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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.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Been Away

From posting. Deadline on a project and enjoying the Scriptwriters Showcase. More soon. Unless anyone wants to drop a comment about what's irking them craftwise.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can you tell if what you're writing is marketable? How can you tell if something is truly high-concept versus being a "regular" thriller, suspense, comedy, etc?

Monday, April 10, 2006  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Interesting question. Great story telling is marketable. It can make unusually off the radar topics become mainstream, or indie hits. How deeply are you getting into character? How creatively are you expressing the story? Live in that space, and if it's the story you've fallen in love with, give it 100%, that energy will inevitably return something to you, if not in a finished film, then in written work that will excite people and get you attention and writing something else. High concept is just that - you tell someone a sentance version of your story - and they get it so completely, it doesn't matter if you've written it or not - they GET IT. That's high concept. "regular" - I'm not sure what you mean, more complicated, layered, rich in texture? That's what Hollywood calls "execution dependent" which means you may have a great pitch, but even if they understand it, they're not sure you can pull it off and want to see it on the page first. That is definitely NOT high concept, yet it may be a great film. Memento is a great example - amazing film, big indie hit, must have been an impossible pitch - and I'm told the script was a "brilliant read" but scared people as they couldn't imagine the film. But the film maker did not give up.

Monday, April 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm... that's really helpful, and for me, really encouraging! I feel much more drawn to character-driven pieces (e.g., Ordinary People) than what seems to be high-concept material (e.g., movies involving aliens or supernatural powers). I think the best movies have both, obviously, but I've been told that my ideas are not "high concept" enough. From other people's definitions, "high concept" seems to be synonymous with sci-fi or fantasy, as opposed to suspense or thrillers that don't have a sci-fi or fantasy element.

Anyway, thanks again!

Monday, April 10, 2006  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Sorry I missed meeting you at showcase. I was only there on Fri morning.

Monday, April 10, 2006  
Blogger A. M. said...

Philip, I smirked when I read that the opposite of high concept is called execution dependent. That's exactly the problem of those hc films that tank, isn't it? A great premise that makes you want to see the film right now - and then... disappointment. And word spreads quickly. Many what if films (that's my take on hc) don't go anywhere. Charlie Kaufman is one of the hc writers who does deliver, Andrew Niccol had some good ones. Even the labor-of-love docudrama Boy's Don't Cry was hc, one could view it as a reality-based take on the gender-switching concept if nothing else, and it delivered. Every aspect of execution matters. Peirce nearly dropped the project when she couldn't find a believable actress to fit the bill. I totally bought Swank. I've seen reviews of She's The Man. Ouch. Goes to show that an interesting premise isn't enough. Okay, that was .39, not .02.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

a.m.: well, yes of course you're right. you have to execute everything well. But they'll only buy in the room that which they get so completely - they feel that even if you screw it up, you can't kill this great CONCEPT you just pitched which they just bought. That's the difference between hc and anything other, I feel. Otherwise, they send you packing and say 'gee, you should spec. that one out." Usually that's a great idea anyway. But to sell a pitch, they have to really GET IT. Even to swell a script, by the way, they have to really GET IT.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006  
Blogger Vince DC said...

Hey, Phil. In case you were wondering, just lurking in the shadows for now because of the work load.

I have a post on my blog from Isaac Ho on screenplay structure I'd like you to peruse. Your esteemed opinion would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006  
Anonymous Mortimer said...

Obviously, this is a great site and I thank you for your insight and generosity for sharing the writer's life with the rest of us noobs.

I was wondering if any of your scripts were online anywhere; maybe hidden on this site? I'd love to read some of your work, even unused drafts and especially the spec work you've done.

I'm sure this has been requested before, and I hope it's possible.

Thanks again for the site, and good luck with everything.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006  
Blogger A. M. said...

Philip, I don't know if you're still blogging, but I'm going to post my question anyway. It's essentially a question re: plagiarism.

Scenario: a foreign historical film. Plays some US film festivals, gets a platform release. You love the film and figure it's so good it just has to be re-made for the US market. You spec it. Not a literal translation, mind you, but it resembles the original very closely. So closely, in fact, that anybody who's seen the original would know it's the same film.

Now, I didn't think that that's an okay thing to do. OTOH I have reasons to believe that the person who did this is well aware of the laws. What gives?

Hell, if that's an okay thing, I'm going to do a couple of translations myself.

Saturday, May 06, 2006  

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