Keys to the Craft: Read Scripts

Essential to read screenplays to study style, tone, feel, structure, pace…

If you want to learn the craft of screenwriting, here are five practices you need to adopt:

Think Concepts. Watch Movies. Read Scripts. Write Pages. Live Life.

Monday, I wrote about Think Concepts.

Yesterday: Watch Movies.

Today: Read Scripts.

Look, I get it. I know you don’t like to read scripts. I experience a monthly reminder of this every time we do a GITS Script Reading & Analysis where it’s largely empty echoes, whistling winds and tumbling tumbleweeds around these here parts.

I’m pretty damn sure you don’t want to hear me yammer on about this subject.

BUT YAMMER I WILL!!!

Why? Because there may be no single more important practice to learn the craft of screenwriting than reading scripts.

  • Classic scripts: A great place to start: The WGA 101 list. For a wider range, there are sites like SimplyScripts.
  • Spec scripts: It behooves you to read and analyze spec scripts that have sold within the last year or two in order to stay on top of narrative and stylistic trends.
  • Any scripts: Unproduced, even bad ones. You can learn something from all scripts, even amateur ones.

When you read scripts on a regular basis, you start to intuit narrative patterns. You pick up a sense of how to write scenes. You mature your ear for dialogue. You see a variety of different writing styles. You get ideas of your own. You learn how the pros do it. And in the case of recent selling spec scripts, you track what Hollywood is buying.

There is real value in reading scripts.

And now it’s time to bore you with an Old Fart story.

Before I wrote the spec script K-9, I read four things: Syd Fields book “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting,” and three scripts: Witness, Back to the Future and Breaking Away.

Apart from having seen thousands of movies in my lifetime and a couple of cinema courses at UVA, that was the extent of my screenwriting education.

When Universal bought K-9 and I officially broke into the business, I knew I had a lot of catching up to do if I had any chance of staying in the business.

One thing I did: Get my hands on every script I could to read and analyze.

Now back in those days, there were no PDF scripts. The Internet was orange juice cans, a series of tubes, duct tape and dial-up modems powered at 28.8 bps.

If you wanted to find a script, you had to go out and search for it. Physically. Like actual feet on ground, hand to hand.

My main resources: Assistants and writers. The former I sweet talked for the latest specs and production drafts. The latter like a cult, meeting at coffee shops and street corners, swapping scripts like semi-holy relics. Once I got hold of an actual screenplay, I had to take it to a Kinko’s and have it copied, then return the original.

Okay, there was no trudging five miles through thick snow, fending off wolves. But still, do you have any idea what a pain in the ass that was?

Cut to today where you can find almost any script you want online with a few keystrokes.

So if there’s an edge to my post today, it’s this: Writers today have it so easy. Therefore why is it so hard to get them read scripts?

Needless to say, I will continue with my yammering.

Read. Scripts. Damn. It.

Tomorrow: Write Pages.

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Keys to the Craft: Read Scripts was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Keys to the Screenwriting Craft: Think Concepts

The foundation of a good script is a strong story concept.

It started with this GITS post years ago:

Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages.

Long-time followers of my blog are familiar with this screenwriting mantra. In fact Annika Wood was kind enough to send me a coffee cup with these very words inscribed on it. I have it on my office desk as a personal reminder.

Reminder of what?

How important these activities are for those committed to learning the craft of screenwriting.

Over time I have added two more to the list: Think concepts. Live life.

This week, a series on all five.

Today: Think concepts.

If you write a spec script based upon the first story idea that comes into your mind, that script will likely suck. Even if it’s decent, it probably won’t sell.

Why? Because almost assuredly, it is not a strong story concept.

It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of a story idea to the eventual success of a spec script.

  • A good story concept enables producers and studio execs to ‘see’ the movie.
  • A good story concept provides ammo for marketing departments to advertise the film.
  • A good story concept emboldens managers and agents to sell the crap out of your script.

I believe a script’s concept can represents about half of the value of a screenplay to a potential buyer. That’s right, half.

Are you thinking of story ideas every day? Do you have a master list of story ideas that is… growing? Is one part of your brain on auto-pilot, always sifting through the daily data that comes your way in search of possible story ideas?

Nobel Prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling said this: “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”

We, as writers, should be generating “lots of ideas.”

How to do that? Perhaps the single biggest key is two simple words: What if?

Consider anecdotes from three screenwriters:

Bob Gale: “The inspiration for coming up with the story [Back to the Future] is that I was visiting my parents in the summer of 1980, from St. Louis Missouri, and I found my father’s high-school yearbook in the basement. I’m thumbing through it and I find out that my father was the president of his graduating class, which I was completely unaware of. So there’s a picture of my dad, 18-years-old… The question came up in my head, ‘gee, what if I had gone to school with my dad, would I have been friends with him?’ That was where the light bulb went off.”

