Leavin’ on a jet plane

I’ve got a business trip to Orlando this week, so I’ll have limited internet access. I’ll try to post while I’m gone, but if I don’t, just remember I’ll be back on the 4th.

Have a great week and get some writing done while I’m gone!

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This post was written by Shawna on October 31, 2005

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Halloween Costume Pictures

I went as a script in development hell for Halloween.

Here are some pictures:


The front of the costume, which says “Resident of Development Hell”. That’s a pencil stabbing me through the heart there (and I added some “screenwriterish” glasses, even though I had Lasik surgery on my eyes last year)


This is the back. I tried to make it look like a script title page, with brads! That’s the producer’s knife plunged in my back there.


Finally, a halfway decent picture of me with my friend Catherine. She was a gypsy.

Most people thought the costume was pretty funny. Certainly other writers related to it well.

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This post was written by Shawna on October 30, 2005

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Film Friday October 2005

Another month closes, so it is time to round up all of the remakes, sequels and TV to film adaptations Hollywood deemed more likely to make a buck than a new spec screenplay. Actually, this month there were a lot of literary properties acquired and fewer remakes/sequels/updates than we have seen the last few month. Still, they never let us down, do they?

  • In-Utero – remake of Hong Kong sequel (a double whammy!) Jian Gui 2.
  • Creepshow – remake of the 1982 film. I guess 23 years is a long time ago…
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth – remake of ’77 film.
  • Rambo IV — because Rocky VI alone wasn’t enough for a true Stallone revival.

Believe it or not, that’s it this month. I know, really light. Well, I noticed there were a lot of new rewrites and projects which had originally been setup at some point in the last 2 or 3 years getting new life, so it parallels what I’ve heard, which is that the spec market is tight (duh), studios and prodcos have acquired so many properties/scripts in the last few years that in an effort to save money they are going back to the pile and pulling out existing properties to develop rather than keep buying new specs or pitches (that isn’t to say some haven’t sold, but most seemed to be from established writers, directors, producers and actors).

Well, I say it every month — keep working on the specs. You never know what will happen these days…

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This post was written by Shawna on October 28, 2005

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The monthly blogroll adds

It’s that time again…adding to the blogroll, and man have you guys been busy! I can hardly keep up with all the new screenwriting blogs out there.

This is a pretty big add month, but I know there are still others out there I haven’t visited. I’m certainly not going to be the ‘one stop shop’ for all screenwriting blogs, but I may need to do some reorganizing someday…

Okay, so who’s added this month?

First, is our good friend ‘Master Shake’ and his blog You’re Entering a World of Pain. I like him because he thinks I’ll be a paid writer soon. I can only hope. He’s also very funny and as obsessed with Lost as I am.

Next up, a nice Australian boy, Xander, and his blog Chained to the Keyboard. He actually gets paid to write, so you might want to check him out.

Up until yesterday The Wry Writer linked to me. I don’t know why she killed the link, but I like her blog anyway, so go check it out.

I’m fond of Webs, so check out his blog.

Since Shecanfilmit is also a former tech worker, I feel a strong affinity, what with being a current sorta tech worker.

I’m finally getting around to linking Assistant/Atlas. He is must reading.

Longtime reader/linker/blogger Splinster finally gets to the blogroll. Sorry for the delay!

I thought I had already added Screamwriter but apparently not.

Billy Mernit has a blog and teaches screenwriting at UCLA (and has written a book on writing romcoms)! Hopefully I’ll be able to take one of his classes one of these days…

That’s it this month. If you’d like a link and you have a blog (and you intend to update it regularly), drop me a line. I usually do my blogroll adds once a month, near the end of each month, so if you don’t get added right away, look for one of these updates.

Thanks everybody for the linking love and keep blogging and (most importantly) KEEP WRITING!!

