Altering History 1000x400

By Luke Warrington

 

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

~Mark Twain

 

I often think about this quote from author and humorist, Mark Twain, whenever I hear someone remark disdainfully about a film, “That’s not how that would happen in real life,” or, “That’s not what being a doctor is really like.” And while they may be correct about the veracity of the representation of said occupation in film and television, they are incorrect in their inherent assumption that the fundamental purpose of what they’ve just seen was to be as accurate to life as possible (looking at you, YouTube channel that just posted yet another video titled “Real Life Lawyer Breaks Down 10 More Scenes From Law & Order”.)

On a fundamental level, the purpose of film and television, at least in Hollywood, is to entertain. The purpose of life, on the other hand, is. . . well, probably something best left for another article! In all seriousness, life is, at the risk of oversimplifying things, chaotic. Things seemingly happen at random every single second of every single day. Whether it’s running into an old schoolmate whom you have not seen in years or getting into a fender bender with the Duke of Boysenberry, things happen randomly to which you have no control. In fact, ironically enough, if often feels as if the more we try to plan, the more random and inexplicable things become.


Screenplay Strange Deviant

By Arik Cohen

You know that pop song that gets stuck in your head?  You know, the one you end up loving despite all your defenses against it?  It’s sort of a lazy song actually, perhaps it’s even bad, but boy is it catchy.  British pop singer Cher Lloyd has a few tracks that I admit I love, even though they are sort of horrible and have titles like “Swagger Jagger”.  I’ve heard people mention “Call Me Maybe” as a song they hate to love.  I would bet every person reading this has a pop song that you absolutely adore, have on a Spotify playlist, have synced onto your ipod, but wouldn't play in front of your significant other until at least ten years into the relationship.

Well, what happens when a script reader comes across the screenplay equivalent to this pop song?

It’s an interesting question.  As a judge in a screenplay competition, it’s my job to give every script a fair shot to impress, so what happens when I subjectively love the ever-loving crap out of a script that I objectively hate?  What happens when a script is sort of terrible, perhaps even lazy, but somehow I still like it?  It happens more than you think.


Secrets of Successful Screenwriters Commitment 1000x400

 

Secrets of Screenwriting #29 - Commitment

Screenwriting is not an easy game. You will be tested every step of the way. It is not a sprint but a marathon, and you must recognize the long game and be in it for the long haul. There are too many distractions, too many exits along the way, for those who get easily distracted to make a quick escape. These opportunities exist to tease and divert us all along away.

To succeed as a screenwriter, you must have a laser-like-focus on your goals and inner-strength to keep going until you exceed them.


Productive Feedback vs Negative Criticism 1000x400

By Arik Cohen

I have an actor friend (in Los Angeles? WHAT ARE THE ODDS?!)  Let’s call him Fred.  Now Fred was in a small play in the area, though it was big enough to attract a review from an online LA theater site.  He read the review, and it was positive for the show, but not for him.  Poor Fred got a critical review.  It wasn’t angry, it wasn’t worded as “Fred sucks” or anything like that.  It was all legitimate criticism.  As expected, Fred didn’t take it well.  Fred is a man with a big, delicate ego (in Los Angeles? WHAT ARE THE ODDS?!)  He dismissed the fair criticism entirely.  He passed it off as jealousy or envy.  “He’s probably just pissed he didn’t make it as an actor,” Fred claimed, “And he’s taking it out on us actors with the guts to go for what we want.”


World Building Defining the Rules

By Armaan Uplekar

One of the most foundational elements of any story has to do with the nature of the world that your script takes place within. Whether your screenplay is set on a lunar space colony or on a 17th century pirate ship, it’s your job as a writer to establish the “rules” that make your story possible. On the outset, this might seem like a daunting task — the very term “world building” can sound enormous. And while, yes, world building can sometimes be a sizable undertaking, it will undoubtedly make you a stronger, more confident writer, and equally important, it will make your script feel more cohesive and accessible.


5 Characters Traits of An Awesome Action Hero 2

By Armaan Uplekar

Sarah Connor. Ethan Hunt. James Bond. There’s a deep bench of iconic characters that have helped define and exemplify action cinema for decades. Between preventing nuclear annihilation, rescuing hostages and restoring balance to the universe, these characters have proven themselves to be larger than life while also capturing the imaginations of generations of moviegoers.


