Tag Archives: action

TOP 9 FILMS THAT DESERVED A SEQUEL

There are many film franchises that seem to go on forever. Many of which we could well do without.  However, once in a while a movie comes along that deserves  a sequel but for one reason or other never had another instalment made. So without further ado, here is my top pick of the best movies that deserved a sequel but never got one…

 

Magnificent poster… sort of pretty good film.

DOC SAVAGE (1975)

Old was new again in the 1970s. If Star Wars channelled the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s, then Doc Savage channelled, well, Doc Savage! The mightiest of pulp heroes was reborn with former TV Tarzan Ron Ely stepping into the jodphurs. Also known as The Man of Bronze (he likes bronze things) we catch up with Doc meditating in the Arctic beside his own private igloo-come-secret-headquarters before he gets a message that the world is in peril. Doc assembles his team of – ahem – experts, including national stereotypes from around the world (the Brit carries an umbrella, the Irishman has red hair and carries a pig etc etc) to stop an evil cult unleashing animated green snakes on the population while they search for El Dorado. Yes, it’s that kind of a plot.

What makes Doc Savage so good, however, is the hokey sense of humour. We see Doc pull a bullet out of a wall with such force that his bulging bicep tears his own shirt apart. And the finale which features Doc employing dozens of different kinds of martial art, each with its own subtitle, will make the kid in you chortle for more.

At the end of this rip-roaring adventure, we are told Doc Savage will return in Doc Savage and The Arch Enemy of the World. Unfortunately, the producers lied. There were indeed plans for a sequel, but despite being directed by the great George Pal (War of the Worlds) the film suffered from negative reviews and a sequel was abandoned.

Will it ever be made?

Probably not. Since 1975, several attempts to make a new Doc Savage film have failed. Notably, Frank Darabont and Sam Raimi have all tried to resurrect the project, but so far none have succeeded. At the age of 80, Ron Ely is probably not a contender to reprise his earlier role. However, we do already have a “Doc Savage remake” in the form of none other than Indiana Jones. The titular hero of several films is undoubtedly closely based on Doc Savage and other pulp heroes of the time!

 

FLASH GORDON (1980)

“Flash! Flash, I Love you, but we only have 14 hours to save the Earth!”

So says Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) in what is to date the best live action version of the iconic pulp fiction character Flash Gordon. The movie sees Flash (Sam J Jones) and his compatriots Dale and Zarkov (Topol) land on the Planet Mongo to try and stop the evil alien dictator Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow). The film sees Flash go from hero to zero to hero as he is killed (!) then resurrected, only to unite the tribes of Mongo and overthrow Ming’s rule. But Ming is not quite dead. As the closing credits roll, we see Ming re-emerge offscreen from his “magic” ring and start to cackle with evil laughter. “The End?” asks the title card.

Sadly, yes it was. Although a terrific, fun movie with a legendary Queen soundtrack, Flash Gordon was not a huge success compared to its large budget. Added to this was a reported falling out between star Jones and the producers. Hence a sequel was never made. Since then we’ve had a lacklustre TV series and a superb animated version. But so far we have yet to learn what happened when Ming returned.

Will it ever be made?

Well, the hugely successful gross-out comedy Ted (2012) saw Jones once again donning the lightning-bolt in a dream sequence where he rides his skycycle with Mark Wahlberg on the back. Jones retuned again as himself in Ted 2 (2015). But with an ageing cast who have since become successful in their own right, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever get to hear Prince Vultan’s imperious voice belting out “Gordon’s alive?” again any time soon. We’re more likely to settle for a CGI-heavy reboot.

 

I literally cannot believe that I never mentioned Hawk the Slayer before.

HAWK THE SLAYER (1980)

The early 1980s were a strange time. Take this British fantasy film starring the mighty Jack Palance as the evil Zoltan (Hmm, that name seems familiar) who murders the beloved of straight-laced Hawk, who promptly puts his eye out with a torch. Zoltan, quite understandably peeved at this, raises an army to go around and pillage stuff in the service of an evil sorcerer/demon/ the Devil (?). Our hero Hawk responds by raising a rag-tag band of mercenaries (was there ever any other kind?) including the last elf, a giant (well, a very big man anyway), a dwarf, a one-armed bloke with some kind of wicked semi-automatic crossbow-thingy, and a witch who likes letting off party streamers. Cue Armageddon.

It sounds like I’m poking fun at this film, and I am. But I still love it dearly. The score is a fantastic mixture of electronic synth-pop craziness that is more than a little like Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, and the last elf in the world is a great character. There are also some terrific British character actors such as Patrick Magee and Roy Kinnear who ham it up to the max. And we get to see Palance at his scenery-chewing finest.

