Out of the Bottle

Nov 18, 2017 by

I see a lot of scripts these days where the writer initially depicts the main character as kind of a selfish jerk. This is on...

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Changing the Game

Aug 24, 2017 by

In any story, the problem gets worse in the middle for the main character. Or at least it gets more complicated, more difficult, more...

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Dude with a Problem

Jul 27, 2017 by

They’re trying to kill me! That’s what’s happening in the most misunderstood of the ten “genres” in Blake Snyder’s Save the...

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Character Introductions

May 18, 2017 by

One of the most frequent notes I give on scripts is one I’ve given so often that I’ve created a macro for it on my computer. All I...

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Apr 17, 2017 by

When developing a screenplay (or series) idea, I’m always looking for what the main problem is. The one big problem that is really...

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Golden Fleece

Apr 11, 2017 by

A “team” goes down a long “road” in search of an important “prize.” These are the key elements of the movie genre that Blake...

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Rite of Passage

Mar 23, 2017 by

My favorite thing about Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat screenwriting books is his theory that successful movies tend to each fall within...

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The 8 Story Problems

Mar 4, 2017 by

There are only so many types of situations a human being can be in, that are big and relatable enough to base a movie on. As I see...

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Series = Ensemble

Feb 26, 2017 by

When coming up with an idea for a television series, and writing a pilot script, writers often make the mistake of approaching it...

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The 20 Script Must-Haves

Jan 28, 2017 by

The things that make screenwriting hard to succeed at are not mysterious. They’re just not easy to achieve. Successful scripts...

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Degree of Difficulty

Jan 20, 2017 by

I often say that a good story idea focuses on one big problem that it takes the whole story to solve. What that means is that the...

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What are the stakes?

Jan 12, 2017 by

It’s a constant question producers, agents and executives will ask: What are the stakes? And it’s maybe the most common...

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Keeping it Real

Oct 29, 2016 by

One of the most frequent and important types of notes I give on scripts is to question whether something seems REAL. Another way of...

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Finding a Manager

Oct 15, 2016 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...

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Chasing Success

Jul 3, 2016 by

We writers realize that the chances of any one thing we write being “successful” are slim. At least that’s true if we define...

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Perfect Counterparts

Apr 17, 2016 by

What makes an audience root for two people to be together? The Save the Cat books have a name for the type of story where the primary...

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Web of Conflict

Apr 9, 2016 by

What’s the key thing to focus on when developing a TV series idea? The answer is simple: the characters. Specifically, a web of...

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Script coverage services

Feb 20, 2016 by

What exactly is script coverage?  Is it a good thing to pay for, and how is it different from script consulting? I’m glad you asked....

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8 Characters of Comedy

Dec 31, 2015 by

When I work with anyone developing a half-hour pilot, I always recommend Scott Sedita’s book The Eight Characters of Comedy.  Written...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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How I got my big break

Jul 23, 2015 by

I was recently interviewed for Ashley Meyers’ “sellingyourscreenplay.com” video podcast, about how I got my...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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Screenwriting’s #1 rule

Aug 16, 2014 by

Show, don’t tell.   These are probably some of the first words any of us ever heard in a screenwriting class. At first, it...

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Unlikable Main Characters

Jun 23, 2014 by

With the rise of somewhat unlikable main characters in cable dramas like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and True Detective, anti-heroes...

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In defense of formula

May 31, 2014 by

Script Magazine has just published my new article where I discuss the issue of “formulaic” writing, and the use of story...

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Left brain, right brain

May 10, 2014 by

So much of writing seems to be about “figuring stuff out.”  Figuring out what should happen in a story, or in a scene.  Figuring out...

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Dealing with Feedback

Apr 30, 2014 by

At all levels and at all points in the process of screenwriting, there are “notes” from others.  Whether it’s you...

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“Premise pilot”

Apr 7, 2014 by

“Premise pilots,” in my experience, are not seen as a good thing. But the definition of a “premise pilot”...

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Sellable Screenplay Concepts

Mar 1, 2014 by

My March 12 webinar on “Creating a Sellable Screenplay Concept” is now available from The Writers Store. In it, I...

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Award Season Genres

Feb 6, 2014 by

SCRIPT MAGAZINE has published my online article where I break down the SAVE THE CAT “genres”, as I see them, of most of...

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Serialized Storytelling

Jan 4, 2014 by

Over the holidays, I finally checked out HBO’s THE WIRE, a decade after its five-year run began.  I found myself binge-watching...

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People We Care About

Sep 17, 2013 by

This Sunday Downton Abbey goes up against Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Homeland, Mad Men and House of Cards to try to win its first...

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All-time best written series

Jun 28, 2013 by

I couldn’t resist creating a chart that breaks down the recent WGA member-voted “Best written series of all time”...

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Specs that sold in 2012

Jun 15, 2013 by

SCRIPT Magazine has published my article analyzing the common elements of screenplays that sold in 2012.  One of the key things that...

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Finding the right genre

Jun 10, 2013 by

Blake Snyder’s ten “genres” and fifty “subgenres” in his Save the Cat books are my single favorite tool...

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The Two Types of TV Stories

Mar 26, 2013 by

Script Magazine has published my new article delineating the two types of stories on television — “procedural” and...

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Loglines don’t tease

Feb 26, 2013 by

Loglines describe a movie (or series) idea in a quick sentence or two that provide enough of an idea of what it’s about to...

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Spec Scout

Feb 14, 2013 by

A very cool new website called “Spec Scout” tracks the status of currently unproduced screenplays in the Hollywood...

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Script Consultants: A Waste?

Feb 12, 2013 by

A few years ago, screenwriter Craig Mazin wrote a blog post voicing his skepticism about “script consultants” —...

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ARGO and creative license

Nov 23, 2012 by

Script Magazine online published my article about ARGO’s use of creative license today.  Here’s how it begins: Having...

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THE BOOK OF MORMON musical ...

Nov 22, 2012 by

I recently got to see the L.A. production of THE BOOK OF MORMON musical.  I felt I basically knew the story from listening to the...

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