Script To Screen: “The Way Way Back”

July 30th, 2014 by

A scene from the 2013 movie The Way Way Back, written by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.

Plot Summary: Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.

This scene feature one of the movie’s co-writers and co-directors Rash in the role of Lewis.

EXT. WATERPARK - RENTAL BOOTH - DAY

Owen and Duncan approach LEWIS, working behind the counter. 
He’s quite a curmudgeon, pale as can be, and his Water Wizz 
employee shirt is WAY too big for him.

OWEN

Lewis, hook up my man, Duncan, here
with one of our finest rentals.

LEWIS

Some kid threw up near Crazy Tubes.

OWEN

Whoa, let’s try not to impress him
all at once.

LEWIS

That will not be a challenge.

OWEN

Lewis is kind of over this place.

LEWIS

I told you. I’m not long for here.

OWEN

No, I remember that conversation.
In 2003, 5, 11, April, two days ago...

LEWIS

I’ve just got things I want to do.
OWEN

Prove it. Without thinking, rattle
off three. Go.


Owen smiles at Duncan. He loves goading Lewis.

LEWIS 
(complying)
I don’t know. See New Mexico. Invent 
something. Become a storm chaser...

OWEN

You had me until number three. I
think you have to go to school for 
that.

LEWIS 
(scoffing)
“Hey, look. There’s a storm.” 
“Where?” “Over there.” “Cool. 
Let’s go get it.” “Got it.”

OWEN

Wait. Are you chasing them or
capturing...?

Lewis waves him off, pulls out a pair of ragged-looking swim 
trunks from below the counter, hands them to Duncan.

LEWIS

These don’t have any mesh, so
you’re basically going “commando.” 
Watch sitting. You’re junk will 
fall out.

OWEN

And like that, you’re impressed.
And, grossed out.

Off Duncan,...

Here is the movie version of the scene:

The scene follows the script with little variance. So ask yourself: What’s the point of this scene? Primarily to introduce Lewis and set into motion his subplot. Lewis is not only a funny character, the fact that he is “kind of over this place” puts him in a unique position in the story. On the one hand, he sets expectations for Duncan’s water park experience very low due to his apparent negative view of the place. On the other hand, he provides a mentor dynamic to Owen because while Owen is stuck in his life, tethered to this dumpy amusement park, at least Lewis is voicing a desire to leave. By movie’s end, we get a sense that while Duncan has grown as a character, so has Owen, the implication being he may be on his own path to leave the place.

That issue — leaving or staying — is the central theme of the Lewis subplot and it gets it start in this scene.

Wonderful little movie, highly recommended!

One of the single best things you can do to learn the craft of screenwriting is to read the script while watching the movie. After all a screenplay is a blueprint to make a movie and it’s that magic of what happens between printed page and final print that can inform how you approach writing scenes. That is the purpose of Script to Screen, a weekly series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

Daily Dialogue — July 30, 2014

July 30th, 2014 by

“See, Mr. Turner, that rocket fell for about fourteen seconds. Which means it flew to an altitude of three thousand feet. According to the equation ‘S equals one-half A, T squared.’ Where S is the altitude, A is the gravity constant of thirty-two, and T is for the time that rocket took to come back down. Velocity equals acceleration times time. Are you following this, Mr. Turner?”

October Sky (1999), screenplay by Lewis Colick, book by Homer H. Hickam, Jr.

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Teaching.

Trivia: The author wished the movie to be called “Rocket Boys,” like the book it’s based on, but the studio believed that title would not sell well. The compromise title “October Sky” works on two levels: it’s the month when the hero is first inspired by Sputnik flying overhead, and it is an anagram of “Rocket Boys”!

Dialogue On Dialogue: Here is a case of the student teaching the adult, a twist on the traditional model. For any of you parents with boys and girls between the ages of 10-12, this is a great movie for them to watch, especially if your children are gifted and don’t quite fit into the social scene in school.

If you have any suggestions for this week’s theme, please post in comments.