We end with Zoltan’s mentor/demon/whatever recovering his body and promising he will live again. But will he?

Will it ever happen?

Believe it or not, it almost has. As late as 2015 a sequel called Hawk the Hunter was rumoured to be in development with a budget of $5 million. However the Kickstarter campaign failed and so far attempts to make the sequel have gone quiet. But with Rebellion, the game company that owns British comic 200AD planning to release a game based on the property and a potential TV series in the works, anything is possible!

 

You may be cool, but you’ll never be Peter Strauss and Molly Ringwald on an alien desert planet cool.

SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE! (1983)

Ah, the Eighties. Among other things, it gave us two Hollywood icons: king of the TV movie Peter Strauss and princess of coming-of-age movies Molly Ringwald. So it was inevitable that at some point they would appear in the same sci-fi movie together!

The movie is an enjoyable-as-hell Mad Max clone set in outer space. Strauss plays an interstellar bounty-hunter (Wolff, with two “f”s ) who lands on an irradiated planet full of mutants and Road Warrior leftovers looking for three shipwrecked (or is that space-wrecked?) rich girls. Along the way he picks up Ringwald, who does her typical dishevelled-waif-who-later-turns-into-fanciable-princess thing. Add a rabid Michael Ironside into the mix as warlord Overdog (was there ever a better bad guy name?) and you have the awesomeness that is Spacehunter! Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, it was filmed in 3D!!

Will it ever be made?

No.

I love this movie. It is cheesy, but the practical effects mean that it has dated pretty well. There are a lot of very derivative ideas, but so what? It’s a hugely entertaining movie that is basically wish fulfilment. It’s also the kind of film I wish they made more of nowadays. An adventure yarn and nothing more with no pretensions of grandeur. I would love the hell out of a sequel starring Mr. Strauss, but I doubt very much whether he would pick up that mantle again, especially as he is now a successful citrus-farmer and former horse ranch owner. Animated series, anybody?

 

BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)

Okay, at this point if I have to tell you very much about Big Trouble in Little China, the John Carpenter movie with Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall and James Hong, we are in big trouble ourselves. Briefly, the plot is an insane mash-up of martial-arts movie, 1970s exploitation film, action film, comedy and supernatural horror featuring a truck driver (Russell) who goes up against centuries-old supernatural bad guy Lo Pan to recover the girlfriend of his Chinese-American friend (Dennis Dunn) and her reporter friend (Cattrall in her best film role), along with bus-driver and warlock Egg Shen. Got it? Good.

The film ends with Russell famously leaving Cattrall (what a dope!) and heading off in his trusty rig, the Pork Chop Express, driving into the night and issuing a salutary warning to other CB radio users that there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in anybody’s philosophy. Cue an oriental demon that crawls up the back of his truck, hungry for revenge!

Will it happen?

Very possibly!

Although there has been a graphic novel follow-up, Dwayne Johnson (yes, that one) was reportedly attached to develop a remake. Carpenter responded by saying he was “ambivalent” about the project.  Phew. However, as late as 2018 Seven Bucks Productions confirmed they are developing a sequel, no less, with Russell in the lead! Let’s hope it happens, as nobody can replace Russell as hard-boiled but inept actin hero Jack Burton.

 

The Goonies, making overweight kids everywhere feel terrible about their bodies.

THE GOONIES (1985)

Another film that should hopefully need no explanation, this movie about a bunch of high school losers following a treasure map was one of the best adventure films of the 1980s. With a memorable soundtrack and feel-good performances the film was a bone-fide sensation.

Will it happen?

There have been as many rumours about a Goonies sequel as there are clues to One-Eyed Willie’s treasure. Director Richard Donner and the film’s stars have said yes and no several times. Why on earth no sequel was made nearer the time is a mystery. Several of the cast such as Josh Brolin and Sean Astin have gone on to bigger and bigger roles, making a reunion unlikely. But… you never know. As recently as 2017 former stars were saying a remake would happen, although original writer Chris Columbus played down such rumours. But with a slimmed down Chunk and Brolin currently playing Thanos… well, I’m not going to say one way or the other.

 

Spooky but fun: Loose Women – I mean, Hocus Pocus.

