The NinesThe Nines was one of the best films of last year, although, chances are you never saw it. I think John August‘s directorial debut didn’t get much further than a couple screens, which is a crying shame if you ask me. Thankfully the film is hitting DVD store shelves later this month. I highly recommend it.

But in a highly strange move, screenwriter turned director and self professed tech geek,  August has announced to his fans that The Nines is now available illegally on Bit Torrent.

“You can loan a DVD, without passing along that troubling knowledge that you’ve done something illicit,” August writes, adding “But if these reasons and/or your conscience doesn’t persuade you, it’s not hard to find The Nines online. And won’t think less of you. Probably.”

Wow. But I want to support this film with my money, so I’ll be putting down the cash on January 29th. I recommend you do the same. But what does my moral opinion matter when the filmmaker is telling you that he doesn’t care as long as you check out his movie.

John AugustDespite claims from IMDb, screenwriter John August is not writing the 3D feature film adaptation of Frankenweenie for Tim Burton. Apparently August had a meeting with Disney Animation last year where they pitched him the idea, complete with production art.

“Then, separately, I had a conversation with Tim about doing another stop-motion animation project like Corpse Bride. But they’re not the same thing. And as far as I know, I won’t be working on either one. (That said, I didn’t think I was working on Corpse Bride until I was halfway on a plane to London, so never say never.)”

However the screenwriter is looking to reteam with the Big Fish director on another as-yet-to-be-announced live-action project.

“I almost certainly will be writing [the unannounced Burton project] post-strike. And yes, I’d love to tell you what it is. But I can’t.”

But when will Tim Burton find the time? Burton is currently prepping a 3D version of Alice in Wonderland for Disney. That film will go into production in May 2008. And as we mentioned before, Burton is also signed on to make a feature film adaptation of his short film Frankenweenie.

In the meantime, August’s blog is probably the best place to catch up on “From the Frontlines of the Writers Strike” stories.

Star TrekScreenwriter John August has been doing an incredible job blogging about the WGA strike, and his encounters on the picket line. In one of his latest blog entries, August talks about a conversation he has on day 10 of the strike, meeting and chatting with Damon Lindelof and J.J. Abrams. The Star Trek director expressed his frustrations of being in production on a movie during the strike, and what problems it creates. Here is an excerpt:

“Damon is producing the new Star Trek movie, which J.J. is directing. Which is shooting on the Paramount lot. Which we are currently picketing.”

“Star Trek is the biggest movie shooting at Paramount. It’s directed and produced by WGA members, who are following the spirit and letter of the Guild’s rules. They’re walking the line while being forced to cross it.”

“‘Forced’ isn’t quite right, because there’s an alternative: J.J., Damon, and the other WGA producers could refuse to cross the picket line. They’d get fired, sued, and replaced by a less-conflicted director and producing team – all probably within a week’s time. What’s tougher to figure out is whether it would make a damn bit of difference.”

“Neither J.J. nor Damon are writers on the movie. But they are writers, and WGA members. During a WGA strike, you’re not allowed to write on movies or television shows, period. So they can’t change a word of the script, nor can anyone else. The script they had at 11:59 p.m. November 5th is the script they have to shoot.”

“To a screenwriter, that might seem kind of awesome. For once, the director can’t change things. But when its your own movie, it’s maddening. J.J. was describing a scene he was shooting the day before. Midway through it, he got a great idea for a new line. Which he couldn’t write. Couldn’t shoot. Couldn’t be in his movie.

“Damon described it like having one of your superpowers taken away.”

“You can absolutely make a movie without changing the script. Big Fish and Charlie were shot just like they were written. But to not even have the option of changing something is a bizarre restriction, like making a Dogme 95 film with a $100 million budget….”


