Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Character Introductions: Part 2

Think there’s nothing to introducing characters in a script? Think again!

Over the next few weeks, I’m doing a deep dive into the subject of character introductions. Why the hell would I do that? Read Part 1 for background.

Part 2: Editorializing and Narrative Voice (Continued)

In perhaps 90% of screenplay description, our job is to convey a lean, tight, but evocative sense of scene, character and action. Unlike a novel or short story, a screenwriter doesn’t have time to mess around, we get down to business with each scene and proceed through them in an expeditious manner.

However when we introduce a character, we are cut some slack. Indeed introductions are one of the rare times in a screenplay where we can write scene description in something akin to a novelistic approach. That is, we step back from the moment and comment on the character. In other words, editorialize.

We have to be discreet and judicious on this front — after all, a screenplay is not a novel. But the fact is we have this option, indeed, this right. Why? Precisely because of the need to fix the character firmly in the mind of the reader.

Consider the description of Billy Beane and his surroundings [see Part 1], how the screenwriters editorialize about his character in this introduction:

· “a dank desolate purgatory”

· “the intensity of a soul expiating sins”

· “has suspended his workout — or penance”

· “like he’s trying to sweat out impurities of deed or thought”

This isn’t so much scene description as soul description, opening up a window directly into the core of Billy Beane’s character. We can deduce from it that Beane has some troubling experiences from his past which loom like a dark shadow over him. That combined with his peculiar actions — Why does he keep shutting off the radio? Why isn’t he watching such a pivotal game in person? — leads us to believe right off the bat that Beane is a deeply conflicted individual. The screenwriters’ editorializing puts an almost theological spin on his introduction to suggest regret, even shame over whatever mysterious aspect from his past haunts him.

That is the power of editorializing: It allows us to create a specific sense, tone and feel for a character when we introduce them, and as such helps to define them in a reader’s mind.

Narrative Voice

When we editorialize, we ought not come at it from some generic perspective, but rather one tied directly to the genre of the story. This leads us into what I call Narrative Voice.

I wrote an article for Screentalk magazine: “Narrative Voice: Your Invisible Character.” Here is an excerpt:

Narrative Voice is the storytelling sensibility you bring to your screenplay through your writing style. Think of Narrative Voice as a character. Although ‘silent,’ it is present in every scene, every line, every word you write. As you develop and sharpen each ‘visible’ character in your screenplay (Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster), you also need to figure out who your Narrative Voice is, what your Narrative Voice sounds like, and how your Narrative Voice will play an active role in the telling of your story.

A nifty formula to help grasp this concept:

Narrative Voice = Genre + Style

In other words, the sensibility we bring to the writing as reflected in a script’s style must match up to the genre of the story. Moneyball is an edgy drama. That is reflected in the language the writers use in scene description. If you consult the Screentalk article, you will see my comparison of Narrative Voice in The Matrix, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Chinatown, each a different style matched up to their respective genres.

Therefore whenever we editorialize about a character — and in particular when we introduce them — it is important to be mindful of our Narrative Voice, bringing that storytelling sensibility to what we say about a character and even how we say it.

A further comparison: Contrast the style and tone of how Billy Beane is introduced in Moneyball to the way in which Butch Cassidy is brought into the story in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid [written by William Goldman]:

Both movies are dramas, both movies have healthy doses of humor, but there is a difference: With Butch Cassidy, the style is more folksy and friendly, the tone lighter and funnier. That is the script’s Narrative Voice at work and it is reflected in how Goldman introduces one of the story’s Protagonists.


The typical screenplay will have multiple characters. This is a challenge for a reader who has to differentiate and assimilate the entire set of the story’s players. It is critical for a writer to use character introductions to facilitate that process by making a strong first impression. One key tool we have at our disposal is the ability to editorialize about our characters, but when we do that, we must write from the specific perspective of our story’s Narrative Voice.

Tomorrow in Part 3, we explore another key aspect to which we must pay attention when crafting introductions: Each character’s core essence.

CAVEAT: We have to remember that the world of a screenplay is primarily an externalized reality, so when we do comment in scene description on a character or moment, we ought to be judicious in doing so.


Character Introductions: Part 2 was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Character Introductions: Part 2

Watch: How Wong Kar-Wai Paints with Cinematic Color

Acclaimed Chinese director Wong Kar-Wai uses his frame like an artist’s canvas.

In Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love, two lonely neighbors in a Hong Kong apartment complex forge a relationship built of the ashes of their respective marriages. Lush red seeps through every frame, imbuing the few words spoken in the film with tempestuous desire. As is Wong’s signature, saturated color floats deep emotion and psychology to the surface.

Wong and his long-time collaborator, the self-taught cinematographer Christopher Doyle (also known as Du Ke Feng in Chinese), have transformed the use of color into their own form of cinematic symbolism. Together with production designer and editor William Chang, Wong and Doyle intuitively react to the locations in which they film; colors and patterns emerge as the process unfolds.

Read More

No Film School

Watch: How Wong Kar-Wai Paints with Cinematic Color

Script Analysis: “Jackie” — Part 2: Plot

Read the script for the Oscar nominated movie and analyze it all this week.

Reading scripts. Absolutely critical to learn the craft of screenwriting. The focus of this bi-weekly series is a deep structural and thematic analysis of each script we read. Our daily schedule:

Monday: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown
Tuesday: Plot
Wednesday: Characters
Thursday: Themes
Friday: Dialogue
Saturday: Takeaways

Today: Plot.

In every scene, something happens. A plot point is a scene or group of scenes in which something major happens, an event that impacts the narrative causing it to turn in a new direction.

A relevant anecdote. Years ago, I was on the phone with a writer discussing a script project. My son Will, who was about four years old at the time, must have been listening to me talking about “plot points” during the conversation because after I hung up, he asked, “Daddy, what’s a plop point?”

