Archive for the ‘screenwriting’ Category

In less than an hour these hand picked videos I found on the Internet give you a sweeping overview of sound recording (mostly from the perspective of boom operating) for film & Tv—as well as webisodes, and video production in general. And, of course, it covers one of the most iconic pieces of equipment found on an set—the boom mic set-up which normally consists of a shotgun mic, boom pole, shock mount, windscreen/windshield, and an XLR cord or plug-on wireless transmitter.

And few things are as recognizable on a set as a boom operator with headphones on a set holding the boom set-up in the air. It’s a hard job— even when the boom poles these days are lightweight carbon fiber—and a learned skill. And on electronic news gathering (ENG), documentary, short films, corporate work, and low-budget features the audio person is often working solo meaning they are working the mixer as well as operating the boom.

It’s work that’s tough on the arms, hard on back, all for the sake of making the sound sweet to the ears. Hug a sound guy or gal today.

Scott W. Smith

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In keeping with Sydney Lumet’s quote that “moviemaking works very much like an orchestra” today’s post is a video that looks a little more into cinematography. Beyond having an appreciation for those that help translate screenplays into visual images, this video will help you think cinematically.

With an army of film schools grads, others workshops trained,  and perhaps even more self-taught all over the world—with their own cameras—teaming up with one of them is a great way to get your  words turned into short films, websiodes, and features.

Everyone aspires to do better work so keep an eye out for a cinematographer who has honed his or her craft working on award-winning corporate videos and commercials but would love to team up with someone like you to mix up their reel and help them move into more narrative work.

P.S. And for good measure here’s look at a few more lights and shadows by cinematographer Roger Deakins.

Related post:
10 Cinematography Tips by Roger Deakins

Scott W. Smith

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Squalls out on the gulf stream
Big storm commin’ soon
Jimmy Buffett/Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season


From all reports it appears that Hurricane Matthew will be the worst storm to hit Central Florida in the past 50 years. They’re expecting a category 4 storm (winds range from 131 to 155 mph, and possibly a category 5) by the time it heads up the east coast of Florida (West Palm Beach, Vero Beach, Melbourne Beach, Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach).

Even here in Orlando where the airport is only 50 miles from Cape Canaveral the sustained winds are expected to be 50-70 mph. I hope there are no more serious injuries or loss of lives due to Hurricane Matthew, but unfortunately the odds are quite good that this will disrupt lives for days or weeks, and possible alter the landscape forever.

One more reminder that there are things way beyond our control.

And because this is a screenwriting blog there are a few takeaways. There’s conflict, visual conflictstakes, urgency,  a good bad guy (Hurricane Matthew) who threatens lives and well being, a dilemma, a ticking clock,  and a central dramatic question—what’s going to happen in about 12 hours from now?

One of the best Hurricane-related movies is the 1948 classic  Key Largo (which is actually set during an impending hurricane hitting Florida) written by Richard Brooks and John Huston, based on a play by Maxwell Anderson:

Gangster: Hey Curly, what all happens in a hurricane?
Curly: The wind blow so hard the ocean gets up on its hind legs and walks right across the land.  

And today I found this Lux Radio version of Key Largo starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Edward G. Robinson:

And here’s a fitting Jimmy Buffett song (from one of my all time favorite albums, A1A) to close this blog post:

To watch live feed of Florida beaches during Hurricane Matthew check out Surfline.


Related posts:

Postcard #27 (A1A)
Shelter from the Storm (Dylan)
Havana Daydreamin’
Postcard #21 (Hurricane Issac)
Postcard #22 (Kelly Slater Statue)
Postcard #90 (Second Light)
Writer Jim Harrison (Part 2)
Jim Harrison 1937-2016 (part 4)
The Weather Started Getting Rough
Jimmy Buffett in Iowa (Part 2) A little Steve Goodman, a little Pat Conroy
Writing Quote #31 (Hemingway)

Scott W. Smith

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“All humor is rooted in pain.”
Richard Pryor

“I like to swing upon my perch and sing a little song,
But there’s a cat that’s after me and won’t leave me alone.”
Tweety Bird

Related post:
Visual Conflict

Scott W. Smith

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Epic SpaceX Promo

I grew up watching the Apollo launches from Cape Canaveral dreaming about being an NASA astronaut and traveling into space. The astronaut thing faded away long ago, but the space travel thing never died. Time will tell if SpaceX (or some other group) will realize some kind of space tourism, but this SpaceX promo shows what could happen in the future from Cape Canaveral:

Related posts:
Postcard #104 (SpaceX)
Postcard #83 (Kennedy Space Center)

Scott W. Smith

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Screenwriter Greg DePaul Q&A (Part 9)

Today rounds out the nine part series with screenwriter, and author of Bring the Funny: The Essential Companion for the Comedy Screenwriter, Greg DePaul.

