Movie Maniac

Tim Burton's new project: Storytelling with Twitter fans

Fantastical, visionary director Tim Burton has built a career out of being weird — excuse me, quirky. I wholly respect and admire his astounding creativity.

But I've often felt that while his films are stunningly beautiful —"Alice in Wonderland" was mesmerizing — his weakness might come in his storytelling.

So it's interesting that he has embarked on a new storytelling project. " Tim Burton's Cadavre Exquis" is a Twitter-based experiment where visitors to Burton's website ( add a line to an already existing narrative, 140 characters at a time.

The first tweet, by Burton, kicked off the story: "Stainboy, using his obvious expertise, was called in to investigate mysterious glowing goo on the gallery floor."

The website explains that "Cadavre Exquis" means "Exquisite Corpse" and is a technique used to collectively tell a story. Each contributor adds to the story in sequence, building on the last line revealed. Visitors can tweet as often as they like, with the best tweet of the day being selected to add to the story.

The project is sponsored by the Toronto International Film Festival, which will also host an exhibition of Burton's films and artwork.

At the very least, the project is a fun idea and lets fans interact with Burton and one another. Submissions will be accepted through Saturday.

Alba vs. writers — I'm coming to this a little late, but news of Jessica Alba's disrespectful comments about acting and writing got my blood boiling, nonetheless.

The actress, who starred in such critically reviled gems as "The Love Guru," "Good Luck Chuck" and "The Eye," was quoted in an interview in the December issue of Elle magazine as saying: "Good actors never use the script unless it's amazing writing. All the good actors I've worked with, they all say whatever they want to say."

Screenwriter John August (who coincidentally is a frequent Tim Burton collaborator, having penned "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Big Fish" and the upcoming "Frankenweenie") is a thoughtful man I once had lunch with while going through the Sundance Institute's screenwriting program. He voiced opinions about Alba's comments on his blog (which were widely shared), and is so good-natured that he said, "I have to believe she was misquoted, or excerpted in some unflattering way."

August seemed to be speaking my mind when he explained that "scripts aren't just the dialogue. Screenplays reflect the entire movie in written form, including those moments when you don't speak."

He added: "You're saying your co-stars who delivered their lines as written are not 'good actors.' Awkward."

Moreover, he said, Alba is "setting dangerous expectations. So if an aspiring actor wishes to be 'good,' she should say whatever she wants to say? That's pretty terrible advice."

I doubt Alba reads August's blog. But I've been meaning to mention how much I love his website, anyway. He offers exceptional advice for novice and seasoned screenwriters, and gives valuable insight into the movie business. Check it out at

Unless you're Jessica Alba. Then just make up whatever you want to read.