Thursday, August 6, 2009

Script Magazine

I received a complimentary copy of Script Magazine along with my Final Draft Screenwriting software order (my old program and Vista fought constantly.) The magazine sat around for awhile, b/c I was absorbed learning the new screenwriting software--you know, software death has to happen at deadline time, right. Then one night I brought the mag to bed for reading material as I absolutely cannot go to sleep without first reading something.

I was hooked! The magazine is filled with industry information, opinions, HOW-TO's success stories...writers on writing.

So I subscribed.

Then serendipitously, I inadvertently gave them the wrong charge card and received a very pleasant phone query from the office. After giving them the correct charge card number, I gathered up my nerve and asked permission to blog on the mag.

A few emails swapped with editor Maureen Green and the answer was YES!! Thank you, Maureen.

I was blown away. Now my dear readers, I'm able to blog about this great resource and use excerpts.

This issue is currently on the stands, and get THIS, you can go to their site and read the current issue's main articles. It's very generous of them to offer this, and I asked Maureen how they could afford to do it.

She said honestly, once they read it, they want it. Additionally the issue is available to read online only while it's available on the stands, once the next issue comes're out of luck. (click on the magazine image and it'll load it in PDF format.)

The major articles are timely, thus keep you abreast of current writers, films, issues, sales and film-makers. BUT there is a WHOLE lot of content in the magazine that isn't available online, so mostly, that's what I'm going to blog on.

So after you read this, or now if you must :) check out their website, sign up for their newsletter and read their e-articles. But come back...please.

First off, I always read the Editor's Note by Editor in Chief Shelly Mellott. She's been editor for the past 15 years and her insight is great ..."Specs (in the 90's) were no longer viable commodities but started to be referred to as 'writing samples. Why? Because the bottom line at the studios had started to shrink. With shrinking profits came fear and conservative business practices."

She goes on to talk about "pre-sold" properties, like comic books, vid games and the like that a studio could bank on. Her notes are always insightful yet realistic about the craft. I'll bring you some her past letters in a later blog.

The Art of the Rewrite by Carol Phiniotis is interesting. She gives examples which always help. Carol's article is available using this link:

Scene Fix: is a feature of Script giving aspiring scribes the chance to have their scenes evaluated by master screenwriters. (I want to do this!! If I'm good enough and gutsy enough.) This issue written by Jenna Milly, looks at Kellie Rice's Andromache. I've posted a few of her questions: "I want the audience to invest in the motivation of the antagonist...." and "Is the tension between the two character well-built? They should be letting down their guards a bit in the scene." And "Are the descriptions/scene descriptions over-done? If so, where should they be cut?"

Great answers by Derek Hass and Michael Brandt (3:10 to Yuma, Wanted, 2Fast 2 Furious, Invincible)! Additionally the feature has a workshopping section at the end of each question so you gain additional insight. Follow the link to see Kellie's rewrite of the scene: but you gotta read her first attempt...get the mag!

Another article that nabbed my attention was Going Global: Screenwriting in the International Marketplace by Ray Morton. He begins: "Twenty-five years ago, the markets outside of the United States were only a small part of the Hollywood picture. American movies and television were made in America, the majority of a film's gross came from the domestic market, only a few of our most popular television programs were shown overseas, foreign films played just in a small number of art theaters in major cities, and imported television programming was limited to a few British mini-series and endless reruns of Monty Pythons' Flying Circus on PBS.

That's all changed, however. American films now make most of their money overseas, Hollywood is venturing into numerous modes of worldwide production, foreign producers are making inroads into the commercial U.S. market, and television programming is crisscrossing borders in significant ways. Given all of this furious change, Script thought now would be an ideal time to take a look at these new permutations and what they mean for American screenwriters."

Don't you want to know where this is going? I kept on reading, even while shaking my head in misery and nodding in agreement. Continue reading....

"Remake Out
Traditionally, Hollywood has always been an exporter—our movies play in every market in the world and our television shows have been dubbed into most known languages. Lately, we have even begun to export our history as a number of U.S. film companies have licensed remake rights to some of their movies to overseas producers. For example, in May 2009, Viacom made a deal with Studio 18— India's largest film company—that will allow the Bollywood studio to do a Hindi-language remake of The Italian Job, an arrangement that also allows Studio 18 to pursue redos of other titles from the Viacom library. Groundhog Day and 12 Angry Men have also been remade—in Italy and Russia respectively—and plans for many others, including an Indian reimagining of Cellular, have been announced.

The formats to U.S. television programs (as well as rights to remake individual episodes) have also been licensed—at least 10 different versions of The Nanny have been mounted worldwide, a Russian adaptation of Married... With Children was the most popular program in that country's history, and local-language versions of various iterations of Law & Order have been produced in France, Russia, and the U.K.

Obviously, this is all good news for the writers that penned the original films and shows since, under the terms of the WGA Minimum Basic Agreement, they get paid whenever their work is redone.

Remake In
The quantity of remake rights Hollywood is exporting pales in comparison to the amount it is importing. There's been a long tradition of studios that remake foreign films for an American audience (examples include movies as diverse as Intermezzo, The Magnificent Seven, Three Men and a Baby, and True Lies), but while in the past this practice was something that was done on occasion, in recent years foreign remakes have become a regular component of most studios' development slates.

