Screenwriting 101: Mickey Fisher

October 28th, 2014 by

“I used to never outline in a real way, it was mostly just brainstorming and bullet pointing ideas for scenes and figuring out what the characters wanted until I had enough of a foothold to really sit down and write.  I typically wouldn’t start until I knew at least a solid beginning and the end.  I won a screenwriting contest early last year that The Writer’s Store sponsored called The Industry Insider Contest, where they pair you with a mentor to write a feature script and my mentor, Kay, had me do extensive outlining. It was really smart the way she went about it and I treated it like it was a studio job, following her notes and really doing the work and it paid off.  For the show, we outline every episode, scene by scene, for our producing partners and the network, so I’m in the habit of doing it now.  I may eventually crave a more free-wheeling approach again one of these days but for now it helps.  Now when I sit down to write the script, I know scene by scene who wants what and why and all the basic questions of the drama.”

– Mickey Fisher (GITS interview, July 11, 2014)

Daily Dialogue — October 28, 2014

October 28th, 2014 by

Mal: [Sitting on the ledge, to Cobb] I’m asking you to take a leap of faith.
Cobb: No I can’t. You know I can’t do that. Take a second, think about our children. Think about James. Think about Phillipa now.
Mal: If I go without you they’ll take them away anyways.
Cobb: What does that mean?
Mal: I filed a letter with our attourney explaining how I’m fearful for my safety. How you’ve threatened to kill me.
Cobb: Why did you do that?
Mal: I love you, Dom.
Cobb: Why did you… why-why would you do that?
Mal: I freed you from the guilt of choosing to leave them. We’re going home to our real children.
Cobb: No, no, no, no. Mal you listen to me, alright? Mal look at me, please.
Mal: [Closing her eyes] You’re waiting for a train…
Cobb: Mal, goddammit! Don’t do this!
Mal: A train that will take you far away…
Cobb: James and Phillipa are waiting!
Mal: You know where you hope this train will take you…
Cobb: They’re waiting for us!
Mal: But you can’t know for sure…
Cobb: Mal, look at me!
Mal: Yet it doesn’t matter…
Cobb: Mal, goddammit!
Mal: Because you’ll be together.
Cobb: Sweetheart! Look at me!

Mal jumps off of the ledge.

Cobb: Mal, no! Jesus Christ!

Inception (2010), written by Christopher Nolan

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Madness. Today’s suggestion by James Schramm.

Trivia: Christopher Nolan first pitched the film to Warner Bros. after the completion of his third feature, Insomnia (2002), and was met with approval from the studio. However, it was not yet written at the time, and Nolan determined that rather than writing it as an assignment, it would be more suitable to his working style if he wrote it as a spec script and then presented it to the studio whenever it was completed. So he went off to write it, thinking it would take “a couple of months”, but it ultimately took nearly eight years.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary by James: “Having been led to believe that her world was real while they were in Limbo she is driven mad when Cobb implants the idea that her world is not real. Causing her death literally haunts him throughout the dream stages. Or was she the only sane person and Cobb and the others are still in a dream world where unbelievable things seem to happen?”

Go Into The Story Week In Review: October 20-October 26, 2014

October 27th, 2014 by

Links to the week’s most notable posts:

Austin Film Festival: Do you have questions for John August, Richard Kelly and Jim Uhls?

Austin Film Festival: Do you have questions for Craig Borten, Tom Schulman and Jim Uhls?

Austin Film Festival: Do you have questions for Whit Stillman?

