Page 2 Screen is growing in popularity, and to celebrate we’re bringing back one of the show’s regular guests – the ISA’s rising star, Derek Asaff. Derek was the grand prize winner of the Table Read My Screenplay – London contest back in 2014, and he has since landed representation with Gotham and is working with major industry players to get not only his own project off the ground, but he’s typing away at new assignments. We’re excited for Derek and for what 2016 can bring, but we’re also excited to get him on the line with our very own Jeff York to review the huge box office hit, Deadpool.
Hitting around 300 million in the worldwide box office even after just releasing on February 12, it’s one of the biggest movies of the year. A comic book fan favorite, Deadpool will likely draw even more crowds in the coming weeks. Derek and Jeff discuss how Ryan Reynolds’ new movie “slays the conventions of the superhero genre” and “pushes the envelope with its R-rated profanity, deviant humor, and narrative disruption” beyond what any previous comic book movie has done before. I personally haven’t seen the movie yet, but after listening to Jeff and Derek talk about it, it simply makes me want to head out and see even more than I did.
Thanks for listening to the Curious About Screenwriting Network – we have loads of other podcasts uploading on a regular basis, so stay tuned via iTunes and on our website, networkISA.org. You can find Jeff York on Twitter @JeffYorkWriter and, if you’re into fantasy adventure, my fantasy novel called The WishKeeper is releasing in April 2016. You can find me on Instagram @TheWishKeeper. Now on to Jeff and Derek.
There's just so much we can learn as writers from Deadpool, and not just because the film manages to do that rarest of feats: to be an intelligent, creatively successful superhero movie, but also because Deadpool manages to both follow the rules of superhero movies and break them in really exciting ways.
The first rule of superhero movies that every single person knows is that your super hero is supposed to be a super good guy.
Superman: yeah, he's a good guy. Spiderman: sweet kid, good guy. Batman: a little dark, good guy. Thor: a very good guy. The Incredible Hulk may have a problem with anger, but deep down he's a really good guy. And Ironman may have a bit of an ego problem, but at the end of the day he's a good guy, too. The world of superheroes is populated by good guys facing down pure evil villains.
And what's wonderful about Deadpool is that its main character gives the big ole' finger to the entire notion of the superhero as the perfect good guy character. And, in doing so, Deadpool hopefully puts the last nail in the coffin of the whole Save the Cat formula: this notion that if the audience is going to love your main character he/she needs to be saving kitty cats out of trees and doing nice things for people.
That's not to say that Deadpool is a bad guy. He's a flawed guy a violent guy, a shallow guy, an annoyingly verbose guy with a hell of a lot of attitude. He's also a guy driven by love, but not driven by the love of the perfect girl next store. He's driven for the love of a prostitute who's just as messed up as he is.
Deadpool starts the movie as a super badass, work-for-hire hitman. He may have a heart of gold but definitely lives on the darker side of things. He comes from a really messed up childhood. He's petty, and selfish, and mostly self-interested, and not too deep. He does have a little bit of a soft spot: he's not an evil guy. His first assignment is protecting a girl who's being stalked.
But he's certainly not the prototypical hero we're used to seeing.
When we watch the origin stories of superheroes, we're generally watching an A to Z story. The story of a character who changes from being the dopey, put-upon, powerless, low-self-esteem dude who changes into the hero with complete power.
Of course that's a compensation fantasy for a lot of people. A lot of us feel like we're weak, or not as strong as we wish we could be. That we can't stand up for ourselves in the way we wish we could. That we can't quite be the heroes that we'd like to imagine ourselves as being.
So this is not the compensation fantasy story we're used to seeing in superhero movies of the weak kid made good. It's not the coming of age story of the guy who finally grows up. It's not the story of the wealthy child whose parents die at a young age and now he must become the Batman.
This is a different kind of story. And that doesn't mean that the character doesn't go through a huge change, because he certainly does. He goes through a change in relation to his own ego and his own vanity.
Ultimately Deadpool's journey is to get over his obsession with his looks, so he can finally be with the girl that he loves.
Deadpool's not fighting to save the world. Deadpool's not fighting to prevent the evil Ajax from filling the universe with superhuman mercenaries. Deadpool doesn't give a shit about all that. Deadpool only cares about getting his face back so he can get his girl back.
This is not exactly the noble selfless enterprise we're used to seeing in superhero movies. And yet when Deadpool does it, we're able to root for him entirely. Why?
There's an idea that the thing that makes us care about characters is how nice they are. But that just ain't true.
The truth of the matter is nice characters finish last. That doesn't mean you can't write a nice character. There are many nice characters that I've really enjoyed spending time with in movies. I love the Jon Favreau character in Chef, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, all the characters of Toy Story. Really good characters lovable characters.
