#screenwriting #film #story
“Since dozens of writers used Go On Your Own Quest to pound out a first draft of their original screenplay, I decided to start off the New Year with a week-long series on rewriting, to honor their commitment and effort, and to encourage them [and everyone else] on their creative journey.
We’ve all heard the adage, “Writing is rewriting,” right? Perhaps nowhere is that more true than screenwriting. Aspiring screenwriters know this because of the number of drafts they go through to whip their script into readable shape. Professional screenwriters understand this because of the multiple drafts they do on any project, whether on spec or assignment.
Rewriting is just the nature of the screenwriting beast.
But that begs the question: How? What are some keys to the rewriting process? Instead of wandering around in the dark not knowing if you’re improving the story or not, is there a coherent approach to rewriting your scripts?
First off, the same thing applies to rewriting as to writing: There is no right way to write. There is no right way to rewrite. Every writer is different. Every story is different. And every rewrite is different.
That said, this week I will lay out some keys to the process. If they help you, great. Use them with my blessing. If they don’t help you, feel free to chuck them.
Part 1: Set It Aside
So you just typed FADE OUT / THE END. First draft done. Huzzah! What a bear that was. Days, weeks, months of work.
You feel good about getting through the first draft, but you know the script needs work.
First step: Set aside your script for two weeks.
That’s right: Two. Whole. Weeks.
Why? Several reasons.
#1: You need to celebrate. For most writers, there is nothing harder than completing that first draft. Every single scene represented an opportunity for you to turn back, give up and stop writing. Yet you prevailed. That is a victory, my friend, an achievement that deserves acclimation.
So call up some of your friends and go out on the town. Or locate your significant other… you know that person who’s been looming at the edge of your consciousness for months now… and take them out for a really nice dinner.
Best advice: Go to Costco and pick up a bottle of Veuve Clicquot for about $45. A great champagne and if there’s one time to drink some bubbly, it’s when you finish that damn first draft!
#2: You need to recharge your batteries. Writing a first draft is like……”
#screenwriting #TV #writing
“The story so far:
Amazon.Com has decided to get into the online streaming TV series cuz, you know, they’ve been having a good year and want to find a new way to lose money. Professional TV production just bleeds $$$, but it appears that this most popular of shopping sites just can’t keep itself from creating more loss leaders. (Like all those Kindle variations, dig?)
We’ve written before about Amazon Studios and its call for submissions from new creators, and even talked a little bit about some projects Amazon has bought. The latest announcement (via AllThingsD.Com)is that the following sitcoms are the company’s favorites:
- Alpha House, about “four senators who live together in a rented house in Washington DC.” Written by Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau, who also made the vastly underappreciated “Tanner ’88” for HBO.
- Browsers, “a musical comedy set in contemporary Manhattan that follows four young people as they start their first jobs at a news website,” from former “The Daily Show” head writer David Javerbaum.
- Dark Minions, an animated series “about two slackers just trying to make a paycheck working an intergalactic warship,” from “Big Bang Theory” co-stars Kevin Sussman and John Ross Bowie.
- The Onion Presents: The News, “set behind the scenes of The Onion News Network.”
- Supanatural, an animated series about “two outspoken divas who are humanity’s last line of defense against the supernatural”; one of the producers is “The Daily Show” star Kristen Schaal.
- Those Who Can’t, “about three juvenile, misfit teachers,” written by three guys Amazon found via its open call for submissions.
What makes Amazon Studios’ creative process fun…….”
Debunking Screenwriting Myths, Part 6: The Query Letter
by Geno Scala
Over the past few months, I’ve had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to assist several name directors and producers in searching for screenplays of specific genre or topic. With my vast network of screenwriters at my disposal, I though it incumbent on me to reach out and help fellow writers, new and experienced alike, to help them reach their professional goal of attaining a sale or option deal.
When the word went out about a particular script search, the resulting storm of emails with accompanying scripts, bios, resumes and links was indeed satisfying. It was nice to know that so many of my contacts actually READ my emails or posts, but more importantly, that I was perhaps making a difference in their lives.
Then, I began to read the emails…the bios…and the resumes and links. Ugh!
