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How can screenwriters make the best first impressions within Hollywood?

First impressions are everything in any industry. How you present yourself, your work, your projects, and your resume can be the difference between getting a job or losing it to someone else.

In Hollywood, first impressions are vital to the success of a screenwriter.

The film and television industry is saturated with spec scripts and screenwriters trying to break into the industry. Because of this, studios, production companies, agencies, and management companies are forced to create immediate filtration processes and approaches.

Any little “red flag” is going to affect your chances of getting that script read, being taken seriously as a writer, or getting that first paid gig.

It sounds harsh and nitpicky, but after twenty years in the industry — on both the development and screenwriting end of things —  I can attest to the fact that first impressions are so crucial for screenwriters.

With that in mind, here are seven simple yet impacting great first impressions that you can make during your screenwriting journey.

1. No Mailing Addresses on Title Pages

Back before email, yes, snail mail was all the rage. But it’s the twenty-first century, and there’s no reason to include mailing addresses on your script’s title page.

It’s an instant sign that you are a newb. And beyond that, if you don’t live in Los Angeles, it’s an immediate red flag because Hollywood prefers to work with screenwriters that can go to the meetings, meet-and-greets, and other networking opportunities.

Yes, in this day and age, you can see some success living outside of La La Land. But you need to make them fall in love with your script first, so they are willing to deal with your geographical issues.

2. No Copyright or WGA Registration Numbers on Title Pages

It’s unnecessary. There’s absolutely no reason to include those numbers on your title page or within your screenplay. Yet, this is one of the most common signs of novice screenwriters.

Are industry insiders going to automatically dismiss your script because of them? No. But if they see copyright or WGA registration numbers on the script, you’ve planted an instant seed in their head that says, “This is a newcomer.” And that label has a lot of baggage. It’s not the first impression you want to make, right?

Don’t give them even the tiniest excuse to have any sliver of a doubt before they read that first page.

Learn the best way to structure your screenplay with this free guide.

3. No Draft Date or Numbers on Title Page

Yes, you’ve read produced scripts that have the date of the draft on the script or various draft numbers. There is no reason for you to do this on your spec scripts.

If the last draft you wrote was in 2015 and you’ve marked your script as such, and it’s 2020, it’s a bad first impression to make because the script comes off as dated — with questions of “Why hasn’t this supposed awesome script been picked up by anyone in five years?” 

It’s useless clutter. Draft dates and draft numbers are used while you’re working with studios and production companies on assignment or under contract so that everything can keep track of the multiple drafts being written. If you’re writing on spec, it’s unnecessary.

Note: Your title page should only consist of the title of your script, written by, your name, and your email address (even though they likely have that anyway). If you have representation, you should include any manager, agent, or entertainment lawyer for contact purposes. Lastly, if the script has co-writers, necessary “story by” credits, or if it has been adapted from other source material, those elements should be included as well.  

Read ScreenCraft’s How to Understand Confusing Screenwriter Onscreen Credits!

4. Simple Format within Your Script

It’s tempting to be cute and stylistic with your format. It’s tempting to want to show visual flare and describe beautiful and cinematic images within your scene description. You’ve watched a lot of movies, you like camera movement, and you want to employ that within your visual story.

Don’t.

Especially in those opening 10-15 pages, keep the format as simple, clear, and concise as possible — Location Heading, Scene Description, Character Names, Dialogue. That’s it.

When you keep it simple and direct, the reading experience is much more easily applicable to our mind’s eye. We can process the visuals quickly as our brain registers that simple formula of INT or EXT, LOCATION, and DAY or NIGHT. When you start to add more formatting, our brains are forced to stop, review, interpret, and then envision before we move on. When we see that simple formula, we can scan past in a millisecond and get to the good stuff. The cinematic visuals will play easier in our mind’s eye, as opposed to having to stop with every irregular formatting element.

Imagine sitting in a screening room while watching a movie, and every time the film switches to a new location we’re forced to cut to black to read a title card — that is what it is like reading unnecessary format when the writer could just pare it down to INT. PRISON – NIGHT.

If you need to convey anything more (dusk or dawn, same, later, flashback, date, etc.), do it very sparingly.

The best screenplays are those that lack clutter in the format.

Read ScreenCraft’s Screenwriting Basics: The Keys to Writing Correct Scene Headings and Does Correct Screenplay Format REALLY Matter?

It just makes the first impression that you’re a disciplined writer.

5. Tight and Engaging Opening Pages

When you are developing opening scenes, you have to first start by assuming that the reader hasn’t read the logline and knows virtually nothing about your story. Then be sure to avoid showing too many character details, backgrounds, and set-ups — all of which should be spread out throughout the whole script. After that, you have to craft opening moments that sell the tone, atmosphere, and concept. Finally, it’s about thrusting us into that world you’ve created. Give us a taste of what to expect.

This keeps the reader invested as they read beyond the first few pages. If they’re not invested, they’ll simply scan through the pages with little to no interest. You’ve lost them already. If they are invested, they’ll pay attention to each and every line until you give them further reason not to.

Writing engaging opening moments is just the beginning of doing your job as a screenwriter — but it’s vital to the success of your screenplay.

And those opening pages offer the first critical impressions of your script and your writing.

6. Keep Query Emails Short, Sweet, and to the Point

Marketing your scripts is a necessary evil. You’re taking shots in the dark by going to IMDBPro and finding production companies that may be the best fit for your script. Query emails can be intimidating, but they don’t have to be a source of trepidation and insecurity. And they certainly shouldn’t be formatted as long letters of your intentions and how great your screenplay is.

In the end, it’s the concept that will matter. If you have a strong premise portrayed by an engaging logline, and if you market it to the right people, that’s all you need in the end. The rest is out of your control.

Don’t tell jokes. Don’t tell your life story. Just keep it simple.

Example #1

Hi Steven,

Hope the week is going well. I’ve got a pulse-pounding suspense thriller called Jaws that I think would be great for Amblin.

When a great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, marine scientist, and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.

It’s The Thing From Another World meets Moby Dick.

Would love to have you take a look. Thanks much and let me know.

Best,

Johnny Screenwriter

Example #2

Hi Steven,

Hope the week is going well. Jane Screenwriter here. Your assistant Veronica and I are old high school friends. She recommended I contact you for my spec script, Jaws.

When a great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, marine scientist, and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.

It’s The Thing From Another World meets Moby Dick.

Would love to have you take a look. Thanks much and let me know.

Best,

Jane

Example #3

Hi Steven,

Hope the week is going well. I’m a former studio reader for Sony and used to work under John Calley, whom I’m sure you remember.

I’ve got a pulse-pounding suspense thriller that I think would be great for Amblin.

Jaws 

When a great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, marine scientist, and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.

It’s The Thing From Another World meets Moby Dick.

Would love to have you take a look. Thanks much and let me know.

Best,

Johnny Screenwriter

Note: We’re being tongue-in-cheek with using Steven Spielberg as an example. Don’t try to contact him or anyone of his stature through email. It won’t happen.

Query emails — as well as other email correspondence with industry insiders — are the first impression you’ll make with them before they read your script.

Read ScreenCraft’s Writing the Perfect Query Letter for Your Scripts!

7. Do Your Research Before Industry Meetings or Calls

If you want to make a great first impression, know everything about the industry insider that you’re going to be speaking with. Know their company. Know their credits. And know their successes.

Work that information into the conversation in subtle fashion.