James Hart: “The secret, the great key to writing Hook, came from my son. When he was six, he asked the question, ‘What if Peter Pan grew up?’ I had been trying to find a new way into the famous ‘boy who wouldn’t grow up’ tale, and our son gave me the key.”

Marc Norman: “The Shakespeare in Love screenplay was written by Marc Norman and playwright Tom Stoppard, although the original idea was rooted in a third creative mind — one of Norman’s son’s, Zachary. It was in 1989, while studying Elizabethan drama at Boston University, that the younger Norman phoned his father with a sudden brainstorm of a movie concept — the young William Shakespeare in the Elizabethan theater. The elder Norman agreed it was a terrific idea, but he hadn’t a clue what to do with it. Two years later, with bits of time stolen from other projects, the notion had formed — what if Shakespeare had writer’s block while writing his timeless classic, ‘Romeo and Juliet’”?

What if I had gone to school with my dad? What if Peter Pan grew up? What if Shakespeare had writers block?

Want to jump start your ability to think concepts? Make the words “what if” an essential part of your brainstorming vocabulary.

Tomorrow: Watch movies.

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Keys to the Screenwriting Craft: Think Concepts was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 5)

Over the years, I have interviewed over 40 Black List screenwriters. This month, I am running a series featuring one topic per week related to the craft of writing.

This week: How do you understand and work with the concept of ‘theme’?

The diversity of responses among the Black List writers I have interviewed is fascinating. Monday we explored various articulations of what ‘theme’ is. Tuesday we looked at some writers who begin the story-crafting process with theme. Wednesday we hear from writers who discover theme during the writing process. Thursday we considered writers who carry a concern about theme: Not to come off as “preachy”. Today writers who emphasize the importance of theme being personal.

Stephanie Shannon: “Theme is really important to me. They emerged in my research– learning about what made “Alice in Wonderland” different from other children’s stories and learning about what was really special about Lewis Carroll and what was going on at Oxford at the time. In my research I found so many interesting things to mine in the story. I think I ended up embracing the themes that also meant something to me personally. Father/daughter relationships are an important theme with me. I think it was important to me that the theme not only serve the story but also was something that was close to my own heart personally. I think those are always the stories that I want to tell, that I’ll end up telling the best.”

Brian Duffield: “Usually it’s a theme I want to explore because it’s really locked into my head as a person, as something I’m going through or struggling or interested with, so even if I throw out the characters or genre surrounding that theme a dozen times, the theme stays intact because it’s an itch I need to scratch.”

Seth Lochhead: “I leave theme to my subconscious (I’ll let it come out as I pursue the more tangible elements of the story — although according to my previous answers, tangible doesn’t seem to be one of my writing pursuits). If I’m obsessed with something, if I’ve noticed something, some illness in the world, some crack in reality, I let it in and if it wants to come out in my work so be it.”

Spenser Cohen: “Movies are there to teach us about the human condition, what it’s like to be in difficult or impossible situations… Every writer has their own life experiences, their own point of view, so the way they see the world often dictates the theme.”

Geoff LaTulippe: “The good news is that, in talented writers, I think theme comes out organically. It’s not something you have to force. But it is something you have to consider, or why are you writing the fucking thing in the first place? Why bother?”

Takeaway:

  • You are more likely to write an empowered script if you have an emotional connection to its themes.
  • You can also reverse this: If you can identify your points of emotional connection to a story, there’s a good chance some of its themes are to be found there.

For Part 1 of this week’s series with Black List writers, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Par 4, here.

For more insights from Black List writers on the craft, go here.


Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 5) was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 3)

Over the years, I have interviewed over 40 Black List screenwriters. This month, I am running a series featuring one topic per week related to the craft of writing.

This week: How do you understand and work with the concept of ‘theme’?

The diversity of responses among the Black List writers I have interviewed is fascinating. Monday we explored various articulations of what ‘theme’ is. Yesterday we looked at some writers who begin the story-crafting process with theme. Today we hear from writers who discover theme during the writing process.

Eric Heisserer: “Theme. That’s something that I have such a hard time engineering. If I were given nothing but the tool of ‘Here’s the theme. Write something with this theme,’ that’s an impossible task for me. I can’t start a story with that. I can figure out later on, after I’ve written a story, what the theme is. I can’t start with that in the forefront of my brain. It doesn’t work for me as a storyteller. I think other people can. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for anybody else. I’m just saying it’s not how I’m wired.

