“Agents’ Advice for Young Screenwriters: To Begin, Be Great”

November 26th, 2014 by

The advice to writers — Be Great! — may seem it comes from the Obvious Agency, but it’s worth remembering. A bit more insight from this Variety article:

The glory days of the spec script selling for millions are long gone, according to Julian Rosenberg, Circle of Confusion literary manager and producer. “There’s less development money out there and studios are looking to tighten their belts,” he says. “They aren’t looking to go out and acquire seven specs a month and see what works. They’re looking for movies.”

They’re looking for movies. I have a writer friend who says that. “Don’t write a script. Write a movie.” What’s the distinction? In the context of the comment above, give the buyers something they can see as a movie. Not developed for two or three years, but ready to go. Tall order, yes. But with “less development money” around, it’s becoming an increasing reality.

Verve agent Tanya Cohen, who specializes in burgeoning writing careers, says the spec now escorts the author down a different path.

“Once in a blue moon, you’ll find that script that sells for a million dollars: the one with the great hook, or the four-quadrant tentpole movie,” Cohen says. “But to be honest, really breaking these young voices, we’re having a lot of success with stuff that’s a little ‘left-of-center.’” A lusty Catherine the Great epic, for instance, or a Carl Sagan biopic.

In both cases, she says, “the execution of the writing, a writer with a really unique, fresh voice, is what seems to be getting everyone excited.” The Catherine scribe was offered a job adapting a young adult novel for Warner within a matter of weeks, while the team on the Sagan biopic sold a tentpole pitch to Fox. Their original works may never get made, but opened doors for them.

…the execution of the writing, a writer with a really unique, fresh voice, is what seems to be getting everyone excited. This combined with a “little ‘left-of-center'” suggests there’s an interest in writers who are more different than similar.

Also note that the two writers discussed above did not sell their calling card scripts, but used them as writing samples to get into the room and pitch themselves. Worked in both cases. This speaks to the value of a spec script, not only as something that can sell, but also sell the writer.

Bottom line: Each of us has to aim to write a great script.

For the rest of the of the article, go here.

Twitter Rant: Jeff Willis on Writing Compensation

November 25th, 2014 by

Last week studio executive Jeff Willis went on a Twitter rant about writing compensation. Reprinted in its entirety by permission.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Twitter rant, but today feels like a good day to resume things. This one’s about writing compensation.

Specifically, it’s about writing compensation in a movie budget and why that’s important for writers negotiating contracts.

The first thing to understand is that, from a prodco’s perspective, there are really only three types of payment categories:

1. Payments made pre-revenue. 2. Payments made during production. 3. Payments made post-revenue.

In other words, do they have to pay the money out of pocket, during production, or can they pay the money out of the proceeds of the movie?

Their goal is to pay as much as possible from the movie’s profits (or during production) rather than dipping into existing reserves to pay.

This is especially true in an era where development deals are shrinking or going away entirely, and prodcos have less available cash.

Development expenses are typically paid by a prodco in advance, then recouped out of the production budget.

For example, if I’ve paid a writer $100K for the script and $50K for a rewrite, when the production gets funded … (1/2)

… I’ll put a line-item in the budget where $150K is due back to me for my costs, since that’s an expense related to the production. (2/2)

But until the production gets funded and I get can reimbursed from production funds, I’m paying that $150K out of my own pocket.

That adds up *really* quickly if you’re a company with a large slate of projects, juggling them all until you get a greenlight on something.

It’s easier to adjust the budget down and save if you don’t get the whole amount rather than to suddenly have to come up with extra cash.

More importantly, they don’t owe it until the final credit determination comes in, which is way down the production road.

So they’re not out of pocket anything beyond your step fees by giving you a credit bonus (unless they’re funding the production themselves).

Production bonuses, on the other hand, are additional amounts paid based on reaching certain production milestones.

Upon commencement of photography is the most common, but sometimes there will be distributor setup bonuses and the like.

These bonuses are paid earlier in the process than credit bonuses, because they’re often tied to setting the project up or shooting it.

Similar to credit bonuses, these work for prodcos b/c it’s an amount built into the budget that’s only paid out once financing is in place.

So they’re not out of pocket anything beyond your step fees by giving you a production bonus (unless they’re funding the production).

Box office bonuses, though, are the best kind of bonuses for a prodco because they’re not even accounted for in the production budget.

And they can be great for a writer who is worried about receiving credit and/or is reasonably sure the project will be a commercial success.

These are paid immediately based on reaching certain box office thresholds, either a set number or as a multiple of the budget.

Example #1 (Set Number): $25K at $50M DBO (Domestic Box Office) Example #2 (Budget Multiple): $25K at DBO 1x Negative Cost.

In the first example, that means you get $25K the minute the DBO (usually defined as U.S. and Canada) reaches $50M.

In the second example, it means that you get $25K the minute the DBO receipts equals the negative cost of the picture.

In other words, if the negative cost of your movie was $16M, you get $25K once the DBO reaches $16M.

Box office bonuses work well because there’s no studio accounting involved. The movie’s either made that much or it hasn’t.

And it’s usually tied to publicly available box office numbers like from Rentrak or Variety.

The amounts and thresholds of box office bonuses are negotiated, so you can carve out some nice extra cash for yourself.

You can have lots of little bonuses, or a few big bonuses, or anything in between. Some examples:

$10K @ $50M DBO
$10K @ $60M DBO
$10K @ $70M DBO
$10K @ $80M DBO
$10K @ $90M DBO

$50K @ $75M DBO

$25K @ $50M DBO
$25K @ $75M DBO

$10K @ $50M DBO
$15K @ $75M DBO
$25K @ $90M DBO

The above examples all equal $50K in aggregate, but payable in different ways at different times.

The different permutations are endless, which allows you to craft a bonus structure that works for both you and the production company.

A word of warning, though. All of these types of compensation feed into your writing quote, so they have to be consistent with your history.

You’re not going to get a pile of box office bonuses on top of a quote-level deal just because the prodco can pay them later.

So when you’re structuring a payment schedule for your deal, be realistic. All of your compensation, fixed plus bonuses … (1/2)

… should be in the general neighborhood of what you’ve earned in the past, or what’s comparable for a writer/project of your level. (2/2)

Structuring a writing deal, especially when dealing with a stingy prodco, can require a little finesse and creativity.

But through some combination of fixed comp and bonuses, you should be able to hammer out a deal with a legit prodco … (1/2)

… that addresses their budgetary needs but doesn’t result in you just waiting around for net points that will never come. (2/2)

There is a middle ground, and you and your reps can find it with some creative deal-making.

This isn’t an all-encompassing overview of bonuses for writers, but hopefully it gives you an idea of some creative solutions … (1/2)

.. to an offer for not enough fixed comp that doesn’t just leave you waiting around for the nonexistent participation to roll in (2/2).

Good luck out there!

Jeff Willis has spent the past decade working in studio business affairs and production management. He started his career as an assistant at Beacon Pictures (BRING IT ON, AIR FORCE ONE), then moved on to work with startup production companies Our Stories Films (WHO’S YOUR CADDY, JUMPING THE BROOM) and Troika Pictures (THE CALL). He’s been with The Weinstein Company (DJANGO UNCHAINED, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK) for the past four years and currently serves as their Vice President of Business Affairs & Production Administration. Jeff is also a screenwriter; his first produced feature (THE RIGHT GIRL, written with Bob Saenz (@bobsnz)) is in post-production and due to air on Pixl TV and ABC Family in the coming months.

You may follow Jeff on Twitter: @jwillis81.

You may read all of the Screenwriting Twitter Rants here.

Quest Writing Workshop: Santa Monica, December 10-13, 2014

November 24th, 2014 by

Time is growing short to enroll in my upcoming Quest Writing Workshop in Santa Monica, California:

Dates: Wednesday, December 10-Saturday December 13

Location: The Writers Junction, 1001 Colorado Ave, Santa Monica

Here is the schedule [each session runs from 10AM-5PM]:

Day 1: We begin by digging into the first of three sections of the Core curriculum: Character. Then we workshop character treatments for the Protagonist from each writer’s story. Finally we go through a host of brainstorming exercises in which participants explore their respective stories.

