The Business of Screenwriting: Sometimes you’re just going to get it wrong

In which I got it completely and utterly wrong about a movie project which went on to win 6 Oscars.

In Hollywood, actors are often called “the talent.” And although it’s less frequent in this era of belt-tightening, if the talent gets big enough, they can, if they wish get a studio production deal. Which is how it comes to pass that in 1993, we are sitting in the production office of Tom Hanks with his “people,” in this case the head of his production company. She has read a script we have written, likes it quite a lot, and asks to meet with us to discuss possible projects.

This is Tom Hanks before Philadelphia, more known at the time for his roles in comedies like Bachelor Party, The Money Pit, and Dragnet.

“You may think of Tom as just a funny guy,” our host says, “but he’s really smart, reads tons of books, and has broad interests.”

She proceeds to tell us how Tom loves NASA and the space program, and has a passion for history (“He’s looking to do a World War II story”). She runs through a number of projects they have in development and some of them are quite surprising in terms of the subject matter. But there’s one that surprises me more than the rest, the project Hanks is currently filming:

“It’s a period piece about a boy who’s born… let’s just say he’s kind of slow. You know, in the head. Also he’s got polio, so they fit him with these leg braces. Some bullies chase him and he starts running, then the braces fall off, and guess what? He can run like the wind. He gets recruited to play football for the University of Alabama, which is why he’s there when the school gets desegregated… you know that famous photograph when Governor George Wallace is standing in front of the entrance to block the way of those first African-American students? This guy — his name is Forrest — is there in that scene. Anyway Forrest gets drafted and goes to Vietnam and meets a guy named Bubba who is like really into shrimp, only Bubba dies, and so Forrest comes back to the United States to start a shrimping business. Wait, I forgot about the ping pong. He goes to China to play ping pong. Oh, I also forgot that he wins a medal and goes to meet President Johnson and shows him the wound he got in Vietnam on his butt. Anyway he takes up jogging and that becomes all the rage. And he discovers the Watergate break-in and basically becomes like this really famous person who pops in and out of like really important moments in history, kind of a Zelig kind of thing. What do you think?”

I walk out of that meeting, turn to my writing partner, and these are the exact words that come out of my mouth:

“That is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard of.”

The next year, Forrest Gump is released and wins 6 Academy Awards.

Which just goes to show that sometimes you’re just going to get it wrong. You can work up a pitch. Write a spec script. Go in with your take for an open writing assignment. Turn in a draft. And yes, sit in a meeting determining how you feel about an idea. Sometimes you get it right. But sometimes, you take a swing, and you flat-out miss.

I confess that I did feel pretty sheepish about having gotten Forrest Gump so utterly wrong. However my intersection with the project didn’t end there.

A few years later, we’re sitting in yet another office, one of the producers of Forrest Gump, and she tells us a rather remarkable story.

“You know it took four writers to nail that story,” she says. “Three writers turned in drafts, one after the other, but it just wasn’t clicking. Then we brought in Eric Roth. He read the book, went through the other drafts, then came in for a meeting. He said, ‘I know what the problem is. There’s no love story.’”

“Wait,” I say, “You mean the other scripts…”

“No love story. Can you imagine Forrest Gump without that?”

Of course not. The Forrest-Jenny subplot provides the emotional spine of the story, without it, everything that happens to Forrest would be reduced to a series of meaningless events. A love story seems so obvious, right?

And yet three other writers, each of them apparently at the top of their game, took a crack at adapting the book into a screenplay, and never once thought about adding an overarching love story for Forrest.

So the next time you flub something in one of your scripts, just remember: Sometimes you’re just going to get it wrong. Even professional writers do. It may not make the problems with your script go away. But at least you’ll know you have company.

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The Business of Screenwriting: Sometimes you’re just going to get it wrong was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Were Rey’s Parents in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Just Spoiled by Adam Driver?

Rey's parents

We’re less than two months away from the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and for the most part, everyone involved with the production has remained tight-lipped about spoilers. But that rascal Adam Driver may have just let slip a big clue about Rey and her secretive parentage. Driver, you scamp! Stormtroppers from Disney are probably speeding toward your house right now to give you a stern talking to. Get the possible details on Rey’s parents below!

In the new Star Wars saga, there’s one still unanswered question that towers above the rest: when will Sy Snootles make an appearance? Oh, also, fans want to know who Rey’s parents are. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, new series hero Rey (Daisy Ridley) has been stranded on Jakku for most of her life, waiting for her family to return. And just who are Rey’s family? We don’t know, and there’s a sense Rey doesn’t really know either.

