Screenwriting : Doesn't anyone have a CRAFT question? by Danny Manus

Danny Manus

Doesn't anyone have a CRAFT question?

What's amazing I've found looking through the Lounges, especially in Screenwriting Lounge, is that almost NO ONE has a question about CRAFT. It's all about selling, how to get an agent, how to get funding and financing, how to get distribution, contests to enter, online pitchfests, how to get discovered, and of course pitches of your projects, Loglines and videos trying to get noticed. Yet not ONE thread seems to be about getting BETTER at screenwriting. Maybe this is why only 2% of projects are worth recommending...

Michael Hager

Okay Danny: the ideal screenplay, 3 acts, 4 acts or 5? (Discuss)

Ashley Scott Meyers

Danny - I'll just play devil's advocate here for a moment. As someone who gives out advice on selling a screenplay, and not a lot on craft, I feel like I'm actually in the minority. Could it be that people are asking these questions (how to get an agent? how to sell a script?) because the craft side of things is so well covered? Look at all the screenwriting books and websites, nearly all of them are devoted to craft, but very little on the marketing / business side of screenwriting. Read something like Save the Cat and he literally spends less than one page on actually telling folks what to do with their screenplay once it's written. When I started SYS, that was my thinking anyway. I felt like there was a void and I was trying to fill that void by offering real, nuts and bolts, practical information about how to sell a screenplay.

D Marcus

And the "craft" of writing is so subjective. five different writers will have five different opinion on craft. It's difficult to get "better" at screenwriting by asking questions about the craft of screenwriting. Most people get better at screenwriting by writing. All the time.

Danny Manus

Well, I get that people THINK they have the craft covered. But the reason there's so much shit out there is because 90% of those people are wrong. When asking pros how many of the scripts they read are strong enough, the answer is consistently between 1-3%, which means most writers aren't learning the craft enough. They just THINK they are because they read Save the Cat and a couple other books and POOF - craft mastered. It takes YEARS and YEARS and MANY scripts to master a craft. If it can ever truly be "mastered" - I'm not sure I like that term, but whatever.. But since VERY few people on here have produced movie credits as a screenwriter, id say the answer isn't because they couldn't get read - the answer is when they got read, it wasn't good enough. I teach selling and pitching and queries and loglines and all that good stuff too, but at the end of the day it's all about the script. There are a dozen ways to break in and get read - if the script and concept are strong enough. The "craft" might be somewhat subjective in terms of what people's pet peeves are or slight formatting things, but when it's great, it's obvious. And when it sucks, it's even more obvious. And everyone in the middle ...needs to work on craft AND concept still. It's when the two match perfectly that you will sell something.

Danny Manus

Emily, you are a young student just starting out. You're not at a place where professionals should be reading your stuff yet. Keep writing, keep reading, keep watching movies and shorts, and keep working on your story and voice. Join a local writers group or young writers group. Don't be upset that people won't read your stuff- it takes YEARS to get read by the right people. And you need to be ready first.

Kevin Fukunaga

Maybe everyone has already "Saved the Cat", Danny. ;)

Danny Manus

14? Emily, you've got another 6 years before you should be asking professionals to read your stuff. I'm not even sure you should be on this site. That being said, I hope you keep writing, read everything, watch movies and great TV, write a little bit every day, and just keep learning.

D Marcus

Danny, what do you mean by "craft"?

Cherie Grant

I go to a monthly writer's group so I get my craft answers from there. That said I do have a craft question and i'll ask it in a separate thread.

Cherie Grant

That said I have noticed this too, Danny, and I do think many writers just don't know what they don't know.

CJ Walley

As D Marcus hints at, I feel craft questions on writers' forums tend to get volatile very quickly. And the answers are often highly subjective and self serving, the most dominating contributors brow-beating others into accepting their natural way is the only way. Plus there tends to be lots of use of the words amateur and unprofessional, along with finger pointing, pea-cocking and chest puffing. Then the R.U.L.E.S start getting banded about, often in a monologue fashion with zero regard for what's already been discussed, some of them pretty ridiculous. All this along with various straw-man arguments being fought as some take everything emotionally and start trying to throw poo at others. Then someone says we see, everyone gets under their desks, and we all hold on for dear life as the thread goes into critical mass. But the thing is, Danny. I do see your point. I would love to see more on craft, I would savour some healthy dialogue on anything related to the topic. You make a very fair observation that we seem to assume we have the skills, throw our attempts at the wall of Hollywood and cite ignorance and nepotism when nothing sticks. We rarely seem to establish a healthy long term plan to practice, develop, source feedback, and find mentors. Or we contrast that with a defeatist attitude that we can never dare think we can be good enough. I fear too many of us have had our fingers burnt. Those who've written a few scripts, clung on a few years, and explored the advice on offer have witnessed too many strong contrasting opinions, been miss-informed by pseudo-experts or had any confidence stripped by writers who knock others down to build themselves up. That said, Danny, I'm not trying to sink your call to action with pessimism here. What I'm saying is I feel what's needed in a very different approach to how topics covering craft are conducted. And no, for all my down dressing I have no solution. But, if you want to open up some dialogue, or even share a monologue, I am all ears.

Diane Hanks

I'm new to the site so haven't seen what happens when craft questions are posed. That being said, I've seen heated discussions about craft ensue in screenwriting groups. That being said, writers should discuss their craft as much, if not more than they discuss how to sell scripts. So I'll throw a queston out there and let's see what happens. We seem to be in an anti-hero era, so sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference, but should a writer spend as much time developing the antagonist as the protagonist? For example, should the backstory (even it it's only in your head) be as rich for your villian as it is for your hero? In my opinion, absolutely.

Bill Hartin

Danny & Diane - You both raise pertinent issues regarding the craft of screenwriting. My experience is that, as Diane noted, craft discussions seem to end up being pitched debates over minute aspects of screenwriting perspectives, rather than enlightening possibilities. For instance, on Shooting People, one member blamed Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT for all of filmdom's mediocre films, and the thread is still running, even though that horse has long since been beaten beyond recognition. That said (oh, I feel so much better now), your protagonist/antagonist question hits home because I kept wondering why my antagonist wasn't coming across in my screenplay as believably evil as saw him. The answer was I didn't know him well enough to craft his evilness in a unique and compelling way - he came across as just another Bad Guy. Now that I'm getting more acquainted with him, he's really starting to scare the hell out of me, and that makes me feel good. Thanks for the nudge. Let's hope we can do more of this, like maybe, how do you make dialogue fresh, unique and intriguing while still moving the story forward and making the dialogue believable - not a collection of cheesy cliches?

Fay Devlin

I believe it was Syd Field who said that screenwriting is craft and art (apologies if I misrepped the actual source). We can all learn the craft of storytelling and screenwriting, and therefore all discourse should be welcome -- even the rancorous. When it gets heated, we can tone it down by choice, or ignore it. Art, however, can be nurtured and learned, but only the truly artistic will excel -- them and the truly devoted. Perhaps the reason so many scripts fail to impress the buyers is that we writers fail to understand that we must excel at both the craft and art?

Diane Hanks

I've had the same thing happen, Bill. You really do have to figure out what motivates your antagonist, and give as much thought to what's behind the evil as to what's behind the good. Makes for a much more intriguing story if both are equally complex.