Cassian Elwes independent screenwriting fellowship enters 2nd year with Black List

July 29th, 2014 by

From the Black List:

LOS ANGELES, CA (July 27, 2014) – This morning, producer Cassian Elwes and Black List founder Franklin Leonard launched the second year of the Cassian Elwes Independent Screenwriting Fellowship, wherein one unrepresented writer with lifetime writing earnings not exceeding $5,000 with a screenplay of indie sensibility will receive an all-expense paid trip to the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and mentorship from Elwes himself.

Inaugural fellow Matthew Hickman, a retail employee at the UPS store in Santa Monica selected on the basis of his script AN ELEGY FOR EVELYN FRANCIS is now represented by Circle of Confusion. “Winning the fellowship last year changed my life and attending Sundance was only the top of the iceberg. I now have representation and a writing deal, not to mention a script that Cassian himself is producing. I also know of several other finalists whose scripts he has optioned. The opportunity accomplishes very concretely what the Black List originally set out to do: level the playing field so that anyone with a good script has got a chance.”

Said Cassian Elwes, “I am so grateful to the Black List for their incredible work in finding last year’s fellow and the quality of all of the scripts I read. I was so happy with my experience with Matthew at Sundance last year. He now has a manager and a deal to write a new script. We have become friends, and I’m going to make the movie of ELEGY FOR EVELYN FRANCIS. I couldn’t be more excited to continue this Fellowship and look forward to meeting its next recipient.”

“Suffice it to say that Matthew was an ideal first recipient of this extraordinary opportunity from Cassian and the prospect of someone else finding similar success in this way has us even more excited for the Sundance Film Festival than we already are, which is remarkable,” said Black List founder Franklin Leonard.

For this year’s fellowship, writers with scripts on the Black List or who have had scripts on the site since its launch will be able to opt into consideration for the opportunity until November 7, 2014, at which time a short list of writers will be shared with Elwes who will decide on one writer to make the trip.

Cassian Elwes

After beginning his producing career with Oxford Blues and Men at Work, Cassian Elwes headed William Morris Independent for 15 years, where he arranged financing for 283 films including multiple Oscar nominees Sling Blade, The Apostle, and Monster’s Ball. Since leaving William Morris Independent four years ago, Elwes has been involved in arranging financing and distribution for 30 films including Lawless, The Paperboy, and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Elwes also produced Lee Daniels’ The Butler and executive produced Dallas Buyers Club and All Is Lost, all presumptive 2013 Awards season contenders.

The Black List

The Black List is an online community where moviemakers find scripts to make and writers to write them and screenwriters find moviemakers to make their scripts and employ them. Google for screenplays, if you will.

Begun in 2005 as an annual survey of several dozen executives favorite unproduced screenplays, the Black List has grown to survey over 500 executives each year (virtually 100% of Hollywood’s studio system’s executive corps.) Over 250 Black List scripts have been produced into films grossing over $16 billion in worldwide box office. Black List scripts have won 30 Academy Awards – including three of the last five Best Pictures (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE KING’S SPEECH, and ARGO) and seven of the last twelve screenwriting awards (JUNE, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, THE KING’S SPEECH, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, THE DESCENDANTS, ARGO, and DJANGO UNCHAINED) – from 159 nominations.

In October 2012, the Black List launched an online database of every screenplay circulating Hollywood and all those submitted by English language screenwriters from around the world. Since its launch, it has hosted more than 7,500 screenplays and completed more than 10,000 script evaluations. More than 40 writers have found representation at major agencies and management companies and more than 20 writers have sold their screenplays as a direct result of introductions made via the site.

At any given moment, more than 1600 screenplays are actively hosted for perusal by over 2000 film industry professionals ranging from agency assistants to studio chairs.

And the beat goes on, the Black List continuing to open doors into Hollywood.

