Reader Question: How do I make supporting characters distinctive and interesting?

July 1st, 2015 by

Reader question via email from Joe:

Hi Scott! A question about supporting characters.

How do I make supporting characters that don’t necessarily have that much screen time but that I feel are essential to the story distinctive and interesting?

In the script I’m writing at the moment, I introduce a girlfriend and later fiancé to my main character at around page 25. As the story progresses, I use her in 7-8 scenes but she never gets any major screen time. I did this mostly because I felt that the story needed a strong female character to balance the otherwise male-dominated movie. I do have other female roles in the story but none of those characters are featured in more than one scene.

In the movie Rush, the character of Suzy Miller is featured in only 5 scenes or so, yet she is played by A-List actor Olivia Wilde who receives top billing. (I only used Rush as an example since it was this movie that made me think of the question).

What I think makes this character worthwhile is that she has a small arc (she decides she doesn’t want to be with James Hunt, a notorious playboy, but with a man that adores her) and she shows/brings forth something about one of the main characters (Hunt’s angry temper when he doesn’t get any sponsors).

But other than this, how do I create “small” supporting characters that are interesting, that contribute to the story and that actors want to play?

First off, Joe, it’s great you’re even aware of this concern. I read a lot of scripts where the writer treats the more central characters pretty well, but handles minor characters with less care and attention. They’re generic. Flat. Uninspired. Forgettable. When I run across characters like that, I know the writer needs to up their game. Conversely when I read a script in which all of the characters — regardless of their line or page count — come across as distinctive, vibrant individuals, that’s one sign I’m dealing with a writer who knows his/her chops. And simply being conscious of the need to handle every character well is fundamental to this aspect of the craft.

The next thing: Be clear about each character’s function. Why do they exist in this story? What purpose do they play in the narrative? If you are clear on this and that function is, indeed, important to the plot, then you are on the road toward crafting a memorable character in part because their function is key to the telling of the story.

Your example — Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde) in Rush — is a good one. You already cite some of the keys to her role, but it seems to me the most important point for her character’s existence is this: Her eventual divorce from Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) serves as a direct contrast to the relationship between Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and his wife Marlene Knaus (Alexandra Maria Lara). They have a successful marriage and her importance in Niki’s life is one of the reasons he quits racing, i.e., he doesn’t want to jeopardize losing her. Not so with Hunt and Miller. She comes to understand that she will always be second to Hunt’s obsession with racing. Her affair with Richard Burton can be seen as an act of provocation to spur their divorce.

So yes, Miller’s role is a secondary one, but it is key in presenting a contrast between Hunt and Lauda in terms of what they deem to be most important in their lives.

Once you understand a character’s narrative function, no matter whether they are primary, secondary, or tertiary in terms of page count or influence, I would encourage you to use the same character development tools. Questionnaires. Biographies. Interviews. Monologues. In other words, engage each character, no matter how ‘small’ they are in terms of the plot.

Obviously this is scalable. You don’t need to spend as much time delving into the life of BALDING COP or OBNOXIOUS CUSTOMER as you do PROTAGONIST or ATTRACTOR, but you should do enough so that each character emerges into your consciousness – their physical nature, voice, mannerisms.

And that in my view is the key takeaway from this discussion: Engage the character directly. If you treat each character with respect, curiosity, and interest, no matter how large or small their contribution to the story, they ought to come alive to you. After all, every character is the Protagonist in their own story. SNOT-NOSED KID may only have one line of dialogue in the entire script, but his/her experience in the story universe is that they are the Protagonist.

Once a character does come to life for you, focus on what makes them unique. How do they carry themselves? How do they present themselves to the world? What about the way they talk is distinctive? What of who they are strikes you as being worthy of inclusion in a movie?

So to sum up: Determine what the character’s narrative function is. Engage them directly in developing their character. Look for distinctive aspects of their personality which can make their role entertaining and memorable.

Readers, what do you think? How do you go about making your secondary characters unique and memorable? If you have some additional thoughts, please head to comments.

