The Ins and Outs of Sex Scenes

Bob Verini is the Los Angeles-based theater critic for Daily Variety dissects the task of writing sex scenes.


“It took me three hours … but, you see, when it was over, I had really done something—something worthwhile— something only I could have done. Who else would have cared enough to do it right?”

There’s a true artist speaking, by golly! You can imagine Cole Porter uttering these words upon finishing the lyrics for “You’re The Top,” or Richard Avedon after printing his Marilyn Monroe portrait. (Actually it’s American Gigolo’s Julian Kaye explaining how he was able to give an older woman, “somebody’s mother,” her first orgasm in 10 years. But, hey! Artistry is where you find it.)

In any event, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine anyone’s expressing this kind of pride of craftsmanship about the writing of a movie sex scene. Far from “something worthwhile,” it may be the most thankless and least-respected screenwriting chore of them all, with a variety of reasons why this is so.

For one thing, the specifics of a sex scene are often little more than a road map: Make a left at that fork, spin around the cul-de-sac and then take the straight route up the highway. And no matter how you approach it, there’s a nagging sense that you, or someone, has been there before. How different can sex be, anyway? Some writers are probably held back by a puritanical streak while others may be frustrated because the full orgasmic experience can’t be depicted outside of XXX video. (Journalist Neil Fulwood observes that hardcore-porn stories like Boogie Nights and Body Double always see to it that their characters climax while still coupling so as to avoid what, in all reality, would be the very visible “money shot.”)

The real problem is that the writer is surely the least important part of the sex scene as it will appear in the finished film since the principals—the director, the actors and the D.P.—will be all too ready to throw out the blueprint and just see what happens on the set. One of the most famous of all sex scenes, that of Julie Christieand Donald Sutherland in Don’t Look Now, never appeared in the script. Total improvisation. Larry Kramer never scripted the Alan Bates/Oliver Reed nude wrestling in Women in Love, either. Instead, he inserted D.H. Lawrence’s original text both to appease censors and to reassure Reed, already nervous about how in the staging he would, um, stack up against his co-star. (Evidently Bates won that battle as well as the wrestling.)

Script Mag | Read the Full Article

After a Tumultuous Year at the Box Office, Hollywood Looks to 2015

Brook Barnes explains how Hollywood can’t wait to put 2014 to bed.


LOS ANGELES — The delay of major movies from Pixar and Universal. The pirating of “The Expendables 3” and “Annie” before their release. Warner Bros. suffering one dud after another. Hackers forcing the cancellation of a big Sony comedy.

Hollywood does not want a sequel to 2014.

For the year, ticket sales at North American theaters will total roughly $10.5 billion, a 4 percent decline from a year earlier, according to projections by the box-office data firm Rentrak. Attendance will drop by about the same percentage.

Annual fluctuations of that size are not uncommon at the domestic box office, which rises and falls based on the strength of the movie lineup. Still, that total would give the movie business its lowest tally since 2000, after accounting for inflation.

Despite some major successes — “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “The Lego Movie,” “Godzilla,” “Divergent,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “The Maze Runner” all revived franchises or started new ones — box-office weakness stretched into nearly every genre and audience segment. There was no big-budget catastrophe like “The Lone Ranger,” but at least a dozen films underperformed in domestic theaters, suggesting structural weakness, analysts said.

NY Times | Read the Full Article

Unbroken: Editing Angelina Jolie’s War Drama

Editors William Goldberg and Tim Squyres discuss what it was like working on Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut.

Film Title: Unbroken

“I don’t think anybody can edit a film to be the best it can be by themselves,” editor Tim Squyres, ACE, told me when I asked him about his first time as co-editor. “You need to push each other and try other things and react to what someone else is doing.” Which was exactly the push and pull process in crafting war drama Unbroken with editor William “Billy” Goldenberg, ACE, in the very next editing room. The second narrative feature directed by Angelina Jolie, Unbroken is based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand and tells the true story of US Olympic track star Louie Zamperini (played by Jack O’Connell), an epic that includes World War II, a plane crash in the Pacific, drifting about on a life raft for 47 days, and spending over two years in Japanese prison camps.

Post for the film started out with Squyres and a couple assistants at the helm, with Goldenberg coming into the process later. Cut on Avid Media Composer 7 at DNxHD115 on an ISIS, the technical part of the editorial process was a non-issue for the editors.

Squyres mentioned that “Everything just worked flawlessly,” with Goldenberg adding “I think I crashed once the entire time I was on the film.” Not bad. And paying as little attention as possible to the technical side of things allowed the editors to focus on their collaboration with Jolie, who bounced between edit rooms giving notes and watching scenes.

This wasn’t Goldenberg’s first time co-editing a film, and he praised the additional set of eyes the process affords him. “You can show an edit to the other editor first, a free pass, another person who is like a director — since most editors can look at something like a director — and you can take all their notes and make the scene better before you actually show the director. It’s one thing to be critical of your own work but when you’re sitting in the other chair, you can see things a lot more clearly.”

Creative COW | Read the Full Article

Erin McKean: Go ahead, make up new words!

In this fun, short talk from TEDYouth, lexicographer Erin McKean encourages — nay, cheerleads — her audience to create new words when the existing ones won’t quite do. She lists out 6 ways to make new words in English, from compounding to “verbing,” in order to make language better at expressing what we mean, and to create more ways for us to understand one another.

Suck it Grammar Nazis


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