Posts tagged ‘advice’

November 22, 2011

Video: Writing Parallel Stories Effectively

This new video from Jacob Krueger takes a look at effective ways to juxtapose two stories against each other within a script. He uses the example of Blue Valentine and Dead Poets Society:

October 25, 2011

What Agents Have to Say About Loglines

InkTip.com has a new article about writing loglines that get attention. It’s a fascinating read, and I recommend taking a look at the full article here. But if you’re in a rush, here is what a few successful agents told Inktip they’re looking for in a logline:

Nouns + Verbs + Irony = Logline

No proper nouns needed ergo…

Clause 13 – A security guard father-to-be (noun) pisses off (verb) real super heroes (noun) by accidentally killing one (verb), and has to run for his life(verb)-when he learns you don’t have to be super to be a hero (irony.)

When writers do this, they nail it.

I learned from the best: Blake Snyder, RIP.

Barbara Bitela, The Silver/Bitela Agency

It should be in the active voice. No more than 2 lines or so. Mention what it’s in the tone of or vein of, but never say in the vein of ________meets_________. A lot of people find this annoying. Convey the genre and the central conflict of the script. Avoid run on sentences. If you can’t fit in one sentence, make it two.

For example, “Hang Up and Drive” by Bob Gale:

To impress a girl, a teenager figures out how to call bad drivers in their cars and harass them for their poor driving…only to inadvertently become the target of an infamous ‘freeway killer’.

An Anonymous Coordinator at APA 

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August 29, 2011

Quote of the Day: Chuck Mondry

I’m not very comfortable giving advice to other writers. Writing just doesn’t come easy for me. Actually, it’s pretty much constant FAILURE.

August 24, 2011

When it Comes to Your Characters, Reveal & Complicate

This article by the superb writer and script consultant, Erik Bork discusses how to write characters that will keep your audinece engaged and entertained:

A writer I work with as a consultant recently shared a phrase with me that came from her friend Craig Hammill (thanks, Craig!), which perfectly encapsulates a point that I often make with writers: “Don’t withhold; reveal, and complicate.”

What that means is this: withholding information — especially information about your main character and what they think, feel, want, plan, and are trying to achieve — tends to distance readers and audiences from your material, rather than drawing them in.

It’s a very common issue I come across in scripts, especially ones that are saving some sort of big reveal or twist for late in the movie.

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August 22, 2011

Because Robert McKee Said So: Notes from the Master

I recently participated in a free teleconference put on by the ISA with the legend himself, Robert McKee. Robert had a proliferation of valuable advice to dispense over the hour-long Q&A session, and I did my best to take notes on what I found to be his most interesting points. Here are some highlights:

  • Robert was repeatedly annoyed by questions about the “biggest” mistakes or the “best” way to do something because he doesn’t believe in pre-packaged writing tools. (However, he did indulge the group with some examples of “big” mistakes, “better” ways, etc.)
  • One major mistake that beginning writers tend to make is being impatient. Don’t put an explosion on the first page and then go back and explain what happened in subsequent pages. It’s sloppy storytelling and experienced readers won’t be impressed. Take the time to establish your characters and your world in a beautiful way.
  • On the topic of mixing genres, Robert said that mixing genres can help dimensionalize characters – if all they do is fall in love, they’re not going to be an interesting character. We also mix genres to try to create a film that hasn’t been seen before. Everything has been done – no one is going to invent an entirely new genre. Robert thinks that innovative films of the future will come from writers merging genres.
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July 20, 2011

The Art of the Query Letter

Judy Kellem wrote this helpful article a while back on the art of writing a query letter that if concise, focused, and powerful:

Why are query letters so hard to write?

There you are, confident you have a great script – the story’s spot on, the plot’s firmly in place and you’re madly in love with the characters you’ve created. Now is the moment of pay off where you’ve graduated – a full script in hand – and stand before those terrifying, golden gates to the kingdom of MARKETING. First step is just one brief letter, the hook that you must bait with a perfect “pitch” to get those first bites. How hard can writing a paragraph description of your masterpiece be? Heck, you just cranked out 120 pages of plot and dialogue!

Now five drafts into the query you’re ready to be committed.

For those of you who’s buttons are popping, don’t fret – there is a solution. The keys to writing a great query are the same ones you used to write a great script: FOCUS, VISION and COMPRESSION.

In a query, you have a tiny space to convey an entire world. In those one or two paragraphs you must communicate to your reader a sense of what your main story is, what drives the plot, who your main characters are and what genre you are writing in. Underlying your summary of the story, you must also transmit the mood, tone and spirit of your script so that the reader instantaneously feels brought into your fiction and knows what they’re in for in reading your screenplay. Just like writing a great dramatic scene, EVERY WORD COUNTS. Making every sentence rich with exposition, drama and urgency is imperative.

How do you do this?

Read the rest of the article here.

June 7, 2011

Writing for Television — Lessons Learned at GAPF

Another thought-provoking session from last weekend’s Great American Pitchfest was entitled “Your Career in TV – The View from Both Sides.” The session was essentially a conversation between former Disney executive Kathie Fong Yoneda and Emmy-nominated writer Ellen Sandler.

The session was full of wise advice from both sides of the fence. Here are some highlights:

  • Succeeding in Hollywood, whether in film or television, is part magic, but it’s mostly hard work. Something lucky has to happen to you at some point, but when it does, you need to be ready for it, or that lucky break won’t get you anywhere. Take the time to network, perfect your scripts, learn your craft, and eventually, you’ll get there.
  • People are looking for you. But they can only find you if you put yourself out there. Join a writing group, go to conferences, go to screenwriting events,  volunteer at festivals, submit to contests, and always have your pitch ready to go. The industry can’t find you if you don’t help them out a bit.
  • Your odds of finding success in television (and film) go up dramatically the more you write. Being a prolific writer is key.
  • You need to be willing to network and to play the game. A good sense of politics is key. For the most part, this simply means being nice to everyone and not asking for favors before you’ve earned the right.
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May 30, 2011

If the Reader Doesn’t Get It, the Problem is in the Writing

This is a great article by Gordy Hoffman about taking criticism on your script and making the most of it. It’s a lot more productive than getting offended:

If you’re like me, if someone doesn’t like something about my screenplay, my very first reaction is always the same.

You’re not as smart as me. If you knew what I knew, you would understand what I wrote. And you don’t understand what I wrote, because you don’t know as much as I do. About everything, in general. In short, life. You know, people. Planet Earth. If you really don’t understand what I’m doing in my script, my first feeling is I don’t respect you. I have contempt for you. I feel attacked personally, and with my feelings hurt, I want to denigrate your position, and while I won’t call you an idiot, basically the foundation of my exchange with you in the wake of you reading my script is you are, in fact, some kind of idiot.

Someone once told me I can be right or I can be happy. Or you can be right, or you can get your screenplay produced into a motion picture. I have had this happen twice, and I can tell you if I had committed myself to being right about everything during the development of the screenplay, they would still be living as files in my hard drive. Any produced screenwriter will attest to this.

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