Demiurgic Endeavors

@ CJ Walley if I could up-vote you twice I would.

Demiurgic Endeavors

@ Alle I'm reading the grammar and syntax errors in your post. It's very magnanimous of you to respect a writers limitations. I'm sure you've cultivated many fruitful endeavors with the writers you mentor.

Diane Hanks

"Good" villians seem even more important nowadays. Look at how many we love to hate on television alone: Raymond Reddington, Jamie Lannister, and the gone but not forgotten Walter White, to name a few. Well-written villians combined with amazing performances. And you're right, Lyse -- it's both fun and frightening to write the darker characters.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Danny: This is a great topic you've started. Apart from "the craft", which can be taught or learned, what about people that just don't have any innate ability to tell a story? I've read scores of scripts where people know how to do everything but craft a compelling story. With some recent success in getting material optioned and people looking at my material, I find that compelling loglines and a very concise synopsis are as important as writing a good script. I've been able to help the people pitching my work by making sure I have done a good job summarizing my story in one or two pages.

Michael L. Burris

From a researchers background and mind craft = innumerable possibilities and should remain so with not only variation for error but success. Perhaps those you are seeking are the one's with questions of fundamentals which can in fact be taught. When we reach the point of craft that is when individual artistry comes into play and individual affect causes effect or product. Their is no science in artistry or teaching involved with the craft in my opinion, but fundamentals sure and all starting out need this advice and help.

David S Cuellar

Your name sounds familiar. Have you been associated with the GAP? I went in 2012 and will be going again this year. I know the art of the craft can be for everyone. I took a screenwriting course at UCLA, a seminar with David Morrell, read a few books on screenwriting and most of them talk about a certain Hollywood format. I use Final Draft and still once in a while get a response, "It is not formatted correctly." It is format that subjective? I was hoping if the producer or director liked the script, it more than likely will be reworked a few times before the final product anyway and end up in what ever format they want. What do you think? Dave

CJ Walley

In addition to craft, I'd also like to see more dialogue on working practice, productivity, and maintaining a healthy mindset.

Cherie Grant

I second that, CJ. These are things I am and have to work on.

Laurie Ashbourne

@Emily -- keep writing, don't pay attention to anyone trying to persuade you to do otherwise.

Rebecca Schauer

I agree, Emily. Never too early to perfect your craft and learn the ins and outs of the business… I wish I had started earlier! As a teacher it's always exciting to see someone your age who is already so passionate and motivated!

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Alle: Thank you. Coming from you I take that as high praise :)

Mark Sanderson

Many believe just because they're written ONE script they are a "screenwriter." Danny is correct. The "craft" is a lifetime pursuit and if you believe Hemingway, "We're all apprentices in a craft where no one is ever a master," you'll be humbled as you pursue your screenwriting journey. If you are not humble, Hollywood will humble you in a very short time. When you've banged your head against a wall for years, writing scripts that may not sell and wondering what's wrong—it's a rough business. The odds are stacked against you, but that's okay. It will take you years to even figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Time people—the mastery takes time and you have to be patient. Danny is right, most aspirants are not even ready to have an agent read their work. They believe they've written two specs and bam—time for an agent and selling the projects for a million dollars. It's a fantasy. The reality in the trenches is much different. Take it from me, I'm a working screenwriter and it's been the highest of highs living out my dreams, but also the darkest of lows as times too, scraping the bottom and wondering if one will ever more forward. You stay in the game by writing a solid body of work that will attract notice and show that you are a professional. Follow disciplines, respect the craft of screenwriting and tackle your career as a business—YOU, INC. If you are not doing the level of work necessary to get a shot at success then you're wasting your time. It's not easy. I just completed my 27th feature length screenplay and it was my 12th paid assignment gig. It does get easier because like a pro athlete, you know your abilities and can work under pressure, under a contracted deadline and getting paid. Once you get paid, it's an entirely different experience with all of the pressures and responsibilities a job requires. You no longer have the luxury of "taking a day or two days off" as you search for your muse while writing your spec. Anyone who says they have format, story, character wired after reading a few books is mistaken. "Form does not mean “formula.” There is no screenplay-writing recipe that guarantees your cake will rise." —Robert McKee. Just because you write a script, Hollywood doesn't owe you a read, a career, or a promise to produce your film. WHY are you screenwriting? Do you have what it takes to weather the storms, face rejection, failure, feedback, rewrites, being a team player? It's all part of the deal. Ask the hard questions. Are you in this for fame and fortune? There is rarely fortune and as for fame? Who besides screenwriters remembers the screenwriting credits of the greatest films of the last four decades? Soldier on brave screenwriters. Regardless of experience or success, we're all equals when we sit in front of that blank page.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Danny, as you know, one's "craft" can be such a subjective, selective and personal matter. Perhaps it is easier for some writers to discuss their writing specifics more privately rather than openly on a public format. Plus, as stated earlier on this thread, personal craft discussions tend to get heated. Brow-beating isn't helpful to anyone.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Mark: I would read one of your screenplays just based on the eloquence of your very wise comment. Well written, Well done.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Wow, Mark. Well said.

Danny Manus

Wow, I step away for a day or two and 45 comments later.. lol. Thanks everyone for adding to the conversation. To those who thought I was being mean to Emily, I thought I was being the opposite. I was encouraging her whole-heartedly to keep writing and reading and learning- because that's what you do at 14! And im so thrilled she is starting this early - I didnt start writing scripts until i was in college. But You don't try to get the first 15 page short you've ever written to an agent. That's silly. You keep writing. I'm sure she will be a great writer and i'd love to read her stuff - in 4 years. To Diane, yes your antagonists should be just as complex as your hero. They don't have to change in the way a hero changes or learns, but they need to have equally complex motivations. Not likeable motivations, but understandable. Every great villain has had a specific pathology to them and a wonderful backstory. Even Freddy, Jason, Chucky, Mike Meyers, Candyman - they all had amazing backstories that made them more than just "crazy guy with an axe". So yes, you should be examining your antags with as much scrutiny and compassion as your heroes.

Danny Manus

In terms of craft, I think people are confusing craft with structure and formatting. They're not the same. There are lots of debates over structure and beat sheets and whether you can say WE SEE or use camera direction and transitions (you shouldn't), but the CRAFT is about developing your writing, your story, your characters, elevating your project, making sure your stakes and conflict are increasing, making sure your dialogue pops and has rhythm and voice. The craft...is everything. Not just save the cat nonsense. And most of the posts have been right on - writers don't KNOW they aren't nailing the craft. That's part of why I became a consultant.

Laurie Ashbourne

This thread brings to mind something Ed Catmull (president of Pixar and Disney) wrote in his book, CREATIVITY INC., "When filmmakers... or anyone in a creative industry [cut up] and reassemble what has been done before, it gives the illusion of creativity but it is craft without art. Craft is what we are expected to know, art is the unexpected use of our craft." And therein lies the rub of why more lounge topics don't approach this. The art of the craft is subjective and as someone stated, personal, It may be more fruitful to have this convo. in a real lounge with a cocktail of two. I think Stage32 needs to put on a conference. ;)

Doug Nelson

Danny – I’ve come late to this thread, so I’ll return to your original topic. I teach screenwriting and story development and I stick pretty much to the nuts and bolts of the craft side. I suggest that the reason for the lack of craft side questions is two-fold; first, most screenwriters don’t know what they don’t know – so they have no idea what to ask and secondly as to the “how to…” question – there are several books (few very good ones such as Dave Trotter’s ‘The screenwriter’s Bible’). Now if you have a particular craft related question – just post it – you’ll get answers.