James DiLapo: “I think theme is immensely important, but for me, it’s not always readily apparent when I begin the process. With ‘Devils At Play’ we were talking about the idea of redemption, that there can be angels and devils inside our own personalities and societies. That, for me, is the theme of the story, but I didn’t know it when I began. Eventually the story itself will tell you what the theme is.”

Nikole Beckwith: “I think it definitely evolves over time. I’m sure that there are things that I carry around with me while I’m writing and they emerge on their own, I don’t say, ‘I’m going to write something that explores identity.’ That’s all I do, immerse myself in it.”

Aaron Guzikowski: “Definitely that they emerge whenever I’m writing the story. I definitely think a little bit about it at the beginning, but usually it’s more after you’re writing the story, the theme just emerges. If it’s a story that’s working, then themes generally just start to bleed out of it, and they just present themselves to you. They just appear.”

Julia Hart: “My students would always get frustrated when we would talk about the themes that the author was using. They would always ask, ‘Did they really think about all this before they started writing it?’ And I don’t think that they do or I don’t think that good writers do. Of course when you’re writing a cohesive world the themes are going to rise out of it.”

Lisa Joy: “I don’t necessarily start with theme, but by the time I’m done — I always have one. And often, writing a script shows me what my theme is and allows me to deepen my own thinking on that theme. Writing becomes, in its own way, a philosophical investigation into theme. Sometimes I go back, once I understand the theme more fully and use it in the rewrite to enrich the scenes.”

Chris Borrelli: “If you don’t have a theme as you write, then you are writing blind… Sometimes the theme presents itself. Usually other themes present themselves as I write, and I’ve had a theme or two change as I write, but still become something I care about…I want to say. That’s the jumping off point for me…something I care about…something I want to say.”

Justin Marks: “I think theme comes very late in outlining. I don’t think it comes immediately at the beginning. I think at the beginning it’s a character that you really like, or it’s a hook that you want to figure out. I don’t think it becomes a movie, though, until you find that theme. Until it centers on some idea that is not specific to the plot. I think you need to know theme before you start writing dialogue. I think you need to know theme before you start writing scene work.”

Declan O’Dwyer: “Thematically, I try to be governed by what my character is telling me it should be and not what I’m deciding it is on the outset, because it will grow and it will change as they grow and change.”

Daniel Kunka: “For me, theme is usually something I find as I write through the first draft. I probably have a general idea when I start, but theme becomes the unifying factor as I go. I always work better sort of discovering it rather than coming up with something early in the process or even before I start writing pages. That’s not to say it’s not there, but I don’t consciously make the decision ‘this is my theme.’ I think theme is directly related to voice. A lot of my themes are similar, because those are the stories I want to tell. And it’s not planned, it just is. Because of that I’ll sort of trust my theme to tag along with me until I’m done with the first draft, then the second draft is when I’ll go back in and add a few lines here or there to highlight some things that will help take the piece to the level I want it.”

Brad Ingelsby: “I don’t like to go into a script saying, ‘I want to write a story about forgiveness,’ and then try to fit forgiveness into every single scene. That feels maudlin and a bit silly to try to imbue every scene with a theme. It feels like a homework assignment and it doesn’t allow for much discovery or revelation. After all, you’ve already told yourself what the movie is about. You’ve limited yourself. What I prefer to do is say, here’s a character. I like this character and I know the journey I’d like him or her to go on. And then I write that journey, that arc, and then I let the audience or reader decide what the theme is. Let them take what they want from the story. If you say a movie is about forgiveness, then an audience or a reader is only looking for that theme in the material and there’s no discovery. But if you present them with a character on a journey, they’re able to take away from that character and that journey what they want. It’s less limiting, I think. Stories mean different things to different people.”

Justin Kremer: “With ‘McCarthy,’ people have said things to me on the thematic level — “oh, I enjoyed this thematic element of the script” — and I’m surprised by it. Often, that thematic element wasn’t even something that was intentional on my part. Reading is obviously inherently subjective and people can take away so many different things from a work. As long as you have a strong character and a clear arc, it tends to come together organically. Look at a classic like The Godfather, it can be this intimate father son story or an epic about American capitalism and the American dream.”

And why is theme so bloody damn important? How about this:

Stephany Folsom: “I think when I first find an idea that I’m not like, ‘Oh, gosh, let’s find the theme in this.’ But as I go through my steps to see whether or not this idea is going to be something that can actually make a good movie, one of my steps is, ‘What is going to be the theme?’”

And this:

Jason Hellerman: “I think theme is super important, but I let myself find what I’m afraid to talk about, and I let my fears and my own inhibitions dictate the theme of what I need to get off my chest.”

And this:

Chris McCoy: “A story theme is tremendously important, because it’s what you’re trying to say with the work as a whole. If there’s no theme, there’s nothing holding the script together.”

And there’s this:

Justin Marks: “Look at how Chris Nolan writes. Everything is written to theme. Everything comes back to that. That’s what makes the Batman movies so great is that they’re always about theme. Every scene is about guiding itself towards theme. When you don’t know what a scene is supposed to be about, the answer is theme. Yeah. I think if you’re getting away from it, that’s when you ask, why doesn’t this scene feel right? Or, why doesn’t this sequence feel right? Or, why does the third act feel right? Oh yeah, because it has nothing to do with my theme. It has nothing to do with what I wanted this story to be about in the first place. If a script starts to meander beyond theme, I think you lose your reader. Because they start to wonder, ‘Why am I reading this? What am I getting from this story?’ You’re getting theme. If you don’t get it, you’re not going to read it.”

Takeaway:

  • Trust the process: If you go in the story… if you engage your characters… if you live in, then reflect upon the narrative… the themes will emerge.
  • Use your themes as a touchstone: For everything including how you approach scenes to how you handle character relationships to how you write scene description, from big to small, themes can help you expand your understanding of your story and focus how you convey it emotional meaning to a script reader.

How about you? Do you discover theme in your writing? How is theme important to you in your writing?

For Part 1 of this week’s series with Black List writers, go here.

Part 2, here.

Come back tomorrow for more about this important subject: Theme.

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Black List writers on the craft: Theme (Part 3) was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Black List writers on the craft: Characters (Part 4)

Over the years, I have interviewed over 40 Black List screenwriters. This month, I will run a series featuring one topic per week related to the craft of writing.

This week: How do you develop your characters?

Reading through all of the responses was a fascinating exercise. Once again, this group of writers demonstrates there is no one way to approach the craft. Their respective approaches to developing their story’s characters vary from highly intuitive, even instinctual to the conscious use of specific techniques and writing exercises. In all cases, the goal is the same: To make the characters come alive in the writer’s imagination and onto the printed page.

On Monday, we featured writers who start their character development process by focusing on real people. Tuesday writers zeroed in on brainstorming and the importance of asking questions about and to characters. Yesterday we checked in with writers who use biographies as a tool for character development. Today we see how some Black List writers use scene-writing to find a character’s voice:

Ashleigh Powell: “For me, how my characters speak informs a lot about who they are and how they see the world. Really nailing down that voice helps me shape their character traits from there.”

Spenser Cohen: “One thing that I do when I first start writing is to put the outline aside and just start trying to find the character’s voice. I’ll give myself space to explore, and I just let the characters go. No one’s going to see it. No one’s going to read it. There’s no pressure. It’s their story, and I let whatever happens, happen. I’ll often make up a scene that’s not in the outline and might not even make sense for the story… It’s almost like a rehearsal before you jump in and start doing the real work. Just exploring. Often in these rough passes the characters start to take shape.”

Julia Hart: “Just through writing the scenes of their dialogue. I write a ton and then I’ll cut a bunch of it out. I’ll write like seven lines where there needs to be one and just cut around that one right line and keep going. I find their voices by having them say too much, by writing down every thought that would be in their head and then cutting off the fat.”

No matter the writing, the goal is to get inside the character’s head:

Eric Heisserer: “If I need to develop the character further, typically that’s the harder work of trying to figure out what part of the story I’m not writing about. If I have to…and I hate it, but I’ve had to do this before…I will write act zero — what happens to a character before the story in my script begins — so I have a deeper understanding of where this character came from.”

James DiLapo: “Whenever I struggled with lines in “Devils At Play” I would stop and would run the whole story in my head from the character’s perspective, trying to feel what they are feeling and thinking how they would. It’s not always easy. I think that’s probably the hardest element of screenwriting. You have to find a way to stretch beyond your own understanding and become, for a moment, someone who is so foreign to the way you live your life. In my experience, however, the more you do it, the better you get at it.”

Takeaway:

  • Feel free to write free. Free-standing scenes. Free-standing monologues. Give yourself “space to explore”. Write down “every thought” the character has and see what sticks.
  • For some writers, a character’s personality may shape their voice, however the inverse can work, too. Nailing down their voice can “shape” their character traits.
  • Do what you need to do to get inside their head. Feel what “they are feeling.” Think how “they would.” Write “act zero,” exploring what happened to the character before FADE IN. To riff off the name of this blog… go into the characters.

How about you? Do you write free-standing scenes to explore your characters? How do you go about finding a character’s voice? What do you do to get inside their head?