Interview (Part 2): Marc Hofstatter, Indiegogo

July 1st, 2015 by

Since the concept of crowdfunding has taken hold over the last few years, particularly in relation to movies, TV, and web content, I thought it would be a good idea to talk with Marc Hofstatter who is Head of Film at Indiegogo.

Today in Part 2 of a two-part series, Marc talks about some new Indiegogo initiatives and some keys to running a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Scott:  I’ve seen these three buzzwords, disrupt, simplify, and empower. Could you talk about that?

Marc:  Disrupt, we sort of addressed, where I think that removing the gatekeepers, the five people in the industry who say, “No”, and opening it up to 5 million or 10 million or 15 million. Actually, our website gets over 16 million unique visitors a month. So, you’re getting all of those individuals to look at what you’re doing and, “This is possible”.

We’re doing that even more so. For example, our partnership with Vimeo. A lot of filmmakers don’t know what to do with their film, after they were done, even after they got into the festival that they wanted to get into.

What’s next? If you go to any major film festival, be it Sundance or Tribeca or Toronto, only a small percentage of films get the actual distribution. We recognize that, when you created this amazing community on Indiegogo, you don’t want to let it go. So, what do you do?

You do digital distribution. We partnered up with what we believeis the best partner for it and Vimeo has created this million dollar creator fund, exclusive to Indiegogo, where they will match dollar for dollar, films that are funding on Indiegogo that they want on their platform.

It’s an amazing experience. It’s a peer‑to‑peer distribution model that favors the filmmaker in a 90/10 split. They’ve been a great partner and I think they will be a great partner for a lot of our filmmakers.

Simplify, the process is made easy. Why not raise funds in 30 days, rather than spending months upon end rather than trying to find that one private investor?

We have filmmakers who get $10,000 contributions on a routine basis from total strangers who simply loved their project and want to get involved.

Empower. Again, it goes back to putting the control of the situation, into the hands of the creator, whether it be the filmmaker or what have you. You’ve got to say that that’s pretty sexy, when someone has complete creative control, ownership of their IP, and direct interaction with people, who are going to watch, see, their films, as well as be advocates for their films, that’s definitely empowering.

Scott:  One recent campaign that launched on Indiegogo was Orson Welles final film, “The Other Side of the Wind”. What can you tell us about that project?

Marc:  That’s a prime example. Orson Welles had only one film, believe it or not, that he had final cut on, and that was “Citizen Kane”. After that, he never had final cut again. His second film, “Magnificent Ambersons”, was cut behind his back and the original footage was destroyed. His cut of that film does not exist.

“Touch of Evil” was heavily recut. It wasn’t until many years after his death, 20 plus years after his death, that they were able to go back to his notes and repair the film to his satisfaction or his perceived satisfaction. “Other Side of the Wind” is a film that he tried desperately to get financed and he shot the film, but he did not have the opportunity to finish editing it, because he ran out of money.

John Huston, Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich on the set of “The Other Side of the Wind”

It’s a long story, but it’s an amazing story. There’s actually a book about it right now. What he went through to get to the point where he was before he passed away, which was, he was almost done. But now, after years of litigation, the film is on its way to being finished, if only for the success of the crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo.

They’ve got several thousand individuals to be part of the process and be a part of the Orson Welles community. They’re on their way. I think that people will continue see what Orson Welles contributed to filmmaking society, from him as an auteur and both as an actor as well. This film, his last film, will be the great cap to an amazing legacy.

Scott:  Is Indiegogo just focusing on crowdfunding, or is there some broader vision for what it could become?

Marc:  As I said, we’re looking at, for Indiegogo, from my perspective, we’re not just a crowdfunding platform. We’re specifically looking at our film team. We are a team that’s dedicated to servicing our filmmakers, in whatever way they need, whether it’s introducing them to sales agents, introducing them to festival programmers, or introducing them to representatives, agents, and managers.

Each member of our team has come from different walks of life, producing, filmmaking, film sales, distribution. By each bringing our own relationships and knowledge to the table, we have a pretty good team to use to help our filmmakers achieve whatever they’re looking to do.

Scott:  Why Indiegogo as compared to some of the other crowdfunding platforms?

Marc:  That’s a good question. Why Indiegogo? Indiegogo, we started it off. We launched as a platform in 2008 at Sundance, creating the rewards based system for crowdfunding that you see today. We did that before anybody else. We’re the only global company. We’re available for filmmakers and other creative individuals to run and fund their projects anywhere in the world, not just in a limited amount of countries.

We are a much more flexible platform. We offer multiple ways that you can fund your project, multiple ways that you can get funded. Go back to what I said earlier, when filmmakers work with us, when they listen to us, we offer the best support that any platform can provide.

Scott:  I know that you mentioned earlier that community building is one key to successful crowdfunding campaign. Are there some other important keys for a filmmaker to be thinking about when they’re thinking about doing crowdfunding?

Marc:  Definitely don’t think about it as a money grab. If you’re thinking about it as a money grab, it’s going to hurt you. Aside from the community building element, take time to do your research, in the same way that you wouldn’t just hire a crew off the street to shoot your film. You would check references.

You would see who is good at what they do. Are they going to come in on budget? Are they going to show up on time? Is everything going to be in focus? Are they not going to break anything? You want to do the same thing for your crowdfunding campaign. Make sure that everything is aligned properly.

Do the research. Know who is going to be your core audience. But, also know who those other audiences and crowds are going to be, that are going to show up and support you, because if you rely on one particular demographic to support you and they don’t show up, you’re in trouble.

Scott:  Finally, for those of us who love Indie films, such as myself. As recently as five or six years ago, there were people who were well seasoned in the field saying, “This is, with the death of DVD and foreign sales and all that, the decline in DVD sales and all that, the Indie films are going to go away”.

Now, there seems to be this resurgence. Do you feel optimistic about the future, in terms of Indie films?

Marc:  I definitely do feel optimistic about the future of Indie film. It’s not going to be an easy one. When people look at distribution deals, as I said earlier, it’s easier to get distribution, but it’s also more difficult to be paid well for distribution.

That’s a tough thing. But, I think because the cost of filmmaking continues to go down, it’s going to be a balance, a fine balancing act between getting your film made, taking a shot that you can, using that success to build on it and continue to grow, as a film maker.

When you look at someone like Colin Trevorrow, for example, who makes a movie that costs less than a million dollars, Safety Not Guaranteed, and hits a homerun. He was approached, and they said to him, “What do you want to do?” He went in, he pitched on Jurassic World, and there he went.

Or, you look at Josh Trank and the Fantastic Four or any of these individuals who are sort of breaking new ground with these independent films, once you have that one success, you can write your own ticket.

I know it’s not easy, but if you take the time to invest in your own career, others will invest in you.

For Part 1 of  the interview, go here.

Twitter: @TheOriginalHoff.

Indiegogo site: Here.

Script Analysis: “Barney’s Version” – Part 3: Sequences

July 1st, 2015 by

Reading scripts. Absolutely critical to learn the craft of screenwriting. The focus of this weekly series is a deep structural and thematic analysis of each script we read. Our daily schedule:

Monday: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown
Tuesday: Major Plot Points
Wednesday: Sequences
Thursday: Psychological Journey
Friday: Takeaways

Today: Sequences.

A sequence is simply a collection of scenes in a screenplay that have their own narrative arc and they have been around since the earliest days of cinema. Arising from this is something known as the sequence approach. Here is a description from Wikipedia:

The sequence approach to screenwriting, sometimes known as “eight-sequence structure”, is a system developed by Frank Daniel, while he was the head of the Graduate Screenwriting Program at USC. It is based in part on the fact that, in the early days of cinema, technical matters forced screenwriters to divide their stories into sequences, each the length of a reel (about ten minutes).

