Saturday, December 10, 2005

Viacom's Paramount to Buy DreamWorks for $1.6 Billion

Viacom's Paramount to Buy DreamWorks for $1.6 Billion

Published: December 9, 2005

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 9 - Moving swiftly after negotiations bogged down with a rival, Viacom Inc. closed a deal on Friday to pay $1.6 billion for DreamWorks SKG, the Hollywood studio founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, according to an executives involved in the negotiations.

Viacom and its studio division, Paramount Pictures, sealed the acquisition at a meeting on Friday between Mr. Geffen, Mr. Spielberg, Tom Freston, Viacom's chief executive, and Brad Grey, Paramount's chairman.

DreamWorks had been in advanced talks with General Electric's NBC-Universal, but told Universal on Friday that if it could not meet Viacom's price, DreamWorks would break off negotiations, according to an executive close to those discussions. Shortly thereafter DreamWorks confirmed the purchase by Viacom.


Another funny blog

This person sounds slightly insane. I like this person. Read the blog of what seems to be a "Hollywood Assistant" type person. Actually, I just stumbled upon this blog and barely got started so I'm not sure what the mix is here but so far, so amusing.


Is This Elevator Going Up?

I went out to play on the internet, in search of a good definition of the word "suspense" (but as it relates to movies and screenwriting), and landed at the Playwriting Seminars series of excellent articles on various aspects of writing stage plays. They have a special section just to help playwrights get their little toes wet with writing screenplays.

And so I follow the link to their subsection on "suspense plots" which, in turn, led me to their page on "Elevator Plays."

I knew about the device, but hadn't seen it explained in quite the entertaining way as it is done here on the "Elevator Plays" page. Kind of a fun read. It was also a bit amusing to see the basics of screenwriting so easily explained away on that particular page.

I did find this quote on the "Suspense Plots" page: 'The MacGuffin, a term used by Alfred Hitchcock, refers to that element . . . that is a mere pretext for a plot. The MacGuffin might be the papers the spies are after, the secret theft of a ring, any device or gimmick that gets the plot rolling, The plot, moreover, is simply a pretext for an exploration of character. The MacGuffin itself has little, if any, intrinsic meaning. The MacGuffin, said Hitchcock, is nothing.' -- Lorrie Moore

A Funny Quasi-Great Writer's Blog I Just Discovered

Actually, it's not quasi, it's fully great but the writer himself says to go ahead and insult him so that was the best I could come up with at the moment. Michael Swanwick is a published writer who allows a blog to be run in his name. One of the best parts is his "Advice from Unca Mike." As he introduces it:

Most writing columns offer sound and useful advice to new writers, so they can accelerate the process by which they become successful, well-paid professionals. Unca Mike don't play that. My advice is designed to cut new talent off at the knees and thus keep down the number of writers I have to compete against. Multiply your adjectives! Insult the editor! Submit your writing questions here, and I'll provide you with the answers that other writers won't.

Answers to select questions will be posted here sometime at the beginning of each month.

Your Unca Mike

The title up top there is a link to his main webpage. Here's a link to the "Unca Mike's Bad Advice" blog.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I love you right back, John and Yoko

25 Years Ago Today...
Image hosted by
Fans Mark Anniversary of Lennon's Murder
Updated 9:13 PM ET December 8, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) - Some met John Lennon in person, others knew him from the television, still others never knew him at all. On Thursday, they gathered by the hundreds in Central Park's Strawberry Fields to remember the pacifist rock star murdered 25 years ago by a deranged Beatles fan.

Generations from across the world, if not quite the universe, united to celebrate Lennon's life and his message of peace _ playing his music, singing his songs, imagining what might have been if the ex-Beatle had survived the Dec. 8, 1980, shooting outside his Manhattan apartment building.

Yoko Ono was among those at Strawberry Fields, walking through a horde of hundreds of Lennon fans before stopping at a flower-covered mosaic paying tribute to Lennon with its one-word message: "IMAGINE."

All we are saying is give peace a chance.

And so this is Xmas for black and for white, for yellow and red, let's stop all the fight.

I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It's just that the translations have gone wrong.

If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace.

If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that's his problem. Love and peace are eternal.

Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one.

The more I see the less I know for sure.