But characters are also people, and the truth of the matter is there are a lot of people in the world who are flawed in wonderful, broken, and beautiful ways. You have a friend who's an asshole. And you love that friend even though they're an asshole. You have a friend who's unreliable. You have a friend who's selfish. You have a friend who's jealous. And you love these people. You love these people because you get these people.
And sometimes it's easier to get these people, who show us not just their good side but also their bad side.
The way that characters show us who they are is through a very, very simple concept. And if you understand this simple concept we will follow pretty much any character. We will follow Deadpool as happily as we will follow Leo's character in The Revenant. We will follow Deadpool just as happily as well follow a totally morally upright character like Captain America or Thor.
We will follow Deadpool because his want is super clear. Because we understand exactly what he wants. We understand exactly how he's trying to get it. We understand exactly why it's so darn hard. This becomes the backbone of Deadpool's story. This is what allows us to connect with him.
Like I said, at the beginning Deadpool doesn't break every rule. There is a saying by the great writer William Goldman that a commercial movie tells us the lie that we want to believe, whereas an independent movie tells us the truth we don't want to believe.
Now back in the day when William Goldman said this, it was probably true. But in today‘s era of movie making, the meaning of this statement has changed. And as a movie like Deadpool shows us, in today's market a commercial movie can tell us the TRUTH we want to believe and an independent movie can tell us the truth that we don't..."
Another round of pitch fixing from ISA friend, and script guru, Jacob Krueger. Pitching and logline writing is essential to making it in this industry, so listen in and be ready to take some notes. This is a very long recorded podcast that was hosted live on February 18, 2016 - but it's worth every second.
Enjoy and keep writing.
Most writers do the obvious thing. They write. And when they are done with a script they wonder what to do next, but they lack relationships and strategy. And so they go back to the thing that they know how to do, writing. And they repeat this process over and over again.
Join Shawn Tolleson to understand the four reasons why you've not yet taken those scripts out of your computer and successfully sold them to the marketplace.
Shawn shares the five keys to creating your next breakthrough toward a successful writing career.
Shawn guides you through the process of identifying your next career breakthrough goal and articulating it in a concise, powerful and motivating way. You get examples of breakthrough goals that others have articulated and accomplished!
Robert A. Palmer and Michael A. Weiss talk about their new found footage horror film, I Am Alone.
As we discussed in Part 1 of this podcast, when TV producers ask for a Series Bible with your TV pilot script, they usually request it in a pretty strange form. And a lot of writers get confused about what producers are actually looking for when they ask for a Bible and what's supposed to go in it.
Most Bibles include a series logline, character bios for all the main characters, episode summaries the first season, and often summaries of the future seasons as well. But the truth is, if that's all you deliver, your Bible's not going to take you very far.
Because producers are never really asking for a bunch of boring information about your TV series. What they're really asking is proof that you know what you're doing, and that your series pilot not only has a fabulous premise and collection of castable characters we'd want to spend our time binge watching, but also has the kind of ENGINE required to run for at least 5 years.?
They don't want you to tell them it's going to run for 5 years. They want you to show them. By putting together your loglines, characters, and episodes into a short sweet document that they can't say no to!
So what should that document contain? And how exactly do you write it?
The TV writing business is a tough one, but that's why I make sure and tell all of my writers who are interested in writing for television that they need to work on writing specs. A spec script, in case you aren't familiar with the term, is an original script but of an existing TV show - Bones, Criminal Minds, The Walking Dead, you get the idea. In today's interview, I bring back consultant and instructor with NBC's Writers on the Verge program, Jen Grisanti, to go into the details of writing for television, but more so what to expect and how to prepare for applying to the various studio level writing fellowships. Just about studio and network has one - Disney and ABC, NBC, CBS, Nickolodeon has one. They are all quite prestigious if and when you place as a finalist, and can virtually write you a ticket to success in terms of getting staffed on a show.
We also discuss what the important elements are of spec scripts per fellowship, how to write your essay when applying for the programs, and what to expect if and when you reach the finals. Jen consistently reminds us, though, not to get discouraged if you do not place as a finalist. Any number of reasons could keep you from winning, from the number of submissions that year, to the level of immense quality per submission phase. This mindset can also equate to how to prepare yourself emotionally when submitting to screenplay contests. We're all vying for the same position as ‘working writer', and it's why investing in your own writing education (and yourself, really) is so essential. Jen offers some excellent insight, as she always does, and it was a pleasure to bring her back for another interview. Keep working hard everyone, and stay tuned to Curious About Screenwriting through iTunes and social media. You can find us on Twitter @NetworkISA, and you can find me, your humble host @iMaxTimm, or through my Facebook author page under Maximilian Timm. As always, thanks for listening.
The Coen Brothers salute Old Hollywood with a hearty "Hail, Caesar!"
