Wednesday, August 31, 2005

So There I was...

In the middle of a conference call, pitching like a good little pulpster, when all of a sudden...


Everywhere outside my office window. Zooming this way and that through the bamboo. Just like our "formidable adversaries in the black pajamas".

Blackening the sky [I kid you not]. My jaw dropped to my desk. The kind of swarm that makes you want to check all of your windows and doors - just to make sure.

Then I thought about it and said, "Thank you" for the fact I had a home to live in, friends who care, my health and a ton of other things that are far more precious than my having to deal with some insects and check some windows.

'Cause a lot of folks right now don't have windows to close...

Saturday, August 27, 2005

What's Up...besides my blood pressure

Going to ramble a bit, kind of like your dentist as he's drilling new holes into your skull and scorching blood vessels in your mouth. Trying to break the ice a bit. As I tell my Mom there's a reason I never went to medical school - I would have flunked bedside manner.

(Get me into bed - that's another story entirely! With a twist ending no less!)

Just finished the third draft of THE SOUND. More of a polish for the director than anything else. Everyone says they like the direction that the script is going, but nobody has said that we've arrived. That sort of development limbo that seems to drag on forever, but is really a short time. Kind of like Chinese water torture. It's not the water that gets you, it's the fact that you can't move [ I have to credit MYTHBUSTERS with teaching me that one].

Haven't worked up the steam to work on any new posts so this is what you get: Disc/ontent spam. Well, after all, parts is parts. I am working on THE SKULL and it's going well.

I watched SIN CITY again last night and it helped cement the look for the show in my mind. Lots of shadows, tough talkin' dames and smooth talkin' gunsels - show with "guns and humpin' ."

Speaking of SIN CITY, I noticed that the DVD had nothing going for it in the way of extras. Thank goodness I had the SC preview disc from Best Buy. It really chapped my ass that Dimension would pull this crap of releasing something inferior, then following it up with the "Deluxe Edition". I understand that the first season of BATTLESTAR: GALACTICA has done a similar con job only this time the inferior disc set cost MORE than the better edition that will follow in a couple of months.

Please don't give me that crap about "some members of the audience want to see just the movie and not all the extras." If this is truly the case, then:

a) release the movie and ONLY the movie.
b) Let the packaging and more importantly the PRICE reflect that it's a disposable item.

A disc and amray (the plastic case it comes in) only costs about:

$0.45 for the disc (some get it for .35)

$0.05 for the casewrap (the paper insert)

$0.25 for the amray case

$0.15 for stickers (upc bar code, 2 security stickers for the spine and bottom)

$0.10 for the anti-theft mag button

$0.05 for the shrinkwrapping (and I'm being generous)

$1.05 total ***

So for a little over a buck you get a DVD5 which can easily fit a movie and a couple of trailers. Authoring costs for something like that would be around $1000.00 (because if this is what they are saying and it's a loss leader then do the authoring cheaply with no menus and hidden chapter stops. No languages) .

All this means that they could easily sell a barebones disc to wholesalers for $4.00 each and make a tidy profit. Wholesalers can sell this for $6.50 each to retailers and they can sell it to you for $9.95 each.

SIN CITY - the movie and one behind the scenes feature costs $ 19.99 on Amazon. (Before I get too out of hand it also has french language and spanish subtitles with Dolby 5.1).

Does this seem a bit ridiculous to anyone else?

And since I've made the connection before - aren't comic books too expensive as well? Shouldn't they pull out all the stops when it comes to the hardback collections? I'm tired of paying $2.99 or $3.99 for a comic. When I see stuff happening like this in two of my favorite media, and when I read how bad everything is in the industry (both comics and movies) then I have to wonder - am I the only one seeing this problem?

(Let's not forget the fact that these two industries are closely tied together these days as well)

*** Let's allow for error with the calculations and add $0.25 to the proceedings. So for $1.30 cost you're paying $19.99.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Straight from the Mogul's Mouth: D2DVD Film School pt. 2

Samuel Z. Arkoff was the producer / distributor of over 503 movies in his career including many that have become "classics" of genre cinema: I Was A Teenage Werewolf, The Amityville Horror, Dressed to Kill, The Wild Angels and X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, Blacula, Coffy, The Beach Party movies among others. In the 1950's his company, American International Pictures (A.I.P.) has been credited with saving the theatrical movie business when he and his partner Jim Nicholson started making films intended for a teenage audience - the audience that wanted to get out on the weekend and away from the family television.

Arkoff and Nicholson took the idea of marketing a movie before it was made, and made it a mantra for all low budget producers - after all, why make a movie if no one wants to see it? Better to find out what the audience wants then fulfill their deepest desires. A.I.P. was notorious for commissioning artwork, titles and film campaigns - preselling the rights to the pictures - THEN making the movie. Through this method, A.I.P. was in profit before one frame of film was shot.

Unfortunately Mr. Arkoff is no longer with us, but he has left behind a legacy from which we all can learn. In a 1998 interview taken from the Producer's Guild of America magazine, here is an abridged version of --



Action them til they're dizzy. Don't stop. It must be in your screenplay and in your director's head. Employ only film editors who are as movement-crazy as you are. Kid's love action...and they''ll go back...and will tell their peers, inferiors, and superiors what's good.


Revolutionary scenes get talked of. Use some new photographic devices...editing techniques...locales...smells...stunts or something. Make 'em so the sheer experience of seeing them is unique. New language, new juxtapositions, new shocks, new relationships, new attire, new, new, new. Revolve situations, relationships, hell, even the camera if it will get your movie talked about.


Kill colorfully and often. Young audiences... like to experience death. Vicariously, of course. But then all storytelling is experiencing something that happens to someone else and you come out alive.
You should be sure to kill and do so in bizarre ways so your audience will get their money's worth, and so they will tell others...Without death or the glamourous threats of it, I would never have been able to make the highest grossing independently-produced, independently-released film of all time, The Amityville Horror.


Orate! Tell the world about your picture! Talk about it but more important...get people talking about it. Best way is through publicity. As my old buddy Jack Warner used to say, "The movie good enough to sell itself has not yet been produced!"


Fantasy is what audiences spend money for. Give them fantastic adventures. Entertain them by rushing them into worlds you dreamed up for them. Avoid the prosaic and commonplace. When they're in those fantastic environments, keep everything moving ultra-fast. Action will help suspend disbelief.


Fornicating is the answer to an exhibitor's dreams. You can't get an ingredient in most movies that draws better than sex. Of course, you have to use it wisely...You gotta have taste. Foreplay is as important in dramaturgy as in bed. But avoid too much visual sex. It is embarassing and if it goes on too long it puts audiences to sleep. Arouse but don't offend!

So there you have it Pulperverse. Straight from the mouth of a man who changed the way we view movies, we sell movies, we make movies. You'll note that I've highlighted certain things in red. I will be discussing these in later posts.

(This article was originally written by Julian Meyers)

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Unusual Suspects

Well, as promised here is a picture of those who did the LA thing and had poolside drinks and gab this past Sunday at Fun Joel's Screenwriter / Blogger Gathering.

From Left to right are:

Myself, Warren from The Screenwriting Life, Fun Joel - who lives up to his name, Erik from Realm of the American Knight, The bubbly Miss Emily B. Langton, Illustrator Ingrid Sundberg and Neal Kramer from Citizen of the Month there in the background.

Not pictured: Gary Watson from Screenwriter's Podcast and my producer partner Roy Bodner who shot the crime scene photo.

We talked, we drank, we watched the hot woman on the other end of the pool sunning herself. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sunday Bloody Sunday!

Hi Pulperverse,

Hope you're enjoying your Sunday. I know I will as I attend Fun Joel's Screenwriter/Blogger Gathering today here in Los Angeles. Drinks, cigars and writer B.S. all around (I'm bringing my camera).

I'm glad I'm not driving.

If you don't know who Fun Joel is then go to: and check him out. Well worth a visit.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Are We Cool?

I was speaking with Philip Morton over at Screenwriter Bones today, and he asked the question of whether or not D2DVD will "transcend the limitations" imposed upon it by the schedule and the budget.

I gave him a rather oblique answer (actually blathered off at the mouth a bit - big surprise there!) , but let me be more precise:

You can make Cool movies for D2DVD...

Because Cool doesn’t have a budget…
Because Cool sells (a lot)…
Because Cool sells itself, and you can’t stop Cool because, well it’s cool…
Because when you see or hear Cool, you know it right away…
Because Cool, when it’s done right, is cool…

Be cool..

Monday, August 15, 2005

D2DVD Film School Pt. 1

All right, we've spoken before about how you can take your D2DVD script to the next level. You can see those words elsewhere on this blog. Let's assume that you have a great concept, a great title and a great script to back it up.
So, what happens when you con(vince) your Great Aunt Florence to part with her Boca Raton money and finance your first film - your D2DVD masterpiece? How can you lessen the risk to your aunt's savings and create a visual masterpiece that will be sellable?
There's a bit of folklore amongst filmmakers rising out of Roger Corman University (Ron Howard, Johnathan Demme and James Cameron are alumni) that every first-time director gets a ten minute lecture on practical filmmaking from Roger before they shoot a frame of film. Now I'm not Roger, but I have done just about everything in the D2DVD business, and I've seen a lot of similarities in the films that are considered "classics" and similarities in those you've never heard of.

I will drop in from time to time with simple ways you can make your film look better (sellable, professional) before you shoot it. That's important - your film has to look like you do this for a living. That's the point isn't it? You want to do this for a career.

But Bill, how come so many D2DVD movies look like crap?

Well, there's a multitude of reasons, which I'll go through in this series. Hopefully guiding you away from being on the bottom of the "Crap" pile. But remember this, those movies that you saw on the shelf? The ones you think are crap?

Those were the movies that made the cut.

Imagine the ton of films that were rejected! All those filmmaker's dreams up in smoke along with that second mortgage or college fund. There goes Auntie's Boca condo.

When I worked at both Omega Entertainment and York Entertainment I would have to screen a lot of films that were seeking the holy grail of distribution. Sometimes I would get 10 - 20 tapes a day! Out of a week of screening these films (on fast forward or at least the first ten minutes) I'd narrow it down to about five films worth pursuing for the month. That's a lot of wasted tape.

(and we weren't the big boys. I don't even want to think what the studios have to put up with!)

So why do so many films startout with the best of intentions and end up being flushed down the system? A lot of low-budget productions fall into the bear trap of not planning everything out beforehand. The producers and directors think that because there is no money, they have to do everything on the fly. Well, I'm here to tell you that the exact opposite is true.

So here's the first thing on your checklist for shooting a D2DVD movie, and it's so simple that I can't believe nobody's brought it up:

Just shoot your movie in widescreen.

You want to give your movie "scope" and a big look - a professional look - right?

Just shoot your movie in widescreen.

It's that simple.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Speaking of DISC/ontent

Went through my rapidly growing collection of DVD's many of which I would never buy in a million years, and decided to thin them out a bit. It pays to be discriminating in your habits every now and then. I've separated my discs into must-haves, get rid-of's and Hanging on for a reason (studying the movie, cool technique or commentary, etc...)

For those movies where I received a screener and knew absolutely nothing about the movie, I would pop them in, put it on fast-forward scan and see if it was something that I should consider keeping and watching. Several times I would hit upon a scene that simply said, "Amateur" or "You just lost me", and then I wondered...

What kind of scene - editing, special effect, stunt, acting technique, dialogue, plot, lighting whatever - always takes you out of the movie when you see or hear it? What type of scene in a movie gets you grinding your molars because it's so bad (yet you see it on all these D2DVD movies) ? What sort of filmmaking is sooo five minutes ago?

Example: Nothing gets on my nerves more when I see a movie shot on video and it looks bad. No thought to making it look good either. Crappy lighting, out of focus shots, zooms, handheld shots, etc... piled on top of one another in an independent production. No thought toward storytelling with the shot either. [ example: ZOMBIEZ]

There's a purpose to this question Pulperverse, so please reply with some specific examples...

I look forward to fanning your flames of DISC/ontent!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Say "Goodbye" to VHS

Vhs in 2005 is down to 17% of revenue, a final gasp from the 29% it was in 2004. Distributors are telling retailers there WILL BE NO VHS IN 2006.

May it rest in peace.

Monday, August 08, 2005

No More Hiding

Just a couple of things before it's back to work:

1. So, I was over at Alex Epstein's COMPLICATIONS ENSUE and he brought up the subject of not talking about work related items in a blog. I put up a comment that I never post anonymously. John Oak Dalton says he has never written under a pseudonym (and doesn't plan on it).

I stand by that.

So from here on out you will never see anything on this blog that isn't credited to the proper source. That means no more anonymous comments. That means, good or bad, what I say I stand behind. You'll always know what I say because my name will be on it.

If I end up being wrong - I'll own it. If you're wrong - you have to own it. It's called being responsible and it's one of the characteristics that this industry looks for in its creators, and often it's in short supply. It's time to resupply - if at least on this blog.

End of sermon.

2. A Question for the Pulperverse:

How many female readers do I have in my audience? I see several female bloggers of the screenwriting variety on blogger, but very rarely do I see commentary from that segment of the audience. I want to know why. Is there something that this blog has or lacks that is keeping you away? I know Writergurl is out there - who else? Do you feel there's nothing for you in the D2DVD end of the industry? What blogs do you check out and why? What are you writing?

Feel free to write me at: or just comment. Please spread the word if you don't mind.

Still writing until Wednesday deadline. I'll be quiet (Ha!) until then, ingesting caffeine and food that's bad for me (but oh so good!) and writing. Sleep is an option I may not exercise.

Oh, go and throw a few coppers to the Kung Fu Monkey. Sifu John Rogers is collecting for a very worthy cause and as a veteran of the "undeclared wars" of the late 1980's (86-90) , I can tell you it will be much appreciated. There are currently members of the armed forces and their families that are on welfare - that in my mind, is absolutely unacceptable.

Go forth and be responsible.

Friday, August 05, 2005


I'm working on a deadline, so things will be quiet around here at the Secret Mountain HQ. I've gone down to the Lab for more coffee so I think I'll be sufficiently caffeinated to handle it.

In the meantime check out Sifu John Rogers post on rewriting at his shaolin temple: .

Also, rent this movie: HG WELL'S WAR OF THE WORLDS directed by David Michael Latt. It's a good example of a movie that exceeds the limitations of its budget and source material, (and it's a lot of fun too!). David is a friend and his company, THE ASYLUM ( has a lot of great genre D2DVD's in their catalog.

Until next time on this same station...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Skull: Draft Two

Previously, I showed you the first draft of the first page of my spec project THE SKULL.
I solicited some comments to see if there was anything I was missing or if there was anything that really turned people off. There were a couple of small things, but just a general reformat/polish is going to take care of it.

So here's the rewrite:



Wicked steel and glass spires tower over the rest of the landscape.
As if Satan's sharp fingers erupted out of hell.

The sun bakes the elements to a burnt orange, but as the SUN retreats from the NIGHT...

And the DAY PEOPLE head home to the comfort and safety of their naivete...

The neon glows hot.

The darkness takes over...

And it becomes a different world.

One where the NIGHT PEOPLE come out to play in the thick, wet shadows of this chiaroscuro city...


A MAN is dragged into frame by five SHADOWS. The man is powerfully built, but tightly bound with heavy rope.

A burlap sack covers his face, but...

There's a small hole in the bag, and he can see his tormentors. Through his frantic eye everything is erratic, painful, distorted.

The SHADOWS are men, dressed in good suits, though we still can't see their faces.

They arrive at a POST driven into the ground and surrounded by STACKS OF TIRES.

