Daily Dialogue — August 3, 2015

August 3rd, 2015 by

HAGRID: You’re a wizard, Harry!
HARRY: I’m a what?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), screenplay by Steve Kloves, novel by J.K. Rowling (novel)

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Call To Adventure. Today’s suggestion by Katie Cobb.

Trivia: Warner Bros. originally considered making the entire “Harry Potter” series as a set of CGI animated films, or attempting to combine several of the novels into a single movie. The studio’s reasoning mainly had to do with concern over the rapid aging of child actors-if production ran too long on any of the films, or if production was delayed between sequels, the leading actors might have to be recast. Author J.K. Rowling vetoed both the ideas of combining books and an animated film, so the studio decided instead to produce all seven (later eight) films back to back so the same child actors could play their roles in every film.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary by Katie: “This line is so memorable. It’s the perfect call to adventure as it’s the turning point in Harry’s life, when an entirely new world is opened to him. I remember hearing that line for the first time as a kid, and it still gives me chills when I watch it today.”

Go Into The Story Week In Review: July 27-August 2, 2015

August 2nd, 2015 by

Links to this week’s most notable posts:

30 Things About Screenwriting: Minimum Words, Maximum Impact

30 Things About Screenwriting: The Spirit of the Spec

30 Things About Screenwriting: The only way out is through

30 Things About Screenwriting: Go into the story and find the animals

30 Things About Screenwriting: Entire Series

Black List announces 2nd Annual Canadian Indie Screenwriting Fellowship

Character = Function

Conversations with Wilder: Part 22

Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Call To Adventure

Go Into The Story Movie Analysis: Inside Out

Go Into The Story Movie Analysis: Trainwreck

Go Into The Story Movie Scene-By-Scene Breakdown: Belle

Go Into The Story Movie Scene-By-Scene Breakdown: Beginners

Go Into The Story Movie Scene-By-Scene Breakdown: Lone Survivor

Great Character: Martin Q. Blank (Gross Pointe Blank)

Great Scene: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Help get Raymond Chandler a Hollywood Walk of Fame star

Interview (Video): Chris Sparling

Interview (Video): Oliver Stone

Interview (Written): Lane Skye and Ruckus Skye

Interview (Written): Don Winslow

Master Class with Meredith Stiehm and Pam Veasey

On Writing: Colin Higgins

Saturday Hot Links

Screenwriting 101: Stanley Kubrick

Screenwriting News (July 27-August 2, 2015)

Spec Script Deal: “Bed Rest”

Spec Script Deal: “Crash Site”

The Business of Screenwriting: Everything you wanted to know about specs [Part 18]

Twitter Rant: Eric Heisserer on How to Treat a Film Crew

Video: “The Power of Storytelling”

Which writers deserve a Hollywood Walk of Fame star?

“Conversations With Wilder”: Part 22

August 2nd, 2015 by

Billy Wilder is my all-time favorite filmmaker. Consider just some of his movies: Double Indemnity (1944), Sunset Blvd. (1950), Ace in the Hole (1951), Stalag 17 (1953), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960), an oeuvre that demonstrates an incredible range in a filmmaking career that went from 1929 to 1981.

One of the best books on filmmaking and storytelling is “Conversations With Wilder” in which Cameron Crowe, a fantastic filmmaker in his own right (Say Anything, Singles, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) sat down with Wilder for multiple hours and they talked movies.

Most Sundays for the next several months, I’m going to post excerpts from the book, add a few thoughts, and invite your comments. I trust this will be a good learning experience for each of us. And while we’re at it, why don’t we watch some Wilder movies to remind ourselves what a great writer and director he was.

Today’s excerpt comes from P. 168 in which Crowe asks Wilder about some of Wilder’s quotes on the craft of writing:

CC: A few of your statements about writing, I’d love to throw some of them back at you right now for your comments. “The audience is fickle. Get at their throat and keep them the entire movie.”

BW: Yeah. That’s a line of mine. You grab them by the throat, their heart is beating, and you never let go. You just apply more and more pressure. Then at the end, as they’re going for the last gasp, you let them go, it’s over, and the circulation starts again.

