Sunday, September 29, 2013

Introduction - Part 2 - 1000 words about screenwriting – Stuff you don’t wanna read

Okay, now I am going to write things you are not going to want to read.  Really, I mean it.  You are not going to want to read what I have written.  In the world of Hollywood, you need big cajones.  I’ll write that again in big letters – BIG CAJONES.  Someone who is a shrinking violet and wants to write something only he or she may ever read, or slash fic, or fan fic, or whatever, go back to your fanboy world of FIREFLY rip-offs or STARGATE fan fic.

You need to be able to write where it bleeds.  You need to want to write truth.  Regardless of what you may think about motion pictures or television for that matter, the writers are not inane, stupid, lazy, foolish, or any other pejorative term you want to employ.

Listed below are some common attributes that successful writers have.  Yes, we will spend columns writing about these attributes.  If you feel you lack any of these attributes, work on it.  The last attribute, a healthy ego, is not a joke.  In this business you will be pummeled, kicked, bitten, and knocked around.  Just be prepared.

1.  Objectivity
2.  Love of Reading
3.  Knowledge
4.  Insight
5.  Intelligence
6.  Courage
7.  Speaking Ability
8.  Solid Grounding
9.  Thoroughness
10.  Dedication
11.  Love of Words
12.  Prolificacy
13.  Advocates
14.  Taste
15.  Talent
16.  Sense of Fair Play
17.  Luck
18.  A Healthy Ego

Here are some truths about Hollywood

Ageism, sexism, racism, and religionism are healthy and living in Hollywood.  This town ain’t fair.  Your ideas will get stolen.  Your work will get bastardized.  Even filmmakers you admire will screw you over, if they get the chance.  The following are the most likely things to happen to you as you work in Hollywood.

The studio executive will assign your project to some other writer.

The project will get shelved and never made.

A director will come in and mess it up, turn it into something terrible.
The film will bomb and the critics will blame you, the writer.

You are not going to hear much truth in Hollywood.  So, listen up.  I’m gonna start with the most brutal:  most of your screenplays suck.  You simply may never be able to write at professional level.  I am going to give you the best professional advice you will ever get in your life, right now.  Here we go:  stop reading this column and immediately drag all your writing notes, your uncompleted next script, find a big fireplace and burn it all.  Now, you can go out into the world and start living a real life.

Still here?  Damn.  You're blowing it.  You're making a mistake.  How many sunsets will you miss before you finally give up?  How many walks in the moonlight are forever gone?  How much laughter with friends are you willing to sacrifice?  How many times will the kids not get the attention they deserve?

Sound like fun?

So -

1.)  Give yourself a legitimate shot, until;
2.) Trying is no longer fun.

Welcome to the club.

Acknowledgement to Terry Rossio.

Why are you reading this?  Go write!

John still practices screenwriting in King County, WA along with a small rat dog, a mortgage, and a great view of the valley.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Introduction to Two Script Guys Blog and (Upcoming) Video Podcast

My intent in these articles is to provide you, the reader, with various processes to write a commercially viable screenplay.  If, what it is, you expect to get out of these short articles are how to sell your idea, get an agent, find a production company, write your million dollar screenplay in 21 days, or generally do anything other than to learn how to write a commercially viable screenplay you need to read something else.  Do I have the answer?  Oh, hell no.  What I do know after sixteen years of working in Hollywood and writing scripts is that there are many ways to “skin this cat.”

The first thing I am going to tell you is that if you want to be a screenwriter is that you must write; uhm, screenplays.  Going to screenwriting expos, seminars, pitchfests, listening to Charles Martell, Syd Field, or Robert McKee pontificate on character or structure are not writing screenplays.  Doing all those things is a great way to spend time and money, but those things are not writing.  And, that includes reading this column.

Okay, first let me tell you what screenwriting is not.  It is not an artistic venture.  You are not creating art.  Ultimately, there may be “art” in the finished film but that is not your job.  Screenwriting is not a movie.  While a produced movie is the outcome of a screenplay, your job is to write a script that can be filmed.  The false dichotomy of the previous statement is that if it is not on the page, it will not be on the finished product.  Deal with it.

The writing of screenwriting is not an end in itself.  The end is a viable, saleable product, known as a screenplay, that can be effectively pitched and sold.  If the product cannot be sold, then it should be of a quality to be able to be used as a writing sample whereby you can sell something else.  If you think you are creating something for the ages, read the previous paragraph.

Then, what is screenwriting you ask?  Shush.  I will tell you.  Screenwriting is a process.  Wait.  Let me write that again.  Screenwriting are processes.  As I wrote above, there are several different ways to “skin this cat.”  As we walk along this path, I am going to mention the most prominent of the “processors;” Robert McKee, Michael Hauge, Pilar Allesandra, Syd Field, and Heather Hale.  Note that this is just a handful of folks that write about, lecture about, and talk endlessly about the processes of screenwriting.

My intent is to cover screenwriting basics followed by discussions of the more esoteric problems.  Initially, we will cover the scene, the three act structure, character arc, the hero’s journey, idea development and so forth.  As this discussion continues, I hope to be able to cover re-writing, raising the stakes, mastery of new situations, and on and on.

Why are you reading this?  Go write!

John still practices screenwriting in King County, WA along with a small rat dog, a mortgage, and a great view of the valley.