Daily Dialogue Theme for Next Week: Madness

David Milch: “The Writer’s Voice” (Part 1)

David Milch: “The Writer’s Voice” (Part 2)

David Milch: “The Writer’s Voice” (Part 3)

David Milch: “The Writer’s Voice” (Part 4)

David Milch: “The Writer’s Voice” (Part 5)

Declare Your Independents – Vol. 35

Dispatch from the Front Lines: Rob Hoskins on Resistance and Permission

Great Character: Danny Torrance (The Shining)

Great Scene: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Great Scene: King of Hearts

Great Scene: Life of Brian

Great Scene: The Natural

Great Scene: The Thing from Another World

Great Scene: Up

Great Scene: Zorba the Greek

How Birdman Got Made

Interview (Audio): Todd Haynes

Interview (Video): Diablo Cody

Interview (Written): Theodore Melfi

On Writing: Flannery O’Connor

Reader Question: Could you provide some insight into the script development process?

Saturday Hot Links

Screenwriting 101: Michael Arndt

Screenwriting News (October 20-26, 2014)

Script To Screen: Bonnie and Clyde

Spec Script Sale: “Plus One”

The 2014 For Your Consideration Screenplay Download Season officially begins!

Twitter Rant: @MysteryBritExec on Life as a Development Executive

Twitter Rant: Craig Mazin on the Working Relationship between Studio Execs and Writers

Why we love repetition in music… and stories

Wrangling Your Story

Writing and the Creative Life: Mind Wandering

Declare Your Independents — Vol. 35

October 27th, 2014 by

GITS development assistant Wendy Cohen here, and welcome back to Declare Your Independents, our new series highlighting the latest developments in the world of independent film!

This week…

The Best Foreign-Language Films of 2014

Justin Simien on Dear White People

Interstellar‘s Christopher Nolan, Stars Reveal Secrets of the Year’s Most Mysterious Film

The Oscar Landscape Post-Hamptons, Pre-AFI

Scott and I encourage any of you who go to see an independent movie to post your reactions to the film in these posts. Good, bad, indifferent, whatever. If there’s a film you want to recommend, do it. Use your words to inspire readers to transport themselves into a local cinema.




In January 2013, Laura Poitras (recipient of the 2012 MacArthur Genius Fellowship and co-recipient of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service) was several years into making a film about surveillance in the post-9/11 era when she started receiving encrypted e-mails from someone identifying himself as “citizen four,” who was ready to blow the whistle on the massive covert surveillance programs run by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. In June 2013, she and Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The film that resulted from this series of tense encounters is absolutely sui generis in the history of cinema: a 100% real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes. Executive Produced by Steven Soderbergh.

Watch an interview with the film’s director, Laura Poitras, here.


Overeducated and underemployed, 28 year old Megan (Keira Knightley) is in the throes of a quarterlife crisis. Squarely into adulthood with no career prospects, no particular motivation to think about her future and no one to relate to, Megan is comfortable lagging a few steps behind – while her friends check off milestones and celebrate their new grown-up status. When her high-school sweetheart (Mark Webber) proposes, Megan panics and- given an unexpected opportunity to escape for a week – hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year old Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Annika’s world-weary single dad Craig (Sam Rockwell). Lynn Shelton, whose unique directorial voice created such astutely observed comedies as YOUR SISTER’S SISTER and HUMPDAY, crafts a sweet, romantic coming-of-age comedy about three people who find their lives intertwined in the most unconventional way as they make through the imperfect realities of modern day life. Keira Knightley shines as Megan, a rare female slacker hero who shows us that while you never stop growing up, you can choose stop lagging, and start living on your terms.

Watch Vanity Fair‘s interview with writer/director Lynn Shelton here.

Low Down

Based on the memoir by Amy-Jo Albany, LOW DOWN is a compassionate, tender look at the complex relationship between Amy-Jo (Elle Fanning) and her father Joe (John Hawkes), a man torn between his musical ambition, his devotion to his teenage daughter, and his suffocating heroin addiction. Set against a sensuously textured 1970s Hollywood, the film beautifully evokes a colorful, seedy world of struggling musicians, artists, and vagabonds, in which Joe and Amy-Jo strive to live the lives they want against seemingly insurmountable odds.

Watch DP/30′s interview with the film’s director Jeff Preiss and star John Hawkes, here.

