Script Gods Must Die - Chicago Screenwriting Consultant

Best Links 2016: V 1.0
Oct 23rd, 2016 by paul peditto

links(1)Good Reader, pretty self-evident here. Over the course of the year I’ve read some great stuff  on the art/craft of screenwriting and film-making. I turn you onto this (if you haven’t already see them) in the hope it helps you in your own journey to lay down your vision. I include the links and a sample paragraph. Let’s go to the videotape!


Think you’ll live long enough to see the fall of the Marvel Universe? Will audiences ever stop going in light of the endless prequels, sequels, origin stories? Luis Prada thinks so in this article. From your mouth to God’s ears, Luis!

“So 2018 will see the release over 40 massive, tentpole movies. There are nearly 20 releases that happen exactly a week apart. This means that Marvel’s Black Panther will have only a week to make most of its money before Pacific Rim 2 steals its audience, which will give the unnamed Marvel/Fox movie a week to make its money before Wreck-It Ralph 2 comes out, which will only have a week before The Flash and/or Tomb Raider comes out, because Warner Bros. is dumb and scheduled two of their own tentpole movies for the same day. And all of those movies will be released in February and March, the two months studios usually use as a landfill to dump the movies they think suck. The year isn’t just crowded; it’s a clusterfuck, and there are going to be big casualties. There are too many massive movies and not enough people to watch them.”



Great index of basic screenwriting questions for new folks assembled by right here. Questions vary from basics on software to script length to film fests, or what is a McGuffin…

“A McGuffin (sometimes MacGuffin or maguffin) is a device that drives the plot, but has no real relevance.

A good example is the briefcase in Pulp Fiction: viewers can speculate on its contents, but the truth is it doesn’t matter what’s inside; it’s just something to drive the plot.

The term is often attributed to Alfred Hitchcock. In a 1939 lecture at Columbia, he explained:

‘It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers.'”






Nice article here by Jim McQuaid for Moviemaker giving some tips on feeding your people on set.

“The timing of meals is also far easier to control with a dedicated craft and meals coordinator. The key requirement is that food be available at, or a bit before, the promised time and that it be in a form that can sit for 30 minutes. You should plan a meal break no later than six hours after the first call time. But you want flexibility. If the current setup just needs a couple more takes, then finish that. And if the right time to break comes up 25 minutes early, having the meal available early is a huge schedule benefit.

Knowing exactly who to call and who is responsible for providing the meal makes managing the schedule far easier. Relying on the PA whom the camera department just sent to Best Buy is not a great plan.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Film Noir
Oct 16th, 2016 by paul peditto


Amazing to go to YouTube and see the number of classic Film Noirs available for free. Public domain casualities. And the prevailing mentality of the collective societal conscious being free= the Norm. Still, in researching this post I found full movie links on many classics… I was about to list ten but discovered a link from Open Culture that already grouped 60 of them. 60! On that list, check out Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss, Fritz Lang’s Scarlett Street, and of course, D.O.A., with one of the great hooks in movie history, opening scene…

Man strides into the police Homicide Division.

“I want to report a murder”.

Cops looks at him. “Where was this murder committed?”

“San Fransisco. Last night.”

“Who was murdered?”

“I was.”

While no one would ever mistake me for Freddy Nietzsche, if I have a philosophy on life, it’s been profoundly influenced by film noir. Growing up, I was too lazy to learn about shamanism from Carlos Castanada, or to have much use of Zeno of Citium’s School of Stoicism. I worked so many bad jobs for so long, winding up in a casino craps pit–it is any wonder I gravitated to film noir? Here are a few favs…


The blackest of noir. The Great Stanton. The Geek. “You know what a geek is, don’t you? Think you can handle it?” “Mister, I was born for it.”

Philosophical takeaway: No matter how life screws us, things can always get worse.


Little known fact: Gloria Swanson got her start at the Essanay Studios here in Chicago circa 1915. She moved on to Keystone and Cecille B. Demille. Sunset Boulevard is the movie most people know her for, which is ironic because when you look at her IMDB profile– if I’m adding correctly– we see only about 20 films from her after the “talkies” came into being around 1930. Thus, the dream casting for Norma Desmond, psycho silent film star whom poor William Holden stumbles upon. Holden as hack screenwriter Joe Gillis is iconic.

Philosophical takeaway: A taste of the good life can be your undoing.


John Huston wrote and directed. Marilyn Monroe is in this one. So’s Sterling Hayden, who was born to chain-smoke filter-less Camels, ever on the run from the coppers as noir anti-hero. If you haven’t seen this one, you really must. So many devastating scenes… the Emmerich double-cross scene (“what’s keeping you alive inside?!”), the ending at the horse ranch. Or this clip, which changes the entire course of the movie. Doc pauses for just one moment to watch the high-school girl dance, and it costs him everything.

Philosophical takeaway: “Crime is only a left-handed form of humor endeavor.”


How you gonna pick just one Orson Wells noir? The Third Man or Touch Of Evil not making your Top 5 is a travesty. I’ll double back for those two in another post, but Lady From Shanghai needs to make this list. It’s interesting to read the Wiki on this one:

“The Lady from Shanghai began filming on 2 October 1946, and originally finished filming on 27 February 1947, with studio-ordered retakes continuing through March 1947 – but it was not released in the U.S. until 9 June 1948. Cohn strongly disliked Welles’s rough-cut, particularly what he considered to be a confusing plot and lack of close-ups (Welles had deliberately avoided these, as a stylistic device), and was not in sympathy with Welles’s Brechtian use of irony and black comedy, especially in a farcical courtroom scene. He also objected to the appearance of the film – Welles had aimed for documentary-style authenticity by shooting one of the first major Hollywood pictures almost entirely on location (in Acapulco, Pie de la Cuesta, Sausalito and San Francisco) using long takes, and Cohn preferred the more tightly-controlled look of footage lit and shot in a studio. Release was delayed due to Cohn ordering extensive editing and reshoots. Whereas Welles had delivered his cut of the film on time and under budget, the reshoots Welles was ordered to do meant that the film ended up over budget by a third, contributing to the director’s reputation for going over budget. Once the reshoots were over, the heavy editing ordered by Cohn took over a year to complete; veteran editor Viola Lawrence cut about an hour from Welles’s rough cut. Welles was appalled at the musical score and particularly aggrieved by the cuts to the climactic confrontation scene in an amusement park funhouse at the end of the film. Intended as a climactic tour-de-force of editing and production design, the scene was cut to fewer than three minutes out of an intended running time of twenty. As with many of Welles’s films over which he did not have control over the final cut, the missing footage has not been found and is presumed to have been destroyed. Surviving production stills show elaborate and expensive sets built for the sequence which were entirely cut from the film…

“The film was considered a disaster in America at the time of its release, though the closing shootout in a hall of mirrors has since become one of the touchstones of film noir. Not long after release, Welles and Hayworth finalized their divorce.”

Matters not to Orson that Lady From Shanghai these days has an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes Critics Polls. He’s gone but this one stands the test of time. Picking one scene, what else could it be but the mirror sequence?

Philosophical takeaway: “It’s a bright, guilty world.” “One who follows nature, keeps his original nature in the end.


Edgar G. Ullmer directed this 67-minute 1945 micro-budget. Tom Neal and Ann Savage as the fated roadside duo. The death of Charles Haskell sets up at attempt at impersonating him to cash in on a family fortune. You can find the full movie on that freebee list I gave above as it’s fallen into Public Domain. Roger Ebert summed it up well:

“This movie from Hollywood’s poverty row, shot in six days, filled with technical errors and ham-handed narrative, starring a man who can only pout and a woman who can only sneer, should have faded from sight soon after it was released in 1945. And yet it lives on, haunting and creepy, an embodiment of the guilty soul of film noir. No one who has seen it has easily forgotten it.”

Philosophical takeaway: “Fate, or some mysterious force, can put the finger on you or me, for no good reason at all.


Great Scenes: Network: Howard Beale Goes Mad
Oct 9th, 2016 by paul peditto


I know, I really need to pick a great movie scene from after 1980…

Just posted one on On The Waterfront, and here I am back in 1976 for Network, another classic scene cued by a single line of dialogue:

network_beale“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!”

This rant won Peter Finch the Best Actor Oscar. It also bagged one for young Faye Dunaway as Best Actress, and Best Screenplay for the superb Paddy Cheyefsky. The movie has a young Robert Duvall, as well as classic stuff from William Holden and Ned Beatty. It’s from 1976 though, so it goes without saying half my screenwriting Millennials at Columbia College will have missed it. Check the scene and put Network into your Netflix cue, Good Millennial!

