The Post Mortem

It's been months since I've updated--goodness, actually horrifyingly close to a year--so let's just do a quick catch-up. The long and short of it is, I set out to do 5 feature scripts in 2016, I made it through 3.5. Not bad, but certainly not what I wanted to do.

So, what happened? Particularly when, for a while, I was holding to the schedule pretty well? As you can imagine, it was lots of little things. There was a lot of personal family business in the latter half of the year, for one. I also let the election stress get to me way more than I wish it had. Also, the third script, THEATRE IS EVIL, ended up being a lot about staring down artistic failure head-on, and in the middle of this crazy ambitious project, that kind of thinking ended up throwing me down a pretty nasty little depression cycle. And, oddly, it totally derailed me from this blogging, which was supposed to be all about working through failures and frustrations. Basically, the wheels came off a bit.

Also, one of the notes I'd gotten off of a few of the scripts I'd written was that Hollywood's not really making features like this anymore, that kind of storytelling is only being done in television. That threw me some, as I began feeling like I was just fooling myself writing feature scripts that weren't going to go anywhere.

So, what's to be done? Well, I'll tell you: I'm spending this year writing television. I've already finished my first pilot, GRIMOIRE, and I've begun planning the second.

And I'll say this: even though I didn't make the full 5, I definitely feel like I've grown significantly as a writer. I've learned a lot about my process, my strengths and weaknesses. I feel like my artistic muscles have gotten much stronger, and I feel much more confident sitting down to tackle an assignment. To be honest, I'm actually feeling really good.

I'm going to try and get this blog back up and running. I may also find somewhere on here to publish the first 15 pages of all the scripts, as I think it'd be nice to at least have something of that work available.

The TL;DR of it all is I missed the goal post, but I learned a lot, and I'm still working. I'll see if I can get back on the wagon with posting. I'll keep trying to make this crazy dream a reality.

Until next time, dreamers.

-Jake T.

Theatre Is Evil: The Beginning

Boy, I am NOT good at updating. Hopefully I can get a little better, I think what I really need to do is divorce myself from this idea that everything needs to be a SIGNIFICANT, paragraphs-long post.

Regardless, let's get down to it. Script #3, currently title THEATRE IS EVIL, is now well under way. Yes, the title comes from the Amanda Palmer album, because I'm totally THAT guy:

It's a romantic comedy wherein Amanda, a young no-budget theatre creator running her own space out in Bushwick faces eviction and has one last show to save her theatre. The only problem is her final show will need the cooperation of her estranged partner/paramour, Neil.

Outside of the romance plot this will be a lot of me attempting to purge some of my theatre demons. Perhaps that's a post for another time (but certainly one of the many-paragraphed "significant' ones, so don't hold your breath).

I've got the outline completed, I'll probably be posting that later, but for the moment I wanted to post the first chunk of writing. This chunk will be a little different than the usual. You see, this screenplay will open with the final moments of the play previous to Amanda's big final grasp at solvency. I'd thought about skipping this and moving on to other scenes to return to this later, but it felt like I really had to get Amanda's artistic voice down before I could move forward.

So the first piece of writing for this screenplay isn't directly dealing with our characters, but is a musical written in the voice of the main character. I'd never done anything quite like this before, so it was all pretty new, but I actually had a blast. I definitely feel like I know Amanda more than I would have starting out with a normal writing exercise or handful of scenes.

My vision of Amanda is as a modern-day bohemian. Wildly political (liberal, of course), pansexual, passionate, poor, highly intelligent, but also slightly out of touch. She lives in the moment, has a hard time thinking ahead or working through a problem to a thorough, long-lasting solution, but she's got a strong point of view, a clever mind, and an iron will that has, so far, scene her through.

SO, to write something from her perspective I wanted it to be EXTREMELY current, the kind of current that's going to be passe almost as soon as it's written, because that's what art is to her. It's castles in the sand that reflect how you see the world in that instant and can then be obliterated. She'd also be a little out of the times culturally, so something with elements that were maybe en vogue a few years ago but might have worn out their welcome. And, of course, how could I not make it a bit of a giant HAMILTON wink as well? But again, these should be shows that, were people able to make their way out to Bushwick with an open mind, they'd actually get a big kick out of. Amanda's a big-time theatre-nerd weirdo, but she's not an idiot, and she should never be laughed AT, only WITH.

What I finally decided on was a musical about the current political moment, the Tubman/Jackson $20 bill controversy, polyamory, diversity, and zombies. In the play, entitled LOVE TRUMPS HATE, liberal/progressive/ethno-diversity icons Abraham Lincoln, MLK, Sitting Bull, and FDR, led by Harriet Tubman, come back from the dead as zombies to defeat Donald Trump. But, at the grand conclusion, Trump reveals his secret weapon...zombie Andrew Jackson!

And so I give you this, the grand finale of LOVE TRUMPS HATE/the exciting opening of THEATRE IS EVIL! And as has been the case all too frequently, there's bad language, wild sexuality, absurd and saucy revisionist takes on beloved historical figures, and rapping below. So if any of that offends you, best skip this. AWAY WE GO!

