Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Monologue

August 29th, 2015 by

The Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Monologue.

There’s a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17.
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides
by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.
Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will,
shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness,
for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children.
And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger
those who attempt to poison and destroy My brothers.
And you will know I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon you.”
Now… I been sayin’ that shit for years. And if you ever heard it,
that meant your ass. You’d be dead right now.
I never gave much thought to what it meant.
I just thought it was a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherfucker
before I popped a cap in his ass.
But I saw some shit this mornin’ made me think twice.
See, now I’m thinking: maybe it means you’re the evil man.
And I’m the righteous man. And Mr. 9mm here…
he’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness.
Or it could mean you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd
and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. And I’d like that.
But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak.
And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’, Ringo.
I’m tryin’ real hard to be the shepherd.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Here’s a chance to get in touch with your favorite wordsmiths and their monologues (hint, hint – Chayefsky). Let’s feature 7 great monlogues!

The usual drill:

* Copy/paste dialogue from IMDb Quotes or some other transcript source.

* Copy/paste the URL of an accompanying video from YouTube or some other video source.

I’d also ask you to think about why the dialogue is notable. Is there anything about the dialogue which provides some takeaway related to the craft of writing? If so, feel free to lay that wisdom on us.

Our upcoming schedule of Daily Dialogue topics:

September 7-September 13: Betrayal
September 14-September 20: Minimum Words, Maximum Impact
September 21-September 27: Depression
September 28-October 4: Opening Line
October 5-October 11: Rivalry
October 12-October 18: Cross Dressing
October 19-October 25: Selflessness
October 26-November 1: Embarrassment

If you have some Daily Dialogue themes to add to the roster, be my guest to post in comments. But be sure to post your ideas for this week’s theme: Monologue.

Thanks to all you loyal Daily Dialoguers! You rock!

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: Nebraska

August 29th, 2015 by

This week, we have been reading, analyzing, and discussing the script and movie Nebraska, written by Bob Nelson.

IMDb plot summary: An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.

Scene-By-Scene Breakdown
Major Plot Points

For my 7-part series on How to Read a Screenplay, go here.

30 Days of Screenplays [2013]

30 Days of Screenplays [2014]

Years ago, I came up with this mantra: Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages. A link to my reflections on that here.

Cannot emphasize enough the importance of reading movie scripts.

Our next script analysis is for the movie Looper. That begins on Monday, September 7. You may download a PDF of the script here.

Saturday Hot Links

August 29th, 2015 by

Time for the 201st installment of Saturday Hot Links!

Summer Box Office Report Cards: Universal and Disney Dominate in 2015.

22 Summer Hits and Misses.

15 Surprise Winners of the 2015 Summer Movie Season.

Embracing Gender and Racial Diversity Pays Off (And Then Some) for Universal Pictures.

8 Lessons From a Summer Where Women Ruled the Box Office.

Warner Bros.’ Chilly Summer Puts Execs in the Hot Seat (Analysis).

Several Sequels Sputter at Stronger Summer Box Office.

The 12 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2015 Venice Film Festival.

TV Is Not the New Film, But It’s OK That Festivals Are Blurring the Lines.

TCM Classic Film Fest Reveals Dates, Theme for 2016.

Jason Reitman to Direct ‘Princess Bride’ Live Read at Toronto Film Festival.

Christopher Nolan to Headline London Film Festival Talks.

U.S. Media Stocks Tumble Amid “Black Monday” Carnage.

Disney Is About to Flood the Market With Star Wars Toys.

Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ Crosses $700 Million at Global Box Office for Disney.

Discovery’s Rich Ross on Being in “Hand-to-Hand Combat” with Netflix.

Annapurna Pictures COO Paul Hanson to Launch Indie Film Company Covert Media.

Anne Hathaway to Headline and Produce Alien Invasion Sci-Fi Comedy Based on Black List Screenplay.

Nintendo May Finally Start Making Movies Again.

Hollywood and the Pentagon: A relationship of mutual exploitation.

Why Studios Keep Us Excited About Movies Coming Out Two Years From Now.

Academy Reveals 2015 Student Academy Award Winners.

The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t.

False Alarm: The Creative Apocalypse Never Happened (Or Did It?)

So, About That ‘NY Times Magazine’ Piece on “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t”…

Interactive Video: A Gamechanger for the Medium or Just Another Gimmick?