That’s in effect what a plot point is. It’s an event that ‘plops’ into the narrative and changes its course. So when you think Plot Point, think Plop Point!

The value of this exercise:

  • To identify the backbone of the story structure.
  • To examine each major plot point and see how it is effective as an individual event.
  • To analyze the major plot points in aggregate to determine why they work together as the central plot.

This week: Jackie. You can download a PDF of the script here.

Written by Noah Oppenheim.

IMDb plot summary: Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.

Writing Exercise: Go through the scene-by-scene breakdown of Jackie and identify the major plot points. Post your thoughts in comments and we’ll see if we can come up with a consensus.

Major kudos to Karen Dantas for doing this week’s scene-by-scene breakdown.

For Part 1, to read the Scene-By-Scene Breakdown, go here.

To download a PDF of the breakdown for Jackie, go here.

Tomorrow we shift our focus to the script’s key characters.

I am looking for volunteers to read a script and provide a scene-by-scene breakdown for it to be used as part of our weekly series. What do you get out from it? Beyond your name being noted here, my personal thanks, and some creative juju sent your way, hopefully you will learn something about story structure and develop another skill set which is super helpful in learning and practicing the craft.

The latest volunteers:

A Monster Calls / Andrew Turner

Anthropoid / Marija Nielsen

Arrival / Ashish Chand

Captain Fantastic / Despina Karintis

Denial / Gina Gomez

Eye in the Skye / Abhinav Tiwari and Bruce Gordon

Fences / Matt Cowley

The Founder / Eric Rodriguez

Hail, Caesar! / Brianne VanTuyle

Hell or High Water / Andrew Lightfoot

The Invitation / Joni Trumpold Brainerd

Jackie / Karen Dantas

Kubo and the Two Strings / Nikki Syreeta

Loving / Liz Correal

Maggie’s Plan / Monique Mata

Manchester by the Sea / Ashley Lara

Miles Ahead / Alecia Hodges

Moonlight / Ryan Canty

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 / Nikki Leydecker

The Secret Life of Pets / Paul Huffman

Victor Frankenstein / Lisa Gomez

Zootopia / Will King

Italics = Turned in scene-by-scene breakdown

Bold = Have used scene-by-scene breakdown in week-long analysis

Now is YOUR chance to contribute to this most worthy cause and provide an additional resource for the online screenwriting community.

Thanks, all!

Even if you do not participate in the analysis, discussion, or write up a scene-by-scene breakdown, I strongly encourage you to read these scripts.

So seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!

I hope to see you in the RESPONSE section about this week’s script: Jackie.



Script Analysis: “Jackie” — Part 2: Plot was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Script Analysis: “Jackie” — Part 2: Plot

First You Watch the Opening Three Minutes of Rings, and Then…

First You Watch the Opening Three Minutes of Rings, and Then...

First you watch the opening three minutes of Rings, and then…

Paramount Pictures has released the opening three minutes of Rings along with a new clip from the upcoming film which you can watch using the players below. The continuation of the horror franchise opens in theaters on February 3.

RELATED: Samara is Reborn in the First Rings Trailer and Poster

In Rings, a young woman becomes worried about her boyfriend when he explores a dark subculture surrounding a mysterious videotape said to kill the watcher seven days after he has viewed it. She sacrifices herself to save her boyfriend and in doing so makes a horrifying discovery: there is a “movie within the movie” that no one has ever seen before…

Rings is directed by F. Javier Gutierrez (Before the Fall) from a script by David Loucka, Jacob Estes and Akiva Goldsman.

Rings stars Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan and Vincent D’Onofrio. The film is produced by Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald.

What do you think of the Rings opening? Let us know in the comments below!







The post First You Watch the Opening Three Minutes of Rings, and Then… appeared first on ComingSoon.net.


First You Watch the Opening Three Minutes of Rings, and Then…

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Great Scene: “This is Spinal Tap”

The ‘mockumentary This is Spinal Tap was released over 30 years ago, but it’s still one of the funniest movies… ever! Since most of the movie’s dialogue is improvised, I thought it would be interesting to see the script, written by Christopher Guest & Michael McKean & Harry Shearer & Rob Reiner, from which the cast worked. The entire script is written this way, so it’s only 60 pages long.

Here is the famous “Ours go to 11” scene featuring documentary director Marty (Rob Reiner) interviewing rocker Nigel (Christopher Guest)
amidst all the guitars and amps he’s acquired over the years.

During the soundcheck, Nigel is showing Marty
DiBroma his large collection of guitars, including
a cordless model which plays through its amp by
means of a tiny radio transmitter. It's like
watching a kid show off his toys. He points out
that he has his amps customized with special dials.
Unlike most amps, whose highest volume level is
indicated by a "10" on the dials, Nigel's dials go
up to 11.

Here is a transcript of the last part of the scene’s dialogue from the movie:

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten.
You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go
from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

And now the scene as it plays in the movie:


My movie Alaska was a Castle Rock production, so I was hanging around their offices doing rewrites when Christopher Guest and company were shooting Waiting for Guffman. As a bonus, I got to see some of the dailies and read the script. Guest uses pretty much the same approach with every one of his movies which include Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration: Work out the story with each scene’s beginning, middle and end, cast the movie with skilled improvisational actors, try out a variety of takes, edit the best story possible. Spinal Tap was in effect the proof of this particular concept — and it has proven to work wonderfully.

For more Great Scenes, go here.


Great Scene: “This is Spinal Tap” was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Great Scene: “This is Spinal Tap”

XX (Sundance Review)


A review of the new female-directed horror anthology XX

To anyone even remotely familiar with the film industry, it’s common knowledge that the issue of women working in cinema, or its lack thereof, is a huge one. Fifty percent of film school grads are female, yet only comprise 7% of working directors, a number that understandably does not sit well with a lot of people, this writer included. Storytelling requires a multitude of voices, and that is stifled by a commercial industry that is clearly catering mainly to a limited demographic.