This has, of course, lead to much fan speculation, with the fan consensus being that Rey is related to Luke (Mark Hamill) in some capacity – although that seems too obvious to be true. The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has said in the past that his film will address Rey’s parents in some form, but co-star Adam Driver may have just dropped a pretty big hint. It goes without saying that this should be considered a potential SPOILER, so be warned!

Driver, who plays Darth Vader’s angsty grandson in the series, gave a recent interview to GQ wherein he discusses several things related to The Last Jedi. Among them was this bit of information about his character and also Rey:

“I remember the initial conversations about having things ‘skinned’, peeling away layers to evolve into other people, and the person Kylo’s pretending to be on the outside is not who he is. He’s a vulnerable kid who doesn’t know where to put his energy, but when he puts his mask on, suddenly, he’s playing a role. JJ had that idea initially and I think Rian took it to the next level…You have, also, the hidden identity of this princess who’s hiding who she really is so she can survive and Kylo Ren and her hiding behind these artifices.”

Using the phrase “princess” to describe Rey is very specific. Is there a chance Driver misspoke? Sure, but it seems like the actor may have just revealed a big Star Wars secret. Of course, the question remains: if Rey is a princess, who are her royal parents? The logical conclusion many will draw is that Rey is the daughter of former princess turned general Leia (Carrie Fisher), which would make her Kylo Ren’s sister. But again, this seems a little too obvious. And Leia gave no indication of this in the scenes she shared with Rey in The Force Awakens. Feel free to speculate wildly about what this means! We’ll likely have more answers when Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters December 15, 2017.

The post Were Rey’s Parents in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Just Spoiled by Adam Driver? appeared first on /Film.


Uber’s major rival in India just raised $1.1 billion


While Uber faces five criminal investigations, its rival in India is ready to fight. 

Ola, the six-year-old ride-hailing company that operates in over 100 cities throughout India, just raked in $ 1.1 billion from major investors. And another billion could be on the way. 

Chinese internet giant Tencent led the funding round, which included participation from SoftBank, which has been on its own major investing spree as of late. Ola is in “advanced talks” with other investors to close an additional $ 1 billion as part of this funding round, pushing its raise over $ 2 billion, Ola said in a press release.  Read more…

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Reader Question: Should you plot out the Protagonist’s arc or just go with your gut?

Some words of ‘wisdom’ from legendary Hollywood producer Max Millimeter.

A tweet from @CaveDude21:

Do you actually plot out the Protag’s Emotional Arc, or just go with gut?

I’m tempted to go to my default point: There’s no right way to write. Every writer is different. Every story is different. But you know what? I’m going to pull legendary Hollywood movie producer Max Millimeter into this conversation to lend some, shall we say, reality to the conversation.

Okay, first off, I gotta be frank. I hate that word “arc.” You writers throw that around in meetings all the time, arc arc here, arc arc there, here an arc, there an arc, everybody’s got a fucking arc arc.

Know what I think? Writers use that word ‘coz it makes it sound like you got some deep insight into a big fat mystery what a character’s about.

Bull shit! It ain’t rocket science. It’s about who a character is and what they go through. Boom! Easy peasy, let’s get sleezy.

So arc that!

Max Millimeter as a boy.

Now let’s say I got a story. And I got back-to-back meetings with two different writers to see who I’m gonna hire to write said story.

Writer A, she comes in and while she goes on about the Protagonist’s arc, which as I just said drives me a little nutso, at least she’s telling me what I wanna hear: The Protagonist starts out over here being one way, goes through some shit, then ends up over here being another way. The story changes them, they’re like a different person, you know.

Okay, so it’s Writer B’s turn, and he comes in, and let’s say I’m tryin’ to be real nice, meet him on his turf. I say, “So what about the Protagonist’s arc?” And he says, “Well, you know, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that, and instead of laying it out for you, I’ve decided to go with my gut in figuring it out.”

Now, you tell me: Who do you pick for that project, huh? Miss Here-Is-The-Protagonist’s-Arc-All-Laid-Out-Beginning-Middle-And-End or Mister-Go-With-My-Gut-You-Just-Gotta-Trust-Me-And-My-Artsy-Fartsy-Process?

See what I’m saying?

Look, you wanna write a spec script and you decide not to figure shit out before you type FADE IN, be my guest, ‘coz evidently you live in a world full of petunias and ponies, rainbows and ribbons la la la.

But you wanna live in my world, or better yet, work in my world, where it’s deadlines and competition and I need a script yesterday and just bottom the freakin’ line for me, yeah, you better damn well figure out your Protagonist’s arc, or else it’s bye-bye Hollywood, hello Radio Shack.

