Monday, March 30, 2015

How “The Jinx” became part of our Cultural History, but “All Good Things” is still a Boring Movie.

A Documentary Series and a Movie
Both Focused on the Same Man
Both Shot by the Same filmmakers
One Made History

THE OTHER SUCKED

Now that the media stampede reacting to the success of “The Jinx" is over, I want to compare the documentary series to the theatrical film, “All Good Things” (released in 2010), a “fictional” take on the same events depicted in the HBO showy series.
Because the documentary series and the earlier theatrical film were created by the same filmmaking team, it allows us a rare opportunity to gain some insight into the creative issues connected to a media project based on a real person/real event.
My basic question in comparing the two projects is this – How could “The Jinx” documentary series achieve creative and commercial success, while the theatrical film, "All Good Things," based on the same story, and shot by the same filmmakers, creatively fail on so many levels?  


“The Jinx” was a huge success, both commercially (over 1 million people watched the final episode of the documentary series), and with critics (who almost universally agree the series was a notable achievement in TV history). Perhaps more importantly, viewers reacted enthusiastically to the series with generally positive online comments. By the end of the documentary series the volume of social interaction rivaled the activity normally associated with popular Network TV dramas. 

The above is in stark contrast to the reaction of the film, “All Good Things.” The theatrical release was a burn-off by the distributor to fulfill the contractual obligation to the filmmakers (total Domestic box office gross was $578,000).

Critics and viewers of “All Good Things” generally had unfavorable reactions to the movie as well. Many acknowledged the film was  professionally produced, but was a “forgettable genre film,” with “a storyline that was both boring and confusing at the same time.”  
The key art for the one sheet used to market the theatrical release is a complete disconnect with the tone and content of the actual movie. This is a common red flag for a problematic project. The distributor’s marketing department is either confused about how to sell the film; or is instead very calculating in its strategy, opting for a “slash and burn” campaign meant to lure unsuspecting audiences to the first weekend and get as much money as possible before the bad word of mouth spreads about the movie. 

“The Jinx” focused on the tragic life of Robert Durst, an heir to a real estate fortune, who despite (or because of) his wealth, ended up being connected to three mysterious deaths (and a fourth if you want to count the suicide of Durst’s mother).

The final episode of the series concluded with Durst in a bathroom talking to himself (only his words being recorded by the microphone he was still wearing after his last interview with the filmmakers). Durst is heard saying to himself -- “Killed them all… of course.”
Whether the filmmakers caught the subject of their documentary confessing to murdering three people or his words were the ramblings of a mentally ill person, or both, is debatable. But Durst’s bathroom soliloquy was a dramatic conclusion to a six hour/six week investment by viewers. The documentary series had a “Hollywood Movie Ending,” rather than the circuitous dead-end climax of most documentaries dealing with real people and real events.
When Durst was arrested in New Orleans, a few days before the final episode of the documentary series aired on HBO, the event catapulted “The Jinx” to another level on the cultural list of achievements -- a TV event not only attracting a mass audience, but garnering newspaper headlines. The fact that the series could also be the impetus to Durst finally facing justice for a murder he has been able to evade for than a decade would be even more remarkable.

Every hour of the documentary series was impeccably produced -- the narrative structure cleverly constructed and skillfully edited. And the recreations of past events examined in the series were creatively conceived and executed.
Indeed, the quality of the HBO series was so top notch, perhaps the most shocking aspect of the project’s success may be that the director of "The Jinx," Andrew Jarecki, and the producer, Marc Sperling, were also the same filmmakers behind the theatrical film (Sperling was also one of the screenwriters, sharing credit with Marcus Hinchey).
How shocking? 
If one was unaware of the actual timeline of both projects, "All Good Things" comes off as a film that was thrown together quickly and shot after "The Jinx," to exploit the success of the documentary series. 

There are a lot of reasons that might explain the difference in quality between the two projects, and of course, at the foundation of it all is the theatrical film's bad script. But there's so much more, including the filmmaker's miscasting of the lead actor. 
Unfortunately, in the context of this post, I will primarily focus on a single factor, leaving the other issues to be examined in a forthcoming book on adapting real lives and real events into a screenplay.
The main character of “The Jinx” is Robert Durst. His “performance” in the documentary series ended up being the source of energy that kept audiences tuning in each week during the run of the series. Regardless of the documentary format, the magnetism of Durst’s presence on the screen can serve as a valuable reminder to all screenwriters of an essential basic in writing a quality script – create a main character readers/audiences will be compelled to read/watch from the beginning to the end.
But beyond the Durst Documentary reminder, is a lesson contained in the fictional film, “All Good Things” -- The professional screenwriter should never feel restricted in creating a main character that readers/audiences like personally, or root for.

