Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Orange County Screenwriters Association

logoThe Orange County Screenwriters Association is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing education and resources to all aspects of the film community both amateur and professional!

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OC Screenwriters - Articles


Monsterpalooza, Pasadena, 2017

be7120f0aaIn case the title isn't descriptive enough, Monsterpalooza is a fan-based convention of all things horror.  It's not as big as ComicCon, the big daddy of fan-driven conventions, or even Wondercon (just recently passed) but the convention is growing and might someday challenge even the bigs.

monsterpalooza 0002tIn most ways, it resembles those other conventions:  lines to get in (later in the day though,) busy, happy crowds of people of all ages, cosplay, t-shirts shouting out big love to both popular and arcane IPs (intellectual properties) but the levels are all definitely lowered somewhat.  After all, MP has only been around since 2009 and it's still a youngin' compared to the others which have been around for decades-plus. 

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CinemaCon 2017

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In a series of articles from the floor and back rooms of CinemaCon, our intrepid reporter, Lorenzo Porricelli (board member and co-founder of OC Screenwriters) tells us "off the record, on the QT and very hush-hush" what's happening in Las Vegas!

CinemaCon, Las Vegas, (March 28, 2017) 

For those who don't know, CinemaCon is a yearly event for studios to display their upcoming movies to The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), a trade organization based in the United States whose members are the owners of movie theaters. Major theater chains are members, as are many independent operators.

babydriver logo 700x338This year, Sony Pictures kicked off CinemaCon2017 with a huge bang, stunning the packed audience at Caesar’s Palace Coliseum with a preview of upcoming films from Sony that had audiences grabbing their seats during the absolute best car chase ever done on film in Baby Driver with Ansel Elgort; cringing in fear for an absolutely terrifying horror movie appropriately named, Cadaver; and laughing so hard tears flooded the aisles for the remake of Jumanji, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jack Black, a film that’s sure to take the box office at Christmas; Spiderman gets a reboot with a twist, its  Peter Parker during his teen years in high school, called Spiderman: Homecoming, with Tom Holland as Parker and the film includes Ironman as his mentor; Sony also showed their animation prowess with films as diverse as Smurfs to Emojis, a new concept that also had the audience roaring with laughter; an audience favorite was Rough Night, with Scarlett Johansen, a raucous comedy about a girl’s night out that goes crazy, absolutely crazy and destroys any similar guy movie.

hqdefaultStephen King’s The Dark Tower series is a new franchise Sony is launching this summer, and the first glimpses were horrifying, and the series should be a big winner.

Sony also had all the film’s stars appearing: with Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson and Jack Black adlibbing their own version of scenes from Jumanji on the stage, and Dwayne Johnson did an homage to Robin Williams that didn’t leave a dry eye among the crowd of 5,000.

Tom Holland (Spiderman) talked about what it was like to work with Robert Downey and how the character he played was shaped with Downey’s influence.

Ansel Elgort, the driver in the most outrageous car chase ever done on screen, and the director, spoke of what it was like being strapped to a car going 80 mph, the director with a camera in hand, and when you see the wild chase, you will know the results of hard work paid off.

It looks like a great year for Sony!

And that’s on the QT, and very hush, hush.

Long Live the King!

Dwayne Johnson rules CinemaCon 2017 – and Hollywood.

CinemaCon, Las Vegas, (March 29, 2017)

20170328 163225 HDRMove over Robert Downey, Matt Damon, Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg, Johnny Depp, and Jackie Chan - there’s a new King of Hollywood who was crowned at CinemaCon 2017 in Las Vegas, and this king is going to wear that crown for a long, long time.

Dwayne Johnson, the once-upon-a-time pro-wrestler who got paid $40 a night when he started in the ring, now earns anywhere from $20 - $60 million up front for every film he makes, not even counting the percentage backend deals where he could make an additional $100 million per picture.

So is he working? At that price, you betcha.

There hasn’t been a player this powerful, adventurous, respected, and will-liked in this town since Frank Sinatra, and CinemaCon 2017 has proven this and he has appeared as the star of films with three different studios this week teasing the audience, and audiences gave him ovations with every appearance.

20170328 163354 HDRIn the upcoming time between now and Christmas, Johnson is the anchor of three huge franchise movies – with popularity unheard of with fans and Hollywood since Sinatra’s name was on everyone’s lips as a dealmaker and job provider, and most of all as a box office Midas.

Universal Studios was up first for Johnson at CinemaCon 2017, with “Fate of the Furious,” and Johnson plays Hobbs, a character as well-loved as Paul Walker’s. And Universal is very smart and had its first ever screening for the film at CinemaCon this week, with more than 6,000 movie theatre owners in attendance cheering and calling their theatres with cell phones in one hand and champagne in the other, to place the trailer for the film on every screen and every movie. Some even demanded it play at the beginning and end of every trailer set for added punch.

“Fate of the Furious” will be huge. It opens like the rest did on Good Friday in April and will be there well through Memorial Day or even Fourth of July. It is a riotous mix of outrageous action and side-splitting humor that even pokes fun at itself and has an intelligent script that carries the story all over the globe, and I mean all over the globe, and practice expanding your lungs – the action, chases and thrills are so fresh and over-the-top, you’ll be holding your breath almost the entire film – that’s how real the tension is, but that tension is juxtaposed against a well-scripted canvas of humor that makes this Furious the most extravagant of the series.  

Johnson’s presence adds such story gravitas to the film.  Yes, Paul Walker was loved, and Vin Diesel is liked, but jaded movie industry people and the public just can’t get enough of Johnson. Yet Johnson is so humble. He shared how he once had just $7 in his pocket, and his words were tender: “In 1995 I had 7 bucks in my pocket and I knew two things – I’m broke as hell and one day I won’t be.“

And Johnson really enjoys playing with the audiences and introducing his movies and the casts, all here for “Fate of the Furious,” and it was a fate of the furiousgreat feeling for the audiences hearing his hilarious repartee with cast members, including Vin Diesel. Diesel was onstage with Johnson.  But Johnson definitely is the star. He commanded the stage, and played to the room of movie theatre owners and studio executives that gather yearly in Las Vegas for CinemaCon.

Johnson also stars in Paramount’s R-rated, hilarious boot-up of “Baywatch,” a film Paramount has such confidence in because of Johnson’s uproarious portrayal of lifeguard Mitch Buchanan, the film is set as its Memorial Day offering, and Memorial Day Weekend is as busy as Thanksgiving weekend, as summer official kicks off. At CinemaCon 2016, Johnson promised to bring the cast of Baywatch to CinemaCon 2017. And he did. That alone is testament to his strength, as the first class cost to fly, to feed, hotel suites, easily cost Paramount $250 thousand.

Johnson also premiered the first-ever Fuschia trailer – and as you know, trailers are either green-banded for general audiences, or red-banded for adults-only, but the trailer for “Baywatch” is the first-ever Fuschia- colored, and rated FU – FUCKING UNBELIEVABLE – with the line message reading: PERVASIVE HOTNESS, COMEDY AND ACTION, MAY CAUSE PISSING IN PANTS DUE TO EXCESSIVE LAUGHTER. Johnson thought of it, and it was perhaps the hit of CinemaCon so far, with theatres demanding the Fuschia trailer for moviegoers to view. Hopefully Paramount does so, as the attention will sell a million tickets.

And the film was just phenomenal – no one could stop laughing, and they weren’t cheap laughs, these were well-earned and well-written, especially a scene where Johnson has Zac Effron, playing a lifeguard stud with not too much upstairs, check a corpse’s scrotum. I’m still laughing three days later.

Johnson again drew the audience into his world – saying the theatre that sells the most presales tickets to the movie will be brought to Hollywood, put up and the Beverly Hills Hotel, and be special guests at the World Premiere.  And again, the audience loved it.

And as if to crown the movie industry calendar year, Johnson was on the CinemaCon 2017 stage yet again, for Sony Pictures this time, as the logo mstar of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” And even if you liked and remembered the original, this one is so far over the top, so hilarious, and the writing is so original, this film will definitely give Star Wars a run for its money during the Christmas holiday. And again, a studio is entrusting its holiday fare to Johnson.

And Sony was also very smart. When first pictures of the cast were seen, there was public outcry over Karen Gillan's preposterous jungle attire. But Johnson assured people that her wardrobe would "make sense once you know the plot" as Gillan was dressed in a crop top and leather vest-turned-bustier. And at CinemaCon he made sense of it by stating she was a kid who had been sentenced to cleaning a basement at school and found the clothes and put them on.  

And the audience again cheered Johnson, who paid homage to Robin Williams, whose character is important to this film, and brought out co-star Jack Black, who told the hilarious story of his first meeting Robin Williams, and then Johnson did also, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when he said “we love you, Robin.” And you knew he meant it.

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” opens on December 22, just in time for Christmas, and again, is so well written it is for audiences of all ages.

o DWAYNE JOHNSON HBO BALLERS facebookAnd imagine Johnson and Jack Black onstage redoing scenes from the movie with their own editing, it not only added to the festivities but again, cemented Johnson as someone not afraid to poke fun at himself, his roles, his ego,  which is endearing to all audiences.

And Johnson is now a successful producer in Hollywood, with the television show “Ballers”, showing Johnson unafraid to overexpose himself to viewers, as he said, there are a lot of segments out there.

Johnson is slated for upcoming films (of which he gets a share of grosses in addition to his acting fees) as diverse as a remake of “Big Weekend in Little China.” The Kurt Russell cult classic; “San Andreas 2,” the sequel to the $500 million 2015 epic. And don’t forget, Johnson also was key to the success of Disney’s animated “Moana,” which to date has grossed “$617 million. Johnson chooses his roles, and he is very intelligent. Why wouldn’t a star go into a Disney movie, it will be seen by families from America to China to South America, to Europe. Very, very smart. They’re even going to want to see him in the well-deserved R-rated “Baywatch,” and be enthralled again with his family adventure “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”

Dwayne Johnson feels like a brother, and he is a member of just about everyone’s family.

Hail Dwayne Johnson, the new King of Hollywood.

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Passengers is Great Science Fiction - Even Without Aliens

 passengers 1For years I've been railing against the general perception of science fiction in Hollywood.  Without spaceships, aliens and laser beams it isn't scifi, the consensus thinking goes.  As a lifetime reader and 20+ year writer of scifi I know better. 

I've been the victim of pseudo scifi thinking from producers and film execs.  Two or three of my films and/or scripts have fallen to the thinking that something "alienish" has to happen to grab and entrance people.  "How about a shapeshifter character?"  "We need more alienish shit, Mark." "Three more heads need to explode." This in a film where no heads exploded.  "But it's not sicifi - it's horror!" Uh...

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Creating Entire Worlds with My Hands

b2ap3 thumbnail Screen Shot 2017 03 21 at 6.46.42 PMSome of my fondest memories of my father were of seeing him working in his art studio in our home.  My father was an architect by trade but his passion laid in comic book art and cartooning.  I remember seeing him come home from work and creating his own comic books based on Asian mythology.  I remember how masterfully he told the story of the dragon that married an angel and had fifty boys and fifty girls that would eventually become mankind.  The seamlessness of the storytelling was only matched by my father’s vibrant ink and water colored art on the 11x17 Bristol board. 

Those sessions watching my father create entire worlds gave me many gifts.  They gave me lifelong memories of my father that I hold onto dearly to this day even though I have lived more years with him gone than with him alive since he passed away when I was only six-years-old.  It was through my father’s love of sequential art and graphic storytelling that I would fall in love with Marvel Comics in the 1980s.  Most importantly, these sessions watching my father work also showed me that I too had the ability to create entire worlds with my own hands. 

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Devil's Knot - No One Is Untouched by Violence

This is a series of occasional articles on my experiences writing "Devil's Knot."

banner3 index2As writers we need to always remember that any movie based on a true story has real people's lives behind it.  Everyone surely knows and understands that.  It's hard, though, to embrace that thought wholly when you're trying to fulfill  story obligations and decisions, and when the story you are trying to tell is as complex as "Devil's Knot."  This is a lesson I took from my work on my script for "Devil's Knot."  It took me a while to fully "get it" but I did.  I carry that lesson with me now and for always.

dkIf you don't know, "Devil's Knot" is a non-fiction book by journalist Mara Leveritt that explores the truths and falsehoods behind the accusations of murder in Arkansas in 1993.  It was made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth in 2005.  Witherspoon played one of the mothers of one of the victims and Firth played a private investigator.

The background: In 1993, after a horrifying discovery that three eight-year-old boys were brutally killed, three teenage boys, Jessie Misskelley (16), Jason Baldwin (17) and Damien Echols (18) were then railroaded by a court and community panicked and hungry for closure. 

What happened was terrible and frightening by anyone's standards.  The mind boggles at how anyone can torture, mutilate and kill three eight-year-old innocents.  Anyone responsible for that just doesn't seem human.  The term demonic did and does easily come to mind and was used frequently by the residents of that area at the time.

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Put A Face on the Devil

hannibal Recently, a student started a very complex script.  It had flashbacks, flash forwards, non-linear narrative framing, illusion, delusion and just about every other non-standard story device you can imagine.

When I read his synopsis I cautioned him the story probably wouldn't work as envisioned.  For one thing, it was horribly complicated - I've been doing this for 20+ years and I wouldn't attempt it.  And, although the student was a good writer in other ways, this was his first script. 

He started it several times, getting feedback about the things that worked (not much) and what didn't (a lot) and he worked to improve it.  And although it has gotten a bit better and more digestible it still doesn't work.

But not for the reasons I thought although those are still there.

Without getting into too much detail his story involved a man who was destined to be destroyed and in the process the world.  That seems like terribly important stakes, right?  The entire fate of the world.  And it is.  The problem is that the man was fighting against something he couldn't see.  And by extension, something we couldn't see,

This is not a drama like "A Serious Man" where his actions caused a problem.  This was big picture, big world stuff - a very large, supernatural agency that was out to get this guy.  It had big scope and big villains...

But we never saw them.

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Jeff Lyons at OC Screenwriters

AOPL 3D WebsiteJeff Lyons doesn't like the appellation of "GURU" - he considers his insights as basic understanding of story and how drama unfolds. 

And he should know.  He's studied his craft for years, applied it to many seminars, including a yearly event at the Producers Guild (PGA) and many, many events like the one we had on Saturday in Fountain Valley.

40+ rapt attendees absorbed Jeff's wisdom and knowledge on how to break a premise line (more than a log line, less than a synopsis) into components and tease out the story under the story.

In a word, he was fantastic.

Rather than cover the event in detail I will point you at the videos embeded in this article and Jeff's book "Anatomy of a Premise Line" available on Amazon (LINK TO BOOK ON AMAZON).

Our sincere thanks to a terrific student and teacher of story.

Video (also available after the jump) courtesy of one of our wonderful board members, the incomparable Rudy Garcia.

There's also gallery of photos up by another great board member, Robert Rollins:  (LINK TO PHOTOS)

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Ideal Home

ideal home h 2016This wonderful movie, "Ideal Home," could not have come at a more symbolic time from a standpoint of the dialogue that is occurring in this country.  I'm not going to stand up and say it's an important movie but it sorta is.  Because it's about people, not stereotypes or labels, and we need so much more of this and less of that.   We need to be reminded that no one category of men or women has an exclusive on love, relationships, anger, or pain.

Paul Rudd and Brit Steve Coogan play an odd-couple, gay couple.  Actually, let's take the "gay" out of the equation and just say couple.  Odd is optional but wholly accurate.  Rudd is a producer/director who sometime longs for a bigger stage (the Rachael Ray show) and Coogan is a world-renowned chef who can be "fabulous" anywhere.  They live in the Southwest in a stunning home and have a nearly-perfect life.  They entertain the mayor, shoot Coogan's cooking show and bicker constantly. 

Unfortunately, their little slice of paradisaical routine has become familiar, stale and toxic.

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Jeff Lyons Event - Anatomy of a Premise Line


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JOIN US ON MARCH 4th, 10:00am to learn from noted story analyst Jeff Lyons how to identify and fix problems in your story BEFORE you begin to write.

AnatomyOfAPremiseLine coverAnatomy of a Premise Line: How to Master Premise and Story Development for Writing Success is the only book of its kind to identify a seven-step development process that can be repeated and applied to any story idea.



WHAT: Seminar & Bruncheon Cost includes Breakfast Buffet

WHEN: Saturday, March 4th TIME: 10:00-2:00

WHERE: Claim Jumper Restaurant Banquet Room 18050 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708 (714) 963-6711

HOW MUCH: $22.50 in advance $25.00 at the door.


  • Jeff's seminar concepts are brilliant! This man knows what he's talking about and he can show you! In about three sentences
  • I knew this was going to be something that I needed.
  • His down-to-earth style makes it easy to under-estimate his brilliant insights.
  • I am in awe...


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cardinal caI admit that I am a sucker for these shows.  A body is found or a person is killed and a flawed detective has to solve the crime.  Along the way will be surprises, twists, solid drama and a killer you probably could guess - well, maybe.

"Cardinal" is just such a series Giles Blunt’s acclaimed crime novels "Cardinal" takes place in the cold climes of the North Bay, Ontario.

Let me also say that 10 episodes can be a long sit.  With ten episodes the attenuation of actual narrative thread is almost always guaranteed.  "Forbrydelsen" at 20 episodes didn't seem long at all; The American version, "The Killing" did.  So maybe it's just the way the story is told.  But I like that I like that "Cardinal" is six.  That means that we won't have to put up with much filler and we'll get more actual connected story.

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The Good Fight

good fightWhen I grow up I want to be The Kings. As in Robert King and Michelle King who were responsible for the incredible "The Good Wife" and "The Good Fight" which picks up after the main character of the "The Good Wife" (Julianna Margulies' Alicia Florrick) has left for other pastures.

I'm going to steal this excerpt from Wikipedia to explain the main premise because it covers everything needed to say:

The series follows Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart, as she is forced out of Lockhart, Decker, Gussman, Lee, Lyman, Gilbert-Lurie, Kagan, Tannebaum, & Associates after an enormous financial scam destroys the reputation of her goddaughter Maia (Rose Leslie) and Diane's savings, leading them to join Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) at one of Chicago’s pre-eminent law firms.

The series stars Baranski, Leslie, Jumbo, Erica Tazel, Sarah Steele, Justin Bartha and Delroy Lindo, and features Paul Guilfoyle and Bernadette Peters in recurring roles. The series is executive produced by Robert King, Michelle King, Ridley Scott, David W. Zucker, Liz Glotzer, Brooke Kennedy and Alison Scott, with Phil Alden Robinson producing and co-writing the first episode.

109352 1309b copyWhat all that means (basically) is the original show is back but different.  Between "Wife" and "Fight" the Kings did a short-lived political satire show "Brain Dead" which involved alien critters invading the brains of people in Washington and creating even more politically polarized parties.  Hmmm.  Truth is very much stranger that fiction.

