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Posts Tagged ‘A Christmas Carol’

We can learn a lot by setting two things alongside one another. It’s even better if we have a reason to do so.”
David Bordwell

“Can we really discuss 13 Going on 30 without mentioning Big?
Adam Levenberg

Big (1988): When a boy wishes to be big at a magic wish machine, he wakes up the next morning and finds himself in an adult body literally overnight.

13 Going on 30 (2004): A 13 year old girl plays a game on her 13th birthday and wakes up the next day as a 30 year old woman.

There are many words and phrases to explain why some films appear to be very similar to other films: Remake, update, homage, rip-off, mash-up, inspired by, parallels, movie mapping, story patterns, story echo, influences, and good old-fashioned plagiarism.

Sea of Love= Basic Instinct
A Stranger Among Us= Witness
Double Indemnity=Body Heat
Indecent Proposal=Honeymoon in Vegas
Clueless=Emma
Westworld=Jurassic Park
A Christmas Carol= Scrooged
Cyrano de Bergerc=Roxanne
Hardcore=The Searchers
First Blood= The Sheepman
Yojimbo=A Fistful of Dollars
Dreamscape=Inception
Doc Hollywood=Cars
City on Fire= Reservoir Dogs
(This one even gets a video Who Do You Think You’re Fooling?)

Fatal Attraction=Unfaithful

“We could hold a Fatal Attraction film festival, screening the teen version Swimfan, the African American comedy version The Thin Line Between Love and Hate, the parody superhero hybrid My Super Ex-Girlfriend, the recent hit Obsessed.”
Adam Levenberg
The Starter Screenplay

Of course, before Fatal Attraction there was Play Misty for Me. The 1971 film was the directorial debut of  Clint Eastwood, who would later say that the film was “The original Fatal Attraction.” Play Misty for Me was written by Jo Heims and Dean Riesner. Even if you haven’t seen that film, see if the IMDB description doesn’t sound familiar:

“A brief fling between a male disc jockey and an obsessed female fan takes a frightening, and perhaps even deadly turn when another woman enters the picture.”

There is a long standing debate on just how much the work of Christopher Marlowe shaped the works of William Shakespeare. But the cycle never really stops as Shakespeare has been accused of stealing from the Roman writer Plautus and Plautus adapted many a Greek playwright.

There are plenty of books and articles as critics discuss the similarities of such and such a film. Tomorrow well look at what some filmmakers and screenwriters have to say about the topic.

Scott W. Smith



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“Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens has been dead for 139 years but that didn’t stop him from having a $132 million film this year. Dickens first wrote A Christmas Carol in just six weeks back in 1843. The book sold well from the start and also received good reviews from critics. I’m not sure how many versions of A Christmas Carol have been made into feature films and TV programs, but I believe the story first appeared in 1910 during the silent film era.

The Robert Zemeckis animated version featuring the voice of  Jim Carrey shows the lasting value (and box office value) of a good story well told.

“He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and for, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed of any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness.”
Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol

Scott W. Smith

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It’s not that Mamet isn’t concerned about social change it’s just as I quoted in yesterday’s post he doesn’t see that as the role of the artist. Dickens stands in the other corner. When Dickens’ father was sent to a debtors’ prison Dickens went to work in a factory — at age 12. He would grow up to be the most popular English writer of his time.

His work includes Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities,  and David Copperfield. Much has been written about Dickens’ desire to bring about social change through his writings. I found this nugget online, “Charles Dickens was immensely troubled and pained by the social scourges that marked his age. He worked tirelessly to expose and eradicate such injustices as the treatment of children, women, prisoners, the poor, and the ill.”

And he didn’t just do that through his writings.

“Dickens practiced what he preached. Surely no other great writer, before or since, ever spent so much time and energy supporting charitable organizations and benevolent funds. Dickens worked conspicuously for better sewers and for decent schools and houses for the poor; he supported the Royal Academy, the Railway Benevolent Society, the Warehousemen and Clerks’ Schools, the Hospital for Sick Children, and the Metropolitan Rowing Clubs. And between 1846 and 1858 he devoted considerable effort to rescuing prostitutes, as Jenny Hartley reveals in her engaging new book Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women.”
Brian Murray
The Social Gospel of Charles Dickens 

While most known for his novels, Dickens also wrote hundreds of essays and pamphlets addressing social ills. (Any doubts that if he were alive today he’d be blogging?) Dickens had planned on writing a pamphlet detailing an area that was employing seven-year-olds in workdays lasting 10-12 hours. But he nixed the idea saying that he had a better idea that would feel like a “Sledge hammer” with “twenty times the force, twenty thousand times the force.”

Instead of a writing a pamphlet he wrote A Christmas Carol. 

Scott W. Smith



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So last weekend for The 48 Hour Film Project/ Des Moines our team drew “Ghost Story” as the genre in which we had to make a short film.  We quickly started connecting the dots and Ghost was the first movie we tossed out as fitting the genre. That lead to jokes about getting a pottery wheel. 

Other movies with ghosts were mentioned; Field of Dreams, A Christmas Carol, and of course, Ghostbusters. We had discussions about the difference between angels and ghosts. We agreed in general (right or wrong) that in pop culture that angels helped other people while ghosts tend to resolve issues they have before they can move on.

We again pointed to the movie Ghost as having bad ghosts that went to the bad place while Pat Swazye’s got to go upward. We pounded out a story concept in about 5 hours and then shot for 12 hours on Saturday, turned in the finished film on Sunday, and it screened tonight in Des Moines. I’ll post a link of our efforts for this Sunday.

So it seemed fitting to find a quote today from Ghost screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin who won an Oscar for writing the 1990 film. 

“As a writer, I’m trying to promote some alternatives to nihilism. Art, I think, has a larger purpose than just diversion. Art is a transcendent view of the mundane, So much of what we look at has no transcendence in it. The brackets are in the wrong place. It doesn’t leave us complete. It doesn’t leave us with a vision that allows us to see life from another angle…the end of the film (Ghost) was was about spirit, about the fact that our lives are embued with spirit. It’s really about trying to affirm that spirit in man—though in  very quiet way. I said something about that when I accepted my Oscar, and I could hear everybody laughing in the auditorium, like, Oh, come on, this is just entertainment. I think one of the reasons the film enjoyed such acceptance was because it addressed this issue that somehow there is a higher aspect to man.”
                                                          Bruce Joel Rubin
                                                          Screenwriters on Screenwriting 

 

Scott W. Smith


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I’d hate to admit to how many books on screenwriting I’ve read. I tend to agree you need just one to get you on track and then start writing. (And this blog, of course. Just for a little inspiration.) But with that said, I just starting reading John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story. 

Truby has been around a long time and has a lot of people who swear by his seminars. (Check out his website Truby’s Writers Studio.) I’m just a little slow coming to the table. But then again his book just came out in 2007. 

I think I’ll spend a few days pulling a few gems from his book. Here’s the first one.

“In the vast majority of stories, the hero’s overall change moves from slavery to freedom.”
                                                          John Truby 
                                                          The Anatomy of Story 
                                                          page 177 
Truby uses the word slavery to mean a way that life is out of balance. (Koyaaisqatsi, right?) Could be slavery to money, a career, an illness, an another person, a significant loss, a worldview, a prison, etc. The number 4 definition of The Free Dictionary reads, “The condition of being subject or addicted to a specified influence.” That’s a wide path.

That’s a simple thought but as I thought of several favorite films across many genres and I realized he’s right on track. Just off the top of my head I think these films would qualify the “slavery to freedom” concept:

Rocky
Good Will Hunting
Erin Brockovich
On the Waterfront
Big
Juno
Seabiscuit 
A Christmas Carol
Home Alone
Rain Man
Shawshank Redemption

Think about the script you’re writing now and ask how your main character is in slavery. That may help you if you’re having trouble finding an ending.

 

Scott W. Smith

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