Friday, November 28, 2008

Thomas Kinkade should leave filmmaking to the pros.

Poached directly from this Vanity Fair article, who obtained the exclusive on it. This is a memo circulate to the entire crew of The Christmas Cottage. For S and G, here it the trailer. I should caveat, I've never produced anything shot on 35mm with a dvd distribution by Lionsgate that starred multiple academy award nominated actors, but still...come on.

Thomas Kinkade's

The Christmas Cottage

The sixteen guidelines for creating the "The Thomas Kinkade Look".

1) Dodge corners or create darkening towards edge of image for "cozy" look. This may only apply to still imagery, but is useful where applicable.

2) Color key each scene to create mood, and color variation. When possible, utilize cooler tones to suggest somber moods, and warmer, more vibrant tones to suggest festive atmosphere. In general, create a color scheme for each scene that can be accentuated through filtering, DI treatments, or through lighting. Most of my paintings feature an overall cool color envelope, into which warm accents are applied.

3) Create classic compositions. Paintings generally utilize a theme and variation compositional motif. Heavy weighting of the image towards one side, with accented areas of interest balancing it on the other side. Allow the eye to wander into the scene through some entry point. Be aware of where the viewer is standing at all times. Utilize traditional eye levels for setting the shot -- that is, no high vantage points, off-kilter vantage points, or "worms eye view" vantage points. Generally focus on a standing adults viewpoint of the scene at hand.

4) Awareness of edges. Create an overall sense of soft edges, strive for a "Barry Lyndon" look. Star filters used sparingly, but an overall "gauzy" look preferable to hard edge realism.

5) Overall concept of light. Each scene should feature dramatic sources of soft light. Dappled light patches are always a positive, glowing windows, lightposts, and other romantic lighting touches will accentuate the overall effect of the theme of light.

6) Hidden details whenever possible, References to my children (from youngest to oldest as follows): Evie, Winsor, Chandler and Merritt. References to my anniversary date, the number 52, the number 82, and the number 5282 (for fun, notice how many times this appears in my major published works). Hidden N's throughout -- preferably thirty N's, commemorating one N for each year since the events happened.

7) Overall sense of stillness. Emphasize gentle camera moves, slow dissolves, and still camera shots. A sense of gradual pacing. Even quick cut-away shots can slightly dissolve.

8) Atmospheric effects. Whenever possible utilize sunset, sunrise, rainy days, mistiness -- any transitory effect of nature that bespeaks luminous coloration or a sense of softness.

9) A sense of space. My paintings feature both intimate spaces and dramatic deep space effects. We should strive for intimate scenes to be balanced by deeper establishing shots. (I know this particular one is self-evident, but I am reminded of it as I see the pacing of the depth of field in Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon".)

10) Short focal length. In general, I love a focal plane that favors the center of interest, and allows mid-distance and distant areas to remain blurry. Recommend "stopping down" to shorten focal lengths.

11) Hidden spaces. My paintings always feature trails that dissolve into mysterious areas, patches of light that lead the eye around corners, pathways, open gates, etc. The more we can feature these devices to lead the eye into mysterious spaces, the better.

12) Surprise details. Suggest a few "inside references" that are unique to this production. Small details that I can mention in interviews that stimulate second or third viewings -- for example, a "teddy bear mascot" for the movie that appears occasionally in shots. This is a fun process to pursue, and most movies I'm aware of normally have hidden "inside references". In the realm of fine art we refer to this as "second reading, third reading, etc." A still image attracts the viewer with an overall impact, then reveals smaller details upon further study.

13) Mood is supreme. Every decision made as to the visual look of each shot should include the concept of mood. Music can accentuate this, use of edges can accentuate this, atmospheric effects accentuate this, etc.

14) The concept of beauty. I get rid of the "ugly parts" in my paintings. It would be nice to utilize this concept as much as possible. Favor shots that feature older buildings, ramshackle, careworn structures and vehicles, and a general sense of homespun simplicity and reliance on beautiful settings.