A horde of zombie version of America's liberal/progressive past, FDR, Lincoln, Sitting Bull, MLK, all led by Harriet Tubman, descend upon Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP
You think you've got me cornered? THINK AGAIN! You're all just a bunch of limp-wristed liberals! I've got a real fighter on my side, a man's man, the BEST president...ANDREW JACKSON!

Donald Trump opens a door. Dry ice pours out. And then, exiting the door...ZOMBIE ANDREW JACKSON!

ANDREW JACKSON
My name is JACKSON!
And I bring the action!
Took a bullet for my wife because she was my passion!
No petticoat politics
didn't you get the bulletin?
I'm not hungry for brains
because, brother, I'm FULL OF THEM.
Ran this country for 8 whole years
But all they remember is my trail of tears
My greatest strength was I knew how to fight
But I wasn't the greatest at seeing what was right
They said I was strong as old hickory
but that obstinance made a dick of me.
I was blind to see
the possibility
a beautiful new free-
dom that could surely be
from sea to shining sea
and the dumb thing
that stings me inside
is that I would sing
from such a place of pride
About the stirring efficacy
Of Jeffersonian Democracy
to swing wide the doors of liberty
to give the power elite
to the man on the street
but it was incomplete
Because...WHAT ABOUT THEM LADIEEES, Y'ALL???
or the Mexican, the black,
or how about the native
who I used to attack
but now I say wait, if
every man should be free
they can't all look just like me
you see, the the grave is cold and lonely
as you decay and mold your thoughts are only
of any connection, of someone to hold me
now that I've returned I don't want to be picky
I'll love everyone, anyone, who would take me
though my flesh is decaying
I'm hoping and praying
though my past misbehaving
and people enslaving
are red flag-waving
that this sinner's worth saving
I feel like I'm raving
my composure is caving
will this love that I'm craving
ever come my way???

JEFFERSON LOOKS AROUND DESPERATELY. THERE IS ONLY SILENCE. HIS SHOULDERS COLLAPSE IN DEFEAT, AND HE TURNS TO RE-ENTER THE GRAVE.

HARRIET TUBMAN
...stay.
I've suffered for suffrage
I've freed the enslaved
I've taken up umbrage
I've fought and I've raved
The men that I fought,
they all looked like you
but if my side ever won
what should I do?
Should I banish the losers?
Mock them in defeat?
As a warning to others
hang their corpse in the street?
This thing you're unsure of
You've got us all wrong.
You're asking for love?
It was here all along

HARRIET TUBMAN AND ANDREW JACKSON KISS.

MLK
Who takes The Donald?

LINCOLN
And is OUR Union past?

HARRIET TUBMAN
I've been owned before
sharing is best.

HARRIET TUBMAN PULLS LINCOLN TOWARDS HER AND SHE, LINCOLN, AND ANDREW JACKSON ALL MAKE OUT TOGETHER IN A BISEXUAL, INTERRACIAL, POLYAMOUROUS EXPLOSION WHILE THE REST OF THE ZOMBIES EAT DONALD TRUMP'S BRAIN.

SITTING BULL
Well, that wasn't much of a feast.

ANDREW JACKSON
Maybe sometime soon you can show me your underground railroad.

HARRIET TUBMAN
That depends on what you're planning on doing with that hickory stick.

THEY KEEP MAKING OUT

THE REST OF THE CHORUS
It doesn't matter whose face is on a sawbuck
Instead of fighting, why don't we all--

LINCOLN
Be careful now, or we'll be birthing a lot more than new freedom!

THE REST OF THE CHORUS
Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!

AN UNDEAD ORGY ENSUES.
CURTAIN FALLS.

FINI.

 

There you have it! A sure sign that I've official lost my mind. But hey, it makes me laugh.

More soon!

Until then...stay weird!

-Jake T.

HackSaw: The Grand Conclusion!

So, it's been nearly a month. Why haven't I been updating?

Well, I've been writing. This script was a bit more difficult than I thought it'd be, and it became a real wrestling match. I've barely had the time to do anything other than write, so I didn't get to do nearly the blogging I wanted to.

You know what I did do, though? I wrote a $#@!ing script, is what I did. A tight, brutal, 82-page gorefest.

I had a lot going on these past two months, and I figured I might dip into some of my two months of wiggle room on this one. BUT I was talking to the Soska sisters (as you may recall, inspirations for this script) and when I mentioned I might go over on time, they said hell no, get it done. And when the Soska sisters tell you to do something, you do it.

So the script is finished. I'd initially been thinking of this as a sort of Takashi Miike-esque low budget insanity-fest, but as it went on the hypothetical budget of this thing became, more likely than not, a bit beyond "low." But hey, when you're writing a script like this, just to get it out and put something on paper, sometimes you've got to just give over to it. Let it happen. Why fight it? The heart wants what the heart wants. And sometimes the heart wants a nightmare disco with a wall-to-wall Dance Death Revolution floor. And so, HACKSAW comes complete with a giant nightmare disco. I am, after all, only a man.

I've already got a list of adjustments I'd like to make, so I'm going to spend the remaining couple of days going back in and tweaking this a bit, developing this some more. Should be fun.

I also don't actually know what the next script is going to be. I have a few ideas, and I'll pull the trigger this weekend, but if any of you beloved readers have any thoughts, why not let me know? I'd love to hear from you!

