Finally! I get some recognition for my work. I wrote the original script that sold to Charlize Theron's company then Dimension Films and finally is being filmed independently with a 20-30 million dollar budget but I've consistently been left out of press releases - until now. I couldn't think of a better actress than Reese for this.
Here's the article reprinted from Variety ~~ Mark Sevi
Witherspoon Untangles Devil's Knot For Atom Egoyan
No stranger to controversial subject matter, director Atom Egoyan stepped aboard Devil’s Knot, the dramatic interpretation of the West Memphis Three case back in August. Now he’s found the first of what promises to be a large ensemble cast: Reese Witherspoon.
Devil’s Knot is based on reporter Mara Levitt’s 2003 book, subtitled The True Story Of The West Memphis Three. In it, she followed the tangled, prolonged murder trial of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr, who served 17 years in prison before being released this past August. They were accused of killing three 8-year-old cub scouts found in a wooded area of Arkansas called Robin Hood Hills. While they’re now free, the judge didn’t allow them to seek compensation for the lost years.
Witherspoon will switch into drama mode to play Pam Hobbs, the mother of one of the victims who initially thought they were guilty but as the case dragged on, came to believe they were innocent.
With a script originated by Mark Sevi and then re-written by Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman, Egoyan plans to kick off shooting this coming summer.
James White for Empire Online (LINK)
What is the heart of a martial arts film? Is it the fighting? The art, the skill set? The stunts? The (at times) brutal violence? Yes, to a large extent the reasons we watch these films is because we are either a fan or a practitioner of the art and these movies come with their own set of rules and mythos that the genre demands. And we seek out.
Early films from American filmmakers revolved around almost comic book types of martial artists. And I don't mean that in a disparaging way - they were fun, albeit unbelievable. The main characters were more traditional in style and approach and rarely were these men the 'bad guy' - they most certainly were not street thugs who ended up in jail from beating a man to death like the central character in "Confessions of a Pit Fighter."
As the martial arts in movies evolved so did the storytelling. Inner journeys became more common. Regret, though, in the form of a wasted life and the toll a life of brutality can take weren't foremost in those journeys. Director, writer, producer, stunt coordinator and actor Art Camacho plays out that theme writ small and tight in the mean streets of East L.A. where the elegance of life is razor thin and violence in many forms is your daily reality.
Hector Echavarria, a true martial arts master in many forms, plays Eddie Castillo, a man who is almost an unbeatable street fighter with feet and fists that devastate and punish and a jaw that can take massive amounts of abuse. These aren't the sanctioned fights of "Warrior" - they aren't even inside an underground fight club. They take place wherever there's an empty lot and a ring demarcated by tricked out cars and motorcycles driven by men every bit as badass as the fighters they are betting on. Castillo fights, wins, f*cks and goes home to a small apartment where he and his younger brother live.
During one fight, Echavarria's character kills a man with his bare fists and his younger brother (Ricardo Medina) witnesses it. Unknown at the time, this has a major impact on younger bro. Castillo goes to prison where he is beaten constantly by the guards until he fights for them, and brutalized further by the life style that's even worse than the mean streets he grew up on.
Some actors are defined by a film; some define it. "Ong Bak" would be nothing without Tony Jaa. He definitely defines it - and in turn, it defined him in 20013 as the next BIG THING in martial arts actors.
If you haven't seen Tony Jaa before prepare to be mindblown. He is a marvel, at times appearing to be beyond human. This 2003 film was his breakout film - it made him a superstar.
He is probably the most incredible martial arts actors, perhaps ever. His idol, Jackie Chan, is of course the standard by which all the rest of these lithe, leaping, kicking and punching amazeoids are measured, but Jaa has more raw power and tight skills and that gives him a slight edge on my scorecard.
"Ong Bak" proves that Jaa is superhuman - especially since the entire film was done without wires or CGI - it's all sweat, muscle and training. The martial discipline, of course, is Muay Thai with a liberal dose of gymnastics, and although Jaa has other martial arts training (including Aikido) it's Muay Thai that his fighting most closely manifests. In "Ong Bak" his magnificent skills are put to simply amazing extremes as action scene after action scene plays out - but let's not get too ahead of ourselves.
Jaa, a man of few words whether because he's in character or because he chose to be that way, plays a Buddhist priest-candidate from a small village in Thailand. In the insanely impressive opening scene, he is the one who reaches the top of this humongous tree, leaping from limb to limb like a Capuchin monkey, to claim the flag. This gives him a special blessing from Ong Bak, an ancient Buddha statue. Why it's called that is never clear and really who cares? Point is, it is the fountain of all blessing and good fortune for this poor village. When a Bangkok lowlife steals the head thinking he can get some cash for it the village is devastated certain that bad fortune will continue to visit them. Wells have dried, crops have failed and many of the young people have fled to the big city to survive.
Jaa volunteers to go get the head to restore the village's luck, and that's how he becomes Ong Bak, Thai Warrior.
Stunning. Final impression.
I'll get to the movie that closed the 14th Annual Newport Beach Film Festival on Thursday night but first let me tell you what really impressed me: it was that my guests were knocked out by the ending festivities at the Regency Lido Theater.
Scott McMenamin (VicePresident of Sales) and Alejandro Seri (IMDB) (Educational Marketing Director) from Final Draft (yes, that Final Draft) came down from L.A. to enjoy the festivities that started with a D.J. saying "Hit It!" as the sun went down and was still going strong when I left around 1:00am.
Festival CEO Gregg Schwenk (who also teaches locally) and his staff and volunteers are to be congratulated on this year's festival in general which, as I've mentioned in a previous article, was smooth and impressive. But Gregg and his people also know how to throw a party as was evidenced by the mouth-dropping, stunned look by my guests as they arrived at Lido Village.
Scott, in his role as VP of Sales for Final Draft, has been to the film festival at Cannes and Sundance several times and Alejandro has traveled the world for the company that produces the seminal writing tool of all professional screenwriters. Both said they were "blown away" by the closing night ceremonies which featured a dozen or so food vendors, adult drink vendors, and a sound/light system that had to have awakened the dolphins in the bay. I felt like I was at a really expensive rave and from the reactions of not only the people around us but Scott and Alejandro, that feeling was shared.
Newport Beach Film Festival, 2013
Alive and thriving. I'm sure that's the message the Newport Beach Film Festival would love to hear shouted from the rooftops of The O.C. After a few dicey years with administration woes, venue problems, and less-than-wonderful film offerings, I found the festival this year to be robust and packed with films that mean something both critically and commercially.
Having expanded to The Triangle, the renovated Triangle Square in Costa Mesa, the buzz there where I picked up my press pass was incredible. The festival initially went there out of desperation last year because The Islands Theater in Newport Beach was undergoing a renovation and they needed a venue with a multiplex and some food options that was at least close to Newport Beach. This year, The Islands is back but The Triangle is also in its glory after several new shops and food places have transformed it into a truly great entertainment destination.
I was only able to attend my first event this year on Sunday and I chose to go to one of my favorite theaters, The Regency Lido, which is a single-venue theater with an actual balcony. The Lido is such a grand, old girl, the outside looking like a throwback to the days when theaters were edifices and not strip malls, but inside she's spanking new with a new screen, digital sound and digital projection that made the screenings pop.
Beside being my favorite venue to see anything, there were two other reasons I started my festival tour at The Lido: One, OCC (Orange Coast College) was doing its student films there, followed by the 25th Anniversary of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," and two, Regency theater manager Lorenzo Porricelli.
Larry is old school. He makes you feel a part of any event even if if you're just walking around. When I arrived, he was passing out programs for the showing of the student films like some carny barker. He personally greeted dozens of people, many of whom he knew and who knew him. If the NBFF put him in charge of the whole show, this dynamic force of nature would probably increase attendance by 75% on his own!
When Vivian Brechner (Toni Alexander), a female version of Donald Bren, decides to develop a Casino in the tiny town of Fountain Springs, she must bulldoze their bowling alley which is the, "Only thing we’ve got" scream the fifty-two residents of this California desert backwater.
Brechner's dispatches her son, Alexander, (Tyler Strateman) to do her dirty work, and the town’s mayor, Dawson Dinwitty (Gary Austin) springs into action with the city council, which consists of one man, also the town’s bowling instructor, George Pandick, (Andrew Dickler).
Both men must vote in favor of the new Casino, so Brechner tries to buy Dinwitty’s vote by wining, dining, and cajoling him from her office in Fashion Island and the Big Canyon golf course.
Meanwhile, Alexander gets drunk with the “twin” sons of Fountain Bowl’s owner, Herman Pritzoff (Eric Halsz) and agrees to a bowling contest with a prize of $250,000, enough money for the Pritzoff’s to buy the land and save their bowling alley.
This plot engine runs out of gas quickly because the second act has no real narrative. Instead random characters and events are mixed and matched in a way that makes we wonder if a real movie might have been left on the cutting room floor (or if nothing at all was left on that floor.)
The result is a film filled with a lot of “shtick” that is sometimes funny, but more often tired and jaded. You end up feeling like you watched a very long, Saturday Night Live skit, and that’s probably because writer, producer, director Cherie Kerr is founder of the Orange County Crazies comedy-improvisation troupe.
How do say Occam’s Razor in French?
If you don’t know what that means in English, I’ll give you the simplest of definitions: It’s the simplest of solutions.
Occam’s Razor is a principle of parsimony and economy. It compels problem solvers to employ the easiest, most rational, reasonable solution.
The “problem” or premise of “Fly Me to the Moon” is this:
Isabelle, a beautiful, young, Parisian bride-to-be, played deftly by Diane Kruger (Inglorious Basterds), must somehow beat a family curse wherein first marriages end in disaster and the second is destined for eternal bliss.
Isabelle’s eleventh-hour solution to this “problem” is to marry a shill in Denmark and divorce him the same day, thus beating the curse and living happily ever after with her young, dentist fiancé, Pierre (Robert Plagnol).
When the shill is a no show, Isabelle latches onto a hapless travel writer, Jean-Yves played with great comic rhythm by Danny Boon (Welcome To The Sticks). Jean-Yves is en-route from Paris to Kenya via Copenhagen. That travel routing sums up the fictional world created by Director Pascal Chaumeil (Heartbreaker) in this film: screwball.
When Isabelle buys a first class ticket to Kenya at the last minute so she can convince Jean-Yves to marry her, it’s hard to ask yourself why she doesn’t stay in Denmark, find another, local schmuck and pay him the money to complete her “perfect plan.”
But then there’s no movie. And in my view the basic premise or “log line” of a movie is something you know in advance. So if you’re of a mind to say, “A curse on first marriages? How silly. Running off to Denmark to create a paper marriage. That’s a perfect plan? How ridiculous.” Then don’t go into the theater in first place.
“The essence of how Pixar started was in let’s figure it out and try something different.” – Jerome Ranft, Pixar Animation Studios
Blood. In amazing amounts and frequency.
That's one of the lasting impressions of this movie penned by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski, produced by Joel Silver, and the Wachowskis, and directed by James McTeigue.
Starring Korean pop star Rain, this story of a ninja turned against his adopted martial family (Ozunu clan) and actively working to stop his fellow ninjas from committing assassination for 100 pounds of gold (a holdover from ancient times) this movie starts in massive amounts of blood, decapitation and amputation, and ends in rivers of blood, decapitation and amputation with a lot of the same in-between.
Video game. That's your second thought and impression. With all the good and bad that engenders.
Ultra-violent and dark. In all ways including a lot of barely-seen fights that are too dark to appreciate properly, and hand-held cameras that jerk the action from one black shadow to another.
And then finally, well-executed and impressive in spots with fight scenes every bit as good as anything ever filmed.
Rain, the lead actor, would remind you of an Asian version Justin Bieber. A huge pop star in Korea, like Bieber he seems too slight and ethereal to play an assassin. But even as preternaturally beautiful as he is for a man, underneath that slight-looking frame he is buffed and cut to within a microslice of human body perfection. This and his real martial arts training allows him to be totally believable as Raizo, who as a young boy is kidnapped and brutally trained to be the best of the best in ninja assassination.
No one would confuse "The Octagon" with say, "The Godfather." It is what it is. A "B-movie" from the 80's starring a martial-artist turned actor. It features decent action, some decent themes and a horrible voice over that supposedly conveys the main character's internal thoughts.
It's too easy to dismiss these films as being just expired, stinky cheese - relics of a film milieu that we have hopefully left behind us as we move into the brave new worlds of Uncanny Valley CGI and 3D over-the-top actioneers that look like giant, gorgeously executed video games.
Of course, there are those die-hard fans who see no disconnect in these films and rabidly declare them as revolutionary - which to some extent they were. At the time, there wasn't anything like "The Octagon" gracing American movie screens and big action was nascent at best in any form let alone martial arts.
I try not to go to either end of the spectrum. I do laugh inadvertently at the bad dialog, plot devices or action but I also realize that it was 30+ years ago and these movies are going to look creaky no matter what, even as they were also creating legends like Chuck Norris. I mean, put any 1980 Buick on the screen and you're suddenly wondering how anything that big ever functioned (the term 'bulgemobile' comes to mind.) Nevermind that the fashion, haircuts, and insanely tight pants they all wore including our hero, Mr. Chuck Norris, looks like something from a bad porn film. As expressed, it is what it is.
Norris' movie career took off with his villainous appearance in Bruce Lee's "Way Of The Dragon." Lee liked to pit two different styles against each other and in Way it's basically Korean/American-style karate vs Chinese Kung Fu. The opponents couldn't have looked any different with the slight (but ripped) Lee rocking his black Chinese button-up outfit and the burly, red-haired (and hairy!) Norris in a traditional white gi. After the epic nine minute battle, Norris is defeated and Lee heads away, dusting his black jacket off as if it was another day at the office and not this incredible fight to the death. The scene furthered Lee's legend and created a new one in Norris.
Sorry about the language but that is exactly the reaction I had recently while moderating a film at the Regency South Coast Village Theater. Let me tell you about it because it further reinforces what I tell my students about this business - you just never know so never say no to anything!
First, the movie: A terrific little independent feature called "The Mulberry Tree" written by actor and first time writer Louis Crugnali. The logline sounds like you're going to want to get a box of tissues instead of popcorn:
A drama centered on a young man working in Rhode Island's state corrections system and his relationship with a convicted murderer who is dying of AIDS and spending his remaining days on hospital detail.
Yikes. Pass the soft but strong paper. And certainly some of that is true, tissue-wise, but the film is ultimately very positive and life affirming as the central character (played by Crugnali) struggles to find his place in the blue-collar world he's in. The terrific Joe Morton plays the dying con with amazing grace and quiet charm and the stunning Daniella Alonzo plays Crugnali's love interest with as much skill as Morton but she is just a bit easier on the eyes.
Guys, I love 'ya but bring Daniella next time she's in a movie of yours, okay? Seriously...
This unassuming, small film shouted its truth so loud and strong at various film festivals it's won several "Best Of" categories. Everyone who saw it Friday night loved it and stuck around to listen to the men who helped birth it.
Happy 2013, Everyone
Okay, so it's a little late - been busy, y'all. And while we're at it, what happened to the website, you're asking?
We were hacked. Not horribly, just enough to freak me out and make me want to make sure it won't happen again. Still working on that but we seem fairly stable now. Now if I just get Google to forget that bit of nonsense and re-index us my life would be happier.
And, yes, I am putting up a new site that will be cleaner, tighter and mobile aware. That wasn't a lie - just not the total story.
Until then, I'm shutting down site registration for a few reasons - mainly because I need to gain better control of it and that won't happen until the new framework is up.
You can still sign up for the newsletter and get the latest - click HERE
There will be new content coming but I'll be keeping a bit more control over that too. I may or may not open the front page to anonymous users - not sure yet. But until then, until all that happens, enjoy what's here, keep on the lookout for some on-the-ground stuff (like seminars) coming up soon!
So, stay focused and keep working for that dream! We'll be right there with you in 2013 and beyond.
Thanks and all our best,
Mark, and the amazing Board of Directors for OC Screenwriters: Eric, Joe, Larry, Robert, Rudy, Toby and Victor!
P.S. Also see these pages for more info on OC Screenwriters!
Looking for SCREENWRITING CLASSES? Click Here
NEWS FLASH! NEWS FLASH! NEWS FLASH!
If you really want to know what works in our profession of the gods, then bow down, raise your arms, and worship Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group. For in early January, they will be celebrating Warner’s 90th birthday anniversary with a celebration that will last for the entire year, and will feature the largest collection of film ever assembled for you to obtain in 100-film DVD and 50-film Blu-ray collections.
On the studio lot yesterday, Warner chairman Barry C Meyer unveiled the new Warner shield logo which will celebrate the year, as well as “Best of Warner Bros.: 100 Film DVD Collection,” and “Best of Warner Bros.: 50 Film Blu-ray Collection.” And there are no fillers, these films range in age from 1929 to 2010, and bring to you a virtual history of motion picture success right at your fingertips.
Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, as a young boy and girl fall in love they are moved to run away together. Various factions of the town mobilize to search for them and the town is turned upside down -- which might not be such a bad thing.
Let me start by admitting that I'm a Wes Anderson fan. I'll stop short of saying that he can do no wrong, but he hasn't done wrong yet.
Moonrise Kingdom comes close.
Wes Anderson, Roman Copolla
On June 6, 2012, Ray Bradbury, the Universe's writer, was called back to his galaxy. I had written this a year earlier to almost the day. I'm pushing it back to the front page in his honor.
One of the first purchases I made that was on my own impetus and that didn’t involve an adult was to sign up for the Science Fiction Book Club. This was no casual thing since it meant I had to buy four books in two years - a burden that seemed overwhelming to a serious-minded youth but it meant I also got four books for free for signing up which made it worth the stress investment. The first free book I chose was Ray Bradbury’s “Twice 22" a short story collection that had been in publication for a while but I had never read. All I knew was it sounded cool.
Dick Beals died. He was in his 80's so he lived a decent span of years and was very successful. Who is he? You've heard him even if you haven't seen him. He was (most famously) the voice of Speedy AlkaSeltzer, an animated character from the 50's/60's who hawked Alka Seltzer.
But even if you don't know that character, you probably know "Davey and Goliath" or perhaps "Gumby" or you've heard one of the 3,000+ voice spots Beals did in his decades-long career.
What makes Beals so special and inspirational is that he because of a glandular condition, he only grew to a towering 4'6" tall, weighed 70 pounds soaking wet with a triangular face that looked like a happy gnome. His voice never changed which is why he was able to voice anything from 5yr-old boys to 13yr-old girls until he died. In fact, he beat out 300 boys who auditioned for the part in an Adams Family animated role when he was 65. (more at link below video)
Because there is no such thing as “executive” or “chief executive” school, I thought I should write about my “executive school equivalent.” While “executive producer” is the most obvious in the entertainment industry, my next few thoughts can be applied to almost any industry where people have titles containing “chief” or “executive.” For this piece, I will refer to them as “Cs and Es” and what it means to have one of those letters in your title.
As some of you may know, I work as an engineer during the day, and then work on my media/news/entertainment gigs at night. So going to journalism school was out of the question. Instead, I searched for other ways to get into “the business,” and learn all I could about how things worked (hey I work an engineer gig…give me some credit). One of the ways “into the business” included funding other people’s projects. My engineer’s salary was comfortable enough, and I could not exactly go to journalism/film school so I thought that funding other projects might be the way to go.
Dr. Leo Spaceman: Now, Jenna. Medically speaking, for your height, your weight puts you in what we call the 'disgusting' range. Fortunately, there are solutions. For example, crystal meth has been shown to be very effective. *holds up brochure* How important is tooth retention to you?
Jenna Maroney: It's pretty important... What about my crazy surgical options, Dr. Spaceman?