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This post was written by Shawna on October 26, 2005

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Film/TV Panel @ The Liberty Film Festival

I attended the panel yesterday, which was subtitled “Rebels With a Cause.” The “rebels” in this case would be conservative writers and producers in Hollywood, who are often on the outside looking in on the industry today. It is a pretty established fact that sometime around the 1970’s a sea change began. Studios, writers and actors that were predominantly conservative grew stagnant and a new wave of liberal filmmakers entered the fray with their visions of Vietnam disillusionment and Watergate malaise. The prevailing attitude since that time has been that liberal ideology reigns supreme in this town. If you are a conservative, you are either a square, a greedy corporate overlord, or Hitler. Maybe even all 3!

The Liberty Film Festival was established to provide a mechanism for conservative filmmakers to be heard and have their films seen. So far the majority of offerings have been documentaries, but there were some narrative short films in the mix this year, including a screenplay contest, so I expect this event to continue to grow and become the alterna-Sundance. Based on how the event has grown from last year (its first year) and this weekend, I’d say the future looks bright.

Anyway, back to the panel I attended. It was moderated by Michael Medved. Participants in the panel included Frank Price, a former studio head at Columbia and Universal; Joel Surnow, creator of 24; Cyrus Nowrasteh, writer of The Day Reagan Was Shot and the upcoming 9/11 TV miniseries for ABC; Warren Bell, executive producer of According to Jim; Scott Gardenhour, producer who works with Michael Bay; and Doug Urbanski, producer of films including The Contender.

Quick note: the questions/answers below are paraphrased as I took notes at the event. If I find a transcript, I will post it.

Michael’s first question was “What can conservatives contribute to Hollywood?”

Cyrus Nowrasteh: Conservatives can start by “telling the truth.” He thinks shows like 24 show how conservative (or traditional) values are relayed in a story. He also felt that the docudramas he has written have not had many problems and when he has wanted to include elements of the 9/11 story which are rarely told, ABC has supported him.

Joel Surnow pondered whether the truth can sell. He felt that the truth can be rather ambiguous and the key is to tell a good story and don’t be afraid to tell the story the way you want to tell it.

Frank Price agreed, adding that you have to make a good picture that someone wants to see. If you are driven by a political agenda, it will be apparent in the writing. He cited The American President as a film which starts and ends with a political agenda and it alienates half the audience because of it.

Warren Bell gave voice to the capitalists stating that ‘we are all in the business to make money’. He felt that a return to traditional entertainment means giving people entertainment they will enjoy. He cited Napoleon Dynamite as a family friendly film that seeks to entertain its audience. He can watch it with his kids because it has no sex, no profanity, no violence [well, unless you count being hit with a steak violent] and its funny.

Scott Gardenhour noted that the material needs to be resonant, that for it to be made it has to have a voice…[I may have missed something about his comments here, sorry]

Finally, Doug Urbanski laid it out; Conservatives are the butt of jokes and it isn’t the executives that keep perpetuating this. It’s the rank and file, the disconnect happens in the front office. 100% of the companies passed on The Passion of the Christ. Producers have to stop practicing moral relativism and cutting off half their audience in the process. If they do that, they will see a box office boost.

Someone (don’t remember who) said that Hollywood is starting to wake up to the fact that not everyone voted for John Kerry. They actually need help reaching out to conservatives, since they don’t really know how to do it.

The next question from Medved: “What is your favorite RECENT film or TV show which illustrates respect for traditional values…and you didn’t create it?”

Cyrus: The Passion of the Christ and To End All Wars

Joel: I have young daughters and shows like That’s So Raven and Gilmore Girls are great entertainment.

Frank: The Passion and Farenheit 9/11 (audience laughs) It isn’t that Michael Moore’s film illustrated traditional values, but both of these films had passion behind them from their makers and that is what makes them interesting (He also noted he probably would have passed on The Passion also).

Warren: The Incredibles which wasn’t afraid to entertain adults as well as kids, but had strong messages and illustrated a healthy marriage and 24, his vote for the best show on TV.

Scott: The Incredibles

Doug: The Chorus, a great French film and Batman Begins which was filled with clearly good people and bad people.

Question to Scott Gardenhour about The Island — was it a pro-life movie?

