Saturday, August 1, 2015



Reworked... Rewritten... Revised... 
And FREE!


Sunday, July 12, 2015




I've always been a huge fan of Kurt Russell, the Professional actor (and will be writing about my love of his professional work soon).
I worked with Oliver Hudson on a film I produced. During the production he and I talked about his childhood, and what an amazing Stepfather Kurt Russell was in raising he and his sister.
Growing up in a family with a step brother and step sister, I came to believe that one of the greatest challenges any Man may face in his lifetime is taking on the responsibility of being a Stepfather to children.  

The Men who take it on… and end up getting Love decades later from their stepchildren already know they are heroes.
I celebrate Kurt Russell today, Professional actor… but a Man who continues to demonstrate a commitment to his family.



http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3725822-stephen?utm_medium=email&utm_source=rating

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Stringer Shoots what he Sees and We all Watch





EXCERPT from DOUG PRATT'S JULY/2015 NEWSLETTER


The lead review in Doug Pratt's July Newsletter is on 42nd Street 

Pratt writes the classic Busby Berkeley musical is (recently released on Blu-Ray) “looking as smooth and clear as any recent production.” For those who enjoy having their classic movies with the most pristine transfer, this looks like the digital version of the film to add to your library.  


I still haven’t seen one of the recent releases Pratt reviews - FURY starring Brad Pitt (written and directed by David Ayer). I will admit the negative reviews upon its initial release discouraged me from seeking it out in the theatre. After reading the July newsletter, I feel like I missed a war movie I would have loved to see on the big screen. Pratt writes, “Essentially, the film is akin to a restoration. It takes a traditional subgenre format and brings in sophisticated special effects… the emotional paradoxes of soldiering, and a construction of tension and excitement that is built upon all of the moviemaking experiences that have preceded it. The film is as classic a WWII movie as you could hope to find, something that gets made less and less often as newer wars vie for the interests of audiences.”  


One of the most thoughtful reviews in the newsletter is about the indie film, Whiplash. I liked the movie a lot, but have to agree with Pratt’s overall assessment - “the film is great fun, and even thrilling in its finale, (but) is nevertheless, so flawed that somebody ought to be throwing cymbals at the filmmakers.” Whether you are a fan of the film or not, the details in his review are worth reading.  




The featured excerpt from the July Newsletter is NIGHTCRAWLER. When I originally saw the movie during its theatrical release, I couldn’t help reminiscing about my job prior to embarking on my career as a screenwriter and producer in Hollywood. I worked as a news videotape editor at different TV Stations in Los Angeles. I grew up always wanting to write screenplays and produce movies, but I wound up working in this field for over five years. 
Why so long? Because the TV news business is unbelievably intoxicating once you get involved. 
And this is what the filmmakers capture so well -- the almost hypnotic lure that what you shoot (or in my case, what I was editing) that day will appear only hours later on TV... and watched by hundreds of thousands of people. 
Halfway through watching NIGHTCRAWLER in the theatre, I turned to my date and said, “this was my life for years. Why didn’t I write this screenplay?” I’m still rolling around that question in my head, but now must admit after seeing the movie a second time, that whatever I came up with would have been half as good as the script written by Dan Gilroy.
Here's what Pratt had to say about the movie --




Where the News comes From



What goes on behind the fa├žade of the evening (or, more specifically, the morning) news on TV is the focus of the deviously witty and entertaining NIGHTCRAWLER, a Universal release (UPC#025192268571, $30). Jake Gyllenhaal portrays a creepy, quasi-psychopath (we knew a couple of those back in the days of laser discs), who finds success chasing ambulances as a freelance cameraman, selling his footage to a local TV station.  He doesn’t reach a point where he is actually causing havoc in order to film it, but he gets so close to doing it that you expect he may well go that way after the film is over.
Running 118 minutes, the film sets everything up in its first half, and then in its second half presents a specific crime that the hero stumbles upon, staying ahead of his competition as he sees (and manipulates) the case through to its conclusion. 

Gyllenhaal’s performance is so icky you wonder how the poor guy got any dates at all after the movie came out, but that is one of the film’s many perverse pleasures, especially as he comes onto a news producer played by Renee Russo.  It’s a shame their actual liaison got left on the cutting room floor, or never made it into the script to begin with, but that is one of the many careful choices that writer/director Dan Gilroy made for the 2014 production, to avoid repulsing a viewer so much that the pleasures the film has to offer would be lost in the distraction. 

