A Handy Guide To Everything A Screenwriter Should Not Say. Ever.

Yup. Everything not to say. All in one place.

I am well familiar with the work of William Nicholson (as are you) but I know nothing about the man outside of his work. I thought well, maybe the clickbaiters are taking quotes out of context to try and drive some traffic… But there was this:

“’12 Years a Slave’ came out in America and that sucked up all the guilt about black people that was available. They were so exhausted feeling guilty about slavery that I don’t think there was much left over to be nice about our film. So our film didn’t do as well as we’d hoped, which was a bit heartbreaking.

“We showed it to test audiences very extensively and it got astounding responses. These things are measured in percentages and it was in the high 90s every time. So, honestly, we thought we had a winner. And when it didn’t become a winner it was devastating, actually, it was very distressing.

“I really thought it was going to win lots of awards, partly because it’s a good story but also because I thought I’d done a really good job and the director had done a really good job. So it has been very tough for me. Some things work and some things don’t. You just have to soldier on.”

… Ummm. Yeah…

There’s more in the Hitfix article, but be warned- it’s more than a bit heartbreaking. I mean, where to begin…?

Comparing Mandela’s struggle to slavery in America is so… misguided is the word I’m going to use.  There are others. Even going so far as to imply that people would see 12 Years A Slave (or Mandela, for that matter) out of guilt? Or that one filmic struggle cancels out the other because they both involve “black people”. What? I’m amazed he didn’t drag Fruitvale Station into the discussion. But, hey, it didn’t steal his awards thunder, so I guess it further didn’t merit a mention.

Wow. I’d honestly like to break this down further, but it’s making me too sad. This cannot be diversity in 2014, folks. We have got to do better.

Hillary Crosley Says What We Are All Thinking (AKA WE ARE NOT IDIOTS)

Forgive me if this sounds a bit all over the place, but I’m still recovering from reading this:

Hollywood Promises Female Director forExpendaBelles, Hires Man

And, admittedly, that is not shocking. Not even a little. Happens all the time. I’m still working my way to the WTF??!!!!!??? part.

Oh. Here it is! A Synopsis:

When America’s Navy SEALs are wiped out trying to penetrate the island lair of a deadly despot who has captured one of the world’s top nuclear scientists, it becomes clear that there is no such thing as the right man for the job and that this is a mission so impossible that only women can handle it. The only way in: some of the world’s deadliest female operatives must pose as high-class call-girls shipped in by private plane to satisfy a dictator–and instead save the scientist and the day.

Oh. Wow.

The plot of the ExpendaBelles (which is a classy enough title alone, let’s face it) has the kick-ass heroes posing AS HIGH-CLASS CALL GIRLS. Folks, the shitty run-on sentence in the middle of that shit idea DOES NOT HELP IT. AT ALL.

WE CAN STILL SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING. WE ARE NOT IDIOTS.

Ask yourself- has a hero male in an action flick EVER posed as a prostitute? LITERALLY, EVER!? DID I MISS SOMETHING?!

You wanna know what’s wrong with women in movies. THIS. THIS IS IT. We can do better. We have to. We are half the population. We cannot seriously be spoon feeding this shit to our daughters, our sisters, our mothers. No more. Tired of it. Done.

Listen to @MysteryExec already. It’s time. Be The fucking Change.

The Weekend Reader – January 3, 2014

A new thing for the new year. Every Friday (give or take), I’ll post a list of recent reading from around the interwebs that might be of interest to y’all. As always, if there’s any interesting news/discussion you think I’ve missed, send it along!

Enjoy and keep writing!

Major 2013 Film Themes from The Guardian

4 Things Writers Should Stop Expecting from Bang 2 Write

Hollywood Movies With Strong Female Role Models Make More Money from Vocativ

Jeff Willis Breaks Down A Script Option Deal from The Black Board

101 Deadliest films by body count (Infographic) from Randal S. Olson (via The Black Board)

Casting Call: Hollywood Needs More Women from NPR (via The Black Board)

The 10 Most Sexist Female Characters on TV from Role Reboot

‘Her’ is a Futuristic Tale With 21st Century Sexism from Policy Mic

Ricky Gervais on what’s made him so successful from Time.com

WGA Award Nominees from Variety

REMINDER: Download tons of award season scripts from Go Into The Story (So much to learn! DO IT.)

Where Can I Sign Up For The Aline Brosh McKenna Fanclub?

I say this a lot, but there are a ZILLION reasons why you should listen to Scriptnotes. Here is but one more incredibly awesome reason…

The year-end edition of Scriptnotes is a Q & A from their latest live episode. Lots of great questions (you can read the transcript in full as well), including a question about the lack of female action writers. After asking the writer if she was interested in writing action herself, this was Aline Brosh McKenna’s answer:

Aline: Just do it. Who cares? Who cares? And I’ll tell you something right now. It would work for you because right now if I saw your name on a script and I was like, “Oh, who is that, that’s a female woman who wrote this kickass action script, that’s great. Oh, you have to see her. She’s adorable. She’s got this cute gray coat. She’s going to kick your ass.”

