Archive for April, 2012

Screenwriting Tips Video #34

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

“What time of the year is best to try and sell a screenplay?”

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Guy McDouall Interview

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

New Zealand-based screenwriter Guy McDouall won this year’s $1000 Joplin Award, given annually to an outstanding script written outside of the US, Canada, and the UK, for his script Random Acts of Violence. Now, as is the tradition, he answers our questions.

 

Random Acts Of Violence is… 

A quarantined pacifist fights to help find a cure for the fits of murderous rage he and other test subjects have become afflicted with. 

 

When did you start writing screenplays?

 I sat down to write my first one over ten years ago but didn’t do anything for years after. It’s only been about the last five years that I’ve got my act together and started writing with a bit more discipline, focus and consistency.

Why did you start writing screenplays?

Creative writing was the only thing I had shown a natural flair for in school and one of the few things I really enjoyed. I also love cinema, so it seemed like a natural thing to try my hand at.  

How many screenplays have you finished?

Five features and eight shorts. I’ve established contact with some producers for my shorts via inktip. Production was completed on one of them three weeks ago in Ireland, my first produced credit! Producer/director Steve Hall is releasing it under the title “Harvey: The Monster Catcher” and will be trying to get it to screen at some festivals. Keep an eye out for it if you’re in Ireland or the UK.  You’ll look very cool a few years from now when you can say you were watching Steve Hall’s films before his career blew up.

How do you find time to write?

I didn’t have a steady job for a lot of the period for the time I did the bulk of the work on my screenplay that did well in the 2011/2012 Bluecat contest. While this created some problems of its own, it was fantastic for writing! Now that I have a job, I just don’t tend to be as sociable as I’d like to be.  I spend a lot of Friday and Saturday nights alone at my computer writing. Not ideal, but necessary as I still need my day job.  

What aspects of the writing process do you struggle with the most?

Striking a balance between having a well paced story and having great, well fleshed out, characters. I think the ideal is to have things happening in your script that simultaneously reveal things about your characters and drive the story. However, I often feel like I’m trying to balance character against story. This usually ends up in me creating a very story driven script, without characters that are not as engaging as I’d like them to be.

Why do you feel like you do well as a screenwriter? 

I feel workshopping has been really helpful to me. Not just because of the feedback I’ve received but because of the feedback I’ve given. Really taking the time to examine another writer’s work and provide honest, respectful feedback that examines both what you liked and didn’t like is, in my opinion, a practice that benefits the writing of both parties involved.  I sometimes swap notes with people on zoetrope.com but spend most of time online on a web forum called thewritersbuilding.org. I’ve had some great support and encouragement there over the years but our number of active members keeps yo-yoing. We could use some fresh talent, especially from motivated writers who can give and receive constructive feedback in a respectful manner.

How does screenwriting make you happy?

It actually drives me mad sometimes! That aside, I get a real sense of satisfaction and fulfillment from carrying out my own creative ideas. There are also a few magical times when I get into a mental state of flow, where I’m fully immersed in what I’m doing and a lot of the ideas my subconscious spits out seem pretty decent when I go back and critically examine them later. I’m a big believer in outlining, planning and being your own worst critic but there’s also times where it’s extremely useful and enjoyable to let go and let things flow.  

What do you think is the biggest problem with storytelling in Hollywood?

For the record, I’m not anti Hollywood. It’s chock full of talented people and still turns out some pretty amazing films. The biggest problem from a story telling perspective is, in my opinion, that studios are hesitant about backing films that push creative boundaries and deal with challenging subject matter.   I would love to see more films that take risks and break new creative ground. I think a lot of the best narratives do this. That said, some the worst ones do this as well, they just don’t do it as successfully. With those kinds of stories there’s a pretty thin line between getting it right and getting it really wrong, without a lot of middle ground in between. With the huge costs involved in making a movie, I think Hollywood will always be justifiably reluctant to take a risk investing millions and millions of dollars on an avant-garde, execution dependant project that will die a horrible financial death if it falls anywhere short of brilliance. However, when they do take that risk, and it does work out, we get some fantastic cinema.

How can you improve in how you handle feedback?

I normally get feedback via written online correspondence. This is pretty good for me, as it gives me a chance to digest what’s been said and “cool off” if my fragile ego has taken a beating, before getting back into a dialogue. This means I’m always able to express gratitude and build relationships with people who are comfortable giving me useful and honest feedback. Where I need to improve is with personal interactions where there is no cooling off period. This way, my poor, long suffering and all around wonderful fiancée doesn’t have to deal with my tantrums every time she has the audacity to point out a gaping plot hole in my work. (Please note, that they are quite manly tantrums.)

What are your greatest fears about screenwriting?

That my hopes, dreams and ambitions will go forever unfulfilled. That and coming across as arrogant or too self assured by forgetting to thank the academy in my acceptance speech.

What is your highest screenwriting goal for yourself?

To be able to execute creative projects that I am genuinely passionate about, to a high enough standard to make a good living doing it.

What do you do to achieve that goal?

This year I’ll be putting myself out there a lot more to try to build more connections with people in the New Zealand film industry. I’ll continue to write, workshop and, of course, read the Bluecat newsletter religiously!

 

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Alex Eylar Interview

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Alex Eylar made it to the final round of BlueCat and won $2000 with his script The Prime Mover. Now, as is customary for BlueCat winners and finalists, he answers our invasive questions about his creative process!

 

The Prime Mover is..

A young man witnesses a glitch in time itself, and becomes a target of the individuals tasked with protecting the system the world relies on. 

 

When did you start writing screenplays?

High school. I’ve always been a film geek, so in my junior year I tried my hand at screenwriting. The result was a shoddy, uninspired, patchwork collection of inside jokes and bad gags; something I would take pleasure in burning if I had a hard copy. Once I started reading more scripts and watching more (and better) movies, my sensibilities matured. I wrote a script I could be proud of, which paved the way for film school, where I learned the ropes and honed my skills. Fast forward to today and I’m a finalist. 

Why did you start writing screenplays?

The folly of youth. I read a script to a movie I liked and thought “I could do that”, and I did. I had ideas to share and stories to tell, and that’s all I needed. 

How many screenplays have you finished?

I have five completed screenplays and two halfway completed. But a script is never finished: there’s always more that can be done. 

How do you find time to write?

I keep the early hours of the morning free. 12:00-3:00 a.m. is prime writing time, for me personally. The ideas just flow. 

What aspects of the writing process do you struggle with the most?

Character. I’ve always been more plot-focused and dialogue-focused than character-focused; I’ve been told my protagonists need a little depth. But it’s a shortcoming that gets easier to overcome with every script I write. 

Why do you feel like you do well as a screenwriter?  

They say I nail dialogue, and can tune into the “awesomeness” frequency very effectively. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine. 

How does screenwriting make you happy?

When the complexity of the plot and character dynamics pay off in the third act without leaving any loose ends, it’s a feeling of satisfaction like none other. Also, writing an action sequence that’s never been done before is a sublimely giddy moment. 

What do you think is the biggest problem with storytelling in Hollywood?  

Too often, Hollywood can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s a trap that’s easy to fall into, even for a screenwriter: you focus on the individual elements – the “God, this is awesome” bits; the Rule of Cool; the marketability – at the expense of story. Blinded by the flash in the pan, you ignore how poorly those elements may fit in the story you’ve so delicately crafted. You can’t just shoehorn in a skydiving gunfight because it’d be neat: you’ve got to make it organic, or the audience will call bullshit. 

How can you improve in how you handle feedback?

Humility helps. There’s a temptation to think of a script as your baby that no one else should touch, and that attitude will only hurt you. It’s an industry of collaboration, so if you’re not open to second opinions, your Citizen Kane will never see the light of day. I don’t have much of a problem taking feedback, because more often than not, my response is “Damn, I wish I thought of that first.” 

