Archive for ‘Articles’

September 30, 2013

Frank Darabont on How to Succeed as a Screenwriter

Frank Darabont is the writer behind such films as The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and the upcoming Godzilla movie. He also developed The Walking Dead, and he’s been working consistently in this industry for the last 25 years.

Mr. Darabont has shared his thoughts on how to succeed as a screenwriter (or in any capacity in film) in this short clip from Film School Comments.

Advertisements
September 26, 2013

The Script You Can’t Not Write: An Interview with (500) Days Scribe Scott Neustadter

by Angela Guess

Running LA Screenwriter has its share of perks. Occasionally I get to read a new screenwriting book before it hits the presses. Sometimes I get free passes to events. But far and away the best perk of this job is the chance to interview screenwriters I admire.

Recently I reached out to Scott Neustadter (@iamthepuma) who, with his writing partner Michael Weber, is the screenwriter behind (500) Days of Summer and the new film The Spectacular Now. Scott and Michael also penned The Pink Panther 2 and the upcoming film The Fault in Our Stars, which is due out next year.

(500) Days of Summer is one of my personal favorite films, and The Spectacular Now (which is in theaters now — go see it!) is one of the most compelling and charming high school stories since The Breakfast Club, so you can imagine how thrilled I was when Scott kindly agreed to answer my questions.

In our interview, Scott discusses the challenges of turning a true story into a cinematic experience, how he and Michael sold their first script, and his search for the story he “can’t not write.”

LA Screenwriter (LA): (500) Days of Summer is famously based on one of your actual relationships. Can you talk a bit about walking the line of fact versus fiction when writing a true story? How do you balance realism against what will be most entertaining or cinematic?

Scott Neustadter (SN): The truth is that I didn’t really think ANY of it would be entertaining or cinematic. Not at first. Weber and I had wanted to write a relationship movie for a long time, we just didn’t have the relationship we wanted to write about. And then I had this real-life roller coaster ride which I thought was dramatic enough for a couple of emails to send friends, but certainly not for a movie. And then I got lucky and hit upon this conceit of telling the story in a crazy non-linear fashion, which created a level of suspense that would not have been there otherwise. From there it was about being as real and authentic as I could get away with, because the point of the story was a dissection and a deconstruction of a specific relationship, so the realer the better. 

read more »

September 20, 2013

The Highest-Grossing Screenwriters of All Time

Thomas Mentel recently shared a list of the five highest-grossing screenwriters of all time (meaning their films have made the most money collectively, not necessarily themselves). There are probably some names on this list that you don’t know, but you absolutely should. One name not on the list worth noting is Melissa Rosenburg — the highest-grossing female screenwriter of all time (due primarily to her work on the Twilight series).

Here are a few excerpts from Mentel’s list:

5. David S. Goyer – $1.91 Billion (The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises)

Goyer has made a career out of being the go-to screenwriter for comic adaptations for the screen. However, he’s also had a lot of duds over the years with films like Sony’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Fox’s Jumper. But overall, he’s been a consistent player for Warner for over a decade with films like the Blade trilogy and the well-regarded sci-fi film Dark City.

read more »

September 18, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: What We’ve Learned So Far

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.

Every week we’ve been posting wonderful lists of “un-rules” from successful screenwriters working in the industry today. These un-rules, or “principles” as Robert McKee would call them, are the guiding ideas that each of these writers find most important to their creative process.

Today, I want to take a step back and look at what we’ve learned. Below are the rules that I have found most insightful, practical, and helpful thus far:

  1. Respect the craft of screenwriting. This includes mastering format and becoming an excellent storyteller. There is no easy way to success. If you believe that your first script will make your career, you will be humbled when you learn that your craft is bigger than you’ll ever be. (Mark Sanderson)

  2. 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?” (Joe Gazzam)

  3. Don’t be afraid to extensively outline.  Get examples of outlines where you can.  Outline your favorite movies and favorite screenplays to teach yourself about structure. (Kirsten Smith)

    read more »

September 17, 2013

35 Reasons to Write (or, Why We Do What We Do)

Every day I post a new quote about writing. The quotes come from famous screenwriters, novelists, poets, and each writer has different ideas about the craft of writing. But there’s one thing that they all agree upon: Writing is hard work.

No one gets into this gig because they think it will be an easy way to turn a quick buck (or if they do think that, they’re quickly corrected.) So why do we write? What could possibly possess us to sit down in front of our laptops or notepads and suffer day after day?

There’s no single reason, and your reason might change from project to project. Whatever you’re working on today, if you’re having trouble getting motivated, here are just a few reasons to push forward.

Reasons to Write

  1. Because someone’s paying you to
  2. Because no one has paid you to yet, and you’d like that to change
  3. To get better at it
  4. To share your story
  5. To exorcise your demons
  6. To express an opinion
  7. To prove something to yourself
  8. To explore a new idea
  9. To see what you’re capable of
    read more »

September 11, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Karen McCullah’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.

We’re excited to have a new list of screenwriting principles this week from Karen McCullah (@KarenMcCullah1). Karen and her writing partner Kirsten Smith (who shared her own list of rules here) are the team responsible for such hits as Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You, and The Ugly Truth. (See their full list of credits here.)

