Monthly Archives: March 2013

hangover haiku #1

Supped of some homebrew

Might lady luck shine tonight?

I can’t pay my rent.


I just hit SEND on either the dumbest or the smartest email I’ve written this year, in terms of writing. Dumb because it could lose me a lot; smart because I could gain a lot. I won’t really know until I get a response. Hell, I hope I do get a response. That’d probably be the worst outcome.

Anyway, it probably won’t shake out until tomorrow. By then I’ll have either wriggled out from a self-made drama or been crushed like a worm underneath it. I’ll let you know which.

[So yes, this means the short is still on hold. Don’t give me that look…yeah, I know. I should change the name of this blog to MARK ALLEN PROCRASTINATES.]

“The Dinosaur Was Mine”

I’m currently reading this interview with Joss Whedon that was conducted just before the release of Serenity in 2005 (that’s almost eight years ago, fans of feeling old!) and thought maybe some of you might be interested in checking it out if, like me, you’re curious to know exactly what Whedon’s involvement in the original Toy Story script was. Turns out it was pretty big – including creating Rex the dinosaur(!) – which as a Whedonite makes me feel even more vindicated and smug than usual.

And they sent me the script and it was a shambles, but the story that Lasseter had come up with was, you know, the toys are alive and they conflict. The concept was gold. It was just right there. And that’s the dream job for a script doctor: a great structure with a script that doesn’t work. A script that’s pretty good? Where you can’t really figure out what’s wrong, because there’s something structural that’s hard to put your finger on? Death. But a good structure that just needs a new body on it is the best. So I was thrilled.

I went up to Pixar [the Northern California-based animation studio which produced “Toy Story”], and stayed there for weeks and wrote for, I think, four months before it got greenlit, and completely overhauled the script. There was some very basic things in there that stayed in there. The characters were pretty much in place except for the dinosaur, which was mine. I took out a lot of extraneous stuff, including the neighbor giving the kid a bad haircut before he leaves. There was a whole lot of extraneous stuff.

He also discusses, among other things, the screenwriter’s role within an animated movie, which contains some interesting insights. If you’re into that kind of thing.

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Last weekend I went home to help out at a local blues festival, which mostly entailed hauling amps and getting a lot of free drinks on the festival tab. So you can understand why I haven’t posted anything for a few days, I’m sure.


Yeah, I know. I’m pretty terrible about getting back on the horse. Every time I try to get saddled up it bucks me off and leaps over a hedge into another field.

In less procrastinatory news, I got some excellent notes from my friend Ben about my second draft of Scars, including one or two minor epiphanies that should make the next version of the script a hell of a lot tighter and the characters much stronger. So yeah, thanks, Ben.

[Oh, and I DEFINITELY haven’t given up on that short film. Promise. More news tomorrow.]

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Up in arms about speech balloons

I often lament bad dialogue to anyone who’ll listen, be it uncomfortably placed exposition or language that character – or anyone else – would ever use. It’s bad enough in Hollywood, where cheesy one-liners and saccharine romance are king (and these are scripts that are usually scrutinised and revised by at least four or five different people, regardless of the final credits), but it can be even more dreadful in comics.

It’s not something that tends to get noticed a great deal, probably because no-one’s actually reading the words out loud. But go ahead, pick up a modern comic from Marvel or DC, read a couple of pages out loud and you’re guaranteed a couple of clunkers; nobody talks anything like that in real life, or even in movies.

Part of the problem is that in superhero comics you get characters tossed around by a lot of different writers, and depending on the status of both them and the writers, the chances are they’re not going to sound a lot like themselves. If the character has had a unique, established voice for a long time, that’s great: a small-time writer can be kept in line by a stringent editor on what they would and wouldn’t say. But it you get a superstar writer like, say, Brian Michael Bendis – who has a brilliant line in teenage soap opera with Ultimate Spider-Man – along to write, let’s see, the X-Men, then they’re just going to write the way they’re used to writing, and in this case you end up with a group of grown adults fighting for the rights of an endangered species who sound like a bunch of stammering, angsty teenagers.

While I think that is a problem – with both the unchallenged egos* and highly stylised dialogue of certain creators, along with wishy-washy editorial policies that are easy to pinpoint in the yearly retcons and relaunches of the Big Two – I don’t think that’s all there is to it.

In a recent Q&A, new X-Men writer Brian Wood spoke about his relationship with the editor of that book:

“And she (Jeanine Shaefer) doesn’t let me slack; she’ll send me back for a third draft if the story needs it.”

And it hit me: most comic scripts only have two drafts? If you know anything about screenwriting, you’ll know that getting a film right in two drafts is no mean feat, and it certainly explains a lot about the levels of quality in mainstream comics…

(That said, I actually think Brian Wood is one of the good writers, which makes that quote all the more perplexing.)

*For the record, I’m not suggesting BMB has an overblown ego. I don’t know the guy, but I’m pretty well aware that the comics industry isn’t without its divas. He was more an example of a personal style creating a problem.

Originality is in the eye of the beholder

“Well, that looks original, doesn’t it? It’s just another remake of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. I really like the original. You know, the one with Donald Sutherland.”

– My father, upon seeing a TV spot for The Host.

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Sweet, Sweet Music

“Back in the golden age of records, artists used to keep their recorded music in a glass conserve jar before it was transferred to vinyl and distributed to stores. Unfortunately, this method of preservation was prone to thievery and rival bands would perpetrate music heists in order to reduce competition or plagiarise songs, resulting in fierce ownership feuds and the now-popular phrase ‘this is my jam’ when a personal favourite is played.”

– Reginald Chuff, Muzic: An Anti-History For The Postmodern Ponce

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I’m going to London for a couple of days to celebrate a friend’s birthday so any updates this weekend will either be short, incoherent missives from my mobile or simply nonexistent (pray for the latter).

Since I don’t like to leave you folks empty handed (though I often do, which probably says things about me that none of us should look too deep into) I thought I’d share this short that I think is pretty damn beautiful, and proves that literally the only limit to a person’s creativity these days is their imagination and a decent broadband connection. It also makes me insanely jealous:

So glad that the director’s going to be putting out features soon.

Why is it that inanimate objects can move us so much? I’m sure there’s a Toy Story-related thesis in that, but I’m far too lazy to do the research myself. Just let me know if this post inspires you to academic ambitions and I’ll take half the credit when you get published. ‘Kay? ‘Kay.

See you on the other side.

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The Short Film Experiment #3

Today I was wondering what made me so interested in making a chase movie. Then I remembered that I watched Point Break last week:

Yeah, definitely taking a couple of notes from Kathryn Bigelow. Zero Dark Thirty would have benefited hugely with a scene where Jessica Chastain’s character chases Bin Laden through Californian alleyways.

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Another Satisfied Customer

ebayI didn’t have the heart to tell him that I only found out about the esteemed Mr. Whalberg’s rap career after choosing my ebay handle. But what’s one white lie against some random’s joy?

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