15) Nostalgia. My paintings routinely blend timeframes. This is not only okay, but tends to create a more timeless look. Vintage cars (30's, 40's, 50's, 60's etc) can be featured along with 70's era cars. Older buildings are favorable. Avoid anything that looks contemporary -- shopping centers, contemporary storefronts, etc. Also, I prefer to avoid anything that is shiny. Our vintage vehicles, though often times are cherished by their owners and kept spic-n-span should be "dirtied up" a bit for the shoot. Placerville was and is a somewhat shabby place, and most vehicles, people, etc bear traces of dust, sawdust, and the remnants of country living. There are many dirt roads, muddy lanes, etc., and in general the place has a tumbled down, well-worn look.

16) Most important concept of all -- THE CONCEPT OF LOVE. Perhaps we could make large posters that simply say "Love this movie" and post them about. I pour a lot of love into each painting, and sense that our crew has a genuine affection for this project. This starts with Michael Campus as a Director who feels great love towards this project, and should filter down through the ranks. Remember: "Every scene is the best scene."

The list above is not all-inclusive, but is a good starting point for internal dialogue. These guidelines are not listed in order of importance, but are dictated off the top of my head. After painting for nearly 40 years, I still wake up every morning daydreaming about new ways to make paintings. Creating a movie is a natural extension of the picture making process, and hopefully my catalog of visual paintings, along with my visual guidelines in this memo will provoke dialogue, experimentation, and a sense of over-arching visual purpose.

SAG Strike

My time at UPC is coming to an end next week, and joy of joys, SAG is going to send out strike authorization to it's members in December. This has been the big drama in LA since June, right after the WGA strike settled, and the town settled down with DGA and AFTRA making deals. Outside of it being impossible to get a job in this town, at least on a show, in Dec/Jan, the SAG strike could shut a lot of productions down past that point.

It looks as though the the SAG strike is imminent, and will destroy yet another year of both television and film. With the absolute stubbornness of SAG, it could last into early 2015.

And, while I respect unions and their right to strike for better working conditions, I have yet to hear a valid argument to WHY they deserve a better deal that the other unions. It's clear that all of the unions took a slight in road into new media for a better deal in the future. And let's be honest, this isn't going to be a moneymaker for a few years yet.

Usually, in the past, as Teamsters go, so goes the rest of the town. Teamsters are NOT on board with a SAG strike. WGA is only on board because SAG was on board with their strike. AFTRA is not on board, DGA is silent. It seems as though, from the people that I've spoken to, that these other unions don't understand why SAG deserves better conditions that the rest of the town. And, I have absolutely no idea why either.

So, my question to you, my SAG friends, is WHY do YOU deserve a better deal than writers, directors, and other actors...besides that you are the strongest union in this town?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers. For everyone else, have a frank and productive Thursday.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Heroes "Idiosyncracies"

I use the term lightly. More accurately, I am oft quoted as saying "Tim Kring does not watch his own show". I say this, having watched almost every torturous episode of the show, listened to every ridiculous plot hole, and listened as the ran the show into the ground. I hope, god i hope, that this new "reset" is a new beginning for the show.

Being home this week due to Turkey day with no scripts to work on forced me to watched the huge stack of shows I own. and, after going through 2 seasons of bones, and exhausting 30 Rock and Arrested Development, I decided to unseal the first season of Heroes, which has not been opened in over a year. And, having watched this week's episode AND just finishing the pilot, here are some things I've noticed.

1. The abilities did NOT start during the eclipse. Even though the first episode ends with the eclipse, Issac (remember him, the painter) was painting the future weeks before the eclipse, and it would stand to reason that Angela and Arthur Petrelli had powers for years. Also, Claire Bennett had eight death attempts BEFORE the eclipse. In addition, since Sylar killed Mohinder's father, and Mohinder knew of the death before the eclipse, Sylar had power before the eclipse. And, if we think of a few episodes back, we know that Elle met Sylar prior to the eclipse, when she had her power. AND in addition, everyone Sylar killed with powers, had powers before the eclipse. So, their claim that the Eclipse started their powers is ridiculous.

2. In the second episode, Angela tells Peter that her father was found in the bathroom, but several episodes ago, we saw Angela "kill" Arthur by poisoning his soup.

3. Something that's been bugging me. In the first episode, when Nathan flies, he is truly surprised that he flew. However, in the flashback episode, Nathan flies out of the car before his wife and the car are thrown into the guardrail. So, yeah, he's got that going for him. And, how does NO ONE see that he is flying?

4. In the pilot, Mohinder comes to look for his father's formula and finish what his father started, whether it's finding the special people, or creating a formula to make everyone special. We, the audience, then learn that Arthur and PineHurst not only have a formula already, but they used it on Nathan, Peter, and several other people to give them abilities. Not really a glitch, just a rouse played on the audience which I'm angry about.

5. If Peter's ability is to absorb other abilities, and Angela has a power, and hospice care patient had an ability. Why doesn't he absorb those abilities once he gets his abilities? It's clear in the second episode he has absorbed Nathan's ability. It's clear that he absorbed Issac's ability. So, why doesn't he absorb the abilities of the others?

6. 9th Wonders. It was written by Issac because of his gift. The only other people who have the gift are Arthur, Peter, and Sylar. Peter didn't write the comic after Issac dies, neither does Sylar, and Arthur was largely in a coma. So, WHO writes this comic?

7. Nikki has sex with Nathan. Jessica tries to kill Nathan. How does the 3rd triplet end up with Nathan as well? I initially thought that this WAS Nikki, but since it isn't, how would Nathan let such a person in his life after what the others have done to him?

8. Not a linear gaff, but in episode 4, the Haitian and HRG are chasing Nathan. As we all know, the Haitian prevents people from using powers. They corner Nathan, and Nathan, well, flies! how does something like that happen around a person who's ability is STOPPING ABILITIES?

Okay, that's enough for now. I desperately want this show to be good. But every week, I come to the conclusion that "Tim Kring does NOT watch his own show". I know you need to suspend disbelief, and it's impossible to keep everything consistent in the show, but COME ON!

The Shield

t=I love TV. I'm not afraid to say it. I LOOOOVE TV. I don't really watch movies, go to theater, or buy cds, but I LOOOOVE tv. So, I wanted to talk about a great show, that I hope with RIP.

If you follow tv, you know one of the greatest shows in tv history ended last night. Not only was it excellent, It was also historically relevant. It was really responsible for the landscape of cable television as it is today. Without it, another show would have broken through, but cable would be very different today. I'm talking, of course, about The SHIELD.


The Shield-

I'm on the fence about this season finale. I always loved Ronnie, the most underrated player on the Strike Team. I felt that the only satisfying ending would be that Ronnie shoots Vic, Shane kills himself, and Ronnie gets away. However, the more I read reviews about the last episode, the more I've come to accept that it was a great way to end the season. I mean, nobody liked desk jobs, and to force Vic into the life of a desk jockey is brilliant. Shane, he had to die. There was no other way to end that storyline. However, the fact that he took his son and wife with him was sick.

The only thing that irritates me is that Ronnie was arrested. It would have taken no time at all for Vic to call Ronnie before he takes his deal and tell Ronnie to get out of town. Even though Ronnie would be pissed, I think he would have understood. And, since Vic was getting full immunity, and telling Ronnie to run would have been covered in his immunity.

I'm still on the fence about it for several reasons. First, I hate Shane and I hate Mara more. She's the reason that everything bad happened to the strike team. She used the Armenian money, she told Corinne what was going on. Basically, she fucked the strike team up. Also, I HATED the scenes between Shane and Mara in the final episodes. I realized that's probably why I stopped watching the show. After Lem died, and certainly after Vic found out, it became too much about Mara and Shane, and I found them boring.

