» Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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sundance screenwriters lab fellows 2014

It takes a village to make an independent film, and there are few villages as important and supportive as the Sundance Institute. If you don’t know the institute and its programs, you certainly know the films that exist because of the Institute’s immeasurable support. Previously I shared how I got into the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and speculated about why I was fortunate enough to be selected this year after not making it in the past (hint: make a short – regardless of the labs, so many of this year’s festival features were adapted from shorts). Now that the lab and the festival are over, I’d like to share some things I learned at the life-changing (and I don’t use that term lightly) Sundance Screenwriters Lab. More »

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Writer's Block Cast & Crew

While on the set of the Tze Chun/Bryan Cranston thriller Cold Comes the Night in 2012, Hurricane Sandy rolled into New York. This led to some downtime on set, and that’s when Cranston — sport that he is — came up with a short film contest: the best script submitted by a production assistant gets to produce it with Cranston in the lead role. Click through to watch the film that was born from the contest and read our interview with director Brandon Polanco. More »

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clichesLet me be the first to say that clichés aren’t inherently bad. They play an important role in filmmaking and screenwriting as a sort of shorthand expression that is easier to convey than the larger, more complex idea it represents. However, clichés can also be a crutch; I’m sure all of us are guilty of leaning too heavily on a tried and true tired and trite line of dialog or action. This infographic presented by the New York International Latino Film Festival highlights several movie clichés that you might want to avoid, or get really, really good at selling to your audience to keep your story from arriving DOA in the hands of a reader. More »

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Typewriter

Screenwriting is a tough gig. We have to wade through creative, narrative, and professional dead ends, accept an existence lived almost entirely apart from the “real” world, and somehow learn to work with our cynical, tired, and troubled minds that often seem to be working against us. As 2013 draws to a close, and I look back on another (good) year, I notice all the more the blinking cursor, the empty pages, and the parts of my imagination I never unfurled and ask myself, “How will I make 2014 my best screenwriting year?” Here are my semi-unusual New Year’s screenwriting resolutions that may help inspire your own. More »

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Hunger GamesWhen writing a script, there is absolutely nothing worse than staring at an empty page. For some, the blank screen blues come from a terrible case of writer’s block, but more often than not, it has more to do with struggling to maintain a firm grasp of the direction of your story. Screenwriter Billy Ray, who wrote films such as The Hunger Games and Captain Phillips, has shared a few screenwriting tips, covered by Film Independent, that may help you solidify your narrative and get that blinking cursor moving steadily down the page. More »

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Alan BallSome of the most important screenwriting advice you’ll ever hear is to write what you’re passionate about. In fact, screenwriter Alan Ball says that that’s the best piece of advice he’s ever got, and it certainly shows in his work. Ball is known for his dark themes and sordid stories, which have won him many awards, including the Best Screenplay Oscar for American Beauty. While participating in a lecture series for Ideas at the House this last June, Ball details his big break, his writing process, as well as his experiences writing some of his most notable work. More »

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Action ContestIf you’re finally done with that action/thriller screenplay you’ve been working on, it might be time to consider entering it in ScreenCraft’s Action & Thriller Script Contest. First prize winners get $1,000, as well as exposure to ScreenCraft’s panel of judges, including development executives from Lionsgate, Paramount, Sony and After Dark Films. Continue on for more info on how to enter. More »

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ScriptReally, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to write a screenplay, but there definitely are more sellable ways to write one. One issue that comes to mind specifically is how to ensure  an effective, moving, and entertaining reading experience. Some schools of thought insist on leaving out as much detail as possible, still others insist on being very, very precise. So, should you include adjectives and adverbs aplenty in your descriptions, or leave it up to the filmmakers to make those decisions? How exactly should your screenplay read, anyway? More »

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Ingmar Bergman CriterionWe’ve talked a lot about influential filmmakers from the past and present, but haven’t really talked much about one of this writer’s favorite directors: Ingmar Bergman. Few filmmakers have been able to put together such an impressive body of work, and keep doing it well into their later years. Not every film was a masterpiece (far from it), but every single one had a piece of the filmmaker deeply ingrained in it. That idea is explored in the Criterion Collection video essay embedded below: More »

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TypewriterSo, you’ve finished your screenplay. Maybe you’re still tweaking things here and there, but for the most part, that lovely swell of satisfaction has washed over you and you’re thinking that it’s about time to show it to people. Or is it? That’s a question that all screenwriters think at one point or another:
“When is a good time to have people read my screenplay?” The natural answer would be, “Uh — when it’s finished,” but there might be more to it than that for a lot of you, especially if you’re like me and terrified to show anyone. Continue reading for a few thoughts from ScreenCraft on how to know when you’re ready to make your screenplay known. More »

