Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: The Sixth Sense

December 9th, 2014 by

We’ve had a successful relaunch of the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series. I say relaunch because we have done this type of thing before. For the next month, I will be spotlighting previous movie scripts we have studied.

Today: The Sixth Sense (1999)

Written by M. Night Shyamalan

IMDb plot summary: A boy who communicates with spirits that don’t know they’re dead seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist.

Links to the entire January 2012 series:

General Comments

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

30 Days of Screenplays [2013]

30 Days of Screenplays [2014]

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

Cannot emphasize enough the importance of reading movie scripts.

Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Proposal

November 22nd, 2014 by

The Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Proposal, suggested by Aamir Mirza.

“At least check the pockets.”

Wedding proposals seem the obvious angle here. But what about business proposals? A deal between friends? I’m looking for seven great suggestions, folks. Thanks in advance!

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 re screenwriting?

Here is our lineup for upcoming Daily Dialogue themes:

December 1-December 7: Leadership
December 8-December 14: Quitting
December 15-December 21: Negotiation [Michael Waters]

Check this out: The GITS Daily Dialogue Topic Index! You can read about Liz and Allie, two sisters who are big fans of the blog, and were inspired to create the index. A great resource for writers looking for inspiration for their own dialogue writing. You can be a part of this proud tradition with your ideas for weekly themes and Daily Dialogue suggestions.

Please post your ideas for this week’s theme — Friendship — in comments. Thanks!

Go Into The Story Week In Review: September 29-October 5, 2014

October 5th, 2014 by

Links to the week’s most notable posts:

2014 Nicholl Fellowship winners announced

Black List initiatives

Break your story in prep

Classic 70s Movie: A Woman Under the Influence

Classic 70s Movie: Dog Day Afternoon

Classic 70s Movie: The Godfather

Classic 70s Movie: The Godfather: Part II

Classic 70s Movies: The Complete List of Posts

Daily Dialogue Theme for Next Week: Punishment

Declare Your Independents: Volume 32

Great Character: Beetlejuice (Beetlejuice)

Great Scene: Heat

Great Scene: Saving Private Ryan

Great Scene: Source Code

Great Scene: The Spy Who Loved Me

Great Scene: True Romance

Interview (Audio): Mark Heyman, Craig Johnson

Interview (Video): Joss Whedon

Interview (Video): Margaret Nagle

Interview (Written): Gillian Flynn

On Writing: Richard Linklater

Reader Question: What are some ways to visualize the inner world of a character?

Saturday Hot Links

Screenwriting 101: Joseph Wambaugh

Screenwriting News (September 29-October 5, 2014)

Script To Screen: Say Anything

Spec Script Sale: “May You Live in Interesting Times”

Twitter Rant: Katherine Fugate on Black Facts About Hollywood

Writing and the Creative Life: Routine or Ritual

Spec Script Sale: “Moonfall”

August 21st, 2014 by

Audax Films acquires science fiction spec script “Moonfall” written by David Weill. From Deadline:

Audax had company for a film that centers on an FBI agent who travels to a moon colony to investigate its very first death.

Weill is repped by CAA and Unified Management.

By my count, this is the 40th spec script sale in 2014.

There were 70 spec script sales year-to-date in 2013.

Movie Trailer: “Mood Indigo”

June 16th, 2014 by

Scenario, adaptation, dialogue by Michel Gondry & Luc Bossi, novel by Boris Vian

A woman suffers from an unusual illness caused by a flower growing in her lungs.


Release Date: 18 July 2014 (USA)

Daily Dialogue — March 7, 2014

March 7th, 2014 by

“Welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club! Third rule of Fight Club: someone yells “stop!”, goes limp, taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight. Fifth rule: one fight at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: No shirts, no shoes. Seventh rule: fights will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at Fight Club, you have to fight.”

Fight Club (1999), screenplay by Jim Uhls, book by Chuck Palahniuk

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Lecture.

Trivia: After the copyright warning, there is another warning on the DVD. This warning is from Tyler Durden, and is only there for a second. “If you are reading this then this warning is for you. Every word you read of this is useless fine print is another second off your life. Don’t you have other things to do? Is your life so empty that you honestly can’t think of a better way to spend these moments? Or are you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all who claim it? Do you read everything you’re supposed to read? Do you think everything you’re supposed to think? Buy what you’re told you should want? Get out of your apartment. Meet a member of the opposite sex. Stop the excessive shopping and masturbation. Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive. If you don’t claim your humanity you will become a statistic. You have been warned… Tyler”

Dialogue On Dialogue: Here is one definition of lecture: “A speech read or delivered before an audience or class, especially for instruction or to set forth some subject.” That’s what Tyler does in this scene, schooling the ‘class’ on the rules of Fight Club.

“One [blank] at a time”

October 23rd, 2013 by

This is a handy screenwriting mantra:

“One [blank] at a time.”

