Great Advice from Great Screenwriters

Writers are notoriously afraid of psychotherapists, whether they be M.D.’s, Pd.D’s, certified shrinks, or otherwise. But judging from articles like this one, David Silverman is the kind of therapist more writers should embrace:

by David Silverman, MA, LMFT

These screenwriters have advice about how they prepare to write, how they write dialogue, their plotting, which ideas to write, how they keep every scene dramatic, things they keep in mind while writing, how they broke into writing, and even some words of encouragement.

They’ve written hundreds of screenplays between them.

They count among their screen credits, All The President’s Men, A Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver, Runaway Jury, Being John Malcovich, The Lazarus Effect, Big Fish, Toy Story, The Graduate, The Devil Wears Prada, and Glengarry Glen Ross. Whether or not you’re fans of their films, you’ll want to hear what they have to say.

“I think there are three steps to writing a script. First, you have to have a theme, something you want to say. It doesn’t have to be a particularly great thing, but you have to have something that’s bothering you. In the case of Taxi Driver, the theme was loneliness. Then you find a metaphor for that theme, one that expresses it. In Taxi Driver, that was the cabbie, the perfect expression of urban loneliness. Then you have to find a plot, which is the easiest part of the process. All plots have been done; they’re fairly easy, you just work through all the permutations until the plot accurately reflects the theme and the metaphor. You push the theme through the metaphor and you should come out with the plot.” –Paul Schrader

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.” –Elmore Leonard

“So: we, the writers, must ask ourselves *of every scene* these three questions. 1) who wants what? 2) what happens if he don’t get it? 3) why now?… The answers to these questions are litmus paper. Apply them, and their answer will tell you if the scene is dramatic or not.” –David Mamet

“There are only three kinds of scenes, a fight, a negotiation or a seduction.”
Mike Nichols

“Young writers seem to forget that people in the industry are desperate for good material. The business isn’t constructed to keep you out of it, but to bring you into it. More than ever now, there are so many contests and agents and producers. It’s a world that’s so desperate for good writers. So, if you can build it, they’ll be there. If you write something great, and you know somebody who is even peripherally involved in the industry, like the assistant director’s brother-in-law’s niece, it’ll find its way to someone. It may not get green-lit and turned into a blockbuster immediately, but it’ll get read, and if it’s really good, it’ll start your career.” –Aline Brosh McKenna

“When I’m writing a script, before I can write dialogue or anything, I have two or three hundred pages of notes, which takes me a year. So, it’s not like “what happens next.” I’ve got things that I’m thinking about but I don’t settle on them. And if I try to write dialogue before then, I can’t. It’s just garbage.” Charlie Kaufman

“Finish it…I have so many friends who have written two-thirds of a screenplay, and then re-written it for about three years. Finishing a screenplay is first of all truly difficult, and secondly really liberating. Even if it’s not perfect, even if you know you’re gonna have to go back into it, type to the end. You have to have a little closure.” –Joss Whedon

Read it all at PsychCentral.Com

Aaron Sorkin on How to Develop Characters

Hey, anybody remember Aaron Sorkin? You know, the boy genius Oscar winning, West Wing creating genius who taught us all that clever dialog was what makes the TV and film writing world go ’round (unless you’re watching a superhero or other tentpole film in which case, fuhgedaboutit)?

Well, Mr. Sorkin is back on YouTube with more cleverly phrased wisdom about characterization. Watch! Listen! Learn! Respect! Oh, hell, go for the whole enchilada and enjoy!

Sundance Institute Announces 2018 Episodic Lab Fellows

The Sundance Institute’s Episodic Lab – yep, the place where they support TV writers, especially new ones – announced its latest fellows yesterday, and Deadline.Com has the story:

by Erik Pedersen

Sundance Institute has selected nine original TV pilots for its fifth annual Episodic Lab, which runs from September 27-October 2 at the Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah. Topics and formats range from half-hour comedies about friendships put to the test to historical dramas about the struggle for Native American land sovereignty. Read about the projects and their creators below.

Beginning with the Lab, the 12 new fellows will receive customized, ongoing creative and tactical support from episodic program staff, creative advisers and industry mentors, led by Michelle Satter, founding director of the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program, and Jennifer Goyne Blake, director of the Episodic Program, and including Peter Friedlander, Marti Noxon, Graham Yost, Sarah Timberman and Ali LeRoi. As the Lab convenes, the selected fellows will develop their series and pilot scripts with a slate of individual and group creative meetings, writers rooms, case-study screenings and pitch sessions, with guidance from accomplished showrunners, producers, and industry executives.

Sundance Institute the broad scope of this year’s projects and the diverse backgrounds of their creators, speak to its long-term support of the episodic format.

“Identifying and championing emerging independent voices has always been the Institute’s focus, and we are thrilled to continue the expansion of our support for artists working in this space,” Satter said. “The episodic format lends itself to telling richly creative and multifaceted stories, and this Lab enables these visionary writers to continue developing their craft and connect to the industry.”

The 2018 Episodic Lab projects and fellows are:

Read it all at Deadline.Com

Startups are giving writers and filmmakers more ways to make it in Hollywood

They need us. They really need us.

New writers and filmmakers, we mean. Turns out we’re indispensable in the upcoming New World Order of Media.

But they still won’t love us. Nobody ever loves…writers.

by Jonathan Shieber

On May 11, Netflix released the teen dramedy “The Kissing Booth” just as the school year was wrapping up for teens across the country.

By June, the company had a smash hit among the tweenage set, and Wattpad, the company that owned the rights to the The Kissing Booth, had its first true breakout vehicle. The story, written on Wattpad’s  publishing platform by Beth Reekles, was a proof point for the company’s thesis pitching a new twist on the old model of discovering stories and creative talent for the entertainment industry.

Behind the success of the film is a nascent movement among startup companies that are trying to open the doors of Hollywood’s dream factory to a broader group of creative professionals by riding the wave of fan fiction and user-generated content all the way to the Paramount lot (or the Disney lot, or Sony Studios).

“In this obvious period of disruption in the entertainment industry, how we’re finding stories is evolving,” said Wattpad Studios chief Aron Levitz.

YouTube, the short-lived Vine app and Instagram have all created new platforms for discovering potential on-camera talent, and AmazonAppleFacebook, Instagram (again), Netflix and YouTube (again) have smashed the distribution system for television and movies. But these platforms and the traditional studios they’d like to supplant have a voracious appetite for stories to tell and (many) are reluctant to risk millions of dollars behind something unproven.

Hollywood has always borrowed (or stolen) from other media to entertain the masses, but it seems like the fields it’s foraging in for new stories have narrowed to a few serialized playgrounds (comic books, old television shows and movies and wildly successful young-adult genre fiction).

While there are thousands of flowers to be found there, new tech-enabled companies are suggesting there might be other patches where new talent can be discovered, harvested and leveraged for corporate gain and viewer delight….

Read it all at TechCrunch.Com

Cartoon: Tom Gauld on Writing

Tom Gauld is one of the most influential cartoonists of the 21st Century. This example of his extraordinary talent and insight into the writer’s plight originally appeared in The Guardian.

Mr. Gault has appeared on this site before, HERE

More of Mr. Gauld’s work is HERE