Max Coulson on Screenwriting

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Basically, I was looking through my old Reddit posts, and this was just something I left in a post about how to get started writing a screenplay.  I actually think I gave pretty solid advice, so here it is:

First off- you have to already have the idea. Don’t try and sit down at your computer, ready to write, if you don’t have an idea yet.

If you struggle to come up with ideas, speak to friends about hypothetical movies- even if they sound REALLY silly. Take an idea and just run with it, just as a general exercise.

A lot of my ideas come from personal frustration that I really want to see a new movie in a certain style, that nobody is making any more. Usually something I grew up with. Then I run with that idea and start thinking of what I’d like to see done in that style. Chances are, the final product won’t at all resemble it, because the story just ends up going a different way – and it becomes its own animal.

Once you have an idea- start to refine it based on practicality. What is it for? Is this a script that you want to sell to a large production company, or is it an independent film you want to put together yourself?

Think about what you have access to, and base what you write around your limitations. Even if you plan for it to be a big budgeted blockbuster – think as small as you can. Simplicity is key- and you don’t want to write loads, only for the company to start tearing out pages because they can’t afford to film those scenes – or for what you had planned to look like crap because it’s beyond the company’s or your own personal means.

The three act structure is your friend!

Write out simply what you want to happen in the beginning the middle and the end, as bullet-points.

Then split each of those stages into three more. Then you split THOSE stages into three more.

Once you have that – you’re ready to start writing.

Try to focus on one or two main characters. Ensemble pieces can be great – but can you guarantee that you’d have access to enough strong actors to pull it off? Also, when you’re starting out, focussing on one or two characters can really help you learn to build strong characters, because you’re not constantly switching your focus and bloating your story.

The only other thing I can say is to play to your own strengths. If dialogue is something you’re good with, then centre your script around interesting conversations. If you have a very poetic brain, and have a knack for symbolism and layers of subtext- then maybe don’t aim to make the next Rambo movie.

If action scenes are your bag- keep in mind your limitations, but still play on it. Look at a movie like The Warriors. Plenty of action, but it’s mostly street fights and brawling. Simple to choreograph, easy for actors to learn, and no need for big special effects.

Lastly, don’t worry too much if what you write isn’t always very good. I scrap more screenplays than I keep. That’s just a part of the creative process.

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Death Race 2050 (2017) – Movie Review by Max Coulson

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9/10

What’s this?  A remake that doesn’t completely miss the point of the original, but instead builds on the themes and ideas laid out by it?  Holy fuck.

Yeah, this was a pretty solid remake, all in all.  Certainly beat the fuck out of that Paul WS Anderson “Mario Kart with Jason Statham” bullshit.

There were things the original did better.  While both films have their fair share of hokey acting, Death Race 2000 at least had David Carradine delivering a solid performance in the lead.  In this, the majority of the acting is probably better, but the guy playing Frankenstein was nowhere near as compelling.

Also, the driving sequences were better in the original.  Both films used a lot of undercranking to make it look like the cars were driving faster than they were, but the original handled it a lot better.  Also, this version has a lot of obvious greenscreen where the original would have the actors either actually driving, or would use camera angles to block the view of the road.

However, neither Death Race 2000 nor this movie are about slick driving sequences.  This movie actually ups the satire, and mostly in a way that benefits the film.  While Malcolm McDowell’s Chairman character parodies Donald Trump a little too blatantly, in a way that will likely date the film quite a bit, most of the satire is handled very well.

One running gag in the film is that all the US States (now each owned by a different corporation) have new names, which appears as a caption whenever the racers enter said state.  For example, “New Texaco: Formerly Arkansas.”  Another great twist on this gag is, during a scene in the white house, we see the caption “Washington DC: Formerly Dubai.”

Rather than focus solely on violence in the media, which the original did, this movie seems to pin most of its satire on globalisation and people’s increasing dependence on media consumption (violent or otherwise), as employment becomes less and less needed.

But, of course, neither the racing nor the satire are what people really watch these movies for.  And it wasn’t a lack of either that lead to people hating the Statham/Anderson movie.  I am of course referring to the mindless slaughter of random pedestrians – and this movie doesn’t skimp on that!

Hell, this movie sorta outdoes the original on that front, simply because the kills are gory as fuck in this film (in the overly cartoonish Troma/Itchy & Scratchy sort of way, naturally).  I don’t know if a car can actually split someone in two, right through the stomach, but I’m willing to roll with it – because it’s awesome.

There were more actual characters in this than there were in Death Race 2000, too.  Beyond Frankenstein, Machine Gun Joe and (I guess) Annie, the original didn’t really have many actual notable characters.  Whereas Death Race 2050 fleshes out a fair few of its characters.  Even the chairman has some believability to him, despite similarities to Trump.

The standout performance was definitely Folake Olowofoyeku (a name that makes me very glad this isn’t a video review because I have no idea how to pronounce that) as Minerva, the hip-hop star turned racer.  The character is definitely one that had more depth than she needed, and Olowofoyeku definitely added a lot to the character with her performance.

Overall, I can’t actually even say which of the two movies is better, because they both excel in different ways.  Just watch both.

Watch both.

Do it.