For Part 1 of this week’s series on character development, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Tomorrow we take up another angle on prep-writing as reflected on by Black List writers.

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Black List writers on the craft: Characters (Part 4) was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Reader Question: Shouldn’t a writer figure out the craft on their own?

A question from @AndrewMcDermot1:

Is there really no point where screenwriters should be encouraged to work some of this stuff out for themselves?

Andrew’s tweet is in response to this post which raised the haunting specter of screenplay paradigms.

And if you troll online screenwriting sites for no more than 5 nanoseconds, you will find a slew of them, some claiming a sort of Deep Insight or Magic Formula or Secret To Success.

Cue my usual caveat: There is no right way to write. Every story is different. Every writer is different.

Interestingly that sentiment cuts both ways.

On the one hand, it decries a strict adherence to a structural formula because chances are that will result in a formulaic script. Indeed there are some who claim it is the popularity of these type of paradigms / systems / whatevers — intentional or not — that have led to an increasing glut of Hollywood movies that feel awfully similar in terms of their narrative structure to the point where, as the article I linked to suggests, “you’ve seen this move before.”

On the other hand, depending upon the writer, the story and the ‘formula,’ it can work. No matter how much any working screenwriter laments the glut of screenwriting ‘gurus’ hawking their wares, the simple fact is that some writers have found success using the approaches of this or that one. And, indeed, as noted in the original post, some of these patterns are pretty well universal in nature, such as three-act structure.

My bottom line with my students is this: Stories are organic. Their characters live and breathe. The single best thing you can do is engage your characters directly and actively as part of your brainstorming and prep process. That way the narrative structure you find will arise in large part from them and hopefully that will translate into a more vibrant, unique, surprising, and compelling story.

Which is pretty much my response to you, Andrew. I agree with you, it is absolutely imperative for each writer to work through their own education about the craft of screenwriting. No matter what books you read, seminars you attend, classes you take — and they can be helpful — never stray far from another one of my mantras:

Watch Movies. Read Scripts. Write Pages.

There is nothing like a writer engaging Story and Character as primary sources. That is one key, perhaps the key to working out “some of this stuff” on your own.

I would go one step further: That is precisely the same attitude we should adopt with every story we write. Use what we learn about the craft, all the theory, techniques and tips, as tools to dig into the story material, but always with a mind toward engaging the Story, Characters, Themes, indeed the entire Story Universe directly, immersing ourselves in that so it all springs to life in our creative imagination.

In particular, focus on your Characters. They are key. After all, it’s their story. Moreover I choose to believe they want you to tell their story. And the fact they are unique individuals with specific personal histories, personalities, wants, needs, goals, secrets, and on and on, what better way to avoid formulaic writing than by going where the characters want to go, following the distinctive paths they carve for us to follow?

So it’s not just about figuring out the craft on our own, it’s about figuring out each story on its own terms and merits. If a given story fits into some paradigm you like, great. Go with God! But if not, then you absolutely owe it to yourself, your Story, and those Characters to go with Them.

How about you, fellow writers? What are your thoughts? How best to learn the craft? Ought we figure it out on our own? And how to combat formulaic writing?

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Reader Question: Shouldn’t a writer figure out the craft on their own? was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

The Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling

My one-week online class begins Monday, May 22nd.

I have two favorite contemporary filmmakers. In terms of mainstream commercial films, there is Pixar. For independent movies, there are the Coen brothers. Both are hugely successful in what they do, commercially and critically.

That’s why I’m thrilled to follow up the popular Pixar class I teach with a companion course: Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling.

Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

In this 1-week online course, we will analyze most of the movies the Coen brothers have written and directed including such memorable films as Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou, No Country for Old Men, and True Grit.

Through extensive analysis and discussion, we will dig into six narrative dynamics that appear throughout Coen brothers movies, and enable you to use them to workshop your own original story.

Let’s face it: The Coen brothers have created some of the most distinctive, entertaining movies in the last two decades. They return to certain themes, tropes, memes and talismans like this one: The Howling Fat Man.

We will look at that minutia because… well, it’s just fun. However our focus will be on larger principles that are more applicable to our own writing.

Here is the lecture schedule [all written by me]:

Lecture 1: The Coen Brothers’ Narrative Legacy
Lecture 2: Ordinary Character / Extraordinary Circumstance
Lecture 3: The Long Shadow of Authority Figures
Lecture 4: The Shiny Hope of Grand Schemes
Lecture 5: The Dynamism of Violence
Lecture 6: Morally Complicated Universe
Lecture 7: Unresolved Endings

Plus I will share 6 practical storytelling tips gleaned from Coen brothers movies.

