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Helpless Women In Film
Jun 26th, 2016 by paul peditto

 

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Always wanted to teach a class on Bond Girls…

You’ll call BS, but it wouldn’t be for the procession of gorgeous gorgeousity. Believe it or not, I’d love to study the progression of the archetype. The degeneration of the cliche. Sure, plots change… but the Bond girl remains. Name me a single Bond film where she doesn’t…

From Ursula Andress as Honey Rider in Dr. No to Pussy Galore in Goldfinger on up to the bumbling Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever on up to Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies, who actually portrays a graceful Chinese agent well practiced in martial arts. Where did this change happen? And why has it taken so long to get women out of the damsel in distress mode?

Anyone who saw Mad Max: Fury Road doesn’t need a news flash to know that women’s roles in action movies have changed. We can look at an accumulated list of women in action to see just how far they’ve come, baby. That’s a Virgina Slims cigarette commercial from the 70’s, for you folks born in the Flock Of Seagulls era.

“What is a woman? One of nature’s more agreeable blunders…”

I’ve got one that goes back even further. The Perils of Pauline series…Dick Dastardly, mustache, railroad tracks…the whole bit. One wonders how Mila Jovovich would have gotten out of it…

6a0133f415c7cd970b017ee83a6d1c970dI like this breakdown by Super Forty on helpless females through movie history. Here’s a piece:

“Ever see the character Ripley in “Alien”? That sure threw the audience for a loop: a woman grabbing a man at the collar and ramming him up against a wall. And she wasn’t even bionic! Gasp! I thought this scene would be the start of a whole new trend for Hollywood writers. But sadly, it had no effect, and Hollywood has since continued to portray women as weak, whimpering, retreating and crying.

Classic weak-woman scenes in the movies and TV:

Man grabs woman by upper arm. Woman exclaims, “You’re hurting me!” (Err, isn’t that the idea?)

Man suddenly appears from around corner. Woman gasps and exclaims, “You scared me!”

Man and woman are arguing. Man’s voice raises and he steps towards her. Woman backs up. Man continues slowly moving towards her (no weapons, by the way, not even a raised fist) and woman continues backing away.

Man and woman are running away from gunmen in a forest. Man’s hand is always grabbed onto woman’s wrist and she slows man down. (A woman cannot run beyond her natural speed if a man has her wrist; if anything, she’ll run slower due to the disrupted gait! A woman’s, or man’s, fastest sprint can only be accomplished with BOTH arms pumping freely! Wake up, Hollywood! These scenes look so ridiculous!)

Woman is running from man in woods. Woman trips and falls, and man catches up.

Woman is hit by man’s backhand and falls to floor. Whimpering, she then slithers across floor away from man.”

Why not also throw in there a woman who can fight back? That would be far more realistic than any of the scenes I just described.

Men are portrayed as superhuman, leaping off the top of trains and running away; busting through glass windows, rolling out of it and hopping right back up and then taking out half a dozen bad guys; taking a gunshot to the shoulder, yet somehow beating up a string of bad guys and then driving a car throughout a 20-minute pursuit scene; yet women can’t even grab a man and slam him to a wall.

This goes far beyond men being bigger than women, because in a man-to-man fight, someone always loses, and you NEVER, NEVER, NEVER see the man who loses whimpering, crying, slithering in retreat to the corner of a room, or anything else like that — unless, of course, the male character has mental retardation. Or … the character endures horrific abuse, such as Ned Beatty in “Deliverance.”

But I’m talking about fight scenes. Every time a woman is approached in a bar by some creepo man, she acts helpless, and then it requires another man to scare off the creep.

I want to see a woman deck a guy for once, a woman who’s not bionic, not part Hulk, not part alien, not a hardened prison inmate, and not strung out on drugs — but an average woman. We’ve had enough of Hollywood always painting women as weeping, teary-eyed, feeble-voiced children when confronted by bad guys.”

Why not also throw in there a woman who can fight back? That would be far more realistic than any of the scenes I just described.

Men are portrayed as superhuman, leaping off the top of trains and running away; busting through glass windows, rolling out of it and hopping right back up and then taking out half a dozen bad guys; taking a gunshot to the shoulder, yet somehow beating up a string of bad guys and then driving a car throughout a 20-minute pursuit scene; yet women can’t even grab a man and slam him to a wall.

This goes far beyond men being bigger than women, because in a man-to-man fight, someone always loses, and you NEVER, NEVER, NEVER see the man who loses whimpering, crying, slithering in retreat to the corner of a room, or anything else like that — unless, of course, the male character has mental retardation. Or … the character endures horrific abuse, such as Ned Beatty in “Deliverance.”

But I’m talking about fight scenes. Every time a woman is approached in a bar by some creepo man, she acts helpless, and then it requires another man to scare off the creep.

I want to see a woman deck a guy for once, a woman who’s not bionic, not part Hulk, not part alien, not a hardened prison inmate, and not strung out on drugs — but an average woman. We’ve had enough of Hollywood always painting women as weeping, teary-eyed, feeble-voiced children when confronted by bad guys.”

Well, the times…they done changed…here…

 

And here…

And here…finally!

5 Writer Movies You Might Not Know
Jun 13th, 2016 by paul peditto

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Yeah yeah, I know the internet is full of writer-movie lists. But this is Peditto’s writer movie list, which means I’m not going to hit the classics. Shall we knock those off now?

  1. BARTON FINK
  2. ADAPTATION
  3. THE SHINING
  4. MISERY
  5. SUNSET BOULEVARD

The best writer movies do something by alchemy that’s nearly impossible. They visualize a NON-VISUAL action–the act of writing itself. As any screenwriter knows, sitting at the typer/computer is is an isolated/isolating enterprise. It’s mental, in the head stuff. Left in the hands of Columbia College freshmen, it’s often times painful to watch a poor attempt at recreating the writing process. I mean– how exactly do you visualize it?

The best of the genre drive the narrative with the writer’s process. Barton Fink has writer’s block for 2/3rds of that movie, that is the central conflict. The Coen Brothers literally go into the wallpaper to objectively show an inherently subjective process. In The Shining, Shelley Duvall approaches her husband’s magnum opus only to discover, in a single image, that he’s lost his mind…

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Here are 5 writer movies you might not have seen. Each instructs in its own way…

  • THE PUMPKIN EATER

Harold Pinter wrote the screenplay? I’m in. There’s a scene in a zoo that alone makes the movie worthwhile. Also a scene in a hairdresser’s shop, just savage Pinter dialogue. Below is the stodgy trailer, don’t let it put you off. Check it out. Here’s a synopsis via IMDB:

“The study of a marriage. Jo has five children and husband number two when she meets writer Jake Armitage. She leaves this husband to marry Jake, and his career takes off. A few years and at least one child later, Jo is deeply depressed, breaking down in the middle of Harrods. After psychiatric care and the prospect of a new house in the country, she gets better; then, she is pregnant again, and this time Jake objects. Jo consents to an abortion and sterilization in the belief it will make her marriage happy again, but afterwards she learns ugly truths about Jake. She confronts him. “Why did you marry me?” and “What should we do?” become nearly unanswerable questions.”

 

  • THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY

This movie kicked my ass. One of the greatest Point-Of-View films you’ll ever see. From the eyes of a man who has had a stroke, we don’t see him until well into the movie. We see through him. I bemoan voice over scripts but here, there’s no movie without it. When he decides to write about the experience, it’s a profile in courage. This film won at Cannes and the Golden Globes so it’s not exactly unknown. Check it out.

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  • SWIMMING POOL

This makes my list not because of the super sexy Ludivine Sagnier, but because of the crazy plot

“Swimming Pool is a 2003 French-British erotic thriller film directed by François Ozon and starring Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier. The plot focuses on a British crime novelist, Sarah Morton, who travels to her publisher’s upmarket summer house in Southern France to seek solitude in order to work on her next book. However, the arrival of Julie, the publisher’s daughter, induces complications and a subsequent crime.

While the film’s protagonist is British and both of the lead characters are bilingual, the majority of the story takes place in France – thus, the dialogue throughout the film is a mixture of French and English, which is appropriately subtitled.

Swimming Pool premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 18 May 2003,[4] and was released in France a few days later, with a U cinema rating, meaning it was deemed suitable for all ages.[5] It was given a limited release in the United States that July, and was edited in order to avoid an NC-17 rating due to its sexual content and nudity. It was subsequently released in North America on DVD in an unrated cut.”–IMDB.

It too is free on YouTube. There’s nudity and sex….now that is how to dramatize the writer’s dilemma!

  •  IN A LONELY PLACE

A potentially violent screenwriter is a murder suspect until his lovely neighbor clears him. But she begins to have doubts…”– IMDB

Nicholas Ray directing Humphrey Bogart? That pedigree make this one of the top Film Noirs, and one of Humphrey Bogart’s best.  Bogey as Dixon “Dix” Steele, a “a down-on-his-luck Hollywood screenwriter who has not had a hit since before the war.” Creeping paranoia oozes. The possibility of screenwriter as murderer anticipates movies like The Player and Basic Instinct. Love this cheesy trailer–“suspense grows with every word!”

  • PRICK UP YOUR EARS

From Google: “The life and tragic death of British playwright Joe Orton (Gary Oldman) is chronicled in this biographical film. When the young, attractive Orton meets the older, more introverted Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina) at drama school, he befriends the kindred spirit and they start an affair. As Orton becomes more comfortable with his sexuality and starts to find success with his writing, Halliwell becomes increasingly alienated and jealous, ultimately tapping into a dangerous rage.

This was a gruesome murder, documented by John Lahr in his biography. “On 9 August 1967, Kenneth Halliwell bludgeoned 34-year-old Orton to death at their home in Noel Road, Islington, London, with nine hammer blows to the head, and then committed suicide with an overdose of 22 Nembutal tablets washed down with the juice from canned grapefruit. Investigators determined that Halliwell had died first, because Orton’s sheets were still warm.[11]

The 22 November 1970 edition of The Sunday Times reported that on 5 August 1967, four days before the murder, Orton went to the Chelsea Potter pub in the King’s Road. He met friend Peter Nolan, who later gave evidence at the inquest that Orton told him that he had another boyfriend and wanted to end his relationship with Halliwell, but did not know how to go about it.

The last person to speak to Halliwell was his doctor, who arranged for a psychiatrist to see him the following morning. He spoke to Halliwell three times on the telephone. The last call was at 10 o’clock.[12] Halliwell took the psychiatrist’s address, and said: “Don’t worry, I’m feeling better now. I’ll go and see the doctor tomorrow morning.”

Halliwell had felt increasingly threatened and isolated by Orton’s success, and had come to rely on anti-depressants and barbiturates. The bodies were discovered the following morning when a chauffeur arrived to take Orton to a meeting with director Richard Lester to discuss filming options on Up Against It. Halliwell left a suicide note, informing police that all would be explained if they read Orton’s diaries, “especially the latter part”. The diaries have since been published.”–WIKI.

The movie shows the dynamic changing between Orton and Halliwell, Orton from young Royal Academy Of Dramatic Art student, Halliwell’s protegee, to his fame leaving Halliwell, now enraged lover, behind. Gary Oldham is a chameleon par excellance, one of his best roles, and maybe one you missed.

Dave Bullis podcast
Jun 6th, 2016 by paul peditto

 

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Summer for teachers are one of the few perks. Sure, we don’t make a penny between May and September. Aside from that little inconvenience, the days of summer are our own. It’s nice not to read ten screenplays a day, to recharge, which I’m doing by able-bodied best to do.

Meanwhile, I want to leave you Script Gods folk with a podcast I did with the very cool Dave Bullis. It just went up on his site. We did a full hour together on multiple topics like what it was like to direct Calista Flockhart, the making of Chat–my 44k micro-budget that screened in Chicago last month. Also, the state of micro-budget filmmaking today and some tips on how to get yourself out there even without representation. Do you need an agent? Do you need to go to L.A. to start your career?

I hope you’ll find the podcast interesting. Check it out here: http://davebullispodcast.podbean.com/e/episode-111-paul-peditto/

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Subtext & The Cut Instinct: Far From Heaven
May 30th, 2016 by paul peditto

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Quite a while back I wrote a post about subtext. I want to revisit the subject today and look at the script from Far From Heaven. Hopefully we can exorcise your expositional demons, Good Reader. While voice is critical, no less important is subtext. The goal is to not spell everything out. Say it without saying it.

The fuck does that mean? Think about railroad tracks. Look at the first rail as the spoken, the dialogue, what’s said in any scene. Now imagine the second rail. That’s the unsaid, the intention, what the actors are playing. The beauty of film is the edited image of the actor can tell us so much without dialogue. The quote:  “I’m ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille” is famous because of the power of the CU. So much emotion can be conveyed in little or no dialogue.

10-5-2-0. If you have 10 lines, try to say what you must in five. If you have five, try to say it in two. If you have two lines, try to do it without dialogue. Develop a cut instinct.

Let’s check out Far From Heaven….a brief plot description from IMDB: “Cathy is the perfect 50s housewife, living the perfect 50s life: healthy kids, successful husband, social prominence. Then one night she surprises her husband Frank kissing another man, and her tidy world starts spinning out of control. In her confusion and grief, she finds consolation in the friendship of their African-American gardener, Raymond – a socially taboo relationship that leads to the further disintegration of life as she knew it. Despite Cathy and Frank’s struggle to keep their marriage afloat, the reality of his homosexuality and her feelings for Raymond open a painful, if more honest, chapter in their lives.”

c032447da08f2535fa2313cf854f7dbaWho has the information here? The audience gets the news first about Frank not exactly be the typical 50’s suburban Westchester husband:

INT. MOVIE THEATER – LATER

ONSCREEN: We are in the middle of THREE FACES OF EVE. Raymond
Burr is questioning one of Joanne Woodward’s more timid
personalities.

Frank is walking in from the rear of the theater. He stops
along the back wall and stands watching, muted in shadow like
Edward Hopper’s usherette.

ONSCREEN: Joanne Woodward is becoming agitated. She starts
switching into another personality.

A dark-haired man is getting up from his seat and walking in
the direction of the Gentleman’s Lounge. Frank notices him
pausing a moment at the foot of the small, carpeted stairway
just as a second man approaches. The dark-haired man spots
the second one and proceeds briskly down the stairs. The
second man follows, looking around nervously as he goes.
Frank stares darkly down the empty corridor.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago Movie Writers- Ben Hecht
May 23rd, 2016 by paul peditto

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Who won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay at the first Oscars?

Ben Hecht. 1929. The movie was Underworld. Considered one of the earliest, if not the earliest gangster movie ever made, you’d think that would be enough of an achievement for a lifetime. But this is Ben Hecht, and he was just warming up. Check out his bio:

“Ben Hecht, one of Hollywood’s and Broadway’s greatest writers, won an Oscar for best original story for Underworld (1927) at the first Academy Awards in 1929 and had a hand in the writing of many classic films. He was nominated five more times for the best writing Oscar, winning (along with writing partner and friend Charles MacArthur, with whom he wrote the classic play “The Front Page”) for The Scoundrel (1935) (the other nominations were for Viva Villa! (1934) in 1935, Wuthering Heights (1939) (shared with MacArthur), Angels Over Broadway (1940) and Notorious (1946), the latter two for best original screenplay). Hecht wrote fast and wrote well, and he was called upon by many producers as a highly paid script doctor. He was paid $10,000 by producer David O. Selznick for a fast doctoring of the Gone with the Wind (1939) script, for which he received no credit and for which Sidney Howard won an Oscar, beating out Hecht and MacArthur’s Wuthering Heights (1939) script.

Born on February 28, 1894, Hecht made his name as a Chicago newspaperman during the heady days of cutthroat competition among newspapers and journalists. As a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, he wrote the column “1001 Afternoons in Chicago” and broke the “Ragged Stranger Murder Case” story, which led to the conviction and execution of Army war hero Carl Wanderer for the murder of his pregnant wife in 1921. The newspaper business, which he and MacArthur famously parodied in “The Front Page”, was a good training ground for a screenwriter, as he had to write vivid prose and had to write quickly.

While in New York in 1926 he received a telegram from friend Herman J. Mankiewicz, who had recently arrived in Hollywood. The telegram read: “Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don’t let this get around.” Hecht moved to Hollywood, winding up at Paramount, working uncredited on the script for Lewis Milestone‘s adaptation of Ring Lardner‘s story The New Klondike (1926), starring silent superstar Thomas Meighan. However, it was his script for Josef von Sternberg‘s seminal gangster picture Underworld (1927) that got him noticed. From then until the 1960s, he was arguably the most famous, if not the highest paid, screenwriter of his time.”–IMDB.

I first learned of Ben Hecht when I adapted his “1,001 Afternoons In Chicago” for the stage. These were columns he wrote for the Chicago Daily News about life in Chicago circa 1921. Every day people and events– what’s now called the human interest story– came out in these columns. Voices of the long since departed came alive, like this one, from a flapper in a jazz club in 1922:

SUZIE: So, you didn’t call me. I thought you and I was cookies. Well, that’s the way it is with Jakes. But there’s enough to go around, you can bet. Say, boy! I met the classiest Jake the other evenin’ the front of the Hopper. Did he have class, boy! You know there are some of these fancy Jakes who look like they were the class. But are they? Ask me. Nix. And don’t I give ‘em the berries quick. I don’t let any Jake get moldy on me. Soon as I see they’re heading for a dumb time I say ‘razzberry!’ and off your little sugar toddles!

SHERWOOD ANDERSON: You think I’m moldy?

SUZIE: Nah. There’s so Jakes tip over the oil can right from the start. You never forget them. Nobody could forget you, handsome. Never no more, never. How’s about that hootch, huh?! The stuff’s gettin’ rottener and rottener, doncha think? Come on, swallow. Here’s how! Oh, ain’t we got fun!

With 162 IMDB writing credits, I guarantee you’ve seen one of his movies. Everyone, for instance, knows the 1983 Al Pacino movie Scarface.  But how about the original Scarface, with Paul Muni, back in 1929? Tell me this trailer doesn’t look good, even today…

As the bio above tells us, in what is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest years in filmmaking history, 1939, Hecht had TWO scripts up for consideration in the Best Picture category! His uncredited pass on Gone With The Wind beat out his credited Wuthering Heights script. The dude wrote Scarface AND Wuthering Heights! Oh, Heathcliff!

Looking over a screenwriting career that spans forty years (1927-1970), you’ll see this Chicago guy also worked with Hitchcock…a lot! Lifeboat and Rope (uncredited), Spellbound and Notorious (screenplay, Academy Award nominated). 4 with Hitchcock!

And this giant–who not one of my Millennials at Columbia College film school would know–was nominated for six Oscars, winning two. Am I crazy? Who else can say that? OK OK, Billy Wilder (16 nominations) and Woody Allen (12) have him beat, but still!

Of course the one he’s likely most remembered for is His Girl Friday. His days as a Chicago reporter trained Hecht’s ear for the dialogue he captured via his play The Front Page. Adapting it for film, “Devil-may-care” Cary Grant and “ravishing” Rosiland Russell had a repartee that was unrivaled in its day, the pacing of it setting the tone for 1940’s screwball comedy and echoed Nick and Nora Charles in the The Thin Man series. Howard Hawks, the director, made the lead character, Hildy Johnson, a woman, a radical choice back in the day. The film made #19 on American Film Institutes 100 years…100 laughs and was selected for preservation in the United States Film Registry. Watch the full movie for free here.

 

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