Nineteen eighty-four

I recently read George Orwell’s Nineteen eighty-four. I don’t think I’ve read this cornerstone of dystopian fiction since 1984. The thing I’m struck by now, twenty-eight years later, is how much of an influence it’s had on me. Two of the three screenplays I’ve written are dystopian in nature. Carrion is set in a society on the cusp of exceeding to totalitarian regime. The Singularity is essentially a vision of Orwell’s room 101; I can’t think of anything worse than being tapped on a spaceship with hoards of zombies. I have another idea, something that’s been on the back-burner for a while now, that deals explicitly with surveillance. The story is still unformed but inhabits a world where surveillance is used as a substitute for morality. I don’t have much more than that notion and a few nebulous images, some of which were used in my short screenplay Phos/phate. The thing that all these projects share with Nineteen eighty-four is an interests in the technologies of power. It’s a subject I come back to again and again. And comes I think from a feeling, rightly or wrongly, that I am being controlled in some way. I want to understand power. How it works? And how to survive it? I’m not sure if anyone else views the world like this but I often have the feeling that when the rulebook of existence was handed out I wasn’t given a copy. Or it could just be that I’m just far too sceptical, too much of a heretic.

Follow up to another logline for Carrion

At the end of last week I resubmitted my logline for Carrion to Logline it!. If the first batch of replies helped fine-tune my initial submission this second round has focused it even more.

Darrin Nightingale says:
RESUBMISSION: When the government embarks on a genocidal programme against junkies, a self-righteous policeman battles to save his drug using sister.

Lucius Paisley says:
Is it possible to use a different word for “junkies”?

Then you won’t have to use the term “drug using”, since most people would correctly assume that she is a drug user.

For instance – “…genocidal programme against drug abusers, a self-righteous policeman battles to save his sister.”

Also, who is the policeman battling against exactly? The government? His police force? Drug abusers? I think some clarity here may also help.

Darrin Nightingale says:
I use the term junkies because it is more often than not it is used as a derogatory way to describe anyone who take illicit drugs. The government in the story views anyone who takes drugs as junkies. I use the term alternate “drug using” partly to make the point that not all drug users are junkies. But also to reiterate the point that you have a government agent, a prohibitionist, fighting to save a sister targeted for genocide. How about a logline that reads?

When the government targets junkies for genocide, a self-righteous policeman fights to save his drug using sister.

Thanks for your input.

cynosurer says:
I still think the self righteousness works best as a part of the battle and not a character description.

When the government embarks on a genocidal program against junkies, a/an policeman must confront the system and his own self-righteousness to save his drug using sister.

insert: in your face, hard nosed, street hardened, crusty, old, jaded, tough as nails, washed up…
I don’t know how you make it work with the sister. Siblings, having grown up together, aren’t usually very tolerant of the ‘choices’ their siblings make – hence the self righteous ‘you suffer the consequences of your choices’ attitude. It might work better to make it a niece or granddaughter. I would think the extra bit of seperation would actually aid in his conversion… or the widow of his OD’ed brother if you want her to be his contemporary. Just some thoughts. That I have these thought may just mean you need to add a description to the sister other than drug using as her being one is implied by the fact that she needs saving from this program (and ‘program’ would be the Hollywood/Yankee spelling).

cynosurer says:
I had the word ‘insert’ bracketed by the less than greater than symbols between ‘a/an’ and policeman. The brackets must have ‘deleted’ that. So “insert” a description there or choose one of the cliches that I listed.

elizabethban says:
I think it’s the genocidal program that’s unclear. How about,

‘When the government threatens to execute all junkies to stop a drug epidemic, a member of the arresting police force must battle his own self-righteousness in order to be able to save his sister.’

I think sister is spot on. And she should be a younger sister who disobeyed all her bother’s so called ‘advice’. Of course, he never asks why she is doing what she does, just assumes it’s to show him up and embarrass him. He is a pretty narcissistic character, unable to empathise – until this edict, of course.
Anyway, just a suggestion.

Darrin Nightingale says:
As I understand it, genocide means “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.” Perhaps a more concise articulation of the governments intention is to say that the government is targeting junkies for genocide. The genocidal programme is a programme to kill anyone who takes drugs. It starts when the govenment release swarms of drug eating insects that go on to attack users. The government then deny medical attention those users. As the programme progresses the government declares martial law, sweep the city, shooting users on sight. Fundamentally the government’s intention is genocide. They intend to kill all junkies/drug users. Your understanding of the brother/sister relationship is spot on. There’s a fifteen year age difference between the two of them. So when their parents are killed in a car crash and he has to take care of her, it creates all kinds of tensions. Tensions that come to a head when he arrests his sister for possession at the beginning of the story. With that in mind, what about a logline that reads.

