Sunday, May 01, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 416: Proof of Concept

Used to be, if you wrote a good script and the studio liked the idea, it got produced.

Then we evolved to "packaging" scripts so the studios could feel more comfortable with what they were buying, where-in a director of some status and actors with familiar names were "attached" to the script.

Over time, these "packages" needed a further level of comfort, so they were "pre-sold", meaning money was committed from Azerbaijan or Zaire, so the studio or network didn't have to risk so much of its own cash.

But now a lot of the people who make movies are being asked by those who fund movies to provide further proof that they actually have the talent to make the movie in the first place.

It's kind of the writer/director version of actors being asked to appear at auditions in costume -- because the people doing the casting don't have the ability to believe an actor could play Spiderman unless they see him hidden under spandex.

Only in this case it involves a lot more than sewing a Hallow e'en costume in July. 

Along with putting up the money to rent or make costumes, a writer has to find a director and a cast, hire a crew, scout locations and secure the services of a company that does post production and/or CGI.

These people spend a few days realizing a scene or sequence from the script, not just bringing it off the page, but making it as close to what the final version might look like as possible.

It's the kind of process that demands an enormous outlay of creative energy and sweat equity while insuring that people in suits with no clue about how to do their job can keep drawing a salary

And if those execs viewing your final product don't consider your leading lady "fuckable" enough or believe your grandma's house is really located in an idyllic small town in the 1950's -- you're still out of luck. 

The smart screenwriter considers forgetting the middle man, mortgaging his house and continuing to shoot the film. At the very least it supports the "single vision" concept Writers Guilds like to champion -- and who needs to own a house anyway?

How good does a "proof of concept" need to be these days?

As good as what follows, the product of "Fight Club" scribe, Jim Uhls and Academy Award nominee director Ruairi Robinson.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 415: An Actor Prepares

I've always been a big fan of Bill Shakespeare. First play I ever did in high school was one of his. Studied him a lot. Hate how he's constantly over-analyzed. Love that he's as relevant four centuries after his death (anniversary of which was yesterday) as he was when he was still chronicling the human condition.

If I wanted to get very wealthy I'd start a religion and base its teachings on what you can learn from Bill's plays. But you'd have to be careful about that -- because there are so many ways to interpret what he (or the myriad of guys people claim actually wrote the stuff ) wrote.

And that means you'd spin off more sects and cults than all the religions so far created.

Ask any two actors how you should play any of the famous monologues and you'll get two different takes. Ask three actors and you'll get three. Four and -- well, you could go on forever. 

For me the key to Shakespeare is that he speaks to each of us on the level of our own experience. What you get out of him at any age reflects the events that got you to that age. He's the perfect barometer for how much both the actor and his/her audience have lived.

That's wonderfully expressed in this segment of last night's BBC tribute to the Bard.

Enjoy Your Sunday. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 414: You STILL Can't Handle The Truth

There have been several bewildered as well as angry accounts coming out of the USA lately about how little media time has been spent covering the Democratic Presidential Primary campaign of Bernie Sanders.

Despite winning a string of primaries and attracting overflow crowds to his speeches, Sanders can't seem to inspire any mainstream journalists to report on his apparently growing support.

With the Primary calendar moving to the New York state, Sanders supporters felt the media would have to take notice once those huge rallies started appearing in their own backyard.

But when nobody reported a gathering of tens of thousands in support of Senator Sanders in Manhattan's Washington Square, it became clear to anybody paying attention that somebody didn't want that story or those images widely distributed.

Now, depending on your political orientation, you might believe that's because the corporate media, like all capitalists, doesn't want to say nice things about a guy who hates them. Or, you might believe that the journalists covering Sanders know he doesn't have a hope of implementing any of his promises, so why bother giving him any traction.

The question I have is -- when did journalists decide that their job was to make up my mind for me? 

And we here in Canada shouldn't feel smug about how other journalists operate. Because our guys are doing the same thing.