When you write a script, you will have ups and downs, good days and bad days. And while it’s great to set writing goals [when I write a first draft, it’s 5 pages per day], sometimes that just ain’t gonna happen.

When your single task with a first draft is to “get the damn thing done,” if you are wallowing in a triple biorhythm low trough and every cell in your body is resisting the call to deposit your butt onto chair to write, your personal goals [daily, weekly, monthly] can feel like this strapped to your back:

Goals are only helpful if you can keep them. Hence: “One [blank] at a time.”

The [blank] can be any of the following:

* One scene at a time: Use this when you are feeling a general sense of funk.

* One page at a time: Use this when your funk has become malaise.

* One sentence at a time: Use this when your malaise has become despair.

* One word at a time: And this one? Use only in the most extreme and dire circumstances, when you it seems as if the entire universe has conspired against you, your creativity feels like a deceased anchovy, and the very act of even thinking about your story reduces you to a quivering heap of epiglottal spasms.

The point of writing a first draft is to make progress. Some progress. Any progress. One scene, one page, one sentence, yes, even one word puts you closer to FADE OUT.

Eventually you will cycle out of your own blue period, the bright light of creativity will shine on you again, and pages will flow from your fingertips with the succulence of a robust zinfandel.

But if you find yourself in a writer’s tomb, you know what to do:

“One [blank] at a time.”

“The Quest” has entered Week 15! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core – 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep – 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages – 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!

Today and every Monday through Friday for the next 10 weeks, I’ll use this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.

Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here.

For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.


Dispatch From The Quest: Miranda Sajdak

September 27th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Miranda talks about wanting to see more three-dimensional women characters and a trip to Nashville:

Once again, it’s been another eventful Quest week. This week, our focus was on brainstorming. We both felt like we’d been brainstorming for months – but it was actually really revealing to sit down and do a solid brainstorm on our own. We each came up with new/different ideas that hadn’t occurred to us in the past, and allowed us to really get a lot out there on the page. There are a number of things that we’re still unclear on – certain character archetypes aren’t fitting as organically as others into our world – but, that said, we’re peeling back the layers to see what might work in the context of our story.

I also had a creatively inspiring week in other arenas; one of the scripts that Sandy and I optioned had a really solid, fun rewrite. We enjoyed getting to look over the new pages, and were excited about the changes made.

I also found inspiration earlier this week, when my fiancee and I sat down to finish Season 3 of BORGEN. Talk about compelling female characters! I know Scott posted a Twitter tirade with Mystery Exec a few weeks ago regarding screenwriters needing to craft more three-dimensional women in their writing. Definitely something Sandy and I find when we read scripts, and it was really refreshing to see so many complex women in one series. I’m finding more and more inspiration from overseas in that regard, as Europe seems to have a greater grasp of how to create multi-dimensional women (who aren’t prostitutes). Some great food for thought. The series also reminded me a bit of Christian’s story this week, and it was nice to see some affirmation of one of his leads’ emotional journeys.

This week was also eventful in that I made a cross-country trek to Nashville for the first time. My flight fell literally at the time of our regular Quest call, so I was sad to miss the weekly recap/discussion, but glad to get to venture out of the usual LA confines and take in a new city. When Sandy and I work with writers, we always encourage our clients to explore new venues – to get out of the confines of solitary writing, and go try something new. This weekend was definitely that for me, and I’m glad I got to experience a region I’ve never explored before. Within the first day, I got to do lots of Southern-y things. For instance: we were driven to the airport by a shuttle service called “Driving Miss Daisy.” You guessed it – the driver was an older black gentleman. Don’t get me started on my reaction to that one. We also got to eat in cafes with guitars on every wall – and, of course, a restaurant with taxidermied animal heads all around. As a foodie, I was consistently caught between perplexed and intrigued – both by food and decor. The restaurant “Batter’d and Fried” seemed to sum up the options pretty nicely. I will say, though, that “southern hospitality” really is a thing. I haven’t had so many people ask how I’m doing in years – I keep expecting them to follow-up with a request for spare change. Tennessee really is its own world.

I’ll be glad to be back in LA, land of avocados-at-every-meal. It looks like next week is plot – and I’m sure to have lots of inspiring/strange stories on my return!

The post Miranda mentioned in which I aggregated a twitter rant by @MysteryExec can be found here. We absolutely need more multilayered, compelling female characters. Hell, we need multilayered, compelling characters of all kinds. And chances are about 99 to 1 the best way to do that is spend the time immersing ourselves in those characters’ lives. Then they become real to us.

But yes, more well-crafted female characters, please.

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Miranda: New Englander turned Angeleno by way of New York. Enjoys: high-powered action films, dark dramas, and ’90s legal thrillers. Does not enjoy: the dentist. Mushrooms. @ScriptChix.

Interview: Craig Mazin

August 4th, 2013 by

Craig Mazin is a successful screenwriter in the comedy genre whose movie credits include RocketMan (1997), Scary Movie 3 (2003), Scary Movie 4 (2006), Superhero Movie (2008), The Hangover Part II (2011), Identity Thief (2013) and The Hangover Part III (2013). With fellow screenwriter Ted Elliott, he hosted the informative writing blog “The Artful Writer” from 2004-2011. Currently Craig and screenwriter John August co-host the popular weekly podcast Scriptnotes for which the pair recently celebrated their 100th recording.

Mazin Small

Here are links to the six installments of the entire interview:

Part 1: “It actually got one of the best reviews that I’ve ever gotten in my life, and I haven’t gotten many good ones. The L.A. Times reviewer, I can’t remember who the guy was, but he loved it. I just remember reading that review, going, “No. No. This isn’t very good.””

Part 2: “But, as David Zucker often remarks, he gave an interview in 1995 or something in which he announced that spoof movies were dead. A few years later, Scary Movie came out and made a gazillion dollars.”

Part 3: “I’m always fascinated by movies where the non‑protagonist is kind of pushed into the limelight as if they were.”

Part 4: “For me, what you call “the emotional life of the story” is everything. I want comedies to be about something. I want movies to be about something. I want them to have some sort of argument to make.”

Part 5: “I would say that the modern audience seems far less married to genre than movie critics. Movie critics love talking about genre and they get really antsy when they feel like a movie is a fish with feathers… Lately it seems like the audience has become far more flexible, and if anything they almost appreciate a certain audacity of genre bending.”

Part 6: “The one thing about me that’s been consistent in the 17 years I’ve been doing this is in eight weeks I’ll have a screenplay. I’m very good that way. I don’t dick around. Knowing that, I can say to myself, “Well, not happening today. Not writing,” Because I know that doesn’t mean the script is not going to get written. The script always gets written.”

Craig is repped by CAA.

Twitter: @clmazin.

Dispatch From The Quest: Christian Fontenot

July 26th, 2013 by

Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.

Today: Christian Fontenot lays a little θεός [theos] on us:

“A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them.”   – Carl Jung

Computer / God

WE ARE GODS! Sorry for yelling, but this is important for all of us storytellers to understand. We, the writers, are the masters of the universe, not in a He-Man or Seinfeld way, but masters of our story’s universe, and it is up to us to make sure that our protagonist deals with their shit.

As an amateur to intermediate level writer, I have struggled with giving the car keys of my story to Plot or Character.  Plot offers me the comfort of structure, defined beats, pretty rainbow colored note cards, and if I’m really good, he will take me to the Dairy Queen for a milk shake.  Character is the crazy, unpredictable ex-girlfriend.  One second she’s a flirt but without warning turns into a raving bitch.  For her, it’s about the wild journey and not the boring destination.

My first 2 screenplays were definitely more character driven.  I knew the endings and just let the characters guide me there but all at the expense of pace.  Then I discovered the usual suspects of popular screenwriting books, and my world changed.  How could I be writer with out outlining?  Help – there’s no hook on page 10; no inciting incident on page 30.  Comprehensive outlining led me to many stops and starts and half written stories, as well as 2 completed screenplays that were both page count and character lite.

The Quest is offering a middle ground – a chance to deconstruct and rebuild my way of looking at story.  Character should drive plot.  Plot should be structured around character metamorphosis.  Plot twist are the universe telling our protagonist that he/she/it still isn’t ready to move forward – more shit to deal with.  As gods we must push our hero to their breaking point then rebuild them.  We can’t let the fat lady sing until our protagonist has fulfilled the destiny of the universe that we have created.  WE ARE GODS!  DAMN IT!

Key Stats: Dashes: 5; Clichés: 1; Curse Words: 3; Gratuitous Yelling: 2.

Or in the words of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day:

Phil: I’m a god.
Rita: You’re god?
Phil: I’m a god. I’m not the God… I don’t think.

Apropos, Christian. As writers, we create an entire story universe with its own External and Internal World. We create the characters so they may inhabit the land, sea and sky. Hell… er… heck, we even name the characters, although technically per Genesis 2:20, that was Adam’s gig, at least the animals. Aardvark. Really?

So yes, I think it’s fair to say we qualify as a god. But wait. Do we control the destiny of our characters? If we want to carry the analogy one step further, The God gave free will to humans. So, too, do we with our characters. After we breathe life into them, something mysterious happens: it seems they have gone about living their lives. They have back-stories and memories and personalities. Thus once we disengage from our Heavenly Throne and enter the Story Universe we have created, we go from a god to investigator… reporter… and eventually narrator.

We live with a dynamic tension born of two locations we must inhabit, traveling back and forth: Outside the Story Universe where we nudge and push and prod the characters and events; Inside the Story Universe where we observe and listen and study the characters and events.

And somehow out of all that, we create a story.

So Christian, I thank God… god… you for that, even your Gratuitous Yelling (I’m glad I had my virtual earplugs in). And even though you don’t know it, you engaged in a nifty bit of synchronicity – perhaps divinely inspired – which you, and everyone else, will understand in 1 hour when the next post goes live.

Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.

About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot