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Archive for March, 2012

“Instant* Screenplay Formula”

Stephen Moramarco has what he calls, “my own instant* Screenplay formula— a way to create a structure for a feature film that you could make yourself.” The good news is it’s totally free—and it even comes with an asterisk; “*Results may vary.”

Here’s Step Six:

“The main character must CHANGE. A screenplay is a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. If nothing happens to the hero, then what’s the point? We are watching this movie because it is a defining moment in this character’s life that will forever affects them. A simple way to do this is have the character start out one way (say ‘greedy’) and end up the opposite (‘a philanthropist’). That is the story of A Christmas Carol, in a nutshell.”
Stephen Moramarco

You can read all seven steps in his article Create a Great Movie in 7 Simple Steps.

Related post: Making a $5,000 Feature (Moramarco’s take on low-budget filmmaking)

Scott W. Smith

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“It’s amazing what M&Ms can do for morale.
Steve Moramarco

Actor, filmmaker and UCLA film school grad Steve Moramarco (@moremarkable) wrote an article last year in Indie Wire titled How to Make Your First Feature Film for $5,000which just happened to be how much his first feature film The Great Intervention cost to shot and edited. He has nine suggestions and that are similar yet different from what I called The 10 Ten Film Commandments of Edward Burns is a post last year.  But #1 on Moramarco’s list is about the script:

“From the moment you start writing the script, be realistic…Keep your scenes and location simple. Really simple. As in, scenes with no more than three or four people that take place in a location that you can access for free. Do not  think you can pay for a location. You can’t afford it.” 
Steve Moramarco

The best recent example of this is Buried—one actor on-screen in one location. (Sure they spent a boatload of money making that film, but Chris Sparling’s original intention was to write a script he could make for $5,000.) So check out the rest of Moramarco’s list and here’s a Film Courage interview with Moramarco expanding on his $5,000 feature film list.

H/T to filmmaker Edd Blott for linking that interview on Facebook and opening my world to Moramarco and Film Courage.

Related posts; Edward Burns’ “Newlyweds (Part 2) 

Filmmaking from a Coffin (“Buried”)

Screenwriting Quote of the Day #124 (Chris Sparling)

Scott W. Smith

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This one is for the quitters out there…or at least the ones thinking about quitting their screenwriting journey. The following quote is from a writer who last year had a script of his land on the 2011 Black List (The Imitation Game) before it sold for a reported 7-figure deal, and then he was attached to write the script for Devil in the White City set to star Leonardo DiCaprio.

[Writing partner Ben Epstein and I] were living in New York and had just written a spec script that didn’t sell…our fifth or sixth. I felt so dejected and thought that there is no way I’m going to be a professional writer. I said, you know what, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I called my manager and told him I was going to do something else with my life. I can’t keep handling this. I can’t keep going through this rejection.”
Graham Moore (@MrGrahamMoore)
Spec Sale Spotlight article by Zack Gutin
Script magazine

A few things to add to the mix. Moore graduated from Columbia University (religious history) and working with friend (and NYU film student) Ben Epstein he began writing screenplays. They wrote five or six and one was good enough to land them a manager (Tom Drumm at The Safran Company) and almost resulted in a sale.

Moore moved to LA where Drumm lined up some re-writing assignments and he started writing scripts on his own. In 2010 his novel The Sherlockian became a NY Times best seller, and his mom also just happened to spend over two years in the White House as Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, which provided Moore the opportunity to meet Hollywood insiders on trips to the White House.

Moore is originally from Chicago which is where Devil in the White City is set. A story surrounding a doctor who is believed to have killed as many as 200 people during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

“My high school was 50 yards away from where the Chicago World’s Fair was held, and I played soccer on a field near where Holmes murdered about 200 people. It was a truly horrible crime, but it’s a very Chicago story. Though I moved to LA, I think of myself as fundamentally Mid-Western, and in a weird way, this is a dark and twisted tribute to my hometown.”
Graham Moore
Collider article by Dave Trumbore 

Yet, another screenwriter from Chicago. (William Goldman, David Mamet, Diablo Cody, John Logan, etc. etc.)

So don’t forget to read “the rest of the story” when you hear about a first time writer making a 7-figure first script sale. But more importantly the lesson here is — if you want to be a writer, keep writing through the rejection.

Related Post: Screenwriting da Chicago Way

Scott W. Smith

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It’s West Virginia day here at Screenwriting from Iowa. Below are three of the Google micro documentaries that I field produced and shot in Charleston and Martinsburg, WV on behalf of Magnet Media in New York City. In total, I did 21 of these last year in six states and they were a blast to work on. Travel, met interesting people, and tell their stories—what’s there not to like.

If you happen to be in Charleston, WV today (March 19, 2012) check out the free event at the Clay Center—Walker Theater to learn more about getting your business online. (Stats show 63% of small businesses in the U.S. aren’t online.) Otherwise, check out the West Virginia Get Your Business online website.

P.S. From the lips of a West Viginian—The 1971 John Denver hit song Take Me Home, Country Roads (written with Taffy Nivert and Bill Danoff) was about Virginia, but the opening line “Almost heaven, West Virgina” worked better because of the four syllables in West Virginia. (Others say that it was originally supposed to be Massachusetts, which also has four-syllables and is Danoff”s home state.)  But West Virginia it is, and since 1972 the song has played at every home football game at the West Virginia University. Though some have wanted to change the state motto to “Almost Heaven” it is actually “Mountaineers are always free”—and the state song is West Virginia My Home, The West Virginia Hills, This is My West Virginia.

Related posts:
From West Virginia to Hollywood
Steve Martin’s Bluegrass Roots
Postcard #8 (West Virginia Fall Colors)
Quote from the Road #1 (Charleston)
Jennifer Garner’s Old W.V. Job

Scott W. Smith

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A couple of weeks ago I was in Des Moines on a project and came across a book by Hugh MacLeod (@gapingavoid) called Ignore everybody; And 39 Other Keys to Creativity. And I landed on this little sentence of his that I’ve mulled over ever since:

“Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.”
Hugh MacLeod

It reminds me of Tom Peters‘ advice to “Go where the hotspots aren’t.” Back in 2003–after living my entire life in either Orlando, Miami or Los Angeles—I moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa. My friends who thought I was crazy started to change their tune when the state and area started showing up in lists such as “top ten places to start a business,” “best small towns to live in,” and  “healthiest places to live.” And to top it off there is a good creative heartbeat in Iowa.

MacLeod was once a “struggling young copywriter living in a YMCA” when he started to doodle on the back of business cards. Those cards turned into the blog/website gapingavoid.com. (He first went online in 2001 and according to a 2005 article he was getting 1 million views a month.)  Now he’s a successful author, speaker, artist, actor with several companies under his belt.

Of course, you don’t have to physically move to Iowa (or Marfa, Texas) to avoid crowds, but be creative and find room in your little red wagon to carry that thought around for a while —”Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.”

Related post: “A Sea of Sameness”

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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“A co-worker of mine was raving about him, and I had never met him or seen his work, and I said, ‘What’s the big deal about Scott Duncan?'”
Natalie Jowett
Producer—ESPN/Maggie Vision

Here are three more videos to give you a glimpse into Scott Duncan and his creative world. The first video is an overview of a shoot he did on the impact Nelson Mandela had in South Africa, the second is a little closer to home that Scott shot in Parkersburg, Iowa, about the legacy of high school football coach Ed Thomas. ( Ed Thomas Family Foundation.) And the third video is a mini documentary that Scott was the DP on and features Bono and the U2 gang joined by the Soweto Gospel Choir.

P.S. Scott Duncan does have a blog. And I want to give a shout out to the web design and e-commerce group Spinutech who did the website for The Ed Thomas Foundation (and who I work closely with via River Run Productions here in Cedar Falls).

Scott W. Smith

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