Free 1 Week Class at Screenwriting Master Class! Starts Tuesday, July 5!

July 1st, 2016 by

A guest post from Tom Benedek with a special offer:

Okay. So the velociraptor ate my homework. It’s not my fault. Really. There is a one week online Craft class starting Tuesday about writing the web series. I have a few favorite web series to discuss, but I haven’t written any lectures yet. And a great idea for a couple of workbook assignments and live workshop talks on Skype or Hangout. But, I have been overwhelmed. I am starting a podcast – TheProcess.Ink which will go live shortly. I’ve already recorded 7 shows and cued up great guests for more. But, there are a lot of details to doing a podcast. And it has taken too much of my bandwidth.

So… Scott and I are offering the class for free. Price of admission:

1) Post your favorite web series for discussion. My two favorites: Broad City and High Maintenance. If you don’t have a favorite web series, watch a little bit of one of those and maybe look around for something else to point us towards.

2) Brainstorm the web series idea which I will be posting. If I or anyone else ever actually shoots this project and gets it up on the web, any writer who contributes content will receive: Credit. Glory. And a profit participation, of course.

3) Post your own web series idea and/or brainstorm a web project which another class member posts.

So please consider joining this class. To join, go here and write Free Web Series Class in the message box.

There is a new movie on Netflix called The Fundamentals of Caring. Looking for something funny to watch for a little while, it just started playing on our screen two nights ago. Paul Rudd stars in this wonderful paradox. A charming, funny film about things that are not. The modulation of drama and humor is amazing. The character relationships are drawn simply and clearly. So, again, thank you, Netflix for this one.

I’ve been tracking web series since I launched the blog 8 years ago and it’s great how entertaining some of them are at this point like “Broad City”:

With the internet functioning as a distribution network, if you have talent, a great concept, access to an iPhone and editing software on your computer, why not create it?

So go here and join Tom next Tuesday for an open-ended exploration of web series to see what you can learn about producing one yourself.

Reports of the death of ‘high concept’ have been greatly exaggerated

July 1st, 2016 by

During the 80s and 90s, high concept reigned supreme. [If you’re unclear what ‘high concept’ means, you can go here and read a lengthy conversation about it.] Consider these titles: Top Gun, Home Alone, Jurassic Park, Beverly Hills Cop, Speed, Twister, Armageddon, Ghostbusters, Liar Liar, War Games, Tootsie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Back to the Future, The Terminator, Die Hard, Predator, Coming to America, Fatal Attraction, Independence Day, Kindergarten Cop, Bad Boys, Pretty Woman, Jumanji, Basic Instinct, Rush Hour,  and those are just off the top of my head movies I could recall from those two decades.

The last few years, you tend to hear the term ‘high concept’ bandied about less nowadays in Hollywood, more likely someone will say, “We’re looking for a story with a really strong concept.” There’s a lot of merit to thinking that way as a high concept may not necessarily mean it’s a strong one.

However at least on the comedy front the last few years, there have been some movies released which could have just as easily been produced 20-30 years ago: The Nice Guys, The Intern, Pitch Perfect, This is the End, Neighbors, Horrible Bosses to name a few. And now there’s this:

From Twentieth Century Fox:

Over the holidays, Ned (Bryan Cranston), an overprotective but loving dad and his family visit his daughter at Stanford, where he meets his biggest nightmare: her well-meaning but socially awkward Silicon Valley billionaire boyfriend, Laird (James Franco). The straight-laced Ned thinks Laird, who has absolutely no filter, is a wildly inappropriate match for his daughter. The one-sided rivalry-and Ned’s panic level-escalate when he finds himself increasingly out of step in the glamorous high-tech hub, and learns that Laird is about to pop the question.

Tagline: Of all the guys his daughter could have chosen…

Here’s the movie trailer (Note: Red Band for profanity):

This movie is about as high concept as you can get. Hell, the title almost sells the movie by itself. And the one-sheet? You see it, you get it.

So high concept ain’t dead in Hollywood, not just yet anyway, and here’s one big honking reason why: When the success of original movies today relies as heavily on marketing campaigns as they do, with sooooo much competition for consumer attention and dollars, when a studio can convey the essence of a story in 5 seconds or less, that can serve as a hook to reel in the potential moviegoer to watch the rest of the trailer, and end up with their fanny in a movie theater seat on opening weekend.

Takeaway: As you generate story ideas — which you should be doing like every single day — don’t neglect high concepts. Reminds me of how Seth Lochhead got a manager with an email which simply read: “New spec script: Girl trained to be an assassin. Interested?” That became the movie Hanna. Yep, high concepts still have a place in today’s Hollywood movie business.

Question: What are your favorite high concept movies? I’m kinda partial to this one: “An unruly cop gets a new partner. A police dog.”