Until then, I'll leave you with a song I played a lot while writing this script, and like to imagine playing over the end credits. Play us out, Social Distortion!

Until next time!

Stay Weird!

-Jake T.

HackSaw: The Grand Opening

IT HAS BEGUN! The first scene is written and this script is starting off with a bang, and by bang, I mean a pretty disgusting opening shot across the bow that hopefully says "This is just the first five minutes, you better not have eaten recently."

Seriously, those of you who are friends and family (which is to say, the only people who read this) who don't like horror, violence, gross things or foul language, or would just in general prefer to keep a pleasant opinion of me, I'd suggest maybe finding something else to cast your eyes upon. In fact, you might just want to sit this script out.

For those of you with a taste for the grotesque, here it is! The first scene of HackSaw:

CLICK HERE FOR THE OPENING SALVO!

More to come soon!

-Jake T.

HackSaw: The Detailed Breakdown

I was hoping to have this wrapped before April 1st, but it appears the April Fool is ME! I guess I could have used some...

I AM HILARIOUS.

I AM HILARIOUS.

Anyways, here it is, the detailed breakdown for HACKSAW! As always, this breaks down the whole kit and caboodle, so spoilers ahead. Proceed accordingly.

You should be able to download this for easier reading if needed. Let me know if you have any trouble:

In some ways I think this one is more complete and contained than THE WITCH IN THE WOODS, but in some ways I've felt more at sea on this script, so perhaps that was necessary. THE WITCH IN THE WOODS was pretty simple, and while this isn't necessarily complicated, there's a bit more juggling to do here as far as plotting and tone go.

Also, doing the +/- emotional change section was a bit bizarre to track here as this is a horror movie, so mostly whatever + you manage to find should turn into a - pretty quickly because, you know, horror and such. Ah, well.

Writing to commence imminently. My main concern here is fully conceiving and writing out these traps. I think that will be the most problematic aspect of putting this all down on paper, but we'll see how that goes.

Onward, onward, into the valley of scripting marches the brave Jake Thomas. To celebrate breakdown completion, I'll have Gainesville's own Tom Petty play us out. Take it away, Tom!

 

Stay Weird!

-Jake T.

 

The Big Chill

Part of what I wanted to do with this blog was to discuss not just the process of writing as it pertains to putting together outlines and boards and drafts, but about writing as a lifestyle, as a process in and of itself in my life. I haven't done that much because it's a lot harder than just showing my scripting progress, but something happened recently that made me figure it was about that time.

You see, my wife, who I love more than anything in this world, did something absolutely heinous yesterday. She asked me, if you can believe this, to help her do our taxes.

But wait. Let's back up a minute.

You know that movie THE BIG CHILL?

It's got a reputation for being one of the whitest, blandest movies ever made, only to be replaced years later by another Kevin Kline vehicle, LIFE AS A HOUSE. But as a guy who is right now listening to the LES MIZ soundtrack and who once, in high school, waited in line overnight to buy Billy Joel tickets, I cannot deny my bland whiteness, nor my enjoyment of THE BIG CHILL.

I watched the movie in college, and I remember it having a strangely profound effect on me. I watched that movie at a time when I had more close friendships than I ever had, or almost certainly will ever have again. I was part of two theater groups, I was making things constantly, I had a friend who called me, with what I hoped was at least a smidgen of earnestness, "Fearless Leader." But I think part of me knew this wouldn't last forever, and wanted to believe that even if adulthood cooled these intense passions and friendships, the "big chill" of the title, they would still be there, and could possibly be, at least partially, rekindled.

After the first reading of THE WITCH IN THE WOODS a good friend and former Marvel editor who had attended the reading took me to dinner and gave me a bevy of very good notes on the script. He asked me why I'd started this project, and I told him that I could feel life getting smaller and more complicated, and if I was ever going to make an earnest play to follow my dreams of being a writer, the time was now. I asked him what he was up to, and he told me about a number of projects he was working on. There was one in particular, he said, that he NEEDED to do. It was the story he'd had in him for years. He'd do it. This was the one project that he knew would happen. Would it lead to anything....who knew? Who ever knows? But he'd do it. He'd do it, and then...

And then there was a silence, and I think we both felt it. The Big Chill. We'd do these projects, we'd gamble on making a living in a business that is unforgiving, harsh, and mysterious. And then...well...who knows?

It felt lonely as hell, which is what writing feels like most of the time. To me, anyways, and to most of the people I've ever heard talk about it.

And so. Taxes.

I'd had a long day at work. They're all long days, but I recently committed the unpardonable sin of going on vacation, and I'm still digging myself out of that hole, so the long days have only gotten longer. I'd had a long commute, I was still shaking off a sickness, and all I wanted to do was put in my writing time and go to bed.

But there was taxes.

Emily needed my tax information, which I had to get from the Disney HR website. I love working for Disney. I earnestly, truthfully do. It's hard for me to think of another corporation whose product, governance, and mission I so roundly support. That vacation I mentioned? Part of it was to Disney World, which I truly believe may be the Happiest Place on Earth. It certainly is to me. I even love their help line! I will stay on at the end of every call I make to Disney to take their customer service survey just so I can give them high marks, that's how much I'm in the bag for Disney.

So know that it is with a massive amount of love, appreciation, and affection that I say this: The Disney HR website is the dirt worst. I understand that it's massive, it serves tons of employees with vastly different needs across a mind-boggling spectrum of industries. It must be a bear to create and maintain, and my hat is off to the Sisyphi who do so. Still. The worst.

And so I spent a good 45 minutes, beat to hell and just wanting to write, trying to navigate the Borgesian halls of The Hub to get my W2. Once I'd procured it there were a few other tasks I needed to assist in to get our taxes locked and loaded, and once it was all done, my writing time had evaporated. And I was FURIOUS.

"THIS IS IT!" I thought. "THIS IS HOW IT ALL FALLS APART! This will be my legacy! 'Here lies Jake Thomas. He tried to write, but there were taxes.'"

That anger, that pointless, useless, stupid anger, has stayed with me for two days now. And this is how it is. I know it's stupid and, thankfully, so does Emily. She knows I'm not angry at her, or at taxes, or at anything in particular. I'm fighting off that chill. I'm trying to stay warm against the frost of giving up, of settling in, of just popping some popcorn and watching samurai movies every night for the rest of my life. That doesn't sound so bad. That seems like something I could easily do.

Except it isn't. I know, I've tried it, and I'm sure I'll try it again in the future. Writing is hard, it's frustrating, it's another job on top of the more than full time job I currently have, and that's just getting the ####ing words on paper, that's not even mentioning trying to get a manager, an agent, a sale, some attention, ANYTHING other than just a completed script that goes in a drawer. But as angry as the taxes made me, it's nothing compared to the depression I fall into when I'm not writing.

One of the saddest songs ever, in my humble opinion, is the Amanda Palmer tune "ANOTHER YEAR [A SHORT HISTORY OF ALMOST SOMETHING]." It punches me right in the stomach every time. I don't know that I've ever taken a song so personally. That idea of deferring ambition, of putting things on hold, of letting even moderate goals slide. It twists a knife in me. Whenever I feel the chill come on (appropriately enough, the song is set in Winter), I put this song on, let myself purge those feelings, and then try and pick myself back up.

So the outline on HACKSAW progresses. And I slowly pull myself out of my funk. And I keep the Big Chill at bay, at least for another day. But I wanted to talk about it here, in case any of you three people who actually read this might be feeling it yourself. One of the dreams I had for this blog was that it could possibly be a bit of a community, somewhere it wouldn't just be me blathering about my current projects, but where folks going through similar struggles could sound off, jump in or add on. I doubt I'll make that happen, I honestly have no idea how I'd do it. I haven't been a fearless leader or a creative organizer in a long time. But maybe at the very least I can be another voice saying to people out there struggling against The Big Chill that although it's cold out here, you're not alone.

Stay warm, friends.

-Jake T.

Proof of Life

Hello all,

I haven't written in a while, but I just wanted to let you all know I'm still alive and working on the second script. As proof, here's the completed board, at least as it stands now:

HACKSAW board

I'm in the midst of the detailed overview now, I'm hoping to have that wrapped and begin the writing this week.

Things slowed down a bit when I ended up having a fun opportunity regarding THE WITCH IN THE WOODS that necessitated some revisions and a second, slightly more involved reading. Then I went on vacation, got sick, etc. etc., but I'm fully back in the saddle now, so expect more updates soon.

Until then!

-Jake T.

Making the Sausage

Last script I didn't write much about the messiness of the process. Mostly that was a result of that script coming pretty quickly and easily. I fear HACKSAW won't come as smoothly, but that's an excuse to get more into the process than with THE WITCH IN THE WOODS.

SO, here's where I'm at thus far. And just a reminder, below will really be laying it all out there, so if you want to actually read the script or be surprised or whatever, you know, SPOILER WARNINGS, I suppose.

Let's get hacky.

Let's get hacky.

 

I've got my main monster here, HACKSAW, who has made millions in the tech market and has developed a pet project: Mobile, horrific torture factories. The uses are myriad: Scare the hell out of a rival, teach someone a tough lesson, revenge, even just straight up murder. It's a grotesque playground for the ghoulishly rich.

What we're witnessing is the beta test, with INVESTORS watching remotely as HACKSAW sets out to emotionally, spiritually and physically destroy her old high school nemeses. There will be a handful of them she will torture alone, and then as a group. Within that group is a woman, THE SURGEON, who will be HACKSAW'S main antagonist. In the opening THE SURGEON will have her hands mangled in one of HACKSAW's traps.

The real fun will come when the group gets together, because collectively they will decide they're not going to take any of HACKSAW'S crap, and they'll join together to fight back. When it looks like this thing might be a bust, the INVESTORS will send in a CLEANER to...well...clean. Not just the test subjects, but HACKSAW herself, which will lead to the climax, where our SURGEON must join with HACKSAW in the most uneasy of alliances to defeat the CLEANER and escape the INVESTORS. Will HACKSAW free herself from her emotional bondage? Will anyone actually, physically free themselves, or will it all end in utter carnage?

Throughout, there will be a lot of touchpoints about people either moving on and maturing or being stuck either in the past or in cycles of behavior. And then some people will get stuck in cycles of giant, whirling blades or what have you. Literalizing the metaphor!

But that's all ramblings. I have to make that fit into the famous, patented Blake Snyder Beat Sheet. And I don't quite know if I've done it yet. Here's how I have it broken down currently:

HACKSAW
Beat Sheet

  1. OPENING IMAGE (1): Surgeon waking up trapped in Jigsaw-esque contraption.

  2. THEME STATED (5): You can free yourself of this if you truly want to.

  3. SET-UP (1-10): Surgeon performs surgery on woman while HackSaw tortures others.

  4. CATALYST (12): Surgeon nearly escapes using acid.

  5. DEBATE (12-25): HackSaw and Investor argue while Surgeon works to free others.

  6. BREAK INTO TWO (25): All prisoners individually free, but they're now in a group torture.

  7. B STORY (30): The outside world intrudes. A cop? A homeless person? Interacting with HackSaw? The Limo Driver?

  8. FUN AND GAMES (30-55) HackSaw tries to retain control/Prisoners try to outfox HackSaw, beating her traps and breaking out.

  9. MIDPOINT (55): HackSaw kills Investor/Surgeon loses some of her cohorts to a trap.

  10. BAD GUYS CLOSE IN (55-75): The Remote Investors make moves against HackSaw/traps close in on the Prisoners.

  11. ALL IS LOST (75) HackSaw blackmails Remote Investors/Prisoners break out

  12. DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL (75-85): The Limo Driver, actually a cleaner for the Investors, comes in to...clean. Chases Prisoners back into torture warehouse, comes for HackSaw as well.

  13. BREAK INTO THREE (85): HackSaw and Prisoners meet.

  14. FINALE (85-110): HackSaw and Prisoners fight Limo Driver (others?) together.

  15. FINAL IMAGE (110): HackSaw dead in one of her own traps? Surgeon free?

I'm not nearly as sure about this as I was about THE WITCH IN THE WOODS. So, you know, I guess we'll see? But this is what this project was about. Figuring it all out. So figure it out I shall.

Until then, play us out, Hacksaw Jim Duggan:

USA! HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Until next time!

-Jake T.

What Would the Soska Sisters Do?

So, I'm starting up notes on the nest script, which, for those just turning in, is HACKSAW. Here's the log line:

A wannabe evil genius uses his startup millions to create a warehouse of murderous traps to teach his former high school foes some gory lessons, but things don't go as planned when his victims prove to be not quite as helpless as he'd hoped.

So whereas the last script was a PG-13 family spookfest (wherein I killed a fair amount of people, but, you know, not THAT bad...), this script will be a total gorefest. Which is why there will be one question guiding my writing this go 'round:

What Would The Soska Sisters Do?

For those who don't know, the Soska Sisters, also known as the Twisted Twins, are the horror making duo known for DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK and AMERICAN MARY.

I had the honor of working with the Soskas on their first foray into Marvel comics with an awesome 10-pager in the SECRET WARS JOURNAL anthology. They were a joy to work with and came up with a pretty bad-ass story.  

There's a certain go-for-broke quality in DEAD HOOKER and AMERICAN MARY that I respond to in a BIG way. It reminds me of one of my favorite modern filmmakers, the inimitable Takashi Miike, whose beautifully insane, id-centric filmmaking can, on his best days, reach a strange transcendence into near myth.

As I'm sitting down to begin planning out this script, one of the questions that's been nagging me is embedded deep within that log line, and that's the gender of that focal point. The main bad guy, potentially the main character, is a male. As I originally conceived him, he was a beta male, MRA type who felt the world owed him everything and held some pretty nasty grudges on his shoulders. BUT, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had a hard time thinking of roles like that, psychotic yet hopefully 3 dimensional horror maestros, that were women.

Now, of course, part of making the character male would be to play on that awful streak of chauvinism that seems so pervasive in the culture these days, particularly in online nerdy genre communities. So it's not like making the character a dude would be forsaking any interesting gender work.

And yet, I think about the Soskas. 

The trio at the heart of DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK are really out there crazy fun females (yeah, yeah, sure, there was also CJ Wallis, but come on, we know that was all about the ladies). The titular AMERICAN MARY is built around an incredible performance by genre staple Katherine Isabelle, and even their work for hire, SEE NO EVIL 2, has a pretty solid twist on the Final Girl trope at the end. And right now, they're celebrating WOMEN IN HORROR month with their annual MASSIVE BLOOD DRIVE: http://www.womeninhorrormonth.com/massive-blood-drive/

I got to hang out with them for a bit when they were in town for Heidi Klum's famous Halloween party, where they were doing some awesome HELLEVATOR promotion. These ladies are the real deal, with a genuine interest in building up awesome opportunities and spotlights for the ladies.

So...what would the Soskas do...?

Looks like I've got myself a female psycho 3-dimensional horror maestro to write.

Let's get messy.

Viva La HACKSAW!

-Jake T.

This is the end...

SO, I haven't written a blog in ten days. But there's good news: I haven't written a blog because I've been too busy writing a script.

But now I'm done.

That's right!

has now hit...

More as it develops, and the planning phase for the second script begins imminently, but for the moment, I'm going to get some sleep.

