Jake Gyllenhaal on the importance of “story”

March 25th, 2016 by

As writers, it behooves us to pay attention to actors and directors when they talk about what draws them to a particular scripted project. In this video, David Gordon Green talks with Jake Gyllenhaal and the very first question he asks is this: What is it that draws you to a role?

Here is a transcript of Gyllenhaal’s response which starts at 3:15 in the clip:

First and foremost, it’s the story, more than it is even a role. The story feels like the ship you’re going to be going out in and if you don’t have a solid one, you get into rough waters, you’re pretty much screwed. To me it’s really that, initially. What is this whole thing saying? Does it have something to say? Does it have something to say beyond the entertainment of it, the fun factor? And does it have something that’s fun, that’s entertaining, that’s filled with tension, and do I want to move to the next scene and ultimately do I want to know what’s going on with these characters. And then I ask myself, ‘Would it be cool to play this part?’

Interesting comments. Some thoughts:

* The first thing he says: It’s the story. Not the role. Story.

* The metaphor of a “ship” for a film project sounds like it’s spoken by someone who has gotten into some “rough waters” in previous movies and one thing about being a passenger on a ship: You’re stuck there. You can’t leave until the ship hits shore.

* “What is this whole thing saying?” From a writing perspective, this is about Themes.

* Entertainment, fun factor, and tension. All important.

* “Do I want to move to the next scene.” This speaks to the importance of creating Narrative Drive, that energy which propels the story from scene to scene.

* “What’s going on with these characters.” Obviously as writers, we want to create compelling characters who create a sense of emotional connection with readers.

* And finally he winds his way to the particularly role: “Would it be cool to play this part?” So there is a cool factor we need to tap into when writing our characters.

So it’s not just the character an actor assess when considering a role, it’s a whole host of elements — and each one of those noted above are what we, as writers, need to handle when crafting our stories.

HT to @capa150 for tweeting the link to the Gyllenhaal video.

Video: “Movies Are Mirrors: The Psychology of Watching Film”

March 12th, 2016 by

An interesting 5 minute video produced by Studio Little (via One Perfect Shot):

As screenwriters, we think about this phenomenon in terms of creating a sense of audience identification to shrink the psychological distance between the script reader and the script, the moviegoer and the movie. How do we do that? Through the characters we create and the circumstances we create around them. It’s not just a generic thing, it’s this character in this situation. Done well, that generates a feeling of emotional resonance with the character mirroring something of our own experience.

Getting a script reader emotionally involved in the lives of our story’s characters is one of our most fundamental goals in writing a script. This video serves as a reminder of that responsibility.

For more Studio Little videos, go here.

Video: Sundance Film Festival 2016: Closing Awards Ceremony

February 5th, 2016 by

Video of the closing awards ceremony at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Check out Franklin Leonard presenting the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize for the movie The Birth of a Nation.

Watch a Deleted Scene From ‘Straight Outta Compton’

January 15th, 2016 by

Via Speakeasy at the Wall Street Journal:

The Blu-ray/DVD release of “Straight Outta Compton,” the biopic about influential rap group N.W.A., is scheduled for Jan. 19. Among the features on the disc is a deleted scene showing Nicole Young as she visits her boyfriend-turned-husband, Dr. Dre, in jail.

Here’s the clip:

HT to Josh Weinberger (@kitson) for the link.

Video: “Pixar’s Tribute to Cinema”

January 10th, 2016 by

Arguably the most successful movie studio of all time, Pixar finds its storytelling inspiration from many sources… including cinema itself.

Via Jorge Luengo Ruiz.

That reminds me my popular 1 week Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling class returns starting Monday, January 25! Learn key storytelling themes and dynamics common to Pixar movies, and how we can use those to elevate our writing. I’m updating my lectures to include Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. Lots and lots of new background articles and videos, along with my exclusive interview with Mary Coleman, head of the Pixar story department.

So if you’re a Pixar fan or just want to get better as a writer, you should check out my class. To find out more, go here.

Video: “Inside Out: Outside Edition”

January 3rd, 2016 by

This is great!

A University of Utah film student has put together an Inside Out Outside Edition that uses only the scenes outside of Riley’s mind, without the feelings to let us know what’s going inside her head.

Here’s the video:

I’m really looking forward to diving into Inside Out in my upcoming Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling class which begins January 25. It’s not only a terrific movie, it also may be the single best story to illustrate the dual worlds of a screenplay universe as I use it: The External World (Plotline) and Internal World (Themeline).

This video is a brilliant concept, focusing the story strictly on the External World. And yet, we can sense what’s going on in Riley’s Internal World, her painful process of moving from Disunity, literally uprooted from her home in Minnesota combined with her emerging adolescence, toward a place approximating Unity at the end.

Both the video and the movie illustrate one of the keys to writing: When something happens, something else happens. What hear in Dialogue, there is Subtext. What see in Action, there is Intention. The inner world of our characters are equally important in our storytelling as they provide meaning and emotional resonance for a script reader.

The video is via Jordan Hanzon.

HT /film for the link.

Video: “120 Years Watching Movies Together”

December 30th, 2015 by

Via Tandem Entertainment.

Video: “Cinema – 120 Years in 120 Seconds”

December 29th, 2015 by

On December 28, 1895, the Lumiere brothers presented a movie to the public in a Paris cafe. It is believed to be the first commercial screening in history. Here is a nifty 2 minute taste of what has transpired in those 120 years.

Hail, movies!

Via Moon Film.

Video: “Star Wars Minus Star Wars – Between the Lines”

December 25th, 2015 by

This is awesome!

It’s impossible to overstate the impact of Star Wars. Its arrival in theaters on May 25th 1977 marked the end of one chapter in film history and the beginning of another. It’s a hinge on which film history swings. Upon its release, critic Pauline Kael derided the film as “an assemblage of spare parts—it has no emotional grip… an epic without a dream” Twenty years after its release critic Roger Ebert remarked that the film “colonized our imaginations, and it is hard to stand back and see it simply as a motion picture, because it has so completely become part of our memories.”

They’re both right. Star Wars succeeded because of its roots in film history and mythology, and its influence over generations of filmmakers can be felt in countless works that came after it. For better or worse, Star Wars engulfs the past and future of moviemaking.

To prove that point, here’s Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope…

…told without using a single image or sound from Star Wars.

Check out the video:

Via Kyle Kallgren.

HT One Perfect Shot.

Bob Dylan reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

December 24th, 2015 by

Since my oldest son Will is in Massachusetts with his girlfriend and doesn’t get here until December 27th, which will be our ‘official’ Christmas Eve, the three of us are going to watch Princess Bride tonight and wrap some presents.

How about you? What will you be doing tonight?