The One Plot to Lead Them All

As if writers didn’t have enough to worry about, now we have this excellent analysis to ponder:

The Avengers, Spider-Man, and Dark Knight Rises All Have Strangely Similar Climaxes – by Kyle Buchanon (Vulture.Com)

The AvengersThe Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises have all offered distinctly different types of superhero thrills this summer: One’s a giant, crowd-pleasing mash-up of all of Marvel’s prior movies; one’s a rebooted origin story anchored by a tender teen romance; and one’s a dark, sprawling drama with Bat-trappings. So many different flavors to choose from … and yet, did you notice they all have weirdly similar third acts? What was that about?

Spoilers follow, obviously.

In The AvengersThe Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spider-Man, the good guys are in possession of a scientific device, introduced early in the movie in a very conspicuous way, that the bad guys then co-opt to turn against the entire city (which is either New York City or its Gotham stand-in).

Even more specifically, in The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, the device is a clean-energy breakthrough … that can be used to destroy (or help destroy, in the case of Stark Tower) the world, if tweaked fairly easily. Whoops!

And in both The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises, the good guys haven’t even been using the device (too dangerous!), but still, they kept it around for years instead of dismantling it because … well, just because.

Ultimately, with the city facing a countdown to destruction, both Iron Man and Batman abscond with imminent nuclear threats and fly away as far as they can, a moving act of self-sacrifice that saves the city and foils the villain’s plan. The other heroes in the movie are impressed and sad as the explosion goes off in the distance.

But it turns out, the hero actually survived. Psych! And in the silent codas that ends The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, we find our selfless hero reunited with his lady love.

Now, obviously superhero movies are bound to have a couple things in common. But this many things, in movies that span three different studios? Were the producers all bitten by the exact same radioactive script doctor?

Next year, the summer season will produce three more high-profile superhero movies: Disney’s got Iron Man 3, Warner Bros. has Man of Steel, and Fox is putting out X-Men spinoff The Wolverine. Could the studio executives compare notes this time, just to make sure they’re not all on the same page? Surely there are some new ways to save the world, right?

For what it’s worth, we think the problem is a genre thing. As in, “Hey, guy, this is the plot structure that comic books have used the most since, oh, probably since WWII brought us all those stories about Hitler and his quest for great, big, universe-shattering, mythic weapons.

It isn’t a matter of plagiarism in any way. Nor even of like minds, or minds that in fact know each other, coming up with an idea that’s, oh, “in the wind.” The story structure of all three films is the most common of tropes in the most inbred of media: superhero books.

But, oh boy, yessir, it sure would be great to change that. Hats off to ya, Kyle, for spotting the Emperor’s…skin.


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And Now It’s Renee Zellweger’s Turn

Speaking of celebrity writers:

Lifetime Orders CINAMMON GIRL pilot, Series Created by Renee Zellweger – by TeamTVWriter Press Service

As it continues to aggressively expand its scripted programming slate, Lifetime has ordered the drama pilot Cinnamon Girl from executive producers Academy Award® and Golden Globe® Award-winning actress-producer Renée Zellweger, Anthony Tambakis (Warrior) and Gavin O’Connor (WarriorPride and Glory). The announcement was made today by Rob Sharenow, Executive Vice President, Programming, of Lifetime Networks.

Created by Zellweger and Tambakis, Cinnamon Girl is the story of four girls — Cassie, Lola, Junie and Lou — coming of age in the Los Angeles music and movie scenes of the late 1960s/early 1970s, one of the most turbulent, creative and golden times in the history of American popular culture. The impetus for the project was Zellweger’s journey from small-town Texas to Hollywood stardom, combined with Tambakis’ lifelong fascination with both the Laurel Canyon music scene and the New Hollywood, auteur-driven era that began in the late ‘60s. Zellweger and Tambakis have co-written the story, with Tambakis writing the teleplay that explores the characters’ lives at the crossroads of the era’s political, artistic, social and sexual rebellions. O’Connor is set to direct the pilot, while Danny Bramson (Almost FamousJerry Maguire) will serve as producer.

Cinnamon Girl marks the second project on which Zellweger and Lifetime have partnered. In 2008, she executive produced the acclaimed original movie Living Proof, the moving true story of UCLA Dr. Dennis Slamon, who helped develop the breast cancer drug Herceptin, and his efforts to keep the drug trials afloat and save the lives of thousands of women. Living Proof starred Harry Connick, Jr., Tammy Blanchard, Amanda Bynes, Jennifer Coolidge, Angie Harmon, Regina King, Swoosie Kurtz, Amy Madigan, Bernadette Peters and Trudie Styler.

