“Inciting Incidents” for Fun and Profit

The language of TV and screenwriting is constantly changing, just like everything else in the universe – well, our little corner of it anyway – and this TVWriter™ minion has to admit that sometimes even I don’t know what people way smarter than I do are talking about.

Case in point: The phrase “Inciting Incident.” This term has had me scratching my head for years. Does it replace “The Call to Action?” or does it supplement it? I never was able to figure it out till I saw this article on the interwebs last week.

Ah, enlightenment at last! Thank you, Script Reader Pro!

by Script Reader Pro

…It’s no wonder many aspiring writers are left confused about the nature of the term “inciting incident” when it’s routinely used to describe three different major plot points during Act 1 in the first thirty-minutes of a movie.

Let’s first take a quick look at these three different inciting incident definitions. Then we’ll explain what we think is the best approach when it comes to writing an inciting incident in a screenplay.

Inciting Incident Definition #1 (min 1 – 3)

Some refer to the inciting incident as the moment in the first few minutes of a movie that ignites the story, whether the protagonist is involved or not.

Catherine murdering a man during sex in the opening scene of Basic Instinctwould be an example. Or Cady moving from Africa back to America in the opening of Mean Girls.

(Note: sometimes this definition occurs off-screen, such as Chris and Rose arranging to visit her parents in Get Out.)

Inciting Incident Definition #2 (min 10 – 15)

This popular inciting incident definition is that it introduces the protagonist to the conflict they’ll need to resolve in the rest of the movie around twelve minutes into the film.

An example would be Greenberg meeting Florence in Greenberg. Or Rachel learning about the existence of the tape in The Ring.

Inciting Incident Definition #3 (min 20 – 30)

Others stipulate that the inciting incident occurs around minute 25 when the protagonist is hit by another major crisis and leaves Act 1 to enter the “new world” of Act 2.

An example would be when Carl fires blanks from the apartment window in Detroit and the cops mistake it for a sniper attack. Or in La La Land when Mia and Sebastian walk back to their cars together after she teases him at his gig and they perform a dance together.

You will see all inciting incident definitions in books, blogs and magazines and hear all three used by screenwriters, managers, producers and script readers. It can all get pretty confusing and so let’s see if we can answer the question “What is an inciting incident?…”

Read it all at – where else? – Script Reader Pro

Are Horrible Bosses a Hollywood Way of Life?

Sometimes it seems as though the phrase “being employed” automatically means, “Help! I’m being harassed.” Or are we all just snowflakes, melting when we should be standing firm?

Look Out For Horrible Hollywood Bosses
by David Silverman, MA, LMFT

With the whole writing staff watching, waiting to work, our boss would be trying on pants. A tailor was taking his measurements. When he was satisfied, he told the tailor he’d like thirty pair of these pants sent to his home in LA, and thirty pair sent to his summer home.

Thirty pair?  Sixty total? That’s a lot of pants. What was going on?

This took place in the writer’s room of the show he’d created.  His official title was Executive producer.  He was our boss, our leader, the showrunner.  He made all the high level creative decisions. Without him, the rewrites couldn’t begin.  The writers were ready to work.

There was always plenty of work to do. However, it felt like he was always stalling. Procrastinating. He had a hard time getting started on all the rewrites. There was no urgency.

We’d leave at 2 AM, or sometimes stay up all night. What was going on with him? Didn’t he miss his family? Did he just like hanging out with us?

After working with him for a while it became clear that he wasn’t an intentionally mean boss (like so many others),but was basically a big kid.

He liked to race golf carts around the studio like they were go-karts. One time he had a staff writer riding on the back of the cart. The showrunner decided to “pop a wheelie,” causing the writer to fall backwards off the golf cart and break his leg. He spent the next few months wearing a cast.

It kind of seemed like he wanted to show off in front of us.

One time, while the writing staff was supposed to be working, he picked up the phone and ranted at the network suits for twenty minutes and banned them from the set. Then he hung up. And laughed.

These rewrite sessions took place generally in the late afternoon, after rehearsals. The entire writing staff would gather in his office as he got ready to rewrite that week’s script. At this point he’d look for things to do instead of writing. Anything….

Read it all at Psych Central

Web Series: ‘ Candice: the Series’

What can we say? Candice had us at “vaseline abusers,” as in:

Join Candice, Deborah, and Stephen as they explore love, ambition, and turtles in a chaotic world of vaseline abusers and terrifying magicians.

Admittedly, most of us at TVWriter™ love anything that uses “terrifying magicians,” so we’re recommending this marvelously professional little indie series without qualification because, hey, it has our wishlist covered.

Try Episode 1

More about Candice:

Must Love Turtles Productions’ new series, “Candice,” is now available in its entirety on YouTube. This six-episode original series is a quirky, non-sequitur comedy in the same vein as The Office and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and has already been embraced by fans online.

“Candice” features an ensemble cast of actor-producers, starring Sarah Levin (A Good Catch) as Candice: the turtle-loving pharmacist who is rightfully afraid of magic, Rayshell Curtiss (Best Fake Friends) as Deborah: a type-A matchmaker who may or may not have a rage problem, and Paul Todd (Classic Alice) as Stephen: the Australian catalog model with a pose for everything… as long as his Mum approves.

Although the core cast is an ensemble, the supporting players also shine with Elena Campbell Martinez (Vida, Big Bang Theory) playing the powerful catalog model agent, Melanie Hernandez, who is not only the most ruthless agent in all of Fort Wayne, Indiana, but the perfect mentor for Deborah.

Though dealing with themes of dating and romance, Candice is rife with social commentary and the same kind of quick-witted, warm-hearted comedy that is currently popular on cable and streaming networks.

