Mickey Fisher on Writing, Selling, and Producing a TV Pilot Spec Script — Part 1

7-part series on going from original TV pilot script to network series.

Mickey Fisher

On May 24, 2013, I posted about a TV pilot spec script which had Hollywood all abuzz:

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Hollywood development world — movies and TV — nothing shifts the tectonic plates of The Biz more than a spec script that gets people salivating over it. It’s also a time when writers can learn an awful lot about the buying pulse of Hollywood.

Such is the case right now as Hollywood froths over a 56-page spec TV pilot “Extant” written by newcomer Mickey Fisher. Background from TheWrap [emphasis added]:

Mickey Fisher, an unknown and unsigned writer until recently, has film studios drooling over his script “Extant” for weeks. There’s just one twist: it’s not a film script.

Fisher wrote “Extant” as a TV pilot. It’s a one-hour sci-fi drama about John and Molly Watts and their son, a human-like robot named Ethan. Molly, the space-traveling wife, is also pregnant with a baby that is part human and part alien. The family intrigue deepens in subsequent episodes.

Multiple agencies sought to sign the writer after reading the script, and WME won out. WME and manager Brooklyn Weaver, who discovered Fisher, sent the script around to the studios who are hot to trot for a high-concept script mixing sci-fi and familial drama.

“Everyone is freaking out about it,” an agent at a rival firm said. “It’s ‘A.I.’ as a TV series.”

— —

Warner Bros. still made an offer to acquire the project and turn it into a movie, according to multiple individuals inside and outside the studio, but now the studio is talking with Fisher about acquiring a different pitch. The studio declined to comment.

WME and Weaver always harbored dreams of turning “Extant” into a TV series with Steven Spielberg producing. They are halfway there: Amblin TV, which produced “ER” and “The Americans,” is developing and packaging it. It remains unclear if Spielberg will take a credit, though his involvement would make it even more attractive to networks.

Here is Mickey Fisher. Apparently he is a Hollywood outsider. He writes a spec TV pilot script. It turns the town on its head. Now he has interest from movie studios. TV networks. Perhaps “acquiring a different pitch.” Steven Freaking Spielberg.

That script turned into a CBS series which ran for two seasons.

In 2016, Mickey Fisher — a long-time fan of the blog — posted this:

It’s a tremendous read with lots of information and insights into the craft, so I reached out to Mickey and he agreed to let me serialize his entire missive. It’s a great story and I’ll use the opportunity to spotlight the many takeaways Mickey touches on in his observations.

Today in Part 1: Mickey talks about his background as a writer and delves into the process of writing the script for “Extant”:

WHY I WROTE THIS:

Over the past few years I’ve had requests from people asking if I had time to sit down for coffee so they could pick my brain about my experience creating and selling EXTANT. It’s often difficult to make that happen in person so I decided to write down common pieces of advice I received or parts of my story that might help someone else. If you don’t know my story…

The short version is: I went to college for Musical Theater at The University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music. While I was there a lot of my professors told me that because I was a character actor it might be awhile before I was right for a lot of the roles I’d be playing, maybe it wouldn’t even happen until my forties. So I decided to start writing roles for myself instead. By the time I finished school I wanted to be a writer as much as I wanted to be an actor, and over the next twenty years learned to write plays, movies and television. The day I turned forty years old I sold my first big script, a tv pilot for a new show called EXTANT. One of the Executive Producers was Steven Spielberg, it starred Oscar Winner Halle Berry, and got a straight to series order for thirteen episodes from CBS. I was made an Executive Producer as well and spent two years learning how to make television at the highest level. It was my first job in Hollywood.

