Wednesday, November 09, 2005

This is What We Do for a Living

I'm a little stacked until Monday. It is worth explaining why to the Spec-Monkeys, as it is somewhat illuminating of the Game as she is played up in the rare air.

The trip to London was to meet a director for the script I just finished. Now, this script was as well-received as is possible. I adapted a book that had been in development for literallly twenty years, and we got a star, a happy studio, and a director all on the first draft. The script, to be fair, was the most difficult job I've had in five years. It fucking near killed me. However this is, in Spec-Monkey terms, the Big Win. It doesn't get better.

So, with a script as well-liked as that by all involved, we sat down, nodded pleasantly, and began the notes.

We're stripping out half of the antagonists, restructuring the entire POV of the first act, relocating two of the three main set pieces, changing the MacGuffin, changing both stars' backstories, and changing the ending.

Oh, and all this has to be done in just under a month.

Now, I actually like and agree with all these ideas (very smart director, and Akiva Goldsman knows something about the typing business). But fair warning to the Spec-Monkeys: "Writing is rewriting" doesn't apply to just your rough drafts.

Sidebar: Thanks to BeaucoupKevin, I now know there's a Wikipedia page for Infinite Crisis. Why should I care? Well, first, the link to Crisis on Infinite Earths finally allows me to understand that accursed miniseries without having to reread it. Why should you care? You'll see ... Let's just say, soon, we will have a new batch of interested/angry Kung Fu Monkeys swinging through here.


BenDavid said...

The real money is in comic books. Although, if I have to sit through another super crazy crossover extravaganza I'll drop DC for good. The only thing worth digesting over there is Seven Soldiers.

coltrane said...

Fellow spec-monkey here. Bounced over from Friedman's hilarious blog. It's great to get these insights from a few inside voices. Keep it comin'.

Joe Helfrich said...

What are you up to? You free to talk to the (comic) press?

John Donald Carlucci said...

I'll be sad if the book is what I think it is John. I love your writing, but end changes and macguffin changes sound scary.

But, I may be completely wrong.

Any idea on when the production will be made public?


Anonymous said...

Fascinating - thanks for the insights.

This actually made me feel much better. Over in my little corner of indie-filmmaker land, we're on the second draft of the animatic, and it looks like we're about to totally re-write the start, the ending and a big portion of the middle. I've spent a certain amount of today going "man, I must be crap at this".

It's good to know that Ubituitous Rewriting doesn't change as you get more able.

- Hugh Hancock

shan said...

John! If you have any influence in the matter, please try to get me a role!!

This was bigger than TRANSFORMERS? Wow.

In any case, come to Canada on April 29th!

Rogers said...

no, not bigger than transformers, but I am under a gag order still until the Wizard promo appears.

Anonymous said...

Guess someone's going to have to update *your* Wikipedia entry soon, John.

I understand your feelings about CoIE. I finally got the chance to read that over the summer. It's a great story but hard to fully wrap one's head around.


RB Ripley said...

congrats. love that you're working.

Sizemore said...

I got John very drunk in London and he revealed to me that he's working on a sequel to Leonard Part IV - the DC angle is a big Cosby/Batman cross-over that will change the way you read comic books forever.


Highlander said...

Just found the blog, from James Wolcott's. Cool to hear a voice from the inside I've been trying to pry open a window to for the last ten years.

As to the original CRISIS, well, my blog has a review of the new one that compares it to the original, and as I note there, it's all in the writer. Geoff Johns is the man; Marv Wolfman and Len Wein weren't even The Boys. Pity Perez couldn't do this one, but the art is adequate, and I'm all about the words in the little balloons anyway.

I'll keep checking in. Enjoying it so far.

jay in oregon said...

I guess I have a weird perspective of CRISIS the first, since I was one of those who was brought into the DC Universe by CRISIS; before that, the only DC book I read with any regularity was BLUE DEVIL. (No, I'm not kidding.)

As far as INFINITE CRISIS, I guess I've hobbled myself in my enjoyment of that story since I didn't read the lead-in miniseries (I'm kicking myself about THE OMAC PROJECT since I generally like Greg Rucka's work, and now the early issues have gone through the roof around here) but the idea that I had to pick up four or five different books, at a time when I was trying to keep my comics spending under control, felt manipulative.