White Bird in a Blizzard

Kat Connors is 17 years old when her perfect homemaker mother, Eve, a beautiful, enigmatic, and haunted woman, disappears – just as Kat is discovering and relishing her newfound sexuality. Having lived for so long in a stifled, emotionally repressed household, she barely registers her mother’s absence and certainly doesn’t blame her doormat of a father, Brock, for the loss. In fact, it’s almost a relief. But as time passes, Kat begins to come to grips with how deeply Eve’s disappearance has affected her. Returning home on a break from college, she finds herself confronted with the truth about her mother’s departure, and her own denial about the events surrounding it.

Watch an interview with the film’s writer/director, Gregg Araki, here.

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

The film features those who know and love Glen, including Bruce Springsteen, Bill Clinton, The Edge, Paul McCartney, Jay Leno, Vince Gil, Jimmy Web, Blake Shelton, Sheryl Crow, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Steve Martin, Chad Smith and Taylor Swift among many others. Rare vintage footage and extraordinary new performances of Glen’s most beloved hits immerse this moving cinematic account in the overwhelming talent of this humble family man. With joy and a tireless sense of humor, Glen and his family live each moment in the present while preparing for the future, all while playing their music to sold out venues.

23 Blast

23 Blast is based on the amazingly true story of Travis Freeman. A typical teenager growing up in a small town in Kentucky, Travis is a local hero on and off the field. In the fall of 1997, in the prime of his youth, he is unexpectedly stricken with an infection that destroys his optic nerve. He becomes blind overnight. Under the influence of parents who love him, a physical therapist who challenges him, a coach who inspires him, and a best friend who he cannot bear to leave behind, Travis shows us what true bravery is by competing on the gridiron, helping his team advance to the State playoffs. We follow Travis and Jerry Baker, his closest friend, from the time they meet on the football field as kids through high school. Jerry’s attraction to the dark side of teenage temptations, beer and drugs, threatens to pull the friends apart. It is only on the football field where they truly connect.

A Thousand Times Good Night

Rebecca (Juliette Binoche) is one of world’s top war photojournalists, capturing dangerous and chilling images in the most dire landscapes, all in an effort to shed light on the real cost of modern war. But she’s also a wife and mother, leaving behind a husband and two young daughters every time she travels to a new combat zone. After a near-death experience chronicling the ritual of a female suicide bomber, husband Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) levels an ultimatum: give up the dangerous profession or lose the family she counts on being there when she returns from each assignment. Yet the conviction that her photos can make a difference keeps pulling at Rebecca’s resolve, making it difficult for her to walk away entirely. With an offer to photograph a refugee camp in Kenya, a place allegedly so safe that daughter Steph (Lauryn Canny) is allowed to join her, Rebecca comes face to face with just how much she risks each time she steps back into the fray.

Force Majeure

A critical favorite and word-of-mouth sensation at this year’s Cannes Festival, where it took the Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard, this wickedly funny and precisely observed psychodrama tells the story of a model Swedish family-handsome businessman Tomas, his willowy wife Ebba and their two blond, pre-teen children-on a skiing holiday in the French Alps. The sun is shining and the slopes are spectacular but, during lunch at a mountainside restaurant, an avalanche turns everything upside down. With panicked diners fleeing in all directions, Ebba calls out for her husband as she tries to protect their children. Tomas, however, makes a decision that will shake the family’s world to its core. Although the anticipated disaster fails to occur, his marriage now hangs in the balance as he struggles to reclaim his role as family patriarch.

Rhymes for Young Ghouls

Eye-catching feature about a teenage, Aboriginal, revenge-seeking drug-dealer Red Crow. Mi’g Maq reservation, 1976: By government decree, every Indian child under the age of 16 must attend residential school. In the kingdom of the Crow, that meansimprisonment at St. Dymphna’s. That means being at the mercy of “Popper”, the sadistic Indian agent who runs the school. At 15, Aila is the weed princess of Red Crow. Hustling with her uncle Burner, she sells enough dope to pay Popper her “truancy tax”, keeping her out of St.Ds. But when Aila’s drug money is stolen and her father Joseph returns from prison, the precarious balance of Aila’s world is destroyed. Her only options are to run or fight… and Mi’gMaq won’t run.