The first (and perhaps) only creative obligation of the screenwriter, even when adapting a story based on a real person, is to make that protagonist captivating, fascinating, and exciting enough that his persona and actions will allow your script to standout. It does not matter whether we “like” the character. Examples of main characters in past movies/TV projects who aren’t necessarily likable, but are compulsively watchable are Tony Soprano, Travis Bickle, Melvin Udall, and Neil McCauley.

In “The Jinx” there was no one to write Robert Durst’s lines as he was being interviewed. No one directed him about how to “act” or behave in front of the camera. But the real Robert Durst proved to be charming, vulnerable, and, yes… likable. All character traits consistent with what perhaps enabled the real Durst (along with his access to money) to get away with murder.
Prior to shooting the documentary, the filmmakers had never met the real Robert Durst. Without any contact with the real person they were depicting in their theatrical movie, the filmmakers were forced to create a protagonist using their creativity and imagination. 
And they came up empty.
The main character in "All Good Things" is (for legal reasons) named David Marks, rather than Robert Durst. But the name change is not the only thing different between the two projects. The character of David Marks bears no resemblance to the real person he is based on. Marks is quiet, brooding, and boring. The real Durst we now know from the documentary series is charming, outrageous, and definitely not boring.

There came a point in the development of the movie script where the filmmakers apparently convinced themselves that the truly strange events of the real life case they intended to mimic in their screenplay would be all they needed to sustain audience interest and admiration. 
Unfortunately they ended up being wrong. If people want strange and unusual, they can watch documentaries airing on HBO. 
The story they had researched for years leading up to the writing of the screenplay did not lead to creative excitement on the page. Their fascination with the case, and with the real character of Robert Durst never made it to the page as a compelling part of the story they ended up shooting. 

And once they moved into production, the situation only became worse when the director, Jarecki, followed his creative instincts and shot a lot of the film as if it was a “serial killer” movie while at the same time never coming close to delivering what would be satisfying to fans of that sub-genre. The biggest problem was again, the content of the script, which couldn’t sustain Jarecki’s aesthetic, barely rising high enough to embrace the core conventional elements associated with a standard suspense-thriller.

Sadly what “All Good Things” ends up achieving is being a well-produced, bigger budgeted, “Lifetime” cable movie. I point this out not in a glib way, but with support for my view with a list below that contains the basic screenwriting formula generally used in all of the “women-in-jeopardy” storylines of a a bad “Lifetime” cable movie:

- Female lead meets a guy (male lead) who seems too good to be true.
- Everyone (or just one really good friend) who cares about the female lead tries to warn her not to move forward.
- Despite all the warnings, the female lead advances the relationship with the guy.
- Now that they are together, the female lead starts to develop her doubts about her guy. She tries her best to make it work, rather than simply breaking away.
- Female lead finally decides to break away. She fights back against the guy (who at this point is a "monster").
- Female lead either survives or dies in her struggle against the guy/monster by the end of the story.

The above, obviously with some variations, is pretty much the plot breakdown for not only the “Lifetime” women-in-jeopardy movies, but also the storyline of “All Good Things.”
At least the first half of the movie.
Another weird thing about the film is how it completely shifts gears with the storyline after the wife is killed.
This is a problem because cramming in all the formula plot beats outlined above into the first half of a movie really makes what is happening on screen predictable and boring.
So why do it?
The answer is because the filmmakers became creative slaves to the real events in the life of the Real Person they were fictionalizing.
Robert Durst  was suspected of committing two more murders after killing his wife, and the filmmakers needed to move on in the storyline.

Up to this point we, the audience, have been led through a plot that had the wife being threatened by Marks, while at the same time, we were also shown a handful of scenes where the Marks’ character is being victimized by his rich, powerful family. Both avenues play in a creatively vacuous way, but the thrust of the storyline still has us investing in the Marks character as a domestic wife abuser. That’s the thrust of the storyline.
But when the female lead is killed off (again at the halfway point of the film), we are now asked to follow the storyline as it starts all over again. Marks is now the… protagonist(?), and the backstory stuff with his family shows up in a few scenes so Marks can become more of the victim/protagonist of the story, rather than the antagonist.

But as the story progresses, viewers realize we’re still going to watch the Marks character move toward being directly connected to two more murders. This could all work... if what we’re going to watch is a “serial killer” movie. But as I’ve previously pointed out, the script has creatively prevented the project from going in that direction. 
The abrupt shift in plot and storyline is almost always a sign of creative desperation rather than innovation. When the main character shows up wearing a wig and women’s clothes, the film still continues to be boring all the way to the closing credits.  

