Why haven’t you finished that script?

August 31st, 2015 by

You know, that story you’ve been kicking around for months. Maybe it’s pretty well worked out, but you just can’t summon up the energy to type FADE IN. Or you have a partial draft and you’re stuck, not sure which way to go. Or a story concept you think has strong potential, but you’re battling your own Voices Of Negativity…

The simple fact is an unfinished script is nothing but potential. And nothing but potential is… nothing.

Maybe what you could use is this.

* A structured environment with actual due dates to inspire you to knock out pages.

* A workshop where you receive constructive feedback from a group of writing peers.

* A mentor who is a professional screenwriter and educator to accompany you on your writing journey.

That’s what we offer at Screenwriting Master Class with our Pages I: The First Draft workshop. 10 lectures [written by me] to spur your creativity, 10 teleconferences to review your pages, 10 due dates to motivate you to get from FADE IN to FADE OUT.

If you are comfortable with the sequence approach to screenwriting, you will feel right at home in this course.

If your grasp of story structure is a weak point, this workshop will help you ground your understanding.

If you have trouble finding the discipline to deposit your ‘derriere on chair’ and write, Pages I takes that problem on in a direct, practical and supportive manner.

Some thoughts by writers on the singular importance of the first draft:

“Then comes the great leap which is the first draft, I call it ‘the muscle draft,’ where you just muscle it out. You don’t worry about what you’re missing, you just get through it, get to the end.” — Darren Aronofsky

“Even if you write it wrong, write and finish your first draft. Only then, when you have a flawed whole, do you know what you have to fix.” — Dominick Dunne

“The first draft is nothing more than a starting point, so be wrong as fast as you can.” — Andrew Stanton

“Sometimes you’re swinging your way through a first draft like a blind miner with a pick-axe. That’s OK. Get it done, nothing else matters.” — Justin Marks

“First drafts are for learning what your story is about.” — Bernard Malamud

Winding Road Final

If you’re looking to go on that unique journey of discovery which is a first draft and could use the structure of an online workshop to help guide you through the process, go here to learn more about Pages I.

Our last session for 2015 begins Monday, September 14, so this is a great chance to make this year count in terms of your creative work.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Style = Voice

August 24th, 2015 by

How you approach screenwriting style is a reflection of your writing voice. This is the case whether you are intentional about it or not. A professional script reader, who plows through hundreds of scripts per year, will pick up on a script’s sense of style – or lack thereof – from the very first line of scene description. Therefore it stands to reason you need to think about your writing voice as conveyed in your script’s style. And that is what Core IV: Style is all about, exploring the breadth and depth of the 4th essential screenwriting principle I teach in the Core content of The Quest:

Style = Voice

Start with this question: Who tells your story? Obviously, when you sit down to create a screenplay, you write the story. But when a manager, producer, agent, or studio executive reads your script, who tells your story to them?

It is someone who remains largely invisible, but whose presence is felt from FADE IN to FADE OUT. Someone about whom many screenwriters have little knowledge and yet traffic in that unseen world every time they write a scene. Someone who can make a screenplay a great read – or something less.

Let’s call it Narrative Voice.

Narrative Voice is not a narrator per se. You will never see it with its own side of dialogue. In fact, you will never name it in your screenplay. But Narrative Voice is there. And it is a critical aspect of your script’s success.

What is Narrative Voice?

Narrative Voice is the storytelling sensibility you bring to your screenplay through your writing style. Think of Narrative Voice as your script’s invisible character. Although silent, it is present in every scene, every line, every word you write. As you develop and sharpen each visible character in your screenplay, you also need to figure out who your Narrative Voice is, what your Narrative Voice sounds like, and how your Narrative Voice will play an active role in the telling of your story.