When I read issue #1 of INFINITE CRISIS, it felt like a summary/continuation of a bunch of other books. (And I'm still sour over IDENTITY CRISIS, which started off big but ended small -- when I read COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS, I said to myself "so that's where the storyline to IDENTITY CRISIS went!")

So it's hard for me to agree with highlander's opinion that Johns is going to outshine Wolfman and Wein on this; I guess I'll have to wait and see.

Highlander said...

Ah. I'm an old time hardline Silver Age nut, so to me, CRISIS was a horror. I was aware of it before it was CRISIS; friends of mine on the fringes of the industry got chapter and verse on it back when it was still being called "Earth Zero". Since I love the Silver Age, both at Marvel and DC (although the two ages are very different at either company) I still shudder when I think of CRISIS.

But most of that is on my blog, or in many of the articles I've written under my "John Jones, Manhunter from Marathon IL" pseud.

As to INFINITE CRISIS and the lead ins, I bought them all grudgingly, but they were all excellent, especially OMAC (which I expected to hate, being a big Jack Kirby fan) and VILLAINS UNITED. OMAC and DAYS OF VENGEANCE (I think that's what it's called) are both available now in collected form, although I got them as they came out.

I'm a huge Geoff Johns fan; he has, to my mind, almost singlehandedly managed to make sense out of an utterly bewildering and chaotic DC Modern Age, and he's done it with intelligence and an obvious love for DC's Silver Age that matches mine. Wolfman and Wein, on the other hand... they killed Supergirl. And turned Kamandi into Tommy Tomorrow. The first was the injury, the second the insult, and honestly, I'm just not sure which was worse.

But obviously, we have very different viewpoints. I think we'll both enjoy IC, though.

jay in oregon said...

I just read something about OMAC PROJECT being put out in TPB this month; guess I'll go grab a copy.

I wasn't planning to buy INFINITE CRISIS -- as I said, I felt burned after IDENTITY CRISIS -- except maybe as a TPB. But I also have a good deal of respect for Geoff Johns' work; his stuff reminds me of John Ostrander's work on THE SPECTRE and MARTIAN MANHUNTER, being able to weave classic and modern DC lore together. (He had an uphill battle with HAWKWORLD/HAWKMAN, in my opinion.)

AntoBlueberry said...

So your dear friend Mark Waid is trying to lure you in the comic business?
Curious to know which title you will be handling...

Kas said...

Can I ask a craft question? -

With so many fundamental changes will you pull apart the page you have now and reconstruct them, or will you just start writing again from fresh, or will you start writing again from fresh but copy paste some elements that still work?


Highlander said...


Johns and Ostrander approach continuity from similar standpoints. Ostrander didn't get a lot of help with that on HAWKWORLD; Mike Gold was editing that book and he's notoriously resentful of continuity requirements... he only grudgingly bothered to even try to explain who the Thanagarian Hawkman was who had been on Earth and a member of the JLA in the years post-Crisis, after the Golden Age Hawkman retired and before the new HAWKWORLD duo showed up, when people like me incessantly badgered him into it on the letters' page. And then he and Ostrander came up with about the most half assed, idiotic, nonsensical explanation imaginable.

I give Johns MAJOR props for managing to sort out that mess. I'm sure he'll do an equally ept job with the DC continuity in general in INFINITE CRISIS, and I for one am vastly looking forward to seeing him do it.

Rogers said...

will you start writing again from fresh but copy paste some elements that still work?

That one. Big sections still work, I'll just tune them to fit the changes.

Anonymous said...

"It is worth explaining why to the Spec-Monkeys, as it is somewhat illuminating of the Game as she is played up in the rare air."

- the writer of Catwoman

That's some pretty rare air.

Get over yourself.

jay in oregon said...

Johns is the one who came up with the Egypt/Thanagar connection in JSA, isn't he? I liked that take on it.

It appears like you and I have a similar love for the comics form and history (although it sounds like yours started a bit before mine).

*sigh* Hope there'll be some copies of INFINITE CRISIS left.

