Saturday, April 28, 2007

"The Hook" and "The Inciting Moment"

Here's a HUGE piece of my script-- 20 pages and no less than 5 scenes. THIS excerpt (I think) embodies the "inciting moment" and the "hook." THIS EXCERPT IS THE HEART OF THE ENTIRE STORY!!! And it's also the part where Jim Carrey (if he plays my main protag) can REALLY show off his Jim Carrey-isms.

My secondary protagonist, David, also has his own character arc hinted at in these scenes.

Here's a breakdown of what's important to me in these pages:

1. My antagonist, Mr. Darius, unknowingly speaks no less than eight passages from the Bible. He is merely using common every day expressions in his conversation, but they ALL come straight from Scripture.

2. Mr. Darius' words and attitudes all fly in the face of a sermon that David preaches in a earlier scene. (David is a man Mr. Darius has never even met before.) Here's the scene from David's sermon that Mr. Darius unknowingly echoes for us. It should take no more than 18 seconds of screen time for this sermon:

MONTAGE OF DAVID'S SERMON

................... DAVID
......... …The 3 virtues of faith hope and love…
......... …The King James word charity is often
......... interchangeable with the word love…
......... …True love is like true charity: it
......... expects nothing in return. It freely
......... gives with no expectation of getting
......... anything back. As soon as repayment is
......... expected, it ceases to be charity and
......... becomes a cold, icy business deal with
......... a strong measure of coercion mixed in…
......... …When it comes to charitable giving,
............ (holds up his left then right arm)
......... your left hand is not supposed to know
......... what your right hand is doing…

END MONTAGE



3. Mr. Darius also speaks the three words "faith," "hope," and "charity" at least once each during the course of his conversation with Galvin (again, echoing David's sermon).

4. Mr. Darius also unknowingly echoes David's words from the opening scene of the script (the town meeting scene) where David speaks against the evils of casinos. In that scene, David said to the crowd: "They could bring us the whole world right to our doorstep. But what does it profit a town if it gains the whole world only to lose its soul?"

5. David tells Galvin about "the smell of the desert after the rain," a poetic reference that plays out importantly in the script's climax.




BACKGROUND: Galvin got a personal e-mail from Mr. Darius, the head of the Darius Foundation (the Darius Foundatrion is a charitable organization that underwrites some of Galvin's small town clients). Mr. Darius normally operates out of New York, but he happens to be in Frankling City this week, (about 3 hours away from Harksville) and has asked Galvin to drive out and have lunch with him. Galvin thinks this might be a job offer. When he arrives, he finds out what the Darius Foundation really is:






EXT. PARSONAGE GARAGE - WEDNESDAY - DAWN

Galvin gets in his car and begins to drive. He arrives at

FRANKLIN CITY, and it's ........... a casino town.

He nervously goes to the destination building: a high rise.
The front desk security guard gestures to the elevators.

He exits the elevator at "Darius Enterprises." Stunned, he
goes to the receptionist who points to a long hall leading to
a double-door with 2 GUARDS. They let him enter a power-laden

CORNER OFFICE

Mr. Darius rises from his DESK with his soft, kind voice:

................... MR. DARIUS
......... Hello, Galvin. So good to finally meet
......... you. Pleas have a seat.

Galvin slowly goes forth, terrified, but trying to smile. He
passes a HUGE TABLE and sits in a CHAIR before the desk.

................... MR. DARIUS
......... I would like to give Harksville a
......... small towns development grant.

................... GALVIN
.............. (completely relieved)
......... That's fantastic! Do I get to tell
......... them the good news myself?

................... MR. DARIUS
......... I'm not firmly decided yet. I'd LIKE to
......... give them a grant. But first I need some
......... assurances. They're nearly bankrupt. No
......... sense revitalizing a town that's going to
......... die. That'd be little more than casting
......... my pearls to swine.

................... GALVIN
......... I suppose that's… reasonable. But,
......... isn't the point of these grants merely
......... to give small towns a CHANCE to
......... survive? Or a SECOND chance, so to
......... speak? So nothing is ever assured.

In the foreground sits a SCULPTURE of 2 6-sided dice. We peer
through to Mr. Darius who walks to the Huge Table explaining:

................... MR. DARIUS
......... Chance? I don't deal with chance. Only
......... fools operate on hope and chance. I
......... prefer guarantees and back-up plans. I
......... will give them what they need, but
......... only if they give me what I want.

................... GALVIN
......... So it's not really a grant then.

................... MR. DARIUS
......... How is this NOT a grant?

................... GALVIN
......... A grant is a gift ... of charity.

................... MR. DARIUS
......... This IS charity. I merely expect some-
......... thing in return for my charity is all.

Mr. Darius HITS a SWITCH. A HOLOGRAM glows on the Huge Table
showing Harksville, the army base, and a CASINO midway. The army
base itself is now an airfield. Animated PLANES FLY.

................... MR. DARIUS
......... That was very insightful of you to
......... second guess the potential for the
......... army base to be converted into an air-
......... port. Our architects also discerned
......... that. You're good at your job, Galvin.
......... I knew I made the right decision when
......... I chose to subsidize your work.

................... GALVIN
......... I thought I was being subsidized by a
......... non-profit, charitable foundation.

................... MR. DARIUS
............ (holds up his left then right arm)
......... The Darius Foundation is my charitable
......... arm. Darius Enterprises is my profitable
......... arm. Sometimes they work together.

................... GALVIN
......... The Oversight Committee wants to make
......... the base into a retirement community.

................... MR. DARIUS
......... They can build an old folks home one
......... day, but right now a casino takes prior-
......... ity. And all casinos need airports.
............... (noting Galvin's hesitation)
......... Don't look so sad, Galvin, I'm going
......... to be their salvation. I will bring
......... them the whole world right to their
......... doorstep. I do need your continued
......... help though. Two things Galvin. First
......... I need the names of those individuals
......... who are the most outspoken against a
......... casino. They'll need to be persuaded.

................... GALVIN
......... All of Harksville is against it.
......... There's no ONE specific individual
......... single-handedly rallying the war cry.

................... MR. DARIUS
......... What about this Pastor David Brown?

................... GALVIN
......... … Did I … mention him … in my reports?

................... MR. DARIUS
......... No. But he was in the Harksville
......... Herald's online story of last week's
......... town meeting. The paper said he made
......... compelling arguments that night. You
......... were there, Galvin. Is he a threat?
......... Will he need some persuading?

................... GALVIN
......... Compelling? The paper exaggerated.
......... He's a TERRIBLE public speaker.
......... Pathetic. I don't know if he even went
......... to college. But he's not your problem.
......... The whole town is unanimously against
......... casinos. Seems like a losing battle to me.

................... MR. DARIUS
......... That's your second task, Galvin:
......... persuading the rest of the town.

................... GALVIN
......... ........ How can I do that?

................... MR. DARIUS
......... You're already "imbedded." They like
......... you. They trust you. They followed
......... your every suggestion right down to
......... composing the ballot. You need to
......... make more suggestions now. Convince
......... them to vote casino. And I will give
......... them a grant.

................... GALVIN
......... How much is this grant going to be?

................... MR. DARIUS
......... 12 million. Enough to renovate the
......... theatre, update the utilities, and
......... repave the roads.

................... GALVIN
......... What if they want more than that?

................... MR. DARIUS
......... Beggars can't be choosers.

................... GALVIN
......... What if they don't want to update the
......... utilities or that other stuff? Maybe
......... they'd rather build a hospital.

................... MR. DARIUS
......... Unfortunately, the grant is not to be
......... used for anything than what I specify.
......... And the Darius Foundation also has
......... final say on which construction
......... companies get the various contracts.

Galvin glances to one side of the room. He sees TOY MODELS of
earth moving equipment labeled "Darius Construction." Looking
back to the hologram, he notices a detail which disturbs him:

................... GALVIN
......... The movie theatre: you're planning to
......... make it into a night club?

................... MR. DARIUS
......... A gentleman's club. I have here --

Mr. Darius goes back to his desk and PULLS OUT an ENVELOPE.

