Interview (Written): Brad Bird (“Tomorrowland”)

May 23rd, 2015 by

/film interview with Brad Bird, co-writer and director of Tomorrowland.

What are your earliest memories of going to Disneyland and Tomorrowland in particular?

Well, what separated Tomorrowland from… well, first of all, I loved going to Disneyland. It blew my kid mind that such a place could exist and that you could have a African jungle just around the corner from the Wild West, which is just a way, little, you know, turn down a few corners and you’re in Tomorrowland or Tomorrowland or Fantasyland. I mean, that all of this was in one spot just kind of blew my mind. I also remember going into Pirates of the Caribbean and seeing this kind of large, but normal building and then you go inside and now you’re in the bayou and it’s night and the clouds are moving in front of the Moon and there’s fireflies and a guy playing on a swamp. And suddenly you’re going down a waterfall. And now you’re in a cave with a bunch of skeletons and there’s lightning and a storm. And now you’re in the middle of two, you’re in the middle of a land and sea battle. And then you come out of the building.

Now how the hell did they make all of that? I saw it. I know, I was there. How does this happen? So Tomorrowland specifically was hypnotizing to me because it wasn’t just fantasy. It was done under the idea that all of this is coming. It’s actually coming. We’re gonna see this stuff in 10, 20 years. You know, it wasn’t just Martians, you know, attack you and, you know. It wasn’t fantasy. It was all about this is going to happen.

In a way it’s almost science fact.

Yeah. And I think that one of the things that I liked about that is by presenting it as coming as a coming attraction, coming to reality near you, that it kind of had a hand in making it happen. Because it removed any roadblocks people had to allowing it to happen. The fact in those wonderful shows that Disney did in the late ’50s with Ward Kimball, mid to late ’50s, they were all presenting Going to the Moon as if it was a done deal. And went beyond that and talked about alien species of life and presented them in great Disney animation. And I think it also had a small probably unacknowledged hand in making the pursuit of the Moon by the end of the ’60s a viable thing. Because it was presented as something attainable.

A couple of featurettes about Tomorrowland

For the rest of the interview, go here.

Daily Dialogue — May 23, 2015

May 23rd, 2015 by

“This is my ninth sick day this semester. It’s getting pretty tough coming up with new illnesses. If I go for ten, I’ll probably have to barf up a lung. So I better make this one count. The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It’s a good non-specific symptom. A lot of people will tell you that a phony fever is a dead lock, but if you get a nervous mother, you could land in the doctor’s office. That’s worse than school. What you do is, you fake a stomach cramp, and when you’re bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It’s a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school. Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. I did have a test today. That wasn’t bullshit. It’s on European socialism. I mean, really, what’s the point? I’m not European, I don’t plan on being European, so who gives a crap if they’re socialist? They could be fascist anarchists – that still wouldn’t change the fact that I don’t own a car. Not that I condone fascism, or any ism for that matter. Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism – he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: ‘I don’t believe in Beatles – I just believe in me.’ A good point there. Of course, he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus – I’d still have to bum rides off of people.”

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), written by John Hughes

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Breaking the 4th Wall.

Trivia: The idea of a sequel had gone around for years with Ferris in college or on the job somewhere, but the idea was dropped. Matthew Broderick felt that the film didn’t need a sequel, that this film was about a specific time and place that we’d all like to revisit and didn’t need updating.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Perhaps the greatest 4th wall breaking monologue in movie history. All hail Ferris!

Reader Question: Can characters “flip” archetype functions in a story?

May 22nd, 2015 by

Reader question via @FinalAct4 from my recent #scriptchat session:

Characters can “flip” to a new archetype as well at various moments in the story?

Yes, indeed! I like to think of this subjects as masks as in ancient Greek theater:

Of course the famous masks of Tragedy and Comedy:

The actors would change masks to indicate they were playing this or that character. With regard to character archetypes, a similar dynamic exists in contemporary stories.

Let’s go back to a movie I reference quite a bit because it so perfectly represents the dynamism of the five primary character archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster.

Protagonist – Clarice Starling
Nemesis – Buffalo Bill
Attractor – Catherine Martin
Mentor – Hannibal Lecter
Trickster – Jack Crawford

For purposes of analysis, let’s say these are the primary archetypes associated with each of these characters. At any given moment, from scene to scene, relationship to relationship, they may don the ‘mask’ of a different archetype.