Danny Manus

Doug, I agree mostly. I wasn't asking for me though. I teach screenwriting as well, and I'm a script consultant. I was commenting on how so many other writers on here seem to perhaps be asking the wrong questions..

Gordon Olivea

One thing we can do as a community is write about the craftsmanship of current movies. For instance, The Amazing Spiderman 2 had Time a theme. Did it work to make the plot meaningful - sort of. A great example of how a theme drives a plot is Fear in the movie "Jaws". All the action is driven by fear: The fear of sharks, the unknown, island business people losing their summer profits, the out of town sheriff losing his position in the hierarchy, the rough ship captain losing his absolute command, the oceanographer fearing the blue collar put downs, Chief Brody's fear of the water, the mom's fear of losing her son, and on and on. If Time drove the plot in The Amazing Spiderman 2 like Fear did in Jaws then it would have been a much better movie. No one was on the edge of their seat - it was just a bunch of stuff happening. It was cool, but not memorable, not uplifting, not awesome, but merely a passable movie.

Doug Nelson

Danny…Oh, I didn’t realize. Besides being a screenwriting teacher, I’m also a (very) small time producer. I’m generally of the opinion that teaching the craft of screenwriting (the nuts & bolts) to dedicated & enthusiastic learners is not all that complicated – the operative words being dedicated & enthusiastic. It’s true that the plethora of questions I see asked relate to script marketing rather than perfecting scripts for marketing. Generally, the new breed of screenwriters seems to downplay the process of rewriting, honing and polishing that is needed to bring a script into marketable condition. But at least they are asking questions and our obligation as teachers is to explain why they are not ready to ask those particular questions at this time along the learning curve.

Eve Wignall

I was trained at the BBC,after 4 years at college,so 6 years training in all,however,our industry has a lot of problems with very expensive short term training,with diplomas rather than qualifications,meaning we are somewhat flooded with wanabees and insufficient training.how is this situation handled in the States,what do folks do to train there and is there a minimum training standard to be required to be on set?

Eve Wignall

PS,Im a make-up/hair artist

Aaron W. Miller

Danny, As a teacher of theatre, within which I focus a 3 week period of time on screenwriting, I am often stunned by my students' lack of forethought when it comes to the craft. Despite my best efforts, many of my students believe that they can simply email their "script" (I use the term loosely as these students inevitably do not have a strong grasp of formatting) to Sony, Paramount, etc. and they'll be produced. I make considerable efforts to reorient them to the truth, but Hollywood works against me by producing poorly structured/plotted/characterized movies like Frozen, Twilight, etc. To these young writers, those movies are what's being produced so that's what they should write. To that end, how would you address the question of craft when balanced against the craft of what's currently being produced? Do you have any material you'd care to share with this educator so that I might open the eyes of these young screenwriters? What's the truth about hitting the street with your screenplay in hand, or does that even happen anymore? How do you get within that 2%? I'd like to know more about the craft. --Aaron

Adam Pachter

Hey Danny, Jenna Avery and I discussed an interesting craft question in the sci-fi context -- how to handle exposition, which is often needed in genre world-building but can really slow a script down. Here's the link: http://www.scriptmag.com/features/sci-fi-circuit-exploring-problem-expos... Would appreciate your thoughts and those of other Stage 32 members!

CJ Walley

It's not sci-fi, but I noticed a neat exposition trick in the pilot for Chicago Fire. To explain how the fire station is set up in terms of structure they have a scene where a fireman is giving a group of kids a tour.

Laurie Ashbourne

Hey, Adam - I agree completely with your take on VO in the article -- not a big fan of the cards Scriptshadow likes - but disagreeing with him is nothing new for me. One thing for sure IS the need to get across a lot of information -- and perhaps this thread should break off. In any case, I'm surprised she didn't mention LOOPER, a fantastic information download in the set up, while maintaining a crisp character-driven pace.

Adam Pachter

Hey CJ -- the Chicago Fire example sounds like a good way to get around the problem of a character explaining something that they already know to someone else who also knows it -- in this case by giving the explanation to people who don't know it. Laurie, I'm a huge LOOPER fan, but actually though there was a little too much exposition early on -- in the discussion of TKs, for example. But undeniably a great script and a great film.

Ricki Holmes

Read Robert McKee's book?

Doug Nelson

Eve – I wholeheartedly agree with your observation and I’m trying to get a handle on some sort of solution. In professions that require licensing or somehow regulated, it’s not uncommon that some form apprentice/internship is mandatory. Filmmaking doesn’t fall under that regulatory umbrella – so how do we accomplish that training process? We have no minimum training requirement so that anybody who can spell filmmaker can be one. The hard and fast truth is that the marketplace will winnow the crop, but in the meantime we must wade through the chaff. The digital age evolution has spawned this trend and how (or if) the fine art of filmmaking survives (recovers) remains as yet unsettled. Keep the faith & keep on keepin’ on.

Danny Manus

Hey Aaron, great question and point. The truth about hitting the street with your screenplay in hand is it rarely happens anymore. Everything is digital. And if you are going to hit the street, you better have 2 or 3 in hand and they better be REALLY ready. In terms of balancing craft with what's being produced, I think there is a ton of great material - even commercial material - being produced by Hollywood. My suggestion would be focus on the non-franchise commercial, successful projects in each genre. Read scripts that are on the BlackList (the professional Blacklist that comes out in December, not the amateur scripts hosted on their site) for examples of great voice. Read projects with strong hooks AND strong characters that set up amazing worlds and tones - like Prisoners, Buried, Her, Spectacular Now, Mud, the nominated scripts that aren't just period dramas, etc. I don't think Hollywood produced poorly structured projects - they are all structured pretty much the same with few exceptions. Twilight might be cheesy, but there are things you can learn from it too. The only way to get into that top 2% is by practicing, reading, watching, analyzing, brainstorming, and writing. Have your students read a script and write up what they would have changed about it. Then discuss how they could implement that change. If they thought a character was weak or a plot point doesn't work, discuss how to improve it on the page. And then smack them with some reality - upwards of 60,000+ scripts are registered every year and about 500 movies are made. And 400+ of them are made from writers with great agents and proven track records. So, if they want to pound the pavement with their script - great. But it better be one of the top 100 out of 50,000 to get noticed.

Danny Manus

To Adam, love the sci-fi exposition question. Personally, I don't mind feeling talked down to a little when it comes to sci-fi/fantasy because most of them DO make me feel stupid. For me, I'm not a huge fan of title cards unless it's REALLY imperative, but I don't mind Voiceover. Some of the most successful movies of all time used voiceover. It's just about making sure the visuals we are experiencing while it's being said are just as interesting. And that it's not telling us things we can' experience and UNDERSTAND through action and dialogue. For me, when you're creating a world, my suggestion is to take the 3 most important things about the world and set them up in the first scene (or the thing that the audience is going to have to swallow to buy into the premise of this world) and introduce that first. Then let some of the other smaller aspects get introduced visually and succinctly in 1-2 lines throughout the fist 10-15 pages so we're not getting it ALL at once.

