Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for July, 2011

William Froug on Theme

“Ask yourself a most important question before you begin: What is it about? I do not mean the plot, the arrangement of events, or eve the characters. I don’t mean who it’s about, but what’s it about. What are you saying in this story? What is your point of view? What is there about this story that engaged your heart and mind? What do you feel this story? Where is your source of energy coming from as opposed to the story’s source of energy? When you have answers to those  questions, you have your theme….The major theme is the heart and soul of your screenplay. Without a theme, your script will be hollow, empty. Study the themes of each movie you see, the minor themes as well as major theme.”
William Froug
Screenwriting Tricks of the Trade
Pages 74-77

(Kickstarter update of July 30, 2011— We need two or three people to support the Screenwriting from Iowa book project  before it crosses the $500. mark.  Click here to learn more or to be a part of the process.)

Related post: Writing from Theme (Tip#20)

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

Speech, Speech?

In the post James L. Brooks on Chayefsky, Brooks is quoted as having great admiration for Chayefsky’s monologues in Network and Hospital.  This is what screenwriter and former USC professor Irwin R. Blacker had to say on the topic of speeches in book The Elements of Screenwriting (which was first published in 1986  shortly after his death).

There was no need for a speech against was in All Quiet on the Western Front. 

There was no need for a speech against vigilante justice in The Ox Bow Incident.

There was no need for a speech against money-making evangelicalism in Elmer Gantry.

Each film made its point without any characters declaiming on the subject.  The subject  of the film and the way the film is constructed should convey sufficient message.  Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? was diminished by its undramatic speeches about tolerance: no character in Death of a Salesman discussed the eroding quality of the American Dream gone sour. As Samuel Goldwyn is reputed to have said, ‘Messages are for Western Union.”

So even if Chayefsky and Shakespeare pulled off big speeches doesn’t mean that most writers should or can.

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

James L. Brooks on Chayefsky

I’ve never watched Network (1976) and Broadcast News (1987) back to back, but that would be an interesting experiment. James L. Brooks, writer/director of Broadcast News, has been open about his admiration of the Oscar-winning writer of Network. 

“I think Paddy Chayefsky should be in the argument for the greatest American writer. Just his versatility. That he was able to do comedy and drama. That he was able to look into the future—I don’t know anybody else that wrote two widely prescient pieces of work. When Hospital was done nobody knew we had a problem with health care, it never occurred to anybody. It was still guys making house calls. And he wrote Hospital—and he was the first one to see that—and Network was beyond belief in what it predicted…This is what was great about Chayefsky, to me you still haven’t written something unless there is a monologue in there… Just the attempt of going out there and writing a long speech and having it sustained is extraordinary. I think in Network there is a woman named Beatrice Straight, an actress, and she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and basically her whole role was a monologue about what it was like to be married to William Holden.  He was the guy.
James L. Brooks
TV Legends interview  

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

Flash Over Substance

“What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he’s around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I’m semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing… he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance… Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he’ll get all the great women.”
Aaron Altman (played by Albert Brooks)
Broadcast News
written by James L. Brooks

(Kickstarter update for 7/27/11) Thanks to Joe Shapiro for his kicking in yesterday at 5:41 AM yesterday to bring the three day total to $450. in the quest to see Screenwriting from Iowa…and other Unlikely Places become a book. If you’d like to help push that number over $500.–or to learn more details on the project—click here.)

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

Last week I watch the Criterion Collection DVD of Broadcast News that was written and directed by James L. Brooks. Despite the 1987 film being Brooks was nominated seven Oscars and not winning any, I think it is one of the finest films of the 80s. And almost 25 years after it was released, it is still a screenwriting and acting feast.

Holly Hunter, William Hurt and Albert Brooks have so wonderful moments in this film that it I just want to keep watching this film over and over. And Brooks is brilliant—and he has a long history to prove it: The Simpsons, Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets, Taxi, Mary Tyler Moore, Room 222. But there was a time when Brooks was just somebody starting out in the media business, in awe of the talents of others:

“I was at CBS News on a fluke. I replaced somebody who was on vacation. I worked as a copy boy, then became a news writer. This was at the end of the glory days there. You’re looking at somebody who actually saw Edward R. Murrow. He’d go get a drink at this bar, and I’d get a table and have coffee just so I could keep looking at him.”
James L. Brooks
 The Atlantic interview

And it was that fluke that helped serve as the foundation for Broadcast News. May we all be blessed at least once in our lives with a fluke of ours resulting in something one tenth as good as Broadcast News.

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

“Every book, ever editor, every teacher will tell you that the great key to success in authorship is originality….It is well to understand as early as possible in one’s writing life that there is just one contribution which every one of us can make: we can give into the common pool of experience some comprehension of the world as it looks to each of us. There is a sense in which everyone is unique. No one else was born of your parents, at just that time of just that country’s history: no one underwent just your experiences, reached just your conclusions, or faces the world with the exact set of ideas that you must have. If you can come to such friendly terms with yourself that you are able and willing to say precisely what you think of any given situation or character, if you can tell a story as it can appear only to you of all the people on earth, you will inevitably have a piece of work which is original.”
Dorothea Brand
Becoming a Writer
Pages 119-121 

Kickstarter update from Day One (July 25,2011): Well, the first few hours after my launch were a little rough–$00.00. (One of those moments when you stop and think, “If I delete this now, will anyone notice?) But Kyle Pukas and Daniel Yu stepped to the plate and the Kickstater really got started. Thank you Kyle and Daniel. If you’d like to help Screenwriting from Iowa..and Other Unlikely Places become a book then click here.

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

For those of you who’ve been wondering about Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places becoming a book —now’s your chance to help make that happen. This morning I launched my first Kickstarter campaign.  (For those of you interested in starting your own Kickstarter campaign, I’ll explain the process this week over at E-Filmmaking.com.)

After 3 1/2 years of writing this blog I’ve totaled over 300,000 words and have edited the best material down to a tight 65,000 word manuscript. But there are few steps that I need help on before this book can become a reality, and I have a short time to and raise the money through Kickstarter.

If you can join me a little further down the road of this jouney, that would be appeciated. It’s been a heck of a ride.

Visit Screenwriting from Iowa at Kickstarter to learn more about the book project.

Scott W. Smith


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: