As one of our more distinguished guests, Stuart Beattie took a little time out of his hectic day to talk to us about writing on major studio productions. I wanted to get Stuart on the line because of his experience of course, but even though he’s written major studio films like Pirates of the Caribbean, I, Frankenstein and GI Joe, he still takes a simple approach to his writing – what makes for a great story? Regardless of the level on which a screenwriter is working, Stuart reminds us that it never supersedes the servicing of a script. In other words, Stuart’s insights on how best to take notes from executives, how to be and act in a meeting with an executive or producer, and just simply how to stay true to your own voice doesn’t or at least shouldn’t change no matter the level or budget of the project. Stuart’s work is at a very high level in terms of craft and expertise, but his attitude toward the process has never changed – it’s just all about what makes a great story. He talks a lot about what he believes makes a great, and he goes into how not to be too married to your work. Just get the work done, move on, and good things will happen.
It was fun chatting with a writer at the top of his game, and I hope that for all of you writers out there, you can learn something from Stuart’s dedication to the business and craft of writing. Thanks for listening, and thanks for being an important of the ISA membership. These podcasts are free, so don’t hesitate to spread the word and tell your friends. Happy writing.
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).
Neil Landau is an award-winning screenwriter, bestselling author, and professor in the MFA Screenwriting and Producing Programs at UCLA School of Film, TV & Digital Media; in addition to his 25 years of professional experience on writing staffs of some of TV's most successful TV series, Neil has also sold and developed pilots most of the major networks and studios (CBS, ABC, Lifetime).
Join Writers Boot Camp founder Jeffrey Gordon for a creative discussion on the topic of developing movie, television and web projects that are exciting audience experiences and worthy of A-List attention.
Daniel Calvisi and William Robert Rich, hosts of the Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast, will break down and discuss The Shawshank Redemption with a beat-by-beat structural analysis that explores its classical structure, as well as the non-traditional elements that break from the Hollywood norm.
Engaging the Feminine Heroic focuses on helping writers gain greater access to their own internal creative vision in order to write stronger and more compelling narratives. While most writers are familiar with the pattern of the Hero's Journey, its counterpart, the Feminine Heroic, may be difficult to recognize. Whereas the essential goal of the hero's journey is to discover, defend, and establish our Self in the world, the great achievement of the feminine quest is communion, connection and relatedness to the other in order to make meaning of our existence. Therefore, it isn't just grit or physical prowess that gives the feminine her heroic stature. It is her courageous ability to descend into the dark, forbidding places that lie within each of us in order to retrieve our essence.
The story of our humanity is encoded in all epic mythologies. They show us how we grow and evolve, face life's conflicts and obstacles, and must endure death experiences in order to create new life. In her groundbreaking work on the Feminine Heroic, Dara Marks utilizes epic mythologies as a means of helping writers experience the archetypal template upon which the drama of our shared humanity is written.
Great stories aren't masculine or feminine, they are a balance of both and understanding how toEngage the Feminine Heroic will add a great deal of substance and depth to any writer's palette.
Documentary films have soared in popularity since Michael Moore's Roger & Me released in 1989. In a way, it almost seems simple; pick up a camera and start shooing something interesting. But as a documentary filmmaker, one has a distinct responsibilities as a storyteller. The filmmaker must make decisions about style, what to leave in and take out, the voice (or lack thereof) of the filmmaker and thousands of other choices that will take place up until the time that the film is complete. In Morgan Spurlock's Supersize Me (2004), he set out to explore the topic of the healthiness of McDonald's food, especially if eaten three times a day for 30 days. In this case, Spurlock made himself the center of the story by subjecting himself to the diet and documenting the results.
In this podcast, filmmaker and professor (Tribeca Flashpoint College) Bill Baykan talks about his documentary film, Public School Wars which is in the process of raising finishing funds on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. His film will explore the ideas and arguments around charter schools, Common Core, and what this all means for public education in the U.S. At the time of our conversation Bill is still developing his film and weighing different approaches based on the hundreds of hours of film he has already captured and considering what other elements he might need to produce a film that adds something insightful, new, and valuable to the conversation about education in this country.
Prior to our discussion about his film we cover a range of topics from "cutting the cord", filmmaking as a career in the digital age, UCLA, and his time at Harpo Studios as a Supervising Editor.
