Category Archives: ScreenWriting

Rowling is Howling

rowlingHowling.jpgAuthor J. K. Rowling is having a howling fit. It seems that the moderator of a Harry Potter fansite that Rowling visited and praised for its coverage of all things Potter has gone and published a Lexicon on the Harry Potter series. Now, mind you, the fellow didn’t write a rogue novel, he simply catalogued things like spells, potions, magical characters and such.

Rowling was quoted as saying that she felt “exploited” by her fan, Steven Vander Ark. RDR Books attorney Lizbeth Hasse said that Rowling is seeking a monopoly over the work, which is not part of copyright law. “It’s a very legitimate literary activity,” she said of the lexicon. “Like a reference book or a guide to literature, it’s a long-recognized genre.”

The thing that I find most interesting and amazing about this whole dispute is that Rowling had no problem exploiting her fans over the years. The proliferation of adoring fansites amounted to millions of internet hits in free marketing and publicity which only increased fan loyalty, boosted book and film interest by current and future readers/viewers. Web marketing is as valuable as word-of-mouth marketing for low cost and high endorsement value. So, while bloggers spent their time, effort and MONEY to run their sites, Rowling built her bank account. Now, the lexicon, (which I have to agree with RDR is a legitimate literary form), may make a little bit of money for a fellow who has given her YEARS of web marketing … and she feels exploited.

muggle-studies-panel.gifSo, if someone like Tere Stoufer wrote a book called THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO HARRY POTTER or someone like Colin Duriez wrote a book called Field Guide to Harry Potter, shouldn’t Rowling being suing them, too? Or, are the publishers just too much larger than little RDR?

Vander Ark’s 400-page HARRY POTTER LEXICON has been blocked from release by the lawsuit filed by Rowling. Vander Ark and publisher RDR have said the book would only promote the sale of Rowling’s work and that Vander Ark’s Web site, used by 25 million visitors, had been called “a great site” by Rowling herself. Isn’t that funny that people unknown to her and other publishing entities can make whatever they want but this fellow is being shut down?

Learning from Mr. Hawthorne

“Nobody, I think, ought to read poetry, or look at pictures or statues, who cannot find a great deal more in them than the poet or artist has actually expressed. Their highest merit is suggestiveness.” — Hilda, in THE MARBLE FAUN by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Another screenwriter I know is always worrying that what she writes isn’t “important enough.” Since I’m working on projects with her, I guess that means I’m working on projects that may not be meaningful enough, either. The Bible and the Koran have already been written and Shakespeare was so prolific in the realm of dramatic storytelling, it seems like the whole important, meaningful thing has already been handled. Besides, if Nathaniel Hawthorne is correct, if we do it well, people always find more in our creative work than we originally intended anyway.

I find myself wondering if Hawthorne had any idea of the merit of his writing as he was doing it. Born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts, ScarletFirstEd.jpgNathaniel was the descendant of John Hathorne, one of the prosecutors of the Salem Witch Trials (in 1692 and 1693). Shortly after he graduated from college, Nathaniel added a “W” to his surname. (Why add the “W”? Was it for Witch? Or, perhaps, he just wanted to be different from his family? I’m sure the answer is somewhere but I haven’t found it definitively, yet.) Anyway, back to Hawthorne the writer. THE SCARLET LETTER was published in 1850, just four years before his death. I remember having to read Hawthorne in high school and college. His writing was so dated; it was staid as a Puritan’s collar, more stiff than a Puritan’s prosecutor’s righteousness. I had a difficult time getting through it, much less enjoying it. Now that I know he put historical figures into his work and that his ancestors arrived in Plymouth Colony in 1630, I have more of a commitment to revisit his novels.