The class includes:

Seven lectures written by Scott Myers
Six Coen brothers inspired storytelling tips
Daily forum Q&As
Workshop writing exercises with feedback
A 75-minute live teleconference between instructor and class members

Movies written by Joel and Ethan Coen have been nominated for 14 Academy Awards, winning 4 times, and nominated for the Cannes Film Festival Palm D’Or 7 times, winning once.

Like Pixar, the Coen brothers have carved their own path and have proven themselves to be master storytellers.

I am excited to share storytelling insights I have learned from studying Coen brothers movies in this exciting 1-week online class providing insights you can use to elevate your own writing.

Consider joining me beginning Monday, May 22 for Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling, a great way to learn principles, dynamics and techniques apparent in the movies of these fine filmmakers to upgrade your own story-crafting abilities.

As the Dude might say, “That’s fuckin’ ingenious, if I understand it correctly. It’s a Swiss fuckin’ watch.”

Sign up now here.


The Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling

My popular one week online class begins Monday, January 16th.

17 movies produced. 16 movies #1 at the box office. Worldwide B.O. gross over $ 10 billion. Average B.O. per film: $ 650M+ by far the highest average per film of any studio in Hollywood history.

It’s not just dollars and cents, it’s also quality storytelling. 26 Academy Awards, 7 Golden Globes, 3 Grammys. Indeed 8 of Pixar’s 17 films are in the IMDB Top 250 Movies of all time.

No disrespect to Disney, but I think the real Magic Kingdom lies 397.8 miles north of Anaheim in a city called Emeryville, California where you’ll find this:

Longtime GITS readers know of my fascination with Pixar having blogged about them dozens of times. Due to having two sons who quite literally have grown up in what someday is likely to be called the Pixar Era, I have seen every one of the company’s movies, most of them several times.

In my estimation, the filmmakers at Pixar are master storytellers.

But how do they successfully wrangle magic time after time in their films? Are there lessons we can learn from Pixar to inspire and upgrade our own writing?

Up-up-upgrade your writing with Pixar story-crafting principles and practices.

Those are two key questions I undertook in creating the online course Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling which begins Monday, January 16. My answer: An emphatic yes!

First off, there are the practices Pixar uses in developing, breaking, writing and rewriting a script. In our 1-week class, we go through that process step by step, then see how we can adapt that approach to our own writing.

Then there are several narrative principles evident in Pixar movies, six of them we focus in our online class: Small Story / Substantial Saga, Special Subculture, Strange Sojourners, Separation, Sentimentality, and Surprise. Going through every Pixar movie, we explore how these dynamics work in the context of each narrative and their overall applicability to storytelling.

There are 7 lectures, each of which I wrote, the content buttressed by an exclusive interview I conducted with Mary Coleman, Senior Development Executive at Pixar since the days of Toy Story 2, so we get a real inside look the outfit’s creative process.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I am expanding this class to teach it at DePaul University and have added two more principles: Sires and Siblings, Stumbles and Switches. If you take my SMC online class, you will be the first people to explore that content with me!

The class also has a Logline Workshop where you can post a story idea and revise per peer feedback. And two teleconferences to accommodate peoples’ schedules where participants get a chance to dig into the course content with me as well as discuss anything related to writing, screenwriting, and movies.

Trust me, this Pixar class I teach is INCREDIBLE!

Here are some nice comments from just a few folks who’ve taken the class:

“I was lucky enough to be able to take Scott’s Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling class. It was my first class and a wonderful experience. I learned a ton and now have some important utensils that will help make all my stories better. Scott’s a great teacher and it was a pleasure learning from him!” — Valencia Stokes

“This course is awesome. I refer to these notes and lessons all the time.” — Traci Nell Peterson

“A course on Pixar movies? Apart from legitimately letting out my inner child and renting Up ‘for research purposes, I learnt about the ethos of the Pixar Brain Trust and the essential elements contained in all of their movies. Scott took us on an all-inclusive week long journey into why Pixar are so successful and how to practically apply this to your own script.” — Camilla Castree

“I recommend this course wholeheartedly. Plus you get to watch Pixar films as homework.” — TheQuietAct

“Scott Myers is a brilliant teacher and unites his knowledge and experience, insight and depth of thought in his lectures as well as he is providing help and support to his students. I highly recommend the class.” — Eva Brandstätter

Consider the great characters Pixar has created. Learn how and why they work, and bring those insights to your writing.