Day 2: We interweave theory and practice, covering two other Core sections — Plot and Theme — as well as Prep exercises designed to help writers wrangle their stories.

Day 3: We spend a majority of time workshopping stories, each writer identifying major Plotline points to construct the spine of their story’s structure.

Day 4: Again most of the focus is on workshopping stories, the writers learning the benefits of index cards as we flesh out major plot and subplot elements, rounding them into shape toward a coherent, comprehensive outline.

After each day’s session, we carry on our conversations at a local watering hole, a chance to dig more deeply into stories, socialize, and have a great deal of fun together.

In other words, we pack a whole helluva lot into four days.

In addition, I create a private online site for workshop members where they introduce themselves before the weekend so we manage to hit the ground running, post exercises and feedback during the four day session, and continue the process after our time together, moving on into first drafts. Indeed, many of past Quest workshop participants have finished their scripts and are using the principles and practices they learned on new projects.

4 day onsite workshop: Screenwriting theory and story development.

16 week online workshop: Story prep and first draft.

Here are a few observations from some of the writers involved in previous Quest Writing Workshops:

“I’ve taken many courses (both academic and recreational), and the workshop was just an excellent combination of practical knowledge mixed with personalized attention.” — Pat Suh

“The Workshop time was unbelievable; your ability to foster such a positive, encouraging environment for the exchange of ideas is the reason it worked. Every single person grew their story from a loose idea into something that resonated deeply with the group.” — Jonathan Barger

“Thank you again for gathering together such an interesting, diverse group of aspiring screenwriters and providing us all with such a wonderful shared learning and networking experience!” — Melanie McDonald

“As an advertising writer I’ve been in a million brainstorms. But Scott’s classes are special. They’re more like braincyclones, where we generated a mass of powerful ideas that elevated our stories into places that surprised and delighted us all.” — Matt Sherring

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with Scott and the other participants in the inaugural Quest Writers’ Workshop. There was a palpable electricity in the air while we worked, the kind you wish you could bottle up to take a drag from whenever you need to be inspired.” — Lisa Meacham

“I went in thinking that I was maybe-sorta-kinda a writer(ish), and I left feeling like a WRITER. Scott’s workshop gave me the tools to work productively on my own and the confidence to present myself as a professional.” — Elisabeth Allore

“Thank you again for a great workshop, the results far exceeded my expectations. I can’t believe how far my story came in just a few days. The four-day course literally saved me months of planning!” — Louise Baxter

“Scott is a fantastic teacher, and the energy amongst the Questers was palpable! Never have I been in such a positive creative environment in which everyone was genuinely interested in helping one another.” — Sarah Grimes

“I’ve had the experience of getting feedback on a spec script by someone who pointed out everything I had done wrong, then left me to decide for myself how to fix the flaws. In contrast, Scott has ways of helping a writer discover and articulate the story they want to tell, and then pointing the way forward.” — Marsena Dufresne

“I’m not trying to blow sunshine up your skirt when I say I got more out of those four days than I did all of grad school.” — Michelle Burleson

This is a real hands-on, immersive experience where we explore solid screenwriting theory, then put that theory into practice on your story, developing it from a concept into a full-blown narrative, laying the groundwork for you to pound out a first draft.

If you have a story idea you believe is a strong one and you are passionate to write it…

If you like this blog and want more of the fundamentals of my approach to Character Based Screenwriting…

If you want to learn a proven, professional approach to breaking a story in prep…

I encourage you to consider enrolling in my upcoming Quest Writing Workshop. We have the makings of another great group. Why don’t you join us?

If you’d like more information, email me and I’ll be happy to forward you a workshop syllabus as well as answer any questions you may have. Or go here to sign up.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you in this terrific workshop opportunity.