The sequence approach mimics that early style. The story is broken up into eight 10-15 minute sequences. The sequences serve as “mini-movies”, each with their own compressed three-act structure. The first two sequences combine to form the film’s first act. The next four create the film’s second act. The final two sequences complete the resolution and denouement of the story. Each sequence’s resolution creates the situation which sets up the next sequence.

That’s too formulaic for my tastes. Some screenplays may have eight sequences. Some may have two or three times that many. We should never let a formula control where our stories want to go. That can restrict our creativity and lead to formulaic writing. Nevertheless the idea of a sequence has considerable merit:

• Working with sequences breaks down crafting and writing a script into smaller, manageable parts.

• Each sequence has its own beginning, middle, and end which can help to give the story a solid structure.

• With each sequence flowing directly into the next, a writer can give their script a strong narrative push.

When analyzing a script, there are multiple benefits in identifying its sequences:

• We can identify these mini-stories and see how well they track — beginning, middle, end.

• We can track the transitions into and out of them, one sequence to the next.

• We can explore how the sequences influence the pace of the narrative.

An indicator of sequences are the plot points: When a plot point happens, that generally marks the end of a sequence, building to a significant climax that spins the plot in a new direction.

For Part 1, to read the Scene-By-Scene Breakdown, go here.

For Part 2, to read the Major Plot Points, go here.

Screenplay by Michael Konyves, novel by Mordecai Richler.

IMDb plot summary: The picaresque and touching story of the politically incorrect, fully lived life of the impulsive, irascible and fearlessly blunt Barney Panofsky.

Writing Exercise: Go through the scene-by-scene breakdown and identify the sequences.

Here is something you can do: Imagine each sequence as a runner in a relay race and as an individual sequence ends, it ‘hands off’ the baton to the next sequence. This is how we create a sense of narrative flow. So look at the sequences as articulated above: How does each one ‘hand off’ the story’s momentum to the next sequence?

Tomorrow we consider the script’s structure in terms of its psychological journey and the dynamic of transformation.

This series started here and we have volunteers to do 28 scene-by-scene breakdowns of contemporary movie scripts. The scripts we have already analyzed are in italics.

All Is Lost: Chris Faulkner
American Hustle: Jon Raymond
Argo: Nora Barry
Barney’s Version: jem
Belle: DaniM
Beginners: Ali Coad
Boyhood: Jacob Jensen
Enough Said: Ali Coad
Flight: 14Shari
Frankenwenie: Will King
Frozen: Christina Sekeris
Gone Girl: NateKohler1
Gravity: Matt Duriez
Hanna: John Arends
Lincoln: Paul Graunke
Looper: erikledrew
Moonrise Kingdom: Daniel Bigler
Mud: Alejandro
Paranorman: OhScotty
Prisoners: Melinda Mahaffey Icden
Short Term 12: Carolina Groppa
The Artist: Traci Nell Peterson
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Rob Hoskins
The Imitation Game: Rick Dyke, Sean Sauber
The Social Network: Nick Dykal
The Way Way Back: Ricky
Wadjda: iamdaniel
Whiplash: Steven Broughton

If you’d like to participate and do a scene-by-scene breakdown yourself, please indicate which script in comments or email me. We are using scripts available on our site here.

For new volunteers and those who have already volunteered, but not sent me a breakdown yet, please do so as soon as possible. Thanks!

Circling back to where we started, reading scripts is hugely important. Analyzing them even more so. If you want to work in Hollywood as a writer, you need to develop your critical analytical skills. This is one way to do that.

So seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!

I hope to see you in comments about this week’s script: Barney’s Version.

30 Things About Screenwriting: There is no right way to write

July 1st, 2015 by

This month, a series of reflections on and basic tenets about the craft. They represent my take. If any of them resonate with you, great. If not, feel free to ignore them. Bottom line: You need to figure out your own approach to screenwriting. My hope is what you read on this blog day after day helps feed that process and provides you inspiration along the way.

Today: There is no right way to write.

It is perhaps the single most fundamental truth about screenwriting in particular and writing in general that I know…

There is no right way to write.

