just been dumped by my girlfriend of 2 and a half years
and feeling shit. What movies do you advide that could
help me out or send me insane and drive me to suicide?
suggest seeing "Summer Lovers," about a guy
on a Greek island boffing two beautiful girls, one of
whom is a young Darryl Hannah. That should make you
feel better. You also get to see part of a Three Stooges
short in Greek.
have to share this with you! I thought I should check
out ProjectGreenlight's message boards where screenwriters
discuss films and such. I did that a few days ago and
I found the best way to tolerate it was to laugh my
ass of. These people do not know the first thing about
writing. I am not to say that I am. I know I do not
know a lot, but hey, at least I admit it. Alright, some
of these people rely on The Coen Brothers, so I basically
decided to keep my mouth shut because If I didn't go
on about how much their films suck and deserve to be
burned, I would be a nerd who does nothing but spend
his time on message boards. But, I am not going to ever
give my input on anything on those boards. All I said
was that the Coen Brothers cannot write a character
for their life and then I got a dozen people shoot back
they were the greatest and if I "diss" the
people that wrote "Raising Arizona" and "Fargo"
does not know how to writet. I was offended by that,
considering it is the truth that the Coen Brothers do
not know how to write a damn character, let alone a
script. I said that, too. And by saying that, I got
another person shoot back how (sarcastic) yeah, they
must suck because of their Best Original Screenplay
award and because the critics liked "Fargo".
Give me a break. Award, award, yada, yada...I DON'T
GIVE A DAMN ABOUT AWARDS. Ah well, I guess other people
do. So all in all, I was dissapointed with the Project
Greenlight, but hell, I got a kick out of it and that's
all that matters to me.
just thought I should share that with you.
you have seen about five thousand feature films, can
you fill me in if a film is worth viewing? Do you think
me viewing "Wall Street" is a good idea? What
did you think about it?
Taking your advice about writing, I am going to start
out, writing a few short film scripts, then shooting
them, so I get a feel for it. When that gets kicked
out of the way, I am going to expand my scripts into
feature length, just to see how this system works.
liked "Wall Street." It's not great, but it's
certainly watchable and Michael Douglas is as good as
he's ever been.
written a Screenplay that so far is looking promising
just because I have had no real negative feedabck from
it. Because you have sold scripts is there a solid and
best way to do it, the thing is I've also composed four
musical scores for my F.L. script on guitar and although
I know this may not help the sale of my script I do
consider them to be essential to the film and It's hard
to get Agents or Consultants excited, I mean I'm only
22 and I want to do things the least boring way, Do
you know the key to this and without going through months
and months of Literary Services offered by people before
a studio executive even reads it. See I've had it reviewed
and stuff by my local Film and Media Company and they
even payed for it for me. Oh and I'm not sure I get
a reply from you directly to my E-mail address though
If you have the time I would appreciate it greatly.
way this is done (there is no quick and easy way) is
that you get an agent and the agent gets it to the producer
or studio exec. And don't kid yourself, these people
don't read scripts. Should your script actually get
to them, being highly touted by an agent they know,
they'll have a reader read it who will do coverage and
boil it all down into a paragraph. So, you must first
find yourself an agent. I won't say "good agent"
because that's an oxymoron.
old chum, do you ever make it back to the detroit area
anymore? long time no see!
time no hear. Ed had the store next to the office that
Sam, Bruce, Rob, Scott Spiegel, and I had in Ferndale,
Michigan, where we made "Evil Dead" and TSNKE.
How's it going back in MI, Ed? All's well in OR.
am working on a short film that I intend to shoot with
a digital camera and edit it on my high school's Casablanca
machine (ever hear of it? Piece of shit?). How do you
create blue (or red or green) coloring in a scene? I
have seen films that use these colors a lot (Less Than
Zero, Vamp, Creepshow), and I like the look. Is these
done with lighting gels? If so, can these be purchased
PS Where can I purchase Lunatics and TSNKE on laserdisc?
a color to your scene can be achieved several ways:
put gels on the lights, put a filter on the lens, or
have the lab color-time it to the desired color. Good
DPs will always prefer to gel the lights rather than
filter the lens -- the great James Wong Howe once said
(and I paraphrase), I'd never put a dollar ninety-five
piece of glass in front of a ten thousand dollar lens.
Color timing in the lab works very well, too. On video
(or digital video) you can do this when you're online.
a few comments in response to: "How many people
have gone to the trouble of calling me an asshole because
I insist that scripts that are structureless are crap?
The virulent defense of bullshit continues to shock
me. Why are people so defensively lazy?"
propose three particular factors to consider in answer
to the above questions, Mr. Becker. Number one is that
over the past 30 years or so, it has become politically
incorrect to hold ANYONE to standards of any sort. Number
two is that in our comfort-oriented society, struggle
and discipline are generally regarded as "bad"
and to be avoided at all costs. And number three is
that feelings/delusions have become sacred ground: it
is considered far more unreasonable and perhaps even
evil to challenge feelings and delusions with reality
than to expect that reality will change to suit them.
my opinion, this started with the pop-psych "feel
good" movement in which instant gratification was
deemed more important than discipline, work, achievement,
reponsibility, etc. This may all have been a natural
development in the post WWII era, when the U.S. social
structures, particularly in the schools, grew more rapidly
than society's ability to support them. It was surely
with the best of intentions, but it seems they relied
so heavily on the "expert" opinions of psychologists
(often academics with limited experience in the world
at large) to correct the mistakes of the past... that
common sense became downright uncommon. Parents and
teachers were told to protect the child's tender ego
above all else, don't cause them any kind of stress
- it could mar them for life! This was a new kind of
been promulgated in the schools, where over the last
few decades it even became unacceptable to have different
"tracks" for students with different ability
levels. Many communities no longer offer advanced tracks
for children who can do more than average - because
they don't want the other kids to possibly feel inferior!