One Billion People Used Facebook In a Single Day.

The Film Fatales Collective Trains a Lens on Gender Inequality.

Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Schumer Are Writing a Screenplay Together.

Call It the ‘Bechdel-Wallace Test’.

Yes, You Can Turn 100 in Hollywood and Still Work.

Seattle’s Real-Life ‘Up’ House Getting Its Own Movie From Fox Searchlight.

Bruce Willis Suddenly Drops Out of Woody Allen’s New Movie, But Why?

Steve Carell Takes Bruce Willis Role in Woody Allen’s Latest.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Gets An Ancient Egyptian Makeover.

The Beatles’ ‘Help!’ Turns 50 and How They Almost Starred in ‘Lord of the Rings’.

New York City is Getting Its First Independent Cinema Theater in 10 Years.

What Everyone Does on a Film Set.

9 TV Shows With More Minority & Female Directors Than Any Other Series On TV.

Why Robert Rodriguez Didn’t Just Make a TV Show — He Made a TV Network.

Fear the Walking Dead’s Debut Was the Most-Watched Cable-Series Premiere Ever.

The Joy Of Not Being Able to Binge Watch.

‘Galaxy Quest’ TV Series Goes to Amazon.

A league of their own: How League of Legends and e-sports conquered America.

Broadway Box Office: Sweating Out the Late-Summer Doldrums.

Comedians Dump Campus Gigs: When Did Colleges Lose Their Sense of Humor?

What Top Comedians Like Amy Schumer, Aziz Ansari Get Paid for College Gigs.

In Conversation With Quentin Tarantino.

17 Copycat Films Spawned From Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’.

‘Babel’ Writer Guillermo Arriaga to Deliver Raindance Masterclass.

16 Must-See Howard Hawks Films.

British Film Critic Was a Soviet Spy.

Screenwriters Who Want Control Should Be Writing Novels.

Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards, and Why It Matters.

How This Year’s Hugo Awards Turned Into a Battle Over Race, Gender, and the Soul of Fandom.

All the Most Thrilling Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming This Fall.

22 Essential Women Writers to Read in Translation.

Black List [Terry Huang]: Case Study: Female Driven Comedy.

Corey Mandell: Why Story Structure Formulas Don’t Work.

Melissa Silverstein: An Open Letter to Colin Trevorrow.

Chuck Wendig: The Process Monkey Asks: What Is Your Writing Process?

Chuck Wendig: I Smell Your Rookie Moves, New Writers.

Former CAA Partner: Why I Became an Agent for the Sick (Guest Column).

Black List Table Reads: Chrome Noir [Part 4].

Chicks Who Script: Episode 55 [Eric Heisserer].

Script Notes: Episode 212.

Watch: Supercut Puts Quentin Tarantino’s Visual Film References Side-By-Side [video].

Watch: Bold, Beautiful 7-Minute Supercut Tribute To The Films Of Park Chan-Wook [video].

Watch: 1992 Documentary ‘Writing With Light’ About Master DP Vittorio Storaro [video].

Watch: Supercut Takes A Look At The POV Shots In The Films Of The Coen Brothers [video].

Watch: Why The Coen Brothers’ ‘A Serious Man’ Is Their Most Profound Film To Date [video].

Screenwriting Master Class tip of the week: Why haven’t you finished that script?

You know, that story you’ve been kicking around for months. Maybe it’s pretty well worked out, but you just can’t summon up the energy to type FADE IN. Or you have a partial draft and you’re stuck, not sure which way to go. Or a story concept you think has strong potential, but you’re battling your own Voices Of Negativity…

The simple fact is an unfinished script is nothing but potential. And nothing but potential is… nothing.

Maybe what you could use is this.

* A structured environment with actual due dates to inspire you to knock out pages.

* A workshop where you receive constructive feedback from a group of writing peers.

* A mentor who is a professional screenwriter and educator to accompany you on your writing journey.

That’s what we offer at Screenwriting Master Class with our Pages I: The First Draft workshop. 10 lectures [written by me] to spur your creativity, 10 teleconferences to review your pages, 10 due dates to motivate you to get from FADE IN to FADE OUT.

If you are comfortable with the sequence approach to screenwriting, you will feel right at home in this course.

If your grasp of story structure is a weak point, this workshop will help you ground your understanding.

