I love this particular interview with the renowned and supremely experienced Linda Seger because we talk about more than just the basics of screenwriting here. Linda is one of the world's foremost script consultants - a screenplay, screenwriting and story coach as well as an international speaker. She is the author of 14 books, which is terribly impressive, and they revolve around script writing but also a few separate books on spirituality, self-empowerment, and then some. It's a perfect combination, really, as you know how often I talk about discovering your own personal voice, and you know that that discovery almost always stems from digging a little deeper inside of you and doing the personal and spiritual work necessary to draw that voice out.
You're about to listen to a recording of a live teleconference I recently had with producer and consultant Barri Evins. We discuss the ins and outs of how to create compelling loglines - from the essential elements of story to maximizing every word, we dive in and dissect how to put your logline over the top in the eyes of the pros. I also reiterate on the call how important it is to look at your logline as an exercise tool and a brainstorming technique. It's more than just a selling tool!
We review five loglines that were submitted for this live call, and it's a ton of fun listening to how Barri breaks the loglines down and offers supportive ideas and feedback - you can learn a lot from this interview, so listen in and hopefully you'll learn a thing or two. It's all about educating yourself! So you're on the right track by listening to our podcasts, here.
The problem with "Ghostbusters" isn't its cast, it's the script.
No recent film has sparked as much derision online as the remake of "Ghostbusters." In fact, its trailer is the most hated preview ever on YouTube. The outrage so many have expressed in social media over Paul Feig's casting of four comic actresses in the leads remains completely sexist and dunderheaded. The real problem with remaking the classic 1984 horror-comedy isn't in its cast, it's in its screenplay. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are talents with proven track records, but the script they have to work with is shockingly subpar for such an important summer tentpole. Some of it is fizzy fun, but too much of it is plagued by screenwriting blunders that should have been caught in early drafts.
From the fact that both Wiig and McCarthy play variations of the "straight man" trope to Chris Hemsworth's overly caricatured himbo role to a shocking lack of truly clever dialogue, this film is a collection of missed opportunities and miscalculations. There are no real character arcs, no inventive or unique set pieces, and to top it all off, it's not even remotely scary. Its predecessor managed to do all those things, and remain uproariously funny too. This one, despite all the talent in front of the camera, and behind it, is shockingly inert, stuck between trying to conform to its roots and gently tiptoe in new directions. It's not the dog many feared, but it's also not going to scare up classic status any time soon either.
Countless screenwriting books have offered what is claimed to be the definitive structural paradigm, what you might know as the "classical structure beat sheet," for feature films, but none have tackled the daunting task of defining a beat sheet for EPISODIC TELEVISION.
Daniel Calvisi, author of "Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay," brings you the results of his deep analysis of the story structure behind the best series currently available in our multi-platform universe of ad-supported networks, pay cable and streaming content websites. He will first introduce you to the key formats, genres and terminology of modern TV shows, and then he will take you step-by-step and page by page through the major signpost beats of a teleplay and the crucial characteristics that must be present in each scene, using specific examples from the best of our "Golden Age" of television.
I cannot stress enough the importance of educating yourself. It seems so simple and could spawn a reaction of, "duh". Of course education is essential. You never hear a point/counterpoint or debate over whether or not education is important. We all know it is, but I need to point something out here. It seems that a lot of writers - and I mean a LOT of writers - do not think they need to take a class on writing. It blows my mind, thoroughly frustrates me, and consistently makes me wonder why a writer would never invest in some form of a writing class, course, consultant, writers group, something! Every person that moves to Los Angeles with the intent to become a working actor is immediately given what? A list of all of the acting classes available to them. And there are a TON of acting classes available. But what does that person do? She nods her head and says, "Oh, ok. Cool. I'll find one and sign up." How is it that the screenwriting side of this business hasn't taken on the same mindset as the acting side? The craft of acting is no different than the craft of writing. It's something that is learnable, and it's something that if given enough time will result in...? Being better! I can't simplify it any more than that. I'll play hardball for a second, and whether or not you agree with me, well, I really don't care, but if you're a writer who thinks you can just figure this out on your own, maybe read Robert McKee's book, Story, and then think that you can write a marketable and ready-made screenplay...you're wrong. You are, very simply, wrong. I am sorry if that offends you, but if you're a regular listener to my podcast you know that it is my intent to be real with you. It's my intent to give a bit of a wake up call.
Investing in yourself and finding the right writing class or course, or even hiring a consultant to work with you, is so necessary that I wish there were billboards all over Los Angeles that announced a new law that forced all writers to take a class before they ever attempt to submit a screenplay to an agency or production company.
This week, we're going to be talking about Swiss Army Man by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. This is an extraordinary script, and one of the great examples of just how far outside of the rule box you can actually go as a screenwriter or director. It's also a prime example of how a really out-there script can sometimes attract the biggest talent in Hollywood, in this case, Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano.
There's an exercise that I often do with my Write Your Screenplay students that I call the "Bad Screenplay" exercise. We put a list up on the board of all the students' greatest fears about their writing. We hear all kinds of things: "bad dialogue," "cliché," "redundancy," "no structure..." the list goes on and on, as the white board fills up with increasingly egregious fears.
And then I give my students a challenge: to write a scene that embodies every one of the fears about their writing that we've put up on the board. To strive not for good writing, but for bad writing. In fact, I tell them that if their writing starts to get good, they should look up at the board, find the idea they find most horrifying, and strive to integrate it into their script.
In many ways this is exactly what the Daniels did in the creation of this screenplay. Daniel Kwan has spoken about the fact that he hates fart jokes, hates buddy movies, hates a cappella music, and many of the other fundamental elements of Swiss Army Man.
He built Swiss Army Man out of the things that he hated most in screenplays.
So why would somebody do that?
"11-22-63" cleverly twists time travel but keeps its screenwriting structure straight.
Television is enjoying a new "golden age", giving big screen fare a run for its money in quality and storytelling. It's also doing genre proud. Case in point? Hulu.com's "11-22-63", based on Stephen King's sci-fi novel, is one of this year's stand-out miniseries. It stars James Franco as a teacher who travels back in time to try to thwart the Kennedy assassination and this thriller will place you on the edge of your seat from its very first moments. It's a crackling yarn, full of twists and turns, and yet it expertly follows the tried and true tropes of proper screenwriting structure.
For starters, it employs the ticking clock and the great hero's journey as Franco's modest teacher is given a set period of time to travel back to the past and alter the world for the better. The series also uses flashbacks properly, never turning them into a crutch to shorthand exposition. Finally, the show honors the sense of morality present in all good science fiction. The hero here creates many new tragedies in his efforts to undo a huge historical one. "11-22-63" is like a darker version of "Back to the Future" as fate pushes back hard against those who try to rewrite the past.
In this interview, Laura talks with Danny Manus about pitching, log-lines and the importance of having your script read those knowledgeable in the industry before sending it to people to read. Laura and Danny met at the Nashville Writers' Conference which is a part of the Nashville Film Festival. Danny Manus is an in-demand script consultant and CEO of No BullScript Consulting, and was ranked in the Top 15 "Cream of the Crop" Script Consultants by Creative Screenwriting Magazine. He is the author of "No BS for Screenwriters: Advice from the Executive Perspective" and was also named one of Screencraft's "25 People Screenwriters Should Follow on Twitter". We discussed how one of the biggest mistakes people make is pitching too soon and rushing the process of submitting rather than working the script until its ready. He also talked about the importance of having the 4 Cs and H which are: Concept, Character, Conflict, Context and Hook. We also discussed lots of specifics for pitching in the interview and discussed specifics for handling big pitch events like Nashville Writers' Conference or the Great American Pitch Fest.
If you want to learn more about Danny you can go to his website www.nobullscript.net or follow him on twitter @DannyManus. Danny has several events and classes coming up and he will be at Willamette Writers' Conference in Portland, Oregon in August. If you want more information on Laura Powers, you can go to her website www.laurapowers.net. You can also find updates on the podcast by following the Write Hot Podcast on Facebook.
Laura with Dave Chesson, author and founder of Kindlepreneur about using key words to market your book and even choose to write on a topic for which there is a market. There are generally two ways to make money as an author. One is to have a large platform and the other is to have a discoverable book for which there is a good market. Two ways you can help ensure success: write about something the customer is looking for and if the books out there are something you can beat. As John Lee Dumas said, "Its' better to go a mile deep and an inch wide versus a mile wide and an inch deep." Look into Amazon Best Seller Rank or ABSR. Do some research on what is out there in terms of books on a topic and what their sales rank is. There are about 4.7 million books out there right now. Then look at the books out there, are the covers good, are there poor ratings? Ask yourself if you could write a better book. If their ABSR is good and the quality of what is out there is poor, you have a good chance of selling well. You can also search the Google Key Word Planner and google will tell you how many people a month are using those key words. It will also give you suggestions, synonyms, etc. You might find out there is a huge market or none.
Dave has written seven books via pen names and he has chosen to use pen names due to his work for the military. Each book makes between $700 and $2000 a month per book without building an author platform. Good for authors to know that while an author platform is good to build, there are alternatives to this approach. This approach is also good for those who write books that are not part of their public persona like erotica etc. This approach is also similar to what Tim Ferriss did with market testing his book title for "4 Hour Work Week." Basically doing market research for your book prior to releasing the book or even writing the book can really help you sell well and make more money. Dave is about to launch a service called KDP rocket - it is an amazon book idea validator and it will tell you how many people type a certain term into amazon and it will also tell you how books with those keywords make. The tool will help you figure out if there is a market and if you have a chance in that particular market. It will launch end of June. KDP was designed to provide book marketing tactics for writers and currently has 45,000 subscribers. Dave is also the one who answers the contact page questions himself directly. We also discussed the importance of marketing and writing your book simultaneously.
Most authors will wait to market until they are done writing or almost done writing. If you do it simultaneously, not only are you increasing your marketing but you will likely create a better product as well. Dave also is a big advocate of paying it forward so if his works helps you, he asks you to pay it forward for others. You can connect with Dave and Kindlepreneur at www.kindlepreneur.com. If you want more information on Laura Powers, you can go to her website www.laurapowers.net. You can also find updates on the podcast by following the Write Hot Podcast on Facebook.
David Silverman is a screenwriter and a tv writer, producer and a licensed therapist. He also works as a script consultant. He suggests selling your stuff first and then seek representation. We discussed the difference between agents and managers and how for new writers a manager can help you develop your career. He also suggested a few resources for getting your screenplays seen and sold:
Script Shark: http://www.scriptshark.com
David also noted that writing a blog is a good way to get connected in the industry. He is also an advocate of networking with new directors or actors that are looking for work to get your scripts made. Common mistakes writer make is writing something that is really off the wall. David suggests writing something that is different but not too different. Also a bad to work on the same script for years. If you want to make your own work that can be a great option for beginners. David recommend looking at the movie Tangerine by the Duplass Brothers. They made it for $1,000 on the weekend with their friends that got picked up for $300,000 and won many awards as well. David also suggests getting hired as a story analyst or a reader if you are interested in developing your skills as a writer and connections in the industry. Writing assistant or a personal assistant to a producer is also a great way to get started in the industry as a writer.
If you want more information on David Silverman, you can find him on Hollywoodscriptwriting.com. Laura also attended both Book Expo America in Chicago and The Great American Pitchfest in Burbank. She will be featuring interviews with those she connected with at each event in upcoming podcasts. If you want more information on Laura Powers, you can go to her website www.laurapowers.net. You can also find updates on the podcast by following the Write Hot Podcast on Facebook.
Joel Friedlander, blogger and book designer. We talked about the importance of good book cover design as well as his well-designed Microsoft Word templates. Joel Friedlander started self-publishing before self-publishing was a thing. Joel has two websites that are a resource for writers:
http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/ and www.thebookdesigner.com. Joel offers a book cover design competition on his website every month and every submission gets feedback. Joel addresses what to do for a good book cover: Make sure the style matches the genre so make sure you follow the genres, bring on someone to design it (unless they are a designer), making sure the book communicates what the book is about, and of course hiring a good designer. He also mentioned his free Book Construction Blueprint which is a great guide for putting a book together. If you want more information on Laura Powers, you can go to her website www.laurapowers.net. You can also find updates on the podcast by following the Write Hot Podcast on Facebook.
SYS episode 130
Remy Auberjonois talks about his new film, Blood Stripe.
Paul talks about his new action / horror script The Horde.
SYS episode 128
Sean talks about his latest indy dramady, Hard Sell.
Pearry talks about his new thriller film, The Curse of Sleeping Beauty.
SYS episode 126
Podcaster and screenwriter Dave Bullis talks about networking and building a screenwriting career when you don't live in Hollywood.
The good and bad of 2016 movies at the half-way mark.
The first six months of 2016 films was a period mostly marked by event movies underwhelming. Audiences, by and large, stayed home rather than attend sequels that weren't particularly in demand to start with. Has Hollywood churned out too many franchise chapters and superhero movies that failed to take flight? And what failures of basic storytelling are at the core of these duds?
The old saying "If it's not on the page, it's not on the stage" applies to any movie, particularly those launching with hopes of having a colossal summer season. The films that have stood out so far this year have been those that are new, fresh, or at least find more unique angles on their continuing sagas. What can the industry learn from the successes of "Zootopia", "Deadpool", and "Love & Friendship"? Plenty. And so can screenwriters hoping to write scripts that resonate with audiences.
"We all have a disability of some kind. A handicap. A flaw, or for most of us, a series of flaws - a whole host of issues, really. We deal with them on a daily basis, whether they're literal and physical, or mental and emotional. We're imperfect. And most of the time our beliefs surrounding our issues or handicaps are even more debilitating than the actual handicap itself. So what I want to talk about here is something a bit more esoteric than what I usually cover, that being the craft of writing and the process of developing a story. That process is a relatively finite one. We have an idea, we beat it out, we outline and prepare, and then we write it as a story. There are steps to that process. There is a beginning, middle, and an end to the process itself, just as there is to the story you're telling.
But in life, and in this endeavor of developing yourself, it's much more difficult to notice the beginning, middle and end. It's not easy to break down your life to a process because life isn't lived in a straight line, even though it may seem that way at times. We go from year zero to life's end. Sure, you could argue that that is technically a straight line that takes you from point A to point Z, but we all know how much of a zig zag life really is, and we all know that each step of the way can lead us toward entirely different directions. While I could quite easily compare life to the writing process, I'm trying to steer clear of that metaphor here - I've touched upon that metaphor in past podcast episodes, and I've mentioned it in the online class I manage. What I want to focus on instead is perspective, and though I talked about perspective in my podcast episode all about Voice and developing your personal story and writing perspective, let's just drop the metaphors entirely. Let's just drop all of it, at least for a few minutes, because I need to be candid here with you all."
"Me Before You" serves up affecting and unabashed melodrama.
It's shocking how few romantic movies there are at the Cineplex these days, and despite critics not seeming to enjoy them much, the better ones do tend to break through with an audience. Such is the case with "Me Before You" based on the bestselling book by Jojo Moyes. She adapted this hit film for the big screen herself and her first-hand knowledge of her characters and their unusual journey together make for one very satisfying melodrama, no matter if most cynical male critics couldn't get onboard this "chick flick."
And indeed, the two romantic leads here do have a lot of substantial things working against them. Will is paralyzed from the neck down after a motorcycle accident, and Louisa is an unemployed young woman who agrees to take care of him only because she's desperate for the money. Will is cold to her, and doesn't see much point in living in his limited capacity. But as she starts to become his caretaker, and then friend, he warms up and even embraces life again. He comes to have great feelings for her, but is it enough? Ultimately, the true love story here is about Louisa and how she learns to embrace herself and what the future holds for her.
A powerhouse producer and showrunner for well over a decade, Natalie Chaidez has made a name for herself within the science fiction world with shows such as Heroes, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, as well as 12 Monkeys and Syfy’s, Hunters. But while we discuss what makes for great sci-fi and fantasy, the insights offered up here in terms of the business of writing, producing, and the TV industry as a whole are enough to get me very excited about where things are headed.