But, genre fans and artists being the fiery bunch they are,  have become incredibly proactive in battling against that lack of voice being given female directors.  The last few years have seen the galvanization and forward movement of women artists, and forward thinking programmers, like Mitch Davis at Montreal’s FanTasia, and the crew behind Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX, have been proactive in helping, by ensuring the inclusion of the female perspective on genre in their line-up.

Now, one of the major first strikes against the proverbial “Boy’s Club” has been landed, thanks in large part to producers Jovanka Vuckovic and Todd Brown. Horror fans know Jovanka as the former editor of the highly regarded Rue Morgue magazine, who went on to get behind the camera herself and start kicking in doors and making inroads. Cinema fans will likely know Todd as the editor-in-chief of Screen Anarchy formerly known as Twitch Film.  Jovanka had initially planned on going through Kickstarter to fund her project which would be a horror anthology featuring all women directors, and serve as a showcase for both new and veteran talent. Todd came into the picture, and picked up the project for XYZ Films, funding fell into place, and the project became a reality.

Well now “It’s Alive!!!!” to paraphrase a well-known mad scientist, as XX bloodied up theater auditoriums at this year’s hallowed and renowned Sundance Festival, in Park City, Utah.

XX opens up with the first of many wraparound segments, which are beautifully animated with dolls and real sets by Mexican artist Sofia Carrillo. With notes of The Brothers Quay, Jan Sjvankmeyer  and Tim Burton, Carrillo actually uses her own teeth and hair in her puppets, which she then brings to surrealistic life one frame at a time. Her work is beautiful and stunning, also echoing the classic Russian and European animators of the past.  Dark and magical.

The first vignette of XX comes from Jovanka herself, an adaptation of an old Jack “Dallas” Ketchum short story, “The Box”.  The premise is maddeningly simple: a young boy on a subway train with his family is sitting next to a stranger who is holding a big red gift wrapped box. When the boy asks to see what is in the box, and is told by his mother to not be nosy, the stranger chuckles politely, and agrees to show the boy, then exits at his stop, leaving the boy suddenly slack and despondent. From that point on the boy loses his appetite and begins declining his dinner. This escalates and soon…well, things are not going well.

Stylistically, Vuckovic mines some serious Rod Serling territory here. She name checked The Twilight Zone last night at the Q&A, but when I think about it, for me it hearkens more to Night Gallery, Serling’s later era horror anthology show (maybe if there is an XX2, paintings! Juuuust sayin’).

With a bleak look, determinedly languid camera work (which does reflect the lack of energy the boy experiences quite nicely) and some solid acting, XX gets off to a good start. I particularly enjoyed the character of the big sister, with a big appetite. And the spin Vuckovic puts on the original Ketchum story is actually pretty brilliant, in switching the personality traits of the mother and the father.

RELATED: Jovanka Vuckovic talks about the making of XX

Next is “The Birthday Party”, by Annie Clark. A dark, dark comedy about an obviously stressed to the max mother trying to prep for her young daughter’s birthday,  while dealing with the frigid and aggressive maid, the absence of her husband for their child’s party,  and needy neighbors prone to gossip.

The surroundings are conservative chic, and the mother looks to be a bit of an ex-trophy wife, who wanders the house perpetually in her bathrobe now, drinking early in the morning to cope, but still handling her shit. But when she finds her husband, who she thought was still away on business, slumped over dead in his office from a pill induced suicide, “handling her shit” becomes a lot more difficult. What ensues is a cat and mouse hide and sneak thing, that reminded me of that old Popeye cartoon where Olive Oil is sleepwalking from moving girder to moving girder, or like a round of some stealth video game. Can this willful and tenacious mom somehow hide the body for an hour or two until her daughters’ party is over?

This one was easily the biggest surprise for me in XX. When I heard Clark was doing one of the vignettes I scratched my head a little and drifted towards “stunt casting”, because in her other life she is known as St. Vincent, a very successful musician and critic’s darling. It’s deserved, her music is amazing as well as ground breaking, but I was unsure of what she would bring to a horror anthology. But the producers of XX know what the hell they are doing, without question, because “The Birthday Party” with its Black Hole Sun visual aesthetic and the lead performance from Melanie Lynskey , is super funny while being a white knuckle stress fest too. Lynskey is known to fans for her iconic performance as Pauline Parker in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures. She kills it here. Loved this one.

Then BAM! BAM! BAM! Roxanne Benjamin (who helped bring us the V/H/S anthologies, and co-wrote the aforementioned “The Birthday Party”) bends the audience over and kicks it squarely in the ass as she fires off with “Don’t Fall”,  the most viciously direct piece in XX.

A group of friends go camping where they shouldn’t, a sacred site of an unnamed (or I didn’t catch it) indigenous people. When one of the girls in the party, a city lifer with no great love for the outdoors,  who they constantly tease and scare, scratches her hand against some mysterious red glyphs on a rock…uh oh. Soon she is transformed into a ravenous beast out to mutilate and kill her companions.

Benjamin keeps it upper short and sweet with this one,  a chase and kill monster slasher that did a great job of referencing 80’s style victim/survivor tropes, and delivers some beautifully choreographed action. There was a shot that did confuse me concerning the transformation of the girl to creature, but still, “Don;t Fall” is a kick in the nuts.  Super duper fun.

XX winds up with what may be the longest and epic of the shorts, Karyn  Kusama’s “Her Only Living Son”. An older, struggling single mother is raising her son in hiding from the threat of a mysterious father who we hear about in hushed and scared conversation. As her son approaches his 18th birthday, he is becoming increasingly moody, with sudden outbursts of anger and adistic acts of violence. When an assault against a girl at school goes unchecked by the faculty, who refuse to penalize the boy, the mother realizes he is being protected and groomed for “something great” by a secret cabal of conspirators.  Just who the hell (ahem) is the boy’s father? And will he finally find them to take her child “home” on his 18th birthday?

