The Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Call To Adventure

August 1st, 2015 by

The Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Call To Adventure.

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:

August 10-August 16: Adultery
August 17-August 23: Callback
August 24-August 30: Hysterics
August 31-September 6: Monologue
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

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: Call To Adventure.

Thanks to all you loyal Daily Dialoguers! You rock!

Interview (Video): Oliver Stone

August 1st, 2015 by

This is a fascinating journey into the mindset of writer-director Oliver Stone (Midnight Express, Scarface, Platoon, Wall Street, Nixon), an interview directed toward a largely Chinese audience:

Via Movement Pro.

Saturday Hot Links

August 1st, 2015 by

Time for the 197th installment of Saturday Hot Links!

Toronto Film Festival 2015: Full Lineup.

Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get?

Toronto: Festival Slate Brings Fall Landscape Into Focus.

Venice Film Festival lineup.

40 key movies in contention for 2016 awards.

Relativity’s Movie Slate Imperiled as Bankruptcy Looms for Ryan Kavanaugh.

Relativity Is Shopping ‘Jane Got a Gun,’ ‘The Bronze,’ ‘Collide’ as Bankruptcy Looms.

Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media Finally Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

As Relativity Implodes, Filmmakers Are Left in Limbo.

Here Are All the Movies Opening This Weekend.

The 20 Highest Grossing Indies of 2015 (A Running List).

The Best Foreign-Language Films of 2015 According to the Criticwire Network.

‘The Hurt Locker,’ ‘Two Days, One Night’ and More Coming to Netflix This August.

Writers’ Guild of America, West: August Schedule of Events.

Mission Impenetrable: Are Hollywood Blockbusters Losing the Plot?

Media Companies Hope Box Office Bounty Masks TV Troubles.

How Netflix’s Original Programming Is Poised to Outpace the Top Cable Networks, in One Chart.

The Duplass Brothers: How an Unlikely Hollywood Juggernaut Came to Rule Netflix.

The future of television? HBO’s big push to become the only channel you’ll ever need.

Damon Lindelof Makes ‘No Apologies’ for ‘The Leftovers’ Season 1.

The Leftovers Is Off to Small-Town Texas for Season Two.

Game of Thrones Will Run for at Least 8 Seasons, and at Most, Infinity.

Both of HBO’s David Fincher Shows in Jeopardy.

The Top 25 American Film Schools.

Universal Selects 5 New Fellows for Emerging Writers Program.

New Beverly Reveals a Very Tarantino August Calendar.

Exorcism to Air on Live TV.

David Foster Wallace Cheat Sheet: 7 Things You Need to Know Before Seeing ‘The End of the Tour’.

10 Essential Films About 20th Century Writers.

Read John Hughes’ Original National Lampoon Vacation Story That Started the Movie Franchise.

YouTube Stars Go on Tour Betting Social Media Can Sell Tickets.

American Hustle: How Hollywood Rips Off Women.

Jill Soloway Calls for ‘Matriarchal Revolution’ in Film.

Lego-izing, Theorizing, and Problematizing: How We Process Movies in 2015.

Alien vs. Predator screenwriter fires back at Sigourney Weaver’s criticisms.

Inside the 2015 Man Booker Longlist.

2015 Student Academy Awards Finalists Announced.

All The Changes George Lucas Made to the Original Star Wars Trilogy.

Paramount’s Plan to Shorten Home Entertainment Windows Gains Support.

Here’s What You Need to Know to Be a DP.

6 Ways Virtual Reality Will Change Filmmaking.

8 Legal Tips for Documentary Filmmakers.

Actors Vote on the 100 Best Movies of All Time.

Bank Robber Arrested After Appearing in Low-Budget Horror Movie.

Tig Notaro, Louis C.K., and Diablo Cody Are Making an Amazon Comedy Together.

What Hollywood Blockbusters Should and Shouldn’t Borrow from the Golden Age of TV.

50 greatest monster movies of all time.

7 Must-See Movies About Writers.

Dad Uses ‘Taken’-Inspired Note to Get Kids to Clean Sink.

Sony Q1 Earnings Triple as Movies Division Returns to Loss.

Michael Moore Secretly Made ‘Where to Invade Next,’ His First Documentary Since 2009.

‘Waterworld’ Turns 20: How Costner’s Apocalyptic Adventure Became one of the Biggest-Budgeted Fiascos of All Time.

Do Pro Writers Really Not Know if their Work is any Good?

The Romantic Comedy Spectrum: A Reading List.

Longtime ‘Rolling Stone’ Film Critic Peter Travers Fighting for His Job.

6 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Making a Web Series.

New Regency Raises $200 Million in Capital.

The Movies We May Never Get To See After Relativity Goes Bankrupt.

100 Reasons to Love Movies.

‘Mad Men’ Memorabilia for Sale: Nearly 1,400 Props, Costumes in Online Auction.

Tim Robbins Launching Monthly Music Series.

Long-Lost F. Scott Fitzgerald Story Finally Published.

The Bitter Script Reader: Is screenwriting a skill that can be learned?

Stephanie Palmer: 20 Things You Should Never Do In A Pitch Meeting.

Gary Whitta: The Big Idea.

Chuck Wendig: Fear is Fucking Us All Up.

The Black List Table Reads: Mr. Malcolm’s List (Part 4).

3rd and Fairfax (WGA West): Episode 4.

Chicks Who Script: Episode 51.

Coffee With Creatives: Writer-Director Amos Posner.

Scriptnotes: Episode 208.

Watch: The 5 Best Noir Films in the Public Domain [videos].

Watch: Michael Moore Explains New Documentary ‘Where to Invade Next’ [video].

Watch: Studio Ghibli Characters Welcome You in Breathtaking 3D Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki [video].

Watch: Go Haunted House Hunting in Exclusive ‘The Listing’ Trailer [video].

Watch: Detailed 30-Minute Video Essay Explores The Making Of And Magic Of ‘Back To The Future’ [video].

Watch: Full Pilot For Failed ‘Clerks’ TV Series [video].

[Watch]: The Art Of The Car Chase; A Supercut Of Brilliant Chases From Bullitt To Bourne [video].

Screenwriting Master Class tip of the week: I don’t read the so-called screenwriting ‘gurus’. I just deal with writers who have plowed through their books, attended their weekend seminars, and bought their DVDs. Either through my blog or teaching, I interface with writer after writer who has been influenced by the ‘gurus’ and their approaches to story structure… which almost always are exclusively about plot.

Wrong! Plot is key. But it is only one aspect of story structure. It represents events which happen in the External World, what we see (Action) and hear (Dialogue) in a movie or TV episode.

There is a whole other layer to story structure which apparently gets ignored in many, if not most of the various tomes produced by the ‘gurus': The Internal World of a screenplay universe.

The emotional life of a story. For whenever there is an Action, there is the underlying Intention of the characters, either conscious or unconscious. Where there is Dialogue, there is Subtext.

The External World is the domain of the story’s physical journey.

The Internal World is the domain of the story’s psychological journey.

To ignore what transpires in the Internal World is to create a set of events without meaning. And that does not constitute story structure, let alone a Story.

That’s why five years ago, I created Prep: From Concept to Outline. A six week online writing workshop, it represents a professional approach to ‘breaking a story’ while grounding that process in a story’s Internal World. Stage by stage through weekly writing assignments, participants immerse themselves in the lives of their story’s characters and through that work see the plot emerge and evolve.

In other words, we put meat on the bones of the old adage: Character = Plot.

So instead of some lifeless, formulaic script fit to a prescribed set of beats or plot points, instead muy Prep writers tap into the vitality of their characters and let them lead the way in determining where the story goes.

One of the primary criticisms I hear from people who work in Hollywood’s development side of things is formulaic scripts. I believe much of that derives from this reductionist ‘guru’ take that plot is the equivalent of story structure.

Wrong again!

No one knows the story better than your characters.

Prep: From Concept to Outline embraces that idea. We start with your story’s Protagonist, then work our way through each of your characters so that plot emerges from them.

My next session of the Prep online workshop begins Monday, August 17. Benefits include:

* An online structure of weekly assignments which motivate you to break your story.

* Weekly teleconferences in which we delve into your story.

* Peer feedback.

* My comprehensive notes and suggestions each step of the way.

* Stage by stage building your story.

* Learn a proven professional approach to breaking a story which you can adopt and adapt for all future projects.

Join me for what could be the most important learning experience you have ever had: Prep: From Concept to Outline.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Great Scene: “2001: A Space Odyssey”

August 1st, 2015 by

I can still remember to this day seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time. The movie screened at the theater on Minot AFB in North Dakota where my family was stationed. I had just turned 15. At the end of the movie, I sat in my seat and didn’t move. The credits rolled, then darkness. I still sat there. The movie was an absolutely mind-boggling experience. I saw the movie several more times before its run ended. Each time I thought I understood it a little more – and a little less. We moved to March AFB near Riverside, California that summer of 1968. I suppose having my own little ‘head trip’ with 2001 was some sort of preparation for the experiences that awaited me in SoCal.

There are so many great scenes in the movie, but the one I want to highlight today is the opening.

It’s interesting to compare the movie to the only script that’s available (to my knowledge). The movie differs in many of the particulars, but when you read the script excerpt below, you’ll see that writer-director Stanley Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke knew early on in the writing process both the tone and the symbolism of where this sequence was headed.

It’s also interesting to note how much like a novel the script is:


From their side of the stream, in the never violated safety of
their own territory, the Others see Moonwatcher and fourteen
males of his tribe appear from behind a small hillock over-
looking the stream, silhouetted against the dawn sky.

The Others begin to scream their daily challenge. But today
something is different, though the Others do not immediatly
recognize this fact.

Instead of joining the verbal onslaught, as they had always done,
Moonwatcher and his small band decended from the rise, and
begin to move forward to the stream with a quiet purposefulness
never befor seen.

As the Others watch the figures silently approaching in the
morning mist, they become aware of the terrible strangness
of this encounter, and their rage gradually subsides down to
an uneasy silence.

At the water's edge, Moonwatcher and his band stop. They
carry their bone clubs and bone knives.

Led by One-ear, the Others half-heartly resume the battle-
chant. But they are suddenly confrunted with a vision that cuts
the sound from their throats, and strikes terror into their

Moonwatcher, who had been partly concealed by two males who
walked before him, thrusts his arm high into the air. In his
hand he holds a stoud tree branch. Mounted atop the branch is
the bloody head of the lion, its mouth jammed open with a stick,
displaying its frightful fangs.

The Others gape in fearful disbelief at this display of power.

Moonwatchers stands motionless, thrusting the lion's head high.
Then with majestic deliberation, still carrying his mangled
standard above his head, he begins to cross the stream, followed
by his band.

The Others fade back from the stream, seeming to lack even
the ability to flee.

Moonwatcher steps ashore and walks to One-Ear, who stands
unsurely in front of his band.

Though he is a veteran of numerous combats at the water's edge,
One-Ear has never been attacked by an enemy who had not first
displayed his fighting rage; and he had never before been attacked
with a weapon. One-Ear, merely looks up at the raised club
until the heavey thigh bone of an antelope brings the darkness
down around him.

The Others stare in wonder at Moonwatcher's power.

Moonwatcher surveys the scene. Now he was master of the
world, and he was not sure what to do next. But he would
think of something.

And now, the entire opening “Dawn of Man” sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey:

How about you? Did 2001 boggle your mind the first time you saw it?

[Originally posted April 3, 2009]

Interview (Written): Don Winslow

August 1st, 2015 by

Interview with novelist and screenwriter Don Winslow, author of the current New York Times bestselling Novel “The Cartel”:

How did you become a writer?

Basically by writing. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve been doing it – or trying to – since I was six. (My neighbor, Joey Palumbo, paid me a quarter to write a play, and it was a long time before I got paid that much again.) I started seriously trying to write crime novels much later. I’d heard Joseph Wambaugh say that when he was starting, he decided to write ten pages a day, no matter what. I didn’t think I could do ten, but I could do five. So I wrote five pages a day on my first crime novel, no matter where I was or what I was doing. After a while (okay, quite a while) I had a book. The first fourteen publishers I sent it to disagreed. The fifteenth thought it was a book (it was nominated for an Edgar) and I’ve been writing since.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

There’s not time or space for me to list all those. Shakespeare was a huge influence when I was a kid. In my genre, Elmore Leonard, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, Lawrence Block, Joe Wambaugh, T. Jefferson Parker, Robert B. Parker, James Crumley, Ken Bruen, Ian Rankin, John Harvey…it goes on and on, and I’m always afraid I’ll leave someone out. Tolstoy inspires me, so does George Eliot. I don’t ever want to ‘close the list’ on my inspirations – I want to find new things every day.

For the rest of the interview, go here.

Via Advice To Writers.

Twitter: @donwinslow.

Daily Dialogue — August 1, 2015

August 1st, 2015 by

DEBBIE: I don’t want to hurt anybody. I don’t enjoy hurting anybody. I don’t like guns, or bombs, or electric chairs. But sometimes people just won’t listen. So I have to use persuasion. And slides. My parents: Sharon and Dave. Generous. Doting…or where they? All I ever wanted was a Ballerina Barbie in her pretty pink tutu. My birthday. I was ten. And do you know what they got me? MAL-I-BU BAR-BIE!
MORTICIA: Malibu Barbie.
GOMEZ: The nightmare.
MORTICIA: The nerve.
DEBBIE: That’s not what I wanted. That’s not who I was. I was a ballerina. GRACEFUL! DELICATE! They had to go.

Baby Pubert takes down a saw and begins cutting his way out of his prison.

DEBBIE: My first husband, the heart surgeon. All day long coronaries, transplants.
GRANNY: What about your needs?
DEBBIE: “Sorry about dinner, Deb, the Pope has a cold.”
GRANNY: An ax. That takes me back.

Pubert, crawling away, knocks loose a bowling ball.

DEBBIE: Husband number two: the senator. He loved his state. He loved his country.
GRANNY: What about Debbie?
DEBBIE: “Sorry, Debbie, no Mercedes this year. We have to set an example.” Oh, yeah? SET THIS!

More scenes of Pubert and the bowling ball.

DEBBIE: My latest husband. My late husband, Fester.
FESTER: The fool.
DEBBIE: The corpse, and his adorable family. They took me in, accepted me, but did any of you love me? Really love me?
GOMEZ: Hands!

Pubert slides down the stair rail and rolls across the floor.

DEBBIE: So, I…I killed. So, I maimed. So, I detroyed one innocent life after another. Aren’t I a human being? Don’t I yearn, and ache, and shop? Don’t I deserve love? And jewelry?

The bowling ball and baby Pubert set up the teeter-totter.

MORTICIA: A doomed ship.
GOMEZ: Adios, Cara Mia.
FESTER: Debbie, let them go. Take me and my money. For what I’ve done I deserve to die.
DEBBIE: Sorry.

The bowling ball launches Pubert into orbit, where he appears in the window of a passing jetliner.

DEBBIE: Goodbye, everybody! Wish me luck.
GROUP: Good luck.

Pubert lands just as Debbie throws the swtich. He rewires the cables so the shock returns and electrocutes Debbie, turning her into a mound of dust–and credit cards.

Addams Family Values (1993), screenplay by Paul Rudnick, characters by Charles Addams

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Madness. Today’s suggestion by Will King.

Trivia: Based on the New Yorker cartoons drawn by cartoonist Charles Addams beginning in 1938, the original characters did not have names. It was the 1964 television series based on the cartoons that caused the characters to gain names.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary by Will: “The Addams Family world turns all assumptions about normality inside out. To the Addamses, it’s the normal world that seems off kilter. So, how to make someone seem madder than the Addamses? Debbie Jellinsky had to be bigger than bigger-than-life, which meant writing (and performing) her melodramatically. In this scene we get the confessional trope. Why did she turn to be so bad? Blame it on Barbie (toy maker Mattel likely didn’t pay a promotional fee for this film). Adding a slide presentation was a new twist, which adds to the fun. She’s obviously prepared. Since this is the climax scene, there’s also the interspersed scenes of Pubert and the bowling ball to provide a Rube Goldberg-ish solution to how the baby defeats Debbie.”

Go Into The Story Movie Analysis: Trainwreck

July 31st, 2015 by

Starting Monday, we begin our next installment of the Go Into The Story Movie Analysis series: Trainwreck, written by Amy Schumer.

To date per Box Office Mojo, Trainwreck has grossed $68M in domestic theatrical revenues. The movie’s production budget is a reported $35M, so since the movie will likely end up in the $80-90M range, then figuring in B.O. overseas, Trainwreck is going to generate a nifty profit.

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 Trainwreck and join the discussion beginning Monday, August 3.

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

The movie’s website here.

Which writers deserve a Hollywood Walk of Fame star?

July 31st, 2015 by

Yesterday I posted this, a campaign to get Raymond Chandler a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In the process of researching this project, this shocking fact came to light:

How many “solely” novelists or screenwriters have a star on the Walk of Fame?

Answer: None. All novelists and/or screenwriters on the Walk of Fame are also producers, directors, actors, or animators.

No writer has a star solely based on their writing? How absurd! When I tweeted the post, Travis Larson suggested this:

Great idea. Which screenwriter, TV writer, or novelist would YOU suggest get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

For background, the Hollywood Walk of Fame comprises more than 2,500 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, California

As a reference point, you can go here to see a list of people who have stars, and here and here for some other websites about the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In another tweet, Travis suggested this writer: Dalton Trumbo. Check out his IMDb page, an astonishing roster of movies to which he contributed his writing expertise including Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Roman Holiday, The Brave One, Spartacus, Exodus, and Papillon. Plus he was one of the Hollywood Ten, blacklisted writers who were sentenced to one year in prison and forced to work incognito. There is a biopic coming out in 2016 called Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston at the writer. Yes, Trumbo deserves a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

39a) Older Dalton Trumbo photo

Dalton Trumbo

Here’s my suggestion: Anita Loos. She was the first screenwriter to emerge as an actual star, a darling of Hollywood tabloids. She has 137 writing credits on IMDb in a career which began in 1912 and spanned four decades. She even co-wrote a book on the craft called “How to Write Photoplays” (1920).

Anita Loos

How about you? Which writers should get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

Master Class with Meredith Stiehm and Pam Veasey

July 31st, 2015 by

[So as not to bury the lede… FREE TICKET INFORMATION BELOW!!!]

Hey, SoCal writers, the good folks at the Writers Guild Foundation have a terrific event coming up on Tuesday, August 11:

Meredith Stiehm is the screenwriter to thank for some of the most compelling and complex female lead characters in dramatic TV. As the creator of THE BRIDGE and COLD CASE, she deftly humanizes the chilling course of a homicide investigation through her strong, steadfast yet seriously damaged lead detectives. Stiehm’s knack for wielding compassion into tough-as-nails characters comes in handy when writing HOMELAND’s Carrie Mathison, who will continue to receive Stiehm’s magic touch for the Showtime series’ upcoming fifth season.

In this exciting Master Class, moderator Pam Veasey (CSI: CYBER, CSI: NY, IN LIVING COLOR) is on hand to guide Stiehm through her impressive career, which also includes writing and producing roles on ER, NYPD BLUE and BEVERLY HILLS 90210, and her distinctive writing style.

PLUS we’ll also have an EXCLUSIVE Green Room Experience, beginning at 6:30pm, where green room ticket holders can meet and chat with Meredith and Pam for an hour before the event. Green Room Experience ticket holders will also get a front row seat at the event. Only six of these Green Room Experience tickets are available.

Doors open at 7pm. Event starts at 7:30pm.

All events advertised on our “Events” page are open to anyone who wants to buy a ticket – not just WGA members!

Proceeds benefit the Foundation’s library and archive and other outreach programs.

You can purchase tickets here. But in an exclusive arrangement with Go Into The Story, I have 10 free tickets to give away to some lucky writers.

How to win? Easy. Head to comments and simply name your favorite series for which Meredith has written episodes: Northern Exposure, Beverly Hills, 90210, NYPD Blue, The District, ER, Cold Case, Memphis Beat, The Bridge, or Homeland.

Tickets go to the first 10 people to post a comment including their favorite one of the TV series listed above!

When: Tue, August 11, 2015
7:30 PM – 9:00 PM

Where: WGF / WGA Headquarters – Del Reisman Multi-Purpose Room
7000 W 3rd Street – Los Angeles

Thanks to the Writers Guild Foundation for all the good work they do including their ongoing educational outreach.

30 Things About Screenwriting – Entire Series

July 31st, 2015 by

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.

1. There is no right way to write

2. Screenplays are stories, not formulas

3. Learn the craft

4. Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages.

5. A spec script will not sell unless it has a strong story concept

6. Write what they’re buying or sell them your dreams

7. There are no screenwriting rules

8. Immerse yourself in cinema

9. When something happens… something ELSE happens

10. Facing the odds

11. Know your genre

12. Learn about stacking projects

13. Living and writing in L.A.

14. Similar but different

15. Break your story in prep

16. Feet on the ground… head in the clouds

17. Get the damn thing done!

18. Beginning. Middle. End.

19. Don’t think… feel

20. Imagematic writing

21. If you write a great script…

22. Movies don’t owe anybody a living

23. Story as psychological journey

24. 1, 2, 7, 14

25. Setups and Payoffs

26. Test your concept

27. Minimum words, maximum impact

28. The Spirit of the Spec

29. The only way out is through

30. Go into the story and find the animals