For background on the first year of this particular initiative:

“Cassian Elwes Endows New Indie Writer Fellowship Via The Black List” (October 29th, 2013)

Five questions with Cassian Elwes about the Black List Fellowship (November 5th, 2013)

Matthew Hickman: Reflections of an Independent Screenwriting Fellowship Winner (January 12th, 2014)

Matthew Hickman: Reflections on 2014 Sundance Film Festival (January 30th, 2014)

The complete roster of Black List initiatives:

Cassian Elwes / Sundance Film Festival – Black List

Hasty Pudding Institute Screenwriting Fellowship – Black List

Martin Katz/Toronto International Film Festival – Black List

TBS / TNT – Black List

Walt Disney Studios – Black List

Warner Bros. – Black List

WIGS – Black List

And don’t forget the 2014 Black List Screenwriters Lab. That submission period is now open and if it’s anything like last year’s session, which I was fortunate to be a part of, it should be another phenomenal experience for a select group of writers.

Interview [Part 9]: Jason Mark Hellerman

July 29th, 2014 by

One script that received a lot of attention in the 2013 Black List is “Shovel Buddies” by Jason Mark Hellerman (it garnered 22 votes). I was quite struck by the story — “Over 24 hours, four teenage friends try to complete the “Shovel List” (a will/bucket list) left for them by their best friend before he died of Leukemia” — and reached out to talk with Jason about it. We ended up talking for 90 minutes, an excellent conversation covering a lot of territory. I think aspiring screenwriters will find Jason’s insights particularly relevant as we got into quite a bit of depth about his process of being outside the business to inside it.

Today in Part 9, Jason gives advice on how to break into Hollywood:

Scott:  What do you think about when you’re writing a scene? Do you have any specific goals in mind?

Jason:  You have to make every scene really hard on the characters in it. It can’t ever be easy. I always think about what’s the most uncomfortable our main character can be. It’s either a car chase or it’s dropping your dead friend in cement. Very early on in “Shovel Buddies,” I knew that Sammy had to float, because it would be too easy to drop a man and have them sink.

I think, how can I make it excruciatingly painful for our main characters, because that’s where the drama, and a lot of times the comedy comes from.

Scott:  I was going to mention that earlier. Because one thing I’ve noticed, I’m a huge Pixar fan, and they layer one complication after another, after another, after another. They are just pros at that. And that scene where you have them go to get the Eagles jersey, and put it on Sammy’s body, it’s like you have one problem after another emerge.

I guess that answers the question. You’re conscious of that. You’re trying to think of complications.

Jason:  At some point, with that scene, I almost was afraid I went too far. Sometimes I am still wary, but I also know it’s kind of like when you’re rushing to do things.

This all comes from being an assistant out here. God, nothing is ever easy. I had set up a room the other week for Michael to have a conference in, and he, last split‑second is like “You know what? I want to be in this other room.” And the other room is not set up, and I’m running to get stuff, and of course, the door is locked because why would the door ever be locked?

And as soon as I get the door open, I dropped the coffee cups and they break, and now I’m cleaning the coffee cups as he’s walking towards me with an A‑list actress and I’m like “Oh my God, nothing could be easier.” And I go to get out the back door of the room and that’s locked.

So I have this awkward moment where he walks in the room, and I’ve got shards of coffee and I’m covered in cream, and this actress is like “Oh, honey.” Looking at me and I’m like a deer in the headlights, and I thought that’s the way it happens out here, and that’s the way being an assistant is. I think that’s the way life is, so I try to take that, one of the worst things that could happen.

I try to write scripts where there are no unlocked doors, you know? No one drives through a traffic‑free town. There have to be problems. Otherwise, your story would be over in five pages. “Well, we went, the door was unlocked, we grabbed Sammy, we put them in the jersey, we slid him in the thing, everything is great, his parents are happy.” I think it’s making all of those problems just be there.

Scott:  You write some very entertaining scene description in “Shovel Buddies,” so let me ask you, what are the keys to good action writing?

