyQ A comic horror fantasy
THE STARVING ARTISTS http://ow.ly/iJc430jCrcW  sci-fi
A REFUGE FROM THE STORM http://ow.ly/koKs30jF7yo – horror
     “And hello there lovely and loyal listeners and all those not listening as well, I’m not proud and I make no distinction. This is Bobby Morgan, the Doctor of long ago and far away, reaching out and touching you, touching you, but only respectfully. I’m ready to put the lime in the coconut for you to drink it all up, because I’ve got everything to cure what ails you at the flick of a switch. We are starting the final hour of the Doc Bobby show and we’ll keep on playing all the oldies but goodies ‘til the devil goes down to Georgia. So everyone out there, there’s still time to make a request, so Ricky do not lose that number, but give me a call. If I got it, I’ll play it and dedicate it to the one you love, if you are so inclined. In fact, up next are the Mamas and the Papas with Lowman Pauling and Ralph Bass’s cool melody of that very name.”
     Robert “Doctor Bobby” Morgan, a pretty average fellow by all accounts, a bit more rotund than he would care to be, with a not unremarkable beard to match his lumberjack chic manner of dress, hit a switch and leaned back, feet on the console, hands intertwined behind his back, and listened to the rich harmony wafting over the speakers, voices from the past that somehow still spoke to the present inside of him. He closed his eyes and let himself drift off to another time and place, floating on some sort of Zen cloud.
     About halfway through he opened his eyes and looked at the phone, as if willing it to ring. When it didn’t, he closed his eyes and floated again. Continue reading