Film Friday for September

It’s the last day of the month and I’m actually getting the latest round up of film news up on time!! Those who are familiar with this recurring feature need no introduction, but for those of you who have just discovered my little abode in cyberspace, every month I like to recount the deals which have been made to produce films which are either sequels, remakes or TV show adaptations. I don’t bother with the books and comics, because hey, who reads, right? This is about Hollywood’s insistence on remaking things and producing sequels rather than trying to make new stories. So, let’s get started!

  • The Golden Age – Sequel to “Elizabeth”…in general, I’m in support of this one, but I have to admit curiousity since I don’t think “Elizabeth” was a blockbuster.
  • Nancy Drew: The Mystery in Hollywood Hills – this one makes the list because it has previously been a TV show. Does anyone know if Nancy has graced the big screen before?
  • Madagascar 2 – Can’t they just spin off the penguins into their own movie? Oh wait, they did a live action of that this year already…
  • Mostly Martha – Because Americans can’t be bothered to watch the original one in German. Reminds them of ‘Das Boot’.
  • The Star Chamber – Remake of the 1983 film. Because we’ve suddenly run out of new legal thrillers, we must start remaking them from 22 years ago!
  • 36 – Remake of a French film “36 Quai des Orfevres.” We really can’t be bothered with French.
  • State of Play – Remake of a British miniseries. Oh come now, it’s in our own language! Now we’re just lazy…or it must be the accents.

That’s it for this month! Just keep plugging away at your spec. I think there were 2 sold this month (and don’t forget that high-larious pitch from a New Line exec about the “Boob Job”!) Keep the dream alive!

(As usual, all info courtesy of Done Deals).

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This post was written by Shawna on September 30, 2005

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Book Bleg

I’m looking for recommendations of REALLY ESSENTIAL READING. It can be any genre, but give me 3-5 books you recommend I read.

To give examples of my usual reading habits, I have read the entire Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, I’m currently reading ‘System of the World’ by Neal Stephenson, I’ve read most Heinlein and in the mystery realm I grew up reading Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham. I of course love Douglas Adams, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle. I’ve never read a Stephen King book. I’ve read ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and love it. I’ve also read the collected works of Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I love Anne of Green Gables and the Tao of Pooh.

There, there’s a big chunk of my bookshelves. Suggest away. Anything.

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This post was written by Shawna on September 28, 2005

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Tuesday has good news for everyone…except UPN

So, everybody gets a piece of the pie on Tuesday nights, and why not? The evening is chock-a-block with choices. Look at the 9PM time period:

ABC: Commander-in-Chief – got good premiere sampling. It will also benefit by House going on hiatus during baseball on Fox the next few weeks, enough time to establish an audience all its own. I already pegged this as a survivor, no matter how good or bad it is…well, if it was too horrible, it’d be a different story, but Rod Lurie’s no dummy, even if I differ on his politics.
NBC: My Name is Earl / The Office – Earl lives, expect The Office to be replaced at midseason.
CBS: The Amazing Race (2 hr this week) – On an unrelated note, did you know NCIS is the #1 show at 8PM on Tuesdays?? Maybe I should actually watch this thing which is in its 3RD YEAR!
Fox: House – Had to settle for #2 this week.
WB: Supernatural – Marc and I agree. This is a solid pick up for the rest of the year.
UPN: Sex, Love & Secrets – I agree with Marc Berman, the results were so dismal, this sucker is CANCELLED within 2 weeks.

Poor Boston Legal — it can’t catch a break after Commander-in-Chief. Still, it’s ratings aren’t bad, so it will be fine. Do not weep for David E. Kelley.

Bones will live past baseball. Berman thinks it will take off after American Idol. If that’s true, it might get picked up in spite of itself.

Berman does a great job running down the list of new series, and I have to say, he and I are of the same mind on most of the new shows. Read Marc Berman’s Programming Insider here.

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This post was written by Shawna on September 28, 2005

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I’m guessing this happens more than we’d like to believe

This story details how a New Line exec tells a story about his friend and his friend’s wife’s ‘boob job’, suddenly it’s the latest hot assignment in Hollywood.

