In special installment of the ISA's "Page 2 Screen" podcast series, ISA member and optioned screenwriter Derek Assaf returns to talk with host Jeff York about the new "Star Wars" movie - "The Force Awakens." Both of our ISA writers are big fans of the franchise, yet critical of some of its sequels, so that makes for an involving conversation that is both reverent and critical.
You'll hear how they think writer/director JJ Abrams approached the material and scripted something that paid homage, yet found a fresh, new take on the familiar. They'll also touch on the difficulty of writing sequels and why some succeed better than others. Additionally, they'll discuss Abrams' take on rebooting another sci-fi behemoth - "Star Trek" in 2009. And how the sci-fi genre continues to say a lot about the times we live in.
There is no bigger movie at the Cineplex right now, and the International Screenwriters Association is proud to have two of our members dig into this franchise in such a timely fashion. As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of Page 2 Screen, and would love to hear your thoughts on Twitter. Our handle is @NetworkISA and Jeff's is @JeffYorkWriter. May the Force be with you!
Just before the Christmas break, I had Pilar Alessandra on and while I always aim to educate my listeners and make sure you walk away with solid and practical info, this interview was so full of tips and writing tools, that we could probably call this a class in and of itself. We talked about the screenwriting rules, what they are, and then how to properly break them. I’ve been working in the screenwriting world for about a decade and it’s amazing how often the same questions come up where screenwriting rules are concerned. Pilar covers so much in this hour long interview, so I hope you have a pen and paper handy. I know I say that just about every time, but this one will prove to be that much more valuable where practical lessons are concerned.
And it kind of speaks to who Pilar is. She’s a true teacher, not just because she’s been doing this for so long, but because of her passion for supporting and educating screenwriters. Just to give a little background on Pilar, she is the director of the writing program called On the Page®, and host of the popular On the Page Podcast that I highly recommend. Pilar started her career as the Senior Story Analyst at DreamWorks and, in 2001, opened the On the Page Writers’ Studio in Los Angeles. Her students and clients have written for The Walking Dead, Lost, House of Lies, Nip Tuck and Family Guy. I can’t recommend her enough, so if you would like to find out more, you can visit her website: www.onthepage.tv
In another installment of the ISA’s “Page 2 Screen” podcast series, Jeff York brings on another one of our development program stars - Vin Morreale. Vin is a writer, director, actor and acting coach. He has already written and directed a number of films, as well as theatrical plays, and his imdb page is extensive. In this podcast, he and Jeff will discuss the new “Rocky” sequel entitled “Creed” and examine exactly why it’s hardly your typical sequel.
“Creed” concentrates on a new character, rather than Rocky in this one, though “The Italian Stallion” figures strongly in a supporting role. But this 7th sequel in the franchise concentrates on Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son Adonis. And in the new movie, he’s chosen boxing as a career, just like the dad he never knew, and turns to Rocky to help him train.
Jeff and Vin examine why this sequel feels so utterly fresh and new, despite it taking place 40 years after the Academy Award-winning original. They’ll talk about how strong characters and fresh storytelling here trumps big setpieces. And how these are the kinds of tropes that all screenwriters should be striving for in whatever kind of script they’re writing. Listen and enjoy, and please share your opinions about “Creed” or this podcast on our Twitter page - @NetworkISA. You can share your thoughts with Jeff York too on his Twitter handle @JeffYorkWriter. Thanks for listening, and making our new podcast such a hit already. Here are Jeff and Vin.
Over his years in the entertainment industry, Jacob Krueger has worked with thousands of writers, actors, and other artists in pursuit of their artistic goals. Jacob is an award winning screenwriter, playwright, producer and director. Jacob's screenplay, The Matthew Shepard Story (2002) won him the Writers Guild of America Paul Selvin Award and a Gemini Nomination for Best Screenplay. The NBC film, directed by Roger Spottiswoode (And the Band Played On), and produced by Goldie Hawn, was based on life of gay hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard. The film won Stockard Channing a SAG Award and her first Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress and Sam Waterston a Gemini Award for Best Supporting Actor. He has collaborated on original film musicals with Tony Award winning composers Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg (Les Miserables, Miss Saigon) and with four-time Academy Award Composer Michel Legrand (Yentl, The Thomas Crown Affair).
Award Winning Screenwriter Jacob Krueger will take YOUR pitches and help you reconstruct them! If you need to learn how to pitch and/or are currently pitching your script to producers, and it still hasn't sold, then join the call and you may be one of the lucky ones to get FREE advice on how to improve your delivery. Not only will Jacob give you a new perspective on pitching, he'll help yours get better!