Lifetime’s current scripted slate includes The Client List, starring and executive produced by Jennifer Love Hewitt, which wrapped its first season in June; season six of the hit drama Army Wives, Drop Dead Diva, currently in its fourth season; and Devious Maids, which the network recently picked up from executive producers Marc Cherry, Sabrina Wind, Eva Longoria, Paul McGuigan, Larry Shuman, David Lonner, John Mass, Paul Presburger and Michael Garcia. Last week Lifetime ordered the scripted pilots The Secret Lives of Wives (working title) and Witches of East End.

And, as this announcement ends, drifting off into the sunset of audience/reader indifference, we find ourselves moved to ask the musical questions: What does “co-written” really mean here? Did Ms. Zellweger in fact do any writing on this project? Or was she the “talking/pitching” partner in the team? Are they in fact a team?

Are we being snarky? Sure, aren’t we always? After all, we’re writers. (Hmm, time now to check Renee’s public statements and search for a bit of la snark so we can determine her writerliness once and for all.)

WGAe Scores Benefits for Reality Writers

We know this isn’t about “scripted” televison, but let’s be practical: Anything that strengthens the Writers Guild of America, West or East, strengthens writers working in TV and films. So this is, like, important for us all:

WGA East Pacts With 2 Reality Producers To Provide Health Insurance & Benefits – by TeamTVWriter Press Service

Lion Television and Optomen Productions have become the first non-fiction TV producers to offer writer-producers company-paid health benefits, paid time off, grievance and arbitration provisions, and compensation minimums, according to WGA East.

The collective bargaining agreements come after WGAE landed Lion in May 2011 and Optomen in August 2011, and guild brass are calling them first-of-their-kind agreements for the reality industry.

“We are very pleased to have reached agreement with Lion and Optomen,” WGAE executive director Lowell Peterson said in announcing the deal. “This is a part of the television industry that has historically been non-union, and these agreements demonstrate that people who join with the WGAE get, not just a community of creative professionals, but tangible improvements in their working conditions.”

WGAE says it remains in negotiations with non-fiction TV producer Atlas Media after it voted to join up, and it will begin talks with a fourth, ITV Studios, when the National Labor Relations Board resolves an appeal.

And Now, Some Good Words About Rewriting

We don’t know Jay McKinnon, but we’re rooting for him, thanks to this:

Batman Begins A Screenwriting Rewrite, by Jason McKinnon

I was channel surfing the other day and I stopped the second I spotted The Dark Knight. One of my favorite movies of all time…

I was instantly reminded of two things. First, Christopher Nolan’s brilliant film is still on of the best comic book movies ever made.  Second, it reminded me of a page one rewrite the film inspired way back when it first debuted in theaters.

I was in in college studying Broadcasting and an unfinished feature length screenplay was weighing heavily on me.  I started it in high school and it was painfully obvious when I saw all the rookie mistakes.  The characters came across as immature and there was a glaring plot hole in my story.  Yet, I wouldn’t allow myself to write anything new until I finished it.  This caused a problem because I couldn’t find the motivation to work on it.  In those days, it was easier to just go out and have fun then stay home and write.  Procrastination can be a dangerous habit to break.

The story was called Behind Max and it was about a high school basketball star desperate to find the support he needed to go for his dreams.  When I finished the first draft I really rushed to the end and this resulted in a very weak final act.  But really, the entire screenplay needed work.  What I needed was a spark.

That spark was Batman Begins.

Christopher Nolan’s incredible interpretation of Batman taught me a very important lesson. It taught me to step back and look at my own films in different ways.  To open my eyes to new approaches and different directions to take my screenplays.

I distinctly remember humming that unbelievable theme all the way home.  That night, I stayed in, printed out my script and read it start to finish.  I find you resist stopping to rewrite and tweak your script when it’s on paper.

Once I was finished reading the screenplay, I got out my notebook and got to work.

What is my story about?  What am I trying to say?  What have I said already?  How can I say it better?

By the end of that night, I had outlined a much better approach to Behind Max and I felt alive.  Things changed for me that day….Two days after that magical night, I…saw Batman Begins again and it had the same effect on me…. I sat down with my outline and my old script and started from scratch.  It took two weeks to finish the screenplay…. I was proud of what I had accomplished.  Proud to be a screenwriter.

[Re]Writing that screenplay taught me how much I loved to write.

Read it all

And the moral of this story?


It should be a screenwriting meme. Thanks, Jay!

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Something All TV Watchers Can Relate To

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