A lot of people are going to tell you that it NEVER happens that way. But Goddamnit, it DID happen and to quote David Mamet from THE EDGE, “What one man (or woman) can do, another man (or woman) can do.” So I’m passing along what I learned from my personal experience. I know it’s not going to happen for everyone the same way and there will be plenty here that other people will disagree with. This is just one guy’s overall experience from writing the pilot to selling it. It doesn’t cover making the show. I’m offering it to you in the hope that some part of it may be useful. I won’t make any assumptions about your experience/expertise, apologies if this seems like basic common sense or stuff you already know. I’ll start with…

HOW I WROTE THE SCRIPT:

By the time I sat down to really write my first pilot, I realized that I knew very little about writing television. I’d been writing plays for almost twenty years and writing feature films for nearly that long. As much as I LOVED television I didn’t know how to write it. So I spent a few months really looking at the structure and rhythm of my favorite shows. I took a number of episodes of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, BREAKING BAD and DOCTOR WHO and watched them with a remote in one hand and a notebook in the other. I made note of how many acts there were in each one, how many scenes were in an act, and the approximate length of each scene. I did this over and over again, with probably twenty episodes in all over three months.

After that, I wrote a pilot for a show called HOPEWELL that was kind of a practice pilot about a small midwestern town where strange supernatural things began to occur. At the time I was using CELT-X screenwriting software on my iPad and it had a template for a Bible, with sub-categories for Characters, Timelines, etc. I got into filling all of those things out, imagining the world and the longer arcs for the characters. That first one was just ok.

Then I followed one of the most important pieces of writing you can get: write the show or movie you would want to watch. Until then I’d been writing what I knew, keeping my stories small and contained, stuff I could shoot on my own for very little money in my hometown in Ohio. But I realized that the stuff I was writing is not the first thing I would go see if I was looking at a film festival brochure or deciding what to see on a Friday night. I was a genre guy, have been my whole life. My earliest memory (other than my youngest sister being brought home from the hospital for the first time) is seeing STAR WARS. In fact, I’m listening to THE FORCE AWAKENS soundtrack as I write this. So what came out was a sci-fi thriller about what it means to be human, wrapped up in a story about a female astronaut who goes to space on a solo mission and comes back pregnant to her husband and android child.

I wrote the first draft of the pilot over a month and then did a lot of rewriting after. I was conscious about laying the pipelines for a serialized story and where these characters might go and conscious about the world the story took place in. A lot of the technology was grounded in stuff I was reading on Wired or finding on Reddit, stuff that’s going to be available to everyone in the near future. I didn’t realize it at the time but grounding it in reality was a big selling point.

After the pilot was finished, I did one of the most important things I could have ever done. On instinct, I wrote a 6 page or so SEASON/SERIES OVERVIEW DOCUMENT for myself, imagining where this story and these characters would go after the pilot. Only my girlfriend and a couple of friends knew anything about the script at this point, so this was strictly for myself, to help me understand more about what I was doing. I was basically taking what was in the Celt-X bible template but putting it in prose form, like a treatment. It wasn’t until over a year later that I realized HOW IMPORTANT this step was. In the end, it would prove to be important not just as a presentation document but it also gave me a bedrock of information to mine in future meetings when people asked insightful questions about where it was all going. I hear some writers talk about having a full six or seven season arc planned out for the characters and that all sounds great, but in my experience, you don’t need that much. You want to show you have an understanding and know WHY you made the choices that you did. It’s ok to not have ALL the answers and you also want to leave room for collaboration.

Because I had fallen in love with these characters, I took it one step further: I wrote a second episode for myself, basically creating my own fan fiction for a show that didn’t exist yet. Very few people know about it and we never used it other than mining it for a few ideas later, like Ethan getting into a public school and the problems that arose. But again, it gave me more ammunition for going into later meetings. I’ve heard writers ask about writing their whole season of scripts on spec and I even thought about that myself once. I can tell you now that going that far would have been a waste of time. Once you start working with other people there are all kinds of new ideas and notes about things that aren’t working. For instance, I had originally intended the character eventually named Yasumoto to be a kind of “man who fell to Earth” character, an alien from a different species. If I’d written thirteen episodes based on that being an enormous part of the mythology, I would have had to go back to square one. And that’s long before you get to issues with actors, production demands, audiences not responding to characters, etc. I don’t think you need to write more than one. Two at the most.

Again, looking back, I lucked into doing this for myself even though no one was asking for it. Once the pilot script started getting me meetings, I was hit with tons of questions about where I thought the story was going. Because I had done all of this work, I had a ton of answers. I think that’s a large part of why I got to stick around for as long as I did. I had a vision for what this could be and after living with it and doing this kind of work I was able to articulate it.