Friday afternoon, CBC Newsworld's "Power and Politics" featured a story on how Prime Minister Trudeau had floored reporters with his insight into the world of Quantum computing. 

Host Rosemary Barton showed a clip of the PM at a Quantum conference as a reporter jokingly asked Trudeau to explain the science and then posed his more serious question about what's going on with us and ISIS.

Trudeau, like any good politician, deflected to the computing question so he didn't have to say too much about a subject he doesn't really want to talk about. 

Despite watching a fellow journalist being outflanked, Barton and her panel had a giggle and she wondered aloud what would have happened if the PM wasn't such a gadget geek.

The answer seemed straightforward to me -- in that case the story would have never run on CBC Newsworld.

And apparently I wasn't the only one who noticed the shift in principles around here...

Now, during our most recent Federal election, it became clear to those on both the Left and Right of the political spectrum that our media was enamored of Mr. Trudeau. And given the government he was running against that may be fair.

But now that they've got their Disney Prince, do they really think most of us can't see through the ongoing gush-fest?

Will we ever go back to reporting the facts and allowing the Public to decide for themselves whether the guy is up to the job or not?

A story out of Halifax this week suggests the defensive shields are fully up.

A week ago, the venerable local paper, the Chronicle Herald, produced a piece on bullying in a local school -- bullying by recent Syrian Refugee children on the kids in their school.

It suggested that maybe the local authorities had perhaps painted too rosy a picture of the new arrivals -- or that the powers that be had not truly been prepared to meet their needs.

The minute the story began to garner National interest, however, the newspaper spiked it, pulled it off its website and basically began claiming there had been no story in the first place. 

Except it seems there was. A story that's politically incorrect in our current environment.

You can find the machinations of what went on, including the Chronicle-Herald's original posting here.

And here's what you get when another reporter does some actual journalism.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 413: H Positive

The Canadian Federal Government will get around to tabling legislation on assisted dying this week. I'm sure it will be a respectful and serious debate that's probably long overdue.

The news in my local paper on the weekend, however, told the story of John Hofsess, an advocate of those facing terminal or debilitating conditions and not wishing to suffer what insults or agonies Nature might have in store wanted to exit on their own terms at a time of their choosing.

Hofsess took his own life a couple of months ago, at the same time acknowledging that he had been the one who assisted the passing of a number of Canadians including well-known poet Al Purdy.

But it seems that when Hofsess' time came, it was actually premature. He had a few good months left, but was worried the Feds might prevent him from controlling his final exit when his past was revealed, so he bumped up the departure date.

Being the kind of guy who doesn't know how to give up on anything and like the kid gifted with a pile of manure on his birthday, starts digging because "There's got to be a pony in here somewhere" -- it's not likely I'd ever opt to have a doctor usher me out the door.

And I also worry that however "humane" our government may want to appear -- we all know that this'll end up as some kind of bureaucratic process with specifically designed steps down the path to that nice farm in the country where all the dogs run and play all day. 

But what if you could choose something special as your last hurrah?

What if you could be "H-Positive"...?

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 412: Don't Be An Untold Story

I'm trying something a little different with today's Lazy Sunday post. Because I've been doing a lot of thinking about screenwriters in Canada lately and how we can improve our situation.

Some thoughts on that will arrive here in the coming days. Meantime, I'd like to prime you with some thoughts from a British band called "The Struts".

They reminded me of the energy and commitment shared by a lot of us who aspired to screenwriting (and other showbiz related) careers when I was starting out. And that was a time before writers guilds, government funding, screenwriting conferences and all the other systems of support that are now in place -- yet somehow still leave so many of our stories untold.

That's because the drive to tell those stories is supposed to come from the story-tellers first...

If it all starts with the writer, then writers must be the first to change.

More to come...

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 411: Peep This!

Two recipes in a row. I'm getting in a rut. But then, ever since I was a kid, Easter for me has always been rut territory.

I'm done with Winter but it isn't done with me. Even if it's warming up in Canada, we're dealing with melting snow, mud and other things that curtail outdoor activities.

