Monday, August 31, 2009


I was asked by ScriptXRay.Com to contribute something to their POV page about screenwriting. ScriptXRay is a great blog with lots of tools and helpful information. Check it out and here's a link to my piece.

Summer is coming to an end. It was a great one and very productive. I finished the first draft of my novel and a short play.

Looking forward to autumn in New York!

Until next time.

Friday, August 28, 2009


You have got to check out this movie!

It's this lovely, offbeat small movie buried in a sea of big, over-hyped summer movies. It's still playing in theaters (so don't miss it) and has amazing word-of-mouth buzz, but it's cast is not A-list (but hopefully they will be someday) and there are no explosions (except for some one's heart).

(500) Days of Summer takes a quirky, refreshing look at an old subject -- love. It's creative in its execution and clever in look and dialogue. But it's not self-consciously witty -- and the soundtrack enhances an already fine film.

Zooey Deschanel captivates from the moment she appears on screen. She's like a breath of fresh air. She reminds me of a young Debra Winger. She's attractive, yet complex and a lot more is going on underneath than what she projects on the surface. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is equally charming to watch with his understated manner and genuine portrayal of someone trying to win at the game of love. Both actors do a great job.

The screenplay is by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. They also wrote "Pink Panther 2", which I didn't see, but their script for (500) Days of Summer is a gem. I hope to be able to read it soon and that they continue to write from the heart.

Director Marc Webb's film has a richness to it and doesn't look like it was shot in L.A. -- at least not anything I've seen before on screen.

The ending is warm and charming. Summer and Tom are this screen generation's Katie and Hubbell.

Until next time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


So last night I went to a screening in Manhattan for the soon-to-be released animation movie "9". It's Focus Features upcoming release

"9" is first-time feature film director Shane Acker's baby fully mature. Here Acker expands his Student Academy Award-winning 2004 short film by the same title into a full-length movie. The screenplay is by Pamela Pettler (Monster House, co-writer of Corpse Bride). The producers are heavy-hitters Tim Burton (Corpse Bride), Timur Bekmambetov (director of "Wanted" and Jim Lemley (producer of "Wanted").

This animation movie also has a diverse range of celebrity voices added to the mix including Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Martin Landau, Christopher Plummer and others. They don't act it out in a hammy manner like some voice-overs in Hollywood but keep the dramatic, realistic element to their characters.

"9" is an action-packed adventure. It's a animated fantasy epic about what happens when the world's machines turn against mankind and result in mass destruction and a post apocalyptic world. In a last ditch effort to save humanity, the scientist who created the invention known as the Great Machine... also created 9 small creations given the spark of life. Can they save the world and salvage the best of humanity's spirit or turn evil themselves?

Jennifer Connelly plays the ass-kickin' brave warrior #7. Christopher Plummer plays the stubborn group's leader #1 with vigor. (This seasoned actor hasn't intimidated me this much since he blew that darn whistle for his kids in "The Sound of Music".) The characters in "9" are compelling, but I didn't become too emotionally attached to them like with other animation characters like in "Finding Nemo" or "Kung Fu Panda". But the mechanical number characters were interesting enough, especially surrounded by such incredible visuals, sound and action. The ending was a little "Ghost"-like in some ways but cool.

Tim Burton said of Shane Acker's original "9" short film that it "was among the most extraordinary 11 minutes of film I've ever seen. So that explains why the young director got a much bigger budget, bigger names and more toys to play with this time. He puts it to good use.

"9" opens on 09/09/09. That date should be easy to remember.

Until next time.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Well, it looks like "Inglorious Basterds" is off to a good start at the box-office. It's the number one movie in the country and pulled in $37.6 million in tickets. It is Tarantino's best movie opening to date.

So pop the champagne for Quentin Tarantino and The Weinstein Company. I don't think the movie opened big simply because of Brad Pitt (as some media reports say) -- but more because Quentin Tarantino hasn't released a movie he directed since "Death Proof" in 2007.

Tarantino recently sat down with Charlie Rose for an hour interview. It's always fascinating to watch him be interviewed with his wealth of film knowledge and manic manner. I've seen him interviewed a lot lately and he's happiest when he's got the floor and able to rant about his passion -- filmmaking -- but when an interviewer asks a question his face freezes momentarily almost in disappointment for having to listen instead of speak. Have you ever met people like that? Who will talk and talk and talk with you giving them the floor for however long they need, but when you ask something or say something, they look impatiently perturbed? Lol. That's Quentin Tarantino.

But, I enjoy listening to his take on writing, directing, filmmaking and the business overall. I like that he primarily considers himself a writer first. He loves directing but told Charlie he will probably hang up his hat when he turns 60 and "become a man of letters" writing novels. His love for writing is paramount. And I have to say, he is one of the greatest at writing dialogue. I recently reread "Pulp Fiction" (co-written by Roger Avary) and it's gripping from the opening scene in the diner. His dialogue runs very long in all his movies, but it's so compelling, it still moves the story forward.

Tarantino said it took a long time to write "Inglorious Basterds" because he couldn't stop writing. People said he had writer's block, but he said it was just the opposite, "I couldn't shut my brain off" from writing.

I won't see his latest movie in theaters, but will eventually check it out on DVD. It's funny because my 68 year old aunt just saw it and said it was bloody but held her on the edge of her seat for 2 hours and 30 minutes. So, that's a good endorsement for me. But, a Facebook friend saw it and said it was slow and a big yawn. Who to believe? That's movies and stories -- they speak differently to all of us.

One thing is for sure. QT has a distinct voice and style. He hasn't sold out to do the big studio pictures or just script doctoring to make big paychecks. He really takes his time, obsesses over each script and delivers from his heart. What more can we ask? So hat's off to him.

Until next time.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Do you usually go to see a movie for the premise or for the movie star in it? Think about it.

I think for most people it's both. When I see previews in theaters, I usually know right away if I'll go see that movie -- sometimes it's simply seeing a trusted face back on the screen like Jane Fonda (in "Monster-in-Law") or Meryl Streep in "Julie/Julia" or Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt". The clips are so enticing or the premise just grabs a hold of you -- a subway hijacked ("The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3), a boss marries her assistant to stay in the country ("The Proposal"), and so on.

According to today's New York Times, A-list actors are not opening movies the way they used to -- that includes box-office slumps from everyone from Johnny Depp, to Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Tom Cruise, Eddie Murphy and many more. Is it the stars that are letting us down or the projects studios are putting them in? Who is to blame? Was "Funny People" a Judd Apatow trip up or Adam Sandler's? Are remakes really necessary? What do they offer the audience new except for the latest special effects, look at The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 for example? The original is ten times better and didn't make you dizzy with effects and noise.

Hollywood will use this opportunity now to cut paychecks for stars, especially since DVD sales are down and people are staying away from theaters to explore other forms of entertainment these days. But, let's face it, there is nothing quite like going to the movies. I love it. I love seeing a really great movie with an audience (one that isn't texting or checking their phones every two seconds).

And, what about Meryl Streep? She seems to be picking good roles and successful projects. Her stock is through the roof. She's A-list for sure (in talent and receipts). Maybe stars need to be a little more demanding in the projects they accept -- even Ms. Streep recently said that she feels today's top talent are wasting their uniqueness and gifts on inferior projects.

So let's all share the blame in these bad movies coming out. It's the studios who green light these weak scripts, stars who do them for the paycheck, and moviegoers who don't vote more discriminatory with their money and expectations.

Now it's Friday which means new movies have come out. Should I go or stay home? Hmmm.

Until next time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Photo: New York Post


There is an article in the New York Times about the Weinstein brothers. You remember them, right? The article talks about how powerful these two producers were when they owned and ran Miramax, but now struggle with the Weinstein Company, having sold Miramax to Disney years ago.

Their new Brad Pitt/Quentin Tarantino movie "Inglourious Basterds" needs to be a hit. The Weinsteins are losing money and their reputations. The Times article points out that Harvey Weinstein took his eye off the ball and ventured into other markets besides the film business. Did his decision to expand the company in essence destroy their magic touch? Bob Weinstein gets a lot of credit for keeping the film business going, but yet some of the movies coming out of the Weinstein Company aren't very exciting. They seem too marketed to niche audiences and not as alluring as the old days with "The Crying Game", "The English Patient" and "Pulp Fiction".

The Weinsteins -- especially Harvey -- seem to have people wishing them to fail. Maybe it's because they made enemies or believed their own heyday publicity, but some people wouldn't mind if their company closed up shop.

I hope they refocus and get their company back on track. They made some great movies in the 90s that made Oscar night exciting. They made some quality, successful pictures.

So I'm rooting for them... but I won't go see "Inglourious Basterds". It just doesn't appeal to me in any way. I'm kinda over the Quentin Tarantino violent flick and I think Brad Pitt and The Weinsteins could do much better. All of these guys seem to be coasting into middle age and it's disappointing. I hope they get their mojo back.

So, I'll wait for their next movie to be released and keep my fingers crossed.

Until next time.

Monday, August 17, 2009


It's in the 90s here in NYC today. Summer has finally arrived. Nothing like the heat coming off the sidewalks to make you sweaty.

Doing some writing today. It's always hard to pick up after a vacation break. I did some daydreaming about scenes and characters but now it's time to sit down and hammer out some actual new pages. I just revised about twenty pages to get myself up to speed and now will stare at the blank page and continue on. Don't you love being a writer? All the anxiety, procrastination and joy that comes along with it all?

Keep cool and keep writing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Vacation is over.

It was terrific but went by in a blink. Vacations are a lot like summer -- we wait and anticipate them, but midway through we know they don't last long and get a little sad. Nothing like long vacations and summers. We can never get enough of either.

It was a great week spent in upstate New York in Ulster and Sullivan counties. We visited Woodstock and Bethel, NY (where the actual concert took place) for the 40th Anniversary of the music festival. It's a beautiful farm where the concert was held originally and now a new Woodstock museum is on the property. It's worth seeing if you want to experience a bit of what the Sixties and Woodstock was all about and its impact on American culture.

The personal stories are fascinating -- talk about good material for a movie. We think of the iconic images of the hippies at Woodstock... but there was so much more going on with local resistance and politics, fear for the safety of the locals and the concert goers, the lack of food, water and medicine, women giving birth, Interstate 87 being shut down from traffic jams, and mass crowds with no means of communicating like today with cell phones and e-mails. Imagine having Twitter at Woodstock. People there in the Sixties communicated by leaving notes on cars, under windshield wipers, and pinned to backpacks or blankets in hopes of being read.
A crazy, chaotic, free, yet somehow organized event that we'll probably never see again in our life times.

Just before going away, I wrote a first draft of my new play called Extreme Green. It's a short play -- 11 pages. I hope to submit it to the short play festivals around the country this fall. It's a two character play and a drama (with some amusing moments) about the local food industry craze.

Until next time.

Friday, August 07, 2009


This has been a tough week with losing writer/director John Hughes and screenwriter/teacher Blake Snyder. Both men who died too young and contributed a lot through their individual passion, love and work in the movies.

John Hughes' movies defined a generation and had a distinct appeal to moviegoers of a certain age. He made a huge impact and then just seemed to leave the scene and the business. Maybe he had nothing else to say, or prove, or he just decided to do something else with his life. His movies will live on and I'm sure this week alone many people are renting all those great teen movies that spoke to them not so long ago.

Enjoy your favorite John Hughes movies and take this day to really enjoy your own life -- too laugh, tell someone you love them, or just appreciate what it is you have at this moment.

In that spirit, I'm taking a little vacation for a week. Until I return --

Write and live on.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


I just want to say that if you're a screenwriter or director you seriously need to be listening to the Creative Screenwriting podcasts on iTunes. Jeff Goldsmith is the moderator and he does a great job chatting with some of the top notch people in the business -- starting with their breaking in stories, to sellling their scripts, to their daily process and to their next projects. He's a laid back cool guy, sometimes laser intense with his questions and the podcasts are useful if you're studying the business and craft of moviemaking.

So check Jeff out... he's also on Facebook and Twitter now if that's your thing.

