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Posts Tagged ‘Script magazine’

Just a few hours after my wife booked a flight to Denver yesterday to visit her brother in the hospital she received news that he had died.  A lot of tears last night.

I saw the below photo @UNKScreenwriter this morning and it seemed fitting. And also a way to give a shout-out of thanks to the Unknown Screenwriter who’s the one I found out was responsible for passing my blog on to Script Magazine so it could be named “Screenwriting Website of the Week” just a few days ago.

Tears

P.S. Paulo Coelho is a novelist from Brazil who has sold more than 86 million books worldwide. Coelho has a WordPress blog and has over 9 million twitter followers—@paulocoelho. His IMDB credits include one screenplay and several short, TV movies, and features that have been made from his work. And in light of the World Cup being in full swing I should mention that, yes—he is a supporter of the Brazilian national football (soccer) team.

Scott W. Smith

 

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It’s all baby steps. One foot in front of the other.”
Writer/Director Sidney Lumet (The Verdict)

ScriptMag

 

A few days ago I was thrilled to find out that the Screenwriting from Iowa and Other Unlikely Places blog was named by Script Magazine as Website of the Week.  That’s pretty cool. I’m a long time fan of the magazine and appreciate the nod from Script Mag editor Jeanne Veillette Bowerman and her team. I’ll metaphorically put that on the same shelf as my 2008 Regional Emmy for this blog, the 2010 shout-out from the official blog of Tom Cruise, and most recently in 2014 named as one of Screenwriting Spark’s Top 25 Screenwriting Blogs and by the New York Film Academy’s The Best Screenwriting Blogs.

A nice pay off to six and half years of blogging more than 1850 posts. Baby steps. Anytime my outsider perspective can be mentioned in the same breath as the insider perspectives of Go Into The Story and John August’s blog I feel like I have something to add to the screenwriting and filmmaking conversation. Thanks to all the readers over the years who have provided the motivation to keep this blog going.

Still exploring ways to publish a book/ebook version of the Screenwriting from Iowa greatest hits as well as monetize the blog, but personal projects are fuel by passion. The best advice I can pass on to you in whatever creative endeavor you chose is what the artist Gary Kelley once told me about pro bono work he chooses to do—basically, if you’re doing it for free make sure it feeds the soul.

final draft script writing screenwriting software screenwriting contests filmmaking books

Being named by “Website of the Week” gives me the opportunity to highlight 10 posts where I pulled quotes from Script Mag over the years:

Normal is Not Funny (tip #28)
The Job of Writing
Writing “The Artist” (Part 3)
Writing “The Social Network” (Part 1)
Will Anyone Read Your Script?
“I can’t keep handling this…rejection.”
Screenwriting Quote #172 (Christopher Lockhart)
Writing Actor Bait (Tip #64)
Writing “Back to the Future”
The Billy Wilder Way

And as a bonus here’s a 2009 post—Screenwriting Quote #24— that’s a quote from Script Magazine that gets to the heart of this blog:
“It doesn’t matter if you didn’t go to the best schools, if you’re a kid or in your 50s. It doesn’t matter if, like me, when I moved to Los Angeles in 1981, you come at the business without friends or relatives in the business. It doesn’t even matter if you spent formative years digging carpet scraps out of dumpsters instead of going to film school. The only thing that matters is the quality of the storytelling. More than hearing about techniques, more than discussing the construction of dialogue, I think that’s the important message; that it’s possible.”
Screenwriting J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling script, Babylon 5 creator, story credit on Thor and World War z)
Script Magazine
Volume 15/ Number 1 Pages 38-39

Scott W. Smith

 

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 “If you want to attach a star, then you really need to have a great protagonist. A protagonist who is really active, who is really initiating the action of the movie, who’s responsible for the forward momentum of the narrative. And perhaps there’s a transformational arc there, because that’s what actors want to play. They don’t necessarily want to play the same note through the whole movie, so it’s about exploring those layers and really creating an emotional resonance to the character. Because, remember, we experience the story through the characters and because we really care about their experience and what it is that their journey entails—that’s where the emotional element is going to be.”
WME Story Editor Christopher Lockhart
Script magazine, January/February 2012

