The Orange County Screenwriters Association
    Be Inspired, Do Good Work

    Mark Sevi is a professional screenwriter (32 scripts sold, 19 movies produced) and scriptwriting teacher through Southern California community education.  He is also the founder of the OC Screenwriters Association.

    Oscar Micheaux

     oscarmicheaux

    This profile was originally created for Plotpoints Podcasts 2020.06.19 (Here)

    Born in 1884, Oscar Micheaux’s success as author, filmmaker, playright, and activist was unprecedented.

    African Americans were just a few decades removed from slavery; the 15th Amendment which guaranteed the right of Blacks to vote was passed just 14 years before. Lynchings and race-driven murders were still all too common in many parts of America.

    Micheaux’s father, himself a former slave, sired 13 children on a farm in Illinois. A middle child, Micheaux rebelled against everything and become somewhat of a problem. Eventually moving to Chicago to live with his brother, he tried many jobs that were never very satisfying but led to him saving some money and making some solid connections in the white community that helped his future plans.

    After bouncing around, Micheaux eventually became a homesteader in South Dakota. While there, some articles he had written made their way to The Chicago Defender to be published. His experiences as a sharecropper and homesteader informed much of his early literary work and led to a long career as a writer in many genres but focusing on the social issues of the times.

    In 1913 Micheaux’s first book The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer was published.

    A connection to the Lincoln Motion Picture Company upon the publishing of his second novel seemed promising but ultimately fruitless. Micheaux wanted control over the film adaptation of his novel and the owner of the production company flatly refused.

    Micheaux promptly founded his own company, The Micheaux Film & Book Company of Sioux City (in Chicago) and wrote, directed, and produced the film The Homesteader based on his book about his experiences in South Dakota.

    Forty more films followed. The movies were raw, in your face features that pulled no punches about race relations and societal issues of the times.

    Quote: "It is only by presenting those portions of the race portrayed in my pictures, in the light and background of their true state, that we can raise our people to greater heights.” End Quote

    Besides being the first African America to produce a film in 1919, in 1924 Micheaux introduced the moviegoing world to the astounding Paul Robeson in his film, Body and Soul. He attacked the racism in D.W. Grifiths’ film Birth of a Nation in his own film Within Our Gates.

    Micheaux never shrunk from a fight and many of his movies, books, and just his attitude in general created enemies not happy with this man of modest means taking the white community to task in the cinema and newspapers.

    From Wikipedia:

    “Micheaux's films were made during a time of great change in the African-American community. His films featured contemporary black life. He dealt with racial relationships between blacks and whites, and the challenges for blacks when trying to achieve success in the larger society. His films were used to oppose and discuss the racial injustice that African Americans received. Topics such as lynching, job discrimination, rape, mob violence, and economic exploitation were depicted in his films. These films also reflect his ideologies and autobiographical experiences.”

    The Producers Guild said he was: “The most prolific black – if not most prolific independent filmmaker in American cinema.”

    Micheaux wrote, produced and directed forty-four feature-length films between 1919 and 1948 and wrote seven novels, one a national bestseller.

    Oscar Micheaux, born to ex-slaves, defied all odds to become a successful film producer, scriptwriter, playright, author, and entrepreneur.

    He died in 1951. He is buried in Charlotte NC.

    His gravestone reads: A Man Ahead of His Time.

    Many of his films are available on streaming services like Amazon Prime.

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    Richard Matheson

    matheson, richard

    RICHARD MATHESON

    This profile first appeared in Plotpoints Podcast #175, April 10, 2020

    Although there had been quite a few post-apocalyptic tales before "I Am Legend," Richard Matheson’s take is probably the most copied and most produced. It has led to many awards and much acclaim from everywhere in the world.

    And it all started humbly enough in Allendale, New Jersey.

    Richard Burton Matheson was the son of Norwegian immigrants. He published his first story at the age of 8 in the newspaper The Brooklyn Eagle in New York where he had moved with his then-divorced mother.

    In 1949 he migrated to California after college and a stint in the Army. There he discovered even more outlets for his genius.

    “Born Of Man and Woman” a horrifying tale about a gigantic child chained in a basement was published in the legendary The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1950. This garnered him a following and the attention led to other stories being published in Galaxy Science Fiction.

    Matheson was quickly gaining a rep as a horror/scifi writer to be noticed. He was invited to become a member of the Southern California Sorcerers which included Ray Bradbury. I mean what wasn’t Ray Bradbury involved in back then?

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    Harriet Frank, Jr.

    harriet

    This post was originally part of Plotpoints Podcast.  www.plotpoints.com

    Harriet Frank Jr, an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, was born Harriet Goldstein in Portland, Oregon. Her mother, Harriet also, changed their family name to Frank, becoming Harriet Frank Sr.

    I’ve never heard of a female Sr/Jr but according the interwebs there is actually no gender assigned to either it or using 1 or 2. It’s just been that traditionally that men have named their children after them.

    Frank started her career under MGM’s Young Writer Program soon after WWII. She met her husband there, with whom she would collaborate on many projects - but not initially, writing several films and teleplays on her own from 1946 until 1957.

    The husband and wife team had their first collaboration in the 1958's “The Long Hot Summer” staring Paul Newman and directed by Martin Ritt. This was actually an adaptation of a William Faulker novel called “The Hamlet.” Harriet said it was mostly original material so she didn’t consider it a true adaptation.

    This collaboration both of husband and wife and with director Ritt would prove to be fruitful for all, leading to another seven films most of which were terrific commercial successes at the time, and some of which have become film classics.

    Said Ritt a hugely successful director who was also a blacklisted filmmaker for his alleged communist sympathies: “I don’t know of any better screenwriters in America.”

    Eight movies in all were made by Frank, her husband Irving Rav-etch, and Martin Ritt including “Hud” starring Paul Newman which was nominated for seven Academy Awards including adapted screenplay which at the time was called Best Writing, Screenplay Based On Material From Another Medium.

    Frank and her husband were nominated and won numerous other awards.

    Golden Globes, Edgar Awards, New York Film Critic Awards, Western Heritage Awards, and five Writers Guild nods winning with “Hud” which was adapted from Larry McMurtry’s “Horseman, Pass By.”

    The 1979's Norma Rae was based on the life of union organizer Crystal Lee Jordan. It starred Sally Field and was another Oscar nod for Frank and her husband. It was nominated in total for four Oscars including Best Picture and script, and won Field an Oscar for Best Actress.

    It was also nominated and/or won numerous other accolades including at the Canne Film Festival, being awarded the Prix d'interprétation féminine (meaning best actress)

    Frank’s screenplays, 26 in all, are a list of classic movies that made stars of the actors, actresses, and directors involved.

    1958 The Long, Hot Summer
    1959 The Sound and the Fury
    1960 Home from the Hill
    The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
    1963 Hud
    Baby Makes Three (Television movie)
    1967 Hombre
    1968 House of Cards Credited as James P. Bonner
    1969 The Reivers
    1972 The Cowboys
    The Carey Treatment Credited as James P. Bonner
    1974 Conrack Producer
    The Spikes Gang
    1979 Norma Rae
    1985 Murphy's Romance
    and
    1990 Stanley & Iris which was the last thing Frank was credited with.

    There is no doubt that Frank and her husband were true innovators.

    According to the L.A. Times quote:

    Although they sometimes adapted a story as written, they just as often used it as a starting point for a far different story — villains would be recast as heroes, minor characters reshaped as the script’s protagonist, multiple characters melted carefully into one complexity.

    End quote.

    A true groundbreaker, a Norma Rae who wouldn’t accept no for an answer, Harriet Franks, Jr.’s incredible career spanned 43 years of success after success at a time when doors were either never opened or were closing for female writers.

    She died recently in L.A. at the age of 93.

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    Frances Marion

    330px Frances Marion

    So many people are spoken of as being groundbreaking. Screenwriter Frances Marion is truly one of them.

    During her enormous career she wrote 187 (some say up to 300) scripts - starting in silent film.

    IMDB LINK TO MARION'S FILMOGRAPHY

    Born in 1888 in San Francisco, Frances Marion became proficient in art in school. Once her school was destroyed in the 1904 earthquake, she dropped out, worked as a photographer’s assistant and model.

