Our campouts were never like this

Finally got to read BOY SCOUTS VS ZOMBIES, a horror comedy that ranked on the Black List.

The concept: A troop of Boy Scouts on their weekend camping trip must protect an island town after a zombie outbreak and save the local girl scout troop.

Personally, I’m getting a little tired of the whole zombie thing (although ZOMBIELAND was fun), this sounded interesting.  Seeing as how I was a Boy Scout (big surprise, right?), I wanted to see what the writers, Carrie Evans and Emi Mochizuko, would do with it.

First and foremost: A really fast read.  I zipped through this thing in about 90 minutes.  The whole thing really moves along.

I was also surprised how just about all the characters veer into stereotypes. The somewhat bland main character who’s too shy to tell the girl he likes her, the too-cool friend, the fat slob other friend, the mama’s boy, the overenthusiastic scoutleader, and so on.

It was a little difficult keeping track of all the characters, especially since the first half really focuses on the boys, then really adding the girls into the mix around halfway.  It was also pretty easy to tell which characters were going to be the token redshirts.

Once it settled into ‘will they survive or won’t they?’ mode, I was trying to figure out which characters would be the surprise death.  Surprisingly, that didn’t happen.

And the subplot about the top-secret lab where the whole thing starts seems to disappear after they decide to send out the commandos to neutralize the situation.  Some kind of follow-up would have been nice.

I’d also like to add that technically, the zombies here are the “infected with a virus that simulates zombie-like characteristics” type rather than the truly living dead.  This seems to be the go-to reasoning behind a lot of recent zombie stories.  I guess that’s easier than figuring out how to really raise the dead.  George Romero used radiation, so why not something similar?  But I digress.

Some of the jokes fell a little flat, but there were a handful that made me laugh out loud.  I especially liked the line after one girl turns zombie and tries to eat her friends, one says “Jenny! No! You’re a vegan!”  I also liked how even as everything around them is going to hell, the scouts try to take care of things via the Scout Handbook.  Again, I’m biased.  I don’t know if the guys in my troop would have been able to keep their heads like this.

I wasn’t crazy about when the wide margins would say something about the characters that should really come across in their actions and dialogue (“Matt’s dad has great expectations for his son, and they don’t involve fat slackers and comic books.”)  I always thought this sort of thing was frowned upon, but these two writers were in Disney’s Writing Program, so maybe there are exceptions.

I also wasn’t sure about the idea that a zombie can do the same things they did when they were alive, like a rock climber who turns into a zombie remembers how to climb a cliff.  It seems a little weak.

I really think with a little tweaking here and there, this thing could be fantastic.  It’s already been picked up for production, so it’ll be interesting to see what they do with it.

Would I pay to see it in the theatre?  Probably not.  But I’d definitely put it in the Netflix queue.

This is my last post for 2010, and since I haven’t seen that many movies in the theatres this year, I don’t have a list of my top 10 picks.  I’m just happy to be able to watch so many good flicks, and still plan on my own stuff being part of that someday.

Have a great 2011, and feel free to drop a note once in a while.

p.s.  Almost forgot.  If you’d like to take a look at any of these scripts, let me know and I’ll forward it to you.

Something ain’t right

Good albeit brief meeting with the writing group last night, preceded by a tasty potluck dinner.

We talked about another member’s shirt script, which she filmed earlier this year. The script was a little too Twilight Zone-ish for me.

Since I had to cut out early, we spent a few minutes discussing my progress on LUCY. I explained what I was trying to do in terms of subplots and working towards the midpoint.

A few people said based on what I read last time, which was what I originally had for the first draft, it sounded more like a novel than a script. Possibly due to so much going on in each scene.

Simplify!, they said. Focus on what the hero wants besides the goal of the story. Let us get to know her. And so on and so on.

Sound advice, each one.

It was also suggested I write a sample scene that really puts Lucy on display. I may just do that.

Today I decided to try the simplification route and started the one-sentence-per-scene thing, but realized I was just copying what I already had. I wasn’t moving forward. More like changing lanes and not the direction.

I need to figure out where I want this to go and how to get there. And to keep it simple. And everything else listed above.

I already had some backstory written for some of the characters, but that focus needs to be redirected back at Lucy. It’s her story.

I’ll see what I can do.

My work is cut out for me

Due to heavy rainfall on Christmas Day, this poor little Jewish traffic reporter was swamped with work (no pun intended) on Saturday, so I got absolutely nothing done on the outline.

Sunday was sunny and much quieter, so I was able to do a little bit.

My plan was to keep moving forward today while doing afternoon drive (check it out! I’m on NPR! Well, the local affiliate anyway).  But I also felt bad about having downloaded those script from the Black List and not read any, so I checked out THE 13th MAN, a WW2-era thriller about an Army comic book nerd who helps crack a case regarding Nazi agents on American soil.  All music to my ears.

Wow.  This thing is just amazing.  Incredibly well-written.  A genuine page-turner.  Phenomenal story-telling.  My only two gripes: keeping track of some of the G-men characters, and a clever plot twist at the end.  While I did like the twist, and realize it does help hold the rest of the story together, would it all work if that whole subplot didn’t exist?  Maybe.  But I’m not the writer, so I can’t really say.

