I Blame Ninjas

A Screenwriting Blog

  • The Black List

    Filed under Scripts
    Dec 12

    The 2011 Black List has gone up. (This link goes to a Deadline Hollywood story; the Black List site itself is backed up at the moment and provides only a PDF download). Film executives vote on their favorite unproduced scripts of the past year, and the votes are compiled to produce the list.

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  • Dec 8

    I’d intended to be working on my contained horror script at this point, but a neat opportunity has arisen that involves Ghost Train, my action-western script, so I’ve been working full-time on that rewrite. It took a few days, but I’ve worked out most of the lingering problems with the revised story that had been holding me back, and I’ve reached the midpoint of the rewrite.

    Actually, I’m starting to wonder if one of the reasons I never quite seem to start writing the horror script might be that straight horror’s just not really my thing, writing-wise. I love horror movies, and most of my projects are horror-tinged – a phantom train, ghost hunters, giant monsters – but, while I enjoy writing those elements, I think it’s really the more redemptive and heroic aspects of my stories that most appeal to me. And those just are not very common themes in full-ahead, everybody-dies horror stories. It’s something I’ll have to think more about.

  • Nov 11

    I’ve started outlining my next project. When I’m writing, it’s easy to judge my progress – I wrote x pages, completed a tricky sequence, or edited an act. It’s a lot harder when I’m brainstorming & outlining. I think I cleared one hurdle yesterday when I adjusted my thinking on the “found footage” aspect of this project, though. I had been trying to come up with workarounds, like helmet cams, but I realized I ought to embrace the fact that we can’t follow all the characters when they split up to fuel the existing paranoia elements in the story. So that feels like progress, in any case.

  • Happy Halloween!

    Filed under Films
    Oct 31

    I’m taking the day off to carve pumpkins and watch classic horror movies. I now have DVDs of all the classic Universal monsters, except Karloff’s The Mummy, so I’ll be doing my own marathon with those. I’ve also been catching up on a lot of ’50s giant monster movies this month courtesy of Netflix – Them!, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, It Came From Beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth and others from my own collection – Gojira, King Kong,  King Kong vs. Godzilla.

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  • Oct 24

    I completed a super-short comedy screenplay over the weekend for a couple of film students for a nominal fee, so I guess I’m technically (but only technically) a professional screenwriter now. Hah! Comedy’s not really my main thing, or at least I don’t think so, but they seem happy with the script. Otherwise, I’ve just been hammering on the next draft of my feature spec after getting some notes. I’ve got to punch up the last 10 pages or so, the final battle, which isn’t quite where I want it to be, and then I’ll continue editing & tightening passes the rest of the week before sending it off to the TrackingB contest.

  • Oct 19

    I finished the third draft on my current project Tuesday. I think this takes care of most of the major work, although I still have a couple of drafts of cleanup & polish ahead. I’m taking a few days off to go see matinees and maybe go to the zoo while I await notes, then I’ll get back to work to prep it for an upcoming contest deadline. It’s better to take a week or two off & work on something else, but I can’t afford that much time on this deadline.

  • Horror

    Filed under Screenwriting
    Oct 13

    Check out 25 Things You Should Know About Writing Horror by Chuck Wendig. My produced Invocation short scripts are horror, and most of my earlier feature specs are horror-tinged — starting out as horror, and migrating in rewrite to more action-adventure with ghosts or what-have-you. I’m also contemplating a contained horror script as my next project, since most of my other feature specs are fairly big-budget.

    An excerpt:

    7. Dread and Revulsion in an Endless Tango
    Beneath plot and beneath story is a greasy, grimy subtextual layer of pacing — the tension and recoil of dread and revulsion. Dread is a kind of septic fear, a grim certainty that bad things are coming. Revulsion occurs when we see how these bad things unfold. We know that the monster is coming, and at some point we must see the wretchedness of the beast laid bare. Dread, revulsion, dread, revulsion.

  • Oct 11

    My new anthem for the post-apocalypse sci fi-action script I’m wrapping up. The songwriter says it was actually inspired by a painting of a skyscraper rising from the post-apocalyptic ruins of a city, which is neat. Normally I favor soundtracks over songs with words when I’m writing, but this one works really well for this project.

  • Road Map

    Filed under Screenwriting
    Oct 10

    I listened to a John August-Craig Mazin podcast over the weekend on outlining and the daily writing process, and picked up a good tip. Towards the end of the ‘cast, August mentions that after he finishes writing , he beats out the next three scenes before he knocks off so he’s never starting from scratch the next day. I like that idea a lot, because getting going in the mornings can sometimes be a bear if I’m not already in the middle of something. Of course, I have an outline, so I know generally where I’m heading, but I typically don’t outline down to the scene level so it’s not always crystal-clear exactly how I’m going to get there.

  • Oct 4

    A great analysis of a director’s guild event in which James Cameron and JJ Abrams talk about Steven Spielberg’s films, this one dealing with the importance of tone and emotional resonance in his movies. Basically, having a human story of some kind at the core of your screenplay.

    Or, as Pete Docter puts it in the production notes for Up, talking about Disney animator Joe Grant:

    I got to know Joe when he was in his 90s. He was a friend of mine-this great old wise guy. Every time I would show him something we were working on he’d say, ‘What are you giving the audience to take home?’ That was his way of telling me it’s the emotion-the character-based emotions that people are going to remember.

    That’s something I really work on in my own scripts – you can have all the action and spectacle in the world, but if there’s no heart, you don’t have much of a movie.

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