Script Analysis: “Lincoln” – Part 5: Takeaways

May 1st, 2015 by

Reading scripts. Absolutely critical to learn the craft of screenwriting. The focus of this weekly series is a deep structural and thematic analysis of each script we read. Our daily schedule:

Monday: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown
Tuesday: Major Plot Points
Wednesday: Sequences
Thursday: Psychological Journey
Friday: Takeaways

Today: Takeaways.

This week, we have been reading, analyzing, and discussing the script and movie Lincoln. In some ways, today’s exercise is the whole point of the series: What did you take away from the experience of reading and analyzing the script?

Screenplay by Tony Kushner, book by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

IMDb plot summary: As the Civil War continues to rage, America’s president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.

Writing Exercise: What did you take away from reading and analyzing the script for Lincoln?

For Part 1, to read the Scene-By-Scene Breakdown created by Paul Graunke, go here.

For Part 2, to read the Major Plot Points, go here.

For Part 3, to read the Sequences, go here.

For Part 4, to read the Psychological Journey, go here.

This series started here and we have 27 volunteers to do scene-by-scene breakdowns of contemporary movie scripts. The scripts we have already analyzed are in italics.

American Hustle: Jon Raymond
Argo: Nora Barry
Barney’s Version: John M
Belle: DaniM
Beginners: Ali
Boyhood: Jacob Jensen
Enough Said: Ali
Flight: 14Shari
Frankenwenie: Will King
Frozen: Christina Sekeris
Gone Girl: NateKohler1
Gravity: Matt Duriez
Hanna: John Arends
Lincoln: Paul Graunke
Looper: erikledrew
Moonrise Kingdom: Daniel Bigler
Mud: Alejandro
Paranorman: OhScotty
Prisoners: Melinda Mahaffey Icden
Short Term 12: Carolina Groppa
The Artist: Traci Nell Peterson
The Imitation Game: Rick Dyke
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Rob Hoskins
The Social Network: Nick Dykal
The Way Way Back: Ricky
Wadjda: iamdaniel
Whiplash: Steven Broughton

If you’d like to participate and do a scene-by-scene breakdown yourself, please indicate which script in comments or email me. We are using scripts available on our site here.

For new volunteers and those who have already volunteered, but not sent me a breakdown yet, please do so as soon as possible. Thanks!

Circling back to where we started, reading scripts is hugely important. Analyzing them even more so. If you want to work in Hollywood as a writer, you need to develop your critical analytical skills. This is one way to do that.

So seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!

I hope to see you in comments about this week’s script: Lincoln.

Movie Trailer: “Irrational Man”

May 1st, 2015 by

Written by Woody Allen

On a small town college campus, a philosophy professor in existential crisis gives his life new purpose when he enters into a relationship with his student.

IMDb

Release Date: 24 July 2015 (USA)

Classic 50’s Movie: “On the Waterfront”

May 1st, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Bilbo Poynter.

Movie Title: On the Waterfront

Year: 1954

Writer: Bud Schulberg (based on a series of articles by Malcolm Johnson)

Lead Actors: Marlon Brando, Lee Cobb, Rod Steiger, Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint

Director: Elia Kazan

IMDb Plot Summary: “An ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses.”

Why I Think This Is A Classic 50’s Movie: A big reason I think of On the Waterfront as a classic 50’s film is because of the emblematic cinematography of Boris Kaufman, who later shot 12 Angry Men, The Fugitive Kind, and a little later on, The Pawnbroker, among others. Kaufman came out of the French realism movement of film making and brought that style to Hollywood. The result has the feel of an old newsreel or the Gillette Friday Night Fights – fitting for a movie about a washed up boxer.

My Favorite Moment In The Movie: Is actually not the iconic scene of the film – and one of the great movie scenes of all time (see below) – but a much quieter scene where Terry (Brando) and Edie (Marie Saint) take a walk together through their neighborhood and stop at a set of swings. At one point Brando picks up one of Marie Saint’s gloves from the ground and absentmindedly starts to play with it. It’s hard to imagine this was scripted and yet it lends itself so well to building on the moment – meant to be a vulnerable one in world without sentiment. Here the tough ex-pug is fascinated and becoming smitten with the sweet and completely alien girl from the neighborhood who made good. This scene is why Brando was great.

