If I Had A Screenwriting Passion Project, This Would Be It: The Trapped Man Of Babie Doły

by Shelt Garner

Something about this story evokes such horror in me that I think it would be a great, great movie — or maybe Stephen King novel. And it’s real. It’s fucking real. It really happened. I could see it as a spiritual successor to The Shawshank Redemption.

In 1951 a German soldier was found alive after being trapped with five comrades following the dynamiting of their underground storehouse in 1945. They are believed to have been looting the storehouse and the retreating soldiers who dynamited the tunnel did not know they were there. The stores contained a large amount of food, drink, candles and other goods so the soldiers were able to survive. Four of the soldiers died (Two suicides soon after being trapped, two unknown causes) leaving only two survivors. One of them suffered a heart attack and died upon leaving the tunnel.[2][3][4] The final soldier was said to have made a full recovery, but his identity was never revealed.[5] — Wikipedia.

Review: Exposition, Thy Name Is ‘Tenet’

by Shelt Garner

I am a very harsh critic of movies. I am known to walk out of movies the moment I feel they’re not working. So, in a sense, Tenet got the ultimate honor from me — I stuck around to see how it ended.

The issue for me about Tenet was it was an excellent premise with a piss-poor implementation. I say this specifically because virtually all the dialog is exposition. And there’s very little character development. I struggled to care about these characters. In fact, the only reason why I cared about anything that took place was the premise was so intriguing that I wanted to see how it ultimately was wrapped up.

I did love the movie’s cinematography. It was Oscar-worthy it was so good. That was another thing the movie had going for it during the otherwise interminable exposition — I loved how the movie looked.

It was interesting that the inciting incident happened in the first scene. Why this is important is if Christopher Nolan had gone with a more traditional structure for the movie, then maybe there could have been more character development. Then when the action started, I would have had some sense of the characters and cared one way or another what happened to them.

I understand Nolan’s vision — he wanted to make a really thought provoking movie. And he did. The movie IS really thought provoking. The only problem is, at least for me, is the movie would have been far more grounded if it was a bit more traditional. I think, maybe, the problem was a screenplay. Not only is much of the screenplay consumed by exposition, but what exposition there is is extremely confusing to the point of being unintelligible.

As a person writing a novel, I found myself thinking up a way not only to explain what was going on better, but to do so in a way that gave me time to have actual dialog. This problem of dialog-as-exposition was so bad that the movie went from really interesting, innovative action set pieces to going to a stand still so people could explain the movie to us. It was just really dull. And not in a 2001-dull-but-brilliant way, either. It was just dull. There were so many other ways that exposition could have been presented that would have made the movie far more engaging and accessible.

It’s as if Nolan studied Inception and decided what made that movie popular was audiences enjoying trying to figuring what was going on. There are plenty of ways the movie could have been more straightforward and still have been just as intriguing AND would have entertained audiences. Just because you jumbled up a movie’s conceit, doesn’t mean it’s “smart.” It’s just really irritating because you’re making the audience think far more than is necessary.

I think I’m being a little too snobbish because I’m writing a novel and I want it to be really, really, really accessible, so when someone like Nolan goes out of his way to do the opposite it grates on my nerves.

I have to give a shout out to Elizabeth Debick’s “pins” as the Brits would say. It was amusing that the producers went WAAAAY out of their way to feature those sky high legs of hers. She’s a real stunner.

In general, Tenet was a good movie and I recommend it. I just feel as though it was something of a miss opportunity. It could have been a whole lot better if they had simply followed traditional storytelling conventions.

High Concept: ‘Chernobyl’ Meets ‘Arrival’

by Shelt Garner

I have had this idea for a movie or novel rolling around in my mind for a least a decade. It probably would be done best as a high concept film because to do it as a novel would simply way, way, way too long because of all research required.

The idea is this: what if aliens arrived and gave us a pretty astonishing opportunity, but with a catch: humanity would have to work together.

Now, it’s a well-worn trope that the world, given such an opportunity would unite. But, lulz, that’s bullshit. (I think the movie “Arrival” actually uses this concept some.)

Anyway, I love the HBO series “Chernobyl” and it seems like that time of life-or-death tone would be perfect for such a movie. I like the idea that the audience would know the aliens are asking all of humanity an existential question and the drama comes with how badly we fail at this particular test every step of the way. (Though, hopefully, in the end we would get or shit together.)

This movie would be very deep and fill the audience with dread, just like Chernobyl. I would write the screenplay myself, but not only am I working on a novel, I have a different concept for my first screenplay, should I ever get around to writing one.

The Problem With Star Wars

by Shelt Garner

I beginning the process of writing a screenplay as something of a creative “Plan B” and I am using the original Star Wars screenplay as my “textbook.” The interesting thing is, I find myself worrying if I can use its character concepts and structure beat-for-beat now or not. Is it even possible to have a traditional Hero-saves-the-princess type story in the modern media environment?

