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.


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.

The Business of Screenwriting: Everything you wanted to know about specs [Part 6]

April 30th, 2015 by

Spec scripts, that is. I’m guessing that perhaps 90% of the people who follow this blog at some point in their lives will write a spec script. And the other 10% are involved in buying and selling them. In light of that fact, last year I interviewed a top manager and some Hollywood screenwriters about the ins and outs of what is involved in bringing a spec script to market. I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to do something with that inside information, so when Vanity Fair recently came out with this article — When the Spec Script was King — a decent piece, but pretty surface level, I figured this is as good a time as any to dig into the subject in a comprehensive fashion.

In Part 1, we looked at the genesis of the spec script in Hollywood from 1900-1942.

In Part 2, we covered the emergence of the spec script market from 1942-1990.

In Part 3, we analyzed the boom, bust, and back again of 1990-2012.

In Part 4, we surveyed the buyers, both major studios and financiers.

In Part 5, we examined the screenwriter-rep relationship in terms of developing a spec script.

Part 6: Rolling out a new writer’s spec script

There are multiple ways in which managers and agents take out a spec script, but when it involves a new writer, there can be an additional value in going wide. Check out these observations from Chris Fenton, literary manager and producer of H2F Entertainment from an interview I did with him:

It depends on the script. We’d like to have something that works for both the studios and the financiers, a script that could be a big blown-out studio movie as well as something a little more constrained that can work for financiers with smaller budgets. If we have something like that, I want to introduce that writer and their script to everybody in town. I want to create excitement around a piece of material, make sure the tracking boards are covering the project, and try to get it out to 120 producers, get everybody reading it. Because you never know what can happen with a good piece of material and the right producer. Maybe it doesn’t sell, but it gets that producer thinking about another assignment, creates an opportunity for the writer that way, too. Bottom line the spec market is a fantastic way for getting a new writer to be read.

A lot here. Let’s unpack it:

* First and foremost, everything depends on the script. As Chris said elsewhere in our conversation, “It’s super important for us to be very critical and have a high quality control when it comes to representing writers because every time we sell something, that makes it that much easier to get everybody to read our next writer client and their script, and read them fast to try to make another sale.” This underscores what we discussed in Part 5: No script goes out until it’s ready.

* The desire for writers to craft material that can be sent to both sets of buyers — the major studios and independent financiers — is understandable. As discussed in Part 4, the odds of a deal are much better when dealing with 50-75 buyers than no more than 9 major players. The subtext here is that writers would be wise to don their producer’s hat when conceiving, developing and writing a spec script, one that is cognizant of budgetary issues. If you write a script that can only be produced for $100M or more, you seriously reduce the pool of buyers. If, on the other hand, you create a script that could be made for $30M, but if a major studio wants to step in and lay in all sorts of special effects and set pieces, then you have two sets of buyers.

* 120 producers or whatever the number, the goal here is to get a writer and their material maximum exposure. All it takes is one set of eyeballs to get the script, to become its champion. Moreover, as Chris noted, producers are involved in multiple projects. Perhaps they like what you’ve written and have another script in development they can plug you into. And yes, Hollywood players are in a constant state of motion, moving from this gig to that, that gig to this. Exposing a writer to as many producers and studio execs as possible may not translate into anything specific in the present. On the other hand, if a writer can make connections with multiple players, that increases the odds that at some point in the future, the writer’s name will arise in relation to another project.

* “The spec market is a fantastic way for getting a new writer to be read.” The meaning of that is simple and plain, and should encourage each of us — aspiring screenwriters to professional screenwriters. There is nothing quite like a spec script in terms of its potential to introduce a new writer, redefine an established writer, reawaken the career of a floundering writer, and generate enough heat to translate into a writing assignment or an actual sale.

Next week: Another installment in this series.

[Originally posted March 21, 2013]

The Business of Screenwriting is a weekly series of GITS posts based upon my experiences as a complete Hollywood outsider who sold a spec script for a lot of money, parlayed that into a screenwriting career during which time I’ve made some good choices, some okay decisions, and some really stupid ones. Hopefully you’ll be the wiser for what you learn here.

