source: Paul Peditto & Moviebytes.com
#screenwriting #film #story
“I don’t believe in learning from other peoples pictures. I think you should learn from your own interior vision of things and discover, as I say, Innocently, as though there had never been anybody.”
Did you ever wonder if it was such a great idea to see every movie ever made? To study every genre, learn the tricks of every director? Could it be that a piece of your - for want of a better word - innocence is lost with every movie you watch? With each writer you emulate? It’s pretty commonly assumed that you GROW as an artist with more exposure to other people’s stuff. What if the truth was the reverse?
Did you ever wonder if you weren’t writer’s blocked at all … but that you simply had NO ENERGY left in your body from your daily toils to devote to screenwriting. I remember from an old Syd Field book he said you need three hours a day to write a screenplay. Utter nonsense. What if I don’t have the three hours, I’m not allowed to write? Or I’ll fail for sure? Not at all. The only way you’ll fail is if you cannot free up enough time with ENERGY, meaning your best. Endeavor to find some block of time during the week where you can bring your best effort to the script. You’ll be amazed at how fast the mind processes ideas when you’re not on the wrong end of a caffeine buzz. You can’t limp home at 8pm, make dinner, deal with the family, ready yourself for tomorrow, THEN sit down at the computer at 11pm thinking you’re gonna be Aaron Sorkin. Never gonna happen. Productivity in screenwriting is about ENERGY, not the amount of hours you put in front of the laptop.
Did you ever wonder why the screenwriting gurus and self-proclaimed experts are always telling you what to do, but when you look at their credits, there’s almost nothing to see? Why would someone talk about how to write instead of just writing themselves?
Because it is MUCH harder to write something of value than to……”
#screenwriting #film #story
“Congratulations, it’s a brand new year! 2013 brings every writer another chance to reflect, refresh, and refocus on where we are with our craft. Taking stock and deciding what out next steps should be. With that in mind, I thought it would be fitting to take this week’s column back to the core of storytelling. That one simple truth that ultimately filters everything else you learn through it.
“Show, don’t tell.”
Screenwriters hear this maxim so frequently, from every possible source, that its importance can eventually be dulled. It becomes ubiquitous to the point of no longer carrying any impact when you hear it. So let’s take a moment to reflect on this advice, and what it really means.
First and foremost, it’s a reminder that, even though you’re writing your story out, film is a visual medium. Use that to your advantage, and make your scenes as visual as possible. Think about what would be interesting to you as a member of an audience – here’s a quick example. Would you rather watch a character walk into a room and proclaim “Man, do I have a headache”, or have that same character walk into a room, wince as the door closes a little too loudly, and grab the bridge of their nose between thumb and forefinger, massaging it gently with their eyes closed (if you answered the former, feel free to skip the rest of this column)? It’s that simple.
Show. Don’t tell.
I think getting this down is the most important thing you can learn as a screenwriter, but I’ll share a little secret with you. Personally, I don’t worry about this when I’m writing my first draft. Even if you aren’t a believer in a “vomit draft”, the goal of your first draft is still simply to get the basic story out and on paper; to birth it into the physical world. It’s the rewriting where “show, don’t tell” truly becomes important. At least one of your rewrites (that means, realistically, three or four) should focus on going through your script scene by scene, line by line, and asking yourself – “could I find a way to SHOW what is being said?”
Of course, as with anything, you can over reach. If you really worked at it, you could take out all of the dialogue and suddenly find yourself pitching a silent movie. That’s obviously not the goal. Sometimes dialogue will work better, so take…..”
TLLjournal is proud to announce that The Writers Store is now an official sponsor of our logline contest! They’ve kindly offered up their Hollywood Screenwriting Directory to one of our finalist each contest. “With over 1,500 listings for Industry insiders from studios to independent financiers, the Hollywood Screenwriting Directory is the specialized resource you need for discovering where and how to sell your screenplay. Plus, it includes how-to instructions on script format, query letters, treatments, and log lines, so you can produce a professional submission.” Thanks guys!
13 Secrets to Building a Great Character
by David Santo
Join me now as we travel to a public library in Michigan, where an angry woman types on a computer then bangs on the screen when she sees her words. She’s writing her screenplay 30 minutes at a time because that’s all she’s allotted on the official library computer and she’s really frustrated because the computer is slow. She knows I’m a writer and when she spots me, she smiles, peels off her wrap around sunglasses and pins them onto her right thigh – each tattooed calf on display below her jorts. One tattoo is Urkel. The other Jim Rome.
Her current script is pure genius and I know this because she tells me. It’s about castrating male cats and is a metaphor for what she believes should happen to all men. So to be clear, she thinks chopping off my bitty parts will somehow end war, heal the sick, and advance our exploration of space. She’s making a pretty good case until her anger grows more out of control and triggers a weird quirk - every new sentence she speaks starts with her chirping in a high falsetto…
Dep. Dep. Purple!
I ask her why she’s so convinced her script is blockbuster material and she reveals her secret…
Dep. Dep. Purple! It’s filled with amazing characters - like the fine folks she calls her friends that get drunk and accidentally brush their teeth with scar removal cream then choke to death when their tongue swells up.
I tell her, I like amazing characters, too, and that’s what she is to me, but I don’t think she understands. I lean over and peek at the screen to catch a glimpse of her literary genius but she’s concerned I might steal her ideas so she maximizes another window and up pops a load of porn. At first, I’m embarrassed, but when I realize she’s not, I ask her if these are friends of hers. She chuckles…
Dep. Dep. Purple! I wish.
Then she finally tells me what’s really making her mad. As great as her characters are her script is running out of steam around page 40. I tell her that sounds like an outline problem but she assures me she has a good one. So I ask her to tell me more about these fascinating characters and she runs out of backstory after one idea. I probe deeper and ask her if she has a character checklist to help create depth and arc and by the rage my query encounters, I assume the answer’s no.
Dep. Dep. Purple! What, you want a freaking list?
MY HERO IS A BANANA
I tell her a list is exactly what I want. And it really comes in handy when you’re building a character. For instance…
Bo Banana is the star of my 3D animated script entitled FRUIT. Bo is the rootin’ tootin’ line dancing sheriff of Canino’s Fruit Market in Houston, Texas, and he’s facing the biggest problem fruits everywhere must deal with…
People like to eat you.
So he invents the “Fruit Replicator”, a machine that will manufacture real fruit in every way except one – it’s not alive. Humans will get to enjoy this tasty new fruit and leave Bo and his friends to enjoy life.
But when the evil tomato in charge cuts the power, Bo must move his machine across the fruit market to the main cooler that has a backup generator so they can make replacement fruit before the big produce sale in the morning.
Now when you read this it sounds like I’m describing a plot. And I am. But upon closer examination everything is happening because of my hero and my villain and who they are. So in a sense, it all starts with character. And I’m not interested in getting into some silly debate about which comes first or is more important – plot or character – Lajos Egri vs. Aristotle; they arise simultaneously and interdependently - like 2 different sides of the same coin. Just know this for sure: you’re gonna need great characters and also the knowledge on how to build them if your script is going to work. And if you answer the following questions your characters will spring to life in ways you never imagined.
13 STEPS TO CREATING MEMORABLE CHARACTERS
1. Has this person been successful in past relationships? Why?
2. What is their relationship to their co-workers like? Why?
3. What are the jobs they’ve held in the past? Why?
4. What kind of friend are they? Why?
5. Whom do they trust? Why?
6. What is their secret? Why?
7. What is their fear? Why?
8. What promise did they make to themselves or someone else?
9. Do they keep it?
10. What does this person want more than anything?
11. What is the physical object (twitch) that represents their internal struggle?
12. What is the big choice they have to make that illustrates their character arc?
13. The secret ingredient…
SECRET INGREDIENT #13
It’s all so easy when you first start writing screenplays. You write script number one on the guts and glory of your life, the people and places you know, vibrant, palpable, and the feeling is electric! You mine the crazy scene makers, shape shifters and carnival barkers in your life.
Then you write your second script in similar fashion. But soon, you realize, around your third or fourth or fifth, you’re rewriting the same exciting people and places you already wrote about. You need fresh blood – character blood - which leads me to secret ingredient #13.
Passion. The passion your character has to pursue something they desperately want more than anything and your personal passion as a writer to tell their story. Nothing else can replace this. No seminar or book will do.
So now you can whip out your checklist and write a character outline that will knock your socks off and right into the dryer because that’s what people want. Scripts full of great characters with passion.
