Posts tagged ‘tips’

October 4, 2012

10 Rom Com Truisms

Billy Mernit of Living the Romantic Comedy recently compiled a list of 10 romantic comedy truisms with links to his articles supporting and providing advice for each point. If you’re working on a rom com, this list is essential reading:

A few readers have asked me to put all of these “truism” posts, scattered over the past 18 months, in one convenient place for persual.  So be it (just click on the numbers to get to the corresponding links).

# 1:  The primary challenge lies not in creating obstacles to keep the couple apart, but in convincing the audience that these two people truly do belong together.

# 2:  A star can open a romantic comedy, but a protagonist who doesn’t make sense will piss off the movie’s audience forever.

#3:  The depth of your audience’s emotional investment in the central romance is directly proportionate to the size of the story’s stakes.

Truism 4 6a00d8341c7f0d53ef0147e3d5dcdf970b

#4:  Solve the Woman Problem and you will get rich.

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July 2, 2012

Crafting Subplots and B-Stories

This is something that I struggle with, and I imagine I’m not alone. That’s why I’m grateful that Danny Manus of No BullScript Consulting answered the following question for Script Magazine: “How many subplots should I have and how do I make them work with the overall story?” Danny responded thus:

A man can’t live on ‘A’ storylines alone – and neither can your scripts. If you’re not crafting and interweaving compelling subplots and B stories into your script, your story will probably feel flat and won’t sustain for 100 minutes.

Your subplots and B stories are what add new dimensions to your script and flesh out your concept and story. Most stories have at least 2 or 3 subplots, and can have more. But you don’t want them to take AWAY from the main storyline, only add to it!

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April 17, 2012

How to Talk to Hollywood (and Be Taken Seriously)

Peter Hanson has written a great article for Script Magazine featuring ten tips for talking to Hollywood. Whether you’re writing a query, making a cold call, or pitching your script in an actual meeting, these tips will help you present yourself professionally and effectively. (And they’ll help keep you from making an ass out of yourself.)

Peter writes:

 The movie business is just like any other private club, and once you learn the secret handshake (metaphorically speaking), you can get in the door.

The following tips are applicable to every possible interaction you might have with Hollywood professionals. You can use this advice for a cold call to a production company, an in-person approach to an executive or producer at a film festival or pitch fest, or even a Hollywood meeting.

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February 17, 2012

John Truby on Story

Inktip recently interviewed John Truby, one of the most highly respected and sought-out screenwriting instructors / script consultants in the business. Here’s what they talked about:

Question: What questions should a writer ask him or herself prior to crafting their story?

John Truby: Most writers can’t tell at the premise stage whether they’ve got a good story because they don’t have the training to see the deep structural problems in the idea before writing it as a script.
The extraordinary fact is 99% of writers fail at the premise. This is the great unknown gatekeeper that keeps most writers from being successful. If you screw up the premise, nothing you do later in the writing process will make any difference. The game’s already over.

The biggest mistakes writers make at the premise:

1. The idea is not original.
2. The idea doesn’t have a clear desire line for the hero that extends throughout the story.
3. The idea doesn’t have a strong main opponent.

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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 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.

July 12, 2011

The Keys to Writing Great Family Films

This article by Staton Rabin for Script Mag gives some excellent pointers for writing family and kid’s films:

When I’m not reading scripts for writers like you, I’m writing screenplays and books of my own. Several of these could be categorized as “family films,” or books for kids or teens. But I find those designations not very useful at best and slightly demeaning at worst. There’s really no such thing as a children’s film or a kids’ book. There are just good movies and bad movies, good books and badly written books. And that is the most important secret of writing movies or books that children, tweens, or teens can enjoy. If you want to write this kind of entertainment, here are my best tips:

1) Don’t “write down” to children or teens. There is no difference between writing a book or movie for adults and writing one “for” children — except that, in the latter, a child or teen is usually (not always) the main character. Ask any successful author who writes books or movies marketed mainly to children or teens. They will tell you that they don’t write “for” young people. Pay attention to Pixar’s movies if you want to know how to write scripts that respect children’s intelligence and appeal to entire families and not just “the kiddies.”

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June 10, 2011

Writing the R-Rated Comedy

Keith Giglio led a great session at last weekend’s Great American Pitchfest on R-rated comedies. At the top of the session, Keith pointed out that comedies are the easiest sells in Hollywood – they don’t require A-list talent (in fact, they tend to make stars), they’re cheap to shoot, easy to market, and they make a lot of money. As Keith put it, comedies are “the quickest way to Oz.”

At their core, R-comedies are about primal human urges – love, sex, hate, success. R-comedy is the only genre in which “a guy wants to get laid” is a perfectly acceptable hero’s journey (40 Year Old Virgin). Usually in the end R-rated comedies come down to something deeper, but the ending is still always going to be about something innate to human nature, something any audience member should be able to connect to.

As with any kind of film, Keith underscored how important it is to know your genre. If you want to write comedy, study comedy. Study what’s out there now and where the things that are out there now came from. As with most Hollywood films, the trick is to be uniquely familiar with your concept, said Keith. You want to have an idea that sounds like something that has already worked because it has some universal quality to it. But the idea has to have something new to give.

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