Monday, June 26, 2006
With that in mind...CLICK THE BEAR. BUY MERCHANDISE. MAKE US RICH.
We know a bandwagon when we see one. C'mon. Let's bodysurf this tiny ripple of internet infamy and see how far it takes us. At the very least, let's see if anyone is brave enough to actually wear a t-shirt with the word "RAPEBEAR" in large black letters.
Soon we'll join Chuck Norris, All Your Base Are Belong To Us and that fat kid with the lightsaber in internet hell. But just imagine the small frisson of importance you'll feel when you jump on AIM with your sweaty, stubby fingers and tell Zuckuss2143 that you were here for the start of it all.
Want to become one of those writers? First you'll need a good spec script (short for spectacular scriptment) to prove you have what it takes. If you're not capable of writing one, steal something off the internet.
Step two: get your spec script in the right hands. This part is pretty self-explanatory, so we'll move right along to...
Step three: cash that sweet, sweet first paycheck. Congratulations, you'll never have to work again! (Which is good, because after they discover that your script was cut-and-pasted from a Final Fantasy slashfic site, you won't.)
Sound easy? Trust me, it is. Every staffing season I invariably find myself attached to six or seven shows without even trying. And although the shows will all fire or sue me eventually, that's still six or seven paychecks rolling in simultaneously. And that, my friends, is what being a true artist is all about.
So...an asskicky spec script. How do you write one?
1. Right for the Wright Show
Some screenwriting "experts" will advise you not to write spec scripts for the shows you want to join. It should be pointed out, however, that many of these same experts are the people who told me to stop putting man-eating octopi in all my scripts, which kind of throws their entire screenwriting expertise into question.
Listen, David Chase is sick and tired of getting spec scripts for thematically-similar shows like The Shield and The West Wing. I'm sure he'd be delighted to open up his mailbox to find a fresh and shiny Sopranos script waiting for him. Especially if he found a $20 bill tucked between the pages. You know how those Italians love their money.
2. COVER YOUR BASES
Let's say you're interested in writing for two different shows. The amateur screenwriter will toil away for hours--sometimes even days--until he emerges with two polished and professional spec scripts.
What a goddamned sucker. If you're a pro, you write ONE script. Period.
Here's how you do it:
EXT. FOOTBALL FIELD - DAY
I don't know much about sports, but does this qualify as a late hit?
THE BLACK GUY looks at her with adoration in his eyes.
THE BLACK GUY
Man, you're witty. And pretty. So witty and pretty, and your flaxen hair, oh, how it glows.
(He pokes the dead guy with his black finger.)
Poor old Jock McRunner. Who do you think killed him?
Isn't it obvious?
(Her eyes rise to the heavens.)
It was Captain William Adama of the Battlestar Galactica.
THE BLACK GUY
Dag, yo! I'll go get our spaceship.
3. SHAKE THINGS UP
Showrunners spend every waking moment of their pathetic little lives slaving away to continuity and logic. Or, as I like to call them, Enemy Number One and Enemy Number Two. Do you think they want to waste their free time reading realistic, meticulously-researched scripts? Of course not!
Spec scripts are an excellent opportunity for you to flex your imagination (or Google someone else's imagination, which is often more rewarding). So have fun with your script, and feel free to ignore previously-established continuity if it suits your bastard whims.
Here's a good example from a Two and a Half Men spec I sent around last year. You'll note that it probably retains the general spirit of the show (I say 'probably' because I never got around to watching the damn thing) while jettisoning all that other stuff I couldn't be bothered to research.
INT. KITCHEN - DAY
CHARLIE'S forehead is slick with cokesweat. He forces the barrel of his .357 further down ALAN'S throat.
Say my name! Say it!
Fuck you, white boy! I'm the Angel of Death!
(He pulls back the hammer.)
Say my name!
You're...oh God, you're the Angel of D-death!
Charlie's eyes burn with a terrible fire.
4. TIE UP THE LOOSE ENDS
If you want a surefire way to impress a showrunner, use your spec script to answer all the show's big questions.
It's no secret that series like The X-Files survived for years simply by flinging fresh mysteries at the screen faster than a monkey in a shit factory. After all, a series doesn't have to answer any of its central questions until its very last season, by which point the showrunners will have already retired to some tropical paradise filled with coconut-flavored drinks and Cambodian boywhores.
Here's where you come in. If you can solve all of the show's big mysteries in the space of a few dozen pages, you'll be an automatic hero. At the very least, think of the hush money they'll have to pay you! This is why I always advocate making your spec script the show's very last episode. (The Latin term for this particular episode is finale, with fin meaning "the end" and ale meaning "the stuff you drink after something ends.")
Below is an example that elegantly and awesomely illustrates this strategy:
Hey there, Freckles. Hey there, Jumbo. Hey there, Rex Morgan, M.D.
Dude, I figured out what the numbers mean!
They're the launch code for a nuclear warhead!
I'm a dramatically worthless plot device!
LOCKE, SAYID and MR. EKO enter the cave.
Hey there, Stepfather. Hey there, Bollywood. Hey there, Cocoa Moses.
