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(OPM) Other People’s Money & The Need Therein
Oct 22nd, 2014 by paul peditto

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My good friend Colin Costello, a former Chicagoan who moved to Los Angeles, recently wrote an article about the how a writer needs to be in Los Angeles to be a professional. I asked Colin to define his terms—if, by professional, he means in the strictest sense someone getting paid to practice the art of screenwriting—then sure, L.A. is where the money and infrastructure is. The six TV shows shooting in Chicago right now employ reams of local actors and crew, but the production $$$ making this happen isn’t homegrown. It ain’t coming from Oz, either. These are L.A.-based production companies cashing in on Chicago’s great production resources, locations, and that soft money 30% tax incentive.

Sure, the established Writer’s Guild writer going the traditional route of agencies, pitching, and assignment work would have to be in Los Angeles. But if he thinks that the only way to make it, then I’m willing to debate him any day of the week.

You do not have to be in Los Angeles to make your movie.

hollywood_sign_kWhich might lead to the broader question of what “making it” even means.

I never used to write with budget in mind. I had stuff to say, I went about saying it. I knew I was a writer because I was going to write, with or without a payoff. Back in those days it was poetry and plays. The only thing complicated was attempting to pay the bills as a horse-and-carriage driver, a vibrating pillow salesman or even working the graveyard shift at the porno bookstore (Screenwriter Tip: If you take a gig at a porno bookstore to try to write your play in peace, don’t pick the graveyard shift. That’s the busiest shift by far. You’ll want to go morning shift. Write that down.)

Writing plays for non-equity Chicago theater companies, you don’t think about stupid shit like niche or budget or audience. You’ve got the paper-pirate Ar-tist hat on sideways and none of that other bullshit matters.

In a perfect world writers would write the scripts they need to write. Writing with that passion would result in a better script, maybe even a great script. This would garner a great placing at Inktip or Black List and attract the A-List producers who comb online websites for the next big thing. Or maybe it makes semifinals at Nicholl Fellowship and bags you a manager. The script would then be sent on to Jeremy Renner’s production company where you would sign a 6-figure deal, watch major talent attached and the movie make 50 million. You would then be part of the Writer’s Guild, take meetings, pitch and do assignment work.

In a perfect world…

filmspeed-74785-1You’ll tell me there are dozens of writers who have been signed off Black List and writers XY and Z who have gone on to make AB and C from such humble spec roots. It’s likely the craps dealer in me that wants to point out that for every writer you can name with a magical spec script story, I could certainly point to a thousand whose dreams did work out quite as well. That Bukowski line about the American Dream, and how the mythology tells us we can all be big-ass winners, while ignoring LOTS of folks in the gutter who never got a taste of the dream.

Great Peditto, so you’re saying stop dreaming? Don’t let rip? Don’t pour out your original and dazzling and passionate ideas?

Nope. I’m saying know thyself…and your project.

By ignoring budget and shooting for the stars you pretty much guarantee needing other people’s money. This guarantees the need of L.A. and the entire L.A. mechanism.

Sure, you might bag a producer off Black List who will option the script and ask you for budgetary changes. It happens.

It also doesn’t happen. Everybody writes the best story they can write. Everybody gives it their all. Everyone dreams of that glittering prize of a writing future you’ve got in mind.

If you’re doing assignment work for an Indie producer or Studio writing within their budget is mandatory. Chances are you won’t have reached this stage without full conception of what your words cost. If they’re budgeted at 5 million and you hand over a 50 million dollar rewrite, they won’t be able to use it, and won’t be happy with you, at all.

Writing the spec script is different. If you feel you need 100 million to tell the tale, go ahead and write it. Just understand that the list of folks who can actually make your flick just got narrowed by the necessity of find 100+ million.

Needing other people’s money, by definition, cedes power to them. It’s why you should consider writing with budget in mind.

From here on in, I will.

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Micro-Budget Screenwriting-The First 5 Pages- An Analysis
Oct 15th, 2014 by paul peditto

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Good Reader, I have an apology. I write endlessly about Chat, the damn micro-budget I made last year, because I’m a multitasker. Yeah, I have to fill space at Script Gods. But the good folks at Self-Counsel Press agreed to publish my micro-budget filmmaking book Surviving Outside Hollywood (Life Lessons For The D.I.Y. Filmmaker) so a lot of these posts will go there too. Apologies for the navel gazing…

I’m hoping today’s post helps your own process of writing the first 5 pages of your screenplay. Whether micro-budget or a Studio movie, the first 5 is valuable real estate. You’ve got to nail it or risk losing the reader/audience.

Today we’ll look at the first draft of my script for Chat, and then compare it against what actually became the movie.

Remember that famous expression about movie (I believe attributed to Fellini?) There is the movie you write, the movie you make, and the movie you edit and that the public comes to know as THE movie. But the script you write and film you end up with can be very different sometimes.

All scripts should do four things these first 5 pages: 1-Establish the POV character (protagonist) 2-Establish the Tone 3-Establish the World 4-Establish the beginnings of Conflict.

So, here are the first five pages of CHAT, and the changes that happened(in bold):005

FADE IN:

INT. CHAT OFFICE HALLWAY- NIGHT (PRESENT DAY)
Floating, down a fluorescent nightmare. A long, narrow corridor leads toward a bathroom door. The door opens wide…WHITE OUT.

This was filmed and presented at the top as is up to the rough cut. The audience feedback we got showed confusion on this opening so it was swapped out for a shot of Falcon, our protagonist, in the same chat office hallway right at the top. Less confusing and more evocative. It also sets up the creepy tone we want, the lead character, and the world in a single 10 second shot.

This is also the first of MANY times I disagreed with the director Boris Wexler. I came up with a new opening that reached more into Falcon’s mind, that was not as literal, that flashed images at the audience and took a piece of a monologue from a future scene and put it right here, right off the bat. Boris preferred his new open, and with directorial “discretion” and diplomatic balm, basically told me we were doing it his way.

INT. FALCON’S DARK ROOM- DAYs
FALCON, 45, eyes open and ringed red, disturbingly fucked up.Dimmer switch at a 5 watt flicker. Falcon lays back and listens to a WOMAN’S VOICE.

WOMAN’S VOICE
Always the falling, bottomless, silent body, spirit at dawn, dawn on nightmare.

This was filmed as is, but moved.

INT. FALCON’S APARTMENT- DAY
Dim world. Fifteen watt lightbulbs, pitched blue. Well-kept home of a scientist– doctorate diploma, honors and awards framed in glass, library of science manuals and biochemistry books– genius stuff.

RAPID SHOTS – FALCON
Peeking out from blinds, drawing them closed fast.
Expertly inserting a set of contacts. The tray with six other pairs of contacts from strong to extreme light protection.Falcon in the medicine cabinet, pops open a large 500 count bottle of Xanax. Knocking the Xanax down with one- two- three cups of espresso. Frail, hair uncut or combed, Falcon nervously dresses in a suit and tie, readying himself.

This was also filmed as is. It establishes Falcon as a scientist, but also as a man with suffers from photophobia, a disease of the cornea. This is a man who can’t handle light, and shuts himself in as a result.008

EXT. FALCON’S APARTMENT- LATER
Falcon emerges, holding a large wreath, staring up at the sun. He places powerful protective sunglasses over the contacts, stepping into light.

EXT. STREET- CONTINUOUS
Alien landscape, cars and people move very fast, dizzying. A crying child, a jackhammer at a construction site, the screaming of an EMT van passing with cherry lights blazing. All these exaggerated, hypersensitive for Falcon, who walks with wreath toward…

EXT. CEMETERY- LATER
Falcon bends, laying the wreath again a newly dug stone. He stands back to observe the wreath, the stone, the empty cemetery.