Instead, there are slick, glossy nighttime shots of Los Angeles, speedy plot turns, and a constant sense of energy (the hero never seems to need sleep) that whips you through the story before you have a chance to resist it. The picture is letterboxed with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback.  The video footage used with in the film is naturally inferior, but the actual cinematography is crisp and shiny, and the DVD replicates it with precision. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound has no exceptional moments, but is adequately delivered.  There are optional English, French and Spanish subtitles, and a passable 5-minute promotional featurette. 

Gilroy and his two brothers, Tony, who produced the film, and John, who edited it, provide a fairly good commentary track, describing the production as it progressed and what it was like working with the cast and crew.  The film was shot in Los Angeles right before Christmas, so they managed to attract a number of artists who wanted to spend the holidays at home before going on to their next assignment, and they go into detail on how they managed to squeeze quite a bit of production value out of a limited budget.  They also talked about the performances (Gyllenhaal starved himself during the shoot, and sort have had to be restrained during the one sequence where his character is eating some fast food) and about Gyllenhaal’s choice to put his longish hair in a bun for a few scenes, which caused widespread panic for a while. 
“The most important thing I can say on this commentary [is that] every single movie I’ve ever been on, as it’s just about to shoot, the most important thing on every film is not the script, it’s not the cast, it’s not the locations, it is hair. Hair dominates every single show at the last minute.”

Thursday, July 2, 2015

THINKING FAST, But CREATING SLOW


What's the Best Approach to Working out Your Story?




As a screenwriter, one of the top three goals when I begin a new project is what I will label - Originality/and /or Creative Invention within a Genre ("O/and/or/CIG"). 

More often than not, when writing a screenplay, I fail in attempting to maintain a high standard of O/and/or/CIG. It does not give me any comfort that I believe most other screenwriters also similarily fail. 

As a Film Producer, I admit when reading other writers' scripts, the creative standard listed above is high on the list when judging what I read. 

I believe O/and/or/CIG to be the most important creative factor for an unknown screenwriter to eventually become someone who's name and work the industry notices.   
For professional screenwriters this factor is what should be at the top of the list when writing a spec script. The originality of the project will give those who work on the development side something they can champion. The inventiveness of the writing could be the special something that a producer will carry with him (for years if need be), because it could be the project that defines their career. 
And no matter what, writing with an original slant increases the odds that years from now, the work will be judged in a positive way by critics and audiences... and by other filmmakers. 

Therefore, what I find unforgivable is for a writer, especially one trying to gain access to the industry, to begin a project waving the white flag from the outset. 
Keep in mind, that during the process of writing a screenplay and getting your work produced inevitably there will be plenty of obstacles along the way dooming initial efforts at originality and genre inventiveness. 
So why not start with this key goal in mind? 
Professional Screenwriters know the obvious answer -- Creating with the standard of  O/and/or/CIG is very challenging, especially at the first stage of the process when one is working out the basics of the story. 
Why is this true? 
I believe the most important factor (one of many) is biological -- 
The human brain is lazy. 
And most of the time,  the human Creative Brain is even Lazier

For a brief summary of how the brain works, I want to quote from the recent bestselling book, "Thinking Fast and Slow." The author of the book, Daniel Kahneman, describes two independent, but also very interactive/interlocked parts of the human brain as the foundation of how we think. He calls these two distinct parts of our brain "System 1" and "System 2." 

System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control. 

System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration. 

Like everyone else, creators use both the System 1 and System 2 parts of our brain, but because our brains are lazy (like everyone else) we end up primarily drawing from the System 1 part of our brains.
And this is why we often times end up with regurgitation rather than originality. 

Problems can occur even when one is very successful at tapping System 2. For instance, a writer can create a work generally acknowledged to be original and inventive.  But then a problem comes up -- Now what? 
Repeating a creative sucess can be difficult because when drawing repeatedly from System 2 using the same creative path one can often end up with diminished creative returns. This would explain why a creative artist with a huge success winds up being considered a "One Trick Pony."
Sounds complicated... only because it is complicated. 
But the bottom line is this - our brains want to default to what is comfortable... and then repeat it over and over again. 