When the government targets junkies for genocide, a self-righteous policeman fights to save his drug using sister.

Thanks for your input.

It interesting to see the huge difference between the logline I initially posted and the one that now seems the most concise telling of the story. Gone are any reference to drug eating insects. Something that seemed to be irreplaceable early in my attempts at a logline. Instead they’ve been replaced by the intention of the insects, genocide. Here’s first and final loglines side by side for you to compare.

When the government release swarms of drug eating insects to kill the junkie population a self-righteous policeman risks everything as he struggles to save his drug using sister from the tyrannical forces of prohibition.

When the government targets junkies for genocide, a self-righteous policeman fights to save his drug using sister.

Another logline for Carrion

A week ago I submitted a logline for Carrion to Logline It!. Overall it was pretty rewarding experience. I had some really positive responses. You can see how I got on in my previous post My experience with Logline It! I was going over some stuff today and came up with an even more accurate logline for Carrion.

When the government embarks on a genocidal programme against junkies, a self-righteous policeman battles to save his drug using sister.

I’m resubmiting it to Logline It!. Let’s see what they think.

The iceberg opponent

I’ve been going over the plot for Carrion while skipping through Anatomy of Story by John Truby. In the chapter outlining Twenty-Two-Step Story Structure there is a section called The Iceberg Opponent. Truby argues that in order to make your antagonist as dangerous as possible you should create a hierarchy of opponents and “hide the hierarchy from the hero and the audience.” This worries me slightly because Adam’s opponents aren’t really hidden from him. The only element really hidden from him is the true nature of prohibition. I’m not sure if that’s enough? Adam’s main opponent is Reiner. He’s the one who want’s to stop Adam achieving his desire; save Christine. As the plot develops Adam encounters ever more hostile forces. But the insects, police and military he battles to save Christine are less a hidden opponents and more a hierarchy of force. Why would they hide? As I noted in my previous post “prohibitionist’s aren’t shy about tell us they think users should be killed.” In an earlier chapter of Anatomy of Story, Truby urges you to “always look for the deepest conflict that your hero and opponent are fighting over.” I mentioned this briefly in The antagonist’s antagonist that deep down Adam and Reiner are actually fighting over the kind of society they live in. Which version will prosper? “Will it be a society of freedom ultimately chosen by Adam or will it be a society of security demanded by Reiner?” So this is a fight for freedom or security. And if you dig even deeper security is actually an analogue of power. I often quip prohibition isn’t about public health, it’s about public control. It’s a aphoristic way of saying prohibition is a mechanism used to control the population. Adam’s real opponent, the opponent hidden at the deepest part of the iceberg, is actually power. But not just any power, the power to destroy an entire class of people because they don’t fit their view of how you should live in the world. What Reiner is actually fighting for is tyranny.

My experience with Logline It!

I recently came across a website dedicated to perfecting the art of the logline. Logline It! is a site that allows you to test your logline “before you send it into the world.” I have a difficult relationship with loglines. They’re hard to write, requiring the kind of sparse clarity you won’t find anywhere else. I know Twitter limits you to 140 characters but Twitter is the shotgun compared to the precision of a logline’s sniper rifle. As with all things to do with art of screenwriting the logline has a history. The term goes back to the old days of the Hollywood studios. Stories and screenplays would be “logged” by the story department. The logline identifies projects throughout it’s life at the studios. A good logline is supposed to “convey the dramatic story of a screenplay in the most abbreviated manner possible.” It should tell us who the story is about. Not his name but the essence of who he is. What he wants. What’s his desire? And finally what stands in his way. His antagonist? I write and rewrite mine until they stop making sense. Frankly it’s a little soul destroying. If I’m honest I don’t really finish one; it just gets to the point where I have to say that’s it. I make it as good as I can but always have this nagging doubt that I just haven’t nailed it. So you can imagine the trepidation I felt when I posted a logline for Carrion on Logline It!. What follows is the conversation about my Carrion longline.

Darrin Nightingale posted:
When the government release swarms of drug eating insects to kill the junkie population a self-righteous policeman risks everything as he struggles to save his drug using sister from the tyrannical forces of prohibition.

patrockd says:
An interesting concept and logline – with protag, goal, obstacles and stakes! It can be trimmed down though. Howabout:

When the government releases a swarm of junkie killing insects, a self righteous policeman must save his addict sister.

Darrin Nightingale says:
I thought I was being concise until I read your version. I like the sparseness. Part of me has been afraid to be that essential. But, as your version eloquently illustrates, sparseness is the name of the game with loglines. There is one thing I would change. I prefer the phrase “drug using sister” instead of “addict sister”. How does this sound?

When the government release swarms of junkie killing insects a self-righteous policeman struggles to save his drug using sister.