Dr. Leo Spaceman: Please, Dr. Spaceman is my dad. Call me Leo. And there are some wonderful crazy surgical options. Are you familiar with the Bradshaw clinic?
Jenna Maroney: Am I? That's where the Olsen twins were separated!
Robert Rollins Pictures (link) is announcing the production of Robert Rollins’ anthology feature film Dream Country.
Currently in active pre-production with a locked script, location scouting and actor auditions being held in L.A., shooting the Dream Country interstitials brings to a close a long term goal. Rollins said "I've been working on this for the past several years. Finally going into production last week made me realize just how long I've been waiting to make this a reality. We've opened the production offices and we're knee deep in the craziness of getting everything ready to roll cameras." Rollins declined to elaborate on a specific date for principal photography but said it was going to be "Fallish 2012." The company is awaiting approval of permits before it commits to a hard date.
UPDATE: Permits have been approved. The date is set in October 2012 according to Rollins.
Dream Country was born out of Robert’s love for Rod Serling’s classic television show The Twilight Zone. Dream Country follows The Twilight Zone pattern by creating a framing device of using foot bridges that transport the viewer or journeyman from awake to asleep, from conscious to unconsciousness, from reality to fantasy, from past to present.
Cross a bridge to enter a dream....
The mysterious and enigmatic Elias introduces the featurettes while standing on a bridge much the same way Rod Serling had done in The Twilight Zone.
Billy Wilder's Tips For Writers
It was 10 years ago (March 27, 2002) that the world lost Billy Wilder. Some of his wisdom from Cameron Crowe's book, Conversations With Wilder start with his Tips for Writers.
- The audience is fickle.
- Grab ‘em by the throat and never let ‘em go.
- Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
- Know where you’re going.
- The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
- If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.
- A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.
- In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing.
- The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
- The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then -- that’s it. Don’t hang around.
Editors note: I really shouldn't have to list Wilder's film because any student of film should know them but here's a few just in case:
Some Like it Hot
Seven Year Itch
SANTA ANITA PARK AND HOLLYWOOD, A LONGTIME LOVE AFFAIR
And they were off!
On Christmas Day, 1934, Santa Anita Park Racetrack opened its gates and it was love at first sight between Santa Anita and Hollywood.
Hollywood royalty was not only in attendance, but one of Hollywood’s most prolific movie producers, Hal Roach, who started producing film in 1915, and lived till the age of 101 as a working producer, who brought comedy to America with Harold Lloyd, Our Gang, Laurel and Hardy, Will Rogers, and so many more, was the money man behind the park.
Pity The Poor Writer
I've written under all circumstances for over twenty years - scripts, short stories, novels, industrial videos, blogs, articles, etc. Modestly speaking, I'm pretty good at it. I know that because people pay me for that particular skill set.
Yep, lots to learn (emphasis on 'lots'") but let me make this point at the top - I study storytelling for a living. That's what I do. So, I should know a little more about it than your nephew, girlfriend, stranger off the street, right? Oh you agree? Then why are you changing my story, characters, themes and plot based on their opinions? In fact, why are we having this conversation at all?
You think I'm being a dilettante writer? Fair enough. Let's talk about that.
Chill, Dude. It's just Your Flipping Career
Let's get the big points out of the way. First, I do get that these are gray areas and that I am over-simplifying for the sake of making my point - it's called...writing - where have you been?
Our board member, Larry Porricelli who has been in the theater business here in Southern California for more years than he probably wants to admit.
He's interviewed on this fantastic website by local raconteur Art Kirsch.
Hollywood has always been a town of trends. The risk of failure, financial uncertainty and loosing money has made modern industry execs no braver that a one month bunny rabbit.
With the economy still weak investors are hard to come by and those around don't wish to gamble too hard. But then there's the old saying: "The show must go on"... And therefore the industry has to make products. T.V. has been, for the last years, the best area of quality vs. production the industry has had to offer. Film has been great but more driven to the teen market. T.V. has settled with the more mature demographic who enjoys it's costume dramas more that caped men behind colorful explosions.