ABOUT JACOB KRUEGER
Throughout his career in the entertainment industry, Jacob has worked with all kinds of writers, from Academy and Tony Award Winners, to young writers picking up the pen for the first time. The founder of Jacob Krueger Studio in NYC, his writing includes The Matthew Shepard Story for which he won the Writers Guild of America Paul Selvin Award and was nominated for a Gemini Award for Best Screenplay.
“Getting the money is not the hard part; getting the money BACK is the hard part”
Most first and time filmmakers make the same typical mistakes. Some of these mistakes can be viewed as “learning curves” while others can be classified as career suicide. Despite this many survive to make another film however just as many do not. The two most common mistakes include trying to do too much the first time out and/or not educating oneself on how the financing and distribution aspects work thus ignoring the investors’ point of view. My goal is to educate filmmakers to approach projects from a position of strength and knowledge rather than ignorance and what I call the “Please help me” mindset.
In this day and age where virtually anyone can shoot a movie on their iPhone, edit it on their iMac and self distribute it through platforms such as “Distribber” and “Reelhouse” it would be a gross understatement to say that the independent feature film market has experienced a seismic paradigm shift over the past decade.
Although there once was a time when a writer/producer/director could and would pitch a script or story idea to potential funding source and get a check, those days are essentially over. In this new age, investors are savvier than ever and expect filmmakers to understand the financing and distribution models. Contrary to popular belief, for the most part, investors do not exist in order to help you get your project off the ground or launch your career; they exist to make money!
Therefore, it is your responsibility to present them with a logical, well thought out strategy for not only recouping their investment but to also make a significant profit. I know this sounds like common sense however the truth is, most first and second time filmmakers spend 100% of their time and energy trying to figure out how much they need, how they are going to spend it and where they are going to get it and 0% time trying to figure out how to get it back!
The key to successful film financing is to spend the appropriate amount of time, money and resources properly developing your project into an “Investable” Property not just a great story.
After a decade of successful filmmaking, over 25 film credits and after making a zillion mistakes of his own, Executive Producer Franco Sama will share his wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise with you and will help to put you in the driver’s seat of your own destiny as a filmmaker.
Franco Sama Bio:
Independent feature film producer Franco Sama boasts a remarkable and extensive history in public speaking, public relations and a decade of independent film development, production and financing.
Sama has Executive Produced an impressive array of over twenty (20) independent feature films including most recently, “Guns, Girls and Gambling” starring Gary Oldman, Christian Slater and Dane Cook which is quickly becoming a cult favorite; this film was released into theatres on December of 2012 and, in January 2013, acquired a worldwide distribution deal from Universal Pictures Home Video.
Other films Sama has produced include; “Black Limousine” starring David Arquette, Vivica Fox and Bijou Phillips, “Tooth and Nail” starring Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones, “The Penitent Man,” starring Lance Henriksen and Andrew Keegan and "Paid," starring Corbin Bernsen and Tom Conti.
Sama also serves as Executive Producer on the recent film festival darling “Petunia” starring Thora Birch, Brittany Snow and Academy Award winner Christine Lahti.
Samaco Films released two films in 2015, the first, “The Livingston Gardner” stars James Kyson the beloved “Ando” from the NBC television hit series “HEROS” and the second, “3 Days in Havana” starring Ally McBeal alum, Gil Bellows; both films have been released through Samaco Films’ sister company, Synergetic Distribution and have been released via all digital and Video on Demand (VOD) platforms worldwide.
His shingle “Samaco Films” is currently producing a slate of several independent feature films, including “Bless Me Father” starring John Turturro, Michael Rapaport and Christopher Walken.
If you have any questions or inquiries, you can contact:
It's important to zoom out now and then, and see your project from a bird's eye view. We writers tend to get caught up in the minutiae of the script when at times we need to understand what it is about the project that will draw potential buyers. So with this podcast interview, we bring in long time manager and development executive, Rhonda Bloom, to discuss what she believes are the five key elements to what makes a script sellable. Because, really and at the end of the day, that's what we're all trying to do. Make a living as a working writer.
Rhonda is a dynamic entertainment executive, manager and producer. Her boutique literary management company, Plumeria Entertainment, places an emphasis on discovering and breaking new, upcoming talent, as well as re-energizing and identifying opportunities for experienced writers and directors. Prior to opening Plumeria, Ms. Bloom was a development executive and producer, with a special focus on television and cable films. Her experience includes tenures as Vice President of Television for Paula Weinstein's Spring Creek Productions, Vice President of Development for Producer's Entertainment Group, The Larry Thompson Organization, Dan Blatt Productions, and director of development for Zanuck-Brown Productions. Producing credits include CBS telefilms Replacing Dad, Separated by Murder, and Broken Promises, and Showtime telefilm Floating Away.
