Wrangling your story

October 20th, 2014 by

Some call it breaking a story. Others cracking a story. I prefer wrangling a story. Whatever you call it, you have to do it… figure out the story. What goes where. Who does what to whom. And for most writers, the ideal time to do that work is before you type FADE IN.

What we call prep-writing.

Of the many things that can go wrong with a screenplay, perhaps the most frequent contributor to a project’s crash-and-burn is the writer not spending enough time in prep wrangling their story.

Conversely if you do spend sufficient time in the prep-writing phase of the process, you significantly increase the chances you’ll not only finish your script, but produce a draft that will be much closer to realizing your goals.

WranglingComplexity

When Tom Benedek and I launched Screenwriting Master Class nearly four years ago, the very first class we offered was Prep: From Concept To Outline. I created the workshop precisely because I believe so strongly in the value of prep-writing combined with the fact there is nothing out there remotely close to the approach I had in mind.

Prep: From Concept To Outline is a 6-week online workshop in which you start with your basic idea and your story’s Protagonist, then through a series of weekly writing exercises, you develop and build your story’s structure. Not just the plot, but also what’s going on in the emotional and psychological world of your story universe, the foundation of Character Based Screenwriting.

Character work. Brainstorming. Plotting. Subplots. Connecting the dots. Mapping your narrative. Weekly teleconferences where we workshop your story. In the end, you have a detailed outline providing you a foundation upon which you can craft a first draft.

What’s more, you can adopt this approach — and adapt it to your own unique skills — for every future writing project.

I will be leading the next session of Prep beginning next Monday, October 27. So if you have a good idea for a movie and want to learn a professional approach to wrangle it, sign up now for Prep: From Concept To Outline.

If you have any questions about the workshop or what we offer online through SMC, please post in comments or email me.

Amazing things happen in these workshops, so I look forward to the opportunity to dig into your story with you!

The 2014 For Your Consideration Screenplay Download Season officially begins!

October 20th, 2014 by

It’s that time of year again when studios make available PDFs of movie scripts for award season. As in years past, we will be tracking them and posting links as they become available.

Current total of 2014 scripts for download: 1.

Newly added script: Get On Up

Get On Up (Universal Pictures)

get on up poster

Studios also make production notes available:

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Get On Up

Magic in the Moonlight

As the scripts become available, we will add them to our Movie Script Download archive, all of the scripts official, free and legal.

Reading movie screenplays is absolutely critical to your development as a screenwriter. Along with watching movies and writing pages, it is a fundamental practice you should put into place. Make it a goal to read at least one movie script per week. Where can you go to get access to many of the top movie scripts from 2014? Right here as Wendy Cohen and I will be tracking and aggregating them as they go public.

Austin Film Festival: Do you have questions for Whit Stillman?

October 20th, 2014 by

The Austin Film Festival and Conference begins later this week and I’ll be there as part of the Black List team speaking at three events and moderating three others. For those of you who will not be attending the Festival, I want to give you a virtual opportunity to participate with the possibility I will select some of your questions to ask panelists during my moderating sessions.

Austin Film Festival

A Conversation with Whit Stillman: Sunday, October 26 • 3:00pm – 4:15pm
The Driskill Hotel, Ballroom

Come absorb the wit and wisdom emanating from author, screenwriter, and director Whit Stillman. Known for writing and directing the films Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco, and Damsels in Distress, Stillman is a modern Jane Austen, critiquing the “urban haute bourgeoisie” with satirical charm. Learn about the art of observation, contemplation, and articulation in your stories while enjoying some “Whitty” repartee along the way.

The focus of our conversation will be the writing and creative process behind the movie Metropolitan, so fans of the movie and Whit as a filmmaker, head to comments and post your questions. I will consider including the best ones for our discussion.

You may follow Whit on Twitter:

Whit Stillman: @WhitStillman

For those of you who will be at this year’s AFF, be sure to look me up. Also we will have a very casual Go Into The Story / Screenwriting Master Class meet-up in the Driskill Hotel bar area on Sunday, October 26 beginning at 4:30PM. Spread the word and see you there!

Austin Film Festival: Do you have questions for Craig Borten, Tom Schulman and Jim Uhls?

October 20th, 2014 by

The Austin Film Festival and Conference begins later this week and I’ll be there as part of the Black List team speaking at three events and moderating three others. For those of you who will not be attending the Festival, I want to give you a virtual opportunity to participate with the possibility I will select some of your questions to ask panelists during my moderating sessions.

Austin Film Festival

Status Quo: Saturday, October 25 • 10:45am – 12:00pm
The Driskill Hotel, Ballroom

Some of the most satisfying screenplays revolve around characters who choose not to conform to the status quo. Whether they are carpe-ing the diem or smuggling drugs to save lives, the act of taking matters into their own hands makes for rich and often emotional stories. Hear from the writers behind Dead Poets Society, Dallas Buyers Club, and Fight Club for a conversation on ways to infuse themes of status quo in your screenplay, and where to break your own rules in regards to story structure and development.

If you have any questions for Craig Borten (Dallas Buyers Club), Tom Schulman (Dead Poets Society), and Jim Uhls (Fight Club), please post them in comments. Make sure they have some relevance to the subject of the session as detailed in the paragraph above and I will consider including the best questions for the discussion.