This gets me thinking about the clusterfuck that is the state of the Star Wars franchise. Now, let me begin by saying, I honestly don’t know how much of this problem is “real” and how much of it is the Russians testing out new ratfucking strategies. I say this because I’m not really the fanbase of the franchise. I love the first two original movies and all the rest of them I can take or leave.

It is easy to accept the narrative that the Star Wars fanbase is male and the executives at Disney — specifically Kathleen Kennedy — are all woke feminists who want to cram their ideology down the throats of the misogynistic fanboys.

I simply don’t think things are that cut and dried.

The whole thing, in fact, is extremely murky and and open to a whole lot of different interpretations. The reason for this is Star Wars is such a potent cultural force — and a lucrative one to boot — that the whole thing is being torn in a number of different directions for a number of different reasons.

I’m not going to play Joe Rogan and try to square the circle in some hyper masculine, yet earnest way. Sometimes, you have to actually have an opinion and own it.

With that in mind, I would say, the problem with Star Wars is, at its core, an issue with storytelling. If Disney would simply go back to storytelling basics, then a lot of the problems the franchise has would be solved. Of course, even the “basics” of storytelling are loaded in this era of Woke Hollywood. I’m of the opinion that if you simply tell a good story, the audience will follow.

As such, maybe Disney needs to lay off trying to sell toys or use the culture significance of Star Wars to change the world. Maybe start a new Star Wars trilogy that is all fan service.

Though, I will note that the more I think about it, the more there’s one specific issue that is causing all these problems for Disney when it comes to Star Wars — they don’t have one, specific visionary to guide it into the future. They have J.J. Abrams, but he just doesn’t seem like a fan of the series.

If I could wave a magic wand, I would give Kevin Smith a three picture deal to fix Star Wars. He’s a huge fan and probably has a good sense of what the fanbase is looking for.

Anyway, I don’t really have any skin in this battle. Star Wars has always suffered from a problem with a consistency of tone. It’s just sad that the problems — be they real or not — are apparently intractable and unlikely to be solved any time soon, if ever.

How To Reboot The ‘Alien’ Franchise

by Shelt Garner

Absolutely no one listens to me. The number of people who read this blog on a daily basis is barely a rounding error for places like The New York Times. But I do know some about how to tell a good story and what audiences expect.

So, let’s talk about the Alien franchise.

The existential problem with how the franchise developed is the producers made some pretty big mistakes after Aliens. Alien and Aliens are two solid films. And, really, if they hadn’t choked about showing the xenomorphs on Earth as was teased at the end of Aliens, things would have gone really well from there.

But, alas, a number of different things happened.

One, as I understand it, Sigourney Weaver started to have such power over the franchise that it kind of warped what happened to it. Also, the little girl who played Newt simply wasn’t a kid anymore by the time the third movie was being produced. Lastly, CGI simply wasn’t where it needed to be to show what everyone wanted to see — xenomorphs consuming Earth.

Here’s how I would reboot the series with all that in mind.

First, you need to remember what the whole thing is about — Alien was a horror movie. So, you get someone like Eli Roth to direct a totally rebooted series. Give him a three picture deal to give the rebooted franchise some much-needed consistency of tone.

Then, you cast someone like Ana de Armas as the new Ripley. Give her, too, a three picture deal.

I would then map out three movies so you had a three-movie arc like in the Dark Night series of movies. I would totally reboot the entire franchise, leaving only the look and feel of the xenomorphs the same. But the point of doing this is the movies would be fucking scary and, to the extent that Alien was gory, gory.

The premise is really strong and there’s a built-in fan base that would flock to a rebooted series if you did as I suggest. Fans like me are extremely annoyed with how the Alien franchise has totally lost its way.

Come on Hollywood, you can do better.

The Quiet Before The Storm: Daydreaming About Hollywood On A Dull August Evening

by Shelt Garner

Usually, August is good for one good astonishing surprise. But, so far, things have been exceedingly meh. It’s normally just about now when breaking news event forces all the Beautiful People drinking pina coladas on the a Seychelles beach have to rush home because everything has changed.

If you’re an astute media consumer, you will notice that the Beautiful People let interns take over the office and we end up with some very earnest, very dumb articles that leave you asking, “How did THAT get published?”

Now, I’d prefer if some Big Event happens in August that no one gets hurt and it’s “fun interesting.” But, as of right now, it seems as though August is simply going to be the quiet before the storm of the fall when we’re going to have the double wamny of a the flu season smashing into the COVID19 pandemic and a pitched battle to see who POTUS is going to be.

For my part, I find myself thinking about starting work on the development of a screenplay. I’m already cruising along with a novel and this weekend I had something of an existential moment when I realized I do not have a Plan B. As such, I think I’m going to use a number of things I’ve learned from developing this novel to begin working on a screenplay. I’m going to use Star Wars as my “textbook.”