2016 Scene-Writing Challenge: All 22 Prompts

July 1st, 2016 by

For the fourth straight year, June was Scene-Writing Month here at Go Into The Story. Each Monday through Friday, I posted a writing prompt and here are all 22 of them:

Day 1 challenge: A scene set in an inhospitable environment, e.g., outer space, underwater, desert.

Day 2 challenge: A scene involving a secret.

Day 3 challenge: Two people talk while dancing.

Day 4 challenge: The audience knows something the characters don’t.

Day 5 challenge: Miscommunication.

Day 6 challenge: A character reviews a series of voice mails, each with worse news.

Day 7 challenge: An intervention.

Day 8 challenge: A scene with a man holding a gun.

Day 9 challenge: Introduce a character with a memorable impression.

Day 10 challenge: A conversation with someone who’s locked him/herself in the bathroom.

Day 11 challenge: One character has to break bad news to the other.

Day 12 challenge: A scene where the entire conversation takes place off-screen.

Day 13 challenge: Settling an argument by playing Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Day 14 challenge: A pet uses voice-over narration to comment on a family fight.

Day 15 challenge: Leaving a voice mail.

Day 16 challenge: Smack talk at a sporting event.

Day 17 challenge: A character has a ‘conversation’ with him/herself in the mirror. 

Day 18 challenge: A scene inspired by this photograph.

Day 19 challenge: Interruption.

Day 20 challenge: A scene involving a dead body.

Day 21 challenge: Strangers biding their time in a hospital emergency waiting room.

Day 22 challenge: Under a deadline.

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

To provide extra motivation for this series — to get people to WRITE PAGES — I gave away some of my Core classes to Scene-Writing Challenge participants. That’s right: For free! And dozens of GITS readers wrote 10 scenes and provided feedback on 10 scenes written by others to qualify for their free Core class.

You can check out the fruits of our collective labor from the last three years:

Scene-Writing Exercises (2013)
Scene-Writing Exercises (2014)
Scene-Writing Exercises [2015]

Congratulations to everyone who participated in this year’s Scene-Writing Challenge!

The Hero’s Journey vs. Superhero Stories

June 30th, 2016 by

I have been meaning to write this post for several months, but have put it off due to my hectic schedule and knowing that I would need a good block of time to compose my thoughts. However when I saw this tweet from Jon Spaihts two days ago…

…it was like the universe was saying, “Scott, get it done.”

So here’s the thing: I suspect the plethora of superhero movies over the last 5-10 years, while entertaining to fans and profitable to studios, is having a deleterious effect on our collective cultural mindset. And honestly, I think it is at least one reason why a certain orange-faced, swirl-haired blowhard has managed to become the apparent presidential nominee of a major political party here in the United States.

Let me begin with some reflections on The Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell said the entire point of such stories is transformation. The protagonist receives a Call To Adventure compelling them to leave their ordinary world, enters a new world, and through a series of challenges attains their goal, thus in the process…

…gets in touch with their own inner hero.

That’s the essence of their transformation, discovering their True Nature, Authentic Self, Core Of Being, whatever you want to call it, and becoming empowered through that growth process.

Typically the hero is an ordinary individual. These stories have their roots historically in helping prepare youths for various initiation rites and rituals. Hence the three movements of the Hero’s Journey:

Separation. Initiation. Return.

An ordinary individual embarks on an extraordinary adventure and as a result experiences an empowering transformation by getting in touch with Who They Are, in effect an initiation into adulthood.

Compare to superhero stories. Superheroes, by logic, are not ordinary individuals. They are imbued with superpowers or are as rich as hell like Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark so they can afford to be adorned in super-gear.

The entire dynamic of superhero stories is an inversion of the Hero’s Journey: Instead of an ordinary individual going on to become a self-actualized and empowered person, in superhero stories, it’s the superhero who has the power to save the masses.

There is nothing wrong with that narrative framework… except over time and amplified by amazing visual spectacle only Hollywood can produce, it makes me wonder if at least on a subliminal level the message that gets transmitted to moviegoers is this: “You cannot save yourself, you cannot solve your life problems, you need someone much bigger and more powerful than you to do that for you.”

Enter Donald Trump. He is a self-professed billionaire. He claims to be excellent at virtually everything. His name is emblazoned on dozens of artifices and companies. In his speeches, he proclaims he will keep U.S citizens safe, he will make America great again. He displays – in many respects – the qualities of a superhero with his superpower being his presumed business expertise and oversized persona.

Moreover he has simplistic, even dualistic view of the world: good guys and bad guys, and how he describes those he opposes makes them out to be villains who could easily inhabit a comic book universe.

The way Trump conducts himself in public, he could have been cast as Tony Stark’s rich uncle in the first Iron Man, both characters cut from the same brash, cocksure, profiteering cloth.

In the Republican primaries, Donald Trump trounced 16 other candidates who among them had over 200 years of political service while he himself has zero governmental experience. Bottom line what he has achieved with his candidacy is almost inconceivable.

My question is how much of the passionate support he has aroused among his supporters is based on the appeal that he can ‘save’ the day… just like a superhero?

I don’t presume to put words into Jon Spaihts’ mouth, one of the most talented screenwriters working in Hollywood today, but his tweet cited above conveys to me something both simple and profound: If superhero movies are fundamentally about Them saving Us, we need to balance out that narrative with stories about ordinary people who in going on their own hero’s journey are capable of doing extraordinary things themselves.

Carl Jung said, “The gods have become our diseases.” What are superheroes but our ‘gods’? Does the underlying message, repeated over and over and over again in these movie franchises — we are in peril, superheroes protect us — steer our cultural conversations away from what both Jung and Campbell suggested is the fundamental task of human existence?

Jung: “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

Campbell: “We’re not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves.”

The Hero’s Journey delivers that life lesson to all people, even ordinary ones. It says, as Jon Spaihts writes, that each one of us “can make a difference”.

That’s not the collective message from the unending onslaught of superhero movies, where the masses in those stories are turned into helpless souls desperate for the sole protection available to them provided by extraordinary individuals.

That theme may have some play in movies – and in the political arena – but we also need stories which inspire regular people to find the courage to embrace what Jung suggests:

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

2016 Scene-Writing Challenge: Day 22

June 30th, 2016 by

For the fourth straight year, June is Scene-Writing Month here at Go Into The Story. Every Monday-Friday at noon Eastern / 9AM Pacific, I will upload a post with a scene-writing prompt. Each day, write a scene per those guidelines. Upload your scene here in the comments section of the original post. That way you can critique others’ pages and receive feedback on your scene as well.

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

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

Everything you need to know about screenwriting theory in this unique curriculum based on eight principles: Plot, Concept, Character, Style, Dialogue, Scene, Theme, Time.

CORE I: PLOT – A one-week class which begins with the principle Plot = Structure and explores the inner workings of the Screenplay Universe: Plotline and Themeline. Start date: June 27.

CORE II: CONCEPT – A one-week class which begins with the principle Concept = Hook and examines multiple strategies to generate, develop and assess story ideas. Start date: July 11.

CORE III: CHARACTER – A one-week class which begins with the principle Character = Function and delves into archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, and Trickster. Start date: August 8.

CORE IV: STYLE – A one-week class which begins with the principle Style = Voice and surfaces keys to developing a distinctive writer’s personality on the page. Start date: August 22.

CORE V: DIALOGUE – A one-week class which begins with the principle Dialogue = Purpose and probes a variety of ways to write effective, entertaining dialogue. Start date: September 19.

CORE VI: SCENE – A one-week class which begins with the principle Scene = Point and provides six essential questions to ask when crafting and writing any scene. Start date: October 3.

CORE VII: THEME – A one-week class which begins with the principle Theme = Meaning and gives writers a concrete take on theme which can elevate the depth of any story. Start date: November 14.

CORE VIII: TIME – A one-week class which begins with the principle Time = Present and studies Present, Present-Past, Present-Future and time management in writing. Start date: December 12.

Each is a 1-week online class featuring 6 lectures written by me, lots of screenwriting insider tips, logline workshops, optional writing exercises, 24/7 message board conversations, teleconferences with course participants and myself to discuss anything related to the craft of scriptwriting.

A popular option is the Core Package which gives you access to the content in all eight Craft classes which you can go through on your own time and at your own pace, plus automatic enrollment in each 1-week online course — all for nearly 50% the price of each individual class. If you sign up now, you can have immediate access to all of the Core content.

In June, to qualify to take one of my Craft classes for free, write and submit ten [10] Scene-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers. The former to get you writing, the latter to work your critical-analytical skills.

A chance to take any of my eight Core classes, interface with me online along with the usual stellar group of writers who take Screenwriting Master Class courses, while using writing exercises and feedback to upgrade your skill at writing and analyzing scenes?

ISN’T THAT AN AWESOME IDEA?!!!

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

A couple of logistical notes:

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

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

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

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

Today’s prompt: Under a deadline.

Want to create tension in a scene? Put pressure on the characters. A deadline can do precisely that. And speaking of deadlines…

TODAY IS THE LAST DAY OF THE SCENE-WRITING CHALLENGE!

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

Also when you provide feedback on someone’s scene, please note in each reply the number of comments you have uploaded. So if today is your first response, Feedback 1. The next one, Feedback 2.

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

Remember: In order to qualify for one of my free Core classes, you need to submit ten [10] Scene-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers.One post and one feedback per scene prompt.

FEEDBACK TIP: Suggest a complication which can add to the pressure by making it less likely the characters can achieve their goal in time.

Want to join in? Here are the previous challenge prompts:

Day 1 challenge: A scene set in an inhospitable environment, e.g., outer space, underwater, desert.

Day 2 challenge: A scene involving a secret.

Day 3 challenge: Two people talk while dancing.

Day 4 challenge: The audience knows something the characters don’t.

Day 5 challenge: Miscommunication.

Day 6 challenge: A character reviews a series of voice mails, each with worse news.