Please! Why are you doing this?


The Shadows quickly lash him to the post...

One Shadow pours gasoline over the man. As he struggles frantically, we realize this isn't a man...

This is a victim.

No! Please! No!
(c) 2005 by Bill Cunningham
Okay, so you can see a couple of small things that I've changed.
Does it make it better? I think so, as in this case better = clearer to the reader.
Simpler (You knew I was going there, right?).
If you look closely, I've told you just enough to know what's going on, the tone, and how it is supposed to look, but I'm not trying to overwhelm the reader with a ton of detail. From a budget standpoint, The opening city shots can be stock footage or can be a function of a small second unit. I envision the cityscape to be like those wonderful stop motion shots in the beginning of BLADE. This also helps establish tone.
The Junkyard is appropriate to the story and we will do several more scenes here. In the low budget world - if you use a location for only one scene - it gets tossed and the action placed in another location. Usually a maximum of five. At this point I have six locations, but as I said in the comments - we can double up a couple of them by relighting, set dressing and shooting in a different style and you won't know the difference. Again this means time and money saved.
You'll also notice I gave the director the opportunity to do a POV shot (through the burlap), but I didn't give it its own slug/shot line for three reasons:
1. That would have been telling the director how to do his job, and that's not appropriate.
2. It would have pulled the reader out of the story, by reminding him/her that this is a screenplay.
3. It would have cluttered up the page. Another way to pull the reader out of the story.
In terms of lighting, I've described the look with one word - chiaroscuro. Not only does this "film noir" lighting motif look cool, it works really well for this story. Film noir lighting was born out of the need to light sets really quickly so the crew could make their shooting days. I don't need to tell the DP and Director anything else.
You have to remember that while a screenplay is a document that should stand on its own, it's also a working blueprint for production. That means that you have to step back and allow the Director, DP, Production Designer and actors to contribute to telling the story. Too much detail doesn't allow them to do that and actually prevents them from exceeding limitations.
Like a blueprint you provide structure. They provide the interior design.
Maybe they have a creative way to paint, light, shoot or decorate the set, but because the script says it has to be a certain way - they dismiss the idea and don't make the suggestion to the director. That's wrong. As long as they match the tone of your story - what do you care if the wall is a different color than what you wrote? This is of course an extreme example, but you'd be surprised at what I read in a script. The level of detail is staggering and is basically there to cover flaws in the story.
In the D2DVD world, your job is to make sure that everyone understands what story they're telling. Their job is to figure out how best to tell it. So, Pulperverse what do you think?
I await your feedback.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


If you're new to my blog, referred here by Sifu John Rogers @ Kung Fu Monkey, then welcome. Take your shoes off and stay awhile. The bar and kitchen are open.

As a way of introducing myself, I'm a working screenwriter here in Los Angeles and refer to myself as a pulp screenwriter. That means I have to write a lot to get paid and make a living. I don't make the big dollars that the studio boys make (yet), but I work a lot, and get better each time (I hope). You've probably seen some of the movies I've written, marketed, sold, produced, lit, coordinated for DVD authoring or publicized. A few of those pictures (and a book) I've worked on (in one capacity or another) are scattered about.

The D2DVD market means that you have to write fast, well and to a concept that the distributor or production company thinks will sell. D2DVD is not a spec market where you can sell a screenplay you wrote yourself. You are writing for a client and giving them a good story that can be produced on a low budget. It's a lot like the good old days at AIP where they created the artwork and title first, then wrote the script to fit.
Consequently I take a real practical, "cheeseburger and fries" approach to writing screenplays. Hopefully there's some simple info here you can use to help you break in to the business or tackle a problem you've been having with a script.

The bottom line is, as always, to spin a good yarn and be entertaining.

So feel free to poke around a bit and ask questions, make comments, and add to the mix. We're not formal (my shirt's always untucked and the toilet seat is always up) , but we have a good time.

Just teasing you...

A couple of pre-lim designs by Mr. Lars Canty for:

To be amazed at other stuff Lars has designed, go to