Kelly Jo Brick: Takeaways from the Austin Film Festival & Screenwriting Conference

TVWriter.Com’s  Kelly Jo Brick was a panelist at the Austin Film Festival this year and returns to this very site bringing some of the insights she gathered while attending the event.

In the words of Larry Brody, “Welcome back, Kelly Jo! Boy, do we ever hope you’re going to stay.”


AFF Executive Director Barbara Morgan with screenwriters Shane Black (LETHAL WEAPON) and Scott Rosenberg (VENOM). Photo by: Arnold Wells

by Kelly Jo Brick

Every year the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriting Conference puts together a jam-packed event, filled with films, panels and parties as writers gather to celebrate a shared love for story.

From television to film, playwriting to podcasting and scripted digital to young filmmakers programs, the festival offers an atmosphere rich in education, information and inspiration like these:

DEVELOPING YOUR CRAFT

  • Writing is understanding how you process the world and learning to work within that. – ED SOLOMON, BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
  • We can only judge our work with the skills we have. It takes people pushing you and telling you the hard truth for you to grow.
  • Put forward the thing you love the most with the spec you’re writing. – LAURA EASON, THE LOUDEST VOICE
  • Get hold of scripts that you like. Read, learn, be inspired.
  • Find a writers group. Help each other out. Rise up together.

CHARACTER FORMATION

  • Look to trauma and personal connection as a driving force when you build characters.
  • Identify your characters’ fears, what shuts them down emotionally. – JAMES V. HART, HOOK, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA
  • Fear can point to your nemesis. Put that power into that character.
  • Go as deep as you can with backstory. It doesn’t need to be on the page, but you need to know it to better inform your writing.
  • If you don’t believe your characters are real, no one else will. – BEN CORY JONES, BOOMERANG, INSECURE
  • The name is super important. It’s your first introduction to a character. – ERIKA L. JOHNSON, THE VILLAGE, QUEEN SUGAR
  • When writing real life people, there’s an added pressure to get the story right, but at some point you do need to treat them as characters. You can’t be so reverent that you lose the storytelling. – CARLY WRAY, WESTWORLD, MAD MEN

ON WRITING DIALOGUE

  • Dialogue can be used to both reveal and conceal.
  • What you don’t say is just as important as what is said.
  • Some of the best things can come from a small exchange. – TESS MORRIS, MAN UP, CASUAL
  • Read your dialogue out loud to make sure it works.
  • All your characters in a scene want something slightly different, use dialogue to express the thoughts behind their thoughts.
  • Feeling stuck? Listen to the speech patterns of others. Observe their rhythms and expressions.
  • Give yourself the freedom to be dialogue heavy in your first draft and streamline it in later drafts. – TESS MORRIS

YOUR FIRST DRAFT

  • First drafts, they all suck. – MEG LeFAUVE, INSIDE OUT, CAPTAIN MARVEL
  • There’s no excuse to not start writing, it doesn’t have to be good from the beginning. Just sit down and write.
  • If you struggle to get started, find the thing you love the most, like dialogue or action, and begin there.
  • Look at problems in your script as disease versus symptoms. You’ll tend to see symptoms in acts two and three, but the real problem is often in act one.
  • You’ve got to finish. Then you can rewrite, but it can’t happen if you don’t first finish.
  • I’m still terrified every single time before I start a script. You fight your way through it. – SCOTT ROSENBERG, VENOM, CON AIR

STRUCTURING A SERIES

  • People tune in for characters and relationships. There needs to be road built to drive that, challenges that put characters through an emotional journey.
  • How many episodes will be in each season? This sets a guide for shaping the overall season.
  • What is the question that’s central to your season?
  • Who is your big bad for the season?
  • Try not to box yourself in as you start to brainstorm and break episodes. Let the beats grow and evolve.

THE BUSINESS OF WRITING

  • If you find yourself viewed as one type of writer, you can write yourself out of that impression by stepping out of that wheelhouse with a new spec script in a new genre.
  • If you write in partnership with someone, never get off a point without you both being happy. – RON BASS, RAIN MAN
  • Writers don’t really have power, you have to persuade.

GROWING YOUR WRITING CAREER

  • The role of failure isn’t discussed enough. There are erasers on pencils for a reason. – NICOLE PERLMAN, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, CAPTAIN MARVEL
  • Don’t use judgment as a hammer to knock yourself down. – MEG LeFAUVE
  • Try to find ways to make writing fun. – ROCHÉE JEFFREY, BEVERLY HILLS 90210, SMILF
  • Don’t feel guilty for protecting your writing time. Whether it’s putting a snooze on your email, having to pass on an event or coffee with a friend, you’ve got to prioritize your writing.
  • If you’re having a hard time sitting down and getting things done, find an accountability buddy, someone with whom you communicate regularly to keep you on task and on schedule.
  • The genius is in the mistake, the failure. That’s where the great ideas are from. You’re digging and excavating. You are on the hero’s journey as you write.