Anonymous said...

To Mr or Ms. "Get Over Yourself":

Just have a tough shift at the "Olive Garden"? It seems pretty obvious that John was using the term "rare air" with a hint of irony. Also, as someone who actually has had movie scripts produced and distributed, he is in a relatively small group of individuals, so the wording is not inappropriate.

Get over it.

Rogers said...

Thanks for the defence, anonymous2. You are indeed correct -- anybody who's read this blog for more than a day realizes I am pretty joky about my "status" in Hollywood, or even, for that matter, the entire idea of "status" in the Big Machine of Making Shit Up. There's a reason I giggle like a schoolgirl when DC comics lets me write a book -- I do my job because it's cool. The money turned out to be the bonus for loving it.

We have a rule here, Anonymous 1 -- hate mail gets e-mailed, not posted. I always respond, too, if you want to take the time.

On the other, other other hand, I am having a shitty day, so I will point out with less than my usual humorous deprecation that the majority of my job does indeed involve working on projects with budgets somewhere around $100 million dollars, which last time I checked made them rather substantial investments in any industry. After 12 years on the road as a stand-up, twenty film scripts, working 18 hour days and losing more jobs than most people will ever get because I refused to take the sucky note (including getting fired off Catwoman because I wouldn't make it ... that), I'm not going to apologize for the fact that yeah, 99.9% of the world doesn't get to work on big films, and you know what -- you CAN go fuck yourself. I'm not arrogant, but I'm certainly as shit not ashamed.

You know, this really is one of those posts that I should think about and delete.


Anonymous said...

Why is it hate mail to say "get over yourself"?

Why do negative opinions have to get emailed and not posted? So this site can be one big, ego-stroking game of pattycake?

Why do you assume get over yourself means get over yourself as a screenwriter? You're obviously incredibly successful and good at what you do. No one doubts that. Except, judging by the vehemence of your self-defense, maybe you.

How self-important a guy do you have to be, and how good a comic are you, that you respond to heckling with an indignant tirade, instead of, you know, bringing the funny?

How arrogant are you to respond to "get over yourself" by proceeding to do the opposite, which is to get back on yourself, and proceed to hump yourself to sweaty completion?

Wipe yourself off. You're foaming at the mouth.

Avedon said...

What? You came to London and didn't even meet up with me for a drink? You bastard!

Rogers said...

Sorry Avedon. I was stacked up with work. Didn't get to see Warren either. Although you know what's weird? That little pic of those pubs and restaraunts you posted a while ago? I stumbled right into that spot when I was there. Weird.


I have a general rule, because of the number of political posts, that comments which do not contribute but are simply hostile get e-mailed. Keeps the flame-wars down, and the nice folk who hang out here get to have pleasant discussions. Negative opinions or arguments with MERIT or SUBSTANCE get posted here all the time, and are welcomed. Check out some of the gay marriage or political posts (particularly for "Learn to Say Ain't) for that. Most of these folks eventually become regular readers, if not friends. I still get very eanrest e-mails from the nice creationist readers.

"Why do you assume get over yourself means get over yourself as a screenwriter? "

Strangely, when you pair one of my screenwriting jobs with the comment "get over yourself", I assume you're linking the ideas, you disingenuous vermin.

That said, don't pull that "hey, hey, what are you getting pissed at" shit with me. Go into a bar, go up to a guy, and say "get over yourself." You know what? That will be interpreted as hostile. Call me nuts. That "whoa whoa" bullshit is cowardly.

I don't "bring the funny" when I get heckled because, well, as any standup will tell you, hecklers are
assholes. They aren't "helping the show", they aren't funny, and the rest of the audience fucking hates them. They're sad little scum who can't stand the spotlight being on someone else. Not that I'm saying that's you. Just explaining my stance on hecklers.

You know what? You win. You got me. I am tired, and I am being pissy. There are days that everybody runs out of reasonable, and today's mine. There are days we're all witty and well-read and all joshy-josh here at Kung Fu Monkey, but today ain't it. I don't owe you the funny. And if making the argument that I'm not ashamed of myself after somebody throws a career failure in my face is humping myself, then I will hump away. You ever had a bad day? Well today's mine, and today's the day you decided to piss on my doorstep.

