Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ira Glass on Storytelling

This American Life host Ira Glass discusses the elements of storytelling. Enjoy!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oscar Post-Game

Now that the Oscars are done (Zzzz), I thought I'd share my thoughts about the outcome of the two screenplay awards.

First, of course everyone with body jewelery and a well-worn pair of black canvas Chuck Taylor All-Stars knows that Diablo Cody took home the award for Best Original Screenplay for Juno. And to be honest, I wasn't really surprised. With all the buzz about her past and one-stroke discovery, the media was able to paint a real Cinderella in Tinseltown story. Don't get me wrong, I liked Juno. It was fun to watch, hip in all the right places, and occasionally a character surprised me. Did I think it deserved to win? Probably not. The main beef I had with it was that everyone in the film was written in the same glib, hipster voice. Except for one: Paulie Bleeker. Bleeker seemed to me the most real character in the whole bunch. But nonetheless, I congratulate Cody.

Personally, I was pulling for either Lars and the Real Girl or The Savages in this category. Both were strong scripts and I feel had more depth than Juno.

Best Adapted Screenplay? Didn't read any of them yet so I can't comment at the moment. Maybe in a later post.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Post-Strike: Did We Really Win?

Now that the strike is over and everyone is licking their wounds and getting back to work, there's something that's been itching my brain lately. Most of the coverage I've heard about the settlement has said that it's a win for the writers as well as a win for the producers. The writers now have permanent access to residuals from online content and the producers can get their moneymaking machine rolling again.

At first glance, the internet content agreement seems like a pretty important victory, especially with services like iTunes and Amazon offering downloads of movies and TV programming, not to mention the monetization of the free episodes (with limited commercial interruption, whatever that means) available online from the major networks. But what percentage of viewers watch episodes and movies online right now? Not much. At least not enough, in my opinion, to justify a strike based so heavily on the internet download issue.

Remember early on, when the DVD residual issue was on the table? Remember when that same issue was withdrawn by the Guild because "[the production] Companies said [it] was a stumbling block"?

A stumbling block? Well, yeah. Duh. That's why you call for a strike. Because of stumbling blocks just like this. At first, the WGA asked for a four cent increase to the existing four cent residual for DVD purchases. But when the AMPTP freaked out over the DVD issue, the Guild did a little freaking of their own and withdrew it, choosing instead to focus on the internet residual issue.

According to Roger Smith in a
recent episode of KCRW's The Business, the Guild really missed the boat by championing the internet issue over increased DVD residuals. According to Smith, the estimated revenue from all internet media (including online rentals, online purchases, and ad revenue from online episodes) for the last year of the current contract (2011) is about two billion dollars.

The estimate for future DVD purchase and rental revenues? About 17 billion.

It's a pretty simple assumption that more people are currently purchasing and renting their media on shiny disks rather than shiny computers. Moreover, since the AMPTP was completely unwilling to negotiate with the WGA unless the DVD residual issue was taken off the table, that pretty much shows you where the money is. Nevertheless, you have to at least applaud the Guild's ability to think of the writer's place in future technologies and developments. I just think it's the right victory for the wrong issue at this time.

On a completely different tangent, here's a insider's view of what the producers were working on while the writers were striking.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The When and Where of Writing

Study Hacks has posted some pretty interesting stats on the basic behavior of writers. Seems that we typically like to write in the morning (around 7 or 8 am) and we like to write in isolation.

Some of the writers stated a staunch preference for putting their writing area far away from their living space, even a ramshackle cabin in the woods in one example. For me, this would be an ideal writing space.

Personally, I do find that I can get a lot of writing done early in the morning, especially on days I take the bus to work. Although I typically sleep in on the weekends, that's a habit of mine I'm planning to change. I figure I could get a few hours done on a Sunday morning easily. I just have to break the weekend habit and just do it...Because the Nicholl deadline is right around the corner.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Light Notebook = Light Wallet

The recently released MacBook Air promises a lightweight portable that is thin enough to slip into an interoffice envelope. The perfect thing for writers on the go, right?


Sure it's thin, but there's no optical drive, you can't change the battery, and there's no firewire port. And to top it off, it's both slower and more expensive than Apple's basic MacBook, which to me is perfect for writing wherever.

$700 extra for skinny? Count me out.

Write That...Not That...But, Yeah.

After reading a couple of books from any of the "screenwriting gurus" (I won't mention names. You know who they are.), does anyone else feel like this poor writer?

In a recent episode of Creative Screenwriting Magazine's writers podcast, either the host, Jeff, or one of the writers he was interviewing made an offhand remark that three-act-pushing guru books are basically crap and you should just write using whichever structure or method is right for the story. The audience applauded this wildly.

With so many examples of movies that work, but don't follow the traditionally taught structure, why are the "gurus" still in business?