Jason:  So in October, I read my thousandth script out here since I moved. A thousand scripts. A lot of them are bad, and the ones that are really good stick out my mind. Not because of characters, not because of whatever, but because of the way that they wrote the action. And I think we take action for granted as screenwriters.

I love the James Elroy novels. He’s so about what’s going on, and the dirty cement and the way the steam rises. I always thought it’s a lot easier for me to visualize things when people make it sexy to visualize.

For me, I don’t write much in action, but what I write, I want everybody to be able to picture it. And I want them to picture it the way I’m picture it. So I try to be really short and specific, but also playful in a way, where I know someone’s reading it, and I don’t want them to be bored. I’m never 100% self confident that I’m going to win them on dialogue and scenery, so a lot of times I want to know what I’m doing with the action.

I’m, “Hey, this is where we’re going now. This is where you should be looking.” Direct the eyes. I don’t ever want the reader to be like, “I wonder what’s happening in this corner of the room.” No, look at the corner that I’m telling you to look at. This is why you should be looking there. Try to go with that.

Scott:  For someone who’s written approximately 65 drafts of a script, you seem like the perfect person to ask. So you finish a first draft, you’re faced with a rewriting process, what’s that like for you? What are some keys?

Jason:  Relief. Nothing is better than having a first draft. Not the best idea you’ve ever had, not writing the first scene, not writing a piece of dialogue, not writing the middle. Typing FADE OUT is the best feeling in the world because you now know that you have the block of marble, and you have to trust your Michelangelo hands.

I love rewriting. I think we live and die on the rewrite. I just finished a spec this week that I sent to my team, and I got the notes today.

They were like, “Oh!” Sometimes it sounds harsh. Sometimes you’re worried about it, but I said, “Oh, my God. You guys have given me the scalpel. You’ve given me the rock hammer.” Then I’m going to start chiseling away. What’s that great line in Shawshank? “We thought it would take Andy Dufresne 100 years to break out of here, but it only took him 18.”

That’s the way I feel. I’m always shocked myself at how much I learn writing the first draft, then how much more I learn writing two through 10, how much crazier I get when you get to 20, and how fine‑tuned you can get.

It’s building a car. You have to rev the engine. You have to take it around the track a couple of times, like break it in a little bit. I think the way I prepare for a rewrite is I try and rewrite one thing at a time. This new thing I’m writing, I’m going to focus on one character the next time I go through the whole thing.

I’m just going to make it the best possible thing for this girl. I’m going to go through and just rewrite this girl. Then I’ll print that, and I’ll look at it. I’ll be like, “OK. Well, with the changes to her, what changes should I make to this?” I go through, and I always make sure to just have one directive because if you rewrite with a mish‑mash, I don’t think you’re ever going to get it.

You get one thing perfect at a time, and they’ll all start evening themselves out.

Scott:  I remember interviewing Ava DuVernay, and she said that in this one script she had seven primary characters. She wrote individual drafts focusing on each one of those characters in a sense similar to what you were just talking about.

Jason:  Exactly. I don’t write drafts on different people, but I write tweaks on different people. I did so many drafts just for Kate in “Shovel Buddies”. I think it really worked well.

Scott:  What’s your actual writing process like?

Jason:  I’m an afternoon writer. I go to a coffee shop in LA, Graffiti Cafe. It’s way too expensive, but everyone’s super sweet and nice. I sit there, and they play great ambient music where no one can bother you. I just sit, and I look at my outline. I have my outline in Word, and I open it next to my Final Draft. I try to write until I exhaust myself, and then I go back and rewrite that.

Some days I’ll do 20 pages, and some days I’ll do two. It’s really just getting through the sludge. Like I said, for me the most important thing is getting that first draft, so I just build to a first draft. I try to get the first draft as fast as possible, because I think that’s the only way to know what you’re missing. It’s like build the house and then figure out where the rooms are supposed to go.

Scott:  A final question and it’s an inevitable one: What advice can you offer to aspiring screenwriters about learning the craft and breaking into Hollywood?