    Kelly Jo Brick is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. She’s a television and documentary writer and producer, as well as a winner of Scriptapalooza TV and a Sundance Fellow. Read more about her HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Step by Step Guide to Writing for TV

One of TVWriter™’s favorite sites goes all out with a detailed guide on how to write for TV. Our friends at Script Reader Pro have earned the blessing of our Beloved Leader, Larry Brody himself.

Um, these are writers, yeah? Where are their laptops? And their coffee cups?

by Script Reader Pro

How to Write for TV: A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting Your Career

As an aspiring screenwriter, you may have noticed there’s quite a bit of confusing information out there regarding writing for television.

In this post, we’re also going to dispel many of the myths and confusion surrounding writing TV scripts.

Here’s What We’ll be Covering:  

?  Should I write a TV spec script if I’m a feature writer? (Yes)

?  If I want to start writing for television, should I try writing a TV show that’s already on air, or an original?

?  What about single or multi-camera?

?  Network or cable?

?  How should I format a TV script?

?  What can I do to break into television writing once my script’s done?

So let’s get to it. (Full disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase something we make a small commission, at no extra cost to you.)

If You Want to Get Into TV Script Writing You’ll Need a “Spec” Script (Or Three)

As in the land of features, if you want to break in, you’ll need a “spec” script. This is a script written “speculatively” that showcases your talents and can be used as a calling card.

In TV, there are two main types of spec script:

?  “Spec episode” for an existing TV show

?  “Spec pilot” for an original TV show

Let’s take a quick look at both of these in turn.

The Spec Episode

In the world of TV script writing, a “spec” usually means a sample episode of an existing show. It’s also known as a “TV spec”, “sample episode” and “spec episode.” For the sake of clarity, we’re going to use the latter.

Writing a spec episode is the traditional way writers use to break into television writing. But it’s less in vogue now than a few years ago.

This entails writing an episode of an existing TV series that showcases your ability to write current characters that people know and love. In a way that feels real and familiar, yet fresh.

Read it all at SCRIPTREADERPRO.COM

6 Bizarrely Specific Scenes Hollywood Won’t Quit Using

Cracked began its life as a parody and satire competitor for Mad, but in the digital age it has found its true calling – as a socio-entertainment enterprise of the highest and most helpful order. Take this video, for instance, and the lesson it teaches new filmmakers about what not to do.

Join the more than two and a half million subscribers who make sure they get to SEE MORE CRACKED VIDEOS HERE

Dan Harmon’s Story Structure 101

In moving images by Will Shoder:

In words and a diagram by Dan Harmon:


DanHarmon's BasicModelForStoryStructure

By Dan Harmon.

Storytelling comes naturally to humans, but since we live in an unnatural world, we sometimes need a little help doing what we’d naturally do….

https://channel101.fandom.com/wiki/Story_Structure_101:_Super_Basic_Shit

Knowledge really is power!

Why I Passed On Your Screenplay

A Hollywood pro steps up to tell us how the TV/Film writing biz really works. Our suggestion is that you read it carefully and relish the insight this knowledge gives you.

by Tennyson E. Stead

For almost 10 years, I worked as a development executive for Unified Pictures and Exodus Film Group. One of my chief sources of income over the last year has been writing script coverage, writing development notes, and in general parsing screenplays for writers and producers. My friends, I have read a LOT of screenplays. If you’re an undiscovered screenwriter with more than three our four scripts out there on the market, there’s a fair chance I’ve covered you at some point.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve read a lot of discussion on Stage 32 about how and why institutional Hollywood has come to regard the overwhelming mountain of screenplays currently being produced by aspiring writers as a burden, rather than as an opportunity to discover the next great cinematic voice. Is it really even possible that the percentage of “bad writing” versus “good writing” is high enough to justify ignoring or throwing away literally an entire market full of spec scripts? How did we get here?

How the Spec Market Fell Apart

Most people working in development today, whether we’re talking about screenwriters, executives, or representation, did not come from a show business background, so we need to preface this conversation with the understanding that a huge majority of the people working in Hollywood today either don’t know or can’t articulate just what the hell is wrong with our development process. Most executives today come from business school, and most writers of substance come from a literary or journalistic background. To a literary or an advertising mindset, bad screenwriting is usually a problem of tone.

Nope. Good dramatic structure is about action, motivation, and conflict – scene work, in other words – just as surely as it is about act breaks and turning points. Most actors, directors, and writers who come from a classical performance background know these practices as a matter of habit, and we usually take it for granted that Hollywood greenlights productions with an eye constantly cast towards the fundamentals of drama. Because the vast majority of writers, executives, agents and managers never actually learned those fundamentals in the first place….

Read it all at stage32.com