Interview (Written): David Ayer (“Suicide Squad”)

July 24th, 2016 by

A Deadline interview with David Ayer, co-writer and director of the movie Suicide Squad.

DEADLINE: You write most of what you direct, and if it fails, you move on. What kind of adjustment is it when the stakes here are so high, where, if you fail, it will have consequences for the whole motion picture division of Warner Bros, and the future of the DC properties, since you are seeding movies that have characters that have nothing to do with your film?

AYER: Well, what you watched is my movie, the one I wanted to make. I admit at first it was a little overwhelming going into such a large situation and being part of a larger slate, but once I got into the work, you’re still just writing, prepping, designing, directing; the skills are the same. It was interesting to figure out how to help drop easter eggs and set things up for other movies. To do that, I just really familiarized myself with the world of the DC Comics, and Geoff Johns was a fantastic resource to give me that world map. I had a lot of help on this. After a while, I got my sea legs and it became a lot of fun for me.

DEADLINE: You went into production, and then Batman V Superman comes out and the reaction is it was way too serious. Then Deadpool comes out of nowhere to become the biggest R-rated film of all time, fueled by irreverent humor. A lot of work under the hood went into establishing a Suicide Squad tone that is somewhere in between those two films. What impact did the release of those films have on how you ended up?

AYER: This meme started, that we were re-shooting to make the movie funnier. But you saw the film. The tone is wall to wall. It was really, more than anything, about just taking time out of the movie, distilling it down and keeping it alive and kinetic. I don’t want to speak out of school, but I think the institutional lesson of Batman V Superman was, you have to put the film up for a large audience and see how it plays. I got the opportunity to do that a few times. I’m a big believer in audience testing. You have to listen to the audience. I think it really made the film a lot better. We interdicted some issues and then the re-shoots are great because as you slip time, you end up with these raw stumps. It helps you sew them together elegantly. And I also got some more action in there. It’s all a tough process, because in essence, you’re on trial and you have to defend your movie. And the burden of proof is on you to show that it works.

DEADLINE: How did you fare in this creative collision of a hands-on studio with much at stake, and with rumors swirling about every reshoot?

AYER: The hotter the fire, the sharper the sword. I’m a big believer in that. You know my Russian cinematographer Roman [Vasyanov] always says that art must be painful. It must be pain to have art. I think there’s truth in that. As a creative person, you have to have people calling you on your bullshit. There’s been plenty of times where that makes you realize it’s a bad idea, never mind. At the same time, you have to fight for what you know is a good idea. It’s the nature of filmmaking and it’s like that on any project. There’s definitely a lot of pressure that was put upon this film because of the circumstances, that it was never intended to bear. But this movie has broad shoulders and I loved the process. The studio was like, we want to help you do whatever you can to make this movie better because the stakes were so high. That’s the beauty of it. We got the resources and the support that made this achievable.

To read the rest of the interview, go here.

Interview (Written): Mike Birbiglia (“Don’t Think Twice”)

July 24th, 2016 by

A Movie Maker interview with Don’t Think Twice writer, director, and actor Mike Birbiglia. Well known for his monologues and appearances on the NPR radio show “This American Life,” Birbiglia’s other screenwriting credit is the movie Sleepwalk with Me. 

Here is the IMDb plot summary for Don’t Think Twice: “When a member of a popular New York City improv troupe gets a huge break, the rest of the group – all best friends – start to realize that not everyone is going to make it after all.”

Andy Young, MovieMaker Magazine (MM): You have this really talented cast at the top of their game but at varying levels of improv experience, so I’m really curious about the rehearsal process.

Mike Birbiglia (MB): Well, it was two weeks of improv workshops. Liz Allen was our coach; she has written a couple books about improv and studied with Del Close in Chicago. For some of us, like Keegan [Michael-Key], Chris [Gethard] and Tami [Sagher] it was a refresher, for others like Kate [Micucci] and Gillian [Jacobs], it was from scratch. The group really coalesced right away; I would send them these emails where I’d say like, “Guys, this is gonna be like college. This is gonna be like when you auditioned for your first play, or your first improv group or whatever. We’re gonna all come at this in a really pure way, like a ‘clear-eyes, full-hearts’ kind of way.” They all did it, and I’m so lucky. I don’t know if I’ll ever get a cast this great again.

