Posts Tagged ‘high school’
Posted on March 10, 2014 - by writerman
The other day, a friend who wants to write his first script asked me for advice on how to get started. I love answering that question, for two reasons:
1. The first step is my favorite
2. No actual writing is involved
Here’s what I told my friend. The critical first step in writing a movie of your very own is:
Make a playlist
Totally serious. All the cool kids are doing it. Put together a playlist of tracks that you can listen to while you are working. Keep in mind that the goal here isn’t to pick songs that will end up in the movie, but to pick songs that get across the feeling you want the movie to evoke. I also like to include songs that represent important characters. Then I put it on repeat1 while I’m working. It really helps you get in the right headspace, especially when shifting gears between multiple projects.
The longer I’ve been working on a script, the more songs end up in the playlist. I’m always adding new tracks that capture the tone of a certain scene or personality of a minor character. Because scouring the web for music is the best kind of procrastination cleverly disguised as work.
Here’s the playlist I’ve got on repeat today – music for writing the high school comedy. After months of typing and re-typing, the playlist has evolved into a pretty eclectic beast, but the tunes generally fall into three categories:
1. The sounds of the setting
The story is set in a huge public school in Washington D.C., held down by the sounds of Tupac, Biggie and Dr. Dre.
2. Main character music
The hero is a freshman who’s trying to survive his first day in the tangled jungle of high school. He’s a “diplobrat” who had been attending elite private schools while getting dragged around the globe by his diplomat dad, until an incident2 at school in Japan gets him booked on the first plane home to D.C. to live with his moms and attend Hamilton High. He sounds like new-school hipster acts Phoenix and Vampire Weekend.
3. The glorious 80’s
And, because it’s been more than a few years since my last pep rally, this playlist is packed with 80s jams that take me back to a simpler, emotionally-tumultuous time to reconnect with my high-school-self. So yeah, The Cure & The Smiths, but also The Outfield and Cheap Trick. Plus, a bonus track in honor of John Hughes that might just be the best use of music in a movie, like, ever.
Enjoy. And thanks to the Internets for making this so much easier than it used to be.
- Seriously – the woman in my life is so fucking sick of these songs. [↩]
- And by “incident” I’m sure you know I meant “fist-fight at the science fair.” [↩]
Posted on January 12, 2012 - by writerman
The hardest thing about putting this top 10 list together was narrowing it down to less than eleven movies. Chalk it up to my protracted adolescence or perpetual immaturity, but I just frickin’ love movies about high school. That said, this is a Top 10 list. So there will be no “honorable mentions” and no ties for 10th place. Ten movies – no more and no less.
I am, as they say, a stickler for the rules. And so, in spite of my enthusiasm for so many movies that did not make the list, I will not mention the one that set the template, or any movies involving pies, football, selling your underpants, remarkably articulate pregnant girls, the Ramones, Charlie Sheen, buckets of pig’s blood, and definitely not that one with the time machine.1
10. Clueless (1995)
This movie gets a lot of props for being a Jane Austen remake and for giving us all the 411 on how the cool kids talk, but the reason it landed in my top 10 is because of Alicia Silverstone’s amazing performance as everyone’s favorite spoiled, selfish, rich, shallow, vapid, vain, self-centered, clueless and yet somehow still loveable high school girl.
9. Superbad (2007)
The most outrageously profane movie on this list, Superbad makes the top 10 for bringing simplicity, sweetness and an endless parade of dick jokes back to the high school comedy. And, for introducing “cockblock” into the common vernacular.
8. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Nearly 30 years later, Fast Times is largely remembered for the iconic scene where the white guy from Beverly Hills Cop fantasizes about a half-naked, underage Phoebe Cates and her red bikini. That moment has been imitated countless times since then, but the rest of the movie still holds up for it’s hilarious but unflinching look at real high school issues like drug use, abortion and ordering pizza to history class.
7. Heathers (1988)
The fashions are so 80’s, but the themes are timeless:
I mean, who hasn’t fantasized about murdering that evil bitch and the asshole jocks who terrorized their high school? Right?
6. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
The Internet tells me that this movie inspired the term “The Napoleon Dynamite Problem”, the phenomenon whereby “quirky” films such as Napoleon Dynamite, Lost in Translation, and I Heart Huckabees prove difficult for researchers to create algorithms that are able to predict whether or not a particular viewer will like the film based on their ratings of previously viewed films.
Also: your mom goes to college.
5. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Richard Linklater’s best movie, Matthew McConaughey’s finest performance, and the greatest use of Foghat in the history of cinema, Dazed is one of those rare movies that gets more and more fun the more times you watch it.
4. Election (1999)
Sure, she was pretty good in that movie about Johnny Cash, but for my money this is the performance that should have earned Reese Witherspoon her first Oscar. Pick Flick!
3. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Oh John Hughes, how could we possibly ever forget about you?
2. Rushmore (1998)
When I scribbled down a first crack at my top 10 high school movies, I left Rushmore off the list altogether. Which is odd, because it’s actually one of my favorite movies of all time. I guess that’s because it doesn’t really feel like a high school movie, even though the main character wishes he could spend the rest of his life in high school. Still, it gets the #2 spot here for giving Bill Murray a second act, but mainly because it’s the funniest movie about love, hate, jealousy, rivalry and revenge I’ve ever seen.
1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
This movie is the shit.
Seriously, anytime there’s a midnight screening of Ferris in town just give me a call and you’ll get to hear me say:
- Or the other one with the time machine. [↩]
- On a personal note, it was Ferris Bueller himself who inspired me to start cutting class back in the day. Of course, I got busted a lot more than Ferris and I sure as hell never got to drive a convertible Ferrari. [↩]
- Just last month, I picked up the menu at a pizza joint and ordered the “Abe Froman.” [↩]
Posted on April 2, 2009 - by writerman
Started working on a new script the other day. It’s set in a high school, and since I’m definitely not in high school anymore, I’ve been using it as an excuse to watch old episodes of Freaks & Geeks, turn Sunday into a John Hughes movie marathon, and hit the midnight screening of the Breakfast Club at the Regency Fairfax. Good times!
Now I know some people worship at the altar of the Geeks and the Freaks, and I can respect that. It was a great show. But I bet if you ask Judd Apatow, he’d agree that John Hughes is clearly the master.
There’s just no denying that every teen movie and tv show made after 1984 is heavily influenced by Mr. Hughes precarious balance of realism, comedy, and melodrama. In fact, I’d argue that the influence of Hughes’ movies extends beyond the screen. If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, there’s a good chance Sixteen Candles or Weird Science or Ferris Bueller had a direct impact on your young life.
- How many preteen geeks enrolled in computer classes in the desperate hope that someday they could make their very own supermodel, just like Anthony Michael Hall?
- On a personal note, it was Ferris Bueller himself who inspired me to start cutting class. Of course, I got busted a lot more than Ferris and I sure as hell never got to drive a convertible Ferrari.
- I even have a friend who, to this day, dances (un-ironically) just like Molly Ringwald in Breakfast Club.
To be fair, Hughes isn’t perfect. Maybe Andie should have ended up with Duckie, and maybe it was kind of anti-feminist when the basket case got a makeover so she could make out with Charlie Sheen’s brother. But for my money, John Hughes was one of the best and most influential writer/directors of the late 20th century.
Thanks John. We won’t forget about you.