The Coen Brothers have written, directed and produced some of the best American cinema for the past 32 years. And they always push genre into something uniquely quirky, clever, and well, Coen. "Hail, Caesar!" is no different. It's a comedy set in the early 1950's and it focuses on a day in the life of beleaguered studio executive Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin). He is juggling a number of needy actors and picture problems when the studio's biggest star (George Clooney, sending up macho leading men) is kidnapped. Sounds like a great opportunity for the veteran filmmakers to savage Hollywood, doesn't it? But while it's funny, it never becomes a vicious farce, and the brothers demonstrate more reverence than ridicule for Old Hollywood. They even turn Mannix into a savior character. Who knew the Coen Brothers had that much love in their hearts? Indeed, "Hail, Caesar!" is a Valentine to the old studio system. And you have to see how brilliantly they spoof Esther Williams and Gene Kelly! This enjoyable romp may not be the very best of the brothers, but it's a sweet treat for film fans and a lesson for screenwriters on how to zig while others zag.
"The Revenant" is epic filmmaking at its very best
There's a reason that "The Revenant" received 12 Oscar nominations this year, and that's because it is filmmaking at its highest form. Alejandro Inarritu has topped "Birdman", his film about the struggles of an aging actor that took the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director last year, with his latest opus about a man in crisis. "The Revenant" stars Leonardo Di Caprio a Hugh Glass, a man left for dead after a grizzly bear attack by his fellow fur trapper Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Glass crawls out of his grave and begins a harrowing journey to recover and exact his revenge.
"The Revenant" is not a simple tale of vengeance, however. The script slyly indicts machismo, pride and corporate greed as it comments on not only the world of men, but their abuse of native Americans, the land, and each other. The film has a lot in common with other genres, like westerns and horror movies, but its scale, technical marvels, and intellectual underpinnings make this tale into so much more. Inarritu and his production crew, most notably cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, have created one of the most involving adventure pictures ever produced. It proves that not only is the western as alive as Glass, but also, that some Hollywood entertainments simply must be seen on the big screen.
"Carol" says so much with pictures both beautiful and haunting.
"Carol", Todd Haynes' period piece nominated for six Oscars, could stand as a master class in smart screenwriting and visual storytelling. Starting with Phyllis Nagy's sly adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's 1952 novel "The Price of Salt", the movie always shows more than it tells, giving the audience credit for being intelligent enough to read between the lines of what's being said. Cate Blanchett plays the title character who starts a dangerous relationship with Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a shy shop girl. The filmmakers ensure that their interactions are distinguished by glances, gestures and body language rather than any on-the-nose dialogue. This works perfectly for the time as forbidden forms of love were not talked about then, and those entering into such a world had to keep things secret. Thus, the film brilliantly presents Carol and Therese stepping very carefully into their affair, and Haynes uses all of the tools in his arsenal to complement Nagy's deft writing.
The exquisite cinematography, detailed period décor, memorable costumes, and wistful score not only enhance the love story, but at times help fuel the film's exquisite tension as well. Dark shadows fill scenes with dread, drab rooms hobble Carol and Therese's road trip journey of self discovery, and dangerous men lurk in the corners of many of the film's compositions. Most significantly, Haynes dots his drama with the color red, as it is a metaphor for the two women's passions trying to rise above the rejection of a close-minded society. If love is a game, then "Carol" plays like a chess match with its two main characters carefully negotiating their every move.
We're going to take a little detour from our regularly scheduled podcast and bring you an interview by Jacob Krueger Studio Director Chris Littler, with filmmaker Adam Bowers.
Adam shot a feature film, New Low, for $2000 and ended up a official selection of the Sundance Film Festival in 2010. He then managed to parlay that success into Paperback, a second feature at a much higher budget, which premiered at the Austin Film Festival this year.
If you are a film student here at Jacob Krueger Studio, you know it's an extraordinarily exciting time to be a filmmaker. We are seeing more and more people like Adam, who are making their own material. These writers have stopped waiting for people to say "yes" to them, and instead started saying "yes" to themselves, developing great screenplays and going out and shooting them.
Chris sat down with Adam and asked him a bunch of questions about his process, about what it means to be an indie filmmaker, and how he managed to shoot a film on $2000. He got some very interesting responses, particularly about some unexpected benefits of shooting micro budget, compared to his experience with a higher budget production.
Enjoy the interview! And then get out there and make some movies!
Sharknado screenwriter Thunder Levin talks about how he broke into the business and eventually got hired to write Sharknado.
Interview With Director Screenwriter Lawrence Roeck
Lawrence talks about his latest film, Diable, starring Scott Eastwood.
Interview With Screenwriter, Craig Zahler
Craig talks about his new film, Bone Tomahawk, and how he broke into the business.