Jason:  Get a mentor. Get someone who knows more than you and trust that person. If you can get that, you’re ahead of the game.

Apart from that, the number one piece of advice: Be gracious. People are going to read your scripts. You can’t be like, “Oh, they’re wrong. I won’t ask them again.” You have to at least understand that part of them is probably right. No audience is alike. If you get a lot of people that say everything’s great, you’re asking the wrong people. I think it will take long, but find a group that you trust. I’ve assembled a “writing avengers” group. It’s other friends who are writers, and we all sit together on Saturdays.

It becomes almost like a work‑out team, where we’ll all writing at the same time. We all take the same break. We all refill coffee at the same time, but those are the people I can trust to tear me a new one. I’ll still love them because I’m going to tear them a new one, and they’ll still love me. When you find that group you trust, do not sway from them. Don’t think you’re smarter than them.

Listen to notes. That’s really important. Listen to notes with an open mind. Not every note you get is brilliant, but if six people say the same thing like, “Oh, this lacks depth.” “Hey, Kate’s getting slut‑shamed a lot. We should really fix that.” If everyone says that, it’s like, “Hey. Guess what, Jason? Kate’s getting slut‑shamed too much, and maybe you should make her a real person.”

I’m not going to be like, “I’m the greatest at writing women.” You have to listen to those things. I won’t always say majority rules, but if 9 out of 10 people give you the same note, you should definitely take a look at it. Maybe don’t do everything they say, but it definitely means people are bumping on something like that.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Part 4, here.

Part 5, here.

Part 6, here.

Part 7, here.

Part 8, here.

Please stop by comments to say thanks to Jason for taking the time to do this interview.

Jason is repped by CAA and Management 360.

Twitter: @JasonHellerman.

Spec Script Sale: “Berliner”

July 29th, 2014 by

Universal Pictures acquires action spy thriller spec script “Berliner” written F. Scott Frazier. From THR:

The script is set in 1961 and centers on an agent from the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to today’s CIA) who is tracking an assassin targeting Americans.

The script was sought after by several companies, including Studio Canal, which had producer Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman vying.

Frazier is known for his action specs, among them Line of Sight, set up at Warners with Mike McCoy (Act of Valor) attached to direct. He also has Day One, a sci-fi thriller housed at Universal that first teamed him with Morgan.

For my March 2012 interview with Scott, go here. You may also read the 2011 Screenwriters Roundtable and the 2012 Screenwriters Roundtable in which Scott participated.

Scott is repped by CAA and DMG Entertainment.

By my count, this is the 38th spec script sale in 2014.

There were 64 spec script sales year-to-date in 2013.

Screenwriting Lessons: "The King’s Speech" — Part 2: Metamorphosis

July 29th, 2014 by

[Note: This was originally posted February 8, 2011.]

As I watched The King’s Speech recently, I was struck by how many screenwriting lessons could be gleaned from the movie. So I decided this week and next to analyze The King’s Speech and The Social Network, the most likely winners of this year’s Academy Awards for Best Screenplay (Speech for original, Network for adapted) to see what takeaway we could derive from both movies and their excellent screenplays.

Today: The King’s Speech — Metamorphosis.

It’s perhaps the single most universal narrative archetype of all and at the heart of The Hero’s Journey: Metamorphosis. A character begins a story in one state of being and ends up in a different one. A significant reason for its ubiquity: We all want to believe we can change. Stories that feature metamorphosis reinforce that belief, hence we are drawn to them.

In The King’s Speech, screenwriter David Seidler works this dynamic of metamorphosis on two levels: The External World dealing with Bertie’s actual stuttering and the Internal World delving into Bertie’s psychological state as he struggles to deal with that to which he is eventually called — to become the King of England. The two are separate issues and yet ultimately inseparable given the public nature of Bertie’s position of high-standing.

