Penumbra from Beleeve Entertainment

In this era of Wonder Woman, I figured this is a great time to throw out a quick plug to two of my favorite Wonder Women out here in Hollywood – Chelese Belmont & Shannan Leigh Reeve from Beleeve Entertainment. When I started this blog/podcast venture, I was hopeful that it would help my efforts to network with other industry pros. I’m delighted to say Chelese & Shannan were my first two connections and we remain great friends to this today.

When I first interviewed them way back in 2014, they were about to film the last scenes of their movie Penumbra. Those shoots and post-production later, Penumbra is a completed feature decorated with some laurels and it’s now available for sale. Penumbra takes a look at the impact drug addiction can have on all aspects of a family and I highly recommend it. In this era of vibrant independent film, brave stories are being told by all manner of artists. They may not have millions of dollars in PR behind them but these stories are out there. I hope this little plug continues to help shine a light on Beleeve Entertainment as they keep exploring brave stories that need to be told.

My original interview with Chelese & Shannan is here:

You can purchase Penumbra here:

www.BeleeveEntertainment.com

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NBQSEDF/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_UcXAybZ17KNVN  (or search Penumbra in Instant Video)

Vimeo On Demand: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/penumbrafilm

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

 

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A Note About Ron Greenfield

Hello, dear reader and hello, dear listener. A lot has happened since I had the chance to sit down and write in these pages. The election we all wanted over and done with is finally over and done with. And like with so many things we rush through, many of us wish we had a second chance at it to get it right. 2016 turned into 2017. Many celebrities have left us. Many new babies have joined us. The New England Patriots pulled off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.  A movie I wrote is currently wrapping up in post. More on that in the coming weeks and months. And on top of other constant changes in the dance of life, I’ve accepted a position at a cable network which has taken up much of the time I dedicated to this venture.

But I don’t want these pages to go idle completely. I’m delighted to report that traffic for the blog and currently paused podcast has held steady since November, 2016. I have several more topics and announcements to explore the next few weeks but as I’ve been thinking about my first post for 2017, one name kept coming to mind…

Ron Greenfield.

I hope many of you heard my interview with Ron in 2014. If not, it’s embedded below. I first met Ron over twitter (where I’ve done a ton of my networking) as he was expanding his “Aspects Of Entertainment” brand. Our conversations were easy, enjoyable explorations of this funny thing called Show Business. Ron had been there, done that on his extensive career. I, on the other hand, had only been in the biz for 10 years or so at the time so I was just getting warmed up.

Ron and I had several great conversations over Skype and email. He always knew how to offer advice without telling you what to do. When talking about my search for representation, I’ll never forget his simple pearl of wisdom – “Just remember, Tim, there’s representation and then there’s representation.” A great reminder. Ron had been in the trenches with many Hollywood luminaries bringing promotions, designs and shows to life. He didn’t like to bash anyone and he was never snobby about what he achieved. In fact, he struck me as just as fascinated and full of wonder for Hollywood after his career as he was before it all started. And even in his “retirement” he worked tirelessly on his website and putting together his collection of interviews.

Ron was fully committed to yet another new venture when ill health forced him to put the pen down for a bit. The fight was as valiant as any I had seen but on November 9th, 2016, Ron Greenfield left us at 66 years young.

Ron was a tremendous supporter of myself and these pages. It is only fitting that I return here in 2017 with a tip of the cap to top gent, talented artist and good friend to so many creators – Ron Greenfield.

Ron’s fantastic website Aspects of Entertainment is filled lots of wisdom and knowledge about entertainment:

http://www.aspectsofentertainment.com

Ron’s Book Perspectives Of Entertainment is available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Perspectives-Entertainment-Ron-Greenfield-ebook/dp/B00B2Q5H36/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413309395&sr=8-1&keywords=Ron+Greenfield

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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I’m With Her…And Not Just Hillary.

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“When everyone looks good, everyone looks good.” – pro wrestling axiom.

It’s always been my intention to keep politics out of the blog but with the Presidential election less than two weeks away, I find it hard not comment on the implications of what we’re the edge of.

A quick disclaimer: This post is not meant to be Anti-Republican or Anti-Conservative. How one votes is their business and as a storyteller, my first question for my audience is not “who’d you vote for?” Maybe one day over some cold refreshment, I’ll share which Republican principles I passionately agree with. (Stay the hell out of my script, government.)

This post isn’t even meant to be Anti-Donald Trump. Though let me add for the record. I, Tim Davis, Screenwriter, TV Producer and former pro-wrestling referee hereby reject Donald Trump because of his rampant bigotry, racism, homophobia, sexism, White nationalism, penchant for sexual assault, his disrespect of our Democracy, his possible sociopathic tendencies, fraudulent business practices and pathological lying. In whatever order you’d like. So actually, I guess yeah, I’m very Anti-Donald Trump. Sorry, Donald. Next time don’t be such an asshole.

