Daily Dialogue — October 24, 2016

October 24th, 2016 by

Richard Vernon: Well, well. Here we are. I want to congratulate you for being on time.
Claire Standish: Excuse me, sir. I think there’s been a mistake. I know it’s detention but I don’t think I belong in here.

Vernon ignores her, carrying on with his speech.

Richard Vernon: It is now 7:06. You have exactly 8 hours and 54 minutes to think about WHY you are here – to ponder the error of your ways. You will not talk… You will now move from these seats.

Richard Vernon: [addressing Bender, who has his feet on a chair] And YOU… will not sleep.

Pulls the chair out from under Bender’s feet.

Richard Vernon: All right people, we’re going to try something a little different today. We are going to write an essay of no less than a thousand words describing to me who you think you are.
John Bender: Is this a test?
Richard Vernon: And when I say ‘essay’, I mean ‘essay’. I do not mean a single word repeated a thousand times. Is that clear, Mr. Bender?
John Bender: Crystal.
Richard Vernon: Good. Maybe you’ll learn a little something about yourself. You might even decide whether or not you’d care to return.
Brian Johnson: Uh, you know, I can answer that right now, sir. That’d be no… No from me, ’cause…
Richard Vernon: Sit down, Johnson.
Brian Johnson: Thank you, sir.

Sits down.

Richard Vernon: My office is right across that hall. Any monkey business is ill-advised. Any questions?
John Bender: Yeah, I got a question. Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?
Richard Vernon: You’ll get the answer to that question, Mr. Bender, next Saturday. Don’t mess with the bull, young man – you’ll get the horns.

Walks away.

John Bender: That man… is a brownie hound.

The Breakfast Club (1985), written by John Hughes

The Daily Dialogue theme next week: Discipline.

Trivia: John Hughes wrote the screenplay to this movie in just two days (4 and 5 July 1982).

Dialogue On Dialogue: Detention. A common form of discipline in high school, at least in a Chicago suburb in the 80s as imagined by John Hughes. Ironically the members of ‘The Breakfast Club do learn something about themselves through the process, although not in the way Richard Vernon imagined.

Reader Question: What’s the best way to approach pitching?

October 23rd, 2016 by

From Anonymous,

In the next month I will be pitching for the chance to write the script for an upcoming film. A producer, having seen some shorts and a webseries I made along with reading some spec scripts, has asked me to go along but this will be my first time and I am unsure of which ‘way’ to pitch. Would you recommend giving a detailed rundown of the script and beats in 5 minutes, or should I give a quick rundown and concentrate on tone and atmosphere?

First off there is no one right way to pitch. However having sold several original stories and landed many more OWA’s, each based on pitches, I can share with you my general approach.

12 minutes. That’s what you should plan on having. Max. I break it up this way:

Act One [5 minutes]: Introduce the main characters, providing each one’s core essence and narrative function [you don’t need to say, “This is the Protagonist” or “This is the Nemesis,” you can make that clear in how you describe them, but you should know what their respective functions are]; establish story concept and set the plot into motion, basically what happens that jettisons the Protagonist out of their ordinary world and into the story’s adventure.

Act Two [5 minutes]: Do not do a beat for beat breakdown of the second act, rather spotlight 4-6 key subplots [depending upon the genre and type of story] and dynamics that are in play, and provide the listener both some key plot points and the entertaining value of each one. Most listeners are pretty smart and will be able to fill in the dots.

Act Three [2 minutes]: Build to the Final Struggle, show how the story ends up, a taste of the Denouement, and out.

Some tips:

#1: When you start the pitch, don’t talk about the story, tell the story. Just get into it. It’s the story itself that has to be entertaining. All your analysis and points of support for the story, save those for after the pitch. If they are interested in your story, you will have plenty of time to pimp and drill down into it afterward.

#2: Never read from notes. Memorize the pitch, then practice it verbally over and over and over and over again. You should know the pitch backwards and forwards, and be able to convey it conversationally, not like a robot.

#3: Make sure you hit some trailer moments. Try to come up with at least 5 moments that a buyer will be able to see as something they can use to market the movie.

#4: Be passionate. Buttressing a great story concept and well-constructed story is your own emotional connection to the material. A buyer wants to know you are excited about the content and will bring that energy to the writing. Plus there is a psychological subtext at work whereby they feed off your excitement.