Beyond that, know the industry. Read the trades (The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Deadline). Work that information or any industry hot topics (strikes, trends, etc.) into the discussion.

If you create this type of informed impression, it eases the initial tension of the meetings for both you and the person or people that you are meeting with.

Bonus — Know Your Story

When you get into the meeting, you’re going to face a lot of questions about your story, which includes your concept, characters, genre, themes, and world.

Be ready to answer any questions. Know everything about your script. And, sure, sometimes we didn’t conjure these things. Sometimes the theme presented itself during the writing. It doesn’t matter though. Have an answer.

Keep your title pages clean, your format simple, your opening pages tight, your emails straight to the point, your industry knowledge sharp, and know your story.

These first impressions you make can be the difference between you succeeding or being forced to grind on.

Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.

He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies

For all the latest ScreenCraft news and updates, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The post 7 First Impressions Screenwriters Need to Make appeared first on ScreenCraft.

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What screenwriting lessons can we draw from the words of one of our generation’s most celebrated screenwriters and directors — Francis Ford Coppola?

Coppola first earned a Best Screenplay Academy Award for 1970’s Patton. In 1972, he directed one of his best works, The Godfather. Coppola received his first Oscar nomination as director and was awarded his second screenplay win. The film went on to win Best Picture. The sequel, The Godfather Part II, is often considered even better than the original and one of the most celebrated sequels of all time. Coppola won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture.

Coppola produced the well-documented Vietnam War drama Apocalypse Now in 1979. In the 1980s and 1990s, he directed movies like The Outsiders (1983), Rumble Fish (1983), The Cotton Club (1984), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), and the underrated faithful adaptation of the classic vampire tale Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). He also finished his Corleone Trilogy with The Godfather Part III (1990).

While his films since haven’t garnered as much attention after an extended break from writing and directing, he remains to be an iconic figure of cinema.

Here we feature some of Francis Ford Coppola’s greatest quotes on directing, writing, and cinematic storytelling as a whole — followed by our own elaboration.

1. “You can’t make art without risk, any more than you can make babies without sex.”

It’s a Catch 22, we know. Hollywood is very risk-averse, but they pay most attention to spec scripts that take risks and are different. Yet Hollywood development insists that you adhere to current trends.

But make no mistake, no matter what anyone says, you need to take risks in your screenwriting. Many agents, managers, and development executives want the next version of whatever hot trend is making money, but the best of the bunch are always on the lookout for the next hot trend. And that may be you and your screenplay.

To accomplish that though, you have to stand out from the crowd. And you can’t stand out from the masses by offering more of the same.

Take risks. Flip trendy concepts on their backs. Play with audience anticipation. Take readers down a formulaic path, only to push them onto a much different and unexpected one.

2. “The way I write is like I have a great, big ball of dough — pasta. And I’m writing… once in a while I’ll take some and make pizza. Or I make a cake. But it’s all the pasta of my life. All the ideas I have. Something I saw, or I dreamed, or an observation.”

You are continually molding your writing throughout your career. But the whole craft you create doesn’t serve once single vision, project, or purpose. You lend bits and pieces to different stories that you want to tell. A feature movie here. A television series concept there. A comedy. A drama. An action flick. A horror thriller.

The hidden meaning behind this is to understand that it’s not just about one thing. Too many screenwriters focus solely on one screenplay. You’re honing your craft and creating a process that doesn’t serve one entity. It serves multiple. And the more you mold that craft and process, the more it changes and can be applied to something else.

Learn the best way to structure your screenplay with this free guide.

3. “It doesn’t have to be a whole developed idea. It just has to be like a seed. And then when I’m ready I’ll just work on it every day.”

All concepts start with a seed. And it’s your job as a writer help that seed grow. And you accomplish this by finding good soil to place it in (genre), giving it water (character), feeding it food to accelerate the growth (story), and giving it light to grow (watching movies and television series episodes to ignite your imagination).

This is how you work on it every day. It doesn’t always have to be fingers to keys. You develop it first and then watch it grow.

4. “After I have, whatever it is, 60 or 70 pages, then I’ll read it… what I like to do now is then take it and write it as a short story… because I look at it from another way.”

Part of finding your own writing process is thinking out of the box. What can you do that is different and unique? And how does that different and unique process work with your creative mind?

While writing the short story version may not be for you, what can you do that makes you look at your script from another way?

5. “Just write the ending [first]. The ending is obviously very important, and it’s where everything has to go.”

If you don’t know where you are going, you’re never going to understand what direction you should be heading. With novels, you can certainly let the characters take you there because there’s more freedom within the pages and the number of pages you can write.

With screenplays, you have no such freedom. You need to know where you’re going. And knowing the ending first, before you begin writing, allows you to pepper your script with plants, payoffs, twists, turns, and foreshadowing — all of which are essential elements to an exciting and engaging screenplay.

6. “The same thing you get fired for is what they give you the Lifetime Achievement Award for thirty years later.”

You’re going to hear a lot of noise in your screenwriting journey. Lots of advice, directives, rules, regulations, etc. Some of it is good and helpful, but some of it is crap.

You’ll have development executives, producers, and representation declare that what you’re writing isn’t up to par — that you need to take fewer chances and write more like this successful feature or that successful writer.

During your journey, you’re going to have to learn the difference between what is excellent advice that will help you advance your writing, or what is just noise that you should avoid. And there’s no secret to that, mind you. You’ll know with time and experience.

7. “You have to really be courageous in your instincts and ideas. Otherwise, you’ll just knuckle under and change it. Things that might have been memorable will be lost.”

As you can read, risk is a common theme in Coppola’s career. And you’ll find that most notable screenwriters and filmmakers stood out because of the risks they took.

No one remembers the screenwriter that wrote that remake, reboot, or conventional action flick we’ve seen a hundred times. The ones that are remembered are those that stick to their guns, trust their instincts, and bring something new to the table.

8. “You outta love what you’re doing… you really have to love the project and love the story because, over time, you’ll really start to hate it. And the fact that you say, ‘But I really like what this is about…’ is a very valuable asset.”

You first have to love the process of screenwriting, even though it can be tough. Because if you don’t love it and you’re just chasing a buck, you’re going to burn out real fast.

You then have to make sure that you love whatever concept you take on. You can’t chase trends or decide to write a particular script because it’s similar to a current trend or hit. If you don’t love it, it’s going to be a waste of your time.

Screenwriting takes passion. You need to have a passion for whatever you write. And if you get to the point where you become a work-for-hire writer, you’re going to have to find a way to love that assignment.

9. “I was always the black sheep of the family and always told that I was dumb, and I had a low IQ and did badly in school.”

It’s easy to think that successful icons like Francis Ford Coppola were born with some embedded brilliance — and that things came easy for them. Nothing could be further from the truth for most.

These icons had to struggle. They failed as much as you will in your screenwriting career. They got where they are today because they worked hard, believed in themselves, and didn’t let anything or anyone stop them. When they were told they couldn’t, they did.

10. “I believe that filmmaking — as, probably, is everything — is a game you should play with all your cards, and all your dice, and whatever else you’ve got. So, each time I make a movie, I give it everything I have. I think everyone should, and I think everyone should do everything they do that way.”

That’s what it takes. Be obsessive about your work. Put your heart, body, and soul into it. Don’t try to find the time to write — make time.

11. “A number of images put together a certain way become something quite above and beyond what any of them are individually.”

A beautifully written scene makes no impact on the reader or audience if average scenes or moments surround it. Every scene that you have in your screenplay has to count.

You can write the perfect scene, full of intrigue and outstanding characterization, but if you follow it up with a mundane, exposition-heavy scene that exists just to keep the plot moving along, that perfect scenes before it is wasted.

Editing is everything. Make sure that you edit your scenes and your moments together in such a way that they transcend one another by existing that much better as a whole.

Read ScreenCraft’s Why Screenwriters Should Think Like Film Editors!

12. “You’re in a profession in which absolutely everybody is telling you their opinion, which is different. That’s one of the reasons George Lucas never directed again.”

If you’re going to be a cinematic storyteller, you need to develop thick skin. Everyone will have an opinion on your work from the moment you share it to the moment an audience watches it come alive on the big screen.

Cinema is subjective. There’s no way around that. Everyone brings their own baggage to that script read or to that movie theater — their own wants, needs, and desires.

You can’t please them all. It’s impossible. But at the very least, when it comes to feedback and constructive criticism, you should consider what they are saying.

But in the end, trust your instincts, take risks, and don’t be afraid to swim against the current.

13. “Usually, the stuff that’s your best idea or work is going to be attacked the most.”

For whatever reason, this is often the case. And it’s likely because your best work is that which pushes the envelope, tests the bounds, and takes risks.

And Hollywood is risk-averse — until one person takes a chance and what was once thought of as a risk is now the new sought-after trend.

14. “When I was sixteen or seventeen, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a playwright. But everything I wrote, I thought was weak. And I can remember falling asleep in tears because I had no talent the way I wanted to have.”

It takes work. Nobody gets it on the first try. There are no such things as overnight successes. You have to write, write, and write some more to develop your talents.

15. “Some critics are stimulating in that they make you realize how you could do better, and those are valued.”

Always be open to constructive criticism. You evolve as a writer by failing, learning from your mistakes, and being open to suggestions.

Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.

He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies

For all the latest ScreenCraft news and updates, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The post 15 Wise Screenwriting Quotes from Francis Ford Coppola appeared first on ScreenCraft.

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The Hero’s Journey gives us a solid story structure template. It tells us where our characters should go and who they should meet along the way. In effect, it tells us what should externally happen to a character along their journey.

This story structure, though, only paints half the picture. It often fails to address the beats that strike a deep emotional chord with the audience: the character’s emotional journey.

We want a story structure that is not only able to account for the journey occurring *outside* of a character, but we also want one that is able to account for the journey that arises from *inside* a character.

Give Your Character a Wound

Flawed characters tend to be flawed for a reason. Oftentimes something happened in their past (and often their youth) that had a profoundly traumatic effect on them.

This trauma gives rise to a character’s wound. It’s the emotional baggage they carry and bring to every relationship from that moment forward.

Some characters are better at hiding their wound than others. But regardless, these flawed characters tend to develop coping mechanisms to deal with their wound.

Coping mechanisms can include denial, regression, projection (including lashing out), and rationalization, among others. These coping mechanisms are the things that functionally cause harm in the flawed character’s relationships, giving rise to what John Truby calls the character’s “moral weakness.”

In Good Will Hunting, Will copes with aggression and projection. In Finding Nemo, Marlin is neurotic and overprotective in an attempt to prevent future harm.

Make the Inciting Incident Strike at The Wound

Eventually in your character’s life there arises an event that cannot be ignored. It’s either a problem or an opportunity and it often sends the character on a journey that will force them to face their wound in some way.

This is the start of the external journey that will force the character to realize that their wound is what’s been holding them back in their relationships.

The key to crafting this moment is to think about the type of journey that will continually force your character to come face-to-face with the consequences of their coping mechanisms. How will their wound prevent them from accomplishing what needs to be done in the journey? How will the character sabotage themselves?

What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen to Marlin in Finding Nemo? He could lose the one thing that strikes right at the core of his wound: his son. This is the perfect inciting incident to force Marlin to begin the journey to confront his wound.

This pivotal moment in your story will also lock-in the character’s main desire over the course of the story. Often this desire is to return to equilibrium (find what was taken away, return whatever arrived, or return home).

Your Character Should Have a Naïve Plan

Often flawed characters don’t *want* to change. If you asked them what’s wrong in their life they’d say nothing, thank you very much. They’re doing just fine. Even when these characters have longings, they’re content to keep them as far off dreams.

And so whatever problem or opportunity arrived at the inciting incident often turns out to be unwelcomed. So the character tends to want to undo whatever was done! They want to go back to equilibrium.

At this point, your character devises a plan. If they’ve been dragged away from home, this plan is often some way to get back. If a stranger came to town, this is often a plan to return the stranger and get things back to the way they were.

This plan tends to be one that the character thinks will get them back to their comfort zone in no time. More than anything else, the character wants to avoid having to confront their wound or change their coping mechanisms. That’s the nightmare scenario for a flawed character.

In the eyes of the character, this plan is often simple and foolproof! (Of course, it never is). “I’ll just do this thing and things will be back to normal in no time…” After the character sets out with their naïve plan, they may experience what seems like progress, but there’s almost always an undercurrent that they fail to see.

In Good Will Hunting, Will thinks he’ll just do his mandatory time in therapy and be done with it. He’ll go back to his life.

Learn the best way to structure your screenplay with this free guide.

Unveil The True Nature of the Problem

The foolproof plan is never foolproof. It’s naïve. It was created on the premise that the character doesn’t actually need to confront their wound. The character planned to address the symptoms but not the root cause.

The midpoint is the moment that the character begins to realize that the trouble they’ve been dealing with is far more serious than they initially anticipated.

The true nature and strength of the antagonist comes to light. Everything is far more serious than they had thought. Returning home won’t be quite so easy. And their initial plan won’t work.

This is the moment that the Titanic hits the iceberg.

This is also the moment when the protagonist gets a glimpse of what life could be like without their wound. They have a flash of insight about what change might look like, but they are rarely able to stoke that flame. They get a fleeting glimpse of acceptance and individuation. They can bottle it up, but they don’t yet know how to use it.

In Good Will Hunting, Will begins to open up for the first time and invite Skylar into his life to meet his friends.

Your Character Should Have a Desperate Plan

With the character only now just beginning to fully understand what they’re dealing with, they must devise a new plan. This time, the plan is more desperate.

The character is starting to see what they’re dealing with and at the same time that they’re entering offensive “warrior mode”, they’re also often emotionally reverting to desperation. They go into full offense in the only way they know how: with their wound leading the way.

This is also where the protagonist begins to stoop to the antagonist’s level. They begin to believe (explicitly or implicitly) that the only way to beat the opponent is to fight them at their own game. The trouble is that often this game is one of immorality.

And so the flawed character begins the journey of moral decay. Their actions become desperate and morally questionable. Against the protests of allies, the character falls further and further down the slippery slope of immorality–all in an attempt to defeat the antagonist.

Give Your Character a Self-Revelation

Of course, the desperate plan tends not to work either. The character’s moral decay causes them to make impulsive, irrational, and detrimental decisions, often putting what they love in jeopardy. It’s at this point that the character often reaches a low point.

This is the crisis moment of the story. Everything the character loved appears to be lost–and it’s all due to their own decisions.

It’s also at this point that the character tends to have no one else to blame. After spending their life blaming others or rationalizing their actions, they’re finally left with nothing else and no one else but themselves.

And it’s only at this moment that the character can begin to question whether they themselves are the root of their problems. This moment is the self-revelation.