Takeaways:

  • By the time I sat down to really write my first pilot, I realized that I knew very little about writing television: One of the keys to writing well is being honest about what parts of the craft you know… and what you don’t know. Since you are competing against the best screenwriters and TV writers in the world, you need to do whatever you must to up your game in all areas and on all fronts.
  • I spent months really looking at the structure and rhythm of my favorite shows: If you want to learn story structure for TV or film, there is perhaps no better way than actually watching produced content and breaking it down — act by act, scene by scene. William Goldman famously said, “Screenplays are structure,” and this truism pertains as much, if not even more, to television as it does to movies.
  • I got into… imagining the world and the longer arcs for the characters: When you write a TV pilot or a movie, you are in effect creating a story universe. Even if that universe is a common American suburb, you need to immerse yourself in lives its characters and the specifics of that sub-culture because in that way, you reveal the unique, compelling personality of that place and its people, transforming what appears to be typical into something distinctive and entertaining.
  • Write the show or movie you would want to watch: Don’t just write any story, rather find one you are passionate about… and write that. That is likely the only way you will have the stamina and persistence to write and rewrite it until it’s great. Moreover when your passion comes through a script, the words magically lift up off the page directly into the minds-eye of the reader.
  • So what came out was a sci-fi thriller about what it means to be human: While your story may very well have multiple themes, find the one which lies at the core of its emotional meaning. That can be the touchstone you use to inform every major and even minor choice you make in writing your script.
  • A lot of the technology was grounded in stuff I was reading on Wired or finding on Reddit: Do your research. While you may not be writing a documentary, your story universe has to feel authentic, and to gain the trust of a reader, you must demonstrate to a reader you know this place and these characters.
  • I wrote a 6 page or so SEASON/SERIES OVERVIEW DOCUMENT for myself, imagining where this story and these characters would go after the pilot… Because I had fallen in love with these characters, I took it one step further: I wrote a second episode for myself: This recalls the Iceberg Theory of Writing wherein the script itself represents 10% of the iceberg which appears above the surface of the water, but all your character and plot work amounts to the 90% below the surface. Again immerse yourself in the story universe, know your characters, and imagine what each of their narrative fates could be.

In sum, do enough to hit the sweet spot Mickey did by the time he had gotten his spec script into shape to send it out into the world: I had a vision for what this could be and after living with it and doing this kind of work I was able to articulate it.

Tomorrow in Part 2, Mickey reveals what happened after he wrote the script and how that jump-started a process which eventually led to “Extant” becoming a prime-time major broadcast network TV series.

Mickey is repped by WME and Energy Entertainment.

Twitter: @MickeyFisher73.

UPDATE: Mickey recreated his magic with a spec TV project called “Reverie”:

Like Extant, Reverie originated as a spec. Penned by Fisher, it is described as a grounded and dramatic thriller about a former detective specializing in human behavior who is brought in when the launch of an advanced virtual reality program has dangerous and unintended consequences.

— —

Fisher was an unknown writer when sci-fi spec Extant won an online screenwriting contest and was picked up by Amblin TV, sparking a bidding war before landing at CBS with a straight-to-series order with Halle Berry signing on to star.

Similarly, Fisher sent the first draft of Reverie to Frank and Falvey, who boarded the project to develop and produce the script. It was taken out to the marketplace during pitch season, garnering interest from multiple networks and ultimately landing at NBC.

It appears lightning DOES strike twice!

Comment Archive


Mickey Fisher on Writing, Selling, and Producing a TV Pilot Spec Script — Part 1 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

My First Produced Script

Recently, the first short script I wrote to be produced (with an actual budget), wrapped in the Netherlands. Its title “Bijltjesdag” (probably not pronounced how you’d think) is a Dutch expression which means “Day of Reckoning” – and feels particularly apt as the last twelve months have yielded several days of reckoning for myself and my career.

The first of these was the day I completed my MA. Although an academic degree can never compete with practical experience, I did feel an enormous sense of personal pride at graduating. However, this soon gave way to feelings of being overwhelmed by trying to ‘make it’ in a famously competitive industry:

Firstly, the script I focused on in my course – an adventure feature called The Psychonaut, was of a studio level budget and had an ambitiously complex narrative, both factors which narrowed its chances of success, particularly as I was (and still am) an unknown. Its original premise received praise from within my MA Course, but the reality is crueller than academia.