HOCUS POCUS (1993)

This massively enjoyable film has become a Halloween favourite. A live-action Disney picture like the ones they used to make, it stars the irreplaceable Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and rubber-faced Kathy Najimy as three witch sisters who get a second chance at life one Halloween, provided they sacrifice a sweet little girl. Her brother, however has other ideas, as does a reanimated cat. The witches cause mayhem in the modern American town, but it’s all good, clean spooky fun along with some killer songs from Midler and Parker. The film ends with the witches ending up as toast while the family gets a much-deserved happy ever after, even the cat.

Will it be made?

It seems everyone wants a sequel except the studio. Stars Midler and Parker have both said they would return to reprise their roles. The film suffered from negative reviews on release but has a strong fan base on home video that has made it a family favourite. There has even been a novelisation set 25 years later. As of 2017 screenwriter Mick Garris said he was working on a sequel, but this turned out later to be a remake, which has yet to materialize. But if it’s one thing we have learned, thanks to the success of Twin Peaks and Tron Legacy, it’s that long-delayed sequels can work. Let’s hope Disney sees sense and gives us another helping of the Sanderson sisters rather than a sloppy remake.

 

    Tron Legacy. Like Tron, only more so.

TRON LEGACY (2010)

For some reason, this film is often underrated or overlooked. Yet it stands as one of the most visually stunning sci-fi films of recent years and has a phenomenal soundtrack from Daft Punk that has become the background to many a car advert.

The film is a direct sequel to ground-breaking 1982 Disney film Tron about a computer programmer, Flynn (Jeff Bridges) who is zapped into his own machine and forced to play video games for his life. The sequel follows Flynn’s son (Garett Hedlund) who is similarly zapped while searching for his dad, who has been missing for over 20 years. Turns out dad was trapped in the video world after one of his creations (also played by Jeff Bridges but digitally de-aged) seized control of the computer domain.

The film is full of stunning SFX and set-pieces, such as the all-new light-cycles, while new discovery Olivia Wilde sets the screen alight as kick-ass pixie dream girl Quora. Shot in 3D, the films used some experimental FX which perhaps do not stand up well to repeated viewings, but as a sci-fi film with a real heart and soul, which takes the original further, it is a highly satisfying and entertaining ride.

Will it happen?

Who knows? There has already been an animated cartoon series. For several years Disney has been on and off about the project. Its stars and director joseph Kosinski have repeatedly said it is or is not happening. The latest status for the project is that it is in “cryogenic freeze”. But just like Tron himself, here’s hoping that you can’t keep a good program down forever.

 

Gremlins (1984). Cuter than their CGI cousins.

GREMLINS II (1990)

The original Gremlins (1984) was a breakout summer hit that was, sadly, classified as a 15 in the UK, meaning I didn’t get to watch it in the cinema. However, this loveable tale of homicidal mutant creatures on the rampage in a small town one Christmas has become a holiday favourite. It spawned a sequel in 1990 that was, shall we say, not up to par. Despite the presence of Christopher Lee, the second tale set in a biotechnology lab lacked the charm of the original, with its ho-hum premise and its constant riffing off other Hollywood films – notably the Rambo trilogy.  It seemed like we had heard the last of the friendly little Mogwai and his rather more disturbing alter-egos.

Will it be made?

Probably.

For the past few years, Gremlins 3 has been gaining more and more traction. Its star Zach Galligan has been actively campaigning for a practical effects-based sequel. Ideas such as Gremlins in Vegas and Gremlins in the White House (God, please no) have been mooted.  Writer Chris Columbus has suggested the story go into some very dark places indeed.  It seems we may get a Gremlins sequel, but not the one we imagined. That little Mogwai is always full of surprises…

So there ends my top 9 films that deserved a sequel. Do you agree with this list? Have I left anything out? Let me know, and I may just have to write a sequel!

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Bonus post! How to write Hollywood action lines part 3!

Here is something that trips me up time and time again, and I’ve seen even the most seasoned screenwriters falls for it. So I thought I would include it in this bonus post about how to write Hollywood-style action lines in your screenplay.

This tip can be summed up in one word:

EDIT.

What I mean is, you should always be trying to REMOVE UNNECESSARY WORDS.

Do you have a screenwriting bible?

I do.

It contains everything I’ve ever leant about screenwriting in bullet point form. Only I can understand it, which is fine because it’s only for my use. But in it, I’ve written down the words I should try to avoid at all costs.

And now I’m sharing them with you.

So here they are:

“But”

“And”

“As”

“Is/Are/Am”

“Both”

“Then”

“Just”

“We See”

Please note: if you read a lot of produced screenplays written by professional screenwriters, you will probably see these words being used over and over again. The difference between them and you?