................... MR. DARIUS
......... --a letter to the Harksville Oversight
......... Committee, itemizing the terms of the
......... grant. Attached is a teller's check
......... for 12 million payable to the Town of
......... Harksville. Deliver it, give them the
......... good news, and show them the light.

Galvin hesitantly takes the envelope. Then takes a PUFF.

................... MR. DARIUS
......... I expect one of two things in the next
......... month Galvin: either my check gets
......... cashed, or Harksville votes for a
......... casino. I have faith in you that one
......... or both will come to pass.

................... GALVIN
......... ................. Of course.

A PAIR of HOTEL WAITERS enter, PUSHING a FOOD CART.

................... MR. DARIUS
......... Lunch is ready. Please join me.

EXT. DESERT HIGHWAY - AFTERNOON

Shell-shocked, Galvin drives, playing an i-Pod on his stereo.

MUSICAL INTERLUDE WHILE DRIVING - reflecting his predicament.

He stops at a gas station. While he's using the rest room,
some kids sneak into his car and steal his i-Pod. He finds his
i-Pod gone. He has to listen to the radio now.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. PARSONAGE STUDY - LATE AFTERNOON

David's at the computer. Donna enters and leans on his neck.

................... DAVID
......... Your father's check cleared already.

................... DONNA
......... When do we tell the boys?

................... DAVID
......... After I strike a price with Larry.

................... DONNA
......... So, have you been listening to Mrs.
......... Joyce's radio series about angels?

................... DAVID
......... Uhhhh, yes I have.

................... DONNA
......... What do you think so far?

................... DAVID
......... Um ... I think her theology needs a
......... little more ... "refinement."

................... DONNA
......... Tonight she does Part 2. How'bout you
......... do an angel series in Bible Study?

................... DAVID
......... I've already told you why I won't.

................... DONNA
......... What are you teaching on tonight?

................... DAVID
......... "Blessing Through Adversity."


EXT. HIGHWAY 7 - NIGHT

Galvin's car passes a SIGN reading "HARKSVILLE 20 MI".

INSIDE HIS CAR

The radio FUZZES. Angry he "searches" and finds PERCY'S SONG.
After a verse Mrs. Joyce PREACHES. He ALMOST hits "off" but:

................... MRS. JOYCE (ON THE RADIO)
......... ... And did something go wrong for you
......... today? Something truly devastating
......... that you totally were NOT expecting?
......... Well I want to assure you that it
......... didn't happen without a reason. God
......... has a plan for your life.

He rolls his eyes and finally turns off the radio.

................... GALVIN
......... Yeah right! God's plan for my life is
......... that I become a mafia weasel! Thanks a
......... lot, God! I've always wanted to be an
......... accidental con artist!

Meanwhile, back in

MRS. JOYCE'S TRAILER HOME - CONTINUOUS

she sits in her wheelchair before a MASSIVE SOUND-BOARD,
speaking to a DANGLING MICROPHONE (with SPIT SHIELD) smok-
ing CIGARETTES and PREACHING about angels. Meanwhile, in

PERCY'S APARTMENT BATHROOM - CONTINUOUS

Percy kneels, doing HAND-LAUNDRY in the TUB. A RADIO in
the next room BLARES with Mrs. Joyce. Meanwhile, in the

FIRE STATION - CONTINUOUS

TWO FIREMEN, 25 & 26, play cards. In the background Carl
squats, cleaning out a storage cabinet. They also have a
RADIO playing with Mrs. Joyce's sermon BLARING.

PARSONAGE STUDY - CONTINUOUS

David works late, also listening to the RADIO. Meanwhile, in

GALVIN'S CAR - CONTINUOUS

................... GALVIN
......... Am I supposed to TELL the people of
......... Harksville that their town is about to
......... be strong-armed away from them by a
......... bunch of mafia thugs? Am I supposed to
......... TELL them that I'm responsible for
......... that? Just what the hell're you gonna
......... do about all this? I admit I'm not the
......... churchiest guy around, but I sure
......... could use a little help right now!

A split-second later, one of his

TIRES

gets a BLOW-OUT. His car SCREECHES off the road and into

A DITCH.

He tries "REVERSE". No good. He CUTS OUT the engine. Angry,
he gets out, SLAMS the door, and holds his cell up high.

................... GALVIN
............. (pleading to the phone)
......... C'mon! Just one bar! Just one!

The phone BEEPS a DISCORDANT TONE indicating no reception.

................... GALVIN
......... DAMMIT!

He SNAPS the phone shut and starts WALKING. He takes a PUFF.

He spots a GLOWING LIGHT IN THE DISTANCE (a trailer home with
a radio transmitter on it). His hopes rise. Meanwhile in

MRS. JOYCE'S TRAILER HOME - CONTINUOUS

Still preaching, focusing on the mike, she crushes out a
CIGARETTE in an ASHTRAY off to one side. A STRAY COAL falls
to the CARPET. She doesn't see this. Meanwhile, out on

HIGHWAY 7 - CONTINUOUS

Galvin is 150 yards from the driveway of the trailer home.

................... GALVIN
......... If the lights are on, then somebody's
......... home, and hopefully they have a
......... telephone! --Hey! That rhymes! (I'm a
......... poet, and I don't even know it!)

He quickens his pace. Meanwhile, in

MRS. JOYCE'S TRAILER HOME - CONTINUOUS

Still preaching, Mrs. Joyce glances down and sees FLAMES
beside her wheelchair. She starts to SCREAM to the mike:

................... MRS. JOYCE
......... Oh my dear lord! My trailer's on fire!
......... Somebody help! Call the fire company!
......... I'm an old lady in a wheelchair and
......... I'm trapped in a trailer fire! Help!

Meanwhile, back at the

FIRE HOUSE - CONTINUOUS

Carl, hearing Mrs. Joyce's SCREAMS, pops his head up. He
looks dumbfounded to the other two firemen. Meanwhile, in

PERCY'S APARTMENT - CONTINUOUS

she jumps up, runs into the kitchen, listens intently to the
SCREAMS, hesitates, then GRABS her PHONE. Meanwhile, in the

PARSONAGE STUDY - CONTINUOUS

David jolts his head in alarm at the radio SCREAMS. After a
second of hesitation, he SNATCHES his PHONE. Meanwhile, in

THE FIRE HOUSE - CONTINUOUS

the firemen gape at each other, hearing these radio SCREAMS.

................... FIREMAN #1
......... Is that old lady joking?

................... CARL
......... Not about something like this!

Carl LEAPS to his feet, RUNS, and HITS the STATION'S ALARM.

Meanwhile, out on

HIGHWAY 7 - CONTINUOUS

Galvin is just 10 yards from the trailer when he sees SMOKE
pouring through WINDOWS and between metal SEAMS. He also sees
the ORANGE GLOW of FLAMES through CURTAINS. He GASPS. Then he
RUNS, hopping the rail onto the porch. He OPENS the DOOR.
FLAMES shoot out at him. He jumps sideways and hears within:

................... MRS. JOYCE (O.C.)
......... HELP ME! MY TRAILER'S ON FIRE!

Hearing this, his alarm grows. He looks around. Meanwhile, in

MRS. JOYCE'S TRAILER - CONTINUOUS

she backs her wheelchair away from the flames and toward the

KITCHEN SINK

and GRABS the NOZZLE and SPRAYS flames with it. No good. Now
she SPRAYS herself with it. The SMOKE THICKENS. She COUGHS and
THROWS herself to the floor (to breathe). Meanwhile,

GALVIN - CONTINUOUS

finds a GARDEN HOSE, but it's too weak. He sees a CLOTHESLINE
with WHITE SHEETS. He RUNS with the hose, aims, SOAKS the
sheets, then SOAKS himself. He YANKS the sheets down and
WRAPS himself in them. Ghost-like, he RUNS to the trailer.

We stay outside and watch him enter the flaming front door.

We dwell on the door frame and breathlessly watch the cruel
flames. And we wonder: are either of them even alive anymore?

Suddenly, we see a VALIANT WHITE-ROBED FIGURE burst forth
from the flaming doorway, carrying the GASPING old lady.