See all of Season 1 now at http://www.youtube.com/CandiceSeries

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #7 – ‘Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang’

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NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

The weather was beautiful today. Clear and warm but not too humid – yet. Two of our dogs, Emmy the No Longer A Pit Puppy and Decker, her enormous, mastiff-like son, were out in the woods, so I decided to join them. My wife Gwen the Beautiful and the rest of the dogs were sacked out in the main house, practicing, I do believe, for summer.

Emmy’s the most at-home-in-her-skin creature I know, the perfect dog on every level. Whatever she does, she does well and loves doing it. Today she was scaring up squirrels for Decker to chase. He’s not fast, but he’s got an edge the squirrels never expect: He’s a climber. Watching Decker miraculously flow up from the ground into the five foot high crotch of a tree is a magical sight. Seeing him pick a strong limb and venture out on it as far as he can go is inspirational. Soon I was climbing along after him…and then beyond him, going way too high to be safe.

In the summer, the trees are filled with needs they are quick to make known. All you’ve got to do is listen and you’ll learn your place in the ecosystem. Since we first came to these woods my job has been to strengthen the forest by taking down the dead trees and snapping dead and broken limbs off the others.

I don’t cut anything. If it has to be cut, it’s not ready. Instead, I do a lot of poking. If I prod a branch and it snaps off, then it’s supposed to snap off. If I push a tree and it falls over, then it’s supposed to fall over. If a major limb crashes down on my head and kills me, then I’m supposed to die. (So far so good. I’m still standing, and I’ve got a lifetime’s supply of firewood without ever having to rev up the chainsaw.)

The wind is a pretty good conversationalist itself, mostly creating mysteries for me to solve. Where’s that noise coming from? That scent? Are those hawks or vultures gliding overhead? The earth speaks too, sighing quietly whenever I separate dead roots from their hold on the soil. Often this is accompanied by a small cloud of dust as rotted wood at the base of a trunk dissolves into the air in reverse of the way pixie dust settles on the kids in the Disney version of Peter Pan.

The wind changed, and clouds started to gather. I followed the dogs back home, going through the corral that serves as a kind of airlock between the trees to the south and the clearing around our house. Huck, our proud-cut Appaloosa, who’s been with us since he was a colt, ignored me. He was too busy munching on the grass. Elaine, his mare, came to see me instead.

Elaine’s approach was a big moment. She’s a wild mustang we saved from the block, and has never taken kindly to any humans except Dan the Farrier, who has the gift of horse charming even though he doesn’t care much for most people. Dan suffers through conversation with humans if he must, but gets his true enjoyment out of talking quietly and sincerely to all the horses he meets.

Today, though, Elaine walked right up to me and nosed my hand the way a dog paws to be petted. I scratched her neck and gently rubbed her lips. Used my fingernail to clean out the insides of her ears. Ran my fingers through her dark mane. And she responded by pressing against my hand for more.

I value the gift of Elaine’s friendship because I don’t know how long it will last. And because I know what it means. Horses are the most sensitive creatures on this planet. Approach one when you’re tense and you’ll find yourself with a handful of trouble. But if you’re relaxed enough you and the horse can become one, bonding in a way that brings with it more warmth and comfort than the best blanket money can buy.

So I was at peace with myself and in harmony with a true wild thing today. Whatever else happens before I wake up tomorrow morning (or for that matter, even if I don’t) I can still feel pride because the weather wasn’t the only thing that was beautiful today. So was my life.

New TV & Film Writers: Don’t Let Yourself Get Scammed!

A few words of warning from The Hollywood Reporter.

Once considered the tail-ender showbiz trade mag in terms of both reporting and readership, THR’s sophisticated and knowledgeable web presence has made it the leader these days, so we’re always glad to see them helping writers this way:

by Stephen Galloway

A few weeks after Manny Fonseca arrived in Los Angeles in the early part of this decade, having left his native Michigan with the hope of becoming a Hollywood writer or executive, the then 30-year-old was at a party when a producer asked if he’d “like to make a hundred bucks.” Sure, he replied. What would he have to do?

The answer was to show up the next day at a “pitch fest,” one of dozens of such gatherings each year in which hopefuls pay hundreds of dollars to serve up their story ideas to agents and executives who, in theory, will buy them if they’re good. Fonseca would be there as one of the buyers, which struck him as strange — not only was he not an executive, he didn’t even have a proper job: he had been interning with producers Arnold Kopelson and Irwin Winkler.

“I was completely overwhelmed,” says Fonseca (now a screenwriter whose work has yet to be produced), who was soon invited to other such watering holes on behalf of Kopelson Entertainment. “There were writers that I knew by name because they would literally go to every single pitch fest. There were a couple of people that drove around in their RV. It was like following the Grateful Dead for two or three years straight.”

Pitch fests are part of a multimillion-dollar industry that thrives in a dark corner of the mainstream entertainment business, catering to thousands (and possibly hundreds of thousands) of would-be screenwriters, most of them clueless about how to get their projects made. There are writing festivals, competitions, workshops, websites, extension classes, seminars, script analysts, coaches and a Writers Store in Burbank (which offers software, books and a “do-it-yourself MFA”), not to mention rapacious producers and hungry managers, all making money from putative scribes often oblivious to Hollywood reality.

“What I learned — and I know it because I was the one being sent to these things — is you’re sitting there with no power,” says one literary agent. “As an assistant at an agency, you’re not allowed to sign people, and most of the time you’re talking to amateur writers who shouldn’t be repped….”

Read it all at TheHollywoodReporter.Com