(L-R): Kate Micucci, Mike Birbiglia, Keegan-Michael Key, Chris Gethard, Tami Sagher and Gillian Jacobs in Don’t Think Twice

MM: I want to ask this question specifically about directing comedy films. What advice to you have to directors that want to do comedy? Because to me, that’s way harder than drama.

MB: I believe it is. For me, it’s all about the reality of a situation. If you watch Spinal Tap, for example, there’s this believability of, “Wait, are those actual roadies?” That plays into the camerawork, and it plays into the acting, and it plays into all the departments. To me, the more real you make your movie, the funnier it will be. It’s like you want audiences to be so pained by the reality, to the degree to which it feels like their life, that they’re laughing. You know, if there’s one thing that I feel like is a growth from Sleepwalk with Me to Don’t Think Twice is that Sleepwalk is about basically a single protagonist, and this is about six characters. I always said to the actors on set, “Best-case scenario, people watch this in France, and they go, ‘Let’s go to New York and see [fictional troupe] The Commune.’” It’s like they think this fake improv group is real. Because I love it when you see like a Japanese film or something and you go, “These are the people, right?” Even like The Lego Movie is a good example; the actors play it very real. And in 21 Jump St., which is another Lord and Miller movie, a lot of my favorite stuff in that movie is the incredulous looks from Jonah Hill. Comedy is all about the reaction shot, and the air you give those moments.

Here is a trailer for Don’t Think Twice:

Here is an interview with Birbiglia and one of the movie’s producers Ira Glass:

For more of the interview, go here.

Movie website here.

Twitter: @birbigs, @moviemakermag.

Daily Dialogue — July 24, 2016

July 24th, 2016 by

“Now, hold on, Mr. Potter. You’re right when you say my father was no businessman. I know that. Why he ever started this cheap, penny-ante Building and Loan, I’ll never know. But neither you nor anyone else can say anything against his character, because his whole life was… why, in the 25 years since he and his brother, Uncle Billy, started this thing, he never once thought of himself. Isn’t that right, Uncle Billy? He didn’t save enough money to send Harry away to college, let alone me. But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what’s wrong with that? Why… here, you’re all businessmen here. Doesn’t it make them better citizens? Doesn’t it make them better customers? You… you said… what’d you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they’re so old and broken down that they… Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you’ll ever be!”

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), screenplay by Francis Goodrich, Albert Hackett and Frank Capra, story by Philip Van Doren Stern

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Accusation.

Trivia: Two of the writers called the finished film “horrid” and refused to see it when it was released. The only one of Clifford Odets’ ideas to appear in the finished script was George preventing Mr. Gower from poisoning a boy with the wrong vitamin pills.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Sometimes an accusation speaks a deep personal truth. Such is the case here in a memorable monologue for this beloved movie.

Daily Dialogue theme next week: Apprehension

July 23rd, 2016 by

The Daily Dialogue theme next week: Apprehension, suggested by Jon.

Anxiety. Fear something bad will happen. Lots of such movie moments come to mind. Can we come up with 7 great examples to enjoy and learn something from this week re writing dialogue? Join me, won’t you?

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.

Consecutive days of Daily Dialogue posts: 2,991. We’ve got 3,000 in our sights! Just over 1 week away!

Be a part of the proud Daily Dialogue tradition, make a suggestion, and have your name emblazoned on a blog post which will forever hold a hallowed spot in the Go Into The Story archives!