While the entire movie does a superlative job tracking the arduous process of Bertie’s work with Lionel, both as therapist (stuttering) and mentor (psychology), we can see most clearly the scope of Bertie’s metamorphosis by comparing a few key scenes.

The first scene, which I featured in yesterday’s post, demonstrates the power Bertie’s stuttering holds over his tongue.

Bertie stands frozen, his mouth agape, jaw muscles locked.

But the second part of that paragraph of scene description takes us into the Protagonist’s Internal World:

He knows he’s considered by all, especially himself, unfit for
public life.

From the very beginning of the story, Bertie does not feel he is fit for public life, let alone to be King. Later when his older brother David (Guy Pearce) is having second thoughts about ascending to the throne following their father’s death, Bertie and Lionel have a heated discussion:

               LIONEL
Your brother knew perfectly well by giving
you a document without warning...

               BERTIE
Are you saying he wanted me to fail?

               LIONEL
Are you insisting he didn’t? In the future
we can parse any document into manageable
phrases. You can sing them, swear them,
rehearse them til you get the rhythm and
flow; that, combined with your growing
confidence...

Bertie doesn’t want to hear.

               BERTIE
Growing confidence? Growing dread!!! You’re
a wicked man, Lionel Logue, trying to get
me to thrust myself forward as an
alternative to my brother. Trying to get me
to commit treason!

               LIONEL
Trying to get you to realize you need not
be governed by fear. Again, why did you
seek me out? To take polite elocution
lessons so you could attend posh tea
parties?!

               BERTIE
How dare you! I’m the brother of a
King...the son of a King...back through
untold centuries. You presume to instruct
me on my duty? A jumped-up jackeroo from
the outback? The disappointing son of an
embittered clerk! You’re a monster, Doctor
Logue. I’m going to Balmoral to spend a
pleasant country weekend with my beloved
brother. And these sessions are over!

The text of the dialogue is outrage at Lionel’s intimation that Bertie consider himself a worthy successor to the throne, but the subtext is one of fear — a gnawing sense of inevitability confronting Bertie that he will have to assume the monarchical responsibilities and his own overwhelming sense of his inability to handle the job.

When that possibility becomes the reality, Bertie returns to Lionel, a chastened King-to-be:

               BERTIE
        (blurts out)
What’s the one essential thing a King must
do? He must believe he is King. How can I
possibly do that? For pity sake, Lionel, I
beg you: get me through! I’ll pay you
another shilling.

So the two story realms meet headlong: The External World (stuttering) and the Internal World (Bertie’s fear that he does not have the strength to be King). And they are both paid off in the movie’s Final Struggle — when Bertie delivers a radio speech to the nation, indeed, the whole world, responding to Germany’s declaration of war.

For those who have seen the movie, you will remember at least the tone, if not the words of Bertie’s speech. We can see and hear how he manages his stuttering. But it is the power behind the words and the sheer willfulness Bertie demonstrates in the moment that signifies his true ascension to the throne. Seidler writes in scene description as his daughters listen to Bertie over the radio:

Lilibet’s expression tells it all - she can hear it, her father
is truly King.

From a beginning state of this — He knows he’s considered by all, especially himself, unfit for public life — to an ending state of this — she can hear it, her father is truly King — Bertie’s metamorphosis is complete on both levels, overcoming both his stuttering and his fear of royal responsibilities.

Tomorrow: Talismans.

Movie Trailer: “The Congress”

July 29th, 2014 by

Stanislaw Lem (novel), Ari Folman (adaptation)

An aging, out-of-work actress accepts one last job, though the consequences of her decision affect her in ways she didn’t consider.

IMDB

Release Date: 29 August 2014

2014 Scene-Writing Challenge: 3 days left!

July 29th, 2014 by

As noted in this recent post:

In May, it was 90s movies. In June, it has been 30 Days of Screenplays. What is that but the first two of three from that essential screenwriting mantra: Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages.

Can you see where I’m going for July? That’s right: Write pages!