In their zeal to make everyone "equal" they've
eliminated any sense of pride in being "excellent."
It's now "cool" to be mediocre or even downright
assinine. It's "uncool" to be intelligent.
are rarely expected to THINK anymore. In those formative
years, in school, students are merely taught to regurgitate
pre-digested mental pap on cue. There is very little
(if any) analytical thinking required. This is further
affected by the fact that most people spend far more
time staring at a television than engaging in actual
conversation with intelligent, challenging individuals.
Thus many people now speak (and think) in sitcom-style
one-liners and the sort of inarticulate grunts and funny
faces that invite us to laugh rather than think. I consider
it a tragedy that so many children are raised by TV
while their parents work and otherwise generally ignore
them. How many people can hold a decent conversation
in this day and age, let alone write something that
makes any sort of sense? I blame this on lack of reading
and discussing ideas of any depth, and on brain tissue
soddened with the constant nonsense of fast-food style
a society where comfort and convenience drive the marketplace,
most people no longer have a concept of what work really
is. Money is expected to fix everything! You can always
buy a new gadget or program or hire a specialist to
fix or advise you about everything and anything. You
want to be a writer? Well, first get a computer, then
take all the classes and buy all the books and go to
all the workshops where you'll get patted on the head
and told you have great potential and talked into signing
up for the next session. If you don't have the money,
you should sit there and bitch about how the rest of
the world will never appreciate your talent, because
you don't have the money to bring it to fruition.
seen people waste decades on this nonsense. Not that
there aren't valuable things to be learned from the
books and the workshops - the point is, so many people
never move beyond them. To move on requires WORK. You
have to step out of "student mode" and get
into "work mode" - and that's what never seems
to be taught. Maybe it can't be taught. I tend to think
we have to get out and experience real work in order
to be able to recognize it when it beckons. But not
many people are willing to do that. It's uncomfortable
to struggle, to experience criticism and rejection,
and to risk one's dreams being struck by the potentially
lethal bite of reality.
yes, those sacred feelings, those sacred dreams. Rather
than learn from criticism, most people now merely take
offense and consider themselves cruelly assaulted if
you offer anything other than gushing compliments and
absolute support for whatever it is that they want to
believe. Most people have been told all their lives
that if they just hold onto their dreams, they'll always
come true in the end. So don't mess with their dreams,
man! How dare you expect a writer-to-be to actually
care about mundane details like structure, spelling,
content, and style? How dare you expect a filmmaker
to study the craft that propelled predecessors to greatness!
How dare you expect anyone to tell a story that has
some depth to it, or that at least makes sense? How
dare you say anything other than, "If you believe
in yourself, some day the whole world will woo your
genius." They are, therefore they are great! (Hey,
they've heard this since daycare. It must be true...)
drawbacks of this well-intentioned over-indulgent non-confrontational
psychologically "supportive" approach are
now becoming painfully apparent as we see more and more
people out there who can't function when faced with
this one basic fact: dreams don't become realities without
a lot of old-fashioned hard work!
so many people in this day and age, encountering someone
who is focused on fact and experience rather than telling
them what they want to hear and on making them feel
good, is a whole new (and disturbing) experience. They've
never been challenged to think, to work, to do anything
other than dream and bitch about how unfair it is that
success is not handed to them on demand. You're upsetting
them, shaking them to the core because you're talking
about realities that scare them to death. So, in the
tradition of foolish spoiled tyrants throughout the
ages, they aim to kill (or at least flog) the messenger.
That's you, pal!
ones who need it most undoubtedly resent it the most.
Denial may indeed be the most powerful force in the
human psyche. But not even denial can alter reality,
and in the end, those who turn their backs on reality
tend to be bitten by it sooner or later. Oh well, they
can always blame someone else. That, after all, is the
new American Way!
the end, I must pull my tongue out of my cheek long
enough to explain that I don't think the current malaise
of society in general is permanent by any means. Just
as individuals go thru stages of development, I think
societies at large demonstrate specific, understandable
patterns of development. I think we're living in an
adolescence of American society as a general structure.
A lot of growth is possible, and hopefully will be seen
in the decades to come. To make it happen we need people
like you, Josh, people who are willing to do and say
what's RIGHT rather than what simply feels good.
a question and you get an answer, and some answer it
was. Well, I whole-heartedly agree with you. I hadn't
exactly looked at it that way, but I think you're right.
I'm stepping on people's false dreams with reality.
As my friend and I like to amuse ourselves, we think
that most young filmmaker wannabes believe that when
they arrive at the agricultural check point at California's
border they will automatically receive a Hollywood contract
to direct a big feature and make a million dollars.
I guess I am stepping on standard modern cliches like
"If you believe in yourself you will succeed"
or "If you persevere you'll succeed." Neither
is true. Certainly, if you don't believe in yourself
and don't persevere you probably won't succeed, but
just believing and just persevering don't guarantee
you anything. Thanks for the thoughtful answer. My theory,
which I've put forth in my structure essays, is that
the post WWII generations don't know what real drama
is. As a comedian said, and I'm sorry but I can't recall
who -- My dad grew up during the Depression, fought
in WWII, came home, got married, started a family, then
started his own business. I have all of "I Dream
of Jeanie" on video tape. Anyone else have a theory?
read your responce to my other question; i completly
understand. I guess the challange of getting a film
shown, my be the whole reason film making can be difficult.
But i will def. get back to you if it ends up working
for me. But hey, i got another question, if its no trouble.
I watch films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Phantasm
and always imagine if You, and all those guys teamed
up on a film. Like if You and Tobe Hooper were to create
a film. My question is, is there someone in the film
bussiness who you would love to work with, or team up
with? And if so, who? Thanks alot Josh.
a director, why would I want to hook up with another
director? There are plenty of DPs and actors I'd like
to work with. What I could use is a tasetful producer,
like Ismail Merchant. Tobe Hooper doesn't interest me
in the slightest.
was the Lana Turner movie she did with Kirk Douglas
in the 1960's were he plays an architect and she is
a married housewife that he falls in love with ? I'd
love to rent it but can't figure out how to find it.
Thanks, Stephanie 1-13-02
think you're referring to "Strangers When We Meet"
(1960) with Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak, not Lana Turner.
Kirk's big picture with Turner is the brilliant "The
Bad and the Beautiful."
Cynthia E. Jones
you, thank you, thank you. Your review of "Unbreakable"
finally made me realize that I am not, in fact, insane.
I have yet to meet someone in person who agrees with
you and I on this one. It was one of the most boring
films I'd ever seen. And the ending was absolutely unbearable.
Yes. Thank you.
if you're ever not depressed enough about how low cinema
can go, check out "Freddie Got Fingered."
It gives "Carte Blanche" the worst name ever.
just done my duty as I saw it. I also just watched "Thirteen
Days," which was okay, if overlong and flat, but
Kevin Costner's Boston accent is an embarrassment. I
also watched "Walking and Talking" which was
also okay, but shallow and pointless. I'm still waiting
for a good modern movie.
your experience of working in New Zealand do you recall
any particular swear words or slang expressions/phrases
that you find unique to that country? I ask because
I am in the process of scripting a comedy with a London
setting that includes a particularly foul-mouthed character
from New Zealand and I want to ensure that the words
I put in his mouth have at least the ring of authenticity
sure there are better sources for this than me. Like
the English, Bloody can be attached to most anything,
like "bloody hell," or, you'll excuse me (but
you asked), "you bloody cunt," which, interestingly,
is most often used when referring to a male. As far
as general expressions, though, the Kiwis constantly
say, "Good on ya," "She'll be right,"
and "No worries."
Daniel Goulart Araujo (DGA)
have one simple question for you: do you know the name
of that music that plays on the cellar and at the end
credits from the first "Evil Dead" movie?
Seems a music from 30's or 40's. That is maybe, a reference
of "A Plumbing We Will Go" from "The
think it's just Joe LoDuca doing his rendition of a
1920s jazz piece that would be on a 78 rpm record. Joe
loves doing things like that.
a quick comment on the topic of why classics aren't
being made anymore in music or films. From the people
in the gilm business I've met, be they writers or directors
or actors, very few seemed interested in doing exceptional
work. All they do seems geared towards being able to
name-drop. They don't want to be an actor, they want
to be a celebrity.
I just saw TSNKE and I have a couple of questions. When
the Cult Leader is running through the woods, the camera
is backpedaling away from him at seemingly the same
speed he is running. Is that from a vehicle? It's just
that the ground seemed really uneven and bumpy for the
shot to be as smooth as it is.
where did Raimi learn to kick like that? If that directing
gig doesn't work out he can always get a job in Jet
Li movies. Or maybe in the Rockettes.
the widest lens we had (which I believe was 6.5 mm),
I put the camera on my shoulder aiming backward, then
Sam and I both ran as fast as we could. All of the running
shots are hand-held. We did make a motorcycle rig for
shots on the motorcycle and to follow behind the motorcycle.
Sam was simply young and limber at that time and had
all too recently been doing his own stunts in the super-8
films -- he and Bruce were the kings of falling down
think your work is brilliant. The movie bussiness def.
needs more people like you, and I sincerely mean that.
Your ideas are original, and always new and innovative.
I, myself, am trying my hardest to get into the film
bussiness, and was wondering, what the main key is to
get work noticed and shown? I hope you can help me,
because i have been struggling with this one for a while.
I have many flms accomplished, but it seems they are
just sitting on the shelf in my closet. How do i change
that? Thanks dude. Keep up the good work.
honestly don't know. I've considered setting myself
on fire in the middle of Sunset Blvd., but I'm sure
it would accomplish nothing more than causing one more
traffic jam in a town that's nothing but traffic jams.
There's always the festival route, but that did nothing
for me. If you figure out something, let me know.
southern OR doin'? Not bad up north at Mt. Hood.
wanted to run one by ya. I just saw Cassavettes' "Faces"
for the first time and hated it. I loved "A Woman
Under the Influence" and "Opening Night".
