95% is Problem-Solving

Nov 21, 2015 by

Billy Ray, writer-director of the new SECRET IN THEIR EYES, and screenwriter of CAPTAIN PHILLIPS and THE HUNGER GAMES, was recently interviewed on the WGA’s podcast.  Among other words of wisdom he had about screenwriting was this quote: “If you are a mechanic, you wouldn’t go to Starbucks for two hours and wait for...

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Oct 31, 2015 by

I’ve consistently found that most of the notes I have on any script I read — and certainly all of the most important ones — are notes I would have had on the basic idea behind the story, if it had been pitched to me before it was written. And so, the #1 piece...

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Two types of TV stories

Sep 19, 2015 by

Somehow an article I wrote for Script Magazine a while back never got added to my own website — and it’s about an important topic that I teach TV writers about all the time: the two different kinds of TV stories, and why it’s important to know which kind you’re writing, and which kind your...

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Finding a Manager

Sep 5, 2015 by

The first concrete step in any screenwriter’s career these days tends to be signing with a manager. It used to be signing with an agent, but most agents today aren’t looking at unrepresented writers.  One generally has to get a manager first, to land an agent. What’s the difference?  Managers have fewer clients, and...

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Why They Make Bad Movies

Aug 30, 2015 by

Beginning screenwriters often are shocked to hear how competitive the field is, and how difficult it is to break into.  If only the writers with the very best skill, craft, artistry and ideas are able to sell their material or get hired, how does that jibe with the fact that there’s so much “crap” that...

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Unmet Needs

Aug 1, 2015 by

I think the best television characters want something they can never have — and spend every episode pursuing it.  What makes them compelling is that they are under siege, in some way, by the world around them, and unable to secure that version of their life that they continually fantasize about. The Last Man on...

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Flaws and Character Arc

Jul 4, 2015 by

The best movies tend to have a growth arc for the main character.  In the end, they have often somehow become better versions of themselves, as well as having solved some big problem in their world.  This means they have to start the movie as the “not best version of themselves”.  And this is where...

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Internal Stakes

Jun 27, 2015 by

The main character in a movie generally has a big problem that it takes the whole movie to solve. And this is what a professional reader of a script is generally focused on understanding first.  What is that problem?  Why will it be so difficult to solve that it takes the whole movie to...

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Audiences are sadists

Jun 6, 2015 by

If I could sum up the number one most common overall weakness in screenplays I read, it would be that the main character does not have a big enough overall problem, and a high enough level of difficulty and complications as they try to solve it. When you get the overall problem right at the concept...

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The Problem with Flashbacks

May 24, 2015 by

Jumping around in time with flashbacks can be confusing in a script, and can make it hard for a reader to get oriented and settle into one particular story, in a specific time frame.  And this is what tends to really grab readers — a discrete challenge for a main character they care about, which...

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Gordy Hoffman interview

Oct 3, 2014 by

Gordy Hoffman, award-winning Writer-Director (and founder/judge of the BlueCat Screenwriting Competition — which I believe is one of the top ten contests out there) recently interviewed me for BlueCat’s blog.  Then I interviewed him back!.  Here are his answers to my questions. (More about Gordy and BlueCat at the bottom.). What do you think are...

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Screenwriting competitions

Oct 3, 2014 by

Screenwriting competitions — are they a good idea? Agents and managers I’ve talked to have emphasized that there are handful of top competitions that can be a feather in a writer’s cap, if one place REALLY highly in them.  And these can be mentioned at the bottom of an e-mail query (after pitching whatever script...

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