November 3, 2012 update: Just saw the movie Flight starring Denzel Washington. If you want to see Lockhart’s words in action see Flight. It’s not hard to understand why two-time Oscar-winner Washington was attracted to the script by John Gatins. In an interview with The Root Washington said of his pilot role, “The complexity was wonderful to play…this was an adventure. Starting with the screenplay and the collaboration with the filmmaker, getting a chance to fly around in flight simulators, hanging upside down in a plane and playing a drunk.” That article by Miki Turner also mentions that this was one of the last projects Washington’s agent Ed Limato gave him before he passed away. Limato’s client list included Russell Crowe, Meryl Streep, Sylvester Stallone, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Marlon Brando—so he had a long track record of picking the right roles for his stars. Lockhart worked with Liamto for more than a decade.

Related Posts:
Christopher Lockhart Interview (Part 1)
Christopher Lockhart Interview (Part 2)
Christopher Lockhart Interview (Part 3)
Christopher Lockhart Interview (Part 4)
Christopher Lockhart Interview (Part 5)
“The Inside Pitch”
40 Days of Emotions
Writing Quote #22 (Dara Marks)

Remembering Ed Limato by Christopher Lockhart

 

Scott W. Smith

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“I [write] everyday: bankers’ hours—10 a.m. to 4:00—5:00 p.m. It’s a job…On a script that goes well, I’d say I spend three months outlining and two months writing. That’s ideal.”
Oscar-winning screenwriter Steve Zaillian (Shindler’s List)
Script Magazine
Interview with Ray Morton

P.S. And for what it’s worth, Zaillian writes on a legal pad sitting at his back patio. He also wrote Moneyball, Searching for Bobby Fischer Awakenings The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

P.P.S. You may not be able to write bankers’ hours, nor able to dedicate 6 or 7 hours to writing, but it is beneficial to think of screenwriting as a job and to do it everyday—even if you just chip away at it an hour a day.

Scott W. Smith

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“Ultimately, it all comes down to one of the grand old rules of screenwriting: whenever possible – show, don’t tell.”
Ray Morton
Script magazine

The Verdict

An early version of The Verdict screenplay by David Mamet:
INT.  COFFEE SHOP - DAY

          Galvin sitting in the deserted coffee shop in his raincoat.
          Reading a section of the paper.  He picks up his teacup, drinks.
          Lowers it to the table.

          ANGLE - INSERT

          Galvin twists tea bag around a spoon to extract last drops of
          tea.  His hand moves to his felt pen lying on the table.  He
          moves his hand to the paper, open at the obituary section.  We
          SEE several names crossed out.  He circles one funeral listing.

          ANGLE

          Galvin sitting, raises cup of tea to his lips.  Looks around
          deserted coffee shop.  Sighs.

Now look again at the above still frame from that movie. Notice anything different? No tea cup, right? Either Mamet, or director Sidney Lumet, or  actor Paul Newman, or somebody else said, "This guy's an alcoholic—what better way of showing that than to have him knocking back a stiff one with his morning donut?" Newman's performance in that scene shows you the desperate state this man is in without a word being spoken. In fact, the whole opening minutes of the film wonderfully shows you a man in need of redemption. 
 
"IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA. IF YOU DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF THE CRUTCH OF NARRATION, EXPOSITION, INDEED, OF SPEECH. YOU WILL BE FORGED TO WORK IN ANEW MEDIUM - TELLING THE STORY IN PICTURES (ALSO KNOWN AS SCREENWRITING).

David Mamet

Memo to The Unit writers

“This is age-old screenwriting advice but it’s so true. SHOW don’t TELL. I can’t tell you how much more impactful it is on a reader to SEE a character take on an issue as opposed to being told of an issue. It would be like Han Solo saying ‘I’m a badass,’ instead of SHOWING him kill Greedo. This is a mistake I see a TON of beginner writers make. They have their characters offhandedly say something like ‘I took a year of karate lessons’ and then later in a key scene kick someone’s ass. It feels false because we never SAW them perform karate.”
Carson Reeves

“Remember, the first rule of film is Show Don’t Tell.” 
William C. Martell
Does Your Script Smell?