You can catch up with David Santo and receive a free pdf. copy of his new eBook entitled “Screenwriting: a practical guide for writing a film” by going to…
Click on “Book”.
Debunking Screenwriting Myths, Part 7: Requesting Feedback
by Geno Scala
Recently, I submitted one of my scripts to a blogger offering his free “ten-page review”… or so I thought. Apparently, I misunderstood the premise of his tweet and blog, and later learned that my submission was open to ALL of the blog followers to comment and critique. One of his more professional followers was chosen to “officially” review the script, which was apparently a new process coincidentally beginning with my first script submission.
After several days, I checked back with the blog with enthusiastic anticipation of reading a number of thoughtful, positive comments and, hopefully, some important, insightful suggestions offered up by writers with seemingly a wide range of professional screenwriting experience.
How wrong I was.
What I received as “feedback” was snarky, irrelevant and hate-filled responses, either borne out of envy or vitriol from possibly a long-past run-in. Hard to say, since all of the commenters were anonymous. While feedback of this nature is not helpful, it did drive home a very important point, one that I had forgotten in my expectation of adulation. After all, this screenplay had won several contests, and is continuing to fare well in several others. The screenplay is generating a lot of interest from producers and managers, and has been requested and reviewed by many of the top mid-level production companies out there, receiving tremendous accolades.
I hadn’t followed my first rule of feedbacks: be clear about what you expect. Usually, when asking for any writing feedbacks, I rely almost entirely on my “cheers”, “peers” and “rocketeers”. In this case, I went outside that sphere of influence; my own “circle of trust”.
This refers to the three groups of emotional and screenwriting support network you should have in place. Your “cheers” are friends and family and those not in the business of screenwriting, who generally will support (and donate to) just about anything you do. They are important for your spiritual well-being and self-esteem, but generally not as helpful to your overall writing goals.
The next group is your “peers”. These, generally, are fellow scribes who have somewhat the same level of writing experience as you. You might find them in writing groups, networking forums, chat rooms, or related alumni groups.
Your “rocketeers” are those handfuls of professionals who can take your writing — and your career — to the next level. This group may consist of professional script readers, producers, agents, managers, optioned or produced screenwriters, and/or screenwriting “gurus”.
When posting this screenplay to an unfamiliar blog, I failed to make my own expectations clear; to myself or to others. I hadn’t researched the purpose of the site, or the quality of the reviewers prior to diving into this literary shark tank with my eyes closed.
With any anonymous review, you are opening yourself up to comments and suggestions from anyone, regardless of their accomplishments or lack thereof. For all I know, the reviews could have come from a bunch of stoned high school kids cutting class that day (they certainly read as such, and made even less sense). Some of the comments ranged from “I don’t like the genre, and will never like a script like this”, to “Oh, no! I’ve read one with a similar opening last month!” neither one refreshingly insightful to the script being reviewed. Of the few “corrective suggestion(s)” the script did received included one that was based on the incorrect assertion that a particular formatting style is no longer “in vogue” (despite Dave Trottier’s assertion to the contrary). One reviewer felt that he/she didn’t like it because they “couldn’t see how it (the plot) could be pulled off.” Mind you, they’ve read only the first ten pages or so.
The result was a swift kick to my own butt, by me, reminding never to set myself up for failure so carelessly again in the future. I have certainly developed a thick-skin about my writing long before this posting every saw the light of day. You should ask for and receive any and all feedback; just make sure you know from whom it’s coming and what their personal motivations might be, if any.
When I provide feedback, it is for the purpose of helping the writer improve their writing or their overall project. I provide examples of what I’m talking about, and if they expect corrected examples, I provide those as well. If it’s formatting-related, I realize it may be about preferences or style, and advise the writer what technique or style I prefer, so as not to cloud my own judgment. I also try the “sandwich technique” to critiquing: a negative comment sandwiched between two positive comments.
It makes the criticism a bit easier to swallow that way.
Geno Scala has been writing for over twenty years, and was one of the Executive Directors for the 1999-2000 Academy Awards presentation. He is an optioned screenwriter with nine screenplays to his credit, and is an alumnus of ScreenwritingU. He maintains a business in Hollywood, and resides in beautiful Huntsville, Alabama with his rocket-scientist wife, a daughter in grad school, another daughter in college in CA, and two teen-aged sons.