Monday, May 31, 2010

In defense of my small DVD collection

On Saturday, a certain someone mocked me for my inferior DVD collection. Yes, compared to most film buffs and industry hopefuls my collection is tiny, and it includes the Beefcake's DVDs so my actual collection is even smaller than it appears to the outside observer. I have 111 movies and 31 seasons of TV, a substantial amount of material for most Americans, but a pathetic grouping for a screenwriter.

The thing is, how often do you watch those movies in your collection? I don't watch many of them very often. About a fourth of my collection is films I bought specifically to show in class - Hamlet, The Outsiders, Life is Beautiful. I have a collection of noir I bought for when I taught the Maltese Falcon and turned it into a noir class - Chinatown, Brick, Memento. I have a few that I know I'll be watching regularly - Pitch Black, Once Upon a Time in China, In Bruges. There are some I keep so I can show them to people who never saw those films - Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human, Osama, The Matrix Reloaded because one of the special features is Justin Timberlake and Sean Williams Scott doing an awesome parody of what was not a very good movie. Some of the films I own because I don't feel right without them - Rocky, Galaxy Quest, Fight Club. Even if I don't often put them in the DVD player, I'm comforted knowing they're around. That's sort of how I feel about my collection of all seasons of Buffy. I don't sit around watching them like I used to, but I'd be distraught if they weren't there.

But I realized some time ago that many of the films I own were impulse purchases that take up space and don't get watched. When's the last time I watched Friday or Snatch or The Last Kiss? I like these films, but I don't throw them in the DVD player ever. I've watched each DVD one time and then set it on the shelf for the duration. When I moved to the new house I took a whole stack of DVDs to Amoeba because I realized I was probably never going to watch them again and I didn't want to have to box them, move them and find room for them on the shelf.

On the other hand, there was some excitement when I opened the Beefcake's DVD box and discovered Terminators 1 and 2, Predator, The Usual Suspects. Movies I love but never got around to buying. The other night one of my friends was baffled as to why I don't have The Professional. Don't get me wrong - I like The Professional. It's a great film. But how many times am I going to watch it?

There are films I like to watch over and over, but there are so many films I've never seen and we only have a limited amount of time on this planet and sometimes I feel like I'd rather watch something new than go back to something I've seen. Still, there's something to be said for rewatching and old favorite. I guess that's why I'm so picky with what I keep around.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I've been super busy this week as you may have guessed. It's a big week for seniors and I was on two field trips, plus I gave out yearbooks yesterday. Today there's a whole house cleaning thing going on and tomorrow there's an all-day gathering of people I can't miss. Somehow I have to grade Hamlet essays and finish my coursework for the stupid class I'm taking.

Unfortunately, that means writing gets put on hold. My favorite thing to do must be my last priority on weeks like this. I feel guilty when I don't write, but I'd feel guiltier if I didn't get those essays graded or this house cleaned, because with those things someone else is counting on me. At the moment I have no deadline on my producer's project so it just has to wait.

On the upside I have Monday off so I may be able to get caught up. And we only have three weeks left in the school year and then I have two priorities - cleaning up my office and working on screenplays.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An Interview with Brett Nicholson, writer of stuff

Today's interview is with Brett Nicholson. Much like earlier interviewee Ronson Page, Brett is a Texan Nicholl finalist, this time in 2007 with a script called Queen of the Sky. So this is two different guys with similar backgrounds and different experiences. Here's what Brett had to say about his experience.

Where did you get the idea for Queen of the Sky?

I've always been an airplane nut. As a kid I'd always ask for coffee table books on aviation and aviation history. One day while poking around online I saw a reference to the "Nacht Hexen" -- Night Witches -- a group of Soviet women flyers who flew old unarmed biplanes over German troops by night to shriek into loudspeakers and terrorize the sleeping Nazis. That's a cool enough story, but as I was looking into more details, I caught a ref to a female interceptor pilot named Lilya Litvyak who was described as the highest scoring female ace in history. The more I started trying to find info on this cool tale, the more three points became clear:

1-- nobody had ever done ANY sort of Lilya story, in book or movie or even documentary form, and her story was just jaw-droppingly cool

2-- the story was insanely cinematic and "Hollywood-esque" just in its natural state, so it read like a movie as soon as I just plotted out her biographical timeline

3-- the damned story was haunting me. I just couldn't stop thinking of what the story would look like if made into a movie

I'm not usually big into epic dramas -- I tend more towards action/comedy -- but this one would not let me go, so finally I said "I have to try this if only just to get it off my back."

When did you realize it was a great script?

The story itself was so incredible that once I had the info collected and could "see" the story, all I had to do was not screw it up too badly. When I finally cracked a workable way to tell the ending (there's a bit of POV sleight of hand I had to play to make it flow like a proper narrative) and then finally realized what the movie was ABOUT (it's a love story, but not just a simple man loves woman" kind of love, but more about "discovering and accepting that one thing your life is incomplete without-- the thing that you'd risk all to have"), I said to myself "this is good. Really good."

When I finally had it all done and polished, I set it aside for a few weeks and then came back and realized it still had a huge emotional impact when I read it. That's when I started to believe "OK, so this might be REALLY good."

One of the cool parts of that entire experience was trying a form and tone that I'd NOT normally thought of as "in my wheelhouse" and finding that yes, I CAN do that. And also realizing that it's OK to look at yourself in the mirror and say "you're good at this. You kicked some ass with today's output." Too often I think we fall into the trap of becoming SO self-critical that we deny ourselves even the possibility of doing great work or recognizing it when we do. Give yourself permission to dazzle, but stay objective and frosty enough to know how rare and wonderful those moments are.

As a male writer, what do you feel were your greatest challenges in doing justice to a female hero?

This one always amuses me, as I get variations of this a lot from female writer acquaintances-- "did you find it hard to write for a female protagonist?" or "Is it different writing from a female POV?"

Actually, no. I think I EXPECTED it to feel different, but in truth I recall no difference at all. Writing for Lilya, I simply ignored the gender issue entirely and treated her like any "normal" character. What's even goofier is that pretty much ALL of my scripts have a strong female characters, and I've never really thought about what it means to write "for" a female character. Love is love, fear is fear, hope is hope, regret is regret. In a stupid way, I have a theory that it's kinda like teaching a kid to try switch-hitting in baseball. "The thing you need to think about... is to not think about it. Just tell your brain that this is how it ALWAYS feels."

What happened after you were declared a Nicholl finalist?