She knows her stuff and her five keys of writing a sellable screenplay are helpful, to say the least. Don't forget to find the ISA on Twitter @networkISA, and of course your podcast host, Max Timm @iMaxTimm on Twitter as well. By subscribing to our Curious About Screenwriting series on iTunes and rating the podcasts, we're able to continue to deliver free content such as this, and educate writers and filmmakers everywhere. Thanks for listening, and keep writing.
In another installment of the ISA's Page 2 Screen podcast series, Jeff York brings on one of development program stars, Jessica Jolly. Jessica is an American writer living in London and thankfully her adventure overseas was not nearly as challenging as Ellie's was in the film, Brooklyn! Jolly came on early with the ISA's Development Program when her TV pilot, "First Position" was optioned by Eclectic Pictures.
Brooklyn is a timely film since it delves into the personal adventure of an immigrant trying to create a new life in a new country. Specifically, the story revolves around an Irish immigrant in 1950s New York who falls for a tough Italian plumber, but faces temptation from another man when she returns to her homeland for a visit. So, obviously there is a romantic quality to the story, but there is inevitably a sense of self-discovery here - something we can all relate to.
Jessica and Jeff break down the story, offer their opinions on the film as a whole, and offer up an extremely entertaining review of romantic drama. Listen in. Offer your own opinions by Tweeting at us. You can find the ISA on Twitter @NetworkISA, Jeff York @JeffYorkWriter or Jessica Jolly at @ItsJessicaJolly. Share your thoughts and join in on what is proving to be a very popular new podcast series from The International Screenwriters' Association. Thanks and enjoy the show.
We are going to use an obvious pun in my introduction here, but at least I’m warning you all first. It was an absolute joy to have the lovely Virginia Madsen on our podcast series, and the bits of advice she offers can be considered not only creative advice for all of us creative people, but life-affirming advice that can go further than just relating to a career.
We all know Virginia from her role alongside Paul Giamatti in Sideways, and some of you may know her from the scarefest that is Candyman, but in this interview we’re highlighting her latest movie, Joy. Virginia dives into her experience working with David O Russel, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro, and how much fun it was to finally see the film – to finally see something truly special and just from what she states in this interview, I can tell Joy is going to be just that. And while we talk a lot about the movie, we dive deeper into the overall creative process, how an actor considers a writer’s work, and very clear and specific advice we can all take to heart.
It was a true pleasure to have Virginia on and we can’t wait to see Joy over the Christmas holiday. You’re in for an excellent interview here, everyone, so listen in, share it with your friends, and don’t forget to find the ISA on Twitter @NetworkISA, and your host, Max Timm, @iMaxTimm. Enjoy the show.
I recently had a student ask me a pretty interesting question: "What do you do when you realize that even though you think you're writing all these different projects, you're really just writing the same script over and over again?"
And this made me think about a couple of different questions facing writers as they move into their professional careers.
The first is an artistic question: What do you do when you're following the same cycle again and again and again? What do you do when all your scripts seem to be converging around the same idea or the same themes?
The second is a question about branding: How do you brand yourself as a writer? How do you figure out what box to put yourself in? How do you figure out whether you should write a script that's very different from the ones you've written before, or whether you should build a brand around scripts that are similar?
So I want to talk about what happens when you realize you are ripping yourself off. When you realize you are writing the same movie again, and again, and again.
There are a couple of possibilities as to why this happens. Some of them are good, and some of them are bad.
Sometimes, there are themes that we just have not finished dealing with, themes that we still have to get out of ourselves. And sometimes those themes actually occupy more than one screenplay worth of writing.
All writing is really just looking inside and wrestling with the stuff that we have going on inside. And, if we're doing it right, we're wrestling with the stuff we don't totally understand yet, or we wouldn't need to wrestle with it in the first place.
With technology today, we are able to connect with so many people so easily. This podcast in particular is an example of how easy it is for the ISA to get in touch with students, and offer support and guidance. Max Timm was asked by the University of Illinois to speak to the screenwriting and entertainment students there, and to give insights on the business, the world of screenwriting, and the entertainment industry as a whole. The students emailed a long list of questions, and we then teamed up with the U of I professor, Susan Muirhead, via Skype. It was a lot of fun! And while a lot of what’s discussed in this presentation is relatively basic, it’s informative and the students asked some excellent questions. It’s a different take on our podcast interviews since Max is usually the one doing the interviewing, but spending a little over an hour with up and coming writers is always time well-spent.
