Thursday, January 26, 2006

Just Say No to Bad Advice.

For the last week or so I've been watching American Idol, and its led me to one conclusion about America: 99% of us are either deluded, or have taken some really bad advice.

The deluded ones are easy to spot. They strut in, proclaiming themselves the "A.T.E." (All Terrain Entertainer), because they can sing, rap, dance, play the accordian, and skydive better than anyone else on the planet. And they believe it.

You can see it coming a mile away. Naturally, they suck. They get the inevitable beatdown (Randy: "Not doing it for me, dawg." Paula: "I'm gonna pass, sweetie." Simon: "Holy Christ, did someone just split your head open and pour crap into it, so that you could then spew it out once you stepped into this audition?!"). And they deserve it. Confidence = good. Arrogance = beatdown.

But the sad ones to watch are where the poor kid's been deceived into believing they can sing by someone who's given them some REALLY bad advice. It usually goes something like this:

--Sweet 16 year old farm girl enters. Nervously warbles her way through "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion. Its awful.--

Randy: You seem like a real sweet girl, dawg, but that just didn't do it for me.

Paula: Yeah, sweetie. You're adorable, but maybe you should focus on another career.

Simon: HOLY F**KING CHRIST ON A POGO STICK!! You are the worst singer I've ever heard in my life. Did someone ram a jackhammer up your arse during that, because I've heard less screeching during lights-out in at an all-male prison! Who in God's name told you to audition for a singing competition?

Young girl (Sheepishly): My mamma says I have the voice of an angel. I usually sing when I feed the hogs on our farm, and she always comes out and listens. She says I should be a superstar, and she brung me here to try out.

Simon: Your mum's insane, young lady. And that outfit? Does your mum know you're even wearing that?! You look like a bloody crack whore.

Young girl (Embarassed): My mamma picked this outfit, sir. Funny you should mention it - she's a crack whore.

I think there's just something about creative arts that inspire people to give advice, far too often bad. When talking about writing, people offer up an OPINION, and the opinion's evil twin, ADVICE far too often.

"Oh, man. I hate Horror movies..." (opinion)"...You should write something like Brokeback Mountain." (advice)

Which isn't to say that advice isn't valuable. I solicit it all the time. If it weren't for Dave's advice (and hopefully mine in return), SIEGE wouldn't be the modern masterpiece that it's sure to become. I can't tell you how many times we had exchanges like this:

Charlie: So what'd you think of the scene I sent you last night?

Dave: Well... on page 81 you have a boat crashing into the attic.

Charlie: Yeah!! Kickass, huh?! That'll get the adrenaline pumping.

Dave: Um, yeah. But... a boat?

Charlie: You love it, huh?

Dave: Its the attic. How's a boat get into the attic?

Charlie: Um... from the ramp.

Dave: Uh huh. And the water would be where?

Charlie: Oh yeah. No water, huh?

Dave: I think you should maybe give this scene another pass.

Charlie (Sheepishly): My mamma says I can write like an angel...

Dave's saved my butt from many a bad move with his sage wisdom. But Dave and I have a unique relationship. For example, my wife has never read any of my screenplays. Not ONE. Not that I haven't asked her. I'm relatively confident that she thinks they suck, and worries that, upon reading one, she'll have to give me her opinion or advice. Or worse, she'll lose all respect for me after reading the scene where I drive a boat into the attic. But Dave... he can tell me these things. Mostly because he already has no respect for me.

And you. YOU. Oh... you. A few posts ago, on this very blog, I solicited ya'll to share your favorite on-screen horror murders. This indirect bit of advice I was looking for was to find out what scares people, hopefully better driving our new work. Mind you, NOT A BLOODY SOUL REPLIED, but it did get the juices flowing just to think about what you MIGHT have said.

Another bit of advice I get alot is from people looking for a moment of immortality, of a sort.

Friend: So... I was thinking. You should have the main guy in your script be a really hot gay guy named Tim.

Charlie: Well... he's married in the script, and is trying to save his wife.

Friend: Sure, but he could be married to a guy. Trying to save his lover. It could be set in Vermont.

Charlie: I dunno how well that'll play in Malaysia...

I'm sure you'll be shocked to hear that one came from my gay friend Tim, who, I'm guessing, fancies himself to be really hot.

Which isn't to say that we're above naming characters after friends or people we admire. If I had a nickel for everytime I've had to kickback one of Dave's drafts because it had "GUNMAN B'NARTH GRACK OF THE THIRD KLINGON TRIBE" or he's IMed me to complain about me "once again trying to sneak in GUNMAN NATALIE PORTMAN," I'd be a rich man.

In fact, in the current draft, there are a couple of characters named after regular readers/posters of this blog. No guarantee they'll make it to the shooting script or the screen, but we've appreciated the interaction, and have tried to toss in a few shout-outs. Excited yet, GUNMAN KATHY, SOLDIER DENISE, CORPSE A.C., HELICOPTER PILOT LEONA, and HOT GAY GUNMAN TIM?

Anyhow... the bottom line is, feel free to give advice. But feel free to ignore it, too. I'll continue to value advice offered up by all of my friends, family members, and readers of this blog. And I'll take much of it. But don't be offended when I ignore your calls to "put more gay horseback riders into it..."


P.S. On a related note, I'm beginning to regret having taken advice from my former Tax Advisor...

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Hi! My Name Is...

While we wait for the wheels of B-moviedom to turn, turn, turn, thoughts speed towards our next brush with greatness.. THE NEXT GREAT SCRIPT FROM DAVE AND CHARLIE.

Personally, I don't see how anything with the heading of "From the creators of Siege..." can fail, so I'm all jazzed about it. As you've read here on this blog ('in these pages' sounds better, but isn't really accurate, is it?) we're doing horror. Preferably SCARY horror. And we're in the dragging-our-butts phase of trying to put everything together.

Today, I'd like to talk about characters. Specifically, who I want to put in our little film.

Horror films have stereotypes. People who you expect to see. While I love stereotypes (our rule on Siege was "If it's not a stereotype, don't write the character in there") I'm looking and thinking of people we don't normally see on screen.

How about a character in a wheelchair? Not someone who's entire reason of existence is "The Guy in the Wheelchair" but a regular character who happens to be in a wheelchair. Think about the doctor on CSI. He has a limp and a cane, obviously something wrong with his legs. (I think it's actually the actor- not a character thing) but they don't talk about it. It's a non-issue. His handicap just adds to his flavor. Similarly, in the short-lived series Threshold, one of the main characters was played by Peter Dinklage, the ... uhm.. how do you say it in PC talk these days? Oh screw it, the midget. He was awesome. And his character had no reason to be small, (I actually read the script for the pilot episode, and he's just another character) they just decided to cast Peter Dinklage. Who's a great actor. (And I may be mis-spelling his name. Forgive me, Peter.

So let's put a main character in a wheelchair.

Or maybe a Born-Again Christian who never talks about her religion or tries to evangelize anyone. She's a normal character, who happens to be right-wing, born-again fundamentalist. Or conversely, a left-wing conspiracy freak. What kinds of people interest me, as a writer?

That's some of the joy of starting off a new project like this: no rules. I want to create a character who's into Feng Shui, I do so. And while I can't imagine his or her Feng Shui knowledge being central to the story, it's a cool element to pepper and color our cast.

You got anyone you'd like to see in a horror story?

QUICK NOTE: At a recent reading of my non-Charlie script, I got the comment that it read like a very exciting B-Movie. Now having written and made some B-Movies, I was insulted, because I was hoping my new script was more mainstream than that. But they explained that B-movie now means things like Anaconda, Underworld, stuff like that. Movies that make 60, 70, 80 million bucks that are generally dismissed by the critics. Well Hell, I'd love my other project to get made and rake in 70 million at the box office, so I'll take that as a compliment. Straight-to-video movies like Siege are apparently now called C-Movies.

I don't know if that means we need to re-name the blog.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Brainstorming on Brainstorming

We're *really* *really* close to wrapping things up with SIEGE, I'm told. Dave and Producer Dude recently had a really interesting conversation that went something like this:

>Producer Dude: So we're *really* *really* close to wrapping things up with SIEGE.

>Dave: Cool. So when do we get paid?

>Producer Dude: Have you ever tried Skype? Its the coolest. I'm using it with the partners on this job. They're in England and Ireland, but it sounds like they're next door.

>Dave: Great. I'll check it out. So... about the money.

>Producer Dude: You really should download and install Skype. Free calls.

>Dave: I'm gonna need free calls if we don't get paid soon.

>Producer Dude: Yessirreee...

So, as you can see, any day now the checks should come through.

In other news, we've been a bit lax lately in rolling forward with the new horror concept. We really need to put our heads together and pound through the details, in order to come up with a solid outline, which we can use to direct the more specific writing process.

The geographic distance between us makes it hard to have a good tete-a-tete, though. If only there were some way for us to easily and inexpensively brainstorm aloud.

Wait. I've got it.


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Thursday, January 19, 2006

We Have Movement!

And not just in the bowels.

Producer Dude sends his best in an email/IM exchange whereby it seems that the immovable icebergs of foreign banks have melted just enough to illicit the flow of a slushy, monetary substance known as Cash-Cash.

Said Cash-Cash has not, of course, arrived in the Promised Land of the Free, however, it has boarded the Midnight Train to Georgia and is currently sipping mint juleps and entertaining fellow passengers with witty tidbits of mirth.

Producer Dude claims that Cash-Cash will arrive in this vice-ridden nation of America within a few days, and that, once it's given a proper shake-down, discreet portions of Cash-Cash will trickle down into the grubby hands of the Little People.

That's us.

What does this mean for Siege? Means it's going forward. Means they're really gonna make it. Means it's time to start casing the 99-cent store, checking out what I'm gonna splurge on with my portion.

Now granted, Cash-Cash is not yet in my account. So I'm holding off on purchasing that handy-dandy new egg timer for the moment. But a major hurdle has been hurdled. Or, perhaps more honstely, Producer Dude has eliminated one of his excuses. There may be more excuses to come, but that particular one can not be raised again or we shall do unspeakable things to unmentionable things in protest.

Script-wise, it means nothing. We continue to sit at the keyboard, finger poised over the "Send Script To Producer Dude Now" button. When Cash-Cash rears it's beloved head in our mailbox (along with it's less-glamourous cousin, Mr. Contract) then push said button we shall. At which point Producer Dude will read the script, then send it back to us for a complete re-write ("Can you make all of the characters midgets? I know a guy...") and the whell of creative effort will turn once again.

But until then.. we have movement.

I'm all a-tingly.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

"Eeefff Onlee Baywatch Vas Steeel On..."

I'd like to take a moment today to digress from our usual hand-wringing over the writing process, and reflect briefly on the Golden Globes, which were handed out last night in Beverly Hills.

Walking distance from my ol' pad, which I foolishly left behind for a "new life" in Atlanta. *Snort* Great call, Charlie. How's that new house workin' out for ya?

But I digress from my digression. The Golden Globes.

Best TV Series - Drama - LOST. Ok. Of the nominations available here, I'm down with lost. But how the heck are Grey's Anatomy, Lost, Prison Break, Commander in Chief, and Rome the BEST we have to offer? Rome? Sure. I'll even buy Lost and Prison Break to some degree (tho I'd contend that while Prison Break is a FUN show, its hardly a GOOD show). Where's Battlestar Galactica, easily the best drama on TV? Where's Bochco's Over There? Where's The Shield? I mean... Grey's Anatomy? Gimme a freakin' break.

And speaking of HBO's Rome... how could the men on that series have been totally overlooked? Sure, Polly Walker was great (and who knew she looked so young in real life), but... WTF? Ignoring Ciaran Hinds as Caesar, or Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson as the fantastic Lucius and Titus?

I don't get the Hollywood Foreign Press. I gotta wonder if they really just like crap TV and ignore the actual quality stuff. I guess you could call it the "BAYWATCH" factor. Or maybe they don't get HBO, FX and SCI-FI abroad? I mean... surely the TV critic for the Khazikstan Daily News could grab the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica off of BitTorrent, right?

My "YES, THERE IS A GOD," Moment: Mary Louise Parker beating out the catty pack of Desperate Housewives she-devils. I enjoyed season one of Desperate Housewives, but its devolved into the schlocky soaps that it used to brilliantly lampoon. Mary Louise Parker, on the other hand, is a great actress in a clever, funny series.

Outfits worth noting - UGLY Category:
- Drew Barrymore, who clearly needs a Victoria's Secret push-up bra.
- Gwenneth Paltrow, who stole her gown from a Medieval Times dressing room.
- Ah... screw it. I can't bring myself to look at any more pictures on to try to figure out what was good or bad in fashion.

Best Award Speeches:
- Hugh Laurie's "Random-Thank-You's-In-My-Pocket" Speech
- Geena Davis' "Inspiring Little Girls" Speech
- Steve Carell's "Wife Wrote My Speech" Speech

In short... a rather unremarkable year for the Golden Globes. Mediocre nominees and, for a large part, mediocre winners. I was glad to see a few underdogs shine through, but largely think the foreign press need to stick with watching Benny Hill and Colpo Grosso reruns, and quit elevating some of our weakest offerings beyond the levels they deserve.


P.S. Eh. That was largely unrewarding to post. In the future I'll stick with whining about the scripts.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Melding of the Minds

And we're back in the saddle.

Faced with our first truly creative sparring, Charlie and I went back into our corners, sulked, drank heavily, and came out fighting. The end result was a merging of ideas.

To go back to my earlier analogy: Charlie said "Flying saucers." I read that as "Aliens from outer space." Charlie meant "killer tea plates." We've now come back and totally agreed that it means "a bunch of mean, drunk (i.e. 'sauced') pilots."

OK, the analogy doesn't quite stretch, but what it means is we came to a really cool conclusion that wasn't what either one of us were pushing. So we're happy, moving forward, ordering matching his and his towels, etc.

Now, with a very nice set-up to go along with our killer premise, we need to fill in the details. Location. Characters. Etc. We know now what sort of evil we're dealing with, we've gone down that road and come out with motivation, surprises, history, methods, etc. We've crafted a very light, sketchy outline of the parameters of the story. Why this is happening here and now. Next, we create our good guys.

How are they going to overcome the evil that we've created in our little world?

We're still a long way from writing. A long way from the nitty-gritty. A long way from actually making things scary.

But the road is now a little easier to walk down.

First hurdle hurdled.

Monday, January 09, 2006

What Makes You Crap Your Shorts?

I'm going to gloss over Dave's last post. Sure, it seems like maybe we're coming at this movie from different perspectives, but I'm sure we'll find common ground.

So long as he comes around to my way of seeing things.

I kid, of course, but I wanted to go through an exercise that I think will help Dave and I think it through, and will also be a lot of fun.

Mind you, it'll also most likely expose the fact that we have all of one person reading, but hey... we're nothing if not transparent. B-movie writers don't garner a huge fan base. Well... not unless you're Roger Corman or Russ Meyers.

So here's the question:

What horror movie murders scared the unholy jumpin' bejesus out of you?

Big point of order to note - this doesn't ask what MOVIES were good. Just classic horror-movie killings.

For example, when I was 13, I first saw FRIDAY THE 13TH (oooh... creepy that I was... THIRTEEN when I saw it - cue thunder and a flash of lightning). There's a scene in that flick when a then-unknown Kevin Bacon lounges on a sleepaway camp bunk bed, having just engaged in the most egregious of horror movie sins - premartial teen sex.

Suddenly - without any warning, an arrow slams through the mattress and pierces his throat, killing him dead.

THAT, my friends, scared me silly.

Those of you that are horror movie fans know that the first Friday the 13th was hands-down the best. The killer wasn't a cartoonish oaf in a hockey mask that can't be killed. Nope... it was as human as they get - a grieving mom, avenging the death of her son, who drowned at Camp Crystal Lake due to the negligence of the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll addled counselors.

THAT to me is scary. Nothing supernatural or mystical. Just a pissed off mom, skewering a Speedo-wearing Kevin Bacon because he banged the basket-weaving instructor.

I checked my closets, under my bed, even in dresser drawers for months after seeing that flick, hellbent on ensuring there were no arrow-wielding DeathMoms hiding out.

Not that I was having premarital teensex.

But I digress. That's a classic horror movie death that scared me witless. What did it for you?

Post. Go on. I dare you.


P.S. Thanks to The Red Right Hand (I can't write that without hearing that classic "bong" bell sound from the Nick Cave tune) and Sanctum of the ScriptWeaver for blogrolling us. As blogging newbies, its great to be in such distinguished company.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Devil in the Details

So Charlie and I are tossing about a story idea, ready to write the next, great film that you will shell out money for.

We have a brilliant hook- supplied by Charlie.

And we have.. an issue. Lots of them. Bushels of them.

See, his hook said one thing to me, and it seems something slightly different to him. Now, it's his hook, so there is that. But it SPOKE to me in a language that, well, is slightly different than how it chatted with Charlie. So we're going back and forth and, well, we're connecting but not quite connecting, if you know what I mean.

Here, I'll demonstrate without giving anything away.

Charlie: I've got a great idea! We'll do a movie about flying saucers!

Dave: Great! Aliens from outer space are hot, it can be scary. We need to figure out what they want, why they're here, what they do to people, why it's scary, who our heros are. This is awesome!

Charlie: What do you..? No, I mean a bunch of saucer plates that are flying around the room. Killing people. Folks think they're having tea, and they pick up their cups and the saucers fly up and kill them! Scary!

Dave: *insert sound of crickets*

Charlie: What? You said you liked the idea?

OK, it's not THAT bad, and truth told, you could switch the interpretations if you want and get the same result. I want deadly tea-cozies, Charlie wants deranged E.T. clones. The end result is the same, we have issues to work out.

In some ways, Siege was so much easier for us because of the restraints.

One location. Action. One hero. Lots of dead bad guys. Rinse. Repeat.

With this script, the sky's the limit. We can do ANYTHING. And so we are taking some time narrowing down our field. At this point, we know we're not doing a movie that takes place underwater, and that it's probably live-action.

It's a start.

Oh, and we're probably going to kill people. Probably.