Dear Disney (or at least, the parts of Disney under the Lucasfilm banner),
I read on the internet this week that there is some trouble over the proposed Boba Fett movie. Problems with a satisfactory script, say the rumours. Well, it’s the internet isn’t it? Who can believe what they read there?
But in this case, I think I can see there would be an issue.
My friend on G+, Eoghann Irving, says the problem is that Boba Fett is an over-rated character – two dimensional and actually uninteresting. It’s certainly true that he doesn’t get to do very much in the films that actually feature him : “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”. In the first he is merely persistent, tracking Han and Leia to Cloud City and taking possession of Han’s frozen body for delivery. No action at all. He does get to fight and fly in “Return of the Jedi”, but he’s not very impressive there, using a cord-projector to try and trap Luke Skywalker, who has no trouble cutting the cord with his lightsabre, then getting knocked off the skiff and into the Sarlacc pit by Han Solo even though Han’s still blind.
Despite this lack of brilliance, Boba is beloved of fans, and even before the prequels gave us Jango Fett showing a more combat-savvy Mandalorian fighting style, there were legions of Boba wannabes building their own dented helmets and jet packs.
I suspect the problem you’re having with the movie is that you want Boba to be the hero. You want him wisecracking, and fighting for good. And you want him winning some fair maiden’s hand. And taking his damn helmet off, too.*
The fundamental dichotomy here is that you have a niche character, and you want to make him appeal to a huge demographic so they will all pay lots of money to see his movie. But that’s not going to work. Boba achieved iconic status DESPITE his lack of action, and the fact he only speaks a handful of lines in the trilogy. (I would bet that kid-Boba has more lines in “Attack of the Clones” than his elder counterpart has in the two movies that feature him…) To make a good Boba Fett movie, you have to have him BE Boba Fett, not Indiana Jones in a dented helmet and jetpack.
My appeal to you, Disney (and I know it’s no more likely to succeed than my letters to Microsoft or the UK Revenue) is to let Boba do what Boba does best. Send him off on a hunt for a bounty. Stop thinking he’s a hero, and start thinking ANTI-hero. Hell, why not model him on Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Western character, the Man with No Name? I can see Boba playing two sides off one another in a war so that the way is clear for him to collect a whole bunch of bounties.
The point is, you’re not going to end up with a movie that you can use to sell plastic toys to seven year olds. I mean, sure, you can make the toys and sell ’em, but the movie should not cater to kids that age. It should cater to kids like me, who are forty odd years old, and have loved Star Wars since our first visit to that galaxy far, far away. Boba’s a bounty hunter, just a working stiff trying to make his way in the galaxy. We don’t want to know more about his motivations and his back story – we want to see him in action, shake off that “Vader’s lapdog” image and be the badass we all hope he really is.
If you want a better idea of Mandalorian culture, go read Karen Traviss’ books. She took those brief hints from the movies and created a warrior race to be proud of, complete with language and traditions. You could do a lot worse than use her ideas in your movie. A lot worse.
Please, whatever you decide to do, don’t go with “worse”.
May the Force be With You.
*It’s like this : I’m a Judge Dredd fan, and I saw what Stallone did to that character. Karl Urban did a stand-up job, but seriously, Sly, what the hell? Did you even READ the source material?
And yes, I am writing a screenplay for a Boba Fett movie. Why, do you know someone who might be interested?
Posted in Uncategorized, Writing
Tagged Boba Fett, Dented Helmet, Disney, Indiana Jones, Judge Dredd, Karen Traviss, Karl Urban, Mandalorian, Movie, screenplay, Star Wars
I've been saving this one for years, but it hasn't helped anything yet....
The first half of this year has been a bit odd. Not in a “Two-headed dog” kind of way, but because I’ve concentrated a lot of effort in writing and publicising this blog. It’s been fun, developing a network of fellow bloggers, meeting people on purpose by commenting on their blogs, and meeting people by accident through blog strings or comments. While I know my parents would think that’s all plenty odd, that wasn’t what I was thinking about. It’s odd because this blog is meant to be my shopfront, my public face, the place where I promote my plays. That’s what it’s all about, telling people I’m a playwright, that I write good plays that community theatre groups would enjoy performing. Plays that have won awards.
The odd bit is that, thanks to this tireless work on my blog, I haven’t actually written any new plays, as such. I’ve chipped in my required scenes for the latest TLC Pantomime, “Snow White and the Magnificent Seven”, but even there I was slower than usual.