I know it’s pedantic but the distinction that not all drug users are addicts is really important to the story. I might be wrong. You tell me. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

toastman says:
I suppose it depends on the drug. If it’s heroin, I’d say “heroin”. Unless she’s just a casual weed smoker, in which case this is a different film that what I’d be expecting.

toastman says:
If it’s prescription pain-killers, that’s another story as well. I think I need to know what drug.

Darrin Nightingale says:
The story deals specifically with illicit drugs. The insects are genetically engineered to eat drugs. A different insect for each drug. The pathology of the insects involve the drug users in their reproductive cycle. Basically the insects are released. Feed on the drugs. Then attack a user of that drug. The insects larva then use the host as food. Literally eating the user from the inside out. Killing the host when they mature and escape the body. The insects are manifestation of prohibition taken to its merciless unrelenting conclusion.

Kriss Tolliday says:
I agree it does have all the relevant components for a log line so kudos my friend, however (always a but) I would lose the generic ‘risks everything’ and trim down some unnecessary parts like the ‘tyrannical forces of prohibition’. It is a good idea but just needs telling in fewer words. I wander if maybe to not include the insects and keep the way they kill them a mystery or be able to get what they are across in fewer words as the opening line takes a while to build momentum.
Overall though a really interesting idea.

Darrin Nightingale says:
I agree with everything you said but didn’t really see it so clearly until you pointed it out. The phrases “risks everything” and “tyrannical forces of prohibition” are, as you said, generic and unnecessary. Taking on board your advise to not include the insect and prompted by patrockd’s reply I offer this revision.

When the government start to kill the junkie population, a self-righteous policeman fights to save his drug using sister.

How does that sound? This has been really interesting for me. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

cynosurer says:
Not sure I like the phrase ‘self righteous’. With it’s negative connotation you could be starting off with a hero nobody likes. That’s okay in a script but in a logline it can be troublesome. It almost makes me want the sister to be the protag. Also you might want to give the guy more of a connection to the program: When the government’s secret plan to kill junkies with mutant insects projects a DEA administrator’s ‘casual use’ sister as ‘acceptable collateral damage’ he takes on a swarm of self righteous DEA agents.
Suggested titles:
Buzz Kill
CounteRAID (winner of the product placement award)
Swarm to Protect

cynosurer says:
Oops!
A slight fix to get it to 30 words:
A secret plan to kill junkies with mutant insects projects a DEA agents’s ‘casual use’ sister as ‘acceptable collateral damage’. He takes on a swarm of self-righteous administrators and bugs.

Darrin Nightingale says:
Thanks for your input but your ideas take the story in a completely different direction. My story basically forces a prohibitionist to experience the cruelty of prohibition and deals with the outcome of that experience. The protagonist’s self-righteousness is a manifestation of his beliefs as a prohibitionist. By the end of the story he is the polar opposite but self-righteous really is the only way to describe his moral and psychological weakness at the beginning of the story. I’m not too worried about describing a hero nobody likes. I hope he is someone people empathise with. For me his self-righteousness raises a moral dilemma that is interesting. He’s a prohibitionist with a drug using sister. When the prohibitionists start to kill the junkie population. What does he do? Does he remain a prohibitionist and let his sister be killed? Or does he take action and risk everything to save her? It forces him into a corner and asks him to make a compelling choice. Your logline hints at a secret plan. This is interesting because early in the development of the story the drug eating insects were part of a coup d’etat. The crisis caused by the insects was a stepping stone that allowed a military dictatorship to take power. I abandoned the idea because I was unable to reconcile the general hostility prohibitionist have towards users and the inherent secrecy of a plan. Prohibitionist’s aren’t shy about tell us they think users should be killed. It seemed more compelling for the protagonist to go up against the whole of society, rather than have him uncover a plot to kill a class of people society vilifies. Thanks for taking the time to reply. It’s allowed me to clarify my idea and steer my logline to be that bit better.

cynosurer says:
Thanks for the explanation. With that in mind you might consider making it more a part of the conflict than character description… in the logline
A crusading policeman must reassess his self-righteous nature when a government plan to use mutant insects to kill junkies indiscriminately targets his drug using sister.

If I had to pick one logline I’d have to go with patrockd’s version. It really is the essence of the story told in as few words as possible. Interestingly cynosurer’s comments highlighted for me the moral dilemma at the core of the story. I hadn’t realised how much I’d invested in the protagonists self-righteousness, closing the gap between that weakness and his sister is the essence of the story.