#5: That said less is more. Don’t go over the top with your enthusiasm. And this extends to how much detail you provide. The tendency is to want to keep hammering home sales points after the pitch. At some point, you run risk of coming off as desperate. Have confidence in your story. It should sell itself. If it’s not good enough to sell, then no amount of your frenzied verbiage will make up for that.

#6: This is super important: You need to know what the key dynamics of your story are that will create an emotional connection with a potential moviegoer, then make sure you sell those in your pitch. Again not so much talking about those dynamics, but actually conveying through the sharing of the story itself.

Hope that’s helpful. Best of luck with your pitch!

What say ye, GITS community? How do you pitch a story?

[Originally posted January 18, 2012]

UPDATE: Two additional points and underscoring something I noted in the OP.

First, this approach focuses on pitching original stories. If you’re up for an OWA, be prepared to present a more comprehensive take. That’s not always the case, the 12 minute pitch can work for some writing assignments, however depending on the project and the nature of its story problems, complexity, etc, you may have to cover more narrative terrain to provide what the buyer needs.

Second, while you’re at it, work on your one-line version of the story as well as a 60-90 second iteration. That can not only help you crystallize your story and focus your 12 minute pitch, it will also prepare you for those ‘elevator pitch’ opportunities which may arise unexpectedly.

The third thing is to underscore the very last point I made above: Zero in on the story’s emotional core. Why will a listener care about the story? By extension, why will an audience member care about the movie? Most often, you can do this by presenting a clear articulation of the Protagonist’s initial state of being, what I call Disunity. What do they need? Why do they need to change? What is their central inner conflict?

In most movies, Protagonists go through some sort of psychological metamorphosis. Change may be necessary for them to evolve into their New Self, however transformation is a scary thing. If you can identify the Protagonist’s Disunity state, both circumstances in the External World and psychological dynamics in their Internal World, invariably you will tap into key dynamics in the emotional life of your story.

Screenwriting News (October 17-October 23, 2016)

October 23rd, 2016 by

This week’s writing deals and movie project news.

Michael Almereyda adapting “White Noise” for BB Film Productions.

Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim adapting “Crazy Rich Asians” for Warner Bros. Pictures.

David Coggeshall writing “Starfall” for Lionsgate.

Laurence Coriat writing “Icarus” for Archery Pictures, Forthcoming Productions, and Start Motion Pictures.

Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields writing “Godzilla 2” for Legendary Pictures.

Michael Russell Gunn sells spec script “The Price of Liberty” to Participant Media.

Chuck Hogan writing “Crossfire” for Original Film.

Kyle Killen sells pitch “Sinbad” to Studio 8.

Jono Matt and Glen Powell writing “Captain Planet” for Paramount Pictures.

Michael McCullers writing “Shrek 5” for DreamWorks Animation.

Simon Rich writing “Willy Wonka” for Warner Bros. Pictures.

Peter Straughan writing Untitled Ernest Shackleton Project for StudioCanal.

Comment Archive

Q&A (Video): “Moonlight” cast and crew

October 23rd, 2016 by

A post-screening Q&A with Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Trevante Rhodes and Writer-Director Barry Jenkins from the movie Moonlight:

A trailer for the movie:

Via the SAG-AFTRA Foundation.

Daily Dialogue — October 23, 2016

October 23rd, 2016 by

Deep Throat: You let Haldeman slip away.
Bob Woodward: Yes.
Deep Throat: You’ve done worse than let Haldeman slip away: you’ve got people feeling sorry for him. I didn’t think that was possible. In a conspiracy like this, you build from the outer edges and go step by step. If you shoot too high and miss, everybody feels more secure. You’ve put the investigation back months.

All the President’s Men (1976), screenplay by William Goldman,

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Cover Up, suggested by Will King.

Trivia: The two lead actors memorized each other’s lines so that they could both interrupt each other in character. This unsettled a lot of the actors they were playing opposite, leading to a greater sense of verisimilitude.

Dialogue On Dialogue: One of the best political movies ever, the Deep Throat character, a Mentor figure, provides a gripping take on the most notorious cover-up in American history.

Daily Dialogue theme next week: Discipline

October 22nd, 2016 by

The Daily Dialogue theme next week: Discipline.

“Thank you, sir, may I have another?”

National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)

Discipline is an interesting theme. Who is doling out the discipline? Who is the recipient? Plus there is self-discipline. That should provide fodder for this week’s theme.

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: 3,082.

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:

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: Discipline.

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

Comment Archive

Saturday Hot Links

October 22nd, 2016 by

Saturday Hot Links

Time for the 260th installment of Saturday Hot Links, your week’s essential reading about movies, TV, streaming, Hollywood, and other things of writerly interest.

2017 Oscar Predictions: Best Adapted Screenplay.

How Disney Companies Like Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm Maintain Their Creative Cultures.

Wanda to Unveil Massive 40 Percent Incentive to Lure Hollywood Film Shoots to China.

Why Women Rule This Fall Movie Season.

16 Key Changes Between ‘The Girl on the Train’ Book and Movie.

Warren Beatty’s New Movie Has 16 Credited Producers: “It’s Deplorable”.

Warner Bros. Rebooting ‘Willy Wonka’.

Imax, Warner Bros. Sign 12-Picture Deal, Extend Long-Term Partnership.

Time Warner in Talks to Merge With AT&T.

Peter Chernin Poised for Top Time Warner Role if $85 Billion AT&T Deal Closes.

From Hollywood to Silicon Beach, L.A. Creatives are Plotting Virtual Reality’s Boom.

Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather Notebook’ Details the Making of a Classic.Ava DuVernay’s 13th and the Importance of Telling True Stories.

Michael Moore Unveils Secret Donald Trump Movie.Ava DuVernay Suggested These Star Wars: The Force Awakens Reshoots that Put the Focus on Rey’s Perspective.

Joss Whedon on a Lot of Stuff.

Harry Shearer Sues Vivendi’s Universal, Studiocanal for $125 Million Over Music Copyrights to ‘Spinal Tap’.

Tom Cruise, John Wick, and the New Hollywood Gunfight.

AFF 2016: Complete List of Screenplay and Film Competition Jury Award Winners.

The Black List Partners with Autograph Collection Hotels for Sundance Social Space.

How genre cinema fueled our collective fear of killer clowns.

Reflecting on ‘The Leftovers’ Leads The Mind to a Weird Place.

Can Lifetime’s ‘UnREAL’ Overcome Its Behind-the-Scenes Chaos?

The Strategy Behind Discovery’s $100M Bid for Millennials.

How Amazon Became a Major Player in Half-Hour Television.

Fandor Is Now Available to Prime Members on Amazon Channels.

Twitter Fires Its New Head of VR After Two Days.

NBCUniversal Investing Another $200M in BuzzFeed.

20 Great Podcasts Under 25 Minutes Long.

The Twin Peaks Character Backstories We Learn From Mark Frost’s New Novel.

Bob Dylan Won’t Return the Nobel Committee’s Calls.

Listen: Broken Projector (Episode 25).

Listen: Scriptnotes (Episode 272).

Watch: That’s Amore – Evil Laughs & Smiles.

Watch: A Writer and Three Script Editors Walk Into a Bar.

Watch: Every Tom Cruise Run. Ever.

Watch: Hitchcock Meets Kubrick.

Watch: Steven Spielberg Channeled His Inner Stanley Kubrick.

Watch: Akiva Goldsman talking about working with Ron Howard on ‘A Beautiful Mind’.

Watch: Fury Road: An Unconventional Comic Book Film?

Watch: Where Do We Go From Here? A Supercut of the Future.

Interview (Written): Marianne and Cormac Wibberley

October 22nd, 2016 by

A Script magazine interview with husband and wife screenwriting duo Marianne and Cormac Wibberley, whose movie credits include National Treasure and its sequel, Bad Boys 2, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, G-Force, The Shaggy Dog, and I Spy.

NM: How much research do you do when preparing to write a script? Do you travel, visit libraries, talk to people, buy books?

TW: We do lots of research. We buy tons of books on Amazon, we Google, we Wiki, but we hate to travel, so we use GoogleEarth and read reviews on TripAdvisor a lot…

Cormac is an avid reader. He’s usually reading three books and a couple scripts at any given moment.

Marianne is more ADHD. She’s an internet sleuth who’s more likely to have ten active windows open on her laptop than books.

NM: What’s your writing process like?

TW: We outline. We like (hate) to pitch because you can tell by the reactions of the people you’re pitching to what’s working and where your story needs more work.

We do like the post-its method. You can stick them to any wall. No corkboard required.

We also take long walks with our two rescue German Shepherds and discuss story or what we need to write in the next scene.

Cormac and Marianne Wibberley

NM: How do you approach rewrites?

TW: From the characters. We get so many scripts that are filled with plotty plots and no character. We always say that people will watch any story as long as they’re engaged with the hero. What’s the hero’s problem? What does he/she think s/he wants? What does s/he really need?

