Dungeon Classics #13: Thursday

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

Thursday (1998, USA)

Director: Skip Woods
Cast: Thomas Jane, Aaron Eckhart, Paulina Porizkova
Running Time: 87 mins.

The past comes back to haunt suburban architect Casey (Jane) on what seems to be like a day from hell. While his wife is away, his old drug dealing pal Nick (Eckhart) comes by who leaves him with a suitcase. This later turns out to be chock full of heroin. Not long after, more criminals, crooked cops and a homicidal woman show up to make Casey’s life more miserable. Luckily for him, his old criminal instincts also return with a vengeance, so how the day will end is all but certain. Thursday got some critique for ripping off Tarantino, but missing the poetic touches of the master. At times, it does indeed feel a bit exploitative. However, it is also very entertaining and the cast is excellent. No, it is nowhere near Pulp Fiction, but as far as Tarantino-esque crime movies go, this one belongs to the best of the bunch as far as I’m concerned.

How to Write a Television Series

Originally published on FilmDungeon.com on 24-12-2007

As a lifelong devotee of the moving image, I developed the idea of writing screenplays. What better way is there to get your break into movies when you’re a non-professional that wants to be a filmmaker? I had already written a movie screenplay. A low-budget horror-comedy comparable with Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste. The problem with actually filming it was that a considerable budget was required. I am from the Netherlands where even renowned filmmakers struggle to get another project done. So who was going to invest in a cult film with a microscopic target group and an inexperienced director?

It was time for a strategy change. TV-series are the next best thing. And being the creator of a TV-series is what many would call a dream job. So would I. You get to write and produce a mini-movie every week, and when successful, you can continue it for as long as a decade. So I decided to start the creation of my very own TV-series. I already knew my subject. Or concept if you will. Now I needed some ideas on how to craft my screenplay.

To get this done I bought a book: The Sopranos – Selected Scripts From Three Seasons. This is an extremely useful book for aspiring TV-writers. But knowing the show is probably a prerequisite. It describes the process of writing a series. The creator of the show, David Chase, explains how he came up with the overall theme of every season. Then, together with his writing team, he started working on the individual episodes. Every episode has three or four storylines. One major storyline called A. Then there are smaller ones called B, C and sometimes D.

Once the storylines were decided, the actual scenes were described. The five example screenplays in the book are in between 35 and 80 scenes long, and approximately 60 pages (1 hour of TV). When the scenes for every story were decided they are sequenced in a logical order. Then the episodes were divided among the writers. They had approximately two weeks to come up with the first draft. Then the show’s creator read it and gave the writer feedback on what he liked and didn’t like about it. Then the second draft was written and this process continued till the final draft was ready for production.

A great benefit of this book is that it contains five example TV-plays. If you need direction on the format of a TV-screenplay, all you have to do is check out one of these. After finishing the book I was ready to start the creation process of my very own TV-series. First a lot of research had to be done. I collected newspaper articles and started reading books on my subject. I started shaping my fictional world by describing the characters, their life stories and their personality traits.

The research and preparation took me a whole year. Of course I did it all in my spare time. I also had a day job to keep going. After this year I was ready to write an actual episode; the pilot. I wanted to do this in one go, because I thought it would make the writing process easier. So during a holiday in Crete I wrote the pilot script. It was certainly fun to do. But finishing the script was a weird sensation. I was proud that I had not given up, and had now completed it. But I was also wondering if what I wrote was actually any good…

Update 2021
No, that pilot tv-script I wrote is not very good. However, I haven’t lost my passion for this writing business. I recently decided to give it another go. That Bad Taste like script I mentioned earlier, I have decided to rewrite it. And it will be in English, so it is fit for international audiences.

Will it ever be a movie? Small chance. No one will want to produce it, that’s for sure. It’s too weird and has no commercial appeal I think. But if I ever get my hands on some money that has no immediate purpose, I might produce it myself. It has the potential to become a fantastic amateur cult movie.

And I would put it straight on YouTube when it would be done. It would be a lot of fun to make for the voluntary or underpaid cast and crew, that’s for sure. So I take another advice from David Chase, don’t stop believing!

Dungeon Classics #12: Snatch

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

Snatch (2000, UK | USA)

Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Jason Statham, Stephen Graham, Brad Pitt, Alan Ford
Running Time: 104 mins.

Two years after his formidable debut Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Guy Ritchie, now one of the hottest new directors around, returned with Snatch: a crime comedy with exactly the same formula. Poker is replaced with bare knuckle boxing, stolen antique rifles became a stolen diamond, and Big Chris is renamed Bullet Tooth Tony. The visual gimmickry is still there. And a few cast members returned, most notably Jason Statham, now as leading man. Ritchie had more money this time around, so he could also hire A-listers like Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro. Both are great as usual, but Pitt plays one of his most memorable roles ever as Mickey, a ‘pikey’ boxer with an indecipherable accent. What also returns most prominently is the humour. Snatch has sequences – like the black guys attempt to rob the bookies – that will make you piss your pants. It’s one of the funniest crime movies ever made. And the dialogues are one of a kind. In short, Snatch is 86 carats. Or is it 84?

Dungeon Classics #11: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998, UK)

Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Nick Moran, Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Jason Statham
Running Time: 107 mins.

Guy Ritchie’s low-budget debut is still his best film, although its hilarious follow-up Snatch comes close. Four friends raise 100.000 pounds to let one of them – card wonder Eddy – participate in the high stakes game of underworld figure Hatchet Harry. They lose 500.000 due to foul play on Harry’s part and have one week to pay back the ‘porn king’ or his enforcers will start collecting their fingers and Eddy’s father’s (played by Sting) pub. This is the beginning of an exhilarating quest for money, featuring dumb criminals, antique rifles and an unconscious traffic warden. Ritchie employs all editing and camera tricks he can come up with which makes the movie – groovily shot in shades of yellow, brown, and grey – a visually rip-roaring experience. The clever screenplay, brilliant soundtrack and delicious cockney accents add to the enjoyment. Not to be missed this one! Allright?