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Archive for the ‘screenwriting’ Category

100 percent of the screenwriters who now have agents at one time didn’t have an agent.

100 percent of screenwriters who are now working at one time weren’t working.

100 percent of the screenwriters who have made money at screenwriting at one time time didn’t made a dime.”
Michael Hauge
Writing Screenplays that Sells
page 213

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“If there are two writers, one living in Toronto obsessively focused on quality and craft, and another in Hollywood, looking to make contacts — my money’s on the out of town writer all the way.”
Screenwriter Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean)
I Love LA
Wordplayer Screenwriting Column 33
(Also used in my 2009 post Screenwriting Quote #15)

Back in June Deadline Hollywood reported that Anne Hathaway is set to star in the contained thriller O2. Christie Leblanc —a single mother from Gatineau, Canada— wrote the script and sent it unsolicited to Echo Lake’s Adam Riback and James Engle who helped developed the script that is planned to go into production this fall.

I finished O2 in June 2016, but I’m extremely obsessive. I spent a month researching reps, making a list of the ones who had set up similar projects, tracking down their contact information, and finding out everything I could about them. I then embarked on my query campaign, targeting the ones I most wanted to work with. Echo Lake responded with a read request, and I sent my baby out…I write killer loglines, and I knew I had a good concept, so I knew I’d get some reads. I was, however, very surprised when they followed up with a meeting request. I don’t think I ever sweat so much in my entire life. Remarkably, I have yet to step foot in L.A.”
Christie LeBlanc
Interview with Jean-Francois Allaire

She writes The Single Screenwriter blog and can be found on Twitter @thatScriptChick. No one said it was easy, but Christie shows it can be done—and even at least started without stepping foot in Los Angeles. And even as a single mother living just north of Ottawa. 

Screenwriting from Gatineau. Congrats Christie.

Scott W. Smith

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“In Greek nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.”
Don Draper (Jon Hamm)

The perfect bookend to what I called The Perfect ‘Mad Men’ Monologue in my last post is Don Draper (Jon Hamm) giving his pitch to executive from the Eastman Kodak company in the first season of Mad Men, episode 13 titled The Wheel.

Technology is a glittering lure. But there is the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product.

My first job— I was in house at a fur company with this old pro copywriter–Greek– named Teddy. And Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is ‘new.’ Creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of calamine lotion. But he also talked about a deeper bond with the product—nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent.

Teddy told me that in Greek nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a space ship. It’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. Takes us to a place where we ache to go again. 

It’s not called ‘The Wheel.’ It’s called ‘The Carousel.’ It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around and back home again… to a place where we know we are loved.”
Don Draper

Robin Veith and the show’s creator Matthew Weiner wrote that episode, which received an Emmy nomination.

P.S. Here’s part of what Wikipedia has under Nostalgia:
Nostalgia is a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.[1]The word nostalgia is learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of νόστος (nóstos), meaning “homecoming”, a Homeric word, and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning “pain” or “ache”, and was coined by a 17th-century medical student to describe the anxieties displayed by Swiss mercenaries fighting away from home. Described as a medical condition—a form of melancholy—in the Early Modern period, it became an important trope in Romanticism.

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Emotion-Emotion-Emotion
Power Your Podcast with Storytelling “Everyone wants to find a way out of pain.”—
Alex Blumberg
Screenwriting Quote  #82 (Richard Krevolin) “All characters are wounded souls…”
Write What Hurts  

Scott W. Smith

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Way back when I studied acting it was years before the Internet came along. So you’d hang out at the Samuel French bookstore on Sunset Blvd. flipping through plays searching for a monolgue that you hadn’t seen 100 times. (“I coulda been somebody…) There were also a few books that had collections of monologues.

I remember doing monologues by Clifford Odets, Michael Weller, Sam Shepard, and Tennessee Williams. (“I have tricks up my sleeves….”)

One of my best acting scenes ever was to an audience of one. It was monologue I gave to a film school friend named Fred at a restaurant in Hollywood.  I’d been working on it in a for a class and decided to see if I could pass it off to him as a first person experience. Success, even on a very small scale, is satisfying.

Actors love monologues. And I heard one over the weekend that’s one of the best I’ve heard in years. As I inch my way through finally completing the Mad Men series I watched a monologue over the weekend that’s gold. It’s at the end of In Care Of —season 6, episode 12 on Netflix.)

It’s as advertising executive Don Draper (Jon Hamm) pitches two executives of the Hershey Company.

“Every agency you’re going to meet with feels qualified to advertise the Hershey bar because the product itself is one of the most successful billboards of all time. And its relationship with America is so overwhelmingly positive. Everyone in this room has their story to tell. It could be rations in the heat of battle, or in the movie theater on a first date. But most of them are from childhood. Mine was my father taking me to the drug store after I’d mowed the lawn and telling me I could have anything I wanted. There was a lot and I picked a Hershey Bar. The wrapper looked like what was inside. And as I ripped it open my father tasseled my hair and forever his love and chocolate were forever tied together. That’s the story we’re going to tell. Hershey’s is the currency of affection. It’s the childhood symbol of love.…I’m sorry, I have to say this because I don’t know if I’m going to see you again. (Beat.) I was an orphan. I grew up in Pennsylvania…in a whorehouse. I read about Milton Hershey and his school in Coronet magazine or some other crap that girls left by the toilet. And I read that some orphans have a different life there. I could picture it. I dreamt of it—of being wanted. Because the woman that raised me looked at me everyday like she hoped I’d disappear. Closest I got to feeling wanted was from a girl who made me go through her Johns’ pockets while they screwed. If I collected more than a dollar she bought me a Hershey Bar. And I would eat it alone I in my room with great ceremony. Feeling like a normal kid. It said sweet on the package. It was the only sweet thing in my life.”
Don Draper

If you want to write actor bait study that monologue and actor Jon Hamm performing those words. An emotional scene that doesn’t just stand on its own and fit within the episode, but one that’s integral to the entire Man Men series.

That episode was written my Carly Wray and and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner.

I couldn’t find an HD version of the Hershey scene online but if you want to see how the scene played out on the show, here it is:

P.S. After I saw the Hershey episode, I bought a Hershey Bar—for maybe the first time in over a decade. (The power of television and advertising.) On the wrapper was a mention of the Milton Hershey School that Don Draper referenced.

On the Hershey Company website it says of Milton and his wife Catherine that, “Although the Hersheys never had children, they established a boarding school for orphan boys and came to think of the boys as their family. The Hershey Industrial School for orphan boys, today called the Milton Hershey School, now educates nearly 2,000 underprivileged boys and girls. The unique school continues to consider each student and staff part of the family. Before his death in 1945, Hershey transferred the bulk of his considerable wealth to the Milton Hershey School Trust to ensure the school’s continued success.”

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More Mad Women
My ‘Mad Men’ Father 

Mad Men Diet & Workout

Scott W. Smith

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“I was eighteen and an aunt gave me a copy of Mixed Company, a book of his [Irwin Shaw] collected stories. I’d never read a word by him, never heard his name. But I remember the lead story in the book was The Girls in Their Summer Dresses. About a guy who looked at women.

Followed by The Eighty Yard Run… Well, The Eighty Yard Run is about a football playerShit, I remember thinking, you can do that? You can write about stuff I care about?…At eighteen, I began writing stories. Not a whole lot of acclaim. I took a creative writing class at Oberlin.  Everyone took it because it was a gut course. I wanted a career. Everyone got A’s and B’s, I got the only C…. I have, somewhere, hundreds of rejection slips…My confidence is not building through these years. I hope you get that.”
Two time Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman
(Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men)
The First Time I Got Paid For It

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“I don’t want film to be a ‘slice of life’ because people can get that at home, in the street, or even in front of the movie theater. They don’t have to pay money to see a slice of life. And I avoid out-and-out fantasy because people should be able to identify with the characters. Making a film means, first of all, to tell a story. That story can be an improbable one, but it should never be banal. It must be dramatic and human. What is drama, after all, but life with the dull bits cut out.”
Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut
page 71

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Most books about screenwriting talk about the importance of creating a strong protagonist, and don’t understand the important structural role the antagonist plays in defining the protagonist. As someone said, ‘You want to see Muhammad Ali fight Joe Frazier, not Pee Wee Herman.’ Too often scripts make the mistake of making things too easy for the protagonist by giving him or her an antagonist who is not their equal, who is not as clever, resourceful, witty, and determined. It is absolutely imperative to have the antagonist be as strongly defined, and as strong, as the protagonist.”
Producer/Screenwriter Stan Chervin
Go Into The Story interview with Scott Myers 

P.S. This week I’ve been watching and breaking down one of my favorite films of the 2000s— Moneyball. Chervin received a story credit on Moneyball and and an Oscar-nomination. I’ve read the Steven Zaillian/Aaron Sorkin script that Bennett Miller directed. Love to see the Soderbergh script that got shut down days before he was to direct, the final draft of the Zaillian script, and the Chervin version that first attempted to turn Michael Lewis’s book into a movie. Moneyball was a team effort for sure.

P.P.S. Now that I think about that above Chervin quote I’m wondering who the antagonist was in Moneyball. Is Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) his own protagonist? Sort of a Fight Club situation. While the manager of the team and a scout that Beane fired are antagonistic, I wouldn’t call them the antagonist. And Beane is in a sense fighting the whole tradition of baseball tradition—but certainly “baseball tradition” can’t be the antagonist. Help me out here.

Anyway, most films benefit from a Ali/Frazier equally-sized battle. (The 1971 fight between Ali and Frazier, who were both undefeated, has is known as The Fight of the Century.)

Related post: Writing Good Bad Guys

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