Screenwriting Teaching Notes from Script-6
61. Script: Michael Kuciak- Writing the Logline Vo.l.1 #3
1. Incredibly important tool in the film industry
2. Loglines help to shape and sell scripts
3. Acquire representation
4. Logline: a one line summary of the story
5. One sentence is the best- tighter, better
6. An archaeologist adventurer battles Nazis for the lost ark, an holy aritfact with the power to tip the scales of World War II.
a. gen re
c. time period
d. the hero
e. the villains
f. the risk
7. You can tweak the logline for different uses: ex. Actress’s agent:
a. An archaeologist teams up with his tough and beautiful old flame to battle Nazis for the lost ark, a holy artifact with the power to tip the scales of World War II.
8. Do not muddle up the logline
9. Sometime Writers complain- story too complex, character driven.
10. This is bullshit.
11. REASON: They have not thought out the unifying idea of their story
12. Matrix: When a hacker discovers that all of reality is a computer simulations, he fights to bring down the machines enslaving humanity.
13. Big Lebowski: An ex-hippie loser and his bowling alley friends deal with colorful Hollywood characters while pursuing a briefcase full of one million in stolen ransom money.
14. In the above logline the writer spent more time on the characters rather than the twisted plot
15. If the genre is listed first then: Character-driven comedy about an ex- hippie loser…..
16. Bad: “ Two people face trials in a difficult time.”
17. Your logline must imply that the hero is actively pursuing something
18. Strong loglines are an indication of a strong writer- solid nouns- active verbs
19. Must sure you logline applies to the story as a whole and not just some great moment
20. Tagline is not a logline
21. Tagline is designed to tease and lure.
22. The Killer: (tagline) one vicious hitman. One fierce cop. Ten thousand bullets.
23. Ghostbusters: “Who you gonna call?’
24. Logline: A sci-fi comedy about three scientist who open a ghost extermination service and end up saving New York from a powerful demon.”
25. Trick to writing a logline: PRETEND YOU ARE ON A DATE-
26. Say what would turn them on. Romantic comedy: it a romantic drama with strong female characters
62. Script- Focal Points- p.76- vol.11, #1- Ray Morton
f. focus is necessary for a film to be good- not lose way through the story- limited amount of time to tell the story- efficiently- not wandering
g. films work best when they focus on a single character- or set of characters- in a single story,
h. movies tell stories through actions- dramatic action, behavior, choices, reactions, things said and unsaid, physical action.
i. Focus must exist in first draft- they must not be incoherent-
j. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A CLEAR GRASP OF YOUR THEME
19. Theme is the central idea that underlines your story- lessons you want to teach- covey- foundation upon which the rest of the story is built-
20. Write your theme down and stick it on your computer- use it as the North Star
21. MAKE SURE THAT ALL ELEMENTS IN THE SCRIPT REFLECT THE THEME
22. Make sure protagonist and his arc stick to the point of the theme
23. Establish a character who needs to develop the opposite attitude- Tootsie- a man who needs to treat women with respect- he comes to realize while being Tootsie how bad men really are in treating women
24. Plot sticks to the right direction- subplots not wandering away
25. MAKE SURE YOUR PREMISE IS ESTABLISHED EARLY AND CLEARLY
26. It is the dramatic concept from which the story flows- it is the set up, the hook that gets people into the story.
27. MAKE SURE THERE IS A LOGICAL FLOW TO THE STORY
28. Act one should establish the flow
29. Make sure act two conflicts from act I set ups
30. Events in act three should resolves act one and two set ups
31. ALWAYS FOCUS THE PLOT ON THE PROTAGONIST
32. The plot should always center on the lead character and should chronicle his journey
33. Any other characters should either support the protagonist, antagonist or drive the plot. Eliminate any who don’t .
34. AVOID EXTRANEIOUS SUBPLOTS-
35. DO NOT LET YOUR ANTAGONIST HIJACK YOUR SCRIPT
36. KEEP IT MOVING-be willing to cut out good things that inhibit the flow – be willing to kill your little darlings.
63. Script- 10 Ways to Create Great Scenes- M. Horowitz
15. drama is made of conflict that forces the characters to react
16. this forces the characters to act-
17. dialogue is added to reveal the character’s thoughts and what they want to win in the scene
18. characters reaction causes the crisis not just the events
19. Num. One: Finding the Three Levels of Conflict
d. What is his inner conflict? : Peter can’t have his love and be spiderman he thinks
e. What is his external conflict?: The plot- Peter must battle Dr. Octavious
f. What is his societal conflict? Peter must decide between saving the world or having his love
20. Num. Two: Seeing you scene as part of a sequence: a series of scenes that addresses a specific idea or question.
21. Num. Three: Heightening the conflict in any scene
c. Having two events going on at once is an easy way to make a scene exciting
d. First part is between the main characters, second part interrupts this action creating tension
22. Num. Four: Creating subtext with Ease:
g. subtext is the conflict between what the characters want and what they really need
h. Key: the main character must be committed to what he wants
i. The writer knows what he really needs
j. The character arc is that the character starts off fighting for what he wants but the events in the film should cause him to wake up to what he really needs and act upon them
k. Use dialogue to show what they want and body language and action to show what they really need
l. Ask: What does my character WANT? What does my character NEED?
23. Num. Five: How to use back story in a scene without a flashback
c. bring the past into the present
d. when Harry’s wife shows up shopping we see his pain in the backstory
24. Num. Six: Giving your Character a little emotional baggage
e. every scene you will write comes after something else that has happened-
f. immediate emotional baggage that a character walks around with
g. or a simple bad experience on the way over- a flat tire, ticket,
h. find out what happened the moment before the scene you are writing
11, Num. Seven: Writing a scene from two points of view-
25. Num. Eight: Writing better dialogue
f. know what you character wants
g. know from whom you character wants something
h. think in terms of verbs, action in the dialogue
i. making getting something difficult
j. by using dialogue as if it were action and knowing a great scene must rise to a crisis , you can write amazingly good dialogue in your first draft.
26. Num. Nine: Using PLACE for the setting of your scene
b. an interesting spot for your characters to make love or fight
27. Num. Ten: Using props to improve you scenes
b. the wagon wheel in When Harry Met Sally starts a fight
28. Conclusion: These ten techniques are based on a good understanding of character
64. Script Mag- Ray Morton- Dream into Action-
9. Have a GOOD COMMERCIAL IDEA before you start
10. Learn your craft
e. there are no short cuts
f. have a solid grounding in dramatic writing
g. do a lot of writing- at least four scripts to even know what you are doing
11. Learn the business
e. filmmaking is a business
f. main job is to convince potential buyers that your movie will be worthwhile- a good investment for them.
g. Know what sort of films the producers have made in the past
h. Keep up with the people in the industry- read the trades
12. Act like a professional- there is a set of protocols and codes of conduct in Hollywoood
13. Never send out an unsolicited script
14. Do not use gimmicks or emotional pressure
15. Never act rude or wacky
16. People want to respond to your talent not your personality
65. Script- The Pass Pile- Daniel Manus- The top 10 reasons I rejected your script
11. I’m on page 30…what the hell is going on?
d. first act the hardest- it must set up the story
e. in the first act SOMETHING NEEDS TO HAPPEN to grab the interest of the reader
f. in the first thirty pages someone needs to get killed, blown up, have sex, make you laugh
12. Your main character taste just like his
c. make the reader WANT TO KNOW what happens to your characters
d. blow their socks off
13. Has anyone seen my second act?
c. the second act should not be about the character arc
d. the test of a writer is the second act
14. I can see the trailer from here
15. Being limber has it advantages
16. Let it flow, Baby
17. Can you hear me now?
18. The Way we weren’t
19. Is there a program for that?
20. I have a porno with the same title.
67. Script Vol. 10 #4- Romantic Comedy- Hill
1. It has to be laugh out loud funny-
68. Script Vol.10#4- p. 20- Symbolic Characters- William Martell
1. The movie High Fidelity is unusual as the main character talks to the audience- telling us his feelings.
2. How could you show in action what someone is feeling without narration or voice over?
3. Create Characters- SYMBOLIC characters- one could contrast the protagonist- like Ian in High Fidelity who is the opposite of Rob.
4. Ian becomes the symbolic antagonist (anti-rob)
5. Rob hates Ian because he knows he is all the things he needs to become
6. create a MIRROR character- someone who has the exact same problem- a minor character who illustrates to the protagonist his real problem
69. Conference notes on Pitching- 3-21-04
Speakers: Barnay Liptendine- Liar-Lair
Beverly Greg- Ph-d- Hollywood Reporter
Jean Anee Wright- “Animation Writing and Development”- Pasadena Playhouse-
Blair Richwood- dozens of credits in the bus.-
Pamalen J. Smith- myth works- SDS
Blair: Pitch- Genre, title, protagonist, goal of protagonist, stakes against protagonist- could be considered a logline.
1. Make contact with the buyer
2. Think like the buyer- can he use your idea?
3. The buyer is looking for a project that will give him a promotion
4. Make the buyer see the possibilities in your movie
5. Is the story MAKEABLE?
6. The pitch must convey the premise and the potential
7. tell us the story in COMMERCIAL FORM
8. Prep, presentation, painting, promise that you have the goods
9. Have an explosive two sentences that you use to set the story- logline
11. Example: A German Scientist resorts to espionage against Hitler to save his Jewish wife by bringing atomic bomb secrets to Albert Einstein in America.”
12. David Freeman: 1-310-394-0361
13. Pitching is more like acting than writing
14. It is a performance- modulate your voice-
15. don’t give too much detail and confuse the listener
16. find what’s unique about your story-
17. set up surprises- Wow! I didn’t see that coming-
18. bring your happy face
19. Promise to yourself that you will be professional- you have delivered the premise and the potential
20. Bring your heart
21. Feel your inspiration- talk about the 1st act, 2nd act, climax
22. follow up with a thank you note
23. Don’t say this is a funny story- a great story-
24. Pamala Smith- Sympathy, Danger, Salvation
25. WE DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS BUT WHAT ITS ABOUT
26. Have a judge able cover- healthy and happy
27. Paint the story- Paint it in their heads-
28. Give one specific genre- who is the protagonist-
72. Script- V11#3- Your Scripts Heartbeat- William Martell
1. a book has chapters where you can stop and take a nap- like a train trip
2. a film script has no breaks but is like taking a nonstop air trip across country
a script should be a bladder buster- people will miss something if they get up and 76. Script- Vol. 11#4- “Understanding Voice and Theme”- William Martell- page 20
1. Voice is what makes your script uniquely yours.
2. It’s your fingerprint on the page.
3. Personal Themes: what matters to you? Getting back up with kicked down- etc.
4. Such as trust and betrayal-
5. Some call these “mega themes”- recurring themes in a writers work
6. It’s what is part of you that keeps coming out
7. Ex: John Huston used greed in many of his films- The Maltese Falcon
8. first step in these is to decide what haunts you? What do you keep coming back to?
9. Look at movies that reflect your interests- Casablanca- love and self sacrifice-
10. Ask yourself- WHAT ARE THE COMMON LINKS IN ALL MY SCRIPTS?
11. Once you know what mega themes haunt you, you can call on them more fully
12. You could make sure your scripts really dig into these issues
13. Another way: think of you upbringing roots and what they did to and for you
14. Subject Matter: Home Genre:
a. writers tend to work within a home genre
b. action and thrillers, sci-fi, dramas
c. suggestion: make a list of the last ten movies you saw and why they attracted you
d. If you can’t wait to see the next Jim Carey film why are you working on a horror film?
e. Ask yourself why you are attracted to certain Genres.
15. TONE: Martell scripts have humor- a tone that’s in all of the scripts no matter the genre
a. Part of you, Bob, is humor and thus is already a part of your “ voice”
b. love is also a part of your tone, Bob
16. STORYTELLING STYLE:
a. own distinctive story style- the way elements are revealed, the types of scenes and other elements. Do you love plot twists? Intense suspense scenes ( Bob loves these)-
b. I customarily use a more flowing story form and style
c. Do you dig beneath the surface to expose other layers or begin with all of the layers?
d. How you tell your stories is part of your style.
17. STYLE ON THE PAGE:
a. Ron Bass uses ellipses
b. Walter Hill created “action stacking”
c. M. Night Shyamalan uses only slightly fewer ellipses than Ron Bass
d. Shane Black always talks directly to the reader- use of hyperbole
e. Martell uses the diagonal suspense description- EX:
f. The man in black follows behind them…
….closing the gap between them!
g. This way you end up with two cliff hangers in the middle of a sentence
h. Martell wanted to create the sense of suspense for the reader
i. It’s okay to monkey with format if it makes the story more clear or more emotionally involving- you do what works best-
j. What about Bob? I have some things I like to do in action, I use humor in things, I pick good characters whom I like, and I have a sense of what is visual on the screen.
