Script notes in Hollywood – part 1

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(I guess this could also be titled: Why I stopped writing for Hollywood, part 1.)

LEFT OF THE DIAL feature film script

Back in 1995 I wrote a script called MOSH PIT which did quite well for me. It was optioned by the powers that be in Hollywood. Not one, but two major stars were attached to it (one a very recent Oscar winner), and it looked as if it were going to get made. But, as it often happens in Hollywood, the script died in development hell. That story is long and convoluted, and perhaps one day I’ll tell it. But in the end all rights reverted back to me.

Hey, I got a couple of very nice checks out of it (one for the original option, and another for the renewal). And we were even able to option it again a few years later under the new title LEFT OF THE DIAL, named of course after The Replacements song.

I think about this script often. I like it a lot and I know it’s also one of my wife’s favorites. It was in many ways inspired by her record store managing job at the time, and some off-handed comments she would make on her worse work days.

But after Columbine and Newtown, I know this is a script that probably could now never get made. But it is nonetheless a good read.

So I present it here for your pleasure. Basically anyone who’s ever worked retail and had to deal with an asshole boss and asshole customers will appreciate the very dark humor.

LEFT OF THE DIAL feature film script

Please remember it is copywritten 1995/2014 and WGA registered. All rights are reserved. No copying please. But if you have to balls to turn it into a film, please drop me an email.

Enjoy…

The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 1

First off, when I say indie, I don’t mean Hollywood indie. I don’t mean a $10 million budget. There ain’t nothing indie about $10 million, unless it’s coming out of your pocket. I’m talking micro-budget here. $10K to $25K to make a feature film. It can be done. It can be done well. And if you know what you’re doing, if you have some talent and a little business sense, you can turn it into a career, where you can make the films you want and never never never have to listen to development notes from someone who hasn’t a creative bone in their body. (Despite the fact that they personally believe their ideas are genius.)

I call these the “black & white rules” because to me they are pretty much written in stone. You can veer a little off route here and there, but ultimately you will need to end up here.

1. Start with the script. A well-written script that follows some sort of three act structure. I’ve said it before, every good film, every good story, follows some sort of three act structure. It might be fucked up and inverted, but it’s there. If it’s not, the story just doesn’t work. There are no examples to prove otherwise. Don’t email me with them, I’ll just have to write you back and show you the three act structure that’s right there in front of your face but you’re too dumb to see.

No indie script needs to be more than 90 pages. If it is, cut it down. Locations should be kept to a minimum. Stay away from exteriors, your sound will suck and you won’t have the money to fix it. No car chases, no explosions, no helicopter shots. No mansions, unless your rich uncle owns one. Use your head. What and where can you get for free? Alfred Hitchcock once said you could make a great film in a closet if you know what your doing. Limit the number of characters, especially background extras. You don’t have the money for crowd scenes. Even if you’re not paying them, you probably have to feed them.

Write believable characters, who speak believable dialog (no Diablo Cody-speak please, no one on the planet talks like that). Write about people we care about. (Not mumblecore losers who have no life, and no job.) TELL A FUCKING STORY. Keep it compelling, compact and real. And as great as your script it. Be prepared to see it morph before your eyes during rehearsals, then again during shooting, and yet again during the editing process. But that’s okay. Never be locked to the words on the page, be locked to the story you’re telling. Even though the script is complete you might not yet even be sure what that is. If you have talent, the story will emerge, and hopefully hold a few surprises even for you.

Next up: The Crew

My filmography

Filmmaking 101

Filmmakers, listen up. The three-act structure exists for a reason. Ignore it and your film will SUCK. There are NO exceptions to this rule. (Really, take even the most indie of indie no-budget films, and guess what, if it’s any good, it’s following the three act structure.) If you think there are films that work outside of the three-act structure, you are a fucking MORON and should have your filmmaking license revoked. (I am so sick of seeing great ideas destroyed by bad filmmakers and editors, especially you documentary filmmakers out there who have amazing footage and an amazing subject, and you haven’t a fucking clue as to what to do with it.) The three-act structure is the very foundation of story-telling. Embrace it, or SUCK.