Wondering where you stand with this particularly highly
regarded film by Cassavettes.
is there any new news on "Warpath". I noticed
a while back that you seemed to be thiniking that it
might not be happening now. All the best to it anyway.
And let us fans know if you decide to start up on it.
Still would love to do some grip work.
a good one.
I'll make a movie up here sooner or later, it's too
damn beautiful not to. The story Bruce and I concocted
for "Warpath" several years ago is okay, and
would make a perfectly okay movie. That, however, doesn't
seem sufficient to me. If I'm going to put myself through
the hell of making yet another indie feature I've got
to at least believe that it will be better than okay.
Also, I really need to complete the "Hammer"
deal to get some money back. Otherwise, Oregon is fine
so far. Thanks for the offer to help.
have been reading most of your scripts, the ones that
struck me as being the most interesting. And I am wondering
if you have any more that you would like to post on
this site? I would love to see a new script posted,
because it has been a while since you have put a script
of yours on this site. But nevertheless, everything
kicks ass and is fine the way it is. I am just giving
glad you've enjoyed them. I'll post the script for "If
I Had a Hammer" when I complete the video/DVD deal.
My other ten scripts I don't like enough to post. Most
of them have severe problems of one sort or another
that I was never able to fix. Try reading the ones you
haven't read yet.
of an obscure question, but do you know where/how Joe
LoDuca recorded the score for TSNKE?
have a hell of a lot to do with you, I know, but the
guy doesn't seem to communicate with his fans (if he
even knows he has any) and you seem to be willing to
answer this stuff.
is a private, busy guy. He recorded the TSNKE score
in LA with (if I recall correctly) a 40-piece orchestra
with a 5-piece ethnic accompaniment of Asian flutes
man, I'm a tad drunk at the moment, but I'll be honest.
Fuck all those assholes who rip on you. The most groundbreaking,
culture-changing people were ripped on in their prime.
Before I came to this sight, I naively believed that
I knew all there was to know about film. In your site
I've found the most radical and honest opinions on art.
Your films are a breath of fresh air, even if they are
not 100% perfect. Carry on the good work, you are true
to yourself, and therefore true to your audience. I
appreciate not being catered to like a dumbass.
And the last bloke who ripped on you : I'm gonna shag
his sister and make her call me 'Josh'.
a coincidence, I shagged his sister and made her call
me Danny. It was shagtastic! Keep up the good drinking.
out of curiousity, how would you say the act structure
is set up in Citizen Kane? How many acts, how long,
tell me. Does it seem like three-act story, or does
it seem unique? And does it seem structureless, or has
it got its own structure?
I talk about how older movies are better than the current
crap, someone says that they're just thought of as classics
because they're old. In other words, what was popular
then was twenty years later called a classic just because
it had aged a bit. When I think about the movies that
are popular and win awards these days, I can't possibly
see them being eventually classified as classics. The
same could be said for music, as well. Will people in
twenty years be saying with a straight face that Gladiator
and Britney Spears are classics? You've said that The
Godfather was the most popular movie of its time and
it's still good, so what was popular then was truly
good and deserved its status. I guess my question is,
do you think the movies that are popular now are going
to be considered better than they are once they get
older, or is everyone eventually going to come to their
senses? It truly does seem absurd comparing Any of the
best picture winners of the last five years to anything
from twenty-five years ago.
On a side note, I read The Winds Of Fate and Dark Of
The Moon and they both kick ass. You said that you were
inspired to write Dark Of The Moon by Rosemary's Baby,
what inspired Winds Of Fate?
and I came up with the story by trying to think of a
way for a regular guy to end up in a situation like
"The Wild Geese" or "Dogs of War."
While I wrote the script, though, I was inspired by
the writing of James Clavell, like "Noble House,"
"Whirlwind," and "King Rat." Regarding
will people think the films of today are classics in
20 years? No, I don't think they will. Even the films
that are taken seriously upon their initial releases
are not taken seriously a year later when they come
out on video and appear on TV. For example, "O
Brother Where Art Thou," which got unanimously
enthusiastic reviews gets two stars in the TV guide,
and I don't think they're very tough critics. Who even
remembers "The English Patient" anymore? Whereas,
I just rewatched William Wyler's "The Little Foxes,"
which I hadn't watched in about ten years, and it got
have started to write the treatment to my script, which
I have no intention of running around for a producer
to see. It is just there for me to delve deeper and
deeper into the script, until I have the way I want
to write it down properly in my head before I start
writing it. Act one will basically be a character study
for my main character. I am going to try to get inside
of his head, and get to the point where the audience
can basically tell what he is going to do before he
does it. This comes straight from "Taxi Driver".
A film where character study and development runs amok.
I cannot think of a better example. Well, there are
a few more, notably "Barfly", but "Taxi
Driver" is my main example for character study.
Act two, I am going to try to get to the point of no
recourse, in which it ends for my main character, but
he runs into his problems (IS THIS OKAY?), and then
act three, I will resolve everything.
am going to try to make this work the best of my ability.
I thank you again. This is my first screenplay and I
can gaurentee it will suck, but atleast I gave it a
shot. That is what I think: What good is it if you can't
regarding "Lunatics", it does have a long
act one, but it isn't overlong to the point where one
can't tolerate it. I didn't think it was that boring.
What you were doing was making the audience get a feel
for the main character. I admired that. When I get to
see "Running Time", I will comment on it.
From what I see, the script has its act structures down
Driver" is a great script to be inspired by and
to look to as an example. But both acts one and two
need a point of no recourse for the lead. In "Taxi
Driver" I'd say act one ends when Betsy rejects
him at the movie theater. I'd say the end of act two
is killing the thief in the store. Both events are things
you can't do anything about and thus excellent act ends.
"Barfly" is a terrific film, but not a good
example to look to since Bukowski intentionally didn't
want his lead learning anything -- he's a drunk at the
beginning and a drunk at the end. He did learn to eat
before picking a fight with the bartender, but that's
not much of a character arc, although it is something.
He uses the fights as his structure, which I thought
worked fine. But keep in mind that Bukowski was one
hell of an experienced writer by the time he wrote "Barfly,"
an already had a theme and a character going in. And
there's no reason to think your script will suck in
advance. Do your best and may very well be good.
you ever second-guessed your choice to become a filmmaker?
I ask this because you seem like a talented storyteller,
and yet this medium has only allowed you to create a
few signifant works. Certainly you could be telling
stories in other forms, and its not like you're getting
rich off the filmmaking. Obviously, you love the art
of movies, but it seems like such an impossible business
nowadays to get much accomplished.
is a business populated by generally dull individuals
that are driven by huge egos and dollar signs. I have
yet to meet a filmmaker my age that has impressed me.
The sheer lack of talent in film schools these days
is astounding, and I don't know what to blame it on
either. Maybe its that they have been raised on second-rate
films, but that can't be all of it. When thousands of
movies are available for rent at the local video store
and these guys are still renting Star Wars every weekend,
I blame it on them and not on hollywood. Anyway, thats
a whole other discussion I guess. I just find this business
to be filled with so much idiocy and greed that it is
becoming less attractive by the minute.
love to make indie movies the rest of my life, but who
can make a living on that? Can you give me a reason
why I should try to make a living in this business when
all it offers me is alot of dull friends and endless
about this: you've got the right attitude and there
aren't nearly enough filmmakers with it. If you and
I stop trying to make better films, indie or not, who
will do it for us? But the topic you've brought up is
a very good one, I think. Why are young filmmakers such
dullards? Young musicians, too. Both film and music
are in a serious lull. The newest thing in Hollywood
is doing clay animation digitally so that it doesn't
look as good and costs one hundred times more (a talented
animator with a glob of clay and a camera could have
made "Shrek" for a million bucks instead of
one hundred million), and the newest thing in music
is rap, which is 20 years old. Or is it jungle and techno,
which are also 20 years old, or older. I don't have
an answer, but I do believe it's definitely caught up
in this non-stop argument going on here about structure.
How many people have gone to the trouble of calling
me an asshole because I insist that scripts that are
structureless are crap? The virulent defense of bullshit
continues to shock me. Why are people so defensively
lazy? Why is coming up with a melody an impossibility
now? I'm curious what others think so please give me
story of your on how you got into the business. I too
am trying to get started and doing so by creating an
easy to shoot short film. My question that I pose to
you is in your early short films, and this has plagued
me a little since trying to figure out how to shoot
mine, how did you manage to act and direct? Was there
another person holding the camera?
asked this only because I would like to act in it myself
not as the lead role but more in the background and
trying to cut on the production cost I don't really
want to have an extra person on set to hold move or
position the camera since I may require a tracking shot
or possibly a dolly (These will come out when I storyboard).
final question I have is, if you disregard the length
and cost what would be the differences between techniques
you used to shoot a feature over a short?
gave up acting in my films pretty early in the game
since I couldn't bear to watch my own performance. I
was much happier operating the camera and being sure
I got the compositions I wanted. I say, choose one or
the other. The only real difference between my short
films and my independent features is that since I paid
everybody on the features, we all worked longer days.
I didn't have the guts to push people very hard if I
wasn't paying them. Also, I never had any rehearsals
on the shorts and I always have them on the features.
I enjoy your passion for film, its classic. I've been
threw this site for a long time. Keep up the nice work
on the page. What do you think of Project Greenlight?
"Project Greenlight," from what little I've
seen, seems like self-indulgent horseshit. If this idiot
can't get a film made for a million bucks, he's a fool.
And for me watching an idiot bumble his way through
the film business is not interesting.
you for answering me and repeating yourself for the
umpteenth time, which I am sorry for asking. You are
helpful. I just don't want to run into problems, like
this: running into making act one too long because of
introducing the characters too much, and I know for
a fact I will run into this (because I am basically
a first timer) and that is I will make it rambling and
I do not want to do that. Any further advice? Have you
ever ran into this problem? If so, how would you avoid
act one is too long, make it shorter. In my film "Lunatics,"
act one is quite a bit too long and it's annoying. Too
much set-up starts to seem like a shaggy dog story.
I have found, however, that act threes can be short.
In one of my favorite films, "Marty," act
three is about two minutes long. I honestly wish it
was longer, but that's obviously not what Paddy Chayefsky
thought. You're not bugging me Ray. If you have more
questions, go ahead and ask.
might precede every one of your comments with "I
think." Someday when you're all done learning about
film, you'll learn a little about human relations. You
can't persuade or educate people by being confrontational.
You'd be surprised how many more people you would affect
if you were less abusive. "It's a dumb story"
and comments of that ilk only inspire retaliation. Instead,
say "I felt the story was too unbelievable. I prefer
movies based in fact, like "Groundhog Day."
Only after you start acting like a normal person will
people want to undertand you and start making good movies.
I'm not as stubborn as most, so I've learned about the
three-act structure despite you and this site, not because
of it. Without some diplomacy, the only purpose your
serving is to make people associate the structured script
to bitter old men who can't break into Hollywood. Stop
shooting yourself in the foot.
for the advice. Since all of these opinions happen to
be on my website, clearly they're all my opinion. I
am, however, allowed to believe in things without equivocating.
I know why it's important to include the email address.
I really ranted on for a while, so I'll try to accurately
reproduce the questions I sent. Basically, my points
THE PLOT OF UNBREAKABLE Unbreakable had a ridiculous
story--that superheroes exist. But they aren't saying
that they exist as the comics portray them. M. Night
admits (through the script) that entertainment is exaggerated.
The problem is that Batman and Superman simply concocted
superheroes out of nowhere. Night simply exaggerated
some truths about people who have survived incredible
accidents without injury. It is true that some people
are more prone to illness and injury, and others are
less prone. It is the latter who are more likely candidates
for physical heroism. Night didn't exaggerate to the
point where Bruce Willis decides to sew a costume or
build a funky car. He simply allowed it to stop at a
very real concept--intuition. I was actually impressed
by the subdued depiction of a superhero. I thought it
was unique. Certainly better than Batman and Robin.
THE PACING/STRUCTURE OF UNBREAKABLE It did seem slow.
But it wasn't like watching "X-men" where
they rushed through the denial and realization of becoming
a hero, and zipped onto saving the world. "Unbreakable"
took two well-spent hours developing what is basically
the first act in a trilogy (tentative plans). I admit
that it had some drag, but it was by far a better way
to go. Fortunately, it didn't sacrifice the structure.
Act I ended after his first meeting with Elijah, and
Act II ended when he asked Elijah what to do, the train
station being the first scene in Act III. Is this right?
WHY YOU DIDN'T LIKE UNBREAKABLE It had structure and
a plot that not only isn't that ridiculous, but one
that is far less ridiculous than the one for "Groundhog
Day," which was one of the ten funniest movies
I've ever seen. So if your primary beef is that it was
too slow, then so be it.
FORTY ACTS You mentioned that "Groundhog Day"
had about forty acts. I'm not sure what the explanation
is, but I thought that Act I ended when he broke the
pencil and went to sleep. Act II ended when he realized
that you can't change fate/God's will, and that if an
old man will die on Groundhog Day, then there's nothing
that can stop it.
MOVIES, WEBSITES, AND POETRY You seem to be saying that
if a movie doesn't have structure, then it sucks. If
a song doesn't have rhythm or melody, then it sucks.
If poetry doesn't have rhyme or meter, then it sucks.
Basically, if you don't follow the basic principles
of an art form, then you suck. Are websites the same?
I was clicking through here and noticed that there are
several cardinal rules that are not implemented on this
site, but it doesn't make it non-functional or impossible.
Sure, if the rules were implemented, then it would be
easier to visit for longer periods of time, but that's
okay. I feel the same way about movies. Sometimes the
lack of structure can make a potentially good movie
bad, but a movie can entertain me and satisfy me without
perfect structure. Sometimes I like an actor's performance,
sometimes it's funny as hell. You can choose whatever
words you want, but "bad" and "good"
are subjective when it comes to the arts. The deciding
factors are infinite and indescribable since they exist
deep in the spirit of the person consuming it, and not
in whether or not it has structure. I could never bring
myself to write poetry that didn't follow the rules
because I don't think its right. But I can't say that
I've ever refused to be moved by a poem because it didn't
SCATHING LETTERS I hope you take some joy in letters
that berate you. If someone asked my opinion of a movie
and I replied, "I liked it, but there's a guy in
Oregon who didn't," you can imagine the looks I'd
get. But anyone who takes time to rip on you doesn't
think that you're just some guy in Oregon. He respects
your opinion, even if he's too dumb to realize it.
CROP CIRCLES M. Night's next movie will be about crop
circles and it will star Mel Gibson (did you ever say
if you consider Mel talented?) It would be good publicity
for Night to boast that 50 percent of his films got
a good review from the toughest critic in town, but
I don't think he'll end up bragging about your eventual
review of "Signs." Ten to one says you'll
use the word "excrement" at least twice.
EPILOGUE I nearly instinctively deleted Shirley's email.
Whenever I get an email from a girl I don't know, there's
usually just a chock-full of porn in it.
care, keep the lights on.
for sending your email a second time. It's a bright
response and I didn't want you to think I was blowing
you off. The first time the power went out as I was
answering it. So, regarding "Unbreakable,"
I don't accept Shyamalan's premise that someone who
is less prone to injury is more apt to be a superhero.
I don't think one's relationship to injury has anything
to do with being heroic -- it's a big stretch I don't
buy. Having seriously thought about the motivations
of an honest-to-God hero, Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly, in
my script "Devil Dogs: The Battle of Belleau Wood,"
whether he got injured or not had zip to do with his
heroic nature. A real hero, I think, doesn't care whether
they'll be hurt when they do something heroic, or even
if they'll be killed. They've gone to a place of pure
altruism -- saving other no matter what happens to them.