I’d give it a definite 9 out of 10.  Maybe 9.5.  I only hope the other 10 scripts I’ve got lined up are as entertaining.

One of the things screenwriters always hear is to not just write your own script, but read others.  It’s one thing to read the script for a film that’s been made, or an old favorite.  But reading an unproduced script that is actually circulating around Hollywood, or maybe won some competition(s) really helps open your eyes and shows you what works, while also showing how you could improve your own.

A common occurrence in THE 13TH MAN is that the hero not only repeatedly finds himself in a conflict, that conflict keeps building, and then builds some more, and then even more.  It keeps getting worse, and he has to keep changing how he tackles the problem.  He doesn’t always come out on top, because that would be boring.  But each conflict he survives helps lead into the next one, or maybe has the big payoff thirty, fifty or seventy-five pages later.

I’d love to know how long it took Enio Rigolin from start to finish.  It only got 9 mentions on The Black List, which is a shame.  Then again, I really like this sort of thing, so I’m biased.

Hopefully I’ll be able to support this argument after reading a few more of the Black List scripts, but if Hollywood made more smart, well-written films out of these scripts, the industry would be so much better off.  Treat your audience like intelligent adults!  You’d be surprised how rewarding it can be.  Once they get a taste of it, they’ll want more.  At least I would.

One last thing.  If I were in charge of casting for THE 13TH MAN, the first name crossed off my list for the lead would be Shia LaBeouf.  He may look like the ideal nerdy soldier, but I still have issues with him as the son of Indiana Jones.

Besides, they should have used Frank Darabont’s script for that one in the first place, but that’s another post.

Movie of the Moment: KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE. My first exposure to Miyazaki from way back, and now it’s part of our family library. Utterly charming and just plain fun to watch for grown-ups and kids; the American cast does a good job, but sometimes the original Japanese with subtitles is equally enjoyable.  Most important: V loves it, which is quite reassuring.

My suggestion: If the European element appeals to you, I highly suggest STEAMBOY, Otomo’s underrated follow-up to AKIRA.

A step back, but that’s good

Making good progress on the outline.  Up to just past page 45.

But my creativeness keeps nagging me to expand on the third of three subplots, which I need to do anyway.  It really needs the most work.

I went through what I have so far (as part of my standard condensing of each scene into 1-2 sentences) and realized I’d forgotten that while I want both bad guys to be bad, the first one needs to be REALLY bad.  Even better, they’re so much more fun to write.

So for the time being, progress beyond the halfway point is on hold while I reconfigure the story to accomodate the changes I want to make.

Can’t explain it, but I relish the challenge.  Very much so.

Movie of the Moment: A double hit covering the past few days. Watched CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS with V.  I liked it a lot; clever, good animation and jokes, and good writing.  In her usual way, V didn’t want to watch it, but then really got into it.  This happens a lot with her.  Someday she’ll just accept the fact that I won’t let her watch crap (the exception being the live-action LAST AIRBENDER – that was HER idea).

The other film was THE BOOK OF ELI.  I almost turned it off after the first 20 minutes because nothing really seemed to be happening, and the washed-out look got annoying.  But I gave it a chance.  It got better, and had a really great twist at the end.  Still hard to imagine Denzel Washington as an action star, but he did a pretty good job.

Leaps and bounds!

Apparently not being able to work while AT work has its benefits.  Or at least work on MY stuff.

V had a hockey game yesterday morning (which they won 6-0, including a killer performance by their amazing goalie), but there was a lot of downtime before the puck dropped, so I made the most of it by once again barreling my way through the latest part of LUCY’s Act Two.

Once I abandoned the Mormon wagon train idea, things really seemed to take off.  I got our heroes into a new situation, while figuring out how to have everything work towards the latest plotpoint of the Page 45 twist.

And it worked.  So much so that I was able to have more things happen BEYOND that, and I’ve even started working on a way to bring not only one bad guy, but BOTH into the situation, so everything culminates in a wonderfully big mash-up at the halfway point.  Goosebumps, I tell ya!

Honestly, I’m really happy with the way things are progressing.  Of course, I have no idea where I’ll be in the story, say, a week or two from now, or what will be happening in the story, but that’s the point of this outline.  Figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what might.

I also keep reminding myself that there’s still a long way to go, but oh, what a hell of a journey it’s turning into.

Movie of the Moment: I took V and her best friend to see TANGLED yesterday.  Really impressive, but I think the adults in the audience liked it more than the kids did.  We don’t have issues with all that kissy-lovey stuff.

And I couldn’t help but look at it from the writer’s point of view.  Some textbook stuff here and there, but the writer, Dan Fogelman, who’s written a few other Disney films, is well-known for being somebody who can really make you FEEL for the characters (at least according to Carson Reeves at Scriptshadow).  I thought he did a great job.

And even better, V has no desire whatsoever to see the horrendous-looking YOGI BEAR.  We’s raising that child right.