Just some notes on last night's premiere of Project Greenlight 3. SPOILERS, of course, if that kind of thing really applies to this show.
(Some background, for those that don't know: Martin and I entered the screenplay portion of the Project Greenlight contest last year (over a year ago, actually -- wow.) Anyway, long story short: we made the Top 100 scripts, but not the Top 5. Those interested in reading about the whole saga can go here, and start at the bottom.)
So, if I was ever the least bit distraught over not winning Tha Big Prize, that's completely gone. Something I felt from watching the previous two seasons, and was verified last night, was that the decisions that go into choosing a winner (both script and director) are so utterly random, so lacking in common sense, that it's impossible to feel overlooked. I can't imagine any scenario where Martin and I would be the beneficiary of the fucked-up thinking that goes into choosing a winner. Although I think Martin and I should continue to enter contests (even a Project Greenlight 4, should it come to pass), we should do it because it's fun, not because we think it might be an entry-level ticket to something. (Not that we necessarily thought this, but it bears repeating.) Any success is going to be built from the bottom up with out own hands; we aren't going to win a Hollywood lottery, and I don't know that I really want to.
So, the winning script was something called Feast, which looks like Jeepers Creepers 3 to me. (I actually liked the first Jeepers, so that's not neccessarily pejorative.) However, it looked like 90% of the decision-makers (Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Wes Craven, that Chris guy who yells a lot, and producers from Dimension Films) thought it was mediocre at best, crap at worst. None of the actors and directors at the table -- the artistic types -- wanted the script, but the folks from Dimension pretty much rammed their first choice through, because they could market it. No other reason, really. They didn't really think it was well-written or a very good story, simply that it was marketable. We've all seen depictions of how Hollywood works, what with the slick salesmen in executive positions and the shallow thought-processes and the anything-for-a-buck mentality; but to see it play out in reality was chilling.
Then came the second half of the show, where they chose the director. It was basically between two guys, John Gulager and some guy whose name I don't remember (guess who won). John Gulager is now my new hero. Here's a guy, 46 years old, fat, nerdy, socially inept, introverted, lacking self-confidence, but not without some talent behind the camera. His personal bio video is narrated like an film noir where the detective knows he's going to be dead by the end of the film. It reeks of fatalism and disappointment. He gives, as they say on the show, "the worst job interview ever". (I'm sure it wasn't that bad, but the editing of this part makes it look like an outtake from The Office.) He's also the son of Clu "Burt from Return of the Living Dead" Gulager, which earns him a bunch of goodwill points from Yours Truly. The other guy talks fast, puts on a good show, makes the folks laugh and feel comfortable. But Gulager wins. The guy who really deserved to win, IMO, gets the job. Seems like a repudiation of what I said in the previous paragraph, doesn't it? Maybe the Hollywood way does make the right choices every now and again.
But, despite the vote of confidence, what really seemed to happen was that the artistic contigent decided to screw the producer contingent after the script fiasco. The producers didn't like Gulager, didn't think they could communicate with him. (They may be right.) But it was Matt Damon's "fuck you" parting gift. Important decisions made for the kookiest of reasons. Why do I want to get involved in this, again?
Anyway, this season looks to be even more interesting than the previous ones, and who knows? They may even get a halfway decent flick out of it. Go get 'em Gulager! Give 'em hell! Just don't turn into an asshole, okay?
Alas, it was not meant to be.
Nor was it to be for any of the other contestants I'd been in contact with for the last month. That's a real bummer. Oh well, look at the bright side: nothing to keep us from wishing for a complete disaster!
Although, one of the scripts to make the Top 6 (someone must've campaigned hard for one of 'em) is something called Does Anybody Here Remember When Hanz Gubenstein Invented Time Travel? If it's half as interesting as the title, they may have something.
However, I do have some good news to report, but it's good news in the David Brent sense. More on that later.
Hey folks, the Top 5 are announced tomorrow. Wish us luck!
Actually, "announced" is a bit of a misnomer, as the Top 5 are informed by a phone call. I'm assuming they won't post the names on the site until everyone's been informed, so the other 95 probably won't know who made it until Wednesday at the earliest.
I'd really like to make the Top 5, if only to jump through their next hoop: each contestant gets notes from bigwig mucky-mucks at Miramax, and the contestants have to rewrite their script using those notes. Wouldn't that be awesome to see bona-fide studio notes? Even if the notes did suck, it would be an awesome experience to get feedback from real filmmakers and an invigorating challenge to incorporate the notes into the script.
Honestly, though, Martin and I don't think we're moving on. For a two-week draft, it's good and has potential, but I think it needs major work to get it where it needs to be. The Top 5 will likely only have about two weeks to turn in their rewrite; I think we could do it (of course), but do they? Wouldn't they rather have five scripts that need less work?
But I didn't think we'd even make it this far, so who the hell knows?
Oh, and good luck to Jack (whom we affectionately refer to as That Chicago Kid), as well as Nick Carr, Gregory Burkhart, and Jody from Naked Writing, Top 100 contestants all. I'd be happy if at least one name I recognized made the next cut.
Martin thought the first picture was too serious and pretentious.
Okay homes, how do you like these apples?
The truth is, the 3 minute video is a lot of things: sober and goofy, loose yet carefully planned at the same time. No single frame is going to do it justice, I think.
Or will it....?
I'd like to think that our 3 minute video is going to be different than most of the entries. I'd like to think that it's so different, that it won't be forgotten after the 100th video has played. I'd like to think it is, in a word, unique.
Now, whether or not that's a good thing remains to be seen.
Martin, care to comment?
Lookit these guys:
So serious. So full of mystery. So fucking up their lines.
We're done with our three-minute "Please Choose Us!" video. That's Martin on the left, Yours Truly on the right. The shoot went well. Laughs were had. Gummies were eaten. Overall, it wasn't unlike the script-writing experience: very little time, a whole lot to do, but in the end, it got done and was a satisfactory experience. I'm pretty sure this is the end of this particular train, though, but I did say that after the Top 1000, so who the fuck knows?
There are still some people out there who -- don't mean to be pushy! -- but who have read the script and haven't given us their impressions. Don't be shy! You won't hurt our feelings. Well, you might hurt mine, but I'll get over it, since I know we still have a lot of work to do.
(And a shout-out to reader Bull, who did give his impressions. Thanks, man. Go ahead and turn around and we'll commence the scratching...)
Can you believe this shit?
I sure as hell can't.
Two things stun me about this achievement. One, as my wife pointed out, this round was judged by a group of paid readers, so the fact that they selected our script indicates that they would pay to see this movie. Second, these same readers had the task of turning 1000 scripts into 100; that is, they had to reject 9 out of 10 scripts they read. They were looking for any reason to throw out a script...and they didn't find a reason to throw out ours. Un-fucking-believable.
So now, the next step is a three-minute video that introduces ourselves, and tests whether or not we can follow strict rules. As Martin said, this hoop has more to do with seeing who looks okay on camera and who they want to fuck with for the course of a movie production. Still, making the video should be fun. What's not fun is the 18 (!) page background check that we each have to fill out. Criminal record, who our high school friends were, toilet paper roll hanging over or under... They should make us CIA NOCs after this.
But as Martin also said, after the Top 1000, it's all gravy. We never, ever expected to get this far, especially on a two-week draft. What the hell can we do if we, as the SOS Band said, took our time and and did it right?
Actually, the answer to that is coming sooner than you realize...Mu-wah-ha-ha-ha!
(Which is partially to explain why I haven't posted anything in a long while. Maybe hopefully soon...)
Oh, and big ups to Grimm, the only script I'm familiar with that also made the cut. Good job!
Oh, in case it wasn't clear, Todd and Brendan didn't make the first cut of the Project Greenlight Director's Contest.
Which is just lame. Whassa matta with these judges?
Don't worry guys; we'll get our revenge.
Our script Yellow made the Top 1000 Screenplays in the first round of Project Greenlight 3. I'm incredibly happy, and surprised as well, considering it went from a germ of an idea to a final draft in about two weeks.
Oh yeah, about those two weeks...unfortunately, it showed. Below are the reviews we got from our fellow competitors. I agree with some comments, I don't agree with others, some make me scratch my head. But without further commentary:
The most interesting idea in the script concerns the girl who can take photos of the future. All other aspects should be scrapped.