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Powerless / Apple Tree Yard

powerlessI have been a comic book fan since childhood when my dad would take me and my sisters to the local drug store to peruse the offerings after church on Sunday; something I'm sure the priests would not have approved of. 

"Powerless" would have been a welcome addition to that ritual although I'm positive it would never have been considered at that time.

The concept is simple: the world has superheroes from the DC Universe and some that haven't been created yet, I'm assuming.  I'm at a disadvantage here because beside the big marque characters I haven't followed a lot of any comic book series for a while.  "Jessica Jones" was new to me although I did remember "Luke Cage."  I can't honestly tell you what DC has been up to - but "Powerless" is a fun step!

In this world, as you can easily imagine, there is a lot of collateral damage in any superhero/super villain fight.  Marvel has already covered this somewhat in "Jessica Jones" a heroine who lives in a post-Avengers battle world where superheroes aren't loved for the destruction they've instigated while saving the world.  Supervillains are one thing, yo; getting to work when entire blocks are closed down due to buildings falling is entirely another.

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Riverdale / 24 Legacy

riverdale header3I wonder at times if I would enjoy being a TV or movie critic.  I do like finding gems and telling my friends and students about them.  Shows that inspire me to be a better writer are always a treat.  But then there's the other end of the spectrum so that would all be a wash I guess. 

In the middle somewhere is most of what I end up watching.  Not groundbreaking material, like "Archer" or "Game of Thrones" but well-conceived and well-written like the two shows in this article.  Both "Riverdale" and "24 Legacy" are well-above middle ground though.

I didn't think I was going to like "Riverdale" - it's not exactly geared to my demographic.  But I did.  A lot. 

Re-envisioning the "Archie" comics (or maybe the comics are now like this - I don't know) has the characters of Archie, Veronica, Betty, Jughead, Reggie and others living large in Riverdale: a small town with dirty undercurrent, including big time murders and hot affairs between teachers and students.

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Your Script Sucks - Why Are You Seeking Representation?

ranting angry manTHE RANT

Who exactly do you think you are?  Are you a writing genius who has figured out what took the rest of us many months, maybe years to understand?  Has one of your masterpieces gotten so many kudos that you now think you should be elevated to a place that normally takes hundreds of hours to accomplish? 

This is a rant, pure and simple.  You won't learn shit about screenwriting and you'll probably dislike me by the end of this article - if you even get that far.  Fine.  I accept your disdain.

Just don't ask me how to find an agent, manager, production company or anything else until you've written at least three scripts and those scripts (at least one) have gotten a lot of good word of mouth from someone beside your mom.


What am I on about?  Simple.  I had a student ask me how to market his/her script.  I stopped what I was doing, blinked three times and had to ask him/her to repeat it. 

I mean, huh?  At the very least, finish a script first then ask me that question.

How in the world can anyone think they're ready to sell anything if they haven't been working for a certain amount of hours to hone their craft?

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Skies Are Clear on Dagobah

I just want to get this out of the way right away, and I know that I will most likely get tons of hate-mail from aspiring screenwriters reading this, but I officially retired from professional screenwriting in 2015.        

And I honestly couldn’t be any happier.  I finally get to consistently do the things that fill my life with joy: spend time with family, train mixed martial arts, spend time with family, go to heavy metal concerts, spend time with family, play videogames on my weeknights, spend time with family, take computer programming classes, spend time with family, draw my own comic books, and most importantly . . . SPEND TIME WITH FAMILY. 

            I have committed to another role since I’m completely out of the business and have absolutely zero silver screen aspirations – the role of the mentor.  Previous students and friends with Hollywood aspirations still reach out to me inquiring on how to transition their dreams into reality.  I don’t offer to introduce them to people who can turn magically materialize their dreams like a genie, but I do offer my time and honesty about the 15-years I spent in the business. 

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