A few years back, I went into an Antiquarian Bookstore and saw a FIRST EDITION of THE SCARLET LETTER. It was amazing to look at this book and know it had been printed more than a century and a half earlier. It had a leather cover, ornate and tooled. It had been read and treasured by readers for decades. I started to have a desire to own a first edition of an important work … and what I noticed was NOT that I wanted to own a work that was meaningful or important to the storekeeper or the contemporary literati. I wanted a work that was important and meaningful to me. I ended up getting a first edition “book” by Joyce Carol Oates. She probably doesn’t even remember it, this micro-book, a first edition short story (printed on a laser printer, put in a saddle-stitched printed cover and signed) but it meant the world to me.

So, every day, I just keep writing and hoping, at the end of the day, that someone, somewhere finds what we do to be meaningful and important to them, in their lives, at that moment in time. Even this blog is part of that desire to connect and create access to and for another. What else is there in this life?

“We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream; it may be so the moment after death.” — Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864).

Looking Over Peter Hedges

My writing partner, Pamela Jo, went to see DAN IN REAL LIFE with the family this weekend. She said it was a tremendously fun film; she had several belly-laughs. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the film. piecesPeter.jpgIt looked like a funny, poignant, perhaps bittersweet love story. Unlike the brutal family dynamics typically mined by Noah Baumbach, DAN looked like a more good-natured family film. It still looked like it would explore the traumatic ties of family but with a lighter touch.

So, I started looking into the details on the film and discovered the screenwriter and director of DAN IN REAL LIFE is the same writer of one of my very favorite films. Anyone who knows me, knows that I always say, “If I could create a film like WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE, I’d die happy.” I just adore that film. It turns out that I’m a big Peter Hedges fan and I didn’t even know it. Hedges also wrote ABOUT A BOY and was the writer/director of PIECES OF APRIL. Hedges was at Sundance in 2003 with Patricia Clarkson, Oliver Platt, Katie Holmes and Alison Pill. Had I known about the Gilbert Grape connection, I’d have made more of an effort to hunt him down. Dang skippy.

Hedges is currently working on the screenplay EVERYTHING CHANGES from the novel by Jonathan Tropper. A family-centered drama about an engaged man who finds himself attracting to his friend’s widow while dealing with his estranged father’s sudden appearance in his life. The rumor mill has it that Tobey Maguire will star.

Earlier today, I consulted the iChing and was given the hexagram Chia Jen (The Clan). There was a line that kept resonating all day, a line that speaks to the importance of family connections and the films that explore those stories. The family is society in the embryo; it is the native soil on which performance of moral duty is made early through natural affection, so that within a small circle a basis of moral practice is created, and this is later widened to include human relationships in general.

The relationships of family are the microcosm of one’s participation in society at large. This is, of course, one of the things that I love about Sundance. It’s such a mecca for creative, independent filmmakers who want to explore the ties that bind and unwind us all.

Quote for Today
“To believe is to know you believe, and to know you believe is not to believe.” — Jean-Paul Sartre

Writing in Tandem

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA – Those of you that follow this blog know that I’ve been working on two Zambian films for the last year. While in Zambia, I started journalling again. That led to creative writing, mostly poetry for a couple months. Of course, that led back to one of my favorite writing forms: screenwriting. I realized that I’d been screenwriting for almost two decades. It didn’t even seem possible. Over the years, I’ve written with a few writing partners. I like bouncing ideas off another person and bantering the dialogue around. It’s just the nature of the beast. I like working with people. That’s why film was a natural art form for me.

When I first investigated screenwriting as a career, I thought I’d move to LA and become part of a writing team on a situation comedy. Then, Alec was born and I opted to remain in the Valley. Teach and do the indie film thing. pjhair.jpg Sitcom writer/Show runner Ric Swartzlander (husband of former Phoenix news anchor Cater Lee) shared the intricacies of writing as part of a team. I learned a lot from him. Now, I’m working with a new writing partner. As is often true in the beginning, it can be a bit rugged getting used to each other’s styles.

As a side note, Ric has a new show coming out this fall called NEWS. It’s about the crazy goings on at an Arizona news station. It stars Barry Bostwick and Rachel Boston. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

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