Screenwriting

Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman is crazy, but he’s not that crazy. This according to Charlie Kaufman. He also can’t tell you how to write a screenplay, which is the frustrating truth straight from the Oscar winner’s mouth. After all, if writing were like putting together something from IKEA, we’d all have golden statuettes. Meaningless gold statuettes. Kaufman is the kind of writer that challenges convention. From Being John Malkovich to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to his directorial debut Synecdoche, New York, even his titles aren’t typical. He’s thoughtful and careful, but most of all he’s a daring explorer tracking through uncharted terrain hoping to find something special but not necessarily hoping he’ll blaze a trail to it. He’s also got a lot to say, so here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a totally sane crazy person.

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Adaptation Nic Cage

The Writers Guild of America‘s latest survey of screenwriters [PDF] shows that the world of storytelling isn’t that sunny. From the bother of late payments to the difficulty of sweepstakes pitching, the overall number of screenwriters is down along with the overall money their industry is able to make. So what happened? For former WGA board member Craig Mazin, it seems like the movie industry is less and less interested in making movies. He joins us to explain a key business shift that created a huge work gap between screenwriters, to dissect the results of the survey, and to define some of the technical jargon. Oh, and if you’re looking for a happy ending, this particular Hollywood story might not have one. Fair warning. Check out the entire 24-minute interview below: Download This Interview Enjoy More Reject Radio

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Adaptation Nic Cage

Citing late payments and a general feeling that giving away some rewrite work for free is necessary to compete, the latest WGA survey shows that writers are more than a bit unhappy. The survey, which is done anonymously for protective reasons, caused the WGA to say that “screenwriters believe their status in the industry has significantly deteriorated over the past several years,” in a recent letter to union members following the results. According to Variety, feature film earnings in 2011 dropped 12.6% to a total $349.1m and employment figures dropped by 8.1% to a total of 1,562 writers employed. Whether or not this lays the groundwork for a new strike is unclear. The 2008 strike focused greatly on payment shares for the burgeoning digital market, but widespread difficulty in securing meaningful work is undoubtedly a more strident reason to renegotiate terms or, if need be, to threaten to stop work. Yes, a strike would affect the entire industry all the way down the line. Even if these conditions are a result of the natural belt-tightening done by the major studios – notably focusing on tentpoles instead of middle-budget features – they all must remember that, without a script, there is no movie. View the entire survey via LA Times (opens as a PDF).

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Aaron Sorkin Syracuse

Aaron Sorkin gave us a counter-programmed President, and now he’s trying to imagine what the world of the press should have looked like over the past two years. Perhaps most known for creating TV shows like The West Wing and Sports Night, he’s also an Oscar winner who’s written 6 excellent films, starting with A Few Good Men. His resume is one thing, but even it can’t really encapsulate why he’s an important figure in filmmaking. That’s more ephemeral, the kind of thing that comes with making a distinctive name for yourself through a particular style. There’s no denying that Sorkin’s writing can be picked out of a line up, and that’s one of the major reasons he’s become such an intractable part of popular culture even while rising above its lower regions. Here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man who can handle the truth.

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Nora Ephron on Set

Nora Ephron‘s film career – despite three Oscar nominations and credit with re-inventing an entire genre – somehow doesn’t get the legendary status that it probably deserves. She only wrote and/or directed a few more than a dozen movies, but in those films she delivered iconic characters that achieved a sense of honesty that few filmmakers are even brave enough to approach. She fought myopic views about her sex to build fame as a journalist, an essayist, a novelist, a screenwriter and a director. She got started in screenwriting because everyone else was writing scripts, her film school was being on set with Mike Nichols, and her work made a huge impact on popular culture and faked orgasms. So here it is, a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a comedy genius.