Bill's passion about his work, teaching, and this film is evident throughout the podcast. It is getting the chance to meet and talk at length with people like Bill that continues to inspire me to pursue my own projects and consider my place in the world as storyteller. I hope this episode does the same for you.
Tired of not getting any bites on your queries and pitches? Your idea is the bait: Find one that is both personal and commercial.
A great script with a dull idea is a dull script. Learn tools like Maginification, Flipping, Substitution, Cousins, Word Association, why High Concept is *Your* Concept, and find your personal themes in high concept ideas. This is "Pitchfest Season" and your pitch will live or die on its idea. Make sure yours is great! Don't write 110 pages on a bland idea. Find the idea that you love...and producers will love!
When you pitch your screenplay, the first thing they're going to ask is, "What's it about? What is the idea? The concept. Now it's up to your concept to get them to read the script. At a pitchfest, they listen to concepts all day long. When they read all of the inquiries, it's the same thing. You need a concept that rises above the rest. A high concept.
Some people mistakenly believe that high concept means high budget, but actually the opposite is true. A great high concept costs less to produce than a non-high concept screenplay. William C Martell has made a living for the past 25 years selling high concept screenplays to cable networks like HBO and Showtime, as well as to studios and indie producers. He will take you step-by-step through the process of finding the kind of idea that producers love...and that are personal stories. Sound impossible? All you need are the tools that this podcast provides and a great imagination!
A discussion with award winning screenwriter Jacob Krueger on what’s wrong with three act structure and other formulas, and an introduction to Jacob's notion of Seven Act Structure as a new way of looking at structure from a character's perspective, allowing you to break down the character's change into manageable chunks.
A lively conversation with two time Oscar nominee Pen Densham about his experiences and the insights he's gained from working in the entertainment industry as a writer, director and producer. We also talk about the craft of writing for film and TV and take listener questions about Pen's career and about his book, Riding the Alligator: Strategies for a Career in Screenplay Writing.
If you're looking for authenticity when it comes to writing your next "cop show" or movie, you can't miss this I.S.A. webinar featuring Sgt. Derek Pacifico. Sgt. Pacifico worked nearly 200 murder cases and honed his craft of interrogation to an art form. Learn his real-world techniques before you write one more scene.
Consultant and creator of WriteYourScreenplay.com, Jacob Krueger, discusses the nuances of the ever-dreaded PITCH.
Jacob is an expert on the art of pitching a project, much less an expert on story structure, character development, and then some. In this podcast, Jacob reviews the importance of your screenplay title - it being the most important "pitch" that you have. It's the only aspect of your pitch that everyone will hear and see. What's the first thing an executive sees when they look at your script? Your title. If your title is good enough, it will entice someone to give your script a read. That's the whole point of a pitch! A great title instantly communicates the "genre experience", and Jacob discusses how important that genre experience is in relation to your title and pitch.
Consultant and creator of WriteYourScreenplay.com, Jacob Krueger, discusses the nuances of the ever-dreaded PITCH.
Jacob is an expert on the art of pitching a project, much less an expert on story structure, character development, and then some. In this podcast, Jacob what it means to "sell from page one". Producers and readers want to find the diamond in the rough, but writers don't know how to "announce" themselves by page one. Writers need to grab the attention of every coverage reader, but readers have such limited time. It's the writer's job to sell that reader - not on the project, but to sell him/her on whether or not she will read it carefully or simply skim.
Consultant and creator of WriteYourScreenplay.com, Jacob Krueger, discusses the nuances of the ever-dreaded PITCH.
Jacob is an expert on the art of pitching a project, much less an expert on story structure, character development, and then some. In this podcast, Jacob discusses why pitches "go wrong" - writers tend to approach a pitch as a way to SELL a project. Jacob suggests directing your pitching approach by way of SHARING your project in order to see if someone is connecting to YOU and the project itself.
The ISA is excited to include Luke Jaden as part of our Curious About podcast series of interviews. In this interview, Max Timm – the Dir of Community Outreach with the ISA – holds possibly one of the more inspiring interviews yet.
Luke is a 19 year-old writer and filmmaker hailing from Detroit, and over the past four years has gone from making a documentary about the abolitionist John Brown specifically for a history class homework assignment, to landing an Oscar nominated actor in his fifth and up and coming film.
Luke is an inspiration for writers and filmmakers of all ages, and we think you’ll especially enjoy his passion, spunk, and overall excitement over what he loves to do.