Life of Riley

Adapted from Alan Ayckbourn’s play Relatively Speaking, LIFE OF RILEY is the ebullient and highly stylized story of the emotional entanglements among three couples living in the English countryside. When the couples learn that their close mutual friend George is terminally ill, their shared bonds are laid bare and Resnais’ exquisitely developed characters begin to grapple with their own mortality and romantic vision of life. The brisk and shrewdly articulate encounters between the characters, played by Sabine Azéma, Hippolyte Girardot, Caroline Silhol, Michel Vuillermoz, Sandrine Kiberlain and André Dussollier, unfold an intimate real life story that bleeds in and out of the theater piece in which they are all cast. Splendid scenes of the English countryside and gorgeously illustrated settings demarcate the turning points in the plot, and the continuously blurred line between fiction and reality. A joyously unsettling meditation on the elasticity of the boundaries of love and affection, LIFE OF RILEY is an entirely unique, ingeniously structured and poignantly jubilant farewell from one of the greatest directors of all time.

The Heart Machine

Tracking two parallel journeys that show how digital media complicates modern love, THE HEART MACHINE explores the evolving relationship between physical and emotional intimacy, isolation in the urban hive, and the seduction of hiding behind a screen. This modern mystery tells the story of Cody (John Gallagher Jr. – HBO’s The Newsroom, SHORT TERM 12) and Virginia (Kate Lyn Sheil – Netflix House of Cards, YOU’RE NEXT), who fall in love online, despite the distance between them. Through an interrelated series of events, Cody suspects that Virginia might not actually live in Berlin and may even live in the same city as he does, and seeks to find the truth. THE HEART MACHINE questions love and intimacy in the digital age, and whether you can really trust whom you meet on the internet.

Watch The Wrap‘s interview with the film’s writer/director, Zachary Wigon, and cast here.


Dear White People

Winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent, Dear White People is a sly, provocative satire of race relations in the age of Obama. Writer/director Justin Simien follows a group of African American students as they navigate campus life and racial politics at a predominantly white college in a sharp and funny feature film debut that earned him a spot on Variety’s annual “10 Directors to Watch.”

Watch Stephen Colbert speak with the film’s writer/director Justin Simien here.


Birdman: or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) — famous for portraying an iconic superhero — as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself.

Watch THR’s Scott Feinberg’s interview with the film’s director and co-writer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu here and here.


April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.

Watch Trailer Addict’s interview with the film’s writer/director David Ayer here.

Camp X-Ray

A young woman joins the military to be part of something bigger than herself and her small town roots. But she ends up as a new guard at Guantanamo Bay instead, where her mission is far from black and white. Surrounded by hostile jihadists and aggressive squadmates, she strikes up an unusual friendship with one of the detainees. A story of two people, on opposite sides of a war, struggling to find their way through the ethical quagmire of Guantanamo Bay. And in the process, they form an unlikely bond that changes them both.

Watch Sundance’s interview with the film’s writer/director Peter Sattler here.

Listen Up Philip

A complex, intimate, and highly idiosyncratic comedy, Listen Up Philip is a literary look at the triumph of reality over the human spirit. Anger rages in Philip (Jason Schwartzman) as he awaits the publication of his sure-to-succeed second novel. He feels pushed out of his adopted home city by the constant crowds and noise, a deteriorating relationship with his photographer girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss), and his indifference to promoting his own work. When Philip’s idol Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce) offers his isolated summer home as a refuge, he finally gets the peace and quiet to focus on his favorite subject — himself.

Watch Sundance’s interview with the film’s writer/director Alex Ross Perry here.


Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite east coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons ), an instructor equally known for his teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the school. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man’s life. Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability-and his sanity.

Watch TIFF’s interview with Damien Chazelle, director and writer of the 2012 Black List script, here.

Many thanks to Wendy for today’s post. Remember to Declare Your Independents by going to a theater or use V.O.D. to watch an indie feature this weekend.

Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work: 1 Page A Day

October 27th, 2014 by

I heard this idea from producer Larry Gordon about how to knock out a script: Write one page per day. Think about it — at one page per day, in 4 months you’ve generated a 120 pages. So if you take this approach:

* 1 month: Research, brainstorming, character development, plotting

* 4 months: Writing (1 page per day)

* 1 month: Rewrite and final edit

Which means you can crank out 2 full-length screenplays per year — by writing just one page per day.

This has been another edition of Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work.

[Originally posted September 27, 2008]

Movie [Teaser] Trailer: “Inside Out”

October 27th, 2014 by

Story by Pete Docter

Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.


Release Date: 19 June 2015 (USA)

Great Scene: “Scarface”

October 27th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s suggestion is by Dino Sijamic: The 1983 movie Scarface, screenplay by Oliver Stone. IMDB plot summary:

In 1980 Miami, a determined Cuban immigrant takes over a drug cartel while succumbing to greed.

After a face-plant into a mountain of cocaine, Tony Montana (Al Pacino) sees an army of his rival gang assaulting his compound.

Grenade launcher. ‘Nuff said.

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

On Writing

October 27th, 2014 by

“You will either write or you will not–and the only way to find out whether you will or not is to try.”

– Jim Tully

Daily Dialogue — October 27, 2014

October 27th, 2014 by

JOKER: You. You just couldn’t let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you? Huh? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.
BATMAN: You’ll be in a padded cell forever.
JOKER: Maybe we could share one. You know, they’ll be doubling up the rate this city’s inhabitants are losing their minds.
BATMAN: This city just showed you that it’s full of people ready to believe in good.
JOKER: Until their spirit breaks completely. Until they get a good look at the real Harvey Dent, and all the heroic things he’s done. You didn’t think I’d risk losing the battle for Gotham’s soul in a fist fight with you. No. You need an ace in the hole. Mine’s Harvey.
BATMAN: What did you do?
JOKER: I took Gotham’s white knight and I brought him down to our level. It wasn’t hard. You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push.

The Dark Knight (2008), screenplay Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer

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

Trivia: The Joker’s distinctive tongue flip grew out of Heath Ledger’s own habit of doing that.

Dialogue On Dialogue: The Joker is one of the greatest examples of madness in recent cinema history, embracing his own embracing.

Screenwriting News (October 20-October 26, 2014)

October 26th, 2014 by

Joe Ballarini adapting toy line “My Little Pony” as a family comedy for Hasbro.

Zach Dean rewriting action adventure “Methusaleh” for Warner Bros.

Will Eubank and Philip Hawthorne writing action drama “World Breaker” for Warner Bros.

Eric Heisserer sells supernatural thriller pitch “Exposure” to Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Charlie Kaufman rewriting “I.Q. 83″ for Paramount Pictures.

Jeff Lieberman writing remake of his own 1978 movie “Blue Sunshine” for Vincent Newman Entertainment.

Nicholas Martin writing drama “Florence” for Pathé and Qwerty Films, Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant attached to star.

Jordan Peele and Alex Reubens writing comedy “Keanu” for New Line Cinema.

Steve Pink and Jeff Morris sell comedy pitch “Cop Swap” to MGM for high six figures.

Jason Rothwell writing action thriller “Polar” for Constantin Film.

Nick Schoenfeld writing drama “King David” for Warner Bros.

Todd Solondz writing “Wiener-Dog” for Annapurna Pictures, Solondz attached to direct.

Ben Wheatley writing “Free Fire” for Rook Films, Wheatley to direct.


For my interview with Eric Heisserer, go here.