Voice Matters3

By Angel Orono

The year is 1992 and “Batman Returns” is cleaning up at the box office... This was when I became fully aware of the unique voice of screenwriter Daniel Waters.  For those unfamiliar with his career, Waters exploded into Hollywood with the classic black teen comedy “Heathers”.  He would, unfortunately, follow up with a pair of box office flops, “Hudson Hawk” and “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane”.  You can say what you want about those films, but they are quirky and oddball as they come, for better or worse.  Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the uniqueness of both, but at that point in time I was barely aware they even shared the same screenwriter.  It was definitely “Batman Begins” that made me take real notice of Water’s writing.  And why, you ask?

“Batman Returns” was a follow-up to the film that had reminded Hollywood that superhero movies could be epic events and bring in a half-billion dollars just in U.S. box office alone.    The film was also fairly straightforward, save for Jack Nicholson’s off-the-wall performance as “The Joker”.  On the other hand, “Returns” feels more like a dark, twisted fairy tale that caters much more to the taste of director Tim Burton.  It also has an abundance of strange quirks and tics that seem apropos of nothing.  Still, these idiosyncratic, amusing moments are prevalent for those who look for them (Case in point: Pfeiffer’s character has a neon sign in her apartment reading “Hello Kitty”...Peculiar enough, but wait...When she returns, in the wake of her “Catwoman” transformation, the “o” has burned out on the neon sign and it now reads “Hell Kitty”.) ...In a multi-million dollar franchise film that is intended to cater to the masses.. And those are the Daniel Waters moments.


Voice Matters

By Angel Orona

 

“EXT. POSH BEVERLY HILLS HOME – TWILIGHT

The kind of house that I’ll buy if this movie is a huge hit.”

The above is now legendary stage direction for 22-year-old’s Shane Black’s first screenplay “Lethal Weapon”, which became a monster hit in 1987 and would go on to spawn several sequels.  He was paid a quarter of a million dollars, and it would kick off a screenwriting (and eventually directing) career that many a Hollywood wordsmiths would kill to have...Myself included.

Being of a certain age, I remember all this quite well.  It was a huge inspiration in fueling my own screenwriting aspirations, despite being only in my mid-teens at the time. 

It was also the first time I would be introduced to what is a screenwriter’s “voice”.

If you’ve seen any of Black’s numerous action movies over the years you know that his films are just as well known for their sharp, witty dialogue as they are for his explosive, camera-ready action-driven set pieces.  If you’re read any of his scripts (and if you’re aspiring towards the action genre then it is a must!)  you know his humorous nature carries over into his stage direction as well.  Keep in mind that none of these amusing asides will make it into the completed feature film.  The only people seeing them are those involved in developing and producing the film, but they give the script some flair that makes it stand out, and more importantly, it makes the experience of reading the script immersive and memorable.


6 Ways to Market and Brand Yourself

by Joel Mendoza

In such a competitive industry, how you decide to brand and market yourself as a screenwriter can be the difference between success and failure.  Not every showbiz folk is a self-aggrandizing attention seeker, nor have even the slightest inclination to promote oneself, but it’s essential you find ways to make your presence known and to stand out in a crowded field.

Additionally, as you begin to implement some of the tools below, it is equally important that you think about the image you want to portray and how you want to be seen by your peers in the industry. It’s important you let people know what kind of a writer you are; a big idea genre writer, or do you gear your image towards crafting more nuanced, character driven drama. Perhaps you have a natural ability to craft smart, fast paced dialogue that pops off the page, or maybe you’re the comedy man that has a larger-than-life laugh.  Don’t be so specific or so niche in your taste as to have limited appeal. What’s important is that whoever you are and whatever you write, your marketing ultimately reflects where you want to go and how you want to be seen.

As you can see, marketing yourself and getting yourself out there are an important part of building your presence, raising your profile, and getting noticed in the industry. Here are 6 ways to build your brand and market yourself as a serious screenwriter.


Fear Not The Big Rewrite

By Luke Warrington        

So, you’ve just finished the first draft of your latest—or first—screenplay. Mazel tov! You’ve done it. Time to slap on a cover page, connect it with some brass fasteners, and send it out to anyone you may know with some semblance of Hollywood connections, right? Eh, maybe we should pump the brakes a bit.

While typing “Fade Out” on a first draft is an exciting time (seriously, be proud of yourself), the work isn’t quite finished yet. Usually (read: always), the first draft of a screenplay is just that: the first draft. After all, writing is rewriting, as the adage goes. But how do you know which areas of the script need to be rewritten? And just how much rewriting needs to happen? Both fair questions, to be sure, and certainly questions you’ll be more comfortable answering, the more you write. In my experience, there are two people you should listen to when it comes to making decisions on rewrites: yourself and others. I know, not super insightful, but humor me for a minute.

First and foremost, as a writer, you are in complete control of your story (at least at this point in the screenwriting process). You get to decide anything and everything that happens within the pages of your script. That means, no matter what direction you receive from others, you have the final say on what shape the piece will ultimately take. With that said, having spent so much time with the story, typing away day after day, it can be hard to be objective about it yourself. Which is where the second person—errr, people—you should listen to comes in.


Meet Wigham Foothill

 

Last month, Wigham Foothill won the 2020 Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition Grand Prize Award by applying his highly cinematic voice to a true-story miniseries about the larger-than-life character of Charles Ponzi.

We finally had a chance to speak with Wigham, or as he’s known when not writing, Josh Durst-Weisman, to find out a little more about his background, the inspiration for his winning script, his process in writing, and just what makes him tick.

When not writing, or enjoying time with his wife, Josh spends time developing his youtube channel, Class Act Screenwriting, which I would urge you all to visit and support.

 

Hi Josh, congratulations on your big win. Before I ask what you’ll do with the prize money, I wanted to ask a little about your inspiration for the film. In a world where life-rights are sold based on name alone and stories based on real people are hot, it seems like Charles Ponzi is such an obvious choice for a biopic, I can’t believe it hasn’t been done.  What was your inspiration for writing PONZI and how long have you been working on the script?


Deus Ex Machina

By Devon Forward & Joel Mendoza

Deus Ex Machina: When To Avoid It and How To Make It Work 

While many writers are likely familiar with the term “deus ex machina,” many may not know what it means, where it originated, or more importantly, how it can help or hinder your screenplay.

In literary terms, deus ex machina (Machine of the Gods) is a plot device where a seemingly impossible conflict or problem is solved by the sudden appearance of an unexpected person, object, or event. Deus ex machina does not have to refer to a literal machine—it can be the emergence of a new character, a surprising use of magic, or even the realization that “it was all just a dream.”

While every writer wants their story to smoothly close by wrapping up loose ends and giving their characters happy endings, deus ex machina is viewed by many as an easy way out. It’s a decision many creators feel forced to make when they write themselves into a corner and have no way out, except the hope of a miracle.

Generally, it’s something you want to avoid, and it’s certainly not something you want to rely on to finish your stories. Is there a way to steer clear of using this plot device, and is there a way to implement it successfully? The simple answer: Yes and yes.


Red Herrings

By Devon Forward

From one writer to another, there have been times I’ve read my own work and thought, “this needs something more. Some mystery, some misdirect. It all just feels a little too obvious, too straight-forward.” Sound familiar?

Every writer wants to bring their audience on a journey full of twists and turns that they don’t see coming. But what if you’re having trouble bringing in more intrigue and mystery?  Well, that’s the perfect situation in which to use a Red Herring.

 

What is a Red Herring:

A favorite literary device for writers of all kinds, a Red Herring is an element introduced into a story with the intent to mislead or distract the audience and lead their thinking in one direction, away from the truth.


4 Screenwriting Trends Worth Capitalizing On

 

Written by Devon Forward

When you begin to outline your script, it’s always a good idea to consider what’s currently popular in Hollywood and identify the trends that are most marketable and most likely to sell. You can be sure this is what your potential producer is thinking about. The entertainment industry is constantly changing, and it can be hard to keep up with what audiences like and producers are looking for.

For example, right now the streamers — Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO — hold a lot of power. They are establishing huge production/first look deals with writers, directors, and all types of creators, to make sure they are getting a constant influx of the best content. While there are of course still plenty of studios to sell to, writing with the streamers in mind should be a focus for writers.

But what if you don’t have any idea what story you should be writing? Well, look at what’s being produced right now. Notice any patterns? There are a few specific trends we can see currently moving through Hollywood, and it is incumbent upon every writer to consider how they can position themselves and their material to capitalize on these trends.


Ticking Clock

By Devon Forward

Successfully crafting tension is paramount to writing a salable script that entertains audiences. Being able to sufficiently raise the dramatic tension will make or break your story. Whether you are working in a genre that depends on tension, like action and adventure, or something slower, like a character driven period-drama, crafting tension and escalating the narrative stakes are essential to good screenwriting. One plot device that writers often use to create high stakes and ramp up tension is the Ticking Clock.

A Ticking Clock is essentially a time limit or deadline that adds constraints, obstacles, and a very definitive moment in time in which our protagonist must act. It’s generally an if-then scenario. If something doesn’t happen, then this will happen. Simple, right? It gives your protagonist a problem to be solved, and clear consequences if they don’t succeed.

The Ticking Clock plot device is a common mechanism writers’ use to move their story forward, ratchet up the tension and build emotion for their characters. There are plenty of different ways this shows up in movies and television, and you’ve seen it often, whether you realize it or not.


5 Step Recipe For Writing A Rom Com 1000x400

By Devon Forward & Joel Mendoza

Writing a script isn’t easy, but of all the genres to write, a romantic comedy is perhaps one of the most fun and painless processes to work through. In my experience, once you have a handful of key ingredients in place, the script practically writes itself. It’s true! Take two great leading roles with an abundance of romantic chemistry, a ‘third-wheel’ character that spices up the humor, and a unique set-up that challenges convention, and you are more than halfway there.

Most follow a well-established, tried and tested formula, with a multitude of variations thereof, and most if not all rom-coms see one if not both of their protagonists come to a realization and undergo a fundamental change in order to move forward. And lastly, in order for your rom-com to be truly satisfying and resonate with your audience, the story must end on a positive note one way or another, whether the couple end up together or not. It can be bitter-sweet, it can even be a little depressing, but ultimately there must be some kind of light, some kind of positive change, that will ultimately lead to happiness.

Here are a few tips for writing your next romantic comedy that practically writes itself.


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