[Spoilers] The Third Act of ‘No Time To Die’ & The Potential Influence Of Phoebe Waller-Bridge On The Screenplay

by Shelt Garner

I really liked No Time To Die. I only rolled my eyes a few times and checked my watch a few more. And I only once felt the need to think about leaving the theatre in mid-film. For me, a person who walks out of movies constantly, that’s a big deal.

But it’s the third act of the movie I want to talk about.

It’s in the third act that the stakes are raised and a child’s life — Bond’s daughter — is put in harm’s way.

It’s in the third act when something about how unfocused the movie is becomes clear. Somewhere in the movie’s nearly three-hour run time was an even better movie, waiting to come out. The emotional highs and lows of the movie were blunted by how muddled it all was.

I think it was so muddled because that is the point of a Bond movie. You go to a Bond movie to have a good time, not to really get your emotions played with. But had they wanted to make not just a Bond movie but a Bond “film” they could have focused a lot more on the implications of Bond having a family for once in his life and what he was willing to do to save them.

As it is, we’re introduced to his daughter as a plot point, she’s put in danger and then…she escapes because she bit the finger of the villain? What the what? It was a huge letdown.

You have something unique in the Bond franchise — he has a family to protect — and in the end the whole thing is dismissed in a rather ham-handed manner. There was not nearly the emotional pay off that it could have had.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Maybe I’m seeing the influence of Phoebe Waller-Bridge? But because she was just punching the screenplay up and wasn’t the main screenwriter, we just saw glimpses of the far more powerful movie that could have been? I dunno. But it definitely is weird that something so potentially powerful — Bond with family — was introduced and then not a lot was done with it.

As I mentioned, I think some of what I’m noticing is just something that is basic to the Bond movies on an existential basis. We don’t really expect them to be No Country For Old Men or There Will Be Blood. There’s just a fun way to entertain yourself for a few hours.

So, I’m Moving Towards A Second Creative Track: Screenwriting

by Shelt Garner

I’m not getting any younger. And I do have a shit tone of screenplay concepts rolling around in my mind. So, I’m going to begin to move towards getting to the point where I have something of a second creative track of screenwriting.

There are so many downsides to this that I’m well aware of — I’m going to be drawing energy away from the novel series. It’s kind of dumb to even start given my age and where I live. And, yet, my own mortality is definitely staring me straight in the face.

I like the idea of having something I can divert my creative energy to on a lark as need be. I’ve been working on these novels — and made such progress as a storyteller — that I like the idea of doing something creative for the sake of being creative.

I’m also, by nature, rather delusional. To the point that I daydream of finishing off a few screenplays and flying to LA for a few days just to see if my natural extroverted personality might get me within pitching distance of a Hollywood bigwig of some sort.

I know, I KNOW this is very, very delusional.

But it’s a fun distraction while I keep slugging away at these novels. Yet, I know that in showbiz it’s often — almost always — who you know, not what you know. But you need a script. So, I’ve kind of vowed to myself that if I’m still interested in this second creative track of screenwriting at the end of the month that I’m going to take a huge breath and get serious about buying Final Draft.

I’m 20 years too old to start this process. But I am creative and have a lot of really interesting movie concepts that, lulz, why not?

Mulling My Personal Delusions About My Potential Success In LA Should I Move There

by Shelt Garner

I daydream a lot. A whole lot. And one of the things I daydream a lot about besides all the stories about robots, zombie robots and space aliens is how successful I would be if I moved to LA.

One the surface, there is a credible case that I could do really well in LA. I’m a natural extrovert and I tend to become larger than life when liquored up. Being around a crowd of people like one might find at a cocktail party is like emotional meth for me — I’m an extreme social butterfly. At least, I was when I was in Seoul many moons a go. I’m older now, so who knows. (But I’m young at heart, wink.)

As such, if I could somehow overcome the basics — I don’t live in LA, I’m broke and I have no showbiz contacts in town — if I was somehow able to weasel my way into a LA cocktail party everyone would know who I was by the time I left. And, usually, in such situations when I’m drunk and surrounded by a lot of interesting people, I can grow so colorful and larger-than-life that I draw a lot of attention to myself.

So, in my deranged, hyper-deluded mind, I could see a situation where some Hollywood bigwig would notice me at a cocktail party and want to know, “Who is that guy?”

Those few times I’ve been to New York City, it definitely seemed like a city where the metric is NOT who you know, but what you know. In LA, meanwhile, you just never know if some broke-ass writer might be on the cusp of writing a breakout screenplay. (Though the old adage about, “Don’t fuck the writer” is very, very true.)

