How to Pitch a Movie or PR Spam to My Inbox

My inbox runneth over. I am the daily recipient of so much email that pure mathematics cannot adequately describe it with numbers. In the time it takes you say ?googolplex,? my email would have already quintupled. What?s amazing is that not all of it is spam, at least in the traditional sense (male enhancement pills and the financial insolvency of the Nigerian ruling class).

Most the missives I received this week are pitches, either from publicists on behalf of their clients or misguided screenwriters who mistakenly take my pose as a media mogul more seriously than I. My inbox sees more pitching than a tent city. I get so many pitches, Major League Baseball should sell tickets. My inbox wears a T-shirt that reads, ?Life?s a pitch and then you die.? Continue reading “How to Pitch a Movie or PR Spam to My Inbox”

When is Autumn? Like, now, baby.

If I were an olde English person, I’d write, “Autumn is icumen in, lhude sing cuckoo!” If I were Ezra Pound, I’d write, “Autumn is icumen in, Lhude sing Goddamm!” But since I’m just a small town newspaperman, I’ll simply write “It’s autumn – I think.” Or to paraphrase William Blake who was “stain’d with the blood of the grape,” it feels about time to “Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers” doesn’t it?

More to the point, I can’t go anywhere without wearing a dark blazer and so, sweating out much of spring and summer, I’ve been long in my longing for the crisp breeze and overcast days of fall. Let us reflect on autumn and its balmy majesty for a moment … Done? Good. Now, let’s get the facts. Continue reading “When is Autumn? Like, now, baby.”

How to Write a Screenplay that Gives the Finger to Mythic Structure

mythic structure

Long before Harry Potter stroked his wand and yielded yet another sequel to his magically inflating franchise; eons before Frodo became the ring-bearer to his own tripartite wedding of myth and special effects; and far, far away from the uneasy alliance between a Sarah Lawrence College mythology professor and the advent of the blockbuster—there was a Swiss psychiatrist named Carl Jung.

The preeminent cartographer of the collective unconscious, Jung, by apocryphal accounts, developed his much ballyhooed notion of archetypes (elemental, psychically-charged patterns inherent in the unconscious) while examining the ill-fated attempts of alchemists to transmute base metals into gold.

The alchemists’ inadvertent byproduct was a record of their religious and philosophical preconceptions, various cultural conjectures and deeply rooted symbols—a font from which Jung began to extrapolate the diverse properties of our collective unconscious.

While endeavoring to understand dreams, art and other expressions of the unconscious, Jung isolated such archetypes as the Hero, the Mentor and the Quest. Understandably, these concepts have become a convenient shorthand for those who ply the screen trade. They reach a cinematic apotheosis of sorts in the recently published The Journey of Luke Skywalker: An Analysis of Modern Myth and Symbol. The book’s author, Steven A. Galipeau, M.A., M. Div., is a Jungian analyst in private practice on the outer fringes of Hollywood in Studio City, California.

In December of last year, the affable, pony-tailed Galipeau presented a lecture at the C.G. Institute of Los Angeles dubbed Fairytale and Myth in Film that examined the archetypal themes resonating throughout the first Star Wars saga, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter flicks. It was a cogent, well-deployed examination of Jung’s work as refracted through the prism of popular culture.

As can be expected, the talk attracted a fair number of would-be screenwriters—an ambitious lot disposed to discussing their own writing rather loudly, apparently on a quest for the Philosopher’s Stone of screenwriting. But did they find it?

A Good Mentor is Hard to Find

Screenwriting, as proffered by the entertainment industrial complex, is necessarily formulaic and rigorously calculated down to what kind of action should occur by a specific page number. Practitioners are always on the lookout for credible blueprints upon which to model their efforts, but their unwitting man behind the curtain of consciousness this particular night was a serious scholar, not a script wizard. No Robert McKee, he. At $20 a seat, however, it seemed reasonable to at least expect some pointers.

“Film is like an artificial dream,” Galipeau announced in an early segue into his material, which elicited a chorus of haughty “Hmms” from the screenwriters. It was as if they each, individually felt it necessary to second the motion, to signal to the world that they were indeed “getting it.”