Used to be the local world went radio silent for Good Friday, took a quick gasp of breath on Saturday and then settled in for a long quiet Sunday of Lily pots and Ham at Grandma's house. When the high point is unearthing days old hard boiled eggs, it always made me long for school on Monday.

And even now, when I'm at an age where I could hide my own eggs, it still bores the ass off me.

What better excuse than to get drunk.

And with the help of Easter treats like Marshmallow Peeps you can do that in a way that would make the Easter Bunny proud.

I give you then, not one but two Easter Cocktail instruction videos as well as my own favorite cocktail of the season.

You'll be instantly sugared up and hammered. How could you not...

Enjoy your Sunday!

Peep This Amigo!

Sugar and salt mix
2.5 oz Tequila
1 oz Fresh lemon juice
2 dashes Bitters
1 oz Simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
8-10 Blueberries
1 Egg white
Yellow Peep
Glass: Cocktail
Rim a cocktail glass with a mix of 50-percent sugar and 50-percent salt and set aside. Add the rest of the ingredients to a shaker and muddle. Shake without ice. Add ice and shake again vigorously. Strain into the prepared cocktail glass and garnish with a yellow Peep.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 410: Spicy Peanut Butter Soup

It's officially Spring. But being that I'm in Canada, that means it's not quite warm and sunny just yet. Thus one more day where it's nice to have a hot bowl of soup for lunch.

Now, I could rummage for an old cookbook and try matching some soup ingredients to what I've got on hand. But who knows how long that would take -- and honestly, is there any reason to even own a cookbook anymore?

Seriously, ever time I go grocery shopping, I roll past the Jamie Oliver display and ask myself -- "Does nobody who shops here own a computer?".

Finding a recipe for virtually anything takes seconds. And seconds later you can usually find a video taking you through it step by step in case you're a complete idiot in the kitchen.

But if you're not one of those, where do you find a recipe video that will also entertain you while you go through the cooking process?

If you're me, you check out a Youtube Channel entitled "You Suck At Cooking".

There, you'll not only find quick and easy (and delicious) recipes but an upbeat and fun approach to the process.

This week I found (and tried) Spicy Peanut Butter Soup. The perfect thing for a day when Winter is still hanging on past its use by date.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 409: The Dishwasher

Canada is a country without studios and broadcast networks striving to build a vibrant production industry. Virtually nothing gets made without handouts from governments who appear equally disinterested in doing more than is absolutely necessary to shore up the appearance that there's a real film industry here.

And most of that largess goes to producers with a long track record of failing to find audiences.

Hardly anybody truly steps up to give an untried writer or director with a vision a shot.

Oh, there's certainly a boom going on. Almost everybody's working as a result of a weak dollar and generous tax credits to anybody wanting to make a Lifetime, Syfy or Superhero movie North of the 49th.

Meanwhile, our own stories continue to languish. And our brightest story tellers seldom get the opportunity to even hint at what they can do.

But if you live in BC or Alberta, there's a ray of hope. It comes from Telus which, despite its cable footprint, is primarily a phone company.

Telus have called their initiative "Storyhive" -- a community funded program for emerging content creators. I'd call it the Canadian equivalent of Roger Corman, the Hollywood producer who launched more major careers than almost everybody else put together.

Storyhive just released it's winning short film. "The Dishwasher" by Vancouver writer-director Matthew Johnson.

It's a masterful creation, revealing a film-maker who truly gets how cinematic story-telling works. It hooks you from the first frame and doesn't let go of your emotions until well after the last.

If the industry were still run by Hollywood moguls, one of them would be telling his money guys, "This kid knows what he's doing. Just give him enough money and stay out of his way".

I give you "The Dishwasher".

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 408: Write This Down

Once upon a time, there were people known as Public Letter Writers. They sat in market places, had a storefront in frontier boom towns, operated out of the back booth of a coffee shop where their clients would not be embarrassed to meet with them.

Public letter writers provided a service to those who could not read or could not write allowing them to fill out government forms, conduct business or communicate with loved ones.

Many still exist today in third world countries where literacy levels are low. But they are coming back to the first world as well-- because our kids don't know how to write anymore.

Pushed by technological advances, the need to use the kind of Cursive handwriting we were all once taught in elementary school has become less necessary. When you can thumb a mobile keyboard or tap a screen, there's little need to know how to operate a pen or pencil anymore.

Email has replaced letters to friends and family. Students, journalists and executives in boardrooms take notes on tablets or laptops. You don't even have to endorse a check anymore. You just send a picture of it to your bank.

45 American states no longer include Cursive in the curriculum of their education systems and those that still too don't teach it all that much. Canadian educators are moving in the same direction.

Some may see that as an inevitable future.

Last week I met a student at a nearby University who is part of a writing group. She and her colleagues don't study writing or share short stories. They write letters for fellow students who no longer have such skills. University students. Many of whom don't even have a signature, opting for print or a symbolic scrawl instead.

I often get complimented on my handwriting. It's apparently incredibly legible. What few know is that I invented the "font" I use when I was 12 or 13. I'd just gotten a beautiful fountain pen as a birthday present and I loved using it. Problem was I went through ink by the bucket and it was beginning to impact my ability to afford licorice pipes and comic books.

The solution seemed clear. Rather than write less, get rid of all the Cursive curlicues I'd been taught to identify or connect the letters. What evolved was something sans serif, a phrase I wouldn't learn til years later. 

It may have been that invention process that first gave me an insight into something all writers know. It isn't just about putting words down on paper. The physical act connects you with so much more on so many other levels.

Many times, when plot or character aren't working the way I want them to, I'll still step away from the keyboard and pick up a pen and legal pad. Writing by hand requires a very different mental process, one involving parts of the mind closed by the ease of typing.

Sooner rather than later, what I've been trying to accomplish is back on track. Likewise, I never sit down to rewrite before the previous draft has been revised in pencil or red ink. Things just go better if I do the grunt work by hand.

I'll leave the explanation of just how all that works to Master Penman Jake Weidmann an artist and writer who knows just how much we are losing in our trade-off with technological advance.

It's not just the words on the page. It's a chunk of our humanity.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Monday, February 29, 2016


Early in the life of this blog, I acknowledged that its title was inspired by the now defunct Catholic Legion of Decency, created in 1933 by the American Roman Catholic Church, with the stated goal of "purifying cinema".

In supporting this initiative, Pope Pius XI uttered one of my favorite quotes, "Everyone knows bad movies are bad for the soul". Although his Holiness and I would likely disagree on exactly  what kind of movie might damage your eternal soul.

The goals of that original Legion were not far removed from those of the zeolots who knocked the penises from statuary in Ancient Rome or the village priest in "Cinema Paradiso", pre-screening all the movies coming to town and ringing his little bell to signal which moments must be edited out before they were shown.

The Legion saw and rated all films distributed in the United States from 1933 to 1980, either giving them an "A" for being "morally unobjectionable", rating them a "B" as "morally objectionable" or in many cases "C" for "Condemned".

From their pulpits, Catholic Priests would admonish their flocks of the hellfire and damnation which might come their way if they dared to watch a condemned film.

Explaining the intellectual process by which films became condemned would take a doctoral thesis -- of which there are several if you choose to look them up. Suffice it to say, the quality or intent of any given film took a backseat to ideology and a suspicion of its true motives. 

Much like a lot of the reaction to stuff you innocently post in your Facebook feed.

Among the films condemned in 1933 were such innocuous entertainments as "Flying Down To Rio" and classics like "Queen Christina". Other cinematic touchstones would follow, from "Black Narcissus" to "M", "Rififi" and "Some Like it Hot".

Studio executives and theatre owners being who they were (and often still are) bent over backwards to appease the Legion and the Church, often making edits or relegating films that had been rated poorly to less patronized theatres. Sometimes their distribution was cancelled altogether. 

With few speaking out against them, the Legion further flexed its muscle. In 1960 alone, they condemned "Breathless", "Never on Sunday", "Psycho" and "Spartacus".

And these modern day penis whackers would go on to condemn "From Russia With Love", "The Odd Couple", "The Producers" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show".

By the late 1970's, with artists wresting greater control of their product from the studios, the Legion's power began to fade, but they still insisted Catholics might burn in Hell simply for viewing "Taxi Driver", "Grease", "All That Jazz" and "Used Cars".

Eventually the Legion's name changed, likely to avoid the embarrassment of some of their past condemnations. They became the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures and were later subsumed into the Catholic Conference, their rating system quietly phased out.

During the month of March, Turner Classic Movies will spend Thursdays exhibiting the Legion's impact on film history. The full schedule can be found here.

Like the Pope and I are wont to say, "Bad movies are bad for the soul". But nothing that fits that description can be found on TCM's schedule.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lazy Sunday #407: Vinyl

I'm a sucker for movies about music. For all their flaws, or maybe because of them, I'll stop to watch "Jersey Boys" or "The Buddy Holly Story" every time they come around. 

"The Doors", "Almost Famous", "The Harder They Come", "A Hard Day's Night". Saw them all multiple times in theatres and pretty much in every format since. 

These were my heroes growing up, the musicians who not only created the soundtrack of my life but informed it in so many ways.

Among these favorites are also films about how the music got on the radio in the first place. Films viewed in almost empty theatres that most people still haven't seen. "American Hot Wax", "The Idolmaker" and "Stardust" (the David Essex version of that title).

Thus, I've been immediately hooked by HBO's "Vinyl", a brilliant recreation of the New York music scene of the 1970's created by some of the people who lived through it. 

Executive producer Mick Jagger's anecdotes of the time alone would've been worth the price of admission. But they are appended by those of Martin Scorsese, an inveterate New Yorker who, despite his film cred, was immersed in that city's music scene from the moment he edited hundreds of hours of concert footage into "Woodstock".

Added to these creative elements are Terrence Winter, writer of "The Wolf of Wall Street", "Boardwalk Empire" and the 50 Cent bio "Get Rich or Die Tryin'"; not to mention such always reliable directors as Allen Coulter.

"Vinyl" is about the eternal clash between Art and Commerce, told in this case from the point of view of a bunch of sleazy record executives. And it is riveting.

While society and the media focus on those who rise to the top, the successful artists and the celebrities, the story of what goes on in the trenches, where and how the music is made, is much more complex and revealing.

The mob run record companies, payola, artists pistol-whipped or drugged into destitution for trying to collect their royalties. Songs stolen from gullible writers. Hits created by studio accidents. Iconic bands whose diverse sounds were really the work of small packs of studio musicians with names nobody has ever heard.

This week I heard another of these lost stories from a guy who was also part of the New York scene -- Tommy James of "Tommy James and the Shondells". 

Following a string of gold and platinum records, James and his co-writer Richard Cordell went into the studio to record what would become another hit for the group entitled "I Think We're Alone Now". 

Pleased with what they'd accomplished, they sat down to play the master tape for a fellow record producer, who put the reel-to-reel tape on his tape deck backwards and pressed play.

Of course they immediately knew there was a problem. But Cordell, ever alert to a catchy Rock riff, insisted the tape keep playing so he could copy down the inverted chord progression. 

He added lyrics and The Shondells had their next hit, "Mirage". 

As an acknowledgement of where the record came from, the embedded heartbeats inserted in "I Think We're Alone Now" were added to the final track of "Mirage" -- but reversed.

If you haven't yet done so, please watch "Vinyl". Yes, it's flawed. But its imperfections are also part of its beauty. Interwoven in the myriad plots are revelations on where inspiration is found and how creativity blossoms. 

Creativity like that found in two hits by "Tommy James and The Shondells".

Enjoy your Sunday.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Back in 1964, Don Owen did something nobody thought was actually possible. He made a Canadian feature film. Perhaps the first of what could be considered the country's modern era.

Don had been an anthropology student at the University of Toronto and worked part-time as a stagehand at the CBC. At some point, he talked himself into a job at the National Film Board of Canada and was assigned to their documentary unit.

Somebody there decided the NFB should do a short documentary about a juvenile delinquent and a parole officer. Maybe something that could be shown in schools to show that youth being rebellious wasn't really all that cool.

Don took the assignment. But instead of finding real people, he hired a handful of actors, took to the streets of Toronto and shot a raw and largely improvised feature called "Nobody Waved Good-bye".

It included scenes where lead actor, Peter Kastner interacted with real Torontonians, who had no idea they were in a movie. Including one sequence in which he almost got punched out for short-changing customers in a parking lot.

The NFB didn't know what to do with Owen's combination of improv and cinema verite, so they sent it off to the New York Film Festival where it garnered rave reviews, a US distributor and the first of many festival prizes. 

One New York film-maker by the name of Francis Ford Coppola was so inspired by the film, he snagged Kastner to play the lead in his own breakthrough feature, "You're a Big Boy Now".

Suddenly, Don was the hottest thing in Canadian film-making.

But sometimes being the hot new thing is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, he had a hit movie. But no one around him quite knew how to support the new guy or what should come next. 

So, while developing a more structured and traditional feature, he shot some documentaries with such varied subjects as Mohawk steel workers in Manhattan ("High Steel") and new Montreal Poets ("Ladies and Gentlemen -- Mr. Leonard Cohen") while continuing to win awards at film festivals around the world.

In 1966, he released his 2nd feature, the flawed "Notes on a Film About Donna and Gail". And followed it up a year later with another, "The Ernie Game". 

"The Ernie Game" had been developed as one of three features the CBC intended to run as part of their Canadian Centennial celebrations. But it was determined to be "too extreme for broadcast". Instead it won "Best Feature" at that year's Canadian Film Awards and went on to further recognition at Festivals in Berlin and Chicago.

I first met Don in the mid-70's when he was prepping another feature, "Partners". He was an eccentric, energetic, thousand ideas a minute kind of guy, who could appear unfocused and erratic, but still had the power to zero in on plots and characters that were utterly unique.

By this time, the Canadian film industry had caught up to and begun to surpass him -- only going in a direction that ultimately wasn't great for either one of them.

Referred to now as "the good old, bad old tax shelter years", it was a time when dozens, maybe hundreds of films got made using money from dentists and real estate agents. Movies which starred B-Movie or TV series Americans and copied whatever genre trend or high concept that was the flavor of the month.

Movies that tried to be about something important they were not. And woe to the writer/director who didn't want to work that part of the turnip patch -- namely Don Owen.

Don went into a period where he wrote or developed a lot of projects that didn't really go anywhere. In 1984, his sequel to "Nobody Waved Good-bye" -- "Unfinished Business" would win Genie nominations for writing and directing, but not success at the box office.

He would make one final feature, "Turnabout" in 1988.

Don Owen died last Sunday, a decade after the Toronto International Film Festival had hosted a retrospective of his work. The city he had first brought to the screen now home to dozens of crews shooting dozens of films every day.

One wonders what might have happened had he followed orders and just shot a little documentary about a parole officer and a juvenile delinquent.

But he didn't. 

For a taste of what the world was like back then, you can see "Nobody Waved Good-Bye" here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bring On The Schutzenmeister!!!!

If you understand the above title, you're clearly as twisted as me and every other dedicated fan of the funniest series on television, FX Network's "Archer".

For the uninitiated, "Archer" is a raunchy animated spoof of an intelligence agency sadly lacking in intelligence that recently had to get rid of its initial moniker -- ISIS. 

Season Seven of "Archer" arrives on March 31, its ad campaign kicked off by inserting "The Girls of Archer" into this year's Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Edition.

It may seem odd advertising an animated series about spies in a magazine dedicated to pretending an interest in swimwear while mostly parading cleavage. But within the alternate reality of "Archer" it makes perfect sense.