Top script consultant and author of the industry-renowned and screenwriting staple, The Screenwriter's Bible, Dave Trottier will join Laurie Lamson (author of the Now Write! series of screenwriting books) in an open session, broadly-based Q & A teleconference for ISA members. This opportunity does not arise often as Dave is one of the most sought-after consultants in the industry. You can find more information on Mr. Trottier and his services at www.keepwriting.com
An expert on screenplay formatting, treatment writing, project pitching, marketing, and the entertainment industry as a whole, Mr. Trottier is available for this one-hour free teleconferene to answer any and all of your questions. Don't be shy! Come equipped with specific questions or general industry curiosity, and Dave with the help of Laurie Lamson, will gladly support you and your efforts to move forward in your screenwriting career.
About Your Host
Laurie Lamson is honored to share her passion for screenwriting as the host of the Int'l Screenwriters' Association' free teleconferences. She is always interested in deepening her understanding of all that is necessary to make a great screenplay, and she has been lucky enough to collaborate with several indie producers on screenwriting assignments. She enjoys helping fellow and sister screenwriters take their own projects to the next level.
Laurie is the editor of Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror, co-editor of Now Write! Screenwriting and Now Write! Mysteries, published by Tarcher/Penguin. Learn more and connect with Laurie at: jazzymaemedia.com or nowwrite.net.
The best guidance given to real sleuths and armchair detectives alike to point them towards their next clue is, "Follow the money." The same could be said for people looking for their next careers, including Rose Spinelli, a former journalist, who followed the crowd funding dollars on her way to a new career helping people raise money for their projects. When Kickstarter and Indiegogo first hit the scene, all you needed (well almost) to hit your fund raising target was a well layed out page, a decent video, and a few mentions on Twitter and Facebook to start the dollars flowing into your account.
Today it is a different world. There are almost as many crowd funding platforms as there are projects and the effort to get a project noticed among the avalance of new requests asking for money is a serious endeavor, and this is where Rose can be very valuable to a campaign owner. She started her crowd funding company to provide guidance and to take off some of the load of building and running a successful campaign. She will tell you to engage her early so that she can provide you with maximum impact.
After you listen to my chat with her, head on over to her website: thecrowdfundamentals.com where you'll find her blog and a ton of great resources as you launch your next crowd funding campaign.
Slava Rubin, the founder of the crowdfunding site, IndieGogo, discusses the site's successes, nuances that have propelled IndieGogo to the top of the Hollywood crowdfunding game, as well as future plans for expanding the crowdfunding bohemoth.
IndieGogo has garnered massive acclaim within the entertainment industry, especially for filmmakers who already have a large following (see Alan Tudyk's recent web show, "Con Man").
Raising money to finance your project is becoming easier and easier, and Mr. Rubin discusses the pro's and con's, the positives and negatives, as well as tips on how to run the best campaign possible.
It can sometimes feel like success and "breaking in" to Hollywood is based on some secret handshake you just haven't been taught. But in truth, it's just about knowing how to deliver what execs and reps are looking for, and how to seem normal and professional enough to stay in the room longer than the next writer.
Writers always ask, 'What is an executive looking for? How come they don't see what I see?' During this teleconference, Danny Manus will go through the questions executives ask themselves while reading and the most common script notes executives give - but also what those notes really mean. Often, an executive's notes can seem contradictory, vague or totally unnecessary. We will discuss how to find and address the note behind the note, and how to apply those notes to your next draft.
Rewriting is much differenting than writing a first draft, and can often mean reworking or cutting the things you loved most about your story. Rewriting is also the only way to sustain a screenwriting career. So before you start hacking away to address the notes, know where the executive is coming from and what the development process is like. This teleconference with script consultant and former executive Danny Manus will you direct insight into that process from the executive's perspective.
Meeting with an exec doesn't have to be a nerve-wrecking pressure cooker. It just takes knowing meeting etiquette, how to prepare, what's expected of you, and how to deal with execs during and after your meeting. Register today for our free Executive Crash Course with Danny Manus and survive the meeting, rewriting, and development process with flying colors.
What if most of what's being taught about screenwriting and TV writing is wrong?
What if the rules, paradigms and secrets widely touted in books, seminars and classes not only don't improve your chances of making it, but could actually sabotage you? And what if there were specific skill sets nobody talks about that could dramatically boost your chance for success?