Dialogue (1-12): 2 Characters (1-12): 1 Story/Plot (1-12): 1 Overall (1-12): 2
Reviewer #2 (used in evaluation):
I can tell this is either your first or one of your first scripts. I can also tell that you're young, probably in college. These are not bad things. The road to screenwriting is a long one, and one without a destination for most. The key is, if this is really, TRULY what you want, to stick with it. Keep writing. Write new, don't rewrite old, etc, etc. The main problem you have here is structural. I didn't get a clear sense of the three-act structure. In your logline (the reason I chose your script), you pushed this idea of a photographer who takes pictures that tell the future. Okay, intriguing concept, I'll bite. And bite I did, only to have to wait until page SIXTY SEVEN for you to reveal this part of the story. The first 35 pages are a muddled mess of introductions. Cut all that stuff out. The best rule of any scene or act is to start late and leave early. Let us, your audience, fill in the blanks. I don't need to see 6 characters introduce themselves to everyone (and multiple times, at that). You have to pick up where your story gets interesting. And that's with the first mention of the secret society. You need a clear main character, a clear problem and a clear goal-slash-consequence (if the hero fails to solve the problem). If you choose to rewrite this script, sit down with these points in mind and beat it out in an outline before you dive back in. Everything needs to move quick, be concise and lead the reader (without being predictable) in the direction of the narrative. I hope this helps. Write more, write on. Good luck.
Dialogue: 4 Characters: 3 Story/Plot: 5 Overall: 4
Reviewer #3 (used in evaluation):
I love Dario Argento, so I was eager to read this screenplay. I'd love to see PG do a horror movie (especially if I win the directing contest). This script was pretty good, though I think more lies in it's potential than what's currently there. The structure seemed to be the weakest link. Some information seemed to be revealed too early perhaps (Fioina's abilities...which could also be more important to the film before the ending bit). Time spent with characters seems a bit off. Until David died, I wasn't sure who was the lead, him or Bernardo. ONe more negative: I was dissapointed in the death scenes. Nothing very Argento-ish. Especially the explosion...cut the explosion, or at least make the exploions send a jagged piece of metal into the kids eye or something. And more deaths! More deaths. But I did really like the story. I liked the characters and the dialog alot. With some polishing this could be really good.
Dialogue: 9 Characters: 9 Story/Plot: 7 Overall: 8
Standard summer cinema shenanigans. The characters are two-dimensional, differing only in their mode of dress and sex. Add in the cost of a soundtrack and recording studios and you should break even.
Dialogue: 6 Characters: 6 Story/Plot: 2 Overall: 5
Of the three screenplays I have read, this is the only one that 'played' in my head-I could really see the colours & hear the characters. I was won over in the beginning by the bit about the chairs littering the room & the students littering the chairs. I could imagine this story fleshed out as a novel or realised as a movie.
Dialogue: 10 Characters: 10 Story/Plot: 10 Overall: 10
Reviewer #6 (used in evaluation):
The story is nicely formulated. The script has strongly defined characters. Story flows well. The script has a few minor punctuation errors, misspellings and missplaced characters. One example, just for reference, is found on page 17. The Author has Valerie take a drink of water, even though the character was killed off in a earlier scene. There are a three things that a reader will expect from an Author, whether they are cognizant of it or not, (one) spelling, (two) punctuation and (three) knowing your own characters. It will kill the reading no matter how minor the errors. Such is the case here. Find a "Third" party to read your work. I mean some one who has no reason to soften the blows. I would look for someone who you like but has the tact of a brick. This reviewer found there to be too much use of the "Montage". In the writen form this creates a nice cadance but would visually clutter a film. There are better ways to TRANS. In the "montages" given form they do not move the story along. If they contained elements that were essential to the plot ( ie. seeing a character involved in an act that would later effect the given character or plot direction)then they might work in a smaller number. As it stands now, the use of the "montages" could only appeal to a Warhol private collector. Every scene should move the plot forward. For an example, the Author may wish to readdress the scene with David and Coyles' father on the road. I feel this scene is not really necessary, though it is referenced later in the story by Heller. I feel the scene as a whole slows down the pace. And at the very least the Author should readdress the dialog. Playing the "race card" gives more weight to the scene than it should recieve. Use of that type of dialog may not be out of place for the character but is fairly out of place within the context of the entire story.