They got paid already.

Another point worth mentioning is: don’t go overboard. If you include one “but” in a 110 page script, chances are it won’t make any difference. Also, if you edit your action lines down too much, they may not make sense. Removing every “a” or “the” will confuse the reader. Sometimes you might even want to deliberately break the rules to make more of an impact on the reader.

So use common sense.

But before you start marketing your script, a simple search for these words will allow you to edit them out of existence and strengthen your action lines. And that might be enough to tip the scales in your favour.

Now if only I’d used this tip on my last script…

How to Write Hollywood-Style action lines Part 2!

Here is the second chapter of how to write action lines.

Now, I’m not professing to write like any of the people whose work I’m about to discuss. However, I have noticed certain things which we as writers can do to make our action lines more professional. And this isn’t just for screenwriters, either. I believe that everyone (myself included) would benefit from analysing the style of the masters.

That said, I’m going to begin with a non-screenwriter.

Stan Lee is a comic book legend. The man who invented Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and many many more. Comic book style is even terser than screenwriting. They only have one caption to get across a lot of information.

Here is a passage I read from the Amazing Spider-Man a while ago:

“You’ll see Spidey turning to a psychiatrist for help after he becomes convinced he may be going mad! And wait’ll you learn who the mysterious shrink himself turns out to be. Next, our hero has to a battle a seemingly indestructible robot, and if that isn’t enough, the deadly mechanical marauder is actually controlled by the sneering, leering, J. Jonah Jameson himself!”

Notice anything?

If you’ve ever heard Stan the Man talk, you can probably hear his intonation ringing in your head right now. But let’s boil it down to some simple rules.

Let’s take another look:

“You’ll see Spidey turning to a psychiatrist for help after he becomes convinced he may be going mad! And wait’ll you learn who the mysterious shrink himself turns out to be. Next, our hero has to a battle a seemingly indestructible robot, and if that isn’t enough, the deadly mechanical marauder is actually controlled by the sneering, leering, J. Jonah Jameson himself!”

Lee’s style is so bold that generations of comic writers have mimicked him. Here we see several of Stan’s tell-tale traits at work. And if that isn’t a clue, nothing is!

Notice the sentence structure contains adjectives before most of the nouns (except for the proper noun ‘Spidey’, which is really a name). You have a “mysterious shrink”, a “seemingly indestructible robot”, and a “deadly mechanical marauder”.

Which brings us to our next Stan Lee trait: alliteration (words that begin with the same letter for those without an English degree). Phrases like: “Mechanical marauder”, and of course J. Jonah Jameson himself. Many more Stan Lee heroes are alliterative, too. Like Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, and Matt Murdock. Lee once said he did that on purpose so he could remember the names, but whatever the reason, it makes the phrases have even more impact.

There you go, two simple ways to make your action lines stand out: alliteration and adjectives.

However…

Just remember that screenplays are also sparse. They are images. Easy to follow. Easy to read. Mainly written in high school English. So do don’t go jumping for your Thesaurus just yet.

Consider this passage:

“The front of the Opera House is open only to foot traffic these days. A bizarre place on a Friday night, hawkers and whores, the rabble, the poor and the curious mill around the crudely built platforms and brightly lit stands. Zhora, in just a translucent raincoat, is not out of place in this flea market atmosphere. Trying not to run, she slices through the mob as quickly as she can. Deckard is not far behind, dodging and side-stepping, trying to move against the tide of people scurrying for shelter

She comes to an intersection and turns out of the mall onto a less crowded street. She glances over her shoulder as she breaks into a run and runs right into a couple of pedestrians. All three go down.

Deckard comes out of the crowd in time to spot her getting to her feet. She sees him and runs. The two pedestrians are in his line of fire. He runs past them and drops to one knee, leveling his blaster

DECKARD

Stop or you’re dead!

She doesn’t.”

 

That’s an excerpt from the screenplay “Bladerunnner” by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, based (very loosely) on the novel by Phillip K Dick.

Let’s take a closer look:

The first paragraph sets the scene with a beautiful description that is little more than implied. But there are those adjectives again: “crudely-built”, “translucent”. However, as the action builds momentum, the prose becomes sparser and leaner. The sentences grow short. Simple. Fast. The pace builds until the climax…

Here, the screenwriters use sentence structure to create a sense of energy and pace. The action-filled nature of the scene is also emphasized by the strong verbs and tenses. Zhora “slices through the mob” Notice, she “slices”. She doesn’t just run or walk through them. This creates a feeling that she is powerful and determined. Meanwhile Deckard dodges and side-steps. He has to get out of people’s way. He is her physical inferior.

As the pace quickens, the verbs become even leaner: Zhora turns, glances, runs,  until she collides with more pedestrians.

A useful rule is to try to get rid of any “is” verbs. Is running. Is walking. Is grabbing. Is talking. These are static words that slow the reader down. Better to say he or she runs, walks, grabs, talks.

Time for a third example:

The granddaddy of all powerful prose has to be Robert E Howard, with his Conan stories. You will see similar patterns to Stan Lee in his work, which is effortless to read. Here is an excerpt from Conan’s battle with a sorcerer in “Black Colossus”:

“He cast his staff and it fell at the feet of Conan, who recoiled with an involuntary cry. For as it fell it altered horribly; its outline melted and writhed, and a hooded cobra reared up hissing before the horrified Cimmerian. With a furious oath, Conan struck, and his sword sheared the horrid shape in half.”

Notice the adjectives (marked in italics). Also notice the strong verbs: “He cast”, Conan “recoiled”, it “fell”, his sword “sheared” it in half.

I’ve found that a simple sentence structure works best:

adjective +subject + verb + adjective + object.

However, as with everything to do with writing, feel free to be as creative as you like.

In pointing out these stylistic devices, I’ve tried not to be prescriptive. However, Howard’s prose is extraordinarily powerful, as is Stan Lee’s, with its jokey, friendly, informal tone. While other screenwriters like David Peoples carve out lean, action-packed sentences to speed up the action.

By far the best way to discover what works is to read screenplays. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. Only then do you get a sense of what a Hollywood script looks like. And then, of course, you can find your own voice as a writer.

But that is a post for another time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

How to Write Hollywood-style action lines — part 1

Today, here are some tips on how to do the above – write action lines like the ones you see in Hollywood screenplays. Style can make or break a script, or turn a great story into a terrible script.

The main aim of all stylistic devices in a screenplay is… to get the reader to read yor script.

That’s it.

So how do you do that?

Create suspense.

Use short sentences.

Make it a vertical reading experience.

See?

 Here are some examples:

The “vertical” style was perhaps most famously used in “Alien”. Here is a sample taken from the revised script by Walther Hill and David Giler, based on the original script by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett:

“SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE:

INT. ENGINE ROOM

Empty, cavernous.

INT. ENGINE CUBICLE

Circular, jammed with instruments.
All of them idle.
Console chairs for two.
Empty.

INT. OILY CORRIDOR – “C” LEVEL

Long, dark.
Empty.
Turbos throbbing.
No other movement.

INT. CORRIDOR – “A” LEVEL

Long, empty.

INT. INFIRMARY – “A” LEVEL

Distressed ivory walls.
All instrumentation at rest.”

Pretty obvious why it’s called the “vertical” style, right? The aim is to make the reader’s eye naturally flow down the page thus causing him or her to TURN OVER and start reading the next page. Do that enough times and the reader will actually finish your screenplay.

But you don’t need to be so drastic. Back in 1978 that was fresh writing. Nowadays it’s more a throwback. Also, this tends to use up a lot of pages.

Here’s a slightly more modern example, from a draft of “Scream” written by Kevin Williamson:

“FADE IN

ON A RINGING TELEPHONE.

A hand reaches for it, bringing the receiver up to the face of
CASEY BECKER, a young girl, no more than sixteen.  A friendly face
with innocent eyes.

CASEY
Hello.

MAN’S VOICE
(from phone)
Hello.

Silence.

CASEY
Yes.

MAN
Who is this?

CASEY
Who are you trying to reach?

MAN
What number is this?

CASEY
What number are you trying to reach?

MAN
I don’t know.

CASEY
I think you have the wrong number.

MAN
Do I?

CASEY
It happens. Take it easy.

CLICK! She hangs up the phone.  The CAMERA PULLS BACK to reveal
Casey in a living room, alone.  She moves from the living room to
the kitchen.  It’s a nice house.  Affluent.

The phone RINGS again.

INT.  KITCHEN

Casey grabs the portable.

CASEY
Hello.

MAN
I’m sorry. I guess I dialed the wrong number.

CASEY
So why did you dial it again?

MAN
To apologize.

CASEY
You’re forgiven. Bye now.

MAN
Wait, wait, don’t hang up.

Casey stands in front of a sliding glass door.  It’s pitch black
outside.

CASEY
What?

MAN
I want to talk to you for a second.

CASEY
They’ve got 900 numbers for that. Seeya.

CLICK!  Casey hangs up.  A grin on her face.

EXT.  CASEY’S HOUSE – NIGHT – ESTABLISHING

A big country home with a huge sprawling lawn full of big oak
trees.  It sits alone with no neighbors in sight.

The phone RINGS again.”

This is a nice, flowing style that leads your eye down the page. Notice how the sentences are short. Clipped. And, in some cases, incomplete.

There is also far less detail than you think in these lines. The writers were adept at using minimal words to convey a setting. The reader’s mind fils in the blanks. In fact “Alien” uses only two words to describe a spaceship’s engine room.

So the next time you think about adding a ten-line paragraph to explain that this is a comfortable, well-furnished craftsman-style house that nestles on the edge of town surrounded by sycamore trees with a luxury car parked on the drive outside… think again.

Which brings me to my second tip .

Don’t overdo it.

Some sentences belong together. When you try to force them into a vertical pattern, you actually break the flow and make it more difficult to read down the page. For example, here’s a passage from the script of “The Bourne Identity” by Tony Gilroy, based on the novel by Robert Ludlum:    

INT. FISHING BOAT BUNK ROOM — DAWN — TIME CUTS

Transformed into a makeshift operating room.  A light swings
overhead.  THE MAN layed out across the table.  Sounds —
groans — words — snatches of them — all in different
languages.

GIANCARLO playing doctor in a greasy kitchen apron.  Cutting
away the clothes.  Turning THE MAN on his side.  Two bullet
wounds in the back.  Probing them, judging them.

Now — GIANCARLO with a flashlight in his teeth — TINK —
TINK — TINK — bullet fragments falling into a washed-out
olive jar.

Now — something catching GIANCARLO’S EYE — A SCAR ON THE
MAN’S HIP — another fragment — exacto knife cutting in —
tweezers extracting A SMALL PLASTIC TUBE, not a bullet at
all, and as it comes free —

THE MAN’S HAND SLAMS down onto GIANCARLO’S”…

This is still a pretty vertical read. However it would have been even more vertical to separate each sentence out onto separate lines, like so: 

“Transformed into a makeshift operating room.

A light swings overhead.

THE MAN layed out across the table.

Sounds — groans — words — snatches of them — all in different languages.

GIANCARLO playing doctor in a greasy kitchen apron.

Cutting away the clothes…”

And so on. But does this make it any better? No. Sometimes it’s worse to force the reader to look at a new line. The most important thing is to preserve the flow. I’ve read lots of amateaur screenplays where the writer thought they were doing the reader a favour by splitting lines up in this way. But  it actualy makes it harder to read them.

It’s a judgment call. And the best way to decide is to look at other scripts. There are plenty of them on the Internet these days. Break them down the way you would an Enlgiash Literature exercise.

And that’s exactly what we’ll be doing in Part 2.

See you then!

Confessions of a British Screenwriter – Recycled

Today, I thought I would share a link to an embarassingly old and badly written article I did for Moviebytes.com when I had my first screenplay sale. So without further ado…

http://moviebytes.com/NewsStory.cfm?StoryID=3899

Guns, girls, and robots. What's not to like?

Guns, girls, and robots. What’s not to like?

My Name is ‘Err’: A Screenwriters Journey

By Eric Steele

It was a blisteringly hot day in Hollywood. My writing partner and I had been worn down by a punishing heatwave that pushed temperatures up to a hideous 120 degrees. As we both came from Manchester, England – a city renowned for precipitation in a country where summer just means that the rain gets warmer – for us this was the equivalent to walking on the planet Mercury. If Mercury had been filled with dangerous-looking winos and suicidal motorists.

We’d decided to visit an eatery in televisionland known as Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. The guide book assured us it was a good place to spot the stars. Taking our place in line, we sizzled on the sidewalk like a couple of English poached eggs. After an eternity of this torture, the Emcee asked us what our names were. “Err,” I began. But before I could use my best Hugh Grant impression, he disappeared back inside the tempting darkness of the doorway.

“Table for Mister Errrr…” he intoned.

Of course, I couldn’t correct him without opening up a whole new can of worms. I might as well have been speaking Portugese for all the good it did. Obviously a case of “You say tomayto, I say tomahto”.

We seated ourselves in a booth and soon learned why it was called “chicken and waffles.” As I dug into my plate of fried chicken at ten o’clock in the morning, I chose to reflect upon how much this reminded me of our whole screenwriting experience so far.

