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Posts Tagged ‘DreamWorks’

“I wear glasses and braces. I do all my clothes shopping at Walmart and second-hand stores. I spend more time on algebra than I do on my hair.”
15 year old Maya Van Wagenen

glamour-guide-for-teens

Yeah, teenager Maya Van Wagenen may still live with her parents in rural Georgia, but she doesn’t need to shop at second-hand stores anymore. (Unless she likes the style in that early Madonna kind of way.) A few months ago she signed a two-book deal with Penguin books reportedly for around $300,000. Sure you have to pay taxes on that, but yesterday Deadline reported  that “Van Wagenen has become the youngest non-actor to ever make a feature deal at DreamWorks.”

Her first book Popular: Vintage Wisdom for Modern Geek is set to be released in April 2004. From what I could find online the story takes places in Brownsville. Texas where Van Wagenen used to live and revolves around a high school girl who decides to use a 1950’s book Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide to win friends at her school.  I had never heard of Van Wagenen or Cornell before yesterday, but I saw the movie instantly in my head. And the movie poster can pull a line directly from the book cover; “The secrets of how you can be prettier and more popular.”

So much room for satire, commentary, and insight—and potentially entertaining every step of the way. Perhaps a dash of The Breakfast Club, Easy A, and Blast from the Past. And talk about a built in audience—what percentage of high school girls today do you think want to be popular, pretty, and smart?

My guess is we’ll all be learning more about both Van Wegenen and Cornell in the near future.  Couldn’t find much out about Van Wagenen, but she won 1st place in flash fiction for a story called The Princess on Route 4B that was a competition connected with Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia.

From what I could gather online, Cornell was a junior model in the ’40s and had her first book published in 1951 offering advice on everything from boys and dress to hair and diet.

“If you don’t know what foods are fattening, ask your chubby friends, because they will know.”
Betty Cornell
(Found on a blog called Embarrassing Treasures)

By today’s standards I’m sure there are some things Cornell wrote more than 50 years ago that seem insensitive and politically incorrect, but I can also see why Steven Spielberg’s long time assistant, Kristie Macosko Krieger,  was attracted to and will be producing the movie. According to the Deadline report Amy B. Harris (Sex in the City) will be writing the screenplay.

Talent comes from everywhere. Congrats to Van Wagenen. And best wishes on your writing today.

P.S. How many manner, etiquette, and beauty books from the 19th and 20th century will find their way into movies in the next couple of years? What’s old is new again. (And all the better if the source material is in the public domain—anything published before 1923).

Scott W. Smith 

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“I learned a lot about the process of filmmaking and that if you’re totally persistent and want to follow through with something, you’ll get it done.”
Oren Peli

For Halloween day I’ll step away from my Once Upon a Time in Hollywood posts to interject an update about the movie Paranormal Activities. The seven day results fro Friday October 23 through Thursday October 29 had Paranormal Activities number one at the box office.   I wouldn’t call it paranormal but that is highly unusual. Especially for a movie that opened five weeks ago and had yet to have a number one week.

That’s the power of word of mouth and a great marketing plan.  On halloween night the film will also pass the $70 million mark. Keep in mind that the budget has been said to be between 10,000-15,000. No typos there. Less than most used cars. I saw the movie this week and they keep the budget down by shooting in just one location (the writer/directors house) and using just four actors (two of which are on the screen for just a couple minutes). And one of the actors doubled most of the time as the cameraman using just  a $3,000 video camera.

So the film made for $15,000 bringing in $70 million in the box office according to several sources is now the new box office record holder as the most profitable movie ever made. Ever. A film made by the  39-year old Oren Peli, a first time filmmaker who was born in Israel and living in San Diego. (Passing the decade old record set by The Blair Witch Project.)

I’d like to say it was in the spirit of what I’ve been writing about for two years hear at Screenwriting from Iowa. Something big happening by an outsider to the Hollywood film industry. The only problem is there wasn’t a screenplay written—at least in the traditional sense.

“There was no dialogue. There was only an outline of the story, the actors never received any script. They didn’t know about anything they were getting into. All they knew is they were going to do something about a haunted house and basically discovered everything as they were shooting. There were no lines for them to follow. Everything was spontaneous.”
Oren Peli
shocktillyoudrop.com

The film was shot in just seven days in 2006, but took 10 months to go through the 70 hours of footage. The first version of the film was made in 2007 and several different versions were completed and tested a various film festivals. The film hit the jackpot when a DVD found its way to Steven Spielberg. DreamWorks picked up the film first with the intention of Spielberg remaking the film but then it was decided that that wasn’t needed. Like The Blair Witch Project hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to enhance the film that eventually made the theater. But essentially it’s the film Peli made for $15,000.

They did a masterful of using social media, most notably Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. While the success of Paranormal Activities is off the charts and against all odds, I think you will see more of its ilk in the future. Not just horror films, but films in general where lovers of film tap into the resources that are out there and make a film that finds an audience. I’ll talk more about those resources tomorrow in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood… (Part 9).

Scott W. Smith

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