This week on the podcast I talk with screenwriter Brian Ackley about his journey as a writer, initially writing and producing low budget short films and features and how that lead to larger projects, including his latest sci-fi feature with Dean Cain, 2050.
In this episode of the SYS Podcast I talk with Aaron Fradkin and Victoria Fratz about their new comedy film, Electric Love. They explain the process of writing this film, collaboration, and how they got the movie produced. Hint: it included reaching out to brands and trying to partner with them and/or give them placement in the finished film.
On this episode of the SYS Podcast screenwriter and director Michael K Feinstein talks about his career, from writing and directing several short films, to his current comedy feature, The Browsing Effect.
This week on the SYS Podcast I talk with Writer/Director Tony Germinario about his crime drama feature, The Price For Silence. We also talk through his writing process and how he was able to get the screenplay produced.
Kathryn Erbe’s impressive
list of film, television and theatre credits dates back to the late 80’s. You
may remember her as the daughter of Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss) in the Bill
Murray comedy, What About Bob?
(1991). Or maybe you’ve seen her work in any number of films including Abel
Ferrara’s cult stunner, The Addiction
(1995), the Kevin Bacon vehicle, Stir of
Echoes (1999), the underrated Mistress
America (2015), or more recently- Assassination
Nation (2018). Most will know her from her recurring lead (Detective
Alexandra Eames) on the immensely successful long running series Law and Order: Criminal Intent
interviewed the actress regarding her work on writer, director William
Dickerson’s drama, No Alternative
(2018). In the film, based on Dickerson’s novel of the same name (he also wrote
the screenplay), Erbe plays Maureen Harrison- concerned mother of two
creatively inclined, predictably opposed teens. Dickerson’s
script examines the world of grunge-era youth (post Kurt Cobain) in the early
90’s. The son, Thomas, (Conor Proft) is determined to start his own alternative
band. His compulsion to do so overshadows the growing mental instability of his
younger sister, Bridget (Michaela Cavazos). Bridget rejects her brother’s music
by taking on the persona of a rapper named “Bri Da B” and things get
increasingly problematic at the Harrison household. Harry Hamlin (Perseus! from
Clash of the Titans (1981)) plays the
patriarch of the family.
Erbe said working with writer,
director William Dickerson was a “wonderful experience.” She showed up for her
first day on the set as a firm admirer of his writing and found his directing
style to be “collaborative, respectful and sensitive.” A mother herself, Erbe
was fully prepared to take on the role of a mom dealing with teens. “I was also
a rebellious teen- so I had experience on all fronts.”
Erbe described Harry
Hamlin as “a gracious, kind and talented man. The whole cast and crew were kind
and hard working.” Erbe’s involvement with No
Alternative was punctuated by the fact that she “admired William’s writing
and fell in love with the kids’ characters. I was deeply moved by the real life
story it’s based on.” Asking what the most difficult day on the set may have
been, Erbe replied- “The most difficult scene was the suicide. We all dreaded
it. There was a palpable pall on the whole set. The jobs I like the most mix
art, entertainment and social justice.” The actress called the film a period
piece that “shines a light on mental illness and the challenges of medicating- treatment-
parenthood and childhood.”
Kathryn Erbe is currently
appearing in a new play titled Something
Clean Off Broadway with The Roundabout Theatre Underground and shooting a
recurring role in City On A Hill for
Showtime that premieres in June. Her IMDB filmography lists a new film titled, Being Dead, with her in the cast as
A stable, sympathetic
presence, Erbe brings the same grace to No
Alternative as she has numerous films in her past. One might keep an eye
out for the challenging theatre, television and film material Kathryn Erbe may
tackle in the future.
This week on the SYS Podcast Ben Edlund talks about how he was able to get his comic book, The Tick, produced, and how that lead to a several variations of it as an animated series and a live action show, which is currently airing on Amazon Prime.
This week on the SYS Podcast Screenwriter John Fusco (Young Guns, Hidalgo) how he sold his spec script, The Highwaymen (Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson) eventually sold to and produced by Netflix after nearly a decade of trying to get the film set up with a traditional studio.
Love him or hate him, Quentin Tarantino has already left an indelible mark on the history of cinema. Obsessed with movies from an early age, Tarantino spent the majority of his early years devouring every movie he could get his hands on, until he eventually picked up a camera himself. As a huge movie geek myself and fan of Tarantino, I would like to bring you 5 screenwriting lessons from Quentin Tarantino.
STEAL FROM EVERYONE
“I steal from every movie ever made,” Tarantino has been famously quoted as saying. The dance sequence in “Pulp Fiction” is lifted right out of Godard’s “Bande à part.” You could argue no one in the storytelling business is as good at ripping something off and truly making it his own like Quentin Tarantino.
To be fair, Tarantino never really steals anything. He takes a story or genre he loves and then completely molds it into his own, often times improving on the original work. He takes the best of foreign film, spaghetti westerns, and crime, and then injects his brand of dialogue and view of the world and somehow something completely original comes out.
In the same way The Coen Brothers took “The Big Sleep” and turned it into “The Big Lebowski,” Tarantino shakes, flips and turns existing stories until there is nothing left but Tarantino. And ironically, no one can tell a story with such an original voice like Tarantino.
WRITE THE WAY PEOPLE TALK
Nothing will ruin a movie faster than on-the-nose dialogue or characters saying exactly what they feel. That’s not life, so don’t put it in your script.
People often don’t say what’s really on their minds; they talk over each other, they talk in broken sentences and they often rant on what they had for lunch or their favorite TV show. Tarantino has almost raised this true-life element to an art form.
When coming up with dialogue for your characters, say the lines out loud. Your dialogue should have a certain cadence like a drum beat and your characters should never explain the plot or exposition. Find other creative ways to infuse this information.
TAKE A POPULAR GENRE AND FLIP IT ON ITS HEAD
“A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order,” Godard famously said. Tarantino has taken this philosophy to heart in many of his films.
For example, “Reservoir Dogs,” is really just a simple crime story. The characters plan the heist, the heist falls apart, and eventually the cops show up to take everyone down. This type of story has been told in a million cop shows and movies. Yet, in Tarantino’s version, this story seems original. How does he do this?
For starters, he flips the standard three-act structure on its head by telling the story out of order and in retrospect. This seems almost cliché now, but when “Reservoir” came out you almost never saw this in American cinema. Add to this his talent for dialogue and creating unique characters, and a seemingly original world is created.
Just about every story has been told. Assuming that premise to be true, what becomes important is not the destination but the journey along the way.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
The best films take a given genre and infuse a personal element. Instead of attempting to write a feature film based on a past break up or death in the family, try your hand at your favorite genre and inject your personal story into the fold. This will add a hidden dimension to the story that will hopefully make your script stand out.
Almost every movie Tarantino has written or directed falls into a standard genre. The originality comes from personalizing the characters to make them real human beings. The epic “Kill Bill’ movies are essentially about a woman scorned. Try pitching “a woman scorned” story at your next meeting and see how far that gets you.
What Tarantino does so well and you should learn, is he takes those personal elements and then let’s his imagination run wild within the chosen genre.
INJECT HUMOR INTO YOUR SCRIPT
Hands down, the Klu Klux Klan scene out of “Django Unchained,” is one of the funniest moments in recent cinema history. Tarantino is essentially an action storyteller, yet he’s known for infusing humor at the right moments throughout the stories he spins.
Think about your personal life. Even the most intense moments can often be followed by humor if you’re leaving yourself open to notice. Life is never one thing and the stories you tell should reflect all these aspects if you want to attempt to capture even a glimmer of real life.