Re[6]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

Just a few quick responses while the baby's waking up -- more later.

If we define back as “back to life” you did. If we define back as “back to Earth”, which is what I was getting at, then I don’t think it’s there. But then, I don’t think Earth figured at all into your concept, so that’s splitting hairs.

Right right right. Gotcha. This is indeed the crux of the whole issue. If you need to go back to Earth for the revivication to work, then it ends on Earth. If you don't, then it ends on the prison planet. We just need to decide which.


I've never seen Silkwood, so the allusion was completely lost on me. I mean, I know what it's about, but not having an experience of it, it didn't mean anything to me.

I'm still not sure what my two movie references are, but I'm leaning toward The Fugitive for one of them -- that kind of energy and excitement and tension, but with that kind of cool smarts about the whole thing. Also, Speed didn't make me think of "road trip" at all, and I think it's kin to The Fugitive -- keep it on the table. Also also, completely new pitch coming up. And finally, a critique of yours!

Re[5]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

One note I just thought of. I’ll bet I threw you off by my blank meets blank statement, so I should describe it a bit. Of course, the need to do so totally negates the spirit of the statement, and shows probably how poor my choices were. But, as a first stab, I picked those two movies because each had elements I thought important to Time To Die.

Re[4]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

I always pictured her getting a call on Earth that her husband won’t be coming home. I find the story compelling because she needs to find a way to the prison and that seems like a huge hurdle to me. But, believe it or not, I don’t think we’re really speaking that different of a language here.

Are you saying the second act is mostly her journey there?

Not at all — this isn’t a road-trip movie in my mind either. The journey could be instantaneous, but it is a huge hurdle she needs to overcome to prove how fucking absolutely impossible-to-get-rid-of she’s going to be in getting her husband back in time for the regeneration (But we could make the trip back to Earth a balls-out, chased by the law and bad guys, running on fumes sort of thing. Or it could be the final break into the prison and pulling a big show to get the body out).

I mean, think about the Warden sitting on his lily white ass (figuratively, at least) up on a rock wondering how the hell he’s going to contain the massive prison riot he’s got, when suddenly the soon-to-be grieving widow that he thought he had contained with patronizing words over the space-phone shows up and taps him on the shoulder?

Re[3]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

Waitaminnit. When you say the struggle is getting there, you actually mean that the ship is just there in orbit, and the trouble is getting into the facility, not what I said below -- is that right?

(I'm not totally taken with that, but that's 100X better than what I thought you meant.)

Re[2]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

you have September Rose going to the Prison Planet to meet her husband. So, the struggle all takes place there.

Um, I always thought that was the whole idea. Remember when we were talking about it offline last year, and the idea of the power struggle between the three factions (September, Inmates, Warden)?

I picture her on Earth, and a large part of the struggle is getting there. And then getting back.

Re: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

June 27, 2007 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version, Time to Die, the screenplay

First things first: iPhone.

Okay, that satisfies our Union of Bloggers and Hipsters June 2007 requirement. Now back to your regularly scheduled Spitball!

Not a bad first pitch. One very interesting thing that I just noticed: you have September Rose going to the Prison Planet to meet her husband. So, the struggle all takes place there. I picture her on Earth, and a large part of the struggle is getting there. And then getting back.

Overall, I do like your pitch, but as you mentioned it’s too long, and doesn’t really snap yet in my opinion.

Burley's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

I have some things to say about yours, but I’ll post mine first and then we can cross-post about stuff. What worked, what didn’t, how to refine.

Oh, and for me? Think of this as Silkwood meets Speed. Doesn’t that jangle the WTF bone?

Here we go:

Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0

Here's my first try, and I've already failed, by the standards of the challenge: I'm pretty sure it's too long, and there's no blank meets blank statement. That's what iterations are fer.

It also may seem strange, at first glance, that there's no new information about the story. But again, that's not what a pitch is. A pitch is an attempt to sell the idea of the story to someone who knows nothing about it. Or put it more bluntly, a pitch is an attempt to sell the sizzle, not the steak. It is not the place to tell the story -- it's simply the means to get your hook into someone so that they'll want to read the story themselves (i.e., the screenplay).

Here's my pitch:

Re [2]: Pitch by Example

One thing he did well is make the reader / viewer complicit in the story. He says:

We’re gonna send him down to South America…

I think it could be a tricky strategy to do that, but it seems to have worked for him.

I don't think that's exactly what he's doing here -- it's more like he's speaking in the voice of Charlie's church. It's very difficult to translate into text -- the use of quotations would make it more confusing -- but I think it's clear when you hear it.

Re: Pitch by Example

I think that pitch is excellent. I think it totally carries through to reading, but I’m curious how his voice and energy made it better in person. And if Carrie Fisher didn’t snark at him, it must have been amazing.

One thing he did well is make the reader / viewer complicit in the story. He says:

We’re gonna send him down to South America…

I think it could be a tricky strategy to do that, but it seems to have worked for him.

As Shockah knows, I’ve been working on pitches lately, trying to hone the craft of them. I’ll have one for Time To Die up soon.

Pitch by Example

Here's the pitch I was talking about in my last post. The pitch is by Andrew Hunt, and he was given the logline, "A priest meets the woman of his dreams before he is to be ordained." I'm curious to see what you think, Burley. (I'm assuming that you haven't seen the show.) Does it work only as text? Or does it need the excellent delivery to really make it sing? (As judge Carrie Fisher remarked aftewards, "You inspire confidence by being so confident.")

Here it is, pretty much verbatim:

RE: I challenge thee!

Dude -- it's like you're reading my mind. Like, trippy. I just picked up "Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read" from the library, for crying out loud.