Get Smart Poster

While I was in New Mexico, I missed out on a couple movie poster premiere. So let’s make up for lost time, and take a look at a few of them. First up is the teaser poster via cinematical for Get Smart starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. I’m really looking forward to this one, being a big fan of the Mel Brooks series as a kid. Also the footage shown at Comic Con showed major promise.
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John August on Why Writers Get Residuals

John August on Why Writers Get Residuals

John August (Go, The Nines) is not only the most successful underrated screenwriter working not working in Hollywood today, but he’s also a damn good blogger. Each of the posts that I’ve written about the writers strike has resulted in some interesting comment discussions. And one argument that gets brought up each and every time without fail is: “Writers don’t need residuals, they get paid enough already. I don’t get residuals for the work I do at my office.”

August has written a comprehensive blog post explaining why writers get paid royalties. He explains the situation far better than I could have (and heck, he’s not writing screenplays so it makes perfect sense that he’s instead creating great blog content).

“Most songs don’t become hits. Most novels don’t become best-sellers. Songwriters and novelists may only generate new, money-generating work every few years. Royalties are what pay the bills in the meantime. Without royalties, very few people could afford to write songs or books for a living. These pursuits would become hobbies for the rich, or patrons of the rich. (And in fact, Western literature was largely written by the people who could afford to write.)”

August explains the legal reasons why screenwriters get residuals and not Royalties, and argues that residuals allow for a middle class and for a larger pool of talent.

“Residuals are like the research and development fund for the industry.”

“You’ll note that the studios aren’t talking about eliminating residuals altogether. Even in one of their earlier proposals for “profit-based residuals,” they were acknowledging that writers are entitled to them. Without some form of residuals, the charade of authorship-transference ceases to be mutually beneficial.”

And more importantly, August explains why the guy at the soda bottling factory doesn’t make residuals on all the pop he bottles, or why his friend Jeff doesn’t make a royalty on a spreadsheet he created in 2003.

“When he created it for his boss, he was an employee of the company. Copyright-wise, everything he did for them was a work-for-hire. They owned it outright. When a screenwriter writes a script, she’s transferring this bundle of authorship rights to a corporation. In exchange for these legal and creative rights, she gets paid an upfront fee and royalties (called residuals).

Readers from the technology and medical fields might recognize an analogous situation with patents and intellectual property. It’s not uncommon for an inventor to get paid per unit for the right to use some proprietary innovation. So it may help to think of screenplays as “literary inventions,” subject to a strange but industry-standardized procedure to protect both creators and corporations.”

Read John August’s full blog post on

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

NBC Cancels Heroes: Origins? Boba Fett in Star Wars TV Series?

NBC has decided to pull the Heroes spin-off miniseries Heroes: Origins from a midseason launch. THR is claiming that the writers strike may have contributed to this move, but I’m sure the slight drop is Heroes ratings had more to do with the decision. And while the network isn’t saying what will become of the six episode series, word is that it’s dead. Kevin Smith, Eli Roth and John August were some of the writer/directors tapped for the miniseries. Very disappointing, because it would have been interesting to see what Heroes would look like with some good writing talent involved. Don’t get me wrong, I love the show. But it is the worst written good show on television. Some of the dialogue this season has been over-the-top horrendous (“Are you an Alien or a Robot?”).

Meanwhile our friends at IESB say that infamous Bounty Hunter Boba Fett will be featured in the Star Wars live-action television series. Apparently Star Wars producer Rick McCallum told the audience at Star Wars Reunion 2 in France this weekend that he would like to see Daniel Logan in the Bobba Fett armor in the planned live-action television series. Logan played young Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones. If you remember, the young guy witnessed his father Jango Fett’s death. A revenge story involving Samuel L Jackson’s character Mace Windu would be great, but didn’t George Lucas say that none of the major Star Wars characters would show up on screen in the new series? McCallum also revealed that George Lucas hopes to extend the planned 100 episode series to close to 400 episodes.