He STAGGERS to the blacktop drive and SETS her down, GASPING.

................... GALVIN
......... Was there anyone else in there?

But she's unconscious now. Galvin looks back at the trailer
just as it IMPLODES in flames. He returns his gaze to her:

................... GALVIN
......... I'll go and get help!

He looks around: no car. Far across the desert, the FAINT
LIGHT of a house on a different road SHINES about a mile off.

He RUNS, eventually SHEDDING the sheets on the desert floor.

He gets to the trailer in a state of ready-to-collapse-of-a-
heart-attack GASPING. A SNARLING DOG blocks the door. Only a
PORCH LIGHT burns. No inside lights. No car. No one's home.

Far off over his shoulder, we see a DISTANT BLAZING DOT: Mrs.
Joyce's home. Between GASPS, he shouts to this new trailer:

................... GALVIN
......... Is anybody home? I need help! There's
......... a fire across the way! There's an old
......... lady who needs an ambulance! Please!
......... If anybody's home! Please dial nine-
......... one-one!

He hears SIRENS far off. His WHEEZING ESCALATING, he turns.

FIRE TRUCKS a mile behind him on Highway 7 head for the fire.

................... GALVIN
............. (to no one, looking at fire)
......... Thank God! She's in safe hands now!
............. (to barking dog trailer)
......... Never mind! (Goddamn useless assholes
......... aren't even home!)

His WHEEZING wins: he SINKS to his knees. Ignoring the dog he
PUFFS madly at a full-blown asthma attack, watching the fire.

SAME - LATER

On his butt, Galvin watches zombie-like: the fire is now out;
the fire trucks sit, ENGINES IDLING, red lights STROBING. The
ambulance DEPARTS the scene, its SIRENS MUFFLED BY DISTANCE.

................... GALVIN
............. (watching ambulance leave)
......... Oh, please, God, please let that poor
......... old lady be okay.

He rises and staggers down the drive to the smaller DIRT
ROAD where a sign reads "Harksville 4 Miles". He walks.

Along the way, he PUFFS his Inhaler and mutters to himself:

................... GALVIN
......... If she lives, then I’m a hero. And so
......... maybe this fiasco with Mr. Darius will
......... be okay! Yeah! The town'll honor me.
......... Throw a banquet. Give me a medal. Then
......... when I explain Mr. Darius wants to
......... take over, they won't actually kill
......... me, they'll just --oh shit! That's
......... only if she lives. Did she survive?
......... Should I have left her there, lying on
......... the ground alone? I had to get help.
......... How was I to know fire trucks would
......... come on their own? If she DIDN'T live,
......... will I be found negligent for leaving
......... her? Maybe I need to call a lawyer! Oh
......... my God! Am I a horrible person for
......... even THINKING all this? Of course not!
......... If I was, I never would've run into a
......... flame-engulfed trailer! I'm a hero
......... goddammit! Yes I am! Yes Percy! Of
......... course I was scared, darling, but I
......... couldn't leave her in there to die! Oh
......... Jesus, I hope that old lady survived.

Next moment: it starts to RAIN. Galvin GROWLS as he PLODS
onward, SLOSHING along the muddy road. After a bit, the rain
STOPS. But he's soaked now. He takes another Inhaler PUFF.

The road comes to a STOP SIGN and joins onto Highway 7.

He takes a PUFF. There at this JUNCTURE he finds the

TOWN MEDICAL CLINIC with its CHOPPER PAD BEACONS LIT.

An AMBULANCE IDLES amid a small CROWD. He enters the crowd.

................... GALVIN
......... What's going on?

................... MEDICAL CLINIC SPECTATOR #1
......... It's Mrs. Joyce. Her trailer caught
......... fire tonight. She was trapped inside.

................... GALVIN
......... Did she make it out alive??????

OFF-SCREEN, far away, a CHOPPER APPROACHES. Heads look up.

................... MEDICAL CLINIC SPECTATOR #1
......... Yeah. She's in there right now and
......... they're pretty sure she'll be okay.

Galvin is visibly relieved. The CHOPPER NOISE gets CLOSER.

................... GALVIN
......... Was anyone else caught in the trailer?

................... MEDICAL CLINIC SPECTATOR #1
......... No. She was all alone.

Galvin's again relieved. We see the chopper's far-off LIGHTS.

................... GALVIN
......... Oh. So, uh … how'd she get out?

................... MEDICAL CLINIC SPECTATOR #1
......... She's usually in a wheelchair, so I
......... guess she just wheeled herself out.

................... MEDICAL CLINIC SPECTATOR #2
......... Not what I heard. I'm told when the
......... firemen arrived, they found her laid
......... out on the ground unconscious. No
......... wheelchair or walker in sight.

The chopper's JUST LOUD ENOUGH NOW so people need to start
raising their voices. It KICKS DUST and FLUTTERS HAIR.

................... GALVIN
......... Did she crawl there on her own? Or…
............. (grinning)
......... …did some anonymous, unsung hero save
......... her life, maybe?

The WIND is GALE-FORCE. Heads duck. Only shouting works now.

................... MEDICAL CLINIC SPECTATOR #2
......... The firemen asked her about that, and
......... she told them it wasn't a man at all
......... who dragged her outside. She said it
......... was an angel from Heaven.

................... GALVIN
......... WHAT???????????????

But no one can hear him because the HELICOPTER IS LANDING.

The CLINIC DOORS OPEN. Two MEDICS ROLL a STRETCHER with Mrs.
Joyce. David walks with them beside her, holding her hand.
Galvin races to her side and shouts over the roaring chopper:

................... GALVIN
......... Mrs. Joyce! Mrs. Joyce! It's me!

David looks up, surprised at this odd outburst from Galvin.

................... FIREMAN #1
......... Back off, man! Give her some room!

They LOAD her on the chopper. Galvin watches helplessly. It
TAKES OFF. David puzzles at Galvin's pining, walks up behind
him, and puts a hand on his shoulder. Galvin ignores this.

................... DAVID
......... She'll be ok. They're just taking her
......... to Bakerton for observation.

................... GALVIN
............. (to the chopper)
......... She said an ANGEL saved her???

The crowd begins DISPERSING. The ambulance PACKS UP and LEAVES.
Galvin stays transfixed on the receding, off-camera chopper.
With the parking lot almost empty, David takes his hand down
from Galvin's shoulder (noticing it's wet).

................... DAVID
......... Galvin, you're soaked! You get caught
......... in the rain just now?

................... GALVIN
............. (avoiding eye-contact)
......... Yes, I did.

................... DAVID
......... Where's your car?

................... GALVIN
............. (still avoiding eye-contact)
......... I got a flat out in the desert... had
......... to walk back to town.

................... DAVID
......... Oh wow! Raw deal! Uhhh … if you want,
......... I can give you a lift back out there
......... right now, and see if we can't change
......... it together.

................... GALVIN
......... No, I'd rather get a shower and deal
......... with it tomorrow. Besides, I think I'm
......... gonna need a tow. It's stuck in a ditch

................... DAVID
......... Martin has a tow truck. We can call
......... him tomorrow. Meanwhile, can I at
......... least drive you back to the parsonage?

................... GALVIN
............. (eye contact, finally)
......... I'd really appreciate that.

They enter DAVID'S CAR and drive. David tries to chat:

................... DAVID
......... Sorry you got caught in the rain. It's
......... rare that it rains out here, and ironic
......... that it happened when you were stuck on foot.

................... GALVIN
......... Irony is so ... ironic at times.

................... DAVID
......... I guess. One thing I do like about the
......... Southwest is the smell of the desert
......... after the rain. It's one of the clean-
......... est most beautiful smells on Earth. I
......... swear Heaven itself must smell like
......... that. I always look forward to it when
......... it rains here. I'm sorry you now have
......... such a negative association with it.

................... GALVIN
......... You don't know the half of it.

................... DAVID
......... So how'd the business lunch go today?

................... GALVIN
......... I don't wanna talk about it.

