Thursday, March 29, 2007

Poseidon Rant

So, I caught Poseidon from the beginning. It had really great potential.

But why, oh, why, remake a movie and not realize that it’s a classic and it’s going to take some really, really, really hard work? Huh?

I just purchased - on Amazon - the novel by Paul Gallico and look forward to reading it. But until then, my 2 cents.

Okay, so we are going to remake a classic. A classic that stands the test of time. Where do we start?

Oh me, oh me. Pick me, I know this one.

We must ask how close to the original do we want to stay, or will we be just keeping the name and overall theme?

Okay, so what did they do? A mish-mash of both. Is that a word - mish-mash?

Let me just say this. I watch the original over and over because I LOVE Rev. Frank Scott. He says and does everything I wish I had the guts to do and say, but I’m too damn scared that I’ll get struck by lightning, or have all of my really religious friends and family disown me. He’s a reverend, for Christ-sake. Am I going to hell for that?

Okay, so now in the new movie, we have Kurt Russell. Or is is Josh Lucas? Shit! I’m so damn confused. Okay, so it has to be the one who dies, right? No, or maybe that was the new twist - our hero lives this time? Shit, shit, shit! Work it out before you put it up on the screen, people!!!!

Okay, I’ll just “doggy, doggy, step right out” this one. I pick Josh Lucas. He’s younger and hotter and a bit more bankable. O0ps, my wanna-be executive hat is rearing its ugly head.

Okay, Josh Lucas is to Gene Hackman as... Night is to Day? What were they going for here? Huh? Huh? Huh?

Rev. Scott was a...well, reverend. Dylan... a gambler (and maybe an ex-Navy something or other - not sure, but I might have heard him mumble something like this). Anyway, okay, people I get it. He’s a gambler, he takes chances, calls people’s bluff, likes the odds and bets the house. But... why the hell should this make me care wether he lives or freaking dies? Arrrggghhhhh!!!!!!!

Oh, pick me again. Please pick me.

He likes children. Remember when he first meets the snot-nosed little kid (actually, he was cute and adorable - want to turn things on its head? - make it a kid we secretly wish swallows a bit too much salt water - oh, no, that’s cruel - just plain cruel - but fucking interesting). I digress. Sorry.

So, Dylan likes kids. And... there is this instant chemistry with the kid’s single mother (NOT!), and we can’t wait to see if the two will hook up. So... that’s why we care whether he lives or dies. Give me a big fucking break.

Anyway. Oh, we also get a nice few lines of exposition. I’m the kind that likes to go it alone - blah...blah... blah. I wish he would have. Might have made it a bit more interesting. An amazing race to see who could get to the bottom of the ship and out first. And my money would not be on the kid - but I’m cruel.

Where was I? ADD is setting in pretty fast and I’m only at the beginning.

Do I hate this movie? No. Interesting enough, I’ll probably watch it again. I pay enough for cable and... I have no life.

It’s like being a deer and headlights. I know it’s going to be ugly, but I just gotta stand there and go...WTF?

Okay, focus, focus.

So, now we have Kurt Russell’s character - Robert Ramsey. The last name - is it supposed to mean something? Anyway. So, Ramsey is an ex-firefighter and get this, the fucking ex-mayor of New York fucking City. I’m sorry about the profanity... but JEEZ!!!!

Okay, so now we all can relate to a NYC mayor? We’ll find out next year if they were on to something.

Not just any NYC Mayor, but one who seemed to have quit early (some reference to this mumbled again during a sidebar moment). His wife also dumped him and he and his daughter have these little fitty moments (why? who the hell knows, though I’m suspecting it has something to do with adding conflict). So, this ex-mayor, firefighter, husband happens to be on a cruise with his daughter (couldn’t tell is she was a late teen or way past teen - but not important - I guess) and her boyfriend. No, make that her fiancee - who she has not yet told her father of this late breaking news.

Who gives a shit!!!!

Okay, okay, he’s the ex-mayor of NYC. That makes him a very powerful man - instantly. Also, we all know New Yorker’s have attitude. This gives us an instant character that we have to do very little developing for. BULLSHIT. I’m a New Yorker and do I have an attitude? No fucking way.

So, we finally have some conflict here, right? Father - daughter thing, add the possible, would-be, might-be, gotta-break-the-news boyfriend not quite fiancee thingy and we have bonafide conflict that is sure to keep an audience at the edge of their seats.

It could happen.

