Invoking the memory of One-Eyed Willy*

Nobody thought Mikey would someday make a similar journey into Mordor…

*If you’re of a certain age, you get the reference. If not, read on.

I don’t know if I would call THE GOONIES (1985) a guilty pleasure.  (I enjoyed it, but wouldn’t place it in my top 10.)

This is not one of those movies people are embarrassed to admit liking. Probably the opposite.

There are more than a few times it’s mentioned as an example of “why don’t they make ’em like that anymore?” or “this is the kind of thing I’m looking for.” If somebody tells you your script has the same kind of vibe, consider it a high compliment.

Just goes to show – create a kid-friendly adventure that tells a smart story and doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence, and you’re set.  Almost 30 years later, and it’s still fresh in a lot of minds and recalled with great fondness.

I mean, have you watched it recently?  Once you get past some of the cheesiness, it’s actually a quality example of great storytelling.  It’s not complicated. Everything’s laid out in simple terms. Good guys, bad guys, multiple goals.

But it also goes beyond the mechanics.

Part of the appeal is that it really captures the basic kid-like spirit of adventure, and we get to go along for the ride.  Pirates, treasure maps, booby-trapped underground caves and tunnels. What’s not to like?

It’s also an original story.  I can’t think of anything similar that came before it (feel free to let me know if there is), and it still works as a template.

This is the kind of story I love to watch, and really love to write. No qualms about letting my inner 12-year-old throw his two cents into the development process. It adds a certain element of authenticity that something like this really needs.

Suggestion: If you decide to make this part of some forthcoming moviewatching experience, make sure you get a copy as non-edited as possible. We caught the TV cut and it was awful. Bad edits (including for commercials), pan and scan, poor picture quality overall. Bleah.

Deliberately avoiding a QT comparison

Mine is nothing like this
Something to admire, but not duplicate

When I was working on that student short a few years ago, the director was concerned the way a scene was playing out was too similar to how things worked in INCEPTION, and that people would think he was ripping it off.

I assured him it wasn’t on both fronts. It may share some similar aspects, but it was totally different.

Jump ahead to now, or at least last week. I finally got around to watching DJANGO UNCHAINED. It was great and a lot of fun. I loved it, especially the writing.

(Side note: Christoph Waltz fully deserved Best Supporting Actor, and I found King Schultz to be a much more interesting character than Django.)

So as I continue work on my western spec, I can’t help but think “But this isn’t how Tarantino did it.  Would somebody hold that against me?”

I’m inclined to think “probably not”, which is actually a good thing, and may even work in my favor.

He writes in a certain way, which is totally different from mine.  Nobody’s going to read my script and say “not grindhouse enough”.

Our two stories may share some similar elements, and that’s where the comparison ends.  It’s a western, so there are going to be the unavoidable elements (horses, shootouts, etc.), but that comes with the territory.  My challenge is to put my own spin on them.

Same rules apply to UNFORGIVEN, the vastly-underrated OPEN RANGE and the forthcoming LONE RANGER (which in theory may be the closest to my story in terms of rip-roaring, dime novel-type adventure).

This script is my opportunity to work in a genre I love, tell a story I’m excited about and create its world the way I want to.  The whole time, I’m striving to be as original as I can, and present stuff that hopefully hasn’t been seen before.

There are countless ways to tell a story, and there’s no reason mine can’t be one of them.

Mega-short post due to real life

My apologies. No time for the usual words of wisdom. Lots of last-minute preparation while we get ready to head out on a whirlwind trip to my nephew’s wedding. (Typing that feels odd.)

It’s the start of Memorial Day weekend here in the US, where we honor those who’ve given their lives for our country.

Even though several tentpole films came out earlier this month, this is also seen as the official start of summer movie season.

So go see something. Tell your friends about it. Tweet about it.

Or work that creativeness and crank out a few pages of your latest project.


The 10-second description

Give or take a second or two
Give or take a second or two

Scenario:  You’re at a social function, engaged in idle chit-chat.  The topic of you being a screenwriter comes up.

“What’s your story about?” they will undoubtedly ask.

The chance you’ve been waiting for!  What do you say?

You want to pique their curiosity, and not bore them.

In the simplest of terms:  provide a quick summary of the main characters(s) and what happens in the main storyline.

Avoid too much information, non-essential characters, intricate subplots, how it’s a metaphor for this totally different other thing, or generic phrases like “and learns about themselves” or “stumbles into a world she wasn’t prepared for” or the ever-dreaded “wackiness ensues.”

What are the components of an effective logline?  Just the following:

1. A protagonist with a flaw.

2. An antagonist with a goal.

3. The situation that pits them against each other

4. What’s at stake.

That’s pretty much it. Keep it simple. Nothing too specific or generic.

Make sure you emphasize the genre. If it’s a comedy, play up the comedic angle. A thriller, go for the suspense. That sort of thing.

And most importantly, make it sound interesting. This is your best chance to grab their attention, so make the most of it (and make sure the script is just as good).

The argument for originality

Nobody saw it coming, and look what happened
Nobody saw it coming, and look what happened

As a screenwriter who hopes to one day see my work displayed on the big screen at your local theater, I strive to have each of my scripts present a unique tale that takes the audience on an entertaining ride.

Part of that uniqueness comes from me wanting to offer up a story that hasn’t been seen before. What’s better than being surprised with something you weren’t expecting, and liking it?

A lot of scripts adhere to “familiar, yet different,” which is fine. But there’s something to be said for putting a little more emphasis on the second part.

There’s an abundance of complaints about the lack of new ideas, or at least how sequels/remakes/reboots/re-imaginings are outnumbering original ideas.  (I won’t argue with that, especially with the recent announcement of a planned remake of GREMLINS. As the saying goes, is this really necessary?)

Don’t let that stop you.  New, smart and interesting will always triumph over dull, cliched and predictable.

Part of your job as a writer is to make your story so appealing that it becomes impossible for someone to say ‘no’ to it.

Put your creativeness to work.  Figure out what could make your story different. Don’t be afraid to take chances.

Show off those writing and storytelling skills.  Make the most of it and give ’em something they’re really going to remember.