I've been thinking about pitches for a couple weeks now, ever since the debut episode of On The Lot, that new reality show/director contest thingy. (Show's crap, btw; it started off well, but they kept changing the format and, incredibly, skipping stuff -- at the end of one episode, the contestants are given an hour to direct a one-page script, and then we never hear about it again. WTF?) Anyway, in the first episode, the contestants are given one of four loglines to build a one-minute pitch around, and after some remarkably embarrassing attempts, this one dude gets up and just throws one straight down the plate, 100 mph.

RSS feed update

June 21, 2007 · by Burley Grymz · Permalink · Category: Original Version, communiqués

If you’re reading this via RSS, we’ve updated our feed to go through FeedBurner — please update your list to this address:

We thank you. We’re working on full-length feeds for those who would like to read them that way.

Other possible titles for this post: The Feed, the Feed, the Feed is on Fire. Or, Feed me, Daddy!

We’re making some other changes too. Have any you want? Fire ‘em off in the forums.

I challenge thee!

Mr. Shockah — I throw down the gauntlet. You must (as will I) come up with a Hollywood Elevator Pitch (H.E.P.) for Time to Die. It must not be more than one minute to recite out loud, and it must include a blank meets blank statement.

Such as: It’s Steel Magnolias meets Tootsie.

I think it will help frame how we see this movie we’re writing. What say ye, cad?

Time for Time To Die: Update Edition

For those of you who may be new here, and are too busy or lazy to read our archives (as I myself sometimes am), let’s get caught up.

Shockah and I came up with 50 story synopsis, and then whittled it down to a single idea that we are going to write. That idea was inspired by the kick-ass Charlotte Hatherley (who has just released a great new album, by the way) song called Kim Wilde. The original concept was this:

In a World where death itself is beaten by genetic regeneration, a guard is killed during a riot on the prison planet. One woman—his wife—faces sure death to retrieve his body in time to bring him back to life. It’s a race against time, with one nearly resourceless woman willfully fighting like a juggernaut against the prisoners who are holding his body hostage, and the powers that be that think she should just give up. All to simply save the man she loves from eternal death.

We talked about this idea a lot during intervening posts before it was picked the winner. A lot of that is meta-discussion, but here I’ll link to posts where we actually expand on the story ideas:

Bad Idea Jeans, er, I Mean, Screenwriting Books

June 20, 2007 · by The Urban Shockah · Permalink · Category: Original Version, books

Here's the title of a screenwriting book aimed at young people:


I’ve been writing a lot of short fiction lately. While we’ve read a million books on how to write screenplays, and worked a lot of drafts into one form or another, the fact remains that a good story is a good story. Some stories are right for certain mediums, and some are better for others.

Screenplays are not, in my opinion, the medium for ideas. They are the medium for experiences. I don’t like movies that try to make me think — not because I don’t like to think, but because movies that try to make you think usually have an agenda about how you should think. They are trying to teach you something.

Unless an audience comes to us and asks to be taught, who the hell are we to assign ourselves as teachers? What makes me think that a member of the audience who believes differently than me will change their mind because I manipulate them with images and sound?

Which is not to say that films can’t raise issues and deal with themes — but films should let you experience something and draw your own conclusions from it. I don’t like films that try to make me think — I like films that make me think. The films that do leave things open. They don’t tie off every plot line neatly, they don’t sacrifice ambiguity for resolution. They let people maintain some of their human failings.

Man vs. Wild -- No, Really

No, this isn't about the so-called three kinds of conflict. I'm literally talking about a new show on the Discovery channel, Man vs. Wild. There's this British guy with the wonderful name of Bear Grylls who is dropped into some harsh territory, like the Alaskan mountain range or the Costa Rican rainforest, and he attempts to survive and make it back to civilization, usually with no more than a water bottle, some flint, and the clothes on his back. Obviously, he (and his camera crew) make it every time, but it's always pretty gripping.

Re[2]: Babies and Jobs

And I say, before we take another extended break, we have a first draft, however rough, completed. What say you, Burley?

I say yes. Good plan.

Last night we watched The Day of the Locust. Man, they would never make a movie like that today. Does anybody else wonder if the climax inspired Spike Lee and Do the Right Thing?

RE: Babies and Jobs

June 18, 2007 · by The Urban Shockah · Permalink · Category: Original Version, communiqués

Hello everyone, and welcome back!

Yes, it's true -- I have a spawn. You can track her growth on a new blog I set up, The Laura M. Beeson of Western Civilization. (Oh, and while there is one picture of the Beard of Grand Proportion, I trimmed it down severely a few days ago -- Mrs. Shockah demanded it.)

While time has become a serious constraint for both Burley and myself, we really can't afford to remain motionless any longer. So, to that end, we'll be putting up at least one post a day. And I say, before we take another extended break, we have a first draft, however rough, completed. What say you, Burley?

I'd say more, but the baby is waking up. Forward! One way or another!

Babies and Jobs

Hi there. I’m Burley Grymz. I have a day job.

That guy over there? That’s Shockah, and he and his wife made one of those really cute loud things that makes life worth living for. He also is growing a beard of grand proportion, that fits him very well.

That’s our excuse. Babies and Jobs. But the only thing worse than excuses is reading them. So, now the excuses stop. And this is a notice, for your attention, that Spitball! is officially open for business again. We’ve got a damn screenplay to write, and that’s just what we’re going to do.

So we hope you’ll join us as we get things revved up again. We may find the engine needs lube, but we’ll keep turning until it catches. We must make our babies proud, despite our jobs.


(and Happy Father’s Day, Shockah! The first of very many…)