Upcoming schedule of themes:

August 1-August 7: Activism
August 8-August 14: Recollection [Will King]
August 15-August 21: Alcoholism
August 22-August 28: Mentor [Michael Waters]
August 29-September 4: Blame
September 5-September 11: Argument [Mark Twain]
September 12-September 18: Bullying
September 19-September 25: Military Moments [Will King]
September 26-October 2: Clairvoyance
October 3-October 9: Cooking [Katha]
October 10-October 16: Coaching
October 17-October 23: Cover Up [Will King]
October 24-October 30: Discipline
October 31-November 6: All Is Lost [Melinda]
November 7-November 13: Embarrassment
November 14-November 20: Bechdel Test [Will King]
November 21-November 27: Enthusiasm
November 28-December 4: Alien Invasion [Michael Waters]
December 5-December 11: Excuse
December 12-December 18: Fish Out Of Water [Will King]
December 19-December 25: Faith
December 26-January 1: Failure [Will King and Melinda]

Be sure to post your ideas for this week’s theme: Apprehension.

Continued thanks to all of you Daily Dialogue devotees, your suggested dialogue and dialogue themes. Grateful for your ongoing support of this series.

Interview (Part 6): Eric Heisserer (2012, 2014 Black List)

July 23rd, 2016 by

This weekend, the horror movie Lights Out rolls out in movie theaters across North America. Starring Teresa Palmer and Maria Bello, directed by David F. Sandberg, the screenplay was written by Eric Heisserer. I thought it was a good opportunity to reprise a 2013 interview I did with Eric and reach out to him with some questions about Lights Out.

Today in Part 6, Eric delves into more deeply into the craft of screenwriting:

Scott:  How about scene description? What cues do you think there are to writing good, entertaining scene descriptions?

Eric:  Oh! There are a number of great examples of solid scene description. I’m guessing for every rule there’s always an amazing exception, but I try to let the scene description match the pace of the story, first and foremost. If I’m writing an action sequence, I want my scene description to be terse and spaced out, with typically a lot of dashes, so that it is a very quick read, the way the movie would look in editorial.

And if I want the reader or the audience to linger in a space or sort of ponder something, then I prefer to take a little more time with my scene description, and I allow slightly larger blocks of text that I wouldn’t use elsewhere. And I just try and match the pace as best I can from that.

Then there’s always the eye toward economy. I think the best screenwriters are like the best artists, like cartoonists, for instance. The thing I picked up from cartoonists is that the goal is always to draw the most expressive characters with the fewest lines, the fewest strokes of the pen. And I feel as screenwriters that’s our job as well, to try and express the most about our characters in as few words as possible.

So much of our script is just one interpretation of the final product, and you need to suggest as much as possible, knowing that the final movie may not be at all what you initially imagined. Depending on where the location scouts find the settings, and the lighting that your DP uses, and the kind of sound library you have, and what the composer does with the score.

You can be very specific at times and very evocative, but quite often the most beautiful screenplays are the ones that just suggest the larger world without having to go in-depth to describe them.

This is a very long‑winded way of saying “less is more.”

Scott:  When you finish the first draft, you’re faced with the inevitable rewriting process. Are there some keys that you have to rewriting your scripts? And if so, what are they?

Eric:  Don’t be emotionally connected to it. Look at it as an exercise. Try to look at it with fresh eyes. And be prepared to murder your darlings. Yeah, that’s kind of what I have in mind when I look at rewriting.

Scott:  What’s your actual writing process?

Eric:  I work in private at my home office. I write to scores. I write to a lot of instrumental music.

Scott:  Here’s one for you. What’s your single, best excuse not to write?

Eric:  [laughs] Going to a movie.

Scott:  That’s a good one because you can always justify going to a movie, right?

Eric:  Totally.

Scott: What do you love most about writing?

Eric:  Having written.

Scott:  Finally, what advice do you have to offer to aspiring screenwriters about learning the craft and breaking into Hollywood?

Eric:  Read as much as you can, screenplays…amateur screenplays of people who are also trying to break in, scripts from Oscar winners, novels, short stories, poetry. Be a consumer of the written word and devour as much as you can. With equal passion and fervor, write. Write as much as you can. Write any and all of those things…screenplays, short stories, novels. The more you understand the language in the world, the better.

