Category Archives: Screenwriting

Kill Your Babies

After months of breaking story, meticulous research, and countless hours spent hunched over my computer — I finished the first draft on one of the pilots my writing partner and I are working on. I should be happy! But I’m not. It just isn’t working. Some parts are great, and exactly what we had in mind when breaking the story — but other story arcs and characters didn’t make any sense. Something needed to change. Something big.

Over this past weekend my writing partner and I sat down with a blank cork board, a stack of notecards, and a sharpie.  By Sunday evening we had re-boarded the entire pilot. We kept most of the last 4 acts in tact, but completely changed the first act — getting rid of a lot of lengthy, unnecessary and boring exposition. But perhaps the biggest change — we killed our main character. Not in a story sense… we actually cut him out of the entire script completely.

We finally came to the conclusion that the majority of confusion in the script stemmed from the central character. There wasn’t enough motivation and dramatic need surrounding him — and anything we tried to throw in seemed forced. We discovered one of the minor characters had better dramatic potential within the story, and as an exercise, we ran through the story with him as the lead. Everything started to make a lot more sense.

So there you go. I’m about to start rewriting this entire script from another person’s perspective.

If it helps the story –kill your baby.

Video: “Creative Spark: Eric Roth”

Hello my writers and assistants and those who aspire to be. Check out the piece of hardware this writer works on.

Video: “In Focus: Screenwriting”

Another great BAFTA Guru video.

Because the truth is, if you write a great script, they’ll find you. They’re aching for good writers. So, it’s the ability to be ready when the door opens.  It’s not about which door you knock on first… it’s about… getting the job as an assistant, keeping yourself in there, continuing to work on it, and waiting. — You will get your chance… and then the question is — are you ready?

Review: “Highland: The Better Way to Write a Screenplay”

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Hello people! I hope you all had a great holiday weekend. I’m exhausted. I feel like I need a holiday from my holiday. Friends were in town. Drinks were drunk. Sleep wasn’t slept…

I’m sure you’ve noticed the little Highland ad running in the top right corner of the screen. There used to be a final draft ad up there to help cover some of the costs of running this little website. I’ve worked in Final Draft the entire time I’ve been writing screenplays, so the program is very second nature to me. However, at $250 … it’s fucking expensive… and I don’t see many new writers wanting to spend that kind of cash.  Highland on the other hand costs $30.  I’ll let you do the math.

I’ve been working with Highland over the past few weeks — and I actually really love it.  I’m the kind of writer who is super meticulous about how the words look on the page. I don’t like to leave any hanging words in action descriptions. I don’t like starting a scene at the end of a page and I pay way too much attention to page count. Highland doesn’t let me do any of that. It keeps me doing the only thing I need to be doing — which is write. No distractions. And the best part is, Highland will convert all the text into screenplay format automatically. You can always tab over and see what the screenplay will look like. Which means you can write in any program — word, email, notepad, google docs — and just copy and paste that text into highland and it will automatically convert it for you.

When I’m done with the first draft in highland, I’m still going to export the highland file into a final draft file (which is super easy to do) to make those meticulous formatting changes — but all those formatting changes are super pointless in the first draft! I actually think I write 2x as fast in highland.

But enough from me. Just watch the video below.

Go check it out!

Video: “How I Write: Re-writing” Part 3 of 3

Part three of this “How I Write” series by BAFTA Guru is about re-writing! Check it out.

Video: “How I Write: The First Draft” Part 2 of 3

Yesterday I posted a great little video on preparation by BAFTA GURU. Here is part 2 of that series. “The First Draft” … something I am doing right now…

Video: “How I Write: Preparation” Part 1 of 3

Sorry no posts yesterday, I’ve been slammed at work! Busy again today, but I’ve managed to watch a couple of videos that I’d like to share. This is part one of a three-part series by BAFTA on the writing process. Enjoy!

VIDEO: “Inside the Writer’s Room”

What is a show runner and what are they looking for in a writer?Hear it straight from Greg Daniels (Parks and Recreation, The Office) and Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong (Fresh Meat, Peep Show).

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 cliche 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, €œIf 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!