Okay, so Dylan and Mr. Ex Mayor are total opposites brought together during a time of crisis and must find a way to work together in order to save lives. No, no. They are the same people, with the same need to be in control and they must get past their selfish wants and desires and help to save the lives of a small group of helpless and lost souls. That would indeed be the first movie, the two characters being Rev. Scott and Det. Rogo.

Now, to be fair, I do sincerely believe that the remake was going for this. I do believe that they thought a selfish gambler and an ex-NYC Mayor would fit this criteria. But here is where I think things run amuck (did I tell you I love that word amuck?). Rev. Scott and Det. Rogo don’t work because of their job titles alone. No, it’s just the beginning. We have to give them their own personal conflicts to deal with. Remember English class? Inner conflicts? Man Vs Self? The story already has the Man Vs Nature built in. It does its own job, it brings people into the theatre.

So, what’s left? Man Vs. Society. Man Vs. Man. Man Vs. Self.

But, I digress. I’ll come back to this later. Or maybe not. ADD is a horrible thing.

What were each of these characters struggling with? Why is this important? Well, damn, you took a small group of people away from a large group of people and decided to give the small group a fighting chance. Right there, they must be special. Now your job is to prove it. Tell me why I feel they shouldn’t have died with the rest of the lot.

I can go on and on and on and on, but I’m tired and I want to go to sleep. The bottom line, why the hell should I care? You already killed off thousands of people on that ship, why should a handful be spared? What makes them any more worthy?

If you are going to remake something, study, I mean really study, the original piece. Understand why it’s worthy. But if you are not going to study it, then make it completely over. Sit down for hours and days and months and years if you have to - figure out how to make it your own. Figure out that twist.

Could I have done a better job? NO, that’s why I ain’t sittin’ down to write a remake of The Poseidon Adventure. Jeez!

But if I was able to sit in the room, maybe as just a fly or annoying gnat, I would have thrown out a few brainstorming thingys.

Okay, so we don’t want to go with a man of the cloth. First, why the hell not!!!!!!!! So, what’s completely opposite of the man of the cloth? A gambler? Should have made him a drunk. Oh, you did - that was Kevin Dillion’s character. Why?

Okay, so you wanna stick with a gambler. Why should I care about a gambler? And whatever you do, please don’t show me a scene where he is actually sitting at the table gambling in a real, honest poker game. How about a card shark? What about an honest-to-God hustler? A low life who sneaks aboard ships to dupe really old ladies and naive nouveau riche people out of their money?

Hey, I didn’t say my idea was the best, or even good. But at least we are starting with a character that’s interesting. I wanna see him trick and hustle his way out of this disaster. I don’t know, but by making him a hustler, at least I can see him in action instead of being told that he’s a man who likes to take chances. Making him a gambler is telling, not showing - sorta like cheating. But we all cheat, right?

Richard Dreyfuss - his character is gay. Can we create some conflict with that? Is there a character who is so homophobic that he has to come to grips with this in order to live? Maybe an ex-NYC Mayor or gambler? Okay, so it’s riddled with cliches, but that hasn’t stopped you so far.

And what about my idea to make the kid a freaking brat? Why do we always have such lovable kids? In the first movie, the kid was a little fucking annoying, but that came in handy. Turn it up a notch. Give us a kid that challenges us. We all know that we should save the helpless, but what if this kid brings out the worst in everyone? Now, that’s what I call conflict.

So, we lost the Shelley Winters character. I suspect it’s because we can’t bring up the fat thing. Okay, so what do we replace it with? You see, her being overweight (you don’t have to use the fat word) was an inner conflict, as well as an outer one. It put her in direct conflict with the other characters. So, we’d have to put our heads together and try to find a replacement character whose physical attributes cause a problem. Yeah, I know, blind would be too cliche, but you gotta give me something that brings out the side in people that shows their prejudices. You see, cause that’s what I think the original was all about. Thou shall not judge and pick who should live or die, only God shall (but give us a fighting chance - I’m paraphrasing here).

Please don’t give me a stock character who we know must die. Why? Because he is a drunk and a male chauvinist pig? If you do give me this character, then keep with the theme and let him redeem himself. Again, give him a fighting chance.

Oh, and don’t give me a group of people who like each other. Yes, the best in us comes out in times of crisis, but what about the will to live? What would we be willing to do in order to live? Oh, and don’t just show me one character kicking a complete stranger off of his leg in order that he may save his own life. Or give me a parent who we are most likely to believe will do anything to protect their child. Turn it all on its head, people. Give me something old, but new. Work it out.

Okay, I need to go to bed. I must say, though, I am really learning a lot by analyzing this movie. I will most definitely watch it again, as well as watch the original and read the book. School is in.

Oh, and just to note - I KNOW NOTHING. But I aim to learn as much as I can.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Busy Little Bee

So, I’ve finished a draft of my script. Also came up with a new title, as I’ve brought in about 60% new material, completely did away with a major character, and brought another minor character to the foreground.

I’ve printed the script out and now comes the fun part - yet another revision. I won’t rush this part - for me, this is where the soul really takes effect. Punching up dialogue, cutting scenes that don’t advance or entertain, and basically making this piece my very own - giving it MY VOICE.

But, I’ve also made time to finish two books: Little Children and Step On A Crack. I really enjoyed Little Children, but was a little disappointed with the ending. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie - though I’m sure they had to change the ending.

Step On A Crack - well, this is a new crime series that I’m sure will find its way to the big screen. I can’t lie, I really saw this as a movie and would jump at the opportunity to write it. Does this mean it’s great literature? - hell no! But it’s so damn entertaining. A few things would have to change in order to bring this to the screen, and some more character development is needed. But, all-in-all, I see this as a movie. He’s already had Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider made into a film.

The series I can’t wait to come to the big screen is the Jack Reacher Series by Lee Child. I’m told there’s one on the way.

I also made time for a few flicks the past couple of weeks (Greenfingers, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Running With Scissors, Open Range, Quinceanera, The Devil Wears Prada). A lot of documentaries (The Human Behavior Experiment, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, The Heart of the Game, An Inconvenient Truth, Home, Jesus Camp).

I finally caught Poseidon. First off, WTF!!!!!!

Why the hell make a movie over and throw the baby out with the bath water? I didn’t get to see the entire movie from the beginning. I came in towards the middle when I realized the hubby was actually sitting through it. Now, I don’t know who was the first person to say, “We just gotta make this thing over”, because, I personally don’t think the person saw the first movie, and if they did, they sure as hell didn’t get it. JEEZ!!!!!!!

It was a drama (but it was called an adventure - yeah, yeah, yeah - get them in the seats and then spring it on them - drama, baby - major drama). Yes, there was a boat, and yes, there were some very good action sequences in there. But the meat and potatoes of the original movies were the characters and their interactions. I love a good popcorn movie every now and then, but FREAKING leave what you damn well don’t understand ALONE. I think I’ll leave this for another blog entry. Now that I’ve seen how they royally screwed up the middle and end, I want to catch this “sinking ship” from the beginning.

I made a trip to Hollywood Video tonight and purchased a few goodies:

Happy Feet - I LOVED this movie. My children didn’t quite feel the same way. I have the soundtrack for this, as well.

The Pursuit of Happyness - The Hubby and my son really enjoyed this movie. This was the first movie where I saw men in the theatre really become emotional and not afraid to show it. We need a few more like this.

Children of Men - Saw this one in the movies, but I was a little disappointed. I felt like the movie wasn’t sure what it wanted to be - action or drama. I also thought Clive Owens’s character could use a bit more developing. But what the hell do I know.

Casino Royale - Haven’t seen this one - looking forward to it.

Curse of the Golden Flowers - Haven’t seen it. I have a major crush on Chow Yun Fat.

All The King’s Men - Saw the original, want to compare.

Superman Returns - I’m really not wanting to see this; however, I felt the same way about Batman Begins and, let me tell you, I’ve seen that movie about 10 times, from beginning to end.

Flag of Our Father’s - I’ve never been really big on war movies.

Stargate - Loved this one. My husband insisted on getting it for our ever-growing collection.

Catch A Fire - Saw this one in the movies; a major disappointment. I think it needed a bit more time in the oven. I was a bit detached from the main character. I’m going to watch it again a few times - hope to learn about character development. I’m a strong believer that you can learn just as much from movies that you don’t like, if you can learn to clearly understand why you don’t like it. Maybe just the school teacher in me.

Trading Places - A classic. Huge Eddie Murphy fan.

The BodyGuard - Poor Whitney Houston. JUST SAY NO!

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - I’ve seen this when I was younger. I don’t remember much, but I think it’s about time I revisited this again.

I’ll try to get in a few of these movies in between script work.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Write What You Love

Write what you know.

My very first script had me writing what I loved. Politics. I did a good amount of research, and had written a script that explored themes that I was very familiar with. I passed it on to a few people, and they were quite surprised at my very first attempt at a screenplay. Looking back at this script now, I see that it was an extremely rough draft that needed so much work. Also, to see a few years later a movie with the same theme, as well as many set pieces that were eerily identical to the ones I had written, confirmed that I wasn’t so far off track.

However, there was one piece of feedback that got to me more than I ever realized until recently. I was basically told to stick to what I knew. Now, this sounds like an innocent comment, but after letting a few others read the entire set of notes, I knew I wasn’t wrong for getting a bit pissed.

You see, I had written a political drama, which followed the campaign of a gubernatorial race. Had I gotten it right? I can’t say for sure, as no one in the field of politics gave me feedback indicating I screwed up the process royally. Did any of the feedback I had received point to scenes or situations that were wrong or inaccurate? No.

Then what was this about? This person thought they knew me. In fact, they had been privy to a lot of my past. They had seen me grow from a scared child to a scared adult. So, when they picked up that piece of writing, they didn’t see ME in it. What THEY expected did not come through. It was almost like, “What would you know about this and how could you know?”

Now I know some might feel that this is bull. But how many times have you written something and someone close to you questioned you about it in a way that said they were “getting” you for the first time?

Come on, women writers are expected to lean towards romantic comedies. If I read another thread on one of these websites that lists the differences between men and women... jeez. If you believe it, it makes it so. Remember, belief is a powerful, powerful thing.

We’re okay with talking about the differences between men and woman openly. We even tend to become very detailed with these differences - offering examples that are so drenched in stereotypes. Some writers constantly turn to these blueprints of what makes up men and women when putting together their characters.

But what about those differences we’re not so comfortable talking about openly? Like race and/or religion.

A few posts back, I talked about culture having an effect on how people TELL certain stories, and I believe this is true. What I’m talking about here is pigeon-holing a writer because of who they are. Again, this is bull, right?

I’m guilty. You see, not realizing it, I keep falling back to writing what I know, instead of writing what I know I love.

I’ve written 11 scripts, and not all of them were “black scripts” about inner-city life. But I must admit, some of them are, and I keep coming back to those because I feel it fits into the mantra of write what you know. Am I passionate about these stories? Yes, but no less passionate for them than for those stories I have written that have white protagonists or all white characters. I love stories. I love movies.

As a black woman, I can’t deny that race is still an issue in this world, and it creeps into all parts of my life - even screenwriting. But I live in a complex world and I’m a complex person. I’m black, I’m a woman, I’m American, I’m human, I’m a mother, I’m a New Yorker, etc. All of these parts make up the whole, and when I sit down to write, any one of these parts can be leading the pack.

I want to write stories. Stories that I love and stories I want others to love. I also want to write stories that give us memorable characters that we have seen far and few on the screen. I would think that most writers have something personal driving them to write, but I would also like to believe that as writers, we can’t help but to love stories that are just plain, great stories, regardless of race, religion or sex.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I just finished the hand-written draft of my latest rewrite.

I love completing this stage more than I do the actual type-written draft.


Because I’m a weirdo. And I like the smell of ink. And I like the swelling in my right arm from so much.... writing, yeah, that’s it... writing.

But for real. I LOVE HAND-WRITTEN PAGES!!!!!!!

I’ve noticed something about completing my first draft this way - besides the pain in my arm. I’m forced to write pithy. Using pen and paper doesn’t give me much room for long, drawn-out sentences and descriptions. I’m extremely conscious of every page I write. I know when I reach halfway down the paper and soon must turn it over; I’ve got only so much actual real space right there in front of me to use, so I choose my words wisely (or, at least, I try).

Did I mention my arm hurts?

Now comes the task of the second draft - the typing, and here is where it slows down. One, now I have to actually try and read my scratchy handwriting, and two, I will most likely hate absolutely everything I wrote and will proceed to ripping it apart.

Did I mention my arm really, really hurts?

The script I’m working on has been reworked a number of times, and each time, it has gotten better, or at least, those people reading it at some of the contests have thought so - but what the hell do they know, right?

For this rewrite, I have 52 hand-written pages of new material. This was supposed to be a quick rewrite - a few changes here and there.

Am I happy with the new stuff? Today.

But tomorrow is sure to bring shit loads of doubt and angst - I’m neurotic that way.

See ya in a couple of days, unless my arm falls off.