Daily Dialogue — April 30, 2015

April 30th, 2015 by

Charles: Ehm, look. Sorry, sorry. I just, ehm, well, this is a very stupid question and… , particularly in view of our recent shopping excursion, but I just wondered, by any chance, ehm, eh, I mean obviously not because I’m just some git who’s only slept with 9 people, but-but I-I just wondered… ehh. I really feel, ehh, in short, to recap it slightly in a clearer version, eh, the words of David Cassidy in fact, eh, while he was still with the Partridge family, eh, “I think I love you,” and eh, I-I just wondered by any chance you wouldn’t like to… Eh… Eh… No, no, no of course not… I’m an idiot, he’s not… Excellent, excellent, fantastic, eh, I was gonna say lovely to see you, sorry to disturb… Better get on…
Carrie: That was very romantic.
Charles: Well, I thought it over a lot, you know, I wanted to get it just right.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), written by Richard Curtis

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Stammer. Today’s suggestion by wakatb.

Trivia: While making the film, Hugh Grant thought the movie was awful.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary by Waka: “Many years later, still one of the best professions of love ever. The stammering highlights just how difficult it is for Charles to get those three little words out.”

Guest Post: Tom Benedek on one secret of Joss Whedon’s writing

April 29th, 2015 by

A guest post from Tom Benedek, screenwriter (Cocoon) and teacher:

It’s the little things we grab onto about the characters we love. What we choose to consider important about their lives is what makes them live in the minds of our readers or audience. We all have a few small things which make us unique. Most people never really know what they are. As writers, that is our job. Look around, pick someone in the room right now or who just comes to mind. Identify those little things. People are amazing. Celebrate that goodness, uniqueness in each of your characters as you paint their personalities on the page, sketch them in two lines of character introduction. Even in a giant superhero extravaganza like Avengers: Age of Ultron, which opens this weekend, those little things will be there.

Joss  Whedon, the fantastic writer-director, knows how to do that so well. They won’t allow anyone to see the script ever, but when you watch Ultron, check it out. Those little things about the characters which mean everything to the movie will be there – delighting the audience, keeping us engaged emotionally.

We will be talking about that movie next week in my Joss Whedon Character Intensive Workshop – a one week online class beginning Monday May 4 at

Have a Marvel-ous weekend!!

Little things can elevate characters, just like Whedon does in moments like this:

For more information on Tom’s class, go here.

Interview (Part 3): Mynette Louie

April 29th, 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 3, Mynette shares insight into her work on the movies Children of Invention and California Solo:

Scott: Let’s move to another noteworthy movie with which you were involved, the Sundance 2009 drama Children of Invention: “Two young children living illegally in a model apartment outside Boston are left to fend for themselves when their hardworking mother disappears,” written and directed by Tze Chun. How did you intersect with this project?

Mynette: I met Tze after an Asian American filmmaker panel that took place during the Tribeca Film Festival in 2007. Tze had a project at Tribeca All-Access, and he had just premiered his short Windowbreaker at Sundance a few months before that. A bunch of us went to dinner after the panel (neither Tze nor I were panelists, but we tagged along with them). It turned out that he was a big Bujalski fan, and had found one of the Mutual Appreciation locations for us (I didn’t know about this because I came on a few days into the film since I was wrapping my short). I caught up with Tze again a few months later at IFP Market, where he had another project. Then in spring 2008, he sent me Children of Invention and asked me to produce it.

Scott: I’m assuming that as a producer, particularly in the indie world where it’s such a challenge to develop, finance, produce, distribute and market a movie, you have to be passionate about the projects you choose to commit to. What is it about Children of Invention that you resonated with personally and/or as a movie lover?

Mynette: You assume correctly! I only take on projects that I’d be willing to lose sleep and nutrition for, and that I’d be proud to put my name on. I fell in love with the script for Children of Invention immediately. It really resonated with me personally since my own mother is a working-class immigrant who was really into pyramid schemes. Like the little boy in the film, I constantly had anxiety about my family not being able to make ends meet. And when I saw Tze’s short Windowbreaker, I knew that he could make a great film. Plus, he had already found the financing for it! Granted, I had to redo the entire budget and negotiate the details of the financing deals, but the commitments were there, which obviously makes my job a lot easier.

Scott: What were some particular challenges you faced in getting this movie produced?

Mynette: Because we had such a tiny budget (only $150K through delivery), I had to do all the legal myself because we couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer. I’d had some experience with legalese because I wrote the Hawaii tax credit legislation and I drafted termsheets in my corporate media job, but it was my first time negotiating film financing deals, cast deals, and distribution deals—things that you don’t really do as a short film producer or line producer. We also had two child leads, aged 8 and 10, and 28 locations across 3 states and 7 cities. And we were SAG, WGA, and paid almost all of our crew. Yet we only went over 12 hours on one of our 25 days. I don’t know how we did it. Totally not a repeatable feat. But honestly, it was such a pleasant and smooth experience thanks to the incredible cast and crew, especially Tze. I mean, the film went from script to Sundance in just 10 months! So all in all, getting it produced wasn’t that difficult. Getting it distributed, however, is another story, one that I’ve told way too many times. So maybe everyone can just read about it here.

Children of Invention won several awards including the Grand Jury Prize at the Independent Film Festival Boston. Are winning events like that actually important for a movie and if so, why?

Mynette: Yes, very important, especially for a tiny first-time feature with unknown Asian American actors. Any kind of attention is helpful to get the film seen and the filmmakers known. Even if we don’t get the attention of the general public with these awards, the industry pays attention, and that helps validate us as filmmakers, which makes getting the next film off the ground a tiny bit easier.

Scott: Another movie you produced was the Sundance 2012 movie California Solo, written and directed by Marshall Lewy: “A former Britpop rocker who now works on a farm gets caught driving drunk and faces deportation after living in Los Angeles for many years. His efforts to stay in the U.S. force him to confront the past and current demons in his life.” How did you become attached to this project?

Mynette: I actually first met Marshall on the set of Mutual Appreciation. We borrowed his apartment in Brooklyn to shoot the party scene. He and Andrew were friends at Harvard, and Marshall acted in Funny Ha Ha. Marshall also got his MFA in directing at Columbia, and I had worked with a lot of folks from his class. It wasn’t until 7 years later that Marshall contacted me about producing California Solo. I really responded to the script—a moving story about an antihero told with very nuanced characters and thoughtful dialogue. (It’s on Netflix streaming now, so please check it out!) I had a lot of fun shooting this film in and around Los Angeles, in spite of the small budget. We shot 30 locations in 21 days, so I got to know the city really well, and even grew to like it. And like Andrew and Tze, Marshall is also really intelligent and pleasant to work with. I’ve been really lucky. See, no matter how great your script is or how talented you are, if you’re a horrible person to work with, I’m outta there. A director-producer relationship is a long, long haul.

Tomorrow 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.

For Part 1, go here.

Part 2, go here.

For a Variety article on Gamechanger Films, go here. The article mentions that Gamechanger has a 5-picture slate. Mynette informs me they actually have committed to 7 movies and “have room for more”.

To learn more about Mynette, go here.

You may follow Mynette on Twitter: @mynette.

[Originally posted September 18, 2013]

Script Analysis: “Lincoln” – Part 3: Sequences

April 29th, 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: Sequences.

A sequence is simply a collection of scenes in a screenplay that have their own narrative arc and they have been around since the earliest days of cinema. Arising from this is something known as the sequence approach. Here is a description from Wikipedia:

The sequence approach to screenwriting, sometimes known as “eight-sequence structure”, is a system developed by Frank Daniel, while he was the head of the Graduate Screenwriting Program at USC. It is based in part on the fact that, in the early days of cinema, technical matters forced screenwriters to divide their stories into sequences, each the length of a reel (about ten minutes).

The sequence approach mimics that early style. The story is broken up into eight 10-15 minute sequences. The sequences serve as “mini-movies”, each with their own compressed three-act structure. The first two sequences combine to form the film’s first act. The next four create the film’s second act. The final two sequences complete the resolution and denouement of the story. Each sequence’s resolution creates the situation which sets up the next sequence.

That’s too formulaic for my tastes. Some screenplays may have eight sequences. Some may have two or three times that many. We should never let a formula control where our stories want to go. That can restrict our creativity and lead to formulaic writing. Nevertheless the idea of a sequence has considerable merit:

• Working with sequences breaks down crafting and writing a script into smaller, manageable parts.

• Each sequence has its own beginning, middle, and end which can help to give the story a solid structure.

• With each sequence flowing directly into the next, a writer can give their script a strong narrative push.

When analyzing a script, there are multiple benefits in identifying its sequences:

• We can identify these mini-stories and see how well they track — beginning, middle, end.

• We can track the transitions into and out of them, one sequence to the next.

• We can explore how the sequences influence the pace of the narrative.

An indicator of sequences are the plot points: When a plot point happens, that generally marks the end of a sequence, building to a significant climax that spins the plot in a new direction.

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.

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 scene-by-scene breakdown and identify the sequences.

Here is something you can do: Imagine each sequence as a runner in a relay race and as an individual sequence ends, it ‘hands off’ the baton to the next sequence. This is how we create a sense of narrative flow. So look at the sequences as articulated above: How does each one ‘hand off’ the story’s momentum to the next sequence?

Tomorrow we consider the script’s structure in terms of its psychological journey and the dynamic of transformation.

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: “Every Secret Thing”

April 29th, 2015 by

Nicole Holofcener (screenplay), Laura Lippman (novel)

A detective looks to unravel a mystery surrounding missing children and the prime suspects: two young women who, seven years ago, were put away for an infant’s death.


Release Date: 15 May 2015 (USA)

A Story Idea Each Day for a Month — Day 29

April 29th, 2015 by

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

Today’s story: Man Wakes Up from Coma Convinced That He’s Matthew McConaughey.

After six days in a coma, a 25-year-old from Birmingham, England woke up speaking fluent French and thinking that he was Matthew McConaughey.

You know what I like about horrific traffic accidents, man? You almost stop getting older (because you could die) and you wake up as a famous American actor during peak McConaissance.

Rory Curtis, a barber, was severely injured when he hit the back of a truck while on his bike and then, according to Metro, was struck by six additional cars in a subsequent pile up. It took nearly 40 minutes for rescue workers to extract him from the wreckage that left him with a brain injury and in a coma.

Thankfully, Curtis woke up just less than a week later—and he woke up with special skills.

“I don’t remember coming round but my family said one of the nurses was from Africa and spoke French and I was having conversations with her,” Curtis told the UK journal. “I was just casually chatting away about how I was feeling in this perfect French accent.”

He continued:

“My mum and dad were stunned when they got to hospital and the nurse asked them what side of the family was French…And then I was sitting there spouting a foreign language from my hospital bed acting all French in their sort of arrogant yet sophisticated way. It wasn’t me at all.”

Even more out of character was Curtis’ assumption that he was Matthew McConaughey.

“When I went to the toilet I went to look in the mirror and I was shocked because I didn’t look like him, I didn’t know what I was looking at,” he claims. “Then slowly over time it eventually clicked and I thought ‘he is an actor, what am I on about?’, but at times I was in hospital thinking I can’t wait to get out of here and back to filming movies.”

At first, I was going to go mainstream comedy with this one, but then another take emerged. Imagine a small community just like this one from Local Hero:

Three, four generations of families have grown up here and through the decades, not much has happened in this remote corner of the world. Then one day, perhaps the least memorable member of the village has an accident. Taken to the local doctor’s office. And when he wakes up, he believes himself to be Matthew McConaughey.

[Note: It doesn’t have to be McConaughey, in fact due to Mr. Curtis’ experiences, it might be advisable to change the actor anyhow. But whoever it is, s/he would have to be as memorable a character as McConaughey — recognizable voice, big personality, a live-wire.]

Now, of course, the gentleman in question, let’s call him Quincy, is not McConaughey, but he’s convinced of it. And damn if he doesn’t walk, talk and act just like the actor. In fact, he seems to know an awful lot about McConaughey’s personal life. Is it true? It can’t be, right?

But here’s the thing: What if Quincy as McConaughey starts to have an interesting impact on the village. Woos women. Inspires guys to take up bungee-jumping or some such craziness. Teaches everyone how to dance McConaughey-style, complete with pelvic thrusts.

And after awhile, a portion of the community does not want Quincy to change back to… you know… Quincy. They like having McConaughey around, even if they know it’s not the actor. He’s made life in the village more enjoyable and fun.

Of course, there is a faction — parish priest, mayor, stick-in-the-mud elders — that absolutely wants this nonsense to stop, perceiving that Quincy is having a degrading influence on the citizenry.

And you know where this whole thing is headed, don’t you? Who shows up to prove to Quincy that he [Quincy] is not McConaughey, but this guy!

Look, if Charlie Kaufman can write Being John Malkovich, why not do this story? The beauty is McConaughey, or whoever you pick, only has to do a 1 or 2 day shoot.

There you go: My twenty ninhth story idea for the month. And it’s yours. Free!

What would you do with it?

Each day this month, I invite 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 another Story Idea Each Day For A Month.

Twitter Rant: Eric Heisserer on Finding the Joy in Your Writing

April 29th, 2015 by

Twitter can be a gold mine for writers. Case in point, when pro writers decide to go on a rant about the craft, such as Eric Heisserer, who occasionally will sidle up to Twitter with a libation at hand, and lay down some flat-out wisdom, 140 characters at a time.

Last week, Eric shared some of his personal experiences, both ups and downs in his professional life, and how through it all, the importance of finding joy in the work. Reprinted by permission.

Most of you gorgeous monsters know I occasionally go on a writing/craft rant. If you’re new to the group, welcome. Also, you have to fight.

No, wait, that’s the other club. Anyway…

his is an exhausting business. You are never really done with the work. It’s a bit like being a postal worker. More is waiting for you.

It’s an unfair question to ask, and yet it’s one you face in this line of work.

Sometimes it’s with your own babies (spec scripts). Sometimes it’s with adopted children (assignments). But the love has to be there.

Because you know what? A reader can tell when you love the characters you’re writing about. There isn’t a signature tell, but it’s clear.

You will work for months on a project, rewriting dialogue and experimenting with scenes and themes and emotions. And then: no sale. Done.

Then a month or a year or five years later, after a dozen other failed projects and one or two partial successes, you get a call about it.

So it comes back, and you do more work. You’ve learned more. You tinker with it again. See if it goes. And it doesn’t.

It’s like playing an incredibly hard video game, where the controller zaps you with live current when your character dies.

Sometimes you come on board someone else’s project and put in months of work on it, all the while aware you could be writing your own.

If you have the passion, and the endurance, you can hang on and ride something for a long time. But that’s a new level of exhaustion.

By the time shooting is done, I may have 100. Some of them very similar, some moderately changed, many wildly different.

You will be asked to change your character’s name. Their gender. Their occupation. Their relationships. Their wardrobe.

If you feel passionate about one or more of these things, you fight for it with all your life, but you can’t play that card every time.

And sometimes you can’t win anyway because the name didn’t clear with legal. Or the talent wants the change. Or the location won’t work.

All the while, the really hard work of yours is seen by a few hundred people, and it changes (sometimes vastly) during prod/post.

And you’re left with a product that the general public will believe you wrote exactly as it is, no matter the reality. This can haunt you.

Recently, I attended a screening of THE THING (2011) and I was flooded with memories of what I passionately loved vs the final product.

Directors suffer this same ailment, but because it starts with the written idea, it tends to cut deeper when the idea doesn’t make it.

And you can’t complain about it because by the grace of some benevolent god you got a movie made and your name’s on it somewhere holy shit.

But you also have to acknowledge that it won’t look like what you intended.

And whether you want to or not, you can and will be replaced. Even on something entirely of your own invention. And that will hurt.

My callouses are my 51 screenplays I’ve written, most of which have died long before they saw a screen.

It’s a strange job, unlike other writing occupations, because it happens during a phase of a larger process. The public don’t read scripts.

The public go to see movies.

And because our part of the process is first, before it boards a train to production and release, it’s the most volatile stage.

It’s like dressing your kid for a trip and while you’re picking clothes, the destination changes 12 times to disparate places. And it rains.

That can drive you mad. But it’s also the cheapest way to find the best version of a story. Sometimes you just have to see where it goes.

And the pay is eventually great, which helps, because it’s largely a thankless job — again, find that joy. Really.

Most of all, everyone will decide what kind of writer you are based on whatever they think you wrote. That can be tough, too.

I have co-written an animated film. I’ve written fantasy, drama, action, romance, thriller, horror, and even comedy. Doesn’t matter.

So keep finding the joy. Keep learning to love again. And occasionally, write something the world can see. Make that connection.

Maybe that happens because you direct it. Maybe it happens because you hop to another medium. But it’s therapeutic, trust me.

Too many of my friends — people who are far better writers than I — have gotten fired off their projects for absurd, stupid reasons.

I know how much it breaks my heart to see them torn from the things they were nurturing so well, and it must be 100x worse for them.

But I’m also inspired by their ability to get back up and live to tell another tale. To get back in there.

Wise words from a super talented writer and a fine human being.

You may follow Eric on Twitter: @HIGHzurrer.

You may read my April 2013 interview with Eric here.