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Posts Tagged ‘Mystery Man on Film’

“I never wanted to write a screenplay. To me, writing is this wonderful, indulgent activity where you just fill the page with words.”
Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody
Iconcinema.com

Three years ago today I created my first blog post ever (Life Beyond Hollywood). I started out with a little Diablo Cody inspiration and a modest goal to consolidated my writing notes gathered over the years from film school, books, magazines, seminars & workshops in hopes of it becoming a 50,000 word book—and perhaps helping a fellow writer or two.

Three years later I’ve written 832 posts and over 300,000 words. (With roughly 833 estimated typos, which I blame on posting daily without a copy editor. Like Jimmy Buffett I’m not aiming for perfection—just trying to “capture the magic.”) I’m now in the process of distilling those 832 posts into three books which will be much more refined.

Actually the idea of a book predates the blog. Since I had read quite a few film and video books by Michael Weise Books, and  had just read Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat at the end of ’07 (which they published, and I thought was great)  I sent them a book proposal toward the end of 2007 and got this email back from Ken Lee:

Please email me your table of contents and a sample chapter

Thanks

Ken

Ken and I traded emails a few times and I ended up sending him three or four chapters and we spoke on the phone a couple of times and he asked me to think about what I’d like to write and blog about over the next five years. At the end of the day, while there was no deal with Michael Weise Books, this blog in part was an indirect result of my communication with Ken. (If you’re looking for a theme to write about “Success out of Failure” is a great concept because everyone can identify with losing their locker like Rocky did in that first film.)

At the same time I had written those first four chapters I started to read about Diablo Cody’s story about writing the Juno screenplay in Minneapolis, her blogging, and having gone to college at the University of Iowa. Lightning struck. A couple of people showed me the ropes on how to start a blog and four days after seeing the movie Juno I launched my first post exactly three years ago today.

I even traded a few emails in January of 2008 with Blake as his blog was one of the first screenwriting blogs I ever read. In fact, I just found this email from him that ended with: “Best to you in ‘the great 2008’ and yes, I am happy to help in any way I can.” Miss ya Blake, but long live your books & influence.

Later that year, in October of 2008, the Screenwriting from Iowa blog won a Regional Emmy (Minneapolis) in the category of advanced media. A few months later Diablo Cody walked away with an Oscar for writing Juno. Fun.

“I’ve never read a screenwriting book. I’m really superstitious about it too. I don’t even want to look at them. All I did was I went and bought the shooting script of  ‘Ghost World’ at Barnes and Noble and read it just to see how it should look on the page because I like that movie.”
Diablo Cody

The day after my first post I received this email  from Scott Cawelti, an English professor and writer at the University of Northern Iowa: “Ready for a collaboration?” It took a little time, but we recently finished a spec screenplay, have done a couple re-writes, and are just now shopping it. (As a quirky sidenote, Scott was once in a band with Robert Waller who wrote The Bridges of Madison County.)

There was early support from Mystery Man on Film. For the record I think Mystery Man’s post The Raider’s Story Conference is the single best thing you’ll find on the Internet on the process of storytelling. (Make sure to follow the link to the 125 page transcript of Lucas, Spielberg and Kasden as they discuss what became Raiders of the Lost Ark.) I was also encouraged by emails from readers and fellow blogger Scott Myers at Go Into the Story.

Last year the shout out by Diablo Cody on Twitter as well as the TomCruise.com plug were bonuses and will keep me going another year. And I hope some things I write encourage you in your own quest as a writer. In the coming days I’ll have some posts based on interviews I did with UCLA screenwriting professor Richard Walter and screenwriter Dale Launer (My Cousin Vinney, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). This blog has brought me into contact with producers and writers in LA that would be hard for me to connect with otherwise. So if you have a blog in mind, go for it.

But for now let me say thanks for stopping by, best wishes on your own writing and if you need a little inspiration today I hope this helps:

“I can actually give you a really specific bit of advice that I give to everyone. I would not be where I am, I would not be any sort of professional writer if I had not self-published. We live in a day and age where there’s so many opportunities for writers and filmmakers with YouTube to self-publish, to make their own work available without having to go through the rejection letters and the middleman and, you know, it used to be that you were, that if you wanted to share your work with other people, I mean, you had to go through so many channels and jump through so many hoops. And now, you can just put it out there. You know, the internet is a miraculous thing, so just share as much as you can self-publish blog, you know, podcast, whatever you need to do, just make sure that you are not withholding your (unintelligible) from the world because we have so many opportunities now.”

Diablo Cody
NPR transcript Feb  2009

I never would have dreamed that I’d write 823 posts in three years, but that’s what happened. The Writers Store has an article online that talks about Jerry Seinfeld’s method for success where he marks on a calender with a red “X” over everyday he writes new material. Each “X” forms a chain and his goal is to not break that chain. You want to talk a day or two off every week from writing, that’s fine (and healthy) but do your best to have at least 20 “X’s” on your calender each month.

Writers write.

Related Posts: Juno Has Another Baby (Emmy)

Screenwriting’s Biggest Flirt

The Juno—Iowa Connection

Beatles, Cody, King & 10,000 Hours

Scott W. Smith

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“You’ve got to find a way of saying it without saying it.”
Duke Ellington

My message is simple—put down the megaphone! Megaphones have a useful purpose. I used to use one when I took photos of large groups of people. It was the only way to be heard. But when writing screenplays there are more subtle ways to be heard. Often times it’s just a simple action or a single sentence. And the real danger when you pull out the megaphone in a movie theater is it tends keep people out of the theater.

In the post Writing from Theme (Tip #20) I covered the importance of theme and in a later post (More Thoughts on Theme)  found this little nugget :

“Themes in screenwriting can be tricky because in real-life we love to talk about our themes—share our philosophies of life, tell people our beliefs about life’s meaning. But themes we talk about are not our life’s real themes. Out true themes are lived out by our actions. “
Linda Seger
Making a Good Writer Great
page 71-72

And I know this is an area that is a little subjective, but I’m going to tread on that delicate topic of  theme and message. The line for me is really blurred between the differences. (And some say it’s fair to use them interchangeably.)  So let me just say that every film addresses some point of view (yes, even Porkey’s) that the audience receives in one degree or another. (And The Matrix proves that not everyone will agree what that message is.)

Joe Eszterhas has written about how he’s received many letters and heard first hand accounts of people who told them they were motivated to follow their dreams after watching the film Flashdance that he wrote (co-written with Thomas Hedley Jr.) after hearing the simple line ,”When you let go of your dream, you die,” and watching Jennifer Beals follow her dream.

Frank Darabont has heard similar stories about his film The Shawshank Redemption. Who doesn’t get motivated by the message/theme, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Anyone know if that line is even in the Stephen King short story that Shawshank was based on?

Here are a couple more quotes to throw into the mix as you walk that fine line in your own scripts between subtle theme and overt propaganda.

“If a writer has a genuine story to tell, as opposed to a message to smuggle in, and is faithful to his storytelling and skillful in technique, the audience may get a message. In fact, they may get more and deeper messages than the audience ever intended. But for that to happen, the work must be a  compelling story, not a homily, and the characters must come to life in some real sense. It can’t be a puppet show in which the author simply stands behind his characters with a bullhorn.”
K.L. Billingsley
The Seductive Image

“In life, we lead by example. In storytelling, we make our points by showing the world what’s wrong with it through characters who say and do things that are so very wrong.  Avoid speeches.  Show things going wrong in your protag’s world to make your points and create meaning.  Everything that goes right for your protag goes wrong for the story.”
Mystery Man on Film
Who is John Galt? article at The Story Department

“Didactic screenplays sacrifice character and story to prove the theme correct. This results in propaganda, a story in which the characters are only mouthpieces for the author’s message.”
Robin U. Russin and William Missouri Downs
Screenplay, Writing the Picture

“Don’t have your hero come right out and say what he’s learned. This is obvious and preachy and will turn off you audience. Instead you want to suggest your hero’s insight by the actions he takes leading up to self-revelation.”
John Truby
The Anatomy of Story

If you want to say something important, God bless you, but the world already has enough preachers. What the world needs now (besides love, sweet love) is more storytellers who thrill and entertain; and after you’ve been enthralled by the wonderous tale of the master yarn-spinner, you might find that the good storytelling also includes subtle messages which are covertly hung on the clothesline of compelling story.”
Richard Krevolin
Screenwriting for the Soul
page 75

Scott W. Smith


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“My work, I can do anywhere.”
Screenwriter Christoph Silber

One trend that I’ve noticed since starting this blog in January ’08 is there really is a growing trend of people writing screenplays and making movies outside Los Angeles. And some are doing quite well such as Paranormal Activities made by a writer/director living down in San Diego (still California, but really like another time zone to the people in the thirty mile zone) and then I just heard about a working screenwriter living in Huntsville, Alabama.

Now the south in general and Alabama in particular is no stranger to fine storytellers, but this one does have a twist. Christoph Silber not only lives far from Hollywood, but the films made from his scripts are made far from California—or even Huntsville. According to an article by Jon Buseker Silber is “one of Germany’s most soughtafter screenwriters.”

He’s had three films made in Germany  North FaceAranged, and the Golden Globe-nominated Good Bye Lenin!, and has written for the German crime show Tatort. Busdeker says that Silber met his wife in New York City but the couple moved to Alabama after they inherited a house and felt like it would be a better place to raise their family.

Silber said about the move south,”I think it benefits my writing. I feel there’s something about the land.” (Of course, it may have something to do with that land he’s living on being mortgage-free, but that’s another story for another day.)

Silber was raised in Germany and I’m sure he’s not the only German in town.  Huntsville has a history of Germans living there at least back to the World War II period when many of Germany’s top scientist fled Hitler and ended up working on the rockets that helped build the US space program (and why it’s called “Rocket City.”)

And this isn’t the first time Huntsville’s come up on this blog. Check out the post on Daytime Emmy-winning writer (and former Miss Alabama) Pamala K. Long.  Roll tide.

And a hat tip to Mystery Man on Film for the lead on the article. If you’re still looking for a good reason to join twitter then I recommend jumping into the game just to follow the Mystery Man on Film (@MMonFilm). (And follow me as well @scottwsmith_com)

Scott W. Smith

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Since my last post had more views in a five day period than anything I’ve posted I thought (like a good Hollywood producer) that I would follow it up with a sequel. But this time instead of limiting myself to more kinda, sorta random quotes on writing and life from mostly screenwriters I’ll open up the floor for others.

“I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird.”
                                                                                 Harper Lee
                                                                                To Kill A Mockingbird 

“The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him, always.”
                                                                                Arthur Miller 

“The awful thing about the first sentence of any book is that as soon as you’ve written it you realize this piece of work is not going to be the great thing that you envision. It can’t be.”
                                                                                Tom Wolfe 
“A writer’s courage can easily fail him.”
                                                                                E.B. White 

“I have so many demons and voices telling me what a fraud I am and how my meager talent will be uncovered.” 
                                                                                Scott Frank 
                                                                                Oscar nominated screenwriter
                                                                                Out of Sight, Minority Report,
                                                                                Get Shorty
 

“No one can give you the secret of screenwriting because no such secret exists. No one knows exactly how to write a superior screenplay. It is a matter of instinct and experience- or talent, living, learning and practice.”
                                                                                Edward Dmytryk
                                                                                Director, The Caine Mutiny 


“If you were to just focus on a day job and work really hard – you’ll probably make about as much (if not more) than you will writing scripts. With less hassle and more peace of mind.”
                                                                                 William Martell 
                                                                                 Screenwriter, 
                                                                                 West Coast Editor
                                                                                 of Scr(i)pt Magazine  

“The ancient commission of the writer has not changed. He is charged with exposing our many grievous faults and failures, with dredging up to the light our dark and dangerous dreams for the purpose of improvement.”
                                                                                 John Steinbeck
                                                                                 Speech at Nobel Prize Banquet

“It’s much easier to do the impossible than the ordinary.”
                                                                                 Ken Kragen
                                                                                 Entertainment Lawyer/
                                                                                 Manager & Organizer of
                                                                                 We Are the World
                                                                                 & Hands Across America 

“The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time.”
                                                                                 James Taylor

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?
                                                                                 Satchel Paige

“The problem with the rat race is even if you win you’re still a rat.”
                                                                                 Lilly Tomlin 

“The only way to rise above the pack is not be a part of it.”
                                                                                 Don Hewitt
                                                                                 Creator/Executive
                                                                                 producer 60 Minutes 

“If we couldn’t laugh we’d all go insane.”
                                                                                 Jimmy Buffett

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”
                                                                                 Mark Twain 

“The idea that your career is your life is a great misconception. Your career is just one of the tools to help you have the most fulfilling and successful life possible.”

                                                                                 Ken Kragen
                                                                                 Life is a Contact Sport
                                                                                  

“Who have you ever heard, as the lay on their deathbed, say, ‘Gee, I should have spent more time on my business’?”
                                                                                  Lee Iaciocca

My goal when I began this Diablo Cody-inspired blog on screenwriting was to bring some structure to my many notes in hopes of preparing this for a book. I set a mark in January of 50,000 words by the first day of summer (June 20). It seemed like an ambitious goal, but my last post on May 31 actually surpassed that goal. I’ll continue to post on screenwriting up until June 20 because I have a few more areas to flesh out. And then I’ll reevaluate the direction I’ll head.

After all, I don’t want to waste my life just reading and writing blogs. And I’ve started two new screenplays since I began this blog so there is other work to be done. Thanks to everyone for visiting over the months because without a growing list of views on my WordPress stat chart I’m not sure I would have been motivated to complete my 50,000 word goal.

And a special thanks to Mystery Man on Film for his screenwriting blog that has pointed many people my way. His blog is kind of a greatest hits of screenwriting sites. Way too much information there. But a better place for a writer to spend time than watching TV, playing video games, or looking for real estate deals in Hawaii you plan on buying once your script sells.

 

copyright @2008 Scott W. Smith 

 

 

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