I then decided to write, essentially, a micro budget horror version of The Psychonaut, called Darkness and Voices. Because of the mass appeal of the genre and the low projected cost, it was much more likely to be my ‘breakthrough’ script. It has received more traction, positive feedback, producer interest, and I await the result of the Screencraft Horror Competition.

Breakthrough

I was, however, still on the hunt for my first credit, when one day Gideon Van Eeden, a fellow student on the MA course advertised for short scripts. I had written a few, which I’d totally forgotten about. My preference had always been for features. When I chatted to Gideon, however, things started to click – and I also realised that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – that is to say, a produced script is better than the remote possibility of winning a competition.

So I utilised the skills I learnt at Raindance to refine my short, based partly on observations of my father in his care home – and so more personal to me than my other scripts – and sent it to Gideon. I was thrilled when he chose my script from a shortlist of 2, whittled down from a list of 20.

There were a number of early clues that I had made a smart move in responding to Gideon.

Firstly, in our discussions, it was clear to me that he understood the script on all its levels – from the strained relationship between the protagonist and his daughter to the symbolism of him blowing out all his birthday candles – and this was later confirmed to me when I read his director’s statement.

Secondly, when transferring its setting to Holland, he was able to make suggestions to improve the narrative to a subtly different, yet clearer and more powerful one.

Day of Reckoning

Fast forward to now, the film is wrapped, post-production is done and we are submitting to Film Festivals (and we’ve just been selected for TMFF). I’m incredibly impressed with what Gideon has achieved production value-wise – not because he shot it in 4K, or because it had a budget, but because of his clear understanding of the human narrative.

Secondly, the power of the actors’ performances shines through, again partly thanks to him. Thirdly, the work of the crew which he assembled is second to none, from the concept art to the camera work.

When I reflect on how we got here, from my perspective, I am pleased that I took my ‘feature script blinkers’ off and reappraised how to launch as a screenwriter. My key lessons are:

  1. Produced credits in quality productions are the most powerful calling card.
  2. A personal network, such as the one I built up in the Raindance Postgraduate Degree, is the fastest way to get things moving.
  3. Working internationally, including outside of the English language, really broadens the pool of quality collaborators available to you. This is something Raindance is particularly good at.

And nothing beats seeing your very first IMDb credit as a writer!

However, “Bijltjesdag’s” Day of Reckoning will be when it is released to the wider public! In the meantime, I am learning the hard way what it takes even to promote even a short film… so…

Please follow us @BijltjesdagFILM
Like us on Facebook https://m.facebook.com/bijltjesdagFILM/ where there are lots of fun production videos, images and info.
And check our trailer out on IMDb.  Best of luck with all your projects.

The post My First Produced Script appeared first on Raindance.

Raindance

Reader Question: Is an 80-page spec script too short?

If 120 pages is no longer the norm, is there one and if so, what?

A question via email from Olov Lindstrom:

I was wondering if I could have your opinion on something. Maybe the answer to this is out there somewhere but I can’t seem to find it.

Right now I’d say I’m about 75% of the way through writing my first script. I got into this writing because I woke up one night after having a dream that was just such a great story that it just needed to be told! Before that I had no intention of becoming a screenwriter. I’m just telling you this to let you know from where I’m approaching the writing. I’ll be trying to sell the script, not myself as a screenwriter. Basically I saw the movie, now I feel everyone else deserve to see it too! 🙂

Right now it seems my script will end up being about only 80 pages. It’s a thriller/action story. Sure, I’ve kept it quite lean but I feel all the turning points, subplots, dialogue etc is in there. So.. is this good or bad from a selling point of view? Is 80 pages too short? Should I keep it like this or try to expand on it?

Interesting. A few weeks back, we had a reader question about whether it was okay to submit a 187-page script. We were fortunate to have several professional script readers and story analysts provide their thoughts in comments. Hopefully we’ll get the benefit of their wisdom on this query, too.