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie: It would be hard to include anything other than the following – which I act out for my daughter regularly to much eye rolling.

Charlie: Look, kid, I – how much you weigh, son? When you weighed one hundred and sixty-eight pounds you were beautiful. You coulda been another Billy Conn, and that skunk we got you for a manager, he brought you along too fast.

Terry: It wasn’t him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, “Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on Wilson.” You remember that? “This ain’t your night”! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn’t have to take them dives for the short-end money.

Charlie: Oh, I had some bets down for you. You saw some money.

Terry: You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie: The fact that this was filmed on location in Hoboken: the bars are real, the mist off of the concrete, the rooftops and docks all real, but the drama is elevated here by the score of Leonard Bernstein (the only original film score by Bernstein).

The other thing to note is that this a collaboration of Kazan and Schulberg, who had by then both testified before the House Un-American Activitites Committee against others in Hollywood. You can’t help but draw a comparison to the hounded, morally compromised Terry testifying before the Waterfront Crime Commission. Being a rat and what that means is a big part of this film – Don’t take my word for it though. On the Waterfront cleaned up at the Oscars that year, and has been preserved by the Library of Congress as one of the greatest American movies.

Thanks, Bilbo! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies.

Here is an updated list of 19 fine folks who have already volunteered [those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts]:

A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – mkm28
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – jhenderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – uncgym44
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – PaulG
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Sunset Blvd. – Rick Dyke
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

I’m looking for 31 guest posts, one for each day of May. Why not pitch in to help add to this online resource to inspire writers to learn about and – most importantly – watch great movies.

If you have a classic 50s movies on which you’d like to do a writeup, please either post in comments or email me.

Thanks in advance!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Great Character: Mavis Gary (“Young Adult”)

May 1st, 2015 by

The Great Character theme for the month: Women Written by Women. Today: Mavis Gary from the 2011 movie Young Adult, written by Diablo Cody. Here is GITS contributor Jason Cuthbert’s post on this Great Character:

Director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody proved to be quite the combination for comedy that possesses a wonderfully awkward edge with their teen pregnancy jumbo hit Juno. It was this high school humor-fest that vividly captured a young teen growing up faster than she would like. But in Reitman/Cody Collaboration Part 2, aptly titled Young Adult, a 37 year-old “grown-up” Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is doing the complete opposite. Ms. Gary is trying hard to reject adulthood all together, frozen in the teenaged-centric priorities that turn her current reality into an outdated delusion.

After a divorce and a successful author career that has now found her struggling to ghostwrite the final installment of a declining YA (young adult) book series called “Waverly Prep,” Mavis fears her best days have passed her by. But when she gets an ex-boyfriend blast-from-the-past by being emailed the newborn baby picture of happily married Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), somehow Mavis decides that this is her invite to rekindling their previous high school sweetheart standing.

Young Adult plot summary from IMDB:

Soon after her divorce, a fiction writer returns to her home in small-town Minnesota, looking to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, who is now happily married and has a newborn daughter.

Mavis Gary has made her big city lifestyle in Minneapolis, Minnesota as much a part of her identity as she has her profession. She feels it necessary to express these status symbol details of her existence, even when no one has actually inquired – as if she is trying to convince herself that they make her special.

MAVIS GARY: Yes, I’m an author of a young adult series. It’s disturbingly popular. I like your decor. Is it, shabby chic?

Mavis seems to have formed a post-marriage routine: fight furious hang-overs by downing Diet Coke by the 2 liter bottle, watch constant reality television to overcome writer’s block (or to live vicariously through) and swiftly sneak out of bed before the man does after a sex-capade.

Suddenly, Mavis turns Buddy Slade’s baby announcement into an exaggerated prophecy and she abruptly heads back to Mercury Minnesota, a hometown she is none too proud of.

MAVIS GARY: I hate this town! It’s a hick, lake town that smells of fish shit!

If there is any question as to whether Mavis is trapped in her past, Exhibit B is wearing Buddy’s Kelly green high school sweat shirt, but Exhibit A is her 1990s era mixtape cassette circa her teenage love with Buddy. She blasts her flashback theme track “The Concept” by Scottish alternative rock band Teenage Fanclub from their 1991 album “Bandwagonesque,” on manual repeat. The “I didn’t want to hurt you” chorus becomes an ironic mantra for Mavis, an increasingly un-hinged, romance-deficient neurotic who’s involuntary venting is hurting everyone within earshot.

MAVIS GARY: Sometimes in order to heal… a few people have to get hurt.

Before her Buddy reunion happens, she finds herself having a drunken reintroduction to the physically disabled secret admirer and her ignored high school locker neighbor Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt).

After uncomfortably watching Mavis repeatedly pluck hairs out of her scalp, we learn from her father’s unnerved response that like her crush on Buddy, this forced follicle removing behavior also dates back to her youth. This obsessive disorder is referred to as Trichotillomania, typically triggered by depression or posttraumatic stress disorder. Mavis seems to have the symptoms.

The deteriorating career and relationship trophies that once were the recipe for her unchecked ego are now unraveling her self-worth. Since she is clearly not happy, she seems puzzled that anyone else should be allowed to smile – most of all Buddy Slade’s wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser).

Mavis’s deepest dilemma appears to be her inability to share herself with others. It pains her to be polite and it sickens her to attempt to understand and relate to others; unless of course she has something to gain from all that graciousness. People get treated like chapters in her books, an entertaining hobby to pass the time until she can hurry back to her safe zone of self-absorbed personal attention. She seems to want to be completely alone – just not lonely.

MAVIS GARY: It’s really difficult for me to be happy. And then for other people it just seems so simple. I know. They just grow up and they’re so fulfilled.

When she accompanies Buddy to watch his wife’s cover band perform, she is forced to melt under the flaming glare of these bitter past acquaintances. They seem to be a flock of distant peers that she once looked down on with judgment and contempt from her ivory tower of popularity.

MAVIS GARY: Mary Ellen, you were great tonight. It’s so inspiring to see a single mother with so much confidence on stage. Really.

After compromising her once innocent friendship with Buddy by pulling him into an impromptu kiss that his babysitter has the misfortune of witnessing, Mavis looks to step her homewrecker game up a notch – at his baby’s naming ceremony. In a realm that is full of Buddy’s closest family members and peers, Mavis aggressively attempts the impossible, to proclaim her unreciprocated love, in a small town world that has moved on without her. Chaos and a crippling collision course with the truth ensue.

Mavis Gary doesn’t make it easy for anyone, including the audience, to love her. But her scornful scars and scabs from her own youth desperately scraping its way out of her late-30s resistance makes for an intriguingly manic midlife character study.

For her volatile, diabolically critical dialogue, her dependency on bragging rights as opposed to selflessly earned admiration and her cantankerous thwarting of change in any of its forms – Mavis Gary is certainly a refreshingly unorthodox GREAT CHARACTER.

I love this movie. Cody, Reitman and Theron pull no punches in this unflinching look at a desperate, largely unlikeable, but totally compelling character.

Many thanks to Jason for sharing this analysis of her character. You may follow him on Twitter: @A2Jason.

Daily Dialogue — May 1, 2015

May 1st, 2015 by

Allison: I’m in the midst of doing my thesis.
Alvy Singer: On what?
Allison: Political commitment in twentieth century literature.
Alvy Singer: You-you-you’re like New York, Jewish… y’know… left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the-the-the socialist summer camps and the-the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really… y’know… strike-oriented kind of-of… stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself.
Allison: No, that was wonderful. I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.

Annie Hall (1977), written by Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Stammer.

Trivia: Though uncredited, the animated scene with Alvy and Annie-as-Wicked-Queen was drawn by Stu Hample, who was then drawing the comic strip “Inside Woody Allen” which was based on Woody’s stand-up comic period.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Perhaps the most famous stammerer of all, Woody Allen. Here is every stammer from every Woody Allen movie: 44 minutes worth!

Twitter Rant: Jeff Willis on 15 Things You Should Know Starting Out as a Writer

April 30th, 2015 by

A few days ago, Jeff Willis, VP of Business Affairs and Production Administration at The Weinstein Company, responded to the question below. His tweets offer some excellent advice for any writer attempting to break into the entertainment industry. Reprinted by permission.

