Generally I reserve my blog for writing related topics only, but today I will bend that somewhat flexible rule.

I would like to present to you the “Naked Games” video promo for Dirty Deeds.  Directed by my husband Charles Wahl, they are already getting massive attention, and were even the top feature in Shots magazine.

Charles Wahl - featured in Shots
Shots magazine


Amazing!  And this is only the first set.  For the next little while a new video will come out every Monday.  There is a censored version and uncensored version for each video, and both versions are great and have their own merits.  The catch is, enough people have to share the censored version to unlock the uncensored version.

Lucky for you I have access to both versions of the first video.  Enjoy!

Dirty Deeds – Uncensored

Dirty Deeds – Censored








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The Grey

Boy was I looking forward to this movie.  Good reviews, great cast (I love Liam Neeson- who doesn’t?), and of course it’s a horror movie; right up my alley.  I should have known better when I saw someone compare it to “Jaws” on land.

The Grey
"The Grey" - Official Poster

In fact, I usually am very wary of any movie compared to “The Exorcist” or “Jaws” or any other great.  Undoubtedly these movies fall far, far short of these undying classics. But I was sucked in my Liam Neeson’s amazing record.

What bothered me most about this movie was not the fact that it was a drama in disguise, but the fact that even as a drama in disguise it didn’t work. Now, before we continue, if you haven’t seen “The Grey” and you plan to (I recommend you do not) then be warned: SPOILERS.

When writing a horror movie (or a drama disguised as a horror) I find there is one major thing that can separate a good movie from a bad movie, treating your monster correctly. For this example let’s briefly compare “Jaws” and “The Grey” (since some many other people found this necessary to do so).  To treat your monster/creature correctly DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES use the creature in your creature feature as something that pops up conveniently to move along an otherwise stale story.

“Jaws” did it right. The creature (in this case the Great White Shark) is an omnipresent being, and even if you can’t see the shark you are thinking about the shark.  You can truly feel it’s presence in every scene and even more important you can feel that the characters feel it is there.  The shark is oppressive in it’s unrelenting grip on the story. Now, I could literally teach an entire lecture, no, an entire curriculum  on how “Jaws” achieved this, but I don’t have the time on my soap box today.  If you haven’t seen it, watch it and learn, if you have, you already know.

On the other side of the scope while watching “The Grey” I did not feel the omnipresence of the creature (in this case a pack of deadly Alaskan Grey Wolves, lead by an Alpha wolf). I don’t need to tell you that the prospect of facing down a hungry pack of wolves while stranded in Alaska is a pant wetting notion, so how the heck did the writers of this film mess it up? They lost sight of what the plot was about: the wolves! In any good movie you must have a through plot, but in this plot the creatures nearly drowned (yes, terrible pun intended). Instead the story focuses on the characters backgrounds and how horrible it is that they will die then their need for survival.

Trust me, I’m a huge advocate of character development… but not if character development is your plot. With no real outside pressure character development gets boring, and takes you out of the movie. It’s gratuitous, and just as distracting as gratuitous violence, cursing, nudity, or gross out gags… but I digress.

The movie started out great, got right into the action with a great set-up, and when the first wolves appeared I was on the edge of my seat, I thought I was really in for a treat… then things began to go amuck. Aside from a few convenient attacks I never felt the wolves, I only felt their absence.  Why? Because we are never shown that the creatures stalk and kill.

In “Jaws” the shark does not just convientiely appear to knock off characters and then disappear into the ocean for a nap until the plot calls for it again. No way! The shark is vengeful and hungry. It rocks the boat, literally, and even if not attacking we know it is thinking of attacking…. plotting its best time… laying in wait… This was of course in part due to the fantastic direction of Steven Spielberg, but was also present in the writing.

What “The Grey” lacked was this presence of the creature.   For over half of the movie the characters walked around Alaska willy-nilly and only at random, plot-dervived times, did the wolves appear and attack. It left me wondering where they were while the characters slept, battled a blizzard, and had heartfelt conversations. Sure a wolf would pop up to kill someone, but I really felt like they must all be sleeping or playing somewhere and then decide: “Hey guys, I just remembered there is a bunch of guys in our territory, let’s go kill one for fun.” In fact, I felt the omnipresence of the cold, bitter, Alaskan climate as more of through plot then the wolves.

My next point of contention, and I’ll keep this short, is why in the world the writers thought it would be more scary to make the wolves’ motivation territory, and not food. To me a mindlessly vengeful K-9 upset you’re in his territory and with a pack of equally mindless followers to do his bidding is way less scary then a smart, coordinated, and hungry pack of wolves. Hungry animals will brave almost anything, fire, bullets, loss of life and limb, just to eat. They will hunt relentlessly and gorge because they do not know when their neck meal ticket will come in. This, to me at least, is way more scary that a turf war with wolves that inexplicably don’t eat their kills to, what, make a point? Ug.

I have so many other issues with this movie, both writing related (i.e.- what the hell was with the flashes of the presumably dying woman? Totally, totally unnecessary! Did not add a thing to the screenplay!) And the Direction of the film (Come on guys, if it’s snowing like crazy in the wide shot don’t stop the snow for a clear shot of the shocked faces of the characters on the fracking close-up.  Geeze!) But not dealing with the wolves properly is my first and foremost problem.

Not dealing with your creatures properly in a creature feature is what separates “Aligator X” and “Sharktopus” from “Jaws” and “The Exorcist”. Unfortunately for this movie it was a great idea that went awry. The only good thing about it was the performances, they were awesomely solid at every angle.

I want my money back.

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The Home Stretch

I have been plugging away at “The Marionette” for some time now.  It is my first experience writing a script for hire as opposed to writing one purely on spec.  It has been a difficult struggle for me internally.  It’s a bit like the difference of cooking a dinner for yourself and your spouse and cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for 20 guests.  There are a lot more parties involved and a lot more opinions to satisfy.

When entering the world of my own spec script I can do anything I want, create any character I want, and situation I want.  I have full creative control and the only stipulations are the ones I set forth myself.  When working on a script for hire there are specification, stipulations, and other ideas floating around that are not mine, and that I cannot change.  This can be a challenge for any writer, but thankfully, I love challenges. This may be why I can truly say that this has been a both a rewarding and a productive experience.

I am finally in the home stretch of the first draft of “The Marionette” and will soon be finished.  After that, a quick polish and it’s off to the producers to get their input on the script that they own.  They finally get to see what they are buying; a nerve-racking experience for all involved.  I feel confident that I’ve been able to create a world that everyone will be happy with but I’m still keeping my fingers crossed, just  in case.  😉

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Young Adult

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!  I know I enjoyed my night of ringing it in (maybe a bit too much), I hope you enjoyed yours!

Freshly recovered from the hectic holiday period (and the New Year celebration) I thought I would hop into theatres and see a promising looking movie “Young Adult”, starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson and Elizabeth Reaser, and written by Diablo Cody. There was a good amount of buzz and it actually looked like the movie could live up to it. Boy was I disappointed.

Young Adult Poster
Young Adult Poster

All I can say about this movie (without giving too much away) is that I really feel like it wasn’t a story worth telling.  The acting was great, the directing, casting, etc… etc.. etc… all superb.  The fatal flaw in the movie was hands down the writing.  This is an example of a script that hit all of the formulaic plot points, had solid dialogue, a unique voice for every character, and did some very unexpected things… but just fell short of a being a good movie.  You can have all the proper ingredients, but if the recipe is bunk, so too will be the stew.

I will stop short of going on a tangent, and announcing that I felt ripped off (oops, well to late for the later now, I suppose)… but  I will say this:  not only do characters need arcs but so do stories; especially when portraying unlikeable, unsympathetic, and ultimately sociopathic main characters like Mavis Gary, played by Charlize Theron.  The story started where it ended, and so did the main character’s journey.  The proof is in the pudding: just because an ending is unexpected doesn’t mean that makes it good.

I don’t want to slam another writer, but I really feel like Diablo Cody should have gone back to the drawing board on this one.  In fact, I feel like that for all of her films, including Juno, which I felt was awesomely overrated.  Cody has a lot of talent, and that is obvious, but I always get the feeling her work is undercooked.  Maybe if it had been worked on a bit more this script would not have been so disapointing.

Over all I can’t say I recommend seeing this movie.. I should have seen “Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol” instead.

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The Blacklist

The Blacklist came out this week and is, as always, an interesting read.  If you really want to have your finger on the pulse of what “they” are reading, liking, and ultimately producing, then the Blacklist is the ultimate read for any film industry professional.

What I am most happy to see on the list is not one, or two, but THREE zombie related flicks. “Maggie” is zombie movie about a girl coming to terms with her eventual zombification. “Bethlehem” is about human survivors that seek protection from vampires in a zombie infested world, and “Subject Zero” puts a new spin on a Frankenstein-like tale with a grieving father and his quest to bring his dead son back to life.

Not only am I excited to see each of these movies, when they are finally completed,  but I’m also excited because this news bodes well for me: the gatekeepers have not yet rolled up the drawbridge on this genre.

Another thing that shines a light in my direction is that two of the three seemed to be (at least from their loglines) character-driven scripts that deal with larger issues non-zombie issues.  Since THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE is most defiantly character-driven (but still action packed!) and delves into much darker places then a simple zombie apocalypse, I think the chances are good for me that someone will like my script… if I can get them to read it.