The antagonist’s antagonist

In an earlier post “Adam’s opponents” I mentioned John Truby‘s notion of four cornered opposition. It’s a strategy that increases the depth of a story by increasing the number of opponents the protagonist has to deal with. It makes all the characters more rounded especially the hero because he’s forced to deal with the central problem of the story from at least three other points of view. For Carrion I’ve designed a four cornered opposition which places Adam in conflict with Reiner. They’re the mirror of each other. Similar in many ways. But because Adam decides to save Christine they become mortal enemies. Reiner is the prototypical prohibitionist fighting with Adam over the kind of society they live in. Which version of society will prosper? Will it be a society of freedom ultimately chosen by Adam or will it be a society of security demanded by Reiner? Adam’s second opponent is Christine. Although she’s his sister and it’s his attempts to save her that put him conflict with Reiner, they’re still in conflict with each other. While she articulates the point of view of the drug user in the story. Deep down their opposition is about how he treats his younger sibling. Is he able to respect her point of view, treat her as an equal, behave more compassionately, less patriarchally towards her? The final character in this four cornered opposition is Sexton. He’s not only in opposition with Adam and Christine but also Reiner. He is the binary opposite to Reiner. The antagonist’s antagonist. Articulating the dealer’s point of view in the story; I think? When I fist envisioned Sexton he was the stereotypical drug dealer. I had in my head the many incarnation of drug dealers in cinema. The hapless career criminal of Henry Hill in Goodfellas. He get’s high on his own supply and drops himself straight into witness protection. I thought of the accent wielding, coke snorting, gun touting nihilist Tony Montana in Scarface. Before considering the calculating, ruthless, out for profit businesspersons of Carlos and Helena Ayala portrayed in Traffic. The thing is, none of these interpretation of a drug dealers represent my understanding of who Sexton is in Carrion. It wasn’t until I realised Sexton has to be more optimistic that I started to get a handle on who he really is. A large part of that realisation came while reading Jack London‘s “The Iron Heel“. A dystopian fiction about the rise of an oligarchic tyranny in the United States. Completed in 1908 London’s novel is based on the fictional “Everhard Manuscript” written by Avis Everhard; hidden and subsequently found centuries later. Added to this manuscript are a series of footnotes written by fictional scholar Anthony Meredith around 2600 AD. It’s a Marxist interpretation of capital told as a love story between Avis and Ernest Everhard. Avis is the middle class daughter of an academic who’s eyes are opened to the plight of the proletariat at the hands of the plutocracy. Ernest Everhard is a hero of the working man who is martyred by the oligarchy as he attempts to progress the revolution and progress society to a socialist future. He’s a smart character with a clear view of the world and what he is fighting for. Reading The Iron Heel made me realise that Sexton needs to have something of the Ernest Everhard’s about him. Adam’s not going to respond to the hapless actions of a character like Henry Hill. He’s not going to listen to the nihilistic rants of a Tony Montana. The ruthless logic of a businessman like Carlos Ayala won’t persuade him to see the world differently. Adam’s only going to respond to someone who is able to see what is happening and articulate enough to communicate it. He has to be intelligent, articulate and willing to take direct action. I’m a little worried that he might come across as unbelievable, somewhat fanciful, an idealist. I know it’s a risk. But take solace in having encountered one or two character who are evangelical about drugs. Who take pride in prosthelytizing the grace offered by psychotropic substances. Carrion needs Sexton. It needs him to show Adam how to live in the world.

myPDFscripts

Part of learning to write screenplays is reading screenplays. The first thing I do after watching a film I like is try and source a copy of the screenplay. I’ve been taught so much by reading the work of writers like Walter Hill and Michael Mann, Tony Gilroy and Robert Towne. I could only do this because of sites like myPDFscripts. The first screenplay I ever read from beginning to end was Steven Soderbergh‘s Sex, Lies, and Videotape. I found a version in a second hand book store. Although it was in book form it was correctly formatted; courier typeface, capitalised scene heading, indented dialogue, one page per minute. It looks like an actual screenplay. I can’t tell you how important it was to me. Just seeing it laid out on the page taught me so much. And myPDFscripts allowed you to download actual copies of these gems. I’d argue the only way you can ever understand how a screenplay relates to the screen is to see it on the page. I could talk all day about the staccato rhythms of Walter Hill’s writing. How his haiku style rolls down the page and how that translates to the terse on screen action of films like The Warriors. A Michael Mann screenplay is like nothing you’ll ever see. Scene headings run into description that run into dialogue emulating the slick pace of his on screen action. Seeing it flow down the page tells you something about the craft of screen writing not found in any guru book on the subject. The advent of the internet has allowed me to access a larger spectrum of screenplays past and present. But as Sheridan of myPDFscripts can attest all that seems destined to disappear. Studios take a dim view of sites like his posting screenplays for download. Threats of legal action have changed the way he is going to run this vital resource. And that’s what it was. A vital resource for anyone interested in film. I don’t repost other sites but I thought his article, outlining why he is changing the focus of his site, is worthy of attention. It raises a massive question for future of screen writing. How will people like me learn the craft of screen writing if we’re unable to see the work of other screen writers?

