Monday, February 17, 2014

The Found Footage Vs. The Footage Script

                    The Found Footage Vs. The Footage Script


    The found footage film is here to stay as long as it grows and adapts. Adaptation is the key to this. The western, the gangster film and the horror film changed over time. The horror film of the silent era grew up to become the four star films produced by Universal films in the 1930's. The genre nearly died off and then came back with a vengeance in the 50's. Led by Hammer horror films and aided with a massive wave of the newly introduced scifi horror film.

    We all know the formula by now. A group of people, one armed with a recording device, find themselves in a life and death situation. This situation is usually supernatural or thriller related. Despite the best efforts of the mostly brain dead or functioning brain damaged lead characters they end up getting themselves killed while the camera is still recording. That death is symbolic for the death of the genre.

    Found footage, must become footage films. This is done at the screenplay level and that is the reason for this post.

    What I have found is that most found footage films are not written they are outlined. They are usually structured in the form of a treatment. The basic scenes are written in normal screenplay style. The interiors or exteriors are noted and then there is a description of what the characters are suppose to do and talk about in the scene without actually stage direction or dialogue being written. As a writer you are leaving to much to chance in the found footage genre.

    The footage film screenplay is the wave of the future.

    What is a Footage screenplay and have I ever seen an example.

    The footage screenplay is a screenplay that incorporates footage shot by someone or a series of people and or security cameras on screen and mixes it with footage from a third person shooter (the cameraman).  The best example of this kind of film making is the movie End of Watch. Where the editing is done so well that you have to really focus on each scene to notice when and where the switches are made.



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    Below is a great example of how footage and found footage can be combined to produce a quality low budget film.  Screen was shot on a budget of about four thousand dollars and combines footage from iphones and the Canon 5d mark II.



    This style of screen writing gives control back to the writer to deliver a quality story. If you are going to put your name on a found footage screenplay even if you only wrote a twenty page outline you are going to be blamed if it stinks. For the sake of your writing career the Footage screenplay gives you more control over the content that will comprise the finished product.

    You will have to pick your devices and where and when to embed the on screen devices. Writing one of these films will require you to think at times as a director within the film itself.

When inserting them into the script put these scenes down as point of view (POV).

Character’s name and then POV.

POV of security cam or webcam.

    You will find the best way of doing this. Just think in terms of footage rather than found footage and this will be a gift both to characters and audience. The audience that views the finished product will thank you. The characters that survive rather than finding themselves laying dead in a pool of their own blood beside a sputtering camcorder will love you.

    Now go write some great scenes so that you or your director can go out and shoot some great footage.
That will be it for today. Please take a moment to add me to your Google plus and to share this post on your facebook.



Friday, December 6, 2013

The Low Budget Holiday Script



Another holiday season has arrived and we find movies in theatres and on television with holiday themes. This is nothing new. Holiday movies have been part of the film making landscape since the very early days. Simple stories about home and faith and family.

I say home and faith and family while leaving out Santa Claus because after watching two weeks non stop of these kinds of films I am going to suggest that we all take a step away from the I am Santa films.

I understand why many filmmakers pick the Santa film, it is a way of making a movie all inclusive and a way of avoiding questions of faith. I would ask those film makers the question “Is that what you really want to be?” The equivalent of oatmeal or canned tuna? The holiday film that embraces faith and family most of all is the most popular of them all, It’s A Wonderful Life. The second most popular are versions of A Christmas Carol. Even the story of Santa Claus is based upon the life of a Christian Saint.

To do something truly memorable and lasting you may need to embrace this part of the holiday theme.

Switch for a moment to the area of comedy I am not against in anyway films such as - Plains, Trains and Automobiles or the first two Home Alone films. Comedy has its place. Although those movies are not low budget. You should always try to find a place to include a little comedy in your film even if is a serious drama. A holiday film script that is too down beat can be a hard sell. I wish that good old fashion tear jerkers were still popular, but audience are not demanding them. A lead character with a strong sense of humor is a good thing. They may not tell the jokes, but they should be able to get the joke or have the ability to laugh at themselves.
   

 The great thing about holiday films is that most of them are at their core very simple scripts to write. The plots usually come down to two subjects. Either going home or appreciating what you had at home. A nice twist on this theme is the Nicholas Cage film, The Family Man.

The going home plot can fit perfectly into the no budget screenplay world. You can set one of these stories inside of a car or on a bus. Keeping your characters on the move can keep your story fresh as you introduce new characters and situations every few pages.

