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Posts Tagged ‘Final Draft’

“About rule breaking—there are no rules. Do whatever you have to do—it doesn’t matter. Nobody cares. Listen to me, I’ve read 30,000 screenplays, I work at WME, and I’m telling you anybody in this business who reads scripts doesn’t given a flying f*#k about the rules. All they care about is a really great script. And as a writer you have to do what you have to do in order to communicate your story to the reader.”
WME Story Editor Christopher Lockhart
Final Draft Webinar

Related post:
Screenwriting’s One Unbreakable Rule
Everything I Learned in Film School (Tip #1)
“Everything Was Perfect…”
Neil Simon on Conflict
Getting Your Script Read (Tip #51) Another Lockhart quote.

Scott W. Smith

 

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“I need to know two people can stay together forever.”
Juno

(Winning an Oscar) doesn’t mean anything. It’s like winning class president.”
Diablo Cody

Someone once said that in America we love to cheer victors as they enter the triumphal arches and then throw rocks at them as the pass through the other side. If you’re older than 15 you’ve seen the cycle repeated a time or two with athletes, political leaders, and especially movie and pop music stars.

Welcome to the jungle Diablo Cody. The first negative thing I remember hearing about Cody was the day after she won her Oscar for Juno and some critics decided they had had enough of the Cody love fest and mocked her choice of dress for the Oscars.

Now is when things get ugly. Cody’s second film Jennifer’s Body was released Friday and the reviews are mixed, but with a heavy dose of criticism:

Jennifer’s Body is never scary and it’s only sporadically amusing.” Christy Lemire. AP

“It’s a serviceable premise, but the execution fails on almost every level.” Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“An unoriginal and mostly unscary horror-comedy from, surprisingly, the pen of Diablo Cody.” Kirk Honeycomb, Hollywood Reporter

Diablo Cody called unoriginal? Ouch.

But I’m not really interesting in talking about Jennifer’s Body, I’m more interested in Diablo’s body. Her arm actually. I want to talk about what happens after you’ve been to the top of the mountain because they don’t generally have a class for this kind of thing.

A few months ago I was doing a shoot in Minneapolis and went to eat at Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown. (A must-do eating experience if you’re ever in the Twin Cities.) I sat next to a guy who looked like a rock star (as a lot of people do in Minneapolis). I asked him if he was in a band and he said he used to be. We talked about the music scene in Minneapolis and then about Diablo Cody. He said years ago he met her once (when she went by the name Brook) at a bar across the street when she was there to watch her boyfriend/husband, Jonny Hunt, play in a band. (A good musician I was told.)

The same Jonny that Steve Marsh at Mpls St. Paul Magazine asked Diablo Cody about in October 2007 just as her career was taking off:

Marsh: Let’s say $100 million gross, little gold man—does that mean, bye, bye Jonny?
Cody: WHAT? Are you kidding? That’s a ridiculous question. Like, he’s sitting right here. He’s not going anywhere. Everything we do we do side by side. I’ve got him tattooed on my arm for god’s sakes.

Jonny responded to the question on his blog a week after the question was asked and wrote about he and Diablo’s relationship, “We’re doing just fine. Out here in Hollywood, despite what you have heard, people don’t always ditch each other randomly when they get successful, okay?”

But by the time the article hit the stands two months later (Dec. ’07) the tattoo “Jonny’s girl” was inked over with roses. ( News of their split hit the press the day the film opened , and I’m not sure if the divorce was final before or after Juno passed the $100 million mark.)

Cody has basically lived the whole Hollywood life cycle in just two or three years (write script in Minneapolis—sell script to Hollywood—move to Hollywood—movie gets rave reviews and is a box office hit—hired by Steven Spielberg—talk show circuit—win an Oscar—nude photos circulated—next movie gets some stinging reviews and stumbles at the box office—talk of her demise). In a year or two everyone will be talking about her comeback film.

Diablo’s body of work is not that large but the University of Iowa grad does have an Oscar and the TV show she created (The United States of Tara) landed the lead actress, Toni Collette, an Emmy Monday night. She’s doing fine, thank you.

