In this interview, our Curious About Screenwriting Co-Host, Laurie Lamson, interviews the prolific writer/producer Christine Conradt. Christine is best known for Betrayed at 17 (2011), A Nanny's Revenge (2012) and Summer's Moon (2009). With nearly 50 produced writing credits, Christine received her Bachelor’s degree in Screenwriting from the esteemed USC's School of Cinematic Arts and then worked briefly in development before launching herself as a writer. Intent on elevating the crime thrillers she was becoming known for, Christine went back to grad school to receive a Masters degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University where she focused on cybercrime and juvenile delinquency. THE BRIDE HE BOUGHT ONLINE is her directorial debut, premiering on Lifetime July 18, 2015. Laurie delves into Christine’s career, process, and what it’s like being a female horror writer.
Our wonderful co-host, Laurie, has been hosting live teleconferences with the ISA for a long time. She’s an industry veteran and honored to share her passion for screenwriting with you through our Curious About Screenwriting podcasts. Laurie is the editor of the series of industry books titled, Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror, the co-editor of Now Write! Screenwriting and Now Write! Mysteries, published by Tarcher/Penguin. You can learn more and connect with Laurie at nowwrite.net. Enjoy the interview.
When we asked Pixar if Meg LeFauve, the writer on Inside Out, was able to join us on our podcast, we were thrilled how willing and able the Pixar PR team was – we couldn’t have been happier to have Meg on, and her interview is a perfect example of the level of quality, intelligence, and passion that stems from the animation studio. Meg isn’t a regular part of the Pixar creative team – she was actually brought on through an assignment to work on Inside out, and she talks about the process as first being an outsider and what it was like working alongside Pete Docter and his incredible team.
There is so much covered in this interview, including inside scoops on various aspects of Inside Out that didn’t end up on screen, the extensive creative process it went through, but also Meg’s journey as an executive at Jodie Foster’s company for a decade and how she then parlayed that experience into a writing career. She offers an inspiring interview, talks about her upcoming mega project, Captain Marvel, and with so many valuable nuggets of writing advice, we can only hope that every writer listening has a pen and paper handy. If you haven’t seen Pixar’s Inside Out yet, it’s an absolute must. Enjoy the interview and thanks for listening.
CREATING A TV PILOT THAT SELLS: THREE IMPORTANT TOOLS will teach you the three tools of TV storytelling: Trigger, Dilemma and Pursuit, that will take you from ordinary to extraordinary with the writing of your pilots. By understanding how to link these tools, you will learn how to create a strong foundation for your story, have an active lead, and elevate the emotion to a whole new level. This class will guide you how to set up your pilots in a strong way that will lead you toward success.
In her class, CREATING A TV PILOT THAT SELLS: THREE IMPORTANT TOOLS, Jen Grisanti will teach you what she believes are the pillars that will take you from ordinary to extraordinary with the writing of your TV pilot.
Jen will walk you through three tools: Trigger, Dilemma and Pursuit, and she will guide you how to use these key elements to set up your pilot in a way that will lead you toward success.
Jen says, “These tools are the foundation that have led many of my clients to success. By mastering the set up of your story, you create the possibility of making a sale and staffing.”
Through understanding how to link these three elements, you will learn how set the foundation in your story, have an active lead and elevate the emotion to a whole new level.
Jen believes that in order to go from a non-working writer to a working writer, you have to write a pilot that hits it out of the ballpark. She will teach you the tools that will elevate your game and increase your opportunities.
TRIGGER – By creating a powerful trigger incident for your series, you will create a strong season arc and this will establish longevity for your concept.
A strong pilot trigger is what carries the first episode. Linking these two makes the difference between a good pilot and a great one. You need to clearly set up that the pilot trigger would not have happened unless the series trigger happened.
Jen will go over several pilots that have done this successfully.
DILEMMA – The trigger incident should push your central character into a dilemma. The choice that is made in this dilemma is what will define the external goal.
The dilemma should be strong enough that we understand that there is not an easy choice on either side of the dilemma. This is what will create empathy and a rooting factor for your central character.
We will also discuss the set up of the personal dilemma and how to link it to the professional pursuit. This will elevate the emotion in your story.
PURSUIT – The clear set up of the goal is the glue that will make your story hold together. By clearly setting up what your central character wants, you can link your obstacle, escalating obstacle, and “all is lost” moment back to the goal. This will help you to write stronger act breaks. It is when the goal is unclear that the story doesn’t work.