“In the eternal struggle to “show” and not “tell” in your screenplays, pictures can be your best friend. Instead of building a whole scene where your characters argue about how good things ‘used to be,’ just show your hero catch a glance of a picture on the fridge showing the family in happier times. In fact, look to use photographs in every aspect of your script to convey quick easy backstory about your characters (i.e. need to convey that one character is adventurous? Show a picture of them rock climbing.”
Carson Reeves
ScriptShadow

 

Show, Don’t Tell (Part 2)

Scott W. Smith


 



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“Studio executives kept saying, ‘Eh, time travel movies don’t make any money. Time travel movies don’t make any money.’”
Screenwriter Bob Gale

Twenty-five years ago the world embraced the movie Back to the Future starring Michael J. Fox based on a script written by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis. Though Gale and Zemeckis had teamed up on Used Cars (1980) it did not have a strong release and didn’t make getting their next script made easier. Gale explains the process of writing the script and the trouble they had getting others interested in it.

“We outline the story on index cards before we start detailing the individual scenes. And we come up with our index-car structure nonlinearly; we always like to know what the ending’s going to be before we really got started. You can’t take a trip if you don’t know where you’re going…The (Back to the Future) script was rejected over 40 times. Nobody read it said, ‘Oh, we’ve got to make this.’ You know there had been no time-travel movies that had made that much money prior to Back to the Future, and again the mashup of genres was confusing for some people. We’re talking 1981, 1982…Porky’s was around that time, and that’s what everybody’s idea of comedy was—fart jokes and naked girls.”
Bob Gale
Script magazine interview with Sara Scott
Volume 16/Number 4

According to Box Office Mojo, Back to the Future ended up with a domestic gross of $210 million  and a worldwide gross of $318 million. All on a $19 million budget. Gale and Zemeckis were also nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay. And, of course, two sequels were made that added around $500 million to the worldwide gross.

And where did the original idea come from? A basement in St. Louis.

“The inspiration for making the movie, for coming up with the story is that I was visiting my parents in the summer of 1980, from St. Louis Missouri, and I found my father’s high-school yearbook in the basement. I’m thumbing through it and I find out that my father was the president of his graduating class, which I was completely unaware of. So there’s a picture of my dad, 18-years-old, and I’m thinking about the president of my graduating class, who was someone I would have had nothing to do with. He was one of these “Ra-Ra” political guys, he was probably Al Gore or something. Captain of the debate team, all this stuff. So the question came up in my head, ‘gee, if I had gone to school with my dad would I have been friends with him?’ That was where the light bulb went off.”
Bob Gale
Interview with Matt Patches 

P.S. Zemeckis was raised in the South Side of Chicago and Gale was raised in the suburbs of St. Louis. They met at USC film school.

Related posts: Screenwriting from Missouri

Scott W. Smith

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Back in 2003 I finished a spec screenplay on a 22-year-old Internet wiz who was worth around a $100 million. It was a little after the dot.com bust and the economy was still recovering from the events of September 11 so maybe the timing wasn’t the best for such a story. But I had read about how these young Silicon Valley computer guys were often young, very wealthy, and  socially awkward and I was interested in exploring those aspect dramatically,

One of the first persons to read the script had a background in raising funds for feature films. He told me the young Internet wiz in my script was too young and too rich—and needed to be a college graduate. Ironically, the movie The Social Network (which opened this past weekend #1 at the box office) starts in the Fall of 2003.  The story centers around Mark Zuckerberg, one of the creators of Facebook. Today Zuckerberg is a 26-years-old  college dropout and estimated to be worth between $3 and $7 billion. (Yes, billion, not million.)

And my character was too young and too rich? Just a few days ago Forbes reported that Zuckerberg is donating $100 million to Newark, N.J. school system. My character was seen as being too rich just having $100 million and here’s a real life 26-year-old giving away $100 million. Take what people say about your scripts with a grain of salt—and be persistent in finding that one cheerleader for your story.

The Social Network movie was based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich with the script being written by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, A Few Good Men).

“I’m not a frequent visitor on the Internet. I send emails and that’s about it…I didn’t know anything about Facebook any more than I know about a carburetor: I’ve heard the term but I couldn’t open the hood of my car and point to it or tell you what it does…The (Facebook) story is as old as storytelling itself; friendship and loyalty. Jealousy and power. Things Aeschylus or Shakespeare would have written about, or Paddy Chayefsky would have written about just a generation ago. Fortunately, none of them was available, so I got the job.”
Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter The Social Network
As quoted in Script Magazine
The Truth (?) About facebook article by Bob Verini

P.S. Three  films worth seeing or revisiting that deal with friendship, loyalty, jealousy and power are the old John Houston film Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Wall Street, (1987), and the silent film classic Greed (1924).

Related Post: Screenwriting Quote of the Day #43 (Aaron Sorkin)

Scott W. Smith

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“Many careers have been launched by new media that was discovered on the web.”
Shelly Mellott
Editor in Chief, Script magazine

Were you one of the first people to get rid of your landline in favor of just having a cell phone? If so then you may have already cut your cable TV cord in favor of getting your traditional television entertainment not on a television, but via the Internet.  “Is television dead?” ask Robert Gustafson & Alec McNayer in an article in Script magazine (Sept./Oct. 2010) titled The Branding of Online Entertainment.

But it’s not only that you can watch your favorite TV shows on the Internet with sponsors  putting a tag and the beginning and end of the show, now sponsors are creating their own shows. The brand produces the entertainment, hence the phrase branding entertainment.  If you aren’t familiar with what that looks like check out the Ikea sponsored show Easy to Assemble.

“(Branding Entertainment) has to become about the actual experience with the brand. It’s not about trying to sell a product, it’s about making the audience feel good about the brand and its message.”
Dominik Rauch
Producer, Easy to Assemble

I’m not sure when this all started but in its modern form I’d point to the Superman webisodes that Jerry Seinfeld did for American Express in 2004-2005 that were directed by Barry Levinson (Rain Man, The Natural).

Of course, if actors, writers and filmmakers are uncomfortable with product placement they sure aren’t going to like branding entertainment. But it is a trend that is going to grow and provide a lot of creative opportunities for actors, writers and filmmakers. And since the majority of actors, writers and filmmakers are unemployed at any given time it seems like a positive thing. Sure it’s a dance between art and commerce, but what isn’t?

Two weeks ago I shot my first project that I would call branding entertainment. It’s for an economic development group and has been a great opportunity to work on the project as a producer, director, cameraman, editor as well as write the script and work with the actors. Even if the idea of branding entertainment doesn’t thrill you think of the experience you can gain. Writing words one week, and seeing actors say those words the next week, and people watching them  online soon afterwards has its own benefits in a field where you can go years without seeing any fruit to your work.

“Like with television, we’re always looking for strong writers with a point of view and fresh concepts that offer some sort of ‘wow’ factor.”
Ryan Noggle
Supervising producer, NBC’s In Gayle We Trust (sponsored by American Family Trust)

In the article by Gusafson and McNayer they point out a Orbit gum sponsored online show called “Orbit Dirty Shoes” featuring Jason Bateman; “The writing is superb, the acting is excellent, and the gum itself was successfully incorporated in the story.”

Not every writer’s cup of tea, but as I think of all the businesses and groups out there and the potential for branding entertainment— for the first time in my life I can honestly say I don’t think there are enough qualified producers and writers to handle all the work that I see coming down the pike.

Scott W. Smith



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Get Low starring Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek received an 85% from the top critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Sharing the screenwriting credit are Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell.

“If you ‘know’ it write it, if you write it, write it well, defend it; if you defend it, pick your battles; if you lose, stay strong because you may win the war. Lo and behold you win the war, the phone just might ring with someone asking if you’d like to do it all over again. If that happens, say yes. It may take 10 years, as Get Low did, but it’s worth every minute.”
Chris Provenzano
Screenwriter, Get Low
Script m
agazine Sept./Oct. 2010
page 44

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SCRIPTGIRL was asked how to make a “script irresistible to a director” and she differed to the director of Bone Dry to answer;

“First off, I have to read it in one go. If I can’t, or I find reasons not to, I assume it’s not right for me (or visa versa) and push it aside. Beyond that, the search for a script involves questions of both art and commerce. Is this something I’m willing to comment to (like a marriage) until the vision comes to life? Is the script commercial enough to return the investment? Can my ‘voice’ add something to what the writer has on the page? Am I passionate enough about the story to face all the hurdles of the filmmaking process? Will this script translate into a film that will resonate with audiences? Will it be remembered?
When the answer to all of the above is ‘hell  yes,’ I might be on to something that could potentially be my next movie.”

Director Brent Hart
Script magazine Sept./ Oct 2010

Scott W. Smith

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