Hovering over the development of the screenplay is another issue. 
I can easily imagine the endless development meetings about the script where the filmmakers were meeting their lawyer and taking notes about what they could and could not do creatively with the screenplay.  
Even though they had not met him, "All Good Things" plays like a movie that ended up being creatively afraid of what the real Robert Durst would do legally. They were so afraid of what the "monster" would do to their project he ended up scaring all the creativity from the filmmakers. 
Everything that is wrong with the theatrical movie seems to be the exact opposite of the documentary. The narrative power of "The Jinx" is the dance the filmmakers do with the real Robert Durst. They seek to understand him in all his complexities, who he is, and what he what kind of man he was when three people died. 
Because of this concerted attempt, the filmmakers wound up revealing to the world a multi-layered person and it made the story they told rise to a level of compelling entertainment. By the "third act," when the filmmakers confront the complex main character they have revealed to audiences, we were anxiously waiting to see how it would all end. 




Friday, March 13, 2015

Revised DEMON DAYS - BOOK ONE Begins Today!




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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What is the one thing in Everyday Life often missing in badly written Screenplays?



Conflict is one of the key elements to any scene, any act, any plotline of scripted drama (and comedy as well).
I was reminded of this when I was going back and forth recently with a film director as we discussed collaborating on a project together.
He wanted me to check out the storyline that he had originally worked on and used this lure to get me to read -- From minute one it has conflict in every scene.”

It was a fantastic lure on his part because I did indeed read the work and found that the story had exactly as he had advertised -- 

“Conflict in every scene.”

I know it sounds obvious, but its amazing how many screenwriters take in the word “conflict,” and say to themselves something along the lines of, “duh, of course.”
Only to then move on to write their scripts in a way that is shockingly short of any conflict in the storyline, plot, between the characters, etc.  

When professional screenwriters fail in their efforts regarding “conflict,” they often fail by not making the conflict “organic,” which means they emerge with a screenplay where the conflict on the page reads/plays like it is often times written to satisfy a part of the storytelling process they know they must fulfill. 

Professional Screenwriters also fail when the “conflict” is interwoven into the storyline in a way that involves only the major character and has nothing to do with the other supporting characters beyond who the protagonist interacts with throughout the plot. This problem leads to stretches in the script where the reader/viewer is often bored because they don’t feel the same undertow of emotional tension, anticipation, and excitement running beneath the other parts of the screenplay/movie associated with the conflict focused on the main character.

But at least the professional screenwriter knows enough of his craft to maintain a level of conflict for the main character, even if at times it comes off as a token effort. 
Non-professional screenwriters are often mystified when the reader of their screenplay doesn’t want to go forward after reading the first twenty to thirty pages. 
Or the producer was bored reading their script and asked their assistant to read it first and provide coverage… before turning it down.
Obviously there are several factors why the above scenarios occur, but I definitely will put my money on the lack of conflict being one of the issues that is involved in almost all non-professionally written screenplays.


Professional Screenwriters know that any script should have a ghost haunting much of the plot of any story that keeps the reader wanting to turn the pages, and the viewer wanting to see what happens next. If that ghost had a Latin name it would be – 

Lex loci 
Latin. A legal principle, of whatever origins, now found in the English Common law, 
roughly translated as  "the law of the land."

In screenwriting terms, Lex Loci reminds all screenwriters of two goals when writing –

1 - Establish the rules of the screen story being told.

2 – Establish the main character, who is in conflict with the law of the land.

The above is where even the most celebrated professional screenwriters go off track when their stories fail to resonate with readers or audiences. 
I’m exactly like the producer I cite above, reading so many scripts from “unknown” screenwriters who want to become known, but don't write in a way that at least satisfies the two points above. 
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read scripts that have the main character doing the most mundane things, like for instance brushing their teeth. 
And that’s it. There’s nothing else attached to the choice of having a main character brush their teeth in the script.
That’s not to say that someone brushing their teeth can’t be a scene that ends up intriguing the reader.




In an episode from the brilliant series “Black Mirror,” titled “Fifteen Million Merits” ( written by Charlie Brooker and Konnie Huq) the main character wakes up and brushes his teeth and we see in this daily activity there is a decision, a challenge to what he will do. Here’s a link to the entire show, and the scene I’ve written about occurs at the 1:40 mark of the show. 

Even in the most mundane seeming actions in a script, Conflict is something that should permeate every aspect of a writer’s mind when constructing their story and executing the scenes in a screenplay. 
Conflict should be the ghost haunting the writer’s every creative step as he/she creates a screenplay that ends up being work that people will not only start, but end up finishing because they have to know how it all plays out. 

