Sunday, September 29, 2013

VERONICA MARS' Kristen Bell and Me

If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you know I'm a screenwriter who loves to write stories with strong, smart female leads, and that I'm obsessed with films and television shows featuring such great characters.

So, it's no surprise I nearly fell out of my chair yesterday when Veronica Mars' Kristen Bell tweeted me.

I had just tweeted a photograph of me sporting a t-shirt sent to me for supporting Invisible Children - which I hope you will check out if you don't already know about this important non-profit.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Conquering Hollywood: The Screenwriter's Blueprint for Career Success by Gary W. Goldstein

I've been screenwriting for more than ten years, during which time I've certainly come across a plethora of websites, books and seminars claiming they can teach me "the craft" and "how to hone my talent."

So, I took notice when Gary W. Goldstein tweeted me earlier this year that he was launching a Kickstarter campaign to write a very different sort of book for screenwriters.

I donated to the campaign.

When I finished the book, I had no doubt I'd invested in my future.

Goldstein is a Hollywood film producer and manager for screenwriters. Among his films are Pretty Woman, Under Siege and The Mothman Prophecies. His projects have grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide.

His book is called Conquering Hollywood: The Screenwriter's Blueprint for Career Success and is available as an e-book, paperback and audio book at Amazon.

Conquering Hollywood is a practical guide for new and established screenwriters who want to take control of their careers and, ultimately, become financially successful as writers. It is written by a professional who certainly knows the business. Goldstein's book makes it clear there is no secret handshake or magic trick to success in Hollywood. The table of contents in both book versions makes it easy to jump to the step-by-step directions to succeed in the daily business of being a screenwriter.

After having read the book, I enjoy listening to the audio book, while blogging or tweeting about my writing projects. Goldstein talking in my ear reminds me which steps I've already taken toward controlling my career and which ones still require my attention.

There are lots of excellent books that teach screenwriting. I tell fellow writers to stick with the ones that resonate with them.

But every writer who wants his writing to go from a hobby to a professional career needs to read and put into practice the advice given by Goldstein in his book Conquering Hollywood: The Screenwriter's Blueprint for Career Success.

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Stay" by Steve Grand

Steve Grand premiered his new single and music video, "Stay," an hour or so ago.

I have been playing the video over and over ever since.

You can purchase both versions of the single at iTunes.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Canyons

Producer Braxton Pope (The Source Family) and director Paul Schrader (American Gigolo, Raging Bull) wisely selected Lindsay Lohan and porn-star James Deen to play the leads in The Canyons, written by Bret Easton Ellis (Less Than ZeroAmerican Psycho).

Months before the film simultaneously debuted in theaters and on video on demand (VOD), the media was tripping over itself to report the supposed on-set conflict between its stars, to lament with Schadenfreude-like passion Lohan's long, often court-ordered road to sobriety, and to discourse with titillated unease Deen's prolific work in the adult entertainment industry.

Of course, all of this was excellent publicity for the film, which has nothing to do with the actors' private lives or the commercial porn industry.

The Canyons is about what happens to people when they hand over control of their lives to others. The opening montage of abandoned movie houses underscores this theme: the more frequently studios make bad movies, the less revenue movie houses make, with artistic and financial bankruptcy the inevitable outcome.

My favorite moment in the film occurs in the first scene, when all but the single character who has yet to hand over the reigns of her life to another person act like caged animals arranged around a restaurant table. I was astonished when even the camera swooped away to race over the restaurant's bar, desperate for the waitress to return with the check and set the captives free, if only momentarily.

The Canyons is written by Ellis, so you know things do not end well. Most of the characters are entangled in Deen's character's machinations. It is foreboding that, in a city with a population of 3.8 million, he lives in isolation in a modern marvel of a house shipwrecked against a Malibu canyon wall.

I watched The Canyons twice on VOD its opening weekend. The helplessness, frustration and rage of its characters have stayed with me. Lohan's performance once more leaves no doubt she is the greatest actress of her generation. Deen displays real acting chops as a spoiled control freak writhing under the thumb of his father. Cinematographer John DeFazi brings to life this dystopic world.

Schrader and Ellis' collaboration left me wondering what happens next to the characters populating The Canyons: one apparently gets away with a senseless act of violence; while another, who had hitherto allowed others to control him, now adroitly manipulates another, but to what purpose?

Fans of Ellis' work know his stories link together in unexpected ways. I look forward to the next installment.

You can purchase The Canyons at iTunes.