This means the creative process in the brain should be treated with care and special handling at all times. 
As an evolving artist/writer/creator there is nothing wrong with being influenced by the art/craft that gives us joy/inspiration.  The problem arises when we allow what we love to dominate our creative thoughts. And not just dominate, but end up excluding any other original thoughts from getting into the picture when one is trying to conceptualize a creative project.  

This is a huge problem because of the easy access to a ton of artistic work. At a certain point the 24/7 barrage of media can cause a disruptive influence on the creative mind. Rather than having a collection of movies (or an artist's work) influence one's creativity, instead an overload of media intake could restrict the way our creative brain synapses work, resulting in many potentially talented artists regurgitating rather than creating. 

For the professional screenwriter, when tackling any new creative endeavor, the goal should be to access the System 2 part of the brain. This is where creative originality will be buried, waiting to be discovered. Of course, when one goes this route, it means traveling the road not often travelled on because it is usually unpaved and inevitably will lead to a dead end. 

But this is still the road to take if you want to discover the Creative Cliff, where those who are brave enough, take the dive hoping the size of their splash will be large enough to grab the attention of the people standing on the beach.  

Monday, June 15, 2015


I will use the recent MAD MAX movie... 




And my take on the brilliant filmmaking (words originally written on another blog) as a seque to mention a positive review on "The Wind Raider" Book which mentioned The Mad Max Movies... 


I can remember the huge rumble when The Road Warrior (aka: Mad Max 2 Internationally ) opened here in the states way back then. At the time the indie import from Australia was a refreshing slap across the face for those who loved action movies. The Road Warrior ended up achieving deserved legendary status in the Great Action Films Hall of Fame. But I invoke the 1981 film only to give context to what I write now  -- 
Mad Max: Fury Road makes The Road Warrior look like a Sunday Walkabout-in-the-Outback with picnic baskets ! 

MM:FR is such an awesome creative achievement, not only because the director, George Miller (the same director on all the Mad Max Movies), was able to conceive and deliver (decades after the last sequel) a production that felt very much conjoined in spirit to the original films... he also executed an action film that showcases what modern action filmmaking is capable of achieving when the bottomline isn't about how good the cgi looks, but more about an expert director focusing on composition... movement... and editing. 

I could go on and on about other aspects about the film - how it was shot, produced, and written - but will ask for a raincheck, and in the future write about this film in an upcoming Professional Screenwriting book focused on writing action movies in the contemporary marketplace. 
For now, I will only mention the restrained use of 3D in the production of MM:FR. Miller chose to use the 3D process as a way of enlarging spatial clarity in the action scenes, and never resorted to doing cheesy 3D visual gimmicks. Only at the very end of the movie does Miller cut loose and show you what he could have done throughout, if he had creatively chosen to betray the DNA of the franchise. 

This is a great film! A movie people should see in the theatre. Before it's too late. Catch an Old SCHOOL filmmaker taking a NEW SCHOOL vehicle out for a long test drive. 






This reminded me quite a bit of "The Road Warrior"..........or at least those kind of stories. It is a fast paced story that I was able to read in 1 day. Very good at keeping me wanting more. Never a dull moment to be sure.




 THE WIND RAIDER - BK 2 
TO BE RELEASED - 2015  

Monday, June 1, 2015

One Film Critic on Four Big Movies




We continue with our new regular Blog Feature –
An Excerpt from Film Critic Doug Pratt -- his thoughts on a film taken from his Monthly Newsletter of reviews on three dozen titles available on DVD/Blu-Ray/and Streaming. 



Mr. Pratt leads his June Newsletter with the Clint Eastwood directed movie, American Sniper.” Pratt believes the film “is superbly crafted entertainment,” and that the storytelling* allows Eastwood to stage the movie “with such clarity and straightforward simplicity that everything is there for the viewer to apprehend.”


* RSF: The screenplay for the film has a "Written by" credit for Jason Hall, which is unusual because the other three writers with writing credits are authors of books -- Chris Kyle (of course), Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice. Usually the WGA grants a “written by” credit only when the screenplay of the movie is an original script, not an adaptation. But the credit can be used under rare circumstances. To quote from the WGA manual --"biographical, newspaper and other factual sources may not necessarily deprive the writer of such credit." Which means that there was enough "original stuff" written by Jason Hall to get the "Written by" Credit. 






Pratt’s take on “The Imitation Game,” the period drama about the WWII code breaker and the inventor of the modern computer, Alan Turing, (played by Benedict Cumberpatch) is against the grain of many critics who were happy to see the film’s storyline include the fact the lead character was gay. Pratt was actually critical of the way the filmmakers handled the integration of the issue. He believed the creative opportunity for something more profound was squandered when the main character’s sexual orientation (and the necessity of keeping this hidden throughout his life) was introduced, featured at times, but ultimately never really integrated in a satisfying way within the main storyline. “Like so many aspects of Turing’s legacy, it fails to give its subject the complete level of respect that he deserves.”
Pratt was not the only critic to have problems with the film on this issue. In the New York Review of Books, writer Christian Caryl was very critical of the way the filmmakers handled the main character being gay and how this issue functioned in the storytelling. His take on the film can be read here.  




For those who love classic movies, Pratt’s review of the Blu-Ray release of “Touch of Evil,” (directed by Orson Welles) will give a true film connoisseur all the info he needs to decide whether to update their film collection. Pratt’s rundown on the home video release includes the disc’s specs; why this movie still matters; and Pratt’s verdict on the quality of the Blu-Ray – “Spellbinding.”




The Featured Excerpt from Pratt’s newsletter is on the film “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” I was looking forward to reading Mr. Pratt’s thoughts on this film, a reworking of the Classic Biblical story made famous by Cecil B. Demille’s “The Ten Commandments,” a perennial holiday favorite for Network TV (where I believe in an alternate universe it has been airing even before it was first theatrically released in 1956). 

But I was mostly excited about reading Pratt’s take because the director of "Exodus" is Ridley Scott, coming up on an anniversary -- almost forty years directing movies since his theatrical film debut in 1977 (which Pratt mentions below in his review).  
With over thirty credited films to his credit (including the classics, “Alien,” and “Blade Runner,”), Scott would be one of the few examples of a god-head director who still walks amongst the entertainment industry with his status as a bankable filmmaker largely intact. Scott’s choice to direct a period piece (or SF production) is often times the only way a big budgeted, non-Marvel/DC production gets made today. All of his directing efforts have included traditional theatrical artistry and spectacle sprawl, even his most recent productions which were in the midst of the Neo-Golden age of Television, where the look of many TV productions now showcase theatrical artistry and spectacle sprawl. 
Despite the changing times of the movie landscape, Ridley Scott (to paraphrase a line from "Sunset Blvd.) is still big, its only the pictures that almost everyone else is directing that have become smaller.  



Scott Epic

After years of making commercials, which require cutting information down to the absolutely essential bits only, Ridley Scott made his first movie, The Duellists, and one of its finer attributes was its narrative momentum. As soon as it had established enough information about the characters that the viewer understood what was happening, it would leap forward in time to the next point where the characters were impacted by their decisions.  There were no tedious redundancies in getting the characters from one point to the next.  Once you knew that they couldn’t stop dueling when they met, the next cut is smack dab into the middle of the next duel. 
Scott’s newest movie is his 2015 production of Exodus Gods and Kings released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (UPC#02454393-7432, $30), essentially an updated rendition of the story best known to moviegoers as The Ten Commandments, about the life of Moses as it is told in the Old Testament.  Pretty much.  If there is a God, then John Turturro will survive the short memories of the Motion Picture Academy members and earn a Supporting Actor nomination for his outstanding, Hollywood-to-perfection rendition of the elder Egyptian leader, who is the biological father of the film’s villain, played by Joel Edgerton, and the adoptive father of the hero, played by Christian Bale, whose leadership skills he favors. 
Everybody knows the basic story and Scott knows that they know.  He and co-screenwriter Jeffrey Caine toy with the knowledge, offering up vaguely realistic alternative explanations to most of the famous ‘miracles,’ and even suggesting, at least as a tease, that the hero’s conversations with God’s messenger are a mental disturbance and nothing more.  Furthermore, no miracle at all occurs in the film until after the hero has a serious accident on the side of a mountain, so that everything after that could just as easily be a death dream.  But giving the filmmakers and the characters the benefit of the doubt, the film can also be taken literally as it tells the centerpiece of one of the world’s first great narratives.  Bale is fine as the hero and carries the film on his shoulders well enough, although the process by which his character begins to understand his true heritage is not well played.  His interactions with the Hebrew slaves never grip the viewer, perhaps because Caine and Scott chose not utilize the device of having his immediate relations be among those slaves. 
The greatest disappointment in the movie, however, is Edgerton, who does what is required of him, but is so bland that neither his villainy nor the human reflexes beneath the villainy are as distinctive as the movie requires them to be.  And then at the end, Scott starts overdoing his assumptions.  The film already runs 150 minutes, but after the bit about parting the Red Sea is over, Scott faces the sense that the movie is too, so he rushes through the remaining plot, showing Moses writing the Commandments, for example, but never actually identifying them and certainly never reading them off.  Scott’s command of momentum fails him, and the movie, which is generally a mixed bag, seems to fail as well.  On the whole, the film is not the disaster that the disappointing Noah turned out to be, but it is not the inherent success that the material has proved to be in the past.  Many of the special effects are terrific, and enough homework was done to give the viewer a decent sense of what life in Ancient Egypt was like, with or without plagues and burning bushes, but except for Turturro, the characters are often overwhelmed by the effects, unable to seize command of the screen and lead the viewers to the promised entertainment.

The picture is letterboxed with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1.  The color schemes are fairly dark, even in the desert sun, but the effects are smooth and well crafted.  The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound is reasonably strong, but distinctive separation effects are modest.  There is an audio track that describes the action (“Nighttime.  Viewed from beneath the river, frogs swim to the fish-laden surface.  On the banks, a palace servant reaches his hand out to one of the frogs.  It strikes him with its tongue.  The servant holds a torch over the steps, scanning the horde of frogs.  In the city, frogs fill the streets.”), French and Spanish audio tracks in standard stereo, optional English and Spanish subtitles, and 9 minutes of deleted scenes, all of which would have been welcome within the movie and would have explained the story a little more clearly, although it seems that Scott simply could not separate himself enough from what Cecil B. DeMille had staged for the final act, and so he chose to trim it to the bone instead.  Speaking separately, Scott and Caine also provide an informative commentary track.  Although once in a while Scott delves a little too much into giving a story byplay, he is his usual encyclopedic self, explaining why various shots were chosen, how the actors approached their scenes, what motivates the different characters, how the special effects were blended with the live footage, and the specific challenges he confronted along the way.  “Getting the hats, and the cloth hats, right, this was quite tricky, because when you see them as sculpture, it’s one thing, but when you put a tablecloth on somebody’s head, it doesn’t look right.  So I tried to work it out. I think the cloth was clearly a neck, keep the sun off because the sun would be very hot, and maybe underneath the cloth itself, may have been a helmet? They keep the helmet cool, and also protect you.  So you tend to make things up when you look at things historically and say, ‘Why is that?’ Usually, what spells out is something practical.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How “Aloha” will become the new catch phrase in Hollywood


“Aloha” is one of the most beautiful words in the English language. 
And I appreciate its beauty not only as a writer, but as a native Hawaiian.
The word “Aloha” is often voiced when one greets another person, but is also used when one wishes to express goodbye.
Natives originally used “Aloha” to convey the hope and anticipation that only a short time would past before the two people exchanging the word would be reunited.
One word, two common uses, a deeper third meaning.
But after May 29th, I believe those who work in the Hollywood Industry will hijack the word “Aloha” and tarnish its historical beauty -- One word, two common uses, a deeper forth meaning.


This week Sony Pictures will be releasing the latest film from Cameron Crowe, the writer and director of such great movies as “Jerry McGuire,” and “Almost Famous.” Unfortunately, Mr. Crowe is in the midst of a losing streak, and this latest film, "Aloha” doesn’t appear to be the movie that will help him break his creative and box office slump. 

If you don’t trust my ability as a prognosticator, I urge you to take in the words written by Amy Pascal, who greenlit the film as the head of the movie studio. She thinks the movie sucks --

“I don’t care how much I love the director and the actors.
It never, not even once, ever works.”