Even if Jennifer’s Body doesn’t make another dime, Cody will. And she’ll continue to develop as a writer and will have hits and misses in the future (just like all working writers, directors, producers, and actors). Winning the Oscar really will be a burden for her as everything she does will be compared to Juno, and she may never be on that mountaintop again. (But what would most writers give to have that burden?)

There were many factors that made Juno a success. And one of those factors I believe is the one who gave Cody a lot of early support and inspiration— Jonny Hunt (the one covered in roses on Cody’s arm). Cody once said of him, “My now-ex-husband convinced me to use our last $200 to buy Final Draft, so I just sat down and started writing a movie. It’s that simple.”

It’s too bad their marriage didn’t survive.

I think two people can stay together forever. But it isn’t easy for any couple. As Don Henley sings in New York Minute: “If you find someone to love in this world/You better hang on tooth and nail/The wolf is always at the door.”

Related Posts: Juno has Another Baby (Emmy)

The Juno-Iowa Connection

Scott W. Smith

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It’s January in Iowa, it’s cold and snowing outside, and I’m blogging about a screenwriter from Minneapolis—-so what else is new? What’s new is the screenwriter is not Diablo Cody. She’s so ’08. No this Twin City screenwriter is not a former stripper…he’s a former construction worker/liquor store clerk/fruit truck driver who likes to ice fish.

The newest Minneapolis screenwriter on the scene is Nick Schenk. Nick who?

Nick Schenk, the screenwriter of Gran Torino starring Clint Eastwood.  The film won the best original screenplay from The National Board of Review. (The same award Cody won the year before for her Juno Script. (No, The National Board of Review best original screenplay award does not go to the best screenplay from a Minnesota screenwriter.)

At age 43 Schenk is old enough to have watched Starsky & Hutch in its original TV show version that featured that funky red with white stripped Gran Torino. While he sold his first script almost 15 years ago this is his first produced screenplay. He does have a writing credit on B0Dog Fight, a mixed martial arts TV show. He’s told several reporters that he “was too stupid to quit” (writing screenplays).

But he did get some help. Sharing Gran Torino story credit is another Minnesotan Dave Johannson, who sells furnaces for a gas company. (That sound you hear is the sound of people dropping out of film schools in L.A. and taking up odd jobs in Minnesota. The hottest trend to break into the movies.)

Of course, the big question is did Schenk use the screenwriting software Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter to launch his career? According to Patrick Goldstein’s blog at the LA Times, “Schenk says he wrote the script, using a pen and a pad of paper, sitting at night in a bar called Grumpy’s in northeast Minneapolis.”

So I thought you’d enjoy reading what Schenk told Goldstein was the process that led him to writing a script that attracted the attention of  Clint Eastwood (a four time Oscar-winning director who has his pick of projects);

“I just scribbled away every night. …The bartender there is a friend, so sometimes I’d ask him questions about where I was going with the story as I was writing. When it came, the words just came. One night, I knocked off 25 pages right there in the bar….They said it would never get made, because you’re not supposed to write about old people, especially a guy that sounds like a super-racist. But I’m not the kind of person that listens to that stuff. I just knew this character well. When I was working construction, I’d meet a lot of guys like Walt Kowalski. Because I liked history, I’d always be the one that the older guys on the site would tell their stories to.”

Let’s recap Schenk’s 10 simple steps to success because it’s at the core what Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places is all about.

1) Write everyday
2) Don’t move to L.A. (At least wait until your screenplay sells)
3) Always be looking for stories (It doesn’t hurt to listen to old people)
4) While 40 is old for a screenwriter in Hollywood terms, keep writing anyway
5) Hang out with friends who aren’t screenwriters
6) Don’t quit your day job (because that’s a good source for stories—-and paying bills)
7) Screw complaining about not having a computer (or screenwriting software) and grab a pen and note pad
8 ) Regular writing develops your craft and helps you write something good enough that attracts producers who believe in the story enough to get a Hollywood icon interested, who in turn gets the film made
9) Collect awards
10) Continue writing

I look forward to finally seeing Gran Torino this weekend as the film that’s getting some Oscar-buzz has finally made it to my neck of the woods.

To read more about other writers from Minnesota read the post The Oscars Minnesota–Style.

Other related posts: Juno Vs. Walt
                                      Screenwriting Post Card from Minneapolis


copyright 2009  Scott W. Smith

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