If you don't agree with me, that's fine. Maybe we should take it outside and talk about it some more...  



Saturday, February 28, 2015




“A good half of writing consists of being sufficiently sensitive to the moment to reach for the next promise which is usually hidden in some word or phrase just a shift to the side of one’s conscious intent.”

- Norman Mailer


Understanding what makes up the creative DNA of a screenplay is what enables a screenwriter to be “sufficiently sensitive to the moment” where great things can happen. The goal of the 21 E&EE Scene Checklist is to help set the stage for creative level jumps and breakthroughs in the work. 

- From "21 Essential & Elevating Elements in a Professional Screenplay."






Friday, February 20, 2015

Why Screenwriters should think about "Shelf Life" when Writing



Modern culture moves fast. 
Every professional screenwriter should ask themselves this vital question – 
Does your style of writing include words, references, phrases; that are specifically chosen because they are -- cool, hip, the bomb (Feel free to insert your own phrase for “cool, hip, the bomb.”)? 
If this is the case, I have two words for you -- Shelf Life

Nothing ages faster than pop culture. 
And with that in mind, I advise the Professional Screenwriter approaches their work in in a way that doesn’t invite the content to suffer from rapid aging. 

Many writers convince themselves that the power of their work is their “cutting edge” insight and sensibility to what is happening in modern society. They firmly believe that what makes their work sing is when they incorporate references to the latest in style and trends. 
Hopefully their skill set has a wider range of creative weapons to draw upon. Those who feel compelled to employ the latest pop culture reference, or draw on what is happening this minute, will discover their work is headed for a short shelf life.   
Play the long game. 
Go deeper with your content. 
Work for a creative payoff that you've setup. 
Don’t settle for easy pop culture references for a laugh. 
Don't be lured into the easy score of writing homages to past movies or TV shows as an excuse for failing to come up with something original. 
What may be cutting edge now, I promise you will have a very good chance of being considered quaint and obscure just a few years on. 
Write with the goal of creating material that is "timeless."




If the goal is to seem relevant to the latest generation of movie lovers, I believe writing in a timeless way is still the way to go. 
In a recent movie poll, young people, ages 20-29, list “The Shining”  (Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson, based on the book by Stephen King) as one of their top five favorite horror movies. 
The original theatrical release of "The Shining" was 1980.  

Yesterday’s Madonna is today’s Lady Gaga. 
And Tomorrow’s Lady Gaga will be here before we know it… She’s probably already here and somehow I missed her arrival being announced in US magazine because I was too busy writing these words. 
When it does happen, how much you wanna bet much of media world will immediately rush to write their Dead-Artist-Walking obituaries of Lady Gaga. And when they do, don't look away. Pay attention because that is what the end of the road looks like for the cutting edge screenwriter trading on the latest hip phrase as a substitute for real content in their screenplays.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

You Lost Me when you wrote... "The End of the Three Act Structure"


The End of the Three Act Structure????




I was trying to finish my work on two projects when I came across an email with the headline -- The End of the Three-Act Structure

I couldn’t resist following the link where I discovered the article was posted on a website run by Write Brothers Inc, a company that specializes in selling software products to screenwriters. I applaud WBI for supporting their sales effort by featuring posts written about different subjects related to the craft of screenwriting. 

With that said, the content of this particular post was so objectionable I decided to break away from what I should be doing and write a response. 

The End of the Three-Act Structure, was written by James Hull and can be found hereHull modestly describes himself as “an animator by trade.” Actually he has many impressive credits as an animator including the big studio movies, "The Crood" and "How to Train a Dragon." Unfortunately, the subject of his post is not on the craft of an animator.  He chose to write about an important, fundamental area in the craft of screenwriting.

The main point of his argument is –

“The time has come to obliterate Aristotle's stranglehold on narrative fiction. With the amount of information and different perspectives available to Audiences today, a simplified beginning-middle-end approach simply doesn't cut it anymore. Complete stories consist of four major movements, not three.” 


A few sentences later, he attempts to support his opening statement – 


“The standard in modern screenwriting paradigm calls for splitting up the Second Act into two halves, labeling them 2A and 2B. For all intents and purposes, as long as everyone on the production agrees with this naming convention, there isn't anything about this approach that could prevent the successful conclusion of a film. The question becomes if the final product finishes with a glorious and well-celebrated run or peters out over the first weekend, adding weight to the already great discarded landfill of pointless stories.”