The character begins to see that their wound has been the source of their problems. They begin to understand that if they’re ever going to successfully tackle this seemingly impossible problem, they’ve first got to resolve their own moral weakness.

And it’s at this moment that the protagonist gets an insight into the true way to defeat the antagonist.

Make The Climax a Battle of Value Systems

With a new understanding of both themselves and the nature of the problem at hand, the protagonist is now able to take the fight to the antagonist the right way: by championing the moral value system.

The climax of a story is not just a battle between two warriors–it’s a battle between two value systems. It’s an internal battle between who the character once was and the new value system embraced during the self-revelation.

It’s often only by embracing the new value system that the protagonist can defeat the antagonist. It’s in this moment that theme triumphs above all else (sometimes even over logic, as Brian McDonald points out).

The character’s change is actually the thing that highlights the story’s theme.

Internal Change as Theme

This inner journey of a character from wound to championship of morality is the storyteller’s moral argument. It’s the answer to the thematic question of the best way to live one’s life, as John Truby would say.

If you can structure your story to hit these emotional beats, and you can dramatize your character’s change from moral weakness to morality, you’ll have a story with a strong theme.

Ross Hartmann is the creative director at Kiingo (https://kiingo.com), a storytelling studio focused on uncovering the secrets of a great story. Follow Kiingo on Twitter and Instagram at @kiingocreative for daily writing and storytelling tips.

Photo credit: Good Will Hunting

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The post Character-First Story Structure appeared first on ScreenCraft.

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Guy Goldstein is founder & CEO of WriterDuet, which he founded in 2013 to improve the creative process for himself and fellow screenwriters. In his non-existent free time, Guy enjoys thinking about weird ideas and writing screenplays that will never be produced.

We had the opportunity to ask Guy a few questions about Writer Duet and his journey to get to where he is today. His answers are below.

ScreenCraft: What’s this new free version of WriterDuet screenwriting software that we’ve been hearing about? 

Guy Goldstein: FreeScreenwriting.com and the WriterSolo desktop app are a cloud-free version of WriterDuet Pro. All the same professional formatting and tools, but offline (or stored to your personal Google, Dropbox, or iCloud storage).

And we’re launching these new options under a pay-what-you-want model! For as little as $0, writers can now have professional screenwriting software with no script limits, watermarks, or feature restrictions.

SC: Since you wrote the first line of code for your screenwriting software several years ago, how has WriterDuet evolved over the years? How have you approached the development process and how have you chosen the features to focus on? 

GG: WriterDuet started as the solution to a major need of screenwriters, which other software didn’t address: real-time collaboration. But as soon as we launched WriterDuet, we started getting feedback from writers of all levels, and based our development on other unaddressed needs: great outlining tools, a screenplay time machine, ability to filter to specific storylines or characters’ dialogue, etc.

Almost every feature we’ve added has been suggested by a writer, and as writers ourselves, we’re able to translate what may seem like a minor feature request into an extremely valuable tool.

SC: What are some of your biggest mistakes and learning moments over the years as you’ve grown this software business and large community of users? 

GG: We are devoted to iterating the product at a breakneck pace, and unfortunately that has led to some necks being broken. Growing from a team of 1 to 10+ employees, we’ve had to put systems in place that allow us to sprint much more elegantly. 

Pricing has been another area where we learned a lot. Not every writer can or should pay for expensive software. With FreeScreenwriting.com, our goal is to provide professional tools to as many writers as possible. And we’ll use all the feedback we receive to continue elevating the industry.

I’d say the biggest lesson is that writers (including us personally!) have a really good idea what they want, and by understanding the daily challenges encountered within the creative process, we can improve everyone’s writing experience.

SC: What are some of your proudest moments as you’ve grown WriterDuet over the past several years?

GG: Seeing (many) movies and TV shows written on our software has been pretty thrilling, but honestly, writing great content isn’t dependent on what software you use so we can’t take much credit. What I’m actually most proud of is when we hear from writers of all levels, saying WriterDuet helped them enjoy the writing process more and focus on their craft instead of fighting with software.

Learn the best way to structure your screenplay with this free guide.

SC: Some people might say that screenwriting software is just a tool to help make conventional script formatting easier, and that it doesn’t matter what software you use. What makes WriterDuet uniquely valuable for writers? 

GG: Those people are right! It doesn’t matter what software you use, as long as your personal needs are addressed. WriterDuet’s unique value has always been to put writing first, and focus on a creative experience that isn’t distracting but has everything available when you need it. I believe WriterDuet has far and away the most advanced technology of any screenwriting software, but is also the simplest and most intuitive.

SC: What can we expect from WriterDuet over the next year? 

GG: Simpler, faster, more user-friendly. Everything we’re working on is designed with actual writers in mind, not a lot of “fluff” features to fill out marketing material. In the near term, we’re focused on improving practical tools like time machine, outlining, and sharing.

Looking farther ahead is tough because we move so quickly, based on what writers tell us that they need. I think you’ll see a lot of focus on early phases of the creative process (e.g. mind-mapping), as well as late (e.g. collecting feedback and rewriting).

We hope that everyone will try FreeScreenwriting.com and keep letting us know how we can make their lives better!

For all the latest ScreenCraft news and updates, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The post Interview with WriterDuet Founder Guy Goldstein appeared first on ScreenCraft.

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Guy Goldstein is founder & CEO of WriterDuet, which he founded in 2013 to improve the creative process for himself and fellow screenwriters. In his non-existent free time, Guy enjoys thinking about weird ideas and writing screenplays that will never be produced.

We had the opportunity to ask Guy a few questions about Writer Duet and his journey to get to where he is today. His answers are below.

ScreenCraft: What’s this new free version of WriterDuet screenwriting software that we’ve been hearing about? 

Guy Goldstein: FreeScreenwriting.com and the WriterSolo desktop app are a cloud-free version of WriterDuet Pro. All the same professional formatting and tools, but offline (or stored to your personal Google, Dropbox, or iCloud storage).

And we’re launching these new options under a pay-what-you-want model! For as little as $0, writers can now have professional screenwriting software with no script limits, watermarks, or feature restrictions.

SC: Since you wrote the first line of code for your screenwriting software several years ago, how has WriterDuet evolved over the years? How have you approached the development process and how have you chosen the features to focus on? 

GG: WriterDuet started as the solution to a major need of screenwriters, which other software didn’t address: real-time collaboration. But as soon as we launched WriterDuet, we started getting feedback from writers of all levels, and based our development on other unaddressed needs: great outlining tools, a screenplay time machine, ability to filter to specific storylines or characters’ dialogue, etc.

Almost every feature we’ve added has been suggested by a writer, and as writers ourselves, we’re able to translate what may seem like a minor feature request into an extremely valuable tool.

SC: What are some of your biggest mistakes and learning moments over the years as you’ve grown this software business and large community of users? 

GG: We are devoted to iterating the product at a breakneck pace, and unfortunately that has led to some necks being broken. Growing from a team of 1 to 10+ employees, we’ve had to put systems in place that allow us to sprint much more elegantly. 

Pricing has been another area where we learned a lot. Not every writer can or should pay for expensive software. With FreeScreenwriting.com, our goal is to provide professional tools to as many writers as possible. And we’ll use all the feedback we receive to continue elevating the industry.

I’d say the biggest lesson is that writers (including us personally!) have a really good idea what they want, and by understanding the daily challenges encountered within the creative process, we can improve everyone’s writing experience.