“Her Only Living Son” could easily be called “We Need to Talk About Rosemary’s Baby”, but I do not mean that in the negative. A solid tale of a mother willing to literally fight off the powers of hell for her son, who struggles to retain his humanity as he feels the pull to succumb to his true evil nature, it’s an incredibly strong piece, and looks like a Big Movie. Not surprising, since Kusama has been directing for a long, long time and has deserved her due for well over a decade after coming out swinging with her feature debut back in 2000 with Girlfight, about female boxers. Her recent oddball horror film The Invitation was one of the year’s best, and ‘Her Only Living Son” has me sincerely hoping Kusama decides to stick around and muck about in our beloved horror genre. Another winner.

Well, this anthology ends a lot of arguments, and given the number of directors that had to drop out due to other projects coming through, including Jen Lynch who has done the best episodes of The Walking Dead to

XX (Sundance Review)

Berlin: Panorama Line Up Complete with Trio of Chinese Films

New films from Cate Shortland and Erik Poppe also added to Berlin’s premiere sidebar.

read more


Berlin: Panorama Line Up Complete with Trio of Chinese Films

Netflix to Release Oprah Interview Special Tied to Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-Nominated ’13th’ Doc

The 30-minute special will be available on Thursday, Jan. 26.

read more


Netflix to Release Oprah Interview Special Tied to Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-Nominated ’13th’ Doc

Wednesday, Jan. 25 Filming Locations for Labyrinth, SVU, Blindspot, & more!

Here’s a look at some of the movies and TV shows filming on location on Wednesday Jan. 25, 2017: Filming in British Columbia TV Series: Bates Motel Location: Gastown, Vancouver Credit: @canadagraphs, @WhatsFilming Filming in California TV Series: Lethal Weapon Location: 847 S Olive St, Los Angeles Movie: LAByrinth Stars: Johnny Depp Location: 202 W 1st St, Los Angeles (7:00 AM – 10:00 PM)and 246 S Spring St, Los Angeles (12:00 PM – 4:00 PM) Filming in Illinois TV Series: Chicago Med Location: Rush Hospital, Chicago TV Series: Chicago PD Stars: Sophia Bush Location: 4505 S Greenwood,Chicago Filming in New York‏ TV Series: Quantico Stars: Priyanka Chopra Location:Silvercup Studios in Long Island City TV Series: Law and Order: SVU Stars: Mariska Hargitay Location: Prince St and Mulberry St, NYC TV Series: Power Location: 45th St and 8th Ave, NYC Credit: @Jeri18 Movie: The Greatest Showman Stars: Hugh Jackman Location:Steiner Studios, Brooklyn TV Series: The Defenders Stars: Krysten Ritter Location: Broadway Stages, Brooklyn TV Series: Elementary Stars: Jonny Lee Miller Location:Park Ave and 51st St, NYC Credit: @ArtsCommented TV Series: Gotham Stars: Ben McKenzie Location:Steiner Studios, Brooklyn TV series: Blindspot Location: Bedford and Broadway, Brooklyn Credit: @alexj3439 TV Series: Homeland Stars: Claire Danes..

The post Wednesday, Jan. 25 Filming Locations for Labyrinth, SVU, Blindspot, & more! appeared first on On Location Vacations.

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On Location Vacations

Wednesday, Jan. 25 Filming Locations for Labyrinth, SVU, Blindspot, & more!

2017 Dialogue-Writing Challenge: Day 17

A chance for you to work on your dialogue chops and win free prizes!

The last two years at this time, we did a month-long Dialogue-Writing Challenge. It was a big success with dozens of writers participating each session. We all learned quite a bit about this important aspect of the craft plus we had some fun in the process. So I’ve decided to bring it back!

Every Monday-Friday at noon Eastern / 10AM Pacific in January, I will upload a post with a prompt for writing dialogue. Each day, write a scene per those guidelines. If you really want to get in the spirit of things, upload your scene here in the RESPONSE SECTION of the original post. That way you can critique others’ pages and receive feedback on your dialogue as well.

To provide extra motivation for this series — to get people to WRITE PAGES — I am giving away some of my Craft classes to Dialogue-Writing Challenge participants. That’s right: For free!

The Craft classes highlight key principles and practices tied to the nitty gritty of writing a script. Here is the Craft lineup, the only time I will teach each of these courses in 2017:

January 16 — Craft: Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling

January 30 — Craft: Story Summaries — From Loglines to Beat Sheets

February 13 — Craft: Handling Exposition

February 27 — Craft: Scene Description Spotlight — Express Your Voice

March 13 — Craft: Character Development Keys

March 27 — Craft: Create a Compelling Protagonist

April 10 — Craft: Write a Worthy Nemesis

April 24 — Craft: Scene-Writing Workshop — NEW! DETAILS: TBA!

May 8 — Craft: Dialogue-Writing Workshop — NEW! DETAILS: TBA!

May 22 — Craft: The Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling

Each is a 1-week online class featuring 7 lectures written by me, lots of screenwriting insider tips, logline workshops, optional writing exercises, 24/7 message board conversations, teleconferences with course participants and myself to discuss anything related to the craft of scriptwriting.


A popular option is the Craft Package which gives you access to the content in all ten Craft classes which you can go through on your own time and at your own pace, plus automatic enrollment in each 1-week online course. All for nearly 60% the price of each individual class. And special bonus content: 7 lectures on How to Introduce Characters so a script reader will immediately get a clear sense of who each character is… and be entertained in the process.


To qualify to take one of my Craft classes for free, write and submit ten [10] Dialogue-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers. The former to get you writing, the latter to work your critical-analytical skills.

A chance to take any of my ten Craft classes, interface with me online along with the usual stellar group of writers who take Screenwriting Master Class courses, while using writing exercises and feedback to upgrade your skill at writing and analyzing dialogue…


A couple of logistical notes:

  • Limit your response to 2 pages. Out of fairness to everyone participating in the public dialogue-writing workshop, let’s not abuse anyone’s patience or time with really long scenes.
  • Give your scenes a beginning, middle and end. You may enter late and exit early, but provide an arc to each of your posts. Even monologues or telephone conversations, both of which we will be doing this month.
  • Don’t be concerned about proper script format when you copy/paste your pages, rather the content and execution are the important thing. So as a default mode, do this: (1) Don’t worry about right-hand margins on scene description or dialogue, just keep typing until it manually shifts each line. (2) Don’t worry about character name position, rather do this:
SCARLETT: Rhett, Rhett... Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?
RHETT: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Today’s prompt: Slang.

The obvious angle is a scene with adolescents, but there are other options. An older person trying to be hip. A child who surprises her parents by dropping slang into a conversation.

Focus on the dialogue to drive the scene, not the action. In most movies, it’s the other way around because movies are primarily a visual medium, however sometimes the script requires a dialogue-driven scene and we need to hone our chops at being able to do that effectively.

Write a 1–2 page dialogue-centric scene, then copy/paste as a RESPONSE.

If you are interested in qualifying for 1 free Craft class with me, please note in each response you submit the number of scenes you have written. If today is your first one, note that it is Scene 1. The next one, Scene 2. And so forth.

Also when you provide feedback on someone’s scene, please note in each reply the number of comments you have uploaded. So if today is your first response, Feedback 1. The next one, Feedback 2.

You are on an honor system, as I don’t have time to check every response, so do the right thing!

Remember: In order to qualify for one of my free Craft classes, you need to submit ten [10] Dialogue-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers.

FEEDBACK TIP: If the writer has the characters understanding each other, why not suggest a spin: One character is completely lost by the other’s slang.

Want to join in the dialogue-writing challenge? Here are your prompts!

Week 1 prompts

Week 2 prompts

Week 3 prompts

Day 16 prompt: Saying something a character immediately regrets.

It’s the 2017 Dialogue-Writing Challenge! Give a jolt to your creative and writing muscles… and win 1 free online class with yours truly.

NOTE: My Story Summaries: From Logline to Beat Sheet course begins Monday, January 30. If you have done all 10 exercises and provided 10 feedback posts by that date, you are eligible to take the class for free.

Finally if you have a suggestion for a dialogue-writing prompt, please post as a RESPONSE or email me.

To see all of the 2015 Dialogue Writing Exercise prompts, go here.

To see all of the 2016 Dialogue Writing Exercise prompts, go here.


2017 Dialogue-Writing Challenge: Day 17 was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

2017 Dialogue-Writing Challenge: Day 17

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

‘Aquaman’ Cast Assembles in First Table Read Photo

Jason Momoa, Patrick Wilson and Amber Heard star in James Wan’s superhero film.

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‘Aquaman’ Cast Assembles in First Table Read Photo

‘Kong: Skull Island’ TV Spots: Samuel L. Jackson is All the Cavalry You Need

kong: skull island tv spot

In less than two months, a new King Kong movie with Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Brie Larson, Shea Whigham, Tom Hiddleston, and Jason Mitchell comes out. Let’s hope the movie is as good as that sounds, and that it’s as good as it looks because Jordan Vogt-Roberts‘ follow-up to The Kings of Summer looks like one big, intense popcorn movie. Did I mention Vogt-Robers film also stars John Ortiz (Togetherness)? He hasn’t been featured prominently in the marketing materials, like the Kong: Skull Island TV spots below, but he’s in it, which is another valid reason to want to see Samuel L. Jackson and a band of soldiers take on some giant monsters.

Below, watch the new Kong: Skull Island TV spot.

This new Kong film features the largest version of the big guy yet, though it was still heavily influenced by the original 1933 film’s big ape. Of course, he’s not the only animal on the island Captain James Conrad (Hiddleston), Lieutenant Colonel Packard (Jackson), and the others will have to fight if they want to survive.

The first TV spot features a reference to Godzilla, who Kong will face off against in Legendary Pictures’ upcoming Godzilla vs. King Kong movie (due out in 2020). When Bill Randa (Goodman) mentions the nuclear tests in 1954, that’s a nod to Godzilla‘s opening, which showed bombs meant to kill Godzilla going off and not doing their job.

This last TV spot reveals a plot point — nothing too major — that you might want to wait and see in the movie:

This last commercial has a slightly different tone compared to the previous TV spots and trailers. Kong: Skull Island often looks like an all-out war between man and Kong, which doesn’t sound bad at all, but there’s a different sense of wonder (maybe it’s the music) that this last TV spot showcases. Instead of showing helicopters being taken down, blazing fires, or Samuel L. Jackson getting furious, it presents a more empathetic look at Kong with a tone that’s more adventurous than dire.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ “Kong: Skull Island” reimagines the origin of the mythic Kong in a compelling, original adventure from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”).

In the film, a diverse team of explorers is brought together to venture deep into an uncharted island in the Pacific – as beautiful as it is treacherous – unaware that they’re crossing into the domain of the mythic Kong.

“Kong: Skull Island” stars Tom Hiddleston (“The Avengers,” “Thor: The Dark World”), Samuel L. Jackson (“The Hateful Eight,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron”), Oscar winner Brie Larson (“Room,” “Trainwreck”), John Goodman (“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “Argo”) and John C. Reilly (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Step Brothers”). The international ensemble cast also includes Tian Jing (“Police Story: Lockdown”), Corey Hawkins (“Straight Outta Compton”), Jason Mitchell (“Straight Outta Compton”), John Ortiz (“Steve Jobs”), Thomas Mann (“Beautiful Creatures”), Shea Whigham (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), Toby Kebbell (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) and Eugene Cordero (“The Kings of Summer”).