No single formula.
No one system.
No mystical process that guarantees success.

Think about it: Why should there be?

Stories are organic.
Living, breathing, malleable entities.
They are not widgets.

We work on them tirelessly.
We engage them fully with our minds and hearts.
We write… and rewrite… and rewrite some more…

Yet with all that conscious effort and intentionality, there is always some element of magic to the story-crafting process.
And no one has discovered a way to box up that magic into a universal approach for every writer.

Each of us has to find our own way.

We can – and probably should – seek out as much advice as possible.
Wisdom from our writing peers.
Study, analyze, ingest.

But our paths as writers are individual ones.

Whatever he says about his writing…
Whatever she says about her writing…

That can be informative, instructive, even inspirational.

But that is about their path.

Your path?
The process of being a writer is about carving out your own way.

Yes, it would be easier if there was one right way to write.
But then all our stories would be pretty much the same.
Besides whoever said writing was supposed to be easy?

So learn what you can along the way.
Listen to the Masters, actual writers who have successfully created a sustainable path of their own.
Test out a variety of approaches.
Try tips you pick up here and there.
Always be learning.

However at the end of the day…
It’s about you…
Your Creative Self…
And your Stories.

There is no right way to write…

But there is your way.

[Originally posted November 1, 2013]

For the rest of the 30 Things About Screenwriting series, go here.

Walt Disney’s 1957 Business Strategy

July 1st, 2015 by

This is pretty amazing: Walt Disney’s 1957 business strategy for the company bearing his name:

What’s remarkable is how much this approach parallels Disney’s philosophy today. Swap out Disney Radio for Disney Magazine, add ancillary revenue sources such as video games and Broadway musicals, and basically what you see in this sketch represents how Disney, expert at repurposing content, goes about their business. And at the root of it all: IP. Intellectual Property.

That’s where writers come in. If you create content a studio like Disney believes they can exploit for profit, you put yourself in a position to reap some benefit from your inspiration.

Via @FilmmakerIQ.

Daily Dialogue — July 1, 2015

July 1st, 2015 by

J.D. Sheldrake: Say, Baxter, you gave me the wrong key.
C.C. Baxter: No, I didn’t.
J.D. Sheldrake: But this is the key to the executive washroom.
C.C. Baxter: That’s right, Mr. Sheldrake. I won’t be needing it because I’m all washed up around here.
J.D. Sheldrake: What’s gotten into you, Baxter?
C.C. Baxter: Just following doctor’s orders. I’ve decided to become a “mensch”. You know what that means? A human being.
J.D. Sheldrake: Now, hold on, Baxter…
C.C. Baxter: Save it. The old payola won’t work anymore. Goodbye, Mr. Sheldrake.

The Apartment (1960), written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. “Izzy” Diamond

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Quitting.

Trivia: This is the first Best Picture Oscar winner to specifically refer to a previous winner, in this case two of them. First Grand Hotel (1932), which Baxter attempts to watch on television but is too long delayed because of commercials. Bud’s boss also refers to Bud and Fran having “a lost weekend” together in Bud’s apartment, a reference to Billy Wilder’s earlier Oscar winner, The Lost Weekend (1945).

Dialogue On Dialogue: In my view, one of the greatest quitting scenes in all movie history as it perfectly represents Baxter rejecting his Want (success at work) and embracing his Need (be a mensch).

Another Story Idea Straight from the News

June 30th, 2015 by

Every April for six consecutive years, I have run a monthly series called A Story Idea Each Day for a Month. It’s exactly like it sounds: I post a story idea every day for 30 days in a row. We brainstorm possible ways to take each story, then I give them away for free.

The one thing they all have in common: My source for each story idea is the news. Here are links to 180 story ideas I’ve surfaced via various news services over the last 6 years:

Which leads me to this recent news article from the Daily Mail: ‘I am the Watcher. Bring me young blood': Family forced out of $1.3m dream home after being targeted by terrifying stalker.

A New Jersey family say they’ve been forced out of their luxury home by a stalker who identifies himself as the home’s ‘Watcher’ in letters threatening their children’s safety.

