Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Epic - A Hero's Journey

Epic was a fantasy story I had been compiling over the years. I had originally planned on doing this “world” I created as a children’s book, but one day sitting in the Century City Shopping Center patio area, I began writing my story in scenes as if in screenplay form. It just started flowing. Before I knew it I had written about forty notebook pages worth. It was wonderful. I escaped into this surreal island and sea world. I was sketching as I wrote. I had missed the movie I had been there to see twice and was still sitting there when they were turning the lights off.

The Langston Dominion was fresh and vivid in my imagination and yes it resembles Star Wars, The Goonies etc… You’ve got a group of kids that fight the most evil army in the sea on their quest to find a mythical magical relic that will free their people of their home land’s dictatorship. It is your ‘Hero’s Journey’ story, Joseph Campbell wrote about for years and years. This theory is also used in half the novels, movies and even video games that are out there now. It is basic mythology and Mr. Campbell’s philosophy of how the hero in a man or woman is found through conflict and what they call thresholds.

My story is just completely different in its setting, time and location. My world is a jungle infested Greece BC with a slight turn on Never Never Land.

The boats do not have motors, yet they have discovered a propeller style mechanism that four men put their backs into a gear system to get it moving. They have cannons yet utilize the catapult systems quite often. They call days, “moons”; seconds and minutes, “ticks and shades”; coins, “stones”; boats, “floats,” and that is just to name a few.

They have creatures, humans and creature humans on these island countries. There what they call “Fathers” who are in a sense the leaders or mayors of the particular villages. They have a high class as well as a middle and low class of people. Biased politics run the islands that tend to cause trouble for the lower class as it does in America today. The island where the group we are following live in sort of, capitalistic society to an extent.

Now that I’ve given a little description of some idiosyncracies of my world and we’ve stopped on politics, it’s time to get into the heart of the story and how it’s become to be Epic.

If you know me, you know the story of my father and I leaving the local cineplex years back. The story where we had just seen ‘Raiders’ for the first time and I looked at him as he unlocked the car doors, and said, that’s what I want to do when I get older. Dad thought I meant, be an archieologist. I meant filmmaker. And since those old days of watching Star Wars, The Goonies, Batman and Indy on the celluloid I had dreamt of writing a fantasy/adventure script. Movies of this genre have always fascinated me. They’ve touched the imagination inside of me, spawning many days in the woods with my childhood friends, re-enacting these movies and even adding our own little sequels and stories to them. These movies also spawned my drawing ability. Instead of playing Nintendo like my friends at a little older age, I chose to draw my own adventures with my hero character I called, Elan. He was the heir of the Village Leader in this Jungle/Fantasy world. There were all sorts of evils, goods and monsters in this world and paper just wasn’t enough to tell my story. I had been animating on my Apple IIc since I was light so I sat down in front of it and started animating a kind of “which way book.” If you don’t know what that was, back in the day they had these books you would read where you would have to turn to page 13 or turn to page 69 depending on which action you chose to do and you either died, went on a different adventure or conquered that particular book. Well I did this in a computer program. Back then, (God I hate saying that,) computers still had green monitors and came equipped with just 2x2 block pixels. I would pixel by pixel create these monsters, bad guys and good guys that Elan, my hero, would meet on the way and would have to make decisions in your adventure just like a role playing game, where you would either prevail or parrish. It was quite tedious, but my friends and family would fancy me by sitting down and doing it forcing themselves to play the Atari-Esque game.

Flash Forward, nearly 16 years later, to my sophomore year in college where I wrote the screenplay, Epic. The first draft of it was 370 pages long and it was the well polished real vision of my jungle/fantasy world come to life. I cut the script down to a lean 134 pages and started shopping it. The story engulfed my life. I drew storyboards, cartoon characters, location sketches, I mean this was all I did for a year.

