Mulling Screenplay Concepts

by Shelt Garner

For a time, I was all excited about having two creative “tracks” that I was going to have going forward. On one would be the novel I’m working on, while the other would be a screenplay. This, however, did not work out. I’m so completely consumed by the novel that I simply am not able to pull myself away from it.

But I continue to occasionally think about different potential screenplays. Being a screenwriter is much, much different than being a novelist because, well, Hollywood. I know myself well enough that if I did ever manage to finish a script I am so good at self-promotion — and socializing — that there would be a decent chance I would find myself in Hollywood (which is on the other side of the country from me) on occasion to hunt down family people to hand my script to. I’m fairly good at meeting famous people and so that part would be a cinch.

Screenplays have a whole different internal logic than novels. With a novel, you have to explain in a lot of detail why something happens. In a screenplay, lulz, you can think up the most bonkers conceit and get away with it with not a lot of explanation because that would really, really slow the story down.

I’ve been working on one idea for about a decade because it’s something of The Impossible Scenario. I love scenarios and there’s been one I’ve been working on for years and years that I simply can not figure out. But I’ve thought it through so much, that I find myself returning to it again and again. I won’t give you details, but imagine if humanity got an astonishing offer but with a catch — we had to work together as a race to figure the specifics of something out.

I like the idea that the audience would be on the edge of its seat as I walked them through the Biggest Event In Human History that kept getting hung up on the stupidest of differences between humans.

Another idea I have is The Martian, but for time travel. I have a decent method through which you could get some regular guy stuck in the past and you’d see how he if not escaped, at least made his life a lot better. But that one is problematic because I would want to do it absolutely hyper-realistic. So that might make it a bit more difficult to place it in the far past. I had the idea of maybe The Martian meets time travel meets Mad Men.

That would be pretty cool.

Anyway, one issue is buying FinalDraft. It’s so expensive that I think buying it would be the end of the beginning of the process of writing a screenplay. I would have gotten all my development finished and would be literally about to sit down and write when I bought it.

Why I’ve Walked Out Of Some Recent Movies

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner

I’m of the opinion that a great modern story has to ignore any sort of overt political agenda and simply entertain the audience. Given how existentially political the novel I’m writing is, this causes me a lot of consternation. But my primary goal is write an adult tentpole story. Things blow up. Shit burns down. A little sex happens. And so on.

But let’s go through some movies I’ve seen recently and why I hated them.

I walked out of this movie just between the time Beanie Feldstein’s character started screeching about lesbian sexual actives and when I learned what the “hero’s journey” was going to be. I had only gone to see the movie because I felt shamed by a combination of Entertainment Tonight, E! Network and the center-Left Twitter echo chamber. I knew going into the movie that I was NOT the audience, but I went anyway so I would not feel bad. Turns out, I wasn’t, in fact, the audience. I wanted a modern-day Heathers. I got a woke movie that I felt insulted me on a basic, existential level. There were plenty of ways to express the same political agenda on the sly without insulting me and people like me. I felt the acting lacking in general. I also felt the movie was a bit too cute by half. And it seemed produced by identity politics bean counters who felt rather smug that the had managed to make the girl who would otherwise be hot, not be hot.

The Joker
On the other end of the political spectrum, I bounced pretty quick with this movie, too. I hated this movie. Loathed it. It just seemed too anti-woke. It was a pretty loud dog whistle for incels who feel like they’re so smart that no one else “gets” their jokes. Ugh. Just tell me a good story. Don’t produce a movie that has as the core of its marketing campaign the fear that some crazy incel is going to murder people because of the movie. I see The Joker as just as a bad as Booksmart. Why can’t I just get a well produced movie that may have an agenda, but is, like, actually good? I mean, Network, Deliverance, Taxi Driver, The Dear Hunter, all are very powerful movies with political messages that don’t overshadow basic things like plot and character.

This was probably one of the better movies I’ve seen recently and I still walked out of it about 2/3rds of the way through. When it dawned on me that J.Lo’s ass cheeks were simply a ruse to get my butt in a dark theatre and that there would be no positive male characters, I bounced. But the movie itself was very strong did a great job of telling its story. I didn’t see the whole movie, so maybe this is a dumb question, but, how come there wasn’t more lesbian action in the movie? It’s implied in a whisper, but this is 2019. I think audiences can handle the two main female characters having a dimly lit naked romp in bed.

Charlie’s Angels
This movie needed to be darker and have more sex in it. Since only old farts like me care about the franchise, I think Elizabeth Banks should have done a Buffy The Vampire Slayer and made her version of this otherwise campy movie far more adult. Put a lot more John Wick and Hustlers in it. Make it a gritty — if a bit campy — action packed movie with sex-positive portrayals of female sexual agency. This whole business of having an out-of-nowhere montage of young women running around with big smiles on their faces made no sense to me. It was a real, “What the what?” moment. If she’d done as I suggested, a lot of middle-aged couples would have really enjoyed the movie. It might not have been the hit everyone had hoped for, but it would not have been a flop. Needed far stronger actresses, however, to pull it off. Though I really did like Kristen Stewart.

Anyway, I am extremely brutal with movies I go to see and if I walk out of it, the producers shouldn’t take it too seriously or personally. I often have a drink before I go see a movie and I bounce because I just don’t feel like the movie has any more to give. Also, I sometimes have an ah-ha experience because of the movie and I leave because I’d rather be home developing my novel.