Maria and Derek Broaddus began receiving letters last month – just days after closing on the $1.3million dream home in the idyllic community of Westfield.

‘Why are you here? I will find out,’ the letter read.

‘My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time. Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested?’

The letter is signed ‘The Watcher’.

I had already flagged this story for next April’s series, then this: Hollywood Eyes “The Watcher” – True Scare Story Packaged Around Town.

In a nightmarish story straight out of a horror film, a New Jersey family was forced to leave their idyllic dream home after becoming tormented by a terrifying stalker who calls themselves “The Watcher.” In two days, the macabre report made national headlines and has already captivated Hollywood interest. I’m hearing that in a mad scramble to be the first out of the gate, several packages are being shopped all over town, with names like James Wan and Bryan Bertino in the mix. Sources confirm that interest is swelling and the project is taking shape at the likes of Blumhouse Productions, Dimension Films, New Line Cinema, and Universal. Several different takes on the true terror tale are being pitched across the board, some unofficially, with rights still up in the air.

While it looks like I won’t be able to include this story in the 2016 version of A Story Idea Each Day for a Month, assuming it gets set up as movie deal, the larger point is this:

STORIES ARE EVERYWHERE!

It is virtually impossible to overstate the importance and value of a strong story concept for a spec script. The best way to find a great one is to generate a lot of them. And one source for story ideas: The news.

All you need to do is be a watcher…

Of the news, that is.

Interview (Part 1): Marc Hofstatter, Indiegogo

June 30th, 2015 by

Since the concept of crowdfunding has taken hold over the last few years, particularly in relation to movies, TV, and web content, I thought it would be a good idea to talk with Marc Hofstatter who is Head of Film at Indiegogo.

Today in Part 1 of a two-part series, Marc provides background on Indiegogo and his take on the current state of indie film financing:

Scott Myers:  Your background, Indie film, agency, production executive, producer. Can you give us a quick through line on your background and how you ended up at Indiegogo?

Marc Hofstatter:  Throughout my youth and high school, I was a bit of a film nerd. I got that from my father. Along the way, in the ’90s, when I was in high school, the Independent Film Channel launched. They were actually based in Solera, the town over from where I grew up, on Long Island.

I was lucky enough to get an Independent Film Channel at that time. I started watching all these amazing films and realizing, “Wow, this is really what I want to be doing for a living and do this with my life.” I started as an intern at October Films in New York, an independent film company behind films like “Breaking the Waves” and “The Apostle”.

But, shortly after college, I moved out to L.A., because that’s what my friends were doing, and that’s what I was told to do. I started a road into the studio system, working at William Morris as an assistant for a literary agent, who represents a lot of great literary writers and directors today.

Then I went to work for a company called Depth of Field at Universal, the production company run by Paul and Chris Weitz. We made about half a dozen films when I was there. Most notably, aside from Paul’s films, we did “A Single Man”, a Tom Ford film which I worked on.

After that, I moved to another production company at Fox, but right around the time of the recession the company lost its deal and I moved on. I started into digital content, saw the progression of where the industry was going and was producing independently, features and TV on the side.

It was really in digital content in that area of the industry that I saw opportunity. I did that for a couple of years and finally, I heard about the opportunity at Indiegogo. Two years ago now, that I came to Indiegogo, as I had a film and digital. It was exciting to me, because crowd‑funding was blowing up. It’s still blowing up in a major way.

It is now part of the film industry, not just the independent film industry, but the film industry at large, which I think is extremely exciting.

Scott:  Let’s say you’re at a party and someone has been living under a rock for a few years and says, “Indiegogo? What’s that?” What would you tell them?

Marc:  I would start with “Indiegogo is a crowd funding platform. It’s where filmmakers, creators, whether it be someone that is creating visual content or you have a small business or a piece of technology. It’s an opportunity for you to put your product, your project in front of the masses and get their support, to make what matters to you happen”. Obviously, that’s both through financial commitment but also community building at large.