Concerning MediaFire and the Current Lack of Scripts…

So, you may have noticed a serious lack of scripts on the site recently. In fact, there are none currently. Don’t worry, though, that will change very soon… but probably in a way that will greatly disappoint many of you.

First, let’s tackle what happened with MediaFire and all the scripts. In short, it’s all my fault. Yes, I’m owning up to my own mistake here. I fucked up. The short version is when the Twentieth Century Fox DMCA notice hit my inbox, I decided that rather than change the text of each script entry on the site to read something like “Script removed at the request of Twentieth Century Fox,” that I would instead just delete the entire script page. Some people were getting a little frustrated when loading a page in hopes of finding a script only to find a “removed” message instead. Understandable. It would piss me off, too, so I just deleted all of the offending script pages and their respective download links. Meaning, I changed my usual routine for removing scripts, so what I didn’t do because of that was delete them from the MediaFire account as well. At least, not all of them, I think. You can already see the problem here, I’m sure…

So, one morning last month, MediaFire sent me a DMCA notice regarding one script. I didn’t react immediately because that wasn’t out of the ordinary. I routinely received notices from them. Most of the time, their DMCA notices were from the RIAA thinking our PDF files were actually mp3 files masquerading with alternate file extensions. I’ve had to contest the removal of files like “Freebird.pdf” and “Fury.pdf” more than once, especially considering those are Amateur Scripts and I’ve been given explicit permission by their authors to post them. Annoying? Yes. Anyway, a little later that day, I received another DMCA notice from MediaFire. Then another. Then a list. At that point I realized what I had done, but it was too late. I tried to login to my account only to be greeted by this wonderful screen:

Part of me wanted to contest it with MediaFire, to get them to allow me to log in to my account, so I could prove that no one had downloaded those scripts since I had removed them from the site, but then another part (the really pissed off part that knew I would inevitably make a mistake like this) decided to hell with it. Contesting wouldn’t have mattered anyway, the scripts were there in my MediaFire account among all of the other scripts and, in the end, that was all that did matter. So, I’m an idiot, and it was my fault and mine alone.

I will now pause briefly and allow you to curse my name and hurl vile obscenities in my general direction. It’s okay, I deserve it, I can take it…

You good?

No?

Okay, keep ‘em coming…

So, how am I choosing to move forward with scripts on the site? Excellent question.

With all of the DMCA notices from the studios and their e-mails and the legal brouhaha surrounding screenplays and scripts at the moment and my increasingly busy schedule, I think it’s time for a change of pace, a different approach, a new direction. I’ve done some serious soul-searching and I’ve come to a conclusion. But before I tell you that conclusion, let me explain how it is that I came to it.

You see, I love this site. I created it for a reason, because I love screenplays. I love writing and reading scripts. I love helping people find screenplays that they’ve desperately been searching for. I love to talk about the process of screenwriting with other writers. Simply, I love all things screenwriting. I do. I spent two-and-a-half years working really, really hard to post all of the scripts that were here and molding this site into what it has become today. Well… what it was a couple months ago… So, what I don’t like is spending hours upon hours upon hours posting screenplays only to be told to remove them days, weeks, or months later. I don’t like receiving DMCA notices. I don’t like receiving e-mails from individual writers who ask to have their scripts removed. I don’t like feeling like a “bad guy.” I don’t like silly producers who call me a “clown” and threaten legal action. I don’t like the ring-around-the-rosie that I get from studio legal departments and their lawyers. Most importantly, I don’t like to be bullied, so why would I choose to continue to do something that ultimately leads down a path that intersects with all of those things that I don’t like? Doesn’t make much sense does it?

Every week I spend my hard-earned money on some film-related media, whether it’s going to a theater or purchasing a DVD, Blu-ray, screenplay, book, what have you. But I’ve realized something: why should I support a studio that’s more concerned about the online availability of a forty-three-year-old script than they are about releasing a good movie today? Does it matter if the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid screenplay is freely available online? I mean, does it really,really matter in the greater scheme of things? The movie is sitting here on the shelf next to me, and it’s my third copy. I owned it on VHS, then I bought the very first version of the DVD, before upgrading to the latest DVD release. Twentieth Century Fox has gotten money out of me for that single film not once, but three times! I would buy the Blu-ray to make it a fourth, but you know what, I’m not going to. I wanted to, and had planned to, but dealing with Fox has left such a sour taste in my mouth that I don’t want to buy it. F**k them. There’s protecting copyright and then there’s just being ridiculous. Currently in production scripts are understandable, I get it, that makes sense. What I don’t get, and what doesn’t even remotely make an ounce of sense, is being asked to remove How Green Was My Valley. I mean, c’mon, really? And guess what, I’m not stopping with Fox or Butch Cassidy. No, sir. There’s a whole list of movies here on The myPDFscripts No-Post Script Index that won’t see a single red cent from me ever, or ever again.

That said, I’d much rather support writers and artists who “get it.” Sometimes I’ve spent my hard-earned cash because of people I’ve interviewed or made contact with in some form, either through or because of this site. These purchases I do not regret in the least (except The Thing, which Fox made me remove):

Why did I purchase Faintheart? Because David Lemon is a cool guy. Why did I purchase Brick and The Brothers Bloom? Because Rian Johnson is a cool guy. Why did I purchase Harry Brown and Madam Samurai? Because Gary Young is a cool guy. Why did I purchase The Losers? Because Andy Diggle is a cool guy. Why did I purchase 3:10 To Yuma? Because Derek Haas is a cool guy. Why did I purchase The Thing? Because Eric Heisserer is a cool guy. Why did I purchase X Films? Because Alex Cox is an amazing guy (for reasons I will soon illustrate). They all took time out of their day to share their thoughts and their work, and I don’t mind repaying that gratitude by purchasing their products. I’m happy to support writers and artists who “get it.” And you can bet for damn sure that I’ll be purchasing Grabbers the moment it hits DVD/Blu-ray. Why? Because Kevin Lehane is a cool guy! Add to that list the film Deviation because writer/director J.K. Amalou and producer Lara Greenway personally sent me their script for inclusion on this site. They get it!

And that’s the conclusion that I’ve come to: I want to support the people — and only the people — who get it.

Thing is, it may not work in every instance, which brings me back to Alex Cox. After the Universal DMCA notice and subsequent removal of scripts, Mr. Cox contacted me and had this to say:

I am the author of the screenplay REPO MAN. I believe you have received a ‘takedown’ notice from Universal to remove the script. I do not agree with this. I’m very pleased you have my script on your site and would like to see it remain. If you would like to add any other of my scripts, get in touch. You are welcome to post them.

Did I want to immediately repost the script? You bet I did, but what kind of legal ramifications would that cause? I decided to check with Universal. Their response?

Mr. Cox is the author of the Repo Man screenplay; however, his rights to and interests in the screenplay for the film were granted to Universal Pictures, which is the exclusive owner of Repo Man throughout the world in perpetuity, including, without limitation, all copyrights in the film and in the underlying screenplay. Accordingly, Universal stands by its request that you take-down the Repo Man screenplay from your website.

Fair enough, I suppose. The more adept of you might point out that the script is actually available on Alex’s personal website, which is where I’d actually gotten it to begin with. I decided to mention this to Universal and ask if it would be okay to link to the script on Alex’s site, knowing full well what their response would be, but wanting to actually see it in print.

Sure enough, they responded.

Ready for this?

You sure?

It’s disgusting…

Please don’t post the links. I don’t believe Mr. Cox is authorized to post the script on his personal website either.

It’s a sad, sad state of affairs when a screenwriter asks me, nay gives me FULL PERMISSION, to post their script and I can’t because if I did I would get sued by a studio. It’s an even worse state of affairs when you’re told a screenwriter can’t even post their own script on their own website because some legal “expert” somewhere thinks that the screenwriter doesn’t own it.

Why is it again that we want to be a part of this industry?

This correspondence with Universal absolutely disgusted me. It made me physically ill. The only — with a very strong emphasis on the word “only” — thing that gave me any hope afterward was Alex’s response to it:

Sheridan,
Your site is extremely valuable – yesterday I downloaded several scripts including BONNIE AND CLYDE which I’ll use next semester in my screenwriting class (unable to make a living as an independent filmmaker I’m also teaching film at Boulder, CO). You are welcome to download any and all my scripts at

http://alexcox.com/writing.htm

and re-post them. Since you’re doing this for no money as far as I’m concerned it’s obviously FAIR USE and very beneficial to film enthusiasts, students and academics.

The studios, including Universal, are pretty clearly a criminal enterprise, operating an illegal blacklist and functioning as a price-fixing cartel. They actually have legislation which permits them to operate as a cartel abroad (the law is called Webb-Pomerene) but absolutely no right to operate as a cartel domestically. They do so because they’re powerful and have politicians in their pockets. If the cops ever went after them using the RICO statutes the whole studio cartel would collapse like a pack of cards, and individuals like their “litigation counsel” would have to look for honest work.

It’s unlikely that this will happen, but we can dream.

See what I mean about Alex being an amazing guy? After that e-mail I’m an Alex Cox fan for life… and I’m seriously considering moving to Boulder for some film classes.