Oh, go ahead and sue me Donald. I could use the publicity. Hey, maybe I’ll get to meet Jessica Drake in court! I mean, I don’t know who that is.

So suffice to say, I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. And the idea of putting Hillary Clinton on the same scale as Donald Trump is at best, intellectual dishonest and at worst, completely delusional. Saying Hillary Clinton is just as bad as Donald Trump is like saying “this Big Mac I just ate for lunch was almost as bad as the day my entire family was killed in a house fire.” And that’s not an exaggeration. Churchill was a sexist alcoholic. Anyone calling him as bad as Hitler would be deemed nuts.

I was for Hillary before I was for Obama. And with respect to the honorable Senator from Vermont, he was unable to dissuade me away from supporting her. I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton because she’s not Donald Trump. (I can think of no living or recently retired politician I would not pick over Trump.)

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because she’s the most qualified candidate to run for the Presidency in my no longer short lifetime. She’s the single toughest politician I’ve ever seen in said lifespan. She’s overcome more smear, more attacks, more lies, more so-called scandals, more debasement, more sheer persecution than I’ve ever seen. They started on her long before Obama. I remember so many grown-ups in the 1990’s: “Who the hell does she think she is? She’s the first lady! She needs to learn her place.”

Oh, she learned her place alright. Her place is first one across the finish line of every political battle she’s had. Dick Morris and Trey Gowdy are in a “where are they now?” file while Hillary’s on the cusp of her biggest win yet. There’s a name for people like that in sports – Champion.

After all that the overt and covert sexism our society has thrown at her, Hillary stands poised to become the first female President of the United States. And in an election cycle that can only be described as surreal, she’s become the overwhelming rational choice for sanity everywhere accumulating the most votes of any candidate so far.

So yes, I’m voting Hillary. I’m one of the quiet majority that is actually VERY EXCITED AND ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT VOTING HILLARY!!!! Sorry news narrative, all the Hillary voters I know are crazy psyched about it. Yes, we actually do indeed like her.

And not only am I voting for Hillary, I’m voting for equality. No, not because we need a “token female President” to catch up with the rest of the world. But because the prejudices of America still need to be overcome. Voting for Hillary is my way of not listening to the inherent sexism of our society.

If Hillary Clinton were a man, her popularity would be through the roof. If Hillary Clinton were a man with the last name Kennedy, she’d have a statue by now. “BUT THE EMAILS!!!!” George W Bush (hell of a painter) and Karl Rove (yikes) deleted 5 million White House emails. No one cared. A woman does an infinitesimal percentage of a similar infraction and society at large is scandalized? That right there is sexism 101. If you’re mad at Hillary’s emails and not mad at W’s, I highly suggest you have some gender-equality figuring out to do.

And you know something? I might have deleted the same emails. It’s politics. It’s a tough business. Show me your favorite politician and I’ll show you similar corruption. It’s more ridiculous than deflate-gate at this point. (How’s that ratings drop, Goodell? Good job.)

It’s quite remarkable that when I ask people often very specific reasons why they dislike Hillary I get two kinds of answers either a) long debunked conspiracy theories (she has in fact murdered zero people) or b) these vague, amorphous blanket judgements. “I can’t explain why I just don’t like her.” Who’d have thought ambiguity could spark such passion?

“She’s shady…she’s suspicious…she’s mean…I just don’t like her.” She’s arguably the most vetted politician to get this close to the oval office. As far as the mean stuff goes, I’ve never seen her more harsh than her male counterparts which leads me to wonder if there’s some kind of sociological thing going in our culture. Does her yelling to defend herself remind us of when Mom used to yell us to finish our chores? Do we as a culture not like seeing women in such forceful roles?

“But she wrote mean emails about the Bernie campaign” So what? Seriously, so what? Welcome to big league politics. Bernie himself said he wrote mean emails about the Clinton camp! And I should hope so. They were fighting a high stakes game. Remember when Obama called Joe Biden stupid on a conference call? Upset about that one? Of course not, because men are expected to do that. A woman does it – GASP! Spare my blushes!!

Hillary hasn’t had to break a glass ceiling. She’s had to break through a glass ceiling that was covered in concrete while covered in mud and shackled in chains that spelt out “Double Standard.”

And she is far from alone. Hillary represents the plight of far too many women who don’t get paid as much male counterparts, don’t get the respect they deserve and are still pushing past second class citizen status.

One of the front lines in the battle for equality is my own industry – Hollywood. There’s been much written and talked about in regards to gender issues in the movie and TV business. There’s good news – progress and awareness for the issue has grown in the past few years. There’s bad news – there’s a hell of a lot more than needs to be done.

I don’t know what the answer is. I’m just one guy trying to sell some screenplays and making some movies I hope you’ll enjoy, dear reader.

I do know we need to talk about it more. I do know that Hollywood, our culture at large and the living generations have a lot to figure in regards to equality. Being quiet won’t help. Being defensive, yelling and screaming won’t help. But talking about it might.

So allow to share with you some experiences I’ve had and why I’m proud to write in these pages – we need gender equality in Hollywood right now.

The majority of bosses I’ve had in the Entertainment Business have in fact been women. Actually, the majority of bosses I’ve had in my life had been women. Most of them were great – driven, passionate, inspirational leaders. A few of them were shit – power-hungry, insecure, abusive. I could say the exact same thing about all the male bosses I’ve had. Because women, like men, are people.

Things are improving in Hollywood, albeit too slowly. But I noticed something this past year that I found very interesting. I did an enormous amount of pitching. The majority of “yes, I’d love to read your script” came from women. Like A LOT. I don’t have the exact stat (writer not a mathematician) but I’d guess it was around 70% of my “yeses” came from women. It got to the point where I was only seeking women to pitch to. (And uh, don’t give me the “but women execs are nicer than men execs” No. No, they are not. No one has the time to waste on a sympathy read.)

I can’t tell you why this track record has happened. No, I’m not flirting with them or bribing them or anything like that. I pride myself on professionalism. Maybe it’s because my stories are more intimate character dramas concentrating on people over concept? Or maybe the concepts I have appeal to the female demo that’s growing in genre? Maybe because I treat these women like equals and with respect? Maybe none or all of the above – I don’t know and I don’t ask. Once I get a yes, the script is mailed with a big “Thank You.”

People fear equality in an irrational sense. “If we give X more jobs, then there will be less jobs for us.” Before you email with examples of that happening, studies have shown that equal opportunity has lead to growth and expansion in many industries. An interesting read on the subject here from someone who I’m guessing is not a bleeding liberal: http://conversableeconomist.blogspot.com/2012/08/equal-opportunity-and-economic-growth.html

In other words, THEY are not coming to take YOUR job. THEY are coming for THEIR job which may in fact create a lot more of YOUR job. My own experience say my opportunities in my industry increase exponentially because of an increase in women gatekeepers in Hollywood. So keep ‘em coming, I say, I got a lot more scripts to pitch.

Inclusion is vital in Hollywood. There’s a limited number of plot lines and jokes. There’s a limitless number of ways to tell those plot lines and jokes when all ethnicities, cultures, orientations and genders (oh, the people who think there’s only two – they’re in for a shock this next century) are brought to the table. And no it will not be done at the expense of the White Man.

It’s always interesting to hear those who voice opposition to equality. Some basically say “I will not let you do to me what I’m doing to you.”

My girlfriend is writer. It makes me furious to think opportunities will be denied her just because she’s a women but I know they are. It’s happening and it needs to change. Some of the best producers I know are women. Some of the most kick-ass people creating their own brands and kicking down doors are actresses. The new trailblazers in the industry bring new stories, new visions and new frontiers are in fact women. “Murder Made Easy” a feature film written by yours truly, just wrapped production and our producer was a woman who was smart, tough and invaluable in making sure we got every shot we needed in the schedule and budget allotted.

When I look at who has inspired me the past few years as I fight this good fight in screenwriting, the majority of them are women.

While we have a long, long way to go and I certainly have not been perfect in this area, equality should be a no-brainer. Putting barriers in front of someone is asking for those same barriers to be put in front of you one day. I put these words on the page saying I stand with the moral justice that is equal rights for all. But there’s a selfishness to it, because I’ve seen the benefits to my own career the equality has brought. I want those people brought to the table because they may be the exact people who will look at me to write their stories.

Or as Hillary Clinton put it at the Convention: “when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone.”

I’m with her. Because she’s for me.

Don’t forget to vote for freedom, for democracy and for equality.

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The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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Pulling Into Station

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Hello Dear Reader and Hello Dear Listener,

As you’ve probably noticed by now, I’ve not recorded any new episodes of the Handsome Timmy D Express since 2015. There is a very good reason for this. Several in fact. Beginning in January 2016, my screenwriting workload grew exponentially. Thanks in large part to several years worth of networking, some screenwriting awards and increased experience in writing of course, I was able to hook up and work with several independent producers and directors to write a myriad of projects currently in varying stages of development. In order to make sure I hit all my deadlines, some things had to go on the back burner and well, sadly, the podcast was one of them.

Starting and making this podcast was one of the very best decisions I’ve ever made as some the above opportunities were in fact a direct result of the connections I made doing the show. I enjoyed just about every single second of making every single episode. However, I’m a one-man operation without interns or staff so the challenges of making a top quality show became harder and harder.  And I do NOT want to put out  substandard product. Over the course of March through May, I tried to schedule several episodes but found my workload was such that I couldn’t make the time work. Editing, promotion, posting across social media outlets, copy etc, while all very very fun, can take up an entire workday and with several screenplays being juggled those hours become more precious. In fact, I was hoping to announce new shows in the fall but a movie shoot schedule pushed that back as well. Never say never, maybe I’ll record a new season of episodes in 2017. I’d love to be able to make it work, but at the end of the day I am a screenwriter, not a podcaster about screenwriting.  I will still be blogging when I can various thoughts, quibbles and anecdotes from the world of writing when I can. And hopefully you’ll get to see one of these movies I’m writing sooner than later.

I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to every single person that listened. Based on the numbers of the various feed, many thousands of people, maybe even tens of thousands of people tuned in across over 90 countries. I would have been thrilled to hit 10 countries but to have someone from at least 90 countries tune in is almost impossible for me to comprehend. Thanks so much, everyone and the episodes are still archived on the site’s index for your listening pleasure. And quick-fun fact about podcasts, people are still discovering the show every day. I hope the information and insight offered by my guests remains timeless and helpful to all listening whenever and wherever they tune in.

Along those lines, my guests took time out of their busy schedule to appear on my podcast for free. This was a non-profit operation. No one was paid a single dollar to take part and I can assure, I didn’t make a single dollar from the show. All I could offer was getting the word about their projects. This was just about spreading information and generating buzz in the digital do-it-yourself age. I can’t express my gratitude enough to every guest who appeared: Matt The Cat, Megan Karasch, Mike Doto, Dan And Travis, Chelese Belmont & Shannan Leigh Reeve of Beleeve Entertainment, Brian Veys, Joe Lidster, AJ Feuerman, Arnold T Blumberg, Talia Harari, Stephen J Llorens, Chris Garcia, Rizelle Januk, Mike Sundy, Ron Greenfield, Stephen Scaia, Rick Dominicus, Gordy Hoffman, Tom Krajewski & Jen Muro, Tom Grey of Player Piano, Simone Bailly, M. Dal Walton III, Sammi Kat, Dan Mason, Rory LaPointe-Smith, Paul O’Brien, Jon Matthews, Crystal House, Kyle C Mumford, Ramon Hamilton, Travis Rust & Stacy Gueraseva, Chavo Guerrero, Simon Guerrier, Gregor Collins, Daphne Ashbrook, Chuck Slavin, Jennifer Sharp, Kyle Newmaster, Amy Reynolds and Elizabeth Lombino.   These folk are all doing spectacular work to add to their sterling resumes and they have my best wishes for continued success.

I also have to thank John S Drew (who made the above photo), Dan Lackeye and Sean Reiser for linking to my show which provided a ton of new listeners. I did my best to plug their shows back and hope I was as helpful to them as they were to me.

Now, if you’re still looking for some great podcast to check out about the creative world for the upcoming holiday weekend or any weekend in particular, let me throw these options out there:

The closest thing to my podcast is “Making The Sausage” from fellow screenwriter and all-around top gent Nick Rheinwald-Jones. I had the good fortune of meeting Nick at the wonderful Austin Film Festival. Like myself, Nick found real industry pros to interview for his show about how the nuts & bolts of a creative profession works. He’s collected some great guests so far and there’s a lot of knowledge on his show:  http://previously.tv/shows/making-the-sausage/

For some criticism and analysis of the latest happenings in the entertainment world, check out the Hollywood Picture News. Loren Erlanger and Ryan Thompson along with some special guests dive into every possible detail examining how and why things work in the ever-changing world of TV and movies: http://hollywoodpicturenews.com/

One of the good guys in the podcasting world is Kenny Mittleider. He’s one of the passionate and knowledge fans of all things “geek” out there and offers several podcasts covering it all: http://geekyfanboy.blogspot.com/

Don’t forget there’s still plenty of great podcasts on the network I was proud to be a part of, John S Drew’s Chronic Rift: http://www.chronicrift.com/ Including of course, the Dan & Travis show who are the first guys who put me on internet radio waaaay back when.

And if you’re just looking from some great old music to discover, you’ll never go wrong with Matt The Cat as he explores The Juke In The Back: http://www.jukeintheback.org/

Thanks again everyone. It’s uncertain world these days, as it is most days, so I hope it’s a safe and happy 4th of July Weekend. Keep fighting the good fight!

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

 

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The Blank Page

Blank Page

A lot of writers fear the blank page. Much has been written about that empty, white monster staring back at a hapless author bereft of ideas who doesn’t know how to fill the space. And for many aspiring, new writers the blank page can be one of the scariest obstacles to face.

I have a confession to make. And I make it with no braggadocio but this is a fear I can’t relate to.

I just can’t. Mainly because I can’t recall any time when I was scared of the blank page. Maybe writing term papers in college but I even tried to make those fun much to the appreciation of my professors. I’m hard-pressed to remember a time when the blank page filled me with any kind of trepidation, nonetheless dread.

Not only am I not afraid of the blank page, I actually like it. OK, here’s the real confession – I love the blank page.

Love love love it.