You may follow these screenwriters on Twitter:

Craig Borten: @CraigBorten
Jim Uhls: @wohojak

For those of you who will be at this year’s AFF, be sure to look me up. Also we will have a very casual Go Into The Story / Screenwriting Master Class meet-up in the Driskill Hotel bar area on Sunday, October 26 beginning at 4:30PM. Spread the word and see you there!

Austin Film Festival: Do you have questions for John August, Richard Kelly and Jim Uhls?

October 20th, 2014 by

The Austin Film Festival and Conference begins later this week and I’ll be there as part of the Black List team speaking at three events and moderating three others. For those of you who will not be attending the Festival, I want to give you a virtual opportunity to participate with the possibility I will select some of your questions to ask panelists during my moderating sessions.

Austin Film Festival

The Sanity Spectrum: Friday, October 24, 10:45AM-12:00PM
St. David’s Episcopal Church, Bethel Hall

The protagonist is often the audience’s guide through a narrative, the anchor for all the twists and turns a story reveals. So what happens when that character is not what he or she seems, and when the very core of the film’s veracity is called into question? Screenwriters who have crafted characters that range from psychotic to psychopathic will discuss the difference between the two, as well as their own mental decisions when crafting such complex characters. Join the brains behind Fight Club, Big Fish, and Donnie Darko for an inside look at exploring distorted realities and the sanity spectrum in screenplays. We promise they’ll tell the truth.

If you have any questions for John August (Big Fish), Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), and Jim Uhls (Fight Club), please post them in comments. Make sure they have some relevance to the subject of the session as detailed in the paragraph above and I will consider including the best questions for the discussion.

You may follow these screenwriters on Twitter:

John August: @JohnAugust
Richard Kelly: @JRichardKelly
Jim Uhls: @wohojak

For those of you who will be at this year’s AFF, be sure to look me up. Also we will have a very casual Go Into The Story / Screenwriting Master Class meet-up in the Driskill Hotel bar area on Sunday, October 26 beginning at 4:30PM. Spread the word and see you there!

Video: “The Wire” cast reunion

October 20th, 2014 by

Via Slate:

On Thursday night, as part of the Paley Center for Media’s PaleyFest 2014, the cast of  The Wire reunited for an hour-long panel discussion, which you can watch in full above. Though not everyone could attend—Dominic West and Idris Elba chimed in via video messages—the panel included the show’s co-creator David Simon and executive producer Nina Kostroff Noble as well as cast members Michael K. Williams (Omar), Wendell Pierce (Bunk), Sonja Sohn (Kima), Seth Gilliam (Carver), Jim True-Frost (Prezbo), John Doman (Rawls), Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. (D’Angelo), and Jamie Hector (Marlo). More cast members—Tristan Wilds, J.D. Williams, Bob Wisdom, and Michelle Paress—were seated in the audience.

Here is video of the event:

Just makes me miss “The Wire” even more.

Slate article here.

Movie Trailer: “The Humbling”

October 20th, 2014 by

Screenplay by Buck Henry, Michal Zebede, novel by Philip Roth

An aged and addled actor has his world turned upside down after he embarks upon an affair with a lesbian, in this acidulous adaptation of the Philip Roth novel.

IMDB

Release Date: 23 January 2015 (USA)

Great Scene: “Life of Brian”

October 20th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today: The 1979 movie Life of Brian, written by Graham Chapman & John Cleese & Terry Gilliam & Eric Idle & Terry Jones & Michael Palin. IMDB plot summary:

Brian is born on the original Christmas, in the stable next door. He spends his life being mistaken for a messiah.

Brian (Graham Chapman) attempts to escape a crowd of devotees who believe that he is the Messiah.

Given my background in theological studies and my adoration of the Monty Python troupe, I found Life of Brian to be both provocative and extremely funny. This scene encapsulates just about every theme and dynamic in the movie: mistaken identity, Brian denying his divinity, believers so desperate for hope their ‘faith’ trumps all logic, along with lots of inanity. The debate between Brian and the crowed reaches a peak with this exchange:

Brian: I’m not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!
Girl: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.
Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!
Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!
Brian: Now, fuck off!

[silence]

Arthur: How shall we fuck off, O Lord?

The use of the F-word is the ultimate expression of Brian’s frustration. It’s also quite a shock to think that a Messiah would use such foul language. All that is funny enough. But then the topper: The believers are so cocksure they have found a Savior, they are willing to embrace the profanity as part of a possible path to follow Brian.

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

On Writing

October 20th, 2014 by

“If there is no possibility for change in a character, we have no interest in him.”

– Flannery O’Connor

Via @AdviceToWriters

Daily Dialogue — October 20, 2014

October 20th, 2014 by

Doc Holliday: What did you ever want?
Wyatt Earp: Just to live a normal life.
Doc Holliday: There’s no normal life, Wyatt, it’s just life. Get on with it.
Wyatt Earp: Don’t know how.
Doc Holliday: Sure you do. Say goodbye to me. Go grab that spirited actress and make her your own. Take that beauty from it, don’t look back. Live every second. Live right on to the end. Live Wyatt. Live for me. Wyatt, if you were ever my friend – if ya ever had even the slightest of feelin’ for me, leave now. Leave now… Please.
Wyatt Earp: Thanks for always being there, Doc.

Tombstone (1993), written Kevin Jarre

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Dying Words. Today’s suggestion by Kalen.

Trivia: Doc Holiday’s last words “I’ll be damned” were uttered when he realized he had bare feet. Doc swore he would “die with his boots on”.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Admonishing the living to live well is a common theme for characters who die on screen. There is a kind of nobility to this sentiment.