That still doesn’t mean I like that word ‘arc.’

An additional point: The Protagonist is almost always the single most important character in a story. As their Want defines the shape of the Plotline, the story’s physical journey, so too their Need defines the shape of the Themeline, the story’s psychological journey. It is critical to determine what both of those are for you to be in touch with the structure and soul of the story.

As to the subtext of the question: “Do I have to do the hard work of figuring out the nature of a Protagonist’s metamorphosis in Prep, before I write the script, or can I just type FADE IN and figure it out along the way?” A writer can choose to do anything they want. However I side with Max here: Work through this type of thing in Prep. Face it: You’re either going to figure it out then or figure it out while writing the script. You’re much better off working that out before you type FADE IN so you don’t get lost, frustrated and quit before you get to FADE OUT.

GITS readers, what say ye?

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Reader Question: Should you plot out the Protagonist’s arc or just go with your gut? 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

Kim Kardashian just posted the greatest Instagram caption of all time


Kim Kardashian might have just posted the greatest Instagram caption of all time. 

True to form, Kim posted an important update on the status of her hair colour. It’s now blonde FYI, in case you missed the memo. 

But, alongside this pretty standard Kardashian Instagram are the words “I’d go blonde for that D…😂.”

Hold the phone, Kimberly. Did you just say what we think you did? 

I’d go blonde for that D…😂

A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

Is Kim K referring to catching some d***, or is this a sweet innocent coincidence? Let’s investigate.  Read more…

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Uber is losing its licence to operate in London, but don’t panic just yet


And so it finally happened. 

After months of uncertainties, Transport for London (TfL) has decided to strip Uber of its licence to operate in London. 

With a statement on Twitter, TfL said it informed the car-riding app “that it will not be issued with a private hire operator licence after expiry of its current licence on 30 September.”

TfL has today informed Uber that it will not be issued with a private hire operator

— Transport for London (@TfL) September 22, 2017

Uber, which has more than 40,000 registered drivers in the capital, has 21 days to appeal the decision. And during that time, it’s allowed to operate, so don’t freak out just yet.  Read more…

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Apple just released statement on net neutrality, and you need read it right now


Apple has released a statement on net neutrality, and it’s worth reading.

People get emotional about this topic. The future of the internet—and by extension the future of information, business, and just about everything else—is at stake, as the Federal Communications Commission works toward eliminating the rules that make sure internet providers can’t manipulate what you see or how you see it.

With all the vitriol, net neutrality can seem like just another partisan topic. It’s not—and Apple’s head of public policy in the U.S., Cynthia Hogan, laid it all out very simply in a letter sent to the FCC. Read more…

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‘Mass Effect: Andromeda’ is basically over and BioWare just confirmed it, folks


Five months.

That’s how long it’s been since Mass Effect: Andromeda launched, and that’s how long it took BioWare Montreal to admit that nothing more can be done with the ailing game’s story mode. Technically, it wasn’t even a full five months, as Andromeda launched on March 21.

BioWare confirmed the decision in an update on the Mass Effect website. The Andromeda corner of the game’s universe won’t be tossed, but continuing stories will be relegated to special multiplayer missions and other forms of media.

“Our last update, 1.10, was the final update for Mass Effect: Andromeda,” the note reads. “There are no planned future patches for single-player or in-game story content.” Read more…

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Hackers just sent us practically all of HBO’s social media passwords


The leaks just keep coming.

The hackers responsible for the massive breach of HBO haven’t let up, and reached out to Mashable to share their latest exploits. And while the latest data dump doesn’t include any Game of Thrones spoilers, it definitely contains some information that the network wouldn’t want out in the open. 

Specifically, what appears to be the login credentials for almost every single HBO social media account. Passwords for everything from @HBO, @GameOfThrones, and @WestworldHBO to various Instagram and Giphy accounts were in a text document provided to us by the so-called “Mr. Smith group.” Read more…

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Teen Groot will steal every ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ scene he’s in, just watch


You thought Baby Groot was a stone-cold scene thief? Just wait.

There’s so much to unpack from a second viewing of the Avengers: Infinity War footage that first played at D23 last and came out for an encore at Comic-Con on Saturday night, but there was one thing I utterly missed the first time that fully stood out the second:

Teen Groot.

We first met the brooding, game-obsessed teenaged Groot in one of the post-credits scenes from Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, when Peter Quill was giving him a fatherly talking-to, and he wan’t having any of it. Well, he’s barely aged at all by the time we get to Infinity War — and so settled into the background that I didn’t see him the first time around. Read more…

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