Archive for July, 2013

July 31, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Joe Gazzam’s List

E.B. White wrote that there are “no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.” With this in mind, we’ve asked working screenwriters to share a list of the “un-rules” that they find most helpful in their writing careers.

Our list of un-rules this week comes from Joe Gazzam (@JOE_GAZZAM), the talented screenwriter/novelist who graced our pages with an interview about what it’s really like to be a screenwriter.

Joe gave us a list of five random rules (more like soft guidelines, he said.) “Let me preface this,” he told us, “by saying that I’m a working writer pounding out mainstream studio films.  If you’re an indie type, if your dream is to write “My Left Foot,” you should probably ignore everything I’m about to say.”

With that in mind, here are Joe’s thoughts:

  1. If you can’t pitch your idea in a sentence, toss it in the garbage. There’s a very good chance the person who has the power to buy your script will never read it.  They will simply ask the exec underneath them (that did read it), “What’s it about?”

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July 31, 2013

Quote of the Day: E.B. White

Writing is hard work and bad for the health.

July 30, 2013

What It’s Really Like to Be a Screenwriter: An Interview with Joe Gazzam

Last week I got the opportunity to have a chat with screenwriter Joe Gazzam (@JOE_GAZZAM).

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Joe who?” If you look Joe up on IMDb, you won’t find much. He doesn’t have any credits listed, but he has actually been working on paid projects and selling specs within the studio system for the last ten years. A Black List writer, you may not know Joe’s name, but you’ve probably seen his work (he has been a writer on such films as 21 Jump Street and Step Up Revolution).

I was particularly interested to speak to Joe because he knows what this industry is really like — not what it’s like for the Aaron Sorkins and Shane Blacks of the world — but what it is like for 99.9% of screenwriters working in Hollywood.

In our interview,  Joe talks about how he got his break, his daily work routine, writing assignments, independent film financing, and why it’s so important to live in LA.

LA Screenwriter (LA): How did you get your start as a screenwriter?

Joe Gazzam (JG): I was sort of the cliché. After working a bunch of crappy jobs, I had this revelation. I wrote one screenplay, and realized it was the only thing I wanted to do. I was in Atlanta at the time — never been to California, didn’t know anyone — literally just packed everything in the car and headed out. Then I started hanging out with this guy who had a girlfriend who was repped.

Now, the only way you can get an agent for the most part — other than screenwriting contests and what have you — is to basically browbeat someone into forwarding your script along. So my friend and I browbeat her, and she gave my script to her agent, and that’s how I got my first representation.

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July 30, 2013

Quote of the Day: Gustave Flaubert

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.

July 29, 2013

Resident Evil Script


The Resident Evil script was written by Paul Anderson. This is an early draft of his screenplay.

July 29, 2013

Quote of the Day: Anthony Burgess

It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen.

July 26, 2013

4 Ways to Give Your Character Depth

Carson Reeves of has written a great article about how to give your main character depth and make them feel both like a real person and like someone we can root for. We don’t want to see perfect people who have nothing to learn up on the screen, both because such characters wouldn’t have very interesting journeys, and because they feel flat. People have flaws, goals, and vices, and so should your characters, particularly your lead (but also your love interests, villains, and side characters).

Here are the four ways Carson says you can give depth to your characters:

Flaw – A character (or fatal) flaw is the dominant negative trait that’s held your character back from becoming the person he’s meant to be.  Selfishness, lack of trust, won’t open up, won’t stand up for themselves, being irresponsible – these are all flaws you’ve seen hundreds of times in films.  The most powerful character flaws tend to be the ones that have hindered your character their entire lives. So in Rocky, Rocky has never believed in himself. But flaws can occasionally be a more recent problem, typically the result of a recent traumatic experience. So if a character was recently dumped by someone they loved, maybe their flaw is that they don’t trust love anymore.

When done right, the character flaw is the most effective way to add depth to your character. This is because once a reader identifies a character’s flaw, there’s an intrinsic need to see that flaw overcome. Being able to change is one of the most universally relatable experiences there is. So seeing someone else do it makes us believe we can do it. It’s almost like we’re living THROUGH the character, and that’s what creates that deep emotional connection.

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July 26, 2013

Quote of the Day: David Mamet

A good film script should be able to do completely without dialogue.

July 25, 2013

Die Hard 2 Script


The Die Hard 2 script was written by Doug Richardson. This version of the screenplay is the shooting script.

July 25, 2013

Quote of the Day: Robert McKee

If the story you’re telling is the story you’re telling, you’re in deep shit.