Scott: Definitely a pro-life, pro-human movie. He talked to Dreamworks (who distributed domestically) about tapping into the same groups who showed up for The Passion, but they didn’t know how. Also, Dreamworks complained the movie was late and there was nothing the marketing department could do to publicize it properly (which Scott called B.S. on because Bay has done this with all of his movies and they have all made large sums of money). Scott also noted that it did well overseas, where Warner Bros. distributed it. He did note that Dreamworks was afraid to reveal the film for what it was and decided to keep the cover on it instead, which may be another reason no one saw it.

Question to Frank Price — what happened to Cinderella Man, which has a very traditional values message?

Frank: It’s a bad title, bad marketing. The movie was great, no one knew what it was.

Questions from the audience:

“Is the American actor completely screwed?” [Because of reality TV and more work abroad]

Joel: I don’t think so. There are more channels than ever and a need to fill the pipeline with programming. The danger is shrinking budgets, but new technologies may be able to solve that problem.

“How do you get more conservative views on TV?”

Scott: It isn’t all about money, it is about good material. Write a good script.

Doug: It starts with getting conservatives in the executive suite who recognize the audience wants this kind of viewpoint expressed on TV.

“Is Hollywood afraid of showing Islamofaschists as ‘bad guys’?”

Cyrus: At least as far as the 9/11 movie goes, no. They are using their [the terrorists] own words. There will be no actor portraying Osama Bin Laden.

“On Into the West mini-series how did you [Cyrus] deal with showing the times America was wrong [in treatment of Native Americans]?”

Cyrus: I can’t speak for the other writers, but on the episode I wrote, I focused on the wagon train and the hardships of moving out into the frontier.

“Does the power of the international box office [which presumably likes some of the leftist slant of films] work against conservatives?”

One of the panelists, I didn’t note who, thought no, because box office is not the big picture anymore. The future is in alternative distribution, DVD and VOD.

“Do you have advice for film students/new filmmakers?”

Scott: Use the internet. That is where the future is in terms of getting your work seen [presumably talking about short films].

“What one project would you like to get made if given unlimited money/resources?”

Cyrus: I have a project about “The Battle of New Orleans” which I feel is a great allegory for the War on Terrorism.

Joel: I’ve been talking to Ann Coulter about doing something about the REAL Joe McCarthy.

Frank: Two projects, one about the a turning point in the French and Indian War, which cemented the ‘Indians as savages’ meme in America for the next century. And he has a project about the Mayflower Pilgrims, because he feels that story has never been properly told.

Warren: Project about John Brown and he pitches to Scott G. a Robin Hood project, where he feels the Sheriff of Nottingham is the good guy!

Scott: The 50 States Media project he is working on.

Doug: Working on a Joe McCarthy project [hey, maybe he should talk to Joel!]

Someone mentioned (may have been Medved) that any biographies of the founding fathers do big business and Doug Urbanski noted that HBO has a series on John Adams in development.

That was it, I hope you found the info interesting. Certainly was a fascinating look at the business by some pros.

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This post was written by Shawna on October 24, 2005

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A look ahead to midseason

So, I’ve already said that I don’t think we’ve seen THE one new 1-hour drama to spec this year. If we haven’t seen it yet, will we see it in midseason? Let’s take a look at what the networks have already announced we’ll see come January (or sooner/later depending on scheduling and events):

One Hour Dramas:

  • What About Brian? (ABC) This show from J.J. Abrahms will air on Monday nights after football ends at 10 PM.
  • In Justice (ABC) A drama about an ethically challenged lawyer and a cop out to get justice for those wrongly accused of crimes.
  • The Evidence (ABC) Apparently the audience will see all of the evidence in a case presented at the top of the hour and then we’ll see how that evidence works into the case. I’m still not clear on this one, but it sounds like at least they’re trying something different with a procedural.
  • The Unit (CBS) This is the one to keep an eye on. It is brought to us by David Mamet and The Shield creator Shawn Ryan. The show is about a special ops group and their families.
  • Book of Daniel (NBC) Aidan Quinn plays a minister. NBC doesn’t have anything on their website about it and I didn’t feel like googling around for more info. ** Update wouldn’t you know it, 10 minutes after I post this, I see an article that NBC has cut the midseason order from 13 episodes to the pilot plus 7. Not sure what that means (is NBC going to reup E-Ring?)
  • Windfall (NBC) If done correctly, this is the show I think NBC will have some success with this year. It’s about 20 people who win the lottery. Naturally, tons of spec ideas come to mind with it too…
  • South Beach (UPN) I have no idea of this show will be any good. It sounds like an O.C. ripoff, but then, what do I know.
  • The Bedford Diaries (WB) I think this is supposed to get the Felicity crowd. It’s a drama set in college. That’s all I know. Oh and something about the characters all being in a human sexuality class. Uh, ok, whatever.
  • Pepper Dennis (WB) Rebecca Romijn plays the title character who is a Chicago based reporter. Reading the notes on it, sounds like someone has watched Broadcast News a few times.

24 will also return at midseason. I’ll cover the midseason 1/2 hour comedies next time with the returning sitcoms and reality shows.

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This post was written by Shawna on October 20, 2005

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‘Invasion’ gets its pick-up from ABC

The Hollywood Reporter has the story. Watch List updated AGAIN.

So far, a lot of shows have been picked up for a full season. This by no means guarantees them another season, but for now, it’s a positive development. Invasion will probably end up moving so Lost can be better utilized as a lead-in to some other show (Invasion has lost about 45% of its lead-in’s viewers, never a good thing). However, I’d say things stay as they are past sweeps and maybe even until the new year.

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This post was written by Shawna on October 20, 2005

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Commander in Chief gets vote of confidence from ABC

This hit the trades late: ABC has given a full season pick-up to Commander-in-Chief

I’ll update the Watch List and bump it in the morning.

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This post was written by Shawna on October 19, 2005

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Heh

From Fox News:

DES MOINES, Iowa — Ticket buyers played their kids’ birthdays, their wedding anniversaries, even a set of numbers taken straight from the TV show “Lost,” in hopes of winning $340 million Wednesday in the second-biggest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.

The Powerball jackpot has been snowballing since mid-August, with 20 straight drawings in which no one won the grand prize. Stores reported heavy sales in all 27 states selling Powerball tickets.

“We’re swimming in it today,” said Marianne Ward at the Cash & Dash in Little River, S.C. “We’ve sold more than $2,000 in tickets since 6 a.m.”

Mary Neubauer, spokeswoman for the Iowa Lottery, said hundreds of ticket buyers were playing a set of numbers from the ABC drama “Lost,” which featured a character who won $156 million by playing a string of digits obtained from a patient in a mental institution: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42.

“I just think it speaks to people’s fascination with numbers and the what-if factor,” Neubauer said.

The odds of hitting all six numbers were 1 in 146 million.

Now, if the numbers actually win, that would not only be creepy but really wrong. Plus, the winners would get, far less than $156 million each. More like half a mil, max, if that many people are playing the numbers…and if a few more join in, they’ll be down to ten bucks.

How much bad luck can you have winning ten bucks??

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This post was written by Shawna on October 19, 2005

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Another interesting success story

I don’t know why I didn’t blog about this in August, when the story came out, but Michael Feldman landed himself a pilot deal, even though he was only looking to get staffed.

He wrote a pilot spec and sent it out to producers, hoping to get staffed on a new show. One of the producers liked his script so much, he decided to try to get it picked up. And now Feldman, who’s previous credits include “That’s So Raven”, “Yes, Dear”, and “The Gregory Hines Show” has a show of his own.

Here’s the best quote in the article, from producer Brad Johnson, of Watson Ponds Prods (based at 20th Century Fox), “the story behind ‘Dr. Freed’ — as well as Cherry’s experience getting ‘Desperate Housewives’ set up — are signs that ‘good writers are everywhere.’

‘People shouldn’t judge credits; they should judge writers,’ he said.”

Indeed.

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This post was written by Shawna on October 19, 2005

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