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Archive for May, 2010

5 Big Things To Sweat About May 30

Sweat The Big StuffSweat The Big Stuff

I’m sure you’ve all heard this inspiring set of rules before:

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  2. It’s all small stuff.

The truth of the matter, however, is that when it comes to screenwriting, that message couldn’t be further from the truth. While the devil may be in the details, your script lives or dies in its broad strokes.

Prom Date

Here’s a quick metaphor to illustrate what I’m trying to say…

STUDENT

Is my prom date’s dress hot or what?

CONCERNED FRIEND

I guess. But dude, your date is a chimp.

STUDENT

Okay now you’re just being rude.

CONCERNED FRIEND

No, I mean your date is literally a chimpanzee. Does your dad work for the circus or something?

STUDENT

The zoo.

CONCERNED FRIEND

Ah.

Awkward silence.

STUDENT

Smokin’ hot dress though, right?

It doesn’t matter how hot your scenes are, if your script is a chimp!

5 Things

Here are five BIG things you should sweat over, long before worrying about things like correct formatting, clever descriptions or upping the tension in a particular scene:

Concept

Concept is probably the most important aspect of your script. If you have a fantastic one, readers/producers will be more likely to forgive minor problems.

When you tell people about your concept, do they ooh and ahh? Do their eyes light up? If it’s a comedy, do they smile or laugh? Do they immediately connect with the material. Make sure you have a winning concept before you start writing your screenplay.

True story. I once had a woman pitch me the following sole movie concept: “It’s about a black Hollywood producer who has a small dick.” FAIL!

Character Motivations

By the time a reader reaches the second act of your script, he/she should be able to answer at least two fundamental questions. The first one is: “What does the protagonist want?” Make sure the answer to this question is clear and primal.

“My protagonist is just kinda going with the flow at this stage of the script.” FAIL!

Rooting Interest for Your Main Character

The second question a reader should be able to answer by the start of the second act is: “What do I want for the protagonist?” Depending on your story, this may, or may not, be the same thing as what the protagonist wants. But either way, at this stage, the reader should be rooting for your main character(s).

Moreover the reader should have an implicit understanding of where the story is going, and care about that direction.

READER: “I hate the protagonist, so I don’t care if he finds his lost doughnut… not that I would have been at all interested in that anyway.” FAIL!

Overarching Story

Have you provided a solid structure and an engaging plot?

Do cool or powerful things happen in your story? Have you fulfilled the promise of the premise? Have you executed a story that maximizes the potential of the concept? Thrilled the audience? Shown them something they’ve never seen before, or in a way they’ve never seen it?

“Yes, it’s a global apocalypse movie, but we learn what happens through first person accounts only. It takes place entirely in one interview room.” FAIL!

Theme

Is your movie about something? The movies that leave an impact on us are the ones that teach us something, or, at the very least, have something to say that will resonate with audiences. Something specific.

“The theme is danger.” FAIL!

***

Do you have all of these bases covered in your script? Or are you taking a chimp in a pretty dress to prom?

Any “big stuff” you would add to the list? Please post in the comments section.


Need someone to review your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

Scriptwrecked on Facebook May 28

Scriptwrecked on FacebookDo you know who Iron Baby is?

No? Sounds like you haven’t joined Scriptwrecked’s Facebook page.

You might be missing out on some really cool stuff. I often post additional entertaining news stories, links and shorts on this page, that tend to be a little more lighthearted than my standard blog posts.

Please click “Like” in the sidebar of scriptwrecked.com or visit the Facebook page directly at:

http://www.facebook.com/scriptwrecked

See you there!

Trevor

Category: Links, Miscellaneous  | One Comment
A Perfect Getaway May 26

Don’t worry — NO SPOILERS!

A Perfect GetawaySince watching A Perfect Getaway (written and directed by David Twohy) a few weeks back, I’ve been itching to write about it. This film actually managed to pull off something that many of my screenwriting friends and clients have been trying to pull off themselves…

It’s quite possible that you, yourself, may have thought about doing this certain daring something, at one point or another, in one of your scripts.

Something that to my knowledge had never been done before.

So what is this something?

Well unfortunately I can’t tell you that. That would ruin the best part of the movie.

On IMDB, A Perfect Getaway scores a respectable 6.5/10 — but really, if you’re a screenwriter, you’re probably going to enjoy it more than mainstream audiences. After all, you’ll be able to appreciate what was accomplished and the finer strokes needed to accomplish it.

Not only that, but one of the main characters is a screenwriter. And, right there in the movie, we get a lot of insider banter about the mechanics of writing a thriller. In fact the movie plays off of these various screenwriting conventions.

If you enjoy tense thrillers, hot bodies and tropical locations, I highly recommend checking this one out. Don’t let someone else ruin the surprise for you. As a screenwriter, or as a movie afficionado, you’ll really appreciate what Twohy was able to pull off. It’s one for the ages.

If you already know what it is I’m talking about, and know of any other movie in the history of cinema that’s done what this movie’s done, please send me an email and let me know.


Need some help with your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

Q & A with J. Michael Straczynski Part 2 May 25

In my last post, I provided you with some insights from prolific screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling, Babylon 5). Today I have some more from his Orange County Screenwriters Association Q & A on Saturday.

On making all of your characters well-rounded…

“We are all the heroes of our own narrative. The more time you can spend looking at the story from everyone’s point of view, the better your story will be.”

On the impact his age or TV experience had on how well his Changeling script was received…

Even though JMS had numerous prior television credits, his movie, Changeling (starring Angelina Jolie and directed by Clint Eastwood), was the first feature film he had ever written.

So when he started taking meetings with Producers around town no one knew who he was. And it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter what his background in television was, and it didn’t matter how old he was. No one cared.

“It comes down to the quality of the words on the page.”

The key to breaking in to Hollywood is writing a great script.

On getting a drama produced…

He said the three words he keeps hearing over and over again in Hollywood are, “Drama is dead.”

His advice, if you have a script that’s a straight drama, is to try to “package it to within an inch of your life.” Get a big name director or actor attached to the project.

“Packaging is more important today than ever.”

On refining your script…

“Start with everything you can say. Then cut it down to everything you want to say. Then finish with everything you need to say.”

On making it…

He feels his success in Hollywood is as “unlikely as it is inevitable.”

You have to follow your passions. “If you have a modicum of talent, put yourself out there and work really hard, it is achievable. You can do it.”

As Rod Serling once told him, “Never let them stop you from telling the story you want to tell.”

***

Are you following your passions? Writing the story you want to tell?


Need some help with your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

Q & A with J. Michael Straczynski Part 1 May 23

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a fabulous (and free) question and answer session with prolific screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling, Babylon 5).

The Orange County Screenwriters Association (who hosted the event) provides the following introduction on their web site:

[JMS] currently has five films in production including “Lensman” for Academy Award winning director Ron Howard.

Emmy, Hugo, Saturn, Eisner and Bradbury Award Winner / BAFTA (British Academy Award) nominee.

In his nearly thirty-year career, JMS has worked for some of the top directors and producers in Hollywood. The breadth and depth of his screenwriting and producing career is vast; but his skills extend even further into novels, short stories, comic books, journalism – just about anything and everything you can imagine a writer to be, he is.

He’s actually more than I would imagine such a prolific writer to be — he was exceptionally funny (like stand-up comedian funny), comfortable in front of a large crowd, outgoing and generous with his time.

What didn’t surprise me, however, was how intelligent he was. What follows are some of his comments and tips that I found to be  insightful or interesting.

On his writing process…

“Get to know your characters so well that you can sit back and watch them.”

He discussed finding the the emotional core of your characters. “If your characters are emotionally true then the audience will buy it and accept it.”

“It’s not so important to know where your characters went to college.” You need to ask questions about your characters to find out who they are (i.e. “What frustrates them? Are they in love with anybody?” etc.).

“Find the emotional core truth.”

On “Failing Upward”…

“Failure is a necessary part of the process. Find out where the wall is on your abilities. What can I fail at?”

Every time he has pushed himself out of his comfort zone, and tackled something he possibly could fail at, something great has come from it. He “failed upwards.”

He spoke of “the tyranny of respectable voices.”

“You have to be willing to endanger yourself. A ship at harbor is always safe, but that’s not what a ship is for.”

The interviewer, Mark Sevi, mentioned a Ray Bradbury quote with a similar philosophy: “Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.”

To which JMS humorously responded, “If you jump off a cliff, you might as well try to fly, you’ve got nothing to lose.”

On his admiration for Rod Serling…

In his opinion, Rod Serling was the best television writer of all time. When he reads Rod Serling’s work he feels like an amateur. He mentioned the following brilliant line of scene description, written by Serling, for the interior of an old lady’s home:

“Paneled walls polished by darkness.”

***

Are you finding the emotional truth of your characters? Pushing yourself to find where the wall is on your abilities? Reading scripts written by great screewriters?

More terrific stuff in Part 2 tomorrow!


Want me to read your script and let you know what I think? Please take a look at my script services.

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