A few words on watching your budget in the travel and home types of scripts. Do not constantly change mode of transportation. This works great in a large budget film like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but will kill a micro budget film. If your character or characters are travelling by car you can change vehicles a few times without blowing up a budget. If it is by bus the same bus location can double for multiple buses locations. After all if you have seen the inside of one cross country bus then you have seen them all. Plane and train travel can be done on a low budget depending on area of the country and access to sets. If you or the person that will be shooting your script lives in LA. NY. or a Canadian film making center then this can be done without blowing up a budget.

Now a note on the faith based holiday film.

You can write for a larger cast and crew than a standard low budget film because the film maker will, if he or she is smart, partner with a church or community organization that will open the doors to many free locations such as churches and community centers along with many people who will be willing to offer their services for free. Just remember the trade off in this area is that you must present a G or PG rated story with no subject material that will be objected to. This will include Santa and elves, do not include them. In the faith based world Christmas is a high holy day. Christmas is the beginning of the love story between mankind and god. Although there are a few dozen new family and faith based films coming to television this year there is only one that will playing in theaters. The Christmas Candle, and it like almost every such film has been beaten up by critics. If you want to be loved by critics and to win awards you are not going to get them if you write in this niche. Critics did not care much for It’s A Wonderful Life so understand that you will have little to no hope of winning them over.
    

I may have suggested rules, but the truth is that there are no rules. You can tell your holiday story anyway that you wish if you are going to be the film maker. If you want to take your screenplay to market then you will have to consider some of the basic rules. Directors and producers seem to want the familiar. This is perhaps why there has been hundreds of variations of the Christmas Carol plot.

Last note on the subject, you can mine classic songs for material. By classic I mean those in public domain. If you want to use a modern song then go out and negotiate for permission to do so. One of the most popular Christmas films in recent years was the movie Christmas Shoes. I believe that most movies based upon songs are thinly plotted, but it can get you from start to finish and just finishing a script gets you ninety percent of the way to seeing it produced someday.

Now if you feel that I have left out the subject of horror and holiday films. I did this because I have seen all of the Silent Night Deadly Night films. A few about killer snow men and the legendarily bad Santa Slays. I do not want to aid you in writing a horror movie for the holidays.

Peace on earth and good will towards men.

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Thank you for visiting and happy holidays.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Your Screenplay, No Need to Type

Your Screenplay, No Need to Type Recently

I had a long talk with a film maker who said that she was not getting the types of screenplays that she could relate to. That the characters did not look like her. At first this struck me as sounding unusual, after all characters are characters. They are just names on a piece of paper. Well as we talk about it I began to see what she was saying.

The film maker in question is Asian and most of the screenplays that she had been sent introduced each character with a short description of the characters. Are you seeing where this is headed? Beyond the name and age of the character there was usually a lot of extras.

What this taught me a very important lesson that I wish to share with you. Film makers will come in all different shapes, sizes, ages and races. If your primary goal is to craft a screenplay that you can market then you need to consider this when you are doing your final edit. The best seller item on earth is generic. The generic brand is a great brand. I am not suggesting that you make a generic screenplay, but characters that can be preformed by as many actors as possible. Keep in mind that thanks to digital film making more and more actors are looking for material to produce for themselves.

Let’s look at it in Charles Angels terms for a second. You write a screenplay. You have Drew Barrymore in mind. She reads it, does not care for it, but Lucy Liu picks it up. She likes the script, but the lead character is clearly written for Drew, right down to her goofy smile. Lucy says no because of this. Lucy is a type and Drew is a different type. Both can give you a quality performance. More importantly both have the kind of resources to pay you well for your screenplay.

    

 In the low budget world of screen writing you are going to be introduced to film makers from all over the world and of all races and creeds. Keep the character description simple and generic unless it is important to the story. Also when you take a chance it would be cool to take a risk or two with characters. A woman could be your villain instead of the cookie cutter guy. Who would have thought a few years ago that the most well known drug trafficked in television history would look like the guy on Breaking Bad.

Make your screenplay more marketable by giving directors and producers more freedom to pick a cast.

One of my favorite thrillers is the movie Taken. I have written about it often here. The cast is solid, but the script and the direction are the things that elevate it to another level. This year I was introduced to an asian film that I was told was as good. The movie is the Man From Nowhere and I believe that it is actually a better film than Taken because the script does not allow us to look away for even a moment from the hard choices that the characters must make. You could find the movie on Netflix and I strongly suggest you watch it and tell me what you think. By the way, the trailer does not do it justice. The film and the script behind it works on so many levels.
  

 Thank you for visiting my blog. Please take a moment to share this post and to add me to your google plus.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Characters, Do They Care

Characters, Do They Care

Any type of action,horror, suspense or drama will come down to the one basic question.

Do they care?

There is a huge debate as to what makes the audience care about a character. If you can get them to care you will be very close to winning them over.