Dialogue: 10 Characters: 10 Story/Plot: 10 Overall: 10
The dialog was OK. The idea was great, even if it is similar to a Twilight Zone story, but that was fine. The problem is that the story made no sense. The camera was not used, except as a prop. The "LOOSE & R37734" weren't true, and didn't work. The story was hard to follow and drug on. From: Explosion--CU-David's eyes, through Heller conversation was confusing. The camera angle was the most interesting, but was NEVER developed. The style, flow and dialog were good.
Dialogue: 6 Characters: 5 Story/Plot: 2 Overall: 4
No comments provided
Dialogue: 4 Characters: 4 Story/Plot: 3 Overall: 4
A big, grateful "thank you" to all eight reviewers, who took the time to read our Hail Mary script. We really believe in this script, and though its continued success in the Project Greenlight contest is doubtful (I think), I'm committed to making this movie in any way possible. Your comments and criticisms are greatly appreciated and will definitely be taken into consideration for the next draft.
If any of my other readers would like to take a gander at our script, shoot me an email and I'll send you a .pdf. If you do read it, I encourage you to post comments to this space.
Finally, congratulations also to the writers of Grim, The Dream Weaver, and Sohorrity, wherever you are. We read your scripts and you deserve to be in the Top 1000. I even think Martin and I learned a trick or two from your writing. Excellent job, people.
The first round of the contest is now officially over. This Friday, on or around noon, the Top 1000 Screenplays and the Top 250 Director Entries will be announced.
I'm nervous as hell, but that's normal. Martin, the Seinfeld to my Costanza, feels pretty good about our chances of making the cut; I don't think he'd mind too much if I quoted him saying our script was "stronger than anything (he'd) read."
I sure hope so; while we certainly have such qualities as "originality" and "commitment to not taking the easy way out" covered, there were a couple scripts that felt, I don't know, smoother to me. That is, they seemed more ready to go into pre-production rewriting, had their beats worked out better than us. I would think that's a better selling point than originality, but then, my cynicism knows no bounds.
Also, a big shout-out and a hearty "good luck!" to Todd and Brendan, whose short, I Can Get You Down There, is in the Director's competition. This is some of the best work I've seen from them (and their stars, Valerie and Kirk), and that's saying something. Excellent job, guys; I hope to see your names on Friday.
Congratulations to my friends Todd and Brendan on an excellent Director Contest entry. I think they have a real shot for the big prize. Truly impressed, guys. Good luck!
Kza (wearing Night Owl outfit): Martin, you're crazy. You wouldn't send out that script. That's...monstrous.
Martin (as Ozymandias): Kent, I'm not a Republic Serial villain. I sent it out twenty-four hours ago.
So what I'm trying to say, is that we are officially entered in Project Greenlight 3. God help us.
(Poor Martin; he has no idea what that first part is about.)
Now we have to review three other competing scripts, and on March 25, we find out the results. I'd like to make the first cut, but after that, whatever happens, happens.
Probably the last PG3 update for awhile. We had a reading on Sunday (happy birthday to me!) and it went well; lots of good (and surprising) feedback. For example, there's a short prologue in the current draft that I was dead-set against, but most of the readers felt it set the tone on the right note, so it looks like that's staying in for the time being. Blind readings are always a trip. You never know what people are going to pick up on and what's going to fly right past them. Also, two of the readers were Todd and Brendan, friends of mine who are entering the concurrent Director Contest. C'mon guys; Seattle's gonna need some representation in PG3.
Cuz, honestly, I don't think it's gonna be us. I'm very happy with what we've done so far (in two weeks, no less), and I'm incredibly excited by what we're going to be doing (in terms of future projects and a Yellow rewrite), but I don't think this draft is strong enough. It's afflicted by a malady common to scripts by beginning screenwriters, the Passive Protagonist Syndrome; too much happening to him and not enough doing by him. If I'm allowed to place blame on something other than myself, I blame the incredibly short window we had for outlining the piece. There were tiny cracks in the original outline that weren't visible until they became huge fissures that we had to spackle over at the last minute.