And we wonder why we can’t sell specs. With this kind of brilliance, how can we compete?

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This post was written by Shawna on September 28, 2005

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What to Spec: Part II

So, we got some good discussion going on what shows are good show to ‘spec.’ For those new to the lingo, a ‘spec’ script is one you write without assignment (if you write a screenplay at home with no deal attached, that’s a spec too.) In TV Land, if you want to get a staff job on a TV show, you need to have a couple (or three or four..) spec scripts of current TV shows to peddle around. I personally have written spec scripts for ‘Lost’ and ‘House’. I will spec another show in a few months once I decide what to put my energy toward. Even established writers have spec scripts they keep current.

So, after my last post, I was very pleased to receive some feedback from Paul Guyot regarding shows to spec. So, without further ado, I reprint his remarks here:

Lost – good spec.
The Shield – was the hot spec the last few years, its time may be up.
Deadwood – too specific.
Nip/Tuck – good.
The O.C. – good spec if you want to write for that particular genre. VERONICA MARS would be better because it shows you as a teen angst writer as well as crime and comedy.
Medium – not a good spec, except for a very specific genre/tone.
Everwood – not enough of Hollywood watches the show.
Rescue Me – hot spec.
Gray’s Anatomy – hot spec.

Cold Case – has replaced CSI as that genre’s go-to spec.
Without a Trace – only a single storyline, not a good spec.
Veronica Mars – good.
Boston Legal – becoming hotter. If you can nail that DEK voice, you’ve scored.
Battlestar Galactica – don’t waste your time, unless you want to write ONLY for the Sci-Fi channel.
Law and Order: SVU or CI – not anymore.
The Sopranos – time has come and gone. Was THE spec to read/write prior to THE SHIELD, but I know of several agents and execs who won’t read them anymore.

CSI (every flavor) – can still get away with it, but they’ll ask you for something else.
Law and Order – nope.

House – this is THE hot spec right now. If you can nail a HOUSE spec, you’ll get meetings.
24 – nope.
Desperate Housewives – another hot spec.

As to your question re: DEAD ZONE, the only execs likely to read (and give a meeting off of) a USA network spec are USA and Lifetime execs. I know that WB, TNT, 20th and FX people won’t read them, or if they do it will only be as a second or third reading – meaning after they’ve read something else of yours. My agency (CAA) as well as Gersh and Endeavor won’t read any “query specs” from any cable network shows except FX and the premiums. Why is this? It’s just one of the many, many unfair Hollywood attitudes – there is a stigma against smaller cable company shows – they’re perceived as inferior in quality or else they’d be on another network. THE SHIELD should have broken that attitude but all it did was make the execs think FX is somehow “more special” when it comes to cable networks.

If THE CLOSER remains a hit for TNT, it might be a worthwhile spec, but that’s at least a year away.

There ya have it. I plan on updating my list. I suggest you do the same. Thanks Paul. Immensely helpful, as always.

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This post was written by Shawna on September 27, 2005

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Nielsens, we’ve got Nielsens…

Marc Berman consistently provides the earliest and best roundup of the previous night’s Nielsens and what they mean. Last night, ‘Surface’ saw 3 million people disappear from its viewership and it fell to 3rd place. It no longer looks as strong as its opening might have led people to believe (which, I will gloat, I totally called last week). ‘Out of Practice’ on CBS also showed 3rd place in its time period when the rest of the sitcoms are 2nd against football. I’d say that show is a goner.

‘Kitchen Confidential’ continues to pull low numbers after ‘Arrested Development’. I still think Fox will stick with it awhile longer as it seems to have critical buzz, but no viewership, just like its lead in show. ‘Prison Break’ will be renewed for next year. This is the only thing I am certain of at this point in the (very young) season. I’d still wait to spec it until we know what the heck is happening, and even then I’m not sure it will be a good spec show.