Here is how one writer sees it.



How I see it is more focused than that. They will care if others care.
They will like the song if everyone else in the room is dancing to. In other words if there is caring happening on the screen then it will be happening inside the viewer. You see human beings are great at empathy.
 The second way it to introduce them to a situation or a relationship that is fundamental.

We all understand and can relate to family relationships. The most powerful is a parent for a child or child for parent. Next is siblings. Then comes love relationship and finally friendships.

Friendships can be very powerful tools. If you do not believe me then look at the success of two major film franchises. The Harry Potter series and the original Star Trek series are all films about friendships and the prices that the characters are willing to pay to maintain those friendships.

The movie Taken is so easy for an audience to access because of the father/daughter relationship. The Exorcist is mother/daughter. The horror movie Jeepers Creepers is brother/sister. You care as an audience because you understand and can easily relate. Die Hard works because it is husband/wife. Same thing for the film Fireproof.

I know this person, I understand this person. I could be this person is the road you need to walk if you wish to get them to care.

I do not believe in the goal theory. Is it the goal that makes Lord of the Rings work or is it the friendships that develop? We want these friends to make it through together and get back home again.

I will give one goal its due. The revenge goal seems to get an audiences attention better than any other. For some reason we can universally relate to the concept of payback. From the Godfather to Kill Bill we can not seem to get enough of this. The action committed against the lead and or his closest must be so terrible that it strikes a chord inside of each of us and we connect because we wish we could do the same thing under those circumstances.

Think about the Godfather and the tremendous number of blows the family suffers one after another. Blows that leaves a battered and emotional wounded Michael as head of the family. As one after another of his enemies are take out we are all hoping that he is successful in his revenge plot.

Consider this when you are reviewing your script. If you believed that you have written a great script, but it gets rejected then perhaps it comes down to characters that you have created. You may have created great characters, but no one cares about them. Go back and see if you can fix this.

That is it for today. Take a moment to share this post and to stumble us on Stumbleupon. I am sorry that I have not been posting as often as I use to, but the ebook on screen writing has been doing very well and I have to find areas that are not covered in the book. The next post will be about how less can be worth more where it comes to describing characters in screenplays that sell.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mining What Exist for Plots and Characters

One of the hardest parts about being a writer is finding material to write about.Sometimes the best place to look is in the past. Many screen writers earn their living by adapting other works of fiction and writing sequels.

A few weeks ago a friend told me that he was writing a sequel to a public domain film. This was something that I had never considered before. Sure I was well aware of the fact that many writers have profited greatly from the fact that the movie Night of The Living Dead is Public Domain. It established rules and situations that have been copied over and over again. The show The Walking Dead could not exist if Romero had not failed to copyright his film properly.

    

Public domain means that the property is free from the public to use in any way that they see fit. You can rewrite a public domain film and not have to pay for the rights to do so. You can write a sequel to a public domain film and do not have to ask permission. There are hundreds of well know films that are now in the public domain and thousands of foreign films. You can do a google search on these films and make a list of the ones that you believed were entertaining. Perhaps you can see a way to continue the story or used the characters in new and exciting situations.

Why would you want to do this?

You would want to do this because the already established character is easier to work with than one that you are trying to bring to life. These characters and situations sometimes make the work easier. The next thing that you can look into is Fan Films. They do not pay, but sometimes writing is for the love of the game. If you love an existing character or movie or tv series then you can expand that existing universe. There are Star Wars and Batman and Dr.Who and House and The Matrix. You can write the episode of that series that you love or a sequel to that movie. The good thing about the fan film universe is that it is easy to find those who are also fans. Fans who would love to make a short or feature based upon their favorite movie or tv show. This is a way to get your work produced. To hear your dialogue actually being spoken by an actor.

You don’t believe that fan films can be very good?

Some of them are amazing.

   
  

 These are areas for a writer to find material. Try it and you may be surprised at how easy these characters will be to write for. Thank you for visiting, please take a moment to stumble us on stumbleupon and to share this post with a friend.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

My Screen Writing Book

My Screen Writing Book

 I have just published a book on how to write a low budget screenplay. Hang in there for a moment this is not just going to be a shameless plug for my ebook  On Writing A Low Budget Screenplay, available now for the low price of 2.99 at iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Amazon. That was not totally shameless was it?




I thought that the book was needed when looking at all the other ones out there. No one really seems to get that this is becoming a digital - Dslr driven film industry yet and how to craft screenplays that can be made in that ten thousand dollar or less range. If you decide to invest in a copy of the book you will find that a third of it is made of post that have appeared on this blog. The rest consist of new content.

Okay today I would like to offer an excerpt from the book. A chapter about what I would like to call the SaberMetrics of Screenwriting. I hope that most of you have seen Moneyball and perhaps ever read the script. If you cut the on field stuff out and there is not much of that in the film, it could have easily been done on a low budget. Before we begin here is a clip from the film.




The Sabermetrics Of Screenwriting.

Many of you have seen the movie Moneyball. I think that I have seen it a dozen times largely due to the facts that I love baseball and I love the very idea that just because there is a way that things have been done, does not mean that there is a way that things will always be done or should be done.

If you are unfamiliar with the film and the concept of Sabermetrics. At the end of the day you can boil almost everything including baseball down to a single number. A mathematical equation that will make you a winner and or a loser. Despite the fact that this low cost concept worked there are many in baseball who believe to this day that it is all smoke and mirrors or dumb luck.

The micro budget film is sort of sabermetrics being played out in the film industry. Here comes another summer of bloated films that cost between one hundred million to two hundred and fifty million dollars. One of those films will win the yearly box office race. That is the top of the line number, but not the whole story. A super hero movie that cost two hundred million dollars makes one point two billion world wide and the studio heads go crazy. That is a 6 to 1 return on investment not counting in the two hundred million that was also spend to advertise it.

A low budget film like Paranormal Activity cost less than a hundred thousand to make. It gets two to four million in advertising. Most of it online. Let us say a total of five million invested in the release of a film that goes on to make over one hundred million in the US alone. The return on investment is 20 to 1.
The world that Hollywood has created will be rocked to its core when someone makes a comedy for thirty thousand dollars that makes a hundred million. This is going to happen and perhaps you will be the one to write it. The 1929 stock market crash moment for Hollywood studios will be one of us writes a super hero movie that is shoot for under a hundred grand and the thing makes a hundred million plus selling merchandise and spawning toys.

The goal of writing a micro budget film is not to create a movie that will generate a micro budget return. The goal is to write the best movie possible. To create a story that the whole world will embrace.

Your budget should be small, but your goals should never ever be small. The idea behind sabermetrics was that a small market team with a limited payroll could compete with the riches and most powerful teams on earth. They could beat them by paying attention to the little things that had gone totally ignored.

The script that you write can easily be better than the ones that will populate theaters this summer. Low to micro budget does not mean that your screenplay will not be fantastic.

You will be writing a small and compact story, but your aims should never be small.


     Okay that is it for this post. Please take a moment to share this post and to stumble it on stumbleupon. The idea of selling the book is a nice one, but the idea of screenwriters learning the proper way to not only write a low budget screenplay, but write a really good one is more important to me. I am not impressed so far by this summers big budget blockbusters and just as disappointed with many of the low and micro budget films I have seen. The weakness in most of these films begin and end with the screenplays. We can do better. We have to do better.

Thank you and good luck.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

About Being A Writer

 
I have written over forty post on this blog and I have failed to mention one the most important thing.

We are writers.

It is not easy to be a writer.

If you are really good at it then you are a rare and wonderful thing. Writing is like performing magic. We start with a blank page. We produce something from no where and even after it has appeared we are the last person who could possible explain where it came from.

How did you do that?

How did you come up with that character?

Where did that plot twist come from?

The most frightening question of all is, “What are you going to write about next?” Screenwriting is still writing. It depends more on form, style and technique that the art of the novel, but it is still writing. In some ways it is harder than writing a novel because you have no real restrictions where the novel is concerned.  

  You have decided to write screenplays. You have a talent for writing in general or you would not be here or would not have chosen this path in life. I tell people that if someone would pay me money to play baseball instead of writing I would never write again. That is a lie of course. I was a pitcher and that was mostly by choice. You see the pitcher is the one who controls the narrative flow of the game or in other words the plot.

I remember that Mickey Spillane would say that he would be a house painter if they paid as much for painting as they did writing the Mike Hammer novels. Maybe he really believed that, but I believe that after a few weeks of painting walls he would have looked up at the end of the day to find that instead of putting primer on the wall he painted pictures of hot dames and sleek 45 caliber guns.  

If I were forced to do only one thing in the film making industry it would not be acting. I have wore the hat of a producer and will wear it again and that will only be because I will have to. I like directing, but I would not trade control of a film set for control over that blank computer screen.

I have written Fade In a few hundred times and only managed to write Fade Out less that two dozen times, but the act of finishing with those two words even though I knew at the time I would have to go back over it and cut and repair the thing over and over were still some of the happiest moments of my life.

Today I wanted to remind you that you are a writer.

When people ask you who you are and what you do the words, if they are true, will come immediately to your lips. Say to them, I am a writer. I write movies. I write screenplays. I am a screenwriter.
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