Go Into The Story Week In Review: November 17-November 23, 2014

November 23rd, 2014 by

Links to the week’s most notable posts:

Daily Dialogue Theme for Next Week: Proposal

Declare Your Independents – Vol. 38

Go Into The Story Interview: Joshua Golden

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: Cloverfield

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: Drag Me to Hell

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: Galaxy Quest

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: Gladiator

Great Character: Dr. Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters)

Great Scene: Metropolitan

Interview (Video): Anna Lily Amirpour

Interview (Video): Jon Stewart

Interview (Written): Gillian Flynn and Cheryl Strayed

Movies You Made: Phoenix 9

On Writing: William Faulkner

Saturday Hot Links

Screenwriting 101: Ron Bass

Screenwriting News (November 17-November 23, 2014)

Script Analysis: American Hustle – Parts 1-5

Script To Screen: Bull Durham

Spec Script Sale: “Boston Strong”

Spec Script Sale: “Dig”

SundanceTV: The Writers Room Interview Roundup

The Brit List (2014)

The Value of Cliffhangers in Screenwriting (cont’d)

Twitter Rant: Justin Marks on Exposition

Update: Award season screenplay downloads (14 scripts including Belle, Birdman, Boyhood, Gone Girl, The Fault in Our Stars)

Video: “I Am Groot” in 15 different languages

Video: “Do You Want to Build a Meth La” (parody of Breaking Bad and Frozen)

Video: Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the end of “Interstellar”

Writing and the Creative Life: Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling (Part 3)

Daily Dialogue — November 20, 2014

November 20th, 2014 by

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

Stand By Me (1986), screenplay by Raynold Gideon & Bruce A. Evans, novella by Stephen King

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Friendship.

Trivia: The movie is based on a short story called “The Body” by Stephen King from a book of short stories called “Different Seasons” which also includes “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” which became The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and “Apt Pupil” (Apt Pupil (1998)).

Dialogue On Dialogue: One of the all-time great movies about friendship.

If you have a suggestion for this week’s theme, please post in comments.

Twitter Rant: Justin Marks on Exposition

November 19th, 2014 by

Screenwriter Justin Marks has been described as the “most gainfully employed professional fanboy on the planet right now.” Understandably so given the fact Justin has written such projects The Raven, Super Max, Suicide Squad, Shadow of the Colossus, Hack/Slash and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo.

In addition, the Hollywood Reporter featured this guest column Justin wrote called “My Life as a Screenwriter You’ve Never Heard Of.” That promises to change considering he has been working on two other high profile projects: The Jungle Book and Top Gun 2.

Last night, Justin went on a Twitter rant. The subject: Exposition. Reprinted here by permission:

Feeling one of those @HIGHzurrer-esque rants coming on about exposition. May have a couple drinks later, so to speak.

Definitely gonna do this in a little bit. All questions will soon be answered, I promise.

Exposition. Very soon now…

Seriously guys, this exposition talk is gonna be good. Just a little bit longer.

Is it working yet?

Seduction. It’s all in the seduction.

I have something. I won’t tell you what it is. But it will surprise and intrigue you. And I’m waiting as long as I can to tell.

Do you want the information yet? I won’t give it to you. Maybe in ten pages? Here’s a kernel. But you’re not going to get it… ..until you beg.

Exposition sucks. Everyone hates it. Writing, reading it, whatever. Why do we need it? Because it’s the carrot at the end of the stick.

So the only way I deal. Me, personally. The only way I can suffer it is to make it a game.

The setup. I know more than you. Can you beat me, can you guess what’s going on before I explain it?

The payoff. This is where we make mistakes. If you give them everything they want to know, the game is over. So you have to keep it going.

And to me that’s fun. Because when writing exposition I don’t worry about what I’m explaining. I worry about what I’m still withholding.

Here’s my personal tip. Don’t write the ugly, explain-it-all-away version of an exposition scene. Skip that…

…write the version of the scene where 2 people talk, and the “explaining” character doesn’t give anything away.

This is the place where the scene feels alive. Where it’s all promise. I do that. Then I unwillingly allow a few details to slip through.

Always things that must come across, but I find if your characters do it while kicking and screaming, you don’t lose the drama.

Kyle Reese. He doesn’t want to tell her anything. He wants to save her life. Talking is the only way Sarah Connor sticks around.

