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Screenwriting Links 12
Feb 14th, 2017 by paul peditto

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:

  • I WAS THE A-LIST WRITER OF B-RATE PRODUCTIONS

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.”

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  • 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.”

 

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Best Blogs: IndieWire
Apr 17th, 2016 by paul peditto

 

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Good Reader, while I aim to inspire you with personal content each and every week, some weeks the well runs dry. Like Luis Guzman told Al Pacino in Carlito’s Way after watching him get shot: “Sometimes it just bes that way, Pappi.”

Looking for a creative kickstart, I usually go to a handful of websites. Top 5 among them, and a site I’m sure you’ve already checked out, is IndieWire.

What’s impressive about this site is the sheer breadth of learning contained within. For free. Funny how that’s just assumed these days. I’m ancient enough not to take for granted the learning to be had here. I spent a good 12-hours on the site this week and didn’t even scratch it. Let me highlight some of the posts that I think might be beneficial for you.

If you go to the site you’ll find the tabs at the top with some can’t miss options. A definite can’t miss is the Press Play video archive. Everything from video essays on Ridley Scott to the 100 Greatest Moments of Film Editing to the video essays of Nelson Carvajal, a pal of mine who lives here in Chicago.

Their News area has fully comprehensive up-to-date interviews, Acquisitions reports, Box Office news and the latest from both TV and Film.

Here are some specific links that might interest you:

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  • WHOLE LOTTA APPS!

Looking for essential iPhone screenwriting apps? Look no further than here. Great list of seven apps to help organize and streamline the writing process.

How about once you raise the money to shoot your movie? Some essential apps that help with pre-production can be found right here.

Lastly, six key apps for filmmakers who find themselves between productions. As the sorriest of us know, this “between time” can last up to 10 years, so use these apps to while away the down time. Beats whistling Dixie!

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  • MUSIC LICENSING

You learn damn quick while teaching to never bluff an 18-year old. Own up to ignorance. I’ve never dealt with acquiring music rights for any production I’ve been involved with, which is why I found this article really useful on the basics of music licensing. From the article:

“The most important thing to know is that there are two rights to every song. There is the person who wrote the song (who holds the publisher rights, a.k.a. sync rights) and the person who recorded it (who holds the master rights). To use this piece of music you need permission from both entities. You can listen to a song like “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix but you may not know that the writer is Bob Dylan. To determine who owns the rights to songs, the websites ascap.com and bmi.com are extremely helpful.

Once you’ve determined who owns the publishing and the master, you must contact them separately and ask for permission to use the song. This can get tricky when there are a lot of songwriters involved. Katy Perry’s song “California Gurls,” for instance, has five publishers. Therefore, if you wanted to clear this tune you would need approval from all five of the writers and on top of that you would need approval from Katy Perry. If one of them says no, then unfortunately you can’t use the song.”

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  • POST-PRODUCTION PITFALLS

Back in ’98 when we gave up “Final Cut” rights of Jane Doe to our distributor for $150,000 production money, the inevitable outcome was your humble narrator completely deballed in the post-production process by the Powers-That-Be. This took the form of producer Niki Nikita(not her name) sitting with the editing making all the calls with me, legally bound as director to be in the same room, on a couch behind them, like a lost peanut M & M. On occasion, say every two hours, Niki would look back and ask, “How’s that look to you, Paul?” No wonder I break out in hives at thoughts of the post-production process. Articles like this help me get over the phobia. From the article:

“I’ve worked with so many people whose first movies never get finished.” By bringing in a post-production supervisor early on, filmmakers can know what to expect when they arrive at the editing bay, how long they should take to finish the film, and how much they should expect to spend.

“The truth of the matter is whether you spend $100 million or $100,000, the process is the same,” said (Nancy) Kirhoffer. “In that same vein, if someone is going to pay $15 to see your movie in the theater, they don’t care that you only had $100,000. They only want to make sure it’s worth their $15, and there’s an expectation that the film is going to sound a certain way, and it’s going to look a certain way, and you can’t get over that fact. It has to sound good.”

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  • NEW ALEX COX PROJECTS!

Am I the only one who has Syd And Nancy on their Top 100 movies? Directed by Alex Cox with a punk sensibility you find in all his other stuff(Straight To Hell, Repo Man) the Taxi Cab scene at the end always brings a tear. What do you expect from an old punk who set down in London for the first time in December, 1978. The Clash just released Give ‘Em Enough Rope and Syd was still alive. Old fart shit, right? I don’t even bother asking my Millennials at Columbia if they know Alex Cox, probably 2 in 12 will raise a hand.

But it was though IndieWire, in this article, that I discovered that Alex Cox has a couple new projects on the boil. The first, already funded at over $100,000 called Bill The Galactic Hero. The second, looking for funding, is a cool project called Tombstone Rashomon.

Coming from an adjunct screenwriting teacher, there’s something comforting about learning that Alex Cox is teaching screenwriting himself at the University of Colorado at Boulder. It’s an outrage– How can Alex Cox, director of Syd and Nancy be TEACHING?! When you hear talk about the death of the mid-level budgeted Indie, look no further than here. Alex Cox is crowdfunding 200K movies because he wants to stay in the game, and Hollywood hasn’t been calling. Does that knee-cap him and force him out? Hell no. The remarkable part about this article is his optimism:

“$200,000 is very small amount of money to make a movie, but we’ll do it,” he said. “The blessing of working on a very low budget is you get to do what you want, you get to work with the actors and the crew you want to work with. It’s very liberating.”

He said working in indie film has improved compared to just five or six years ago. “The independent thing kind of got taken over by the studios because they created their own fake independent companies like Focus Features, which were really just branches of Universal, but they took over that independent sector,” he said, “If you ever see a film with John Cusack in it, you know it’s a studio film.”

Cox added that “it’s been a very hard time for indie filmmakers until we discovered crowdfunding.”

Thanks to Indiewire for turning me on to this Alex Cox project, and all the other learning. Great resource.

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