................... DAVID
......... No problem. Poor Mrs. Joyce! Did you
......... hear the details of the fire?

................... GALVIN
............. (obvious annoyance)
......... I sure did!

................... DAVID
............. (ignoring Galvin's tone)
......... It's a miracle she's alive. They're
......... pretty sure she'll be okay though.

................... GALVIN
......... Yep, a first rate miracle! Complete
......... with a valiant angel who rescued her!

................... DAVID
......... Yeah… that's kinda… interesting. How
......... many other people heard about that?

................... GALVIN
......... Everyone, it seems.

................... DAVID
......... (Oh great! Whole town'll be talking
......... about it tomorrow.)

................... GALVIN
......... You also heard her story?

................... DAVID
......... She told me herself in the clinic.

................... GALVIN
......... Got it straight from the hhhhhhhorse's
......... mouth, eh? (Dumb stupid old nag!)

................... DAVID
......... Uh, yeah, so to speak........ It smell
......... like smoke in here to you?

................... GALVIN
......... I can't tell: my sinuses are acting
......... up, and I got an asthma attack during
......... my walk back in from the desert.

................... DAVID
......... You ok? Shall I stop at the pharmacy?

................... GALVIN
......... I have my inhaler. I'll be fine.

................... DAVID
......... (Maybe it's just residual smoke.)

................... GALVIN
......... So … do you believe her? An angel
......... saved her? Is she crazy?

................... DAVID
......... I have no desire to either comment on
......... other people's mental states or
......... invalidate their faith in God.

................... GALVIN
......... Did she SOUND crazy?

................... DAVID
......... She told me her story but …

FLASHBACK:

Mrs. Joyce lies on a CLINIC BED, OXYGEN on her face. Marissa
dabs at her SOOTY FACE with a WET CLOTH. Mrs. Joyce reaches
out from the bed to someone who approaches. Heads turn: it's
David. He takes her hands. She pulls off the oxygen to speak.

................... MRS. JOYCE
......... Pastor David, God sent an angel to
......... save me! I lay there helpless on the
......... floor of my flaming trailer, asking
......... the Lord Jesus to take me home
......... quickly. And then, there he was: an
......... angel! He wore long white robes that
......... dripped with the dew of Heaven. He
......... picked me up in his powerful arms, and
......... his garments felt cool against my
......... parched lips and face. Then he carried
......... me out into the fresh night air where
......... I once again breathed freely. Then
......... after he set me down gently upon the
......... sweet green Earth, he disappeared in
......... the twinkling of an eye!

David looks up from Mrs. Joyce to the others present (Marissa,
Carl, and other FIREFIGHTERS). He's speechless.

END FLASHBACK

................... DAVID
......... … I really can't discuss that.

................... GALVIN
......... Do you believe in angels? For real?

................... DAVID
......... Sure. It's part of my religion. But
......... all angel encounters need scrutiny.

The car pulls into the

PARSONAGE DRIVEWAY

The car CUTS OUT. They exit the car, SLAMMING doors.

................... GALVIN
......... So, in your expert opinion, do you
......... think maybe she was mistaken about it
......... being an angel who saved her?
............. (notices David's confusion)
......... Maybe the firemen found her on the
......... ground because it was really a PERSON
......... who saved her, but she only MISTAKENLY
......... thought it was an angel.

................... DAVID
......... Maybe so. But why wasn't that person
......... there when the fire trucks arrived?

................... GALVIN
......... Maybe he left to go get help.

They both begin walking up the driveway together.

................... DAVID
......... Now that's an interesting theory. I
......... never would have thought of that.

Galvin's hopes start to rise.

................... DAVID
......... But now that anonymous hero needs to
......... come forward and identify himself.

Galvin smiles and is about to tell all. But then --

................... MANUEL (O.S.)
......... PASTOR DAVID!!

Galvin and David both turn to see the Sheriff coming up the drive.

................... DAVID
......... Hi, Manuel. What can I do for you?

................... MANUEL
......... It's Mrs. Joyce. Can we talk alone?

Galvin raises an eyebrow. David turns to him:

................... DAVID
......... Need anything else tonight, Galvin?

................... GALVIN
......... No, I'm fine. But thanks for the ride.
......... Have a good night! You too, Sheriff.

................... MANUEL
......... Good night, Galvin.

Galvin goes up the steps, OPENS the door, pretends to enter,
and SLAMS it from the outside. He squats and listens.

................... DAVID
......... What's up, Manuel?

................... MANUEL
......... You and I both know Mrs. Joyce didn't
......... crawl from that fire on her own with
......... no wheelchair and no walker. She was
......... dragged out. But not by an angel.

................... DAVID
......... Galvin and I were just saying maybe
......... there's a reluctant hero in town.

................... MANUEL
......... That's what I fear. Ever heard of a
......... messiah complex, Pastor?

................... DAVID
......... You're thinking the person who saved
......... her might also have set the fire?

Galvin silently gasps at such an assumption.

................... MANUEL
......... Some folks will fabricate a crisis to
......... try and engineer their own heroism.

................... DAVID
......... I know the type-- there's one in every
......... church. But setting fire to an old
......... lady's house while she's trapped
......... inside? That's downright criminal!

................... MANUEL
......... That's where I get involved. No one’s
......... claimed to be her hero yet. But if
......... anyone does, I'm less inclined to hand
......... him a medal than I am to read him his
......... rights.

................... DAVID
......... Why hide if his goal is admiration?

................... MANUEL
......... Maybe when he pulled her out he
......... mistakenly thought she was dead and
......... fled in panic. But now that word is
......... out that she's gonna make it--

................... DAVID
......... -- Now I get it. How can I help?

................... MANUEL
......... The standard profile is a male ages 15
......... thru 45 who experienced a recent
......... failure, and now believes an act of
......... public heroism will make up for his
......... failure. If you know anyone fitting
......... that profile, I need you to tell me.

................... DAVID
......... I'm hesitant to betray a confidence.

................... MANUEL
......... Oh come on, Pastor! You're not bound
......... to keep confessions a secret like
......... Father Lorenzo is! And we're talking
......... about attempted murder here!

................... DAVID
......... Does it even look like the fire was
......... deliberate?

................... MANUEL
......... County Fire Marshall has to inspect.
......... It might be a week before we'll
......... know. 'Til then I stay pessimistic.
......... Are you with me?

................... DAVID
......... I'll keep my ears open.

Galvin crouches on the top step, eye bugged out in terror.





Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A "Blog Thing" thing

I'm not posting this because I think it's oh-wow-cool (and I don't). But because when you're done taking the "test" it gives you secret coding for how to format your blog with columns and stuff.

Your Personality Profile
You are funky, outdoorsy, and down to earth.While you may not be a total hippie...You're definitely one of the most free spirited people around.
You are very impulsive - every day is a new adventure.However, you do put some thought behind all your actions.Still, you do tend to shock and offend people from time to time!

My Adventures in Asking the Experts: Firemen and Chopper Pilots

I have a fire in my script, and thus several firemen, (inlcuding one who's a substantial supporting character). I also have two separate scenes involving two separate choppers.

Now, I've never fought a fire before. Nor flown in a chopper. So .... I asked several individuals who HAVE done such things.

Three months ago, when I was still writing my outline, I logged onto a helicopter web site and had a grand old time chatting with a half dozen very friendly professional chopper pilots about their jobs. I explained that I specifically needed to find a valid excuse to have a chopper pad located on top of a mountian in the middle of a desert. One guy told me about the very common occurence of cellular repeater towers on moutain tops, and how such towers always need chopper pads for emergency service (he posted a few pics for me of what such chopper pads typically look like). I also asked about how fast a chopper can go since one character in my script claims that an EMS chopper can arrive in less than one hour from an EMS crew 100 miles away. Again, the pilots were very cool and very helpful. One was a woman who is also an amateur and yet award-winning playwrite herself. She was especioally supportive.

I recently sent them all the link to my script here on the net. They were glad to hear back from me and again very supportive. I am waiting to hear back from them about the script.