If you have trouble finding the discipline to deposit your ‘derriere on chair’ and write, Pages I takes that problem on in a direct, practical and supportive manner.

Some thoughts by writers on the singular importance of the first draft:

“Then comes the great leap which is the first draft, I call it ‘the muscle draft,’ where you just muscle it out. You don’t worry about what you’re missing, you just get through it, get to the end.” — Darren Aronofsky

“Even if you write it wrong, write and finish your first draft. Only then, when you have a flawed whole, do you know what you have to fix.” — Dominick Dunne

“The first draft is nothing more than a starting point, so be wrong as fast as you can.” — Andrew Stanton

“Sometimes you’re swinging your way through a first draft like a blind miner with a pick-axe. That’s OK. Get it done, nothing else matters.” — Justin Marks

“First drafts are for learning what your story is about.” — Bernard Malamud

Winding Road Final

If you’re looking to go on that unique journey of discovery which is a first draft and could use the structure of an online workshop to help guide you through the process, go here to learn more about Pages I.

Our last session for 2015 begins Monday, September 14, so this is a great chance to make this year count in terms of your creative work.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (5 Part Series)

August 29th, 2015 by

Over the years, I have interviewed over 40 Black List screenwriters. This month, I am running a series featuring one topic per week related to the craft of writing.

Black List logo

This week: How do you understand and work with the concept of ‘theme’?

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 1) – What is theme?

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 2) – Begin the story-crafting process with theme

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 3) – Discover theme during the writing process

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 4) – Not come off as “preachy”

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 5) – Being personal

Once again, we see a variety of approaches to a key aspect of the screenwriting craft. Test out some of these ideas in your own writing. When you find something which works in terms of themes, stick with it.

In my opinion, the Black List is the most important brand related to screenwriters and screenwriting in Hollywood. Therefore it makes sense we should study the creative processes of writers who make the list. More insight and inspiration coming in next week.

Interview (Written): Steven E. de Souza

August 29th, 2015 by

An August 24, 2015 Creative Screenwriting interview with prolific screenwriter Steven E. de Souza. His movie credits include 48 Hrs. (1982), Commando (1985), The Running Man (1987), Die Hard (1988), Die Hard 2 (1990), Judge Dredd (1995), and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003).

Do all your screenplays have a single theme?

I don’t know if that is necessarily true. A student at AFI once did his thesis on me. He said I do ‘misdirected expectations’ which means I deliberately lead the audience to think something was going to happen and then do it differently or do something else. When I thought about it, I said, ‘Yes, I do do that.’ I would also say I have anti-authoritarian heroes and never really did the vigilante-take-the-law-into-your-own-hands kind of thing.

In your opinion, what does a screenplay need in order to be an action thriller?

I would argue that the genre of an action movie is a completely false creature. There is no such thing as an action movie. All movies have action. ‘Action movie’ is a term that was invented in the ‘80s. I think Commando may have been the first one in 1985. They noticed for the first time that a handful of American movies were making more money overseas than in America. This had never happened before. Commando made 60% of its money overseas and 40% in the US. Action speaks louder than words. You don’t need to read the subtitles to know it was a bad idea to kidnap Arnold Schwarzenegger’s little girl. I disagree with the idea that there is such thing as an action movie, but we are stuck with that term now.

For the rest of the interview, go here.

Twitter: @StevenEdeSouza.

Daily Dialogue — August 29, 2015

August 29th, 2015 by

“Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?”

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989), written by John Hughes

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Hysterics.

Trivia: This movie has four Saturday Night Live (1975) alumni: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Brian Doyle-Murray, Randy Quaid and Chevy Chase.

Dialogue On Dialogue: One of the classic hysteric bromides. Reminiscent of another John Hughes tirade… which we’ll feature tomorrow. Can you guess what it is?

Go Into The Story Movie Analysis: Straight Outta Compton

August 28th, 2015 by

Starting Monday, we begin our next installment of the Go Into The Story Movie Analysis series: Straight Outta Compton, screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff, story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff.

To date per Box Office Mojo, Straight Outta Compton has grossed $119M in domestic theatrical revenues. The movie’s production budget is a reported $28M. In other words, the movie is a big hit even before rolling out in international markets.