EXT. CHAT OFFICE BUILDING- LATER
Falcon looks up at a piece of paper with scrawled writing, then at a nondescript commercial building. He moves inside.

INT. ELEVATOR- CONTINUOUS
Yellow floor numbers pass, reflecting off Falcon’s sunglasses, an inexorable rise.

All these scene were shot as is and open the movie exactly as described. This takes us through about the first 2 minutes of the movie. Boris felt with good pace. For me, I felt, and still feel, we could have trimmed time off here. But so far, no major changes.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Playwright as Screenwriter: David Mamet
Oct 7th, 2014 by paul peditto

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From Merriam-Webster:

icon

noun \??-?kän\

computers : a small picture on a computer screen that represents a program or function

: a person who is very successful and admired

: a widely known symbol

Gotta be lonely, being an icon. Genius is defined by its very absence in every day life. You know you’re in the presence of genius because of its rarity. You know it when you see it.

See more at my Script Magazine article.

Screenwriting & Mortality
Oct 1st, 2014 by paul peditto

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  • ·         GENE PALMA

Gene Palma was the street drummer in Taxi Driver. C’mon, you remember him…

 

When it came time to shoot Jane Doe, I wanted him bad for the movie. I tracked him down to the St. Francis Residence. To call St. Francis a roominghouse would be lying. This was beyond stew bum. This was the checkout joint—where they force the door open and find your dead body, a week late on rent no more. No relatives, no funeral words or sendoff, a pauper’s grave. The last lousy deal in a lifetime of lousy deals.

So, I found him. Knock on his door. It opens, barely a crack. “Gene… it’s Paul Peditto. I’m the guy from the movie.” He didn’t understand.”No,” he mumbled, “I…no…” “Gene, we talked.” It took awhile to get through to him. Gene stood before me in purple-tinged hair, uncombed Roy Orbison sideburns and spotted shorts. I tucked a couple bucks into his palm. This seemed to help his comprehension. I told him I hoped he could do a cameo. We’d be shooting in the meatmarket district, tomorrow. “Please, come down.” Christ knew if he’d show up.

Next day, he appears. I introduce him all around. Not a person knows or remembers him. This was a reknowned artist in his own right, long before his Taxi Driver fame. So we shot the scene. Our protaganist Horace shuffles along the meatmarket district, the landscape mostly depopulated, only Gene and his greased back purple-tinged hair, passes him. We did the scene twice, in the can unremarkably. Pretty forgetable moment, actually, unless you knew that the extra guy Horace was passing was a legend.

He walked off, completely anonymous, that day. And died shortly after.

I was honored to meet him.

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  • ·         CHARLES BUKOWSKI

Charles Bukowski was my friend. Only met him once, at a National Public Radio performance of the play I adapted of his work, Buk, The Life and Times Of Charles Bukowski. This was 1992 and he had seen better days. He was gimpy, slow moving, in and out of poor health. He was still an imposing hulk of a man though, and when he cried during the performance, that was as good as it got for me. We corresponded for two years and some of those letters appear in his third letters book, Reach For The Sun. When he died in 1994 I went out to Los Angeles to pay tribute. He was buried in San Pedro and when I got out there, I found a simple plot. Certainly not the Jim Morrison Pere Lachaise cemetery plot covered with joints and wine bottles, graffiti declaring, “You were the Lizard King!” No, this was more…literary. This wasn’t a rock’n’roller resting here, but a poet. He had a clean, simple tombstone, that looks like this:

bukowskicharles

Don’t Try. I couldn’t figure out what that epitaph meant. Even driving back, I puzzled—what’s that mean? From the horse’s mouth came this excerpt from openculture.com:

 “In October 1963, Bukowski recounted in a letter to John William Corrington how someone once asked him, “What do you do? How do you write, create?” To which, he replied: “You don’t try. That’s very important: ‘not’ to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It’s like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks you make a pet out of it.”

So, the key to life and art, it’s all about persistence? Patience? Timing? Waiting for your moment? Yes, but not just that.

Jumping forward to 1990, Bukowski sent a letter to his friend William Packard and reminded him: “We work too hard. We try too hard. Don’t try. Don’t work. It’s there. It’s been looking right at us, aching to kick out of the closed womb. There’s been too much direction. It’s all free, we needn’t be told.” 

bukowski

Right now you’re asking what the fuck any of this has to do with screenwriting. Just hold onto your ADHD balls, and I’ll tell you.

My thinking is that it means: Perspective. Perspective from the grave. Understanding that NOTHING is as important as we make it out to be—in the light of death.

When I think about so many of my students placing SOOO much importance, for instance, on screenwriting contests placings–it saddens me. A scam has been perpetrated. I can assure you, folks, placing Quarterfinals at the Page Awards, or Nicholl Fellowship, or Austin, in the grand, cosmic scheme, means fuck all.

What is this desperation all about anyhow? Have you ever stopped to ask why it’s so important that you make your movie? Movies are about illusion. How many movies from 1914 have you watched lately? What makes you think you’ll be one of the miniscule few who survives one hundred years from now? Why is that so important that you that you will do whatever it takes to make it happen, including burning your here and now present tense? Is legacy worth it?

Which brings us back to Bukowski. Maybe it’s time to step off, to gain some perspective on your commitment to to proposition of movie-making.

DON’T TRY.

 bu_la_drawing

How To Raise $25,000 On Kickstarter
Sep 23rd, 2014 by paul peditto

kickstarter-logo-k-color

Today we’ll continue on with our Kickstarter-theme, trying to help you, Good Reader, find that micro-budget dough so you can join the ranks of Joss Whedon in making micro-budget films.

Previously we talked about the Main Copy, and what it had to accomplish. Remember, the Kickstarter campaign needs to have:

  • Main Copy
  • Perks
  • Video Script(s)
  • Individual email to every human being you’ve ever known
  • Follow up materials

These are the materials that helped us raise $25,000. Here’s hoping it helps you raise a few coins toward your own enterprise….

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  • PERKS

Should be apropos of the movie you’re making. Funny if you’re making a comedy. Cyber-sex-themed if you’re making a flick, like we were, set in a online XXX chat room. You’ve got to use your imagination when thinking up gifts. You want cool gifts, not just the standard t-shirt and DVD. And while we didn’t have the money clip that Robert DeNiro gave him on the set of Taxi Driver (a Paul Schrader gift for The Canyons Kickstarter campaign) we did let the donator of $750 bucks name the mouse character in Chat. Yeah, it wouldn’t have been great if they named him Mickey, but for 750 clams, we truly didn’t give a s&^%!

Here are the perks:

$5
BAD KITTY

Little Orphan Annie and her sexy cam model friends will welcome you to the world of chat by posting your name on Facebook/twitter, and on the donor sections of our upcoming website.

$10
ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES

Get a private link for an exclusive look at a scene from the movie Chat. Disclaimer: Annie will not be baking blueberry muffins or strawberry shortcake.

$20
HEELS, PEARLS, AND BLACK BOOTS

Get everything listed above, plus a free download of an HD digital copy of the finished film.

$25
LATEX AND LACE

Everything listed above, plus access to exclusive behind the scenes footage as we make the film.

$50
RUBY RED LIPSTICK

All of the above in addition to a DVD of the finished film, an awesomely designed t-shirt and a signed 11×17 film poster.

$75
VICTORIA’S SECRET

A gift for the writers out there…

All of the above, get blu ray instead of a DVD plus everything listed above and a signed copy of the script, including script coverage from the writer, Paul Peditto.

$100
VOULEZ VOUS?

Born in France, Annie will whisper sweet nothings from the language of love in your ear with a personalized voice message. {THE $100 PACKAGE} also includes a “Thank You” credit in the film’s ending credits and on IMDb

$250 (only 3 slots available)

BLACK SILK PANTIES

A prop will be sent your way. ‘Nuf said.
(or)
Not sure what prop you’ll be sent, but it’ll come in a brown paper wrapper.