The NinesWhen Clerks 2 was getting ready for release, Kevin Smith had a great idea to release an audio commentary track for the film a couple weeks after the film had hit theaters. The idea was to encourage people to go back and pay for the movie again, and to listen to the film commentary on their iPod. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but if I remember correctly, the theater owners complained about people may be laughing at parts during the movie that shouldn’t have laughs and that would be distracting to others in the theater. It was a great idea though, although I can see that complaint, especially considering how funny some of Smith’s commentary tracks can get.

John August has taken that idea and run with it. Not only has he announced he’s releasing the commentary track for The Nines on MP3, but he’s already posted it. I guess it’s easier to get something like this through on a smaller limited release. Also, I’m sure August’s track is probably more informative than funny, and would not result in such distractions mentioned above. And The Nines is the perfect film for this experiment because it offers a complex mystery which people may want to explore a second time with a guide.

“In the age of iPods, there’s really no reason why audio commentary has to be relegated to DVD. That’s why Ryan Reynolds and I recorded one last week for The Nines which is now yours to download.”

You can download the commentary track now at

Nine Minutes of John August’s The Nines

The NinesEver since I first saw John August’s directorial debut The Nines earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, I’ve wondered how they would market this film. I absolutely loved it, yet can’t even explain the plot. It’s a LOST-style mystery infused in a Go-style dialogue and reality. Three stories with the same actors. I am always hesitant to reveal too much, because going in clueless is part of the fun. At the same time I’m hesitant to recommend the film to anyone because I could also understand how such a film could irritate certain types of people.

The people at Newmarket Films have decided to release the first 9 minutes of the movie online. I wish they cut out the intro and allowed the clip to extend to the mystery which is revealed shortly after (at least by my memory). I think if you left the moviegoing public with the question “What is the Nines?” then most would be forced to buy a ticket and find out. But the first nine minutes will give you a good indication of the playful nature of the film, the actors involved, and the pop-culture infused dialogue which has become August’s trademark. Again, I loved this film, and may-be you will too. It hits theaters in LA and New York on August 31st, and will hopefully expand based on audience response. Check out the clip after the jump.
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John August’s The Nines Movie Poster

The Nines Movie PosterJohnAugust and Cinematical have posted the theatrical one-sheet poster for John August’s directorial debut The Nines. Guys, this was my favorite movie of Sundance 2007. There isn’t an easy way to describe The Nines without ruining much of the plot. The plot summery I’ve seen floating around the web describes the film:

A troubled actor, a television show runner, and an acclaimed videogame designer find their lives intertwining in mysterious and unsettling ways.

The poster, seen right, features Ryan Reynolds tying (or is he untying?) a green string bracelet on his right wrist. This is something that comes into play late into the film. The tagline reads “You Never Know When Your Number Is Up”. It’s a cool tagline, and a very cool poster for that matter, but does it really give you any indication of what the movie is about? Or even what the genre is for that matter? “You Never Know When Your Number Is Up” sounds like the tagline for a cheesy direct-to-dvd horror film, but on this poster it seems like something much different. And truth is, this movie works within more than a few genres, which is probably one of the reasons why the film itsn’t easily to classify. You can click on the poster image to enlarge.

When I first saw this film in January, I wondered how they would market such a movie. It’s so very different from anything on the big screen today. The closest thing I can compare it to is the television show LOST, and even then, that is a far stretch. It begins as a realistic film with a mysterious sci-fi element, and evolves into a multi-part story with a polarizing mind-fuck climax. If you haven’t yet seen the trailer, check it out now at this link. But bottom line is – You need to see this movie. I can’t recommend it enough.

The Nines

My favorite film from the 2007 Sundance Film Festival is the feature film debut of screenwriter John August (Go, Big Fish). There isn’t really any way to describe The Nines without ruining much of the plot. The plot summery I’ve seen floating around the web describes the film:

A troubled actor, a television show runner, and an acclaimed videogame designer find their lives intertwining in mysterious and unsettling ways.

The new movie trailer probably reveals too much. What are The Nines? It’s a JJ Abrams style mystery/character drama which will have you talking the whole car ride home. Check out the trailer after the jump.

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