Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘screenwriting’ Category

“The internet is a miraculous things. Just share as much as you can, self-publish, blog, podcast whatever you need to do. Just make sure you are not withholding your gifts from the world. Because you have so many opportunities now….We’re in a new frontier.”
Diablo Cody

Today marks the 12th anniversary of Screenwriting from Iowa … and Other Unlikely Places.  The original goal was to take a year and blog a book. I failed that task—but there’s still hope. And at least in the first year the blog won a regional Emmy so that was a nice tradeoff. (See the post Juno Has a Baby.)

And I got a nice shout-out from screenwriter Diablo Cody when she was on Twitter back in the day. Her Oscar-winning  Juno script and Midwest background were a large part of starting this blog, and she’s been featured in many posts over the years. I think her tweet was a response to my 2010 post Screenwriting’s Biggest Flirt.)

Diablo Cody Twitter copy copy

After chipping away at the book for a decade I thought I was close to finishing it about a year ago. I turned it over to an editor who did what good editors do. His suggested changes and comments totaled 3,000. One of his biggest challenges to me was not to copout saying it was a book cobbled together from random blog posts, but to make a book that stands on its own. So that’s what I’ve tried to do the past six months and believe the finished product is elevated greatly because of the changes. More in coming weeks about the book’s release.

change

But seeing those edit notes was a blow. Like thinking you at the end of running a marathon only to be told, “Oh, this isn’t the finish line, you still have 10 miles to go.” It took me three months just to wrap my head around doing a deep pass on the 225 pages. Now I’m down to a dozen changes so I’m hopeful that I will finally get the completed version of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles out by March of this year.  At least, that’s the new goal.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share my introduction to the book which happens to mention actor Dwayne Johnson’s father—the former pro wrestler Rocky Johnson— who died last week.

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 4.37.21 PM

 

PREFACE
(For the book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles  by Scott W. Smith)

“I wasn’t born knowing how to write a play.”
—Sam Shepard, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright

“How did I learn screenwriting? It was a matter of years of trying to develop my writing in the same way that some people spend years learning to play the violin.”
—Screenwriter Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption)

In the ten years of writing the blog Screenwriting from Iowa . . . and Other Unlikely Places, I’ve found advice and insight on the creative process from more than 700 gifted screenwriters, filmmakers, and teachers. I realized that I could consolidate some of this material as a book, revising and reorganizing it in ways that I thought would be most helpful to people’s creative journeys. I want these ideas to function like brass knuckles in an old-school professional wrestling match.

I don’t know if Aristotle ever used brass knuckles, but they are said to have been around since the ancient Greeks. Abraham Lincoln’s secret service men carried brass knuckles. And legend has it that brass knuckles were Al Capone’s favorite weapon.

The term “loaded fist” in Japanese martial arts refers to a martial arts version of brass knuckles that can turn a punch into a sledgehammer. As a troubled youth in Hong Kong, Bruce Lee carried brass knuckles, giving a twist of meaning to his trademark movie Fist of Fury.

Today brass knuckles are brandished in popular video games and music videos. Spike Lee even wore brass knuckles to the 2019 Academy Awards.

My introduction to brass knuckles was watching professional wrestling on TV as a kid. This was not the high-dollar spectacle of today but the low-budget version, usually taped in a small studio in Tampa, Florida.

Actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s father, Rocky Johnson,* was a wrestler in the pre-WWE era when professional wrestling was more regionally orientated and the bag of tricks (and storylines) was more limited.

This was at a time in my youth when I didn’t know if professional wrestling was real or not. What I did know was that professional wrestling had a cast of characters with colorful names like Abdullah the Butcher, Dusty “The American Dream” Rhodes, and Andre the Giant, and it was flat out entertaining.

Inevitably, when one wrestler was getting beat up and close to losing a match, brass knuckles would magically appear (and oftentimes un-magically when he reached into his wrestling trunks and pulled out brass knuckles).

The announcer Gordon Solie would say something like, Wait a minute, what’s he have in his right hand? It looks like a foreign object. Oh no, it looks like a pair of brass knuckles!

At the last minute, this would give the almost beaten wrestler an upper hand in the match. It would result in not only a victory for the trickster but also in a bloody mess. For a ten-year-old boy this was as good as a vampire movie.

My goal with this book is not to create a bloody mess, but to offer the equivalent of brass knuckles for writers — screenwriters in particular. Ideas found in this book can serve as powerful resources in urgent moments of desperation—or to avoid those moments altogether.

By “screenwriting” I mean any screen: the big screen, TV, computers, tablets, mobile devices, virtual reality, video games, and even some non-screen dramatic writing such as theater and podcasts.

This book will not substitute for a good writing teacher or mentor, but it can give you some valuable ideas to hang on to, “foreign objects” thrown into the ring as you struggle to craft and sell your own stories.

*Rocky Johnson was actually the 1976 NWA Brass Knuckles Champion.

Related post:
Hitting Rock Botton with The Rock (And my very loose University of Miami football connection with The Rock.)

Scott W. Smith

 

Read Full Post »

Here are links to the 2020 Oscar nominated screenplays (except Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, which I haven’t found yet).

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Jojo Rabbit by Taika Waititi
Joker by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver
Little Women by Greta Gerwig
The Irishman by Steven Zaillian
The Two Popes by Anthony McCarten

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

1917 by Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Knives Out by Rian Johnson
Marriage Story by Noah Baumback
Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino
Parasite by Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won, Story by Bong Joon Ho

P.S. Usually these kinds of links from studios are only good for a limited time during the award season.

Scott W. Smith 

Read Full Post »

Both the feature film Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood and the HBO/SKY TV program Chernobyl won some Golden Globe awards earlier this week including Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy  (OUATIH) and Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television (Chernobyl).

I was a cheerleader for both of those productions—and won’t confess yet how many times I saw Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood while in was in theaters. (But it was a personal record.)

Here are some links of posts I wrote on both of them:

ONCE UPON A TIME … IN HOLLYWOOD

Once Upon a Time … in Burbank 
The Unofficial ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood’ Film School
Once Upon a Time … How Quentin Tarantino Made the Leap from Unpaid to Paid Screenwriter
Once Upon a Time … in Van Nuys
Once Upon a Time in Modesto 
‘Once Upon a Time … ’ Once Again
Once Upon a Time … in the UK
Once Upon a Time … in Iowa (with Jean Seberg) 
Once Upon a Time … in Florida 
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (Soundtrack)
Once Upon a Time … in Utah
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood —in 1987
Once Upon a Time … in the Harlem of the South
Once Upon a Time … in  Jacksonville 

CHERNOBYL

‘Chernobyl’: Craig Mazin’s Real Life Scary Movie Lands 19 Emmy Nominations 
Emmy-winning Writer Craig Mazin Loses His Umbrage and Finds His Happy Place 

Scott W. Smith 

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2019-12-10 at 6.19.43 AM.png

This is part of the answer Lulu Wang gave when asked what her takeaway was from the success of her film The Farewell. 

“People don’t have to go to the movie to see plot. It’s about connection. And the question that I ask myself for most of The Farewell was not about plot—like what are they going to do? Or who’s going to chase who? Do they tell her or not tell her? That’s not really what it’s about. What drove me to tell the story was how do you say goodbye to somebody that you love, whether they know or don’t know [that they’re dying]? It’s impossible to say goodbye, so what do you do? And I think that’s the way I always want to approach films. That no matter how big a concept it is, what’s the question that it’s exploring? Maybe it’s not important to find the answer, but people are clearly hungry for content that asks the question that they themselves are asking, or maybe they don’t even know they should be asking, right? But it satisfies this desire just to explore, to talk about things—talk about talk about the difficult things—and that’s what art does.”
Writer/Director Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
THR podcast interview with Scott Feinberg

Here’s a scene from The Farewell that shows the connection between Billi (Awkwafina) and her grandmother Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao):

Related Post:
It’s the Relationships, Stupid! A Heart to Hart Talk Talk About Movie Endings with Lindsay Doran and Moss Hart

Scott W. Smith 

Read Full Post »

“Have you ever wondered why it had to be so hard to get through school? Or just make it from day to day? Well, that’s because what you were building (your foundation) had to be strong enough to support the weight of whatever you could dream. And if you’re like me, you’re a huge dreamer.”
Tyler Perry
2016 Tuskegee University commencement speech  

How big is Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia? Well, as CBS’s Norah O’Donnell points out, if you take the Los Angeles/Burbank studios of Warner Bros., Paramount, and Disney and combined them together—they’d still be smaller than Tyler Perry’s 330 acres studio.

Scott W. Smith 

Read Full Post »

Last year when the first version of The Quiet Place screenplay found its way online it was unorthodox in that Scott Beck and Bryan Woods where on one page they used just one word (SNAP…) among other techniques. (See the post Writing an Unorthodox Script.) Well, this year’s unconventional script (or maybe just unconventional page) goes to The Lighthouse written by Max Eggers with the director of the movie Robert Eggers.

In the last day or two, A/24 made the script available for consideration during award season.

Screen Shot 2019-11-14 at 4.43.52 AM.png

Scott W. Smith 

Read Full Post »

If you’re on Twitter, two writer/directors that I’d recommend you follow are Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place, Haunt) who go by @beckandwoods on Twitter. Here’s an example of one of their tweets.

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 4.35.05 PM.png

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: