Archive for April, 2011

April 29, 2011

Watching Movies from a Critical Point of View

The first time you watch a movie, just watch it. Let yourself get lost in the experience of the film. That’s why we screenwriters work in this business — because we know the power of film to transport, to transform, and to transcend.

The second or third go ’round, bring a critical eye to your viewing experience in order to improve your craft and your film knowledge. Here’s how the Script Lab suggests us writers watch a film:

Many films are made to entertain. But cinema can also educate, indoctrinate, or propagate by allowing us to experience multiple perspectives: cultural, political, or ideological. Hence, we subscribe to the so-called experts, but who’s to say the average moviegoer can’t add to the discussion. Enlightenment is often a product of hard work and practice, so for the aspiring home-based couch “critics”, here is what to study when watching a movie:

(1) Screenplay. Hitchcock said, “The three most vital elements in any good film are the script, the script, the script.” And watching a movie in the right way can teach you a ton about how to structure “the script”. One of the best ways is to watch the clock as you go. At about 12 – 15 minutes in, you should hit the inciting incident. 24 -30 minutes – the character is locked-in, propelling him into the Second Act tension. The practical experience of seeing and analyzing the parts of a script, with stopwatch in hand, is key to identify major plot points, three act structure, and the eight sequences in a film.

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April 29, 2011

Quote of the Day: Adlai Stevenson

An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff. 

April 28, 2011

7 Tips for Securing an Agent

This article on how to get an agent is actually written by an agent, Phillipa Burgess, so it might be worthwhile to listen to what she has to say. You’re not going to come across anything groundbreaking in this article, but it’s certainly a helpful reminder on patience and perseverance:

If you are like many writers, getting a great representative on your team or motivating the one you have to put in their best effort on your behalf is on your wish list for 2011.  Here are 7 tips that will give you your best opportunity for the successful relationship you desire.   

Write Authentically. When you ask most representatives what they are looking for one of the most common responses is “voice”.  They are looking for that something special in a script that makes them believe that the story they are reading, with all of its magic and imaginative elements, still feels real.  They want stories that keep you invested in the characters and the situation while suspending their disbelief.  The way you achieve “voice” is by being real and being true to your own experience, point of view and your philosophy about what life means.  You want to capture a common human experience in a way that lends your own unique slant and perspective to the story.  In addition they want to care about what happens in your story and they want know that they can sell it because other people will care.  Their ability to believe what’s happening in your story will directly translate in their ability to believe in you.  

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April 28, 2011

Quote of the Day: Sholem Asch

Writing comes more easily if you have something to say. 

April 27, 2011

Pitchfests: Are They Worth It?

This is a question that I don’t have an aswer to. And I am genuinely interested in the answer. The Great American Pitchfest is coming up in Los Angeles, and everything I’ve read says its the best of the best when it comes to pitchfests, but I’ve also read that all pitchfests are scams.

Frankly I don’t know where the truth is, and I would love some insight.

One great thing about the Great American Pitchfest is that the day before is filled with FREE classes that can be attended by anyone who registers in advance. I plan to attend some of these classes, both to learn about pitching and to hopefully meet some fellow writers.

I’ve never actually pitched a script to anyone who could do something about it, and I dread the experience. I look forward to the chance to learn a bit more about the art of pitching and hopefully take away some of the fears I associate with it.

The Pitchfest itself, on the otherhand, is an opportunity to meet dozens of producers and agents and to give them your pitch. The question is, are these 12-20 conversations worth the minimum $250 fee to get in?

If you’ve attended this or another pitchfest before, please share your experience! I’m dying to learn more, and I’m sure others are as well.

April 27, 2011

Quote of the Day: Ralph Waldo Emerson

All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients. 

April 26, 2011

Quote of the Day: Baltasar Gracián

A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one. 

April 26, 2011

Shut Up and Write

This great article by Jeanne Veillette Bowerman talks about her personal experience with balancing having the necessary patience to carefully peice together your story and the productivity to start writing the damn thing already. It’s a tricky balance even for experienced writers, as Jeanne shows us:

Last week, I declared patience is paramount when it comes to both getting a project produced and learning your writing partner’s habits. But patience can also be the killer of a project – a slow infectious cancer that will suck the energy out of your work and your soul.

Sometimes you have to put up or shut up.

After a year of outlining our adaptation of Slavery by Another Name, we were dancing dangerously on the talk-is-cheap line. People kept saying, “So, how’s that adaptation coming?” Gulp.

In writing, and in life, you have to carefully walk a line between patience and productivity. My writing partner, Douglas A. Blackmon, and I were struggling getting this script written. We lived in different states yet functioned best in person. This was quite a dilemma.

I took a good hard look at what drove both of us. Then it hit me. Doug is a newspaper guy – he needed a deadline. I’m a competitive freak – I needed a contest.

Bingo! Sundance Screenwriters Lab.

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April 26, 2011

Writing Movies for TV: Interview with Rick Suvalle

It’s probably not too many screenwriter’s dream job to write a feature length script for cable tv. But the fact of the matter is that dozens of made-for-tv movies get made every year, and there’s quite a bit of money in them. Rick Suvalle, writer of the new SyFy original movie Roadkill gave this interview on the topic:

In advance of April 23rd, 2011, debut of Syfy Original Film Roadkill, Dread Central had an opportunity to chat with screenwriter Rick Suvalle about his approach to this project and how he managed to make it slightly different than the average Syfy Original entry.

I can tell you from personal experience writing a Syfy Original Film is not easy. You know going in budgets are thin (transparent even), the special effects aren’t going to be very good, and casting is always a game of Russian roulette with four bullets in the cylinder. So, as a writer, you have to try and compensate for all of those hazards up front: use modest locations, limit special effects screen time, and include no complex dialogue or characters which require too much acting muscle. Yet, you still have to deliver the goods and tell a compelling, visually interesting story even though you don’t have the luxuries afforded even the most modestly budgeted theatrical release. As we know all too well, many fail in this endeavor.

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April 25, 2011

Script: The Kids Are All Right


Here’s the Oscar-nominated script for The Kids Are All Right. This script is penned by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg. Haven’t read it yet, so can’t say too much about it. I’d assume it would be a good read for anyone writing a family flic or a quirky indie comedy.