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Archive for the ‘Screenwriting Biz’ Category

Back in 2010, J.C. Frenan of Slant Magazine asked Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan this question, ‘You’ve worked in both television and feature films. Do you have a preference for either one?’

Vince Gilligan: I would have to say television, because once you are on a writing staff, or once you create a television show, for as long as that show exists you know that you’re writing, you know that your work will get produced. The same can’t be said for writing for features, unfortunately. Write a movie script, you can put your heart and soul into it for months, for years, and peddle it around Hollywood and ultimately it may well go nowhere. I’ve experienced more heartbreak in the movie business than in the TV business.

In the next day or two we’ll take a road trip of sorts and see how Gilligan went from Richmond, Virginia to New York City to Los Angeles to Albuquerque, New Mexico on his way to becoming a two-time Emmy winner.

Related posts:

Screenwriting Quote #190 (Vince Gilligan)
Writing ‘Water Cooler Moments’
Aaron Sorkin on Failure   “Breaking Bad is the rare success I’ve had in my career.”—Vince Gilligan

Scott W. Smith

 

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“This is a business that’s based on rejection and the anticipation of rejection. It’s tough. You have to be like one of those mechanical toys that, when you knock it down, it pops back up again.”
95-year old Oscar-nominated screenwriter Walter Bernstein (The Front)
Variety article by Scott Foundas (@foundasonfilm)
H/T Christopher Lockhart, The Inside Pitch Facebook group

Related posts:
Screenwriting Quote #141 (Melissa Rosenburg) “Don’t give up. You’re going to get kicked in the teeth. A lot. Learn to take a hit, then pick yourself up off the floor. Resilience is the true key to success.”—Rosenburg
Jailbait, Rejection& Screenwriter Mark Boal “You have to be willing to get your teeth kicked in continually before you achieve even a modicum of success. And once you achieve that you have to be willing to put up with a bunch of rejection before you can get anywhere.”—Two-time Oscar-winner Mark Boal
Perseverance (Werner Herzog) “Perseverance has kept me going over the years. Things rarely happen overnight. Filmmakers should be prepared for many years of hard work.”—Herzog

Scott W. Smith

 

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Filmmaking Baby Steps

“All my career–from television to today–I’ve always felt on the brink of getting something right. Anything. Thirty odd films later I look back and it’s all baby steps. One foot in front of the other. And all that’s kept me going is the feeling that as long as I was improving….”
Mystery director

Before I tell you who said that let’s all read that together outloud:
“All my career–from television to today–I’ve always felt on the brink of getting something right. Anything. Thirty odd films later I look back and it’s all baby steps. One foot in front of the other. And all that’s kept me going is the feeling that as long as I was improving….” 
Sidney Lumet
As quoted in a blog post by Doug Richardson
(
Richardson was one of the screenwriters on Bad Boys and early in his career sold his script Hell Bent…And Back in a $1-million deal with Disney. Read about it the New York Magazine article, Million-Dollar Babies.)

 

As in five time Oscar-nominated writer/director  Sidney Lumet (The Verdict, Prince of the City, Network, Dog Day Afternoon, 12 Angry Men). Baby steps.

It’s all baby steps. One foot in front of the other.”

 

Related posts:

Sideny Lumet (1924-2011)
Sideny Lumet on Theme
Show Don’t Tell (Tip #46) Example from The Verdict

Scott W. Smith

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A nice segue from my recent Rod Serling posts (and even my golf/movie related posts from a couple of weeks ago) is the following quote by Oscar-winner screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. Serling was born in Syracuse, New York and Sorkin went to Syracuse University.

“I have a lot of experience with failure, and I hate it. It’s going to happen again, but it’s like electroshock therapy. So combined with the pressure that you put on yourself, that’s pretty much the jet fuel for writing. You know when you’re not [writing well], when you’re slogging through it and it’s all coming like molasses, you know something’s wrong. But when you’re writing well, there’s nothing like it. It’s like the golfer who hacks his way around a golf course all day long, but then for some reason, you don’t know why, just hits a beautiful shot. That’s the reason they keep coming back to the golf course.”
Aaron Sorkin (West Wing creator)
Emmys Roundtable—The Hollywood Reporter 

Bonus failure quote from the same article:

“When I’m being really honest with myself, the only thing I ever learn from is failure. Because Breaking Bad is the rare success I’ve had in my career.”
Vince Gilligan

Related posts:

J.K. Rowling on the Benefits of Failure
Commitment in the Face of Failure
Spectacular Failures
Rod Serling on Rejection
Winning. Losing and Little Miss Sunshine “From my perspective, the difference between success and failure was razor-thin…”—Oscar-winning Screenwriter Michael Arndt
Orson Welles at USC in 1981 (Part 3) “Anybody who goes into film has to be a little crazy. And has to be ready for every kind of disappointment and defeat.”—Welles

Scott W. Smith

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Dina Gachman: What advice would you give to writers who are trying to break in?

Brooklyn Weaver (CEO Energy Entertainment):Mickey Fisher, for example, had written about 10 scripts and a slew of plays prior to sending Extant. He finally had a script that he’d worked really hard on and that he felt was the best representation of him. Brad Ingelsby had written a dozen scripts prior to The Low Dweller. It’s about being attuned to who you are as writer and a voice and knowing what your strike zone is.”

Read the entire interview at Studio System News A-List Spotlight. You can find Weaver on Twitter @BrooklynWeaver. The Tv show he referenced, Extant,  stars Halle Berry and premieres on CBS in July 2014. One of the executive producers is Weaver…another is Steven Spielberg.

Related post:

The Myth of ‘Breaking In’ (Tip #58)
Write 2 or 3 Scripts This Year (Tip #87)
Beatles, Cody, King & 10,000 Hours
The 99% Focus Rule (Tip #70)
Commitment in the Face of Failure
The Secret to Being a Successful Screenwriter (Seriously)

 

Scott W. Smith

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“It’s a difficult time in the [film] industry at the moment. There’s a lot of changing over that’s happening, and there are a lot of very bright young people who want to get into it.”
Director John Schlesinger in 1969
Same year Midnight Cowboy was released for which Schlesinger won an Oscar for Best Director
Quote from the video below titled The Secrets of Legendary Film Directors (includes Kurosawa, Bergman and Fellini)

Remember that 1969 is the same year that Easy Rider hit movie theaters.

Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (and the Kenneth Bower doc of the same name) recounts how many of those very bright young people (including Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Peter Bogdanovich, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, and Francis Ford Coppola) changed the film industry–and makes the case for them saving the industry.

Now 45 years later Lucas and Spielberg are the old guard and just last year spoke publicly to film students at USC about the difficult and changing times of the film industry.  Lucas said, “The pathway to get into theaters is really getting smaller and smaller.” And Spielberg went as far as saying there could be an “implosion” or “meltdown” in the film business due to megabudget movies failing at the box-office simultaneously. Steven Soderbergh in his State of Cinema Talk last year added that cinema was under “assault” by studios (with the support of audiences).

In the late ’20 with the advent of sync sound in movies, along with the depression, there was a lot of concern in the movie industry about the changing times and technology. In the late ’40s and early ’50s with the spreading growth of television in homes there was much concern in the film industry about the changing times and technology. In the ’80s it was cable TV and VHS tapes that people feared would keep people away from movie theaters.  Most recently concerns have shifted to the Internet, videos games, and pirating. Changing times have a way of, well, changing. Constantly.

So here we are back to the future—difficult and changing times. And yet, you can still copy and paste Schlesinger’s 1969 words—”there are a lot of very bright young people who want to get into it”—and drop them in 2014.

And Soderbergh understands that some new young filmmakers (and new visions of old filmmakers) are going to emerge and find an audience.

“So whenever I despair I think, OK, somebody out there somewhere, while we’re sitting right here, somebody out there somewhere is making something cool that we’re going to love, and that keeps me going.”
Steven Soderbergh
Keynote address at the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival

At that moment somewhere in Teaxs someone was working on something cool. As Soderbergh was giving that talk Richard Linklater was editing his newest film Boyhood that premiered at Sundance Film Festival last week.  Indiewire called the film ‘groundbreaking” and making “cinematic history” because the movie was shot with the same young actors 3 or 4 days a year—over the course of 12 years.

And winning the Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic and the Dramatic Audience Award at Sundance this year was the personal film  Whiplash written and directed by Damien Chazelle. A film that explores dedication to one’s art.  Whiplash’s executive producer Jason Reitman called it,  “Shine meets Full Metal Jacket.”

Whiplash—the word, as in severe head jerk—is a good metaphor for the difficult and changes times following the digital revolution. Changes that have transformed the film industry (if I can still use the word “film” ), but changes that have also brought new opportunities.

Scott W. Smith

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The other day I flipped through MovieMaker magazine and came across the article Perfect Pitch by Ken Rotocop that had this interesting insight:

I’ve been the creative head of four studios, so I know what happens when a studio gets a synopsis: One quick glance and it goes right into the wastebasket.

A synopsis cannot help you—it can only kill you.

So what should you do if a producer has shown interest in your idea? 
Send him the first ten pages of the script—and send it with the following letter:
photo-41
In my screenwriting workshops, my students have been sending out the first 10 pages of their screenplays for the last four years—and the response from producers and executives they’ve submitted their work to has been 100 percent positive!…So now that you know the secret, don’t screw it up—make sure those first 10 pages are dynamite!
In those 10 pages, we better darn well learn:
* Who the protagonist is
* What he (or she) wants
* Who or what is stopping him or her from getting it!
Ken Rotocop
MovieMaker Issue No. 65, Volume 13, Page 42
P.S. Now 100% sounds like hyperbole, but any writers out there had success with doing this? Any producers/executives like this technique?

Related posts:
Starting Your Screenplay (Tip #6)/ “As long as the protagonist wants something, the audience will want something.”— David Mamet
“The Inside Pitch”
The Perfect Logline
The 99% Focus Rule (Tip #70) Here Michael Arndt gives the real secret to reaching producers.

Scott W. Smith

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