The Wikipedia Elves have provided us with still more sterling facts about this movie: “In 2000, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. In 2002, it was inducted into the Producers Guild of America Hall of Fame as a film that has “set an enduring standard for U.S. American entertainment”.[3] In 2006, Chayefsky’s script was voted one of the top-ten screenplays by the Writers Guild of America, East. In 2007, the film was 64th among the 100 greatest American films as chosen by the American Film Institute, a ranking slightly higher than the one AFI had given it ten years earlier.”

werewrThe world has let Howard Beale (Finch) down. He’s announced that he will commit suicide on live national TV. The honchos debate–do they let him back on the air? This is satire, so yeah, they allow it. Nobody knows what Beale will do but it’s gonna grab a 40 rating for sure.

 While the nature of television has changed with the Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO, and YouTubes of the world out there delivering content access 24/7, the movie’s message of humanity being crushed out by corporate mega-conglomerate interest still rings true. Howard Beale is the mad voice of the little guy, pinned down in his single room alone, no connection to the world at large, helpless, just holding on. That man has found his champion in Howard Beale, though nobody knows what he’s going to do when he races in from a rainstorm, and sits down in his anchor chair with only seconds to spare:

— and, suddenly, the obsessed face of HOWARD BEALE, gaunt, haggard, red-eyed with unworldly fervor, hair, streaked and plastered on his brow, manifestly mad, fills the MONITOR SCREEN.


I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things

are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared

of losing their job, the dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are

going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter, punks

are running wild in the streets, and there’s nobody anywhere who

seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know

the air’s unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and

we sit and watch our tee-vees while some local newscaster

tells us today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three

violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

We all know things are bad. Worse than bad. They’re crazy.

It’s like everything’s going crazy. So we don’t go out any

more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we live in

gets smaller, and all we ask is please, at least leave us alone

in our own living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my tee-vee

and my hair-dryer and my steel-belted radials, and I won’t say

anything, just leave us alone. Well, I’m not going to leave you

alone. I want you to get mad —

 tvIn this next passage you can see the speed of the crosscutting in the script. Remarkable because Cheyefsky hits us with powerful language. The very heart of the movie’s theme is delivered here(or perhaps later when Beale asks a Divine-like Network executive (Beatty) why he was chosen to deliver the message of the Gods… “because you’re on television, dummy.”)

Apologies, but have to do some trims here in the name of space, as Beale rants on, and America listens:


ANOTHER ANGLE showing the rapt attention of the PEOPLE in the control room, especially of DIANA —


I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to protest. I

don’t want you to write your congressmen. Because I wouldn’t

know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the

depression and the inflation and the defense budget and the Russians

and crime in the street. All I know is first you got to get

mad. You’ve got to say: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going

to take this any more. I’m a human being, goddammit. My life

has value.” So I want you to get up now. I want you to get

out of your chairs and go to the window. Right now. I want

you to go to the window, open it, and stick your head out

and yell. I want you to yell: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not

going to take this any more!”


How many stations does this go out live to?


Sixty-seven. I know it goes out to Atlanta and Louisville,

I think —


— Get up from your chairs. Go to the window. Open it.

Stick your head out and yell and keep yelling —

But DIANA has already left the control room and is scurrying down —


— yanking doors open, looking for a phone…



They’re yelling in Baton Rouge.

DIANA grabs the phone from him and listens to the people of Baton Rouge yelling their anger in the streets —


— Things have got to change.

But you can’t change them unless

you’re mad. You have to get mad.

Go to the window —


( her eyes glow with excitement)

The next time somebody asks you

to explain what ratings are,

you tell them: that’s ratings!


Son of a bitch, we struck the

mother lode!

erwerWilliam Holden looks out his window when he hears one voice, then another, then a chorus, then a thunder of voices, all screaming it:

MAX joins his daughter at the window. RAIN sprays against his face —


He sees occasional windows open, and, just across from his apartment house, a MAN opens the front door of a brownstone —

MAN (shouts)

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!

OTHER SHOUTS are heard. From his twenty-third floor vantage point, MAX sees the erratic landscape of Manhattan buildings for some blocks, and, silhouetted HEADS in window after window, here, there, and then seemingly everywhere, SHOUTING out into the slashing black RAIN of the streets —


I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!

A terrifying enormous CLAP of natural THUNDER, followed by a frantic brilliant FULGURATION of LIGHTNING; and now the gathering CHORUS of scattered SHOUTS seems to be coming from the whole, huddled, black horde of the city’s people, SCREAMING together in fury, an indistinguishable tidal roar of human rage as formidable as the natural THUNDER again ROARING, THUNDERING, RUMBLING above. It sounds like a Nuremberg rally, the air thick and trembling with it —


standing with his DAUGHTER by the open terrace window-doors, RAIN spraying against them, listening to the stupefying ROARS and THUNDERING rising from all around him. He closes his eyes, sighs, there’s nothing he can do about it any more, it’s out of his hands.

Proof Of Concept
Oct 2nd, 2016 by paul peditto

can you prove it question“A proof of concept (POC) or a proof of principle is a realization of a certain method or idea to demonstrate its feasibility, or a demonstration in principle, whose purpose is to verify that some concept or theory has the potential of being used. A proof of concept is usually small and may or may not be complete.”- Wikipedia.

Producing Chat, it recently fell to me to make initial sales agent in our effort to find distribution. I had a good list but had never talked to a single one of these people, making it cold calling, something in which I do not excel. Imagine my surprise when, after my uber-weak pitch attempts, I got nearly all these jaded sales agents to say yeah, send the trailer, if we like it we’ll check out your movie. Hey, I understand there’s a world of difference deciding to rep an already finished movie vs. providing funding for a screenplay. Still, it was a mini-revelation. I had been brainwashed from years of rejection on cold call queries of my screenplays. This wasn’t a 100 page script I was asking them to spend two hours reading. It was a 90-second taste of Chat. The development person or the person below the D-Guy, or the person below him, did have 90 seconds.

Imagine two equally unknown writer-directors. Both have 100 page scripts. But one has a teaser video of what their movie could be. Who do you think has the advantage? If you can put one of these together, why wouldn’t you? Lots of people are doing exactly that. I found some great POC examples, maybe it will inspire you to go this route. Some of these are quite famous. The Customer Is Always Right served as a proof of concept for Sin City. An excellent gallery can be found here.

A lesser known proof-of-concept named Controller was just acquired by Fox based on the Saman Kesh short film. The article informs us POC’s are quite the rage right now.

Look here for a bunch more.

Look here for The Leviathan proof of concept.

Also here for a horror movie concept called Hellyfish!

CONTROLLER (控制者) from Saman Kesh on Vimeo.

Video Smorgasbord 2
Sep 25th, 2016 by paul peditto



Because there were a ton of great videos left over from my last Video Smorgasbord post, I figured I get them out to you, Good Reader. Here, without further ado, is V.2. Vamos!


“Remixing is a folk art but the techniques are the same ones used at any level of creation: copy, transform, and combine. You could even say that everything is a remix.”

Thanks to Kirby Ferguson and his cool site for this video essay on the recyclable nature of creative work. It’s begins as an observation on music sampling covering everything from The Sugar Hill Gang to Led Zeppelin. It then takes the blasphemous stance that George Lucas himself “borrowed” from a dozen previous movies for the Star Wars series. This illustrates Picasso’s words yet again that “good artists copy. Great artists steal.”


I have a natural attraction to anger. I’m Type A, Southern Italian and yes, have a bit of a temper. So, of course, I have an affinity for a website titled The Bitter Script Reader. It’s funny, but whoever is the bitter script reader– he’s actually pretty mellow. Check out this post on how you too can join the legion of judging people’s screenplays and the changing nature of the business. Hearing about the landscape of script reading is incredibly valuable in allowing us to get into the mind of that “dying” profession. Bitter Script Reader, being a pro for a very long time, is the go-to guy here. Whoever came up with the puppet idea is damn genius.


Here is a sampling of four must see YouTube channels that go above and beyond. While the Mystery Science Theater 3000 channel is a ton of laughs and Filmmaker IQ will enlarge your mind, my fav was Every Frame A Painting, which makes Michael Bay look downright lyrical. Many thanks to Tony Zhou, a freelance filmmaker and editor, for these insightful essays. If you like this one, check out the Scorsese video essay called The Art Of Silence.


Talk about not being to avert your eyes, yes, I’m gonna pass on using the breakdown of the Jessica Alba dance scene for something a bit more useful to you, Good Reader. This is a dissertation in ten-minutes on how to shoot the shootout. Writers take notice for what is included and excluded. Rodriguez’s movies always have relentless movement and this is the reason why.

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