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The Query Letter Burden

Writing a query letter can be a daunting task.  One that I don’t relish one bit.  After all of the blood sweat and tears that have gone into the writing of my scripts you would think that a 3-4 paragraph letter would be a piece of cake; but I often find the query harder then the scripts themselves.

For me writing a script is an enjoyable outlet, a creative process funnelled into a structure.  I feel like the architect of a great skyscraper when working on a script.  When working on my query letter, I feel like the contractor hired to paint the offices in the skyscraper, after it has been built.  No offence to these hardworking contractors, but a great architect is not necessarily a great painter.

Writing a query letter encompasses a completely different set of skills then writing a script. Unless you have written many before (and had success) it can be down right impossible to know how to craft a coherent, to the point, and interest grabbing letter.  I personally never know exactly what information to include or what information to exclude.  Sure there are countless numbers of websites offering help, much of it contradicting, and almost all of it focused on format.

So how do I jump this query letter hurdle?  Why, a query letter service of course!  I have found a trusted source that will craft a custom query letter for me.  What a life saver!   There is nothing like the feeling of the query letter burden being lifted from my shoulders.  For a fee, I receive back a letter written by someone immersed in the industry, that has seen hundreds if not thousands of query letters themselves and written numbers as well.

Of course I would never just send out a query letter crafted by someone else because as talented as that person may be, they still have never met me, and quite possibly never read my scripts either.  I am however, able to use this letter as the foundation of the house I am about to renovate.


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Delving into Character Development (Part 4)

(Continued from Delving into Character Development – Part 3)

A big theme in the movie is that those chosen to be Green Lanterns must be without fear. When Hal is chosen by the ring it is because he has no fear, or so we assume, but at no point do we think that maybe he is truly afraid. Hal continues to act exactly the same, even when he is kidnapped by the ring and brought to another planet to meet aliens and learn about his powers.

After a brief training session where other characters complain that Hal is a human we reach that weak plot point where Hal gives up. After a short and not particularly powerful speech by a monster of some sort about Hal not having enough will,SS Hal agrees. What the hell? There has been no buildup and this really comes out of nowhere. Next Hal does not even bother to hide his secret he blurts out that he is afraid but continues to act exactly the same. I can’t tell a difference, can you? I’m sure you can’t, because this movie really sucks (but don’t worry, if you’re confused the other characters will tell you that he is different now).

Fast-forward to the end (don’t worry you’re not missing anything) and good old Hal must save the world (because we all secretly knew he was stronger then the rest of the well trained 3,000 or so other Green Lanterns) from the biggest enemy the universe has ever faced. Oh yes, and somewhere in there is the weakest love storyline I’ve seen in a long time, but I digress. Hal soldiers exactly on the same as before and saves the world (and the girl). While other characters remark that Hal “has changed” I can’t see it. He seems to me to be exactly the same boring character that we stared with. I will never get the time back in my life that I spent watching this stupid movie. Arg.

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Delving into Character Development (Part 3)

(Continued from Delving into Character Development – Part 3)

The Green Lantern is a great example of how to not develop your character (among it’s many other flaws). This movie is also that quintessential warning about too many cooks. Here we have 4 writers and zero substance. There is so little character development in fact that it is hard to care at all about the characters.

Hal Jordan is the hero of our story. An adrenaline junky with a chip on his shoulder; he is a hard living, irresponsible, fighter jet pilot working for a company that is contracted by the government. What should have been an exciting ride delving into the deep seated insecurities of Hal (much like Magneto of X-Men his parent was killed in front of him) and the paralyzing fear he hides with bravado we are instead faced with a boring family vacation in a car with no air-conditioning.

To start with, the way we learn about the death of Hal’s father is Hal’s freak-out while flying his plane that almost kills him and destroys the multimillion-dollar machine. My question while watching this scene is why is he freaking out all of a sudden? Is this a normal occurrence while he flies? Given this mans personality, and his nearly fatal car ride to work a few minutes earlier I can only assume that Hal is the type of guy with a death wish. Therefore I proposition that his plane tumbling groundwards is not only a regular occurrence, but nothing that should bring about the buried memories about his fathers tragic, plane related death. This is just a small example of how the rest of the movie will go. Oh boy.

Now even student screenwriters can tell you one of the cardinal rules of character development is to show, not tell. Show your audience that your character is secretly shaking in his boots and don’t tell us. Green Lantern does a good job at telling us everything. While in the beginning they did a good job at showing us that Hal is irresponsible and does not value his own life (and possibly the lives of those around him) they only tell us that this is because he is secretly afraid, and this comes out during as a weak plot point just thrown in there to push the story along.

(on to part 4)

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