Second, I didn't understand why ICE didn't arrest Ronnie right after the bust. They just let him stew for hours after the bust, until Vic was forced to watch his friend get arrested, and his other friend kill himself.

Third, there was absolutely no pay-off for Tina celebrating her one year anniversary on the force. He's a clue, that USUALLY means, in film, that chick is going to be killed. Why? Because without a pay-off, why even set the storyline up? There's NO reason. It pays off in no way. Far be it for me to criticize Shawn Ryan.

Fourth, there was NO pay-off to the Lloyd-Rita storyline. I know that AV Club said there was, but I don't think they were watching the same episode as me. Yes, Dutch and Claudette said it's only a matter of time, but there was no confession, there was no end.

However, there are some things that I loved as well.

First, Vic ending up in a suit and tie, typing reports, was such sweet, sweet justice. Watching this raw, powerful animal, caged. It must be how a tiger feels in captivity. He's stuck, with no one. And he's trapped.

Second, Corinne going into witness protection, leaving Vic, and ending up in a new town. Leaving Vic without the one thing he loved, his family.

Third, the final conversation between Vic and Shane. That was some powerful TV, when Shane asks for a favor, and Vic says no. Shane cries, and makes his final decision to end his family's life. That is sick shit, but it was great tv.

Fourth, Olivia is a badass. She was fucked over, and stuck with this beast, but she basically castrated him effectively and took away everything that he loved.

Overall, while all the storylines were not super well concluded, the acting in the show, from the leads to the lowest supporting actors have always been amazing. It's a show I'm going to miss, but a show that I bow to as well. We should all be so lucky to be a small part of a show that wonderful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

When a script just doesn't work...

As you know if you've read my blog, I like to get right into a script, barreling through if I like an idea until it's done, a nice, neat garbage draft.

However, every once and a while, during a re-write, I find that the idea doesn't work, like at all. I'll give you the logline of a spec I'm working on:

"After her father commits suicide, a young girl decides to kill herself, and sets off along a journey to do all of the things she wants to do before she dies".

Now, here's the issue. I love the main character, I love to B story, and I love to scenes. However, I can't wrap my brain about how anyone would find the story palatable, or identify with the main character. And, after so many weeks of thinking about it, I've decided it's time to kill my entire baby. While it kills me in a way, it has to be done. And, I just wanted to send it out into the ether that if you've had to do the same, I feel your pain. So, how did I come up with that conclusion? I want take a moment to discuss some things that may or may not be necessary to think about when killing an idea/script.

1-Does the STRUCTURE make sense?

Many times, character, even dialog, are great in a script, but the actual structure that drives the story doesn't work at ALL. For instance, you have a suicidal girl who is cracking jokes as she attempts different ways to kill himself, but she is not truly searching for anything. Or your B story is about a guy who's parents are dug up and sent home with him, but he doesn't actively seek out anything, your structure is wack and needs to be re-examined.

ANSWER: No. not at all, it is impossible to identify with the main protagonist, and equally impossible to identify with any of the other characters.

2- is it worth taking the script and doing a page 1 rewrite?

When you think of your story, and you decide you need to restructure the story from the beginning, is it worth it? Mainly, is your script marketable in the first place? Have you sunk enough time in to make it necessary to start again from the beginning? Do you have another idea that is better or equally good that you could adapt your current script?

ANSWER: No. the script must be gutted to the point that it is unrecognizable, and a new skeleton must be added to make the story work.

3- How badly do you want to write this movie?

Luckily for myself, I write a lot of scripts, and this was my "labor of love". So, while I loved the script, I don't NEED to make it. It was my kooky script, just for fun. If this is your masterwork, I would suggest you work on it more.

ANSWER: While I like it, I don't love it, and I don't need to have more of it.

So, my short answer is, as my business partner mentioned, to shelve it, and see if maybe in the next few years I can make something of it. Now, I need a new project to work on, any ideas?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sending out bad scripts...