It seemed a far cry from how I had started out – tinkering away in my bedroom in Manchester, reading as many free articles as I could on a then-fledgling Internet, buying whatever books the local stores had in stock (not many), in my impossible quest to somehow get involved in this magical form of storytelling.

The trip to LA proved eye-opening in more ways than one. As we attended meetings without success, we both sank into a kind of delirious despair. Getting lost on foot in Downtown LA or being rear-ended by the daughter of a movie-star on Sunset Boulevard one Saturday night only added to the sense of unreality. Maybe we were just depressed from days spent foot-slogging through graveyards, staring at epitaphs of our long-departed screen idols.

Two years later, we had still to sell a script. Sure, there had been options, near misses. One producer kept us hanging on for over a year until we got an e-mail saying he had decided to work with Paris Hilton instead.

During this time my writing partner and I went our separate ways. He had a young family, and in the end, I guess he decided that “real life” was more important. I soldiered on, until one day I decided to throw caution to the winds, forget about the market, and write the kind of story I would like to see onscreen. The result was my first option with a big production company in LA.

Still nothing happened. I had listed the script with InkTip.com, and they helped me out with a press release. After a few months, I received a phone call from my soon-to-be agent, who had read several scripts and was sufficiently impressed to sign me up.

She told me she wanted to see more family-friendly stuff. I immediately scoured through what passed for my filing system until I found something that would fit the bill…

Among my various screenplays, I’d written a sci-fi television pilot called “Clonehunter”. On a whim, I’d entered it into Scriptapalooza. Although the script didn’t place, they were kind enough to provide me feedback. I scanned the feedback, read the script. Hmm, not exactly Orson Welles, but it was salvageable enough.

Over the next few months I rewrote the script, developing themes and characters, until I had an honest-to-goodness movie script. However, experience had taught me that what seems like Shakespeare to you can seem like Dr. Seuss to someone else, so I workshopped the script at zoetrope.com, where other writers could sling mud at it with impunity. Some of those reviews were gut-wrenching in their honesty, but the script came out a lot better for it. More importantly, it was free.

Some of the scenes I’d written would give James Cameron a headache. Pursuits on hoverbikes, floating casinos, talking gorillas – no sane individual would even think of tackling such a project without a studio budget. But it was just crazy enough to succeed. Besides, I loved the character – David Cain, an intergalactic bounty-hunter who would put Harrison Ford to shame. Not only was Cain’s work questionable, but the more we heard about him, the more we suspected that he might not be a very nice guy either. This was someone who had a history so long he kept secrets from everyone – including his attractive young cyborg partner. And he had an intelligent cat.

I wasn’t expecting anything, so I was truly surprised when I received an e-mail from director Andrew Bellware. He had seen my script on InkTip and wanted to shoot it, using his production company in New York. I was aghast – did he really think he could do it? Well, it might need a little tweaking. I would never see my floating casino (sob). However it would be an outright sale.

My agent hammered out the agreement and Drew then began the looooong process of filmmaking.

Drew kept me informed at every stage of the process. I was flattered that anyone would even care what I thought. Each week he would send me another video of the shoot. Nothing could have prepared me for the sensation of watching the script come alive onscreen. Sometimes I was surprised, sometimes I laughed out loud as an actor said a line in a way I had not expected and turned a boring piece of exposition into something dramatic or even comedic. Most of all, I was amazed that this was actually being pulled off. Even the hoverbike sequence was there! Eat your heart out, Lucas!

The whole experience reminded me that moviemaking is a team sport. Everybody has an input, no matter how small. I felt privileged to have given my contribution. Suddenly, all those years of slaving away over a hot keyboard in a cramped office seemed worthwhile, all those moments of self-doubt as I wondered whether I should be doing this at all dissipated.

Yet, afterwards, here I am again, sat in the same office typing away (admittedly I bought myself a new computer), churning out page after page and knowing that whatever I write will in no way by anything near as good as the movie unfolding in my head – the one nobody will ever see. In a way it’s like starting out all over again. And if it ever does get made, it will take a whole bunch of people to make it happen, not just the director and actors, but set decorators, editors, and everyone else down to whoever buys in the sandwiches.

So is it worth it? Of course. Because that’s the magic of motion pictures – that someone in a tiny suburb of Manchester, a couple of thousand miles away from New York and even further away from Los Angeles, could one day contribute to a movie. If I’ve learned one thing on my ragtag journey, it’s that you should try everything – every angle, every means at your disposal – to market your script. The Internet has revolutionized the world of media. Contests, feedback sites, listing sites – all of these are equally valid ways to get your script produced.

Who knows, we might be able to meet up one day for chicken and waffles!