Listen in and have fun. The new year is upon us, and we hope these podcast interviews and presentations offer you the spark needed to shift your writing into high gear. Enjoy and thanks for listening.
Five of the top fifteen movies in 2015 were out-and-out comedies, and another four had combined strong comedy elements with another genre. Comedy is serious business, and in this live podcast we talk about the art and science of comedy with script consultant, author and truly a comedy expert, Steve Kaplan. We discuss what the difference is between what's comical and what's funny - believe it or not, there is a difference - and generally speaking, we hit upon so many gems in our conversation, from the Three Myths of Comedy, eight hidden tools of comedy (which are priceless tools to use if you're a comedy writer or otherwise, really), and Steve has us take what calls a Comedy Perception test to get the talk started.
The conversation is not only fun and funny, but the insights gained from this live podcast should be treasured - and we don't say that very often! Steve Kaplan has been the industry's most sought-after expert on comedy writing for decades. In addition to having taught at UCLA, NYU, Yale, and other top universities, Kaplan created the HBO Workspace, the HBO New Writers Program, and was co-founder and Artistic Director of Manhattan's Punch Line Theatre.
The ISA once again brings on one of the best consultants in the biz here guys, so we hope you get as much out of the interview as we did. Steve's famed Comedy Intensive workshop has been given around the world and he has upcoming workshops scheduled for Los Angeles, London, Ireland and Paris in 2016. You can find out more about Steve and his classes and services at KaplanComedy.com
As always, thanks for listening. The ISA truly appreciates how involved our members are. Without you, we wouldn't be here and we wouldn't be able to deliver content as valuable as this. Enjoy the interview and keep writing.
“This script will launch your career.”
Encouraging words from Corey Mandell’s writers group. Corey thought his script was ready to go.
“It’s one of the best scripts I have ever read after teaching twenty years at UCLA.”
Validating praise from a UCLA professor, to be sure. Corey was gliding and he KNEW his script was ready to go .
Corey let the manager he was interning for read his script, almost as an afterthought, as he was leaving to pick out his black 911 Carrera from the Porsche dealership down on Rodeo Drive. The manager read it and told him, “It’s not ready to go. It’s a dirty first draft at best.”
The manager packaged deals all day long. He knew what was selling and he knew that Corey’s script wasn’t good enough.
The manager continued,“You certainly don’t want to show that to anyone in the industry. You’ve got some strengths and weaknesses, but you don’t know what they are. This script is going to take a lot of work. I’ll help you, but I have to know that you will really work hard on it because I don’t want to waste my time.”
It was at that moment that Corey’s pats on the head stopped and he got a kick in the ass instead. Up until that point he had won awards for his plays and impressed his peers and even some of his professors, but it wasn’t until he was brought back to reality by someone actually working in the movie business, that he knew the hard work was just beginning. He told Corey to hire three working studio readers, pay them out of his own pocket, and get their coverage. They all came back with a pass. Not as in,“Hey, nice job, you passed the test!” But as in, “There is no way in hell I would stake my reputation on this script!”
Corey put in the hard work over the next year and more and finally got the script to the point where the studio readers all gave it their stamp of approval.
The story continues in the podcast, but (spoiler alert) it doesn’t get any easier. Meg Ryan is attached at one point and it looks like the project is ready to go, but then a change of direction. Corey sells a pitch to Ridley Scott. He works on the script with Ridley in London (on Ridley’s dime of course, or sixpence) and then a change of direction. But at this point Corey has been getting his REAL education. The type of education that teaches anyone who is paying attention and willing to learn, that life and careers are never as easy or perfect as we dream, but as challenging as they need to be until we succumb to truth.
It’s what it took for Corey Mandell to become a working screenwriter in Hollywood over the last decade and a half.
What Corey can teach you in his classroom about screenwriting is about an authentic writing process that utilizes specific professional tools to help you write material that will get noticed. What he can teach you about perseverance and the ability to embrace humility in the pursuit of excellence is his real lesson.
Show Notes and Links
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Movies / Television Mentioned in this Episode
Screenwriters Alistair Legrand & Luke Harvis talk about their new film The Diabolical and how they got their careers started.
Screenwriter Ashley Scott Meyers answers listener submitted questions and ponders the best way to start and have a long lasting screenwriting career.
Screenwriter / Director Trey Nelson Talks About His New Film, Lost In The Sun, Starring Josh Duhamel, And How He Got It Made
Screenwriter Dan Kay Talks About His Career And His Latest Film, Pay The Ghost (Nicolas Cage)
Director / Screenwriter L. Gustavo Cooper Talks About His New Horror Film June Starring Casper Van Dien