SC: What are some of your proudest moments as you’ve grown WriterDuet over the past several years?

GG: Seeing (many) movies and TV shows written on our software has been pretty thrilling, but honestly, writing great content isn’t dependent on what software you use so we can’t take much credit. What I’m actually most proud of is when we hear from writers of all levels, saying WriterDuet helped them enjoy the writing process more and focus on their craft instead of fighting with software.

Learn how to train yourself to be ready for screenwriting success with this free guide.

SC: Some people might say that screenwriting software is just a tool to help make conventional script formatting easier, and that it doesn’t matter what software you use. What makes WriterDuet uniquely valuable for writers? 

GG: Those people are right! It doesn’t matter what software you use, as long as your personal needs are addressed. WriterDuet’s unique value has always been to put writing first, and focus on a creative experience that isn’t distracting but has everything available when you need it. I believe WriterDuet has far and away the most advanced technology of any screenwriting software, but is also the simplest and most intuitive.

SC: What can we expect from WriterDuet over the next year? 

GG: Simpler, faster, more user-friendly. Everything we’re working on is designed with actual writers in mind, not a lot of “fluff” features to fill out marketing material. In the near term, we’re focused on improving practical tools like time machine, outlining, and sharing.

Looking farther ahead is tough because we move so quickly, based on what writers tell us that they need. I think you’ll see a lot of focus on early phases of the creative process (e.g. mind-mapping), as well as late (e.g. collecting feedback and rewriting).

We hope that everyone will try FreeScreenwriting.com and keep letting us know how we can make their lives better!

For all the latest ScreenCraft news and updates, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The post Interview with Writer Duet Founder Guy Goldstein appeared first on ScreenCraft.

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Pod by Nabil Chowdhary has been selected as the winner of the 2019 ScreenCraft Sci-Fi and Fantasy Screenplay Competition. After a mission to destroy a black hole that endangers mankind goes wrong, an astronaut awakens in her escape pod to find that decades have passed. With an old body and fragile mind, she battles against the elements of space to complete the mission. Chowdhary impressed judges with his strong dialogue and tension held from scene to scene,

Eat Me! by Tatiana Seay-Reynolds has been selected as the runner-up. When a brilliant, beautiful, seemingly “perfect” girl is sent to treatment after having a seizure from severe Anorexia, she finds herself followed by a vampire, in the body of her secret crush, who demands her blood for love. In addition to the unique presence, the judges were taken by the uniqueness of the voice and unpredictable plot twists.

In Suspension by Amara Mesnik has been named the winner of our inaugural concept category. She will receive an exclusive development mentorship with jury member, Jonathan Wu.

In addition to the ScreenCraft team, the judges included: Jonathan Wu, Development Executive at Hello Sunshine and formerly of 20th Century Fox, Charlie Scully, a manager at Anonymous Content, Tiffani Hiler, a manager at Grandview, and John Tynan & Jeremy Berney, managers at Mosaic.

Grand prize winner Chowdhary will receive a $1,000 cash prize and hand-picked industry consultations, while Seay-Reynolds will receive $500 and will have her script circulated and recommended to ScreenCraft’s network of over 60 managers, agents, producers and development executives. All semifinalists and above receive a 50% discount to WriterDuet Pro.

The following projects have also been selected to receive special mention:

Axium Effect Ari Dassa
Crabs in a Bucket Tal Almog
Darryn The Bold and The Sword of Boldness Justin Best
Kinetic Kylie Eaton
Linoleum Colin West
Mother Inside Jesmond Francis
The Sun Ghost Arun Croll
The Tiger’s Daughter Jason Lee

Congratulations to these winning writers, and thank you to our judges and to everyone who submitted projects; we read a number of remarkable screenplays. View the quarterfinalists, semifinalists, and finalists here.

And if you’d like to receive a notification when this contest re-opens for entries in 2020, you can subscribe for updates via Coverfly here.

For all the latest ScreenCraft news and updates, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The post 2019 ScreenCraft Sci-Fi & Fantasy Screenplay Competition Winners Announced appeared first on ScreenCraft.

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In a 2017 first quarter earnings report given by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, he attributed a near miss of their targeted 100 million subscriber mark not to other multi-billion-dollar streaming platforms pumping money into new content, but to a human factor: sleep. Stated with an air of sarcasm, Reed was implying that given the majority of binge-watching occurs at night, viewer numbers were down because people were falling asleep after an episode or two. In a 2017 Vulture List piece, author Kathryn VanArendonk offered a solution; “make shorter shows.” Two years later, Netflix is doing exactly that. 

Do you have a pilot that needs to be read? Enter the ScreenCraft Pilot Launch TV Script Competition here.

We interrupt this regularly scheduled program… 

Highlighted in a recent Thrillist article, Netflix series such as Special, Bonding, I Think You Should Leave, and more, have all followed a similar model: shorter episodes totaling to just over two-hours of runtime (or binge-time) per season. According to Esther Zuckerman, the article’s author, Hastings’ theory, and VanArendonk’s solution, have proved fruitful…

“In the age of too-much-content, it’s pleasing to encounter programs that don’t suck up much of your day and still tell a complete story. I found myself largely watching Special on my phone right before I went to bed…”

Shorter shows equal more binge-watching, which in-turn equals higher numbers for Netflix. But it’s not all done in the name of capitalist greed. 

A Short History of Short TV…

The concept of 12 to 17-minute episodes has been done before: It started on programs such as Adult Swim and grew with the rising popularity of web-series that eventually made their way to TV screens (think Insecure and High Maintenance). Though, whereas Adult Swim had the backing of Comedy Central to produce, promote and sustain many seasons of short-form series, web-series in their original form lacked the support – and constraints – that major networks could offer. Now, mammoth-sized streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and as Zuckerman points out, SundanceTV, are all dabbling in short-form content. The series aren’t lacking in depth or originality; the series are highly-rated and feature rarely-heard voices backed by network-sized budgets “while also catering to an increasingly mobile audience,” states Zuckerman.  

The Business of Brevity…

New screenwriters are often counseled to write shorter scripts. The idea being that a shorter movie can have more screenings at a theatre. More screenings equal more money; more money equals more producers interested in buying the script. Free from the constraints of scheduling demands and ad-breaks, the short-form model should not be overlooked as shorter content requires less of a budget to produce and offers writers a chance to have more creative control over their vision. As proven by the vast array of high-quality, short-form content that’s available, story-quality hasn’t suffered. 

Learn how to write great movie dialogue with this free guide.

Take Netflix’s Special, for example. Earning a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Specialadapted from his 2015 book, “I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves”— is a semi-autobiographical examination of creator-writer-star Ryan O’Connell’s life as a gay man living in Los Angeles. He also has Cerebral Palsy, and as one can imagine, the road to getting Special made was one riddled with bumps. As O’Connell told Variety, “putting a gay disabled lead on TV isn’t an instant sell. It takes time, perseverance and a sprinkle of delusion.” After shopping it around to various producers, nothing materialized until producer Jim Parsons and Netflix got a hold of it. Netflix was keen on letting O’Connell tell the story in his way and it has paid off. Operating on a low-budget with no massive set-pieces, the series is still resonating with audiences around the world. And it can be viewed in a single binge-watch session.

Similar to another Netflix show, Bonded, also highlighted in Zuckerman’s piece, Netflix made little changes to the work, further proving that audiences are hungry for series from diverse voices both in front of and behind the camera. 

The Future of Short-form…

In some cases, the return to short-form content has been viewed as a “back to basics” practice. As stated in a recent Ringer article written by Alison Herman, 

“In the half-decade or so since a tsunami of tech money reconfigured the economics of making digital-native series, the internet’s lack of constraints like time slots have been taken as a license to expand.”

But, as viewership numbers prove that longer episodes require more attention and thus more time to binge, an increasing number of streaming platforms are testing the viability of short-form content. “Special looks and feels like a web series of the old school,” Herman writes. Each episode’s situations, while nuanced, are relatable and exist in a world that feels similar to homegrown shows like Girls or Insecure.

Despite maintaining series that go well over the time limits of conventional TV episode standards, Netflix is clearly steering into waters that allow creators to churn out great content at a risk-mitigating cost. In the age of auteur-TV, more content means more voices get a chance to be heard; with the return of the short-form series, studios, networks, production companies and streaming platforms can now make room for more diverse storytelling. 

Andrew Schwartz is a marketing professional and script reader working in the entertainment industry. He has written and read for outlets such as The Blcklst, BlueCat Screenplay, Final Draft and more. Find him on Twitter at @writingshorts or his Instagram page dedicated to The Sopranos, @sopranosgram.

For all the latest ScreenCraft news and updates, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The post Evolving Episodes: The Changing Landscape of TV Programming appeared first on ScreenCraft.

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A home renovation inspired writer-director Grant Pichla’s sci-fi romance Making Time, a feature film he shot over two days with a cast and crew of about two dozen people.

Although that schedule sounds like a recipe for chaos, Pichla said pulled it off the same way filmmakers do on any project: with planning and improvisation. 

Plus an understanding spouse, a helpful cast and crew, and little sleep.

The Detroit, Michigan, filmmaker recently spoke with The Filmmakers Podcast, sponsored by ScreenCraft, to talk with host Giles Alderson about his “all-or-nothing-type gamble” and the decisions he made early and on the fly that helped it gel. 

First and foremost: respect the story. Then prioritize the rest.

“The filmmaking medium itself requires massaging scenes and testing things and trying it out. But at the same time, sometimes the general audience member out there has no idea … and they don’t care if your light is slightly off … if they’re invested in the story,” Pichla said. 

He knew this type of production needed to sacrifice certain things, so he developed a hierarchy: “Number one, story matters most. Number two, acting. Then number three, sound and score. … If you had to scrap anything, you couldn’t scrap those top three or four things.”

In Making Time, workaholic inventor Nick (Mason Heidger, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) has been so focused on crafting a time machine that he’s neglected the rest of his life, including his wife, Jess (Tori Titmas, The Girls of Summer). When he tests the machine after he and Jess have divorced, he finds himself on the night he proposed. Getting back to the future involves asking this woman he no longer loves to marry him while weighing some hard truths about what he left behind. 

The compressed production schedule influenced the shooting style and the performances; it became more rushed and frantic as Nick does in the plot. The project also created a close-knit go-for-broke atmosphere among the crew and cast, who worked for free and pitched in doing various jobs behind the scenes when inclement weather kept some crew members from the set. (Pilcha raised about $4,300 in a Kickstarter campaign for the project, which went toward equipment, food, and of course, coffee.)

Listen to the podcast episode here:

Here, we’ve highlighted three more insights from Making Time that could apply to features and shorts.

1. Let your location inspire your plot.

Pichla shot his first feature, the crime mystery Niner (2014), in graduate school. In the years since, he and his wife, Lyndsay, have started a wedding videography business. He also produces corporate videos. That busy schedule meant that he couldn’t have a shoot like he did with Niner, which wrapped after about 30 days, using roughly 20 locations and a cast and crew of about a hundred.

An admirer of the 2015 indie crime thriller Victoria, shot in a single continuous take, Pichla brainstormed about genres and locations that could work within a tight time frame. “It pretty much has to be at one location. Then that location needs to be sort of a plotline in itself. It has to hold immense weight.” 

As he and Lyndsay planned to redo their house’s first floor, complete with a new kitchen, inspiration struck. 

“I was thinking about comedies and stuff, and it just dawned on me—and with my wife’s blessing, thank God. What if I bring a whole bunch of actors here right now before this house changes, and we shoot the past? Someone flies into the past, and they land here, and this is what they see,” he said. “It would almost be like this magic trick we could pull that was real. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, let’s move some picture frames.’ Our cabinets are wiped out; tables are gone. There’s nothing painted; the floor looks like crap.”

2. Ask “what if?” to further the story.

Pichla is researching distribution options for Making Time but had the foresight to document behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, as well as photograph a proper poster. He said the time travel idea allowed him to capitalize on the “thousands of dollars of set design and production value” built into his home’s renovation. 

“The story should be about the most important moment of a character’s life,” he said. “I won’t spoil much of the story, but basically, I thought, Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone had spent much of their time trying to time travel to the point that they started neglecting everyone else around them, even divorcing their wife? Then boom—they go back in time. …  And here’s your ex-wife who’s no longer, you know, full of conflict, but she’s genuinely in love with you. How would that night go? And then what if all the friends you’ve been neglecting start showing up and patting you on the back? So it just started snowballing. I kind of went in the direction of, What if this guy has to repeat his past footsteps in order to return home again, but … he’s divorced and has pushed everyone away?”

Nailing Nick’s character arc was paramount, Pilcha said. “I wrote [the script] in about three months,” he said. “The minute I had the inspiration, I was like, the longer it takes for me to write this, the more our house is already going through the renovation. So I need to get this script really good, really fast.”

Learn how to train yourself to be ready for screenwriting success with this free guide.

3. Surround yourself with good collaborators.

Pichla had met most of the actors on other projects, including Niner, in which Heidger appeared. He hadn’t worked with Titmas before and first spoke with her at length after picking her up from the train station; she’d traveled from Chicago and been delayed because of a snowstorm. He and the two leads chatted the night before the shoot to work out the characters’ relationship. 

The leads were so agreeable, they didn’t mind a final revised scene when Pichla realized that the film would benefit from showing what Nick’s time in the past had wrought. “Everyone was just on board, like, ‘Let’s just try and make a film for film’s sake.’ One of those scenarios.”

In retrospect, Pichla said he wished he could have given all the actors a proper rehearsal. “If they don’t have time to settle in, it’s like asking them to act with one hand behind their back.” But he also feels grateful for how professional, enthusiastic, and good-natured everyone was.

“If you’ve got talented people, you trust them,” he said. “You can’t even get close to micromanaging. You just trust and let good people do their thing.”

Valerie Kalfrin is an award-winning crime journalist turned essayist, film critic, screenwriter, and emerging script consultant. She writes for The Hollywood Reporter, CC2K, Script magazine, The Guardian, Film Racket, Bright Wall/Dark Room, ScreenCraft and other outlets. A member of Screenwriters of Tomorrow and the Tampa Bay Film Society, she’s available for story consultation, script editing, coverage, and collaboration. Find her at valeriekalfrin.com or on Twitter @valeriekalfrin.

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The post How to Shoot a Feature Film in Two Days appeared first on ScreenCraft.

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What screenwriting lessons can be learned from the inspiring quotes of basketball’s most celebrated of all-time — Michael Jordan?

Screenwriters don’t always have to go to famous and award-winning screenwriters and filmmakers to learn valuable lessons that can be applied to their screenwriting journeys. Wisdom is everywhere.

Michael Jordan is often considered the greatest basketball player of all-time. His accomplishments within the sport of professional basketball include:

  • Rookie of the Year
  • Five-time NBA MVP
  • Six-time NBA champion
  • Six-time NBA Finals MVP
  • Ten-time All-NBA First Team
  • Nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team
  • Defensive Player of the Year
  • 14-time NBA All-Star
  • Three-time NBA All-Star MVP
  • 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • Ten scoring titles — an NBA record with seven consecutive matching Wilt Chamberlain
  • Retired with the NBA’s highest scoring average of 30.1ppg
  • Hall of Fame inductee.

Because of his brilliance on the basketball court and his mastering of the business world, many use his inspiring quotes in a number of different industries and contexts.

Below we take twenty-three of his most famous inspiring quotes and apply them to the art, craft, and business of screenwriting, for wisdom has no bounds.

1. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Failure is part of success. You have to fail to prevail. You hone your screenwriting skills by taking chances, failing, and then learning from those failures.

Every great screenwriter — be it Tarantino, Sorkin, or any other Oscar winner or box-office titan — has failed more than they’ve ever succeeded.

It’s all about the number of chances you take and how hard you work.

2. “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

When you’re writing screenplays, you’re doing what most never do when it comes to their dreams — you’re trying. Yes, you’ll fail more than you’ll prevail, but at least you’re out there trying to do your best. There’s honor in that. And the more you try, the better you’ll get.

Learn how to train yourself to be ready for screenwriting success with this free guide.

3. “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, and others make it happen.”

It’s not enough to want this screenwriting dream to come true — and wishing upon a star for it to happen isn’t going to get you anywhere either. You need to do the work.

Read every screenwriting book that you can — good and bad. Hold nothing on a pedestal. Instead, take what works best with your process and leave the rest behind.

Study screenplays. Study movies. Study television.

Then write, write, write.

You need to develop your work and hone your screenwriting skills. It’s not going to happen overnight.

4. “My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.”

Acknowledging your weaknesses in your writing is vital because you need to turn that weakness into a strength.

If you’re struggling with characterization, find out what’s missing and become the master of characterization.

If you’re struggling with dialogue, study the best dialogue writers and discover how they do what they do so well and find a way for you to incorporate those lessons into your own work.

Don’t settle for having weaknesses. Turn them into strengths by challenging yourself.

5. “To be successful you have to be selfish, or else you never achieve. And once you get to your highest level, then you have to be unselfish. Stay reachable. Stay in touch. Don’t isolate.”

The journey of a screenwriter is a grind. You have to look out for yourself first and foremost. Part of that is being selfish and focusing on how you can prosper. Don’t worry about what other people think. Do what you need to do for you.

But when you achieve success, then it’s time to think about others. What can you do to pay your success forward?

And do your best to be an amazing collaborator. Film is a collaborative medium. You can’t do it by yourself. So remain humble and be a great collaborator.

6. “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

If your writing comes to a crashing halt, don’t let that obstacle stop you. Figure out a way to push through.

The worst trap that writers fall into is self-pity and declaring themselves a victim of “writer’s block.” There’s no time for writer’s block. Discover what the problem is and work around it, through it, or leap over it.

Read ScreenCraft’s 7 Reasons Why “Writer’s Block” is BS!

7. “If you quit ONCE it becomes a habit. Never quit!”

The easiest option in life is to quit. It doesn’t take courage. It doesn’t take effort. It’s the easiest thing to do in life. And once you start quitting in life, it becomes a habit that is difficult to break.

Screenwriting is hard. You have to beat so many odds and overcome so many obstacles to be successful in this industry. But if it’s what you really want and need in life, if this is your ultimate dream, then don’t quit. Never quit. Even when it feels like the industry is screaming “No!” at you endlessly. A

The writers that succeed are those that ignore that scream — even if it takes years to achieve that ultimate goal.

8. “Everybody has talent, but ability takes hard work.”

If you have a knack for conjuring amazing concepts, developing intriguing characters, and writing snappy dialogue that jumps off of the page, that’s talent. But you still need to develop the ability to put those things to use within the cinematic structure of a screenplay. And it takes hard work to master that format and that structure.

Writing one single script isn’t enough. You need to get through a volume of cinematic writing to begin to understand and realize the ins and outs of writing an engaging screenplay.

Talent is key to success. But ability is what gets the work done.

9. “Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.”

Rejection — and the outright indifference of silence — is the only sure thing in screenwriting.

Some screenwriters will take negative feedback and use it as fuel for hatred and cynicism. But the wise ones take that negative and turn it into a positive by either learning from it or using it as fuel to become an even better writer.

10. “Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.”

Declaring something is impossible creates the illusion of limitations. Nothing in your screenwriting journey is impossible. Do you think any of the screenwriters that worked with Steven Spielberg thought they would be in that position early on in their career?

Do you think the writers of the biggest blockbusters or the most critically acclaimed movies or television shows felt that they’d be as successful as they are?

No.

Anything is possible. Avoid setting limitations for yourself out of fear or out of self-protection.

11. “The minute you get away from fundamentals — whether its proper technique, work ethic, or mental preparation — the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, your job, whatever you’re doing.”

Yes, you can and should develop your own style and voice within your screenplays. But cinematic storytelling has general fundamental guidelines and expectations.

You still need to write a cinematic story. You need to hook the reader as quickly as possible within your script. You need to continue to throw as much conflict at your protagonists as you can every few pages. You need to offer foreshadowing, plants, payoffs, surprises, shifts, and other engaging and compelling elements to any script that you write.

12. “Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.”

Never second guess yourself. Do the work and choose your concepts wisely before you take on a project, but once you commit to what you’re going to write, go write it. If you stumble, pick yourself up and keep going.

13. “What is love? Love is playing every game as if it’s your last!”

You have to love screenwriting to succeed. The love for the “game” is what is going to get you through the difficult times and the constant rejection.

If you’re in it for the money, you’re going to burn out quickly. If you’re in it for the fame, you don’t really understand screenwriting as a career.

Love what you do and write every script as if it is your last.

14. “Every time I feel tired while I am exercising and training, I close my eyes to see that picture, to see that list with my name. This usually motivates me to work again.”

When you’re struggling, when the words aren’t coming, when the rejection replies are piling up, close your eyes and remember why you’re putting yourself through all of this.

Maybe it’s to see your name on that big screen. Maybe it’s to walk up to that Oscar or Emmy podium as a winner. Perhaps it’s to make a living doing what you love, as opposed to working that thankless retail or office job.

Whatever it is, close your eyes and see that end goal. It’ll motivate you to get to work on your screenwriting again.

15. “I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot… when you think about the consequences, you will always think of the negative result.”

Taking risks — calculated risks — is essential to getting noticed as a screenwriter. But it’s easy to worry about the negative results and reactions. If you feel in your gut that the risk is worth taking, take it. Don’t think twice about it.

16. “It’s heavy duty to try to do everything and please everybody. My job was to go out there and play the game of basketball as best I can. People may not agree with that. I can’t live with what everyone’s impression of what I should or what I shouldn’t do.”

You can’t please everyone with your script. Even if you’ve written what you believe is an outstanding effort, one producer may love it while a dozen others may hate it — or be indifferent to it.

You can’t control who loves or hates your work. It’s all subjective in the end. Just write the best damn script that you can and find that one person of power that falls in love with it. That’s all you need.

17. “If it turns out that my best wasn’t good enough, at least I won’t look back and say I was afraid to try.”

The sad truth is that not everything can make it as a screenwriter. But you can die knowing that you did something that most people never have the courage to do — you pursued a dream.

18. “I would tell players to relax and never think about what’s at stake. Just think about the basketball game. If you start to think about who is going to win the championship, you’ve lost your focus.”

Forget about the awards, the big contract money, and seeing movie stars playing the characters that you create. Focus on the script at hand. Focus on telling the best possible story in the best possible way.

If you have your head in the clouds, you’re going to lose focus of what matters most — writing an amazing screenplay. It’s not just going to happen because you have big goals. You need to do the work. And to do the work, you need to put full focus on the task at hand.

19. “The game has its ups and downs, but you can never lose focus of your individual goals, and you can’t let yourself be beaten because of lack of effort.”

Perseverance is key to a successful screenwriting career. You need to embrace the ups and downs while always keeping the focus on your individual screenwriting goals.

So as you’re bombarded by failure and rejection, always keep your eye on the goals you’ve set. Ignore the noise and ignore anyone or anything that is trying to get in your way of achieving them.

20. “You have competition every day because you set such high standards for yourself that you have to go out every day and live up to that.”

Most screenwriters have big goals. They want to make a living doing what they love. They want to make those six-figure or seven-figure deals. They want their work to be celebrated.

If you set those high standards for yourself, you need to back it up with the required work and effort of honing your skills and doing whatever you can to become a better writer.

21. “I built my talents on the shoulders of someone else’s talent.”

Study the great movies, television shows, books, directors, authors, and screenwriters. Take what you love about what they create and find a way to weave that into your craft, your stories, and your career.

Learn from the greats and don’t be afraid to steal from them.

22. “When I will lose the sense of motivation and the sense to prove something as a basketball player, it’s time for me to move away from the game.”

Listen to your instincts. If you don’t love the work, and if you’re not motivated to do what it takes to succeed, it may be time for you to move on. That’s not to say that you’re quitting your dream of working in film or television. It’s just that maybe your path lies in another position. Maybe you should be directing, acting, producing, editing, or taking on the many other opportunities within the industry.

23. “I think the players win the championship, and the organization has something to do with it, don’t get me wrong. But don’t try to put the organization above the players.”

Studios put forth the money. Directors run the ship of production. Editors piece the footage together. Actors own their characters. But none of this happens without a screenplay. And a screenplay doesn’t exist without a screenwriter.

Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.

He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies

For all the latest ScreenCraft news and updates, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The post 23 Screenwriting Lessons from Inspiring Michael Jordan Quotes appeared first on ScreenCraft.

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Lancaster Skies is an ambitious World War II film shot with the shockingly low budget of £80,000 (about $100,000 in U.S. dollars). Sure, it took four years and all the sound had to be redone in the director’s bedroom, but father and son team Andrew and Callum Burn, along with co-writer/cinematographer Sam Parsons made a striking war film that’s now available on Amazon Prime UK and so can you!

In Lancaster Skies, Douglas Miller (Jeffrey Mundell), is a broken, spitfire pilot who must overcome his past to lead a Lancaster bomber crew in the pivotal aerial war over Berlin in 1944. With the crew against him, he must figure out how to gain their trust and become the leader they desperately need while defeating the Nazis.

Giles Alderson sits down with Andrew and Callum Burn, Sam Parsons and actor Kris Saddler to talk about making the film for The Filmmakers Podcast.

Listen to the full episode here:


Here are the 10 best takeaways about shooting on a low budget. 

1. Anything is possible with a little grit.

Cinematographer Sam Parsons said that the best thing producer Andrew Burn (director Callum’s father) brought to the movie was, “An incapacity to understand that things can’t be done.” They needed to film scenes inside a tank so Andrew built one – problem solved. For shots where a tank drove across a field, they used a miniature toy tank. Andrew says, “It’s just having an understanding of how things work, it never needed to be explained to me, I just understood it.” 

2. Sometimes being older works in your favor.

Andrew Burn, in his late 40s, says people took him more seriously because he was older. When he asked local Builders Merchants for £4k of wood to make a Lancaster Bomber, they said no problem. “I think if Callum and Sam had the conversation, they probably would have said no… they looked about 12. You can’t be afraid of anything and I think that comes with age.”

3. Get used to asking for money.

Most of us feel uncomfortable asking for money, but it’s a crucial part of filmmaking. Callum struggled cold-calling people to ask for funding in the beginning, but that’s changed. “He’s seen me do it enough times,” says Andrew, “he’s realized nothing actually happens. You don’t die because you embarrass yourself on the phone. You just embarrass yourself on the phone and move on.” It’s one of the things they don’t teach you in film school, so Callum and the other producers benefitted from Andrew’s age and experience.

4. If you can make a short film, you can make a feature film.

Shorts are great and can benefit your reel and add to your filmmaking experience. Lancaster Skies was originally conceived as a short film, but having already made a number of shorts, the filmmakers decided to go big. After that, the filmmakers hoped to make the film on a budget of £500,000. But they weren’t able to raise that much. They decided that to make a feature-length movie, the minimum budget would be £80,000. 

5. Simplify.

Making a period film with fighter planes and tanks is very challenging on a limited budget. “Every time we came to a problem,” says Andrew, “we looked at the script and said, ‘Okay, how do we do that?’ The answer was always simplification. It was never making things more complicated. Because we could have said, ‘We’ll just CGI it and worry about it later on down the line.’ But we didn’t do that. We wanted to capture as much as we could on camera.” 

6. Don’t be precious about your movie title.

The original title wasn’t Lancaster Skies, but Our Shining Sword. When it came time to sell the movie, the marketing people suggested changing the title. We think it was a good choice. “The lesson there,” says Callum Burn, “is listen to what people say. Don’t just shut the door… Sometimes other people are right.” 

7. The film business is, well, a business.

When writing a film, ask yourself questions like, “How can this film make money? Why would someone buy this?” It’s fine to go make a film for fun, but if you want to have a career, take the business side seriously.  

Learn how to train yourself to be ready for screenwriting success with this free guide.

8. Social media is vital to the success of your film.

Lancaster Skies has its own Facebook page where people have followed the process of the film getting made and then released. “When people get invested in something like that,” says Kris Saddler, “they want to see it at the end.” They did a lot of advertising that the film was made in Lincolnshire and that excited local audiences. They also invited fans to come see the sets during shooting. “It brings people into your project. The more people you can get on board and rooting for you, the better your outcome will be,” he says. 

9. Spend your budget where it’s most needed.

The filmmakers said that because of budget restrictions, they only had seven lights – six after one broke. But it was important to them to have really sharp looking authentic military uniforms for the actors. “Getting a whole bunch of lights,” says Parsons, “but having [the actors] in uniforms that didn’t look good, would have been completely counter-productive.” They also built windows with shutters into the sets to take advantage of daylight to light certain scenes. 

10. Be patient.

Callum Burn says he naively thought he’d be making big time commercials and films right out of film school. He admits he’s had to really keep at it, working other jobs and being patient. “You just have to wait the longest because people will fall out of the race. Ultimately, if you’re the guy at the end who says, ‘I can do that,’ you’ll get the job, which is what’s happening now.” 

Shanee Edwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera’s Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards

For all the latest ScreenCraft news and updates, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The post How to Make a Feature for Less Than 6 Figures appeared first on ScreenCraft.

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