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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, July 24, 2006


There's more craft and rich story telling in Pirates than in many films that have been out there this year. And at the same time, I think the narrative is the least 'tight' of the films these guys have written.

Does that matter? No, and I'll tell you why.

And - by the way - you'll read plenty of reviews that try to toss the bucket of water on the bonfire, pointing out the lacking of this or that in the structure, or too much of this or that in the structure.

But what the reviewers don't understand, is that these guys get to the heart of a story like no other. The team of Ted and Terry start their story with lovers torn from a wedding, jailed and separated. Their only hope of reunion is in Will finding their opponent and securing his compass, if he takes too long his love may be executed, and when he returns empty handed so will he. And in the next moment we meet their opponent, the pirate, using the compass to secure some profound treasure, and then given a black spot on his hand, the mark of instant death from an immortal ocean demi-god fixated on reclaiming his soul. Brilliant immediate triangle - stratospheric stakes, they are all doomed to die unless they can help each other. There isn't even a clock - the clock has run out before their first meeting - so it's a race to beat the executioner on all sides. That new obstacles and characters crowd in like rush hour at Grand Central Station matters little, the gunshot has started the race, the catapult has released the stone, the arrow has been released - emotionally. The emotional through-line starts immediately. That is the brilliance in Pirates.

That all of the myriad characters that pour in for brief or long stays are each fun, clever, witty, and all emotionally grounded in the midst of the hysteria - keeps the emotional reality of the potential loss of each character extremely vibrant, and therefore gripping.

That the director knows how to stay in close to his characters and capture looks of longing, defeat, fury, wanting, panic, while getting every other dazzling angle in every impossible set piece - is his genius. And I think in terms of effects, it has to be as deft a handling as Spielberg or Jackson.

So yes, I liked it.

And who the hell needs lean story telling after all that?

Did it take me a little time to warm up to it? Yes. I was amused for the first 45 minutes, and then something happened, and they had me.

I won't spoil the moment I was hooked by telling scenes for those who haven't seen it yet, but by the box office count, it seems like everyone already has seen it.

Suffice it to say, I feel all story telling has at it's core the family, how we fit in it, live with ourselves in it, try to change our own, or escape our own, or make new ones, re-shape the ones we find, or suffer in the ones that we can't stand up to and can't change.

That this idea of family, re-uniting with old, trying to for new and how that's threatened, was used quite deftly in this film made it all the more engaging.

The epic story at its heart, needs heart, and loss - loss - loss - fighting with one's life if only to gain one fragile moment of togetherness at the end - and lose that as well as the sands of time threaten to rise up around the hero(s) and vanquish them.

And of course, keep it light and funny. Have Captain Sparrow and bit players react with endlessly inappropriate moments as hell is raining down on everyone. But every other lead plays it real so you know each of the 150 minutes is deadly.

They really get it.


Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

Amen. Amen. And, amen. I loved every insane moment -- even the killer vagina with teeth which left me feeling oddly empowered!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006  

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