Saturday, December 26, 2009

Interview: Shane Black

How do you generally write?  Do you use outlines or notecards or just start cranking it out from page one?

I don't really use notecards.  What I do is I try to figure out what the piece is about and link that to the story arc or the character arc.  I always think there's two things going on in any script -- there's the story and then there's the plot.  The plot is the events.  If it's a heist film, it's how they get in and out.  But the story is why we're there, why we're watching the events. 

It's what's going on with the characters.  And theme above that. 
Once I get those things, once I know what the theme is and what it's about, I can start trying on story beats and plot beats to see if they feel like they're moving, but they have to relate to the overall theme. 
If you look at The Dark Knight, you'll find before those guys wrote a word of script, they knew exactly what their movie was about.  All the themes were in place.  Sometimes they had to bend the scenes in The Dark Knight to fit the theme they were trying to get across.  It's clear they didn't write the scenes and then look for what they were about, they clearly knew where they were headed. 

Did you actually study screenwriting?

Nah.  I took theater classes at UCLA.  I was studying stagecraft and acting.  It was a Mickey Mouse major.  My finals often were painting sets, y'know?  It was kind of a cakewalk though college.  I liked theater, I liked movies, but I'd never seen a screenplay, and I thought they were impossibly difficult.  Coming from back East, I just assumed  movies were something that floated through the ether and appeared on your TV screen and some magician wrote them, but there was certainly no way I could.  Then I read a script and it was so easy.  I read another one and said, "I can do this.  This is really rather simple."  So I never took classes, I just read scripts I loved.
My style, such as it is, that sometime people comment on, is really cribbed from two sources.  One is William Goldman, who has a kind of chummy, folksy storytelling style.  It's almost as though a guy in a bar is talking to you from his bar stool.  And then Walter Hill, who is just completely terse and sparing and has this real Spartan prose that has this wonderful effect of just gut-punching you.  I took those two and I slammed them together, and that's what I use.  People say it's interesting.  Mostly it's a rip-off.  It's Goldman meets Walter Hill.


Did you always write like this or are there some older, clumsier Shane Black scripts that will never see the light
of day?

No, the first scripts I wrote were written after I decided to go out and see what they look like.  So I picked up William Goldman,  I picked up Walter Hill, and then I wrote Shadow Company, which even on the page, the '84 version, looks exactly like a Goldman script.  Lethal Weapon, it's pretty much in the style of those two writers.  Material is different, I'm talking solely about the style on the page and learning the logistics of how to do it.  Those two were my mentors.  Later mentors were people like James L. Brooks, who taught me an amazing amount, and Joel Silver, of all people, qualifies as a mentor.

Now, you took some time off and came back with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.  Did planning to direct it change how you approached writing it?

No, I thought about that.  That was when I was dealing with Jim Brooks.  He basically said, "You don't need to worry because you direct on paper.  You don't call shots, but you call mood and you call progression and pace and emphasis and just about everything else."  So, I may have even done a little more of that on Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

Now that you've sat in the director's chair, has it changed how you approach a script?

No, except I'm even more conscious of what will later be shoe leather.  The greatest shoemakers in the world supposedly can make a pair of shoes and leave no [extra] leather.  They don't waste any.  I'm very conscious now as a director. 

If you've got two scenes, like a newscaster and a scene before that of a conversation, can't you have the conversation with the newscaster in the background and do it in one?  It's just shoe leather.  No shoe leather.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Interview: Siddharth Roy Kapur, UTV


For some time people have been dealing with films like a project rather than as an artistic form. Budgets have therefore outstripped growth and revenues. Today, a Rs40 crore film will make little financial sense once you have added the costs of marketing and publicity to it. It will be hard to recover that kind of money.

A lot of potential revenue comes from a wider flow of releases. You have to maximize revenue along the time when the promotion of a film is at its fever pitch, before another movie comes out and takes over. Nearly 90% of the revenue comes from the first four weeks of a film's release.

Any industry that does its share of films based on concept, franchises, animation, etc., does not need to bank on stars all the time.

No cost can justify a bad film but, in their defence, multiplexes have given the choice to a section of society that did not think it was cool to see movies out of the comfort of their homes.

We get one or two scripts every day, which go through our development team. We make about 12-14 films a year, so you can do the math. We want to be able to develop stories in-house for which we have a team of six or seven people. There are original scripts and talented writers, but there has been a lack of focused attention in developing that talent

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Script Supervisor's Role

Keep track of:

scenes, pages, setups and minutes shot

which scenes are shot (including partially shot), which are deleted and which ones are left to be shot

setups filmed by all cameras

deviations from scripted dialogues

set times: crew call, first shot, meal times (in and out), first shot after lunch, last shot and wrap

"matching" for purposes of continuity - making sure the appearance of the set and the actors, the movements (and eyelines) of the actors and the delivery of dialogue within each take matches its original master scene, and that the progression of wardrobe, makeup, props and set dressing during any specific scene is accurate

whether the picture is running long or short

Keeps a set of notes each day (usually in the form of a daily log) recording each take of each scene shot, including a description detailing the action and camera movements. Also recorded is the camera roll, scene number, take number, the timing of each take, the camera lens used, and the page count credited to each take. The director will call for specific takes to be printed, and those are circled, thus the term "circled takes".

furnishes Camera and Sound with slate numbers

prepares a list of pick-up shots and wild sound tracks

assists during the blocking of scenes

runs lines and cues actors prior to and during rehearsals (not a required duty but very often done

reads offstage lines for actors not present on the set

supplies the editor with a complete log, continuity notes and lined script pages (actual lines made through the specific scenes being shot indicating the exact action and dialogue captured in each take)

PRODUCTION TWO - Notebook Checklist










Script Breakdown (Nevelyn's Format)

Call Sheet

Location Agreement

Certificate of Insurance

Location Release

Student Shoot Request / Notification

Questions to Ask when scouting a location:

1. Where is the closest access to bathrooms?
2. Where can you see stage equipment, sound, camera, grip?
3. Where can the actors have a private space?
4. Where does the garbage go?
5. Where can you park?
6. What are the dimensions of the area?
7. Where is the access to electricity, and how much do you have?
8. Do you need extension cords?
9. Do you need to get a permit?
10. Do you need a location contract?
11. When is the area open / closed?
12. Do you need a key?
13. What is the name and number of the contact person?
14. Where can you set up craft services?
15. Where can people go to get warm?
16. Where can you change film rolls?
17. Where can you stage costumes and makeup?
18. What are the best driving directions?
19. Where is the nearest telephone?
20. Do you need to alert the neighbors/neighborhood about the shoot?

Scene#; Shot#; Description/Notes; Title: Director: Camera:; Date:; Page:

Student Evaluation of Producer

Producer Evaluation of Student

Prop List

Notice of Filming

Cast List

Crew List

Group Release

Talent Release

Wardrobe List
Character; Article; Day Needed; Designed; Secured
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Script Breakdown

Article: How to Obtain a Film Print

Graph Paper (for schematics)