Here are 15 things that, after ten years in this industry, I wish I had known/would have helped when I first started writing:

Don’t freak out if it takes someone a few days to call you back. Or a month to read the script your rep sent over. It happens all the time.

The more you freak out, the more desperate you seem. And the more desperate you seem, the less it motivates people to want to work with you.

Let things run their course. If it was meant to be, it’ll happen.

Making a movie isn’t just assembling a jigsaw puzzle. It’s assembling a jigsaw puzzle out of a box of pieces from twenty different puzzles.

Precious few of those pieces are things the writer has control over. See #1 about patience and not freaking out.

Projects fail more often than they succeed. If you expect your hard work to consistently pay off, this is the wrong business for you.

A no can be anything from no response to “We love your work but our slate is full!” to “It’s almost there, we just need a few more changes!”

Don’t mistake flattery, politeness, encouragement or hype for a ‘yes.’ The only ‘yes’ is when they commit to you like you are to them.

Act like a professional. Present people with a work product that looks like you took at least a few seconds to make sure it looks good.

Write something so good that the reader hardly notices or cares about minor typos, stylistic quirks, or the little nuances of formatting.

No professional will hold minor stuff like regular vs. underlined vs. bold sluglines against you. Especially not if the script is good.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

If you expect a clear steady path, or that success is a guaranteed byproduct of hard work + time, again, this is the wrong business for you.

There are a lot of intangibles in this business you have no control over and can’t course correct for with only harder work or longer hours.

It’s natural to want a system, to apply a set of criteria that – when met – guarantees success. But this business doesn’t work like that.

The harder you try to fit industry success into an objective blueprint, the further from the actual industry you’ll find yourself.

And yes, that last tweet was a subtweet directed in part at the cottage industry that profits from convincing you a blueprint exists.

You don’t have to be a UPM or a budgeting expert… but outside of development when you’re actively headed into actual production (1/3)

the biggest most common notes BY FAR are “We can’t afford [that].” And “We don’t have [that]. We have to make due w/ [this] instead.” (2/3)

Writers who can address those notes are incredibly valuable. Writers who can’t find themselves very quickly replaced. (3/3)

Everyone wants to make a great movie. But logistics like location availability and set design costs trump artistic merit 95% of the time.

The other 5% is for Tarantino, Spielberg, and others who have proven track records. NOTE: None of that 5% is allocated to writers.

You need to be able to distance yourself from your work. It’s hard but it’s the key to not letting your insides eat you alive when you fail.

It’s also the key to not sounding like a defensive jackass when people try to tell you what didn’t work for them in the script.

Not everyone is particularly eloquent when giving notes. But lack of eloquence and sensitivity does not equal a malicious personal attack.

Ultimately, no matter how abrasive the notes, it’s one person not liking one script. A writing career involves many people and many scripts.

This is especially true when sending a script out. Stagnating while you wait for replies is the worst. Write something else while you wait.

You should never be in a total holding pattern on everything you’re doing. If you find yourself there, time to start writing something new.

Execs always have multiple irons in the fire and only focus on one when it’s clear there’s serious interest. Writers should do the same.

It’s mutually beneficial relationships with people who will one day, over the long term, be able to help each other out as you both rise.

Don’t treat networking as a perfunctory introduction at an event, or as a means to a quick follow-up in hopes of stuff happening NOW.

Most of the top execs and reps are connected to other top execs and reps after years of rising up together. Develop your network over time.

This business is so much more frustrating when you go it alone. Make friends that will counsel you through both success and failure.Ten great, dependable industry friends are way more helpful to your career than 1,500 contacts in your Outlook that you barely speak with.

Don’t just network to collect business cards. Collect real relationships.

Even if you’re dealing with an exec who gave you a stupid note, try to figure out WHY that suggestion was made.

The industry may be full of really smart people, but not all of them understand HOW to fix a problem they see in the script.

Rather than dismissing their note or thinking they’re idiots, try to understand what it is that’s causing concern and find a compromise.

Lots of talented writers lose out on jobs because they’re difficult to work with and don’t understand that a lot of input goes into a movie.

Being talented isn’t enough. In addition to being a great writer, you also have to be a decent human being that people want to work with.

There are precious few writers who make careers out of selling nothing but their own specs. And even they have to incorporate notes.

The vast majority of paid writing gigs are opportunities to write based on someone else’s source material, draft, concept, suggestions, etc.

If you can’t get excited about someone else’s input, the company isn’t going to get excited about paying to bring you on board the project.

Even if you have to ask your reps to explain the deal to you like a child, you should know what you’re getting into before you join up.

And that’s not exclusive to writing. Same goes for your insurance, mortgage, medical diagnoses… don’t just gloss over this stuff.

This is your business, your work, your career, your life. Take the time to understand the nuances of what you’re agreeing to.

Even if you have a rep you 100% trust, don’t just take their word for it. Educate yourself on what it means to sign that agreement.

This industry is like a small town. Everyone knows everyone else’s business, and it’s not hard to verify the truth of someone’s statement.

You don’t want to be the person who gets caught in a lie. Be honest about your accomplishments and don’t worry about impressing anyone.

Reputation is important and much harder gained than lost. A good reputation is better for you than a long list of dubious credits on IMDB.

And that’s my fifteen things. Ten years of experience summarized in less than 30 minutes, for your reading enjoyment. :-)

If I were you, I’d print out these 15 items and post them on the wall.

About Jeff Willis: Jeff has spent the past decade working in studio business affairs and production management. He started his career as an assistant at Beacon Pictures (BRING IT ON, AIR FORCE ONE), then moved on to work with startup production companies Our Stories Films (WHO’S YOUR CADDY, JUMPING THE BROOM) and Troika Pictures (THE CALL). He’s been with The Weinstein Company (DJANGO UNCHAINED, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK) for the past four years and currently serves as their Vice President of Business Affairs & Production Administration. Jeff is also a screenwriter; his first produced feature (THE RIGHT GIRL, written with Bob Saenz (@bobsnz)) is in post-production and due to air on Pixl TV and ABC Family in the coming months.

You may follow Jeff on Twitter: @jwillis81.

You may read all of the Screenwriting Twitter Rants here.

Interview (Part 4): Mynette Louie

April 30th, 2015 by

In September 2013, I interviewed New York-based independent movie producer Mynette Louie. Shortly thereafter, Mynette was named president of Gamechanger Films. Their mission statement:

Gamechanger provides equity financing to narrative feature films directed by women. We support the unique artistic voices of talented directors who happen to be women, no matter what kinds of stories they choose to tell.

Women comprise 13.5% of DGA membership, 6% of directors of Top 250 grossing films of 2013, and 5% of directors of Top 100 grossing films between 1994-2013.

Women comprise 18% of directors of narrative features at film festivals between 2011-12 and 10% of directors of indie features between 2009-2013.

Gamechanger aims to shift the huge gender disparity in the film industry and marketplace.

The company scored a hit with their very first movie Land Ho!, co-written and co-directed by Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens. They have three other movies in the pipeline: The Invitation, Fresno and Lovesong.

Given the prominence of gender under-representation in the film and TV business, and the success of Gamechanger Films, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit my conversation with Mynette.

This week, we are fortunate to have as our interview guest Mynettte Louie, a New York-based independent film producer. Her film credits include Children of Invention, California Solo and Stones in the Sun. Most recently, Louie produced Tze Chun’s crime thriller Cold Comes the Night starring Alice Eve, Logan Marshall-Green, and Bryan Cranston which will be released in the U.S. in early 2014. Mynette is the recipient of the 2013 Independent Spirit Piaget Producers Award and was named in Ted Hope’s list of “21 Brave Thinkers Of Truly Free Film“.

Mynette and I recently conducted an interview via email.

Today in Part 4, Mynette provides background on her latest movie production Cold Comes the Night and what it meant to win the Piaget Producers Award:

Scott: 2012 seems to have been a particularly busy year for you because not only was there California Solo, but four other movies were released with which you were involved as a producer, exec producer or consulting producer. What are some secrets in handling several film projects simultaneously? Is taking on multiple projects a conscious strategy on your part or is that more about a confluence of events?

Mynette: Even though those five films all came out in 2012, they weren’t all shot at the same time. Their production dates ranged from April 2009 to July 2011. So, some of them were in post longer than others. Also, as an executive or consulting producer, I’m not on set or running the day-to-day, so it’s easier to take these positions on. But I’m still pretty selective about what I commit to even as an EP because I need to be sure that I’m actually willing to carve out bandwidth for the project, and I don’t want to end up disappointing anyone.  But juggling multiple projects at once is a necessary strategy for survival in indie film. If you’re not in production, you’re not getting paid. No one really pays for development anymore, not even the studios. And even when you are getting paid, your fee is piddling because the production budgets are all piddling. So it behooves you to not put all your eggs in one basket, to make films back-to-back or even simultaneously. It’s an insane way to live. No indie film producers actually sleep.

Scott: This year you have the crime-drama Cold Comes the Night, written and directed by Tze Chun with whom you teamed up again: “A struggling motel owner and her daughter are taken hostage by a nearly blind career criminal to be his eyes as he attempts to retrieve his cash package from a crooked cop.” What’s the backstory on that project?

Mynette: Tze was introduced to Osgood Perkins and Nick Simon through their manager, and they ended up writing the script together.  Trevor Sagan, who had co-financed Children of Invention and produced it with me, paid for the development of the script, which was awesome since, as I just mentioned, no one does that anymore.  Tze then sent me the script and I came on in late 2010 as the lead producer on the project. Stephen Vincent & Sig De Miguel came on as casting directors and helped us attach Alice Eve, Bryan Cranston, and Logan Marshall-Green, and UTA helped us get a negative pickup deal with Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions. And I found the actual cash to make the movie via Three Point Capital, Whitewater Films, and Cherry Sky Films, the latter two of which had financed previous films of mine.  In spite of the very small budget for what this film was, we had a great time shooting it in upstate New York in late fall 2012 and delivered it to Sony in July 2013. Even though the film was produced independently and relatively autonomously, we were ultimately beholden to Sony. This being my first studio experience as a producer, and having heard so many studio horror stories from filmmaker friends, I was sort of dreading the experience. But honestly, it’s been really pleasant! Sony’s notes were really smart and thoughtful, and they liked the end result enough to want to put the film on 100 screens in the UK on September 20th!  Our US release date is still TBD but will most likely be early next year.

Scott: You have an additional credit on the film: second unit director. Was this out of necessity or does this represent a desire on your part to get into directing?

Mynette: This had mostly to do with efficiency. Other than Tze, I knew the film the best, and I knew what Tze wanted best, so it just made sense for me to direct second unit. It was really just a day driving all around upstate New York with a DP and two assistants shooting landscapes that matched certain scenes of the film. I got 19 shots and had a lot of fun, and would totally direct second unit again, but stick an actor in there? No dice. I co-directed a play in college, and that was when I decided I didn’t want to direct. Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost love and respect for actors (I used to act a little myself!), but it’s just too hard to make people emote on command.

Scott: This year you were the recipient of the Piaget Producers Award from the Film Independent Spirit Awards. What does winning that award mean to you?

Mynette: It’s a milestone that I never thought I’d achieve. So many producers (true producers) whom I admire and who have mentored me have received this honor. I’m still so totally grateful for the award! I really appreciated the $25K too—support like this really enables indie producers to focus on getting projects off the ground. Otherwise, we have to juggle random gigs to make ends meet, thereby neglecting our projects. So, thanks again Piaget and Film Independent!

Tomorrow in Part 5, Mynette provides her take on VOD, Hollywood major studios’ current business model, and the lack of diversity in the film world.

For Part 1, go here.

Part 2, go here.

Part 3, go here.

To learn more about Mynette, go here.

You may follow Mynette on Twitter: @mynette.

[Originally posted September 19, 2013]

Script Analysis: “Lincoln” – Part 4: Psychological Journey

April 30th, 2015 by

Reading scripts. Absolutely critical to learn the craft of screenwriting. The focus of this weekly series is a deep structural and thematic analysis of each script we read. Our daily schedule:

Monday: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown
Tuesday: Major Plot Points
Wednesday: Sequences
Thursday: Psychological Journey
Friday: Takeaways

Today: Psychological Journey.

The way I look at a script, it is a screenplay universe comprised of two worlds:

External World: Action and Dialogue.
Internal World: Intention and Subtext.

The first is the realm of a story’s Physical Journey, what we see and hear on screen.
The second is the realm of a story’s Psychological Journey, what we intuit and interpret.

The Physical Journey deals with the question: What is the story about?
The Psychological deals with the question: What does the story mean?

The two are inextricably linked. Characters experience something in the External World which impacts their attitude in the Internal World which alters their behavior in the External World which brings them to new knowledge which impacts their attitude which alters their behavior and so on.

Played out over the course of an entire story, we call this dynamic: Metamorphosis (or Transformation).

Joseph Campbell said the whole point of a Hero’s Journey is transformation.

Therefore we cannot consider script structure without embracing the Psychological Journey along with the Physical Journey.

So as we analyze a script, we can ask these questions:

* Which characters go through a metamorphosis?

* Where do they begin and where do they end in the transformation-journey?

* What are the stages in their metamorphosis?

* How do plot points in the External World impact and influence the character’s change in the Internal World?

For Part 1, to read the Scene-By-Scene Breakdown created by Paul Graunke, go here.

For Part 2, to read the Major Plot Points, go here.

For Part 3, to read the Sequences, go here.

Screenplay by Tony Kushner, book by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

IMDb plot summary: As the Civil War continues to rage, America’s president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.

Writing Exercise: Go through the script or the scene-by-scene breakdown and ask yourself: Which characters go through a metamorphosis? Where do they begin and where do they end in the transformation-journey? What are the stages in their metamorphosis? How do plot points in the External World impact and influence the character’s change in the Internal World?

Tomorrow we wrap up our weekly analysis by considering what takeaways we may have discovered which we can bring to our own writing.

This series started here and we have 26 volunteers to do scene-by-scene breakdowns of contemporary movie scripts. The scripts we have already analyzed are in italics.

American Hustle: Jon Raymond
Argo: Nora Barry
Barney’s Version: John M
Belle: DaniM
Beginners: Ali
Boyhood: Jacob Jensen
Enough Said: Ali
Flight: 14Shari
Frankenwenie: Will King
Frozen: Christina Sekeris
Gone Girl: NateKohler1
Gravity: Matt Duriez
Hanna: John Arends
Lincoln: Paul Graunke
Looper: erikledrew
Moonrise Kingdom: Daniel Bigler
Mud: Alejandro
Paranorman: OhScotty
Prisoners: Melinda Mahaffey Icden
Short Term 12: Carolina Groppa
The Artist: Traci Nell Peterson
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Rob Hoskins
The Social Network: Nick Dykal
The Way Way Back: Ricky
Wadjda: iamdaniel
Whiplash: Steven Broughton

If you’d like to participate and do a scene-by-scene breakdown yourself, please indicate which script in comments or email me. We are using scripts available on our site here.

For new volunteers and those who have already volunteered, but not sent me a breakdown yet, please do so as soon as possible. Thanks!

Circling back to where we started, reading scripts is hugely important. Analyzing them even more so. If you want to work in Hollywood as a writer, you need to develop your critical analytical skills. This is one way to do that.

So seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!

I hope to see you in comments about this week’s script: Lincoln.

Movie Trailer: “The Last Witch Hunter”

April 30th, 2015 by

Screenplay by Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless

The last remaining witch hunter battles against an uprising of witches in modern day New York.

IMDb

Release Date: 23 October 2015 (USA)

A Story Idea Each Day for a Month: Day 30

April 30th, 2015 by

This is the sixth year in a row I’ve run this series in April.

Today’s story: Teen saves life of woman who saved him.

Call it a simple twist of fate — times two: A teenager in western New York state has saved the life of the same woman who years ago saved his life.

Seven years ago, Kevin Stephan of Lancaster, N.Y., was a bat boy for his younger brother’s Little League baseball team. A player who was warming up accidentally hit him in the chest with a bat. Kevin’s heart stopped beating.

“All I remember is that I dropped the bat off, and all of a sudden just got hit in the chest with something, and I turned around and passed out,” Stephan said.

Fortunately, a nurse whose son played on that team was able to revive him and save his life.

“I started CPR on him and he came back,” Penny Brown said.

Stephan’s mother said he was extremely fortunate. Brown was supposed to be at work that night, but was given the day off at the last minute.

Now comes the really interesting part.

Last week that same nurse was eating at the Hillview Restaurant in Depew, N.Y., when she began to choke on her food. Witnesses say patrons were screaming for someone to help her.

“The food wasn’t going anywhere and I totally couldn’t breathe,” Penny said. “It was very frightening.”

Restaurant employees yelled for Stephan to come out and help. “They knew I was a volunteer firefighter and they called me over and I did the Heimlich, and I guess you could say I saved Mrs. Brown,” Stephan said.

At the restaurant, they realized the amazing twist of fate they had just witnessed. Seven years ago, Brown had saved Stephan’s life. Now at age 17, he had returned the favor.

“It’s almost unbelievable,” said Stephan, who is also an Eagle Scout.

“The fact that it has been two individuals, that you know, helped each other out in a pretty dire situation, it’s pretty extraordinary,” Brown said.

On Saturday, the two met again at the Bowmansville, N.Y., Fire Hall where Stephan is a junior firefighter. He presented her with a bouquet of flowers, and his parents were also there to greet Brown.

I’m going to try to get in touch with my inner Nicholas Sparks with this one… which is going to be tough because I’ve never actually read any of his novels. But here goes.

When Grant was 11 years old, he was down at the beach in the tourist town in which he lived. He heard cries for help. There floundering in the water, a young girl. The lifeguard was too far away to save her. Grant swam over, diving under the water, just barely grabbing the girl’s hand and pulling her to the surface, then hauling her back toward shore. The lifeguard met them, giving her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation before medics arrived and whisked the girl and her family away. It was almost as if it hadn’t happened, the event flashing by, then she was gone.

Years later, Molly lives outside Boston. While attending nursing school, she works two jobs to support herself including this one as a waitress at a posh restaurant. It’s a typical busy night for the waitstaff, Molly deftly circumnavigating the crowd to handle her tables.

Suddenly a commotion. A young man staggering to his feet, gasping for breath. He’s choking. No one seems to know what to do, frozen in place. Molly immediately leaps into action, giving him the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging a piece of meat from the young man’s throat. It’s one of those strange moments, both scary and embarrassing, and after thanking Molly, everyone settles back into their normal routine.

That night after tipping the chef and crew, Molly steps outside only to see the young man, standing beside a limousine. He had returned to thank her. “You saved my life,” he says. She tries to shrug it off, but he’s serious. “When I couldn’t breathe, that feeling, desperation… I could sense my life coming to an end.”

He wants to do something to thank her, at the very least would she share a drink with him. It’s late, most every place in the area is closed. He gestures to the limo. The chauffeur opens the back door. Inside a bottle of champagne on ice.

And so Molly ends up on a nighttime drive with this handsome young man. Turns out, he founded a hi-tech company in Boston and is worth millions. As they get to talking, she mentions how she could relate to his near-death experience as she had one, too. She was a tourist visiting a beach community. The young man says, “I used to live there. In fact, I saved a girl from drowning one summer.”

A few more pieces of information reveal the shocking truth: The young man is named Grant and he saved Molly’s life. And tonight, Molly returned the favor.

So here they are, two young people who have nothing in common. She is middle-class, an anonymous woman struggling to get ahead in life. He is a wealthy magnate who travels the world and is famous among his peers. The only thing they have in common is that they saved each others’ lives.

Has destiny brought them back together for a purpose… or is this just a completely random meeting of chance? And if it’s destiny, what else does fate have in store for them?

That’s my setup… and my thirtieth – and last – story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free!

What would you do with it?

Each day this month, I have invited you to join me in comments to do some brainstorming. Gender bend, genre bend, what if. Take each day’s story idea and see what it can become when we play around with it. These are all valuable skills for a writer to develop.

See you in comments (hit Reply to join the conversation). And come back tomorrow for links to all thirty stories for the 2015 A Story Idea Each Day For A Month series.