I’d also suggest…I’d highly recommend that if possible you get a job in some other part of the film making process, even if it’s just as a P.A., or assistant to an editor, or a camera operator, a boom mic operator, hair and makeup—whatever way for you to get involved in it. So that you get a better sense of the bigger process outside of writing, and how writing can affect all of those things.

Here is another one of my questions to Eric about Lights Out and his response:

Scott: Why is it you think people enjoy watching horror or thriller movies, putting themselves in a situation in which they know they will be scared, presumably something in ‘normal’ life they would attempt to avoid? In other words, what is the appeal of horror movies?

Eric: At this point, I think people go to scary movies because real life is getting intensely scary, and you can walk out of this horror movie and say to yourself, “Well at least I don’t have it THAT bad…”

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Part 4, here.

Part 5, here.

Eric is repped by UTA and Art/Work Entertainment.

Twitter: @HIGHzurrer.

Saturday Hot Links

July 23rd, 2016 by

Time for the 248th installment of Saturday Hot Links, your week’s essential reading about movies, TV, streaming, Hollywood, and other things of writerly interest.

Comic-Con 2016: Networks Boost Presence as Film Studios Take a Back Seat.

Comic-Con 2016: Is Your Favorite TV Show Heading to San Diego.

Comic-Con 2016: Highlights (and Lowlights) From Thursday.

Comic-Con 2016: Oliver Stone Calls Pokemon Go a ‘New Level of Invasion’.

Comic-Con 2016: What to Expect From 11 Big TV Panels.

Comic-Con 2016: Highlights (and Lowlights) From Friday.

Comic-Con 2016: Conversations with Joss Whedon.

Highlighting Can’t Miss Comic-Con Panels.

The Best of Comic-Con: The Coolest and Most Important Moments in Hall H History.

Box Office Analysis: Why the ‘Ghostbusters’ Reboot May Haunt Sony.

Why Hollywood Need To Question Their Faith In Remakes.

The Great Schism: When Indie Movies and Hollywood Blockbusters Stop Being the Same Thing.

TV Showrunners Could Be Hollywood’s Best Hope Of Saving The Movies.

ILM Exec Teases Franchise Future Of Indiana Jones.

‘Pokemon’ Movie Rights Land at Legendary.

Female-Led Films Are Finally Getting Bigger Budgets, But Don’t Thank Hollywood For That.

‘Star Wars,’ ‘Frozen,’ Disney Princess Toys Boost Hasbro’s Quarterly Earnings.

Mattel Reports ‘Ghostbusters’ Toy Sales Have ‘Exceeded Expectations’.

Why Marvel Succeeds Where Other Blockbuster Franchises Have Failed.

How New Line Cinema Is Making a Killing in Horror.

The Dark, Heights and Spiders: 10 Horror Films That Exploit Moviegoers’ Biggest Fears.

5 Rules From James Wan For Making a Successful Horror Movie in 2016.

Weinstein Co.’s Movie Shifts Raise Questions Over Money Woes.

Hollywood & 9/11: An Uneasy Relationship.

Behind Hollywood’s Closed Doors, A-List Stars Are Playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Movie Ticket Prices Hit Record High.

Why Luxury Theater Chain Cinépolis Is Buying Up Movie Houses All Across the U.S.

Inside the Saga, Secrets and Sale of CAA (Exclusive Book Excerpt).

Inside the world of fan filmmaking, where lovers of ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’ play.

The Greatest One-Location Movies of All-Time.

Matt Damon Apparently Only Has Around 25 Lines Of Dialogue In ‘Jason Bourne’.

20 Great Movies With Very Little Dialogue.

How an angry national mood is reflected in pop culture.

A post-mortem on the horrible Ghostbusters outrage of 2016.

Why Good Storytellers Are Happier in Life and in Love.

The Six Main Arcs in Storytelling, as Identified by an A.I.

What Types of Low-Budget Films Break Out.