    Multi-talented even at a young age, legendary filmmaker Lois Weber hired her as a writing assistant, and actress. She was so good and photogenic that she could have carved out a career in acting alone but chose to write for the screen.

    Marion impressed World Films owner William Brady by recutting an unusable film that starred Brady’s daughter. This resulted in a job offer and in Marion eventually becoming head writer at World Films. She wrote upwards of 50 movies there.

    In 1917 the hit Poor Little Rich Girl staring Mary Pickford and written by Marion, cemented Marion’s future as she became the official scriptwriter for the legendary star, Pickford, who started United Artists.

    According to Columbia University, quote: “Marion maintained ongoing collaborations with Mary Pickford, Irving Thalberg, and William Randolph Hearst. She excelled at writing scripts that accentuated the strengths of specific actors and is often credited with defining the careers of Marie Dressler, Greta Garbo, Marion Davies, and Pickford as well as Pickford’s husband, cowboy star, actor Fred Thomson.

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    Leigh Brackett

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    Leigh (pronounced 'Lee") Brackett was that rarest of all writers.

    A female science fiction writer, she wrote successfully in a time when genre fiction, and the film industry was dominated by men.

    She became known as the Queen of Space Opera penning some of the most compelling novels and stories about space and our place in it with increasingly sophisticated themes.

    In 1939 (at the age of 23) she sold her first scifi story called “Martian Quest” to one of the pre-eminent science fiction magazines of the time: Astounding. Her style and story was inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs and his “God Of Mars” novel.

    Quote: "Suddenly, at one blazing stroke, the veil was rent and I had a glimpse of the cosmos. I cannot tell you what a tremendous effect that idea of Mars, another planet, a strange world, had on my imagination."

    She continued in that vein until she wrote “No Good from a Corpse” (1944), as LEE Douglas, her maiden name, which was a crime novel in the Raymond Chandler mode.

    This book resulted in her getting her first big screenwriting assignment.

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    Buck Henry

    buckhenry

    This article was originally on the Plotpoints Podcast

    Buck Henry sounds like a name to be feared. It intimates a man of giant stature, powerful and muscle hard.

    And he was - just not physically.  The name was Henry's way of both honoring his grandfather, who was also a Buck, but also an enduring statement about perceptions.

    Henry Zukerman aka Buck Henry, was an award-winning actor, writer, and director. It’s doubtful that anyone was more accomplished in the facets of entertainment than the ones Buck Henry pursued.

    Like many of his peer group at the time, Henry was born and raised in New York city, cutting his teeth on high school plays. Unlike those of his time, however, Henry was a paid actor on Broadway at the age of 15 with a production of "Life With Father."

    Henry came to the entertainment world naturally. His mother, Ruth Taylor, was a silent film star, and his father, a brigadier general and stockbroker, provided a nice cushion for Henry to pursue his dreams.

    During a stint in the Army during the Korean War Henry continued to act and write plays for an Army repertory company. After the war he did improvisational comedy with a well-known comedy troop in New York.

    In an odd bit of real-life farce, and I’m going to quote this directly from Wikipedia because I won’t get it right if I don’t.

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    Linda Woolverton

    lindaWoolverton

    This article was originally part of a November 2019 Plotpoints Podcast episode.  See right side, under slideshow on home page.

    Linda Woolverton is the combination of two rarities in Hollywood. One is a female screenwriter - a growing but still under-represented demographic, and two, a multi-screenwriting Disney star.

    Woolverton is a SoCal native born and educated in Long Beach, earning a masters at Cal State Fullerton in children’s theater.

    If Hollywood wouldn’t hire her, she reasoned, she’d just start her own children’s theater company which successfully performed in theaters, malls, and churches in the area and which also gave a venue to many aspiring young writers, directors, actors and actresses.

    While working as a development exec at CBS in children’s programming, she also began writing her YA novels, Star Wind and Running Before The Wind which were very well received.

    This decision to write and publish books would become one of her better ones.

    Tiring of the executive grind, Linda moved into children’s television writing.

    She wrote for animated series Star Wars: Ewoks, Dennis the Menace, The Real Ghostbusters, The Berenstain Bears, My Little Pony and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers but eventually chafed over the restrictions and seemingly dead end.

