Miscellany: April 2006 Archives
If you’re a new arrival from Creative Screenwriting or the L.A. Times or any other place in which I’ve been shilling Scary Movie 4 and this site, welcome to our humble abode. Most of the articles are under The Craft & Trade, but there’s lots to see and do here. Use the navbar near the top of the page, or scroll through the archives in the right column.
Also, join our Forum, an active discussion community of aspiring and pro screenwriters. The forum includes a chat room, and without giving away too many details, at least two users have laid the foundation for screenwriting deals in the chat room, so it’s good for the purse as well as the mind.
This is a busy weekend (natch), but I should have an essay up tomorrow ruminating on critics, success and what it all means for screenwriters.
The premiere of Scary Movie 4 is this Monday. What better time to contemplate what an enormous failure I am? Of course, it’s not my choice. Stupid blog tag things. Stupid, stupid, stupid blog tags! Why must you torment me? Well, the way I see it, once August does it, I’m a jerk for not doing it.
This latest survey comes from frequent commenter Kevin Arbouet. I shall do my best to answer these questions honestly, although it hurts. It really hurts.
WHAT’S THE WORST THING YOU’VE EVER WRITTEN?
Hmm. Probably the first script I ever wrote with my then-partner. We thought we were so goddamned funny, and we were. Unfortunately, the script read like a 100 page live-action Simpsons episode. Had it been filmed, it would have been the worst movie ever. Ever. EVER.
WHAT’S THE WORST LINE YOU’VE EVER WRITTEN?
In my adapation of Harvey, a female character confronts a womanizing guy with what her friend once said about him.
KELSO: What was Lara’s line about you? (remembers) “Dr. Sachs, the man who put the comma in ‘drop dead, gorgeous’.”
Wow. Where to begin? Well, for starters, I loved that line when I wrote it, because I thought it was ohhhhh so clever. Unfortunately, it feels like a line. In fact, it’s a line about line. No, it’s a line about a line about line. There’s single quotes inside double quotes inside dialogue! Ridiculous. And precious. Argghhh.
WHAT’S THE WORST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER GIVEN?
“Don’t quit Princeton. You’ve only got one year left. If you drop out now and don’t get your degree, you will regret it for the rest of your life.”
That’s me in 1992 talking to a friend named Linus Upson. Linus dropped out. Then he went to work for Steve Jobs. Then he invented AvantGo. Then he invented some other crap I don’t understand, but it made him a lot of money. Then he invented this new spam filter called Qurb. He’s doing fine. I was wrong. Totally, completely wrong.
WHAT’S THE ONE TIME YOU KNOW YOU SHOULD HAVE SPOKEN UP BUT YOU DIDN’T?
When I was a kid, someone made a nasty comment about Jews. See, I don’t have a very typical Jewish last name, and I look vaguely Italian or something-ish, so I suppose this other kid figured I was Catholic like him.
I said nothing.
I think I said nothing more to avoid his embarrassment, but the result was that I was the one left feeling shame.
WHAT’S THE WORST PITCH MEETING YOU’VE EVER HAD?
This is an easy one.
Years ago, my then-partner and I worked with Betty Thomas on a pitch, and then went to pitch it to a producer we’ll call Eric. Naturally, it was a comedy, and I was already friendly with Eric, so it was very casual and fun. About five minutes into the pitch, Eric’s assistant walks into the conference room, which is highly unusual, as assistants are trained to stay out of pitch meetings.
She’s ghostly white.
She says she has a call for Eric and he needs to get it RIGHT NOW.
He gets up and walks to his office. All of us are left in the room, hoping that it’s not something awful. About a minute passes, and then Eric goes RUNNING BY, yelling at us as he goes.
“I HAVE TO GO!”
And he’s gone. We’re shocked. The assistant returns. I ask her if everything’s okay. She’s crying. Crying! “No. You guys should go.”
Shaken, we all head over to the reception area, when the assistant comes running back toward us.
“Don’t go! Eric’s coming back.”
Are you kidding?
He rushes out of the elevator, back into the room, out of breath, pale. Apparently, Eric’s wife put their newborn daughter in the crib, took a shower, came back out…and the baby was gone. Kidnapped. Stolen.
Turns out the babysitter had arrived on the wrong day, took the kid for a stroll around the block, and all’s well.
Eric asked us to finish the pitch.
WHO’S THE ONE PERSON YOU’D NEVER WORK WITH AGAIN AND AREN’T AFRAID TO NAME?
