Sunday, October 21, 2012

What's With Guys Like Jesse James?

My brother in law, Michael, just posted a song on Facebook by Billy Bragg and Wilco called The Unwelcome Guest. The song's about Jesse James, but the lyrics tend to be a bit obscure. Why, Michael wondered, does Jesse James refer to himself as the unwelcome guest?

I'm no expert on Jesse James, but my guess is the song pretty accurately describes the way the outlaw saw himself. For all his brutality, Jesse James, like many criminals, presented himself as the poverty stricken victim of an unfair society. Therefore, robbing places where the rich kept money, like banks or trains, made him the unwelcome guest the song refers to. 

All of this, of course, gives rise to a larger question. What is it about complete sociopaths that we find so fascinating? After all, Brad Pitt himself starred as Jesse James in a movie just a few years back. There must be something innate about us - our own darker natures, perhaps - which gives people like Jesse James their allure. Maybe it's only natural to find such people fascinating, then. When they start becoming influential, however...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Starting Off On The Right Foot

So I've started working on a new script. It's tough when you first get going because you want to make sure your stuff is heading in the right direction. In other words, if you're looking to write an action-comedy, it's probably best not to have New Wave Italian cinema as your main influence.

That being said, my work is always at its best when it's processed organically from my cranium. In other words, I may want this latest script - a thriller - to be like so many thrillers I love, such as Three Days of the Condor and The Day of the Jackal. In the end, though, it's going to most likely be something that I and I alone would write. For better or for worse.

At any rate, I'm just going with the assumption it's all for the best. Film, after all, is a collaborative process. If I'm blessed enough to have something based on my work, I'm going to want as much of myself to be in that work as possible. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Way Things Work

Years ago I felt I was close to becoming a paid screenwriter. I had good reason to feel that way, for a working and successful director was interested in one of my scripts. Things fell apart, but I continued to write screenplays. As time went on, however, I grew depressed and desperate. No one in the film industry was interested in what I was selling anymore. Where, I wondered, was I going wrong? The answer to that question may have come to me last weekend.

My nephew, whose Dad is serving his second tour of the Afghan War, went to the movies with my sister in law to see Tim Burton's Frankenweenie. My nephew, who's all of six, loved it. That night I actually sent a tweet to the film's writer, John August, thanking him for entertaining a boy whose dad was away with such a fun, heartfelt film. He actually wrote back, tweeting his appreciation. Needless to say, this brief online encounter led me to Mr. August's webpage - and that's when things may have taken a new turn.

Mr. August is nothing if not a successful screenwriter. He's written several very popular films and also writes television programs. In other words, he knows what he's talking about. You can imagine how surprised I was then when, while visiting his site, I learned that he doesn't put much stock in all the books, seminars and contests that most of us struggling screenwriters rely on. In other words, my methods for screenwriting have been, according to Mr. August, inadequate. Taking Mr. August at his word, I'm going to therefore start following his advice. Will the marketability of my screenplays now rise from the dead like Sparky, Tim Burton's friendly, fortunate dog? Or will they, well, you know...

Monday, October 8, 2012

I've Got Hollywood On My Mind

Okay, maybe I don't have Hollywood on my mind, per se, but I've been thinking about the movie business a lot lately. To be more exact, I've been thinking about the business of screenwriting. I've never sold a screenplay, but I get my scripts read by reputable, interested parties in the film industry fairly regularly. That means I always feel like I'm just one script away from hitting the jackpot. Unfortunately it also means I frequently feel like an addictive gambler, forever hoping one last crank at the slot machine will do the trick.

The truth, however, is that I love movies. Always have. Always will. Which, of course, means I will probably always write scripts (which are basically outlines for movies) for as long as I'm able to do so. Of course this also means I may well never accomplish my dream of selling my cinematic writing. Yet as long as the scripts I write are good, then at least I'll know I've done something worthwhile. Still - it would be nice to finally break in.

Last but not least, I'd like to thank Leslie Hutchinson over at the Cheshire Patch for publishing my piece on John Steinbeck today. It's an honor to be published, especially on such a cool site.

Friday, October 5, 2012

An Update

Just fired off a new blog to the Cheshire Patch about John Steinbeck. Hopefully, it will appear in the next day or so. I don't think the man was the world's greatest writer, but he displayed real power through empathy, which, as any writer will tell you, is a real feat.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Thrill Of A Writer

My story, Bayeaux Cathedral, has been bought by Fiction 365. It should be featured on the site in December. I love it when my stuff is published. It just never gets old to me. It's the thrill of a writer.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Being Responsible

Now that my Norman Conquest script, Hastings, is being considered by the good folks at Mad Hatter Entertainment, I've been thinking of new ideas to turn into screenplays. One of those ideas has been in my head for a long time. George "Bugs" Moran is remembered today as a man who was so dangerous he was Al Capone's arch rival. Yet "Bugs" has never been the subject of a major Hollywood film. Therefore I've been spending a lot of time over the past month researching the life and times of this notorious mobster. Yet when I explained my excitement for the project last week to my father, he asked me something. "What is there redeeming," he inquired "about Bugs Moran?" It was an interesting question from a man who spent his career working with criminals as a law enforcement official. Bugs Moran is said to have repented for his misdeeds at the end of his life, yet showcasing the brutality of that life may not be the most responsible thing a screenwriter can do. Writers make an impact, after all - even screenwriters. That's not to say violence should never be conveyed in creative works. Most, if not all, of my own scripts contain violence. Yet I think it's important to keep that violence in a clear, concrete context. Works which celebrate cruelty or the darker nature of man simply aren't good for society. Those which show violence for what it is: a powerful tool to either enact or fight evil, can actually be of real value. Those of us who write should take note.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Story Alert

Hey all, here's my story, Paris,. This one is close to my heart and I'm really grateful to the folks over at Linguistic Erosion for publishing it. om/2012/