CJ Walley

"Twilight might be cheesy, but there are things you can learn from it too." - Danny Indeed. I actually used the Twilight screenplay to help develop my craft, and it's one of the few screenplays I keep on file. It's strong commercial writing, Melissa Rosenberg is a very talented writer we should be looking toward (Nicholl semifinalist, Emmy nominated, head writer on Dexter). The first half of Twilight is a fantastic example of building a character fast by using contrast within short scenes containing minimal dialogue. Her prose also contains nice moments of wit and thematic reference. ISABELLA SWAN. Eyes closed against the sunlight, absorbing its rays. Long, dark hair frames alabaster skin. She's a vulnerable, introverted, imperfect beauty. Edward takes a dish, then slides the second one across the table to Bella as if she had Ebola. She takes her dish, and makes a dark curtain of her hair between them. I am really not the kind of guy interested in 12 rated horror for teenage girls. But I really am the kind of writer interested in screenplays that stem billion dollar returns and multiple sequels.

Adam Pachter

Thanks for the insights (and for getting the conversation started), Danny!

Babz Bitela, President

I agree - it's not a lottery ticket but a story told with pictures that attracts; that lures. Quite the conundrum as the solid reads are rare finds indeed.

D Marcus

"as the solid reads are rare finds indeed." So true. I have covered a lot of scripts. As a reader for agents and prodCo's and as a TV producer. A "solid read" is rarely contingent on all the "rules" new writers faced with, with style choices (camera angles, use of upper case) or even with the beat sheets. A spec script will go through many changes from the day it is covered for the first time until the production days. A solid read is great characters in a compelling story. Simple, right?

Doug Nelson

D – Sure it’s simple; even a Caveman can do it! Now, as for those 40K-50K other scripts floating around and cluttering up the ether – maybe those writers just need another semester at Cave University. Eh?

Danny Manus

Or a great consultant hehe ;-)

Cherie Grant

Good post tess.

Danny Manus

I totally agree with Tess. I have spoken with, worked with or interviewed many working and well known writers and 90% of them say they didn't think they were good til their 10th script. Allan Loeb, John Swetnam, Justin Marks, and so so many more. that's why I posed the question. because everyone seems to say "I wrote my first script, or my second script, now how do I sell it?" well, you don't. you keep working on your craft.

Diane Hanks

Great post, Tess. I've also told my screenwriting students, if you're doing this for fame and money -- think again. As a screenwriter, yours will likely be a long road filled with more valleys than peaks, so continue to write because you need to, not because you think you'll be living in Beverly Hills any time soon. Love of the craft is what keeps you going, and you continue to hone it year after year, script after script.

Frances Macaulay Forde

So much excellent advice contained here, but no-one has talked about the practicality of the production of a script - which is why we write the blue-print, knowing that many hands will shape the final product. Personally, I think a great way to learn how to put your idea on the page clearly for film-makers to read and all be 'on the same page', is to stand in their shoes. To be familiar with their perspective. In my day (yes, I'm old-school) it was 16 mm film. Making short films was not as accessible or as cheap as digital is today. But putting a production together with friends on a zero budget is now possible... even quite easy and fun - anyone can do it! Doing so, can only inform your writing. And actually seeing how your words are transformed to the screen, what works, what doesn't - is a fabulous lesson.

Laurie Ashbourne

Very true, Frances. Every screenwriter should spend time on set. Being on the production side for many years definitely helped me be able to balance the art with the business and it certainly helps to know how what is written evolves so you know what to fight for in your material. But first, it's the art of the craft that will ultimately get a script picked up and that's the first hurdle.

Frances Macaulay Forde

Yes, story is my 'thing'.

Matt Treacy

Very good point, Danny. I'm always finding writers are only interested in finding the quickest shortcut to success. With few exceptions, I can safely assume that none of them will ever have a career of note in this industry. That said, on the issue of craft, I am reasonably content with the wealth of information I have amassed over the years - not the least of which, from your weekly articles and 'No Bullscript' eBook. However, I am a bit perplexed over how to write / format certain scenes that involve a fictional band on stage during concert performances. They are playing their songs (none of which are written - but have a very specific theme). I'm no songwriter (and I don't know anyone who is). I've tried to search out copies of scripts where there are similar scenes, with little or no success. Any suggestions? Thanks, Matt

Mark Sanderson

Yes, I also find aspirants who want the shortest way to success or fame and fortune. There is no fame and rarely fortune in the screenwriting game. It's not glamorous or the romantic ideal where the writer hangs out with the beautiful people and drives back up to the mansion in the hills. A few might get to do this—the rest? Slogging away, clawing away, writing, just like the rest of us. How many scripts will it take? Who knows? It wasn't until six years out of film school and my 5th spec that finally allowed me through the gates with an option, eventual sale and production/global distribution. After that did I "make it?" No, I had to slog all over again and do it again. See one script does not make a career, it's repeatedly being hired to write or selling your screenplays. It may take five scripts just to get up to speed with your writing talent and learn who you are as a screenwriter—your strengths and weaknesses. Only by writing over the long haul do you get to know this vital information. Can you write for eight hours a day, five days a week—the time necessary to finish a script in a month under a deadline? Once you're paid and you have a contract—are you used to being creative under a deadline with the specter of notes and criticisms after having the luxury of working on your spec at your leisure? All important things to consider. Also ask yourself the honest questions NOW—why am I screenwriting and why THIS screenplay/story? Chasing the marketplace? Chasing fame and fortune? Trying to get out of a shitty job? Forget it. You must LOVE the craft, love being up at 2 am banging your head against the wall trying to fix the problems with your script, love being with your characters and story—regardless of the outcome! “All you need to do is write truly and not care about what the fate of it is.”—Ernest Hemingway. Check out my blog post: http://scriptcat.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/how-many-screenplays-will-it-t...

Susan Lipschutz Kaufman

CRAFT? I'm new. What is it? I'll head over there.

Danny Manus

mylene, I don't think that's what stage32 is for. or at least not this thread. Emily, I wish there was an easy answer but it takes years to learn and there are so many elements to master to write a pro level script. but it all starts with story instincts.

William Martell

Danny: Obviously I like this thread, and think there should be more like it here. As someone who has looked at screenwriting from a craft side in the column I wrote for Script Mag for 20 years, it amazes me that many people think "Once I get that 3 act structure thing figured out, I'm good to go!" But they don't think about how to tell their stories visually or how to create character distinctive dialogue or how to create an emotional read. They don't know how to create suspense or dramatic tension... storytelling! The reason why the vast majority of scripts out there are not very good is because the writers fail at the craft level. They tell the story crudely instead of effectively. And they wonder why no one is "giving them a break" in the business! How you tell your story is critical. I have no agent, no manager, and basically no connections. All of my script sales and assignments have come from someone with zero power reading one of my scripts and liking it enough to pass it on to their best connection... and then it climbs the ladder of best connections until someone with some power reads it and calls me. I had some meetings with the producer of the Terminator movies because I gave a script to a friend for some feedback and his garage band musician roommate read the script and then it made the rounds of every unsigned and unknown band in Los Angeles and finally ended up being read by a band manager who had a connection with the Terminator people, and he called me and asked if he could give it to them. Of course! They read it and liked it and met with me and we discussed some projects (but like 97 percent of meetings, nothing happened). When people ask how you break in, the real answer is: Your script opens the doors for you. So you need to have the script that opens doors. That's a script that is an exciting and involving read... things that are focusing talent through craft into something exciting on the page. Question you should be asking yourself: What do I want the audience to feel in this scene or moment, and how is my writing making them feel that?

Lee Davis

I'm with you. Please post a craft question to kick off the discussion.

Ami Brown

Emily, I don't think your age should have anything to do with your writing abilities. You may have much more insight about writing a teenage high school movie than a 60 year old with 40 years of writing experience. So write about what you know. Send your work to competitions, student contests, etc... don't be afraid to let professionals read your work. Listen to their advice and criticism, but if you are passionate about writing, I don't think age has a bearing - if you are good, you are good. :-) This is just my opinion, but telling you to wait at least 2 years, is quite narrow-minded, especially if the person advising you hasn't read any of your work.

Bill Hartin

William - I enjoyed and benefited from your many Script columns, so naturally I tune in when I see you've contributed to a screenwriting or filmmaking thread. Your comments here echo those of a director/producer friend I spoke with over the weekend. And while your words were encouraging on one level, they also made me question, once again, whether my screenplays are crafted well enough to open any doors. Many years ago, as a wide-eyed newbie, I squandered a "connection" with a major studio with my first effort and I still chuckle at what the possible comments might have been if they even got past page three. Since then, I've written a pile of scripts and read even more, noticing improvement and growth along the way, but if we drill down to the core of this thread, I think the central question is: can craft be learned? And if so, how? And if we start answering the How, we'll all benefit.

Lee Davis

Ami. I agree unless you consider Joe, Dougherty, the sixty-year-old writer, director, and executive producer of Pretty Little Liars, which was just renewed for another two and a half years. Not only does this man understand how to attract a teenage audience, he also has the current number one selling lesbian interest title on Amazon.

Ami Brown

Lee- definitely my point, don't discount a writer solely on age, young or old. Base it on their work. :-)

Franz von Toskana

I'm happy mentoring if help is required. I'm at franz@imperialfilmproductions.com

Lee Davis

Hi Franz. Thanks for the offer. I like a great number of British films. After I review the material for your next project "Summer Night, Winter Moon, "I'll contact you if I think you be a good fit for my scripts. Is your fee schedule available online? Lee.

Franz von Toskana

Thanks Lee. Do please contact via franz@imperialfilmproductions.com as it's so much easier. Cheers, Franz

Shawn Speake

Hey, Danny! It's a pleasure to find this post. I'm all about story craft and being a master storyteller. I just posted my latest thriller, KINGSTOWN, and it's query. It's my 6th movie in 6 years. I'm preparing to get coverage next month from Scriptapalooza and The Happy Writers. If you have time to check out a page, you'd be my hero. What are my weak links as an aspiring master storyteller? This invite is open to all. And if there's anything I can do to return the favor. Holler at your boy!

Danny Manus

I'd be happy to help, but if you want my feedback, you could come to me at No BullScript instead of Scriptapalooza or HW for notes...

Cherie Grant

It so isn't if you have software.

William Martell

There are two issues with formatting: where things go and how they go. The first is solved by software or a macro, the second is the tricky one. A good example is that thread on "internals" (a term I've never heard before). You can have two sentences where characters think or feel, and one is perfectly acceptable because an actor can play it and the other is something that should be in a novel rather than a screenplay. The biggest problem most new screenwriters face is thinking visually. Finding ways to demonstrate thoughts and feelings and character and story through the actions of the characters. To tell the story with the pictures so the dialogue is free to be clever (and isn't just a steaming pile of exposition). I have a Blue Book on Visual Storytelling techniques that's over 200 pages, and I'm sure I left something out! Writing a motion picture is often the most difficult thing to learn. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and format is the first step in a screenplay. After that you have a thousand miles of other steps to go!

Franz von Toskana

I'm afraid the software doesn't do everything if you don't know the correct formatting. The software assumes the user knows the basics and there are no instructions on the pack! I've just been sent a script written in FD9 and it's ALL as Action!!! With Characters underlined!!! You need to learn correct formatting (plus other rules) before you can use Final Draft, so you need to know what are Transitions, Scene Headings, Characters, Parentheticals and Dialogue plus rules like when and when not to put Character names in Upper Case. Final Draft doesn't do it for you. As a BAFTA mentor I'm happy to provide tuition if practical. I'm at franz@imperialfilmproductions.comCheers, Franz

Michael L. Burris

To Emily: Formatting is hard as far as the second part goes as William mentioned. I have an example that might help. They may tear my example apart too. but hopefully it will help a bit. Formatting emotion. 1.) John looks on at his daughter still for a moment in shock processing what his daughter had just said to him not sure how he should feel. 2.) John looks on at his daughter not knowing rather to be shocked, in dismay or relieved. 3.) John looks at his daughter shocked at what his daughter just told him staring out into outer space. After processing what she said for a bit he then cocks his head. Finally a slight smile comes across Johns face showing a feeling of relief and contentment. 4.) John looks on at his daughter standing still for a moment pondering what his daughter had just told him staring out into space. His daughter walks away with her back to him with a smile on her face. John cocks his head a bit then a slight smile comes across his face. He goes back to working the register looking over his business now content. Dialogue: John (To Self) Life is good, business is good, and my daughter is a good girl. Business is good, my daughter is a good girl. The fourth is how I wrote is how I finally wrote mine. The first one somewhat tells what he is doing the second what he is feeling but the audience doesn’t know what he is feeling. Then I thought blending them together would be perfect but it is more like a novel as William mentioned. In hindsight pondering may have not even be necessary to put into the action. One of the hardest things for me to do is convey emotional transition. So usually when I’m trying to convey emotional transition I either break it up with the action of another character or dialogue. It probably would not come off to well if an actor just portrayed shocked dismayed then relieved unless it were some kind of exercise in acting class. Again Emily just trying to help and I'm constantly learning too. If someone breaks this apart so be it but it does work this way with an actor run.

William Martell

I would think the stack of screenplays which someone reads before ever attempting to write one would take care of the "where things go" part.

Cherie Grant

It really isn't hard to learn the software therefore formatting. And reading screenplays is so important.

Rick James

Wow, before I started writing I read a lot of screenplays to see how the pro's did it and when I wrote my first one I used a typewriter. Now I'd never do that again, but it was the best way to learn the screenplay format because it was repetitive, by the time you got to page 100 you were a pro at it. I can still format my screenplays just using Microsoft Word, but I have Final Draft and I like the way it breaks down the script and plugs into Movie Magic scheduling & budgeting, shortening my preproduction time.

Jeffrey Gold

Learned all there is to know. j/k The bigger problem is getting the industry to read...even for the folks who know how to write.

Michael L. Burris

Sounds like everybody agrees. Read a crap load of screenplays even if some are a load of crap which some of mine have been, are and will be. I know I got some golden nuggets in my body of work though. Honestly never post your good stuff public. I don't care what anyone says save them for real agencies and preferably registered with the WGA. Research your agents and agencies, that simple. Cold call every agency in WGAW list, the WGAE list and Florida you can't go wrong and it just might surprise you what you find. I'm not against independents just haven't explored it enough yet. Exploring agencies and contacts are a great break from writing on writing days. I am wondering what days and times daily as well as yearly might get you better results though. Perhaps there are just too many factors to predict and you should just cold call em'. Don't be a chicken just be quick about it and courteous. Seriously try it.

William Martell

Crap, I've been doing this professionally for 24 years, now, and I don't know even half of all there is to know.

Jeffrey Gold

That's funny, William. I used to say the same thing. Now, I'm part of the 99%: I know 99% about 1% of the time...and 1% about 99% of the time.

Rick James

I think everyone has written the crappy script at least once in their writing endeavors, I know I have. But you have to pay your dues if you want to be the best at it. So it's ok, we've all been there.

Jeffrey Gold

Danny, here's the kind of craft question I like: Am I able to introduce an Act 2-limited subplot involving a proxy character to substitute for a character limited to Acts 1 and 3? Can the relationship between the protagonist and the proxy be a metaphorical one substituting the real relationship existing between the main character and the missing one without damaging the continuity of the narrative? What other tricks are there to bridge such character chasms? [I know someone is going to chime in here and say the writer should rework or re-choose the story; sorry, that doesn't interrupt this theoretical exercise.] To follow up with your corollary remark: If Tony Kushner gets nine years to shape and reshape Lincoln, why are all new screenwriters only being given one reader's two hours to shape theirs?

Lori Crawford

Matt - Regarding your band on stage question, I totally feel your pain. One of my pilots is about a band. I'm not a songwriter so I was dreading those scenes, but then I just decided to go for it. What I ended up doing was listening to similar bands and picked songs that fit the tempo of the moment. I wrote new lyrics in the same cadence of the original and it worked beautifully. For my purposes, anyway, which were to not slow down the read. Thing is...If I ever sell this pilot, they'll bring in the big guns and have a real musician handle that part. But for now, what I wrote moves the story along and conveys the emotion I wanted in those scenes. I was fortunate enough to have this script read by professional actors. It was amazing. Everybody in the room was singing my lyrics. Crazy! My advice - for what it's worth - is to just make sure those scenes hit the right emotional beats and is super easy to read. You'll be fine. If you're interested in seeing how I handled the format or anything, I'm happy to send you some pages.

Jorge J Prieto

Just keep writing is what I do and enjoy the process and re-write and rewrite then start a new one.

Jeffrey Gold

@Alle: It doesn't just affect new screenwriters, but emerging screenwriters as well. Unfortunately, professional screenwriters are also affected by the oceanic noise level.

William Martell

I don't understand this question: "Tony Kushner gets nine years to shape and reshape Lincoln, why are all new screenwriters only being given one reader's two hours to shape theirs?" First, I don't understand how Kushner's 9 years connect in any way to a new screenwriter, and second I don't understand the 2 hours of a reader's time thing at all. I've had some scripts go out wide to fifty companies, and each company had one reader cover the script and that resulted in 48 meetings in one case (and the others were high 30s). So you're getting 100 hours of reader's time, and after that the screenplay is either sold or you have an assignment or you can send the script out again... no limit on the amount of time readers can spend reading your screenplay. Of course, what you want is less time, because that means someone has made a decision. Kushner was doing an assignment... it wasn't a spec script. He's a Pulitzer Prize winner, and he's known for taking his time writing, so when you hire him you know he's not going to deliver a script in 8 weeks and the contract is adjusted accordingly. How long someone takes to write something has nothing to do with readers' time. But maybe I just don't see the connection and you can explain it to me?

Jeffrey Gold

@William, I don't think that Kushner's decently polished screenplay for Lincoln (let's say one from year 4 or year 5) could get past today's unqualified readers. (I'm talking about the readers at the front lines who just graduated from college; maybe have a degree in writing, maybe don't; maybe went to a prestigious university, maybe didn't.) I don't think so. Not in today's climate. Yes, I know the difference between an assignment and a spec; I am also aware that those on the inside are given far greater leniency to fail than some emergent screenwriter with a spec script. :-) Reader Geoff LaTulippe did a reluctant pass on a Sorkin script; so you can imagine the pressure readers have to pass on anything. Alternately, look at what the studios are churning out—is there room for anything other than comic book characters and action-paction?

William Martell

And notice that he passed on a Sorkin script. I have no idea what an "emerging screenwriter" is, and every time I hear "emerging" anything I wonder what the hell they are emerging from. No one ever said things were going to be fair. Once you've written a script that makes a ton of money for a studio, they tend to think of you as a brand and hire you just because you are you. So, the key is to write a script that makes a ton of money for the studio. And, um, these days those seem to be comic book characters (assignments) and action (often specs). It's whatever the audience buys tickets to. If suddenly tomorrow the audience started lining up to see frilly shirt period romances, Hollywood would start making a bunch of those. The audience decides what films are made. Now, you cam worry about Tony Kushner or you can worry about yourself: which is it gonna be?

Jeffrey Gold

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy to say that only males between the ages of 16 and 35 are going to the movies; if that's all the industry makes, that's all who is going to go see that. Emerging? That's an industry term now. Perhaps it belongs only to the industry around the industry—and not the industry itself.

Jeffrey Gold

I hope you're not lumping me in with new writers...but be sure to let me know how your plans work out. :-) (I think the industry can ignore films too—not just scripts.)

Jeffrey Gold

Congratulations. Are you still casting? I'd like to forward that info to some working actors I know.

Alan Rubinoff

I always have craft questions and regularly post them here. Here is my lasted: I have a scene where my actors are performing in a play. While performing do I change their characters names to reflect the role they are playing, which I believe is what I do or do I continue their dialog under their real name?

Jeffrey Gold

@Eric, I've alerted some actors to your project on Slate. Are the details there (of what you are looking for)?

D Marcus

I'm curious; who (to you) is "A-list"?

Jeffrey Gold

@Dan I agree. It will be very good to know what you are looking for in terms of A-list. Perhaps we can help you find some.

William Martell

A list is not going to be "who to you", it's going to be "who to them". So probably anybody with a score above 90 on the Ulmer List... Someone who can open a movie.

D Marcus

With all due respect, Bill, I am asking who is considered "A-list" to Dan. So "who to you" is accurate for my curiosity in this case.

Rick James

Emily it's true almost all new writer's work is awful, my first three spec scripts I wrote in the 90's were terrible, the cool part was the title, it went down hill from there. But it's ok to be terrible, we've all been there, the thing is to learn and grow with experience and be patient and in time it will come.

Franz von Toskana

Someone asked about what is an A-lister. You just look them up on IMDb and if their star rating is under 1,000 then they are nearly that. Top stars are under 100.

D Marcus

Franz, that "someone" was me. I didn't ask what is an A-lister. I asked Dan what to him is an A-lister. I was curious about Dan's meaning, nothing more. Thanks, Dan.

William Martell

Star ratings on IMDB are meaningless. They only show who gets the most clicks, which has nada to do with who can open a movie.

William Martell

Other craft questions?

Franz von Toskana

Sorry but bankers look at IMDb... It IS what counts, even if you don't like it, when seeking funds.

William Martell

No one cares about IMDB starmeter. Bankers might look at the Ulmer Scale or one of the other business based ranking of stars. Starmeter is just how many people click on that star's IMDB page... and that's fanboy stuff which has been proven again and again to have nothing to do with a film's earnings. But, most likely the producer will take the script and project to one of the companies who have an algorithm similar to the one Relativity uses and take that print out to the bank... along with their presales contracts. PS: Ulmer Score was created by a Hollywood Reporter editor who one year decided to poll film distributors about the box office power of actors, and had each give them a grade of 1 (lowest) to 100. The results were so interesting that he made this an annual feature in the Hollywood Reporter, and it eventually broke off into a published report you could buy from THR, and now I believe it's a web subscription thing. What was interesting about it was that because it was based on box office from countries all over the world as well as the USA, some people who Americans may think of as stars... were not. Other people who Americans may have never heard of... were stars. Sometimes a well known Oscar winner might have a lower rating than someone like Gary Busey (who at one point was a star globally, but just a B movie actor in the USA). Studios in the USA began rethinking casting and often adding people who scored high on the Ulmer Scale to a film with people who they thought were stars but ranked very low on the scale. This lead me to joke about Steven Seagal and Jessica Tandy in HARD TO KILL MISS DAISY. But what happened was that some stars who had been created by PR departments but the public didn't care about suddenly were not being cast as much, while other stars who were the actual reason why some film made money became more popular... even if they were not better actors. And producers began using the Ulmer Scale and some other box office based rankings when casting movies. I've done 3 movies for HBO and they have an internal list of "approved stars" which is based on HBO's viewer numbers for films these stars have been in. It was a crazy list! When Scott Glenn dropped out of CRASH DIVE to do an Eastwood movie, I was in the meeting where we went through the list looking for a replacement. Very high on the list at the time was Michael Dudikoff (who?) and that's who we ended up with. Seems that on HBO all of those Cannon AMERICAN NINJA movies were huge viewer draws, and Dudikoff was above people like Robert Redford on their list! WTF? But when you look at things through the producer's eyes, when it becomes about the number of tickets sold or the number of actual viewers, sometimes a popular actor or famous actor doesn't rank as high as some other actor. PPS: Here's a story about Relativity's algorithm, which is used by most major studios to decide which scripts they make: http://www.esquire.com/features/best-and-brightest-2009/ryan-kavanaugh-1209 There is a company that focuses on indie scripts and projects, but I don't remember their name (even though I've been in the room with one of their guys explaining why some script won't work) and I'm too lazy to spend a couple of hours googling around for them.

James Chalker

Here's a craft question. If a character is quoting something that another character has just said, do you use quotation marks around the quoted dialogue?

Laurie Ashbourne

@James, it's more of a formatting question -- regardless, the answer is no, you don't need the quotes.

James Chalker

Thanks, sorry to intrude upon this thread with my "formatting question." Oops, I used quote marks. Sorry again.

Richard M. Novosak

Nicely put.

Rick James

I like your sense of humor James

Robin Chappell

I"ve finished seven scripts at this time, with another twenty in various stages of completion with another twenty in 'various stages of development.' Yes, I feel I know a fair amount about the craft, but for me the writing is the easiest part. Selling is not. Also, one of my best friends (and my first 'collaborator' on a biopic I wrote based on her life) just went through a weekend intensive on Writing the Screenplay. But when she got back home, she was confused and exhausted from 'learning the craft.' From what I could tell, I received much more (and concise) information in (apologies to Danny) Linda Seger's "How to Make a Good Script Great," than my friend seemed to. And supposedly this teacher has had work sold and produced. Part of the reason I haven't been able to find a buyer for one of my scripts is, most do not fit into "High Concept" loglines (which unless it does these days or is a Pre-Sold from a book/comic) will not draw heat. No matter how good it is. And yes, most scripts are not going to be good. Not everybody is a Storyteller, much less a good storyteller. A script needs: crackling dialogue, excellent pacing, excellent story structure as well as, yes, an excellent story. Those are not a dime a dozen. They take years and even decades to learn how to write. My first script took me fifteen years to write, with the original 'story' becoming backstory. The last one I wrote took me a week and a half for the first draft and another week for the second. Why? Because I had written six other scripts in between (with re-writes, twenty). Time, learning and writing/re-writing and then repeat. That's why the Big Writers make a million+ for their scripts. Most of the 'scripts' submitted to WGA are better as door stops. If you can't spend years writing, find a better paying job.

Frances Macaulay Forde

I've just looked at your IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2443899/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1 @Robin Chappell, which says you're an actor. I am very surprised you don't list any writing credits, as you say you've written so many. Surely through your acting, you must have many contacts who would be interested - perhaps you're not letting them read your scripts? Many writers fear showing their projects in case their ideas are stolen - 'you can only copyright the words, not the idea'. I would encourage you to send your stuff out. There are loads of places on the net, groups you can join locally - get a group of acting friends to do a public reading in the local theatre and invite everyone you can think of. Just get people reading and discussing your work. I wish you and Danny the very best of luck!

William Martell

Hey - the question was: Doesn't anyone have a CRAFT question? It's still a good question and a good thread. Any new questions?

Pierre Langenegger

Two years on and this question is just as valid, nothing's changed. Obviously everyone thinks their script is perfect and ready to sell.

Laurie Ashbourne

I don't think everyone thinks their script is perfect, I think there's no questions on craft because that's not a note that aspiring screenwriters are used to addressing. The get feedback that claims dialogue is on the nose, pacing is off, no emotional investment in character etc. Not realizing that ALL of these things play into a mastery of the craft.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

I though he was talking about the 1996 horror movie. And to answer Danny's Question, I care deeply about "The Craft".

Pierre Langenegger

Gee Laurie, you ever hear of the phrase "tongue in cheek"?

Laurie Ashbourne

Pierre, you won't meet anyone who understands that phrase more than me. The reality of the question however is in my answer. You can't ask about craft, if you don't understand what it is.

Cherie Grant

I don't ask questions about craft because I can't ask questions about what I don't know exists. So I am constantly learning about the craft, but slowly as things dawn on me. And once it's dawned the question I didn't know I had is answered.

Guillermo Ramon

Actually, Danny, I agree. People shouldn't even submit material that is not completely good. by good, I mean producible. If you submit to a third class action film company, send them a script full of one liners and fourth grade language. But the structure of the script should be as`flawless as possible. The cartoon characters should fit the need of the action. The action should always move along the through line. The first act should start with the introduction of the characters and the problem, and end in a climax that leads to the events of the second act. The second act should lead to the movie climax. This should bring us to the third act in which we show the resolution and the final transformation of the characters. This is succinctly what I have learned in a few years of self education in script writing. I wish there were conversations about this here in the lounge. However, it is obvious that not many people are interested in the technical aspects of writing. Yet, writing is a craft. In fact, all real arts are crafts. I am a fine artist. as a fine artist, I took years learning the craft of painting. To expect that our product is going to be great without a strong technical knowledge is absurd. One question to ask ourselves is why should anyone want to spend millions to make our script into a movie?

William Martell

It was resurrected by someone's recent post - but still a good question, since so many folks here ask about everything except how to write a script that gets reads and meetings and sells and then gets made (or gets the writer a gig where they get paid). Everyone wants to know about the "how to get paid" part, when the answer is usually "write a great script". Then they often don't ask how to do that.

Michael L. Burris

Craft? Oh, that normality of stuff that those that work do., That's why we communicate with other working writers instead of fueling the "Bird of Prey" . Iffin' I was a twenty years old I'd probably make good fuel for that "bird" and it might even help me get to places I need to go. Thinkers think for themselves with those like minded but again if you're worried about a technicality feed the "bird" so it can rain beautiful droppings upon one's well-being and confidence with it's almighty being. Heck of it is those droppings might smooth and thin one's skin to the point of penetration and as the real world of screenwriting goes that would really,, really suck to the point of mushiness and no desire. Truth: A screenwriter better be able to write his or her own screenwriting book or forget it and if that's the path you choose to follow join the "Birds of Prey" God rest your soul Blake. Truth: Success comes from people interaction not submitting to a consultant for value that never see''s fruition. Truth: It simply takes years of doing this stuff but there are lottery winners that hardly ever buy lottery tickets so it's not unheard of. Truth: Work, work, work rather leisure or primary is what it takes. When you start seeing reduction and simplicity you mightbe getting close to par. That;s all though. Truth: There is illusion of grandeur no matter what you're therapist might tell you in the world of screenwriting, That,s what we do. Truth: If those around you say you live in a fantasy world that is realistic as you have to, to create them. Truth: Keep on Keeping on and maybe in a solid five years you might just about be there and all the pain, torture, starvation and even doubt soon will leave. Truth: I've come to the revelation there really is a five year minumum to success in doing this stuff, probably misspelled that word as I always do with those putting the "Craft Curse" on me. Peace and may your work bear some fruit: even if it is fruity.

Michelle L. la la Graza

I have a question. . . How important are five (5) to seven (7) minute teaser script excerpts, and why are they done? Are they supposed to be introduction/opening frames before the content plays? I've noticed a few people's works (mainly mini-bibles and concept sheets) provide a short teaser before the actual pilot script starts. I've seen this mainly on pilots. I'm new to the scriptwriting industry. And I've only taken an introduction to scriptwriting (8-week course) and due to take another 16-weeks (which I'm looking forward to). However, I don't recall these teaser excerpts being mentioned, nor do I recall them in the books I read, so I'm just curious. Thanks in advance for your responses.

William Martell

Teasers are part of TV scripts... which is not my area.

Cherie Grant

A teaser will open a Tv show before the opening credits. That's all.

Michelle L. la la Graza

Are they mandatory in additional episodes for television pilots? In other words, should I be writing them into additional/succeeding episodes? I gather they are what plays before a series episode starts, which gives a summary of the main points of the last episode.

Cherie Grant

No it is not mandatory. Not all shows have them. They are more common in comedies though. Don't sweat it.

Regina Lee

Michelle L., are you asking about TV Teaser/Cold Opens or Movie Teaser/Cold Opens? Let's please start by having you read this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_open, and then please clarify your question. Everyone is giving you good feeback, but I think we're confused by the nature of the question.

Michelle L. la la Graza

Hello Regina, That was helpful to read. I think I was getting confused how the teaser was being utilized. In the content below, it shows how teasers or cold openings are employed in dramas and soaps. However, I'm left thinking about the last episode of Walking Dead that I saw. The opening of the episode leaves off where the last one ended then builds up to the introduction of the new conflict of the current episode. I was just wondering if that teaser/cold opening is something the script writer does early on or if it is done during rewrites/revision. Thanks again. Dramas Cold opens are common in crime dramas, such as all Law and Order variants and the CSI shows, with the crime being committed before the title sequence. CSI: Miami's version of this cold open style is famous and widely parodied; generally, Horatio Caine makes a dramatic comment on the crime (and then puts on or removes his sunglasses while doing so), immediately followed by the iconic scream ("Yeah!") from The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again", the show's opening theme. Episodes of the medical drama House would begin with a cold opening usually showing the patient collapsing or otherwise showing symptoms that would be centric to that episode's plot. In the U.S., TV shows will occasionally forgo a standard cold open at the midway point of a two-part episode, or during a "special" episode. For example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's fourth season finale lacked a cold open, as it was an unusual dream-centric episode. Cold openings featured in several Australian drama series, including McLeod's Daughters (2001–2009). Soap operas While several soaps experimented with regular opens in the early 2000s, all U.S. daytime dramas are currently using cold opens. Typically, a soap opera cold open begins where the last scene of the previous episode ended, sometimes replaying the entire last scene. After several scenes – usually to set up which storylines will be featured in the episode – the opening credits are shown.

Regina Lee

Hi Michelle, I remain somewhat confused by the question. I will do my best to answer it. Let's say Dick Wolf is selling LAW & ORDER to NBC. When he pitches the show to NBC, a part of the pitch will include the show's format. In the case of L&O, there is a Teaser/Cold Open for every episode. Let's say L&O is a Teaser + 4 acts. (We would need to double check, but for this purpose, let's say it's Teaser + 4). So the pitch for L&O would be "We open every week with a Teaser showing a new murder victim found in NYC. Act 1 and Act 2 are about the police investigating the murder. Act 3 and Act 4 are about the DA prosecuting the suspect." That's the show format. The writers hired for the show stick to that format every week. However, let's say NBC approves a special 2-part episode for Halloween. In that case, the story will be about solving one murder over 2 episodes (2 weeks) - instead of the standard "case of the week." In this case, they might depart from the standard format and instead use the Part B Teaser to recap last week's episode. All of this is planned out in advance (unless something crazy happens). As Cherie says, some shows use Teasers; others do not. The "Episode Recap" is not the same as a Teaser - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recap_sequence.

Regina Lee

I am not caught up on Walking Dead so I can't reference that last episode you're talking about. I've read too many spoilers about Glenn!

Regina Lee

I guess another way to try to answer the question is this: A Teaser/Cold Open is an integral part of the Script. It is planned out and written at the same time the rest of the Script is being planned out and written. If it helps, you can tell yourself it's Act 0 (or Act A1), and it should be planned and written in the same process as writing the other Acts (Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 - and further if you're writing hour-long series). Sorry, still not sure if I'm understanding the question. Just because it is called a Teaser doesn't mean it's not part of the Script???

Michelle L. la la Graza

Regina, You answered my question. The example of L&O really helped to bring the topic to life, so thanks for that. Now, I know there's a difference between an Episode Recap and a Cold Open/Teaser (the links were great). When I heard the word teaser, I kept thinking about a novel excerpt and wondered if the same applied to script excerpts. However, I have a better understanding between the two (recaps and cold openers). And by the way, stop reading spoilers about Glenn and do some binge watching (you'll be happier for it). This session is almost over and has been phenomenal (or at least, I've enjoyed it. Plus the Talking Dead's been pretty good, too). And I like that some major things happened that were unexpected this season. It's nice when a series takes you by surprise rather than being predictable. The writers have me on the edge of my seat waiting for the last two episodes. :)

Michelle L. la la Graza

Thank you. :)

Regina Lee

Hi again, Michelle, my Stage 32 Next Level Class might be helpful to you. https://www.stage32.com/classes/How-To-Hook-Your-Reader-In-Only-5-Pages We discuss the typical paradigms of script openings. I can also give you a private class, should you want one-on-one attention. Please feel free to ask S32 Moderator Beth Fox Heisinger for an honest critique of the class. In any case, let me stress again - there is no "standard" format in TV. Like Cherie said, some shows utilize a Teaser; others do not.

Brian Smedley

Just started a screenplay. And working on a rough PowerPoint presentation as a teaser trailer . making up the visuals that I can use and giving a tagline. This so far is helping me as I develope the story.

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