Let’s look at the relationship between Hannibal and Clarice:

* When they first meet, Lecter recognizes straight away she is a ploy played by Crawford, so Lecter dons the mask of Nemesis both in his opposition to Clarice and her goal (to get him to fill out a questionnaire) and in his mean-spirited rundown of her personality and background (“You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste.”)

* Later when Lecter makes his “quid pro quo” offer, he dons the Trickster mask because while he is going to help her make the necessary journey into her own psyche (Ally), he will use whatever means he can provided by her to facilitate his eventual escape (Enemy).

* At several points in their interactions, Lecter probes into Clarice’s sexual matters, and even suggests, “I think it would be quite something to know you in private life.” Here he dons the Attractor mask.

He switches masks to suit his needs and that is a key to understanding one of the fundamental potentials of this narrative feature: Characters may use masks to help them achieve goals.

If you think about it, this is really nothing more than a reflection of general human behavior. We present one aspect of ourselves to a policeman who stops us for a ticket compared to who we are with our spouse or who we come across as at work.

Every individual has multiple aspects to his/her psyche. We can consider these to be represented as our own masks. Same thing with characters. Even though their primary character archetype may not change, they can use masks to switch narrative functions from moment to moment.

One tremendous value of this is we can use masks to create multilayered characters who present different aspects of their persona in a story, which offers us, as writers, a much wider range of dramatic possibilities.

So yes, by all means, feel free to explore your story’s characters… and see how they don a variety of masks over the course of the narrative.

How about you GITS reader? What do you think of this idea of masks? Love to hear your thoughts in comments.

New GITS Initiative: Five Questions

May 22nd, 2015 by

Over the weekend, Go Into The Story turned 7 years old. As that birthday approached, I thought it was a good time to step back and reflect about the blog. As part of that process, I invited your feedback here and here. The response has been great via the blog, email, and Twitter. So each day this week, I’d like to present some initiatives that have surfaced during this process. A few of them I’m just going to go ahead and take on. Some, however, I’m going to request your additional feedback.

Onward SM

New GITS Initiative: Five Questions

Over the last 3 years or so, I have conducted over 100 interviews with screenwriters, TV writers, filmmakers, managers, producers, and other industry types [you may access those archives here]. If you are familiar with my approach, what makes them distinctive is their in-depth nature and laser focus on exploring the worlds of creativity and entertainment through the eyes of a writer. They have become one of the most popular features of the blog.

I have discovered, however, that some people just don’t have the time to sit down for an intensive 60-75 minute interview session.

So I wondered this: What if I reached out to the GITS community to come up with five great questions to submit to pro writers? I believe I could land Q&A’s with many more writers if all they were doing was responding in writing and on their own time to five questions.

Of course, I will continue to pursue and do the GITS interview series. In fact, I’m in the process of lining up several for this summer. But this could be another way to present insight and inspiration from working film and TV writers.

Why are interviews an important part in learning the craft? Several reasons:

* You get exposed to a myriad of approaches to the creative and story-crafting process. Any time you read an interview with a pro writer, you may never know when you’ll discover some little nugget that could transform the way you write.

* Along with movies and movie scripts, interviews with pro writers are primary source material, offering you a direct engagement with the craft. This in contrast to books, webinars, and seminars by screenwriting ‘gurus’ who more than likely have never had anything produced.

* This previous point is important because unless someone has worked on the front lines of the film and TV business, gotten movies, series, and/or episodes produced, they just can’t learn some really important aspects of the craft and business of writing in the entertainment industry. Interviews with pro writers affords you access to that insight.

Therefore my question to you is about questions: What is an query you can come up which you would consider essential knowledge to learn from a pro writer?

Here is one I’ve been noodling around with: When you read a truly terrific script, what are some of the qualities of the writing that make it great? That seems like it could result in some really great takeaway for each of us about the craft.

How about you? If you could ask one question to a top professional film or TV writer, and your goal with that question was to generate the best, most valuable information, what would that question be?

Please head to comments with your suggestions. Goal: To find five really solid questions which I can use to approach. And by the way, if we get six or even seven great questions, we can include them all.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

To read about the new proposed Movie Analysis series, go here.

To read about the new proposed Monthly Screenplay Workshop proposal, go here.

To read about the new proposed More Writing Challenges, go here.

To read about the new proposed FADE IN to FADE OUT in 1 Month Challenge, go here.

And there’s this: Would you be interested in a Quest Writing Workshop?

If enough people enroll, I will conduct a three-day Quest Writing Workshop in Santa Monica, California in July, Friday, July 24-Sunday, July 26.

This is a chance for you to work with me on your story directly in a live setting.

For more information, go here. If you are interested, email me.

NOTE: We’re getting close. If 2 more people agree to enroll, I will give this workshop a green light.

Onward!

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: The Imitation Game

May 22nd, 2015 by

Starting Monday, we begin our next installment of the Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis series: The Imitation Game, nominated for 8 Academy Awards, winner for Best Adapted Screenplay written by Graham Moore.

You may download the script here.

The schedule for the week’s discussion:

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

The scene-by-scene breakdowns for The Imitation Game were written by Rick Dyke and Sean Sauber.

I hammer on the importance of reading scripts. Now let me allow another screenwriter to make the point. Chris Sparling (Buried, ATM, The Atticus Institute) said this when I interviewed him and asked for the best single piece of advice to learn the craft of screenwriting:

Screenwriters need to read screenplays. You have to, have to, have to. It’s a free education and it’s arguably just as good as any other form of education you could get in this field. I can say, wholeheartedly, reading screenplays made me a better screenwriter. And like I said, it’s free. Few things of that much value are.

This series is your Call To Adventure! So do yourself a favor: Read the script for The Imitation Game and join the discussion starting Monday, May 25.

For links to all of the script analyses we have done on the blog, go here.

For the scene-by-scene script breakdowns, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “Some Like It Hot”

May 22nd, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Will King.

Movie Title: Some Like It Hot

Year: 1959

Writers: Screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, suggested by a story by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan

Lead Actors: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, Joe E. Brown.

Director: Billy Wilder

IMDb Plot Summary: When two musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the state in an all-female band disguised as women, but further complications set in.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 50s Movie: Coming at the end of the decade, Some Like It Hot gives a taste of the cultural attitude changes that were beginning to take place and that would upend American society in the coming decade. It’s hard to imagine such a comedic story with leading men in drag being released ten years earlier just after the end of World War II. A long list of films would follow including everything from Tootsie, Mrs. Doubtfire and Victor/Victoria to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, but Some Like It Hot really opened the gates for this style of story.

It was the decade of Marilyn Monroe which saw her starring or featured in ten films. Some Like It Hot is probably her most memorable along with The Seven Year Itch.

My Favorite Moment in the Movie: After spending so much time playing the part, Jerry succumbs to believing in his ruse. After a night out for dinner and dancing with millionaire Osgood Fielding III he returns to his hotel room in blissful reverie and Joe has to try to bring him back to earth.

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie:

This movie is a wonderful study in the use of double entendre and subtext. There is a constant tension between Joe and Jerry as they try to live the lie of being female band members while fighting their male attraction and rivalry for the affections of Sugar.

Daphne: [after meeting the all-girl band they’ll be traveling with] How about that talent, huh? It’s like falling into a tub of butter.
Josephine: Watch it, Daphne!
Daphne: When I was a kid, Joe, I used to have a dream. I was locked up overnight in a pastry shop, and there was goodies all around. There was jelly rolls, and mocha eclairs, and sponge cake and Boston cream pie…
Josephine: Look, Stoop…
Daphne: And cherry tart…
Josephine: Stoop, listen to me! No butter, no pastry. We’re on a diet!

When the band arrives at the hotel, millionaire Osgood Fielding III takes a fancy to Daphne and makes his first overture.

Osgood: You know, I’ve always been fascinated by show business.
Daphne: Is that so?
Osgood: Yes. As a matter of fact it’s cost my family quite a bit of money.
Daphne: Oh, you invest in shows?
Osgood: Showgirls. I’ve been married seven or eight times.
Daphne: You’re not sure?
Osgood: Mama is keeping score. Frankly, she’s getting rather annoyed with me.
Daphne: Wouldn’t wonder.
Osgood: So, this year when the George White’s Scandals opened she packed me off to Florida. Right now she thinks I’m out there on my yacht, deep sea fishing.
Daphne: Well, pull in your reel, Mr. Fielding, you’re barking up the wrong fish!
Osgood: If I promise not to be a naughty boy, how about dinner tonight?
Daphne: I’m sorry, I’ll be on the bandstand.
Osgood: Of course. Which of these instruments do you play?
Daphne: Bull fiddle.
Osgood: Fascinating. Do you use a bow or do you just pluck it?
Daphne: Most of the time I slap it.
Osgood: You must be quite a girl.
Daphne: Wanna bet?

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie: While actors in drag have been around throughout theatrical history, it was unusual (up to this point in Hollywood) to have the two starring roles perform most of their on-screen time in drag. It was even more unusual in the case of one Hollywood’s most alluring leading men, Tony Curtis.

The settings underscore the dramatic moods of the situations. The early scenes in chicago are set in snowy, wintry weather. The gangster shooting takes place in a dark parking garage. One gets a sense of foreboding, danger and threat. Once the story moves to Florida the outdoor weather is sunny, the interiors are brightly lit, giving a sense of hope, relief, a new lease on life. However, when the mob kills Spats Columbo at the hotel, it again takes place in the dark.

When Joe/Josephine decides to make a play for Sugar, he puts on the airs of one of the millionaires whie carrying on the conversation using a fake Cary Grant accent.

Jerry later chides Joe for the way he played the millionaire with the line, “And where did you get that phony accent? Nobody ‘talks loike thet’!”

Although the primary setting is in Florida, the actual shooting location used the posh Hotel del Coronado located on Coronado Island near San Diego, California, for both exterior and interior shots. Opened in 1887, the all-wood Victorian Hotel Del has figured in several other films. Just as in Some Like It Hot, it played a prominent visual role in The Stunt Man (1980) which starred Peter O’Toole and Steve Railsback. You can see how the hotel developed in the intervening years between the two films. When the bus arrives in Some Like It Hot, the open beach is clearly visible beyond the driveway and palm trees, and the millionaires are all lined up on the open veranda next to the front entrance. By the time The Stunt Man was filmed, the open beach had been developed into additional hotel structures and the veranda enclosed and made part of the hotel’s lobby.

In 1961 Mirisch Productions filmed a television pilot for a proposed series based on the movie for United Artists Television, which was to star Vic Damone and Tina Louise. Though that series never aired, Tina would later perform a Marilyn Monroe impression of “I Want to Be Loved By You” in an episode of Gilligan’s Island (“The Second Ginger Grant” — S3 E24).

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon would again be paired in the 1965 Blake Edwards film The Great Race. While in Some Like It Hot Curtis plays the quick-thinking schemer Joe and Lemmon the conscientious Jerry, in The Great Race they would reverse roles with Lemmon playing the scheming Professor Fate opposite Curtis as the squeaky-clean hero The Great Leslie.

Thanks, Will! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies. And thanks to the GITS community, we’ve got 31 movies in the works! Those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts. If you haven’t sent yours to me, please do so as soon as you can!!!

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Bridge on the River Kwai – Tom Peterson
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe – J Nilsson-Acosta
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Beach – Liz Warner
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Maegan Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

Thanks to everyone!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Interview (Audio): Beau Willimon on “The Moment” with Brian Koppelman

May 22nd, 2015 by

An excellent interview by Brian Koppelman of “House of Cards” creator and show runner Beau Willimon.

You may subscribe to Koppelman’s podcast “The Moment” on iTunes here.

Daily Dialogue — May 22, 2015

May 22nd, 2015 by

Colonel Sandurz: Try here. Stop.
Dark Helmet: What the hell am I looking at? When does this happen in the movie?
Colonel Sandurz: Now. You’re looking at now, sir. Everything that happens now, is happening now.
Dark Helmet: What happened to then?
Colonel Sandurz: We passed then.
Dark Helmet: When?
Colonel Sandurz: Just now. We’re at now now.
Dark Helmet: Go back to then.
Colonel Sandurz: When?
Dark Helmet: Now.
Colonel Sandurz: Now?
Dark Helmet: Now.
Colonel Sandurz: I can’t.
Dark Helmet: Why?
Colonel Sandurz: We missed it.
Dark Helmet: When?
Colonel Sandurz: Just now.
Dark Helmet: When will then be now?
Colonel Sandurz: Soon.
Dark Helmet: How soon?

Spaceballs (1987), written by Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan & Ronny Graham

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Breaking the 4th Wall.

Trivia: It took Mel Brooks six months to write the script.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Perhaps the ultimate send-up of breaking the 4th wall.

Reader Question: Is a character’s transformation dictated by events or reactions to them?

May 21st, 2015 by

Reader question from @filmwritr4 from my recent #scriptchat session:

I’ve wondered about character transformation in movies. Is their change dictated by events or reactions to them?

Both. This speaks to the dualistic nature of a screenplay universe.

There is the External World of the physical journey, what we see and hear through Action and Dialogue.

There is the Internal World of the psychological journey, what we intuit and interpret through Intention and Subtext.

An event happens in the External World.

The character has to process that event. As writers, we can think of them doing so in the Internal World, their psychological and emotional being.

Their reaction to the event causes a shift in their attitude and beliefs which in turn leads to make a choice.

That choice evidences itself in the External World.

Thus they go along until… another event.

Now they have to process this… that causes a shift… and leads to a choice… which manifests itself in the External World… which alters the plot… which leads to another event… which they have to process…

And on and on and on.

This is, of course, a broad generalization. But it speaks to a dynamic common to all movies:

Event – Reaction – Shift. Event – Reaction – Shift. Event – Reaction – Shift.

What we’re seeing there is the very essence of Transformation.

Consider The Silence of the Lambs.

EVENT: Clarice offered the gig of visiting Lecter. She goes and presents questions to him. He sees through it and ‘reads’ her. She starts to flee. Semen flung on her by next inmate. Lecter gives her a clue.

REACTION: Clarice has Flashback #1 of she and her father as he arrives home.

SHIFT: Clarice goes to storage unit and discovers severed head.

EVENT: Clarice returns to Lecter.

REACTION: He presses to learn more about her personal life.

SHIFT: Clarice opens up a bit.

EVENT: Clarice at funeral home of Buffalo Bill victim.

REACTION: Flashback #2 where she recalls the funeral of her father.

SHIFT: She rises to the occasion of the autopsy and discovers a key clue (moth).

On and on it goes, this intricate ‘dance’ of External and Internal Worlds signifying the transformation of this character wherein Clarice eventually confronts her shadow self — by recounting the nightmarish experience on her uncle’s Montana farm, the spring slaughter of the lambs — then the physicalization of her deepest fears — the Boogeyman in the form of Buffalo Bill — and emerges at the end having gone from Disunity to Unity, or at least a movie approximation of it.

Bear in mind when we watch a movie, at least good ones, this all plays out organically. However as writers when crafting a story, we can think rather intentionally about all this. For example, at every step of the way when working out a story, we can ask questions: What would this event mean to this character? How would they react? What choice would they end up making? How might that impact the plot? What next plot point could I brainstorm to challenge the character and stimulate more of their metamorphosis?

Change is not just what goes on inside a character, nor just what happens in the plot. It’s both. They are inextricably linked. That’s why character and plot by rights need to be closely aligned in the story-crafting process, and why relying on a formula and focusing primarily on plot is – in my view – a wrongheaded way to go.

Star with character. End with character. Discover the story in between.

How about you, GITS reader? What comments might you have about character transformation?

New GITS Initiative: FADE IN to FADE OUT in 1 Month

May 21st, 2015 by

Over the weekend, Go Into The Story turned 7 years old. As that birthday approached, I thought it was a good time to step back and reflect about the blog. As part of that process, I invited your feedback here and here. The response has been great via the blog, email, and Twitter. So each day this week, I’d like to present some initiatives that have surfaced during this process. A few of them I’m just going to go ahead and take on. Some, however, I’m going to request your additional feedback.

Onward SM

New GITS Initiative: FADE IN to FADE OUT in 1 Month

In the past, I ran something called Go On Your Own Quest in which writers would prep and write the first draft of a feature length screenplay in a 16 week period. Recently someone suggested resurrecting this idea, only do it more like the NANOWRIMO initiative which takes place every November.

So why not this: We target a month, giving people time to prep their story, and during that month, they commit to writing a first draft of a screenplay.

We could have a post per day here on the blog with some inspirational bit from yours truly, then have participants check in with their daily progress. Maybe we could figure out some special treats along the way to reinforce each writer’s efforts. Happy to brainstorm this.

This is yet another effort to get writers writing. And one of the best ways to get yourself motivated to pound out a script is to make a public proclamation to that effect.

So any interest in this? What month should we do it in? If so, what should we call it? Maybe something to do with Vomit Draft. Or Muscle Draft. Get The Damn Thing Done Draft.

Let me know your thoughts.

To read about the new proposed Movie Analysis series, go here.

To read about the new proposed Monthly Screenplay Workshop proposal, go here.

To read about the new proposed More Writing Challenges, go here.

And there’s this: Would you be interested in a Quest Writing Workshop?

If enough people enroll, I will conduct a three-day Quest Writing Workshop in Santa Monica, California in July, Friday, July 24-Sunday, July 26.

This is a chance for you to work with me on your story directly in a live setting.

For more information, go here. If you are interested, email me.

Onward!