What are your greatest fears about screenwriting?

Mediocrity. The worst circle of Hell is the one you land in when you’ve got a script that’s good, but not great. People like it, but not enough to do anything with it. It’s got potential, but it’s just not there yet. That perpetual arrested development is all the incentive I need to knock it out of the park. 

What is your highest screenwriting goal for yourself?

I interned at Scott Free Productions a few months ago, and spent a lot of time preparing the conference room for Ridley Scott’s and Tony Scott’s script meetings. I’ve made it my mission to one day return to Scott Free, and return that very conference room, under different circumstances. 

What do you do to achieve that goal?

Write and don’t stop.

 

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Anthony Easton Interview

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012


BlueCat Finalist Anthony Easton won $2000 for his script ‘The Hosanna Tree’.  Now, he answers our questions. 

 

 

The Hosanna Tree is..

A tale of good versus evil set against the desolate backdrop of Dust Bowl era Oklahoma. 


 

When did you start writing screenplays?  

I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, and I’ve always loved movies. I don’t know when I actually started to write screenplays, because I’d always make up movies in my head, but I remember the first one that I attempted. It was probably around my sophomore year in high school when my friend and I wanted to make a really stupid mockumetary. (I mean really stupid). We tried writing a script for it that failed miserably after about eight pages. We had no idea what we were doing. It was typed up in Microsoft Word with absolutely no formatting… Recently, I actually found that script on a really old hard drive I discovered in my attic. It was hilarious.    

Why did you start writing screenplays?


I wish I had some super cool reason, but I really don’t. I’ve just always loved movies, watched way too many of them, loved writing, and decided to try to write one. After I wrote one, I found out that I loved writing them. From there, I just have continued to hone my craft. I’m guessing that’s about as unoriginal of an answer there ever could be, but it’s the boring truth.    

How many screenplays have you finished?


I’ve written 9 full features, and started/worked through about probably a dozen more. However, I have 4 that I’m quite proud of and satisfied with. I also just started another one that, so far, I’m madly in love with. Basically, I’m always forcing myself to write. If I’m not writing, I feel rather bad about myself.    

How do you find time to write?


I have to write. It’s a priority. If anyone wants to be a writer, yet they don’t force themselves to write, or find time to write, then they aren’t doing themselves any favors. Between classes (I’m still a student) and work, I find time to write at night, very early in the morning, and in my head throughout the day. I’m always writing somehow. I think any writer is the same way – always looking for stories in every mundane thing they see, almost to the point where it drives everyone around them crazy.    

What aspects of the writing process do you struggle with the most?


Breaking the story. What I mean by that is the process of breaking down my screenplay to its engine. I do this with every single thing I write – Before I continue past the first act, I find the catalyst, the heart, the engine. It’s a struggle. Sometimes I write something I love, but I can’t figure out the engine for it, and it forces me to abandon the script. However, when I finally break a story, it’s also the most rewarding part of writing – a true accomplishment.  

Why do you feel like you do well as a screenwriter?


I feel I have great skills to write cinematically. From my time as a reader in Los Angeles, reading every script I could get my hands on, I discovered the ones I loved the most were the ones that used specific language in their action descriptions that made the screenplays pop off the page and into the movie-projector in my head. I studied those scripts a lot (many of them were Black List scripts) and learned to craft my writing from that. A screenplay is a blueprint, but it should also be unbelievably enjoyable to read. I try to make my screenplays have specific tone that cannot be found in anyone else’s screenplays but mine. I feel like I have a very clear voice.    

How does screenwriting make you happy?


I don’t know if it really does! I’m only half-kidding, but writing is a struggle. The truth is that I struggle with writing just like everyone else. Sometimes that struggle is overpowering, but when I complete a story that I’m unbelievably proud of, the feeling I get is amazing. It’s a feeling made up of pride, glee, and often terror because if I’m writing something I love, I almost never want to finish it (because then the story is over!). But beyond that, I love being with other writers, too. I’ve made so many great friends through this process who are unbelievably kind and talented. For me, being with those important people and developing creatively as a writer and a human being are the most gratifying part of my short time as a writer.   

What do you think is the biggest problem with storytelling in Hollywood?


Personally, I don’t think a problem actually exists with storytelling in Hollywood. Of course, you have big budget movies that are spewed out year after year, but that doesn’t mean a problem exists. In fact, many of my all-time favorite movies are more recent movies. With the advancement of technology and the ability to bring to the screen nearly anything a person can imagine, I think Hollywood has the potential to reinvent storytelling. I believe the problem is perception. From my brief stint working in Hollywood, I can say that there isn’t a lack of creativity or storytelling – everyone is working as hard as they absolutely can. But, that being said, the movie business is still a business, and it is run like a business. Often, the best stories aren’t quite the best business, but there still is, and always will be, a market for great storytelling both in Hollywood and in the independent world.    

How can you improve in how you handle feedback?


I think the only way you can improve how you handle feedback is to get more and more feedback. Find people you trust in, and let them know they have permission to be as harsh as they want to be. Personally, I’m much more satisfied hearing something I did is not to its potential rather than hearing “I liked it,” or “It’s good.”   

What are your greatest fears about screenwriting?


Like many people, security is the biggest fear – making sure that I understand the unbelievably difficult road ahead and the constant struggle it is to be in any type of creative field (especially screenwriting). On top of that, though, my biggest fear would probably be becoming satisfied. I don’t think, as a curious being, that I could ever want to stop learning, growing, or exploring new possibilities in myself and my writing. I hope to never be satisfied with my experiences and I always want to yearn to keep growing and evolving.   

What is your highest screenwriting goal for yourself?


As boring as it sounds, I just have a goal of having a steady career doing something that I love. I think that if anyone just sits and thinks for a minute that their career is to write movies, that alone should sell how amazing of an adventure one’s life could be.    

What do you do to achieve that goal?


I work. I constantly, always, restively work. I’m writing persistently, reading relentlessly, and always staying current with events. I read Deadline like it’s the Bible, I familiarize myself with writers I love, I research companies and producers, I reach out to anyone who can help me grow (or I can help them grow), and I try my best to be a good person. If you are talented enough, and a genuinely good person to not only work with, but also be around, I honestly believe that you can achieve most any goal you set for yourself. It all just comes down to exactly how bad you want it.  

 

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Screenwriting Tips Video #33

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

“When should I send my script to the industry? How patient should I be with my screenplay?”

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Screenwriting Tips Video #32

Monday, April 9th, 2012

“The Cinematic Image in Screenwriting”

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Screenwriting Tips Video #31

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

“The relationship between the actor and the screenwriter: Do you have to like actors to be a screenwriter?”

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Screenwriting Tips Video #30

Friday, April 6th, 2012

“What is “voice” in a screenplay? How do action lines contribute to voice in a screenplay?”

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Screenwriting Advice Video #29

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

“How to use montage in a screenplay, why use it in the first place?”

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Screenwriting Advice Video #28

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

“Who’s the best person to learn screenwriting from?  Where should you go to get better……….”

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Screenwriting Advice Video #27

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

“What type of ARC in a screenplay has the most impact and when is the theme and through-line established?”

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Screenwriting Advice Video #26

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

“I have writer’s block, what do I do?”  

“How does one get over a terrible bout with writer’s block? I have plenty
of ideas… but the second I sit down to actually write everything vanishes.”

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Screenwriting Advice Video #25

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

“What is subtext? What are some examples?”

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Screenwriting Advice Video #24

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

“I’ve written a great short script. What different routes are there (or

could there potentially be) to production?”

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