Wilder, Crowe

CC: “The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, that’s how good you are as a writer.”

BW: Yeah. I just think that you have to be very, very careful so that you smuggle in a very important piece of action, or dialogue, whatever, so they don’t know when they’ve swallowed the premise. So, you know, no premise. You just catch them in the theater, you’ve got them, now you’ve got to keep them. You don’t want people to get and say, ‘I’ve seen that trick before.’ Yeah, the structure is very, very important because everything you build up in act one comes back to haunt you in act three. If you do something for which you don’t have payoffs in the third act, then you’ve failed.

You have probably seen this list of 10 tips on screenwriting attributed to Wilder:

1. The audience is fickle.
2. Grab ’em by the throat and never let ’em go.
3. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
4. Know where you’re going.
5. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
6. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.
7. A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.
8. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing.
9. The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
10.The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then — that’s it. Don’t hang around.

In the interview with Crowe, Wilder alludes to four from the list: 1, 2, 5, and 6.

The first two are more about pace, the importance of making a connection with the audience immediately, then sustaining that thread scene to scene to keep their attention.

The second two are more about structure. About #5, Wilder uses a most interesting word: “smuggle”. Whatever narrative bit of business you want to pull off in any given scene, it’s best to “smuggle” it into the action so the audience doesn’t recognize what you’re trying to accomplish with your writing.

Re #6, Wilder drives home a point we all need to recognize: The direct connection between what happens at the end of a script having its roots in the first act. One big reason why we must make sure every aspect of our story setup works.

Next: More “Conversations with Wilder. If you have any observations or thoughts, please head to comments.

For the entire series, go here.

Screenwriting News (July 27-August 2, 2015)

August 2nd, 2015 by

Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow writing comedic remake of “Shaft” for New Line Cinema.

Martin Blank adapting his play “The Law of Return” for The Jackal Group.

Peter Chelsom and Tinker Lindsay rewriting untitled science fiction drama for STX Entertainment.

Robert Eggers to write and direct a remake of the 1922 silent film “Nosferatu” for Studio 8.

David Gleeson action script “Down to a Sunless Sea” lands at Focus Features with Morgan Freeman attached.

JT Petty adapting 80 year-old New Yorker article “Voices Through The Trumpet” for Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Chuck Pfarrer sells science fiction spec script “Crash Site” to Alcon Entertainment.

Daniel Ragussis and Michael German co-scripted real life crime drama “Imperium” at Atomic Features with Ragussis to direct.

Lori Evans Taylor sells thriller spec script “Bed Rest” to MGM.

Timothy Simons and Matt Walsh sell sports comedy pitch “Red Shirts” to Paramount Pictures.

Interview (Video): Chris Sparling

August 2nd, 2015 by

A 107 minute master class from writer-director-producer Chris Sparling (Buried, The Atticus Institute, The Sea of Trees):


Twitter: @ChrisSparling.

Interview (Written): Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye

August 2nd, 2015 by

Black List interview with screenwriters Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye, whose script “Rattle the Cage,” which was discovered on the Black List website, was recently produced by Image Nation as the Arabic-language film ZINZANA.

How do you find ideas and how do you choose which ones to work on?

“I’m constantly on the look out for inspiration. I try to feed my brain new information and experiences in the hope that something sparks. I usually pitch my ideas to Ruckus and he lets me know which ones are the keepers.” – Lane

Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye

Walk us through a normal day of writing for you.

“I usually wake up around 7:00, go for a short run, then shower and think about what I’m going to write. I try to sit at my desk by 9:00. Ruckus and I will spend a few minutes discussing things we are grateful for. It helps put our minds into a more creative space. Then we write for a few hours with short breaks to discuss what we’ve been writing or to ask each other questions. Around 1:00 we break for a short lunch, then pick back up where we left off until we’ve gotten a solid 4 or 5 hours of writing in.” – Lane

Any special habits to keep the muse happy?

“We set lots of timers. It’s like, “For thirteen minutes let’s brainstorm names for this character.” We start the timer and split apart. Then we come back together and discuss what we each came up with. You can work on anything for thirteen minutes. It makes it easy to break down the massive amount of work that goes into a screenplay into little digestible pieces. Those little mini sessions add up pretty quick.” – Ruckus

For more of the interview, go here.

