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Inspiration and the Will To Work

Happy February, Stage 32! By now, I think most of the readers on this site know me pretty well! For those who don’t, I’m a screenwriter, a playwright, a director, a producer, a script doctor of growing repute, a game designer, a novelist, and in all respects a worldbuilder and storyteller. By now, I’ve worked as an executive for more than a decade and I’ve written more than 40 feature film scripts.  My personal backstory is a bizarre and twisted odyssey of l…

Paying Rent With the Power of Screenwriting

Happy New Year, Stage 32! Each in our own way, I suspect this new year brings us all our share of hard-won conclusions, new beginnings, and fresh perspectives. To invite you into my own New Year’s celebrations, I’m going to reveal some personal details: NEVER A DULL MOMENT Back in 2013, as many of you will recall, I was struck in the head with a sword on the set of a sci-fi webseries. My crippling brain injury lasted the better part of a decade. In many ways, it changed the…

How To Build a Universe From Scratch

Because I’ve been knee deep in projects of my own and tied up with more script doctor work than I’ve even had the chance to reflect on, it’s been longer than usual since my last blog for Stage 32… so before I start telling everybody how to do their jobs, let me say this: I hope you’re keeping yourself healthy. I hope you’re keeping yourself sane. No matter what happens with our nation’s politics, I want you to know that your stories matter. Tel…

David Lynch and the Two Hollywoods

How does a person succeed in Hollywood? Many of us, if not most of us, are on this site because we’re looking for some generally agreed upon, at least somewhat proven strategy for navigating our bewildering, often dehumanizing career path. Doing theater back in high school and college, breaking in was a pretty reliable, pretty straightforward process with a single, very frustrating twist thrown in: Trying to get involved in the productions upper-classmen are working on seems like …

How To Hack the Audition Process

Probably the most nervewracking assumption actors make when going into the audition process is that the people they will meet “on the other side of the table” somehow know everything about how the industry works and what it takes to succeed. Certainly, they must know more than you! After all, you’re the one who’s asking them for work! Let’s stop thinking of power, authority, and experience as all being the same thing. Consider, instead, that how much a pers…

Where Iconic Film Scores Come From

First of all, they don’t come from other people’s movies! IN THE BEGINNING Let’s start at the top. Back when most of the really enduring film scores were written, directors were expected to have cross-training in a wide range of entertainment disciplines. Moreover, composers were expected to be masters of music theory. Today, the tight focus of a film school education on the tools we need to get working has eroded the vocabulary and habits that come with a classical p…

Let's Talk about Auteur Theory

What is Auteur Theory? Technically, it’s just the idea that a director’s vision is more important to the creative identity of a film than the script. When it comes to the culture of cinema, however, auteurism has evolved into the philosophy that directors with a creative vision powerful and clear enough to define every other element of production will likely make better movies, and are generally more worthy of success and acclaim. Branding is everything in the business of bre…

How To Write Strong, Diverse Characters

Until my brain injury in 2013, I lived my life as a cis-gendered white male. Apart from my experience with disability, which I admit was eye-opening, I’m about as diversity-challenged as a human being can get. I went to boarding school, for crying out loud. Nevertheless, my approach to writing characters has earned me a reputation as someone who provides fantastic performance opportunities to underrepresented people. Mastering these techniques has taken me more than a decade of pr…

How To Find Money for Movies: Financing

Welcome back, rear reader! What you are reading is the second half of a two-part series on how to find money for movies. Even if you don’t have any interest in crowdfunding, I recommend reading the first half of “How to Find Money for Movies: Fundraising” before you proceed. Not only did we clear up some widely misunderstood terms when it comes to money, but we also talked about...DISCLAIMER: Under no circumstances should you take my advice when it comes to money. Why a…

How To Find Money for Movies: Fundraising

Ok, Stage 32! What you are about to read is a two-part article that’s been more than fifteen years in the making. For a little context, my arrival in Los Angeles landed me behind a telephone at the Exodus Film Group... where I pitched would-be investors on family entertainment for two long years. Probably the best part of working at Exodus, apart from the mentorship I received, was spending time with Basil Poledouris - who wrote the film score for RoboCop and many other personally …

How to Discuss Other People’s Work

Despite our industry’s accountability for swathing Donald Trump in the vestments of television celebrity, despite the recent commencement of Harvey Weinstein’s necessary and historic criminal court proceedings... the biggest news coming out of Hollywood today has involved a handful of celebrated filmmakers and their very public commentary on the value of comic book movies, the social ethics of their contemporaries, and the overall state of cinematic craft. To be absolutely cl…

How to Get Legendary Performances from Actors

Most people in Hollywood have no idea what actors actually do. Modern Hollywood sees the ideal actor for any given role as the person who most closely resembles that character’s “look,” and who projects a demeanor that most accurately parrots whatever performance the director and the producers might be imagining. In advertising, these are fundamentally essential performance techniques because portraying a product or service in a clear, specific tone is how you get peopl…

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