Perhaps Hull’s motives in writing his post was to be provocative and/or to come off as creatively progressive. Regardless of his motivation, his words, (not only the ones I’ve included, but other passages throughout his post) and ideas are flat out wrong. For starters, what he specifically perceives as the three-act structure seems to be written in almost complete ignorance to the way professional screenwriters use the three-act structure in approaching their craft. 
For example, I have no idea where he gets the notion, “the standard in modern screenwriting paradigm calls for splitting up the Second Act into two halves.” 
I am a professional screenwriter, and I have worked with dozens of professional screenwriters on studio projects as well as independent movies. I’ve also been involved with over fifty different film projects as a producer, working to develop the screenplay with the writers. And with all that experience, not once have I ever come across any professional screenwriter or any industry professional who believes “the standard in modern screenwriting is to split the second act into two halves.” 

There are several different approaches to the three act structure, but anyone who has experience in professional writing is aware that the second act, like the first act has different creative markers along the way that are used to signify creative shifts in the storyline or plot. These markers are usually perceived as guides to the screenwriter as he makes his creative choices. I use such terms as “First Act Spin” and “Second Act Tent Pole” to define these creative markers or guideposts. And nothing I’ve come across creatively resembles “splitting the second act into halves.” 

In his post, Hull goes on to write –

“Don't assume that both halves are dealing with the same thematic stuff. Don't assume that this "Special World” somehow carries with it some intrinsic meaning because of its position between the beginning and the end.”

His reference to thematic stuff and a special world clearly reveals that Hull has completely mixed up story structure with other aspects of storytelling. Both creative areas he cites have almost no meaningful bearing on the rhyme or reason associated with the approach to story structure. 

As well as being an animator by trade, Hull apparently also teaches classes on "story" at Calfornia Institute of the Arts (CalArts). So I presume his writing on this subject is being taught to fledging or beginning writers who are attempting to take up the craft of professional screenwriting. Despite what Hull writes online, the three-act structure in writing professional screenplays has not been retired. In fact the creative standard for a storyline/plot continues to be the three-act structure. 

Even when one examines screenwriting rebels who have been produced, and whose work has been celebrated as ground breaking in the area of storyline/plot structure, close scrutiny reveals a rebel with a deep understanding of the traditional three-act structure, not a rebellion borne from ignorance.



One example of truly a different approach to the three-act structure would be Stanley Kubrick, and the film “Full Metal Jacket.” Kubrick was one of the screenwriters, as well as the director of “Full Metal Jacket,” (the other screenwriter was Michael Herr; and the screenplay was  based on the book, “The Short Timers,” authored by Gustav Hasford). 

I can’t comment on the structure of the screenplay developed prior to production, but the final version of the movie released to audiences has a storyline/plot which unfolds in a way that is very much a different, atypical approach to the traditional three-act structure of modern professional screenwriting. 

That’s not to say that “Full Metal Jacket” can be used by Hull as an example of a movie with “Four Acts.” In fact, the uncommon approach on display in “Full Metal Jacket” is a storyline that still falls under the traditional three-act structure, but is creatively distinctive by the elongated duration and creative conclusiveness to the film’s first act. It was Kubrick’s unique approach to unfolding the storyline in “Full Metal Jacket” that was at least partially responsible for the lukewarm, critical response to the film upon its initial release in 1987. Of course, the critical standing of the film has risen in ensuing years, which has been the typical pattern of almost all of Kubrick’s films. 

Professional Screenwriting continues to push the boundaries of narrative structure and there is no reason to believe the three-act structure is on the endangered species list. Nor should the three-act approach be threatened out of existence by the notion that it is out of date or no longer is the best approach to constructing a screenplay for a commercial audience. What Hull apparently is not aware of is that the three-act structure embraces many creative elements that push a storyline forward, not just what he sums up as the “beginning, middle, and end.” 

****For the record, I would have responded to Hull’s post on the site of his posting, but it did not allow comments.****

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I've now a member of HWA -- the HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION!


I’m proud to announce I've become an Active Member of the Horror Writers Association




My membership comes at the perfect time -- 
I get to vote for the Bram Stoker Awards.
There's some really talented writers competing.
I'm thrilled I get to cast my vote!

I’m so excited to be part of this organization!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

FORTUNE COOKIE WISDOM for the PROFESSIONAL SCREENWRITER



In Celebration of the first three Professional Screenwriter Books landing on the amazon.com Best Sellers List,  I'm posting an excerpt from an upcoming PS Book:






Write your screenplay like a snake eats its own tail…
Eventually winding up where you first began…
Leaving the audience sensitive to the circular space devoured between head and tail.


Resist the temptation to compare your accomplishment with other writers.
Such an effort is similar to tracking the maturation of two babies born on the same day. 
One may end up speaking at an early age, while the other may talk years later. 
What is important is to observe if either baby ends up with something meaningful to say. 