Day 7 challenge: An intervention.

Day 8 challenge: A scene with a man holding a gun.

Day 9 challenge: Introduce a character with a memorable impression.

Day 10 challenge: A conversation with someone who’s locked him/herself in the bathroom.

Day 11 challenge: One character has to break bad news to the other.

Day 12 challenge: A scene where the entire conversation takes place off-screen.

Day 13 challenge: Settling an argument by playing Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Day 14 challenge: A pet uses voice-over narration to comment on a family fight.

Day 15 challenge: Leaving a voice mail.

Day 16 challenge: Smack talk at a sporting event.

Day 17 challenge: A character has a ‘conversation’ with him/herself in the mirror. 

Day 18 challenge: A scene inspired by this photograph.

Day 19 challenge: Interruption.

Day 20 challenge: A scene involving a dead body.

Day 21 challenge: Strangers biding their time in a hospital emergency waiting room.

You can check out the fruits of our collective labor from the last three years:

Scene-Writing Exercises (2013)
Scene-Writing Exercises (2014)
Scene-Writing Exercises [2015]

Finally if you have what you think is a good suggestion for a scene-writing prompt, please post that as well.

It’s the 2016 Scene-Writing Challenge! Give a jolt to your creative and writing muscles… and win 1  free online class with yours truly.

NOTE: When you can verify the 10 scenes you’ve written and the 10 scenes on which you provided feedback, email me and let me know which of the eight Core classes you’d like to take. That’s all you need to do!

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the last week of the challenge. All scenes need to be submitted by Midnight (PDT), tonight, Thursday, June 30 to be considered for a free Core class with me.

Onward!

“Ex Machina” and The Hero’s Journey

June 29th, 2016 by

In my current Core I: Plot class, Lecture 2 is a dive into The Hero’s Journey as articulated by Joseph Campbell. I asked writers in the course to name some movies they felt best represented this narrative archetype and Ex Machina came up. Great example of the key elements of The Hero’s Journey — Separation / Initiation / Return (with a twist), Call to Adventure, Transformation, etc. As I was reflecting on it, I had a thought and this is what I wrote:

All three such interesting movies, but let me focus on Ex Machina to make a point: If you think about the three main characters – Caleb, Nathan, Ava – in a way, each of them goes on a Hero’s Journey:

* Caleb: As Protagonist, he clearly goes on one as he departs his Ordinary World and travels into an Extraordinary World in Nathan’s compound and in his relationship with Ava, falling in love with her representing a massive emotional shift from where he began his journey. As such, his Hero’s Journey takes place in the present.

* Nathan: He has already gone on a Hero’s Journey in separating himself from the normal world and secluding himself in a new world, one of his own creation populated by human robots. What happens to him at the conclusion of Act Three is the terminal point of his own journey, thus we can think about his as happening pretty much in the past.

* Ava: She doesn’t separate from the Ordinary World – Nathan’s compound – until the very end, so the Denouement represents her entrance into a New World. Therefore we can look at her Hero’s Journey as happening largely in the future.

A point this drives home: All characters are the protagonists in their own story. They have that agency about their actions. We, as writers, can learn about our characters to greater depth if we take time to look at the story universe through their eyes as a protagonist, even if they don’t have that narrative function. We can understand their world view and way of being much better by walking a metaphorical mile in each of their shoes.

Caleb, Ava, Nathan, Ex Machina (2015)

The last point — working with all of the characters as if they were the protagonist in their own story — is solid advice, but this other idea is really interesting, in effect extending the concept of each character as protagonist, then looking at their timeline relative to The Hero’s Journey. Could they be at the end of it? In the middle of it? Or at the beginning? Might the story’s conclusion actually be the start of a character’s own distinctive Hero’s Journey after The End?

Hm…

2016 Scene-Writing Challenge: Day 21

June 29th, 2016 by

For the fourth straight year, June is Scene-Writing Month here at Go Into The Story. Every Monday-Friday at noon Eastern / 9AM Pacific, I will upload a post with a scene-writing prompt. Each day, write a scene per those guidelines. Upload your scene here in the comments section of the original post. That way you can critique others’ pages and receive feedback on your scene as well.

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

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

Everything you need to know about screenwriting theory in this unique curriculum based on eight principles: Plot, Concept, Character, Style, Dialogue, Scene, Theme, Time.

CORE I: PLOT – A one-week class which begins with the principle Plot = Structure and explores the inner workings of the Screenplay Universe: Plotline and Themeline. Start date: June 27.

CORE II: CONCEPT – A one-week class which begins with the principle Concept = Hook and examines multiple strategies to generate, develop and assess story ideas. Start date: July 11.

CORE III: CHARACTER – A one-week class which begins with the principle Character = Function and delves into archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, and Trickster. Start date: August 8.

CORE IV: STYLE – A one-week class which begins with the principle Style = Voice and surfaces keys to developing a distinctive writer’s personality on the page. Start date: August 22.

CORE V: DIALOGUE – A one-week class which begins with the principle Dialogue = Purpose and probes a variety of ways to write effective, entertaining dialogue. Start date: September 19.

CORE VI: SCENE – A one-week class which begins with the principle Scene = Point and provides six essential questions to ask when crafting and writing any scene. Start date: October 3.

CORE VII: THEME – A one-week class which begins with the principle Theme = Meaning and gives writers a concrete take on theme which can elevate the depth of any story. Start date: November 14.

CORE VIII: TIME – A one-week class which begins with the principle Time = Present and studies Present, Present-Past, Present-Future and time management in writing. Start date: December 12.

Each is a 1-week online class featuring 6 lectures written by me, lots of screenwriting insider tips, logline workshops, optional writing exercises, 24/7 message board conversations, teleconferences with course participants and myself to discuss anything related to the craft of scriptwriting.

A popular option is the Core Package which gives you access to the content in all eight Craft classes which you can go through on your own time and at your own pace, plus automatic enrollment in each 1-week online course — all for nearly 50% the price of each individual class. If you sign up now, you can have immediate access to all of the Core content.

In June, to qualify to take one of my Craft classes for free, write and submit ten [10] Scene-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers. The former to get you writing, the latter to work your critical-analytical skills.

A chance to take any of my eight Core classes, interface with me online along with the usual stellar group of writers who take Screenwriting Master Class courses, while using writing exercises and feedback to upgrade your skill at writing and analyzing scenes?

ISN’T THAT AN AWESOME IDEA?!!!

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

A couple of logistical notes:

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

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

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

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

Today’s prompt: Strangers biding their time in a hospital emergency waiting room.

Hospital Waiting Room

Imagine a scenario in which fate brings together two, three, or more characters. One’s spouse had a heart attack. Another character’s sibling a victim of a shooting. Someone brought in a person who had a drug overdose. Opportunity for great drama and a powerful scene.

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

Also when you provide feedback on someone’s scene, please note in each reply the number of comments you have uploaded. So if today is your first response, Feedback 1. The next one, Feedback 2.

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

Remember: In order to qualify for one of my free Core classes, you need to submit ten [10] Scene-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers. One post and one feedback per scene prompt.

FEEDBACK TIP: No matter the genre of the scene, why not bring an element of humor to the moment. A few laughs arising from characters having to deal / interact with a dead body.

Want to join in? Here are the previous challenge prompts:

Day 1 challenge: A scene set in an inhospitable environment, e.g., outer space, underwater, desert.

Day 2 challenge: A scene involving a secret.

Day 3 challenge: Two people talk while dancing.

Day 4 challenge: The audience knows something the characters don’t.

Day 5 challenge: Miscommunication.

Day 6 challenge: A character reviews a series of voice mails, each with worse news.

Day 7 challenge: An intervention.

Day 8 challenge: A scene with a man holding a gun.

Day 9 challenge: Introduce a character with a memorable impression.

Day 10 challenge: A conversation with someone who’s locked him/herself in the bathroom.

Day 11 challenge: One character has to break bad news to the other.

Day 12 challenge: A scene where the entire conversation takes place off-screen.

Day 13 challenge: Settling an argument by playing Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Day 14 challenge: A pet uses voice-over narration to comment on a family fight.

Day 15 challenge: Leaving a voice mail.

Day 16 challenge: Smack talk at a sporting event.

Day 17 challenge: A character has a ‘conversation’ with him/herself in the mirror. 

Day 18 challenge: A scene inspired by this photograph.

Day 19 challenge: Interruption.

Day 20 challenge: A scene involving a dead body.

You can check out the fruits of our collective labor from the last three years:

Scene-Writing Exercises (2013)
Scene-Writing Exercises (2014)
Scene-Writing Exercises [2015]

Finally if you have what you think is a good suggestion for a scene-writing prompt, please post that as well.

It’s the 2016 Scene-Writing Challenge! Give a jolt to your creative and writing muscles… and win 1  free online class with yours truly.

NOTE: When you can verify the 10 scenes you’ve written and the 10 scenes on which you provided feedback, email me and let me know which of the eight Core classes you’d like to take. That’s all you need to do!

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the last week of the challenge. All scenes need to be submitted by Midnight (PDT), Thursday, June 30 to be considered for a free Core class with me.

Onward!

Thinking like Hitchcock

June 28th, 2016 by

Recently I posted something about how as a writer, we can wear a ‘director hat’, bringing that sensibility to bear on scenes we craft. Here is an excerpt from a 1964 interview with Alfred Hitchcock in which he discusses three approaches to film editing with visual references to the movie Psycho:

The three approaches:

* Assembly: Using the example of the shower scene in Psycho, Hitchcock refers to the “78 pieces of film in about 45 seconds,” creating a kind of visual montage.

* Orchestration: Referring to the second murder in Psycho in which the detective climbs the stairs only to meet his death, Hitchcock talks about the use of foreknowledge — “the audience was already aware there’s a monster around, so they were apprehensive for him, but they didn’t know when it would happen” — and varying shot “sizes” — medium, long, close-up — to create shock. He compares it to an orchestra with the buildup is “tremolo” and the close-up is “brass instruments” to drive home the impact of the attack.

* Pure Cinematics: Hitchcock uses an example of three shots: Close-up of a man looking at something off-screen / A mother playing with a baby / Close-up of the man smiling. Impression: A kindly old man. Now remove the middle scene and replace it with an image of a woman in a bikini. Same man looking. Same man smiling. But “what is he now? He’s a dirty old man.”

Takeaway: While stylistically it’s no longer common for a screenwriter to specify actual camera shots in scene description, we can infer them in our writing. Here is actual scene description from the Psycho script (screenplay by Joseph Stefano, novel by Robert Bloch), adapted to reflect contemporary screenwriting style:

BATHROOM

Mary drops her robe, steps into the tub, and turns on the shower.

The bathroom door, not entirely closed.

Mary washes and soaps herself.

The bathroom door slowly pushed open, the noise of the shower
drowning out any sound.

The shadow of a woman falls across the shower curtain.

Suddenly a hand reaches up, grasps the curtain, rips it aside.

Mary turns, a look of pure horror erupts in her face.

The flint of a knife blade.

It slashes downward, again and again.

Mary screams, arms flailing to protect herself.

Silence.

The woman hurries out of the bathroom.

A dreadful thump as Mary's body falls in the tub.

You could take an even more minimalistic approach:

BATHROOM

Mary in the shower.

Door pushed open.

A woman's shadow on the shower curtain.

A hand with a knife.

Mary turns. Screams.

Slashing. Flailing. Blood. Silence.

The woman vanishes.

Mary slumps to the floor. Dead.

The choice of how you approach the scene description depends on several factors most notably your choice of narrative voice, how you’ve been handling the script style in relation to the genre of the story throughout the screenplay. But the overall point stands: We can infer camera shots through individual lines and paragraphs without using directing jargon or camera lingo. As such, we can give expression to our inner Hitchcock!

2016 Scene-Writing Challenge: Day 20

June 28th, 2016 by

For the fourth straight year, June is Scene-Writing Month here at Go Into The Story. Every Monday-Friday at noon Eastern / 9AM Pacific, I will upload a post with a scene-writing prompt. Each day, write a scene per those guidelines. Upload your scene here in the comments section of the original post. That way you can critique others’ pages and receive feedback on your scene as well.

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

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

Everything you need to know about screenwriting theory in this unique curriculum based on eight principles: Plot, Concept, Character, Style, Dialogue, Scene, Theme, Time.

CORE I: PLOT – A one-week class which begins with the principle Plot = Structure and explores the inner workings of the Screenplay Universe: Plotline and Themeline. Start date: June 27.

CORE II: CONCEPT – A one-week class which begins with the principle Concept = Hook and examines multiple strategies to generate, develop and assess story ideas. Start date: July 11.

CORE III: CHARACTER – A one-week class which begins with the principle Character = Function and delves into archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, and Trickster. Start date: August 8.

CORE IV: STYLE – A one-week class which begins with the principle Style = Voice and surfaces keys to developing a distinctive writer’s personality on the page. Start date: August 22.

CORE V: DIALOGUE – A one-week class which begins with the principle Dialogue = Purpose and probes a variety of ways to write effective, entertaining dialogue. Start date: September 19.

CORE VI: SCENE – A one-week class which begins with the principle Scene = Point and provides six essential questions to ask when crafting and writing any scene. Start date: October 3.

CORE VII: THEME – A one-week class which begins with the principle Theme = Meaning and gives writers a concrete take on theme which can elevate the depth of any story. Start date: November 14.

CORE VIII: TIME – A one-week class which begins with the principle Time = Present and studies Present, Present-Past, Present-Future and time management in writing. Start date: December 12.

Each is a 1-week online class featuring 6 lectures written by me, lots of screenwriting insider tips, logline workshops, optional writing exercises, 24/7 message board conversations, teleconferences with course participants and myself to discuss anything related to the craft of scriptwriting.

A popular option is the Core Package which gives you access to the content in all eight Craft classes which you can go through on your own time and at your own pace, plus automatic enrollment in each 1-week online course — all for nearly 50% the price of each individual class. If you sign up now, you can have immediate access to all of the Core content.

In June, to qualify to take one of my Craft classes for free, write and submit ten [10] Scene-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers. The former to get you writing, the latter to work your critical-analytical skills.

A chance to take any of my eight Core classes, interface with me online along with the usual stellar group of writers who take Screenwriting Master Class courses, while using writing exercises and feedback to upgrade your skill at writing and analyzing scenes?

ISN’T THAT AN AWESOME IDEA?!!!

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

A couple of logistical notes:

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

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

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

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

Today’s prompt: A scene involving a dead body.

The photo above is from the movie Swiss Army Man starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. IMDb plot summary: A hopeless man stranded in the wilderness befriends a dead body and together they go on a surreal journey to get home.

You read that right. An entire movie based on Daniel Radcliffe playing a corpse. Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the thing: The movie is finding an audience in part because critic and audience response has been pretty strong.

So in the spirit of Swiss Army Man, your scene-writing prompt today involves a corpse. It can be a funeral. An autopsy. A surprise discovery. A murder. A sudden death. Use your imagination and come up with an entertaining scene.

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

Also when you provide feedback on someone’s scene, please note in each reply the number of comments you have uploaded. So if today is your first response, Feedback 1. The next one, Feedback 2.

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

Remember: In order to qualify for one of my free Core classes, you need to submit ten [10] Scene-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers. One post and one feedback per scene prompt.

FEEDBACK TIP: No matter the genre of the scene, why not bring an element of humor to the moment. A few laughs arising from characters having to deal / interact with a dead body.

Want to join in? Here are the previous challenge prompts:

Day 1 challenge: A scene set in an inhospitable environment, e.g., outer space, underwater, desert.

Day 2 challenge: A scene involving a secret.

Day 3 challenge: Two people talk while dancing.

Day 4 challenge: The audience knows something the characters don’t.

Day 5 challenge: Miscommunication.

Day 6 challenge: A character reviews a series of voice mails, each with worse news.

Day 7 challenge: An intervention.

Day 8 challenge: A scene with a man holding a gun.

Day 9 challenge: Introduce a character with a memorable impression.

Day 10 challenge: A conversation with someone who’s locked him/herself in the bathroom.

Day 11 challenge: One character has to break bad news to the other.

Day 12 challenge: A scene where the entire conversation takes place off-screen.

Day 13 challenge: Settling an argument by playing Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Day 14 challenge: A pet uses voice-over narration to comment on a family fight.

Day 15 challenge: Leaving a voice mail.

Day 16 challenge: Smack talk at a sporting event.

Day 17 challenge: A character has a ‘conversation’ with him/herself in the mirror. 

Day 18 challenge: A scene inspired by this photograph.

Day 19 challenge: Interruption.

You can check out the fruits of our collective labor from the last three years:

Scene-Writing Exercises (2013)
Scene-Writing Exercises (2014)
Scene-Writing Exercises [2015]

Finally if you have what you think is a good suggestion for a scene-writing prompt, please post that as well.

It’s the 2016 Scene-Writing Challenge! Give a jolt to your creative and writing muscles… and win 1  free online class with yours truly.

NOTE: When you can verify the 10 scenes you’ve written and the 10 scenes on which you provided feedback, email me and let me know which of the eight Core classes you’d like to take. That’s all you need to do!

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the last week of the challenge. All scenes need to be submitted by Midnight (PDT), Thursday, June 30 to be considered for a free Core class with me.

Onward!

The Benefits of a Writing Workshop

June 27th, 2016 by

Imagine having your very own private script workshop. A structured environment with content and a schedule tailored to meet your specific creative needs, your own unique online course site, and a one-on-one mentor relationship with a professional screenwriter and educator.

You can do that through Screenwriting Master Class.

Maybe you have gotten through a few drafts of your story, but you need to do a page 1 rewrite.

You could have already worked out your story and want guidance during the first draft process.

Or you’re just starting with a concept and want to do prep and page-writing.

Maybe you are a beginner looking to learn the essentials of screenwriting and take you through a comprehensive process where you end up with a finished screenplay.

At Screenwriting Master Class, we can create private script workshops to match up with your individual goals as a writer.

Private Script Workshop

Since launching SMC in 2010, Tom Benedek and I have worked with writers of all backgrounds and interests in the context of numerous private script workshops. Here are testimonials from two:

“Working with Scott in SMC’s private workshop was an invaluable experience. The private workshop gave me the attention I needed to address my script’s problem. I was so impressed with the quality of his teaching, the way the course was structured and the interactive process. In the end, not only did Scott help me solve my character problem, he elevated my script as a whole. He is a wonderful mentor and I learned a lot about the craft of screenwriting.” — Gladys Stone, screenwriter of “Tulio” (Semifinalist, Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition)

“Working with Scott in a private workshop arrangement through SMC greatly accelerated my screenwriting knowledge and craftsmanship. Scott is a most dynamic, gifted and generous educator. He offered a holistic, character-driven approach to story that helped bring out my best as a writer. The flexible syllabus of the mentorship invites exploration of creative impulses without fear of losing direction or purpose. The script on which Scott consulted placed in the top one percent of the 2011 AFF screenwriting competition and has opened industry doors. Most importantly the SMC has cemented lasting self confidence in my abilities as a writer.” — Gyan Alexander, screenwriter of “Convinced” (Seminfinalist, Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition, signed with Madhouse Entertainment)

People who have done private script workshops through Screenwriting Master Class include professional screenwriters, best-selling non-fiction authors, playwrights, and novelists, as well as beginning, intermediate and advanced writers.

Here are some private one-on-one workshops you can do with either Tom or myself:


Prep: From Concept to Outline: This 6-week online workshop guides you through the story development process from concept to outline.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN

A proven, professional approach to prep-writing: From a Protagonist Character Treatment to a Master Brainstorming List, Ten Major Plotline Points to Narrative Throughline.

WHO SHOULD CONSIDER TAKING THIS PRIVATE SCRIPT WORKSHOP

Screenwriters, TV writers, novelists, and playwrights who want to develop their story to an outline enabling them to have the confidence to pound out a first draft.

“From Concept to Outline is a course I wish I had known about years ago. I would recommend this wholeheartedly for anyone who is about to embark on their first script or ANY script. This lays the foundation stone to your story.”

— Camilla Castree


Pages I: Writing the First Draft: There is only one rule about a first draft: “Get the damn thing done.” In this 10-week online workshop, you will use a series of lectures and weekly writing assignments to pound out pages and push you from FADE IN to FADE OUT.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN

A professional approach to writing a first draft, everything from hitting deadlines to constructive critique, how to handle page notes to finding the motivation to write even when you don’t want to, and much more.

WHO SHOULD CONSIDER TAKING THIS PRIVATE SCRIPT WORKSHOP

Screenwriters who will benefit from the structure of an online class to encourage them to start and finish a complete screenplay draft.

“Over the years I’ve bought and read many books on screenwriting. None of them got me as far in my goals and understanding as the Pages I: The First Draft workshop with Scott Myers. Scott was a mentor, brain-stormer, and cheerleader. I felt encouraged and informed all the way to Fade Out.”

– Dawn LeFever


Pages II: Rewriting Your Script: In this 10-week workshop, you will not only drill down into your story and understand it more clearly, you will get from FADE IN to FADE OUT on your next draft, and move your script toward the point you can bring it to market.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN

A professional approach to rewriting your script, everything from how to do a clean read assessment to identifying things that work and don’t work, characters and theme, structure and pace, and a structure to spur you from FADE IN to FADE OUT.

  • Four weeks to analyze your existing draft and work up a revision outline
  • Four weeks to rewrite your pages
  • Two weeks to polish and edit your new draft

WHO SHOULD CONSIDER TAKING THIS PRIVATE SCRIPT WORKSHOP

Writers who could benefit from a structured environment to motivate them to get through the rewrite process and want to learn a professional approach to rewriting.

“Ever since taking this class, my own ability and confidence as a screenwriter has blossomed and brought my writing goals and ambitions closer than ever.”

— Aarthi Jayaraman


The Quest: The Quest is a 20 week private online screenwriting program that teaches you all the theory you need to know and a structured environment in which you prep an original story and write a full-length feature screenplay.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN AND DO

CORE: Four weeks covering the essential aspects of screenwriting: Plot, Concept, Character, Style, Dialogue, Scene, Theme, Time. 48 lectures [over 250 pages] written by Scott Myers, weekly workshop exercises, and teleconferences with Scott as your private mentor.

PREP: Six weeks, six lectures, six writing assignments to develop one of your original stories from concept to outline, all lectures written by Scott, who also provides extensive one-on-one feedback on your writing assignments, plus teleconferences.

PAGES: Ten weeks, ten lectures, ten writing assignments to pound out a first draft of your original screenplay, all lectures written by Scott, who also provides extensive script page notes, plus teleconferences.

WHO SHOULD CONSIDER JOINING THE QUEST

  • If you have studied screenwriting, but feel confused by contradictory and confusing screenplay paradigms…
  • If you are just beginning and want a comprehensive, coherent approach to screenwriting, but don’t know where to go…
  • If you want to learn screenwriting theory, then put it to use in writing an original full-length screenplay…
  • If you need the structure of an online course environment to compel you to really make progress in your learning and writing…
  • If you are looking to take a giant stride forward in your understanding of the craft and your writing ability in a compressed period of time…

The Quest is for you!

“The Quest changed my life. It gave me the structure to be immersed in screenwriting and the flexibility needed to write and accommodate work and family life. And not only did I come out with a quality screenplay, but a practical approach that I can apply to each script I write.”

Taylor Gordon


Here are three big reasons to consider a private script workshop with us:

* Writing a screenplay involves making thousands of choices about characters, plot, theme and so forth. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have feedback from a professional to help steer you through the process enabling you to avoid huge story pitfalls that could derail your scripting process?

* Writing a screenplay is a thankless, lonely job. Wouldn’t it be great to have the ongoing support of a professional to enable you to overcome inevitable story problems and emotional downswings?

* Writing a screenplay is a mystery. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to learn proven principles and practices from a professional with years of experience working in the entertainment industry, an approach to writing you can use again and again on your future stories?

For more information, contact us here.

Tom and I look forward to the opportunity to work with you.