But, hey, that's two weeks for you. The fact that we wrote a story that a group of people found pleasing in such a short time (a record for me) is an achievement in itself. And even more heartening, the solutions to the Syndrome above can be easily found in what we've already written. The second draft will kick ass!
But it's not the second draft that will be entered in the contest. I'm curious what people will think of it. My wife expects the peer group (the people who judge the first round) to be made of idiots who'll hate the Limbo-esque ending, the one thing that works like gangbusters. But we'll see.
Hopefully, Martin will share his thoughts on the process in the comments section. Martin?
Turns out the last post was a lie. There were still a few bugs to work out, but I think it's done. Now comes the tough part: putting all the scenes together, reading it through, and hope it's not completely fucked. There will always be little details to add, little details to subtract, and general tightening, but it should hold together, in a general sense. But if it doesn't...ugh.
I have to say, right now my brain feels like a sponge that's been totally wrung dry. There's a definite emptiness inside me, and I feel a bit down. That's probably a good sign, actually; that's probably just symbolic of this massive act of creation we just pulled off. But I still feel awfully bleah.
Maybe I should go watch a movie.
I just sent Martin the last of the first draft scenes. This means we now have, after one week, a complete draft. I'm sure it's a little ugly (we haven't put the whole thing together yet), but that's what the next four days are for. I'm totally amazed by what we were able to achieve in such a short time, and I hope we get a chance to amaze other people with the final result.
Now, if we can just figure out a little something I like to call "The Great Clock Controversy of 2004"...
So that's what a blog looks like when you don't update it for awhile. Kinda like dead fish in an aquarium.
So, the script for PG3 is progressing nicely. My good friend and blog hoster Martin is co-writing with it me. It's called Yellow, and the original spark was to do a tribute to Dario Argento: a stylish slasher-type movie that I could (maybe) whip together real quick. (Hence all the Argento stuff lately.) But then Martin threw his massive intellect and talent into the mix, and it's developed into (I think) something more than just a slasher-type movie. If he gives the okay, I might even put the script up for people to look at if they like.
(Also: bonus points if you understand immediately why it's called Yellow.)
We've been writing scenes and emailing them back and forth and making comments and revisions at a whirlwind pace. I haven't worked this hard since college. Hell, maybe not even then. But it's looking better than I could ever have imagined it.
Soon (maybe): Deep Red, Inferno, Tenebre.
Hey loyal readers (all, uh, three of you):
I had every intention of posting a new entry every day this week. In fact, that's still possible. But there's a good chance I'll be silent for the next couple weeks.
See, this little ol' thing called Project Greenlight 3 has reared its ugly head, and although I managed to resist temptation the first two times, I've finally succumbed. Unfortunately for me, the screenplay deadline is Feb. 28, leaving me less than 24 days to write a script from nothing.
Now, I'm not a total newbie when it comes to screenwriting. I've been screenwriting with serious intent (is that a crime?) for about four years now. In 2002, one of my scripts, Saint Callistus, won second place in the Underexposed Screenwriting Contest, and put a thousand smackeroos in my pocket. (Okay, so maybe that's when I got serious about it.)
Since then, I've had a number of scripts in development ("in development" here meaning "notes and half completed .fdr files"). So you'd think, when PG3 came around, I'd have a script at least partially ready to freshen up and send in. Well, the new owners of PG3 (Bravo) have decided that the screenplay must be either a horror or thriller piece. Of course, I don't have anything like that ready, which is ironic, since horror is my favorite genre.
So now I'm going to try and create something decent in the next 24 days. I don't know if it's feasible, really; it usually takes me 4-6 months to produce a draft. But (supposedly) Soderbergh wrote sex, lies, and videotape in a week, and that Dawson's Creek guy wrote Scream in 3 days, so who knows? (Of course, they never tell you how shitty those initial drafts were.)
24 days. It'll kinda be like that Kiefer Sutherland show, only with fewer bear traps and mountain lions.
Wish me luck. Or at least wish me something.