Once you are read by a company, for the most part, they will give your script on two different criteria. First, let me tell you that if you don't know what coverage is, go to and you will be able to see basically the format of what coverage looks like. Disregard the synopsis and the development comments, and look at second grid at the pop of the page. Each script and reader is given a pass, consider, or recommend.

1- Script

They will give a pass, consider, recommend to the script. A script getting passed at a company means very little, except that that specific company doesn't think that script would be a good fit for their company. Possibly you sent a good quality romantic comedy script to a horror company or a slasher flick to an arthouse producer. Many times even if a script is amazing, a producer can't use it, even if they enjoy it. The real important grade they give you is-


The reader will also give a pass, consider, recommend to you, the writer. This is incredibly important because if you get a PASS, they will NOT read you again. Basically, the bad script burns a future bridge.

So, if you send out a great script to 50 companies and it doesn't sell, but all the companies thought it was well-written, you can submit other material to the company. But, if you send out a terrible script, you will be shooting yourself in the foot. Which is why it's incredibly important to VET your scripts with friends, writer's groups, mentors, proteges, and everyone who can give you accurate opinions on your scripts, before you send it out to people. Because whether someone buys your script of not, if they think you're a good writer, the door becomes a little easier to kick in the next time.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The other crap

Because I'm not just a writer, or director, or director of development, but also run my company, I am often called upon to do OTHER CRAP besides being a creative. I hate the other crap, but it allows me to be more marketable to my business partners and the outside world.

And it got me to thinking about all the junk that needs to be done OUTSIDE of being creative and writing a script/directing a project in order to be successful. So I decided to run down a few for you, since I've once again neglected you for so long.

This is all of the materials that are required to get your script ready to be shown to people. It includes summaries, treatments, and loglines. I can't tell you how many writers I run in to that have a script and don't have the pitch material to get it read. Most of the time, there is a structure to getting a story read.

1-A producer wants to hear a logline. If the logline is compelling, go to step 2, if it's not, the story dies here. This is currently happening with a story i wrote at the beginning of the year. Because it's not "high concept", can't be pitched in 1 sentence, people don't want to read it. In the meantime, my high concept work gets read all the time.

2-Then they want to see a summary/treatment. This is a 1 page document in the case of a summary, or a 3-5 page document for a treatment, that gives the details on structure, plot twists, and how the story plays out. If the story is compelling and up the producer's alley, they will read your script. Doesn't mean they'll like it. In fact, most of the time the execution is terrible, but they are reading it. Scripts on the shelf don't get sold!

Pitch Material
In this ever expanding world of converging media, it's often required, or recommended, to get together other pitch material. This can be a comic book, concept art, or other information that will show the visual style of the show/movie. Why? Because producers are dumb...j/k...but they are very busy, and read tons of scripts a week, and if they can't visualize your noir story, it's never gonna get made.

The Business/Legal Stuff
Thank god for my business partner being a lawyer. Otherwise I would pull my hair out every day. THIS is the stuff I really hate, and the thing that is most important. No investor will give you dime one without this material, even if the script is great. This is the business plan, budget, schedule, cast list, LOIs, PPMs, distributor information, etc. All of the materials that make the package exciting for investors. For a creative, this is a nightmare because it's breaking down all of your scenes and putting a numeric value on them.

However, as a creative, it's also a very important skill to have, because most movies are made either below 20 million, or over 80 million. There are movies in the gooey middle, but the most successful movies fall in those ranges. And, as a baby writer, you'll be writing, or should be writing for the former. And if you know the costs of that 120 call pile-up, you will be able to justify whether it is necessary.

The bottom line is, you are a creative, but you are ALSO a business. You are selling yourself, and these are the materials, outside of the business stuff if you're not a producer as well, that will sell you to a producer, and get your script bought, if not made.

So, before you go wide with a script, make sure that you have all the material to back it up, and when someone asks you about it, you can pitch like the wind and get people interested.