With her list, Karen decided to keep things short and sweet. These are the three screenwriting rules that she found most important to share with budding writers:

read more »

September 6, 2013

The 3 Commandments of Writing

5304492399_805a329467_nJames Clear has put together a variety of interviews from famous fiction writers on their daily writing routines. While I don’t think any of these writers are screenwriters, what they have to say lines up perfectly with everything that I have learned about screenwriting.

Of course, everyone writes a bit differently, and you have to find what works for you. But there are a few truisms present throughout James’ list that I have seen repeated over and over again in articles and books, and from those truisms I have created a list of writing commandments.

I have trouble taking this list to heart in my own writing, but I truly believe that no one can succeed as a writer until they follow each of these screenwriting commandments:

1. Write regularly.

Many writers say that you must write every single day (though I think some of these same people technically mean five days a week), and while I think that is an amazing goal to strive toward, it is also a setup for failure. When I miss a day of writing, I feel shitty, and that discourages me from writing the next day.

I think the more prudent advice is to set a schedule for yourself and write as often and as much as you can. Maybe with your busy work life, that means you commit to writing at least 3 days a week, and it doesn’t matter which days those are. Maybe with your more easy going student existence, you can commit to writing every afternoon for at least two hours. Personally, with my flexible freelance schedule, I’m going to commit to writing for at least three hours every weekday morning. (Hold me to it.)

read more »

September 4, 2013

Write Better by Creating a Coffee Shop at Home

8521538999_897e97312a(We were on summer break for a few weeks, but we’re glad to be back. Hope you didn’t miss us too much — we missed you!)

At LA Screenwriter we’re always on the look out for ways to be more creative, more productive, and overall better writers. A friend of the website shared a new tool with us that claims to do just that.

Coffitivity.com is a website and app that lets you play coffee shop sounds while you work. The site claims that the low murmur of a coffee shop is an ideal environment to spur creativity (and many writers would attest this). If you can’t always head to your local cafe to write, Coffitivity brings the coffee shop to you.

Personally, I frequently write in coffee shops, but always block out the noise with music that I think best fits whatever I’m working on. These Coffitivity folks might be on to something, though. Give it a shot and let us know if the comforting sounds of coffee improve your writing.

Or if you know of any other ingenious tools like this, please share!

photo credit: Sam Howitz (Flickr)

August 14, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Erik Bork’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.

This week we’re honored to have a list of “un-rules” from Erik Bork (@flyingwrestler). Erik is best known for his work on the HBO miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS and FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, for which he wrote multiple episodes and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards for helping to produce. Erik has also sold a variety of drama series pitches to the big four networks and recently developed a comedy pilot with one of the studios. He’s worked on the writing staff for two primetime dramas, and written feature screenplays on assignment for companies like Universal, HBO, TNT, and Playtone. In addition to all of that, Erik teaches in National University’s MFA Screenwriting Program and for The Writers Store, speaks regularly at writing conferences, and offers one-on-one consulting to writers.

Erik got his start as an assistant to Tom Hanks, who gave Erik the opportunity to help him write and produce FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON after reading some sitcom spec scripts he had written.

Erik has an excellent article on his screenwriting website, Flying Wrestler, which provides deeper information about each of his following ten rules:

  1. Concept, then story, come first.  Getting those right is the most important part.  The “words on the page,” while important, are less critical.

  2.  “Compelling, unique, real and entertaining” is what every scene and every story should be.  The audience needs to believe in and care about the main character’s situation, and enjoy the process of watching them confront it – without feeling that they’ve seen it all before.  This is not easy to do!

    read more »

August 7, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Mark Sanderson’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 this week comes from the talented Mark Sanderson (@scriptcat). Mark is a screenwriter and consultant blessed to be living his childhood dream of making movies. He has done sketch comedy writing and performing with The Amazing Onionheads, completed eleven screenplay assignments and television premieres, and enjoyed worldwide distribution of his emotionally compelling films, the WWII indie feature I’ll Remember April, Lifetime Network’s holiday films Deck the Halls and An Accidental Christmas, the stylish indie-noir feature Stingers, and action-packed thrillers USS Poseidon: Phantom Below (aka HereTV’s Tides of War) and SyFy Network’s Sea Snakes (aka 20th Century Fox’s Silent Venom).

His films have been recognized at major film festivals and distributed globally. Mark’s long association with Hollywood veterans dates back to his first produced screenplay, and he has since worked with Academy Award winning producers, veteran genre directors, and Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe acting nominees.

Mark is currently busy shopping two TV pilots, moving into pre-production on his indie sci-fi comedy Area 54, and he just completed his first book, A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success. He offers workshops, webinars and screenplay consultation services at his website FIVE O’CLOCK BLUE ENTERTAINMENT and screenwriting advice on his popular blog MY BLANK PAGE (Script Magazine’s pick for Website of the Week).

Here are the rules that Mark would like to share with us today:

  1. Respect the craft of screenwriting. This includes mastering format and becoming an excellent storyteller. There is no easy way to success. If you believe that your first script will make your career, you will be humbled when you learn that your craft is bigger than you’ll ever be.

  2. Carve out a schedule and protect your precious screenwriting time.Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail.”—Ernest Hemingway.

    read more »