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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.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Independent Movie Making

With the studios hiring fewer people for fewer films, the independent movie making world is suddenly flush with incredibly talented people on both sides of the camera who are ready to work. It's been true for the past few years, but now benefits from that precedent. We all benefit because it's become less theory and more practice. Producers and Distributors know that talent 'x' can raise budget 'y' because it happened last summer.

I wrote a film that was funded and shot last fall starring John Michael Higgens (one of Chris Guest's ensemble regulars) and a fantastic actor. Michael has an amazingly long resume of performances (and is enough of a chameleon that he played Letterman in 'Late Night Wars') and has the skill to make any scene funny. That he can then repeat the performance perfectly for those in the editing room and get a laugh every time is a bit mind blowing. He's one of those guys.

The fact that he's also considerate, creative and incredibly giving as an actor just ruins everything.

One of the hallmarks of independent movie making is how carefully you design the budget. There's about 5% worked in for overtime and errors. The fact that we had two rain days killed us. We had to jam more than we expected to the other remaining days. Chasing the daylight every day can become a bit waring.

But when you have to collapse scenes and re-write on the set because you're losing the light - and make it all work by the end of the day it's a bit of an intellectual (and somewhat stressful) challenge. Michael has some kind of on-board pattern recognition system. He can see the entire shape of a scene, and isolate the important moments. He was invaluable when we had to trim moments, or shorten scenes and brought very creative suggestions about how to keep what was essential and lose the extra fat.


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