Posts tagged ‘screenwriting’

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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November 26, 2013

Joe Eszterhas’s 10 Rules of Screenwriting

Joe Eszterhas was once the highest paid screenwriter in the business. Before turning to film, he was a senior editor at Rolling Stone. The rules below, which he recently shared with (a great site that you should absolutely check out), are… unique. Some of his rules you should take to heart. Some you should probably never follow.

As the saying goes when you take notes on your writing, find the note behind the note. In this case, find the advice behind the advice:

1. Don’t see too many new movies. Most movies in theaters today are awful. They will depress you. You will think to yourself: How can they have made this abominable script instead of buying and making mine? Spare yourself the anguish. Read a good book instead.

2. Don’t mince words. If the idea a studio executive gives you is a shitty one, don’t say “Well, that’s interesting, but…” Say “That’s a really shitty idea.” The people you’re dealing with aren’t stupid—they’re just vain. Deep in their hearts they know it’s a shitty idea.

3. Don’t let ’em convince you to change what you’ve written. A director isn’t a writer. Neither is a producer or a studio exec. You write for a living. You’re the pro. They’re amateurs. Dilettantes at best. Treat them that way. Make them feel that’s what they are.

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November 22, 2013

Recommendation: Jameson First Shot Competition

CaptureThe deadline for the Jameson First Shot competition is around the corner on January 2. This screenwriting competition is a rare chance to have your script professionally produced and starred in by a well-known actor. This year, the actor is Uma Thurman.

In previous years, the competition was not open to residents of California, but the rules have changed. Entry is free, and if you win, you’ll get to direct your own production.

This competition has some very specific rules in terms of script length and content, so be sure to review those carefully before you start writing. The contest states:

We’re looking for more outstanding writer/directors to enter the 2014 competition, where we will be offering an incredible opportunity; giving people a ‘first shot’ in the film industry by having their short film produced by the Academy Award-winning Trigger Street Productions and giving them the chance to direct Uma Thurman in the leading role.

In order to enter you must be from South Africa, Russia or the US (now including California!), be at least 25 years-old, and write a script of no more than seven pages based on one of three themes (‘Legendary’ OR ‘Humorous’ OR a ‘Very Tall Tale’).

I don’t know of any other contests quite like this one. Good luck!

November 13, 2013

Video: Writer Roundtable with This Year’s Likely Oscar Contenders

The Hollywood Reporter recently held their annual Writer Roundtable, and they invited some of the hottest names in screenwriting:

When The Hollywood Reporter invited George Clooney and Grant Heslov to participate in this year’s Writer Roundtable, their Nazi art-heist drama The Monuments Men was considered likely to contend in multiple awards categories. Alas, four days after the Oct. 18 discussion at The Los Angeles Athletic Club, Monuments Men was bumped by distributor Sony Pictures to Feb. 7 — unfinished visual effects were cited as the reason — and out of the awards race (at least for this year).

Luckily, Clooney, 52, and Heslov, 50, are such good talkers,THR readers likely won’t care that their movie isn’t in contention yet. The duo joined Clooney’s Gravity writer Jonas Cuaron, 31 (he penned the action-heavy script with his director father, Alfonso), Before Midnight co-writer Julie Delpy, 43, Enough Said writer-director Nicole Holofcener, 53, 12 Years a Slave‘s John Ridley, 49, and Lee Daniels’ The Butler‘s Danny Strong, 39, for a conversation that veered from Paddy Chayefsky to Sarah Palin and Edward Snowden. Said Clooney, “Now we’re getting in some deep shit!”

Visit The Hollywood Reporter to read the transcript of the conversation.

October 29, 2013

Quote of the Day: John Swetnam

The best way to get an agent? Write a good script. If your first one isn’t good enough, make it better. If it still isn’t good enough, write a new one. Once you write a good script, the rest will work itself out.

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.

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 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
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September 9, 2013

Writing Routines of Successful Writers

On Friday I shared the 3 Commandments of Writing after reading an excellent compilation of 12 famous writers’ routines. I find those lists extremely valuable, so I wanted to spend a little more time on them today. Below are some of the excerpts I find most poignant as a screenwriter:

E.B. White

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.

Haruki Murakami

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m.

I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.

But to hold to such repetition for so long — six months to a year — requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.

Ernest Hemingway

You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again… When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through.

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August 1, 2013

Quote of the Day: Tom Stoppard

I never had any frustration about writing uncredited. I always felt that the satisfaction of doing it was in the doing of it, really, and getting recognised by the small number of people that know what you did.