Posts tagged ‘screenwriting advice’

December 4, 2013

Politics, Love, & Screenwriting: A Conversation with Steve Faber


by Angela Guess

If you’re ever lucky enough to cross paths with Steve Faber, ask to buy him a drink. You won’t regret it.

Steve is the scribe behind Wedding Crashers and the recent hit, We’re the Millers. A fellow UCLA alumnus, Steve started his professional life as a lawyer, then realized it was “a tremendous mistake.” He gave himself one year in Los Angeles to try his hand at writing, and within that year he was able to begin a new career in television. He wrote for a variety of sitcoms–most notably Married with Children–before making the switch to features. Currently, Steve is in pre-production on a broad comedy called Sugar Daddy and is developing a romantic comedy about love & marriage called Backspace. Steve also has his own political column on The Huffington Post called Washingwood.

I met my share of vibrant, creative people at the recent Austin Film Festival & Conference, but the two encounters I had with Mr. Faber were by far the most fascinating.

I asked Steve for an interview in advance of the conference, and he was kind enough to oblige. Ultimately he and I met for a drink prior to our actual interview, and the phrase “This is off the record” escaped his lips a few dozen times. I sincerely wish I could share some of that conversation here, but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for Steve to write his memoir.

Later in the conference, Steve and I met for a formal sit-down, and what follows is a transcript of that conversation. Read on for Steve’s insights on maximizing your creativity, female comedy writers, the key to a successful marriage, and why a sense of “sadness and poignancy” is essential to great comedy.

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October 29, 2013

Practical Advice for Finding an Agent or Manager

AFF_LogoOne of the great things about the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriting Conference is how well the conference creators have balanced panels about the craft of screenwriting with the business of it.

On Friday, I attended a panel called Breaking In: Finding Representation. The panel featured two up and coming writers, Justin Marks and John Swetnam, and their representation. Justin’s manager, Adam Kolbrenner is a co-founder of Madhouse Entertainment (currently accepting submissions), and John’s agent David Boxerbaum is in the lit department over at Paradigm.

The main take-away from the session came from John, though everyone on the panel underscored his words: If you want representation, he told us, you need to write a good script. Not just a pretty good script or a script that your family thinks is good, but a script that you truly believe could compete with the movies that are showing at your local theater.

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October 28, 2013

Six Second Screenwriting Lessons from Brian Koppelman

Tired of reading the same advice in screenwriting books? You’re in luck: Brian Koppelman is here to help.

Brian is the writer of such films as Ocean’s Thirteen, Runaway Jury, and Rounders. In a recent interview with Rachel Syme of The New Yorker, Koppelman explained his frustration with the business surrounding writing that tries to help new writers succeed, usually by making them pay for a product or service that is, in truth, total bullshit:

What he hates, he tells me, channelling Hecht’s twilight slash-and-burn attitude toward the business, is the industry that surrounds screenwriting, the world of how-to books and motivational retreats that cinch the craft like a belt. He hates the gurus, the seminars, the “For Dummies” guides that tell aspirants how to churn out popcorn hits. “If Ben Hecht woke up in a screenwriting genre seminar being taught in a conference room at the Radisson, I think he would puke all over everybody,” Koppelman says, with a boyish grin. “I mean, I have friends who do that, and I don’t want to sound like a jerk! But I think that, somehow, screenwriting became this golden cash cow that everyone wants a part of, and then, on top of that, the industry creates the feeling in people that there is some mystery to doing this work, and so in the end it can very easily prey on dreamers.”

But Brian has a way to help:

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October 21, 2013

Video: How Great Screenwriters Prepare to Write

BAFTA has shared a wonderful short video in which half a dozen screenwriters discuss how they prepare to write. The writers cover such topics as how much they outline, their method for outlining, how many hours a day they write, and what works best for them to keep them creative and productive.

Click here to watch this video.

October 2, 2013

Terry Rossio on Finding a Uniquely Compelling Screenplay Concept

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a writer is having someone in power tell you that your writing is great and your story is entertaining, but your concept isn’t sellable. Or it’s not quite compelling enough, or too complicated, or whatever. Having that perfect concept is the first key to writing a script that people will actually want to buy. But how do you find your concept? And how do you know when it’s strong enough?

Terry Rossio has weighed in on this very subject on his website, Wordplayer:

As a screenwriter and novice film producer, people send me screenplays. Like everyone else in town, I’d love to find that next great script, discover that next great talent. And having read and commented on several hundred scripts, let me tell you the single most common problem I’ve found:

Lack of a good concept.

Very often the screenwriter has picked, right from the start, a concept that even in its best form isn’t the type of story that sells to Hollywood.

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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. 

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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:

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August 5, 2013

What To Do After Finishing a Draft of Your Script

Scriptcat, the author of screenwriting website My Blank Page, shared an article about what to do after finishing the first draft of a new script. He writes,

I’ve been asked this question many times from aspiring screenwriters and I always have an answer — print a copy of your script, put it away and go out and celebrate your victory.  You are farther along on the journey than most writers because you’ve actually completed a screenplay

When you finish the work, as productive screenwriters, we always need to celebrate our accomplishments with regards to work actually produced with words on a page.  Under no circumstances do you give your first draft to anyone for a read—even if they beg you— and certainly not to any producer or Hollywood industry type.  You and the material are too fragile and you need to digest what you’ve written without any outside criticism.  After a week, take the script out from the drawer and go read it alone somewhere using my “20 Steps to use after you type FADE OUT—THE END.“  I prefer my local coffee-house with a nice large cup of java.  Read it through once just to see if the entire script flows.  You will find that it’s different from you might have remembered while you were actually writing it.  Time away from a script allows you to redefine the story in your head and upon your first read, you will immediately notice things that work or do not work.

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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 24, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Rick Suvalle’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’s list comes from Rick Suvalle (@RickSuvalle). Rick has been a professional film and television writer for over 15 years. He is currently writing and Executive Producing a sci-fi/action web series for NBC Universal. Other recent credits include two television movie premieres: The Hallmark Channel Original Movie Honeymoon For One and the Syfy Original Movie Roadkill (see his interview about writing movies for television here). Rick has also created and produced an original pilot presentation for 20th Century Fox, and he served as the Executive Story Editor on Pamela Anderson’s hit syndicated series “V.I.P.” where he also wrote 15 episodes.

Needless to say, Rick knows this business (like, really knows it) from both the film and television sides. Here are his un-rules:

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