James Gunn. Not that there would ever be a circumstance in which we would work together again, but you asked, so I’ll answer. I think James is a really talented guy, but he’s not my cup of tea. At all. And I ain’t his.
WHAT’S THE WORST SCRIPT IDEA YOU’VE EVER HAD?
Probably this one.
WHAT’S THE WORST THING ABOUT YOU BEING ON SET?
I tend to get blabby with the actors, and that pisses the 1st AD off.
WHAT’S YOUR WORST WORKING HABIT?
John August described his as going back over yesterday’s work before moving on to today’s work, which I also do, but I think of that as a good habit, so there you go.
My worst working habit is feeling like I need to know the scene before I start writing it. Sometimes, I think I’d be better off just starting the writing and seeing where it takes me.
WHAT’S THE WORST MISTAKE YOU’VE EVER MADE?
Starting smoking. So stupid. Seven years of it. I quit ten years ago, and thank God, but it was really hard, and I hope I didn’t do any permanent damage.
Oh baby…Ladies and Gentlemen, I have seen the future. You can too, in ten days. On April 14, Scary Movie 4 will be the first major motion picture release to have been filmed with the Panavision Genesis HD system. It’s not the first film to go into production with the Genesis, but because we’re so damned speedy, we’ll be the first to the marketplace. This summer, you can see another small film shot on Genesis called Superman Returns.
First, let me apologize for this essay, which has absolutely nothing to do with screenwriting. I’m just so damned enthusiastic about this thing, and I want to sing its praises.
The Genesis uses standard 35 mm lenses, and the image quality is exceptional. It doesn’t look like video. It looks like incredibly detailed film. What’s more, when the digital files are ultimately scanned to film, they look exactly like film…because they are film.
The real benefits of the Genesis are in the way it makes production and post-production so much easier.
With film, you’re always checking the gate after your setups. You still check “the gate” with the Genesis, but it’s not really a gate (the chamber through which the film travels). It’s the gap between the lens and the camera body. As such, there’s almost never any hairs or dirt in there to necessitate do-overs.
The HD tapes are long, so you don’t waste as much time changing mags, and you never have to worry about spooling out during a long take. Watching dailies is a joy. With film, you can usually “rock n’ roll” backwards and forwards, but sometimes the projector won’t even let you do that, so it’s once through and then back to work. With HD, you can freeze frame dailies and replay moments at will. The Genesis dailes also look much much much better than your typically under- or over-lit one-light 35mm daily transfers.
But the real benefits are in post. All visual effects are less lossy; instead of going from 35mm to digital back to 35mm, you stay in digital until you’re ready for the final film out. Opticals are not lossy at all…no need to do optical fades, optical dissolves, etc. Also, you have a TON more latitude when it’s time to color correct. Digital images are much easier to manipulate and adjust than photochemical ones. It’s the difference between using a laser and a shotgun.
There’s no such thing as negative dirt or film scratches, and because there’s no film travel, the registration is perfect, so the subtitles and credits don’t dance around.
There’s no negative cutting! Think about that! No splices to deal with EVER.
Maybe the single greatest benefit of the Genesis, however, is the way it allows you to blow images up. The need for blow-ups is almost inevitable. There’s a boom that dips into frame, or maybe there’s a flag peeking in, or maybe you wish you had gotten a more extreme close up than the one you shot…etc.
With 35mm, you can blow stuff up about 15% before it starts to get really grainy and milky and take you out of the movie.
With the Genesis? We blew one shot up by 250 percent. We can barely tell. The audience? Not at all…especially after you film-out all of the HD so that the blown-up shot gets the same proportion of grain as the non-blown up shots. 250% vs 15%! The media is unbelievably versatile.
One thing to be aware of is that the viewfinder on the Genesis isn’t a reflex lens like the kind you find on a 35mm camera. It’s actually a video tap, and as such, there’s a (very) slight delay between reality and what the operator sees. Therefore, if you’re shooting things like sports or car chases where you need perfect precision operating, the Genesis might not be for you. Of course, this will be perfected in the near future (it’s currently like this because of shutter and light issues…give it two or three years and they’ll have a new system with a reflex viewfinder).
In about 15 years, when the studios and exhibitors finally get their acts together and come up with digital delivery systems and digital projectors, it’s my belief that film will be dead. Images will never touch emulsion again. And from what I’ve seen, abandoning film will cost us little or nothing in warmth and quality, and gain us so very much more.