First let me [talk about] what happened BEFORE I was a finalist. I entered QUEEN OF THE SKY in 2005 Nicholl competition and was promptly dinked in the first round. No problem -- it's a tough competition. I then entered it again in 2006 basically unchanged, and again got dinked in the first. I started to think maybe it was just not what the Nicholl folks were looking for. I'd intended to have some different material ready for 2007, but when the deadline rolled around I was not ready to send in the new stuff, so at the last second -- I mean with an hour left before the local post office closed -- I made a new entry form and mailed in a file copy of the same script. And THAT entry made it to the Finals and won me a trip to LA to hang out with the talented kids -- a twist I still laugh about.

AFTER that weird call from [head Nicholl honcho] Greg Beal (I thought he was playing a cruel joke-- I actually cussed at him for pulling such a low stunt), I had to sit on my hands and not tell anyone for a week, and then when news did hit, I was at the Austin Film Fest when the press release hit VARIETY and HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, so suddenly my cellphone and email lit up. I had something like 80 industry calls and emails come in during the first 36 hours. Lots of cool requests and praise from people who, just a few weeks before, were always unwilling to take my calls or acknowledge my emails (not bitter-- I totally understand how swamped they are).

Of course, all this happened in the final two weeks before the big WGA Strike of 2007, so my trip to LA was a tad surreal in the sense that yes I was a Nicholl Finalist, but there was a strike on, so nobody could meet with me or take my calls. It was like Charlie winning a Wonka Golden Ticket and arriving to find the factory chained and shuttered due to a cocoa embargo. "Hey, buy a ticket again next year, kid-- maybe your luck will hold!"

I managed to get an agent out of the deal -- I will remain loyal to them if only because they took me on when it seems like NOBODY else was getting new representation -- but in some ways the Nicholl Final thing was good for showing just how much work STILL is required. There's no such thing as "done"-- you never write the one script that makes it all easy, or get the rep that makes it all magically happen, or get the access that suddenly makes it all a painless process. The business is tough and insane and damned near impossible, and only the crazy talented and crazy determined stand any chance at all. I like to think I have the chops, so I guess now we'll see if I really have the desire.

Did you join any picket lines during the strike?

I was going to -- I knew a bunch of folks walking at Paramount, and I was set to go walk for a few hours right around dawn one morning but decided (around 3:30 AM the night before... as I stumbled back to my hotel from the Cat and Fiddle...) that the Cause could probably survive just fine without me, and that I owed it to The Wife (who was arriving that afternoon) to look and feel as rested and recovered as possible for the last few days of the week as she joined me for some social stuff.

I did get a strike shirt out of the deal, and I accidentally wore it to the local Cinemark the week after and didn't realize why the ticket attendant and manager were both eyeballing me intently as I bought my popcorn and headed to my seat. Later that night when I saw my reflection in the mirror I laughed out loud, as they likely though I was a one man picket line, there to spread the leftist message back here in Tom Delay Country.

You coach little league. Have you written a little league script?

Not yet, though everyone keeps asking me. I have some ideas that I like, and I'll probably turn to that this summer since it seems one of those projects people seem to ask about. If/when I do, I'll make every effort to make it not what people expect from a LL movie. Show me the normal way to do something, and I'll then set myself to doing it some totally different way. I'm cantankerous and spiteful in the extreme, but I also have my negative qualities.

What are you up to now?

I've got a wild college comedy ("ANIMAL HOUSE in the 80s") that I keep managing to not really wrap up, a rather wild Viking action-adventure concept that I am in love with and trying to get moving towards completion, and rather oddball Christmas comedy that I need to go back and start to polish and tighten. There are a few producers who are talking to me about some ideas, and we're trying to find a project we're all equally excited to work on, so maybe I'll actually get my pro shingle hung before the end of this year. Maybe.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Right after college -- around 1989 -- I cam very close to just heading to LA and trying the waters then. I opted to stay in TX and start a family and try to get some contract writing gigs (which work fine 'til I became Mr Mom for a decade...), but in that time I spent tending kids, I sorta lost all thought of trying to be a screenwriter. I wish I'd not lost that hunger and focus -- I wish I'd not sleepwalked through a good 8 or 9 potentially useful years. I've always been a good writer -- I started writing professionally back in junior high -- but screenwriting is such an oddly specific and singular form that it usually requires some years of fumbling about before suddenly things start to make sense and you begin to understand the technical requirements of the form. I wish I'd gotten up to speed sooner, so that I could now have more years in which to potentially make cool stories which might maybe possibly find life on a screen somewhere.

What's so great about Texas?

Chris Vogel -- who is NOT from Texas -- once remarked at a conference that "Texas is a lot like Ireland and Russia and some other places in that it has a strong tradition of storytellers and story telling." The ability to spin a good yarn is till much valued here to a large degree, so the notion of telling lies for fun and profit doesn't seem all that totally bizarre. I was happily surprised to discover that there's a lot of Texans doing just fine out in that there movie bidness.

Also, being brought up in Texas tends to ingrain in you an appreciation for people who went their own way or who took a risk. Texas was for most of its history a rough and slightly wild place to try and make a life, and that absolutely affected the state's persona and character: many times history is writ by one man refusing to follow everyone else's lead. In the Great Melting Pot, Texans still tend to appreciate their unique history and heritage.

Plus it's just fun to annoy the hell out of all you non-Texans. ;-)

The LOST finale: rage-inducing waste of time or tear-jerkingly awesome?

No idea, no opinion -- I never saw more than 10 seconds of the show, and that was from the first season. I have limited free time, so I tend to not spend it watching series TV, preferring instead to do kid activities (baseball, scouts, cubs, etc) or watch old movies or write. Similarly, I never saw a single moment of the Sopranos, or Deadwood, or 24, or ....

If you have any questions for Brett, leave those suckers in the comments.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Unresolved Lost questions

The Lost finale will begin soon here on the West coast and I am giddy with anticipation. I still remember episodes that flew by over the years, leaving me at once confused, excited and ponderous. Many a time have I gone "NOOOOOOOOOOO!" at the end of an episode out of distress that I had to wait one more week for the next piece of the puzzle.

So in honor of tonight's finale, here are my thoughts in list form.

Moment on Lost that made me bawl my eyes out: Not Penny’s Boat

Moment on Lost that surpasses anything else ever filmed in coolness factor: Mr. Ecko takes out two dudes at once with his giant knife.

Stupidest moment on Lost: The discovery of a hot air balloon and the grave of Henry Gale.

Now, here's some unresolved questions I still have:

WTF was up with the polar bear?
Where did Vincent go?
What exactly were Walt’s superpowers and how come they never actually did anything useful?
Where did all the extras disappear to when the main cast went back in time?
What did the monster have against Greg Grunberg? Or Mr. Ecko? And why didn't it kill more people from the plane crash? I mean seriously, a lot of those people were excellent canon fodder but they didn't get massacred nearly enough.
If everybody who crashes into the island dies or can’t get off the island, how did anybody get off the island to tell Darma about the island?
How come Jacob was invisible to people before he was dead?
Where did the “island natives” come from?
If these thousands of people were on the island and didn't see each other for months, how come the one night Michael decided to take his boat off the island, the cast from Deliverance knew exactly where he'd be? And why did they want Walt so bad in the first place?
How come nobody ever set up a volleyball net on the beach? Or built a sandcastle? Or buried Hurley up to his neck?
Are Evangeline Lilly and Dominic Monaghan still dating?
Why is the light in every human also a giant magnet?
How come so many people kept popping up on the island who never checked to see if the survivors of the plane crash were okay?
Why was Ethan such a dick?
Why was Walt the only kid on the plane? Because I don’t know about you guys but I have never flown anywhere without the adorable companionship of a screaming baby.
Why was Darma still making food drops?
Where is the factory where people make Darma cereal?
Are they hiring?
Why was that one redneck dude the only gay person on the island?

I have a strong suspicion these questions will not be answered tonight.

Goodbye, Lost. I will miss you.

Friday, May 21, 2010


I just want to make one quick point and then I have to get ready for my date.

If you are a man and you plan to write a screenplay where men troll for chicks at a bar, please do not refer to each woman only by her hair color. You give the male characters these thoroughly described appearances and personalities and quirks and clever lines of dialogue while the women are "hot brunettes" who do little more than giggle right before they spread their legs. It is unimaginative and annoying.

Stop it. Stop it right now.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Car Chase

Today's post from Scriptshadow mentioned making your car chase original. I have to thank Carson for that, because it got me thinking about my current project and the car chase set right at the beginning. His point was that we've seen everything under the sun when it comes to car chases so you really have to think of something neat to make yours stand out. He mentioned the chase in Deja Vu.

My favorite car chase is probably from We Own the Night. The movie was okay but not brilliant, but the car chase was spectacular. If you haven't seen the film, Joaquin Phoenix' character is in a car following his dad and he watches the car chase through the rain and fog on his windshield. It's blurry and fast and you only get glimpses of what's going on and when a really dramatic moment comes you - or I did, anyway - physically gasp. I felt the powerlessness the character must have felt.

I had a hard time thinking of other car chases that were super awesome and then I remembered.

Terminator 2. That's all I'm going to say. Terminator 2.

Everybody raves about The Bourne Identity car chase but I just saw that as your standard chase with shakey cam. I guess Bullet was cool when it came out, but I had a hard time getting into it since the movie was not really that interesting up to that point.

So I started thinking about my story and the relationship between my protagonists and, well, I don't really have any original ideas on fancy car maneuvers or any fancy camera tricks, but I do have an interesting relationship going on in the car. Then I realized that's my trick. It's what's going on inside the car that will add a creative element to my car chase. And if it's what's in the car that's cool, I don't even have to show as much of what's outside the car, which means my budget comes down.

So phase one of low budget - awesome part for actor - totally commercial but still clever action chase comedy is complete.

What's your favorite car chase?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Interview with Shawn Granger, comic book person

Today's interview is with Shawn Granger, pictured above, a screenwriter/short filmmaker/former CNN employee who has spent the last few years focusing mainly on comic book publishing. He's optioned a few scripts and plans to write more in the future, but today I wanted to talk to him about his experience in the field of comics since he is the proud CEO of King Tractor Press, an indie comic publisher.

What kind of projects have you worked on?

I eventually put out my first book in 2007, Family Bones. A very popular series, Family Bones is a ten issue mini-series based on the true life story of my aunt and uncle. They were Ray & Faye Copeland, the elderly serial killers caught and convicted in Missouri. I've also released Innocent, Mr. Phelps Space Detective, and Gene Gardens. I also published Devil Water, Alecto: Songbook and Devilfish which were created by other indie creators.

What do you love so much about working on comics?

I got into comics because I love telling stories and I saw comics as a way that I could afford to tell the stories I want to tell. Films are limited by budget, to produce a sci-fi epic like Gene Gardens is way beyond my means. After years of writing unpublished novels or screenplays in turnaround, you may find it refreshing to write a comic and see it in print within a year.

The interesting thing is that I rediscovered how much I love art. I had forgotten that many of the best artists in the last 100 years worked in comic books. I have an art degree; I went to an art college, so you'd think that I wouldn't be surprised by the amazing artists in the comic book field. I still am.

What are your goals for your career?

My first goal is to tell the best story that I can. I'm constantly working on my skills. I want to finish a prose novel that I started, I'd like to write another screenplay this year, and I'm already working on new series of comic books. I am constantly writing, it's what I do. But last year I realized that I haven't been using my art skills in a while; basically I do work with the artists in all my books but that's not the same. I've really gotten excited about webcomics, the fresh, immediate response you get from posting a comic on the web (sometimes before the ink dries) is really cool.

Immediate goals focus on finishing series in the works (Family Bones & Gene Gardens) and start doing my own art more. Wearing an editor hat is different than actually throwing down pencils and inks yourself. A big goal this year has been to do a few short stories that I write and pencil myself. I started a few and hope to have them appear on my website later in the summer. I will continue to work with artists on some books but others I want to do all by my lonesome.

How do you think the process of writing animated material differs from writing live action scripts?

There are a lot of similarities between screenplays and comic book scripts. Actually there is no set-in-stone format for comic book scripts so I use a hybrid of prose and screenplay format. The big difference is that you've got to think of each page even more so than with screenplays. I learned from the great screenplay guru William Martell to always end my script pages with a zinger so that the reader must turn the page. This is even more important with comic books, have a boring page and the person might just drop the comic to the floor. Also you've got to consider how pages go together, consider each pair of pages as a two page spread. How do they look together? Does the story flow between the two pages well? There are a lot of visuals that you’ve got to consider.

We as unpaid screenwriters keep hearing that one great way to break into film is to write a comic and adapt it. Good idea?

If you don't love the medium then it's a bad idea. You can spend a lot of time and money creating a comic book. Then you might just waste a year turning a good screenplay into a crappy comic. You could have spent that year writing another great screenplay that might improve your chances even more. A comic that sucks can actually hurt your chances of seeing it adapted to film. Can it work? Yes, good comics are easy to envision on the screen. A comic book has words & pictures, same with movies. But it must be good, who wants to make a film based on a crappy comic?

The problem is that many new to comics (myself included) don't come out with all guns loaded. It's a different medium and many writers, many well known writers who came from film to comics haven't done so well or didn't find a groove for a while. I had written five unpublished comics before I wrote the first script for a comic that did get published. It's not easy, so for those who don't love comic books themselves then it's a lot of time and money spent with little return.

That said, I think many writers may find that comic books are a great medium to work in. You may find yourself loving it without the reward of a film deal. If you go into a project with that in mind then you may allow yourself to love the process itself and not count on Hollywood to fulfill your dreams. Webcomics are also a great way to get your work out there with a fraction of the cost that actual printed comics will run you. Use one of the webcomic sites and the only cost to you is artist fees, printing is expensive so it’s not a bad idea to cut that out. Plus you can email your webcomic link to anyone for free. If you want the lowest entry cost, webcomics is a much better deal.

If you are looking for riches, fame, & a greenlit film then look elsewhere. If you're open to finding a new love, then definitely jump into comics. It's a very rewarding medium for writers and artists. And for anyone considering writing comics, I recommend going to your local library and check out as many graphic novels as you can. Make a trip to the comic shop. Everyone is somewhat familiar with films and the rules of the genres, but comics not so much. Before you attempt to write a comic please read a few.

What are some comic book adaptations that really work?

That is a hard one. The best comic books based on films aren't adaptations really but extensions to the film's story. The Darkhorse Star Wars & Aliens comic book series are great, all the Star Trek, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, any of BOOM! Disney & Muppet books, Simpsons, Gargoyles (underrated animated series), Dr. Who books, and many others. It seems to work better when they use the film as a jumping off point rather than trying to adapt it.

Good comic to films have been 300, Sin City, Batman series, Watchmen, Road to Perdition, V for Vendetta, Christopher Reeves's Superman, Ghost World, Spider-Man, X-Men, Men In Black, Blade, American Splendor, Persepolis, A History Of Violence, Iron Man, Akira, The Crow, From Hell, Hellboy, Heavy Metal, The Mask, Rocketeer and Jonah, it's not out but I'm sure it's going to be good. Fingers crossed.

Some of the best adaptations of comic books actually have been in animated series. Cartoons have grown up, Batman: The Animated & X-Men TV cartoon series in 1992 really started a trend towards more adult animation centered around good stories. All of the DC and Marvel Animated series in the last 20 years have been pretty decent, some better than others but anything by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm are amazing. The Tick was short lived, but great. Many people didn't realize it was based on a comic book and went back to find a slew of great material to read. The anime boom started kicking in around that time too and people got a chance to see how far you could push the medium. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 series was pretty entertaining and faithful to the comics. It's been a great twenty years.

Are there any comics you wish would be adapted?

I want to see films based on Family Bones, Gene Gardens, Mr Phelps...ahem, but if it wasn't one of my books then I'd love to see Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai, Jeff Smith's BONE would be awesome, Jim Rugg's Street Angel, Union Station (or any others) by Ande Parks, Dave Sim's Cerebus, Concrete by Paul Chadwick, Groo The Wanderer by Sergio Aragonés, or Parker: The Hunter by Darwyn Cooke (novel adaptation of the same name by Richard Stark). Omaha the Cat Dancer would be cool...but would have to be tamed down for NC-17. Others include I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, or maybe it's finally time we could get an animated MAUS by Art Spiegelman. If it was a superhero book then I'd love to see Cadre by Mat Nastos, the humorous version of Justice League International or even a film about Marvel's Alpha Flight. Alpha Flight could have Wolverine in it so it should be pretty popular.

I'm also a big fan of comic strips so a Pogo cartoon would be great, I actually loved the claymation Pogo film from the 80's. More Peanuts animations or possibly a Calvin & Hobbes would be nice. There are so many great comic strip collections coming out that really inspire me, a treasure of possibilities.
That went long, but it’s hard to narrow down such a rich mine of possibilities. It’s hard to choose with so many wonderful books.

Are there any adaptations coming out soon that you’re looking forward to?

The Losers looks great, very excited about Jonah Hex (I'm a big fan of the comic book series and was lucky to get co-creator of Hex, Tony DeZuniga to do the cover for my comic Innocent), The Cape TV series looks interesting, & Scott Pilgrim vs. the World looks fun. If the rumors are true then I'm excited about the upcoming Judge Dredd & Conan films. The biggest shock to me has to be Too Cool To Be Forgotten by Alex Robinson just got picked up and that is an amazing book. It will touch your soul and make you cry.

What do you think is important for writers to remember when they adapt comics?

Write a good story, that's it. Writers shouldn't try to please everyone, you can't. Knowing what the fans are expecting helps you elicit some audience cheers, but don't stick to the comic book's rule book. Check out my list of great comics-to-films, they don't trash the original source but they also don't treat it like a bible. Use what you can and toss the rest. The key is to understand what you are adapting and write a good screenplay that we want to see on the screen. Period.

I neglected the medium of comic books for a long time, not sure why. As Will Eisner said many times, comic books are a perfect blend of prose & pictures. It's a shame that the medium has been over-looked for so long by many Americans, but that seems to be changing. If you want to be inspired, go to your local store and check out some recent comics books or Google webcomics. You won’t believe how good the graphic storytelling medium has become.

If you'd like more information, want links to some great comics, or want to check out what I do you can find me at

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ask me something please

Some weeks I can think of like a bazillion posts I want to make. I have a tendency to go into long diatribes about why I love or hate a particular film and they only end when the Beefcake asks if the dog has gone out to piddle in the last 8 hours. So sometimes I just put all those speeches down here and bam, there's a post.

But then sometimes there's weeks like this where I have no interesting thoughts at all. I'm planning on posting more interviews in the coming weeks - one on a comic book writer is coming soon, I promise - but for today I confess I've had no flashes of brilliance, or even mediocrity.

So for the love of God, somebody ask me a question. About anything.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What I'm up to

After REP insinuated that Burnside may be impossible to take out and I got some helpful notes from a helpful reader who pinpointed something I didn't realize was not quite right with the script, I've decided to put it on a constant backburner. I've never had one of those before but I've always wanted one. I always thought that's what cool writers do - have a script just sitting around for them to work on between other projects. I've always only been interested I'm currently working on or just finished.

So I'm leaving Burnside as a project to work on between projects as I begin working on my next project which I'm super excited about. If I can keep the budget relatively low and do an awesome job writing it, this chase movie could go all the way. I began putting the first sequence together and it's been super easy. I love when it's easy. It won't be easy for long because I'm kind of fuzzy on Act 2, but so far, super easy. And super easy to sell.

I just wish I could think of a title.

Each day when I come home from work I spend 30 minutes working on SOMETHING. Lately it's been one of two projects - the producer's treatment or the treatment for this new chase movie. I try to get one full single-spaced page a day. I'm almost done with the producer's treatment, so then I'll be able to submit it and go to work completely on the chase movie.

In the meantime, I'm continuing to get my friends to agree to interviews. Tomorrow we'll talk comics.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Interview with Ronson Page, writer of stuff

Today's interview is with my friend Ronson Page. In 2003 Ronson was a Nicholl finalist and he's since optioned a few scripts around town. He did this by breaking the one rule I always tell everybody - do not send out your first script. So Ronson here is proof that I know nothing about anything.

Here's what he has to say:

Ronson: I tend to ramble, so I hope y'all brought a snack...

Me:Obviously the first thing everybody wants to know is all about what it was like to be a Nicholl finalist. What was the script that got you there?

The script that landed me in the 2003 Nicholl Finals was THE BONE ORCHARD, a racially-charged mystery-drama. Prolly gonna run the risk of inviting your readers to throw sharp objects at me, but THE BONE ORCHARD was my first feature-length script.

(Okay, I will 'fess up to being a life-long writer... while it really was my first feature screenplay, it wasn't a forehead-of-Zeus kinda thing.)

Was it as dreamy as we all think it is?

Walking into the Academy boardroom was surreal. Not because it looks that much different from any other boardroom -- long table, lots of chairs -- but because the first thing I saw were these small groups of people, the other Finalists and Fellows, plus Greg and a couple of his henchmen, these few folks all talking animatedly, all smiling, and the vibe was just so dang warm and happy. The surreal part was knowing that I was part of that group of people.

Plus, they pay for everything... hotel, airfare, meals. The per diem was insane. I totally did not need that much money each day to eat, though I cheerfully pocketed the extra scratch.

Which came in handy, when I parked in the wrong place, got a ticket AND got my rental towed.

(That part of the trip, not so dreamy, though I did get a wolf whistle from a tranny hooker, whilst I walked the three miles to the dadburn tow place, so there's that.)

What did being a finalist lead to?

Almost three years of not writing a new word. Okay, actually, it was becoming a stay-at-home father to our first child that did that. Still, that's what happened next, and here's why, in part:

I had no other scripts to show.

As I mentioned above, TBO was my first screenplay. And yeah, I should've been working on the next one, right after that May 1 deadline, but the fire that was under my narrow behind after being laid off my straight gig of 8+ years lasted just long enough for me to pound out that screenplay and get it in the mail. I was pondering my job options, when I get a letter in the mail that says I'm a Quarterfinalist.

And the rest of the summer became me doing my best Charlie Brown, waiting under the mailbox to see what (if anything) would happen next.

I have a whole list of Stuff Not To Do, at this point, much of it accumulated right up front. #1... Don't Go In With One Script To Your Name. #2... Don't Hold It Back From Folks Who Want To Read It. #3... Don't Park Where You're Not Supposed To.

Okay, so... about the time I start to feel like I can splinter off a part of my noggin from being a stay-at-home dad back over to being a writer, I get a note from a producer I know who asks me when I'm gonna let him read THE BONE ORCHARD. Well, heck, it's now 2005 or 2006 and I honestly forgot that I'd neglected to send it to him.

(Point of fact, I didn't send it out to ANY of the producers who requested it -- see Stuff Not To Do, #2, above. I had this nutty notion that I'd only send it to the reps who wanted to read it, keep the material fresh, as it were, instead of saturating the town with it. The problem with that strategy, in retrospect, was that I was approaching reps with just the one script, instead of two or three or more -- see Stuff Not To Do, #3. So these potential reps had no idea if I was a fluke or what.)

Anyways, long story short, the producer loved it, optioned it for 12 months, then extended the option for another 18 months, then optioned it for a second time for another 18 months... and I think that option is gonna run out this summer, but he'll likely extend it, once again... they really love the script, but it's a hard one to make (but for all the right reasons, the producer would add.)

How many scripts have you optioned now?

One option, one sale/assignment, and one soon-to-be other option on another script. Which ain't bad... I've only written four scripts, and three will be spoken for.

Any movement on any of them?

Well, THE BONE ORCHARD is still treading water, so that's good. The sale/assignment is for all purposes dead, I think, only because it was a thriller with roots in the Iraq War and I turned it in the same year about 5 or 10 other Iraq War movies came out... and every single one of them tanked at the box office.

Conclusion: nobody wants to see movies related to the Iraq War.

So I don't begrudge the producer not wanting to put the time and money into making it.

Although, there was that recent movie about the unit of bomb dudes in Iraq that got some great reviews and a few Oscar noms, so who knows...

(Crap, I just remembered my protag was also a bomb dude. Wow, that sucks for me. For a moment there, I was thinking the time might be right for my Iraq thriller, but now I'm back to thinking it's dead. Nuts.)

The script that has the action right now is THE RESURRECTIONIST... but it's still in negotiations for the option, so there's not much to say, except that the producers love it (they chased me and that script for over a year) and that they've already got a lead dude from a very popular HBO series attached and he loves the script, so that's all pretty neat.

How much a pain in the ass is all the paperwork with those things?

Lawsey. The paperwork itself isn't too much of a pain for me personally, mostly because I've got a crackerjack SuperLawyer to do most of the reading (though I read it all, some of it is gibberish to me). I just chime in with my thoughts, here and there... "Yes, I'm okay with six weeks on the rewrite... no, I'm not okay with flying coach..."

(Kidding. I'm just happy to be flown, anywhere.)

More importantly, SuperLawyer does all the negotiating and whatnot, but dang if it isn't taking forever to iron it all out. I think this is Month Four of the negotiations. It's all quite polite, in that polite Hollywood style that is usually at least one party forcing a smile when they really want to scream. For a while, I got paranoid when more than a week would pass and I didn't hear anything from anyone, but now I know that's just the way it is...

Everything moves at a snail's pace in HW. In fact, the only thing fast in Hollywood might actually be the snails.

You live in Texas. How has that affected your pursuit?

Right from the get-go, I said that I was gonna stay in Texas. This is where my family is, this is where I've always lived... it's a big part of my voice.

With email and IM and Skype, living outside LA isn't as big a deal as it used to be, but I'll tell you where it still works against me: face time. Unlike LA residents, I can't just pop in for a meeting or run into Summer Glau at Starbuck's (like my friend Bill Martell) or anything of that nature. I wish I could.

I have to rely on the strength of my writing, period. I got nuthin' else.

Well, I do have the cowboy hat. That usually goes over well.

What’s your process like?

I don't have a rigid process, really. I like notecards... got a big honkin' cork board for those. I also like jotting notes and lines of dialogue and random character bits and neat visuals and whatever else on pretty much anything that will hold still. I wish I was in the habit of ONLY using notecards or ONLY using Moleskine notebooks or ONLY using reporter's notebooks -- all of which I use, and more -- but I never seem to have what I want next to me, when I need it. I've always got *something* next to me... just not one thing in particular.

Anyways, I usually start with an idea or a number of unconnected ideas. If it's one idea, then I try to figure out what's cool about it for me, so that when I veer off-track later, I can come back to what was cool and get centered, again. If it's a number of unconnected ideas, those usually marinate in the back of my noggin for a while or I half-consciously shuffle the ideas around like puzzle pieces from different puzzles and then one day, Whoa! Those pieces shouldn't fit together, but damn if they don't.

Once I've got a better grasp on the idea, what the story is going to be about, I start chasing characters and locations. Characters are important, obviously, and those come to me pretty easy, but I've found that I really really REALLY need to have a firm grasp on the Where of my story. I need to see it physically in my head, before I can create the scenes. I don't like to try to bullshit my way through a scene in Downtown Street In Major City or Mountain Village... that just doesn't work for me. If I'm writing Austin, I need to know Austin, not Dallas. If I'm writing Iraq desert, I need that, not New Mexico desert. If I'm writing the middle of Nowhere, California (which I currently am), I need to know what that looks like.

So, for me, idea, then characters and the Where, all jotted down in various notebooks and cards and such. After that, I can start to see the story itself better and I start to build it... scenes come to me, dialogue comes to me... it's just creating and fleshing out the overall story.

At some point in there, once I've sorta reached critical mass, I'll do a fresh batch of notecards, with scenes and act breaks and that sort of thing, get a pretty solid version of the story up on the cork board. Stuff always changes, but what's up on the board at that point is pretty solid.

Then I write.

What’s next for you?

Ha. Well, actually, I'd about decided to stop writing screenplays, simply because the slooooooooooow process of Hollywood was so dang frustrating... I'd taken an idea I'd had for a script and realized it might make for a good novel, so I started studying the narrative form of writing. I'm a voracious reader, but now I was consuming novels and paying particular attention to structure, style, etc.

And just about when I was ready to really lay this idea out on the table... I get a solid option offer on THE RESURRECTIONIST from those producers. File that under "just when I thought I was out..."

Though as it turns out, what with all the time being spent between lawyers and stuff on the option negotiation, I've still got plenty of time to play with the novel.

So, I figure I'll either be writing the novel this summer or rewriting THE R for those producers. Or both.

Long-winded, ain't I? If anyone has a question and isn't afraid of the long-ass answer they might receive, I'd be happy to pony up whatever I have to offer.

Also: buy Harry's CHILD OF FIRE. It really is a great read. :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Interview with Harry Connolly, writer of Child of Fire

For the next few weeks I'm going to interview writers at various stages in their careers. Who are these people, you may ask? People I know and have brow-beaten into letting me pester them with questions. Today's guest is Harry Connolly, the writer of Child of Fire: A Twenty Palaces Novel.

Child of Fire is about Ray, an average every day petty criminal who finds himself working for Annalise, a badass magic-wielding chick who hates him but has enlisted his assistance in hunting down evil magical predators. It's an easy read; I don't really read fantasy novels but I quite enjoyed this one because it reads more like a modern story with contemporary problems, sort of the way Buffy always played it. The book is the first in a series about the Twenty Palaces Society of magical people or something. The second book, Game of Cages, hasn't come out yet so I'm a little vague on what the future holds. Something awesome, I'm sure.

Child of Fire was also named one of Publisher's Weekly's 100 best books of 2009. And right now on Amazon it is available for the amazing price of $7.99. You cannot beat that with a fucking stick.

So now here's Harry to give us a little incite on his experience publishing his first big fancy novel.

What writer's career path would you most like to copy?

I guess I would like to be the Donald Westlake of fantasy. He wrote great books in a variety of styles and tones, had a readership that extends beyond the traditional genre boundaries, enjoyed critical respect, and made truckloads of money.

I don't think I'll ever be as prolific as he was, though.

How does the relationship with your agent work?

My agent is a former editor at Penguin Putnam. When I finish a draft, she sees it before anyone, even before my wife. Just recently I was working on a new project--something unrelated to the Twenty Palaces series--so I sent her the first 40+ pages and some notes on the plot and setting.

She saw right through it to all the problems it had. It's on the back burner now until I come up with a new take.

Not every writer has that sort of relationship with their agent, and some don't want it. Some agents out there see their job as selling, not editing. Me, I'm happy to have her input. She's smart and she knows story.

Child of Fire as a movie - thoughts?

Dear Hollywood, please write me a fat check at your earliest convenience.

In all seriousness, there is a film agent trying to sell film rights, but I'm not involved in that at all. The only thing I asked is that the deal, if it should ever happen, would be one that drove sales of the book. I wanted something that would look impressive in a press release and possibly convince people to give the book a read.

I'm keeping my focus on the book. I tried filmmaking and it's not for me.

However, if people were to ask me (and they wouldn't) I'd say TV would be a better option for these books than movies. The novels are human-centered rather than aimed at big events, and there's an ongoing story of the Twenty Palace Society that would be much stronger if it played out over a season-long arc.

You made an interesting choice creating a male protagonist that is physically weaker than his female counterpart.

Just to be clear, Annalise is supernaturally strong while Ray is a regular guy (mostly). I've written about physically unimposing guys before, but not in this story.

Annalise is Ray's boss and one of the antagonists in the story. Since antagonists are a lot of fun if they are more powerful than the protagonists, she is. I think it works. They maintain an uneasy truce, such as it is, and they have a job to do. He works for and with her, and tries to earn her respect. As the series continues, their relationship is going to grow and change.

Was it a conscious choice to make the woman the more imposing figure? It's something of a flip on conventional gender roles.

Actually, very powerful female characters is a standard of modern urban fantasy and has been for years. All those young women on UF book covers, katana in hand and big ol' tattoo peeping out of the top of their leather pants? Most of them are super-strong and/or have elite demon-killing powers. Buffies, every one (pretty much). So, in the genre, it's not that unusual.

It's a little more unusual to make the low-powered henchling the protagonist, definitely. But the truth is that I didn't plan it. I sorta backed into it.

The first Twenty Palaces story had Annalise as a straight antagonist. She wanted to kill Ray's friend (for good reasons) and Ray tried to prevent it. Enemies! At the end of the book, (in first draft) Ray had done the job for her, and she kills him. Once I realized that readers hate downer endings and publishers love a series, I changed "kills him" to "They Fight Crime!"

But no one wanted that book, for good reasons. So I did the stupid thing and wrote a stand-alone sequel in which Ray was forced to work for a woman could pinch his head off with one hand and who hated his guts. And he's doing work he hated (vigilante murder) but if he tried to ditch her, she'd kill him.

I wish I could say I planned it. Truthfully, like most of my creative choices, I backed into it accidentally.

How did you feel the first time you held a copy of your novel?

Weird. Incredulous. Utterly certain I was going to screw something up.

I know some writers jump around, shout, dance, celebrate, the whole deal. Me, I just felt a tremendous sense of relief. I'd sacrificed so much to pursue my writing--I'd spent so many years getting up early, buying stamps, reading writing advice, the whole thing, all while I had a wife and kid. I'd started to think that I'd wasted the best part of my life.

Being published isn't a vindication, of course. Not really. Things could still go terribly wrong: maybe no one will buy the book. Maybe no one will recommend it to their friends. Maybe something in my personal life will force me to give it all up.

But I know I'm on the right path, at least. That's a huge relief. Now I just have to be careful not to fuck things up.

How has your approach to your material changed since you became a published novelist?

Deadlines change everything. If something doesn't work in a novel, I have to keep working the problem until it's fixed. I can't set things aside and work on another project anymore.

Aside from that, I'll admit to enjoying some extra confidence. I used to approach plot problems with "How would a professional write this scene?" Now I don't have to pretend any more. At the same time, I'm aiming at a very high standard, so I have to be extra hard on myself.

If anyone else has a question about the process of publishing my novel, leave a question in comments. I'll get to them as quickly as I can.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Action Comedy Chase Movie

Okay I'm going to do it for real this time. I've tried and failed and given up many times before, but this time, seriously, I'm going to do it.


It's an action comedy, a chase movie kind of like Thelma and Louise meets Three Days of the Condor but funny. This time I refuse to give up until I've got a script I like because the idea is solid and will stand up to scrutiny as long as I can pull it off.

Every time I've tried to write comedy before I end up killing people and making them sad, and I'm no good with straight up jokes. I can do funny situations, but actual comedic lines elude me. I tried to write a My Name is Earl spec back when I was still attempting television, but after five pages I realized I only had one real joke, and that was something I overheard someone say on the beach once. I abandoned it. Good thing, as it turned out, because two months later they did an episode a lot like my spec.

But this new story idea just begs to be funny. It's one of those stories that is either hilarious or ridiculously sad - there's no in between. People are always telling me to write comedy so I'm going to go for hilarious.

I'm super excited about this idea because aside from being a truly commercial project that my manager likes and could sell if people start buying again, it's also killing two of my greatest desires: write a good comedy script, and write a script where the protagonist is not really a fighter but is thrust into a fighting situation, a la Three Days of the Condor which is one of my very favorite films.

I've gotten so much out of doing this treatment for the producers that I decided to always do a treatment from now on, so at the moment I'm plotting the story for this new chase thing that has no title. I'm thinking about tone, but I can't really think of movies that have the tone I'm going for. Lethal Weapon is close in tone but a little too violent; I'm looking for something heavy on the running away and bickering. My protagonists don't really know anything about guns and they're really annoyed with each other but they have to run together from the bad guys the whole film.

Help me, comedy people. Know any stories like that, either films or screenplays? All I can think of off the top of my head is straight action with a little comedy, not a true action comedy chase movie.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


In the beginning you can write whatever you want, you know? If it sounds good, fuck it. Let those words fly. Don't worry about what's commercial or interesting to other people, just write for you. It doesn't matter because nobody's buying this anyway.

But then you get tired of writing stuff that sucks so you say to yourself, "Self, write something good," and then you do. And so what if it's not the most original idea? And so what if the budget is ridiculously huge in a genre such as zombie films with their tiny little budgets? This script shows what you can do as a writer. Everybody says so.

But people sort of wish you had something a little more original. So you say to yourself, "Self, write something really original. But still good." And you go off an put together such genre twisting elements you're just pleased as punch at the glorious piece you've concocted. Nobody has ever written anything this bold and daring in the action genre, surely the world will be clamoring for your marvelous new script.

Then your manager points out that you have written a martial arts period piece starring a woman in an inter-racial relationship who fights on the side of the Confederacy. Not what the boys are clamoring for on the studio lots. Do you pull it off? Heck yeah. Will anybody buy it? Only if they're super duper awesome. But do you really need a second writing sample? Not really.

So then you say to yourself, "Self, perhaps it's time to write something someone will want to make," and you set to work on that modern-day chase story that can be made for a low budget and a high star power and appeals to everybody. And you hope your manager doesn't give up on you before you finish.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Community has shown us all how it's done

If you are a person who enjoys comedy and you are a person who enjoys action movies you must see the most recent episode of Community. A paintball war breaks out on campus and it is one of the most brilliant half hours of television I have ever seen. It puts all other sitcoms to complete shame.

Jeff, our sarcastic hero, falls asleep in his car and when he wakes up the entire campus is at paintball war. It's a post-apocalyptic zombie movie and Die Hard and Terminator 2 and The Warriors all rolled together and made funny. It's a love letter to action films and it's absolutely perfect.

I think what makes this one episode so especially brilliant is that it pushes the story forward. This neat idea came up - put the whole school into a paintball war - but the writers did it while making sure the relationships among the characters kept moving. Story wasn't forgotten for the sake of a cool gimmick.

So if you haven't seen it, you have to go to Hulu RIGHT NOW. We should all aspire to be this awesome.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Child of Fire is a good book. Here's video proof.

My buddy Harry Connolly wrote two books. They are good. You should read them. Want proof? Check out this fine book trailer. You can't say no to disco bookhead people.

This is totally how I'm going to start advertising my screenplays to film executives.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Chronological thoughts I had while watching this week's episode of Lost on Hulu

Why didn't my DVR record the number two show on my list of shows? (Doctor Who, in case you were wondering) Fuck if I know. It ain't talking because I beat it with a stick for its insolence.

Spoiler Warnings for "The Candidate," obviously.

A plane? Oh for a plane you totally need a pilot. But a submarine, fuck it. My twelve year old nice could pilot that thing blindfolded. It's practically a goddamn Tonka truck.

Actually it would have been awesome if they got on the sub and instead of finding a captain inside they sat there and stared at the controls and Sawyer was all "Does anybody know how to operate this?" and the Hurley piloted them straight to the bottom of the sea and the show ended with everybody drowning. And then Charlie was down there playing "You All Everybody" on an endless loop.

I am proud to confess to two things. I have ALWAYS been with Jack. Even when he made huge ridiculous mistakes I was all about the Jackster. And ever since he smiled that creepy tangerine smile in the pilot episode, I have not trusted John Lock for one fucking second. Granted, this is a fake John Locke, but still. Jack rules. John is a smokemonster.

Hey way to go Sayid, not completely farbotz after all.

I was really rooting for Frank. Poor Frank.