In every scene, we should have a clear sense of what your central character wants and why they want it. Through setting up a clear pursuit, it will help you to establish this.
Jen knows what it takes to sell a pilot. She has had thirty-two clients over the last seven years sell pilots. Five of them have gone to series. Jen has also helped to staff over 65 writers during this time on top primetime shows.
Jen was a studio executive for 12 years at CBS/Paramount and Spelling Television Aaron Spelling was her mentor. Jen has covered shows including; BEVERLY HILLS, 90210 (the original), MELROSE PLACE, SEVENTH HEAVEN, CHARMED, MEDIUM, NUMBERS, THE 4400, NCIS and GIRLFRIENDS.
For the past seven years, Jen has been a writing instructor for Writers on the Verge at NBC, a story/career consultant at Jen Grisanti Consultancy Inc., an author of three books – STORY LINE: FINDING GOLD IN YOUR LIFE STORY, CHANGE YOUR STORY, CHANGE YOUR LIFE: A PATH TO SUCCESS and TV WRITING TOOL KIT: HOW TO WRITE A SCRIPT THAT SELLS. Jen is also a blogger for The Huffington Post. In addition to Los Angeles, Jen has taught classes in New York, London, Australia and Israel.
There is tons of information out there about how to write a script. But when it comes to building and maintaining a screenwriting career, most writers get stumped. Do you submit to a few contests, and then go back to the writing, hoping you get lucky? Should you write in one genre or many? And once you have representation or industry interest, what can you expect and how do you manage relationships for best results?
While it's never easy, new writers with no previous Hollywood connections do break into the industry all the time. That's the good news. The bad news? It takes discipline, consistency, strategic effort and hard work to make it happen, then to keep up the momentum. If what they say is true, and it really does take 3 to 10 years to break into the space, what do you have to do to make sure that you work smart, produce consistently, create the right opportunities and then show up for them in the most effective way?
Screenwriting careers don’t happen by chance. Sure, there is always an element of luck or “in the right place, at the right time,” but without some strategic planning and ongoing concerted business building efforts, it isn’t likely that you will get there. Therefore, you can’t wait. You have to get active on behalf of your career. You must plot your success. And once you get representation or gain industry attention on the merit of a stand out script? That’s when the hard work begins and you have to deliver in every communication, in the room and on the page.
Join us for this free teleconference, in which we will break down strategies, answer burning questions, and devise effective next steps for your work. While there are no guarantees, there are strategic steps you can take from the early stages of your career through to maintaining and building on interest and successful relationships to make sure that your screenwriting career is given the best possible fighting chance.
Veteran TV writer and producer, John McNamara joined the ISA and its Curious About Screenwriting Network, and there is so much insight, TV history, lessons to be learned, and advice to be taken, it might be one of our favorite interviews to date. John has worked as a writer and producer on multiple shows since the 90’s, from Lois and Clark, to The Fugitive, Jericho, and now the popular Aquarius on NBC starring David Duchovny. He also has a feature coming out in November called Trumbo, about the blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo during the blacklist, Communist movement in Hollywood during the 40’s. With a ridiculous cast of Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Diane Lane and Alan Tudyk, for a writer working in Hollywood, the movie is a can’t miss.
We talked a lot about John’s origins as a writer/producer, having first worked as a playwright in New York alongside Steven Sondheim, Arthur Lawrence, and so many other theatre icons. His stories are priceless, but his advice for young writers is even better. Definitely give this interview a listen, and check out Aquarius on NBC as soon as you’re able. It’s perfect binge-watching fare, and there will even be an NC-17 cut of the show released in September. Have fun with this one, and thanks for listening!
Writing can be agony. Staring at a blank computer screen can be one of the most difficult chores imaginable. In what other occupation can you work for eight hours and have nothing to show for it? It doesn't have to be that way. William M. Akers will show you how to corral your fear, amp up your self confidence and teach you techniques to get your creative juices flowing so you can defeat writers block - every time it rears its ugly head.
For 20+ years, William M. Akers has been writing for money, teaching screenwriting to college students, and critiquing clients' scripts. One thing he knows is that when sitting down to write, different people face different demons. And, sometimes, just sitting down is the most difficult step of all.