I remember being in a museum years ago and a young art student was setting up an easel in a room to paint, I’m guessing, a reproduction of a painting on display. Or maybe it was the most brazen art forger in town but either way it was a fascinating juxtaposition of both sides of the journey. On the wall hung the completed piece after God knows how many years of practice, discipline and struggle. And just a few feet away was a young person just at the starting line, organizing their paints and brush while the large white canvas waited patiently to be filled with visuals that could make the eye go “Wow.”

Is it really that different for us writer? Our ideas are the paint. Our words are the brush. The blank page is literally the writer’s canvas, waiting patiently to be filled with our expression that will hopefully make the mind go “Wow.”

The blank page is the beginning. Chapter one, paragraph one, sentence one, word one.

The blank page is like the last day of school right before summer break. It’s that delicious anticipation of leaving the real world behind an entering another place, another reality or the endless confines of the imagination.

Where do you want to go? Gotham City, Tatooine, the prom except this time you’re the best dancer our there, the middle of a football field, a World War I battlefield, deep space, the deepest ocean (Jim Cameron’s probably driving a submarine there now) – you can go anywhere you want through that blank page. It is a writer’s own personal TARDIS.

I mean, come on. How awesome it to type stuff like:

FADE IN:

EXT. DEEP SPACE – NIGHT (ESTABLISHING)

The blank page was my gateway to every story I’ve ever wanted to write. I feel very fortunate that I always saw it like that. Something else that happens to me every time I finish the first draft of a script and I mean, EVERY SINGLE TIME, that I hit fade out and date the cover page – I want to go on again. Like when you were a kid (or an older roller coaster enthusiast) and you finish the roller coaster and your first thought is “I don’t care how long the line is, I want to go AGAIN” or when you put your favorite song on repeat.

I want to do that again and again and again. I cannot date too many cover pages.

And the way to get there is through the blank page. So as result, I see it not as this daunting white beast staring back at me from the abyss. Instead, the blank page is possibility, imagination, an old friend of never-ending potential.

The blank page is EXCITEMENT.

Besides, if you blow it on the first few pages, you’re going to rewrite them anyway so seriously no pressure. In my experience, Act One of a script or the first 25 pages get rewritten exponentially more than the rest of the script. Those first blank pages are where you can really screw everything up or to put it another way – it’s where you can really have fun.

The top of the mountain is the goal but you can’t get there without starting from where the rock bursts from the ground.

My suggestion is don’t run from the blank page. Don’t fear it. Embrace it. It’s our canvas. It’s where we find our stories, sometimes even find ourselves. It’s where we face our fear and discover our bravery.

The blank page is where we become writers.

*And if you’re wondering what’s happening at night in Deep Space, then I’ve really done my job.

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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What Quentin Tarantino Taught Me About Buying In

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I’m not the biggest fan of Quentin Tarantino. I like his work but I’m not a devotee like so many are. I’m not an authority on his career. I actually prefer Reservoir Dogs to Pulp Fiction. And I’ve not seen his last two pictures. (Mr. Tarantino, if you’re reading this, don’t be mad, they’re in my queue.)

I also didn’t grow up watching kung-fu movies. My Saturday mornings were filled with WWF action called by Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby Heenan. And then there was NWA World Championship Wrestling at 6:05 on the Superstation TBS. So Hulk Hogan & The Four Horsemen filled my over the top action quota for the weekend.

Many years ago, Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 arrived in the mail. Yes, I still use DVD. I like physical media. Old school. I was curious about Kill Bill but not overly excited. I didn’t run to the theatre to see it and basically was watching it to keep up with the buzz.

I popped Volume One in and relaxed on the couch. A mere few minutes in, Uma Thurman confronts a suburban mom in her doorway. There’s that noise, you know the one, as Quentin closeups on their eyes narrowing in focus. And then BAM they’re fighting all over the house in as high stakes a life-and-death struggle as I’ve seen.

That was it. I was in. Wherever Tarantino took me, I was going. Oh Quentin, My Captain. He could have taken me to the villain giving a monologue while making a sandwich and I would have been riveted. Oh wait, he did and I was. I watched the whole thing from the edge of my seat loving every second. I wanted to shake Quentin Tarantino’s hand and buy him a beer for the experience.

I was hooked. We often talk about the hook as vital for the early pages of a screenplay. But makes an effective hook can be quite elusive. Whatever the genre, the hook is the thing that makes someone want to keep reading, pay money for a box-office ticket or drop the remote while saying “Ooo, what’s gonna happen next?” But we know all too well how hard that interest can be to capture in our gigantic media and ever-busy world saturated with distractions & content.

And let’s be honest – a hook also can help the filmmakers pull off the slight of hand of hiding a film’s flaws by seducing the viewer into the journey. We’re trying to get you so into the piece, so interested in the story that hopefully don’t notice the joins or figure out those trespasses they make fun of Mythbusters. If you’re on the edge of the seat about how they’re going to rescue the princess, you’ll overlook the obvious shot of the stunt-double in Act 2.

To borrow a phrase from sports, a hook makes the viewer buy into the movie the way a player has to buy into a coach.

Friends chatting about movies can be an invaluable resource for screenwriters and filmmakers. It’s a first hand focus group where people are talking about what they like and don’t like about a movie. Not over-analysis or overused jargon about inciting incidents and payoffs.

That being said, I’d suggest gently that people don’t always know how to accurately articulate what it is they didn’t like about a movie.

Some examples:

“It had no plot or story.”  If you think a summer blockbuster had no plot or story, I have a long list of 60’s art films for you to check you. Movies that have no plot or story aren’t released widely. You may not like the plot or the story, you may find the story very boring or you may not really care about it. But it’s very difficult to find a movie with no plot or no story.

“It was sooooo bad.” Problem with this is bad is a relative term. You hear it all the time – objectivity planted onto subjectivity. I’ve heard it was “soooo bad” about movies that have won awards on every level with a fierce loyal audience behind it.  I’ve heard it “was so bad” about some movies that when I finally saw them I was expecting such dreck that I actually said “it’s not that bad.” The reverse happens to be true as well. I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience.

Fortunately, no one has ever told me a script of mine was “sooo bad” but if they did, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Obviously I thought it was good. Chances are another of my readers liked it as well. So how do I fix “sooo bad?” I can’t. Boring? Sure, we can pick up the pace. Low-stakes? Can do, we can ramp those up.  Too many story threads? Cut & combine. But sooo bad? I’m gonna have to ask you to be A LOT more specific.

And if I’m hearing my friends complain about a movie and someone says “I just didn’t buy it.” A-HA! Now we’re talking. Usually, there was something that was a bridge too far when it came to suspending disbelief. And that’s important and something us screenwriters can work with:

*Was there an inconsistency in character behavior?

*Was the emotion of the story not the right pitch?

*Was world of the script something the viewer couldn’t believe could happen? (Not necessarily realistic, but credible.)

Can we answer those questions within the story enough to get the audience to buy in? That is the great quest but you can see how much easier those questions are to work with. And some of them can be answered by a great hook.

See, it’s easy to say “Come up with a great hook that gets the reader/viewer interested.” But it’s more than that. You need a great hook that seduces the viewer into another world they don’t want to turn away from.

Every movie has a hook somewhere in the top. Movie history is overrun with great hooks that make people say “I’m not going anywhere.”

*The HUGE spaceship that kicked off Star Wars

*Jack Burton’s driving monologue at the top of Big Trouble In Little China

*Harmonica’s first gun fight at the top of Once Upon A Time In The West.

Hell, at the top of Annie Hall, Woody Allen tells you directly some of his favorite jokes that are the theme of the movie. In some ways, he’s saying “This is what this movie’s about. Let’s go.”

Those are a few of my favorites. You can probably think of hundreds more. Talk about it with your friends this weekend. It’ll be fun.

You don’t want to lose the viewer. You don’t to let up the excitement/drama/stakes, all those synonyms for story. BUT the lightning in the bottle is get that hook that grabs people and doesn’t let go, that makes people, “Oh, I am IN” or “How will Harry & Sally finally get together?” “How are they going to catch that shark?” “How is Bruce Willis going to fix that little kid?”

Quentin Tarantino is a MASTER of the hooks. The Madonna chatter at the top of Reservoir Dogs. The robbery at the top of Pulp Fiction. And my favorite, the fight at the top of Kill Bill.

He cinematically tells you in 30 seconds or less, “This is the story I’m telling. I make no apologies for it. And I’m not holding back.” (For the record, that’s not an actual quote, just my interpretation.)

Because here’s the sad truth. Sometimes, the viewer just isn’t going to buy in.

I’ve watched movies that are objectively of a very high quality, that have been made by intelligent artists with the most painstaking care, that are honest and raw with a real message. And I still just don’t like them. You can say the same thing. I can guarantee it. (Again, the “sooo bad” being relative to the point of meaningless.) I just didn’t buy in. I can usually point to something specific that undid the hook. 

This is meant with the highest respect to the filmmakers and this is all a matter of taste, but…

*Room: I don’t know of a mother who wouldn’t figure out how to escape through that skylight during those 5 years.
*The Dark Knight: The Joker’s henchmen engaged in basil exposition dialogue during the bank robbery for reasons I saw as just moving plot, not story. Also, Batman beating up the cops of Gotham City isn’t a Batman story I’m interested in.
*High Plains Drifter: A cowboy raping a woman is horrible and unacceptable whatever era the movie was made in or portraying.

I could not buy into those movies. If you could, great! I’m glad you enjoyed them. What bothered me didn’t bother you and fair enough. Goo goo g’ joob. (Well, High Plains Drifter is a tricky one to justify. I’ve seen attempts but no, he raped that woman so fuck that movie.)

