This Sunday Review piece from the New York Times by Jesse Armstrong (writer for The Thick of It and Veep) is great food for thought for current events / screenwriting discussions this week. A very funny and interesting perspective on both today’s political news and the pitch and development process. Call this Case Study T (or The D) in Screenwriting 101.
Archive for the ‘Chapter 7’ Category
I am deeply saddened to receive the news that Daniel Gerson, one of the screenwriters of Monsters, Inc., Monsters University, Big Hero 6, and others, has passed away at 49. Dan was one of my classmates in the NYU Graduate Film & TV program, and he was always such a friendly, profoundly funny man. All those who worked with him share many fond memories of fun times and very memorable shoots and hilarious writing by Dan right from the start.
I highly recommend checking out this video of Dan and frequent collaborator Robert L. Baird discussing their writing for Monsters University and the process of developing a screenplay with Pixar from the red carpet premiere of the movie. Also, here is another piece in which Gerson and Baird discuss story specifics of Monsters University including the overall theme of the movie, character development, and writing a prequel.
He was always such a stellar person in a sometimes not-so-nice business. Our condolences from my family to his.
Hollywood Studios and television networks are notorious for their thorny relationships with screenwriters throughout movie history. Things change. And some things don’t.
Here are some recent end-of-the-year pieces of interest for screenwriting-related issues. The New York Times recently visited with a number of the top writers from feature films this year in this piece on Alejandro González Iñárritu, Amy Schumer, Aaron Sorkin, Paolo Sorrentino (Youth), Cary Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation), and Phyllis Nagy (Carol).
For fans of media literacy inquiry, here’s a question for your students: “What’s fishy about this article related to the movie Trumbo (about legendary screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, as played by actor Bryan Cranston) in the Times?” (See answer 1 below.)
And here’s another: “What’s odd about the journalism — and lack of media literacy expertise — in this article by Cara Buckley about the new movie Joy, directed and written by David O. Russell and starring Jennifer Lawrence.” (See answer 2 below.)
Happy New Year and be back soon!
1: It’s not journalism. It’s a paid piece posted amidst the online articles of the Times. See also: irony. [RE: Dalton Trumbo]
2: When the director and actors of a movie compare themselves to Cassavetes‘s or Bergman‘s collaborative “troupes” and it’s only their second movie together, please call them on it. See also: puff piece.
This weekend, free comic book day is arriving and we are about to be hit with the Age of Ultron juggernaut. Meanwhile, for some time now, superhero tales have been popping inventively through the channels of television as well, including the current franchises of DC’s The Arrow and The Flash, among others. Recently, Marvel’s Daredevil has joined the fray courtesy of Netflix, ready for being devoured in hours of bingeing. (One student in a class discussion about sports asked if among winter sports in which he takes part one could consider binge-watching because it’s a sort of competition and includes a variety of skills in order to master its intricacies and emerge a victor from among friends.) The Daredevil TV series, created by Drew Goddard, has garnered quite a strong fan reaction for its clever retelling of the comic’s 1960’s origin story and successive development by writer Stan Lee and artists including Bill Everett and influential maverick creator Wally Wood.
For those interested in an interesting screenwriting lesson, this recent podcast on The Frame with show runner Steven DeKnight features many compelling discussion points and revealing commentary about scripting television series, including story structure and character development — and how they are dependent on episode length, platform, and target audiences. DeKnight also discusses details about the content of the show and how tone and violence were key issues for the show’s creators to consider.
Chapters 3 and 7 (Sound and Image and From Page to Screen) are the sections of Moving Images that deal most explicitly and directly with screenwriting. One of the topics introduced in Chapter 3 and pursued further in Chapter 7 is that of screenplay format. Currently, there are many programs available to set up writing for proper screenplay format, such as Celtx (which offers a freeware version), Final Draft, Adobe Story, and many others. Educators or students may wish to invest in any of these or access freeware versions, but here is another easily accessible option. Microsoft Word can be programmed so that through the style settings the basic components of a script are ready to go.
Would you like a copy that is prepared for you? Here it is: Screenplay template. The titles for screenplay components in this document are those that I have used in Moving Images and are described in the definitions and descriptions in Chapter 3 (p. 101-106) and Chapter 7 (268-271). This Word doc template has been set for Courier; you may have to change the font settings to Courier New depending on your version of Word. Please review the style settings, because they can be problematic between software versions and they might need review or updating.
Let’s take a visit to the world of writers today! For those of you either teaching or learning about the meaning of the word “exposition,” please go and see X-Men: Days of Future Past. There’s lots on display there.
Speaking of writing, there are two wonderful examples of the craft of fine writing to be found this weekend at the New York Times: A.O. Scott’s reviews of the X-Men movie and Blended are absolutely brilliant. I particularly recommend his review of Blended; there you will find the best summary of the “Adam Sandler” movie experience that I have seen to date, such as “There are comedians who mine their own insecurities for material. Mr. Sandler, in his recent films, compensates for his by building monuments to his own ego. In Blended, he once again proclaims himself both über-doofus and ultimate mensch, disguising his tireless bullying in childish voices and the ironclad alibis of fatherhood and grief.” A.O. Scott concludes the piece on Blended with the rating description: “Rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It will make your children stupid.”
Every once in a while, some students will select Adam Sandler movies as a topic of study (for example, those directed by Dennis Dugan, or “Double D” as the last presenters called him), and I have to watch snippets from a variety of Mr. Sandler’s films. I think I am going to have A.O. Scott’s review of Blended made into a poster and put on my classroom wall. Media literacy includes examples of brilliant critical writing too, after all.
I saw X-Men: Days of Future Past with my eldest son this weekend, and before the movie we were barraged with the onslaught of previews for brain-frying movies that are about to arrive: Let’s Be Cops, 22 Jump Street, The Expendables 3, Kingsman, and…oh, here’s a “woman’s movie” — Lucy (starring the consistently superb Scarlett Johansson). Ah, Luc Besson is back with the latest incarnation of his adolescent “perfect woman” fantasies that he can’t move on from (La Femme Nikita, Fifth Element, Angel-A, etc.), along with his usual vicious Asian stereotypes and more. I’ll pass. So, a propos of all this, I would like to bring up this article about a recent talk with screenwriter Pamela Gray (Conviction, A Walk on the Moon), who is featured in our From Page to Screen Close-Up interview. Watching those trailers, I couldn’t help but think about these lines from the Golden Gate Xpress article, “Gray also said that what she really writes are character-driven screenplays, and that most of hers just happen to involve female leads. She said the challenge is not writing for these women, but instead lies in the sexism of the industry: ‘What’s more difficult is getting those movies made (and) finding assignments with good females roles,’ Gray said. ‘There are fewer and fewer of those assignments now.'” So, perhaps that is your assignment right now for your media literacy and production class!