Nothing came of that script. This was before the Lord of the Rings and after the 13th Warrior bombed, so studios were not looking for this kind of script. The only thing I had going for me was it was right after the Titanic Craze where studios were indeed scooping up spec scripts involving young love stories set on a large scale adventure canvas. After accepting that I would probably have to be in the “Hollywood Circle” first to shop this script I put it away, but only after writing two sequels to it, (treatments only.) I guess what I’m getting at with this is that movies like this are the movies that now are coming back into popularity.

These are the movies that stimulate your imagination and skew your vision on everything. You see so many irrational “blow ‘em up movies” that don’t hold their weight in water. On the other end you have the movies such as Wizard of OZ, The The Goonies, LOR Trilogy, and heck, Indiana Jones for that matter are movies that are YEAH completely farfetched but work. These are the movies that Hollywood should be making. They say the reason they don’t do these movies more than they do are because the American people have gotten “dumb” over the years and don’t want to think or use their imagination anymore.

Contrary to what “money men” say, I believe the American People have become smarter, but have gotten brainwashed and dulled through “reality shows” and their attention spans have been shortened due to the computer and internet age we have found ourselves in. With that said and the marketing value of films like Indy Jones IV, Transformers and even Pixar Studios Midas Touch imaginative risks are being takened again. My agent spoke of this and had read my treatment for Epic and another Post Apocalyptical slash Western and DEMANDED me to break out the blue pencils and get them short and tight so instead of pursuing my original schedule of doing some productions, I’m cutting back the actual camera time for some more typewriter time while I wait the fate of Jeopardy’s acceptance to film festivals. “You gotta’ make it in the door fast at this point, son. If you shoot more films, you’re spending another couple of years developing, shooting and editing and by that time Jeopardy will be obsolete. You can’t bring two kids to New York or Los Angeles at this point to spend three years shooting music videos and other small time productions so I will employ you to take your best and biggest ideas you have and get them to me ASAP. You get in on a Spec Script, doors will open in many different avenues,” my rep told me being honest about my idea to continue working on “independent films.” I have no ego. If a guy who’s been around this business a lot longer than I have is telling me to do it his way, by God, that’s what I will do.

Here are some of the old sketches and things I did while writing Epic years ago.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I’ve been writing stories since the fifth grade. The first stories I rememebered writing I still have. I was a big snow skier and after stumbling across an unmarked video tape of my fathers that turned out to be ‘Hot Dog’ the movie snow skiing became my subject for my first continuation of stories. For a freakin’ fifth grader that film was AWESOME-- Boobs, cussing and skiing in Squaw Valley, CA. Well, my friends, (from Viewmont and Grandview,)--- Many of my fellow friends on facebook-- Starred in these four page episodics where love, skiing, drama, and competition unraveled on those eighty pages of total bogus fiction. Reading it now I find myself laughing my ass off. They were terrible, but they were a start. Then I continued to fumble through grammatical and story errors with my underground newspaper I did in high school-- BUT, I continued to do it. If nothing else, the Hot Dog stories began my Writer’s Journey.

What’s funny was until about 2002, all my stuff was horrible. Then I wrote these three scripts, Open Barstools, Epic and The Dirty South. Years passed and I continued to write. Then in 2005, I opened up those scripts I had written and it seemed that those 3 spoken about were still halfway decent. That’s when I knew I may actually be getting better at it. Then came ‘Meter’ which was a 15 page script that was literally 3 years in the making. So when people praise that script they don’t realize how long it took me to get it there. Nonetheless, that film and script put me over as a legit screenwriter and got me enough attention to be put on a list of contract writers. Fairly recently, I have received a few ghost writing jobs. Ghostwriting is pretty simple. Someone gives me a script, says I need you to beef up this or that element of this script. Sometimes they want you to rewrite, the whole monstrosity over, sometimes just add layers to a character. I get paid accordingly to what they want done. The cool thing about ghostwriting is on top of the rate you get what I call “shut up” money which is basically an extra amount on top of the rate because they don’t want to give you credit or royalties. (Most of the time it’s because the writer is not very good, but wants to take all the credit for a good script.) I don’t mind what the stipulation is. I tend to do fairly well rewriting other peoples’ scripts where the story is already intact as opposed to starting from scratch. It’s minor money but it’s money nevertheless-- And you can’t beat sitting around in your underwear on Monday’s, watching movies and rewriting scenes to films you will one day get to see. That may, (I SAID MAY,) be cooler than making them.