Until next time.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


It's never too late in my book to plan for the Oscars and next year's 82nd Academy Awards is worth noting.

First, it will take place in March instead of February. The reason? The Winter Olympics will be broadcast in February and would split the audience, so dates were changed, which is great. I liked when the Oscars used to air in March to spread out the award season.

Second, in 2010 the Academy of Arts and Sciences will nominate TEN best pictures instead of the usual five. Are there ten best picture out there? Hmmm... some years it seems like slim pickens and other years an abundance of outstanding work. So far for 2009...? The last time the Oscars had ten movies nominated for Best Picture was in 1943. The winner?

So mark your calendars for March 7, 2010 and why not throw an Oscar party while you're at it. Do you like to watch the Oscars alone or with a bunch of people? I prefer to watch them with very few people only because I'm really into the show, as you can imagine. I saw it once at a gala in Manhattan but it was too noisy, with people talking, mingling, fighting over a seat in the theater, etc... it was also fun to get dressed up and watch it with a rowdy crowd... but it's too distracting to watch with others. In my house, The Oscars is an event night with lots of food and snacks -- with us planted in front of the TV in comfy clothes watching the Barbara Walters' Special, then the campy Red Carpet Show and finally the big ceremony.

Until next time.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I just heard that screenwriting author/teacher Blake Snyder passed away suddenly today from cardiac arrest. I took Blake's class in NYC back in 2006. It was truly inspiring. I had taken the class soon after reading his helpful book Save the Cat. His class was fun and focused. To this day, I keep those class notes handy and refer to the information he gave to us on that day.

He truly had a love for writers. He was patient, kind and supportive.

Some screenwriting author/teachers are in it just for the money they can make off of hungry writers. I took a seminar once with one L.A. guru (who shall remain nameless) who limited our questions and berated students in a highly condescending manner (like he was doing us a favor by even talking to us, even thought we were paying him.)

Blake Snyder was never like that -- never doing this for a quick buck -- but rather he was trying to help us stay focused, enthused and in the know. He rooted for us to succeed in a very tough business.

Blake was to return to NYC this month. I saw the posting for his seminar and thought about taking it... now he's gone. A young man in his fifties. This reminds us all not to waste a single day, to keep the dream alive, and to connect with others both on and off the page.

We'll miss you, Blake.


How do you like to watch movies? Do you use NetFlix, go to Blockbuster, watch online, prefer to go to the movie mutilplex or wait for the DVD? It's amazing how many choices we have to see movies.

When I was a kid growing up, I had two choices -- watch it in the theater or wait for it to go on TV. It became event TV when a new movie came on ABC, NBC or CBS.

Then came the laser disks and VHS tapes. Then the DVDs and digital revolution. And now it's like movie/media overload but probably the best time to be a screenwriter or movie lover. Everything is at your fingertips.

I also love how easily we can submit our scripts these days compared to the old snail mail way. I must have paid for the retirement benefits of a few postman in my lifetime. I used to mail out so many heavy envelopes with scripts in them and became well-known to the people in my local post offices. Not to mention the copy people before I purchased a laser printer back in the day.

Now, it's either upload or attach it as a PDF and off it goes. Do executives/agents really like reading scripts on their computers? But then it's probably better than having twenty screenplays sitting on your desk, or worse, in your trash can.

Let's give a cheer for the electronic submission! I use it a lot for submitting plays to festivals around the country now. Some theaters won't accept electronic submissions and prefer hard copies. It's fun sometimes to actually print out that play and hold it... makes you realize what you labored over for months.

But, usually it's just... Click and it enters the world.

Until next time.

Monday, August 03, 2009


I went to see a new play SLIPPING by Daniel Talbott last night. It's in previews at Rattlestick Theatre on Waverly Place and will open later this week. It's got a strong, young cast. The play is about a teen dealing with being gay, his father's death and moving from San Francisco to Iowa with his mother. It's amazing how well a playwright/director can tell/show a story on the confines of a stage... with just lighting, a rearranging of furniture, music and a title card.

This will be short and sweet today. I have to get writing and not on the Internet.

Until next time.