In the past two years, Corey Mandell has had 47 students and clients sell or option scripts with dozens more landing writing assignments on such shows as Community, Treme, Justified, Bones and The Fosters. An extremely well executed spec script is required to break into the business, yet too many writers waste valuable time writing a script with little to no chance at success.
This teleconference will cover what agents and managers are looking for in today's marketplace, and will share the best ways to launch a career. It also provides the specific tools required to write screenplays and pilots at a professional level.
What you will learn
The strategies actual writers have successfully used to break into the business. What is required to write a script that truly grabs and holds a reader's attention.
Avoiding the five mistakes that can sink your chances, and why most scripts get rejected.
What kind of scripts stand out and get you the right kind of attention. How to know if your script is ready to be read by industry professionals.
And how to get your script read by the right people, while knowing what exactly agents and managers are seeking.
Should I go to film school? Like most vexing questions of our day, the answer is, “Well, it depends.” The “what” it depends on is up to the individual student, the parents, the location, the cost, and a myriad of other factors. There are people who claim that everything a student can learn in a film school can be learned through experience. There are well-known online courses that take a strong anti-brick-and-mortar-film school stance and generate their revenue by advocating this viewpoint. Some people would rather use their potential tuition money for cameras, lighting gear, microphones, and computers and just start filming. Others will read books about screenwriting rather than take a class. And some of these people will do very well for themselves in this chaotic media industry that is consuming and reinventing itself faster than we can watch a season of “Rectify” on Netflix. But for people who choose film school, there is a path for them that will definitely make sense in the context of the return on their investment in the form of future career opportunities. And beyond even the instruction and access to equipment, a school like Tribeca Flashpoint Academy provides structure and a main lodge for young people (and some older ones too) to socialize while offering them the opportunity to share their knowledge, experiences, and perspectives. There they can embrace the fact that they are all members of a tribe known as the digital creative class as they get to know each other and work together in a common physical space.
Peter Hawley, Dean of Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, was starting a new semester as a teacher at a different institution about a decade ago, and he found himself asking the same question about the relevancy of film school; albeit in a different context. He was taking over for another teacher’s class when he came to a troubling realization. After polling his students, he learned that their knowledge and capabilities with digital cameras and filmmaking techniques were beyond the information listed on the syllabus. Not long after that experience, Peter was offered the opportunity to join a team that was building a digital media school, then known as just Flashpoint Academy, in Chicago from the ground up. For Peter this was the opportunity of a lifetime. Not only was he going to be an integral contributor to the founding of a new school, but the school would focus on the digital tools and education that his students deserved. He joined the group and became the head of the film department and has been a part of the vibrant rebirth of film in Chicago ever since.
Before Peter became the head of the film department at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy and eventual dean, he was and still is a filmmaker. As you might expect from someone who intersperses teaching with an active career, Peter has developed himself over many disciplines. He has contributed to the media industry as a commercial director as well as a documentary filmmaker. In his film “What’s Two + Three?” Peter points the camera at his sister, his parents, and himself as he follows his family’s physical and emotional journey to the 2003 Special Olympics in Ireland where his sister was competing. It is a film that, despite its low-tech approach, works because of the raw honesty and truth that Peter sought out for himself and that he eventually delivered to his audience. You can watch the movie for free on YouTube.
The digital era of content is upon us. There is no way to rewind back to the days of analog except for those who have the luxury of having indulgent benefactors with unlimited budgets. Conversely, what sometimes gets lost in the sheer accessibility and ease of use of our generation’s digital tools and the wizardry they provide, is that they cannot turn a poorly executed story or piece of commercial work into a gem. We live in a time where almost every movie ever made is accessible, legally or otherwise, at the touch of a button on a device that fits into our pockets. This content is available to over a billion people with more coming online everyday. Our brave new digital world will provide countless opportunities to the great grandsons and great granddaughters of the architects of our physical world. It is however imperative that those who wish to succeed in the next great evolution of our society learn not only the tools of their trade, but the underlying principles that will never fade. Hard work, commitment to excellence, and community have provided a foundation for success in every age when and where they were applied. People like Peter Hawley and schools like Tribeca Flashpoint Academy understand this fact and they provide the resources and guidance that the students require to reach their full potential.
Sitting in the Eccles Theater at Sundance in 2014 waiting for the movie Whiplash to start was uneventful. I knew nothing about the movie that I was about to see, and to be honest I was probably playing Words with Friends right up until the moment the lights went down.
For those of you who have been to Sundance, you know that the struggle to get tickets is sometimes a bit overwhelming and the nightlife can wear you down, so it is theoretically possible that one might look forward to a movie to catch up on some needed sleep. You might also know that even the "big" movies, Eccles seats over 1000 people, can sometimes miss their mark. So as the screen flickered to life and I realized that the movie was about a young drummer trying to land the lead spot in a jazz band, I settled in for a well needed snooze. But after 5 minutes into the movie, I felt like I was on a roller coaster and I knew that I was going to be taken on a ride so unexpected and thrilling that I would never want to get off.
If you haven't seen the movie yet, go see it. No excuses. Just find a way to see the movie in a theater with a bunch of people and get ready to be enthralled. The fact that it was nominated for 5 Oscars should sweeten the pot just a bit.
Recently I got the chance to sit down with the writer-director of Whiplash, Damien Chazelle. He was warm, insightful, and as he'll tell you, a bit of a perfectionist. His early days as a jazz drummer in high school inspired this story, and Damien explains how the discipline he learned as a musician set him up for the hard work required to get a movie like Whiplash off the ground.
For those of you reading this and considering making the script you wrote into a movie, this podcast should be of great importance. Damien does talk about how the stars aligned for him to get this movie made, but that was only after he put in the hard work to have favor find him. Damien is an inspiring young filmmaker who has just set the bar a lot higher, not only for independent filmmakers looking for their first break, but for the veteran filmmakers who have lost their way.
Damien is a class act, and I am sure that his film will be escorting more than one small golden man home on Oscar night.
Greta McAnany is an award-winning producer, writer and storyteller. After graduating from USC, Greta formed her own production company and received a grant from the Thorton Foundation in Los Angeles to produce a feature documentary about childhood obesity, entitled “Bite Size”. The film won the Grand Jury prize at Cinequest Film Festival and was featured by Katie Couric’s “Obesity Awareness” special on ABC. It is set to release in March 2015. Greta has also produced award-winning live newscasts and reported as a theatre critic for ‘LA Stage Times’, where she interviewed Oscar and Tony-winning writers, directors, and actors. She is a co-founder of the next generation studio X-Factor Films and is a co-producer on the feature documentary in currently in production, “Flush Revolution”.
Lauren Tracy In ‘09 Lauren graduated RIT (Film MFA/Creative Writing Minor) and represented her class as the commencement speaker. From 2008-10 Lauren and her father Rick Tracy ran an organization that worked with Avid, NYU and Kathryn Bigelow to provide financial awards to female filmmakers. In 2010 Lauren interned for producers of the feature ‘The Hammer” and commercial production company Über Content in LA. By 2013 Lauren had written and directed 8 and edited 11 shorts. Lauren’s work has been shown at the LA Shorts, High Falls, LA Femme International and Slamdance Film Festivals. At the latter, she was presented the ‘Emerging Director’ award. Working in LA, Lauren was hired as lead editor on two independent features: “How To Grow Our Own” (2012) and “Your Friends Close” (2013). In 2013 she completed her feature script “Sweet Desert Palm”. Lauren then started X-Factor Films to build a sustainable business model around her and other’s films by and about badass women (www.xfactorfilm.com).
Rachel Goldberg is an award-winning writer/director and one of eight women selected to participate in AFI’s prestigious Directing Workshop for Women. There she created her short film, NEIGHBORS. NEIGHBORS has screened at close to twenty film festivals, including Oscar-qualifying fests such as the Palm Springs International ShortFest, the Nashville Film Festival and the Rhode Island International Film Festival where it won First Place for the Alternative Spirit Award. Stephen Nemeth, famed producer of FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS has said of NEIGHBORS, “With the skills of a seasoned film director, Rachel Goldberg served up a balanced/nuanced/serious film with just the right dose of levity to allow you to thoroughly enjoy NEIGHBORS!” The praise continues as Jacob Krueger of writeryourscreenplay.com personally recommended Rachel for an interview.
Rachel earned her interdisciplinary MFA in Directing for Theater, Film and Television from Cal Arts and her BA in Theater and Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. She has directed numerous productions for film, theater and television and her theater production of Vern Theissens’s APPLE was described as “poetry in motion” by LA Weekly and “stunning” by the LA Stage Scene. In 2012, she was named one of “30 Emerging Filmmakers to Watch” by Film Independent and was an HBO/DGA Directing Fellowship Finalist the same year.