First things first, you should check out this post which goes into detail about several dynamics related to screenplay page count — how scripts are ‘shrinking,’ which genres have more / less page counts, and so on.

While acknowledging that we no longer talk about a 120-page screenplay as the norm, speaking personally I’d still say that if I got an 80-page script to review, I’d go into the read anticipating that the story might be pretty thin. Yes, I know that the movie Buried, which recently sold at Sundance to Lionsgate for $ 3.2M, had a script that was only 80 pages long, but look at that story’s premise:

Paul is a U.S. contractor working in Iraq. After an attack by a group of Iraqis he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter and a cell phone it’s a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap.

There the issue is more about how do you sustain that premise for 80 pages? But most movies clock in with at least a 95-minute run-time. So I would still carry a yellow flag into my reading of any script that was only 80 pages long.

Now I can’t deny the possibility that your script could work perfectly at 80 pages. However seeing as this is your first script, before you start sending it out to agents and managers, I strongly suggest you get some feedback. For while you may think it works as is, perhaps other readers will find that they don’t get to know this character or that character well enough, the plot resolves itself too easily and would benefit from more complications and reversals, etc.

But I would not recommend to “try to expand it” just to pad the page count. Instead I would encourage you to perhaps spend more time digging into your characters, seeing if they have anything more they may want to ‘tell’ you. Maybe look at your plot again to see how many major plot points you have. How many sequences? If you have less than 10 of the former and 8 of the latter, maybe it would behoove you to re-open your plotting process to see if there are some twists and turns you might have overlooked.

Be clear: That process is not about trying to generate more pages, it’s about trying to surface more of the authentic story that could be lying there, waiting for you to discover it.

But at the end of the day, if you feel confident that your 80-page script works as is, then I say go for it. If the story is a strong one, Hollywood is not going to balk at an 80-page script.

Script readers and story analysts, what say ye re an 80-page script? What would be your first impression? What prejudices might you carry into that read? What would you advise Olov to do?

Comment Archive

For 300+ more reader questions and answers, go here.

[Originally published January 31, 2010]


Reader Question: Is an 80-page spec script too short? 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

Spec Script Deal: “Jack & Dick”

Hyde Park Entertainment acquires historical drama spec script “Jack & Dick” written by Lee Batchler and Janet Scott Batchler. From Deadline:

…charts the fascinating true story of the little-known friendship between political rivals John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, from their early years as Senators to the race for the Presidency, leading up to the historic 1960’s televised debate.

The Batchlers are repped by Alan Gasmer & Friends.

By my count, this is the 46th spec script deal in 2017.

There were 46 spec script deals year-to-date in 2016.


Spec Script Deal: “Jack & Dick” 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

Zero Draft Thirty 2017 September Challenge: Story Prep (Part 8) — Script Diary

A series to help prepare writers for next month’s writing challenge.

Do you have a story you want to write? A feature length movie screenplay? An original TV pilot? A web series pilot? A novel? Short story? An epic length limerick?

The Zero Draft Thirty 2017 September Challenge is for you!

September 1: You type FADE IN / “Once upon a time…”
September 30: You type FADE OUT / “…They all lived happily ever after.”

It’s free! It’s fun! It’s Fade In to Fade Out!

For everything you need to know to join, click here.

To help prepare writers for the #ZD30SCRIPT Challenge, this week and next, I’ll be running a series on Story Prep.

Today in Part 8: Script Diary.

The last thing I do before I type FADE IN is create yet a Word file, which I call Script Diary.

I come to the diary to start every writing session. I visit it when I get stuck. I return to it when I hit on a story revelation. Day after day, I use my script diary to chronicle the writing of the story.

At the start of a writing session, I note the date and time in the script diary, then get my fingers and brain loosened up by typing up my thoughts about the scene I am about to tackle. I’ll remind myself what type of scene it is, which characters are participating in it, what each of their agendas is, who is playing what story function for that scene, how the scene relates to the overall plot, what the central point of the scene is, and so on. As I’m doing that, normally lines of dialogue pop to mind and I’ll put those down — so in essence I’m pre-drafting the scene, and can take that sketch to my script file and use it to write the actual scene.