So I guess Jinn doesn't give a shit that he has a daughter who would like a parent, huh? I'd be pissed if the Beefcake died on principal. Really super pissed. And if I was Jinn's kid I'd be like, Thanks Dad, I maybe could have known you but you decided to die because it sounded heroic and shit even though Mom would probably have preferred you live and tell me about her instead of both dying so I don't really have any idea who you are. Why did you guys even have a baby in the first place? I've clearly never been a priority in your lives. And while we're at it, if Mom had stayed here in the states you might both be alive. But cool, now you're at the bottom of the ocean and here I am, another Asian orphan in the foster care system. Way to go. Excellent parenting.

I see no sign of Charlie at the bottom of the ocean. I think that was a lost opportunity.

Terry O'Quinn is proof that sometimes you have to wait a while before you land the job of a lifetime.

I'm not sure the sideways flashes aren't kind of a waste of precious Lost time, but the parts on the island are still awesome. I'm excited for the final showdown.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

In search of the perfect ending

I read a screenplay today that was a really smooth read and a terrific story right up until the last ten pages where it kind of fell apart. I felt the same way about The Losers. It was big steaming gobs of terrific fun until it kind of fell apart at the end by embracing every cliche in the book and losing all sense of character, then sacrificed a satisfactory ending for the sake of a possible sequel.

When I finished my first draft of Burnside everybody hated my ending where I killed my protagonist. But people are just too attached to the rules! I said. Damn the rules! You know what, sometimes no matter how much you want to damn the rules, if the story can't sustain it you shouldn't do it. I kept trying to figure out how to kill her, but in the end I had to let her live. So I let her live really sad.

I went through about four other endings before I finally found one that didn't get boos all around, and I'm still not sure it's a hit. A perfect ending is tough to come by.

What do you think is the best ending ever? After thinking carefully I've decided it's The Terminator. Sarah Connor stares out at the gathering storm in the desert, contemplating her bleak future with her future hero of a son growing in her womb. And as the little Latino kid snaps her picture she thinks of how much she loved Kyle Reese, and that's the very picture he carries in his wallet, wondering what she's thinking every time he looks at it. It's ominous and beautiful and romantic and sweet all at the same time and it moves me every time I think about it. Nobody expects an evil robot time travel movie to be that damn good. And that ending is perfect. I've never thought of an ending so perfect. I hope I will soon.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Burnside pages

Nicholl's Facebook page is posting quotes from reader notes each day. So far they've both been positive. As averse to Scriptshadow's recent foray into reviewing amateur scripts. It's not really surprising that he's gotten some less than stellar work, and it must be a crushing blow to the writers, but it's all part of the learning process. Either they'll pick up and carry on or they'll disappear.

A year ago I would have given him my script as well because fuck it. If it's not ready, hey, free notes and people who will know your name for better or worse. I doubt a negative review at this stage would impact your career long term. And if it's good, hey, free exposure at just the right time. The downside is if Carson is totally off base in his review, which is possible. I disagree with him completely on at least one of my favorite specs over the years. But in the end if we remember that it's just one man's opinion and they all volunteered, we should get through this okay.

I did not submit my script because at this point there's no benefit. I have representation and I'm not too sure how much that rep would like me putting my script up to review for the public.

In the meantime, though, I thought I'd post the opening sequence to my current script just for shits and giggles. Posting the whole thing is not a good idea, but a bit can't hurt. I skipped over the first scene heading because although I'm giving a lot away, I'm not giving EVERYTHING away. Just know it's a town.


The room is filled with boxes marked with the Union insignia and the word "Ammunition" along with warnings not to get near fire. The HOODED FIGURE kneels in front of a set of those boxes and pulls out and turns over a flask. Powder falls from it onto the boxes. The Hooded Figure pours it into a trail that leads to the center of the room.

A lit match. A spark. Fire.


The Hooded Figure slips down the wall at the moment Union Soldier rounds the corner. The soldier hesitates.

The hooded figure doesn't. One kick.

The gun flies up.

The Hooded Figure rushes forward and darts a finger one, two, three different spots on his body. Soldier paralyzed.


Figure pokes him one more time, then pushes him over, helpless and silent on the ground.

Smoke starts to rise from the warehouse. The Hooded Figure starts to jog away, then turns back. The Soldier lies prone on the ground next to the smoky building.

The Hooded Figure trots back, then grabs the Soldier and drags him toward the waterfront, out of harm's way.

The Hooded Figure runs back toward town, but on rounding the warehouse comes face to face with THREE UNION SOLDIERS responding to their comrade's cry.

A few black heads poke out of tents to see the uproar.

The Hooded Figure blurs in action:

Running up the wall of a house-

Spinning off the aged brick-

Landing a hard kick on a soldier's head, which rocks his brain and knocks him right out.

Oh God, it's a Chinese!

Indeed, a Chinese style, black slipper-clad foot connects with his face.

Shaken, he tries to aim his gun at the blurry black Figure, as does his companion, but they don't stand a chance.


Union Soldier shakes himself loose of his paralysis and looks at the warehouse, now slightly on fire. He rushes to the harbor and grabs a bucket sitting on a dock. He fills it with water, then runs to the building.

He throws the bucket up and


The building explodes, blowing his charred body back a few feet.


The soldiers still attempting to fight The Hooded Figure turn with surprise and dodge a piece of shrapnel or two. The Hooded Figure uses this opportunity to slip away, bounding between buildings. Gone, like a Ninja.

The soldiers run to the burning building, but must jump back when another box of ammo explodes. The flames lick up into the night sky over what was a sleepy little town.

Black folks in nightgowns poke their heads out of doors all down the street.


The Hooded Figure creeps up to a largeish house that is well kept and expensive. The Figure Jackie Chans up the wall to a window on the second floor.

Monday, May 03, 2010

So it turns out, Eraser isn't very good.

It would seem Nightmare on Elm Street made some money despite being one of the worst reviewed films of the year.

It kind of make sense. I was talking to the Beefcake about this just the other day. Eraser came on, and I remember watching it as a teenager and thinking that movie was awesome. Explosions, conspiracies, Arnold saying cool stuff and using an X-ray gun that goes "BEEPBEEPBEEP!" while it focuses its X-ray laser lens and James Caan getting erased by a big shipping container that explodes on his head. AWESOME.

But when I watched it the other day as an adult, and it turns out that movie is terrible. Like really really terrible.

I don't know if it's because I'm getting older so my taste is getting more sophisticated or because I know what a story should be like and can see all the flaws before me. But then I remember how much I enjoy explosions and I'm thinking it has nothing to do with taste.

So if we used to like a movie before we knew it was supposed to suck, was ignorance truly bliss? Was I a happier girl back when I thought that movie was cool? I don't know. I do know that I officially consider Kindergarten Cop my second favorite Arnold film. If I watch it again, will I hate it now? Will that line about the tumor no longer be funny? Do I want to ruin films I used to adore by watching them with my critical eye? So many questions, so much crushed youthful bliss.