We all at Indiegogo say, “If you’re coming to Indiegogo just to raise money, well, you’re not really doing it right. The goal here, specifically in film, is to engage your fans, your audience, your community, into making something bigger than yourself.”

Scott:  You head up the film team at Indiegogo.

Marc:  Yeah.

Scott:  What does that entail?

Marc:  There are five of us, we’re based in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, and London. The company itself is headquartered in San Francisco, but on a day to day basis, we’re working with filmmakers to ensure that their crowd‑funding campaigns with Indiegogo are the most effective ones.

We boast a 78 percent success rate for filmmakers who work directly with us. Everybody has the opportunity to do so. A lot of people, unfortunately, don’t take advantage of that. We’re also going to film festivals, preaching the gospel, telling people who we are, and what we’re doing, how we can help them get their projects off the ground.

On top of that, we’re also working with great organizations, like The Black List and IFP and Public Independent and other media sites, like Bloody Disgusting and Twitch Film, to promote film, filmmaking, genre, independent film, female directors, black directors, diversity.

Our goal is to create as wide a swath of success for filmmakers within the film industry that we can.

Scott:  What’s your thumbnail take on the current and future state of film finance?

Marc:  It’s interesting because film finance, it’s complex. It’s not easy. I think a lot of people look at independent films and they go, “They’re not profitable. So, why are we getting involved?”

But, done right and now because there are so many distributors that didn’t exist before, whether it’s a VOD platform or whether it’s a theatrical distributor. There are so many great new ones on the scene like 824, Bleaker Street, both out of New York. Broad and Green is starting to play as well, in distribution.

Then, of course, again, you get the VOD platforms, like Vimeo, Netflix, and iTunes, obviously. The opportunities are there. That’s why Indie film finance is taking a turn. There’s more opportunity than there was a little while ago. The industry is doing better.

One of the things that people ask me about a lot, especially lately, is equity crowd funding. That’s going to be a game changer for the film industry.

Scott:  Could you break down equity crowdfunding?

Marc:  Equity crowdfunding, previously, any time you were looking to solicit investment in any project, be it a film or otherwise, a business, small business, you couldn’t publicly solicit it. You had to do all back channel engagements in equity conversations.

About a year and a half ago, Title Two of the jobs act was enacted, which allowed accredited or rather, wealthy individuals to contribute to equity projects publicly. Someone could solicit on an online platform, contributions from an accredited investor.

What is really the game changer is when unaccredited investors, the average person, much in the way that they could invest in the stock market, whether it be Coca‑Cola or Facebook. They could now and they will be able to invest in small amounts, of course, or larger amounts, in films, in music album sales, in products, tangible technology products, or small businesses.

That’s something that is happening in America. It was available overseas, but it was not available here. As of next week, it’s going to be available here.

Scott:  There’s quite a bit of language, relative to crowdfunding about disruption.

Marc:  Yeah.

Scott:  Most of us, in our lives, that’s a negative thing, but not with Indiegogo. You embrace that concept. What’s that about?

Marc:  It’s the same exact thing that the Black List was founded upon, was disrupting the gatekeepers, people who said, “Here are five people and they get to make all of the decisions”. We didn’t like that, and Franklin, obviously, didn’t like that either.

So, here’s an opportunity for people who, perhaps, would not have been discovered otherwise, to present their case to the masses and let those masses decide, “Is their project viable or not? Is it something that people want to see or people want to get involved with?”

That’s a wonderful thing. I think that if crowdfunding had been around in the time of Thomas Edison, people like Nikola Tesla might not have been screwed over, or we would have seen a greater deal of technological innovation in a shorter period of time.

Tomorrow in Part 2, Marc talks about some new Indiegogo initiatives and some keys to running a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Twitter: @TheOriginalHoff.

Indiegogo site: Here.