So here is a brief list of some things one SHOULDN’T do when responding to a script request:
You shouldn’t IGNORE the specifics of the scripts that are being requested. If the genre requested is science fiction, you shouldn’t submit a story about a baby whale and the handicapped child trying to raise it, unless, of course, the whale can fly and the child is from Jupiter.
If the request is for screenplays with a Japanese-American theme, don’t submit a screenplay about a Chinese family, then add “It’s close”! Makes you sound like an idiot, at best, and racist, at worst.
You shouldn’t “cut and paste” your pre-written query letter into an email, and address the recipient as “Dear (blank)”. When you cut and paste, sometimes the fonts are different, and it appears very unprofessional.
You shouldn’t BOMBARD the recipient with every screenplay you’ve ever written, or hope to write or thought about writing. I cannot tell you how many writers submitted one query letter with more than five different loglines and synopses. No one is going to read it. Trust me.
You shouldn’t IGNORE spelling or grammatical errors- not in the query (not anywhere, if possible). I have actually seen writers misspell their own titles.
You shouldn’t make DEMANDS of the person requesting the script, such as “DO NOT FORWARD TO ANYONE WITHOUT MY EXPRESSED WRITTEN CONSENT!” Who would want to work with YOU?
You shouldn’t accompany your query letter with a request to “help raise funds for sick children” or to “stop socialism in America”, or to “support your local LGBT office”, even if it directly relates to the theme of your screenplay.
You shouldn’t take the query letter as an opportunity to apply for a job as a script reader, a production assistant, a grip or an actor
You shouldn’t forget your title. Trust me- seen it done many times.
You shouldn’t forget your contact information. See #9
Writing a query letter is an art in and of itself, and there are definite “do’s and don’ts” when writing one.
If you are responding to a request for a certain type of script, first thing you should do is ONLY respond if your script fits in what they are looking for. If it does, makes sure this fact is highlighted in the first sentence: “I am responding to your request for Japanese/American-themed scripts, and I’d like submit my comedy/drama “Life at The Tea House”, a Japanese/American story of love, redemption and ninja zombies.”
You need to highlight your “hook” right away (this is why it’s called a “hook”). This “hook” is the reason why your story is different from every other story of the same genre and theme.
Write a brief synopsis of your story, to include and beginning, middle and an end. Three short paragraphs, less than a page total.
Then end the query with a brief bio. Do not include useless information as to where you went to school or every contest you’ve ever entered. Two lines that tell the reader a little about you, your writing, and a mention or two about prestigious awards, if any. Quarter-finalist in the Bombay Theatre Writing Contest doesn’t qualify for space in the prime real estate of the query letter.
Make sure everything is spellchecked and grammatically correct, and do not forget your contact information. You have but one shot at making a good impression, so don’t blow it.
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.
Writing Pictures- The Classic Screenwriters: Richard Maibaum
by Robin Bailes
There are two reasons why now is an opportune time to look at the remarkable writing career of Richard Maibaum; firstly, because James Bond celebrates his 50th cinematic anniversary this year, and from Dr. No to Licence to Kill, Maibaum wrote or co-wrote an astonishing 13 of them, missing out on only three (all the more remarkable since his career began in 1936, he was 80 when Licence to Kill came out). The second reason is related; with superhero movies the flavour of the month there are worse things for an aspiring writer to do than look at how mass entertainment can also be intelligent- this is what separates Spiderman from Fantastic Four, Batman from The Incredible Hulk, or X-Men from X-Men The Last Stand.
Believe it or not, the man who crafted Bond’s innuendos and killer one liners was an experimental playwright heavily influenced by German Expressionism and known for his socially conscious drama. But Maibaum never felt that he had sold out; another great influence on him were the novels of Alexandre Dumas and it was to these swashbuckling tales that Maibaum turned for inspiration when he began writing Bond. His biggest screenwriting influence meanwhile was Cyril Hume, with whom he was paired at MGM. Hume was a successful and serious novelist who also wrote the Tarzan films. His secret was the same one Maibaum would apply to the Bond films; you can know that the story is silly, but you can never let the audience know; treat the situation as serious and the audience will do the same. In an interview with Patrick McGilligan Maibaum described this as a ‘pretense of seriousness’ and what it amounts to is- the audience is willing to believe a single man in a tuxedo is saving the world as long as you, the writer, take it seriously, you can make jokes but if you make one about that then the illusion is shattered and the film is dead.