Our schedule for discussion next week:

Monday: General Comments
Tuesday: Plot
Wednesday: Characters
Thursday: Themes
Friday: Takeaways

Why watch movies?

Because to be a good screenwriter, you need to have a broad exposure to the world of film. Every movie you see is a potential reference point for your writing, everything from story concepts you generate to characters you develop to scenes you construct. Moreover people who work in the movie business constantly reference existing movies when discussing stories you write; it’s a shorthand way of getting across what they mean or envision.

But most importantly, you need to watch movies in order to ‘get’ how movie stories work. If you immerse yourself in the world of film, it’s like a Gestalt experience where you begin to grasp intuitively scene composition, story structure, character functions, dialogue and subtext, transitions and pacing, and so on.

Movies must be in your lifeblood – and the best way to do that is to watch and analyze them.

This series is your Call To Adventure! So do yourself a favor: Watch Straight Outta Compton and join the discussion beginning Monday, August 31.

If you have found interviews and/or analysis of the movie, please post in comments.

The movie’s website here.

Screenwriting Twitter Rants

August 28th, 2015 by

This week, there were three quality screenwriting Twitter ‘rants’ which reminded me of a basic fact about learning the craft in 2015:


Not just resources, but free resources. And not just free resources, but great free resources.

For example, check this out: Here are links to all of the Twitter ‘rants’ by industry professionals I’ve aggregated over the last year or so:

F. Scott Frazier (@screenwritten): On Writing Action Set-Pieces

Katherine Fugate (@katherinefugate): Black Facts About Hollywood

Katherine Fugate (@katherinefugate): On What is “Perfectly Okay” for a Screenwriter to Write

John Gary (@johngary): On How He Used Query Letters to Find New Representation

Gary Graham (@thegarygraham): On Some Keys to Screenwriting

Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer): On Drafts, Parenthicals and Respect

Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer): On Finding the Joy in Your Writing

Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer): On How to Treat a Film Crew

Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer): On Loglines

Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer): On Losing the Love for a Story

Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer): On Minimalist Screenwriting Style

Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer): On Pitching

Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer): On Procrastination, Precrastination and Productivity in Writing

Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer): On Subtext

Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer): On the Current Slate of Action Heroes

Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer): On the Screenwriter’s Creative Power

Eric Heisserer (@HIGHzurrer): On When a Writer Should Walk Away From a Project

Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman): On Fear and Writing

Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman): On Writing Advice and the Courage to Risk Failure

Daniel Kunka (@unikunka): On OWAs (Open Writing Assignments)

Daniel Kunka (@unikunka): On Being a Productive Writer

Geoff LaTulippe (@DrGMLaTulippe): On Studio Script Development Process

Justin Marks (@Justin_Marks_): On Script Page Count

Justin Marks (@Justin_Marks_) : On Exposition

Craig Mazin (@clmazin): On the Working Relationship Between Studio Execs and Writers

Craig Mazin (@clmazin): On Script Consultants

Rachael Prior (@ORachaelO): On How a Development Team Works

Rachael Prior (@ORachaelO): On Life as a Development Executive

Rachael Prior (@ORachaelO): On the Self-Delusion Imperative

Rachael Prior (@ORachaelO): On Treatments and Outlines

Rachael Prior (@ORachaelO): On What Makes a Writer Stand Out

Zach Stentz (@MuseZack): On Being ‘Good in a Room’

Mike Sweeney (@Courier12): On Focusing on the Quality of Your Spec Scripts, Not the Quantity

Mike Sweeney (@Courier12): On ‘New Screenwriting Rules’

Mike Sweeney (@Courier12): On Not Writing to Stats, Metrics, and Trends

Jake Thornton (@jakethornton): On His First Two Years as a Hollywood Screenwriter

Jeff Willis (@jwillis81): On Copyrights and Protecting Your Written Material

Jeff Willis (@jwillis81): On Query Letters

Jeff Willis (@jwillis81): On Should You Pay for a Script Consultant

Jeff Willis (@jwillis81): On the Reality of Spec Script Sales

Jeff Willis (@jwillis81): On Writing Compensation

Nate Winslow (@nate_winslow): On the Black List, Uploaded Scripts and Genres

Sure, it’s never been more competitive, trying to break into Hollywood as a writer. But there have never been more resources available to feed your learning process. Hell, Go Into The Story has over 17,000 posts. If you check out the Archive links, the content there just about covers everything you would need to know.

So count yourself fortunate. If you don’t, I’m prepared to bust out my “When I first started out in 1987, I had to slog through five feet of virtual snow with a 28.8 BPS modem” speech.

And you don’t want to hear that!

Let me end by extending our collective thanks to those members of the online screenwriting community who take the time to share their insights about the craft.


Script Analysis: “Nebraska” – Part 5: Takeaways

August 28th, 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: Themes
Friday: Takeaways

Today: Takeaways.

This week, we have been reading, analyzing, and discussing the script and movie Nebraska. In some ways, today’s exercise is the whole point of the series: What did you take away from the experience of reading and analyzing the script?

Written by Bob Nelson.

IMDb plot summary: An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize.

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

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

For Part 3, to read the Sequences, go here.

For Part 4, to read the Themes, go here.

REQUEST: We have some incredible scripts in the GITS library which we have yet to analyze including 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street, and many more.

I am looking for volunteers to read a script and provide a scene-by-scene breakdown for it to be used as part of our weekly series. What do you get? Beyond your name being noted here, my thanks, and some creative juju, hopefully you will learn something about story structure and develop another skill set which is super helpful in learning and practicing the craft.

The latest volunteers:

Birdman – Doc Kane
Dallas Buyers Club – Devin Dingler
Frozen – Doc Kane
Gone Girl – Ashley
Looper – Michael Perkins
Nebraska – David Joyner
Nightcrawler – Marija

Thanks, all!

To see examples of scene-by-scene breakdowns, go here. Part of the goal is to create a library of breakdowns for writers to have at their disposal for research and learning.

You may see the scripts we can use for the series – free and legal – by going here.

To date, we have analyzed 45 movie scripts, a great resource for screenwriters. To see those analyses, go here.

Thanks to any of you who will rise to the occasion and take on a scene-by-scene breakdown.

And for those of you who have volunteered, please send me your scene-by-scene breakdown as soon as possible!

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: Nebraska.

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 5)

August 28th, 2015 by

Over the years, I have interviewed over 40 Black List screenwriters. This month, I am running a series featuring one topic per week related to the craft of writing.

Black List logo

This week: How do you understand and work with the concept of ‘theme’?

The diversity of responses among the Black List writers I have interviewed is fascinating. Monday we explored various articulations of what ‘theme’ is. Tuesday we looked at some writers who begin the story-crafting process with theme. Wednesday we hear from writers who discover theme during the writing process. Thursday we considered writers who carry a concern about theme: Not to come off as “preachy”. Today writers who emphasize the importance of theme being personal.

Stephanie Shannon: “Theme is really important to me. They emerged in my research– learning about what made “Alice in Wonderland” different from other children’s stories and learning about what was really special about Lewis Carroll and what was going on at Oxford at the time. In my research I found so many interesting things to mine in the story. I think I ended up embracing the themes that also meant something to me personally. Father/daughter relationships are an important theme with me. I think it was important to me that the theme not only serve the story but also was something that was close to my own heart personally. I think those are always the stories that I want to tell, that I’ll end up telling the best.”

Brian Duffield: “Usually it’s a theme I want to explore because it’s really locked into my head as a person, as something I’m going through or struggling or interested with, so even if I throw out the characters or genre surrounding that theme a dozen times, the theme stays intact because it’s an itch I need to scratch.”

Seth Lochhead: “I leave theme to my subconscious (I’ll let it come out as I pursue the more tangible elements of the story – although according to my previous answers, tangible doesn’t seem to be one of my writing pursuits). If I’m obsessed with something, if I’ve noticed something, some illness in the world, some crack in reality, I let it in and if it wants to come out in my work so be it.”

Spenser Cohen: “Movies are there to teach us about the human condition, what it’s like to be in difficult or impossible situations… Every writer has their own life experiences, their own point of view, so the way they see the world often dictates the theme.”

Geoff LaTulippe: “The good news is that, in talented writers, I think theme comes out organically. It’s not something you have to force. But it is something you have to consider, or why are you writing the fucking thing in the first place? Why bother?”


* You are more likely to write an empowered script if you have an emotional connection to its themes.

* You can also reverse this: If you can identify your points of emotional connection to a story, there’s a good chance some of its themes are to be found there.

For Part 1 of this week’s series with Black List writers, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Part 4, here.