Some of the most popular Go Into The Story posts and series covering everything related to screenwriting: From theory (Character, Plot, Theme) to business (Spec Scripts, Story Types) to practice (Writing Mantras, Resources), and much more.
This popular, proven online workshop guides you through the story development process from concept to outline, resulting in a comprehensive guide to write your script. Starts: Monday, March 2. Instructor: SCOTT MYERS.
Great scenes are what Quentino Tarantino movies are all about. In this 1-week class taught by Tom Benedek, participants study Tarantino’s scene build-outs and their structural ingredients, knowledge you can use in your writing. Starts March 9.
Jeff Lieber is a screenwriter and TV writer. His movie credits include Tuck Everlasting and he is currently an executive producer of the CBS series “NCIS: New Orleans”. On Twitter (@JeffLieber), he has run a series of tweets called Showrunner Rules. For background on Jeff and this Twitter series, go here.
Today: Numbers 221-230:
Showrunner Rule #220: When on location, before going to sleep, figure out how shower works. Not something you leave for Monday at 5:15AM.
Showrunner Rule #221: 111 comes before 112 comes before 113, which is how you MUST set priority list. Always. and forever: Feed. The. Beast.
Showrunner Rule #222: Empower covering writer to CALL WHEN THERE’S AN ISSUE. Episodes ARE saved with, “So, we may have a problem here.”
Showrunner Rule #223: Single scene locations are production killers. Costs $ and you spend as much time loading in & out as shooting art.
Showrunner Rule #224: Moment your character lets audience know of a decision, arc is over. LOTTA ways to organically keep choice in flux.
Showrunner Rule #225: Feast on mythos like Yogi Bear with a pic-a-nic basket. Mythos keeps the loyal viewer from “I’ll just watch later.”
Showrunner Rule #226: Gotta write scenes for the sets ya built. Only have 2 walls? Limit movement & know you can’t have an angry face off.
Showrunner Rule #227: Cutting dialogue won’t solve board issues. Cutting COVERAGE will. Same scene with 1 less character will save an hour.
Showrunner Rule #228: Giving character NAME in script means better actor. After all, which would YOU rather be… Angry Janitor or Gerard?
Showrunner Rule #229 (1of2): Shows live in 3 concurrent timelines. What’s on the air… what’s being shot… what’s being broken…
Showrunner Rule #229 (1of2): …trick is to be making the same show in all three, even though rules may have changed as lesson are learned.
Showrunner Rule #230: Worst time to cast significant guest role? Pilot season (Feb-Mar), when every actor you want, wants their own show.
Here is Jeff’s bio:
One day in 1986, after blowing up a glass beaker in a lab in high school, Jeffrey Lieber’s science teacher, Dr. Nagoi, turned to him and said, “Jeffrey… you be an actor… you be a writer… maybe have a family… but please, dear God, don’t be a chemist.” And it was those words that launched a journey that has ended up with Mr. Lieber becoming a screenwriter, showrunner, blogger, father and husband (Credits? Go here). Every day, while pursuing his passions, Mr. Lieber takes a moment to stop and thank Dr. Nagoi for his sage advice.
Drop by comments to give some feedback on Vintage Vehicle.
Tomorrow: Another Movie You Made.
If you’ve been involved in the production of a movie – short film, feature length — and you have either embed code for the film or a trailer for the film, and you’d like to participate in the Movies You Made series in March, email me to check out that possibility.
SANDECKER (O.S.): Better not hurt my boat!
GIORDINO: Engine two is out! Ward them off, man, what do you wanna do?
PITT: Uh…I think we need to pull a Panama!
GIORDINO: Panama? A Panama?
GIORDINO: You think? Really?
PITT: Yeah! Really!
SANDECKER: Somebody pick up—They’re ignoring…They’re ignoring me! Everybody is ignoring me. Pick up the phone!
GIORDINO: Take it! We’re doing the Pnama!
GUNN: What’s a Panama?
GIORDINO: Navy thing.
GUNN: I didn’t know you were in Panama.
GIORDINO: Weren’t. We were in Nicaragua.
GUNN: Then why do you call it a Panama?
GIORDINO: We thought we were in Panama!
SANDECKER (O.S.): No Panama!
GUNN: What are you looking for?
Boat is straffed by machine gun fire.
GUNN: Al? Al? Al, I’m really confused!
PITT: How are we doing, Al?
GUNN: Go help Dirk!
GUNN: How I use this?
GUNN: Just go!
PITT: Open the engine hatch.
PITT: Let’s go, Al!
GIORDINO: Got it! (To Gunn) Here, light this!
GUNN: Aren’t these the admiral’s?
GUNN: Just light it!
More boat chase action. Giordino cuts one of the fuel lines.
PITT: Whenever you’re ready, Al!
GIORDINO: Come on!
GUNN: What are we doing?
Giordino places the lit cigar in the leaking gasoline stream.
GUNN: I don’t think we should be doing that!
GIORDINO: Okay! Drop it! (To Pitt) We’re good!
PITT: Yeah! All right, hold on!
GIORDINO: Hold on!
Pitt swings the boat around heading straight at their pursuers. Giordino jumps ship.
GUNN: Hey, I need a life jacket!
Pitt tackles Gunn and both jump overboard. The empty boat passes between the two pursuers and explodes.
SANDECKER: Crap. He did a Panama. He did a Panama.
GUNN: Cool! Is that how it worked the first time?
PITT: Well, didn’t really work the first time?
— Sahara (2005), screenplay by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, John C. Richards, and James V. Hart, novel by Clive Cussler
The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Chase. Today’s suggestion by Will King.
Trivia: The ship used to portray the Martha Ann was one of the vessels Bob Ballard used to find the Titanic. It has since been dismantled and sold for scrap.
Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary by Will: “The beauty of this dialog is in the ending. The scene builds to a frantic pace full of tension, the good guys escape, then the final line gives the audience a chance to release all that tension through a good laugh.”
If you have any suggestions for this week’s theme, please post in comments – and thanks!
This week, we read and analyzed the script for the movie Whiplash, written by Damien Chazzelle.
IMDb plot summary: A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.
Donald Margulies, one of America’s most widely-produced playwrights, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Dinner with Friends (which was made into a Emmy Award-nominated film for HBO directed by Norman Jewison) and was a finalist twice before for Sight Unseen and Collected Stories. His many other plays, which include The Country House, Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, Brooklyn Boy, the Tony Award-nominated Time Stands Still and the Obie Award-winning The ModelApartment, have been produced on and off-Broadway and in theaters across the United States and around the world. Mr. Margulies has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The New York Foundation for the Arts, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He was the recipient of the 2000 Sidney Kingsley Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Theatre by a playwright. In 2005 he was honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters with an Award in Literature and by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture with its Award in Literary Arts. He was the 2014 recipient of the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theatre Award for an American Playwright in Mid-Career and the 2015 William Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater. He has developed numerous screenplays, teleplays and pilots for HBO, Showtime, NBC, CBS, Warner Bros., TriStar, Universal, Paramount, and MGM. He is an adjunct professor of English and Theater Studies at Yale University. The film of his screenplay, The End of the Tour (2013 Black List), directed by James Ponsoldt, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and will be released in the fall of 2015.
Donald agreed to respond to some of my questions about writing The End of the Tour as well as his insights into the craft of writing.
Here are links to all three parts of the interview series:
Part 1: “One of the things that excited me when I read the Lipsky book – and what convinced me that the material would be best served as a film and not as a play – was the notion of placing the great satirist of American popular culture, David Foster Wallace, on the American landscape.”
Part 2: “I have said that The End of the Tour was a labor of love and I think everyone associated with it would describe it the same way. I take particular pride in having made this film with my longtime associate, David Kanter, and my former student, James Ponsoldt.”
Part 3: “The danger of research is falling in love with too many details and wanting to use everything. Research is useful as inspiration but it mustn’t become an excuse not to write.”
The Great Character theme for the month: Spike Lee. Today: Malcolm X from Malcolm X (1992), screenplay by Arnold Perl and Spike Lee, book by Alex Haley and Malcolm X. Here is Jason Cuthbert’s weekly Great Character post.
The long gestating biographical drama of the African American human rights activist and Muslim minister Malcolm X had plenty of complex obstacles on its complicated 25-year road to production and eventual release in 1992. It all begins with an early Malcolm X acquaintance Marvin Worth purchasing the rights to author Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X in 1967, two years after the bestseller’s publication and Malcolm’s assassination.
The first stop on the Malcolm X story arriving on screen came with the James Earl Jones and Ossie Davis-narrated 1972 documentary Malcolm X (1972), achieving an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature in the process. This documentary’s director Arnold Perl, along with the celebrated novelist James Baldwin, were commissioned in 1968 by Worth to craft the Malcolm X biopic script, adapted from Alex Haley’s book. Spike Lee eventually revamped the Baldwin/Perl script for his 1992 epic, with James Baldwin’s family asking that Baldwin’s name be removed.
There were previous incarnations of Malcolm X that involved legendary comedian Richard Pryor, director Sidney Lumet and Canadian director Norman Jewison (The Hurricane) was even in line to point cameras at Denzel Washington after their previous collaboration in A Soldier’s Story. Ultimately, the understandable demand for an African American to helm the transformative tale of this huge historical black leader put Spike Lee in the fold, with Denzel Washington representing the metamorphosis of Malcolm Little to “Detroit Red” to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz – better known as Malcolm X.
Malcolm X summary from IMDB:
Biographical epic of the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader, from his early life and career as a small-time gangster, to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam.
Spike Lee’s Malcolm X roars onto the screen with an intense title sequence featuring a Malcolm X speech delivered by Denzel, overlapping an American flag burning into the letter X and contemporary videotape of the Rodney King beating by the Los Angeles police that ignited the 1992 L.A. Riots. These heart-wrenching interwoven comparisons of the discriminatory flames that engulfed race relations in the 1960s to those that are still raging in the 1990s intensifies even stronger when re-watching this sequence right now in 2015 and witnessing the deadly instances of police brutality that fuels the collective cry of “Black Lives Matter.”
MALCOLM X: We don’t see any American Dream. We’ve experienced only the American Nightmare!
We meet the young “Detroit Red” version of Malcolm in Boston, involved in behaviors he would grow to reject: crime, dating Caucasian women, straightening his hair in European fashion, drinking and struggling with drug use.
But we also are introduced to an even earlier time when Malcolm Little was in fact little, feeling the heat of hatred from the fire-breathing dragon known as racism.
MALCOLM X: When my mother was pregnant with me, a party of Klansmen on horseback surrounded our house in Omaha Nebraska. They brandished guns and shouted for my father to come out.
Malcolm Little witnessed his home purposely burned by bigotry and later had his Baptist minister father murderously yanked out of his life by the hands of the Ku Klux Klan. Young Malcolm persevered, showing early academic prowess indicated by his ability to thrive in an educational environment. But the harmful racial limitations for future job prospects attempted to push hope right out of the realm of his young mind.
MALCOLM X: The only colored kid in the class. I became sort of a mascot. Like a pink poodle. I was called a nigger so many times; I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. I thought that was my name.
The Little Family unit was destroyed. Self-hatred was instilled by public perception that being a person of color was some kind of disease. Then the soul-crushing confinement of prison ruptures a hope for freedom – until Islam finds Malcolm. Spike Lee wisely plants many of these formative psychological seeds for the audience that eventually grow into Malcolm’s moral reform, and social responsibility to liberate his culture from the shackles of institutional hate. We get the full-fledged spectrum of Malcolm’s evolution; a man who has lived multiple lives in his 39 years, with each vividly unique version never big enough to completely define him.
MALCOLM X: We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us!
We also get to experience the seismic power that Malcolm X exhibits with his passionate speeches, his intrinsic ability to inspire self-respect and his rise up the ranks of the Nation of Islam.
Unfortunately, Malcolm’s ambition for justice creates a multitude of enemy’s along the way – white and black alike.
Anxiety, distrust, overwhelming responsibility, fear for his family, the emergence of changing social views and a dark debilitating dread all radiate from Denzel Washington’s poignant and award-worthy presence of Malcolm in his last days. The booming voice is not even needed to indicate these conflicting emotions with Spike Lee’s captivating car ride of Malcolm as he unknowingly rides his Oldsmobile towards his unfortunate demise.
For his deep desire for personal and communal growth, for his confident and continual conviction, and for his embodiment of the classic Sam Cooke tune “A Change Is Gonna Come” – Malcolm X is a larger than life GREAT CHARACTER in Spike Lee’s illustrious 40 Acres and a Mule production house.
A special end note to this week’s Great Character post:
My name is Jason Cuthbert, a GoIntoTheStory.com contributor to GREAT CHARACTERS since June 8th 2012. I’m directing my very first feature length documentary entitled: “COLOURING BOOK: The Mixed Race Documentary” that compares diversity in the United States to Canada, through three generations of my own multicultural family. Academic experts and animated segments will be blended in to enhance the educational value of the core storyline. My team and I are currently raising funds at SeedandSpark.com to finance equipment for “COLOURING BOOK,” as well as future documentaries and scripted narratives. Any support would be incredibly appreciated.
Our “Colouring Book” Seed & Spark Campaign made some AWESOME strides since we last spoke that I am excited to share with you:
1.) Karyn Parsons, the actress who played Hillary Banks on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-air” and is also of Mixed Heritage like I am, donated to our campaign today & tweeted it out to her 14,000+ followers. Super exciting moment!
2.) Marshon Thomas, an Associate Producer on Spike Lee’s most recent film “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” donated today and has been very supportive of @ColouringBk on his 17,000+ Twitter timeline.
3.) We have raised the percentage of our goal that has been met into the double digits with 10%, $425 were raised Saturday alone.
4.) I was invited by a Twitter pal Shala Thomas and indie film advocate to do an interview on her blog: https://lifebetweenfilms.wordpress.com
There are at two damn good reasons to throw some support Jason’s way. First, this looks like a fascinating and worthy documentary. Second, a show of gratitude to Jason for his steadfast contributions to this blog and to the life of the online screenwriting community with his insightful weekly Great Character posts.
Writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn, whose writing credits include Valhalla Rising and Only God Forgives in conversation with Gaspar Noe, writer-director of Enter the Void among many other film projects. Filmed in 2014 at the Danish Film Institute.