As for the firemen, I delayed in doing any firemen research and have been feeling kinda self-conscious about that. But then just the other day I was in Starbucks thinking about this exact situation when I saw a guy walk by with a T-shrt that said SFD on the back. I jumped up, introduced myself, explained I was a scriptwriter, and asked him: can you suggest a fire station around here where it'll be no big deal if I show up with a box of donuts and ask the guys on duty to read my script? He suggested one that was the largest in the area, explaining there are always a huge number of guys on duty at any given time in that one fire house. I asked him if the chief at that station would mind. He said no, that the guys are usually sitting around doing a whole lot of nothing anyway, and they generally like to see/hear about films that make firemen look good.

So, yesterday afternoon I showed up at that huge fire station with a box of donuts (they ate them up in an instant, but it was kinda hot outside so next time, I'll bring cold sodas or ice cream). They were all VERY cool about it. I promised there was no need for them to read ALL of the script, just the parts with the firemen stuff. The first guy to read those segments said he was definitely very hooked and said he'd very much like to see this movie. The second guy was a real movie buff, and he and his brother actually shot an indie film a few years back, and recently submitted a script to a Hollywood agency and got some great feedback on it. He and I talked for several hours. He made fantastic suggestion on my script, especially about my need to move one critical plot point closer to the realm of the Almighty First Ten Pages. Great guy. He said he wants to read the rewrite.

On a side note, I was kinda startled to see how many of these guys have some rather serious burn scars on their bodies. One guy had terrible scars and what looked like skin grafts on both hands and his neck. I can't imagine what it must be like for the wives of these guys, watching their husbands sacrifice their bodies year after year, getting more and more scarred up.

The converation with the firefighetrs ended at exactly 5:00 PM sharp when the alarm went off and they all jumped on the trucks to respond to a kitchen fire. They were out the doors in less than 40 seconds. I said good-bye to the chief and promised that next time I'd bring ice cream.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Second bits of feedback on my script from people

Okay, some MORE feedback just arrived this morning. My reviewer said:

Take a deep breath! Writing quality is pretty good, close to excellent in many places. I wouldn't be surprised if you told me that you have major writing credits. I'm not asking -- I'm just telling you how your pages read.

Truth to tell I was hoping I could suggest an easy way to shrink your pages but it's just not that simple, you're not a particularly wordy writer and your style is already pretty succinct. The story arc (from what I've seen) doesn't invite easy breakdown and restructuring.

So, let's at least get down to the trivial stuff.

The previously daunting task of trimming down my screenplay is getting even less daunting with all these positive reactions. And I've even been able to move the end of Act 1 from page 80 all the way back to page 60. So progress is being made.

Friday, April 20, 2007

First bits of feedback on my script from people

I took Lucy's advice about "the power of three" and I have three people from one message board reading my script, and three from another board reading it.

Here's the first bit of feedback I got today from one who is a film student. She warned me yesterday when she agreed to read my script: "I can be very mean sometimes when I critique people's work."

Anyway, here's the very opening line of the PM she sent me just an hour ago:

Wow, wow, wow wowowowowowowowowowow... and wow...This is incredible almost. I'm only on page 97 ... and it is truly amazing.

This is very encouraging. I can't wait for the other responses. This is so exciting!!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Ricochet Post: Christians who drink and the new social tolerance of it

Chashab has written a blog entry

http://theaestheticelevator.com/2007/04/15/cultural-shift-in-christianity/

about the newly emerging openness toward alcohol amongst American Christians. Here's my response:

Alcohol in one form or another has existed for thousands of years, mostly in the form of either beer or wine. Because the alcoholic content of both of those beverages is so low, it takes GREAT DEAL of either to achieve all out drunkenness. So, in ancient times, only those who consumed in mass quantities ever achieved drunkenness. Such people were rare and so hardly any religious leaders of any persuasion (Jewish, Christian, etc) were at all concerned about the consumption of alcohol by their congregation members. Jesus certainly drank wine. And the Bible only prohibits outright drunkenness (which, as I stated, was rare). In Europe in particular, the drinking of alcohol was deemed safer than the drinking of water, which was usually contaminated by raw sewage. Tiny children who were only just weaned from their mother's milk were immediately upgraded to wine and beer by the age of 2. Even the Mayflower Pilgrims were daily drinkers of beer. However, in the late 1600's, a new form of alcoholic beverage emerged which was a super-concentrated formula: gin.

Gin was neither a wine nor a beer. It was a spirit. And that was the problem.

Here's some background. Wine is achieved via slow fermentation over years. Beer is achieved via brewing. But a spirit is achieved via distillation. (In my home state of Massachusetts, there are actually three separate licenses: a beer license, AND a wine license, AND a liquor license. Some stores/restaurants will have beer and wine, but it's a lot harder to get the third. And the state wants to keep the RATIO of all three types of licenses tilted so that the liquor licenses are always rarer than beer and wine.) Distilling wasn't new, but advanced and carefully controlled methods of distilling suddenly were. The new stills were very efficient and capable of achieving a purity of spirit never before seen.

The distillation method is the alcohol-equivalent of free-basing. The concentration of alcohol that results from distillation is medically disabling and potentially lethal. The ability to get utterly plastered and falling down drunk from even a small amount of a distilled spirit is almost effortless. Public drunkenness became an overnight problem, especially in London. Such never-before-seen degrees of drunkenness led to the sudden proliferation of life-destroying social problems such as: loss of employment, spousal abuse, child abuse and neglect, public brawling, and even injury and death from the clumsiness of drunken people in such severe states of incapacitation that serious and fatal accidents would happen, either to themselves, or those around them. And, with the rise of the Industrial Revolution, non-stop states of drunkenness became particularly dangerous when people were operating upon, or in the vicinity of, large machinery.

The response of the church was at first to preach against drinking too much. But when things only got worse, the next step was to call for an absolute abstinence from ALL alcohol.

Meanwhile, the Christian Women's Temperance Union was formed by the abused wives of chronically drunk men. These women insisted that when their husbands were sober, they were NOT violent. But when under the influence of strong drink, they became demons. If only their husbands would stop drinking.

The CWTU called for a boycott of ALL alcohol. And then, eventually, refraining from all alcohol inadvertently became a mark of being a Christian. And then, eventually, a REQUIREMENT of being a Christian. The Bible does NOT prohibit drinking. But the Prohibition Movement took certain scriptures, applied specific meanings to them, and brazenly (even sincerely) insisted that the Bible did indeed say ALL drinking was evil. Jesus, they said, never drank wine, just grape juice. And the New Testament call for believers to drink of the "new wine" were references to freshly squeezed grapes that did not yet have time to ferment. On a theological level, this was all quite absurd. On a historical level, it was groundless. But on a social level, it was the only weapon in their arsenal against this horrible scourge upon society. This was convenient scripture-twisting with a noble cause in mind.

When soda pop was invented in the 1800's, many people perceived it --with its bubbling essence--was surely a close cousin of alcohol (and considering that the original formula for Coca-Cola had REAL cocaine in it, they weren't too far off the mark in perceiving it had mind-altering capabilities). While there was no alcoholic content in soda, it was still viewed as suspect by Christian leaders, and so the sale of soda on Sundays was prohibited. Prior to that restriction, ice cream sodas were very popular. But because soda was not to be sold on a Sunday, this led to soda fountain owners to get creative. The "ice cream sundae" was invented as a Sunday-appropriate alternative to the ice cream soda.

Some Christians even began to resist coffee and tea, insisting that ANY substance which alters the mind must surely be ungodly. But it has been noted by historians that the rise in coffee and tea consumption was of extreme importance to the success of the Industrial Revolution. Caffeine actually enhances alertness and so rather than sleepy people walking around factories in a mild stupor all day long, we had suddenly caffeine-buzzing employees diligently getting their jobs done. It's no wonder that to this day most companies from both the white collar and blue collar ends of the employment spectrum consider the building of a fully equipped coffee room to be mandatory, and will even include cases and cases of free coffee, sugar, creamer, and filters for their employees in their annual budgets.

The law called Prohibition, aka "The Noble Experiment," a hallmark of the 1920's, was the CWTU's crowning achievement. And also a total disaster. It did NOT cause people to stop drinking. It only gave rise to a super-refined, extremely efficient and newly lucrative form of organized crime in the cities. "Bathtub Gin" was their specialty, and "speak-easy's" were their outlets. Prohibition also prompted moonshine production out in the countryside (it was called moonshine because it was secretly distilled at night, under the moonlight).

I have given you this HUGE history lesson to explain that it was only after the destructive advent of distilled spirits in the 1700's that Christians began to shun ALL forms of alcohol. And for good reason, not out of silly snobbery. But, well-intended people and their well-intended movements can sometimes get out of hand.

Today, the social ills of alcohol are nowhere near what they once were, but admittedly still exist. But these lower instances of public and chronic drunkenness are NOT due to our becoming better people (we're not, we're still ugly, weak sinners). The only thing that reigned it all in was social awareness, social taboos, and the criminalization of public drunkenness, most especially when it comes to drunk driving (can you say"vehicular homicide" and "suspended driver's license"?).

As for your observation about Christians lightening up over alcohol, I agree. Some churches have adopted a monthly wine tasting fellowship as part of their yuppie and singles outreaches. But the potential for alcohol addiction is still very real. Some people can handle alcohol and some can't. Some people don't even like alcohol and some become addicts with the very first drop that touches their lips. So being mindful of not wanting to cause your brother to stumble is always wise.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Movie Prerequisite: Show Me Something New

Show me something I've NEVER seen before. Something never before set to film. Something that neither I nor anyone else has ever conceived before. Give me a first rate, world class "Wow" from beyond my wildest dreams. Take. My. Breath. Away.

I don't know about the rest of you, but the number one selling point for me on how much interest I'm going to have in a film is the trailer. And so far this year I have seen TWO trailers that register quite high on my wow-meter. Two films that had one or more snippets of but a few seconds each that totally blew my doors off.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End http://movies.yahoo.com/feature/piratesofthecaribbeanatworldsend.html

and

Next
http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1808716234/info

The PotC trailer has only one image that blows me away. No, not the scene with the ship heading for the end of the world (a flat earth image where the waters of the ocean are falling off the edge of the world into space as a ship precariously heads for the edge). That image has been done before (yawn). In fact, not only have I already seen a ship sailing to the edge of a flat earth before in several serious movies, I'm also pretty sure Monty Python did it once as a Python cartoon joke. And I also recall leafing through a friend's vintage collection of LP records and the cover of one album (you music heads might know what I'm talking about, I know I don't recall) was a very cool early 1970's semi-psychedelic painting of a ship sailing off the edge of the world. So it's not as if a ship sailing off the edge of the world is something I have NEVER see before. No.... the PotC image that absolutely stirred my fantasy-driven soul is of the huge ocean going ship sailing over the dunes of either a beach or of a vast desert. The Black Pearl went supernaturally amphibious it would seem.

As for the trailer for Next, the imagery in that film has Nicolas Cage repeatedly dodging danger after danger. In one snippet he even literally dodges a bullet. This was WAY cool. He dodges a car as it tumbles down a mountain at him. He even dodges the individual logs in an avalanche of logs falling down the same mountain. And the reason he is able to dodge them is he already knows ahead of time where they will be at what point in time. You can see Nicolas Cage standing there, counting the seconds until he has to dodge the next airborne object.

I have NEVER seen that before. Not even Neo dodging bullets in The Matrix can top this.

Way cool.

Another excerpt from my script

Okay. I only just found out a few minutes ago that if you make a Blogspot post, save it as a draft, and then go back weeks later and hit "publish" it will NOT publish with today's date, it will instead publish with the several-weeks-ago date.

Hmmph!

Here's the one I published today, yet is dated April1st so it's buried behind other posts:

http://sandwichboardroom.blogspot.com/2007/04/my-third-excerpt-from-angels-of-highway.html

(How embarassing!)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ricochet Post: Subconscious plot elements that surface in multiple scripts

Okay. Lucy just did a post on her utterly fabulous blog where she talks about the Freudian-esque thing of having the same plot elements show up in her scripts again and again on what seems to be a subconscious level.

http://lucyvee.blogspot.com/2007/04/feedback-and-repetition-compulsion.html

And so, I now confess that I too have subconscious repetitions:


::EDIT::
I WENT BACK THROUGH AND DID EDITS IN PURPLE TO INCLUDE THE DETAILS ABOUT THE ANGELS IN THE STORIES.

1) RED HAIR
I have two scripts where two characters are specifically described as having red hair. Both are tall good looking guys, BTW. Other than that, I almost never describe hair color (supposed to be a no-no in scriptwriting).


2) TEARY-EYED WOMEN OPENING THEIR SHIRTS TO REVEAL TO THEIR S.O. THE EXISTENCE OF INJURIES SUFFERED AT THE HANDS OF OTHERS
I have a wife in one script who gets beat-up badly by a super-natural beastie (she and her hubbie just bought a house and didn't know it was haunted). After he checks her out of the emergency room and the they both check into a hotel room (refusing to go back to the house), they have a huge argument about selling the house, and he finally demands of her: "WHAT PROOF DO YOU HAVE THAT DEMONS EXIST?" And she, in tears, wordlessly (wordlessly, mind you, very important) opens her shirt and shows him the bruises she suffered at the hands of a demon. It's a moment of both shock and reconciliation.

I have another script where a guy and a girl have just begun dating and haven't gotten to the hot'n'heavy stuff in their relationship yet (so he hasn't seen her naked body yet). She asks him "If I told you I had a really bad scar on my body, would that turn you off?" He says no and asks what happened (surgery maybe?) She explains it was her ex-husband, a violent and controlling man she had to flee from via an underground network of women's shelters. After she tells him about this terrible secret of her past, she doesn't show the scar to him, but he's pretty cool about it. A few weeks later (they still haven't gotten sexual with each other yet, btw) he gives her a gift: a satellite cell phone and he has a matching one. And both phones have GPS screens and he's the blue dot and she's the pink dot and now they can always find each other. She totally flips out at him and accuses him of wanting to keep track of her and control her. She storms away. Later on she calls him and has him come over. And in shameful tears she opens her shirt for him and (wordlessly--very important that it's wordless) finally shows him the scar. Again, this is a moment of reconciliation.

3) A PIECE OF A TORN SHIRT SLEEVE AS EVIDENCE FOR A CHILD'S STORY
In two scripts, I have a hunk of ripped clothing. One hunk is deliberately torn off his own shirt sleeve by an injured guy who lies near death on the floor of a small barn (okay, he's really an injured ANGEL lying on the floor of a barn). He hands the ripped shirt sleeve to a little boy (who is there with his sister) and tells him to take it to his parents (the ripped shirt is proof that he's in the barn and will prompt the parents to come out--actually it will prompt the other angels in the house to come out because he needs their help and can't hail them in his injured state). The injured man stays in the barn with the little girl awaiting the return of the little boy and the parents (and hopefully the other angels --a little bit of Whistle Down the Wind here).

The other script I have a little girl who is riding her bike in the back yard and (little does she know) an old well covered by with rotting boards lies in her path. She rides over the boards, they crack, and she and the bike fall through. Her shirt sleeve gets snagged as she slides down the hole and a hunk of her ripped shirt sleeve remains dangling on the jagged boards, fluttering in the breeze. But, before she hits the bottom of the well shaft, an angel catches her and flies her back up out of the hole again. He tells her to go show her arm to her mom, and then he disappears. The girl's mortified mother takes the girl to the medical clinic to treat the arm. And at the clinic the little girl explains about the hole in the ground and a mysterious man who saved her, but no one believes her. A team of firefighters later goes out to the house and in the back yard they find the cracked open well and also find the ripped shirtsleeve on the edges of the boards. They look down and see the bike way the heck down at the bottom. The piece of cloth on the boards indicates she really did fall through. But they have no explanation as to how she got out on her own.




These are the only repetitions that I am aware of. I'm sure there are others. But Freudian questions will naturally arise now:

1) What's with the red hair thing?


Well, first off, I think Eric Stoltz is kinda sexy. And also, it has been my experience that in a large crowd of people, the easiest person to spot is the guy with red hair. So both scripts have characters who each, at some point, must be easily spotted, so both of those someone's have been assigned red hair.

2) Do I have a scar on my body?

Yes. It's about 3/4 of an inch long and practically invisible. I had a cyst removed as a kid. Not one boyfriend has ever had a problem with it, and only one ever even noticed it.

3) What's with the ripped clothing thing? Have I ever ripped my shirt sleeves? And why children both times?

I really don't know where I got that from. Ripped shirt sleeve? I don't know. Children? I don't know. I did mention above my Whistle Down the Wind thing. And I think the relationship between humans and angels is akin to that of adults to children, so showing children with angels is, to me, representative of the larger picture. But whatever the reason, I still think it's kinda cool imagery.

I also have another situation--actually it's an entire sub-plot -- where an unripped and thoroughly intact piece of clothing (a jacket) becomes a quasi-MacGuffin. The jacket is likewise proof of something very profound and earth-shattering, and by the end of the script, the jacket is finally revealed for its true nature. The jacket was a total accident. It sprang up outa nowhere from one small anecdotal story that a nameless character was giving at one point during the script (a montage of man-on-the-street interviews by a reporter asking random people if they had ever seen an angel, and one nameless person gave the story of having gotten lost in a huge city as a child). But then, after the montage was written, I rethought that one anecdotal story and realized it was kind of a super cool story. So I reassigned that anecdote to a MAJOR character. And then I suddenly realized that the major character should probably still be in possession of that jacket to this day, so I casually had the character add: "My wife and I have it hanging up in our attic in a garment storage bag." And then I realized maybe a scientist should analyze the jacket. So I kept rewriting the importance and stature of the jacket in the script, and the jacket just kept growing in importance with each subsequent draft until it mushroomed into its very own sub-plot.



These are the repeat plot elements that I’m aware of. Lucy’s blog post is about those frequently seen elements that others had to point out to her. I haven’t had enough people read my scripts for that sort of feedback. Maybe some day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Brandon Gray of Box Office Mojo wrote a great piece this time.

While not much of a writer, he's an awesome box office analyst, and has been a guest on radio and television , as well as interviewed by print news publications, to discuss the box office aspect of Hollywood films. He knows his box office stuff and I avidly read his reports every Monday morning. I am fascinated down to my geeky core by box office data and he's my fav disseminator of it.

His Monday morning focus is always on the numbers: which film hit the #1 slot. Which film dropped by the lowest percentage. Which film had how much of a budget, etc. In the midst of this otherwise dry number crunching, Brandon livens things up a bit by tossing in LOTS of really bad puns. Such as, in April of 2005, he wrote about the mediocre ticket sales for the opening weekend of Fever Pitch, "Not many were hot for Fever Pitch, which loaded $12.4 million at 3,267 bases." And just a few weeks ago, here's what he said about the #1 slot going to 300 for the second week in a row, "300 bleeds but leads." Yes: he has no shame. That's his style. And it somehow works. Not GREAT writing, but not terrible either. And when it comes to writing about numbers ya gotta try and spark them up SOMEHOW, right?

This week, he wrote a SUPERB report that went beyond his admittedly above-average and clever capacity to toss puns around.

http://boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=2289&p=.htm

Here's an excerpt where he analyzes the disappointing numbers that Grindhouse netted over Easter:

"Much of the promotional campaign was dedicated to explaining the term "Grindhouse," blanking out on the point of emulating niche cinema from the '70s in the first place. It couldn't work as a spoof because it lacked identifiable references for today's audiences that patronize similar trash, and it suffered the usual horror comedy dilemma that afflicted Snakes on a Plane and Slither among others: too funny to be scary, too scary to be funny.

What's more, Grindhouse was essentially a horror anthology, and that sub-genre has never been big business. Grindhouse was also a self-referential movie about the movies, and such navel-gazing often leaves the public cold. The promise of lurid thrills can only take a picture so far. "



Navel-gazing.

Too funny to be scary, too scary to be funny.

Self-referential.

This is his better stuff. I'm not saying I want him to ditch the puns. But writing of THIS level separates him from so many others. I wish he was consistently this sharp with the keyboard.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Yes, I changed my template. No, there's nothing wrong with your computer or your links.

And the only thing I don't dig about it is that it's a "lefty" template.

The other one was cool, but too dark. And I wanted the main text area to be broader.

And in honor of the 50th anniversary of Helvetica, I went with all Arial fonts.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Grindhouse is NOT hitting #1 this weekend

This should come as no surprise to me (even though it IS coming as a surprise).

http://boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?yr=2007&wknd=14&p=.htm

TW - Title --- Weekend Gross - PTA - Total Gross - Budget-- Week #

1 Blades of Glory -- $23,000,000 - $6,744 - $ 68,383,000 - $61 - 2
2 Meet the Robinsons $17,004,000 - $4,950 - $ 52,235,000 ------- 2
3 Are We Done Yet? - $15,000,000 --$5,213 - $ 19,063,000 ------- 1
4 Grindhouse ------- $11,591,000 - $4,417 - $ 11,591,000 - $53 - 1
5 The Reaping ------ $10,080,000 - $3,872 - $ 12,010,000 ------- 1
6 300 -------------- $ 8,825,000 - $3,300 - $193,880,000 - $65 - 5
7 Wild Hogs -------- $ 6,838,000 - $2,420 - $145,453,000 ------- 6
8 Shooter ---------- $ 5,800,000 - $2,464 - $ 36,656,000 --$61 - 3
9 TMNT ------------- $ 4,935,000 - $1,755 - $ 46,722,000 - $34 - 3
10 Firehouse Dog --- $ 4,000,000 - $1,398 - $ 5,257,000 -------- 1



But the reality is, Grindhouse is over 3 hours long, and therefore it CANNOT crank out as many showings per day as a 2-hour film can (which is exactly what happened to King Kong 16 months ago).

Also, Grindhouse is an "R" and this being a HUGE holiday weekend (Easter) movie attendance will lean more toward family and kiddie fare.

Also, there are some people who just WON'T allow themselves to see a film like Grindhouse. So when the let's-go-to-the-movies suggestion pops up, and is met by the standard gee-what's-playing? question, the commitee-driven process of elimination discussion will immediately blacklist Grindhouse in mere seconds.

Friday, April 6, 2007

How to Portray a Christian Minister in a Film

Rule #1 - Never allow him to be a man of either intelligence or education.
All Christian ministers are grossly lacking in both. This is an undeniable fact. If they had either, they would never have chosen this profession.

Rule #2 - He must not exhibit a coherent or contemporary command of the English language.
His conversational English needs to denote low inteligence and/or poor education (see Rule #1), or else needs to indicate a divergent personality disorder such as megalomania. The one exception to this rule is that a Christian minister CAN be a good public speaker with effective conversational skills ONLY if he is a smooth-talking, money-grubbing scheister.

Rule #3 - He cannot be logical.
He cannot have ever had formal training in logic or philosophy or the most basic principles of debate. So when he is engaged in a disagreement with someone, he will default to shouting, bullying, or patronzing.

Rule #4 - He cannot have a character arc that involves positive personal change.
Christian ministers are not about change. They are about static, stubborn, unbudgability. So either the character must remain flat and unchanging, or he must eventually be his own undoing. The only acceptable POSITIVE character arc that a minister can go through would be if he realizes his religion is a sham and chooses by film's end to abandon his faith and profession completely.

Rule #5 - He needs to have serious sexual problems.
Religious leaders are uptight about sex. And therefore suffer from severe sexual dysfunctions, and probably also harbor many closet fetishes, possibly even criminally deviant ones. His relationship with his wife needs to be problematic on many levels because of this, and his children will also show evidence of sexual maladjustment. The overriding rule of thumb is that it's impossible for a Christian minister to be cool about sex, to have a healthy sex life with his spouse, to have a sense of humor about sex, or in any way be comfortable with it, either in himself or those around him. Be forwarned that any movie script which has a Christian minister that exhibits any form of positive sexual health will be promptly rejected and an immediate rewrite demanded.