My friends, I have bested the Monster in mortal kombat and it is no more.
Dude, you killed the Monster? What was it?
(staring hard at the camera)
It all makes perfect sense! PERFECT. SENSE.
If anyone needs me, I will be standing just off-camera, grimly doing nothing.
Hey there, New Pubes.
(dunking a basketball)
I must have created the bees with my psychic brain, just like the polar bears and the Others and everything else that is still a mystery!
This reminds me of a time I was forced to make a painful personal decision.
(His eyes grow misty and faraway.)
But what does it all MEAN?
Uh-oh, fifteen minutes to Wapner!
TITLE CARD: THE END (?)
Friday, June 23, 2006
Well, as a certain man you may have heard of called JESUS CHRIST once said: "Rules were made to be broken!"
There's absolutely nothing to stop you making "suggestions" as to who should play a certain role in your screenplay. Let that casting agent piss and whine! Who cares what they have to say? The union? Ha!
Consider this unused extract from the first draft of a movie you may recognise...
It is raining. Elliot Ness stares despondently at the river far below. An Irish American beat cop saunters up to him, his strong Scottish features calling to mind an older version of the first James Bond, or that guy in the diaper from Zardoz. His thick brogue rolls over our ears with fuzzy warm familiarity.
Now then, now then. Whatsh all thish?
No, there's no benefit in being timid about this sort of thing. If you've carefully built a part around the mannerisms of a certain actor, then don't be coy. It saves time, and shows that you've thought things through. Producers probably love that. If you don't feel confident enough to tailor your lead role around the mannerisms of one unreachable star, then start small - slip in a little cameo.
Take a look at this extract from CHIRORAPTOR (Tagline: He fixes your back, then you're a snack) and see how easy it is to write a recognisable face seamlessly into a screenplay.
The cafeteria lies in ruins. Body parts are strewn everywhere. Blood drips from the ceiling. The ceiling!
Jesus goddamit. The repulso-fences didn't hold. They didn't hold!
FATHER MURPHY DASH
It's bad, sir. It's so very bad. Sergeant Quims is dead, there's no sign of the Fiesta Sisters and the supporting wall has collapsed. I'm afraid we're trapped. Also, there's poisonous gas.
Goddamit seven ways to Superbowl Sunday. It can't end like this.
Unless...the reactor core. We can blow our way out!
I strongly advise against that course of action, Michael.
I know what you think, William Daniels. I suppose you have a better idea?
There is an option that only has a 32% chance of abject failure, Michael.
Shit it all to hell, it'll have to do. Is Chiroraptor still in the area?
Scanning now. Chiroraptor is currently in the day room of the children's ward.
Get me up there NOW!
Very well. Prepare to turbo boost, Michael.
MIKE climbs on the shoulders of WILLIAM DANIELS and together they leap over the crumbling ruins of the hospital walls in slow motion.
Monday, June 19, 2006
Hi, is this ______________?
(Executive's name deleted for whiny lawyer reasons.)
Yeah. Who's this?
Jeremy Slater. You know, the awesome screenwriter. I'm a big fan of your work, by the way. Especially the way you directed Jurassic Park. And that other one...what was it called? Snakes on a Something. Bus? Plane? Plane, right?
That wasn't me.
Shit, I meant Jews on a Train.
Schindler's List. That's what it was called.
Are you sure? That can't be right.
Who is this again?
Jeremy Slater? I, um, sent you my screenplay a few days ago? Just wondering whether you want to buy it or whatever. Make me an offer. I'll take anything.
How did you get this number?
That's not important. Let's focus on RAPEBEAR.
(longest silence yet)
Born in a laboratory! Forged in pain! A thirst for blood...and rape! Rapebear!
I don't...I'm very confused. I don't have any script here like...um...I don't know what's going on here.
Don't do this to me, Stevie. Don't play me like this.
(speaking to someone else)
Marla? Did any scripts come in from a...a Slater?
Oh God, seriously? It's that guy?
Hey, are you the guy who used a magic marker to draw a cartoon bear on the cover...?
...raping, yeah. That's kind of what he does.
(muffled laughter, followed by several seconds of excited whispering)
Mr. Slater? You're on speakerphone. Could you please tell us all a little more about, um, your unique concept?
You mean Rapebear, the bear that rapes?
(Hysterical laughter can be heard.)
Who is that? Who dares to laugh? You're making a powerful enemy here, you son of a--
No, that was just...um, we were watching Home Improvement in the background. That's all.
Oh. Well, that is a very funny show.
Please, go on.
Anyway, since you already know Tom Cruise, I figured he'd be perfect for the role of Lance Bearworthy, disgruntled Park Ranger with a heart of gold. The man whose past hides a terrible secret. About bears, I mean.
Oh my God...
Um...okay. I'm not sure who you should cast as the female love interest, Hunny Fuckable. Maybe Jessica Alba if she's available...
Wait, what was her name again?
Hunny Fuckable. She's a bear biologist with a heart of gold--
(Interrupted by more hysterical laughter.)
Listen, could you maybe turn down Home Improvement?
