Video: “Creative Spark: Aline Brosh McKenna”

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The thing I love about these creative spark videos is seeing how different everyone’s process is.  When I started writing I was so ridiculously in search for “the right way to write a screenplay”.  I spent so much time searching for the best way to outline, or card, or research … that I basically spent no time writing.  Not that all that searching didn’t manifest itself into how I write today… but I think the most important lesson I learned is to just write and figure out what works best for you.

In this next video, Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada, We Bought A Zoo) tells us how her ideas form and how she turns them into movies.

It All Goes Through Los Angeles

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Frank Pasquine is an award-winning screenwriter, freelance writer, and Director of Social Media for New York Film Academy. He wrote up a great article on why it is important to live in Los Angeles if you want to write for TV or film.


It’s no secret that the majority of the films you see on television or the big screen have at some point gone through someone’s hands in Los Angeles.  Given the power of the major studios, production companies, and talent agencies such as CAA, WME, and UTA, projects that have any hope of funding are typically packaged in Los Angeles. That’s just the nature of the business. You may argue that films are always being shot in New York, Canada, or wherever, but the players behind these productions are working out of LA.

First off, before you do anything, if you want to be a screenwriter, you must write a professionally polished script. No typos. No formatting errors. It must have a strong leading character, a strong story arch, great structure, and have that certain “X-factor.” But you know this already.

Now, you may have the best script in the world, but often it takes an A-List actor to attach him or herself in order for the project to move forward. Not to mention an experienced producing team, director, cinematographer, and so on. So, how do you get your script to the powers that be in the first place? Simple. You need a friend at one of these agencies or production companies. (Okay, maybe not so simple.) You’re not friends with anyone at one of these talent agencies or production companies? Make friends with one! And that means moving to Los Angeles.

Networking in Los Angeles is the most valuable tool you have in your screenwriting arsenal. After all, people want to work with people they come to know and associate with. If you live in Minnesota and have just as good as or perhaps an even better script than someone who lives in Los Angeles, who do you think will get an agent, manager, or producer’s attention first? Your query email has no shot against human interaction at some swanky Los Angeles party or restaurant.

Once you’ve made the move to Los Angeles and you have the perfect script and the right network of friends, write another perfect script. And while you’re at it, write another one. And throw in an original TV pilot to the mix. As the cliché goes, if you want to be a writer, you need to write everyday like a full-time job. That first script that finally gets you some attention will most likely only act as a calling card and not actually get made. So have two other scripts that are just as good to back it up. Keep throwing darts at the dartboard until something sticks. And never stop.

If you’re willing to dedicate years of sacrifice, many hours of writing a day, working crummy jobs to pay the bills, and countless rejection letters, that’s a good start. Even after you pay all of your dues in Los Angeles, there are no guarantees. As Tom Hanks once put it, “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

While you’re on your quest to become a working screenwriter,  check out some of the great courses the New York Film Academy has to offer on screenwriting.

NYC Classes - http://www.nyfa.edu/screenwriting-school/
LA Classes - http://www.nyfa.edu/los-angeles/screenwriting-school/
Online Classses - http://www.nyfa.edu/online-screenwriting/

Good luck out there!

How to Show Texting in Film and TV

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I love the new trend of showing texts right on the screen. You’ve probably seen it in shows like Sherlock and House of Cards. It’s completely seamless.  Tony Zhou does a wonderful job of explaining  the current state of incorporating texts and internet in movies and TV in his new video. Check it out. [via John August]

A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

How to Write a TV Pilot – Part 1

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Disclaimer: I always hate "how-to's" from people who haven't done jack shit in the industry. They seem... scammy. Someone trying to make a buck off something they can't do themselves. What's the saying? "Those who can't do, teach." I haven't sold a screenplay. So why am I writing an article on how to write a pilot? I started this website as part journal, part rant, and part helpful resource for those looking to break into the industry. I want to turn all of my experience into something helpful. Currently I work for an established TV writer with development deals and a show about to be in production. I've sat through the process of writing an entire season of television. I've read dozens of TV pilot scripts that were submitted to me from agents looking to get their writers staffed on our show. I've sent notes and read revisions of said established writer's work. I've finished an original hour-long drama pilot with favorable reviews from my co-workers and peers, and I am currently writing another. When it all comes down to it... this is 100% free. I'm not trying to sell you a thing. So take my advice or ignore it. Whatever helps you get your script done.

So you want to write a TV pilot, but you’re not exactly sure how it’s done? I know how that bit of fear can turn into an impenetrable wall of procrastination. Let me try to help you out of it.

First, why write a pilot? Statistically, your pilot isn’t going to sell. And even if it’s amazing and it does sell, chances are it will not get made. Even the big guys write pilots that don’t get made. It’s the nature of the beast. So why write a pilot? Because — as a new writer, it’s your calling card. It is your résumé. It proves you know what you’re doing. In the eyes of agents and producers and anyone who will ever get you a job — without a writing sample — you’re not a writer.

Now that we understand why you want to write a pilot, let’s get into how. First you need an idea. Not just any idea — you need an idea that could potentially turn into multiple seasons of television. You don’t have to know what will necessarily be in those seasons, but you need to show your reader that the ideas and characters in your pilot can hold a viewer’s attention for 20, 30, 40 or even 100 episodes.  Your idea has to have legs.

Great! You have a cool idea that could span multiple seasons! Now you need to lock down the format. Is it an hour-long or half hour show? Most network comedies are half hours, most dramas are hour-long.  Is it serialized or procedural? Serialized dramas follow a linear storyline and you need to watch every episode, in order, or you will have no idea what’s going on (House of Cards, 24). Procedurals sometimes have over-arching story-lines, but for the most part have a “movie-of-the-week” format (CSI, The Blacklist). Basically this means a viewer can pop in any episode and understand what’s happening without having to watch last weeks episode.

Next up: Tone — Is your screenplay  dark and gritty? Deep and uplifting? Quirky and fluffy? You can take entire classes on tone. It’s also part of this “voice” I’m sure you’ve heard about. Everyone says you need to find your “voice”.  That voice is tone, and the way you, as a writer, portray that tone in your screenplay. I can’t tell you how to do it, you have to discover it yourself.

Alright! You’ve decided your show is a gritty, hour-long procedural about a scientist surviving in a world over-run by robots. Great! You probably already have a couple of plot points in your head. Some cool imagery. Some nice dialogue and character ideas. Great. But how do you take that jumble of bullshit running around your head and put it into something constructive?

Stay tuned for part 2 where we talk about BREAKING STORY WITH THE WRITERS BOARD.

Cool Video: “Creative Spark: Mike White”

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I’ve been posting these short videos by Academy Originals lately. I really like them. I find them inspiring.

This next one features Mike White who wrote School of Rock and Nacho Libre.  He doesn’t believe in the “get your 10 pages done” process of screenwriting — instead he believes in a lot of procrastination.

Everyone has their own process! I guess the only thing that matters is if you’re actually getting things done.

A blog for aspiring screenwriters and those seeking to break into the film industry.

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