The hell that is getting the words out can begin, literally, with how you choose to put them on the page. Pen? Computer? Write in a coffee shop? Pencil? Dictation? Different pencil? Writing partner who talks while you write? Elves who work while you sleep? Whatever way you get the words on the page is probably right for you. Just because someone else has a different technique doesn't matter one bit.
At its most basic, writing is about self-confidence or, at least, the freedom to fail. Gaining assurance that your personal writing method is the best way for YOU to work is only the beginning. In this teleconference, Akers will discuss these death traps:
Choosing the wrong idea for you to write.
Picking the wrong main character (which happens more often than you think).
Self-censoring your work - too early.
Quit worrying you don't know the secret method, process, structure that will unlock writing's mysteries.
You will learn:
The Keith Richards writing technique - the greatest magic trick for creativity Akers has ever found.
How research can actually kill your story.
If you can't write a single word - 5 simple action steps that will improve your story and writing, and get you unblocked.
The amazing (and breathtakingly easy) Random Thoughts technique to painlessly generate new ideas to rejuvenate and improve scenes.
The "South Park" writing lesson. 16 little bitty words that will vastly improve your structure, forever.
What Akers learned from Jerry Seinfeld, a writer who really, really hates to write.
A writing exercise that will take you so far in 30 minutes that you may not ever be afraid to write again.
No matter how bad it gets, no matter what horrible place you've managed to put yourself, you will learn that there is no hole too deep to write you out of.
Screenplay contests are changing cinema. If you are an unknown, amateur writer, one who’s had a taste of success, or even the millionaire living in hills of Silver Lake, your entry to a screenplay competition stirs a monster. Gordy Hoffman founded the BlueCat Screenplay Competition in 1998 and remains its judge.
What Not To Do In a Screenplay is a seminar devoted to enhancing the careers of both beginning and intermediate screenwriters. The craft of screenwriting, and the little tricks of the trade are voluminous and numerous, but it can all be learned and if practiced with discipline and patience a writer's efforts can pay off. Getting the knowledge about what producers need is key and keeping your screenplay from being rejected out-of-hand is just as key.
Writer Alvaro Rodriguez (MACHETE) interviews Table Read My Screenplay's Grand Prize Winning Feature Category Winner Jeff York (THE SCOUNDRELS CLUB). They discuss Jeff's experience winning a respected contest, why he submitted to this contest and others, his experience at the Sundance Film Festival, incorporating Historical figures into his projects, what the response from producers has been since winning and more.
You’re hundreds of miles from Hollywood, California. Or maybe you’re just around the corner, but it seems far away. You want to break into the film business. But how? This class gives you a road map to get you from here to there. With Barri Evins. Barri has taught at Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, the UCLA Producers Program and the American Film Institute.
This class puts the spotlight on creating and crafting compelling characters so you can write a savvy screenplay that will grab both the Hollywood and independent film world’s attention. Each critical element that comprises a screenplay will be covered (plot, dialogue, structure, and genre), detailing how your protagonists, antagonists and minor characters can shine in each of these categories.
Every great script from “Casablanca” to “Citizen Kane” to “Godfather” to “World War Z” is based off a formula developed by Shakespeare & Aristotle. Learn the Formula! 50-60 Scenes, 1 A-Story, 3 B-Stories (sub-plots), with 5-6 Back-Stories all intertwined. Then learn how to write the “Great Script” in 3-weeks, typing only 10-minutes per day, and sell it.
A good pitch can get you through the door, but what makes the sale is a script with a great story. It turns out that very specific story techniques are found in the Blockbuster scripts Hollywood is desperate to buy. John Truby, considered "the best script doctor in the movie industry," tells you exactly what these story techniques are, and how to execute them.
Listen to this podcast to learn the five main reasons people fail at screenwriting and come away with specific insights and hands-on tools to help give you the best possible shot at success. Perfect for experienced screenwriters as well as beginners.
When writing a script it is important to know what each department of film production requires to best represent your story and still fit it into the budget. Julia Stemock will speak on this as a cross-section of all the fields you need to be familiar with; including Development, Preproduction, Production and Post.
You know you have to rewrite your film or TV script, but where do you begin? Pilar Alessandra, author of "The Coffee Break Screenwriter" can help you figure out exactly what your script needs ... and show you how to fix it. Among the Top Ten of screenwriting consultants in the industry, Pilar will help you tighten the story or polish the prose, give you techniques that helps you fix your script without going completely insane.