The Broad Green Layoffs: Why Good Movies Aren’t Enough to Avoid The Startup Curse.

Hollywood Flashback: Dustin Hoffman Remembers When Michael Ovitz Saved ‘Tootsie’.

Rian Johnson Names the Six Classic Films That Inspired the Tone of ‘Star Wars: Episode VIII’.

Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Mark Boal Sues U.S. Government Over Bowe Bergdahl Interviews.

Brad Bird On Why “Video Games Are A Bad influence For Storytelling”.

‘The Iron Giant’: Brad Bird’s Anti-Gun Violence Movie Gains Poignant Power in New Documentary.

Ava DuVernay Documentary to Open New York Film Festival This Fall.

Ava DuVernay is Basically Owning 2016.

The long road to Amazon’s ‘Carnival Row’ (2005 Black List) written by Travis Beacham.

Aliens at 30: In praise of James Cameron’s feminist masterpiece.

“Science fiction cyber-war is here”: Alex Gibney on “Zero Days” and Stuxnet, the secret weapon that got away.

‘The Shawshank Redemption’: Iconic Tree From The 1994 Classic Falls.

Francis Ford Coppola Revamps To Seek New Voices.

10 Great Movies Made From Black List Scripts.

Reddit AMA: Eric Heisserer (Lights Out).

Reddit AMA: Werner Herzog.

The Black List Interview: Robert Rue.

How We Save Movies: 25 ways the Academy Film Archive has made an impact in the past 25 years.

This Incredible Movie Theater Will Make You Want To Visit South Korea.

Best Smartphone Filmmaking Gear 2016.

15 Camera Shots Every Movie Fan Should Know.

RIP analog video: Last VCR maker will stop production.

Fascinating Behind-the-Scenes Film Books.

Film Festivals: A Guide to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The 45-year-old book that explains TV today.

Peak TV: Summer Viewing Spikes as Broadcast, Cable, SVOD Battle for Attention.

Eight Female Writers Announced as Finalists for Women in Film-The Black List TV Lab.

Lorne Michaels’ Above Average Digital Comedy Studio Raises $15 Million from Turner, Advance.

Dish Suffers Worst Quarterly Subscriber Loss Ever.

Netflix Only Adds 1.7 Million Subscribers In Q2, Far Fewer Than Expected.

Netflix Launches Flixtape, a Mixtape Feature to Curate TV Show and Movie Playlists.

Netflix Users Spend 18 Minutes Picking Something to Watch.

What Netflix Can Learn from The Video Store Experience.

Twitter Is Making It Easier to Request a Verified Account.

The Pokémon Go Effect: Nintendo Is Now Worth $9 Billion More.

Pokemon Go Bus Tours and Personal Drivers Pop Up on Craigslist.

Pandora Wants to Add More Podcasts to Grow Listening Hours.

The Beatles Releasing ‘Hollywood Bowl’ Live Album on CD for First Time Ever.

Audio: Why people in old movies talk weird.

Scriptnotes: Episode 259.

Watch: 30 Moments from 30 Kurosawa Movies.

Watch: Rod Serling 1963 interview.

Watch: How Alfred Hitchcock Controls the Audience | Rear Window Dissection.

Watch: How Film Scores Play with Our Brains.

Watch: Why Are Video Game Movies So Terrible.

Watch: Silence In The Silence Of The Lambs.

Watch: Color Theory.

Watch: Pixar Use of Color.

Watch: Blue Screen 1980.

Watch: 105 of Cinema’s Most Beautiful Close-Ups.

Watch: Studio Ghibli Composer, Joe Hisaishi, Conducts 2 Hour Concert of Their Greatest Film Scores.

Finally Ken Levine: R.I.P. Garry Marshall.

Screenwriting Master Class tip of the week

In a screenplay, characters exist for a reason. Unlike a novel, a writer doesn’t have unlimited time to introduce characters willy nilly, rather the limitations of a script’s length compels us to handle characters with one eye always on how they connect to the plot. Moreover almost all movies feature a Protagonist who goes through some sort of metamorphosis. As a result, it’s almost certain all of the primary and even secondary characters in a story tie into and support the Protagonist’s transformation.