So sometimes that Hook doesn’t work. Sometimes we’ll look right at the stunt-double and change over to Food Network. What’s the answer? How do you get that great hook?

There’s simply no surefire answer. No one knows that and be dubious of anyone who does. But what I’ve learned, I’ve seen clearest in Quentin Tarantino’s films. “This is the story, no apologies, come along if you can.” In other words, if you know not everyone will buy in, there’s no reason to compromise your story. Stay as true to it as you can when inviting the viewer along for the ride.

I don’t write universal stuff. Not everyone will like my scripts and that’s quite frankly OK. Because to try and please everyone would actually undermine the stories.

So the hook shouldn’t be a cheap trick or gimmick. A dead body for the sake of a dead body. Like bad magic, people will see right through that. They’ll be insulted and uninterested.

I believe the Hook has to be something at the core of your story. Something that could define WHY you wanted to write this story. Something about what’s possessed you and made you obsessed with it. Something that will offer that same possession to the audience. Or a moment that will lead to that core of the story.

One of scripts I’ve written is about the French resistance of teenage girls fighting the Nazis during World War II. I got the note from several producers and writers that it took too long for the action to begin. A fair note and something I could work with. So I added a flash forward. The very first shot on the very first page is my lead character, Sophie, pointing a rifle at a Nazi soldier. Before they even speak, the core of the story is there both visually and on the page. The feedback and interest in the script went through the roof. Fingers crossed you’ll get to see it one day (and that you’ll buy into it.)

Revisiting those examples above:

*The HUGE spaceship that kicked off Star Wars

(A love letter to Flash Gordon, the inspiration of Star Wars, but it’s the start of Darth Vader’s chase of the heroes throughout the trilogy. Central to the story)

*Jack Burton’s driving monologue at the top of Big Trouble In Little China

(It’s ridiculous and funny but Jack is essentially describing his whole philosophy. He’s introducing himself to the audience)

*Harmonica’s first gun fight at the top of Once Upon A Time In The West.

(Harmonica’s revenge is the driving force of this story. We get started page 1, shot 1.)

No, you won’t seduce everyone with your hook. Someone’s going to read your script and say either “eh” or “that sucks.” But that’s not your audience. Your audience is the people who will get hooked by what your saying and stay with you for the entire ride.  And if they do, then your story will truly resonate with them the way it resonated with you. Or in ways you never even though of which can be the most fun at all.

Keep writing. I’m pulling for ya. And I hope people are buying in.

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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On The Importance Of Tits And Dragons

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Ian McShane is a master of his craft. I don’t know if I’d call him a genius because that label sometimes discounts the many hours of disciplined work and practice someone puts into their profession. But Ian McShane is a master. Just watch any episode of Deadwood for evidence. But the 73 year old actor has an incredible resume of achievements from “Dallas” to “Pirates Of The Caribbean” to his famous series “Lovejoy.” If I ever have the privilege of meeting him I would shake his hand in Congratulations on a stellar career.

Recently, Mr. McShane has raised the ire of many genre fans for giving away spoilers for his appearance on “Game Of Thrones.” He gave a response in the Telegraph which said, “You say the slightest thing and the internet goes ape…I was accused of giving the plot away, but I just think get a fucking life. It’s only tits and dragons.”

Here’s the original Telegraph article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2016/03/11/ian-mcshane-game-of-thrones-is-just-tits-and-dragons/

I encourage you to read the entire article because there’s a lot more than just the “tits and dragons” line that made the headline.

And before you get excited, this isn’t a complete rebuke of Ian McShane’s comments. He’s done more than enough in this business to be entitled to whatever opinion he has. Besides, interview quotes are tricky. Was he just joking? Was he rolling his eyes at internet outrage? The quality of “Game Of Thrones” is pretty much undisputed so I’m sure he’d have some very glowing things to say about the script and experience. Of course, the internet being the internet, that’s harder to find than the mean comments.

But he does bring up some interesting points about internet outrage, spoilers and the genre experience.

Ian McShane cannot be more correct when he says “You say the slightest thing and the internet goes ape.” One just has to look at the ongoing feuds between many Bernie Sanders supporters and many Hillary Clinton supporters to know that’s true. Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders are putting an exemplary debate exchanging ideas in the political discourse. Some of their surrogates, however, are shouting at each other on talk shows and across social media. (Following the example of those they profess to love is some advice that wouldn’t go amiss.)

As I have explored in these pages, the keyboard can be a sword bringing bravery to many a troll. The black and white image of one quote taken out of context can instill an extreme judgement of “HOW COULD THEY?!?!” when in fact there was much more to the story.

I ain’t mad at McShane’s comments because every once in a while (or maybe every day) internet outrage really does need to be told to chill the fuck out. Judgments shouldn’t be made on one out of context quote, but by meticulously researching all aspects of a story. And I say this from no high horse. This all has to be learned the hard way. (“Well, OF COURSE, Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” said I in 2003. We all can be very wrong about who we believe in.)

I was blocked on twitter not that long ago by a fellow Democrat who was losing her mind about Bernie Sanders ATTACKING Barack Obama. Mr. Sanders wasn’t in fact attacking Obama, but just pointing out how his policies differed from the President’s. In a very reasonable manner. It’s also reasonable to guess President Obama wasn’t mad at Senator Sanders comments. Disagreements happen all the time in politics but the mere suggestion that Bernie Sanders wasn’t the enemy lead to a barrage of rage from this person toward myself and several other people. I’m a loyal and proud voter of Barack Obama but I apparently betrayed the cause by not being mad enough at Bernie Sanders it seems.

(I’ve received the same rage by the way from some Bernie supporters for not loving him so much. There is no political bent that is immune to the pitchfork mentality of mob outrage.)

There’s also the matter of spoilers. In this day and age, they’re getting harder and harder to avoid, but as I’ve mentioned before, apps like this can be a lifesaver:

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/unspoiler/oookgbbhgojdebhnmkmhgfagoiknifgi?hl=en-US

Typing in Game Of Thrones into that app might have kept fans safe from the secret being spilled. It’s impossible to ask the whole world to be quiet about spoilers but there are earmuffs out there that we can wear.

But then there’s the matter of dismissing the genre. In all honesty, I don’t think that’s what Ian McShane meant to do. However, for a great number of years, many us who lurked in Comic Book shops have had to deal with our passions being dismissed with an easy wave of the hand. The explosion of genre programming today shows that those passions weren’t just passing phases and they should not have been so easily dismissed.

Recently, even I was gobsmacked by the amount of attention the new “Captain America: Civil War” trailer got. I don’t mean the buzz but I mean voluminous articles breaking down every shot. Spider-Man’s uniform being combed over. New theories about the plot were written in great detail. People went nuts over this trailer. Google it if you don’t believe me.

Why in the hell would anyone spend so much time and energy over a single few minute long trailer?

The answer is quite simple: It’s important to them.

VERY important to them.

Some scoff and say that Comic books, sci-fi and escapist entertainment is nowhere near as important as serious drama. Perhaps not. That is the endless debate between critics and fans.

Then of course some say that people shouldn’t get so emotionally invested in these kind of genre things. It’s not as important as cancer, domestic violence, rape, abuse and all the other horrors of the world that need fixing. “Why don’t people spend more time worrying about that than the new Godzilla movie?” some will ask with furrowed brows of disappointment.

Those furrowed brows are missing a very key point. Cancer, domestic violence, rape, abuse and all the other horrors of the world are WHY genre is so important. The words nerd and geek have now become affectionate labels for those of us who spend time watching the TARDIS materialize or dress in Starfleet uniforms. It’s easy to forget that the words nerd and geek used to be (and maybe still are) some of the worst names you could be called on the playground. Bullies earned their stripes by inflicting as much torment on the geeks at school and as far as dating went? Forget it.

The “It Gets Better Campaign” reminds us these trends are still there despite the mainstream money-machine that genre has become. So when school is a place of abject terror, when home is a hell of domestic violence, when the steel grip of depression keeps you clawed down, it’s hard to know where to turn.

Many people find not just solace and comfort, but pure bliss in the pages of a fantasy novel, the images of comic book or the wild adventures found in deep space. That faraway land isn’t just mindless escapism but where our troubled minds can escape the painful, chaotic asshole that is real life and find some kind of peace.

And that is the one place I would respectfully disagree with the estimable Mr. McShane. Many of the people who are so invested in shows like Game Of Thrones ARE in fact getting themselves a life.

Yup. Genre entertainment can be damn silly. The sets sometimes wobble and the acting can reach over the top proportions.

Yup. Genre entertainment can take itself way too seriously. Fandom can overreact to the slightest changes in canon and should sometimes take a step back a bit. (I still for the life of me do not get the rage at Goyer & Mazin’s She-Hulk jokes. Google that if you don’t believe me or maybe don’t.)

The world is unfair. The world is filled with tragedy that can strike at any second. The world hurts. Genre, escapism and entertainment, I put it to you dear reader is not just spaceships and superheroes. It is medicine for those hurts.

People often ask me if I’m ashamed of the work I did in Reality TV. “Are you kidding?” is usually my reply. I spent more than a decade laboring to entertainment millions upon millions of people. Even some of the small shows I worked in got around 700,000 viewers. That’s a SHIT TON of people when you think about it. If the show I was working on was a way for those folks to unwind, relax from their day and deal with whatever they were stressing out about, I’m not only not ashamed of the show – I am HONORED to have been a part of it.

Yup. Genre entertainment IS people’s lives. And it will always be of vital importance as long as there are hurts that people need healed.

And besides, the description of “Tits and Dragons” I daresay would attract a great number of viewers. I mean, come on, a show about tits and dragons – how can you go wrong?

dragons1

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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