Play us out, Lizard King.

-Jake T.

Preach it!

For those who don't know, my father is a Methodist minister. Consequently, I've got a lot of sympathy for ministers in fiction, which tends to be rough going as more often than not if there's a religious figure in a piece of fiction they're evil, since a villainous pious person is a pretty easy hypocrisy to counterpoint a protagonist's goodness.

On the other side of the equation, I also get frustrated when religion is shown in a good way by providing cheap, easy platitudes. I love it when we see someone really wrestle with religion in films like WINTER LIGHT or CALVARY. Now, I'm not writing anything that heady, but when it came time to write the sermon that ends Act One of THE WITCH IN THE WOODS, I wanted my minister, a good but flawed man, to really wrestle with spiritual loneliness. It's something that hits any religious person at one time or another, and I think it would certainly be hitting the citizens of the town of Putnam at this point in the script.

Loneliness has emerged as a theme, maybe THE theme, of the script. It only seemed appropriate, then, to have my Into Act Two break center around a town, through its spiritual leader, giving into loneliness and despair, only to have the extremely lonely and isolated witch, ANNE, arrive to give them aid.

SO, I figured I'd share that bit of sermon and break here, just to show you proof of life for this crazy script. Here you go! FATHER CAVENDISH'S SERMON:
 

FATHER CAVENDISH

Most of you have heard about what happened yesterday, about the dire straits our town is in. Some of you have even come to me asking for guidance. There are things a pastor is supposed to tell his flock at such times. "Have faith." "Trust in God." "The Lord will provide." But those are cheap lessons, and in times like these cheap lessons are the ones we can afford the least. The Lord does not always provide. He did not provide for John or Sarah Latham, and in the coming days he may not provide for our water, our comfort, possibly even our lives. In the coming days, we may feel entirely alone.

But we won't be the first to feel that way, nor the last. Let us remember, the good Lord Jesus Christ was terribly alone on the cross and in his hellish sojourn the three days following. In our righteous journey to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, perhaps it is only right that occasionally we share in his loneliness. Let us take comfort and possibly, ironically, find communion in the realization that, at times, we are, all of us, terribly alone.

BOOM! The door to the church BURSTS OPEN! Everyone turns to see ANNE and HANSEL standing in the church doorway.

ANNE

Oh, hey! Here you all are! Sorry, am I interrupting something? Anyways, whenever you're done here, I was thinking...maybe I'd help you take down some witches.

Sitting in a chair behind the altar, SISTER EMILY smiles.

 

 

More soon!

-Jake T.

 

On The Download

So it's come to my attention that the detailed breakdown of THE WITCH IN THE WOODS I posted earlier as JPEGs was not able to be easily popped up/magnified, so I'm putting it here as an embedded file, which will hopefully make it easier to get a more solid view.

Using the above embed you should be able to open a more full-sized version in another window or download a version, whichever you prefer.

Fingers crossed!

-Jake T.

The Time Draws Nigh

It has all come to this. Soon, I will start actually writing this crazy script. I've spent the past week staring at these planning documents, thinking about the holes, the storylines I'm worried about, the relationships that might not be fleshed out enough. Somethings have come together, some things have not, but it's getting to be time to shoulder on.

Here are some of the things I'm wrestling with. Firstly, I went in and graphed out the general feeling the town has towards the Witch. Here it is! A graph! I know what you were thinking. You were thinking "I hope there will be graphs in this project." YOU WIN!

How the Town Feels About the Witch

Secondly, here are some of the questions and thoughts I'm grappling with:

  • FAMILIARS
    • I like the idea of the familiar, and I think it could be a fun addition to the film. I've got thoughts on the familiar, but I wonder if it's a step too far?
    • Basically, I see the Familiars as their consciousnesses, their Jimminy Crickets. The laws of story would point towards our Witch's familiar dying in the final battle after a heroic sacrifice, which is a beat I don't have currently that I could probably use.
    • Also, our Witch's familiar could get us our patented "Save the Cat" moment at the top of the script. Her relationship with her familiar will make her relatable.
    • Just so you know, here are the other witches' familiar: Water Witch - Snake. Air Witch - Falcon. Earth Witch - Warthog. Fun, right?! Right???!
  • THEMES
    • Originally, I was thinking the primary theme would be overcoming fear of the unfamiliar, both for the Witch and the Town. But now I'm leaning more towards moving past the prejudices of what's come before.
  • ROMANCE
    • Can I at all pull off a reasonable, effective romance between the Woodsman and the Witch? This is possibly the part of the script I'm most worried about.
  • THE ELDERS
    • The part I'm second-most worried about. It's a lot of exposition, but I think I can seed large portions of it earlier so we can just tie a ribbon around it at the end. A movie I've been thinking about as I write this is Tim Burton's SLEEPY HOLLOW, a movie I have a huge soft spot for. That movie has MIranda Richardson do a huge exposition dump at the end which isn't the most graceful writing Andrew Kevin Walker's ever done, but I think he and Burton make it work by turning it into high camp, which is a tool I think we could use here and possibly elsewhere in the script. I think high camp might be a good place to pitch a lot of this story.