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    John Hughes

    johnhughes

     

    This article was originally part of a November 2019 Plotpoints podcast..  See top right of home page (under slideshow.)

    If John Hughes hadn’t been born someone would have had to invent him.

    In the 80's John Hughes ruled Hollywood when it came to a 15-30 yr old demographic. And as his repertoire grew, he ruled screwball comedies in the same way in the 90s’ and beyond.

    Born in 1950 into a comfortable middle class life in Lansing Michigan, Hughes channeled much of his teen years into film. He credits moving to Chicago for his inspiration for his first film efforts. He in fact met his future wife, Nancy Ludwig there. In high school he was a Rat Pack fan (Sinatra, etc.) and that certainly expressed itself in some of those teen comedies where groups of young misfits would go through 2 hrs of drama and comedy. In fact, some of these teens became known as the Brat Pack.

    Hughes dropped out of college and sold jokes to several top tier comedians of the time. He got into marketing and created several dynamic and well-known ad campaigns before he found his comedy groove.

    He became a regular contributor to National Lampoon - the magazine - and wrote a story called Vacation 88 which eventually became National Lampoon's Vacation.

    National Lampoon's Class Reunion which he wrote while still on staff at the magazine became his first produced movie screenplay but he had a few episodes of a TV show called Delta House and oddly enough, a co-writer credit in a Nicola Tesla film.

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    Steven Bochco

    stevenBocho

    First published in audio form on Plotpoints Podcast, Episode 161

    Before he passed away in 2018, Steven Bochco had the type of career that most of us can only dream of.

    Bochco was born and raised in New York and attended Carnegie Mellon University as a theater major.   After graduation, he drove cross country to California with actor Michael Tucker and went to work for Universal Pictures as a writer and then story editor on legendary television shows like Ironside, Columbo, and McMillan & Wife.

    One of his Columbo episodes, "Murder by the Book" (in 1971), was directed by another young budding superstar, Steven Spielberg. Actor Michael Tucker, Bochco’s moving partner would find success as a character actor and especially as attorney Stuart Markowitz in L.A. Law, a later Bochco production.

    In 1978 Bochco went from Universal to MTM Enterprises which was at the time a major television player.

    Bochco had middling success at MTM until Hill Street Blues which started a trend in television that has lasted and grown until today of gritty, street-wise police dramas.  Hill Street Blues’ 1st episode caused a stir when two likable characters, patrol cops Renko and Hill, played by Charles Haid and Michael Warren, were killed at the end of the episode.

    Or so we thought.

    The coarse street stories, worn and dirty sets, and ambush assassination attempts sent a clear signal that Bochco had a vision for episodic police procedurals and it wasn’t like anyone else’s.

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    John Sayles

    1024px Sayles John IMGP2516 A

     

    John Sayles isn’t one of those filmmakers you think about a lot. But if you’re a fan of his, as soon as his name gets in your ears, his movies inhabit your mind and you can’t think of anything else.

    Sayles’ career started in the incubator of Roger Corman’s production company. Corman, who at the current age of 93, has an astounding 415 credits as a producer - and started the careers of many famous Hollywood names such as Jack Nicholsan, Dennis Hopper, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorcesse and James Cameron also counts Sayles as one of his mentees.

    Lady In Red and Pirahna (1978 and 1979) were two films Sayles wrote for Corman before he did his own film, Return of the Secaucus 7 about a group of college friends on a reunion at a house in New Hampshire, and the drama that occurs as old wounds are opened and unresolved issues are aired. If that premise sound familiar, you might recognize it from The Big Chill which was made several years later in 1983. Secaucus 7 won several awards including a Writers Guild award for best comedy. It unfortunately was not a commercial success which marked a path that many Sayles films would walk.

    Sayles work has always been distinguished by low tickets and high praise. He’s won Edgar Awards, WGA awards, NAACP Image awards, dozens of film festival awards, Spirit and Sundance awards, critics awards, nominations for Academy Awards and on and on even as box office rewards mostly eluded him.

    His dramas are marked by intense and painful exchanges. Raw and emotionally bloody, they grab and hold you uncomfortably tight. His comedy is broad and absurd. His genre films, notables like Pirahna, Alligator, and The Howling never failed to scare or thrill.

