Good Reader, welcome back to Script Gods Must Die and the Quixote-esque search for screenwriting knowledge! Spanning the globe to bring you the thrill of screenwriting victory and……oh wait, Millennials won’t get that reference:
The agony of defeat is always instructive. It’s also always funnier when it happens to the other guy. This coming from a guy with a tale or two of his own concerning abject defeat. I really liked this article from Slate by Stephen Harrigan about his reflections on a career writing B-Movies. Here’s a sample:
“I had already written the script so there was nothing for me to do on the set except sit in my special chair and eat red licorice from the craft services table while everyone around me was in urgent motion, often miserably trying to achieve some effect that I had thoughtlessly set down in my screen directions. “A raven lands on a rock” had cost me only a few keystrokes, but that mindless literary flourish translated into thousands of dollars of precious production time as a frustrated raven “wrangler” tried in take after take to make his trained bird hit its mark.
It began to dawn on me during the production of that movie that as much as I yearned to be part of the team, my real role was going to be that of lonely outlier. Screenwriters are less like actual filmmakers than like wedding planners: we work for months or even years making sure everything is ready, every detail is in place, but in the end it’s just not our party.”
- WHEN YOUR DREAM FILMMAKING JOB TURNS INTO A NIGHTMARE
From the ever great Indiewire comes another tale of woe. When it comes time to actually shoot your movie, sometimes greatness is just not meant to be. Or, as the final words of Detour instruct us: “Fate, or some mysterious Force, can put the finger on your or me, for no good reason at all.” Here’s such a case, a great article from Scott Beggs on the journey of Max La Bella and his project Demonic. This is what happens when a passion piece goes wrong.
“More than five years later, “Demonic” hasn’t hit theaters. La Bella recently posted a lengthy blog entry titled “The Downside of Up,” chronicling the aggravating ups and downs of the project — including two false starts, losing a director the day before shooting was supposed to commence, an abandoned release date plan meant to avoid a larger film (that ironically ended up not being released either) and a final kiss of domestic death in the form of a foreign release that got “Demonic” onto pirating sites within hours. It became an extended lesson in the high price of staying excited about what you love to do.
Filmmakers rarely talk about their failures, which is largely why La Bella’s screed is so fascinating. It’s also what makes it such a valuable lesson to those aspiring screenwriters and directors who think of getting an agent as crossing the finish line, the blissful delusion that getting past the gatekeepers is the ultimate goal. It’s important that La Bella shared a common story that isn’t commonly shared — his dream job didn’t morph into a nightmare so much as it got replaced by the day-to-day standard operating procedure of mini- and major studio filmmaking.”
- NETFLIX PAYS $90 MILLION FOR “BRIGHT”– $3+ MILLION FOR WRITER MAX LANDIS
But this isn’t just a world compromises and Alan Smithee titles. There are winners. Big winners. For instance, Max Landis. Check out this Deadline story on the recent Netflix acquisition. Who said the era of the million dollar sale is over?
“This is a different kind of coup for Netflix. The package brought heat the moment Deadline revealed it was coming to market on March 2, because Ayer and Smith just completed the Warner Bros/DC film Suicide Squad, which is expected to be a major summer hit. Though it will be R-rated, Bright is much closer to Men in Black‘s commercial qualities and VFX than anything Netflix has done before, and it is meant to launch a franchise. It quickly got reported that Netflix put in a significant bid and won the property, but it wasn’t decided until much much later. The auction took so long because there were at least two other suitors. Warner Bros teamed with MGM, and they were willing to go as high as the high $50M, all in. Also bidding was PalmStar’s Kevin Frakes, who offered $4M for the Landis script and committed to a total budget around $60M. Both of those bids would have been to make a traditional wide release theatrical film. The principals made the decision for Netflix two days ago, and it has taken this long to make the deals, with Landis just closing. The producer deals are still not completely done, but Eric Newman, Ayer, Landis and Bryan Unkeless will share producing duties.”
- WHO GETS PAID WHAT ON A $200 MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE?
If you can get past the pop up ads of Vanity Fair online, you’ll find an interesting recent article with a four-minute video breaking down how a Studio goes about spending $200 million on a single movie. It’s a funny concept that rolls movie credits like you’d see in any movie, but accompanying them is the average salary that crew member could expect. Some movie-making friends of mine at Columbia College could literally make 20 movies a year for life for that amount. So, how’s that actually break down?
“Moviemaking is an art, of course—but it’s also a business, and a lucrative one at that. How lucrative? Well, that depends on your place in the pecking order. Let’s just say that if you’re helping to make a $200 million movie, it’s better to be a producer than a dolly grip operator—although as you’ll learn in this video breakdown of who’s earning what, based on average union rates, even the gaffer makes out pretty well.
Requisite disclaimer: no two movies are necessarily alike, even if they both cost $200 million to make—which makes our assessment more approximation than hard-and-fast rule. Even so, it’s a fascinating rundown for curious moviegoers—and be sure to read the faux credits carefully if you want to catch a few fun Easter eggs.”
- LONELINESS AND DEPRESSION LINKED TO BINGE-WATCHING TV
NOW you tell me?! Just blew four nights of my life with Westworld. Next up, Taboo and Legion…though this report about the effect of watching so much TV over so short amount of time has me thinking twice. How we consume the product has changed so much since the ’50’s when the whole family gathered round the living room at one specific hour, on one specific day, to watch one specific episode of Jackie Gleason and The Honeymooners.
“It seems harmless: getting settled in for a night of marathon session for a favorite TV show, like House of Cards. But why do we binge-watch TV, and can it really be harmless? A recent study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that the more lonely and depressed you are, the more likely you are to binge-watch.
Yoon Hi Sung, Eun Yeon Kang and Wei-Na Lee from the University of Texas at Austin will present their findings at the 65th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The researchers conducted a survey on 316 18- to 29-year-olds on how often they watched TV; how often they had feelings of loneliness, depression and self-regulation deficiency; and finally on how often they binge-watched TV. They found that the more lonely and depressed the study participants were, the more likely they were to binge-watch TV, using this activity to move away from negative feelings. The findings also showed that those who lacked the ability to control themselves were more likely to binge-watch.”