And it’s going to be like, oh, it’s not going to be like the 20 other dudes who look the same who are in cargo pants. It’s going to be like we have this girl. Her action kicks ass. People would freak out. They would be so excited. And if you’re putting up that barrier in your own mind, forget it. Put it down.

Yeah. That. We should all do all of that, in whatever genre we choose. Welcome to 2014. (And thank you, Aline)

Passing the Bechdel Test in 2013

My last thought before 2013 disappears.

(And then, FYI, 2014 will pick up riiiight where this leaves off.)

A very interesting post on the Tribeca Film site about 10 Bechdel Test-passing films from 2013. There’s a very interesting bit in there that you’re sure to be very interested in. Go and take a look at it. I’ll wait.

Did you see it? I’d bet you did. Just about 70% of those films had women involved in their writing and/or directing. Women, it seems, are keenly interested in having reflective, nuanced, smart, multi-faceted women on screen.

And, let us not forget, these were (mostly) great films. Let’s look forward to more of these in 2014.

Best Bits of 2013 – The Year of Screenwriting Dangerously

There are a glut (a word I do not use lightly) of “best-of” lists that appear this time of year. Originally, I wasn’t going to add to the pile at all, but I wanted to recap the work of screenwriters I’ve enjoyed in 2013. I’ve been blessed to be on the receiving end of so much great wisdom this year, so I figure this is the least I can do.

(A disclaimer- I am not a movie critic, so my viewing isn’t as thorough as someone who watches movies for a living. I see a lot of movies because I write movies. I sometimes gravitate more to movies/genres/stars/writers I like. And there are still a handful of unseen films on my must-see 2013 list, as listed below. So, better yet, don’t even consider this a year-end list. This is just a collection of films I liked in 2013 that had awesome writers and creators that I’ve learned a whole lot from. Enjoy.)

1-Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg – The World’s End

The only film I can ever imagine seeing in a theatre 13 times (which I really did do) because I am so much in love with the Pegg/Wright aesthetic. Shaun of the Dead turned me on to a whole genre and Hot Fuzz turned a genre I already loved on its head, but The World’s End was something… else. Something really beyond your average film-going experience. Something really smart,  invaluably sweet and utterly enjoyable.

Screenplays for all three films are available on The Ultimate Three Flavors Cornetto® Trilogy Blu-ray™ and there are oh-so-many how-to writing and filmmaking bits floating around online that the guys have shared in their decade-long writing partnership. A huge inspiration to me.

 

2-Ed Solomon – Now You See Me

My all-time favourite screenwriter since forever turned out to be the coolest, sweetest and most generous writer, possibly ever. Did I mention the smartest? Also, probably that. And did I mention I love his work. Swoon. Just swoon.

I was really enchanted by Now You See Me (remind me to post more about how great Mark Ruffalo always is) and I can’t wait to see whatever he works on next.

 

3-Katie Dippold – The Heat

I watched The Heat in theatres, on planes, in airports, in bed. I loved everything about it – including the performances and director – but I especially loved the funny and fearless script. It also prompted the realization that Katie Dippold was one of the few female screenwriters I could actually name… And that was part of the reason why this blog was created in the first place.

 

4-The Great Teachers of TX (Austin, to be exact)

I have been promising myself every year, literally, for nearly 20 years that I would make the trek to Austin, Texas to spend a week of sun and fun there during SXSW. Finally, this year, I made it… almost. I made it to Austin just in time for the 20th Austin Film Festival. I do not regret that choice. Those folks aren’t kidding around.

They say it’s a writer’s festival and they mean it. I spent a lot of time and money on screenwriting events over the past 12 months and, though Austin was kinda pricey, a lovely bunch of people made it worthwhile, including:

Craig Mazin – Identity Thief

Craig Mazin is really, really good at his job. Aside from the weekly Scriptnotes podcast with John August, he wrote both this year’s Identity Thief and The Hangover Part III. But it was Craig’s A-Game at the AFF that floored me. Especially his panel Structurally Sound. I couldn’t explain it to you if I tried but, man, it felt like a whole screenwriting education crammed into an oh-so-brief session (in a very tiny room, even).

Listen to Scriptnotes

 

Shane Black (with Drew Pearce) – Iron Man 3

This year, after a long and flirtatious courtship, I really fell hard for Shane Black. At AFF, listening to him talk in such loving, dulcet tones about noir, hard action, insane thrillers and Iron Man… You had me at noir, Shane. You had me at noir.

Listen to the brilliant On Story Podcast with Shane Black

 

Vince Gilligan – Breaking Bad

This was the year of Vince Gilligan was capped off with the heartbreakingly brilliant end of Breaking Bad. I very nearly expected the AFF crowd would organize a parade to hoist and carry him through the streets. And deservedly so.  In the lead up to the AFF, I did some binge-watching of classic Gilligan-penned X-Files eps like Memento Mori and Drive. I have so much respect for someone working at that insane level of talent.