Of course, it’s easy to blame the blog, but maybe it’s something more sinister. A lot of blogs about writing discuss writer’s block. It’s a bit like the Loch Ness Monster, I think. Some folks believe in it absolutely, can tell you the history of it, show you their photographs. Others deny it exists and won’t hear anything to the contrary.
A one-in-a-million shot, I know : who do you know that still wears a cagoul?
I keep telling Mrs Dim that I’m not bothered. That if something occurs to me and I want to write it, then I’ll write it. But time’s gone by and I’ve reviewed dozens of other people’s scripts for my publisher, run others through the Script Appraisal Service, and seen friends like Richard James produce two full length plays (good ones, curse him!) in the time I’ve written…er…well, a couple of cheques and a lot of shopping lists.
And there is something I want to write. Something I’ve been wanting to write for around five years now. But it’s not a play, or a pantomime, or a sketch. It’s a screenplay. And I really, really want to get it right.
More than any other type of writing, screenplays have rules. There’s the format, where you put the character names, what gets put in CAPS, the stupid typewriter font you HAVE to use or be cast into outer darkness. There’s the mysterious three act structure, the beats, the scenes, you mustn’t give camera directions, don’t use more than four lines of descriptions, more dialogue than direction, on and on and on and on.
I’ve read about five good books on screenplay writing. They all made sense, right up until the moment when I tried to use their advice to write the story I was thinking of. My story was already too complete to fit their model, and I was too set, too determined to allow any changes. That’s why, after five years, I only have two drafts, and the second one drifts off into drivel.
Blake Snyder is my last chance. It’s a lot to ask of someone who died two years ago, but his books live on, and they’re friendly and encouraging and THEY MAKE SENSE. I’m reading “Save the Cat!”, his first book, and I think the combination of good advice, friendly tone and five years of bending the story back and forth may finally allow me to rebuild it according to Blake’s model.
I really hope so. The ever-saintly Lucy V Hay was kind enough to report on the first ten pages of draft two and called it a “very original” idea. From someone who reads scripts for a living, that’s high praise. It’s a little late in the day to be making New Year’s Resolutions (and you know what I think of them anyway – see here) but I’d like to end this year with a shiny new draft of “Tribute”, written with the posthumous help of Blake Snyder.
Ask me how I got on in January, will you?
What project has taken you the longest? Do ideas age like fine wine, or do they go rotten like old running shoes left in the schoolbag over the summer? My e-book “Writing a play for community theatre” only took a year from beginning to end, even though you could probably read it in an afternoon. If you’d like to read it in an afternoon, why not download a copy from the TLC website?
Posted in Uncategorized, Writing
Tagged Blake Snyder, Damian Trasler, Loch Ness Monster, Lucy V Hay, playwright, save the cat, screenplay, screenplay structure, two headed dog, writer's block, writing a screenplay
Today, as a marketing ploy and because I don’t want to write another blog piece that starts “I’ve been thinking…”, I’m handing out a free sample from my book (Title above). I’ve chosen the start of the chapter about the most common mistakes made by folks writing for the Community Theatre Stage. Hope you enjoy it.
After a few years of being published, I took on the job of Script Reader for my publisher, Lazy Bee Scripts. The company was being inundated with scripts, and they needed someone to help with the initial sorting of the new arrivals. This gave me a chance to review and report on hundreds of scripts from a huge variety of writers. Scripts are sent to Lazy Bee from all around the world, by people who have been writing for years, people just starting out, and people trying stage writing after success in some other form. Before long it became obvious that the same mistakes were being made over and over again.
The Biggest Mistake
Writing a screenplay for the stage. I’m never sure if this mistake is made because the authors have never visited the theatre, or because they wrote the idea as a screenplay first then attempted to convert it to the stage. Since the primary market I am reading for is concerned with the amateur stage, where resources and stage space tend to be limited, there is little point in saying “but I’ve seen some pretty spectacular things on the West End stage”. Yes, I know you can see ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ fly out over the audience in some theatres, but you’re not likely to see that done in your local village hall or school production. Time after time I read plays that open in a living room, described in perfect detail. Five minutes later the action moves to a second, equally detailed location for just a few lines of dialogue, and then another change. If the play is to be performed on a regular small stage, the only options are to have a subdivided stage with many sets permanently erected and the action moving between them, or to have a minimalist stage with movable furniture to signify the various locations. I used a combination of these devices in ‘A Time for Farewells’, with one half of the stage permanently set as a bedroom, and the other half different arrangements of three stage blocks that became a bar, a hospital room, a lounge.