We’re privy to Ms. Pascal’s candid email summation to her  colleagues because of the recent terrorists’ hacking into the Sony Studio computer system. And what the cyber-terrorists/NYTimes wouldn’t reveal, WikiLeaks recently made public. 
Earlier this year, Pascal was fired from the studio, no longer in charge of this week's distribution of the movie “Aloha.” Tom Rothman, a veteran studio executive who replaced Pascal as the Sony Studio head, has the tough job of walking the thin line of publicly expressing support for a prior regime’s project, while at the same time -- dooming “Aloha” with Machiavellian apathy.



“No one is hiding from this film,” said one person associated with “Aloha” in Variety
Perhaps the above quote is sincere and comes from someone not associated with the P.R. firm handling the marketing of the film. Regardless... this is the point I'm attempting to make --
There are many in this town who have nothing to do with Crowe's movie and relish the film's impending crash and burn because of the oportunity to add a new word to the Hollywood lexicon for failure.  
Don’t be confused when witnessing a producer... agent... entertainment lawyer... maybe even the guard at the studio gate shouting the word “Aloha” to someone they clearly despise.  The entertainment Industry has a sorry past of taking the hip catch-phrase/ memorable gesture in produced movies and recycling the moment as a weapon to use against someone who has hit an Entertainment Career Detour. 

“Hasta la vista, baby” was the Valedico du jour after “Terminator 2” became a hit movie in the 90s.

And two decades before, the classic Industry send off for failure was the full face kiss Michael Corleone gives his brother Fredo in “GodfatherII."  



For the purpose of giving back to the industry, I’ve collected some commonly used phrases used today in Hollywood so the younger generation coming up through the ranks will better understand that there are often times in this Industry when “Hello” actually means “Goodbye” --

“Who are you… and how did you get on the lot?”

“Thank you for your submission. Your script was covered by one of our best Interns...”

“I had my agent call your agent. It turns out you don’t have an agent… or a manager. But we have a bigger problem -- you also don’t have a lawyer. So right now, my lawyer is just sitting in his office… not sure who he should call…”

“I’m sure you’re really important, but I still need to see your badge”

“Go ahead and use that phone to try and contact your agent. Let’s find out together if he answers your call.”

“My assistant read to me the evaluation on your script this morning. Brace yourself because what I heard from her was not good news...”

“I heard someone here really liked your script, but unfortunately we're no longer accepting any script submissions outside the 310 area code.”

“I saw your movie at the premiere party. But that was a long time ago. At least nine months, right? Have you ever tasted champagne from a bottle opened nine months ago? There’s no bubbles rising to the top. Just the taste of sour grapes.”

“I hear it’s a red tide. You’re gonna need your thick, old school surf board to handle this wave. Aloha…”

The above quote came from a phone call just this morning.
From my manager.  
We’ve been together for over 15 years.
He’s not even waiting to use the new exit word until after the movie’s opening.
That’s how quickly a lei around your neck can turn into a dead albatros.  





Sunday, May 24, 2015

How a Movie can be Screwed by its Trailer




Besides being a professional screenwriter and producer, I also consult with Indie Filmmakers about their projects. I have found there are times when my most valuable advice is NOT about --

-- the development of the script... 
-- Or the issues concerning an up coming production...
-- But on the Movie Trailer created to promote their film.  

Marketing any production (film/TV/Internet) is always a challenge, but the mission becomes more difficult if the production lacks obvious promotional assets like marketable actor(s) or a hot filmmaker. 

The movie trailer has always been the consistently reliable weapon for any filmmaker to count on as the cornerstone of their marketing campaign with or without other assets (such as a star/hot director). In fact, I believe the last decade has seen the power of movie trailers to market a project only increase with modern audiences embracing Internet related videos that are entertaining and only take up two to three minutes of their time. 

The challenge for modern filmmakers is to come up with an engaging movie trailer that lives up to the higher expectations in the marketplace. And being successful often times requires drawing upon totally different aspects of the art and craft the filmmaker used during the original production. 

One of my first professional jobs in the entertainment industry was creating thirty and sixty second spots/promos/trailers for a TV station in Oxnard, California. My job was to highlight the quality of the prime time movie broadcast every night so audiences would tune in. I didn't know it at the time, but my job was one of the best training grounds for a career as a producer... and screenwriter. 
I will point out that what I created over two decades ago would be laughable now. Like most aspects of our culture, the world of Movie Trailers has evolved at an accelerated pace to keep up with the media sophistication of modern audiences. 