Script Analysis: “Barney’s Version” – Part 2: Major Plot Points

June 30th, 2015 by

Reading scripts. Absolutely critical to learn the craft of screenwriting. The focus of this weekly series is a deep structural and thematic analysis of each script we read. Our daily schedule:

Monday: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown
Tuesday: Major Plot Points
Wednesday: Sequences
Thursday: Psychological Journey
Friday: Takeaways

Today: Major Plot Points.

In every scene, something happens. A plot point is a scene or group of scenes in which something major happens, an event that impacts the narrative causing it to turn in a new direction.

A relevant anecdote. Years ago, I was on the phone with a writer discussing a script project. My son Will, who was about four years old at the time, must have been listening to me talking about “plot points” during the conversation because after I hung up, he asked, “Daddy, what’s a plop point?”

That’s in effect what a plot point is. It’s an event that ‘plops’ into the narrative and changes its course. So when you think Plot Point, think Plop Point!

The value of this exercise:

* To identify the backbone of the story structure.

* To examine each major plot point and see how it is effective as an individual event.

* To analyze the major plot points in aggregate to determine why they work together as the central plot.

This week: Barney’s Version. You may download the script — free and legal — here.

Screenplay by Michael Konyves, novel by Mordecai Richler.

IMDb plot summary: The picaresque and touching story of the politically incorrect, fully lived life of the impulsive, irascible and fearlessly blunt Barney Panofsky.

Writing Exercise: Go through the scene-by-scene breakdown of Barney’s Version and identify the major plot points. Post your thoughts in comments and we’ll see if we can come up with a consensus.

If you’d like a PDF of the Barney’s Version script scene-by-scene breakdown, go here.

Major kudos to jem for doing this week’s breakdown.

Tomorrow we consider the script’s structure in terms of its sequences.

This series started here and we have volunteers to do 28 scene-by-scene breakdowns of contemporary movie scripts. The scripts we have already analyzed are in italics.

All Is Lost: Chris Faulkner
American Hustle: Jon Raymond
Argo: Nora Barry
Barney’s Version: jem
Belle: DaniM
Beginners: Ali Coad
Boyhood: Jacob Jensen
Enough Said: Ali Coad
Flight: 14Shari
Frankenwenie: Will King
Frozen: Christina Sekeris
Gone Girl: NateKohler1
Gravity: Matt Duriez
Hanna: John Arends
Lincoln: Paul Graunke
Looper: erikledrew
Moonrise Kingdom: Daniel Bigler
Mud: Alejandro
Paranorman: OhScotty
Prisoners: Melinda Mahaffey Icden
Short Term 12: Carolina Groppa
The Artist: Traci Nell Peterson
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Rob Hoskins
The Imitation Game: Rick Dyke, Sean Sauber
The Social Network: Nick Dykal
The Way Way Back: Ricky
Wadjda: iamdaniel
Whiplash: Steven Broughton

If you’d like to participate and do a scene-by-scene breakdown yourself, please indicate which script in comments or email me. We are using scripts available on our site here.

For new volunteers and those who have already volunteered, but not sent me a breakdown yet, please do so as soon as possible. Thanks!

Circling back to where we started, reading scripts is hugely important. Analyzing them even more so. If you want to work in Hollywood as a writer, you need to develop your critical analytical skills. This is one way to do that.

So seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!

I hope to see you in comments about this week’s script: Barney’s Version.

2015 Scene-Writing Challenge: The Last Day!

June 30th, 2015 by

Today is the final day of the 2015 Scene-Writing Challenge. For background and to learn how you can win a free one-week online Core class with me, go here.

For the Week 1 writing prompts, go here.

Week 2 – here.

Week 3 – here.

Week 4 – here.

Writers who have met the challenge and won a free Core class with me: Ricardo Bravo, Roy Gordon, Tillery Johnson, James Verdell, Liz Warner, and Kara Wexler with many more on their way.

THE CHALLENGE ENDS AT 11:59PM EDT TONIGHT!

Good luck!

UPDATE: More winners including Katie Cobb, Susan Hildebrand, Uzma Khan, Gisela Wehri, Susan Winchell, and Zimra Yetnikoff.