Here’s an example of what this job entails. For privacy purposes I am going to use my friend Ennix Xiong’s BAD ASS KILLERS. This script is quite good, but Ennix just needed a little spice in some of the character’s dialogue. This is an exchange between the lead and his sarcastic roommate.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Two Wrongs

So on my off time I’m prepping my next project. It’s a small film called ‘Two Wrongs,’ based on another short story by Rick Deal entitled, “Friend of a Friend.” We’re shooting early April over two days. No glitz, no advertising. It will be a straight to Web Film with a small price tag and nothing near the production value of ‘Jeopardy.’ Mark and I spoke of practicing up while we kill time before making a feature. It would give him some work with improv and would allow me to work on my weakness of working with actors on top of giving me some practice on a P2 HD cam. The storyboards this time are scribbled with a black and gray art brush and I’m only boarding the key shots I need as I plan on improvising with the camera quite a bit.

The Script Preparations for Page 1 & 2

The first couple of plates

Sunday, February 1, 2009


It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future.
What do I do now? It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. What do I do now? It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. Have nothing left. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. It's the way of the future. Not real sure what I'm going to do now...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Adaption - Part One

Adapting a story to the screen is a tougher job than I ever imagined. Jeopardy came from a story of Rick’s that was a page and a half long and that was told from a third person point of view, (narration,) so for film, it had to be done a little differently and I ended up having to add four other characters and drag out scenes so the film would make the eight minute regulation running time for “short films.”

My script was pretty accurate to Rick’s story except for the normal paper to film adjustments. Dana Reed in his story wore Timberland’s and Eddie Bauer pull overs. In my film, it had to be more provocative and aesthetically pleasing so it was a tight solid color turtleneck and red trench coat. With the exception of that and two of the four flashbacks I rewrote last minute due to the tight shooting schedule, it was as close as I could make it. Well, now that the film is complete, it follows nothing like the actual story of Rick’s or the script I wrote that was close which may explain why you hear, “The movie was nearly as good as the book,” statements. I now will be less harsh on adaption because I know how things kind of steer off the original path without control whether good or bad. I plan to be more prepared next time around by learning and studying.

So I did a crash course in adaption. I went out and found a copy of Stephen King’s “Different Seasons” that has the novella, “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” in it. I also found a third or fourth draft of Darabont’s “The Shawshank Redemption,” script. It’s amazing the similarities yet the suttle adjustments or differences of the two.

**This may be one of the best Adapted from book to film that has ever been made.

Here are really the only differences and I would think a couple of these were to keep the story from being too complex on screen. Sort of the same for my situation with Jeopardy. (My Captain Odem to Darabont’s Byron Hadley is one of the added characters that make a huge difference in the adaption. )