Vogt-Roberts is directing the film from a screenplay by Max Borenstein, John Gatins, Dan Gilroy and Derek Connolly. “Kong: Skull Island” is produced by Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni with Mary Parent. The executive producers are Eric McLeod and Alex Garcia.

Kong: Skull Island opens in theaters March 10th.

The post ‘Kong: Skull Island’ TV Spots: Samuel L. Jackson is All the Cavalry You Need appeared first on /Film.

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‘Kong: Skull Island’ TV Spots: Samuel L. Jackson is All the Cavalry You Need

Interview (Part 2): Spencer Harvey and Lloyd Harvey (2016 Nicholl Winners)

My conversation with the brother and sister writing duo from Australia.

Spencer and Lloyd Harvey wrote the original screenplay “Photo Booth” which won a 2016 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. Recently I had the opportunity to chat with the pair about their background as writers and filmmaker, and their award-winning screenplay.

Lloyd and Spencer Harvey receiving their Nicholl Award from screenwriter Misan Sagay

Today in Part 2, Spencer and Lloyd reveal what their inspiration was for their script “Photo Booth”, and we dive into some of the script’s key characters:

Scott: At the Nicholl ceremony, I saw the video of your presentation there when you spoke. You talked about the scripting process being like a tree or a plant growing, and used that as a metaphor to thank various people that have been participating and supporting you as you’ve grown in your career.

You started with this idea of a story idea as a seed, and how your parents taught you that, “Ideas are worth planting.” I thought that was such a wonderful image, taking that initial seed of the story concept, then tending to it, and digging into the soil of your imagination, and all that. I take it that from just that idea, your parents have been supportive of your creative endeavors.

Spencer: Very much so.

Lloyd: They definitely have, and I think that being champions for the arts themselves, as gallerists, they see how hard artists work and the value in what they do. They had nothing but love and support for us when we chose to venture down this path.

Spencer: Our mother is also a musician and singer/songwriter, so she has always followed her passion.

In fact, when I was doing my law degree, I kept complaining that it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing, that “I want to be a writer. I want to be a writer.” My mum is the voice I remember saying, “Well, drop out of Uni. Get a bar job and just write.” I was the one saying, “No, I should finish what I’ve started.” I’ve always thought it was an interesting role reversal.

Scott: Sounds like you’ve got a great familial dynamic. Let’s use that as a segue to get into your script “Photo Booth” because the parents in that story don’t seem to be cut from the same cloth as your parents. There’s a lot of problematic parent‑child relationships and it’s a very deep dive into the theme of being a mother, motherhood. Plot summary ‑‑ this is from The Nicholl ‑‑ for the script “Photo Booth”:

“A successful performance artist decides to adopt the unborn baby from her husband’s one night stand.”

This script is a complex, tightly‑woven drama, with multiple relationships and subplots, characters struggling to find their way in this morally gray story universe. Let me start with a quote from Spencer from an article I found.

Spencer said about this process, “The important part for us was not to judge the choices of our characters, but to allow them to live honestly and fully in the world of the story.” Could you unpack that a bit more, in relation to the process and the approach you took in writing “Photo Booth”?

Spencer: Absolutely. It’s interesting. As soon as you start to give a character life, you have to give them flaws, or you allow them to have flaws rather — and you’ve got to let those flaws be a part of the way in which they communicate and the way in which they see the world.

I think a lot of early mistakes any writer can make with their character is to try and protect them from their flaws and make them insufferably lovable and therefore inherently dishonest or unrelateable.

In “Photo Booth” it was important for us to allow our characters to be seen fully and to allow those flaws to be a part of what enriched them and made them human. Made them like us.

And particularly, when telling a story about motherhood, we felt we had to add to — not just continue the same conversation. There are incredible stories of motherhood, where the mother is a Madonna like figure, where the mother is sanctified, the mother is all‑knowing, the mother is all‑capable, and is always doing the right thing for the right reasons.

But that’s not what we always see in the world. We wanted to be really, really honest about how, sometimes, motherhood can be a compromise; can be greedy; can be tainted; can be…

Lloyd: Messy.

Spencer: …Can be messy. That was definitely a big part of our character’s journey.

Scott: Interesting you use that phrase, “allow the characters to be seen,” because that’s literally in the scene description, a couple of times in the script as I recall. This person could finally see this other person. It’s almost like masks sort of fall away.

Spencer: You know that moment in a film where a character gets that look in their eye — when they’re finally seeing themselves, or someone in front of them.

You can’t really describe it, other than to say that they’re finally seeing ‘something’, and here the word “seeing” takes on the meaning of insightful rather than just plain sight. It’s that moment the actor brings, when they gloss over in their eye…

Lloyd: …and the veil falls.

Scott: Let’s talk about the characters. I’d like to go through the key ones and get your impressions of them. The central character in the story is Jean. She’s the successful performance artist. Could you give us a thumbnail sketch of who she is and talk about some of these flaws and issues that she’s confronting in the story?

Lloyd: Jean is a powerhouse, above everything else. She knows what she wants. She’s a strong, visceral artist. Where people find her a little tough is that she’s also quite unwavering, but we always feel that she is very fair. At the core of her being, she’s a fair player in her game, in her story.

Being a strong, successful woman who chose or didn’t have the opportunity to have children at a time when most women seem to, or are told that they should have children…well it is hard for a lot of people to understand or even find that likable. Which is funny to us, it’s a cultural hurdle we still haven’t jumped over and we really need to examine why. We love Jean and we admire her. We think that same sentiment should be given to women who own their choices across the board.

Scott: Yeah, that’s one of the things that’s very obvious in reading the script. Jean’s character does some rather, even cruel things, says some things from time to time, that you weren’t hung up on this whole “screenwriting guru,” thing, or conventional wisdom, that you need to have a sympathetic protagonist.

“No, we’re going with this idea of this deeply flawed woman who is a powerhouse,” as you say, and has got, obviously, a lot of good qualities to her. Let’s get into the issue of her mother, Eileen. Jean has got this backstory where her mother, Eileen, was an alcoholic, to the point that Jean actually went to live with her grandmother.

Could you, maybe, talk about Eileen’s character? She is not in the story until later on. I don’t know if it’s OK to say that she re‑enters the story at some point. What do you think the impact, the key elements, dynamics that arose from this, I guess you’d say dysfunctional relationship with her mother?

Spencer: Eileen is also a mother in our exploration of motherhood. She’s another perspective on that. For us, her flaws have birthed a lot of Jean’s flaws, which is often the case in parenting. We are a bi-product of where we come from, intentionally or not.

Eileen, again, intentionally or otherwise, and I say that because I don’t think mothers ever go out intentionally to cause harm to their offspring, but I think in raising children, we can not protect them from ourselves. Through our cracks and flaws, I guess, if you think of it in a ceramic sense, [laughs] we bake them in. She’s definitely the key character to Jean’s story in that respect.

Lloyd: In her art as well.

Spencer: And in her art, yes. She inspires her

Interview (Part 2): Spencer Harvey and Lloyd Harvey (2016 Nicholl Winners)

Overwatch Year of the Rooster Event Trailer Debuts

Overwatch Year of the Rooster Event Trailer Debuts

Overwatch Year of the Rooster event trailer debuts

Overwatch‘s Lunar New Year celebrations have officially begun and for the next three weeks players will have the chance to collect over 100 themed cosmetic items, enjoy a firefight beneath some fireworks on Lijiang Tower, and work together to capture the flag in Overwatch‘s newest brawl mode! Check out the trailer for Overwatch Year of the Rooster below!

Starting today, all in-game Loot Boxes have been replaced with special Lunar Loot Boxes—and they’re packed with one heck of a (primal) punch, including new skins like Palanquin D.Va and Wukong Winston.

As with previous events, Lunar Loot Boxes can be earned or purchased, and each will contain at least one item from our Year of the Rooster collection—including profile icons, sprays, victory poses, emotes, highlight intros, skins, and more. While the contents of each seasonal Loot Box are random, you can unlock a variety of these customization options in the Hero Gallery throughout the event’s duration. Once you’ve unlocked an item, it will be yours forever, which means you can celebrate the Year of the Rooster all year-round. The collection will return to the vault on February 13, however, so be sure to fire up your favorite gaming machine and see what good fortune might await before it’s too late!

A new brawl has also been released with the event with Capture the Rooster, Overwatch‘s take on Capture the Flag! In Capture the Rooster, teams will face off on Lijiang Tower, attempting to secure the enemy flag while the opposing team does the same. In this fast-paced brawl, players will need to get creative with their team compositions as they attempt construct a lineup that’s simultaneously built for offensive speed and defensive stability.

Blizzard‘s Overwatch Year of the Rooster is live right now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

The post Overwatch Year of the Rooster Event Trailer Debuts appeared first on ComingSoon.net.


Overwatch Year of the Rooster Event Trailer Debuts

Download 7 of the 10 Screenplays Nominated for the 2017 Oscars Right Now

Here’s your chance to download and read these Oscar-nominated scripts for free.

Here at NFS, we’ve posted links to many of the screenplays vying for awards attention. We’ve collected links below for the available screenplays now nominated for the 89th Academy Awards for you to download free and read to help you with your screenwriting endeavors.

And the nominated screenplays available for free download are:

Read More

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Download 7 of the 10 Screenplays Nominated for the 2017 Oscars Right Now

‘This Is Us’ is filming in Memphis, TN this week and they’re looking for extras

NBC’s hit series This Is Us, which primarily films in Los Angeles, will be spending a couple of days shooting in Memphis, TN this week and you can be a part of it. Casting directors for the series announced last week that they are looking for extras for the Memphis-filmed scenes. Here are the specifics: TRAIN PASSENGERS: male and female, all ethnicities (although primarily African American), age range 18-80, variety of types, thin to medium/average build – shouldn’t be anyone too tall or overweight because this takes place in 1976 and period costumes will be provided, no trendy or modern haircuts or facial hair. Filming will take place on Thursday, Jan. 26 and/or Friday, Jan. 27. To apply, email onlocationcasting1@gmail.com using the subject line MEMPHIS TRAINSTATION. You must include your first name, last name, a valid contact number, height, weight, and a recent photo taken in the past month. During the recent Television Critics Association, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman told journalists that this week’s show will be a “big episode” for the family drama. He also debuted a clip from the episode that showed Kate (Chrissy Metz) going through an immersive weight loss therapy program that caused her..

The post ‘This Is Us’ is filming in Memphis, TN this week and they’re looking for extras appeared first on On Location Vacations.

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On Location Vacations

‘This Is Us’ is filming in Memphis, TN this week and they’re looking for extras

Shia LaBeouf is still hanging out at his He Will Not Divide Us art installation

In response to President Trump’s inauguration, Shia LaBeouf set up a new art installation outside the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, NY. He Will Not Divide Us is streaming continuously from a camera set up outside Museum of the Moving Image. For the duration of Trump’s presidency (yes, all four, or possibly eight, years), the camera will remain on and the public is welcome to deliver the words “he will not divide us” into the camera that is live streaming at HeWillNotDivide.Us. According to the website,”In this way, the mantra “HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US” acts as a show of resistance or insistence, opposition or optimism, guided by the spirit of each individual participant and the community.” For Shia LaBeouf fans, it also means a chance to see the actor who has been seen on the camera many times. The last time we checked it a couple of hours ago we still spotted him, in the forefront repeating the mantra he created. Jaden Smith has also been spotted in front of the camera (and can be seen in the image Shia Tweeted above). Shia’s also made headlines for an incident that was captured by the camera this afternoon…

The post Shia LaBeouf is still hanging out at his He Will Not Divide Us art installation appeared first on On Location Vacations.