A couple e-mails later and Alex had this to add:

Univesal are both right and wrong. Right because in many cases writers do cede all their rights to a purchaser, and lose them. Wrong because REPO MAN wasn’t a work for hire, and in three years time all rights to the script will revert to me under an obscure provision of US copyright law. This may be why they haven’t sent me a takedown notice: but it’s disgraceful that your site has been kneecapped in this way. Have you thought about transferring all the material to a server outside the US — in Brazil, perhaps? I know of others who have done this to keep valuable sites alive.

Good luck, and think about a server south of the border. As an academic (!) I found your site very useful and have shared several of those scripts with my students — fair use!

Many thanks,
Alex

See, Alex gets it.

The only reason you’re reading this right now is because of Alex and those few other writers that get it. Otherwise, I would have already pulled the plug on this site, but because of those writers out there that are willing to share their work and their time with us, the aspiring lot, I’m choosing to continue on and persevere and only support the writers/artists/companies that truly deserve my support, and in a way that won’t absolutely disgust or disappoint me any further.

Again, there will be scripts on this site soon, but they will only be scripts that I’ve been given explicit permission to post by the writers themselves.

Yes, that means that there’s going to be far less scripts, but it also means far less headaches for me and, most importantly, no more DMCA notices or lawyers or e-mails or studio cartel stupidity.

If this decision disappoints you, then I apologize. I’m not saying it without a certain degree of disappointment myself. There are still other script sites out there where you might be able to find the script you’re looking for. They’re quickly dwindling, but they’re out there.

On the other hand, if you approve of this decision, then maybe you can help me and this site. Maybe you could show a fellow writer this post. Maybe they’ll want to share their scripts. Then maybe other writers will want to share their scripts, too. And maybe before long, this site will be populated with scripts like it once was, but with legitimate scripts, shared by writers, for writers, without any studio interference. That’s my new dream for this site. Will it happen? I really can’t say. It seems like the writers that “get it” are few and far between these days, but that won’t stop me from hoping for the best.

If it doesn’t happen, then I’m still proud to share the scripts of Alex Cox, Rian Johnson, David Lemon, Matthew Grainger, Craig Mazin, Jeff Lowell, Andy Diggle, Bob DeRosa, Derek Haas, Brian Bird, Gary Young, Kevin Lehane, Matt Manfredi, Dan Fogelman, Brian Koppelman, and J.K. Amalou.

You know… the guys that get it.

The inevitable consequence of trials he has endured

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about character change. Specifically Adam’s range of change. I wonder if there is enough room for Adam to move from one moral perspective to another without there being, dread of dreads, a kind of light bulb moment at the end. His actions at the end of the story must be the inevitable consequence of trials he has endured. But if John Truby is right and “true character change involves a challenging and changing of basic beliefs, leading to new moral action by the hero” I’m aware that I’ve plotted a story that demands a complete reversal of moral perspective in less that two days. Obviously this has the potential to be an implausible transformation. There is a pro-log that sets up Adam’s relationship with Christine. It happens six months before the major events of the story. My hope is that there is enough distance between the action of the pro-log and his action at the end to make Adam’s transformation plausible. Adam begins the story as a self-righteous prohibitionist. That’s the point at which I start him. Primarily because it’s the polar opposite of his moral perspective  at the end. Adam’s self-righteousness drives him to arrest Christine and John. He takes a specific moral action based on his belief as a prohibitionist. His tough-love stance is born from a belief that he knows what is best for Christine. Chronologically this gives Adam six months to contemplate the consequence of his actions before the events of Carrion really get under way. My hope is that it introduces enough time for a level of self-doubt to creep into Adam’s character. He needs time to really feel the increasing threat of prohibition. So that when Reiner attacks the junkie at the end of act one the action he takes to save Christine don’t seem like too much of a leap. Hopefully the time between the pro-log and the inciting event is enough to make Adam’s arc believable. Ultimately Adam’s need to save Christine must fell not like the first step in his resistance of prohibition but something farther along the line. Something that is more like the forth or fifth step in a ten step journey. Starting this way will make the end point of Adam’s transformation that much closer. So that when he pick up a gun and attacks the forces of prohibition in the closing minutes of the story it doesn’t feel forced. It feels like the inevitable consequence of trials he has endured.