Also, Willis does have an outfit when he becomes Sentryman
and it looked a whole lot like Darkman's outfit. And
saying "Ubreakable" is kind of slow is really
understating the issue. It's deadly slow. Also, act
breaks don't just come anywhere, they come at points
of no recourse for the lead character, and nothing Sam
Jackson says to Willis can cause that. Living through
the train wreck is more like an act end, but it's the
teaser in this film. Also also, I'm not saying that
anything that doesn't follow the three-act structure
sucks. I'm the one that gave "Groundhog Day"
and "Citizen Kane." I'm saying that no structure
sucks. That which is structureless is crap. Coming up
with a new structure is great. I will also go so far
as to say that any song without a melody is crap, too.
I do believe that there are minimum requirements in
these various forms. I also disagree with you about
the act breaks of "Groundhog Day." I really
do think that each time he wakes up and has to deal
with the whole situation again, it's a new act. But
that's just me. Although I don't agree with much of
your letter, I enjoyed reading and responding to it.
6th grade science class/ J.S. Jenks School
as a class would like to know what three things make
a perfect storm. The answer was in your movie.
J.S. Jenks School:
Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Wolfgang Petersen. I had
nothing to do with it.
analogy popped up after that long-wided email I just
sent you. Your website is acceptable. It does what you
want it to do. Many people visit it to read and ask
questions and it gets everything done. But it breaks
several cardinal rules of good websites. I'm not going
to go into them unless requested, but I can say that
the flaws make it less enjoyable, while a less informative
but better planned site might be less tiring for me
to click through. No empowered agency is mandating the
3-act structure in film, but no intelligent person can
deny the benefits (not necessity) of it. Likewise, no
agency is mandating rules for designing sites, but no
intelligent being would be able to deny the benefits
of the rules, even though they might stubbornly (or
not stubbornly) refute the necessity. So how about that?
Is the Internet different, because of its nature of
being informational, than poetry and movies, which are
entertainment, that have to adhere to structure?
late and I had a long day, so I hope I'm making sense.
am in vehement disagreement with you about "Unbreakable."
That movie got me wired. I saw it four times in two
weeks. After I read your review I decided that, even
though I understand you a lot better than I did a year
ago, I can release myself of the torture I subject myself
to by being defensive of the movies you hate. I enjoy
them. Sure, a 3-acter that suffers some dialog flaws
or some other misfire might be more tolerable by the
fact that it has three acts, but just because it doesn't
have it doesn't mean that it's stupid or not a good
movie. If you remove rythm and melody from music, you
don't have music anymore. But if you remove or alter
the structure of a movie, it doesn't cease to be a movie,
nor do the structural modifications rob the work of
the ability to affect people. I suppose your beefs with
"Unbreakable" were more about his pacing,
since, not only does it slide perfectly into the prescribed
structure itself, but the trilogy that is tentatively
planned will follow suit. For argument's sake, I'll
briefly mention what I perceived to be the structural
breaks: Act I ended when he left Elijah for the first
time, believing that he'd never find an answer to his
mysterious survival. Act II ended when he called Elijah
to ask him what to do, and he was told to go to be with
people, after which he visited the train station. Regardless
of its glacial pace and preposterous storyline, am I
right about the structure? But then about the storyline,
there are numerous cases where people have survived
accidents miraculously, despite scientific principles
such as gravity and inertia. Shammy was just extrapolating--using
film to speculate on an unexplainable phenomena. Isn't
that what movies should be about? Entertainment? Just
a fun, harmless, "what if. . .". The X-Files
has absolutely ludicrous concepts, but they are all
based in fact. They all have some scientific basis or
recorded precedence. They just take these quirks of
nature and history and exaggerate them. Ever see actors
on stage? They exaggerate so people can see and hear
them and know them. When you tell a story, you don't
recount the experiences of the guy who was walking down
the street and rescues a kid from getting hit by a car.
You tell backstory and follow-up, you add complications,
and you exaggerate some aspects so that it becomes a
tale of heroism. Ben Affleck, on the commentary of "Armageddon,"
mused that Willis played "the world's best deep-core
driller," and that in real life, that type of status
wouldn't even be identifiable. But it's a movie. If
Bill Bob Thorton had refered to him as the "best
deep-core driller in West Armpit North Dakota,"
it wouldn't have been as dramatic. Rebuttal?
know that you don't consider TV to be a perfect storytelling
medium, but wouldn't you consider series television
seriously flawed in the sense that when a show premieres,
the producers, writers, directors, etc. have no idea
where it will end? For instance, The X-Files has been
a favorite of mine for a while, but in the last two
seasons, it's obvious that they just fabricate new crap
every spring so that, in the fall, they'd be equally
prepared for having another season or not having it.
That seems inherently wrong to me.
Shaymalan's next film will break out to new actors,
namely Mel Gibson. (Did you ever say what you think
of Mel?) I'm not sure if it will be more to your liking,
but I'm guessing 10 to 1 that you'll use the word "poop"
somewhere in your review of "Signs."
I use "poop" in my review of "Unbreakable"?
Did I complain about the film's structure? No, I didn't
even go there. The film isn't worthy. It's a stupid
story and that's the end of it. And this mantra I'm
forever hearing that "film is just entertainment"
makes me want to puke. All the people that really think
that crap should just stay away from this website. And
as far as "The X-Files" goes, I watched it
two or three times in its first season and I got everything
it had to offer, which is damn near nothing. Oh my God,
there's aliens everywhere. and conspiracies, too. What
knuckleheaded nonsense. Film has risen to the level
of art on a number of occasions, although none recently.
In fact, I think the whole medium has devolved so that
it is no longer an art form. But it could be again if
people stop intoning crap like "Movies are just
entertainment" and "I just want to escape."
I don't want to escape, I want to be involved. I want
to care, and maybe even pick up something I didn't know.
"Unbreakable" and "Armageddon" (and
"X-files") are unworthy of any discussion.
am about to write my very first screenplay, which I
am very serious about. Since it is my very first, I
think it would only be appropriate if I came to you
for advice. I want to tackle the three act structure
properly and I have a few questions about it that I
know you can answer because of your knowledge of the
long does Act I, II, and III have to be? In your first
essay about the matter, you say that in Act I, you introduce
everything, the characters and so on. In act I, do I
have to introduce the problem at hand? Because when
I am thinking about it now, I could do that, but then
I would create an Act I that would go on for a while.
Some of it wouldn't be appropriate. Then in Act II,
I have to confront the problem. This came to news to
me. Well, it is because I am not as great and experienced
as you, I am just a mere beginner. I thought that I
was to create the problem in Act II, then in Act III,
I resolve it.
let me get this straight: In Act II, that is where I
let all of the tension and conflict run amok, where
I explain the problems that the two main characters
run into in the act. Or do I have to do this in Act
III? I am a bit confused, can you clarify this for me?
I am sorry for me sounding dumb, I am just trying to
do good work. I need all the help I can get. Thank you
very much, I appreciate it.
one is generally 35-40 pages, act two is 40-60 pages,
and act three is 30-40 pages, thus giving you somewhere
between 90-120 pages. In act one you introduce everything,
your characters, what they need, and your dramatic situation,
and if it's done properly it will end on a point of
no recourse for your main character. In act two you
confront the dramatic situation set up in act one and
act two should also end in a place of no recourse for
your main character. Act three is the resolution. I'm
not sure how to explain it any more clearly. Let's get
something straight as well, I am neither great nor am
I all that experienced. I have written a lot of scripts,
but that doesn't necessarily make me or my scripts good.
Watch my film "Running Time" if you'd like
to see a fairly reasonable example of the three-act
structure. And by the way, I just saw "In the Bedroom,"
which does have three clear acts, but still sucks. Sadly,
though, it doesn't have a main character or a point,
and is as exciting as watching paint dry. There is a
lot more to writing a good script than having three
acts, but it's sort of a minimum requirement. If I haven't
explained this well enough write back and I'll try again.
you for the feedback from the question I asked you previously.
Well, I have something to say about your answer. Now
I am aware that you have never ever seen "Memento",
but I have something to say about that film's act structure,
whether it is correct or false.
I may quote you, Josh, you said, "Groundhog's Day
is in about forty acts, but that's how it needs to be;
that's its structure."
for "Memento", that structure does not have
a three act structure, hell it surely has its own structure,
just like "Groundhog's Day" and "Citizen's
Day". It is somewhat similar, if you ask me.
addition to all of this structure talk, I have to ask
you a question that you will probably get all steamed
at me for asking it. Why do writers ALWAYS need the
three act structure? Why can't the writers, whomever
they are, just write the way they would like to write,
in order for their screenplay to shape up the way the
story has to be shaped up? The reason why I am asking
this is because, I bet Herman Mankeiwicz and Orson Welles
did not master the three act structure before they wrote
their screenplays for "Groundhog's Day" and
"Citizen Kane". They just wrote their scripts
the way they had to for it to fit the way it did. I
mean, wouldn't "Citizen Kane" be dull and
not even original if it didn't follow its unique non
linear structure? Wouldb't "Groundhog's Day"
be dull if it did not pull off the same scene over and
over again and it did not have its forty acts instead
of just three? That is why I don't understand the three
act structure. If you ask me, I personally believe a
script writer should write the way they want to write
their scripts if it is appropriate for their story.
of all, Herman Mankeiwicz was a very accomplished screenwriter
long before he wrote "Citizen Kane" and certainly
knew the three-act structure well, that's why Orson
Welles needed him. On his own, I don't believe Welles
could have written "Kane." I am absolutely
convinced that the reason most movies these days are
so shitty is that the writers don't have the basics
of screenwriting down and are just doing anything they
want. As I said before, you can come up with a new structure
if that works for your story, but if you don't concoct
a structure, then your script will be structureless,
and that equals shit. Complete freedom in art equals
garbage. As I've also said before, the three-act structure
to s screenplay is just like telling a joke properly
-- no one says you have to tell a joke properly, meaning
set-up, then the punchline, but if you don't it simply
won't be funny. The three-act structure, though not
terribly difficult, is hard enough to spend the rest
of your life trying to get right. The reason I constantly
push this concept is that, after watching nearly 4000
movies, the connection between the good films is that
they have solidly written scripts with the three-act
structure, and the connection between the multitude
of crappy films is that they don't. So, in my humble
opinion, if your intention is to ever write a good script
you simply must study and master the three-act structure.
If your intention is make garbage, then ignore it.