Scott W. Smith: What do you tell the writer who’s been in L.A. for ten years who’s had some success, maybe writing on a TV show, and/or some indie films made, but financially they’re not where they thought they’d be at this stage of their life. They’re wondering if they’re ever going to get married, or have kids, or have a life. What’s the average house in L.A. now, in the $500,000 range? And what if they’re still paying on student loans? How does that play into a different kind of reality?

Greg DePaul: Are you asking me to talk to me ten years ago?

Scott: Sure.

Greg: I’m a pretty good writer and I got to L.A. at 29 and that was old. The first manager that ever took me to lunch pulled out a contract and said “sign this contract so I can take 15% of what you make and I’m going to get you connections and help you.” He had heard about me through a friend in a writing group. That’s how I made a reputation. And someone had sent him a script of mine without me knowing, and he liked it. So I’m looking at this contract and he said to me, “How old are you by the way?” I was 29 but I told him I was 27, and he said from now on you’re 25. In other words, I lied and then he lied on top of it. I didn’t end up signing with him, but my point is I was only 29. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go out there at 29, you can make it at any age, but it’s hard. Once you have kids it’s a totally different world. I love my kids, so they’re the priority, but it’s a totally different universe. But it was hard to go there at 29, that was old. When I was trying to get a job as a writer’s assistant, and I had some connections, but nobody would hire me. Because they thought I was too old. They wanted somebody who was 22.

But I did it, I’m one of those people who broke into Hollywood, but I made a choice to leave L.A. I’m not crying about it. There’s just other things than Hollywood in my life. Even when I was in L.A. I sometimes lamented that I wasn’t doing enough playwriting. My way of looking screenwriting was I did it for the money, because screenwriters sell the copyright. They sell it outright. You don’t own anything you write as a screenwriter. Playwrights don’t do that. Mark Stein once told me — If you have a really deep personal story, write a play. So you can control it. You’re not going to make any money on it but you’ll feel better. If you have a story that you think will make money and will entertain people and you can watch while eating popcorn that’s a movie. That’s the way that someone who’s a screenwriter and a playwright might think. It’s not the way a filmmaker thinks.

Scott: Author Seth Godin was asked what advice he’d give a start-up company today and he said, “Don’t push the wheelbarrow uphill.” What he was saying was the success of a new business start-up is so small that you don’t want to start with an idea your pushing uphill. When I heard that I thought that transferred real easy to the world of screenwriting. So many people start out with a concept that they’re pushing uphill. Is that something that Writer’s groups ideally should prevent?

Greg: If you’re writing a spec there’s a point where you need people to give you feedback on before you show it to the industry.

Scott: Some people don’t want to show it to anyone because they don’t want the criticism.

Greg: Yeah, that person’s not going to succeed. That’s why you need other writers, other people, that you show stuff to even if they’re not giving you good notes. Because when you start taking meeting you’re going to start hearing lots of bad notes anyway. You have to get used to that process.

Scott: Bride Wars was directed by the late Gary Winick, [Scott note: Winick also directed Pieces of April, which is one of my personal indie favorites] and you said you didn’t go on the shoot, but did you ever talk with Winick?

Greg: No. This is Hollywood. You think he ever called me and said, “Hey, I like your script?” No, he didn’t. I’m sure he was a really nice guy, just overworked like everyone in Hollywood. That’s the whole thing that people don’t get. People want to believe that there’s some artistic journey to independent films because there’s less money involved. Then when you’re in Hollywood everyone is cynical. It’s cynical from the top to the bottom. Everyone’s got to be selfish that’s part of surviving in Hollywood. It’s better to be more realistic about it. I’ve had three films produced and only got to be on the set for one of them. On the other two I was banned.

Scott: The yellow brick road isn’t paved with gold?

Greg: When they made Bride Wars in China they never called me to say they were making it because they didn’t want me to bill them. I had to discovery it and send them a bill. Even though they were under contract to pay me. They wouldn’t have paid me if I hadn’t said, “you owe me this money.” And even to do that I had to pay a lawyer 5% of what I made to do it, which was fine with me. He deserved it.

To me there’s the writing life and a business life. And you have to distinguish between the two. My way of dealing with it is if I wanna write something that’s very personal, I write a play. I get a catchy, marketable concept idea and I write a screenplay.

Greg teaches screenwriting at NYU and The New School, wrote the book Bring the Funny, and blogs at bringthefunny.com. His writing group is Stillwaterwriters.com.

Screenwriter Greg DePaul Q&A (Part 1)
Screenwriter Greg DePaul Q&A (Part 2)
Screenwriter Greg DePaul Q&A (Part 3)
Screenwriter Greg DePaul Q&A (Part 4)
Screenwriter Greg DePaul Q&A (Part 5)
Screenwriter Greg DePaul Q&A (Part 6)
Screenwriter Greg DePaul Q&A (Part 7)
Screenwriter Greg DePaul Q&A (Part 8)


Scott W. Smith

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Scott W. Smith: Part of my emphasis on this blog is to put the spotlight on filmmakers doing things in unlikely places, which are often micro budget filmmakers. Do you think there’s a place with Amazon, and Netflix , and all the other outlets for indie filmmakers anywhere in the world that could that morph into a farm league for producing bigger budget stuff? Or just doing stuff at a smaller level that brings filmmakers an income stream?

Screenwriter Greg DePaul: I guess so, but I don’t feel like I know what’s going on in the rest of the world. I’m so focused in the mechanics of writing and every little thing that goes on the page. Students have so far to go on the mechanics. Everybody I meet in my classes is making webisodes. Every actor I know is appearing in short films. Some of them are really good and I think that’s a great thing. My friends at The Collective are making short films. They’ve done some really wonderful work, and they’ve performed a lot of stuff I’ve written and I love them. And they’re a perfect example of a New York group of actors who are now getting into making movies, short films, and they’re appearing on the TV show Inside Amy Schumer, and they’re producing plays. If anyone can do it they can do it. And then you have Tyler Perry in Georgia.

Scott: I drove by his studio a couple of years ago and it’s amazing what he’s built.

I like what Edward Burns (a New Yorker) did to reignite his career by making micro-budget films, and one of his lines was don’t try to compete with Hollywood. And it was Tyler Perry who told Burns to “Super-size his niche market.” Focus on what you’re good at. I just heard a Billy Ray quote where he said eventually we’re going to hit a place where we can’t pack any more special effects into a movie. And people are going to revolt. I’d like to think that when that happens that there will be a crop of writers prepare, via playwriting or whatever, and be ready to write the next new thing. Perry followed his own vision there in Atlanta and became one of the wealthiest filmmakers ever.

Greg: There is a difference between those that want to be writer/directors who can probably get a lot out of film school. And there’s people like me who are at their core really writers. For me it doesn’t bother me that Hollywood is going down a peg. Because I’m a dramatic writer. I write plays. I write comedy sketches, I’ve written and sold TV, I’ve written and sold screenplays, and so I have to just focus on the writing. And if you’re a true filmmaker and you’re shooting stuff the writing is just part of it. You either do as much writing as you need to make your low budget film. Or you work with someone who will help you do the writing then you go off and shoot it. They’re both valid and can both lead to great work, but that first group is what I’m more beholden to. And I’m not worried about Hollywood collapsing if that’s what’s going on because relatively speaking, the theater world in New York is really blossoming with lots of small plays kicking up everywhere. And TV is exploding and I think it’s the home of great writing.

Scott: Let’s turn our focus to the new writer. The person who maybe hasn’t written anything. They’re not at NYU, they maybe don’t live in New York or L.A., maybe they’ve read Syd Fields’ Screenplay and Robert McKee’s Story, maybe they’ve tried to read those but found them too technical. Some people think screenwriting gurus are toxic. What’s square one that you like to point people to start writing screenplays. Is it breaking down movies?

Greg: Well, first you should read every book. Like Bring the Funny by Greg DePaul. You should probably buy ten or twenty copies at a time. If you read six or seven copies at a time that’s the best way to do it.

Scott: And give them away to your friends.

Greg: Yeah, give them to all your friends. You should be reading every book, come on, if you’re going to change your whole life, books are pretty cheap. You should have a wall full of screenwriting books and you should be able to compare them. I have a bunch of them; the McKee book, don’t forget Blake Snyder—

Scott: —Save the Cat.

Greg: Yeah, Save the Cat, that’s a great book. And you should read them all and study them, and diagram every script. You should be an expert in movies, that’s the Tarantino lesson. Be an expert in other people’s movies. The most common mistakes of screenwriters are they don’t read enough scripts by other people. So they don’t become expert in their genre, they don’t see the mistakes that others make that they could learn from. They’re scared to watch movies and read scripts that are too close to what they’re writing, which is the opposite of what you should be doing. They think it will ruin their originality. It won’t, it’s just going to inform what they do and help them. And the other mistake is they don’t realize you have to network as much as you write. And you have to do both all the time. And, of course, it’s all about the writing.

Greg teaches screenwriting at NYU and The New School, wrote the book Bring the Funny, and blogs at bringthefunny.com. His writing group is Stillwaterwriters.com.

Scott W. Smith

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