Thursday, September 16, 2010


If I haven't had much to say of late it's because I've been focused on developing my portfolio of specs and pilots for television. Last year I did "30 Rock" and "Mad Men" for the several fellowship contests. No response. This year I specced "Parks & Recreation" and "White Collar." So far, the latter made it to the second round (top 10%, I believe) of Austin Film Festival's teleplay competition. Marathon, not a sprint.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Adventure people

If it's summer, it must be time for another home run from the folks at Pixar. And this year is no exception, with the release of "Up." Initially, I was skeptical that a film about an elderly man flying his house to South America would pack the same narrative punch as the studio's previous releases. I need not have worried. And I don't need to say much more about the plot other than the movie's first ten minutes are the most emotionally deep and resonant moments Pixar has created yet. Even more than WALL-E's wordless first act. Other studios rarely achieve (or aspire to) such heights with live actors.

It seems clear that, starting with "Ratatouille," Pixar has moved from creating great kids movies that parents can also enjoy to just the opposite. Although there are still plenty of funny characters to keep the youngsters engaged, the themes and plots are now meant to connect on a deeper level with the adults in the audience. Frankly, I hope they take that trend one step further. I'd like Pixar to apply their considerable talents to material that is less comedic and more epic or classic in scope. Ten films on, they've mastered the tale of the misfit or dreamer who must overcome incredible challenges to achieve their ambition. But there are many other stories that they could be telling. I'd love to see them master those as well.

On the TV side, three important fellowship deadlines are coming up soon:

NBC's Writers on the Verge, June 30th
Disney-ABC Television Writing Fellowship, July 1st
Warner Brothers Writers' Workshop, July 25th

Happy speccing.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Werner, brothers

Two weeks to Nicholl. In the meantime, enjoy these Werner Herzog films just posted at YouTube.

"Little Dieter" is a documentary about Dieter Dengler, a Vietnam POW whose capture and escape was dramatized in Herzog's "Rescue Dawn." And the others are some of his acclaimed, earlier features. Happy viewing!

UPDATE: Here's another, added after my original post.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

As seen on The Artful Writer!

I first heard about The Robotard 8000 on Craig Mazin's blog. It seemed appropriate to note on April Fool's Day. I don't know if the script itself is a joke, but there are jokes in it. They are puerile, politically incorrect, and pretty damn funny. But even if you can't get past the lowbrow humor, "Balls Out" is worth a download for the writing. Which I thought was really good. One of the best examples of "voice" I've read in a while, if you are trying to get a hold on that concept. And otherwise demonstrating a super-lean and economical style that I continue to aspire to.

Oh, and one month to Nicholl (now with online submissions!) and Silver Screenwriting. Start your engines.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


It's a truth (almost) universally acknowledged that Francois Truffaut's Day For Night is the ne plus ultra movie about making movies. No argument here. Contemporarily, I'm also partial to David Mamet's satirical State and Main, which is more about everything that goes wrong in the moviemaking process. Neither of these are yet available at any of the (legitimate) streaming sites, but here are a couple other films about filmmaking that are -- one documentary and one not:

American Movie chronicles the real-life efforts of low (low) budget horror filmmaker Mike Borchardt to finish his short film Coven. Say what you want about Mike -- and as you watch him, there will be plenty for you to say -- but his tenaciousness in realizing his vision is undeniable. Would you or I be so driven?

Living In Oblivion, on the other hand, is a small independent film about the making of a small independent film. Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, and Dermot Mulroney stand out, but the thing to really keep in mind as you watch is that writer/director Tom DiCillo directed Brad Pitt in the indie film Johnny Suede before he made "Oblivion." Think of that as you watch the segment with James LeGros as Chad Palamino . . .

(sorry no video embeds. Crackle sucks about that apparently.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I'm just not that into blogging

Light posting duty as I try and wrap up a rewrite. In the meantime, a few things that caught my eye . . .

One of the persistent fears for aspiring writers outside of Hollywood (and a few of them around here) is having their script "stolen" by producers or studios. Frankly, they don't need to be that worried for a few reasons. As long as they go through the usual channels, e.g., querying companies and submitting the screenplay with accompanying release form to those who request it, the companies will be more than happy to pay (and are bound by the WGA's minimum basic agreement if they are signatories) the writer for a great script. The bigger problem for those writers is that they likely don't have anything close to a script of the quality that Hollywood is willing to pay for. That said, it does happen from time to time, as the recent controversy surrounding Paul Blart: Mall Cop demonstrates. Not a reason to hide your scripts in a locked vault by any stretch but just another reminder to keep records of drafts written, queries sent, and register the works either with the WGA or U.S. Copyright Office.

The Archive of American Television has posted its series of interviews with many legends and some lesser-known names of film and television on YouTube. Lots of great stories from actors, writers, producers, and other creative artists who came up through the industry during the Golden Age of Television.

And the Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship Program deadline is just two weeks away: February 28th. Half-hour specs for any currently-produced network shows (which, as a practical matter, means sitcoms). And although the fellowship is one year working on staff at Nickelodeon, the submissions do not have to be only for "kids" shows. Tick tock, tick tock . . .

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Anyone can write

As the Baltimore Ravens stand one Steelers beatdown away from another Super Bowl, one player who will have something to fall back on in the offseason (whatever the outcome) is defensive end Trevor Pryce. Turns out he's also a screenwriter. According to the article, he got the idea for a script when his daughter threw a penny in a fountain and then asked what would happen if her wish got mixed up with someone else. From the mouth of babes . . .

As a professional football player, Trevor was in the enviable position of having an agent who could pass the idea along to a producer here in L.A. -- Mike Fleiss (Heidi's brother). Fleiss asked for a treatment, Pryce had to Google what a treatment was, and eventually ended up writing the full script. He says he also wrote a second one and is shopping around a third. Even though his case is obviously not the norm for new screenwriters trying to break into the business, it is a good illustration of the old adage that "concept is king." In the meantime, I'll have to be content with a victory in the championship game and the knowledge that there is at least another playing field on which I actually can compete with Trevor and still keep my head attached to my body.