Of course, there is the huge issue of my age. If I was 20 years younger, then all my LA dreams would be a lot more likely to come true. But, now, oh boy. The only way I would have any chance of success is if I moved to LA full time and had three or four solid screenplays already written and ready to go.

Right now, I got squat.

Anyway. Dreaming is free.

The Agony & The Ecstasy Of Wanting Final Draft

by Shelt Garner

I want to buy the screenwriting program Final Draft, but there are two things holding me back. One, I’m broke as hell and it’s extremely expensive. Two, if I’m going to spend that much money on it, I’d like to actually use it right away.

So, as such, I know that actually buying Final Draft would be the end of the beginning of any effort to actually write screenplay. I must have at least a dozen solid screenplay concepts rolling around my head at the moment. And, yet, I’m throwing all my creativity at the four novel series I’m working on and I just don’t feel like distracting myself.

And it’s not like I live in LA — any screenplays I write would have to be done knowing full well that they are meant to be pure creativity (at least at first.) I would much rather use all my creative time and energy working on the series I’ve been working on for years now, rather than risk getting distracted and having to start at blow zero working on screenplays.

But, having said all that, occasionally I do grow restless. Sometimes, I feel like just picking a completely different creative direction for the sheer joy of it and see what happens. For the last few years, however, this lasts for a few minutes and then I put my head down and keep working on the novel(s.)

I guess it’s possible that I might sketch out some screenplays in the near future. But I’m going to be on the cusp of actually writing a screenplay if I buy Final Draft. I need to start reading screenplays if I’m going to get anywhere near that stage, however.

Notes On ‘Scriptnotes’

by Shelt Garner

I really enjoy the “Scriptnotes” podcast, but I do have some…notes. My chief beef is the very strength of the podcast is its weakness — it’s two very accomplished, successful and knowledgeable guys talking about what it’s like to be be two very accomplished, successful and knowledgeable guys.

As such, sometimes they are rather….patronizing…to the serious concerns of people who are just starting off in the business. The show seems more for people who actually have a career in Hollywood than someone who aspires to have a career in Hollywood.

But you can’t be all things to all people.

I guess I’m suggesting that there’s a market for a Scriptnotes for extras who aspire to be screenwriters. Or something. A program that takes novice screenwriter’s concerns about IP theft seriously, that kind of stuff.

Yet, in general, I find Scriptnotes interesting. I sometimes feel like a street urchin with my nose pressed against the glass of the podcast as they talk about their careers, but lulz.

Why Hollywood Needs More Movies Like ‘Greenland’

by Shelt Garner

Greenland was a good, but not great, movie. But there was one specific aspect to the movie that I have to give it credit for — it wallowed in the tacit conservatism of a regular dude put in extraordinary circumstances trying to keep his family safe.

It was CIS comfort food on a creative level and I think we need more of that kind of stuff if we, like, don’t want the United States to buckle and a second American civil war break out. I’m being serious — a lot of regular old center-Right people I know are really beginning to seethe with rage over “woke” “cancel culture” and the idea that a major Hollywood movie is simply tells a heteronormative story is a change of pace.

I’m all for representation in art — I’m going way out of my way to do just that in the novel I’m working on. But I also find it amusing that even in the genre I’m working with, there are some tropes that if I flip them or toy with them cause me to end up in, well, some pretty heteronormative territory without even thinking about it.

The point is — there’s plenty enough room in this world for all God’s chillins. I love the liberal democracy I live in right now and I’m growing nervous that if the center-Left doesn’t get its act together we’re even more fucked than we might be otherwise.

Remember, all the CPAC cocksuckers need is to get their golden orange god (or someone like him) elected ONE MORE TIME and that’s it. We live in an autocracy for the rest of my life.

We’re fucked. We’re all so totally fucked.

Half-Assed Review: ‘Greenland’ & The 10,000 Year Old Story

by Shelt Garner

I went into “Greenland” blind. As it opened, I thought maybe it would pass what I call the “10,000 year old story” test. This is the following test: could this story be told in some form 10,000 years ago?

It, at first, passes the test.

Man comes back from the hunt. Has problems with his wife. His kid is sick. The world is changing and the story is about how he protects his family in the context of that change.

Then things went crazy with “Greenland.”

The story was soooo contrived and leaned so heavily on zombie movie tropes (even without zombies) that I couldn’t bear to finish watching. Here’s what I would have done:

Greenland SHOULD have been about:

Act I
The lead up. At the end of the first act, the world ends and our Hero is now living underground inside Greenland.

Act 2
Hero and family have to get used to living in this new world.

Midpoint: His son, now an adult — rebels against the strict rules of under-Greenland meant to keep humanity alive (or something)

All is Lost:
His is exiled onto the Aboveland

Third Act
Hero and wife go searching for son.

They go through some adventures but finally discover him.

Turns out, the surface, while a struggle to survive on, is beginning to recover.

Our hero becomes the leader of Aboveland.

Or something.

But the Greenland I saw was a good movie…but not my kind of movie. Way, way, WAY too contrived.

Ava: A Half-Assed, Partial Review

by Shelt Garner

Yet again I tried to watch a movie and stopped at just about the inciting incident. I do this all the fucking time. This time, it was with the movie Ava. The issue with this movie, the reason why I stopped watching it so early, is I just didn’t care about the characters.

And, in a sense, it was very bland.

It’s structure, at least, was very cookie cutter. What’s so wild is how another, similar movie, Atomic Blonde, pulled me in right away with almost no backstory. Within moments of Atomic Blonde starting, I was hooked. I wanted to see what happened to the characters.

But with Ava…meh.

It just seemed like a rote tale that went by the numbers. So much so that I realized it would be a waste of time to keep watching it and stopped. There were a few character touches that I appreciated, but overall the actual story was blah, blah, blah, I’ve seen it all before.

Dreaming Of Hollywood: My Storytelling Ability Has Gotten A Lot Better

by Shelt Garner

Even though I’m really old relative to most people who want to break into Hollywood via screenwriting, I do, at times, have a larger-than-life personality. Especially when I’m liquored up.

So, at times, I find himself wondering if I could replicate my “fame” in the Seoul expat community somewhere actually important like NYC or LA. While I love NYC, I suspect that given the more fluid nature of LA life (specifically how much of the place revolves around storytelling) I might find success there easier than NYC.

The novel I’m working on is going really, really well. It’s still a huge amount of work, but it’s a lot of fun.

I continue to think about at least three screenplays that deal with Big Ideas in an entertaining fashion. But, as I keep saying, actually buying FinalDraft would be the end of the beginning of the process, not the beginning. I refuse to buy FinalDraft if I can’t immediately sit down and start writing a screenplay.

With that in mind, I need to start reading screenplays and watching more movies. I’m so wrapped up in developing and writing the novel, that I really live in a content bubble right now.

Anyway. Something’s gotta give. I’m not going to live forever and I really want a second creative “tract.”

But I really want to finish this novel.

It’s The Human Element Of Screenwriting That Appeals To Me

by Shelt Garner

By pretty much any metric I’m a failure and a loser. But there is one metric under which I excel — if you get me liquored up at a cocktail party I usually chat up the best looking woman in the room and start some pretty thought-provoking conversations about a wide-ranging series of topics.

Now, let me stress, I’m well aware that every drunk is the “funniest guy in the room” but it does appear from my time in Seoul that I actually was extremely interesting in that specific situation.

With that in mind, I find myself this New Year’s Eve mulling tipping my toe into screenwriting because I’ve reached a pretty stable point in the development of the novel I’m working on and need the rush of a big, new creative “track” to keep things interesting as I plunge into writing a serious first draft of this novel that won’t, at last, embarrass me.

I have specific conditions going forward towards my ultimate goal — hitting the pavement in LA at some point to see if I can sell a script. My biggest self-imposed condition is I have to have three completed scripts before I’ll do any such harebrained thing.

I listen to the “Script Notes” podcast and realize — oh boy — how cutthroat the screenwriting business is even if you’ve actually gone the traditional route and are, like, a normal human being. I’m about 20 years too old to be doing any of this, but I’m creative and — under the right conditions — reasonably charismatic.

So, I know if the issue is more a matter of how personable I can be in a social setting rather than my age or experience, that I have a decent shot at getting a lot closer to selling a script than you might think. I love to talk and tell stories and if I actually have a few scripts to hand someone given the opportunity, then, well, who knows.

But I have to have paper. I have to have actual completed scripts to hand to people. And that’s going to take work and, most of all, time. I’m hoping there might be some cross-pollination between the novel track and the screenplay track. One will help me look at the other in a different way.

My main focus will continue to be, of course, the novel. I guess, however, that I feel enough self-confidence that things are pretty stable on that front that I can turn my attention to a second “track.”

I just wish I wasn’t so fucking old.