Archive for the ‘screenwriting’ Category

Last week I was on spring break which explains my lack of posts, but tomorrow I’ll pick up writing posts on Ted Hope’s book Hope for Film.  (By the way, Hope is also active on Facebook  @tedhope.fanpage .) 

Here’s my favorite photo I took last week as I kicked around central Florida.


Scott W. Smith



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The work I did with [writer/director Nicole Holofcener] on the Walking and Talking script would set the template for my standard development process with dozens of filmmakers later. In large part, it starts with a series of questions: How do you find the theme? What do you want the big takeaway from the movie to be for the audience? What do you want them to remember intellectually, and what do you want them to feel emotionally? At a certain point, Nicole came up with this image in her mind: The character Amelia (played in the film by Keener) is holding her friend Laura (played by Heche), who is getting married and starting a new way of life, afloat in the water. That, to me, was a baptismal moment of surrender and passage. It was about loving someone so much that you let her go. And that was the big takeaway of the movie in a single visual and heartfelt instant. But it was a process to get there. Once we found this telling scene, and once the theme of love as loss emerged, we had to make sure that the theme emerged elsewhere in the script.
Producer Ted Hope (The Ice Storm)
Hope for Film (with Anthony Kaufman
pp 65-66

Related posts:
Writing from Theme
Sheldon Turner on Theme
John Carpenter on Theme 
Diablo Cody on Theme 
Ryan Coogler on the Theme of Black Panther 

Scott W. Smith

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“I’m incredibly excited about the future at Amazon Studios. In the studio’s relatively short existence they have innovated, disrupted, and created characters that are already an indelible part of pop-culture. I am both honored and emboldened by the opportunity to lead this extraordinary business. Of course, this is also bittersweet for me. NBC has been an amazing home – creatively, professionally and personally – and I leave there knowing that the work we did had groundbreaking impact. It’s an exciting time to be a content creator, and I look forward to being on the front lines of an innovative business with storytelling at its heart.”
Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios (and former NBC Entertainment president)
Tracking Board 

This is pulled directly from the Amazon Studios website:

  • Submit Your Series Idea

    Amazon Studios is producing Emmy Award-winning television series. We’re looking for smart, cinematic drama series; bold, original comedy series; and innovative, educational series for kids.

    Now, anyone (including WGA members) is welcome to submit their work with no strings attached. Learn more about our Submission policy here.




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”It’s sad, this is my last downhill, I wish I could keep going. I have so much fun, I love what I do…but my body can’t take another four years.”
Downhill racer Lindsey Vonn

Last night I caught Lindsey Vonn’s final downhill run at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. It was great to see her end with a Bronze medal it what is most likely her last Olympics. At 33 she is already the oldest female Alpine skier to ever medal at the winter games. She’d won a gold medal at the 2010 Olympics and then missed the 2014 Olympics because of various injuries.

Here’s a video of one of Vonn’s worst accidents. I never get tired of sports stories of athletes overcoming the odds (and often crushing injuries) to bounce back and accomplish great things in their sport.

And speaking of downhill skiing, here’s a trailer from Downhill Racer starring Robert Redford from a script by James Salter. (The 1969 film is part of The Criterion Collection.)

P.S. Back in ’87 when I was a 16mm camera operator and editor I shot a downhill skiing event in Aspen, Colorado. I think it was my first real gig after graduating from film school. Love that sport.


Scott W. Smith

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”I was going to make [This Is Us] as a movie. It had been a 70 page script. Or it was up to page 80, actually. And I had seven or eight different storylines of a bunch of different people all turning 36 on the same day. And the reveal at the end was they were a set of octuplets born on the same day in 1978. It didn’t feel like a movie. I loved the characters, and I liked the writing. But I was like, ’I don’t know how to end it, it doesn’t feel right.’ And I put it away for a while. And then I decided to turn it into a TV series. Were it came from is I was just—I didn’t think about it, I just started writing…Writing is a business [in Los Angeles], so much of it is based off of ‘What’s the concept?’—‘What type of genre stuff is working?—‘What’s selling in TV?’ and ‘What specs are selling in film?’ With a few exceptions when I was younger, I’ve always just written everything. The reason I’ve gotten stuff made is I write everything. I write on spec.”
Writer/ director Dan Fogelman (Tangled, Cars, This Is Us)
3rd & Fairfax: The WGA Podcast, Episode 47

P.S. “I just started writing” also sums up how Dan Fogelman launched his career. After studying a couple years at the University of Pennsylvania, he graduated from Oxford in England where he studied Victorian novels and “watched Dumb and Dumber 400 times.” Because a college roommate had a girlfriend living in Los Angles he went to live with her family for four months while he searched for his first job. He ended up working on “Howie Mandel’s short-lived day time talk show” which he calls “the best job I’ve ever had.” Working on what he called the outer edges of the entertainment industry, he decided to write a screenplay.

He’d never even seen a screenplay and bought a book on what a screenplay looked like and Final Draft software. He said,  “I wrote a Wonder Years-style screenplay—I wrote it in like a week—about my bar mitzvah.” A friend from college was working as an assistant for a management company. His friend thought the Wonder Years-like screenplay was good and took it to his work where the script resonated with Eryn Brown and she started showing it around. And the short story is his screenplay got attention and work, and before you know it he was working on Cars with Pixar. Simple, right? Eryn Brown is still Fogelman’s manager and now a partner with Management 360.

So if you’re looking for a screenwriting anomalies you can put Dan Fogelman on the same shelf as Diablo Cody. Screenwriters who got work/traction with their very first screenplay. It may not happen much, but it does happen. Just start writing. (If that doesn’t work, try watching Dumb and Dumber 400 times.)

Related post:
Film vs. TV Writing (10 Differences)

Scott W. Smith

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Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Genesis 4:9

Writer/director Ryan Coogler is having quite a run these days. He followed Fruitville Station and Creed with Black Panther. While all three have had critical acclaim, Black Panther‘s global box office launch has made $400 million plus coming out of the gate.  (Over $200 million of that coming from the U.S. over the last few days.)

“The theme of the film is, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Each character has a different answer to that question and only one changes his answer…My favorite action movies have themes that are deep, that you can chew on. and that what waas what we were trying to do, to make a movie that functions the way it was supposed to but has some depth to it.”
Ryan Coogler on Black Panther
Interview with Nell Minow

Related posts:

Writing from Theme
More Thoughts on Theme
Scott Frank on Theme
Kelly Marcel on Theme

Scott W. Smith


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”I don’t particularly like [the writing process], but I don’t dislike it either. I can tell you that I’ve come to a somber acceptance that…my tastes as a consumer of movies and TV exceeds my talents, so all I can do is try my best to close that gap and to get as best a version of what it is in my head on the page.”
Screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival)
Basic Brainheart podcast interview with Hannah Camacho


Related posts:
The 99% Focus Rule
Art is Work
Screenwriters Work Ethic

Scott W. Smith


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