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Teaching: The Jobs

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(helper web sites mostly!) So, what is wrong with film fiction today? The Good Guys always win. In a recent novel, the good guys win, but barely. In fact, the main good guy is killed about 90% of the way thru the novel and this is the un-doing of the bad guys. So, if there was *some* way to neutralise the main good guy, then they would have gotten away with "it". Now when the novel (excellently written, by a very gifted writer who tried to create a complex and some-what controversial plot) was converted into a film script the "problems" with the novel were "fixed". All of sudden, the bitter-sweet ending (the sacrifice of the hero with his life, now remembered by his daughter) is gone. The "controversies" -- and all of their *cerebral* discussions -- swept clean. And, Lo: No problem! Pablum for the masses. Now, stop me if you've heard this one but: I don't think that people are as stupid as hollywood would make us out to be. The problem is that by writing for the "lowest common denominator" they insult the intellegence of the rest of us. Consequently, we are stuck with mediocre movies. Now, we know the formula: HOllywood doesn't make ANY money on moives in the *domestic* market, but only on the foreign market. Naturally that's why the pop corn costs $5 US a bag (or more), etc. Now of course the "hidden secret" is that "everyone makes money, it's just that the studio doesn't make any profit". Of course creative accounting helps to keep that true as well. Regardless, we get stuff that has to gross a certain number of billions of chrono-dollars during WEEK ONE and hence we get garbage. I think that you can point to really good films that are doomed not to make "enough money" (and hence considered flops -- forget the fact that over the lifetime of the movie they do quite well, thank you very much). Some examples spring to mind: "Girl 6" "What the Bleep do We Know?" "Sketches by Frank Gehry" "2001: A Space Odyssey" And of course the "sleeper" films that (lo!! and suprise!!!) do un-expectedly well: "My Big Fat, Greek Wedding" "Rosmary's Baby" "Monty Python's Life of Bryan" So, where do we go from here?

What the Bleep is Wrong with Hollywood?

For one thing, most of the properties are taken from novels. As such, very few works are written directly as a screenplay. This means, that something is lost in the transition. When we look (an since my particular area of literature is SF...) at films that were tailored for film, we think of things like "2001" and "Star Wars" where the writer/directors are able to more directly turn the work into good film literature. But, there could be more done if the *writers* (that's us chickens, ya'll) are more in tune as to how to write film scripts. Not that things are likely to change. We're still going to be on the "back burner". Fortunately, there are more and more self-produced "B" movies now. So, the key is to write things that CAN work and that don't have to be re-worked. Why? In most B films, you get *one* big scene. An example of this is ??title?? with Treat Williams and ??bad-guy??. There are actually two big bangs -- lots of money. The film's pacing is about as good as you can get, but again i suspect that it was from a treatment that wasn't originally as a film-score. In the same way that as cartoonists, we draw large and then photo-reduce and this "tightens" our work, by writing directly for screen and being aware of the limitations (and possibilities) we can tighten our work. For example, one of the well known evil-do-er of SF (and other genres) Riddley ??sp?? Scott (people supposedly wore t-shirts saying "I no longer fear hell; i've worked for Riddley Scott). The "suits" harrassed him that he didn't have script (or that he was deviating from it). Two of the finest examples of SF under his wing were/are "BladeRunner" (based on Philip K. Dick's "Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep) and "Alien". (Strictly speaking, i would say that "Alien" is SF-horror, but then i'm a fanatic ;) In the same way that Woody Allen doesn't over-direct (in the same way what John Cages didn't/doesn't over-compose), the magic can occur when you have people who know what they are doing and they know the "story" (the "song", the "danse", etc...) of the film and its nature and can bring the narrative to life. And part of that is up to us as film literature authors; as writers. If we create fully-fleshed characrters, then the actors can fill in the gaps; eg, the Jay Leno interview in "Space Cowboys". If we create problems and solutions that are *believable* (not necessarily good, not perfect, but ones that we know the truth of which they speak to), then the director can create the tapestry of the story arc; eg, Girl 6's auditions in "Girl 6". If we create what a blind friend of mine called "full technicolor text", then the set designers, art directors, sound designers, costumers, etc, etc, etc, etc can create our sculpture from the blueprints that we lay down; eg, "Pi", "Pollock", "Sneakers". If we dare to write both plot using the blood of ideas and stay true *that* way of seeing, then the film will attach itself to the neurorecptors of the viewer's brain for all time; eg, "The Miracle Worker", "The Magnificent Seven", "Failsafe", "Heat", etc.