The Indian Normaden that shares Andy's cell for a period does not appear in the film.
2. The scene where Norton inspects Andy's cell for contraband without finding the rock hammer (and they quote scripture at each other) does not appear in the novel.
3. In the novel, the lead guards come and go. In the film, Byron Hadley is the lead guard until the very end.
4. Similarly, in the novel, when Andy comes to Shawshank, the warden is a man named Dunahy; he is replaced by a man named Stammas; who is himself replaced by Sam Norton. In the film, Norton is warden throughout.
5. In both the film and the novel, Warden Norton has embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars, but in the novel, Norton quietly resigns after Andy's escape whereas, in the film, when Andy escapes and makes Norton's crimes known, Norton commits suicide in his office rather than allow himself to be arrested.
6. Many of the cons, such as Heywood, Floyd, and "Fat Ass", were either not included or much less involved in the novel than they are in the movie.
7. The screening of Gilda never took place. Andy asked Red for the Rita Hayworth poster while they were watching a movie called The Lost Weekend.
8. In the book, Andy has posters of Jayne Mansfield, Linda Ronstadt, and Hazel Court in his cell at times. In the Film he only has posters of Rita Hayworth, Marylin Monroe and Raquel Welch.
9. The tarring of the roof occurred in 1950 and not 1949.
10. Red never becomes assistant librarian in the novel.
11. Brooks' threatening to cut the throat of another prisoner to avoid being paroled only appears in the film. In both the novel and the film, Brooks is paroled and leaves Shawshank. His suicide soon after leaving prison only occurs in the film.
12. Brooks tells Andy that he came to Shawshank in 1905. The novel says that he was put in prison "while Coolidge was president". Calvin Coolidge was in office as the President of the United States from 1923 to 1929.
13. In the novel, Andy sells off all his assets while still on trial. Together with a friend, he sets up a false identity and transfers all assets there. In the film, Andy himself sets up the false identity so that he can create accounts to launder money for the warden; Andy then drains these accounts upon his escape.
14. Andy's prison identity is changed from "81433-SHNK" to "37927"
15. In the novel, Tommy is transferred to a low-security prison, rather than being killed, in exchange for not talking.
16. In the novel, Tommy came to Shawshank in 1962, not 1965. His child was a three-year-old boy, not a baby girl as in the film.
17. In the novel it was not Red who informed Tommy about Glenn Quentin, it was another con named Charlie Lathrop.
18. Andy only spent twenty days in solitary instead of a full month. The scene where Norton visits him in "the hole" was not in the book.
19. The endings are slightly different. The novel ends with Red en route to find Andy in Mexico but not sure that he will, ending with the words "I hope." The movie shows Red finding Andy on the beach in Mexico.
20. In the novel, Andy comes to Shawshank Prison in 1948, not 1946. Andy's escape also occurs 9 years earlier, in 1966, whereas in the novel, Andy escaped in 1975.
21. In the book, Andy goes through two rock hammers while making his hole. He only uses one in the movie.
22. Andy had a small frame and wore gold rimmed spectacles in the novel, he didn't wear any glasses until late in the film.
23. In the novella Andy never gave Red a harmonica, instead he gave him polished rocks that he collected from the exercise yard.
24. The men's lengthy discussion about institutionalization was not in the novel. However, Red does mention a bit about this topic at one point.
25. The scene where the guard beats the new 'fish' so badly that he dies after being left in the infirmary over night never happened in the novel.
26. The 'record playing' incident never happened in the novel.
27. Jake was not a crow but a pigeon in the novel. What becomes of the bird after Brooks sets him free is uncertain in the movie, but in the book, he is found dead in the courtyard shortly after his release.
28. Red and his friends did not give a sack of rocks as a present to Andy in the novel.
29. Red was paroled after only thirty-eight years instead of forty.
30. The postcard received from where Andy crossed the United States–Mexico border was not from Fort Hancock, Texas but from another town in the state named "McNary".
31. The prison yard is never asphalted in the movie.
32. Every year in Shawshank, Andy buys a bottle of Jack Daniels before his birthday and Christmas. He drinks a few shots and gives it back to Red to pass it around the other inmates. In the movie Andy says he "gave up drinking."
33. Andy did not steal warden Norton's shoes and clothes in the novel, nor did he ask Heywood for a line of rope.
34. The famous line "Get busy living or get busy dying" was never spoken by Andy in the novel, though it does occur as part of Red's narration.

The point to this, is my next project is yet another short story of Rick’s but it’s different than Jeopardy. It has meat and is 10 pages long. In part B I’ll show you how I adapted it and then I’ll probably ask for suggestions because I suck at it. Frank Darabont here, he’s a genius at it. I want his master class or want to be his next intern.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Writer's Journey Begins with THEE BLUE PENCIL

Man, I’ve written some stinkers in my day. When I was 17 and 18, I was writing “indy” films that mostly revolved around small towns, and were driven by drama/characters. The problem was, my characters weren’t very dimensional. They all sounded like the same person-- Me. I was terrible at dialogue, story and well, I just sucked all around.
I ventured off into more action based and fantasy/adventure scripts and I believe some of the elements of my writing improved. I began getting really good with “building story.” My “concepts” were fantastic, but my dialogue was still horrible. Scratch that, my characters were not very multi-dimensional so I couldn’t find their own voices. Well, I began sketching cartoons and drawings of what my characters looked like and for some odd reason, that little exercise helped me hash out my different personalities. So with my new process in tact, I wrote ‘Epic’ and ‘The Dirty South.’ This was eight years ago. I’ve written several things since including, attending Screenplay classes and seminars and well just writing and writing. Well, since Meter, I have not written anything from scratch. I like to think I really began understanding the “story” and learning creative ways to tell it with all the practice. So now, with Meter being two years past and Jeopardy being more a film about camera rather than page AND a first draft of maybe the coolest script I’ve written put on ice due to our budget, behind me, it’s time to do something else. In between breaks from the kids I’ve been slowly rewriting Epic using my new sense of maturity in screenplay writing and it shows in the first twenty pages already. As far as ‘The Dirty South’ is concerned, well it is gone. There is one copy of it on a zip drive somewhere between here and Los Angeles and my friend had a hard copy at his house-- He moved out of six years ago. Is it good enough to rewrite? Then, probably not. Now, absolutely. It was a great concept and I even had fantastic characters, but it just needed some tweaks and a more maturing writer to fix the holes. On top of that, I have “Bunktown Asylum” under my belt. (The B Horror Movie Script I wrote in two weeks, that actually has a lot of potential with the exception of it being way too big a movie for our alloted $300K.) --- But there’s no reason to touch this script for awhile because well, I won’t be in a position to pitch nor shoot it anytime soon. Then there’s ‘Blood on Ansel River’ which is my ode to slasher flicks that ran completely stale about 20 pages in. I think I just got busy with Jeopardy, the opportunity in LA and life so my urge for writing a slasher flick kind of got lost in the shuffle for now.

So to make a long story short, with a some time in front of me, I want to do some writing but I am torn. There are three scripts, (one written already,) that would be great “specs” considering I may get some agent/professional attention come festival time with Jeopardy..... And those would be good ways to break in the door or do I do like I’ve been doing for the past 4 years and write with the intent to shoot myself. (All more low budget stories.) There’s only two of those I would consider and I honestly think I would only want to do “Debauchery” if I were to go that route. It’s a script I’ve written half of but in the four years that I haven’t touched it in, has figured out all the holes I had been missing in it and am ready to go at it again. I have to make a decision before I begin the venture into the next writing project because I cannot work on five projects at once, hell, two at once is tough. I am a focus on one thing at a time. It has seemed to work over the years, so make a decision on what to write and stick to it.

So you are wondering what “Thee Blue Pencil” is? It’s simple. Any script, story, drawing of mine is done, (or at least started,) with a 2H Sanford Turquoise Pencil. My first script’s first draft when I was 18 was written in a notepad with that pencil and the first 20 pages of my latest ‘Bunktown’ was as well. It’s a superstition and Carolina Office has a box of twelve for me reserved at all times, so when I say it is an Obsessive Compulsion of mine, I mean it. Everything is done with it. If I do not have one on me, nothing creative is accomplished until I do. That’s where “Thee Blue Pencil” comes from.

So the Writer’s Journey begins and here like my Production Diary, I’ll lay it all out to you from where I find inspirations, articles and insight I read on the craft as I go and who knows, maybe somebody will lend me a hand with their intelligence and ideas.

For now, let’s start at the absolute beginning. Below is the first “script” I wrote the summer of 1994. The whole script is here, but trust me... You won’t get past the first 5 pages without understanding why YOU MUST PRACTICE, PRACTICE, AND PRACTICE SOME MORE. The script-- Eddie’s Lawn.