Anyways, that's where my head's at with the script. I start actually writing the script no later than Saturday, which puts me ahead of schedule, knock on wood.

Oh, also, I don't love the title. If anyone had any thoughts on that, or any other piece of this crazy puzzle, let me know.

Until then!

-Jake T.

 

BEAT THE WITCH

So far, the overwhelming favorites for the pitches are ...AND DEATH FOLLOWED and THE WITCH IN THE WOODS, so those are definitely going on the list. A number of others have had a lot of support, including some particularly savvy recommendations to pursue HACKSAW, so that one will probably make it on as well. I've decided for my first script out I'm going to go for THE WITCH IN THE WOODS as, I'll be honest, it's possibly the doofiest one, I could see myself having a lot of fun with it, and it's the one I see fitting easiest into the Save The Cat setup.

Consequently, I've begun building the official Blake Snyder "Save the Cat" beat sheet for it. We're officially in motion on Script #1.

warning-label
warning-label

This blog is about process. That means I'm going to really get into how the sausage is made. Which means that if you want to read the final scripts clean, you should turn back now. I'm about to put up the first planning document, a full beat sheet, the whole kit and caboodle as it stands at inception.

What I'm talking about, essentially, are spoilers.

Seriously.Spoilers, you guys.

brace-yourself-the-spoiler-is-jc12-did-the-age-of-ultron-call-sheet-just-reveal-something-huge-warning-massive-spoilers-jpeg-224648
brace-yourself-the-spoiler-is-jc12-did-the-age-of-ultron-call-sheet-just-reveal-something-huge-warning-massive-spoilers-jpeg-224648

OKAY. Everyone who doesn't want to be spoiled is gone, only spoiler-happy story process wonks remain.

And so, without further ado, here is the first pass on the beat sheet for THE WITCH IN THE WOODS.

THEWITCHINTHEWOODSbeatsheet
THEWITCHINTHEWOODSbeatsheet
THEWITCHINTHEWOODSbeatsheet2
THEWITCHINTHEWOODSbeatsheet2

So there you have it! The humble beginnings. This weekend I set up my Big Board, get out my note cards, and start putting this thing together.

Until then, everyone to their Dragulas!!!

-Jake T.

STEP ONE: TITLES, LOGLINES & GENRES

So you want to write 5 scripts in 1 year using the SAVE THE CAT method? Well, YOU probably don't, you're probably at least somewhat sane, but I do. The first step according to StC is to craft a stellar logline and a compelling title to assist it. So write some log lines and titles I have!

Another section of Snyder's book lays out 10 "genres" of movie. They're not so much genres  as they are...molds of action, I suppose? I must say, I struggle a bit with these, but in order to try and wrap my head around them while ALSO coming up with some titles and log lines for my 5 scripts. 10 genres, 5 scripts. May the odds be ever in my favor.

Below are the 10 genres, along with a title and logline I've written (and images grabbed from quick Google Image searches to help break up all that text) that will hopefully fit each genre and, if fortune smiles, will possibly be the starting point for some of these scripts.

Without further ado, 10 pitches:

Genre #1: MONSTER IN THE HOUSE

Title: HackSaw

2
2

Logline: A wannabe evil genius uses his startup millions to create a warehouse of murderous traps to teach his former high school foes some gory lessons, but things don't go as planned when his victims prove to be not quite as helpless as he'd hoped.

Genre #2: THE GOLDEN FLEECE

Title: ...AND DEATH FOLLOWED

nevada-roadside-29-aug
nevada-roadside-29-aug

Logline: A surly teenage girl loses her father and no one knows how to reach her...until her uncle takes her on the road to film her father's unmade cheapie horror screenplay, "...And Death Followed."

Genre #3: OUT OF THE BOTTLE

Title: INSPIRED

angry-teacher-pointing-500x332
angry-teacher-pointing-500x332

Logline: A harried, overlooked high school English teacher finds the glitterati hanging on her every word when a vapid celebrity starlet names her as her primary inspiration, and the more she rants the more they love her...much to the starlet's chagrin.

Genre #4: DUDE WITH A PROBLEM

Title: LAST CALL

tumblr_kqt4k0nd0c1qzju5co1_500
tumblr_kqt4k0nd0c1qzju5co1_500

Logline: When his best friend, a former mob enforcer, kills an unhinged gangster's brother, a curmudgeonly anti-social bartender must work both the mob and the cops to keep his friend alive.

Genre #5: RITES OF PASSAGE

Title: NONE MORE GOTH

battle_of_guadalete
battle_of_guadalete

Logline: A petulant Visigoth princess must battle her cocky brother in a bizarre, violent Goth Gauntlet to claim her birthright from their warrior king father.

Genre #6: BUDDY LOVE

Title: THE HONEY POT

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73f1daabbf0286dc218c1e366e5bc2eb

Logline: When her ex gets engaged to the woman he went undercover to protect from a mad super-villain, a secret agent threatens to blow the case, and get everyone killed, when she uses a new threat as an excuse to crash the bachelorette party.

Genre #7: WHYDUNIT

Title: UTOPIA!

bn-kb039_nyrile_g_20150827172120
bn-kb039_nyrile_g_20150827172120

Logline: A plucky cub reporter discovers that an idealistic hippie-dippie Brooklyn commune may be built on murder and the occult!

Genre #8: THE FOOL TRIUMPHANT

Title: SKIN IN THE GAME

smug-businessman
smug-businessman

Logline: A snarky writer for a hip political website decides to expose the system from the inside by enlisting a burnt-out campaign manager to run for a coveted senate seat.

Genre #9: INSTITUTIONALIZED

Title: THICKER THAN WATER

crime-scene-tape
crime-scene-tape

Logline: A young black girl whose father was accidentally killed by a cop has her life turned further upside down when her radical activist uncle returns to get justice from the cops by any means necessary.

Genre #10: SUPERHERO

Title: THE WITCH IN THE WOODS

the_misty_wood_by_chaoyuanxu-d4fvdy0
the_misty_wood_by_chaoyuanxu-d4fvdy0

Logline: When a coven of evil witches attacks a 19th Century New England town, their only chance may be the witch they tried to burn alive 15 years earlier.

There they are! 10 pitches! If you find any of them particularly striking, let me know! If you have thoughts on how they could be improved, I'd love to hear them! If you're ambivalent about the whole thing...I mean, I guess that would be valuable, too? But honestly, man, come on. Give me something!

I'm contemplating doing a special "Director's Cut" version of these pitches with some of my thoughts and feelings on them laid out beneath each pitch, but for the time being I wanted them to stand alone. Maybe I'll do that in the comments later? I'm also contemplating trying to to each of these again, but make each one a very explicit horror movie (though a couple of these already fit that mold), as horror is my genre of choice.

But anyways, enough of all that. Thus begins the beginning. As the wise man said, every journey begins with a single blog post.

And away we go...

-Jake T.

The Mission

The last post was the WHY of this little endeavor, but here's the WHAT. I've written a couple scripts, and whenever I've given them to professional writers out in Los Angeles, one of the more consistent bits of feedback I've received is "Have you read SAVE THE CAT?" I had not. I'd resisted. For a number of reasons I'd had little interest in reading the late Blake Snyder's self-purported "Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need." It just didn't seem like my thing, it didn't seem to mesh with the reasons I'd had for wanting to set pen to paper. But what I wanted to do was play with the pros, and the pros were saying "Read SAVE THE CAT."

save-the-cat
save-the-cat

So I read it.

And I read it again.

In some ways I was right, a lot of the book rubs me the wrong way for what are purely aesthetic/personal reasons. But what it is at heart is a simple, mercenary way to structure stories to go down easy with the Powers That Be. I can certainly see how that would be valuable, and within that I think I can still do what I want to do with the stories I want to write. At least, that's the hypothesis. So here's the experiment.

This year I will write 5 screenplays using Snyder's method, hammer and tongs. One month planning, one month writing, 5 screenplays in ten months with some wiggle room to allow for life and madness.

Yes. 5 screenplays. 1 every 2 months.

Is this a ridiculous thing to do? Assuredly. Will these screenplays be any good? Probably not. But the idea is (1) to force myself to write fast and loose (and I always work better on assignment anyways, and (2) I want to get these guidelines, this lexicon, into my bones.

On this blog I'll walk through every step of the process. Ideally some of those same pros who directed me towards StC and gave me a hefty dose of incredible notes will keep an occasional eye on this and help me in my writing crash course. And, of course, all other help and guidance will be greatly appreciated.

I'm here to learn.

And also, you know, write 5 film scripts in a year.

Because I'm a lunatic.

The journey begins next blog! I'll see you there!

-Jake T.

The Mission Statement

I, Jake Thomas, being of completely unsound mind, have decided to make 2016 the year I attempt something I've long wanted to do, but haven't had the gumption to: become a professional writer. This blog will be a journal documenting that journey. For those who don't know, I'm an editor at Marvel comics. That job entails a rather absurd number of responsibilities, many of them at cross-purposes, and on any given day so many seeming like they are set up for failure and disappointment. Perhaps I'm alone in feeling this way, but my guess is that any of my fellow editors reading this are probably chortling to themselves in weary recognition. Hopefully courting similar recognition, one of the reasons I believe we stick around (it's certainly not the money or acclaim) is that, on a good day, on the best days, we make someone's dream come true. We help a writer or an artist tell stories they've been longing to tell since childhood. We help them create something beautiful and fulfilling and of themselves. There is absolutely nothing better than that.

This blog won't be about that job. So if you're here looking for a peak behind the Marvel curtain, I suggest you go elsewhere. Tom Brevoort's Formspring is always good. This blog will be about me and my attempt to make my dream come true, to get my stories out there, to, in the immortal words of Jim Morrison, break on through to the other side.

There's a very real possibility that this will be the story of a noble failure, the tale of a man whose reach vastly exceeds his grasp. This could, in short, become heinously ugly. What I'm hoping for is that this might, in some way, lead to a bit of community. I'm going to be running an experiment this year to be outlined in the next post, maybe some will choose to join in, or lend some critique or thoughts, or just some sympathy and encouragement. I'm hoping, in some way, to make this experience of locking myself away from friends and loved ones for long periods of time to be a bit less lonely.

More shortly. Hopefully MUCH more. I'll see you there.

Play us out, Lizard King:

-Jake T.