Media + Essays

A Closer Look at Sideways, and How Dramatic Danger Holds the Key to Unlocking the Heart of Your Successful Screenplay

Countless movies break the so-called “rules of screenwriting,” proving that nothing trumps good storytelling. Here’s the true reality of the entertainment industry: good, heart-and-soul writing is what advances careers – it’s what gets writers representation, it’s what gets writers staffed on TV shows, it’s what lands development deals, it’s what gets scripts optioned and it’s what separates the mediocre forgettable movies from the modern classics. Hollywood is always hungry to find writers that will make for sound investments – and when someone comes around with a poised, self-assured, quality script, there is always a producer, agent and/or star running close behind hoping to capitalize on his talent.

Read the full essay >

The Devil Wears Smart Theme:
Principles to Help Inject Smart Theme Into Your Script

Bring up The Devil Wears Prada in conversation and you’ll likely feel a giddy charge in the air as people clamor to exclaim things like, “It was actually about something!” Isn’t that what we all want as storytellers? To create a piece of work that takes audiences by surprise and compels them to spread the word that an actual goodmovie has arrived on the scene? Devil’s overwhelming positive buzz undeniably proves that America is hungry for entertainment that goes hand-in-hand with thematically smart storytelling…

Read the full essay >

A Quick Tutorial on Developing Theme:
Quick, Effective Ways to Discover and Develop Your Story’s Organic Theme

Screenwriters often mistake stagnant ideas for theme. Case in point, I recently had a client who declared that her movie was “about the theme of loneliness.” When I read the script, I definitely observed characters that were somewhat isolated due to their life circumstances – but there was absolutely no point being made about the state of loneliness in general, there were no heroes making active decisions as a result of or in regards to loneliness. In short, loneliness was not the driving force of the story but instead a periphery underdeveloped idea.

Read the full essay >

Provides Fool-Proof Principles for Making Sure Your Dramatic Stakes Get Hotter

A huge number of scripts suffer from repetitive drama that fails to really raise the stakes and get the story cooking. Once again, this common problem can be largely remedied by searching your hero’s main want in life for answers. The simple question, “How does my hero recommit to his fight?” challenges the writer to imagine increasingly bold new choices as the story moves forward– a simple but powerful tool for creating a journey of both higher risk and also progressive conflict.

Read the full essay >

In the Bedroom
Reveals How to Use Your Hero as a Tool for Developing Tight Structure

This series develops an internal, organic way to discover your movie’s unique design. Using anti-structure hits In the Bedroom and Traffic as examples, this first essay discusses ways to develop your hero’s core motivation and the ensuing essays will demonstrate how to use that core motivation to lay the foundation for an dramatically cohesive structure.

Read the full essay >

Hollywood Scriptwriter, February 2006
Magnolia Provides No-Nonsense Examples of How to Write Powerful Character Arcs

One of the biggest challenges facing screenwriters lies in crafting believable transformation. You know you have to get your hero from one emotional state to another – but the question remains how to do so in a seamless, believable way. Fortunately, close examination of P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia provides some accessible clues to get you on track…

Read the full essay >

Let’s Analyze Foreign Charmer Amelie
Magnolia Provides No-Nonsense Examples of How to Write Powerful Character Arcs

So, Amelie deals with a woman that was denied basic human contact as a child. The combined neuroses of Amelie’s parents confined her to a life of isolation where she relied on her own imagination for companionship. Now, as an adult, Amelie so fears person-to-person intimacy that she spends all her energy helping others to connect with new loves, hidden passions and forgotten treasures. Of course, Amelie avoids visible recognition for her actions by manipulating people towards their respective life changes from behind the scenes. The movie gets off to an engaging, thematically specific start by making seemingly irreverent digressions into all of the characters’ personal likes and dislikes (e.g. Amelie’s mother derives secret joy out of cleaning out her purse). In truth, these asides are very relevant to the story’s main theme since such private indulgences reflect Amelie’s life of self-made happiness in hiding.

Read the full essay >

Hollywood Scriptwriter, June 2005
Telling it like it ‘tis! | Sundance Film Institute’s reading critic Jamie Stein has no beefs about telling it like it is when discussing top mistakes screenwriters make when reading a script.

Hollywood Scriptwriter (HS) sits down with Jamie Stein, the top reader for the renowned Sundance Film Institute, to get his perspective on script critiquing and the reason why so many scripts are rejected and so few are accepted.

Read the full interview >

Comments are closed.