    The exception proving the rule, Sayles was a writer on Battle Beyond the Stars widely named as one of Corman’s worst films. How Battle failed is beyond me. It featured Sayles as writer and James Cameron and James Horner contributing - but that’s the joy of creativity. Even the sure things can sink under the weight of their own expectations.

    Sayles has dabbled in television and appeared in many films as an actor.

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    William Goldman - Nobody Knows Anything Except Him

    william goldman
    WilliamGoldman NobodyKnows
    butch and sundance
    princess bride
    goldman oscar
    william goldman

    This profile was part of a Plotpoints Podcast on July 12, 2017 (LINK TO PODCAST)

    I’m not sure that any podcast that purports to cover scriptwriting can neglect to mention a true genius and legend of the craft. Writer Aaron Sorkin has said of him, “He taught me everything I know and about a tenth of what he knows.”

    Who is this genius?

    William Goldman.

    As if his name was somehow indicative of his potential for fame, in the 60's, 70's and 80's Goldman was the A-list writer who delivered box office gold.

    Movies like:

    1987 The Princess Bride (book) / (screenplay) 1986 Heat (novel) / (screenplay) 1979 Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (characters) 1979 Mr. Horn (TV Movie) 1978 Magic (novel) / (screenplay) 1977 A Bridge Too Far (screenplay) 1976 Marathon Man (from: his novel) / (screenplay) 1976 All the President's Men (screenplay) 1975 The Great Waldo Pepper (screenplay) 1975 The Stepford Wives (screenplay) 1973 Papillon (contributing writer - uncredited) 1972 The Hot Rock (screenplay) 1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (written by)

    Many of his most successful films were based on books he had written which were also successes. The Midas Touch was more than a phrase for Goldman.  Not only was he writing scripts that would star A-list actors and win numerous awards, he was also the most sought-after script doctor in the business.

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    Copyright

    © 2017

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    Mel Brooks - Funny Man

     MelBrooks

    photo: By Angela George, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10257010

    If you’re too young to know Mel Brooks from his heyday, you certainly can still see many reflections of his work today.

    The film “The Producers” starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder has been made into a Broadway hit that is still playing. The original production starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, has run for 2,502 performances and counting, and has won a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards.

    It was also remade into a 2005 movie starring Lane and Broderick.

    Brooks’ “Get Smart” series, which he co-created with writer Buck Henry, was recently made into a movie starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway as agents 86 and 99. The same silly, hilarious bits that infused the late 60's comedy and made it a TV hit were in abundance in the movie version.

    More recently, there’s been talk of remaking "Robin Hood, Men In Tights," "Blazing Saddles" (which I’d love to see how or if they could,) and "Young Frankenstein."

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    Harlan Ellison

    harlan ellison
    star trek harlan ellison
    harlan ellison 1934 2018

    You can be forgiven for not knowing Harlan Ellison’s name. In the last few years he’s been pretty quiet because of a stroke which eventually took his life in late June. But if you’ve never experienced an Ellison story the good news is his work is all over the multi-media landscape and his books and short stories are still at the top of everyone’s lists. He’s dead simple to find on Amazon because his work, thematically, is still as relevant as when it first exploded on the world in the late 60's.

    I remember the first time I read a Harlan Ellison story. The writing was so strong, so brutal, so impactful that the last line hit me with a force that my adolescent brain couldn’t process. I remember sitting there and actually feeling sick to my stomach. I felt as if the world, as I knew it, had ended.

    And it had.

    I’d taken that step from the scifi fanboy of rockets, ray guns and Dandelion Wine, to aliens, humans - and machines - who existed for nefarious reasons that had nothing to do with our silly human values.

    The line? The one that knocked me silly...?

    I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.

    That was also the title of the short story first published in 1967.

    "I Have No Mouth and Must Scream" is an allegory for Hell where people are endlessly tormented by an all-powerful sentient supercomputer.

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    Kristen D'Alessio, Alex and the List

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    morrison fugit alex and the list
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    On July 18th, at C3 Vape and Coffee, OC Film and Television and OC Screenwriters held our 3rd Wednesday networking event. 

