New Things

So, this writer now lives in Phoenix, Arizona. It is definitely better for sanity than Seattle.

A couple of movie ideas that have been floating around in my mind:

1. A zombie movie based loosely on Dante's Inferno
2. Something to do with my childhood. When I played baseball with my friends in the backyard, the oak tree was designated as first base, the rock was second base, and the pot plant was third base.
3. I think it would be great to write something about people who fall into a bundle of illegal money and have to figure out how to smuggle it out of the country. How would YOU do this? How do you get fake passports/make it work/survive without any experience or connections?


I Tweet

I just signed up for this twitter thing @shouldvesaid. It's not really about screenwriting, but in the future, someone may say something about screenwriting... I don't know though-- they haven't not said it yet.


Cole Screens and Goes VOD

From the press release:

COLE: Opens at Tinseltown, Vancouver, Friday September 17th, 2010.
Special screenings Saturday September 18th, 2010 with Director Carl Bessai and lead actor Richard de Klerk along with other cast in attendance.
Watch for screening times

COLE will open in Edmonton, Friday, October 14th, 2010 with Director – Carl Bessai and Richard de Klerk in attendance for evening screening Saturday, October 15th, 2010

This Canadian theatrical release caps off COLE’s fantastic international festival run starting in September, 2009 with its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It went on to play numerous festivals across Canada and Internationally in Pusan, Korea and the Moscow International Film Festival where it took a “Special mention by the Film Critics Jury.”

Rampart Films has been privileged to work with a great sales agent over the past year: Andrew Herwitz, President, The Film Sales Company, New York. As a result, COLE has been licensed to IFC’s Sundance Selects and will be available on VOD to over 50 million subscribers across the US, starting September 15th, 2010.



Cole Has Laurels

You know those fancy leaves movie poster get for film festival screenings? Well, to borrow from Vince Vaughn, our movie is all grows up, baby. Check out the laurels.

Read more about Cole's success on the Festival circuit here. Be sure to like Cole on Facebook to follow more updates.


A Great Moment in Mad Men (Re)Writing

I've been out of the loop for the past couple of weeks working on a rewrite for Northbridge (a murder mystery set on Lake Superior). The biggest problem I was dealing with was how to connect the beginning of the script's climax--the point where the protagonist finally puts the pieces together--to fit the plot we have so intricately put together.

Our goal with the scene was to be able to tell it without overkill exposition ("You did it because you felt this way!"), and hopefully get the point across without any dialogue at all (the "ah ha!" where the lady next to you will say, "Oh, shit, didn't see that one coming.")

But I couldn't find a solution... until I re-read the script. A visual in one our first scenes is a metaphor for the secrets being kept in this small town, and I realized that this visual could be applied to the "ah-ha!" moment that leads us to the climax. It's a classic "call back" to what the audience has already seen, but adds another layer (hopefully) to the overall impact of the moment.

To get into specifics (which I've failed at so far), the first episode of Mad Men Season 4 does a brilliant job at this:

After her Sugarberry Ham PR stunt blows up, Peggy shows up at Don's door with her "finance" by her side. Peggy explains her predicament, Don scolds her, and then her "finance" interjects. Don puts him down, Peggy stands up for him, and Don says (paraphrasing), "You shouldn't have brought him if you didn't want to get him involved."

A great moment. A great Don Draper line.

Later in the episode, Don brings his kids back to Betty's (his) house and waits for her to come home with her new husband Henry. When she shows up an hour late, Don gives Betty the option of talking with him alone. She declines, and asks Henry to stay. And while none of the characters say it, this creates a corollary: Betty knows Don and knows she is getting Henry involved. Betty, like Peggy, will not take Don on by her lonesome.

My best guess is that this corollary came about during the Mad Men writers meetings. Matt Weiner is a great writer, but it is from my experience that these great moments (epiphanies!) are realized after the first draft is out there. Weiner has an excellent staff and I bet they helped fill in the beats-- connect as much as you can in your script-- what you have in the beginning will let you call back what you have already laid out.

But it could be he had everything planned out. Never underestimate a man with a contract.

Creating corollaries? Why is this good? Callbacks. Just like jokes, plot points that repeat themselves in different ways will hook your audience and remind them why they love your story.


The Black Hole in the Kitchen

Here it is, the full short film version of "The Black Hole in the Kitchen." Kudos to Elliot for being such a fine director, and to the actors and crew-- it's always amazing to have talented folks make my words into something better than they have any right to become.

I hope you viewers enjoy the melodrama...

The Black Hole in the Kitchen from Elliot Eustis on Vimeo.


Mike McLaughlin talks about his greatness

Check out this interview with Mike McLaughlin, superb director of two of my short films.

I have no doubt he will kill at the Much Music Awards. Watch his nominated video below. I like it.

Cole at the Leos

Congratulations to Chad Willett for picking up the Leo Award for Best Supporting Actor last Saturday. Read about the festivities here.

Also, big ups to Cole's 'b' camera operator Steven Deneault whose short film "The Gray Matter" won a whole boatload of awards.

Thank you to the whole Cole family for being so damn awesome.


Adventures with Zissou on my mind

I have added a link to my email on the left hand side of this little blogspot. Please let me know if you know of any place in Seattle to get good chicken wings. I searched all of the restaurant reviews on the interweb and the top result was a resounding "none." You can also contact me if you have questions about screenwriting or anything else that might be on your mind.

Off to the Leo Awards tonight and then script meetings tomorrow... In the words of the great Steve Zissou, "This is an adventure."


Cole Nominated for 10 Leos

The Leo Award (British Columbia's film and TV awards) have given Cole 10 nominations! Congratulations to Richard, Kandyse, Rebecca, Sonja, Chad, Carl, Mark, Clinton, Irene, Jason, Kimani & Dylan for your nominations... And congratulations to all of us for the Best Picture nomination. Woot!

Read list of Leo nominees here.


The Black Hole in the Kitchen

Four years ago I wrote a short script called 'The Black Hole in the Kitchen" that was performed at the Cold Reading Series in Vancouver. It was the first time in my life that something I had written was performed by other people-- the rush of seeing it live made me realize that being a real writer might actually be possible.

Elliot Eustis, my friend since we were 8 years old (ask us about our first short we filmed when we were 14: "Huntin' City Folk"), just handed me the finished DVD for "The Black Hole in the Kitchen" and I couldn't be more proud. Look for it soon at a film festival near you.



I just wanted to pass along a link to Triggerstreet.com in case any writers (screenwriters or otherwise) have not heard about it... for some reason, it's tough to find on a Google search when looking for peer reviews:

Triggerstreet.com is a fantastic site to post your screenplays and other writings. It's a peer review site where you review randomly selected scripts and in turn, your script is randomly reviewed. There are a few other sites like Triggerstreet out there, but if you're looking for a wide variety of honest feedback (for free) this is the site.

Happy writing (and reviewing).


Shawshank: A Scene of Hope

So I'm trying something a little different tonight. I'm about halfway through a new feature script, about to start a spec short for the brilliant Mike McLaughlin, director of my short film "Sleepless," and felt like I was getting into a rut...

I needed hope. I needed some Johnny Cash and the Shawshank Redemption. I listened to Walk the Line and then remembered that I had written a script at VFS supposing that Shawshank needed another scene. The assignment? Hope and nothing but. I dug up the scene and that is posted below in the *hope* that inspiration springs eternal.

A disclaimer here that these pages are now four years old and that I was not really a co-writer on probably the best movie of the '90s.

Shaw Shank


Movies I Wish I Had Time to Write

It took 3.8 years from writing the first page of Cole and to its took to premier in Toronto. I supposed that timeframe is pretty normal (unless you are Carl Bessai, who is a creative-talent-driven-filmmaking-maniac, which is the biggest compliment I can think of at the moment), and usually it takes even longer from idea conception to big screen showcase. Take Deathbed: The Bed Who Eats for example. It was shot in Detroit in 1973 and didn't have its official release until 2003...

Anyway, that being said, here is a brief list of movies I would love to write, but probably will never have the time to finish:

1. Something about astronauts.

NASA astronauts mainly just sit around the office, attend meeting after endless meeting, and give talks to local elementary schools. There's got to be a movie in there somewhere, maybe a Jarhead meets Bad Santa pic?

My favorite movie astronauts: Sam Rockwell in Moon, Dave in 2001, and the entire cast from Danny Boyle's Sunshine (which is an amazing film definitely worth Netflixing).

2. A movie about making movies.

I would love to try this, but don't know if I know enough about the process yet. I think a movie about a film school student or fresh out of film school director trying to make a (short) film about zombies would be great. Or... what about a movie the guy who does trailer voiceovers?

My favorites movies about making movies: Adaptation, State and Main, 8 1/2
My favorite trailers: A Serious Man (seriously, that thing is a masterpiece... the movie is pretty boss too), Where the Wild Things Are, Deathbed: The Bed Who Eats

3. A movie about a supervillain

So we've all seen Spiderman, Batman, and Superman, but what about a feature film dedicated to the rise and fall of Electro or Bizarro Superman? How interesting would their stories be, and how fun would it be to try and make the audience fall in love with an eventual supervillain?

My favorite supervillains: Can't beat Heath and/or Jack's Jokers.


Starting a New Script

So I actually made the bold move of plotting out notecards on a corkboard today to outline a new script idea. Starting a new project is like embarking on a survival mission, a mssion that require a lot of puzzle pieces to fit into place. From my limited experience, here is what you need when you begin work on creating a screenplay:

  • A good idea.
  • A great story.
  • Better characters.

When you have those in order, you can go from the meta to the concrete:

  1. A corkboard.
  2. A stack of notecards.
  3. Thumbtacks.
  4. Pens of three different colors.
  5. A pot of Silver Cup Coffee.
  6. A six pack of a microbrew in the fridge.
  7. An ipod with a playlist of about 300 background songs which will bring out some kind of empathy/emotion while you work (for me, a huge mix includes, but is not limited to, Chad Van Gaalen, Leonard Cohen, La Roux, Explosions in the Sky, and Al Green).
  8. A copy of Blake Snyder's Save the Cat on hand.
  9. An inspirational photo/poster on the wall (for me, Bo Jackson circa 1988 hitting a home run).
  10. A quick link to the Hero's Journey wikipedia page.
  11. Good luck.


Can Anyone Translate This?