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ScreenwritingScreenwriting, as most of us know, isn’t just about sitting down at your computer and slapping your fingers across the keyboard until you have a story with a beginning, middle, and end. It takes preparation, study, hard work, and lots and lots of rewriting to put one together, and offering insight into this tempestuous process through BAFTA’s web series, How I Write, a collection of screenwriters talk about their experience with preparing, writing, and rewriting screenplays. More »

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writers-blockOf all the parts of a movie, from cinematography, to editing, and everything in between, writing is perhaps the most (what with all the books, classes, weekend seminars), and least (at the end of the day it’s just you and the page), understood. The art of crafting stories and creating indelible characters that will make an unforgettable film is a real gift, though it can and must be developed through careful, patient work. The Guardian has a great piece about a new book that explores creativity, and they’ve come up with six habits of highly successful writers. Check out the tips below as well as more advice from the masters. More »

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Frank DarabontOne of the most pressing questions when filmmakers first get started, the one that seems to always be at the forefront of the mind is, “How do I get into this business? How do I get started?” There are plenty of stock answers, too, like enrolling in film school, studying films and screenplays, moving to LA or New York, buying a bunch of gear and shoot a movie. The list goes on. Writer/Director Frank Darabont offers up his own response, which may leave you frustrated, but may also inspire you to discover your own path to becoming a working filmmaker. More »

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Rod SerlingTo many he’s just that eerie, stilted voice of The Twilight Zonebut to others he was an incredibly talented writer and mind behind one of the most popular TV shows of its time — and still today holding its own. Rod Serling was widely celebrated, winning 6 Emmies, the Peabody, 2 Golden Globes, and 2 Writer’s Guild of America awards during his unfortunately short career. Three months prior to his death, Serling gave his final interview in which he talks at length about screenwriting: his process, his motivation, and how he dealt with rejection early on in his career. More »

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Elmore LeonardWhen I heard about Elmore Leonard’s passing earlier this week, I’m sure I had the same thought many writers had: “I need to read more Elmore Leonard novels.” A few months ago, I read Road Dogs, Leonard’s follow-up to Out of Sight, and realized as much as I have enjoyed Leonard’s characters and stories, I’ve consumed most of them as movies. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have this experience as over 40 film and television projects have adapted Leonard’s work since the late 1950s. Thankfully for writers, Leonard gave us more than his novels and short stories. The prolific author also distilled his habits into the book Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, and you can watch Leonard talk about these rules in the video below. More »

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Robert TowneThe two screenplays that I had to constantly study while in college were Casablanca and Chinatown, the latter of which was written by masterful screenwriter Robert Towne, who also penned Mission Impossible I II, as well as Without Limits (which was filmed in my hometown of Eugene — no big deal.) The Writer’s Guild Association sat down with Towne for an almost hour-long interview, in which he talks at length about his childhood, how he fell in love with the cinema, and how Roger Corman helped him get his big break. Hit the jump to watch the interview: More »

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overcome-writers-blockAny writer who has ever sat down to put pen to paper (or, more likely these days, fingers to keyboard) knows the joy and frustration that are part of a writer’s life. This can be especially true for screenwriters, who are not writing a stand-alone work, but something that will be endlessly manipulated before it (hopefully) ends up on the big screen. But, how does writing affect the brain? Are writers wired up differently than the rest of the population? Click below to check out a cool infographic and find out. More »

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Too often have I experienced the doubled-edged nature of the internet: it’s a great tool, but also a great distraction. We all need to buckle down sometimes and get to work, and the insta-grat (yes) of the internet can be crippling. In comes SelfControl, a free and open-source application that blocks your own access to chosen websites for a designated amount of time. Hit the jump for the details. More »

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A few months ago I finished the screenplay for my feature MANCHILD (for now, at least). I’ll have more updates on the project soon, but suffice to say there’s been a long rewriting process since I ran my Kickstarter campaign over a year ago. And while this wasn’t the first screenplay I’ve written, it’s certainly the best, and the one on which I’ve worked the longest and hardest. Over the past two years, here are the things that have helped my screenwriting process. More »

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Ideas are great, but in having ‘too many’ of them, you run the risk of overloading yourself, compounding your creative schedule to a point you can’t actually manage, or worst of all — never actually getting the thing written, or shot, or otherwise made — whatever the case may be. The editor of The New York Times, Hugo Lindgren, has just written a powerful self-case study about the many undeveloped story and concept kernels he’s had, why they never got off the back burner, and where all the time seems to have gone — in other words, a creative thinker’s worst nightmare. Whether you’re a writer, a shooter, a director, or a film editor, you might want to check out Hugo’s editorial, because you might see a lot more of yourself in his words than you may expect. More »