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On Location Vacations

Shia LaBeouf is still hanging out at his He Will Not Divide Us art installation

Story Summaries: From Loglines to Beat Sheets

Learn six different types and how to use them to develop your stories.

From elevator pitches to development meetings to conference calls with talent, a screenwriter’s ability to share stories in a variety of narrative forms is both a valuable and necessary skill-set. In the upcoming 1-week Screenwriting Master Class online course Story Summaries: From Loglines to Beat Sheets [starts January 30], you will learn six different story summaries that are critical assets for any screenwriter.

A screenwriter not only needs to know how to write a script, we also have to be able to convey our stories in multiple other ways. Beyond that, every time we shape a story in a different way, we learn something about it. As such, summaries can be helpful tools in developing, understanding, and crafting our scripts.

“God damn it! They need ANOTHER treatment!”

This 1-week online course that I will be teaching covers multiple story summaries: Logline, Synopsis, Breakdown, Treatment, Scriptment, and Beat Sheet.

Learn the ins and outs of six different story summaries including using them to help you craft your stories.

Plus you will have the opportunity to craft a logline of your own story with an optional workshop exercise.

The course consists of:

Seven lectures written by Scott Myers

Daily forum Q&As

Optional workshop writing exercises with instructor and class feedback.

A live teleconference between instructor and class members.

In the past, the response from participants in this course has been extremely positive. Here are some testimonials:

The prepared lectures alone are worth the price of this class. But, the added bonus of discussing the lectures as well as being able to workshop my loglines with Scott and my classmates was a fantastic learning experience that really helped me develop my ability to whittle an idea down to one intriguing sentence. If your manager, agent, guru, mother, or favorite reader asks you for a synopsis, treatment, beat sheet, or logline and you have no idea what any of those are, then this class is for you. — Calvin Starnes

Just wanted to thank everyone in this class especially Scott for a most valuable week of learning. I found this type of interactive environment has been far more helpful for me than reading books has been. The group collaboration has been excellent and I have really enjoyed and valued everybody’s contributions. I’ve personally found this course has really helped me zone in on the crucial aspects of each respective type of story summary. This in turn has given me much more confidence in taking the next steps into creating the first draft and I would like to thank you all for that. — Steve Broughton

That’s the “secret sauce” in all the SMC classes you and Tom teach. It’s not a “here’s what to think” listing of so called “rules of writing.” Instead, the emphasis is always on HOW to think like a professional, about story, character and the business side of the craft. — John Arends

“Logline, Synopsis, Breakdown, take your pick ‘coz me and my gal NAILED this story!”

If you haven’t tried an online course before, this is a great and simple way to do it. You can download lectures any time and read them at your leisure. Peruse forum comments from your fellow classmates and respond whenever you want. The teleconference is on Skype and recorded so you can have access to it for transcription purposes. It’s amazing how convenient and effective online learning is.

So why don’t you join me for Story Summaries: From Loglines to Beat Sheets? You can find out more about this 1-week online screenwriting class here.

I hope you can join me starting next Monday for this important and informative class!

Check out the schedule for my other Craft classes in 2017 including two new ones!

January 30 — Craft: Story Summaries — From Loglines to Beat Sheets
Read More

February 13 — Craft: Handling Exposition
Read More

February 27 — Craft: Scene Description Spotlight — Express Your Voice
Read More

March 13 — Craft: Character Development Keys
Read More

March 27 — Craft: Create a Compelling Protagonist
Read More

April 10 — Craft: Write a Worthy Nemesis
Read More

April 24 — Craft: Scene-Writing Workshop
Details TBA

May 8 — Craft: Dialogue-Writing Workshop
Details TBA

May 22 — Craft: The Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling
Read More

“Cut this line here, put it there. Think I’ll call it a ‘scriptment’”.

You can double down on your learning curve by enrolling in the Craft Package which gives you exclusive access to all of the content provided in each of the Craft classes. And in 2017, it’s an even better deal because I am including in the Package two new courses I will introduce in the spring: Scene-Writing Workshop and Dialogue-Writing Workshop.

That means you get not 8, but 10 Craft classes at a savings of nearly 60% off the regular rate.

How to put learning the craft into overdrive in 2017? Consider the Craft curriculum at Screenwriting Master Class.

And consider taking advantage of the Craft Package special offer: Immediate access to all of the Craft class content. Automatic enrollment in all ten Craft classes. All at a nearly 60% discount.

As always, I look forward to the opportunity to work with you.


To learn more about Screenwriting Master Class, go here.

I’m offering — for the first time — the opportunity to mix and match any of my Craft classes for a special sale price. Pick any two or more of them and only pay $ 60 per course. Just email me with whatever of my Craft classes you want to take and we’ll take care of it for you!


Story Summaries: From Loglines to Beat Sheets was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Story Summaries: From Loglines to Beat Sheets

Monday, January 23, 2017

Trekkies can now wake up their Amazon Echo by saying ‘computer’



Amazon just quietly updated one of the most important parts of the Echo in a move that is sure to delight Star Trek fans everywhere.

The company added “computer” to the list of supported wake words for its Echo devices — no doubt a reference to the powerful voice-activated computer onboard the Starship Enterprise.

It looks like Amazon has been rolling out the update slowly over the last few days, though the company hasn’t said much about it beyond an update to its support page, which details how to change it via the Alexa app. Read more…

More about Star Trek, Amazon Echo, Amazon, Apps And Software, and Tech

Trekkies can now wake up their Amazon Echo by saying ‘computer’

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