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Daniel Stamm‘s A Necessary Death is like a shot of whiskey that’s easy to pour but not easy to drink. His directorial debut (which won him the job for The Last Exorcism) follows a film student making a documentary about a man preparing for, and going through with, his suicide. It’s difficult territory to be certain, but it’s handled with grace, humor, and more than a few touching moments which make the horror of the inevitable and the twisting emotions growing in the film crew that much harder to handle. It’s an excellent movie, and Stamm joins us to delve deeper into its creation (and audience’s reactions). Download Episode #138

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As Todd Solondz explains, Dark Horse is a different kind of take on the Judd Apatow celebration of the Manchild. It’s a bit more aggressive, a lot more realistic, and complex in the way that fans have come to expect from the director of Welcome to the Dollhouse and Palindromes. Set beyond cheerful pop music, the film follows Jordan Gelber, looking a lot like Jeff Garlin, as he attempts to navigate what he views as a cruel, unfair world in the yellow hummer his parents bought for him. He discovers something like love with the depressed Miranda (a differently-named character reprised by Selma Blair from Storytelling), and he struggles (often hilariously) to understand a world shifting around him. Fortunately, Solondz took some time out to discuss his take on later-life childhood, how to respond to fans who laugh at child-rape, and how the indie filmmaking world has changed since the 1990s. Download Episode #135

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Perfectionist. Demanding. Hard to work with. David Fincher is a man who hates his own brand but is secure in his own reputation. Of course, it’s a little bit easy when that reputation includes stunning movies and a mind that can operate at an auteur speed in the high-occupancy Hollywood studio lane. He’s a (mostly) accessibly genius, which is rare and which means that we as fans and filmmakers can learn a lot from him. Fortunately, he’s as free with his advice as he is with his nightmarish visions. Here’s a bit of free film school from a living legend.

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Alfred Hitchcock was born in the 19th century but gave birth in the 20th century to the age of modern filmmaking. Famous for his wit, inventive appreciation of the macabre, and a firm belief that suspense involves bringing a victim out from the shadows into the light he crafted the kinds of movies that made you care about characters even while reaching for your cholesterol medication. He also has a lot to teach. To fellow filmmakers and fans alike. Which is why we’ve chosen him as the first teacher in a new series of weekly articles where master movie-makers share their insights. Throughout his life, Hitchcock was candid about his methods and philosophies (amongst other things he flung around freely). Here’s a bit of free film school from a true visionary.

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Greta Gerwig is no stranger to screenwriting, as already in her young career she’s had writing credits on indie standouts like Nights and Weekends and Hannah Takes the Stairs. But, most recently, she’s been focusing more heavily on acting, as she’s been getting a string of roles in increasingly more mainstream projects. She’s gone from being the darling of the mumblecore movement, a sort of punk rock form of indie filmmaking that was all the rage a few years ago, to having roles in mainstream comedies like Arthur and No Strings Attached, and being featured in the films of big names in the arthouse world like Noah Baumbach, Whit Stillman, and Woody Allen. Still, despite her success in front of the camera, it doesn’t seem like the actress is ready to give up her creative pursuits behind the scenes just yet. In an interview promoting her work in Stillman’s recent release, Damsels in Distress, Gerwig talked to The Telegraph about a project that she has recently written; one that’s already been shot, even though there isn’t any news about it out there. That’s very sneaky.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

I know you are all wondering which local film was my favorite at SXSW 2012, and though I know that you know that by asking that question you are placing me in a very awkward position because I do not like to play favorites I will oblige your request nonetheless. Kid-Thing. There, I said it. Are you satisfied now? I suspect I will find a severed horse’s head in my bed courtesy of Jonny Mars (America’s Parking Lot) and/or Bob Byington (Somebody Up There Likes Me) as early as tomorrow morning. Thanks a lot! Well, can I backtrack and say that they were all great?

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It’s always refreshing to hear a filmmaker talk candidly about the concerns and difficulties of creating something as large as, say, a blockbuster comic book movie that’s expected to draw in millions of fans and even more millions of dollars. Today’s burst of honesty comes from The Avengers director Joss Whedon, who told Empire Magazine (via Comic Book Movie) a ton about the project. Check out the link for more. The money quote: “It was an up-all-month job. Finding the characters’ voices was not only easy, but glorious fun. It doesn’t suck to write Tony Stark, yet finding the structure was just brutal. I haven’t had that much trouble making a screenplay work since Serenity and, embarrassingly, for the exact same reason: there’s just too many characters.” It’s fair to say that’s also a concern for fans, but it’s less that there are so many characters and more that there are so many massive, super-powered, enlarged egos in the film. How do you give them all space to shine brightly? Fortunately, the best reason to be optimistic that Whedon stuck the landing with the script is his work on “The Astonishing X-Men,” a comic book series that might just be the best X-Men storyline in Marvel‘s catalog. If the man can handle that universe and that many larger-than-life characters, it seems reasonable he can do it in the condensed format of film. It’s also fantastic to see him talk about how much fun he had crafting the heroes. Joss Whedon […]

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This week, on a very special Reject Radio, we talk with the filmmakers behind The Devil Inside about going guerrilla in Vatican City (and responding to negative reviews) and writer Derek Haas (3:10 To Yuma, Wanted) about jumping between screenwriting, short stories, and his “Silver Bear” novel series. Plus, it’s Rob Hunter vs. Robert Fure in the first Movie News Pop Quiz of the season. Let the slap fight commence! Download This Episode

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we speak with Paranormal Activity 3 star Lauren Bittner, get some minute-by-minute screenwriting tips from “Something Startling Happens: The 120 Story Beats Every Writer Should Know” author Todd Klick, and we present a very special interview with Mr. Orson Welles (as played by an inebriated Geoff LaTulippe). At least 2/3rds of the show is a great idea. The rest is a genius idea that just might burn down the internet. Download This Episode

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we speak with hardboiled crime fiction writer Max Allan Collins about writing for film and print and chat briefly with Aaron Aites, one of the producers behind a documentary about the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Plus, we use Michael McDonald as an audio pun. As usual. Download This Episode

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, screenwriter Marti Noxon discusses the lack of sparkles in Fright Night and writer/director Tom McCarthy talks good people doing bad things in Win Win. Plus, good old Rob Hunter faces off against Hollywood.com Movies Editor Matt Patches in a grudge match that will be written about for hours to come. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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Screenwriter Marti Noxon has had career infested with the supernatural. After great success with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show, she worked on Mad Men with the ethereally handsome Jon Hamm and then jumped to the screen with I Am Number Four. Her latest is Fright Night, and, okay, if you check out her resume, it features a lot of TV shows that have absolutely zero werewolves or ghosts or anything, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a massive fan of things that go bump in the screen light. My extended interview with Noxon will be a part of next week’s Reject Radio, but here’s a healthy part of the conversation to whet your appetite – including some talk about the screenwriting process, how she first got the idea for the script’s direction, and how Las Vegas is like a Spielberg suburb turned wasteland.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we talk with The Hangover Part II screenwriter Craig Mazin and continue the screenwriting/sequel theme with Kung Fu Panda 2 writers Jon Aibel and Glenn Berger. Plus, Katey Rich from Cinema Blend battles Jordan Raup of The Film Stage in the Movie News Pop Quiz Arena of Death. The result? You’ll have to listen to find out, but we end up talking about the bad week that 3D has been having. Reject Radio brings it on home this week, so kick off you shoes and stay awhile. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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Jay Baruchel isn’t exactly a household name, but he’s starting to compile a diverse enough resume of past work that audiences have got to be taking notice of him, at least enough to start thinking of him as a “that guy.” Some may know him as the fidgety dude in a lot of Judd Apatow stuff, some may recognize him as being the voice of the lead character in How to Train Your Dragon, others might think of him as the kid who co-starred next to Nic Cage’s hair extensions in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, or maybe your memory even goes as far back as to recognize him as the stalker fanboy from Almost Famous. Well now Baruchel is going to be adding one more point of reference in his scheme to get recognition: he’s going to be the guy that writes those movies. Already the actor has a writing credit for co-adapting the screenplay for his upcoming hockey comedy Goon, and now Baruchel is said to have a couple more projects on the way as well. He has already signed on to adapt Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s comic book “Random Acts of Violence” for the big screen. It’s a meta sort of story about two comic creators having success with a murderous character named Slasherman, but then having their good times derailed when it starts looking like their character has come to life and began killing in the real world.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we talk with Troll Hunter writer/director Andre Ovredal, Prom screenwriter Katie Wech, and The Conspirator screenwriter James Solomon. Perhaps you’re starting to see a theme emerge. Plus, Dustin Rowles and Joanna Robinson from Pajiba enter the Movie News Pop Quiz ring, and both safely exit. Then, we talk about Doctor Who. Loosen up your tie and stay a while. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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