Cancelled too soon! 10 TV series that should have lasted longer.

Sometimes they left us hanging on the edge of our seats, never knowing what was going to happen to the characters we had watched  for an entire season. Sometimes the shows were too hard to catch due to bizarre scheduling. And sometimes they were just plain unlucky. But for whatever reason, here are 10 shows that I think were cancelled too soon…

10. Flashforward

What the heck was going on? Just when we thought we were getting a handle on the whole situation – a blackout in which most of an American city’s population got a glimpse of their future – the show was axed. A great concept was admittedly dragged out way too long. But the constant surprises kept me coming back for more despite the uneven acting. Who was behind the strange device uncovered that may have caused the blackout? We’ll never know.

9. Automan

Although it may be risible now, “Automan” was groundbreaking stuff in its day. Yet it barely saw out a single series. The titular character is in fact a rather conceited hologram which his creator uses to fight crime. Automan had a variety of Tron-like gadgets he could summon out of thin air, including a car and a helicopter. Not bad for the 1980s!

Special effects, 80s-style, from “Automan”.

8. Earth 2

A surprisingly good sci-fi show from the 1990s that went against the grain by having the first female sci-fi commander, this understated series boasted some darned good actors – Richard Bradford (Man in a Suitcase), Madchen Amick (Twin Peaks) and Tim Curry (everything). But it proved too low-key for its own good, and failed to grab ratings. A shame.

7. Max Headroom

Is it a drama? Is it a music video show? Is it a chat show? Nobody knows, not even the producers it seems. Actually this was a British TV show featuring the world’s first 3D computer generated chat show host. Mr. Headroom was brought to life by Matt Frewer. Loooking back, it’s hard to see how Max did not stay with us for years. But a confusing premise and heavy competition from Miami Vice means that max is now obsolete, along with the Commodore 64 and the Sinclair Spectrum.

MaxheadroomMpegMan

Is it a hologram? Is it a chat show host? No, it’s… Max Headroom!

6. American Gothic

Produced by Saim Raimi (Spider-Man, Evil Dead) this understated supernatural mystery series featured great child actor Lucas Black (who starred opposite Billy BobThornton in Sling Blade) as the kid who knows too much for his own good about mysterious, menacing Sheriff Lucas Buck (Midnight Caller‘s Gary Cole), a small-town cop with powerful supernatural, possibly demonic abilities. A slightly murky plot and a lack of the supernatural may have contributed to its demise. But it was a good idea with some nice acting.

5. Blade

Based on the movie trilogy with rapper Sticky Fingers standing in for Wesley Snipes, this was an amazingly good show, with great plot twists, great supporting characters, and a very stylish production. Blade joins forces with recently-turned vampire Jill Wagner to destroy the vampiric House of Cthon from the inside. Ended on a huge cliffhanger. Blade exhibits the true hallmark of a series that was cancelled too soon — its own box set for fans which continues to sell despite its cancellation.

4. Firefly

Joss Whedon’s sci-fi foray that owes a heavy debt to Star Wars as well as old-fashioned Westerns, Nathan Fillion shines as captain of a motley team of reprobates. Excellent production qualities and solid acting meant that this remains a cult favourite among Whedon’s salivating fans who long to get their teeth into something after Buffy.

3. Streethawk

A cop on a really fast motorcycle hardly seems like a great concept, yet this was a highly entertaining series, mainly due to the polar opposite characters of its leads, the suitably macho-named Jessie Mach (he likes to go fast, you see), and his controller Norman Tuttle (yep, he stays in his shell). With a fantastic score by German techno gods Tangerine Dream and some awesome stunt work, it’s not surprising the show was cancelled as it must have taken a fortune to produce each episode. But you can now relive all 13 of them thanks to DVD.

2. Twin Peaks

Hard to believe that this show is on the list, especially as it lasted for two seasons. But the sudden, shocking twist ending is one of the all-time cliffhangers. Fans will definitely agree the series ended too soon. Will there ever be a resolution? Doubtful.

1. Star Trek

The top series cancelled too soon? Yes, the original sci-fi series. Although it seems like it ran a lifetime, it was cancelled after only three seasons. Its cancellation was in the main due to budget cuts by the network and the move to a different time slot – incredibly so as not to conflict with Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Since then, Star Trek has become firmly entrenched as not just a cult classic but part of the popular culture. It remains a perennial favourite of TV programmers. It’s very rare that an episode of this show isn’t been played on some channel somewhere. That’s why Star Trek is the ultimate series that was cancelled too soon!