Adam’s opponents

Recently I plotted Carrion using a variation of “The Board” described by Blake Snyder in his book Save the Cat. More of that in another post. Working the board has thrown up several issues relating to Adam’s opponents. One of the key problems I realise needs pinning down is Adam’s conflict with prohibition; how does a prohibitionist find himself on the wrong side of prohibition? To understand this more fully I find myself going back to reaffirm what I think Carrion is about. I take the view, expressed by John Truby in his book Anatomy of Story, that a story is a moral argument. “Whenever you present a character using means to reach an end, you are presenting a moral predicament, exploring the question of right action, and making an moral argument about how best to live.” To make this argument the hero needs a collection of opponents (and allies) who force him to deal with the central moral problem. To find the best opponents for Adam I first need to recognise the question at the heart of Carrion; why are drugs prohibited? The usual reason given for drug prohibition is public health. Drugs are dangerous. They cause harm. So should be banned. For me this throws up at least one glaring hypocrisy; why aren’t drugs like cigarettes and alcohol subject to the same prohibitions as MDMA? Both cigarettes and alcohol have significant health risks associated with their use. Yet they are both freely available. For me the distinction between drugs that are banned and those that are not is arbitrary. And because it arbitrary it is inevitably motivated by something else. Something entirely political. Prohibition isn’t about public health. It’s about public control. Boiled down to it’s essence I am compelled to make the argument that prohibition is a form of oppression. An oppression that is inherently cruel and demands the destruction of anyone who opposes it. Faced with this insight it seems to me Adam’s only moral action in the story is to resist prohibition. Ultimately this leads him to become an insurgent in ensuing civil war. But for his arc to be fulfilled his opponents need to articulate the conflicting points of view present in the war on drugs. So Adam’s opponent is prohibition. But prohibition is too nebulous a concept on it’s own. We need to see it as something concrete. We need to see it both as an institution and as a character. Actually it needs to seen through a number of characters on all sides of the issue. As an institution prohibition organises society against those who take drugs. It is the laws prohibiting drug use. In Carrion it is the “Code 10” laws that stop convicted users from getting the medical attention. It is the sanctions imposed on those who help users. It’s a social pressure best described by the maxim; if you’re not with us you’re against us. But the institution of prohibition is only the backdrop to Carrion. It’s what Truby describes as the story world. It’s unrelenting cruelty is personified by the drug eating insects that attack users. They are the ever-present sanction prohibition imposes on the citizenry. They can’t be argued with. Which ironically articulates prohibitions intransigence. You take drugs you die. As an opponent the insects attack Adam indirectly through Christine. While they force him to take specific actions that contributes to the moral argument of Carrion. Adam’s real opponent, the opponent who challenges him directly, is Reiner. He’s the “character who wants to keep the hero from achieving his desire.” He’s the one who tries to stop Adam from saving Christine. But as Truby points out “a true opponent not only wants to prevent the hero from achieving his desire but is competing with the hero for the same goal.” This point throws up a question. What are Adam and Reiner really competing over? Adam’s desire is to save Christine. Reiner wants to see Christine dead. But he knows the insects will do that for him. He could just wait. Let them do their job. So if Adam and Reiner aren’t competing for Christine’s life. What are they fighting over? Adam’s desire represents a threat to Reiner. It confirms a fear that there is someone out there willing to challenge prohibition. At the core of the conflict is a fight over the the kind of world they live in. They’re fighting to have either a free society or a secure society. Let me explain. One of the primary arguments for prohibition is that drugs represent a threat. Not just to public health but to our security. Users are dangerous. Dealers are criminals. Drugs tear at the very fabric of society. Prohibition is the tool that keeps us safe. The irony is that prohibition is more of a threat to our public safety than drug use. But that is the subject of another post. Getting back to the point. What if prohibition doesn’t protect public health? What if it’s a form of oppression? Then the choice to take drugs amounts to demand for freedom over a notion of security. Deep down they’re fighting for a world of freedom or oppression. Another of Adam’s opponents is his sister Christine. If Reiner articulates the voice of prohibition Christine gives us the users point of view. Her strength in the story is her ability to attack Adam’s prejudices. Without her Adam would not begin to see the dangers of prohibition. He would not begin to see the oppression. His desire to save his sister is his call to arms. Whatever he may think of drugs and those who take them. Christine makes him see prohibition as something that need to be challenged. The final opponent to challenge Adam is Sexton. He is prohibition as seen by the dealer. In an earlier post “Adam’s immoral action” I contemplated another of Truby’s tenants. “In the early part of the story the hero is losing to the opponent. He becomes desperate. As a result he starts taking immoral actions to win.” In trying to answer this problem I asked myself the question. What kind of immoral actions does Adam take? The answer can best be summed up as “not fighting back”. Only through his conflicts with Sexton does Adam start to behave in a moral way. Structurally Sexton enters the story half way through. Adam has gone as far as he can with his initial course of action. And has failed to save Christine. Then he meets Sexton. An unrepentant drug dealer who is willing to challenge prohibition by taking the fight to them. Sexton’s actions challenge Adam’s immoral action. Forces him to realise the only moral action to take against prohibition is to fight it. Structurally this collection of characters is what Truby calls a four cornered opposition. The system not only allows the moral argument to be fully explored. Each character articulating a different set of values. Attacking Adam’s great weakness in a different way. But because they are not only in conflict with Adam but all the other characters in the story the amount of conflict jumps exponentially. And finally by pushing each of their values to the extremities of the four cornered opposition they all become as different as possible from the other three.