This obviously applies equally to superhero films, which require an even greater suspension of disbelief. If anyone in X-Men made a joke about the fact that genetic mutation seems oddly pre-disposed to really convenient (and really cool) mutations, then the whole film suffers. These films exist within their own world, treat that world as real and the audience will follow. And it’s not just a joke that can blow it; Maibaum was one of the many, many writers who worked on Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondant and the director gave him some more advice that would be useful for Bond; ‘I’m not interested in logic. I’m interested in effect. If the audience thinks about logic it’s on their way home after the show…’. If the film is good, if it’s carrying the audience with it, not everything has to make sense. Nobody who watched The Phantom Menace was any the happier for having the Force explained to them; by trying to make it seem scientifically plausible, George Lucas broke the suspension of disbelief and made it seem ludicrous. Fatal. That said, your film has to be absolutely compelling to begin with, or the audience may start to think for themselves.
Maibaum’s may seem like an odd career, taking in The Great Gatsby, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and everything in between (there can’t be many men who’ve written for both Wallace Beery and Timothy Dalton), but he used all his years of experience to make his Bond movies more than straight action films. He tried to make sure that Bond spoke with an elegance appropriate to the character. He detailed changes of scene in far more detail than most writers meaning that something like Octopussy had over a thousand scenes. He tailored his work to his star, a technique he had learnt during his MGM apprenticeship. He structured the films so well that his template is still being followed today. More than anything else, he managed to make the ridiculous believable and compelling, and for that reason he should be required reading for any aspiring blockbuster writer.
Robin Bailes is a freelance writer with various credits on stage, page, screen and radio. He has 4 published stage shows, has written for 6 BBC radio shows, was a winner in the BBC’s Last Laugh sitcom writing competition and has a feature film in development with Andris Films. He is writer and presenter of the web-series ‘Dark Corners (of this sick world)’ and has written short stories for various publications both print and online. Robin is a passionate devotee of silent cinema has written a book on the subject called ‘Just As Good But Quieter’, for which he is currently seeking a publisher. Robin is currently available for paid writing work.
#screenwriting #television #writing
A script doctor is like a baseball player who comes in at the last minute and saves the game. If a movie’s in trouble, a really talented writer can spot what’s wrong with the script, rewrite it, and make the film a winner instead of a loser.
There have been many script doctors in Hollywood history, and Tom Mankiewicz did major rewrites on a number of films. His work on Superman I and II was substantial, and he also wrote the 70’s James Bond films Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun - and worked on both The Spy Who Loved Me as well as Moonraker.
He also created the hit TV show Hart to Hart, and did uncredited re-write work on The Deep, WarGames, Gremlins, among many other films. Plus, Mankiewicz wrote the first script for the 80’s big screen Batman, which was a obviously far different movie than the one that finally hit theaters in 1989.
Tom came from a long respected Hollywood dynasty - his father wrote and directed All About Eve, while his Uncle Herman penned Citizen Kane. Knowing this was quite a lot to live up to, Tom went his own way as a scribe, writing big budget Hollywood entertainment, and like his relatives, was very successful at it. Sadly, Tom passed away in 2010, but his autobiography is slated to hit store shelves on May 28 via The University Press of Kentucky.
As the Amazon entry for the book tells us, My Life as a Mankiewicz recounts Tom’s life and career, where he would spend his summers on his father’s film sets, how he had his first drink with Bogart, ate dinner with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, and of course became a successful Hollywood scribe and one of a long line of talented Mankiewicz men.
If you love comic book films, you definitely owe a debt to Tom, whose writing on the Superman films treated the characters with realism, wit and respect. Mankiewicz told me he didn’t do the campy approach of the Batman TV show because you couldn’t keep camp up in the air for two hours, and the first two Superman films set a benchmark that stood for many years.
Having met and interviewed Tom back in my days as a contributor for Creative Screenwriting, I’m really looking forward to reading his life story, and his behind the scenes memories of writing for Superman, Batman and Bond.”