A few words about the format: I’ve been teaching online since 2002, worked with over 1000 writers in that context, and honestly believe it is superior to the onsite class environment in many ways:

  • You can do virtually everything on your own time: Download lectures, read forum conversations, add your own comments, upload writing exercises and assignments. In your pajamas. In bed. Drinking coffee. However you want to access online course content, you can do it.
  • As opposed to listening to a teacher present lectures verbally, you get to download lectures and read them. Again at your leisure, but even more importantly, instead of feverishly trying to jot down notes from a verbal presentation, here you get everything laid out for you. I take great pride in my lectures, as they not only provide great content, they also have a narrative flow to them. Yes, they tell a little story.
  • Feedback and conversations online tend to be much more thoughtful and therefore beneficial than onsite settings. Why? Because instead of off-the-cuff, random comments, participants online tend to spend more time and reflection in composing posts for online.
  • Finally I’m constantly amazed at how much of a community emerges in online class environments. Writers from all around the world and somehow we bind together into remarkably vibrant learning communities, time and time again.

So if you’ve never tried an online screenwriting class, come on in! The virtual water’s fine!

For more information on Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling which begins January 16, go here. And if you really want to treat yourself well, consider The Craft Package.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I am adding two new Craft classes in 2017 — Dialogue-Writing Workshop and Scene-Writing Workshop. They are BOTH included in The Craft Package which means your savings are now nearly 60%! Automatic enrollment in all 10 classes! Immediate access to the Craft curriculum to go through at your own pace.

Get lost trying to write your story? Let Dory help you find your way!

I am updating lectures to include Finding Dory which has grossed an incredible $ 1.02 billion in worldwide box office revenues.

So kick of the New Year with some incredible insights into crafting a story with the practices and principles at work in Pixar movies. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you! Or to put it another way…

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!


Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

A Cutting Edge Way to Learn the Craft

Save nearly 60% on 10 of my Craft classes. Details at the end of this post!

Screenwriting is a craft. While that certainly encompasses the actual script-writing process, it also entails everything from finding one’s writing voice to mastering techniques in developing characters, learning different story-crafting principles to knowing how to write loglines, treatments, and beat sheets.

In other words, there’s a lot to learning the craft.

In 2017, I will be offering 10 Craft classes, each a one-week immersion into specific aspects of the writing craft.

Here is the schedule:

January 16 — Craft: Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling
presented by Scott Myers

Read More

January 30 — Craft: Story Summaries — From Loglines to Beat Sheets
presented by Scott Myers

Read More

February 13 — Craft: Handling Exposition
presented by Scott Myers

Read More

February 27 — Craft: Scene Description Spotlight — Express Your Voice
presented by Scott Myers

Read More

March 13 — Craft: Character Development Keys
presented by Scott Myers

Read More

March 27 — Craft: Create a Compelling Protagonist
presented by Scott Myers

Read More

April 10 — Craft: Write a Worthy Nemesis
presented by Scott Myers

Read More

April 24 — Craft: Scene-Writing Workshop
presented by Scott Myers

May 8 — Craft: Dialogue-Writing Workshop
presented by Scott Myers

May 22 — Craft: The Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling
presented by Scott Myers

Read More

Each class offers:

  • Seven lectures written by me
  • 24/7 online forum Q&As moderated by instructor
  • Pro insider writing tips
  • A 90-minute live teleconference with instructor and class members

Since the classes are online, you can pretty much do everything on your own time, at your own pace. Download and read lectures. Listen to my audio commentary. Track and interact with others in message board conversations. Workshop your own loglines or writing.

You can participate as much or as little as you’d like, although I have to say the writers who take my classes are terrific, so you’ll probably find the community created in each session a welcome one to join in the dialogue.

Also this: Writers from over 40 countries have taken Screenwriting Master Class courses and that variety of backgrounds enhances the educational and social experience.

Access courses anytime and anywhere on your computer, tablet or smartphone.

Learn the craft amidst a supportive, lively, and fun online community from around the world.

Receive feedback from instructors who know the business and have a passion for teaching.

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

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

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

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

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

Onward!

To learn more about Screenwriting Master Class, go here.

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


A Cutting Edge Way to Learn the Craft was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling

My popular one-week online class begins on Monday, January 16!

17 movies produced. 16 movies #1 at the box office. Worldwide B.O. gross over $ 10 billion. Average B.O. per film: $ 650M+ by far the highest average per film of any studio in Hollywood history.

It’s not just dollars and cents, it’s also quality storytelling. 26 Academy Awards, 7 Golden Globes, 3 Grammys. Indeed 8 of Pixar’s 17 films are in the IMDB Top 250 Movies of all time.