Setting Matters

by Armaan Uplekar

“The setting felt like a character.” You might have heard these words before – maybe reading a movie review, or through a conversation with friends, walking out of a movie theater. It’s a high compliment meant to convey that the setting that the story takes place is just as iconic, important and indispensable as the actual antagonist or protagonist of that story. Sure – maybe you can look at that as an exaggeration, but some of the most classic and memorable films and television series of all time are tied irrevocably to the locations they take place in. Try imagining Taxi Driver taking place somewhere besides New York City or Batman being set anywhere other than Gotham City. The same goes for TV as well. Breaking Bad and CSI (Miami/ Las Vegas) masterfully used their respective cities as integral “characters” in each iteration.

Sometimes the ultimate setting of movies and TV series are determined by production particulars such available tax incentives or talent scheduling. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying to prioritize how you use setting to elevate your screenplay. You’ll want to use every tool at your disposal when writing a script, and setting is one of the most important aspects of any story; it can influence your story in a variety of ways. In the following sections, we’ll dive into how you can make your script’s setting feel not just necessary, but essential to the story you are telling.


4 Rules To Writing A Kick Ass Set Piece

By Armaan Uplekar

What exactly is a set piece? In a nutshell, set pieces are the kind of self-contained, high-octane moments you’ll find primarily in thriller, science-fiction and action-adventure movies. They tend to form the basis of the kind of jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring moments that make you sit up at the edge of your seat in a movie theater. They are often the centerpiece of many trailers, whether it be the collapsing football field in The Dark Knight Rises or an unbroken, death-defying skydive in Mission Impossible: Fallout.

They are, in effect, some of the most logistically difficult and expensive scenes you’ll find in a script. They are car chases, skyscraper rooftop fights, shootouts, major battles and bank heists. They are the climatic Death Star raid in A New Hope and the volcanic lightsaber battle in Revenge of the Sith. They are the kind of stand-out, no-holds-barred sequences that many genre writers dream of writing.

Which begs the question – how exactly do you write a set piece? Do it wrong and you might end up with a complex and confusing assortment of scattered story beats that fail to grab the audience’s attention. But if you pull it off right, you can deliver the kind of bravura moment that gets a reader to imagine your movie unfolding on an IMAX screen. Here are four rules to writing a kick-ass set piece your audience will be sure to remember.


Secrets of Successful Screenwriters.Self Reliance 1000x400

#14 - Self-Reliance/ Resourcefulness

The successful writers I’ve met along the way were all resourceful. They always found a way to get the job done. Whether it was finding a creative solution to plug a logistical hole in their story or finding a way to get their script read by a producer they wanted to meet, there was always a dogged determination to find the course and take action.

Writers who are destined for success don’t wait for anyone and they don’t depend on others. They don’t sign with an agent and wait for the offers to come rolling in.  They don’t win a screenplay competition and wait for the managers to call. They don’t settle for no.

Successful writers hustle; when they are not writing they are networking, researching, strategizing. Successful writers are always pushing forward. They have a goal and they are focused on it. When faced with a problem, they don’t whine, cry or complain. They work with the resources at their disposal, they are creative problem solvers, and they don’t stop until an effective solution has been found.


Write a Killer Horror Script

By Armaan Uplekar

Horror is a hot commodity. It’s a one-of-a-kind genre with a built-in fanbase. It’s led to countless quotable classics from “The Exorcist” to “The Thing” to “Rosemary’s Baby” to “The Sixth Sense” to “The Silence of Lambs”. For decades, horror has been wowing and repelling crowds with its willingness to scare, provoke and shock audiences.

Some might say that horror films are more popular than ever. Recent years have found films like “Get Out” burrow their way into the collective conscious of moviegoers around the world, while movies like “Hereditary” and “Mandy” have captured twisted imaginations and ensnared devoted fanbases. You might be able to say that public appreciation for horror films has never been higher. There’s so much conversation around what constitutes the idea of a “cinematic experience,” but what’s more cinematic than being held in thrall by the kind of surprises and thrills that horror movies have consistently offered up?

That’s not to say that making horror films is an easy undertaking – quite the contrary. Like all genres, horror has its conventions and its mainstays. With that in mind, you probably can’t help but ask yourself: how do you make your horror screenplay standout?


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