This is entirely possible, but the important thing is that YOU are the one who should decide that this is the way the play should be performed. There’s no point in writing an epic masterpiece that includes horse races, the sinking of the Titanic and an aerial dogfight and then saying “It’s up to the director to work out how to stage it.” If you’re looking for the best of all possible worlds, you’ll end up with a script that doesn’t depend on a trapdoor in the stage or some other technical device (like flying wires, back projection or giant inflatable gorillas) for a successful production. You can certainly suggest that these elements would make the production better, that they were part of your original vision, but allow for the fact that not every group will have these things at their disposal. When the prospective director reads your script, they should be able to see the play being performed on their stage in their mind’s eye. Which leads into point number two:
Incomplete or Unhelpful Instructions
I reviewed a play once that had a character coming onstage carrying a large box. Halfway through the scene, a second character pops out of the box (which is still being held by character number one) and delivers a speech. I couldn’t see how this would be possible unless one character was incredibly strong, or the bottom of the box was open and character two’s legs were screened by some handy scenery. As it turned out, some unenclosed production notes would have told me which characters were to be played by puppets – that information would have put a different spin on things.
If you’re planning on having a character disappear into a magic cabinet, it would be kind to indicate how you imagine this being done: “The back of the cabinet is screened by the mangle, and Aladdin climbs out the concealed flap in the false back…” You don’t need to include a diagram with numbered and labelled parts, but your director needs to have a clue what you’re thinking about. This is particularly important in British pantomime transformation scenes, like Cinders’ “Rags to Ball Gown” or “Pumpkin to Coach” moments. It’s all very well writing “There is a flash and a bang and the pumpkin is replaced by a shimmering coach…” but that’s leaving it all to the director. A little research will show you there are many ways of accomplishing this effect – bringing lights up behind a gauze, unfolding a special piece of scenery… Again, read a few scripts, see some shows, talk to some experienced dramatists. Then put your own spin on the process.
Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling
I know, I know, it seems really petty to complain about mistakes like this. Who cares about full stops and question marks? It’s the content that’s important, isn’t it? Language is a constantly evolving thing, textspeak is becoming a valid form of grammar, blah, blah, blah! Well yes, language does evolve, but at the moment there are still guidelines and rules about grammar, spelling and punctuation, and you can be pretty sure that nothing much has changed in the way English is written since you were at school. Delivering a script for your publisher, or even simply turning one out for your local theatre group, should still be treated with the care and attention to detail you would give a job application letter.
Grammar exists to make the written language easy to hear in your head. Commas give pauses in the sentence, full stops indicate when one idea stops and the next begins. These things are important for your words to be understood, and if people can’t comfortably read what you’ve written, they’re not going to enjoy the content. They’re not going to understand the content. They’re certainly not going to buy or perform your play. Also, if you’re not careful enough to spot errors that are highlighted for you on the spell checker of the word processor you wrote this on, how can any customer be sure you’ve been careful enough to produce a decent plot? Are there as many errors in your storyline as there are in your typing? Bear in mind that the editor or publisher is likely to be someone fond of the written word – they’ve made a business of it, after all. They are exactly the kind of person who gets annoyed by incorrect spelling, and they are also exposed to it on a daily basis. If your script contains no ghastly spelling or punctuation errors, that will be another factor in your favour.
The only exception to the rule about correct spelling and grammar is when you choose to get it wrong. Not everyone speaks the Queen’s English like an Early Fifties BBC Radio Announcer, so of course it doesn’t make sense to have Bruno the door bouncer throw a drunk into the street and yell after him :
“We’d be much obliged if you would refrain from revisiting this establishment in the foreseeable future and encourage your rehabilitation with regard to your alcohol dependency…”
Bruno would shout “Sling yer ‘ook, drunk!” or something worse, and you won’t need to add in the ‘h’ that he drops. But the apostrophe shows the letter has been dropped on purpose, not as a result of rapid typing, and that Bruno is not making monkey noises. In summary, your characters are allowed to speak ungrammatically, or in dialect, but for your readers to correctly interpret this type of speech, it needs to be clearly punctuated.
A Time For Farewells, as performed at RAF Halton
To get YOUR copy of the ebook rush over to the TLC website Best of luck with your writing.