Yeah, I need to reassure myself of my qualifications, because right now I am staring at a page, under a fucking deadline, with that dark black combo of writer's block and the endless echo of "you're a fucking hack" that every screenwriter gets at 3am, whenever 3am decides to fall that day. I am vulnerable, and scared, and lie through my teeth every time I take a job because every job I'm convinced this'll be the one I can't pull off. And when you're a writer, that NEVER. FUCKING. STOPS. UNTIL. YOU'RE DEAD.

I can't believe I just typed that. And I'm not editing it. Because this is what the blog's for. Whatever the other writers can take, whatever they can use, be it advice or confidence or rewrite tips or experience or rage or fear or just knowing that feeling is normal -- that's what you get. Warts and all.

Fine. You win. You're King of the Bamboo Under the Fingernails. Now get the fuck out of my house. At the very least contribute to the charity while you're at it.

This thread is closed, both pro and con. I don't want to ecourage this asshole, and I don't want any pity hugs.

Mrs. Kung Fu Monkey said...

Does this mean you'll be late for dinner? Just because you are having a moment of existential angst doesn't mean you shouldn't call and let me know!

Rogers said...

no, I'm coming. Existential angst doesn't justify missing the tater tots and vodka smoothies.

John Donald Carlucci said...

Thanks John

Your dark day helps my dark. Weird, but knowing that 3 AM hits pro monkeys helps spec monkeys continue on.

You know I mean that in the best possible way.

PS: Sorry about that asshole.

Anonymous said...

I don't know. The, uh, retooling of the script suspiciously sounds like the same steps taken on everything else -- which make everything else look like everything else. Homogenized, pasteurized, neuterized.

Now WTF is Global Frequency? Warners is futzing around with Welcome Back, Kotter regurgitations via AOL -- and NOTHING for GF? Eejits.

Rogers said...

Thought I'd closed this (filthy blogger), but as the the last post was actually a writing point, I'll address it.

Spy thrillers depend entirely on POV for tone. Do you see the worldwide conspiracy? Do you see the headquarters, the cool tech, or is it much more grounded in tiny little room, or as I'm fond of describing Sandbaggers "Men in ugly suits dying badly in Prague."

The director wanted to swing more for paranoia -- which means limiting POV so the audience gets the feeling of confusion and rootlessness the character feels. The backstory we're stripping out was a cumbersome piece of work always meant to explain a relationship clearly for the first read (and one of these days, we will discus the various jobs of the various drafts)-- and happily stripped out. Nobody cares about backstory other than executives. The locations were changed for slightly more esoteric ones, not less. The McGuffin ... well, I made the mistake of using one that I geeked out on, but took way too long in the script to explain -- which, of course rather defeats the purpose of a MacGuffin.

That said of course, I could be deluding myself. But having had a few of those homogenization notes sessions andwalked out feeling nasty, I walked out of this batch pretty pleased. All you've got is your gut as to whther you're moving in the right or wrong direction.

Rogers said...

Oh, and in the anme of Christ, it's not WATCHMEN. That would be hubris.

John Donald Carlucci said...

I was thinking I Am Legend.


Rogers said...

no, that's also Akiva, but no.

DMc said...

Hey John,
3 am came about ten minutes ago and I started reading through your blog to stop the hyperventilation. I'm getting more oxygen now. Thanks for that.

For the love of god, why don't you just not allow anonymous comments? Of all the BS that the internet has spawned, the Anonymous Net Lion/Offline Pussycat is definitely the most odious.

Well, except spammers.
Uh...and pedophiles.

Okay, they're just minor annoyances.

Still, enjoyed the snark. Now -- have you ever found a foolproof way to tell someone that they've just made the stupidest, most unexecutable note ever while still having them like you?

Cause I'd really like to learn that trick.

Diane said...

Re the whole post: (eyeroll) I hear you, brother. This is very like what happened to us on "Ring of the Nibelungs." (Except it sounds like you had it a little easier.) ;)

Best! -- Diane

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Riyan Cilacap said...

Thank You Verry Much, Ijin nitip gan dan trimaksih atas infonya

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