Anyway the other part is don’t overstay your welcome. As soon as the reader knows everything they become bored with you and your exposition.

So that’s it. I’m done!

Information. Data. Backstory. Any of that can be exposition. Necessary, but often a bore. The temptation may be to just lay it all out there in one fell swoop. Justin’s tip is the inverse of that. Tease it. Make it a game. Seduce the reader through titillation. Less is more. It’s a great take on one way to handle exposition.

To read my May 2013 interview with Justin, go here.

Twitter: @Justin_Marks_

Go Into The Story Week In Review: November 10-November 16, 2014

November 16th, 2014 by

Links to the week’s most notable posts:

A different approach to ‘Theme’

Daily Dialogue Theme for Next Week: Friendship

Go Into The Story Interview: Darnell Hunt (Hollywood Diversity Report)

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: (500) Days of Summer

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: Black Swan

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: Blade Runner

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: Bridesmaids

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: Buried

Great Character: Bob Harris (Lost in Translation)

Great Scene: Caddyshack

How Data Can Help You Write a Better Screenplay

Interview (Audio): Christopher Nolan

Interview (Video): Hayao Miyazaki

Interview (Video): Christopher Nolan

Interview (Written): Max Frye, Dan Futterman (Foxcatcher)

On Writing: W. D. Wetherell

Saturday Hot Links

Screenwriting 101: Brad Riddell

Screenwriting News (November 10-November 16, 2014)

Script Analysis: Gravity – Parts 1-5

Script To Screen: Braveheart

Spec Script Sale: ARES

Spec Script Sale: “Matriarch”

Spec Script Sale: “The Wall”

Twitter Rant: Eric Heisserer on Rewriting

Update: Award season screenplay downloads (7 scripts including Gone GirlThe Fault in Our Stars)

Video: “Aliens Movies”

Video: “Fake Ads in Movies”

Video: “On Being a Cinematographer” (Parody)

Writing and the Creative Life: Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling (Part 2)

“How Data Can Help You Write A Better Screenplay”

November 14th, 2014 by

The headline is a considerable stretch, however there are some good points in the article and what’s perhaps most important: The Black List made FiveThirtyEight.com.

What makes a screenplay good? What makes it bad? Are writers in certain genres at an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to certain elements like plot, premise and characters? And if so, how can we show this? All we need is a data set to draw from.

The Black List offers aspiring screenwriters the chance to have their work evaluated by professional script-readers who work within the industry. The readers are drawn from agencies and studios. When scripts are rated highly, the site promotes the screenplays to potential buyers.

As a result, The Black List has thousands of script evaluations — grades based on plot, premise, characters, setting and dialogue — from dozens of genres. I asked for a look at those reviews, and they sent over an anonymized record of 4,655 evaluations of 2,784 scripts by 2,221 writers, submitted from March to July of this year. When a script is evaluated, the reader assigns any number of genres to it — from simple drama to prehistoric fantasy — and we can use these to uncover different trends.

Here are some charts for your perusal:

538 hickey-feature-scripts-table-1

538 hickey-feature-scripts-table-2

538 hickey-feature-scripts-21

Underdeveloped plot. Underdeveloped characters. In my view, you do your work on the latter, you solve both problems as plot emerges from character.

All sorts of interesting information in the article. Still no numbers are going to do what creativity, drive and persistence can do.

For the rest of the article, go here

Twitter Rant: Eric Heisserer on Rewriting

November 14th, 2014 by

Eric Heisserer (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Final Destination 5, The Thing, Hours, Story of Your Life) is probably the Hollywood screenwriter most willing to go online and provide a Twitter rant on a specific subject related to the craft. Last night was a good example as he tweeted extensively about rewriting. By permission, here is Eric’s rant:

A tumbler of @KitMoxie’s highland scotch and some Peanut M&Ms. Yeah, it’s that kinda night.

All right you gorgeous monsters, REWRITING. Here we go.

The beauty of rewriting is the fact that, by definition, you’ve already filled the page. Arguably the hardest part is done.

But it’s still a beast in its own right, and comes with its own troubles, in my experience.

I separate rewriting into three categories: 1) someone else’s work, 2) someone else’s notes on my work, and 3) me fixing my own work.

If you’ve ever offered critique or notes on someone’s script, maybe you’ve had that rush of “Hey, I know how to fix this!”

That professional distance often allows a writer some clarity on a script that the original writer can’t see. Intimacy makes us blind.

But there’s also a litany of R&D drafts the new writer hasn’t burned through. So talks go like, “You should try–” “Yeah, did that before.”

So here is what I want to say about stepping in to rewrite someone else: Talk to them first. Even if you already have the gig. Reach out.

It can feel awkward, but consider the respect you’d like to be given, and make sure you act as if. Plus, learn the pitfalls of the project.

I’ve gone as far as to read a writer’s early draft, to discover material that producers or execs cut away, and so I put it back in.

Consider the rewrite assignment something that melds your voice with that of the project’s. TV writers do this all the time.

As I’ve said many times before, getting hired to rewrite someone else is a bit like borrowing their car. I gotta bring it back topped off.

But let’s get into the other categories of rewriting, where all of us have to work. That’s where the real monsters live.

The way you take/respond to notes will determine if you’re in this for the long haul or if you’re not a career screenwriter. I’m serious.

If you cannot help but defend your choices to someone offering you feedback — even if it’s not constructive — find another career.

And there will be times where it will sting. Where it will be unfair. Where there will be insult wrapped around it. Keep your mouth shut.

Because: 1) They’re RIGHT. Even if laced with cyanide. 2) They’re CLOSE, and you see the note behind it. Or 3) You get a new idea from it.

This is not me saying, Bend Over And Surrender Your Power. No. Just don’t be a child. Know that you can bitch later, always.

In private.

And when you get the Really Bad Notes — the ones that require immediate response — frame it in positive language. Not as counterattack.

And also, avoid using “I” and “me” when discussing it. Talk about the script as a thing; a product that isn’t you. It’s this material here.

“The intention in this scene is for the audience to realize the hero’s action is a callback to the scene at the start. Hence that line.”

Like so. Get that professional distance in, frame it like that, and you control the meeting. The notes-givers will stop pointing at you.

Next tip: Barely listen to the suggestion for a fix. Take it in, but be ready to throw it away, mentally. Listen to the PROBLEM, though.

“You need a giant spider in this scene, there isn’t enough action at this point.” Slow your roll, Jon Peters. Let me find the action.

Even if you can’t stand it, TRY working with a note at least a little.

Because here’s the thing: If it doesn’t work, you can always go back to what you have. It’s right there, in another saved file.

You are writing a thing for someone else to go and use, unless you’re the rare writer/director. It’s like you’re making a tool. (1/2)

So say you’re left-handed, you make the grip for you. Director or producer is right-handed, asks you to change it. YOU NEED TO. (2/2)

With rare exception, we aren’t building the things we’re going to go drive around in, we’re building it for others. We aren’t novelists.

I repeat: Screenwriters are not novelists. If you want a fan base, an audience of readers, go write prose.

Sometimes, the stupidest solution to a note is the one that gets past the goal line. There’s a story William Goldman tells of one note…

Exec: “The lead character isn’t likeable!” (changes one tiny thing at start of script: “Our HERO, a likeable man…”) Exec: “It’s perfect!”

If you’re having trouble speaking the same language as someone who’s paying you to write, ask them to send you their fave scripts.

Looking at what your producer/exec considers great material is a revelatory moment that tells you their reading level and style preference.

And if you’re getting paid by this person, then guess what, you better learn to fit into that dress and wear it. (Again with rare exception)

This is contract work. You will come out the other end richer, wiser, and with new muscles and skills from it.

And take some solace in the adage a TV writer/producer told me: “It isn’t a real script until the blues.” Blues = production draft

There’s a scene in APOLLO 13 where Gary Sinese has to figure out how to land that ship with very limited resources. That’s you, sometimes.

If you are way into Gothic architecture, and your neighbor is paying you to build them a mid-century, BUILD THE MID-CENTURY.

You can always blend in your own voice while you do so. And if you can’t stand it, don’t take the job. But don’t take it and then complain.

@HIGHzurrer real question. not snark. what if you KNOW what they want will explode if you do what they want?

.@GeoffThorne Excellent question. First: try it and make SURE it explodes. Next: try a new way to give them what they didn’t know they want.

.@GeoffThorne And lastly, don’t ever be afraid to return and say, “I tried this several ways, and it broke too many things.” But! (1/2)

.@GeoffThorne (2/2) Have a new solution ready, or give them some consolation, to see if needs are met.

Also remember that notes can be driven by a million different things. Budget concerns. Casting concerns. Etc.

Often it will feel like, “That’s great, we love it. Now try it standing on one leg… Okay, now can you make it balancing this egg?”

Okay, so I’ll keep answering questions, but before I go too far off, I wanted to rant briefly about that third category: the self-rewrite.

Rewriting my own stuff is just about the hardest form of rewriting. Because it’s custom-designed for my own imagination.

I literally cannot tell what works for other people and what doesn’t, if I’ve been steeped in it. @briankoppelman mentioned time away helps.

Sadly, one of the best forms of self-rewriting for me is also one of the most painful. And it SUCKS that it works so well for me.

When I hit FADE OUT on something and I have a sense it needs a lot of work, sometimes I simply lock it away and write a brand new draft.

This started when I once lost an entire script and had no choice but to rewrite based on memory. The good stuff remained. The bad, gone.

Be prepared to write whole sequences from the POV of another character. Like your villain. Your love interest. A sidekick.

It can sound like a mountain of work to our brains, but it’s also ridiculously helpful. It’s a gold mine. It enriches us/the script.

And we’re writers. Writing is what we do.

Here’s what will help: Reprogram your brain so “THE END” isn’t a giant finish line. You got pages done today. You’ll do more tomorrow.

So that’s rewriting. It’s all part of the work. And it’s okay. It’s a process. You keep at it like you’re a goddamn factory. That’s a pro.

Eric has put together a book that arose from his Twitter exchanges: “150 Screenwriting Challenges” which is available for Kindle here.

You may follow Eric on Twitter here: @HIGHzurrer.

You may read my April 2013 interview with Eric here.

You may see all of the Screenwriting Twitter Rants archived on the site here.

A different approach to “theme”

November 10th, 2014 by

Nearly everything I’ve ever read on the subject of ‘theme’ in relation to screenwriting has felt either confusing or impractical.

What does theme mean? How should we understand it? How can we use it in our writing?

The ironic thing is theme is incredibly important:

* Important in helping us find the focus of our story.

* Important in mining the story’s emotional and psychological depth.

* Important in elevating the impact of the events that transpire in our story.

That is why I created Core VII: Theme. And starting Monday, November 17, I will be teaching this unique one-week online screenwriting class.

The course consists of six lectures I wrote, message board discussions, insider tips, and an optional writing exercise to workshop one of your stories. All of those you can do on your own time, everything from downloading and reading lectures to posting comments.

There is also a 90-minute teleconference between class participants and myself where we discuss the course content and anything screenwriting related.

In this course:

  • You will learn a coherent take on theme, how it relates to the overall story, and tips on how to weave thematic material into your scripts.
  • You can put to use what you have learned by workshopping one of your own stories.

Scripts we will study in the class: The King’s Speech, The Silence of the Lambs, Tootsie, The Shawshank Redemption, Bull Durham, As Good As It Gets, The Dark Knight, The Social Network among others.

When I introduced this class, the response from participants was hugely favorable, the major sentiment that this approach to theme not only clears up a confusing subject, but also provides practical tools a writer can use to work with themes in their own stories. Like this testimonial:

Your “Theme” class for aspiring screenwriters is not just helpful, it is essential. From the personal attention to the numerous “A-Ha!” moments throughout the class, I was thrilled to simply KEEP LEARNING. How many teachers can boast about that with their students? — Heather Thompson

So sign up now!

I look forward to working with you!