Now, I know I’m being delusional. I’m too old, for starters. I’m far my likely to sell a first novel given my specific circumstances than I am a screenplay. But something about having the adventure of developing and writing a screenplay (or two) then traveling all the way to LA to see if I can accidentally-on-purpose run into a producer or some other Hollywood type is very enticing.

In fact, my personality is probably the only thing I have going for me on that front at this point. I’ve got solid talent, but, as I mentioned, I’m kind of old to get into the screenwriting business. But, again, I know that if I have a screenplay finished that I have the wherewithal to fly to LA (on the other side of the country) and hit the pavement. The idea of “somehow” being invited to a Hollywood party while I’m in town and “somehow” catching the attention of someone of note at the party is just the long-term project that appeals to me on a very basic level.

I know myself well enough to know that if I “somehow” was to find myself in a Hollywood party that all I would have to do is get liquored up and before you know it, I’d be Quentin Tarantino in the movie “Sleep With Me” pontificating on a wide range of thought provoking ideas and ending up with a three picture deal before it was all over with. (This is an extreme romanticized dream on my part. Probably none of that would happen, but, lulz, this is a very dull August evening.)

So, as such, I’m going to try — try — to have a Plan B, C and D that I can turn to if and when disaster strikes and I simply can’t continue with the novel I’m working on. The novel itself is really, really good (at least relative to my abilities) but I’m growing nervous that I’ve put all my eggs in one basket and I need to have a few backups in case something out of my control happens.

Anyway. What else am I supposed to do as House Trump consolidates power and turns us into a fascist state?

Mulling Dreams of Hollywood

by Shelt Garner

My entire creative life has become consumed by the novel I’m developing and writing. And, yet, as my storytelling abilities have improved, I find myself mulling the idea of doing something with a screenplay.

The only reason why I do so is now that have the self-confidence necessary to actually maybe pull off writing a novel, I think about how fun it would be to have a second creative “track” involving a screenplay. Now that I know in general how to pull off a plot, I find myself thinking about telling a very simple, straightforward story in the guise of a screenplay.

I have at least a dozen decent movie concepts floating around in my head. To date, I haven’t done anything with them because I felt I needed a collaborator of some sort. But now after having developed a novel for two years, I’m beginning to believe I can write a screenplay without any help. One thing I really want to do is tell a very simple story.

It seems to me that just like The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson was my “textbook” for the novel I’m working on that the screenplay to Star Wars should be the textbook for any screenplay I write as a first effort. I’m not much for spending a decade working on anything. I simply don’t feel I have the time at this point in my life. Whatever I do, I’m going to need to develop and write quickly.

It seems to me that I should stay primarily focused on the novel because of my age. Not a lot of middle-aged dudes come out of nowhere to sell a script in Hollywood. What’s more, I don’t even live anywhere near Hollywood. So, I’d have to finish a script then fly cross country to Los Angeles and hit the pavement in hopes of running into someone who might be able to help me. Now, I am notorious for finding myself chatting up “famous” people, so I’m willing to deluded myself enough to try to pull that off.

It would be fun to have the occasional adventure in LA, with a finished script in my hand, looking for someone to pitch it to. I’m an extreme extrovert and I love to shmoose and go to parties and have interesting conversations. That’s a pretty big portion of work in Hollywood, it seems to me. But, like I said, I’m kinda old.

I think, for the time being, what I might do is simply every once in awhile give myself a few hours each week to do some serious development on this one screenplay concept I have. I like to think of it is as a “scifi Network,” in the sense that it would deal with a lot of macro political and sociological concepts but in a gauzy, entertaining fashion that would be set in the “future.” The point of the screenplay would be, much like the novel I’m working on, to give me an outlet for my white hot rage against the Trump Administration.

But I am no where near even beginning to develop any screenplay. I’m going to stay focused on the novel for the time being. Maybe once I finish the first draft of the novel I will turn around and by FinalDraft so I can start seriously thinking about writing something.

Being Delusional About My Hollywood Prospects

by Shelt Garner

There’s a theory that some people — like Donald Trump — think they are able to do things they clearly are not able to do. But no one reads this blog, so let me indulge myself in some pretty outlandish daydreaming.

I’m well on my way to figuring out how I develop a piece of mass media. As such, once I finish the two novel connected to this story I’m working on, I will have the experience necessary to turn my sights to something like a screenplay. I keep thinking I can have different “tracks,” but that’s just not possible. I’m completely obsessed with this story and as such I’m too wrapped up with it to turn my attention elsewhere for the time being.

But when I do finish these novels, I have a number of very strong screenplay concepts that I will dive into. Here’s where the delusion comes in. I believe if I can just finish a screenplay that I’m personable enough as to have a decent shot of selling it.

Now, there are some obvious caveats to this idea.

One, is I’m going to have to visit LA every once in a while. I have a knack for meeting famous people and if I just endup in Hollywood on a sporadic basis after finishing a screenplay that I have a decent shot of being able to get someone in the Hollywood community to read it.

Again, I’m obviously being extremely delusional to think this.

Add to this the fact that I’m too old to sell anything to anyone for any reason and I really am being delusional.

But one man’s delusion is another man’s dream.

You never can tell.

Dear Seth Rogen: Here’s The Plot of Your ‘Alien Test’ Movie

by Shelt Garner

Working Title “Radar Love”
The first thing we see before the opening credits is a microscopic spaceship slowing down as it enters our solar system. It lands on the moon. Soon a bigger — but still small — spaceship shoots out of the lunar surfance, heading towards earth. This small ship finally enters the earth’s atmosphere and lands somewhere rather non-descriptive in either LA or NYC. After a few moments, the spot where the little ship landed begins to shift and bubble.

Opening Credits

Act I
We open with our Hero walking into work at his 80s radioshow in LA (or NYC). We’re introduced to the zany characters of his show. We learn a little backstory. He’s recently broken up with his long-term girlfriend and he’s feeling a little sorry for himself.

But once he’s on air, he switches gears and is very much a Robin Williams in “Good Morning, Vietnam.”

Inciting Incident: Our Hero wraps up the broadcast for the day and is told by his secretary that there’s someone to see him. He notices a well dress ethnically ambiguous woman standing in the foyer waiting for him. He’s taken aback that someone so hot would want to talk to him. After some pleasantries we cut to the two having coffee.

The woman acts as if she’s been listening to his 80s rock show avidly and yet there’s something a little off about her. She finally looks at him and says there’s something she has to tell him. She places her hand on his and there’s a 2001’s star gate sequence that we see happening in his mind.

He wakes up on a cot in a strange windowless room. He searches his mind for what happened and is boggled by the amount of information he now knows. The woman he met for coffee appears again and asks him if he’s ready? Ready for what, he asks. Our meeting, she says.

Act 1 ends with our Hero realizing he’s in a huge spaceship floating over Washington DC. He and the woman go down the steps of the ship and ultimately meet POTUS.

Act 2

This portion of the plot involves our hero coming involved in a huge planet-wide struggle. Everyone is upset that some nobody has been chosen by aliens to take a huge test that will determine humanity’s fate. There’s lots of efforts to discredit him. The aliens are absolutely clear — they love the music he plays and he’s their guy.

Midpoint: Because no one believes the aliens when they say they can move several hundred million humans to a new solar system, our Hero has to test out the technology. He takes a pill and wakes up in a pod on the other side of the planet.

The rest of this act involves the bad guys trying to screw up our hero’s attempts to take the test in question. He ultimately takes the test — it’s simply a test of his musical knowledge — and he passes with flying colors.

The “all is lost” moment of the second act is when it seems clear that humanity is too divided to take advantage of this amazing offer. The aliens get fed up and leave earth. In desperation, our Hero plays rock music at his radio station in a desperate hope to convince them to come back. (He talks to them via the titles of rock songs.)

At the very end of the act, it seems All Is Lost.

Act 3
Surprise! The aliens come back. Act three involves the process of moving people off the planet. The last scene is our Hero waking up on the new planet and realizing humanity has a second chance to get things right.

Of course, you need to throw in some romance somewhere along the way…maybe with the alien girl who is some sort of synthetic human?

Dear Seth Rogen — About That ‘Alien Test’ Movie Concept You Talked About On Howard Stern

by Shelt Garner

I saw on YouTube today that funny man Seth Rogen has the following idea for a movie: someone like him is the guy aliens pick to take a test that will determine humanity’s fate.

Well, I, too, have been thinking about something like this and he’s what I can contribute to your idea.

The reason why your character is chosen amongst all the people in the world is the aliens have been monitoring humanity’s radio signals for decades and they really like the morning show you have where you play Rock ‘N Roll. (For IP reasons, I would suggest something like it’s an 80s music morning show.)

The aliens REALLY LOVE Rock music and, as such, they love how you’re able to tell a story by stringing songs together. They communicate with humanity by doing this very thing and they make it clear they want YOU to be the person to take the test for humanity.

The test would be a test of Rock music knowledge, not an IQ test or anything like that. Conflict arises when the governments of the world try to screw you over by finding people they think can do what you do, better.

In the end, you take the test and pass it with flying colors — but then the real test begins. You have to use your new-found global celebrity to united humanity to take advantage of the offer given by the aliens — they are willing to re-settle much of humanity to a new solar systems, but humanity has to work together to achieve this goal.

I was thinking this would be deathly serious film, but it probably wouldn’t take a lot to flip it into something really funny.