Twitter: @Lane_Skye, @ruckusskye.

Daily Dialogue — August 2, 2015

August 2nd, 2015 by

SHEN: (Wistfully) My father’s throne. He used to let me play here beside him, promising someday this throne would be mine.

The throne falls from a high castle window.

SHEN: A little to the left.
GORILLA: Uh, but it’s so heavy, Master.
SHEN: Thirty years I’ve waited for this moment. Everything must be exactly how I envisioned it. And I envisioned it, a little to the left. Perfect. With the weapon by my s— a little bit more. With the weapon by my side, all China will bow before me. We move out in three days when the moon is full and the tide is high. (Laughs) And now, you old goat, why don’t you tell me my—
SHEN: F-Future. I was going to say ‘future.’ Look into your ball and tell me what glory awaits.
SOOTHSAYER: If you continue on your current path, you will find yourself…at the bottom of the stairs. I see…I see…I see…pain.
SOOTHSAYER: And anger.
SHEN: How dare you! That is the finest silk in the province!
SOOTHSAYER: Followed by denial.
SHEN: And this is not fortunetelling. You’re just saying what’s happening right—

Shen sighs in disgust.

SOOTHSAYER: The most important time is now. But if you really want to see the future…
SHEN: Oh, what do you see?
SOOTHSAYER: A peacock…is defeated by a warrior of black and white. Nothing has changed.
SHEN: That’s impossible, and you know it.
SOOTHSAYER: It is not impossible, and he knows it.
SHEN: Who?
WOLF BOSS: Lord Shen! I saw a panda!
SHEN: A panda?
WOLF BOSS: Uh, a kung fu warrior. He fought like a demon. Big and furry. Soft and squishy. Uh, kinda plush and cuddly.
SHEN: There are no more pandas.
SOOTHSAYER: Even with his poor eyesight he can see the truth. Why is it that you cannot?
SHEN: Find this panda and bring him to me.
WOLF BOSS: Yes, sir.
SHEN: One panda. That does not make you right.
SOOTHSAYER: You’re right. Being right makes me right.
SHEN: Then I will kill him, and make you wrong.

The Soothsayer takes another bite of Shen’s robe.

SHEN: Will you stop that!

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), screenplay by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Madness. Today’s suggestion by Will King.

Trivia: According to the director Jennifer Yuh, Shen proved to be a great challenge to animate, so much that the complexity of the character was like that of doing six characters all at once.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary by Will: “The antagonist as world-conquering demagogue is a standard trope, and Shen is no different in that respect. What we get here is a conversation that reveals the depth of Shen’s willful blindness to his ultimate fate. The Soothsayer functions was the warning to Shen that he cannot win, yet Shen is so driven by his desire, his madness (both his insanity and his anger at the perceived slight by his parents), that he cannot release himself from his own self-destruction even when it’s spelled out plainly to him.

The writers also have some fun playing with the idea of a soothsayer by having her finish Shen’s lines, and with the ‘bottom of the stairs’ gag line.”

The Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Call To Adventure

August 1st, 2015 by

The Daily Dialogue theme for next week: Call To Adventure.

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 related to the craft of writing? If so, feel free to lay that wisdom on us.

Our upcoming schedule of Daily Dialogue topics:

August 10-August 16: Adultery
August 17-August 23: Callback
August 24-August 30: Hysterics
August 31-September 6: Monologue
September 7-September 13: Betrayal
September 14-September 20: Minimum Words, Maximum Impact
September 21-September 27: Depression
September 28-October 4: Opening Line
October 5-October 11: Rivalry
October 12-October 18: Cross Dressing
October 19-October 25: Selflessness
October 26-November 1: Embarrassment

If you have some Daily Dialogue themes to add to the roster, be my guest to post in comments. But be sure to post your ideas for this week’s theme: Call To Adventure.

Thanks to all you loyal Daily Dialoguers! You rock!

Interview (Video): Oliver Stone

August 1st, 2015 by

This is a fascinating journey into the mindset of writer-director Oliver Stone (Midnight Express, Scarface, Platoon, Wall Street, Nixon), an interview directed toward a largely Chinese audience:

Via Movement Pro.

Saturday Hot Links

August 1st, 2015 by

Time for the 197th installment of Saturday Hot Links!

Toronto Film Festival 2015: Full Lineup.

Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get?

Toronto: Festival Slate Brings Fall Landscape Into Focus.

Venice Film Festival lineup.

40 key movies in contention for 2016 awards.

Relativity’s Movie Slate Imperiled as Bankruptcy Looms for Ryan Kavanaugh.

Relativity Is Shopping ‘Jane Got a Gun,’ ‘The Bronze,’ ‘Collide’ as Bankruptcy Looms.

Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media Finally Files Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

As Relativity Implodes, Filmmakers Are Left in Limbo.

Here Are All the Movies Opening This Weekend.

The 20 Highest Grossing Indies of 2015 (A Running List).

The Best Foreign-Language Films of 2015 According to the Criticwire Network.

‘The Hurt Locker,’ ‘Two Days, One Night’ and More Coming to Netflix This August.

Writers’ Guild of America, West: August Schedule of Events.

Mission Impenetrable: Are Hollywood Blockbusters Losing the Plot?

Media Companies Hope Box Office Bounty Masks TV Troubles.

How Netflix’s Original Programming Is Poised to Outpace the Top Cable Networks, in One Chart.

The Duplass Brothers: How an Unlikely Hollywood Juggernaut Came to Rule Netflix.

The future of television? HBO’s big push to become the only channel you’ll ever need.

Damon Lindelof Makes ‘No Apologies’ for ‘The Leftovers’ Season 1.

The Leftovers Is Off to Small-Town Texas for Season Two.

Game of Thrones Will Run for at Least 8 Seasons, and at Most, Infinity.

Both of HBO’s David Fincher Shows in Jeopardy.

The Top 25 American Film Schools.

Universal Selects 5 New Fellows for Emerging Writers Program.

New Beverly Reveals a Very Tarantino August Calendar.

Exorcism to Air on Live TV.

David Foster Wallace Cheat Sheet: 7 Things You Need to Know Before Seeing ‘The End of the Tour’.

10 Essential Films About 20th Century Writers.

Read John Hughes’ Original National Lampoon Vacation Story That Started the Movie Franchise.

YouTube Stars Go on Tour Betting Social Media Can Sell Tickets.

American Hustle: How Hollywood Rips Off Women.

Jill Soloway Calls for ‘Matriarchal Revolution’ in Film.

Lego-izing, Theorizing, and Problematizing: How We Process Movies in 2015.

Alien vs. Predator screenwriter fires back at Sigourney Weaver’s criticisms.

Inside the 2015 Man Booker Longlist.

2015 Student Academy Awards Finalists Announced.

All The Changes George Lucas Made to the Original Star Wars Trilogy.

Paramount’s Plan to Shorten Home Entertainment Windows Gains Support.

Here’s What You Need to Know to Be a DP.

6 Ways Virtual Reality Will Change Filmmaking.

8 Legal Tips for Documentary Filmmakers.

Actors Vote on the 100 Best Movies of All Time.

Bank Robber Arrested After Appearing in Low-Budget Horror Movie.

Tig Notaro, Louis C.K., and Diablo Cody Are Making an Amazon Comedy Together.

What Hollywood Blockbusters Should and Shouldn’t Borrow from the Golden Age of TV.

50 greatest monster movies of all time.

7 Must-See Movies About Writers.

Dad Uses ‘Taken’-Inspired Note to Get Kids to Clean Sink.

Sony Q1 Earnings Triple as Movies Division Returns to Loss.

Michael Moore Secretly Made ‘Where to Invade Next,’ His First Documentary Since 2009.

‘Waterworld’ Turns 20: How Costner’s Apocalyptic Adventure Became one of the Biggest-Budgeted Fiascos of All Time.

Do Pro Writers Really Not Know if their Work is any Good?

The Romantic Comedy Spectrum: A Reading List.

Longtime ‘Rolling Stone’ Film Critic Peter Travers Fighting for His Job.

6 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Making a Web Series.

New Regency Raises $200 Million in Capital.

The Movies We May Never Get To See After Relativity Goes Bankrupt.

100 Reasons to Love Movies.

‘Mad Men’ Memorabilia for Sale: Nearly 1,400 Props, Costumes in Online Auction.

Tim Robbins Launching Monthly Music Series.

Long-Lost F. Scott Fitzgerald Story Finally Published.

The Bitter Script Reader: Is screenwriting a skill that can be learned?

Stephanie Palmer: 20 Things You Should Never Do In A Pitch Meeting.

Gary Whitta: The Big Idea.

Chuck Wendig: Fear is Fucking Us All Up.

The Black List Table Reads: Mr. Malcolm’s List (Part 4).

3rd and Fairfax (WGA West): Episode 4.

Chicks Who Script: Episode 51.

Coffee With Creatives: Writer-Director Amos Posner.

Scriptnotes: Episode 208.

Watch: The 5 Best Noir Films in the Public Domain [videos].

Watch: Michael Moore Explains New Documentary ‘Where to Invade Next’ [video].

Watch: Studio Ghibli Characters Welcome You in Breathtaking 3D Tribute to Hayao Miyazaki [video].

Watch: Go Haunted House Hunting in Exclusive ‘The Listing’ Trailer [video].

Watch: Detailed 30-Minute Video Essay Explores The Making Of And Magic Of ‘Back To The Future’ [video].

Watch: Full Pilot For Failed ‘Clerks’ TV Series [video].

[Watch]: The Art Of The Car Chase; A Supercut Of Brilliant Chases From Bullitt To Bourne [video].

Screenwriting Master Class tip of the week: I don’t read the so-called screenwriting ‘gurus’. I just deal with writers who have plowed through their books, attended their weekend seminars, and bought their DVDs. Either through my blog or teaching, I interface with writer after writer who has been influenced by the ‘gurus’ and their approaches to story structure… which almost always are exclusively about plot.

Wrong! Plot is key. But it is only one aspect of story structure. It represents events which happen in the External World, what we see (Action) and hear (Dialogue) in a movie or TV episode.

There is a whole other layer to story structure which apparently gets ignored in many, if not most of the various tomes produced by the ‘gurus': The Internal World of a screenplay universe.

The emotional life of a story. For whenever there is an Action, there is the underlying Intention of the characters, either conscious or unconscious. Where there is Dialogue, there is Subtext.

The External World is the domain of the story’s physical journey.

The Internal World is the domain of the story’s psychological journey.

To ignore what transpires in the Internal World is to create a set of events without meaning. And that does not constitute story structure, let alone a Story.

That’s why five years ago, I created Prep: From Concept to Outline. A six week online writing workshop, it represents a professional approach to ‘breaking a story’ while grounding that process in a story’s Internal World. Stage by stage through weekly writing assignments, participants immerse themselves in the lives of their story’s characters and through that work see the plot emerge and evolve.

In other words, we put meat on the bones of the old adage: Character = Plot.

So instead of some lifeless, formulaic script fit to a prescribed set of beats or plot points, instead muy Prep writers tap into the vitality of their characters and let them lead the way in determining where the story goes.

One of the primary criticisms I hear from people who work in Hollywood’s development side of things is formulaic scripts. I believe much of that derives from this reductionist ‘guru’ take that plot is the equivalent of story structure.

Wrong again!

No one knows the story better than your characters.

Prep: From Concept to Outline embraces that idea. We start with your story’s Protagonist, then work our way through each of your characters so that plot emerges from them.

My next session of the Prep online workshop begins Monday, August 17. Benefits include:

* An online structure of weekly assignments which motivate you to break your story.

* Weekly teleconferences in which we delve into your story.

* Peer feedback.

* My comprehensive notes and suggestions each step of the way.

* Stage by stage building your story.

* Learn a proven professional approach to breaking a story which you can adopt and adapt for all future projects.

Join me for what could be the most important learning experience you have ever had: Prep: From Concept to Outline.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!