‘How I Met My Mother’ pulled numbers consistent with its premiere last week, so the news there is good so far.

Tonight, we’ll see how well ‘My Name is Earl’ holds up from its premiere.

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This post was written by Shawna on September 27, 2005

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Blogroll updated

I’ve added a few sites to the blogroll. I’ve been meaning to add Bill Cunningham’s DISC/ontent for ages and have finally gotten around to it. You should all be reading his blog without me linking to it anyway, but now the link is there.

Also welcome to Red Right Hand who linked to me long ago and I just realized it. I also added Scott the Reader’s informative blog, Alligators in a Helicopter.

If you want your blog on the next month of updates, please drop me a line. I’ll review it and so long as you post at fairly regular interval and discuss entertainment/screenwriting in some form, I’ll add you to my reading list. There are just so many of you anymore!

And I’m leaving Diana in the blogroll, since she swears she’s coming back…I’ve just moved her to the bottom until her triumphant return.

Oh, and for those of you who moved to the bottom of the list, consider yourselves on probation. Remember the motto around here: ‘Post or you’re toast’!

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This post was written by Shawna on September 26, 2005

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What shows should I spec?

I get this question a lot, primarily because I stuck my neck out in the Artful Writer Forum and responded to someone’s plea for help in determining which shows to spec. My knowledge is gleaned from screenwriting teachers, peers and others in a position to know (attached to agencies or prodcoms). I’ve updated my list, so I’m presenting it here.

Note: Where a show falls in whether it should be one to spec does not necessarily reflect on the quality of the show. This is about perception. NCIS maybe one of the best shows on TV (I have no idea), but if no one (re: agents) is watching it, it probably won’t get noticed. Conversely, CSI has been ‘done to death’ in specs, so you should go to these shows as a ‘last resort’.

Okay, here’s the list, my commentary to follow:

Good shows to spec:

Lost
The Shield
Deadwood
Nip/Tuck
The O.C. (not sure about the cred, but it probably has enough viewership to allow for a spec)
Medium (Patricia Arquette’s win and the continued ratings seal the deal on this one)
Everwood
Rescue Me
Gray’s Anatomy

Borderline, possible 2nd spec:

Cold Case
Without a Trace
Veronica Mars
Boston Legal
Battlestar Galactica
Law and Order: SVU or CI
The Sopranos

Glut of specs for:

CSI (every flavor)
Law and Order

Very difficult, but boy would you stand out from the crowd:

House
24 (forget it!!)
Desperate Housewives (and this is considered a ‘comedy’ but it’s an hour-long, so treat it as such for spec purposes)

Not respected enough to spec or getting on in years:

Crossing Jordan
The West Wing
Gilmore Girls
One Tree Hill
Smallville
Las Vegas
Charmed
Alias
NCIS
E.R.

Cable shows in general are not good for specs. Exceptions would be HBO and FX shows which are listed. I have heard ‘The Dead Zone’ is a good spec, and I know someone thinking of writing a ‘The 4400’ spec, so take that for what it’s worth.

How will the new shows shake out? There are still many weeks to go before we can say with certainty which new shows will make the cut for another year and will therefore be wide-open for spec writing.

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This post was written by Shawna on September 26, 2005

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My pages are up

They aren’t as flashy as everyone else’s, but they are functional. Go check out my contribution to the Group Screenwriting Project.

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This post was written by Shawna on September 24, 2005

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Is CSI making us stupid?

I read this story this morning and I just had to shake my head. Juries as collectives of individuals seem to be stupid enough, since defense attorneys do everything in their power to remove anyone with a brain from a jury. Now, we see that people need to see hard evidence, fingerprints, someone saying they did it on an audiotape, rather than be able to piece together the more likely and common evidence in crimes, which tend to be circumstantial, connect the dots type evidence.

This jury actually told the prosecutor that they needed to see a fingerprint on a file or a confession on an audiotape in order to convict. We’re in real trouble if people feel that CSI is the standard for judging evidence in real life criminal cases.

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This post was written by Shawna on September 24, 2005

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