    Kristen D'Alessio (IMDB) was our guest to speak on the process of taking a concept from script to screen and beyond.  The first words that come to mind when I think of Kristen D'Alessio are forms of the word grace.  Graceful, gracious, and graced. 

    Kristen was so knowledgeable about the process of filmmaking and shared that information without reservation. No question was rebuffed, no avenue unexplored as she dazzled the group at C3.

    The consistent message that I head from Kristen is this is not for the faint of heart.  Coming from an acting background, she and Harris Goldberg (IMDB) wrote, produced, directed, and distributed the film, sharing those tasks together and separately for two years and counting!

    "Alex and the List" is probably considered an indie film but it has a high concept worthy of any studio film:  Alex (Patrick Fugit) is getting married and his fiance (Jennifer Morrison) has a list of things she wants him to change about himself before they say I do. 

    Fugit is confused and upset but his gal pal (Karen Gillan) tells him that every girl has a list - Morrison's character just wrote them down. 

    The vagaries of love and expectations are explored.  Hilarity and shrewd observations of humanity occur as each player explores what it means to be in love - or think they are.

    Kristen covered the entire process from concept to completion, something that, as producer, she's still not fully done with yet as she continues to negotiate foreign territories for distribution. 

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    The Gallows Event on June 02

    The Gallows 2015 Horror Movie Poster HD Wallpaper copy

    It was a bit of a nervous moment when filmmakers Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing arrived from Fresno and the banquet room was still only half-filled.  However, faith in the OC film community was restored when the tables filled with enthusiastic attendees hungry to hear the remarkable story of how the horror film, The Gallows, got made, distributed and then rocketed Chris and Travis to genre film fame.

    Short version: 

    • Unemployed Travis meets film student Chris after Travis had won the TV show "Wipeout." 
    • They come up with a plan to make a low budget, found-footage film like "Paranormal Activity" with neither having much actual film experience.
    • They raise enough money, shoot the film, and it gets picked up a management company that then gets Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema involved.
    • Reshoots ("sweetening") happen with Kathy Lee Gifford's daughter Cassidy Gifford because the original actress was unavailable.
    • Movie released.
    • On a budget of approx. 100k + 200k sweetening, the film earns 43 million dollars worldwide.
    • Blumhouse pictures, the number one horror production company, makes Tremendum Pictures (Travis and Chris's prodco) a part of their production house.
    • Chris and Travis field offers from everyone on the planet.

    It's a Hollywood dream come true.

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    What Is Science Fiction

    scifi
    blade runner
    the uss enterprise

     

    On a recent podcast (plotpoints.com) our new co-host Jeff Lyons was tasked to create a top ten list of science fiction films.  These were his choices, not necessarily by any measure of performance or popularity.  In other words, they were films he deemed worthy of a top ten list.  He did not put them in any order.

    His first step was to try to define a genre that has constantly defied definition.

    Or has it?

    Many say science fiction is about extrapolated science (in any form) impacting the lives of people and civilizations.  So "Star Wars" "Ready Player One" even "Downsizing" and "Lost In Space" would fit.  But sociological extrapolations of future events or alternate realities or worlds also can be science fiction like "Handmaids Tale."

    Some definitions are rather narrow.

    Someone who is off-times quoted is Darko Savin, a essayist and academic: Science fiction is "a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author's empirical environment.

    My hero, Rod Serling, is a bit slippier:  Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible

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    The Empty Space

    black hole of scriptwriting

    Screenwriting, any writing, is such a solitary occupation.  It suits me.  I'm always comfortable alone and inside my head.  Or perhaps I've just become more solitary as a result of my 25-year span sitting behind a desk by myself.  I'm Italian and gregarious by nature (and nurture) but there's a lot of me that likes being alone with a computer, book, script, or TV/movie.  I always thought I could be the erstwhile caretaker on the old scifi film "Silent Running" or the Sam Rockwell character on the film "Moon."

    The solitary nature of writing has tendrils into other aspects of the lifestyle.  No one, perhaps even another writer, can quite understand the internal nature of who you are.  Of course, that's true of most of us anyway but writers face a unique doubling down of that truth.  Unless you've "made it" most of your work goes unrecognized and unrewarded except for a few friends or an attaboy you might give yourself when you type FADE OUT or THE END (do novelists still type THE END?)  Perhaps you're like the hilarious character in "Romancing The Stone" who cracks a mini-bottle of booze and feeds your cat its food in a champagne glass when you've finished your latest project.