They want to hold onto something they never had in the first place. Anybody who claims to have some interest in me as an individual artist or even as part of the Beatles has absolutely misunderstood everything I ever said if they can't see why I'm with Yoko. And if they can't see that, they don't see anything. They're just jacking off to - it could be anybody. Mick Jagger or somebody else. Let them go jack off to Mick Jagger, okay? I don't need it.

You are all geniuses, and you are all beautiful. You don't need anyone to tell you who you are. You are what you are. Get out there and get peace, think peace, live peace, and breathe peace, and you'll get it as soon as you like.

The basic thing nobody asks is why do people take drugs of any sort? Why do we have these accessories to normal living to live? I mean, is there something wrong with society that's making us so pressurized, that we cannot live without guarding ourselves against it?

You make your own dream. That's the Beatles' story, isn't it? That's Yoko's story . That's what I'm saying now. Produce your own dream. If you want to save Peru, go save Peru. It's quite possible to do anything, but not to put it on the leaders and the parking meters. Don't expect Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan or John Lennon or Yoko Ono or Bob Dylan or Jesus Christ to come and do it for you. You have to do it yourself. That's what the great masters and mistresses have been saying ever since time began. They can point the way, leave signposts and little instructions in various books that are now called holy and worshipped for the cover of the book and not for what it says, but the instructions are all there for all to see, have always been and always will be. There's nothing new under the sun. All the roads lead to Rome. And people cannot provide it for you. I can't wake you up. You can wake you up. I can't cure you. You can cure you.

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.

I'm really very embarrassed about my guitar playing, in one way, because it's very poor; I can never move, but I can make a guitar speak. I think there's a guy called Ritchie Valens, no, Richie Havens. Does he play very strange guitar? He's a black guy that was in a concert and sang ``Strawberry Fields'' or something. He plays, like, one chord all the time. He plays a pretty funky guitar. But he doesn't seem to be able to play in the real terms at all. I'm like that. Yoko has made me feel cocky about my guitar. You see, one part of me says, ``Yes, of course I can play,'' because I can make a rock move, you know? But the other part of me says, ``Well, I wish I could just do like B.B. King.'' If you would put me with B.B. King, I would feel real silly.

I don't want people taking things from me that aren't really me. They make you something that they want to make you, that isn't really you. They come and talk to find answers, but they're their answers, not us. We're not Beatles to each other, you know. It's a joke to us. If we're going out the door of the hotel, we say, 'Right! Beatle John! Beatle George now! Come on, let's go!' We don't put on a false front or anything. But we just know that leaving the door, we turn into Beatles because everybody looking at us sees the Beatles. We're not the Beatles at all. We're just us.

I'm not a cynic. They're getting my character out of some of things I write or say. They can't do that. I hate tags. I'm slightly cynical, but I'm not a cynic. One can be wry one day and cynical the next and ironic the next. I'm a cynic about most things that are taken for granted. I'm cynical about society, politics, newspapers, government. But I'm not cynical about life, love, goodness, death. That's why I really don't want to be labeled a cynic.

When we were away from it for a while it was like school holidays. You hadn't done any work for a bit and you just remembered the laughs. You looked forward to it again... until you got back and were fed up. But we've had enough performing now. I can't imagine a reason which would make us do any sort of tour ever again.

I was writing the song with the 'Daily Mail' propped up in front of me on the piano. I had it open to the 'News In Brief' or whatever they call it. There was a paragraph about four thousand holes being discovered in Blackburn Lancashire. And when we came to record the song there was still one word missing from that verse... I knew the line had to go, 'Now they know how many holes it takes to --something-- the Albert Hall.' For some reason I couldn't think of the verb. What did the holes do to the Albert Hall? It was Terry Doran who said 'fill' the Albert Hall. And that was it. Then we thought we wanted a growing noise to lead back into the first bit. We wanted to think of a good end and we had to decide what sort of backing and instruments would sound good. Like all our songs, they never become an entity until the very end. They are developed all the time as we go along.

I'm not afraid of death because I don't believe in it. It's just getting out of one car, and into another.

All you need is love.

If [Sean] doesn't see me a few days or if I'm really, really busy, and I just sort of get a glimpse of him, or if I'm feeling depressed without him even seeing me, he sort of picks up on it. And he starts getting that way. So I can no longer afford to have artistic depressions. If I start wallowing in a depression, he'll start coming down with stuff, so I'm sort of obligated to keep up. And sometimes I can't, because something will make me depressed and sure as hell he'll get a cold or trap his finger in a door or something, and so now I have sort of more reason to stay healthy or bright...

The Rolling Stone Interview with Jann Wenner

The 1975 Playboy Interview

The 1966 Look Magazine Interview

Some Links for You:

You see, The Mike Douglas Show was a truly entertaining afternoon distraction so I often found myself watching it. For those who will never get the chance to see it, I guess you could call it a combination of Oprah, Phil, and Larry King wedded with The Ed Sullivan Show (but plain and simple, not glitzy like Ed). Mike Douglas had an easygoing style and a great sense of humor. People enjoyed his company.

Two people who seemed to enjoy hanging out with Mike Douglas were John Lennon and Yoko Ono. John and Yoko shared one of their "little hobbies" with Mike: they were fond of picking a name at random from any metropolitan telephone book then calling that person to say, "Hello. This is John and Yoko and we love you."

It was fun to listen in as the entire live phone conversation would be hooked into the studio sound system. Sometimes people recognized their voices, sometimes not. Some thought it was fake, some believed. But it was always fun.

This was at the height of the Vietnam war and John and Yoko had taken out full page advertisements in several major metro newspapers. The ads went something like this:




If you want it.

Anyway, I sometimes wondered if anyone had ever thought to call up John and Yoko to say, "Hello, this is me and I love you." So this post is to say to John and Yoko, "I love you, too."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Shawshank Redemption - An Analysis

The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies and even though there are so many reasons to admire the storytelling and characterizations of this movie, I can tell you the number one reason it resonated with me as an audience member: the sense of supreme emotional satisfaction I felt when Andy escaped and then, when Red joins him at film's end.

Why is that? What made the ending of this movie feel so right? I think it's because all the major elements of screenplay storytelling were right there, on their marks - character definition (interestingly, Andy seemed to be a bit on the mysterious side), plotting, pace, theme, setting, conflict... it all gelled and cooked up a perfect movie. When the payoff came, the screenwriter had meticulously done his homework, planting the seeds of emotional satisfaction along the way and then he paid off. Bigtime.

I became emotionally invested in the characters of this story and needed to know how it all turned out.

The Scriptologist Website has an analysis of The Shawshank Redemption that you may find interesting if you, too, enjoyed the movie. Here is a snippet:

In Frank Darabont's screenplay for the film, "The Shawshank Redemption," Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), the protagonist, learns that only by freeing his soul from the self-torment of guilt over his wife's death can he free himself from the spatial and temporal exile of the Shawshank Prison.

A Little Help with Loglines

Some of us have the gift and some of us, well... we could use a little help when it comes to loglines. Our Logline Clinic at the old Kickass Resource helped a lot of writers get the necessary elements of a logline squeezed into one or two sentences and in the most intriguing "you'll want to read this screenplay for sure now" way possible.

Like writing whole screenplays, there are basic building blocks or elements to be covered but there really is only one main rule: make the person(s) who will read your logline want to know more about your project. So, whatever works toward that end, that's the correct way to write a logline.

When I made a good contact with an agent a few years ago, he was willing to give my screenplay a read based simply on the fact that he was told to read my screenplay by his boss (who was friends with one of my best friends - otherwise, I never would have made that connection). This agent was very helpful to me, someone I could call up with any kind of question.

The first thing he told me was, "Hate your logline. You'll have to redo that before we send this thing out."

What was he talking about? I slaved over that little sucker. I agonized over it. That logline was as perfect as perfect could be. So I asked, "What's wrong with it?"

The agent said, "Loglines do not retell the plot of your screenplay even if you can squeeze it into one sentence. Loglines tell the reader what your story is about. Get it? They do not retell the actual story, they only say what the story is about. Rewrite that thing. Now."

Ahhh... my pea brain actually "got it." Instead of being consumed with informing the reader of the most vital plot points in their proper order or as many as could be crammed into one sentence, just say in general overall terms what the story is about.

Okay, I'm cool with that. I went from a neatly micro-packaged (but very heavy-feeling) into one sentence plot progression to a lighterweight overall summary type of sentence.

The agent liked that one better but he still wanted it tweaked. Instead of my main character's proper name of Mary Beth ("What the hell is a Mary Beth? The g-damn Singing Nun? Your f-cking name tells me squat about this character!"), this guy wanted to know who or what my main character was. What one aspect of her personhood or her function in this story was critical for the reader of the logline to know in order to get a mental fix on her, thus allowing the reader to feel the "reality" or central purpose of this character as they imagined that character in the pickle my story would place them.

Okay, so I twisted and turned on that one. There was so much I wanted the reader to understand. But, what would give the reader an instant fix on who this character was? What one aspect of this character was "core" in terms of how this character related to every other aspect of my story?

She was a single working mom and overprotective parent of an emotionally damaged child (the reason for the psychological trauma being one of the building blocks of the story - but of course, that didn't go into the logline).

So, okay, Mary Beth became "a working mom." Better, said the agent. More correct in terms of what a logline is meant to be, said the agent. But boring, said the agent.

Oy, oy, oy. What the hell does this guy want????

Mr. Agent told me in stripping out plot points and actual story structure from my logline and reforming it into more general terms, I'd lost the sizzle out of the steak. He said my logline needed to be unique, to make the story of a namby-pamby PTA Mommy throw out an emotional hook that would grab that reader and not let go. My logline needed concept or theme.

So Mr. Agent asked, "Why did you write this story in the first place? What intrigued you as the writer? What dramatic question are you asking (and answering) with the writing of your story? What is its central theme? You can give the reader that special something, that unique something, without resorting to the retelling of the actual story."

Every question can have more than one answer.

I've been a Sam Peckinpah fan ever since watching Dustin Hoffman in, "Straw Dogs." If you are a writer who wants to understand what "character arc" is all about, you must see this movie. Dustin Hoffman starts out as a namby-pamby sort of fellow and the life-or-death struggle that's thrust upon him turns him into a mad dog killer. He kills because he must kill. There simply is no other choice. How he got to that place is a fascinating study in character.

And that, my dears, was the pure essence of my story. What violence might any of us be capable of doing? And there you have a dramatic question just begging for a story to answer it.

If a friend called you up and said, "Let's go see that movie about that nice PTA Mommy," you'd think what, I should spend money on falling asleep? But, if you knew the sweet PTA Mommy was driven to the precipice of committing the ultimate act of violence - killing another human being - wouldn't you want to know whether or not she pulled the trigger?

So, that was my "hook." That's what made my story unique or at least, attention-grabbing enough to finally please Mr. Agent.

My logline was concise, very trim, no fat content, no extra wordage. My logline did not attempt to tell the screenplay's story condensed down into one sentence. My logline only told the reader what the story was about. In my logline, my main character was a character type as opposed to a character name. My logline inserted a hook or point-of-intense-interest for the reader by way of remembering the theme or dramatic question that needed answering. And by doing that, I allow the reader to see that there is a deadly threat or opposing force to this main character. Without being cartoonish in my logline's word choices, I left the reader hanging off that proverbial cliff. I left them wanting to know more.

And Mr. Agent gave it his seal of approval. The other thing I found out from Mr. Agent is that there are certain days of the week and certain times of day that you never call an agent. Ever. Heh heh...

Well, there are as many opinions on "how to write a logline" as there are loglines floating around Hollywood and I wouldn't ever steer anyone into thinking they should just take my word for it soooooo... here are a few more tips and tricks of the trade when it comes to logline writing:

The Logline: What It Is, Why You Need It, How To Write It

Creating Bomb-Proof Loglines

How to write a Logline

The Perfect Logline by Rob Tobin (PGLer)

Premise -- Foundation of Storytelling
Many writers struggle with understanding the difference between what a story is and character goals. This essay offers a method to create a one sentence story premise that sets out a story's dramatic foundation.

Anatomy of a Logline

Moondance Advice on Titles & Loglines

"Logline" from a UK Writer's Blog

VeniceArt's, "What is a logline?"
with a list of sample loglines

The Logline

Selling Secrets of the Selling Trade -
Proven Advertising Techniques Can
Make Your Queries & Loglines
Stand Out From The Pack