A screenplay is not a house. 
A script is similar to blueprints one designs to build a house.
Remember this when you interact with those who wish to help you build your house. 
You cannot eat, drink, and sleep, in the blueprints of a house.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Fog of war when Media Titans do Battle...





When trying to figure out the future for content providers, I strongly suggest you read more than just what's reported in the daily media. 
Below is an article, reprinted in its entirety, where the writer completely missed what is ESSENTIAL INFORMATION for EVERYONE WHO CREATES CONTENT as a PROFESSIONAL WRITER for FILM or TV. 

Big Media Shot Itself In The Foot By Selling Shows To Netflix: Analyst


By David Lieberman (on Oct 31, 2014)


Major studio and network owners’ decision to sell shows to Netflix might go down as one of the biggest strategic blunders they’ve ever made, if Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger’s compelling report today is correct. Like a lot of analysts, he’s alarmed by what he calls the “unprecedented” drop in C3 ratings across ad-supported TV,  especially among 18 to 49-year-olds. He figures that the 4% decline in total day TV viewing vs the same period last year equals about 13 minutes per day. And he concludes it’s not a blip: They’ve gone to subscription video-on-demand services led by Netflix and its shrewd CEO Reed Hastings. Its viewing has increased about 12 minutes a day, to 95 minutes, as its audience has grown and each subscriber spends more time with it.
So — contrary to the party line in media — Netflix viewing is a substitute for traditional TV, not a supplement. And “we don’t think those viewers are coming back. The trend is more likely to accelerate than decline,” Juenger says. That means Big Media companies are screwed. They can “stop licensing to SVOD, or face years of declining audiences.” But if they stop licensing, then that “would cause a material drop in immediate earnings” — which investors won’t accept. That’s why Juenger believes they’ll continue to play a short term game and “increase the amount of content they license to SVOD, to make up for the lost advertising revenue. Which will only make the problem worse.”
But wait: Wasn’t the recent drop in TV ratings mostly due to Nielsen’s slowness to count people who still watch mainstream TV but on tablets and smartphones? Juenger says no. “Nobody’s going to sit on their couch and watch video on their cell phone while keeping their TV set turned off. Most of this viewing is very likely to have come from ‘found time’when the main TV screen is not accessible or is already on.”
How about the growing use of DVRs or VOD? Again, no. Although DVR penetration is growing, that’s been “offset by declining usage.” (Early adopters are usually most enthusiastic about a technology.) And VOD still accounts for less than 1% of total viewing. “So even huge increases would not have a significant impact on total viewing.”
Juenger says that Disney, Fox, Time Warner, and Discovery are probably OK for now. He’s less confident about AMC Networks, Viacom, CBS, and Scripps Networks. The last three “have the most exposure to U.S. advertising revenue, and therefore are most exposed to the SVOD risk.”



Everyone reading the above article should be aware of what the writer misses. And its hard to give David Lieberman the benefit of doubt when it seems like he can’t even connect his own dots. This is the part of the article where he lays out the facts, but misses the essential underlying issue –

Juenger says that Disney, Fox, Time Warner, and Discovery are probably OK for now. He’s less confident about AMC Networks, Viacom, CBS, and Scripps Networks.

Could it be the companies mentioned as "OK" are not only owners of networks, but more meaningfully -- CONTENT PROVIDERS.  
The list of corporations (who may be in trouble) are predominately made up of advertised-based-networks. 
Viacom, is the only corporation on the second list that some might see as inconsistent with my point. But Viacom belongs there because it is indeed vulnerable. Yes, Viacom owns Paramount (a film studio, not advertiser based) but the other companies underneath the corporation umbrella are pretty much in the advertiser reliant Network Business. Meaning their cash revenue relies on the content provided by third party companies that they do not have a financial stake in. 

The connection of the dots becomes complete only when you look at the rise of Netflix as nothing too different than what occurs as part of an historically proven flow of economic marketplace dynamics taught in Econ-101 at any major university. 
In the marketplace there will always be upstart companies exploiting a niche in the hope they will become a viable entity. If this upstart company also possesses other elements such as at least competent/or visionary leadership; forward thinking/original intellectual property; and marketplace good timing/luck -- the upstart might very well completely overturn the apple cart. 

In our ever changing times – driven by technological innovation and the shrinking of the world into one huge marketplace – a loaded upstart company has the capability of not only upturning the apple cart, but completely re-inventing it.

But no one should mistake these turn of events regarding Netflix to believe for a moment that the major media corporations were completely caught by surprise. 
That would be na├»ve. 