However, in a strange way, the creative construction of a movie trailer for a mass commercial audience has not become more complex, but has in fact become more consistent in the way the storytelling beats are organized. This is especially true when the movie trailer is promoting a "genre" film/TV show/Internet project. 

Because so many filmmakers today have a toe in every aspect of the filmmaking process, including marketing, I thought it would be interesting to examine the creative construction of a  movie trailer. For the first thoughts on the subject I chose a recently released trailer promoting an indie Horror movie, “Anarchy Parlor.” I apologize ahead of time to the filmmakers involved in this particular project for attempting to score creative points by disecting their trailer. But there are two reasons that I chose this film trailer – 

1) The trailer for “Anarchy Parlor” is a professionally executed example of an Indie horror/slasher movie. The overall quality of the trailer is more than strong enough to weather the constructive criticism I’m about to dish out.

2) The “Anarchy Parlor” trailer does commit a mistake that is worth noting with the purpose of enlighting other filmmakers about the art and craft of creating a movie trailer. 

So join me in watching the“Anarchy Parlor” TRAILER HERE See if you can spot the problem I have with the way it has been executed.  




Did you spot it?  
I believe the movie trailer seems to start all over again at the :53 second mark.

The problem with the "Anarchy Parlor" trailer is the structure, the beats of laying out the story, and that's why we end up with this "restart" feeling in the trailer.  
The “script” for a movie trailer “can be” (quotation marks around those two words because it doesn’t have to be) very similar to the structure of a movie script. And if the trailer is for a genre movie, more adherence to a formal structure is demanded when laying out the beats. Conversely, if the the trailer is for a non-genre film (meaning a storyline that is unusual/problematic/offbeat... Comedy or Drama, or a genre project like SF that is challenging thematically, etc.), their is much more room for the creators of the trailer to experiment with different beats, images... anything and everything regarding the selling of the film to mainstream audiences. 

But the trailer for “Anarchy Parlor” is promoting a horror/slasher genre movie, and therefore the conventions of structure must at least be recognized. The trailer for starts with an introduction of the "killer." Quotation marks around the word killer because perhaps we're probably not seeing the real killer at the beginning of the trailer, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that the filmmakers went for the creative beat of a setup/tease beat of the tattoo artist choice and it doesn't work... because there is nothing mysterious/creepy/intriguing/foreboding that is exceptional, and demanding your attention. This creative choice was made over the more standard conventional choice -- setting up the main characters/"victims" as the first beat in the movie trailer.


The next mistake by the filmmakers is to include (at the :40 second mark in the trailer) presumably one of the main characters/"victims" talking to the same tattoo artist seen earlier. So by only focusing on one character here, it suggests the movie will be about one main protagonist. Nevermind this part of the trailer allows us to definitely rule out the guy we saw at the beginning of the trailer as the real killer. Not only is the true identity of the real killer almost never shown in a professionally produced movie trailer (which would eliminate any mystery or suspense for your moviegoer), the young woman featured in this part of the trailer also says (via her V.O.), "That girl is a tattoo artist," a reference to someone different than man we first meet at the beginning of the trailer. 
"We're here on vacation..." is also said by the main character in her Voice Over during a sequence that features a montage of shots that builds toward the implication of violence.

And then at the :50 second mark, the most noticible problem kicks in when the movie trailer seems to start all over again. 
At the fifty second mark we see images of kids partying on vacation in some foreign country... eventually running into trouble when at least one of the characters decides to visit a tattoo parlor. Everything we see feels like the movie's first act set up, Act one in this horror story, and that we would need to do in the trailer is move forward and lay out the highlights and thrills of the movie's final two acts. 
But the problem is that False Start. 
Modern audiences have been mentally conditioned to expect certain structural beats in a genre trailer. And if the filmmakers/producer want to connect with their audience, adhering to the structure of a genre movie trailer is a big deal. 
There is no reason to throw your targeted audience mentally off kilter and risk the subconscious negative vibes that they can't articulate, but definitely feel. 

One more time, I will reiterate -- the preview for “Anarchy Parlor” is solid, and I'm sure viewers who enjoy the horror/slasher genre will be attracted by the professional quality of the trailer to seek out the movie.  
My dissection above is meant only as words of advice to indie filmmakers when they create a professional movie trailer used to market their project.