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    Where No One Has Gone Before

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    plotpoints podcastThis article by Mark Sevi was first featured on the PLOTPOINTS PODCAST with Mark Sevi, Mary Claire Anderson and Toby Wallwork.  Available on iTUNES.

    Today I’d like to focus on not a writer, or specific film but a franchise that spans both television and film.  That has engendered parodies.  Massive merchandising.  Conventions.  And continues to re-invent itself for over 50 years.

    Star Trek.

    start trek originalThe latest version premieres Sunday night on CBS Television and then goes to CBS streaming which is a pay service.  Whether or not that business model proves to be successful is yet to be seen but there is no doubt that there is a massive amount of anticipation for the newest entry into a universe conceived by master story teller Gene Roddenberry.

    Roddenberry, a successful TV writer had written dozens of episodic TV scripts for series as varied as Highway Patrol, Mr. District Attorney, I Led Three Lives, West Side, Boots and Saddles, and others.  He has over 105 credits as a writer.

    Frustrated at what he perceived were the limitations of what could be done on the network on issues like bi-racial relationships, political commentary, and hot button topics of the day including the highly charged Vietnam War, in 1964 Roddenberry put his interracial crew of explorers in outer space seeking new worlds of creative  freedom.

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    Woody Allen - Seriously Funny

    This is basically a transcript of a podcast segment (www.plotpoints.com) done about great writers we admire. 

    PODCAST RSS LINK / iTunes Link

    woodyimagesImagine you're a genius.

    You start life as a boy named Allan Stewart Konigsberg.  At the age of 15, in 1950, you begin writing jokes and you never stop.  You change your name to Woody Allen.  By the time you're 27 you've written thousands of jokes and gags.  According to some sources 20,000 in 1962 alone for the top comedians of the time.  You also work for the Tonight Show and Candid Camera, with Larry Gelbart, Dick Cavett, Syd Caser - on and on with the best and brightest of that era.  Because you're a genius at what makes people laugh.

    And also because you work your ass off.

    Dick Cavett said of Allen: "He can go to a typewriter after breakfast and sit there until the sun sets only interrupting work for coffee and a brief walk, and then spends the whole evening working.  15 to 18 hours at a time."

    Given Woody Allen's work ethic, his incredible, seemingly natural wit, and his drive for perfection, the rest, as they say, is history.

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    Rod Serling: Tortured Genius

    This is basically a transcript of a podcast segment (www.plotpoints.com) done about great writers we admire. 

    PODCAST RSS LINK / iTunes Link

    Rod Serling photo portrait 1959

     So goes one of the most iconic monologues in television history by TV pioneer Rod Serling who wrote, directed, produced and acted in the series, The Twilight Zone.

    A small anecdote that came out of my research is that Rod Serling initially had it as sixth dimension until a producer asked him what happened to the fifth one.

    Among the resources I tapped for this article was the American Masters documentary called "Submitted for your Approval."

    It opens in an operating theater - tense moments ala The Twilight Zone.  Black and white.  Men and women in masks in tight shots.  Eyes darting...

    Actress Lee Grant's voice says:

    Submitted for your approval.  The man in cardiac crises is Mr. Rod Serling: writer, producer and agent provocateur of a certain electronic medium he helped to create and which, by way of thanks, kindly ushered him out the door.  But that is of no particular concern of his at the moment because this is Tuesday, June 28th 1975 and thanks to a million cigarettes and a heart with its own a flair for the dramatic Mr. Serling is on the cutting edge of infinity. Mr. Rod Serling who once remarked that he'd like to be remembered as a writer is about to get his wish.  During a short stay in a small town called yesterday - found on any map...in The Twilight Zone.
        American Masters Rod Serling: Submitted for Your Approval

    The American Masters documentary starts with that excellent voice over and rolls into a sometimes harsh but always contemplative examination of a true writer's writer.  Someone who was as tortured by his work as much he was celebrated for it.  Who loved success but hated the hypocrisy he knew he participated in as part of that success.

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