I Blame Ninjas

A Screenwriting Blog

  • Sep 28

    ninjapunch4My Ghost Train script reached the Scriptapalooza semifinals as well as the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting quarterfinals – the farthest I’ve gotten in either contest. Unfortunately, Django Unchained notwithstanding, I think The Lone Ranger killed any lingering possibility of studio interest in a big-budget western. (I blame ninjas). I’m hatching an idea now for a smaller, tighter script with a concept still big enough to interest me – let’s see where that goes.

  • Aug 5

    NinjaZenMy Ghost Train fantasy western script is a quarterfinalist in the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting and Scriptapalooza competitions. Ghost Train was my second completed feature script, though of course that was something like 12 major rewrites ago. An earlier version reached the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards finals in 2010, as well.

  • Jul 12

    NinjaElbowPiranhacane!

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  • Jul 12

    NinjaZenI caught a matinee of World War Z before work Thursday. I enjoyed it – the ‘human wave’ and ‘army ant’ style zombies brought something new visually, and it had a good mix of spooky sneaking around and wild mass zombie battle mayhem. Zombies on a plane also was a neat twist; talk about challenging your characters!

    I’m really fond of speedy setups, and World War Z gets things moving almost immediately – after a short scene of Brad Pitt at home with his family, we dive right into the story with a zombie outbreak in a traffic jam as the family heads out on vacation.

  • Jul 5

    ninjahighkickWhile I’ve been away from blogging, I finished another couple of drafts on my Devil’s Due contained horror project, but I still can’t get it where I’d like it to be, so I’m putting it aside for awhile to rethink the concept. Ghost Train is back in the Nicholl competition, and it and After are both on the new Black List for unproduced scripts (not the Black List for top scripts of the year, mind you, but the paid listing service). You can find links under My Work on the right.

    Now I’m outlining various ideas while I try to select my next project. It’s going a little slowly because I’m setting some high standards for this one – I don’t want to jump into a half-thought-out concept just because I’m eager to get writing again. I’m looking for something with a fresh angle on the premise, a killer opening scene, a big midpoint twist, and great characters. Easy, right? In the meantime, I’ve been working full-time the past several months at the newspaper on an on-call basis, and recently accepted a permanent full-time position. While it’s been great being able to devote myself to screenwriting, things like health benefits and a steady paycheck so I can refinance my mortgage take precedence.  So I’ll be going back to writing on the side – as soon as I figure out what I want to write.

  • Buttons

    Filed under Films, Screenwriting
    Jul 4

    NinjaHopI’m watching my Gettysburg DVD again in honor of the battle’s 150th anniversary this week, and I’m noticing the quieter scenes often seem to trail off. It’s a good reminder of the importance of ending each scene sharply with what’s sometimes called a ‘button,’ a bit of dialogue or action that tops off the scene or spins us into the next one. Now, there can be stylistic reasons for letting a scene trail off; to emphasize confusion or disarray. But mostly it’s sloppy writing (or, in a film, sloppy direction or editing).

    For example, there’s a scene just past the halfway point in Gettysburg, a pretty inconsequential one where Tom Berenger as General Longstreet orders a spy to scout the enemy flank after the second day of battle. The spy, a former actor, replies that the problem with his current occupation is the lack of an audience – when you do the job right, nobody notices you at all. That would have been a pretty good button to end the scene on, a good, funny line, at least. Instead, Longstreet and the spy just stand there looking at each other for awhile, and Longstreet finally mutters “go on, then,” and the spy leaves. So instead of a sharp ending on a funny line that moves us into the next scene, we’re wondering why we’re still watching a scene that for all intents and purposes has already ended.

  • Nov 2

    As you’ve no doubt guessed, I’m not doing much blogging these days. After reached the 2012 Page Awards finals, work on my contained horror spec Devil’s Due is going well, and I’m working on getting my scripts into circulation among reps and production companies. Let’s see what happens next.

  • Contests

    Filed under Screenwriting
    Aug 3

    After has reached the quarterfinals of the PAGE International Screenplay Awards contest so far, while the latest draft of Ghost Train reached the top 10% of entries in the Nicholl Fellowship contest. I’ve also submitted Ghost Train to Amazon Studios; you are welcome to download a copy and offer feedback if you like.

     

  • Act Three

    Filed under Screenwriting
    Apr 16

    I think the toughest part of any first draft for me has to be Act Three. Which seems odd, because by that point most of the character or plot pitfalls have long since been ironed out, and I’m looking at 20 to 30 blank pages as opposed to 60 or 100.

    On the other hand, by this point the flaws in the preceding two acts are calling out to me for correction.  I have ideas for paving over plot holes, shoring up weak characters, tightening dialogue, and adding more depth to everything. Inconsistencies in use of all caps and overuse of double-hyphens are driving me bananas.

    I just can’t wait to get to the next draft, so finishing the last 20 pages of this one’s sometimes a real chore. I’m also eager to get the draft out to my first round of readers for feedback, especially after several weeks or months of mostly working through it on my own.

    I am trying a new strategy, which seems to be helping. Normally I mostly write scenes in sequence, but this time when I reached the last act I wrote all the key scenes first, then started jumping around working on whatever interstitial scenes most interested me at the time. I’ve been wanting to try it for awhile now, but it’s hard to break out of the sequential habit, particularly early in a script. But it’s working well, so I’ll add it to my toolkit for future first drafts for at least the third act.

  • Horror

    Filed under Screenwriting
    Apr 13

    You know, before I really got rolling on Devil’s Due, I started to worry that maybe straight horror just wasn’t my thing – I’d had a few false starts trying to find the right characters and right premise. But I’m really having a blast working on it, and I think this is going to the best first draft I’ve written – of course, it’s still going to need a rewrite or two.

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