4. Pacing is the heartbeat of your screenplay- it keeps it alive and moving
5. Pacing is NOTHING ABOUT INTERESTING CHARACTERS
6. PACING IS ABOUT THE FRENQUENCY OF EXCITING EVENTS
7. You need enough to keep your story alive ( heartbeats) and you want them there on a regular basis
77. Script- V.11#4- Spec Sales
1. Last year 1,000 scripts sold- only 7% were spec- 71 is all that sold
2. Only 236 companies have deals set up with the major studios
3. They must go with a sure thing- have little choice
4. A spec from an unknown writer is a wild card
5. Might get optioned then passed on to veteran writers who polish it and take the credit
6. Caveat- a spec script may not get you rich and famous, but if it gets you NOTICED
7. NOTICED is 93% ahead of the rest of the writers out there
8. Breaking the spec barrier- comedy writers ahead
9. Half the specs sold last year were comedies
10. Chick flicks sell- low budget usually, they sale well on the international market
11. TRACKING: go to Scriptsales.com or Scriptpimp.com
78. Script- Vol.11#4 “ A Simple Plan- a brilliant Scene”- p. 64
1. Spartacus- “ I’m Spartacus”
2. Lost Ark- “ Fighting off the Germans to get the truck with the ark in it.”
3. Giant- Rock Hudson fight scene
4. To Kill A mockingbird-
5. How does a great scene begin?
a. Protagonists start the scene under tremendous pressure
b. Emotions already high
c. Things get worse
d. Emotions go higher
e. New plot twists
f. Also, when one person wants something from another
g. “Narrative drive”- something is about to happen
h. surprises- fake outs- reversals- stunning character reveals
i. Watch “ A Simple Plan.”
j. Make your story amazing-
79. Script- Vol.11,#5- Plotting Murder- by William Martell
1. Problem- story doesn’t make sense, none of the pieces add up to a whole, or the story is based on a bunch of coincidences, and completely unbelievable.
2. Too much focus on concept and character has put plot in the back.
3. Plot is what happens. Many people confuse plot with story – this leads to story problems.
4. Plot is one element of story.
5. Plot is what people tell you when they tell you about a movie- they go scene to scene.
6. Plotting is how one scene inevitably connects to the next scene
7. When you build the skeleton it is critical that each part connects to the next part logically
8. ONION PLOTTING: a story has layers and as you peel them back more is revealed
9. WE GET CLOSER AND CLOSER TO THE TRUTH UNDERNEATH
10. As writers we have to know what’s below the surface- the truth of the story
11. We know what happens at every level of the script
12. Plot it from the inside out
13. Stories are about revealing information
14. Every time you peel back a layer more truth is exposed
15. Never write a story where noting is reveal – surface writing
16. GHOST is a good example of a plot that gets deeper
17. TENNIS PLOTTING: ACT/REACT
18. Someone hits the ball- usually the antagonist starts the ball rolling
19. the ball will not go back and forth on its own- someone needs to hit it
20. SPEED is a good example of how this works- bad guy does something, good guys counter, bad guy reacts, good guys react, ect.
21. The ball should never bounce back on its own
22. This will seem impossible to the audience
23. If a gun is held to the head and the cops show up and save the day, this is not real
24. NOTHING HAS CAUSED THEM TO SHOW UP
25. If the protagonist tells the police that the antagonist will soon put a gun to his head that’s unreal
26. Everything that happens has to be logically motivated
27. It can be fun if you layer and build your story from the inside out
80. Script- Vol.11#5- Write the Logline First!- Michael Kuciak
1. Most writers have trouble writing loglines.
2. Sometimes the problem is not the writer but the screenplay itself
3. Unfocused stories going off on tangents- incoherent plot- too many characters and subplots
4. Reader should not stop and wonder what the screenplay is about
5. The screenwriter is the writers guide through a story
6. Imagine you go on a tour of a museum and you guide stops and tells you a funny story about herself, then takes you for a bathroom break, ect. …this is not what you expected
7. Many times readers pick up a script on a concept but not find the script is anything like it
8. The answer is WRITE THE LOGLINE FIRST
9. Rule: A good logline tells us who our hero is, what he is trying to do, the setting , main point of struggle, genre and the high concept
10. PEOPLE IN THE INDUSTRY WRITE AND PITCH SUCH LOGLINES EVERY DAY
11. What is dogs ruled humans….Planet of the Apes
12. A comedy about a slick corporate executive who’s transported to a world where dogs keep humans as pets.
13. Conflict? He needs to get back to his own dimension
14. Sub plots- B-story in BACK TO THE FUTURE is that MJFox has to get his parents back together again
15. Lets say this guy starts a revolution while he searches for a way home. Logline: A comedy about s slick corporate executive who’s transported to a world where dogs keep humans as pets and leads a revolution while trying to find a way home.
16. Still missing the main ANTAGONIST
17. TOP DAWG is a fat, ugly, hairy, slobbering mess.
18. Logline: A comedy about a slick corporate executive who’s transported to a world where dogs keep humans as pets and leads a revolution against the slobbering Top Dawg while trying to find a way home. ( better)
19. Notice we did not mention everything- like the dimension machine- just an excuse to move our guy into the movie we came to see
20. Love interest?
21. Also your hero needs an internal arc. He became a slick corporate executive because his dad was a slob and a failure. An internal arc gives the hero ballast- necessary for a good story.
22. WRITE YOUR FINISHED LOGLING IN BOLD LETTERS AND TAPE IT NEXT TO THE COMPUTER SCREEN AS A CONSTANT REMINDER WHILE YOU’RE WRITING.
23. On every page, in every scene, glance up and ask, What does this have to do with the story?”
24. Because you have this focus you will not write five pages on how the dimension machine works, or get misdirected on some other tangent.
25. You won’t forget the revolution or try to stuff it in between the last few pages
26. You won’t introduce a bunch of significant villains because you looked at the logline and realize it’s Top Dawg that matters.
At the end you will have a story with a strong, clean story through-line.
81. Script: Prep Your Spec
1. Problems that readers see in scripts
3. The story requires a strong protagonist but there isn’t one
4. His role is not specific enough to grasp
5. He isn’t active enough- waits for other to reveal information thus does not drive the plot
6. Minor characters have too much time on the page
7. Minor characters are more interesting
8. Minor characters have no real connection to driving the plot
9. There is no strong ANTAGONIST or opposition figure for the protagonist to fight
10. The Characters aren’t well developed- stereotyped
11. The goals, needs, desire and motivations of the characters aren’t clear
12. We don’t care about these characters
13. None of the characters undergoes a personal transformation
14. Important characters are introduced too late
15. The protagonist is to perfect- no flaws
16. Rather than revealing their personalities, attitudes and needs through ACTION/IMAGES everything the characters think/feel/do is conveyed in dialogue
18. The script lacks focus- main characters don’t have specific goals to pursue
19. The story lacks a strong central character who drives the plot
20. The protagonist’s goal isn’t specific enough
21. His goal is introduced too late
22. The story is not set up correctly- starts too soon- too much back story
23. The middle act lacks focus- no real sense of tension rising
24. There’s no real climax
25. The ending is too long
26. No clear act breaks or they aren’t dramatic enough
27. There is a lot of filler scenes that serve no purpose
28. Lack of logical progression between one scene to the next
29. Subplots are a distraction from the main action
30. TRADITION THREE ACT STRUCTRE
31. In act one the protagonist’s goals, need and desires are set up as well as the other main characters
32. In act two the characters pursue their goals despite increasing obstacles and complications
33. The escalation of these events is know as the “rising tension”
34. At the end of act two comes a moment when all seems lost for the protagonist- CRISIS
35. However, based on what he has learned he forms a new plan for obtaining his goal
36. This leads to act three and the climax
37. The climax is the dramatic highlight and the moment when the goal is within reach.
38. Followed by a short resolution to show how things have changed for the characters
40. Problems in the script- structure and character- will affect the level of main conflict
41. EACH SCENE SHOULD PUSH THE STORY FORWARD
42. THE PROTAGONIST NEEDS A FORMIDABLE OPPONENT
43. Conflict must be properly motivated
45. The stakes are not high enough
47. The world of the story and the logic of the plot. Is there too many coincidences?
49. MOST SCREENPLAYS CONTAIN AN EXCESS OF DIALOGUE
50. Not enough visual action- balance
51. Every line of dialogue should advance the story, deepen our understanding of the characters, or do both
52. Every scene should start just BEFORE the DRAMATIC HIGHLIGHT and end just afterward
53. Cut dialogue that repeats what the viewer already knows
54. CHITTCHAT such as hello, goodbye, thanks should be cut. Screenplay dialogue is not real-life conversation.
55. WHEN CHARACTERS SAY EXACTLY WHAT THEY THINK/FEEL OR WHEN THEY SEEM TO BE TALKING JUST TO INFORE THE AUDIENCE it leads to dialogue that is too direct or on the nose. On the nose dialogue feels flat and unrealistic.
56. ADD SUBTEXT
57. A WHOLE PAGE WITH JUST DIALOGUE IS OUT OF BALANCE WITH ACTION
58. Film is visual- look for opportunities to say it with actions
59. The main characters should have distinct and unique voices.
60. Restaurant scenes that go on too long with dialogue are bad
61. THEME: perhaps the screenplay lacks a compelling theme- emotional througline.
63. Grammar and spelling mistakes suggest the writer is not serious about his craft
64. Some can be over looked but if there are a lot in the first ten pages then the writer really doesn’t have a professional face on
65. Check this article for BUDGET TIPS