Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief – A lesson in storytelling?

(aka: Percy Jackson: The Story Thief)

Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” – a review about mismanaging story

*** NOTE: Spoilers galore. ***

I am not one of those “the movie is never as good as the book” guys. Ever read Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (the source material for Blade Runner)? You couldn’t help but make a better movie than book, as the book is laughably bad. And Blade Runner is one of my all time favorite films.

And I’m not in love with Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief as a book. It’s engaging enough, and full of big ideas, but somewhat lacking in story structure.

So why am I so struck by the failure of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief the movie?

I think, the more I ruminate on it, it’s because the mistakes seem so rooted in fundamental story issues, and seem to favor the weaknesses of the book over its strengths.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE BOOK *** spoilers *** Continue reading Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief – A lesson in storytelling?

11 more things to think about when negotiating your screenplay option

writing

Got an offer to option your screenplay? Here are eleven terms you should know when talking to your attorney.

[See PART I – 10 things to think about when optioning your screenplay]

Okay, so you’ve gotten an option offer, you’ve thought about the 10 things, and you still want to do it. Now it’s time to talk to your attorney, and make some decisions about the negotiation points. Your attorney is going to toss some notes back to you for consideration, and chances are these things are going to be included. (There’ll be lots more than this… from simple typos to wholesale rewrites. But these are the top contenders for “things I think you should know”.)

Ask your attorney to spend some time with you to explain what they mean in the context of your deal… but here’s my take, based on my experience.

DISCLAIMER: I shouldn’t have to say this, but: I Am Not A Lawyer, I am not offering legal advice, and none of the numbers used as examples here should be considered recommendations or as examples of my personal previous contracts (which are none of your beeswax 😉 ). They are provided as  hypothetical examples only. Talk to your own attorney about your particular deal. Continue reading 11 more things to think about when negotiating your screenplay option

10 things to think about when you option your screenplay

screenplay writing

What does it mean to have your screenplay optioned?

A producer wants to option your script. Should you do it? What are the considerations? Here’s one guy’s opinion.

Part I of II [Click for Part II: Eleven More Things To Think About When Negotiating Your Screenplay Option]

screenplay option purchase contractNow that I’ve been through the option gauntlet a couple of times, I get asked about the experience and the process. It’s a little humbling, cuz I’m just a lucky guy with one indie sale and a few indie options, but I know how much I appreciate when I stumble across some good first-hand info, and figured it would be a good idea to share what I know. So I thought I’d gather my notes together here, in the hopes that it’ll prove useful to others. This is no substitute for having an attorney, mind you… more on that later. But I wish I’d had this list. Continue reading 10 things to think about when you option your screenplay

Grampa Was A Superhero script has been optioned

grampa was a superhero movie poster[Become a fan of Grampa Was A Superhero on FACEBOOK]

Writing duo’s family friendly spec script lands option deal with Epiphany Productions.

Santa Cruz, CA – January 31, 2010

Chip Street and Sean Meehan have had unlikely good fortune in their short spec-screenplay writing careers. In an industry where newcomers are told that it’ll take 10 years of writing 20 lousy screenplays to finally get it right and earn any recognition, they’ve beaten the odds three for three.

Their most recent success? The family friendly screenplay Grampa Was A Superhero has been optioned by Mitchell Galin at Epiphany Productions. The story centers on 12-year-old Jesse and his Grampa, who thinks he’s a TV super hero. The elder drags his grandson on a cross-country road trip to confront his imaginary arch enemy… accidentally thwarting crimes along the way and fast becoming a folk hero. Continue reading Grampa Was A Superhero script has been optioned

Julie Brown signs on to indie script “Rocket Summer”

julie brownIt’s official… Miss Julie Brown is attached to the Rocket Summer project in the role of Mercy!

Rocket Summer is great, I love it and would love to be in it!
– Julie Brown

Julie and I worked together a few years ago on the film Fat Rose and Squeaky (where I was Art Director), and I couldn’t be happier to have her involved with RS.

For those of you living under a rock: Continue reading Julie Brown signs on to indie script “Rocket Summer”

the auto-chronicled narrative conceit

The following is excerpted from my Paranormal Activity review… it’s a portion of the post that I find myself referring to and wanted the passage in its own post for reference.

video camera guyTHE LIMITATIONS OF AUTO-CHRONICLING

The “auto-chronicled narrative conceit” has its innate issues. It creates a single camera situation shooting in real time (Blair Witch circumvented this by having two cameras available, but didn’t really leverage it), with one character nearly always off screen, that does away with (or severely hampers) all the established film vocabulary tools… the wides, the two-shots, the over-the-shoulders, the singles, the cutaways, the inserts. All the film tricks that directors and editors use to subconsciously establish relationships between characters, to control tension and mood in dialogue exchanges, to communicate unspoken subtext, to control and structure our experience of the story into a narrative that works, are suddenly wildly restricted if not impossible to leverage. Continue reading the auto-chronicled narrative conceit

Faeries at Shriekfest Film Festival

chip-at-raleigh-studios

Shriekfest Screenplay Competition finalists include "Faeries" by Chip Street and Sean Meehan.

Let’s get the news out of the way right off the bat: Faeries did not bring home an award in the screenplay competition. But the good news is, the grapevine tells us that we were a very close runner up, and an unofficial judge ‘s favorite for commercial appeal and shootability. Moreover, we walked away with two producers interested in reading the script, and one well-respected studio reader itching to rep it to a few prodcos. So we’re still chuggin’ along.

shriekfest-posters

But we did make it to Hollywood for the Shriekfest Festival, and win or lose, what a gas! Founder and fest director Denise Gossett, her most excellent husband and a bevy of dedicated volunteers put on a really fun, intimate, quality fest on the grounds of Raleigh Studios. Denise is a certified Scream Queen in her own right whose next project, the horror comedy Crustacean, is already in post-production. Continue reading Faeries at Shriekfest Film Festival

i will not read your fucking script but if i read your fucking script appreciate my fucking feedback

A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson seems kinda pissed.