All of this translates into a 3rd essential screenwriting principle I teach in the Core curriculum:

Character = Function

This may sound reductionist. It is precisely the opposite. Much like an actor asks, “What’s my motivation,” digging down into the core of their character’s persona, so, too, do we as screenwriters delve into characters to determine what their core essence is and how that plays out in terms of their respective narrative functions. Once we make those discoveries, we can shape our characters in unlimited ways, all the while playing to how they function in relation to the narrative.

That is the starting point of Core III: Character, a 1-week online class I will be teaching starting on Monday, July 25. In this course, you will learn about:

* Five primary character archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster

* Protagonist Metamorphosis Arc

* Nemesis as opposition and ‘shadow’

* Attractor as the character most connected to a Protagonist’s emotional development

* Mentor as the character most connected to a Protagonist’s intellectual development

* Trickster as the character who tests the Protagonist’s will

* Different Protagonist paradigms

* Working with archetypes and switching Protagonists

And much more.

The course consists of four components:

  • Lectures: There are six lectures written by me, each posting Monday through Saturday.
  • Writing Exercises: These optional exercises offer you the opportunity to workshop one of your own loglines and receive feedback from class members.
  • Teleconference: We will have a Skype teleconference call to discuss course material, a great opportunity to interface directly with me and other writers in the course.
  • Forums: The online course site has message boards where you may post questions / comments, almost always a place where remarkable conversations and analysis takes place.

We will analyze a lot of movies including The Wizard of Oz, The Apartment, The Silence of the Lambs, Slumdog Millionaire, Citizen Kane, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Life Is Beautiful, and many more.

For those of you who have not taken an online class, the interface is extremely easy. Plus online classes can be an amazing experience. Most of the activities you can do on your own time — download and read lectures, review and respond to forum discussions, upload loglines and track comments. In addition, I’ve been teaching online for over a decade and it never ceases to amaze me how much of a community emerges in such an environment.

Core III: Character is one of eight classes in the Core curriculum. Here is the schedule for all of them this summer and fall, the only time I will be offering these courses in 2016:

CORE I: PLOT – A one-week class which begins with the principle Plot = Structure and explores the inner workings of the Screenplay Universe: Plotline and Themeline. Start date: June 27.

CORE II: CONCEPT – A one-week class which begins with the principle Concept = Hook and examines multiple strategies to generate, develop and assess story ideas. Start date: July 11.

CORE III: CHARACTER – A one-week class which begins with the principle Character = Function and delves into archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, and Trickster. Start date: July 25.

CORE IV: STYLE – A one-week class which begins with the principle Style = Voice and surfaces keys to developing a distinctive writer’s personality on the page. Start date: August 22.

CORE V: DIALOGUE – A one-week class which begins with the principle Dialogue = Purpose and probes a variety of ways to write effective, entertaining dialogue. Start date: September 19.

CORE VI: SCENE – A one-week class which begins with the principle Scene = Point and provides six essential questions to ask when crafting and writing any scene. Start date: October 3.

CORE VII: THEME – A one-week class which begins with the principle Theme = Meaning and gives writers a concrete take on theme which can elevate the depth of any story. Start date: November 14.

CORE VIII: TIME – A one-week class which begins with the principle Time = Present and studies Present, Present-Past, Present-Future and time management in writing. Start date: December 12.

Choose one or two depending upon your interests and needs. Or if you’re really serious and want to save some coin (nearly 50% off), consider The Core Package which gives you immediate access to the content for all eight Core classes which you can go through at your own pace, as well as the option of taking each 1-week online course.

“Joining Scott’s class is one of the best decisions anyone could make when deciding to embark on the journey of writing a screenplay. His passion for teaching and screenwriting could not be more inspirational. I couldn’t wish for a better teacher and mentor!” — Theodora von Auersperg

“Your unique lectures helped me think about character in new ways, and will inevitably change the way I approach new ideas and outlines. And I’m blown away and impressed at the level of personal feedback/communication from you. I don’t know how you do it– androids couldn’t manage their time more efficiently than you.” — Bob Corsi

I have spent years studying Carl Jung, who was a huge influence on Joseph Campbell, and as the Hero’s Journey may act as a paradigm for narrative generally, I am convinced there is a similar universality in movies relative to these five character archetypes. Moreover these archetypes are a key to character-based screenwriting, providing writers a non-formulaic way to engage the story-crafting process.

For information on Core III: Character, which begins Monday, July 25, go here.

For The Core Package, go here.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Spec Script Deal: “Besties”

July 23rd, 2016 by

DreamWorks and Montecito Pictures acquire comedy spec script “Besties” written by Cassie Daniels and Mark Bartosic. From Deadline:

It’s described as Wild Hogs meets My Best Friend’s Wedding and follows a woman who finds a long-lost love note then sets off on a road trip with her three best friends to break up the wedding of her childhood crush.

DreamWorks beat out two other potential buyers with a deal reported to be low-to-mid-six figures.

Daniels and Bartosic are repped by Paradigm.

By my count, this is the 38th spec script deal in 2016.

There were 38 spec script deals year-to-date in 2015.

Interview (Audio): Jim Uhls (“Fight Club”)

July 23rd, 2016 by

An Indie Film Hustle podcast interview with Jim Uhls, screenwriter of the 1999 movie Fight Club:


Twitter: @wohojak, @IndieFilmHustle.

Daily Dialogue — July 23, 2016

July 23rd, 2016 by

Mrs. Kintner: Chief Brody?
Brody: Yes?

Mrs. Kintner slaps Brody and sobs.

Mrs. Kintner: I just found out, that a girl got killed here last week, and you knew it! You knew there was a shark out there! You knew it was dangerous! But you let people go swimming anyway? You knew all those things! But still my boy is dead now. And there’s nothing you can do about it. My boy is dead. I wanted you to know that.

Mrs. Kintner walks away.

Mayor Vaughn: I’m sorry, Martin. She’s wrong.
Brody: No, she’s not.

Jaws (1975), screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, novely by Peter Benchley

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Accusation.

Trivia: Peter Benchley liked how cutting the subplots from the novel allowed for the characters to be fleshed out properly.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Here the accusation really drives home the guilt Brody feels about the death of the Kintner’s son. This sets the plate for the redemption Brody experiences in killing the shark which has tormented the town.

Songwriters on Songwriting

July 22nd, 2016 by

I wrote my first song when I was 14 years old. Over the years, I’ve composed hundreds of songs. It was that interest – music – that led me to take a year off from pursuing a doctorate and led me down the circuitous path that has been the rest of my life.

I don’t write songs nowadays, more focused on screenplays and writing about writing. But I can’t help but think at least some of who I am as a writer derives from all that time studying and composing songs.

Which is why I say that one of my favorite ‘screenwriting’ books is “Songwriters on Songwriting,” a collection of interviews by Paul Zollo with some of the great songwriters of our time, from Mose Allison to Frank Zappa. For what are songs but stories?

Bob Dylan handwritten lyrics for “The Times They Are A-Changin'”

Here are some posts I’ve done over the years featuring interview excerpts from notable songwriters and my thoughts on what each offers as potential takeaway from screenwriters and fiction writers.

Mose Allison

Fiona Apple

Joan Baez

Jackson Browne

David Byrne

Leonard Cohen

Willie Dixon


Bob Dylan

PJ Harvey

Bruce Hornsby

Janis Ian

Van Dyke Parks

Tom Petty

Pete Seeger

Paul Simon

Suzanne Vega

Jimmy Webb

Brian Wilson

If you’ve found any interviews with songwriters you think would be worth discussing, please post a link in comments. I know at some point, I’ll revisit the subject. So much of songwriting is about structure… just like screenwriting.