When you come into a pitch for a rewrite armed with this, it’s much better than coming in with the hero does this, and then that, and then this, and then that.

This holds for anything you’re working on, by the way.

For the rest of the interview, go here.

Twitter: @dottiehudson.

Daily Dialogue — October 22, 2016

October 22nd, 2016 by

“The organizing principle of any society, Mr. Garrison, is for war. The authority of the state over its people resides in its war powers. Kennedy wanted to end the Cold War in his second term. He wanted to call off the moon race and cooperate with the Soviets. He signed a treaty to ban nuclear testing. He refused to invade Cuba in 1962. He set out to withdraw from Vietnam. But all that ended on the 22nd of November, 1963.”

JFK (1991), screenplay by Oliver Stone & Zachary Sklar, book by Jim Garrison and Jim Marrs

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Cover Up, suggested by Will King.

Trivia: Oliver Stone showed this film in December of 1991 to all of Congress on Capitol Hill. It led to the 1992 Assassinations Disclosure Act

Dialogue On Dialogue: The greatest cover-up in U.S. political history… maybe?

Reader Question: Are there specific ways to simplify and focus a story?

October 21st, 2016 by

A question from Zach:

Anyone know of any specific ways to simplify a story? I feel like I lose touch with my main idea pretty quickly.

There must be some comparable aspects between essays and screenwriting…

Short of knowing the specifics of your situation, here are a few general thoughts.

1. I think your instinct is correct about there being something “comparable” between essays and screenwriting. In an essay, you typically have a central theme upon and around which you craft your ‘story.’ Likewise a good screenplay will almost always have a central theme. For example, the movie Tootsie has a theme that Michael (Dustin Hoffman) states point blank: “I was a better man as a woman than I was as a man.” You can go through virtually every scene in the movie that involves Michael / Dorothy and see that theme at work. Likewise in the movie K-9, I knew from day 1 the central theme of that story: The dog humanizes the human. Again you can see that at work in every scene of the movie.

So ask yourself a question: What is the central theme of my movie? If you can’t answer that question, then that’s probably an area where you would benefit spending some time brainstorming.

2. While the theme is basically an expression of a movie’s central ‘wisdom,’ don’t forget how important your story’s underlying concept is. For example, take the movie District 9 where the central story concept is – set against a backdrop of aliens having landed on Earth, stuck here, and living in apartheid type camps – about a Protagonist (Wikus) who becomes ‘infected’ by alien fluid and begins to transform into a ‘Prawn.’ That central concept not only informs the events of the plot, it also provides the backbone of the Themeline where Wikus moves from a rather racist attitude toward the aliens into sympathy and understanding of them.

So ask yourself a question: What is my story concept? You should be able to articulate that in a few lines, quickly and cleanly. If you can’t, then again, probably an area where you can spend more time digging into your story.

3. In my view, most stories lose their focus in Act Two or even Act Three because the writer has failed to answer some basic questions at the very beginning of the story. So here are some fundamental questions you should be able to answer about your story before you type FADE IN:

Who is the Protagonist?
The central and most important character in most stories.

What do they want?
P is typically conscious of this External World goal.

What do they need?
P is typically unconscious of or repressing their Internal World goal.

Who is keeping the P from their goal?
This is most likely your Nemesis.

Understanding who your Protagonist and Nemesis characters are, and what is at the core of their central conflict, is critical in shaping the spine of your plot, and also in how P’s needs emerge into the daylight and reshape who they are and how they see their ultimate goal.

There are other character questions you can ask, but for starters, there are the most critical. Now some plot questions:

What happens at the beginning of Act One?
How does your P begin the story?

What happens at the end of Act One?
What event thrusts the P out of their ordinary world and into the new world / world of adventure (per J. Campbell)?

What happens at the end of Act Two?
What plot point is a major blow to the P per their goal, an All Is Lost moment?

What happens at the end of Act Three?
How does your P end the story / what transpires in the Final Struggle?

Once again, if you can’t answer all those questions with a good deal of clarity, then you would do well to go into your story even deeper than you have.

A final piece of advice: Watch movies and read scripts. As you do that, pay close attention to how they keep their stories on track. In fact, you might benefit from doing a scene-by-scene breakdown as I did here for Shakespeare in Love. It’s a great way to visualize the ‘spine’ of a story and to see how in a well-crafted script, every scene is tied to and advances both the Plotline and the Themeline.

How about other GITS readers? What advice might you have for Zach simplify and focus a story?