MARK ROBERTSON trained as an actor at Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University, after which he appeared in numerous stage plays and London West End musicals. Since turning to writing full time, Mark has become a prolific writer on various UK television series, including SHAUN THE SHEEP and CHOP-SOCKY CHOOKS (Aardman Animation); DENNIS AND GNASHER (Red Kite/CBBC); and MY SPY FAMILY (Kindle/Cartoon Network). He recently optioned his pilot, Charles Dickens' Ghost Club to Eclectic Pictures, with Indomitable Entertainment co-producing. The ISA’s Development Program was directly involved in setting up Mark’s Dickens pilot with Eclectic and Indomitable.
The ISA’s inaugural Fast Track Fellowship Competition awarded two winners meetings with six industry executives – Melissa Birks was one of the grand prize winners with her project, Uncaged – a thriller set in the 19th century, and touted as a light origin story of Jack The Ripper. Melissa has worked as a journalist for many years, spending her time traveling to multiple American cities, mostly small, un-urban locations to follow up on local mysteries, archeological discoveries, and then some. She has lead a fascinating life thus far, and is looking forward to a successful move into the world of screenwriting.
Grand Prize winner of The ISA’s inaugural Fast Track Fellowship Competition, Martin was a professor of law at UC Hastings College and professor of psychiatry at UC Medical Center, and the Langley Porter Institute. As a career forensic psychiatrist he has interviewed over 300 killers in his multiple decades of work, often just hours after the crime had been committed. Dr. Blinder lives in Marin County, outside of San Francisco, and though he entered the screenwriting world late in his career, he is already making strides with his multiple historical and thriller-based projects.
Despite Lucy’s young age, she has been lucky enough to learn directly from the “big ones” such as, Syd Field, Robert McKee, Linda Seger, Michael Hauge, and John Truby. As well as from the Mexican Academy Award nominee, Guillermo Arriaga, and was Paula Markovitch’s former student. Lucy recently graduated from the New York Film Academy’s Screenwriting Conservatory, and is currently working on a few projects while her script, Sophie & Valentina, which was a Table Read My Screenplay Contest Best Drama Winner.
With her script Mouth, Kimi won the Grand Prize at the prestigious 2015 Blue Cat Screenplay Competition. MOUTH explores the notion that in a sense, all relationships are somewhat transactional. The title is derived from Sam Shepard and Patti Smith’s play Cowboy Mouth, which is featured in the script, about two alcoholic lovers disintegrating in the Chelsea Hotel. Kimi was drawn to the idea of two people who were irrevocably in love, yet at war with one another. That was the main impetus for the script––examining relationships that, despite their toxicity, were also nourishing. A rising star, Kimi is currently repped by Industry and pushing multiple projects out around town.
Edward Klau is from Miami and has lived in Los Angeles since 2000. When not working as a producer in reality television, he has written twenty six screenplays including Brights, the Grand Prize Winner of the Table Read My Screenplay Sundance contest. Other scripts including Invisible Scars, Criminal Element, Pyramid and Plan have also placed highly in other screenwriting contests. Klau has developed screenplays with different production companies around town and reliably writes multiple scripts every year. His interview is an insightful one as we discuss the ins and outs of working freelance, and how to find a job in this crazy industry.
A Harvard grad, Derek Asaff pursued a general business degree in college but quickly realized that writing and literature was his real passion. Eventually gravitating toward the screenwriting realm, Derek focused nearly all of his time on educating himself on the craft and improving his own writing ability through mentorships and continual classes. His focus on education and practice lead him to win the Table Read My Screenplay Contest, London. Winning Table Read opened up numerous doors for Derek, eventually getting him signed to the Gotham Group for management, and recently signing a development deal with Original Film (Furious 7) for his Table Read winning comedy script, The Wheelman. His comedy feature is now considered as a possible vehicle for Melissa McCarthy. It’s onward and upward for Derek and The ISA is proud of his recent success.
As an actress, she recently recurred as Trixie in season 3 of FX's Emmy-winning show Justified. She works frequently in independent film, and projects she's appeared in have screened at dozens of festivals, including Tribeca, AFI, New York International Film Festival, Starz Denver, etc. She is attached as a large supprting role in the upcoming drama/thriller Chagrin. Valerie sold her first feature screenplay to Sunrise films at age 22, and joined the WGA immediately after. Her scripts have been honored by the Nicholl Fellowships, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the Scriptwriter's Network, and many other organizations. Valerie's feature-length directorial debut, Lola's