Screenwriting Spark: Where Screenwriters Inspire Screenwriters

June 4, 2013 at 7:26 pm

The Screenwriting Spark

One of my favorite features on The Screenwriting Spark is page dedicated to a very simple idea:

SCREENWRITERS INSPIRE SCREENWRITERS

When I was developing the site, I wanted to include personal stories. Not just my own but other screenwriters around the world. So I created a series of 6 questions about inspiration, motivation and the challenges every screenwriter must face and ultimately overcome.

The results were fantastic but YOU can still add your story by answering the 6 questions below and emailing them to jason@screenwritingspark.com.

1. How did you discover screenwriting?

2. What inspires your writing?

3. What do you love the most about screenwriting?

4. How do you cure writer’s block?

5. What is your biggest screenwriting weakness and how will you overcome it?

6. Describe your screenwriting experience in ONE word. (Ex: passion, creativity…)

Answers need only be a paragraph or two.

Click here to visit the page and don’t forget to subscribe for all the latest Sparks.  Check out The Screenwriting Spark for more.

Is After Earth Really THAT Bad?

June 3, 2013 at 10:57 am

Is After Earth Really THAT Bad? | After Earth Review 2013

I woke up this morning and wrote my review for Now You See Me. I saw it on Saturday night with a few friends. Choosing a film that night was a bit of a tough call as it came down to After Earth vs. Now You See Me. Ultimately, we chose the latter and it was disappointing to say the least. The problem is, I think it could have been lose/lose if the reviews for After Earth are any indication.

I almost wrote a post called “5 reasons why I’m skipping After Earth” today.  I had a change of heart when I dug up a post I wrote about a year ago called “After Earth Battle: Will Smith’s Hits vs M. Night’s Flops“.  I decided to find out the answer that question for myself.

Currently, the film has a 12% rating on rotten tomatoes. By my calculations, (read: not a actual statistic) there is an 88% chance After Earth may surprise me…  I’m writing this on the subway. The movie starts in about 30 minutes…

Will After Earth be as bad as critics say?

3 HOURS LATER

Well….. That wasn’t great but it was a lot better than I expected. I read a couple dismal reviews that tore the movie to shreds. Here are a couple quotes:

“From its opening montage to its closing shots, After Earth comes across as an extremely generic effort written by an elementary school student.” (Examiner)

“The characters are emotionally neutered.” (Reel Views)

“After Earth is a wasteland riddled with cinematic trash.” (Hollywood Chicago)

I don’t think it’s a total loss but I would have a better time agreeing with critics if the Tomatometer was around 40-50% instead of 12%.

After Earth is essentially a story about a boy, Kitai, trying to live up to his courageous and respected father, Cypher. It’s 1000 years after humans left the Earth. On their new home, Nova Prime, they are attacked by aliens who use fear smelling…. Alien… dogs to hunt humans down.

It’s a simple setup with a lot of promise but the film quickly morphs into something different.  At first, we are shown a fascinating world but then the movie forgets all that and takes us on a journey elsewhere. After an asteroid accident, we find the Will/Jaden Smith duo stranded on Earth.  (Those damn asteroids have kick started many science fiction stories don’t they?)

His father seriously wounded, the boy must venture into the world humanity left behind, find a beacon and avoid an Alien dog they brought along for the ride.

They don’t mention the aliens who want to exterminate humans again. They don’t delve deeper into why humans abandoned earth in the first place. We really don’t learn anything new once the lengthy, exposition heavy opening ends.

We simply follow Kitai as he dodges bad CG monkeys, birds and other carnivorous beasts like these:

Of course, at the center of the story is a boy trying to free himself from fear and be like his father. A talent known as ghosting. Why? Because it literally makes you invisible to the alien attack dogs… Who are conveniently blind.  I think a lot of people will compare this plot device to the water used in the finale of Signs.

Full disclosure: Signs is one of my favorite movies of all time. It came along at the right time and inspired me. I love that movie.

I did not love After Earth. The movie looks nice, aside from bad creature effects but manages to provide less answers than Prometheus.  Approaching Signs from the minimal perspective of a family on a farm worked. But shrinking such a grand mythology in order to focus on the father/son relationship backfired in my opinion.  I would have rather seen Will Smith in action more and wound him in the third act.  Then let the son rise up and make his father proud.  Of course, that’s my opinion.

What I did like was the tension Shyamalan created throughout the film.  A particularly strong moment occurs when Cypher can see & hear his son but cannot communicate with him. This leads to an emotional moment when he sees his son’s growth for the first time. It’s a great moment.  There just weren’t enough of them to make the film truly memorable. But that doesn’t mean that it’s as horrible as they say.

I think, realistically, After Earth should probably sit around 50% or slightly below. Some people will like it and some people won’t. I think the movie lost 10% because of bad CG. It lost another 15% percent because of the main characters distracting accents. (Something you learn to live with as the movie progresses) I think the final 10-15% is lost due to M. Night Shyamalan’s damaged reputation.

His movies started out amazing and I’m the first to admit I was a massive fan of his early work. I’m also the first to admit that I haven’t really liked a movie he’s made since The Village.  Still, After Earth is the closest I’ve come to liking a Shyamalan film in years. It’s not a come back but he still has a fantastic eye for filmmaking and I hope he matches that talent with a worthy story soon.

Prediction: Shyamalan will announce his return to the supernatural ghost genre soon. Or he will write Unbreakable 2. It will be an effort to remind people what he was once capable of. I’m still interested to see what he does next.

As for Will Smith, who is credited with After Earth’s story, it’s unfortunate that his attempt to do a big budget movie with his own son has seemingly failed. A summer movie starring Will Smith is SUPPOSED to open at #1. I’m willing to give him a pass on this as he did get to make this with his son and he spends most of the movie in a chair pressing buttons.

After Earth will probably be labeled as another Shyamalan flop in the history books but I still think there are people who will connect with the material. I certainly wanted to see more but I expected something a little different. I would still recommend it if you were curious before the reviews came out. You never know which movies will surprise you.  I certainly didn’t see Signs coming.

Click here for more Reviews.

To Enjoy ‘Now You See Me’ You Really Have To Look Closely

June 3, 2013 at 8:01 am

To Enjoy 'Now You See Me' You Really Have To Look Closely

SOME MOVIE TWISTS DON’T STICK

In every summer movie season, there are massive franchises that dominate.  This year is no different.  Movie studios have already unleashed Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6 and more…  Not too mention Man of Steel, The Wolverine and other big movies yet to arrive.

While the sequels, reboots and remakes command the majority of the attention, there are always underdogs looking to surprise audiences.  It’s hard to call giant blockbusters like Pacific Rim underdogs but they ARE new movies in every sense of the word.  These movies must find an audience amongst the weekly assault of studio tent poles.

Now, movies like Pacific Rim or Elysium will most likely do well because of the sheer amount of ambition shown in their trailersWhat about the smaller movies like Now You See Me?  They have ambition too!

As the summer approached, I was intrigued at the thought of a ‘magical’ caper.  I wasn’t expecting The Prestige but I thought it looked like a potential sleeper hit.  Still, even though I was looking forward to it, I felt like the film had to really deliver to stand out.

Now You See Me is like the shortest kid in class being forced into the back row of a class picture.  You know they are there but you can’t see them.  I’ve seen the film now and I can tell you it’s originality earns itself a place in that photo but it belongs in the back row.

Now You See Me begins with an intriguing premise and a rapidly developed mythology surrounding an ancient organization called The Eye.  Believing they are being recruited into this super secret organization, 4 magicians stage a series of robberies in an effort to impress.  But impress who?

That’s where the film lost me.  Everything was leading to a big reveal that ultimately felt disappointing.  I felt like they cheated by constantly including scenes with the sole purpose of throwing you off course.  These scenes work in some cases but if the twist doesn’t stick, they seem forced.  It comes across like the filmmakers were over confident in their big reveal but in the end, I think they underestimated audiences. 

By the time the story morphed into a revenge tale, they seemed to completely throw the mythology out the window.  The individual behind it all didn’t HAVE to come up with this overly complicated plan to succeed.  The 4 magicians weren’t needed.  As soon as the twist was revealed the movie ended for me and all I could see was a series of plot devices.  One after another built to make you think the movie is smarter than it is.  You could have removed The Eye from the film along with about 30 minutes of time they spent setting it up.  None of it was really needed in the end.