July is Scene-Writing Month here at Go Into The Story. Every Monday-Friday at noon Eastern / 9AM Pacific, I will upload a post with a prompt for writing a script scene. Each day, write a scene per those guidelines. If you really want to get in the spirit of things, upload your scene here in the comments section of the original post. That way you can critique others’ pages and receive feedback on your scene as well.

Why scene-writing? Think about it: If the average scene is 1 1/2 to 2 pages long and a script is 100-120 pages, then a screenwriter writes between 50-80 scenes per screenplay. Thus in a very real way, screenwriting is scene-writing. The better we get at writing scenes, it stands to reason the better we get as a screenwriter.

Plus there’s this: To provide extra motivation for this series — to get people to WRITE PAGES — I am giving away some of my Core classes to Scene-Writing Challenge participants. That’s right: For free!

The Core curriculum provides a comprehensive, coherent, character-based approach to screenwriting theory, eight 1-week online classes. I only teach them once per year. Here is the schedule:

July 7 – Core I: Plot
July 21 – Core II: Concept
August 4 – Core III: Character
September 1 – Core IV: Style
September 15 – Core V: Dialogue
October 27 – Core VI: Scene
November 10 – Core VII: Theme
December 2 – Core VIII: Time

To qualify to take one Core class for free, write and submit ten [10] Scene-Writing Challenge posts. If you complete all twenty [20] Scene-Writing Challenge exercises, you get two Core classes for free.

You can choose any of the Core classes as your free gift.

That’s what I’m prepared to do to encourage you to write pages.

[Note: If you want to take Core I or Core II, which are scheduled for this month, I will hold those course sites open into August to allow you access to all of that content.]

A couple of logistical notes:

* Limit your scenes to 2 pages. First, most scenes are 2 pages or less in length. Second, out of fairness to everyone participating in the public scene-writing workshop, let’s not abuse anyone’s patience or time with really long scenes.

* Don’t be concerned about proper script format when you copy/paste your scene, rather the content and execution are the important thing. So as a default mode, do this: (1) Don’t worry about right-hand margins on scene description or dialogue, just keep typing until it manually shifts each line. (2) Don’t worry about character name position, rather do this:

SCARLETT: Rhett, Rhett... Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?

RHETT: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Remember: If you are interested in qualifying for 1 or 2 free Core classes with me, please note the number of scenes you have written. If today is your first effort, note that it is Scene 1. The next one, Scene 2. If today is Scene 20, please note that. And so forth.

You are on an honor system, as I don’t have time to check every post, so do the right thing!

NOTE: If you have completed and posted 10 scenes, just email me to let me know which of the eight Core classes you’d like to take as my gift to you for your hard work!

NOTE: The Challenge ends on July 31st, meaning that is the last day I will accept scenes for credit toward free Core classes.

NOTE: There are no more scene-writing prompts. This is it. You may see all 20 prompts by going here.

GOOD NEWS: To date, 26 writers have qualified for a free Core course and I have enrolled each of them. And check this out: Our first writer to have written all 20 scenes. His name: George Hiddlestein. He emailed me this:

“I want to thank you for this Scene Challenge. I didn’t know if I would finish it… it was a blast. It helped me to sharpen my ordinary scenes into entertaining scenes. I’ve been able to use these in a couple of rewrites I’m working on. Again thanks.”

How about you? 10 scenes = 1 Core course. 20 scenes = 2 Core courses.

REMEMBER: The challenge ends Thursday, July 31st. Midnight Pacific Daylight Time.

Screenwriting 101: Guillermo Arriaga

July 29th, 2014 by

“I have no education at all in screenwriting. But when I have read all these manuals of screenwriting, they say things that I will never follow. And I have learned that the first rule of screenwriting, or any art, is having no rules. Everyone has to find their own way of doing things.”

Guillermo Arriaga

Daily Dialogue — July 29, 2014

July 29th, 2014 by

Daniel: I’m being your goddamned slave, is what I’m doing. We had a deal.
Miyagi: So?
Daniel: So, you’re supposed to teach and I’m supposed to learn, remember? It’s four days and I haven’t learned a goddamned thing.
Miyagi: Learn plenty.
Daniel: Yea, how to sand your deck, how to wax your cars, how to paint your house…
Miyagi: Not everything is as looks, you know.
Daniel: Bullshit.
Miyagi: Danielsan.

Daniel stalks off.

Miyagi: Danielsan! Come here.

Daniel grits his teeth, but obeys, returning to stand before the old man, sullen and distant.

Miyagi: Show me wax on, wax off.

Daniel doesn’t move.

Miyagi: Show.
Daniel: I can’t lift my arms.

Miyagi feels around Daniel’s shoulder for a moment. He rubs his hands together back and forth, very fast, then applies them to Daniel’s shoulder, one on either side, pressing hard.

Daniel: Ow.
Miyagi: Now show.

Daniel does as he is told. To his surprise, the pain is gone. Miyagi fixes the angle of his elbow, tucking it in.

Daniel: How’d you do that?
Miyagi: Show. Left right. Left right. Left right.

Daniel catches the rhythm, making perfect half circles. Without warning Miyagi throws a chest punch. Before Daniel realizes it, his half circle intercepts the punch and deflects it effortlessly. His eyes find Miyagi’s. His face lights up. Miyagi remains emotionless.

Miyagi: Sand floor.

Daniel does what he told. Miyagi makes the right corrections so that his hands circle down. The old man shoots a half-speed kick to Daniel’s stomach. Daniel deflects it smoothly.

Miyagi: Paint fence.

Daniel is eager, quick to comply. Miyagi makes a small adjustment, Daniel keeps painting. Miyagi throws a head punch. On the upswing, Daniel’s wrist deflects the punch. Miyagi throws a stomach punch. Daniel’s downstroke deflects it perfectly.

Miyagi: Side side.

Daniel needs no promting. As he draws his hand side to side he deflects two rapid fire punches from the stone faced old man.

Miyagi: Look eyes.

Daniel’s eyes lock onto Miyagi’s.

Miyagi: Wax on.

Miyagi fires a chest punch. Daniel deflects it easily.

Miyagi: Wax off.

Again, the block is there.

Miyagi: Paint up.

Miyagi fires hard for the head. Daniel’s snapping block is there to meet the attack.

Miyagi: Down.

Daniel’s palm heel crashes into Miyagi’s fist.

Miyagi: Side.

He punches. Daniel blocks.

Miyagi: Side.

Daniel’s block snaps into place.

Miyagi: Sand.

Daniel sweeps two kicks out of the way.

Miyagi: On off.

The punches come faster. The blocks are right there. Suddenly, at the height of the exercise, Miyagi stops. Daniel, breathing hard, elated, waits for more. Miyagi picks up his fish.

Miyagi: Come tomorrow.

He turns abruptly and enters the house, slamming the door behind him before Daniel can say another word.

The Karate Kid (1984), written by Robert Mark Kamen

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Teaching. Today’s suggestion by David Proenza.

Trivia: Former screenwriter Dennis Palumbo has said that he was offered the screen writing job for the film but reacted to the offer by saying he’d be “willing to do it if he (the title character, Daniel Larusso) lost the fight in the end.” Palumbo explained his reasoning: “You can’t have Mr. Miyagi tell him, ‘It doesn’t matter if you win or lose,’ for 90 minutes and then have to have him win.” Palumbo went on to say, “But that’s because I was being a moron… Now, they made four sequels to that movie, so obviously I was wrong.” (Palumbo’s remarks appear in Tales from the Script (2009).)

Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary by David: “The best education are the ones you don’t realize are taught. In one of the greatest scenes ever, Daniel quickly realizes what Miyagi was doing all along. I mean, c’mon, who didn’t want their own Mr. Miyagi in the 80s? He was up there with Gizmo and Doc Brown (and Phoebe Cates).”