Apparently he gets asked to read a lot of scripts.

Apparently most of them are crap.

And apparently nobody really wants his honest feedback.

So he wrote a scathing essay over at The Village Voice, outlining just how much this all sucks. Continue reading i will not read your fucking script but if i read your fucking script appreciate my fucking feedback

Faeries is a finalist at Shriekfest

faeries-posterWell, I told you just days ago that our horror screenplay Faeries had made it to the semi-finals of the 2009 Shriekfest screenplay competition.

The news just got better.

Faeries has now advanced to the finals, baby! Looks like we’ll be heading down to Hollywood again next month, to attend the fest. We will, of course, keep you all posted on the final results, about the trip, and about the fest itself.

Sony's Samuel Dickerman, New Deal Studios and Filmworks/FX

I had a hell of a birthday last month… it’s been nearly three weeks, and now I’m finally getting around to writing about it.

filmworksfx logoMarvin Acuna of The Business of Show Institute (BOSI) invited myself and 9 other screenwriters down to Hollywood to sit in on a discussion with Sony V.P. Samuel Dickerman (Marvin’s BOSI is an amazing resource… this is my second event with them).  The event was held on the lot at Filmworks/FX studios.

Sam flew in from the set of Battle: Los Angeles to chat with Marvin about the current state of the film business, how it’s affecting screenwriters, and what he looks for in a project. Here are my notes on the conversation.

  • 320 screenplays “hit the market” to date in 2009 (spec screenplays repped at the studio level). Of those, 16% were purchased.
  • Writers must be prepared to do much more than simply write. They need to be prepared to act like producers, to be proactive about getting attachments, to be creative about their pitches, to go the extra mile. It’s not just about writing any more.
    • The director who won the job for Battle: Los Angeles beat out the studio’s short list of 3 preferred directors by holing up in his basement studio, shooting footage, cobbling together some CGI, and presenting exactly what he envisioned the film looking like. Much more than the simple “look book” of old movie stills and sketches provided by the average director.
    • The writer who won the job of scribing the new Baywatch movie (Jeremy Garelick – The Breakup and The Hangover [uncredited]) landed the job by volunteering to write fully a third of the script on spec… and this is a guy who’s a working pro who doesn’t have to do that.
  • You must have two great samples that demonstrate voice, structure and character.
  • You must be prepared to explain how you’re going to help pull the production together… how you are a creative asset to the team beyond simply writing a professional script. Or, have such incredible kick-ass concepts that you can spit on a napkin and have it be brilliant. Guess which one you probably are?
  • Know how to read between the feedback lines… producers aren’t writers, and they’re sometimes obtuse about communicating what they’re looking for. When they say “That’s great, but can we add aliens somewhere?” they don’t literally mean “add aliens”… but they mean they’re looking for something spectacular and unexpected, and it’s your job to understand that and to creatively provide it.
  • You cannot submit to the studios without representation… agency, management or minimally a connected entertainment attorney.
  • The last blacklist – the mythical list of amazing spec scripts making the rounds that all the execs are talking about but will never make because they’re not commercial enough – was largely drama. Which tells you that your drama script might be a good calling card (writing sample), but it ain’t gonna get bought or made.

Above all, you must have these three things:

  • A passion for movies
  • Perseverance
  • An ability to take criticism – Listen, Hear, Process

newdeal logoAfter the talk, we were given a tour of the facility by President/Director Ken Locsmandi. What a great place… a fully functional end-to-end soup-to-nuts facility, that has been providing fx work to the larger studios for years (City of Ember, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Juno, Apocalypto). They’re right next door to, and partnered closely with, New Deal Studios (The Dark Knight, X-Men: The Last Stand, Live Free or Die Hard, Spiderman 3), which we also got to tour.

We had to sign NDA’s, so if I say too much I’ll have to kill you, but we did get to see the bad guy’s dump truck from The Dark Knight, the VTOL fighter jet from Live Free or Die Hard (not an actual existing style of jet, we learned, but an amalgam of several different jets), a number of space ships from projects not yet released, and lots of other simply way cool stuff that we all felt very privileged to see. Shelves and shelves of amazing miniatures, recognizable vehicles and creatures and landscapes… like stumbling into Santa’s workshop.

And then lastly, we all retired to a great little ocean side Italian eatery for lunch, where we sat around and talked movies, writing and networking ideas. I got to see some folks I’ve met before and have been staying in touch with online, and some new friends, all of whom are forming the base of my growing community of contacts.

Lots of what I heard at the event is stuff that’s beginning to sound familiar… the bullet points above didn’t come as a big surprise. But what’s valuable about trips like these is that it’s an opportunity to hear these points again, to have it made clear that yes, everyone from the writers to the agents to the producers to the execs are telling a consistent story: Hollywood is knowable, and crackable, if you know what to bring to the table.

That’s the great service Marvin and his crew at BOSI, and all the players that he makes accessible are doing… showing us aspiring writers that Hollywood is a small town, and  that although it’s tough to break into, it is knowable. It’s not a mystery. Marvin, Sam, Ken and all the folks at the studios were so friendly, accessible and accommodating… they clearly all love what they do, love to share it, and are truly supportive of newbies like us. You can tell that they want everyone to succeed. It’s just that it’s a very small pond, with room for a very few writers (relatively speaking), and so the ones that make it are going to be those who bring a lot more to the table than just stories. They’ll be bringing a collaborative spirit, a professional demeanor, and a personality that other people are going to want to spend time around for the next 18-24 months – or more.

I know that’s me. Is it you?