I really wish they followed through with the promises they made in the first act.  Instead you are forced to believe everything you see without question.  If you can do that, this film has a chance to surprise you.  If you can’t, you’ll see right through the illusions.

Movies like Now You See Me risk everything on the big reveal.   The ones that stick become classics like The Prestige.  The ones that don’t become movies like M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening…  It’s an admirable risk and I certainly don’t feel like I wasted my money.   On the other hand, I do feel like renting this movie a few months from now would have sufficed.

Click here for more Reviews.

Game of Thrones Moment: The Rains of Castamere

June 3, 2013 at 7:10 am

Game of Thrones Moment: The Rains of Castamere | Season 3 Episode 9

SEASON 3 EPISODE 9
THE RAINS OF CASTAMERE

MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT…  SERIOUSLY!

I didn’t see a single episode of Game of Thrones until the first season ended.  People at work kept talking about an epic new series that I absolutely had to see.  I gave the show a chance and wound up watching the entire season in a day or two.  But I wasn’t hooked until Ned Stark’s lost his head.  It was clear that Game of Thrones did not adhere to traditional television rules.  No one is ever safe on this show including the main protagonist.  They’ve done it again.

Before I get to this week’s obvious pick for best moment, I want to express my thanks to everyone I know that has read the books.  Holding on to the secret of the Red Wedding must have been excruciating throughout the last three seasons.  No one I know spoiled this heartbreaking moment and somehow I managed to avoid all spoilers online..

I didn’t see it coming. (Final spoiler warning)

The Rains of Castamere is as close to perfect as television can be.  Once again, Game of Thrones gave us a reminder that no one is safe including the King in the North.  I can’t even imagine how readers of the novels must have felt watching Robb travel to his death over the years.  Then it finally arrives.  Walder Frey welcomes Robb, Talisa and Cat into his home and promptly betrays them all.

Much like Ned’s death, this was a series defining moment.

The ruthless scene is highlighted by Cat in what is surely an award worthy performance as she watches her eldest son die.  I felt the same devastation she did.  Robb has long been a favorite of mine but those damn Lannisters are always a mile ahead of everyone.

This morning I woke up thinking about the remaining heroes and who could be next.  Daenerys?  Tyrion? Arya?  Jon Snow? Slowly the heroes of Westeros are becoming extinct.  Out numbered by ruthless jerks like King Joffrey, Walder Frey, Tywin Lannister and more.

I love this show BECAUSE of the sadness I felt when the credits rolled silently on my television (nice touch by the way).  I sat there stunned wondering how this phenomenal season of television will end next week.  Then I was sad all over again because it all ends next week…  Dammit I love Game of Thrones.

The Rains of Castamere will surely be known as one of Game of Thrones’ best episodes containing a legendary moment I’ll never forget.  I still can’t believe I managed to avoid this monumental spoiler.  Part of me wants to pick up the novels I purchased last year to find out what’s coming next…  It’s a tough call.

In other news… Holy crap!  I can’t believe that happened!

COUNTDOWN | Best Moments: Game of Thrones Season 2

XTRA | Screenwriting & The Game of Thrones Theme

CATCH UP:

Episode 1 Moment: Valar Dohaeris

Episode 2 Moment: Dark Wings, Dark Words

Episode 3 Moment: Walk of Punishment

Episode 4 Moment: And now his watch is ended

Episode 5 Moment: Kissed by fire

Episode 6 Moment: The Climb

Episode 7 Moment: The Bear and the Maiden Fair

Episode 8 Moment: Second Sons

Screenwriting Sparks on Twitter

June 1, 2013 at 8:55 am

The Screenwriting Spark

50+ FANTASTIC FOLLOWS

So far, I’ve featured The Ultimate Guide to Screenwriting Websites and 25 Inspiring Screenwriting Blogs over at The Screenwriting Spark.  Now it’s time to switch the focus from screenwriting websites to screenwriting resources on Twitter.

Over at The Spark, you’ll find a page devoted to screenwriting on Twitter including a huge list of must follow screenwriters.  Over 50 passionate people tweeting about their screenwriting adventures and providing limitless resources that will surely inspire.

CLICK HERE FOR SCREENWRITING ON TWITTER

Follow The Screenwriting Spark on Twitter @writingspark.  Don’t forget to subscribe for email updates on all the latest sparks.