If you were, let’s say, running Disney, wouldn’t it be just fine to let a Netflix spend all the money doing the R & D & Marketing costs to establish themselves in the brave new world of Internet streaming? Of course you don’t remain completely on the sidelines, you try here and there to establish your own beach head in this undiscovered country, but your main strategy is to allow for the inevitable play – there’s probably a smaller, hungrier company willing to do what it takes to blaze the new frontier. 
You know that when it all plays out, your company, Disney, will be able to make their play and seize control of the real estate after the thick foliage obscuring the path through the jungle has been cleared away by someone else.
And your strategy makes sense when you ask yourself -- what’s the worse that can happen?
Disney is still getting money on their content used by a netflix or amazon. Sure, shareholders carp about how Disney isn’t doing enough about “the future.” But when you have a ton of money, and a huge library, the carping is something that becomes more of an annoyance rather than a real existential corporation  challenge.  
Best case scenario is you watch as another company must endure all the pitfalls of streaming to a new generation of viewers. You avoid all the speed bumps of incorporating new technology in a transitional way, and just wait as the lay of the land becomes more clear because the dust has settled, the initial fighting is over, and the lay of the land can now be seen clearly. 
Let the upstart companies like Netflix go through the turbulence because that’s the only way they can prove themselves in the long run on the media spectrum. As long as we get cash for our content, how are we hurt? Content doesn’t grow over night. It takes decades to build library of content. Technology is the part of the equation that seemingly grows… overnight. 
I know I’m right about the above because people smarter than me have already made their moves. Netflix and amazon are in their second cycle of creating original programing. They know that after blazing the trail, the studios will now rush past them like prospectors looking to strike it rich after the original founders drew the map. 
This is an important story, and I wanted to offer my take on what’s happening so if the writer of the article above is clueless about what’s really going on, the rest of us know what is happening. It may come off as a game of musical chairs, where someone must leave the contest because they no longer have a chair to sit in. But trust me, the corporations with the content have seat-fillers holding their chair until they return from the restroom. 



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Say goodbye to DEMON DAYS because at the end of this month, the book is going STRAIGHT TO HELL!



This is the END DAYS for the kindle version of  Demon Days

It's your LAST CHANCE to get the kindle e-book and paperback before it goes away forever

And in the last few days of the book's existence, you can get the book for FREE! 

On October 31st, this kindle version of Demon Days will be no more.

Never to be resurrected! 

Keeping with the theme of Near Death Experiences 
(a major theme of the entire DEMON DAYS Book Series)…
Demon Days - Book One will reappear in the future...
But will be different than its former self.
Just like many people who have legitimate NDEs!

After Oct. 31st, all that will be left...
Of the original kindle Demon Days’ text...
Is the audio book of Demon Days on audible
Available now and for the foreseeable future

But what does the phrase, foreseeable future, even mean anymore?
No one... Not even Nostradamus’ great, great, great [continue to repeat “great” for several minutes] nephew ended up predicting --
Apple’s new iPhone 6 would actually be larger than the iPhone5.

And full disclosure -- 
It’s not just the Demon Days kindle e-book joining the afterlife… 
We’ll also be sending the Demon Days print book there too. 

Yes, we are aware ending the kindle e-book Demon Days...
Is not eliminating the existence of pirated versions online.
But we believe once the rumors of a curse goes viral...
Readers won't download these versions
These were rumors which we initially tried to dismiss...
But ended up admitting there was enough substance to take seriously…

Pirated e-copies of the book, DEMON DAYS, downloaded by readers appears to cause the downloading party to become part of Satan's email list. And after the reader is on Lucifer's monthly newsletter, no matter what one does, it appears to be impossible to unsubscribe...


October 31st is the deadline for your final chance to get the kindle version of the original book…


FOR FREE!


Here’s where you can get it right now – 







Then say goodbye to the original text…
As we hit the button on the elevator that is marked -- Parking Level 666

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New Yorker TV Critic backtracks on her earlier assessment of "The Knick"


I was thrilled to read this week that New Yorker magazine TV critic, Emily Nussbuam, admitted to being wrong in her original assessment of The Knick, the amazing series completing its first season run this month under the Cinemax banner. Nussbuam's original review of the series is here.  I’m glad to read she wasn't too proud to backtrack on her original assessment and change her mind here
However, there really was no excuse for her flawed original review if she was looking at the show objectively. Often times TV reviewers have only a pilot and one or two more episodes to view before writing their opinion, so any initial assessment by a reviewer might be flawed as if the TV series improves throughout its run. 
But Nussbuam had seven episodes of The Knick to evaluate, more than enough hours to come up with an informed opinion.  
One of her problems appears to be in the form of mental second guessing where the series was headed before it actually got there, expecting it all to end up being just another formula drama. This is just one of the common afflictions of any TV reviewer who sees tons of TV shows in the course of performing their job. I strongly believe it’s almost impossible not to end up cynical and glib when reviewing TV after just a few years. The unavoidable hazard for a reviewer of thousands of hours of TV shows is the critic inevitably ends up somehow missing what everyone else watching can plainly see -- The Knick is wonderfully produced, daring in style/content, and far from being formula. Whatever Nussbaum was watching, she felt it was necessary to title her original review of The Knick -- “Surgical Strikeout.” Maybe what Nussbaum really doesn't understand is baseball. When a player strikes out, he doesn't get a homerun, a hit, or even a walk. He doesn't get on base at all. Is that what she really was telling readers about The Knick, that the series doesn't even manage to get out of the batter's box?





The reality is that the The Knick could be the best TV series this year.

I admit that I had a few doubts myself after initially seeing the series promoted prior to being broadcast. It appeared by the trailers as if the show had creatively invested big time on the visual shock value of revealing the horrific reality of early surgical procedures. 
But after watching the pilot episode, I felt like a fool for not trusting the talent of Stephen Soderbergh, who is an executive producer of the series, and the director of all of the episodes in the first season.
When Soderbergh retired from film directing it should have been obvious his plan B was moving to another medium that had the promise of being at least as rewarding as making independent films once was a decade ago. 
(I don’t want to bring up Soderbergh and fail to mention the creators of The Knick – Jack Ameil & Michael Begler. Both have also written many of the first season episodes).
I’m thrilled that Clive Owen has finally found the role that will end up defining him as an actor. So many actors run away from hearing that kind of compliment because their desire is to have a career playing many roles and not be locked into just what audiences find memorable -- Spock, Hannibal Lector, the father in the Brady Bunch.
But prior to The Knick, Owen had a different problem than most actors -- he actually needed to lock into a role that would allow his talent to connect with mainstream audiences. He has been acting in major studio and indie films for over ten years, and though his performances have been strong, his persona/screen presence has failed to meaningfully resonate. The Knick finally gives him that perfect role, as the chief surgeon, Dr. Thackery.
There is another actor on the show that brings up a whole new set of discussion points, but I’ll leave that for another time...
Right now I would just like to formally welcome Emily Nussbaum to The Knick fan club. So sorry you ended up taking the circuitous route before joining the rest of us.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BLACK MARIAH meets the newest candidate for his job in an EXCERPT from BMBK2!





“So this is the guy?”
The muted illumination in the containment suite was supposed to have a calming effect on the prime asset after he returned from a mission. But as Black Mariah stood inches away from the Plexiglas barrier, staring ominously at Rick McNeill, it was apparent the lighting design had failed to achieve the desired results.
“This is who you want to bring in to replace me?” 
The audio system between the containment suite and the viewing lounge had a way of turning Black Mariah’s voice into something tinny and distant. And rather than the flaw in the acoustics rendering the creature less intimidating, it made the cadence in his speech even more ominous sounding to the four people standing on the other side of the Plexiglas. 
“Are you serious? Tell me you aren’t serious…” 
Dr. Ann Wolcott, the prime asset’s psych handler, tapped a button on a control panel embedded in the wall, allowing the prime asset to hear their response from the viewing lounge. 
“I’m completely shocked to hear your words, Quen. I’ll accept the blame for getting it wrong, but we’re all here because I agreed to the meeting. And I only agreed to this meeting because you agreed. Did I get what we discussed wrong?” 
She waited, but the prime asset behaved as if he did not hear a word his handler had spoken. “What about it, Quen, did I get it wrong?”
Black Mariah still didn’t respond as he continued to glare at Rick McNeill.
Wolcott moved away from the control panel and planted herself in front of the candidate to become the next Black Mariah.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE OF "FILM TRUTH" OR "PELICULA VERITAS" IS ON WEBSITE "FRESH VOICES"...

Check out a piece I wrote featured on FRESH VOICES, a screenwriting website.


The subject of pelicula veritas is addressed in my latest screenwritng e-book -- "16 Secrets Revealed by Professional Screenwriters" -- but the piece featured on the website is very different than what is in the book... 



In many ways the piece highlights a concept that will be a running theme as I progress in the Professional Screenwriting Book Series.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Can Live Sports Coverage Change The Way You Write Your Next Screenplay?





I'm proud to have an excerpt from 16 Secrets Revealed by Professional Screenwriters at FRESH VOICES SCREENWRITER'S SOURCE. 

It's definitely a different take on how creating a screenplay story can be affected by the structure of something most of us enjoy all the time -- SPORTS

Check it out!!!!!