Past marketing efforts have featured hacked nude photographs from Pam Poovey's cell phone and having the cast members join Reddit's r/GoneWild forum.

My own reason for this early warning is to give you enough time to binge watch seasons one thru six on Netflix. Or in my case re-watch the particularly bizarre Season Five, better known as "Archer:Vice"; wherein the agency goes rogue by selling off its cocaine stash and getting into direct competition with the Colombian cartels.

This year, creator/writer/producer Adam Reed takes the team to Los Angeles, promising to make Archer "the biggest Dick in Hollywood". You can savor a teaser of some of the action here.

Or just check out this inspired title sequence.

Schutzenmeister!!! Let's do shots!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Nobody Wants To Read Your Stupid Script

I made my first visit to Hollywood a few weeks before production began on the first feature film I'd written. And one of the first people I met there was a high-powered agent.

He was the acquaintance of a mutual friend who, on hearing I was also starring in the movie but not understanding that the business in Canada wasn't the same as it was in LA, figured he'd better meet this unknown hyphenate -- at a time when that word was also pretty much unknown.

I dropped into his office on a Friday afternoon, immediately struck by two floor to ceiling walls of shelved screenplays, each with the title scraped on its spine in a thick Sharpie font.

I didn't recognize any of the titles, nor did I gain some early insight into the lopsided ratio between written and eventually produced screenplays.

I just marveled at the sight. It was more scripts than I'd ever seen in one place. The work of hundreds, maybe thousands of screenwriters. Proof that such a profession actually existed outside my homeland.

I asked the pert receptionist if she read them. She shuddered slightly and said, "Not since I got promoted to answering the phone".

That struck me as odd. Why would anyone not want to be among the first to experience a story that might one day thrill and inspire millions, maybe even generations of millions?

The agent was welcoming and enthusiastic, wanting to know all about me, a no-nonsense ex-pat from New York who'd been to Canada "For EXPO" and wondered why more of those "hot French-Canadian ladies" weren't movie stars.

During our chat, he sorted through a pile of scripts, selecting about a dozen that he stuffed into one of those briefcases airline pilots used to carry. His reading for the weekend. 

I asked if any of them looked promising. He allowed that he'd much rather spend the next two days in Santa Barbara. 

It confused me that such a supposed show-biz go-getter was less than thrilled at prospecting for what could be another gold mine.

It was my first insight into the reality that nobody either likes or wants to read a script.

No matter that no movie or TV show gets made without them. Despite all that rides on finding the next big thing, a fresh voice or a unique take on an old genre, the higher people rise in the business, the less time they spend searching for any of that. And what searching is done is treated as an agonizing chore.

The pain is somewhat relieved by resorting to "coverage", a three page, double-spaced precis of a script's plot, usually written by an eager and mostly untrained intern working at minimum wage -- with one of those pages dedicated to casting possibilities and/or market potential. 

Sometimes, they'll pop an audio version onto an iPod to be consumed during a commute or at the gym. Anything to avoid full attention and concentrated appraisal. 


Because maybe reading a script is hard work and they never really learned the discipline. Perhaps because that ratio of scripts put into play versus those green-lit is daunting. Per chance because writers have become just as jaded and don't try as hard to set their work apart.

Whatever the reasons, we may finally be at the point of peak-read. 

From here on nobody ever needs to crack the cover of a script again. For veteran agent Scott Foster and software guru Brian Austin have teamed to create Scripthop.

Currently free, but soon to be provided to corporate subscribers for less than $30/month to manage their libraries, the software will read a script and do a complete character breakdown in under four seconds. 

That's less time than it takes most of us to type FADE IN:

Scripthop also spits out a detailed character breakdown along with mapping each character's "cathartic journey" as well as their screen time and shoot days.

Never again wonder if Leonardo thinks your script is Oscar bait or can fit between the climate conferences and super model yacht vacations on his schedule.

You can test drive Scripthop here

And the next time you submit something, you can let them know you've already done their reading for them.

You have no idea how much that will be appreciated.