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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Workshop On

I have a nice group who have expressed interest, thank you! But I do have to ask now that those who would like to attend to pre-register. Thank you!

The Call

Every now and then a call comes in that says "you're hired", this before you know what the hell they're talking about. Okay, more to the point, it's extremely rare. And I got a call like that today. It's for a feature division of a company that does tv-movies and video on demand originals and we'll have to see exactly what they hell they're talking about. But that's a nice call. The genre is R-rated suspence thrillers, there is a book they want adapted and the job is mine if I want it. I may have to take four meetings with myself before I commit just to feel comfortable about it. Nice way to start the week! More on this as it develops.

Back to Dreamworks

This will be the fourth meeting on this same project, this before being hired. Maybe I should take out a room there?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Screenwriting Workshop

Back by demand, a one day workshop in screenwriting. I teach the tricks and tools of the trade I've learned over twenty years in ONE DAY. How to start, how to structure, how to polish, how to take meetings.

There will also be a full and complete discussions of structure, character creation and dialogue. A discussion of what is needed in the screenplay narrative, and more importantly, what is not.

The breakdown of the writing process will be discussed, what makes a good scene, the notion of three act, four act and eight act scripts will be discussed, and most importantly, the tools for achieving one own's inspiration.

Pitching to executives will be discussed, tools for a good pitch, and the pitfalls to avoid.

I have given two workshops in Pasadena this summer, but will not be giving anymore until the fall. You are welcome to post or email me with any questions, or interest.

NEW YORK WORKSHOP: I was hoping to be giving a workshop in New York City as well, at the end of August, but time and crazy schedule didn't permit it. I am still very interested in doing one late fall or winter. It will be from Noon to 5pm. The cost is $110.00. If you are a New Yorker, please do let me know if you are interested.

  • For feedback on the workshop click:WORKSHOP FEEDBACK
  • Friday, February 17, 2006


    I remember watching a documentary on Picasso. It was done late in his life and an aspect was watching him work. The filmaker showed him working on his ceramics and canvases. I'm not sure how they got the effect, but you got to see his canvas come to life stroke by stroke, evolve and change - without him painting over it. What stays with me to this day is his creation of a horse. You watched (in a sped up fashion) how this brilliant painting of a horse came together. It was stunning, incredibly life like. And then when you thought it was done a huge brown streak covered up the center, then the left, then a smear of red came down over that and a new block shaped eye appeared, then a new crooked nose painted over the first, and you realized the first picture was just an aspect of his process, something he needed to get out so he could then deconstruct it and paint the REAL horse. The finished horse was of course, a Picasso. stunning, disturbing, powerful, and very unlike the original.

    My first reaction of course - "he ruined that beautiful horse!" But the horse that came after was bolder, more powerful, unique, amazing. Believe me, you forgot the first one.

    To be that fearless in your work is crucial. It doesn't matter if you work in paint, clay or print. Build your house, then tear it down now that you've discovered exactly how your house should look, as opposed to the way it does look.

    Writing is a living process. As much as you outline and plan ahead, your work comes to life under your fingers. And like any living thing it will beging to form its own energy and make its own demands. And it's crucial that you listen to it as much as it needs to listen to you. I call it wrestling the bear. Because hopefully your work will feel that full of life.

    I have just discovered, after months of work on my script, that my villain is the wrong guy. He's a good character, but he's actually not the villain because this other guy in the story should be. It was an epiphany. One that improves the script greatly, and I now have to attend to that immediately and follow that energy.

    But rather than kick myself, or cry out into the night in agony at the thought of another climb up the writing mountain, like Syssyphus, I merely think of Picasso and that paint brush stroke defiantly drawn straight down his canvas burying his first picture, driven to do it, happy to do it, as the true picture had just been revealed to him and now he merely had to paint it.

    Saturday, February 11, 2006

    Another Meeting

    It's something Hollywood mass produces. The meeting. And the town is never at a loss for them. Many are unimportant, though as they say in sports, you never know when you can turn nothing into something. So every opportunity is always that, an opportunity.

    As you go up the meeting chain cycle you get the meet and greet, the conceptual pitch, the full out pitch, meeting with producer, meeting with talent, meeting with director, meeting with VP's of production, meeting with president of production. (And it seems like more meetings are required than ever before for the same jobs. There are more variations of course. A friend of mine has met with the President and production exec of a big independent company, has a deal to direct a film for this A list company, has been involved in months of development on the re-write of the script and was just informed he has to take a new meeting with the pres. of the studio this company resides at to see if he still has the job. How do you categorize that?")

    Anyway, I just returned a few days ago from a third meeting on a studio project, before a room full of top people, getting to the top tier as far as I could go before they actually decide on me this weekend. It was the "money meeting" so to speak - the one in which, or whereafter they decide to pull the trigger on the job, so to speak, or not. Full out hour pitch to a roomful of executives, as it's a co-venutre, studio and producing partner splitting the bill. An adaptation of a yet to be published book they have high hopes for.

    First thing I do? Tell them to throw out half the book as it doesn't make a good movie.

    Something I love about that. Aside from it being neccessary, it's a good lesson in not trying to pander to second-thought. I don't know how married they are to this project or not, but the inspiration - my own thrill of the story has to lead me to the words 'the end" not my hope or "idea of what "they" want. That is instant death.

    Sure, they may say - stupid pitch Jacko, and toss me. But I know I came out of the gate with the rigth story for this project.

    Years ago on a Paramount project of a script I had re-written several times, a director was then assigned. He came in with new notes and revisions that the studio was excited about. I worked with him for months on a new draft. I delivered it and the studio wasn't happy. We had a long conference call with all the involved parties - and it was filled with frustration on both sides. Finally the exasperated director said:"Just tell me what you want." And there was silence on the phone.

    And I realized he'd just committed project suicide.

    And he was off the project a week later.

    Because no one in Hollywood knows what they want. They only know what they don't want. So never ask them what they want, tell them what they'll get. (The caveat, of course, which is the important question on any re-write or adaptation is "have you been down the road with this at all?" to find out what they've already discovered they don't want.)

    But the bottom line is they have to keep hiring the creators to keep creating - because the money side is incapable of doing it.

    I'll see if I'll be the creator for this project, hopefully next week.