Rule #6 - He must be intolerant of personal individuality and cultural diversity.
The Christian religion mandates that their ministers push an agenda of assimilation and ethnocentricity. They ardently strive to for cultural monopolization and homogenization. They are the religious equivalent of the Borg. All actions and dialogue of any Christian minister must exemplify their disdain for freedom of expression, and a lack of openness to alternative cultures.

Rule #7 - His tastes and overall personality must be boring, limited, and unoriginal.

CLOTHING: His profesional wardrobe should be full of dark suits. His casual wardrobe should be flannel plaid shirts and cardigan sweaters. Think "Land's End" but out of date by 15 years. His wife always only ever wears dresses, she probably sews them herself, and they will always be nauseatingly flowery prints that look like they were made from old tablecloths or bedspreads. His sons will likewise wear flannel shirts, and they will wet-comb their hair down flat and part it on the side. His daughters also wear dresses, sport long hair and no makeup, and have a hollow, frightened look in their eyes. Sleep wear for the men/sons will always be classic button-shirted pajamas with pants. The wife/daughters will sleep in long-sleeved, high-necked, cotton, white, non-romantic night gowns.

READING: He reads almost nothing but the Bible and maybe Reader's Digest. If he bothers to read fiction, it's only Christian fiction. He has never touched a classic in his life. He refuses to read news magazines like Time or Newsweek because they all support "the Liberal agenda." Maybe he reads the local town newspaper, but only to grumble and disagree with it. And since he's neither intelligent nor educated, he has no clue about Greek, Latin, or Hebrew.

HOME DECOR: Always drab and lacking in life. Furniture should be cheap knock-offs of early-American and/or colonial with plenty of finials and dark wood. If there's any artwork on the walls, it'll be just pastoral stuff or flowers. Darkened or yellowing wall-paper is perfect. If the floors are wooden, they will lack shine. Carpets are worn and uninteresting. Books anywhere in the house are rare to non-existent.

MUSIC: Of course he listens to gospel music, and maybe the classics (but he won't actually understand the classics). Secular music is of the Devil, so neither he nor his wife and children listen to it. There is probably either a piano or an organ in his house, and his wife and daughters play it. If they ever play any non-religious piano music, it's old yellowed sheet music from the 1920's.

FILM AND TELEVISION: Hollywood is a stronghold of Satan, so movie-going is forbidden. There MIGHT be a TV in the house, but only to watch the news. VCR's and DVD players are invitations to porn, so they're not allowed. And no video games either.

COMPUTERS: If he has a computer in his house, he uses it to write his sermons. He is NOT internet savvy. Neither are his wife and kids.

SPORTS: Wholesome outdoor activities are walking, fishing, and playing golf. Boys can play baseball and football. Girls can play basketball, but only if they wear skirts. All sports must be separated by gender (no co-ed sports allowed).

FOOD: Dinner is served up by his wife every night at 5:30 sharp. And it'll be some variation on meat 'n potatoes. Maybe we can allow for a pasta dish that remotely resembles Italian cuisine. But no Christian minister would ever eat Mexian, Thai, or sushi.

Rule #8 - The bulk of his time is spent writing and rehearsing sermons.
He never ministers to people on an individual, one-on-one level. Never interacts with members of his congregation outside of the obligatory round of hand shaking outside the church after a Sunday service. He never does counseling sessions. He never makes house calls. He never visits the sick. He never visits those in prison. He never meets with local community leaders--unless he's a "bad guy" minister who is covertly scheming on some political level with/against those other leaders. Aside from weddings, funerals, and the ocassional baptism (which is always an INFANT baptism) he's very self-absorbed and leads a totally insular life.

Rule #9 - His sermons are always of the "fire and brimstone" variety.
He must employ a pulpit pounding, rafter-rattling, fist-waving style of preaching, even though less than 20% of all American pastors/preachers fall into this category. And the congregation always responds with loud affirmations of "AMEN!" and "PREACH IT!" even though the vast majority of American congregations observe polite and attentive silence during a sermon. And during the worship music portion of a service, the congregation will worship in outrageous strains of Pentecostalism, including dancing, jumping, arm-waving, speaking in tongues, and getting slain in the spirit, even though less than 20% of American church-goers engage in such displays of Charismata.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A scriptwriter's struggle with virtue, impact, and the admonition to "think on these things"

Okay, here's one of those classic morality-laden verses from the Bible that we teach little kids in a real Mr. Rogers way:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.-- Philippians 4:8

I am committed to making scripts of virtue and impact. Not just virtue, and not just impact, but both. That's a tough balancing act to achieve, but one worth striving for. I think most Christian scriptwriters default to writing scripts that are "merely" virtuous. And because they fear straying from virtue, fail to also arrive at a place of impact with their oh-so-virtuous scripts.

My current script has six different characters (none of whom are Christian characters) who use profanity (as it stands now, this script would get a tame PG-13). One of my best friends read the script this past weekend and she said she totally loved it ... but ... she wants me to pull out the profanity. I have no desire to do so. She said "You can't compromise. You need to separate yourself from the world." But I don't want to pull out the profanity because it's REAL profanity in the context of REAL dialogue, and makes my characters REAL. One of my "cursing characters" is the main protagonist--not a Christian man. One is a college student (how many college students DON'T use profanity?) Three are a pack of partying teenagers. And one is a mafia boss.

If you want me to break down and start COUNTING the "bad words" (which some Christians do, especially some Christian film reviewers) I believe there are between 12 and 17 utterances of the offensive expletives, two of which are the dreaded "f-word," and the rest are "sh-t" and "damn" and "ass -hole" and "hell" and "son of a b-tch." (As for the "f-word" I have been schooled in the knowledge that you can get away with two "f-cks" in a PG-13 before they promote you--or demote you--to an "R" rating, and even then the usage of the word "f-ck" cannot be in the context of sex/rape, just an off-handed growling. And if you're wondering why I'm censoring myself with creative spelling here in this post, it's because I have Christian friends who come to my blog, and they employ profanity filters that would block my blog from them.)

No, I will NOT remove my profanity from this script. These are legitimate examples of contemporary dialogue. The LACK of profanity would be a detraction. One scene has my main protagonist trying to save an old lady from a trailer fire. Another is the mafia boss ordering his men to kill an intruder. Another is four teenagers having a party out in the desert around a campfire, and they're upset over a smelly pile of manure nearby ruining the atmosphere.

Focusing just on the mafia boss, I crafted his character as a beautifully charming and refined gentleman with a soft, kind manner of speech, utterly devoid of profanity all through the script ... up until the end. He strikes you at the beginning as a man who would NEVER utter a SINGLE word of profanity in his life. Then at the end when an intruder boldly comes and sits down with him, the mafia boss looks up from his phone call, stunned that this man--whoever he is--had the nerve to enter and sit with him. He says to the telephone "I'm sorry--could I please call you back? .... Thank you." Then he politely hangs up, looks at the intruder, musters a kind and soft-spoken tone and says: "Pardon me, but who the f-ck are you?" There's meant to be shock value in his uncustomary usage of profanity in that otherwise politely phrased and totally fair question. And then, when the intruder (who is really an evil angel) politely smiles back and informs the mafia boss that he's come to kill him, the mafia boss suddenly morphs into Marcellus Wallace and tells his henchmen: "Waste him! I don't care about the goddamned upholstery! Pop him right now!" Again, this is meant to be shock value derived from his unexpected change of demeanor. And I think it's effective shock value. No, I will NOT remove this profanity. I think it's darned good script writing. And I can't see a mafia boss REFRAINING from profanity in a situation like this.

Some might say "Shock value is cheap." But I argue that there are GOOD shocks and BAD shocks. I think these from my script represent the good ones. Not clumsy, desperate shocks, but well-crafted shocks that are character-revealing and true to reality.

I don't think I am betraying virtue by also being real. I want to have impact. So the profanity stays. And I think the overall MESSAGE of my script is one of virtue.