Since 2000 alone, well over 30 films released by American studios were remakes of foreign originals, including Vanilla Sky, Swept Away, Solaris, Insomnia, Alfie, The Ring, The Grudge, The Lake House, The Eye, Funny Games, Shall We Dance?, and the Academy Award'-winning Best Picture for 2006, The Departed.

Likewise, although adaptations of overseas television series have always been a minor staple of American television (most notably in the 1970s, when shows such as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, and Three's Company were based from popular English programs), since the success of The Office and Ugly Betty (both remakes of foreign series), this trend has been multiplying exponentially. In the past several seasons, over a dozen American shows, including In Treatment, Survivor, Big Brother, Life on Mars, Kath & Kim, American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, and America's Got Talent, have been adapted from hits based in other lands. With many more redos for big screen and small already announced for the coming seasons— including a remake of the notoriously violent Korean action film Oldboy and another of the highly regarded Colombian telenovela Sin Tetas, No Hay Paraiso (Without Tits, There is No Paradise), this movement shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

For many observers, the increasing reliance on foreign material is a sign of two distressing developments in the U.S. entertainment industry. The first is how risk-averse the big entertainment companies have become— rather than take a chance on any original material, they seem to be interested only in pre-sold properties that have already proven themselves to be successful in other markets, be they best-selling books; remakes of old U.S. movies and TV shows; classic toys, games, and comic books; or popular material from other nations.

The second is the apparent loss of American creativity. "From a writing standpoint, what gets me is that we've stopped innovating," opines screenwriter Don Handfield. "We've stopped being the ones who are creating entertainment that the world is coming for. It's like we're out of it. I wish these networks and the studios would take more chances on homegrown entertainment, stuff that might be a little more off the wall,
instead of saying, 'This was a hit in a foreign country so let's adapt it.' It's the foreign countries that are actually the ones that have the freedom to do the innovation because they're not as constrained."

Despite its dire implications for the industry's ambition and creativity, the remake trend provides a lot of work for established American screenwriters because they are the ones who get hired to adapt all of this material. Of course, it bodes less well for the authors of spec scripts since it means that there's less and less market for original material.

There's more to the article, I only stopped here, because it mentions spec scripts (Shelly's Editor's Note) and the sad reality (IMO and apparently I'm not alone) that there original material is a dicey gamble for studios. Yet I hear complaint after complaint from friends and writers..."Another remake? You've got to be kidding..." Sadly, my friends, they are not kidding.

Andrew Sherer (Nicholl Fellow) blogs about this article and others at:

You've got to go online and read the Writers on Writing article by Mark Boal, scribe of The Hurt Locker. YOU HAVE TO.

More later, I think this post is long enough and I didn't even get to the cover story! I hope I've whetted your appetite to read more. And, please, comment pro or con. Open, non-viral, dialogue is always welcome on Five Scribes.

You can subscribe to Script online:

Great search option for past articles...not all are available, but I'm certainly excited to read what they have listed now.



Nancy said...

After Blake Snyder's death, your post was a bright spot, LA!


Donnell said...

LA, fabulous post, so much information. I was saddened as well about Blake Snyder. What a loss to the creative world. He leaves behind many, many grateful writers and friends.

Leslie Ann said...

Yes, his death was very disturbing for so many reasons, he was savvy, wonderful, oh-so-funny, and too young to leave us.

Thanks so much for your comment, you're always a bright spot!!

Leslie Ann said...

Script is a very cool magazine. And not just for screenwriters. Telling a good story is important in any medium.

I never got to see Blake in person, but read his book when it first came out and literally zoomed through it, then had to go back again and again to mark and flag pages.


Audra Harders said...

Leslie! Wonderful blog on the magazine! Great resource and reference for writers of any media and genre. Loved it.

I'm excited to visit the site and test drive their articles. I realize Script Magazine is an industry staple, but in your opinion, how does Script compare to RWR as far as information for their readership?

Also, you mention remakes of our movies as hits in foreign countries. If that happens, does the original screenwriter get any compensation? Some of the movies you mentioned are fairly recent. You'd think some sort of agreement would need to be reached.

Very interesting perspective, LA. I'm looking forward to future glimpses within the pages of Script!

Leslie Ann said...

Interesting...RWR vs Script. I've never known an organization like RWA (Romance Writers of America) who nutures their writers so much. In fact, it's been said that the NYT Bestsellers of today are training their replacements for tomorrow, because they are so willing to teach, give and mentor writers.

RWR is a great info mag, on all facets of the business.

Script is very similar in that it gives so much information. The difference I think is that RWA has chapters and members and contests...Script will mention them, but it's not a membership perk.

As for the other part of your question, I'm going to have to go to the expert...the author of the article and see if he'll answer.


Kellie said...

Hi Leslie Ann,

This is very late (apparently I should Google myself more often) but thanks for sharing Script Magazine's "Scene Fix" for my script Andromache with your readers. It was a great experience and I appreciate the exposure. I wish you the best of success in your writing!