In Core IV: Style, a 1-week online class I will teach starting on Monday, August 31, you will learn about:

* The ins and outs of Narrative Voice

* Elements of screenplay style

* Psychological writing (Perspective, Proximity, Perception)

* Imagematic writing (Verbs, Descriptors, Poetics)

* Action writing (Lines, Paragraphs, Direction)

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 test out your own writing style, plus the chance to workshop and receive feedback on one of your own loglines.
  • Teleconference: We will have a Skype teleconference call to discuss course material.
  • Forums: The online course site has forums where you may post questions / comments.

Our study scripts: Wall-E, The Hangover, The Dark Knight, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Last Boy Scout, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Chinatown, The Matrix, Black Swan, Legally Blonde, American Beauty, Little Miss Sunshine, Basic Instinct, Unforgiven, True Grit, The King’s Speech, and Winter’s Bone.

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 IV: Style is one of eight classes in the Core curriculum. Here is the schedule for the remaining five classes, the only time I will be offering these courses in 2015:

August 31: Core IV: Style

September 28: Core V: Dialogue

October 12: Core VI: Scene

November 9: Core VII: Theme

November 30: Core VIII: Time

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.

“When I found out about Scott Myers’ Screenwriting Master Class, I signed up for the first module, to test the waters, but before the week was out, I’d signed up for the rest [The Core Package]. Wish I’d known about it all those years ago! Value for money, solid understandable notes, a teacher who’s been there and done it, plus swapping ideas with fellow writers – it doesn’t get any more real.” — Philip Brewster

I have gotten to know dozens of professional script readers throughout the years and I can let you in on this little secret: A writer’s voice as exhibited in screenplay style goes a long way toward winning them over and getting you favorable script coverage.

For information on Core IV: Style, which begins August 31, go here.

For The Core Package, go here.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Here’s one approach to learning the craft

June 22nd, 2015 by

I’ve gotten some inquiries from several people during the last month or so about the possibility of working privately with Tom Benedek or myself at Screenwriting Master Class. We do offer that option: One-on-one private writing workshops.

Prep: From Concept to Outline: I created this workshop five years ago and it is one of our most popular courses. In it, the writer develops their original story from idea all the way to outline. In the process, they not only set themselves up for a successful page-writing process, they also learn a proven, professional approach to breaking a story in prep. And we offer this as a private writing workshop.

Pages I: Writing the First Draft: This ten week course is a direct follow-up from the Prep class, providing both structure and support for the writer to pound out a first draft of their script, writing 10-15 pages per week. You may take this without doing the Prep class beforehand, although we recommend you having done considerable work on your story before typing FADE IN. Again, we offer this as a one-on-one writing workshop.

Pages II: Rewriting Your Script: There is no one way to rewrite a script, however I have put together one approach that works. This ten week course takes you through a series of analytical stages to identify what works and what doesn’t work in your draft, then problem-solving exercises all leading up to a revision outline, then four weeks to rewrite the script, one week for polish, and one week for edit. And yes, we offer this as a private writing workshop as well.

The Quest Writing Workshop: This is a comprehensive 24 program to screenwriting theory and the writing craft. Core (8 weeks): The entire curriculum I have created to immerse writers in the Character Based Approach to screenwriting. Prep (6 weeks): See above. Pages I (10 weeks): See above.

Our private writing workshops carry significant benefits to writers:

* Their own private online workshop site.

* Teleconference note sessions with audio recording available for reference.

* Extensive feedback and support from Tom or myself at every stage along the way.

* The flexibility to create a workshop structure which fits your personal creative needs.

We can also mix and match workshop components. For example, a popular choice is to combine Prep and Pages I.

A final point: While our group workshops are excellent, some writers feel more comfortable in a private setting. Completely understandable. These programs are completely confidential.

Obviously you can write a script on your own. Frankly, that’s our end goal with writers who take our workshops, to provide principles and practices to give them the tools to carry into any and all future writing projects.

If you’re interested in any of our private writing workshops, feel free to contact us:

info@screenwritingmasterclass.com

Onward!

Scene Description Spotlight: Express Your Voice

May 19th, 2015 by

I have a brand new class debuting on May 25. It’s called Scene Description Spotlight which sounds super practical. And in a way, it is because at one level, it’s an immersion into the nuts and bolts of the writing craft. However what it’s really about is this: Exploring and expressing your voice as a writer.

You hear this over and over and over again in Hollywood development circles. Agents, managers, producers, execs, talent. All looking for writers with distinctive voices.

If you think voice just means character dialogue… think again. Voice also involves scene description. You know, that boring stuff you write to set up and play out a scene.

Over the years, professional screenwriters have learned to use scene description as a way to create strong visuals… convey mood… entertain the reader… and express their voice. Like this from The Matrix:

The Big Cop flicks out his cuffs, the other cops holding a
bead. They've done this a hundred times, they know
they've got her, until the Big Cop reaches with the cuffs
and Trinity moves --

It almost doesn't register, so smooth and fast, inhumanly
fast.

The eye blinks and Trinity's palm snaps up and his nose
explodes, blood erupting. Her leg kicks with the force of
a wrecking ball and he flies back, a two-hundred-fifty
pound sack of limp meat and bone that slams into the cop
farthest from her.

Or this from Wall-E:

It hovers gracefully above the ground.
White. Egg-shaped.

Blue-lit eyes.
Female.
Eve.

Wally is transfixed.
Inches closer.
Watches Eve from behind the device.
Tilts his head.
Time stops.
She's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen.

Or this from Little Miss Sunshine:

No one knows what to make of Olive rocking, her back turned.

However, when the first verse begins, Olive turns and 
strides up on the stage -- hands on hips, shoulders swinging 
-- with an absolute and spectacular physical self-confidence.

She rocks out, busting crazy moves this stage has never seen: 
shakes, shimmies, twirls, dips, undulations -- a melange of 
MTV rump shakin', Solid Gold Dancers re-runs, and 
out-of-left-field inventions of her own. Other moves are 
clearly drawn from Grandpa's sixty-year career of strip-bar 
patronage.

She dances with a total command -- an exuberant, even witty 
mastery of her body, the music, the moves, everything.

Most of all, she's doing it for herself -- for her own sense 
of fun -- and the judges are instantly irrelevant.

The audience is stunned. No one moves. Mouths hang open.

In my 1-week Scene Description Spotlight, you will learn about:

* How Genre + Style = Narrative Voice

* Memorable ways to introduce characters

* The crucial importance of ‘editorializing’

* Using tempo and pace to make scenes spark to life

* The freedom screenwriters have to break grammatical rules

* Directing action through line management

* Imagematic, psychological, and action writing

And much, much more!

The class includes dozens of examples from notable movie scripts as well as some of the most recent selling spec scripts to give you a clear sense of how to use scene description to give expression to your voice and make your script worthy of one of Hollywood’s highest compliments: It’s a good read.

I’m really excited about this class and you should be, too. Take something as seemingly simple and mundane as scene description… and use it to show off your voice.

To learn more and enroll, go here.

The class begins Monday, May 25. As always, I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Creative Spark

May 13th, 2015 by

A guest post from screenwriter Tom Benedek (Cocoon), co-founder of Screenwriting Master Class.

I had never done a workshop with kids before. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sent a request for mentors for the Spark program they run. Wednesdays from 2 to 4PM for 10 Weeks. I said ‘yes.’ Middle School kids are paired with one mentor each to work on film projects. My mentee, David, loves the video game, Crossfire, and wanted to do a show about it. I showed him how Final Draft works and he wrote a script while I sat next to him. We were joined by his friend, Luis, and his Mentor, Jeff, who is a special effects coordinator. Lucky thing. The script David and Luis completed has green screen, a dog, plenty of action. We managed to shoot it around the Academy building in our 3 allotted shooting days of 2 hours each. It was fun. Volunteering is great. Making a film with like-minded individuals – We had a blast. Thanks to Bettina Fisher and the Academy Educational Initiative. And our editor, Kevin!

Here’s our little epic:

Here is a link to Spark.

TV is not TV anymore. It is long-form big screen entertainment – spectacle, indie, domestic drama – whatever you want it to be. You may choose the characters, the setting, the workplace that is in your heart and mind — then transform it into a world of story, a place to explore the depths of human behavior and your own soul. Consider these observations from Russel Friend, Executive Producer/Writer of HOUSE (Fox), Executive Producer/Writer of GLEE (Fox), Executive Producer/Writer of BATTLE CREEK (CBS), talking about how he hires writers for shows he is running:

I looked for scripts that surprised me. Procedurals bored me to tears. Hospital shows, cop shows, obvious shows. Instead, I looked for people who wrote things that nobody else was. For example, Becky Kirsch: I was sent her spec pilot about an 18th Century New England woman locked up in an insane asylum. Nobody was going to make this series. Nobody would probably buy it. But it was wonderful. It was different. It showed me someone who was going to think outside the box. But the writing was also solid, traditionally structured, and so I knew she understood what the inside of the box looked like, too. Again, this isn’t exactly clear advice for how to get a job. What I’ll say is this: every writer has to stand on his/her creative instincts and writing talent, and that means a writing sample should make both of those things abundantly clear. You have to succeed or fail on these things because they are your most valuable possessions as a screenwriter. Write samples that speak to that, not samples that you think will get you hired. The latter ones almost never will.

For the entire interview with Friend, go here.

If you are thinking of writing an original TV pilot, get in touch with your creative instincts and use your writing talent to go from concept to script in my 8 week Screenwriting Master Class workshop that starts Monday, May 18.

Tom is a great teacher and this is a class I highly recommend, one where you can take your initial creative spark and bring it to fruition with a completed TV pilot script. To find out more, go here.

Rewriting your script

April 6th, 2015 by

Let’s face it: Rewriting is a bitch. Or a bastard. Pick your gender specific invective. Doesn’t matter. The process is a pain no matter how you shake your fist and swear at it.

One big issue I’ve found with writers caught up in the maelstrom of rewriting is that there is no one surefire path to success. This stands to reason. Stories are organic and so a certain amount of rewriting them involves wallowing in the wilderness. That’s just the nature of things.

However I have an approach which I honestly believe can move your process forward in a big way. It’s one I use in the Pages II: Rewriting Your Script workshop, a 10-week class that guides you through a rewrite.

In this workshop, you will not only drill down into your story and understand it more clearly, if you do the work, you will get from FADE IN to FADE OUT on your next draft, and move you script toward the point you can bring it to market.

Here is an overview of the approach employed in Pages II: Rewriting Your Script:

* The first four weeks, it’s about assessing your current draft, identifying problems as well as content that works, brainstorming solutions, then working up a revision outline.

* The next four weeks, it’s knocking out your draft in quarters: Week 5 – Act One. Week 6 – The first half of Act Two. Week 7 – The second half of Act Two. Week 8 – Act Three.

* The last two weeks: Polish and Edit.

There are 10 lectures that provide prompts and tips to steer you through the rewrite, weekly due dates to compel you to do the work, and a workshop environment in which you receive constructive critiques from your fellow writers along with detailed feedback from myself, a combination of written feedback and teleconferences.

What’s more, you learn tools you can use to incorporate into your rewrite process from here on out, making your experience less bitchy / bastardy.

Here is a testimonial from Russell Simpson, a writer who has gone through the Pages II experience:

“I asked friends, trawled the internet, read the blogs and still found myself a touch bewildered by all the self-aggrandizement and shady plaudits. Then I read the brilliant BlackList Blog. And I looked up the writer. And it’s Scott Myers…

Scott’s course is superb. Scott possesses an enviable combination of honesty, bravery and mercy. As long as you are prepared to work hard, this course WILL improve your craftsmanship. I fed a feature through Scott’s dynamo brain and, out the other end is a piece of which I’m intensely proud. If you’re hesitating, stop. You’ll be thankful.”

