Video: Phyllis Nagy (“Carol”) on writing subtext

November 22nd, 2015 by

Phyllis Nagy, screenwriter of the movie Carol, on two ways to approach writing subtext:

Via Film Courage.

Video: “What advice do you have for screenwriters?”

November 2nd, 2015 by

Literally every single piece of advice in this video is directly relevant to what we do. Watch and learn from the likes of Aaron Sorkin, Drew Goddard, Seth Rogen, Matt Charman, Danny Boyle, Sarah Silverman, Brie Larson, Jeff Daniels, and Steven Spielberg.

If some energetic soul wants to transcribe this video, I would be hugely grateful as I’d like to parse each one of these comments.

Via Academy Originals.

UPDATE: The GITS community comes through again! A major Hat Tip to Colin Derby for going putting together a transcript of the comments from the video. Here they are!

AARON SORKIN: To young screenwriter, I would say that screenwriting is no different than playing the violin. You have to practice. Read the screenplays of your favorite movies. Uh, watch the movie with the screenplay on your lap. Just try to, sort of reverse engineer it. Figure out what it looked like on the page and how it got there.

DANNY BOYLE: Keep going. We all depend on you. There is nothing without the writing. And it’s true. It’s em… They’re often not treated or considered with the importance that they should be.

RIDLEY SCOTT: Stop doing four screenplays at once. And do one at a time. And address the problem.

SARAH SILVERMAN: Sometimes it’s like exercising, it’s just getting your sneakers on that’s the hardest part. So just write the bad version, write the shitty version. If you just think of it with no stakes, then you get pen to paper, finger to keys.

SETH ROGEN: I would suggest writing something that is… um… inexpensive to produce. Don’t write like a two-hundred million dollar movie and then wonder why no one wants to take a shot and make it.

MATT CHARMON: The best screenwriting really starts with character. I don’t think that an audience need to like a character necessarily, they need to be compelled by them. The point at which you’re just about to lose an audience’s sympathy with a character is probably the kind of… the best place to be.

JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: Try not to concern yourself too much with… uh… what other people will think. Or whether this will be a popular movie. Or, you know, whether it conforms to the structure that, you know, m-movie executives expect to see. Or any of that.

MICHAEL SHANNON: When I can see that somebody is following a system or some formula that they’ve been taught I completely lose interest. I prefer things that break the rules somehow.

LAURIE MACDONALD: Follow your curiosity. Stories are found in, sometimes, the most unlikely places.

LENNY ABRAHAMSON: Don’t over-describe. Let the action and the dialogue do the work.

BRIE LARSON: Please don’t describe your female characters as broken but beautiful. Please, please. I’ve read it so many times. I think as little description as you can give to your, about the way your characters look physically. Unless it’s something that is just… incredibly important to the story.

JEFF DANIELS: When you write the script, you have to write elaborate stage directions, you know, for the executives. But you know, after you do that draft… and you’ve hired the actors. Then do a draft where you take out all the stage directions, and all the parentheticals. Clear all that out and just see what we might bring to it.

DREW GODDARD: If I could give one piece of advice to screenwriters, it would be: Don’t worry about anything other than you. Just focus on what you love and trust that that’ll get you through it.

ALAN SILVESTRI: When the script is magnificent, uh… everything else seems to fall into place. So, write great stories. Great scripts of great stories.

STEVEN SPIELBERG: To uh be pioneers. Find stories that are risky but, speak, you know, volumes about who you are as a writer. And what you believe in, and your whole outlook on the way things are. And uh… if it’s personal enough there’ll be a big audience to see it.

Seriously, from big to small, virtually every comment here is worth considering re the craft. Which ones jump out at / speak to you?

Again thanks, Colin for taking the time for the transcription!

Video: “Science Goes to the Movies: ‘Ex Machina’ and ‘Blade Runner'”

September 27th, 2015 by

I have featured this new series before and decided to drop in to see this month’s episode. It’s a good one:

In episode #108 of Science Goes to the Movies, Dr. Heather Berlin and Faith Salie are joined by Christof Koch, President and Chief Scientific Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, for a discussion about artificial intelligence (AI) and the fluid nature of consciousness as both apply to the 2015 film Ex Machina as well as 1982’s Blade Runner.

Ex Machina provokes a conversation about the neural basis of consciousness and whether the artificial intelligence in the film has consciousness. Does she have feelings or experience love? How close is she to human? Koch explains the importance of the Turing Test – the way in which each person, through direct access to his or her feelings, can fairly identify their own humanity, but no one else’s. Heather Berlin looks at human biology and robotics, and considers the way in which behavior is to some extent genetically pre-ordained. Next, they tackle the question of whether the scientist in the film is misogynistic due to his treatment of the gendered robots he creates, and the broader question of whether it’s possible in general to be cruel to an artificial intelligence.

Blade Runner leads to a discussion of humanity’s longstanding interest in, and anxiety about, artificial intelligence and its relation to our most basic questions—such as whether or not humans have souls, and an AI’s ability to value human life. Is our treatment of robots akin to enslavement, or are human beings subservient to, and dependent on, rampantly growing technologies? Koch predicts a future in which artificial intelligence features prominently, an inevitable moment in which humanity will have to decide collectively whether these are beings with rights or merely machines.

Written and Produced by Lisa Beth Kovetz.

Here is the episode:

For the series site, go here.

Video: THR’s Comedy Writer’s Roundtable

September 16th, 2015 by

THR’s roundtable with six writer-producers who oversee some of the most impactful comedies of the year: HBO’s Silicon Valley, vying for a best comedy series Emmy this year (Alec Berg), Amazon’s Emmy-nominated Transparent (Jill Soloway), ABC’s Modern Family, also up for a best comedy Emmy (Steve Levitan), ABC’s Black-ish (Kenya Barris), Netflix’s Emmy-nominated Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Robert Carlock) and HBO’s Togetherness (Jay Duplass).

Via THR.

Video: THR’s Drama Writer’s Roundtable

September 2nd, 2015 by

Showrunners Lee Daniels (‘Empire’), Damon Lindelof (‘The Leftovers’), Alex Gansa (‘Homeland’), Sarah Treem (‘The Affair’), Michelle King (‘The Good Wife’), and Beau Willimon (‘House of Cards’) for The Hollywood Reporter’s Drama Showrunner Emmy Roundtable where the writers discuss their characters and their work.

Via THR.

Video: The Use of Doors in Film

August 5th, 2015 by

This is an excellent tutorial on the use of doors in narrative, well worth watching.

Doors can signify separation… inclusion… warning… welcome… power… weakness. They are threshholds and crossing through one can lead to new experiences… and consequences.

The next time you write a scene, consider if you can use a door to add some visual meaning to the narrative.

Via Darren – MUST SEE FILMS.

Questions: What’s Your Favorite Line From A Movie?

July 29th, 2015 by

Another in great videos from the Academy Originals series. Here filmmakers share their favorite lines from movies.

Some great lines mentioned here by a bevy of people involved in the film business — writers, actors, producers, production designers, editors. And a nice treat, most of the lines are featured on an actual script page, a nifty nod to screenwriters.

HT to @amandapendo for the link.

To check out more Academy Originals videos, go here.

Video: “The Power of Storytelling”

July 28th, 2015 by

This came across my Twitter feed yesterday:

Naturally I had to watch it and I’m glad I did. Beginning with a cautionary tale about two villagers who go off on a hunt, the video makes four points about the power of story. Here they are with excerpts from McKellan’s commentary:

1. Story is a vessel for information: “The villagers who listen, learn the lessons and live longer.”

2. Story creates an emotional connection: “A good story well told makes our brains simulate what if would actually be to live those events.”

3. Story displays cultural identity: “Culture can be defined as the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, a way of sharing who we are.”

4. Story is fun: “Evolution has made the three most important things in life deeply enjoyable: Fuel, sex, and survival have become cuisine, love, and stories. Each taps into a raw human desire and fulfilling them, gives us a kind of happiness hundreds of thousands of years in the making.”

There you go, straight from the mouth of Gandalf by way of Frodo Baggins, a nifty reminder about the power of story.

For the Vimeo site of the video, go here.

Video: Now THIS is how you pitch a movie!

April 9th, 2015 by

Via Whitest Fan You Know.

Video: “Subconscious Cinema” (Supercut)

March 23rd, 2015 by

Earlier today, Gabe Adelman sent me a note re a supercut he’s just uploaded to his Dreamscience Vimeo site. Called “Subconscious Cinema,” it’s an excellent visual exploration of dreams in movies. Check it out!

Here is a list of the film excerpts featured in the supercut:

Sherlock Jr. 0:00
Spellbound 0:04
8 ½ 0:07
Vertigo 0:08
Little Nemo in Slumberland 0:09
The Big Lebowski 0:14
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 0:16
Blade Runner 0:20
Aliens 0:22
Brazil 0:23
A Nightmare on Elm Street 0:24
American Beauty 0:27
Inception 0:30 0:55
Vanilla Sky 0:32
Un Chien Andalou 0:35
Waking Life 0:38
Eraserhead 0:43
The Wizard of Oz 0:46
Dumbo 0:47
Take Shelter 0:50
Paprika 0:57
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World 0:59
Alice in Wonderland 1:03
The Matrix 1:06
Cache 1:09
Waltz with Bashir 1:12
The Cell 1:14
Shutter Island 1:22
Watchmen 1:28
Terminator 2 1:30

The voice-over narration used in the video comes from Waking Life, Spellbound and Inception.

Gabe’s supercut reminds us that dreams have a long history in filmmaking. Several reasons for this:

* They are visual which plays to the cinematic strength of this narrative form.

* They can reveal a character’s backstory and do it in ways ranging from mystery to unvarnished truth.

* They can physicalize in images a character’s deepest fears.

* They can show us a character’s secret desires and needs.

In other words, they are a visual way of tapping into a character’s subconscious self, exposition relying on images rather than dialogue, entertaining as well as revelatory due to their kinetic, even chaotic nature. When used well, dreams are a valuable asset in a filmmaker’s arsenal of storytelling tools.

For the Dreamscience site, go here.