Get the {$100 PACKAGE} plus to two tickets to the premiere, a photo with the director, and a very cool prop used in the making of the film after production is wrapped.

$250
THE CAT’S MEOW

A purrfect package for the writers of crazed, kick-ass thrillers…

This is the {$100 PACKAGE} plus to two tickets to the premiere, a signed photo with the director (if you attend the premiere) and a private, one hour script consultation with Paul Peditto.

th3$500
ODE TO A GRECIAN URN
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever”–John Keats

We send you a private custom video from Annie. Side effects of watching this video includes giant fucking boners, carpel tunnel syndrome, seizures, dry swelling tongue, blindness, blisters, hives, unemployment and the munchies.

Get the {$250 PACKAGE} plus a 24×36 high gloss poster of the film signed by key cast and crew, and a private film production consultation with Boris Wexler. It also includes a private custom video from Annie.

$750 (1 slot available)
MICKEY MOUSE, HE’S NOT

That’s right, you get to name a character!—the one and only pet mouse of our lead character Falcon!

This is the {$500 PACKAGE} plus a 30s private custom video from Annie, a 24×36 high gloss poster of the film signed by key cast and crew, and the opportunity to name the infamous pet mouse of our main character.

$750
NAUGHTY, NAUGHTY!

Imagine your Dad wandering the halls of our online adult chat set! Give back for him putting you through college!

Get the {$500 PACKAGE} plus four tickets to the movie’s premiere, a featured extra spot in the film for you or someone of your choice (transportation/lodging not included).

$1000
BITCHIN’, AWESOME, AND RAD

You’ll be the after-party sensation…

This is the {$750 PACKAGE} plus 10 tickets to the movie’s premiere and after party and one day of unlimited set access(transportation/lodging not included).

$1500
ANGEL FROM HEAVEN

A shimmering moon or five-color sunset is beautiful, but not more beautiful than Chat Goddess Annie, and you’re having dinner with her!

Get the {$1K PACKAGE} plus a private dinner with a lead cast member, the director or the producer, or all of the above! (Transportation/lodging not included))

$2500
CAMAGEDDON!

Your name echoing across the digital divide.

You’ll get the {$1.5K PACKAGE} plus an Associate Producer credit on screen and IMDb, including an all access set VIP pass and 20 tickets to the movie’s premiere.

$5000
WALL OF FAME LEGEND

Official OH SHIT status. Become an instant legend of D.I.Y filmmaking.

This is the {AP PACKAGE} plus the Executive producer head credit on screen and IMDb (instead of AP credit), plus you’ll be able to view and critique preliminary cuts of the film.

$7,500
WALL OF FAME GOD

Your name on top of our Wall of Fame… forever!

This ultimate package is the {$EP PACKAGE} plus a private screening of the film in your city organized for you in a theater with two key members of the production attending.

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  • KICKSTARTER SCRIPT(S)

The script for CHAT was actually two parts. The first was written as a direct address for our lead actress right into the camera– Chat Cam-Style. I thought it made sense considering the material, and put the viewers right in the voyeuristic shoes of our lead character.

KICKSTARTER SCRIPT: (ANNIE starts the timer)
I’m going to set the timer once. 60 seconds… Want to talk? We’ll talk, or I will. You should never have come in here. Party chat with the sex monsters. Want to talk in private? Ah, we can do that. All the naughty stuff happens in private. 40 seconds…
(Taking the camera in hand, she moves it POV-style, leaning back, incredible flexibility)
I’ve got something for you. Some goodies, from me to you. Pictures, a personal video, a sneak peek into my world. But there’s something you can do for me first. 20 seconds. There’s a special, steamy, sexy guest I want you to meet. He’s going to tell you how we can meet. 10 seconds. I want to see you, in Private, inside. Let’s make it happen. Here we go.

The second part was the speech of director Boris Wexler, direct to camera. Sincere, passionate, competent…sell the damn toothpaste, Boris!

Hi, I’m Boris Wexler, the director of CHAT. I’ve been working on this project for a year now with my writing and producing partner Paul Peditto. It’s something we’re excited about. Something we think is kind of unique.

CHAT is the story of a father searching for his daughter who disappears in the world of cyber chat. He has photophobia, an eye disease which distorts what he sees. Problem is, with his aversion to light, he can’t even look directly at a computer screen. To find his daughter, he enlists the aid a cyber chat model named Annie. All the clues point to a murder, but in this world, nothing is as it seems.
Lots of thrillers are being made. Why is this film so different? CHAT puts us directly inside the mind of Falcon, and that’s a pretty messed up place. It drops us into a Lynchian world of crime, extortion, latex cat-suits, and bad liposuction. Freaky characters appear and disappear. Time folds back on itself. And there’s a twist you will never see coming.

I’ve been shooting movies with limited resources for several years now, and I know how to make the most with what I have. No matter what the final budget is, this will be a great film. But there is a minimum we have to reach and we need your help to get there. The only way a micro-budget movie can exist is with the support of friends and family. I believe in this project. We’ve got some of the most talented cast and crew in Chicago, committed and ready to do this. You can help make this happen. We’ll send you a link to a test scene we already shot. It will give you a feel for what I have in mind, and for the quality our team can achieve with very few resources. Please join our team.

  • FOLLOW UPS

You MUST do project updates if the campaign is funded. These folks donated and want to feel a part of the movie-making process, so help them out by giving them timely updates on what’s happening through the pre-production, production, and post-production processes. And for goodness sake, make sure you deliver on the gifts you promised. For instance here, several folks were promised a personal ‘sexy” call from our lead actress, Annie, in character. Again, this was tailored with the cybersex chat theme in mind. Make the copy sexy, but not enough to get you arrested:

TELEPHONE MESSAGE

ANNIE: Hi ——….Welcome to my room. I heard you wanted a little personal time with me, so here we are. I got your donation. Thank you. As we speak, your gift is taking Little Orphan Annie out from behind the small screen onto the big screen. About time, no? I’ve been rampaging behind a computer for too long. Now imagine this… me up there on a movie screen, 20 feet tall! And you made that happen. Can’t thank you enough, —–. Think about me when you watch Chat. And I’ll be thinking about you.

VIDEO MESSAGE

ANNIE: (MAKING HER BED, DANCING AROUND THE ROOM AS SHE DOES SO, MUSIC BG) Hi —-….Hope you don’t mind, I need to clean up around here. Heard you wanted a little personal time with me, so welcome to my room. I got your donation. Very generous of you, and the best kind of generosity…giving for a good cause. Are you laughing? Good cause? No, this isn’t the Red Cross. But your gift really helped make a movie happen. Imagine this now: Little Orphan Annie, finally freed from rampaging inside a computer. Up there on the big screen, 20 feet tall! Nice. And you made that happen. (CLOSER TO THE CAMERA) Can’t thank you enough, —–. Think about me when you watch Chat. And I’ll be thinking of you.

ANNIE: (SITTING, FACING A STATIC CAMERA) Hi ——….Welcome to my room. I heard you wanted a little personal time with me, so here we are. I got your donation. Thank you. As we speak, your gift is taking Little Orphan Annie out from behind this small screen onto the big screen. About time, no? I’m tired of rampaging behind this computer screen. Can you imagine, me up on a screen 30 foot tall?! And you made that happen. (CLOSER TO THE CAMERA OR PICKS IT UP POV) Can’t thank you enough, —–. Think about me when you watch Chat.

And I’ll be thinking of you.

Got it, folks?

Now go out and sell that toothpaste!

122-1303-08-o+toothpaste+

 

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