Sure, sure, we'll get right on that. So this bear you're talking about--
Right, Rapebear. So what's his deal? He, what, terrorizes the countryside or something?
Yes, with his Ursine Shaft of Doom. First he rapes his way through Farmer McOnion's cow pasture--
Okay, so he's killing cows--
No, just raping them a bit. He's kind of gentle. For a bear, anyway. I mean, the cows don't really like it, but they're not exactly fighting it either, if you know what I mean.
ANOTHER UNIDENTIFIED VOICE
I can't breathe. I can't breathe.
Damn it, shush!
Uh-huh. And so this Lance Bearworthy has to stop the bear from raping the cows, is that it?
Oh, Rapebear quickly progresses past cows. Soon he's going after smaller, sexier bears, mountain goats, a schoolbus...
He rapes a schoolbus?
It's kind of the big setpiece of the film. He's thrusting through the windows, all the kids are screaming, he's making this ARRROOOOOOOOO noise...it's awesome.
I'm sure. And the end? Do they stop Rapebear?
Do they ever! See, there's this retarded kid named Gilbert Grape who keeps following Lance Bearworthy around for the entire movie. I figure you could cast either Steve Buscemi or maybe a real retard for the role. Anyway, Lance Bearworthy finally decides to strap sticks of dynamite to Gilbert's chest and sends him into Rapebear's cave...
Wait, they turn the retarded kid into a suicide bomber?
Yeah, but since he's all goofy in the head, he doesn't even know what's going on! That's what makes it so funny!
This went from funny to depressing pretty damn fast.
Um, Mr. Slater? We're going to have to get back to you on this one, okay?
Okie-dokie. But you liked it, right?
It was something else all right. Listen, don't call us, okay? We'll call you.
Super-duper. Have fun with Home Improvement. This is a nice home you got here, by the way. Real fancy.
Wait, what? Hey, where are you calling from?
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
(By the way, don't feel sorry for stumpy little Roundabout; she's doing just fine these days. Why, you've probably seen some of her movies...her name is MISS WINONA RYDER.)
I guess what I'm saying is this: what's up with cripples anyway?
Back on topic...breaking the fourth wall. Your secret weapon. The dirty bomb in your Holy War against not being rich and famous. But how do you do it? And why? And where? And when? And where? And why?
EXAMPLE ONE: GETTING OUT OF JAM
Have you painted your characters into a corner? Stacked the odds so badly against your protagonist that defeat seems inevitable? Breaking the fourth wall is a painless way to sidestep any nasty plotholes in your narrative in order to get your asskicking back on track.
INT. DETECTIVE AGENCY - DAY
GUS GUMSHOE leans back in his chair and tips his fedora. We can see that he is engorged with sadness.
I can't believe Marlene is gone. Sigh. Vanished into thin air...and without a trace! Sigh. Looks like this is the end of the case.
She got kidnapped!
Gus blinks, surprised. He taps the screen, peering out at us.
What? Are you sure?
Yeah, we saw it just a few minutes ago. Baron Starfish threw her in this black car and they drove off together.
Fuck. Did you get the license plate number?
Um, hold on...where...damn, where did...oh, here you go: M34A8P. Iowa plates. Heading toward Pirate Town.
A-ha! The game is afoot!
Gus smiles. Grabs his gun. A detective's work is never done.
EXAMPLE TWO: EXPLAINING STUFF
So you finally finished your epic murder mystery script, only to realize that you forgot to include all the details and clues and characters. Whoops! While some writers will grit their teeth and settle down for an agonizing rewriting process, other writers (me) will simply employ a subtle bit of fourth-wall-breaking.
INT. MARLENE'S BEDROOM - NIGHT
MARLENE lounges on the satin bed, wearing only her nakedness. Her nipples are engorged and the color of raspberries. Gus stares.
But who would have killed my poor Hector?
It was his brother, Carlos the Mexican.
(to the audience)
Carlos and Hector have been feuding for many years following the death of their mother. Remember that guy in the club? The one with the moustache who didn't say anything? Over by the pool table? No, the other guy. Yeah, him. That was Carlos.
But I thought Carlos was dead?
(to the audience)
Oh, right. I read in the paper this morning that Carlos was found murdered. Were you there for that part? Oh. Well, anyway, he's dead now.
Marlene swoons with womanly emotion.
EXAMPLE THREE: APOLOGIZING
Sometimes you write good. Sometimes you don't. There's no need to feel embarrassed; it happens to the best of us (me). And when you know you've just crapped out a particularly pooplike stinker, breaking the fourth wall is an easy way to absolve yourself of guilt and creative responsibility.
EXT. PIRATE WHARF - NIGHT
BARON STARFISH stands atop the wharf, silhouetted against the engorged moon. He cackles wildly.
So you see, Detective Gumshoe, you led me right to the Jewel of the Africans! Without your constant interference, my plan would have never succeeded!
I mean, why don't you, um, just...oh, never mind.
Baron Starfish frowns.
(to the audience)
I'm usually better with comebacks.
Well, you'd almost have to be.
Gus glares at us. Tears welling up in his sad little eyes.
Fuckers. You're all...fuckers.