This annoyance occurred anytime Galipeau made even the slimmest connection as when he said “Leia is Luke’s anima projection, literally projected from R2D2,” which yielded a torrent of rapturous “Ahs” (as did the rather off-hand observation that Luke frequently gets knocked unconscious—hmm, unconscious).

By far Galipeau’s most vociferous enthusiast was an oafish, ear-cuff-clad, half-Orc who histrionically howled every time the scholar mentioned Harry Potter’s “he-who-must-not-be-named,” by name.

As the lecture carried on, the wannabes could be spied tugging their goatees and guardedly fishing each other’s eyes, whilst covetous glints flared behind their own wire-framed lenses. Greedily, they shielded their notes with yellow, globular fingers—lest their hastily scratched insights end up in a compatriot’s screenplay.

This was their sacred knowledge:

1.) All mentor figures have beards—unless they are puppets. Obi-Wan had a fleecy chin, ditto Gandalf and Dumbledore. Yoda, a puppet, is clean shaven.

2.) All short, green, puppet or computer-generated characters (see also Dobbie, Potter’s self-flagellating house elf, or ring-junkie Gollum) have terrible grammar and frequently refer to themselves in the third person. This last observation is not Galipeau’s, but appears true nevertheless.

3.) Hobbits is tricksy.

Nothing New Under the Jung

Later, when Galipeau rolled out ye olde Jung chestnut “Dream the dream onward,” the aspirant screenwriters looked suddenly relieved. It was as if the notion was some sort of benediction, if not a pardon, like they took it to mean “there is but the one dream to rule them all”—or more specifically, there is “no need to re-invent the reel, steal to your heart’s content.”

Alas, no longer will one have to feel shame when outlining a screenplay straight from the table of contents to The Hero With a Thousand Faces. For that matter, one can wantonly throw Joseph Campbell’s seminal work of comparative mythology aside and openly the how-to tome The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Its author, Christopher Vogler, is Campbell’s lesser, Hollywood shadow—a cross-pitch of Campbell and ancient screenwriting guru Syd Field.

Vogler’s made-for-the-screen redux of Campbell’s magnificent book is essentially The Adventure Hero Cycle for Dummies, and is, as Yoda said of the Dark Side, “Quicker, easier, more seductive.”

Who can blame Vogler’s readers for wanting to take the shortest short-cut? So long as they don’t mistake the map for the journey, the road signs for the terrain, right? Perhaps they are the new alchemists, every misstep a new pathway in the unconscious as they stumble into psychic quarters beyond even those charted by Jung. In fact, maybe we should applaud their efforts, give their cause a hand. After all, Luke gave up a hand for his cause. Or, perhaps like Frodo, we should just give them the finger.

Naturally, I’ve written my own guide to Screenplay Structure, which you can get here.

How to Guest Blog and Get Invited Back

How to Guest BlogGuest-blogging is usually a one-off affair. You dash off some keyword dense, SEO-friendly screed on ?How To Guest Blog from a Federal Penitentiary? or ?Top 5 Ways Guest Blogging Can Improve Your Sex Life? with the understanding that the blog?s host will preserve the precious ?back link? from their blog to yours.

Naturally, the link is intended to drive traffic from the guest blog to your blog but not by the once-vaunted click-thru as one might assume. Rather, the back-link juices your mojo with the great and powerful Google Bot because its algorithm needs to see that some other site has vouched for yours. It?s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world and even robots need personal assurances these days. Continue reading “How to Guest Blog and Get Invited Back”

Public Speaking: Stop Thinking About Everybody Naked

Above flying on an airliner and even before death, people?s number one fear is public speaking. Given my disproportionate fear of the first two, public speaking has always been comparatively easy for me. Besides, fear of flying and dying can usually be allayed with a couple slugs of Lorazepam and a vodka tonic.

This home remedy (which you should NOT try at home) doesn?t work so well when it comes to public speaking (lurking on an iPhone somewhere is a video of a certain best man?s speech to prove it). Until that surfaces on the Internet, I can pretend my public speaking record is relatively flawless, at least at the ridiculously low standards to which I hold myself. My rules are simple: Don?t throw up. Don?t pass out. Only speak English. This is essentially the same mantra I repeated to myself on prom night when my date was the hot German exchange student and any experiments with liquor and language could prove lethal, not least of which to my reputation. Continue reading “Public Speaking: Stop Thinking About Everybody Naked”