Listen to the lovely On Story Podcast with Vince Gilligan

 

(Side note: is it weird that I can’t find any of the video from the Austin Film Festival? They seemed to film everything, and there was so much good stuff… If anyone knows where I can point to, let me know!)

5-For Heroes, Thrillers and those Lost in Space

Joss Whedon (with a little help from William Shakespeare) – Much Ado About Nothing

Find someone Joss Whedon hasn’t inspired and I’ll give you a nickle. I have a lot of nickles and I’ve never had to give one away. (I forgot about Much Ado initially, only because I first saw it at TIFF in 2012. It was magic, though, no matter how or when or where you saw it. Enough with the Marvel nonsense Joss! Make more Shakespeare!)

 

Nicolas Winding Refn – Only God Forgives

Another early entry that may not be for everyone, but film I liked from a generous filmmaker nonetheless.

 

Scott Z. Burns – Side Effects

There aren’t enough straight-up adult thrillers. I don’t think Hollywood ever had an era where they cranked out an excess of these. There’s no time like the present…

 

Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke – Before Midnight

I love these movies. Richard Linklater has written a bunch of other brilliant movies. Julie Delpy has written a bunch of other great movies. Before Midnight is a masterclass in everything.

 

Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron – Gravity

One thing I’ve learned in 2013 is that the more movies you watch, the more cynical you can get about the strained, cookie-cutter fare that seems to rerun endlessly. If you ever wake up feeling like that, watch Gravity. Or anything Cuaron, really.

 

7-The New Kid

Ryan Coogler – Fruitvale Station

I’ve already declared my Best Picture for 2013 because the only movie that made my heart stop in 2013 was Fruitvale Station. So, if you haven’t seen it, do. And if you’re the type who votes, take it under consideration.

Read the unlikely story of Ryan Coogler

 

Still playing 2013 catch-up (some are available for reading right now, thanks to Go Into The Story for the links):

Enough Said by Nicole Holofcener

Dallas Buyer’s Club by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack

Saving Mr Banks by Kelly Marcel

Philomena by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope 

Nebraska by Robert W. Nelson

Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom by William Nicholson 

August: Osage County by Tracy Letts 

Inside Llewyn Davis by Joel and Ethan Coen

 

And, yes, this is still my favourite clip from 2013. No contest. Happy new year indeed.

Happy List-Mass Everybody!

(Haha! GET IT? Because it`s holiday time and there are lots of lists… No? Why am I wasting my delectable puns on you then?)

Well, it is that time of year. Again. Both The Black List and The Hit List are out. And lots of other lists, I am sure… But lists make me tired and, after too many of them, I get rage-y. So, let`s just stick with these for the moment, shall we?

(For a detailed breakdown of The Black List stats, THR has a good-un.)

I haven`t really officially counted, and I certainly don`t have an infographic (I`m much more of a Venn Diagram girl, for anyone still looking to get me a gift!) but there are trends. There are always trends. For example: 

-Lots of overlap on both lists (but lots of change in rankings from list to list)

-Lots of women on the lists are already employed on TV and a couple have been Nicholl Fellows (high fives all around)

-Lots of the writers have some kind of representation (I would say all of them do but, again, no hard numbers)

-Lots of the scripts are by established (and well-represented) writers, and a few have appeared on said lists in previous years 

-Lots of horror, sci-fi, thrillers and dying children (not necessarily all together… or separate)

-Lots of bios (two on Mister Rogers alone?!) and based on true stories (so, so many)

-Lots of the loglines for these are terrible (so, so terrible)

But have you noticed that some of these points seem to go against advice that`s perpetuated quite often to young writers? Including:

-If you write a great script, Hollywood will find it (apparently, representation needs to find you first)

-Don`t chase trends (Based-on-true stories seem to always be ranked so high on these lists, so wouldn`t writing a biopic generally give you a better chance at getting industry attention?)

-You need a great logline to pitch your script (Apparently that`s not true. At all.)

And so on.

Also, and I do hate to have to say this, but not a ton of ladies on the list…

Which brings up the age-old question- It is because of fewer scripts written or a lesser-quality of scripts submitted? Either way, it sucks. And it needs to change.

So, let`s all work on it. Let`s all try and Be The Change in 2014. Always quality over quantity but, yeah, let`s work on quantity too.

 

Mysteries We Love: That Mystery Executive… (@MysteryExec)

A quick post (before more on year-end list-ness tomorrow) to give a quick shout out…

One of the resources I was most pleasantly surprised to discover in 2013 was [Mystery Executive] on Twitter.

Random? Sure. After all @MysteryExec doesn`t necessarily give out advice or tips or solicit you to part with your monies like the gurus do, but there is a whole lotta action going down like, oh I dunno, this:

MysteryExec’s advice to male screenwriters on writing women

In a more random and less related note, I found a few of these Me to We cards when going through my stash of holiday cards left over from last year. (Found them after I bought a bunch of Unicef cards for this year though, damnit!) I think I`m going to send these out from now on, though. They`ll carry my favourite message from 2013 into 2014 and beyond.

#BeTheChange

(Thank you for your kind words, courage and leadership @MysteryExec)