I do not subscribe to the belief there is one approach to writing… or rewriting. Every writer is different. Every story is different. But I do know this: The process we use in Pages II has helped many, many writers solve major story issues, discover important story keys, and enable them to take their script to the next level.

If you have a script that is a complete draft, but you know needs work…

Or a partially completed draft where you got stuck and couldn’t find your way out…

Or a story you’ve rewritten multiple times, yet feel it just doesn’t work…

I encourage you to consider joining me in my upcoming Rewriting Your Script workshop which begins Monday, April 13. Note: This is the only time I’ll be offering Pages II in 2015.

For more information, go here.

For a look at my first lecture from Pages II: Rewriting Your Script, go here.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Be Polite / Bring the Fight

April 1st, 2015 by

A guest post from screenwriter Tom Benedek (Cocoon):

I learned a new word yesterday. Paskudnyak. Actually, it is a very old word. Its meaning is as ancient as time itself. Here’s one definition:

Yiddish insult. THE most potent and offensive insult known to man. it has so much connotation that cannot be truly defined that the closest you can come to its meaning is “horrible person”. no other definition has the meaning, and there is no way to convey how powerful that word is. Use with caution.

There are lots of pretty faces in TV and film. And for every one of those, there is a paskudnyak or two around. Show business attracts both. Sometimes they may even be one and the same.

The answer to navigating the difficult professional terrain — be polite and bring the fight. Writing a great script is the most important thing. But it may not be enough. Navigating the professional terrain with civility is essential. And being tough, cultivating a thick skin.

The system works against quality 80% of the time. There are may be wonderful films every year. But many of them are almost mistakes in the system.

You have to battle to get read, to be understood creatively. This means knowing how to pitch, how to present your scripts, your ideas, your creative persona. Studios, producers, agents, managers are looking for good scripts. But they filter material relentlessly. If your material deserves recognition, you may have to fight to get it into the system, to enlist others to get your movie made along with you.

It is an exciting game. The inherent perils – part of the ride.  There won’t be more great movies unless writers create wonderful material, act with civility and fight for their work. And don’t let the paskudnyak get us down along the way.

We have a class covering some of this. Network Hollywood begins next week. We go to the offices of agents, managers, producers, stick a camera in front of them and ask questions. This approach is invaluable because you get to know something about the people you will be meeting before you sit down with them. You will always learn something from these video interviews.

This is one of the most helpful courses we offer at Screenwriting Master Class for learning how to put one’s boots on the ground in Hollywood. To learn more, go here.

Character Development Keys

March 23rd, 2015 by

If there’s one question I get asked about screenwriting theory more than any other it’s what’s my deal with character archetypes? Here’s your chance to find out what that deal is with the Screenwriting Master Class course: Character Development Keys.

It’s a 1-week online class where you do pretty much everything on your own time schedule: download and read lectures, review and post comments on the public forums, upload ideas and optional writing exercises. You want to do that in bed in your pajamas sipping coffee? Be my guest!

There is one teleconference which is live, but I record and upload that, so you can even check that out on your own time, too.

As to the course itself, there are seven lectures written by yours truly:

1: Character Archetypes and Story Structure
2: Protagonist
3: Nemesis
4: Attractor
5: Mentor
6: Trickster
7: Switch Protagonist

The study script for the course: The Dark Knight, screenplay by Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan, story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, based on characters created by Bob Kane. If you’re a fan of this movie, that alone is probably reason enough to take this class because you will understand the film in a whole new way, through the lens of character archetypes.

In addition, you will get the opportunity to put the theories you learn into action by workshopping one of your own stories.

And as a bonus: I’ll be presenting a set of character development tools I have assembled over the years to help you dig into characters even further to uncover their unique personalities and voice.

This is a great chance to immerse yourself in what I consider to be one of the most fascinating and helpful ways of approaching character development and indeed, the story-crafting process as a whole: character archetypes.

All of that in only 1-week. The course runs begins Monday, March 31. And again, you can do the entire course in your pajamas! Sucking down caffeine! Devouring chocolate bon bons! The beauty of the online experience!

For more information, go here.

Plus there’s this: For nearly 50% off, you can gain immediate access to the entire content of all 8 Craft classes as well as automatic enrollment in each 1-week Craft course. Check out the Craft Package here.

As always, I look forward to the opportunity to work with you!

Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling

March 9th, 2015 by

Seventeen years ago this week, the movie The Big Lebowski opened. Here is a taste of this wondrous Coen brothers movie:

Perfect timing because beginning Monday, March 16, I will be offering my popular 1-week online class The Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling.

If you are a Coen brothers fan — which you should be!!! — here is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in their movies and discover story principles and dynamics these incredible filmmakers use, knowledge you can bring to bear on your own writing.

Learn about the importance of ordinary person /extraordinary situation, the dynamism of violence, the morally complicated universe, the dramatic potential of misunderstandings, authority figures, grand schemes and much, much — “Shut the fuck up, Donnie!” — more.

Workshop your own story using these same principles as well as insider tips, enabling you to put theory into practice. The class includes:

Seven lectures written by Scott Myers
Special insider tips
Daily forum Q&As
Workshop writing assignments (optional) with instructor and class feedback
A 90-minute live teleconference between instructor and class members

This is the only time I will be teaching this class in 2015 and if it’s anything like previous sessions, we are going to rock and roll!

The Dude abides. And so can you! Join me, won’t you, in my Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling class. Enroll here now!

“It’s Official — Writing is Good For You!”

February 4th, 2015 by

A guest post from screenwriter Tom Benedek (Cocoon) and co-founder of Screenwriting Master Class:

I have always said that my writing practice keeps me sane. Now I know it is true because I read it in the New York Times. There’s a catch though. And it’s a good one.

The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.

The catch — you have to write something that is personal to you. And you have to reflect on it, revise it.

We often hear that managers, agents, producers seek out unique voices in scripts. Who doesn’t? We are all striving to “bring it” every time we sit down to write. Verve Agent Tanya Cohen recently spoke about this in Variety. She fervently believes “the cream will rise to the top” as it always has, so long as there’s truth and passion involved. Agent Cohen: “I think, at the end of the day, writers should write what they know — what they emotionally know.”

As screenwriters:

• Every story we write, every script idea we pursue is personal to us, like it or not.
• We may be writing a genre piece about something completely remote from our personal experience but it still needs to have some meaning for the writer.
• Again — all writing is personal.

With every spec script, there may be an external goal – a sale, a career, making the film, winning a contest, glory in festivals, etc.. however the act of writing, the creative work itself is a means to interpret and express ourselves, explain the world, reflect on life, expand and explore our own lives. This benefit of writing is always there for us. (That is what keeps me writing — even if I have my eye on the prize outside myself, in what we like to think of as the “real world.”)

Here is where the science intersects with screenwriting: By surrendering our selves, our sensibilities to our characters, plots, script structures, we may write more fully realized scripts AND become more fully realized individuals.

I have a Prep Class starting on February 9 at Screenwritingmasterclass.com. It’s a 6 week script outline writing workshop. As an add-on, there will be some stimulating material about the creative process to play with for those who are interested.

The First 15 Pages one-week workshop also starts on February 9. Learn ways to stimulate your creative approaches to crafting those first pages. Class members may post their own first 15 pages for class discussion and instructor Tom Benedek’s feedback in a Skype teleconference.

For more information on the Prep workshop, go here.

To learn more about the First 15 Pages workshop, go here.