No disrespect to Disney, but I think the real Magic Kingdom lies 397.8 miles north of Anaheim in a city called Emeryville, California where you’ll find this:

Longtime GITS readers know of my fascination with Pixar having blogged about them dozens of times. Due to having two sons who quite literally have grown up in what someday is likely to be called the Pixar Era, I have seen every one of the company’s movies, most of them several times.

In my estimation, the filmmakers at Pixar are master storytellers.

But how do they successfully wrangle magic time after time in their films? Are there lessons we can learn from Pixar to inspire and upgrade our own writing?

Up-up-upgrade your writing with Pixar story-crafting principles and practices.

Those are two key questions I undertook in creating the online course Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling which begins Monday, January 16. My answer: An emphatic yes!

First off, there are the practices Pixar uses in developing, breaking, writing and rewriting a script. In our 1-week class, we go through that process step by step, then see how we can adapt that approach to our own writing.

Then there are several narrative principles evident in Pixar movies, six of them we focus in our online class: Small Story / Substantial Saga, Special Subculture, Strange Sojourners, Separation, Sentimentality, and Surprise. Going through every Pixar movie, we explore how these dynamics work in the context of each narrative and their overall applicability to storytelling.

There are 7 lectures, each of which I wrote, the content buttressed by an exclusive interview I conducted with Mary Coleman, Senior Development Executive at Pixar since the days of Toy Story 2, so we get a real inside look the outfit’s creative process.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I am expanding this class to teach it at DePaul University and have added two more principles: Sires and Siblings, Stumbles and Switches. If you take my SMC online class, you will be the first people to explore that content with me!

The class also has a Logline Workshop where you can post a story idea and revise per peer feedback. And two teleconferences to accommodate peoples’ schedules where participants get a chance to dig into the course content with me as well as discuss anything related to writing, screenwriting, and movies.

Trust me, this Pixar class I teach is INCREDIBLE!

Here are some nice comments from just a few folks who’ve taken the class:

“I was lucky enough to be able to take Scott’s Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling class. It was my first class and a wonderful experience. I learned a ton and now have some important utensils that will help make all my stories better. Scott’s a great teacher and it was a pleasure learning from him!” — Valencia Stokes

“This course is awesome. I refer to these notes and lessons all the time.” — Traci Nell Peterson

“A course on Pixar movies? Apart from legitimately letting out my inner child and renting Up ‘for research purposes, I learnt about the ethos of the Pixar Brain Trust and the essential elements contained in all of their movies. Scott took us on an all-inclusive week long journey into why Pixar are so successful and how to practically apply this to your own script.” — Camilla Castree

“I recommend this course wholeheartedly. Plus you get to watch Pixar films as homework.” — TheQuietAct

“Scott Myers is a brilliant teacher and unites his knowledge and experience, insight and depth of thought in his lectures as well as he is providing help and support to his students. I highly recommend the class.” — Eva Brandstätter

Consider the great characters Pixar has created. Learn how and why they work, and bring those insights to your writing.

A few words about the format: I’ve been teaching online since 2002, worked with over 1000 writers in that context, and honestly believe it is superior to the onsite class environment in many ways:

  • You can do virtually everything on your own time: Download lectures, read forum conversations, add your own comments, upload writing exercises and assignments. In your pajamas. In bed. Drinking coffee. However you want to access online course content, you can do it.
  • As opposed to listening to a teacher present lectures verbally, you get to download lectures and read them. Again at your leisure, but even more importantly, instead of feverishly trying to jot down notes from a verbal presentation, here you get everything laid out for you. I take great pride in my lectures, as they not only provide great content, they also have a narrative flow to them. Yes, they tell a little story.
  • Feedback and conversations online tend to be much more thoughtful and therefore beneficial than onsite settings. Why? Because instead of off-the-cuff, random comments, participants online tend to spend more time and reflection in composing posts for online.
  • Finally I’m constantly amazed at how much of a community emerges in online class environments. Writers from all around the world and somehow we bind together into remarkably vibrant learning communities, time and time again.

So if you’ve never tried an online screenwriting class, come on in! The virtual water’s fine!

For more information on Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling which begins January 16, go here. And if you really want to treat yourself well, consider The Craft Package.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I am adding two new Craft classes in 2017 — Dialogue-Writing Workshop and Scene-Writing Workshop. They are BOTH included in The Craft Package which means your savings are now nearly 60%! Automatic enrollment in all 10 classes! Immediate access to the Craft curriculum to go through at your own pace.

Get lost trying to write your story? Let Dory help you find your way!

I am updating lectures to include Finding Dory which has grossed an incredible $ 1.02 billion in worldwide box office revenues.

So kick of the New Year with some incredible insights into crafting a story with the practices and principles at work in Pixar movies. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you! Or to put it another way…

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!


Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium