Thursday, May 31, 2007

Who and What Do You Read?

*I posted this at Small Pond, but included it here to hopefully ensure that it will have some kind of life*

I've never been much of a critical reader. I'd read something, enjoy it (or not), and then let it go. Occasionally going back and reading it again. But never with an eye on what's going on below the surface. What choices the writer is making, how the words are leading the reader, or informing the characters. This is no different than watching a film and dissecting the mechanical/technical aspects of the mise-en-scene, editing, or acting. If you're going to call yourself a writer (which I still don't; getting closer but not yet), you should be reading scripts and tearing them apart and seeing how they work. Like you would with a clock.

I've amassed a little stockpile of published scripts and text files over the years. I read a few of them, but I only started to read them with that critical eye I keep mentioning. Making notes in the margins, all that jazz. I'm curious to see if anybody else is doing the same thing, and if so, what you're reading?

I'm working my way through Requiem for a Dream at the moment. It's interesting to see how things changed from the page to the screen. For example, in the script the scene when Harry decides to get his ma a TV takes place in an arcade, they're playing skeeball. In the finished film, he and Marion are at the beach (presumably not far from the boardwalk and an arcade). The scene plays the same on the page, but placing it on the beach makes it a little more tranquil, whereas if it was in the arcade, there would be a lot of noise and lights and such. Chaos slowly builds as the film progresses, culminating in one of the most visceral third acts in cinema, so putting them in the chaotic environment of the arcade for a relatively simple scene could have thrown a kink in the overall feeling of the film.

On tap for future reading is a couple Tarantino scripts (Death Proof & his original version of Natural Born Killers), a few of Harmony Korine's, maybe a Paul Schrader (probably Taxi Driver), and most definitely some Coen brothers (Miller's Crossing being the most likely candidate). Mark Protosevich's unproduced adaptation of I Am Legend is probably next. It's supposed to be one of the great unproduced scripts around.

Bruce Campbell is the Patron Saint of Indie Filmmaking.

Bruce enjoying some quality reading.

Since starting this whole... film thing... five or so years ago with Ellis, there have been a few icons that rose to the top of the reading and video pile time and again:

Robert Rodriguez

Quentin Tarantino

Sam Raimi

Roger Corman

Russ Meyer

Lloyd Kaufman

But none of them keep resurfacing as often as Bruce Campbell. Having loved reading his first book, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Actor, one of the things that's always irked me is the serious lack of interview material the guy does (and he does a lot, just not enough for me to milk for hours on end...). But now, thanks to, tons of his stuff is available (copyright be damned, I'm sure). The first place to start in my mind, however, is the Dinner For Five episode that also included Roger Corman(!) and Rob Zombie (!).

(it's broken up into three sections and the video quality sucks, but screw it... it's free.)

After that everything is icing on the cake when it comes to a youtube "Bruce Campbell" search.

Oh. Why do we keep coming back to Bruce? Not 'cuz he's the best actor in the world, but because he freakin' gets it - and hasn't forgotten what it was like to be where many of us are right now.


Real Filmmakers. No Tourists.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A (Good) Book on Screenwriting

I encourage any one who fancies themself a screenwriter to take a look at J.J. Murphy's book, Me and You and Memento and Fargo. Murphy takes a sampling of American Independent film and compares it with the conventional Hollywood model (as preached by Field, McKee, and the like). Things like how they differ from, yet still adhere to, the three-act structure. Or how having a non-active/non-goal-driven protagonist changes how the drama of your narrative works. It's really good stuff.