I also use the script diary to track my emotional connection to the story. For instance, I may be worried about whether the scene I’m about to write will work or not. I may be concerned that one of the characters doesn’t feel quite right. If I’m stuck, I use the diary as a place to express my fears about the story; in fact, if I’m really stuck, I’ll ‘ask’ the characters, right there in my diary, to talk to me, show me what they want or need.

Now you may think I’m crazy — talking to my characters, asking them for help! But ever since I’ve started using a script diary, my experience of my story’s characters has become that much more… real, I suppose is the best way to describe it.

Whenever I am stuck, I start writing in my script diary, and invariably I become aware of my characters. Suddenly, one of them will turn and halfway glance at me or motion, and I’ll ‘follow’ them.

What I am saying is that my characters lead me deeper into my story. They show me the way. And the script diary is a crucial part of that experience because, I think, I am opening myself up to my characters, creating a ‘dialogue’ with them on those diary pages.

And there’s something else that’s very cool about a script diary: when you’re done with the project, you’ve got this journal of the entire writing process. You can go back to see and feel the actual moments where you found a breakthrough, where you busted through a story block, where your characters spoke to you.

Like everything else in this succession of posts, a script diary may not work for you. However, I encourage you to try it at least once. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

My embrace of the importance of story prep led me to create — to my knowledge — the first online workshop of its type — Prep: From Concept to Outline. During the academic year, I offer it as a private one-on-one workshop. If interested, email me.

Which brings us back to the Zero Draft Thirty 2017 September Challenge.

Part 1: “What if…”
Part 2: Gender-Bending
Part 3: Genre-Bending
Part 4: Think International
Part 5: Franchise
Part 6: Character Development
Part 7: Index Cards

Have you got your story concept waxed and ready to rock and roll in the Zero Draft Thirty 2017 September Challenge? Come back here every day in September to share the experience with a slew of other writers.

Zero Draft Thirty Challenge: Pound Perfectionism, Pump-Up Productivity.

Twitter: #ZD30SCRIPT.

Facebook: Zero Draft Thirty.

Onward!

And don’t forget to join the Zero Draft Thirty Facebook Group.


Zero Draft Thirty 2017 September Challenge: Story Prep (Part 8) — Script Diary 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

Spec Script Deal: “Exposure”

Screen Gems acquires thriller spec script “Exposure” written by Peter A. Dowling. From Deadline:

A rookie African-American female cop in Detroit rounds the corner just as corrupt officers are murdering several drug dealers, an event captured by her body cam. They try to kill her, and she is hunted throughout the night by the narcs who are desperate to destroy the incriminating footage and also a criminal gang who have been told she did the killing.

Dowling is repped by APA and Industry Entertainment.

By my count, this is the 41st spec script deal in 2017.

There were 44 spec script deals year-to-date in 2016.


Spec Script Deal: “Exposure” 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

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Cast Members Didn’t Receive the Entire Script During Production

Infinity War Script

Marvel Studios is notoriously secretive when it comes to their big screen endeavors, and when it comes to the next assembly of The Avengers, they’re not even trusting the cast members who play Earth’s mightiest heroes to keep their mouths shut.

Avengers: Infinity War is done shooting and production on Avengers 4 is underway. We’ve already gotten a taste of what The Avenger sequel will bring to the table next summer with the footage that played at both The D23 Expo and San Diego Comic-Con, but when it comes to hearing new details about the movie, we may not be able to rely on the cast members to accidentally spill secrets as often as they did before. That’s because directors Anthony & Joe Russo didn’t give their cast the entire Infinity War script and only provided them with the relevant pages and information they needed to effectively deliver the best performance.

Elizabeth Olsen recently appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where she was immediately asked by the nerdy Stephen Colbert if there was anything she could reveal about the next Avengers movie. Olsen couldn’t really say anything more than revealing the lengths to which Anthony & Joe Russo went to ensure that secrets weren’t known by too many people (the relevant part starts around 1:09):

If you can’t watch the video, here’s what Olsen had to say during the interview:

“This time, they actually decided to not give us scripts. They gave me my pages and then they explained other things that are happening… I’ll be so shocked and surprised. I’ll be like ‘Oh I see, that’s what was happening to the world at that time.’”

Interestingly enough, Dave Bautista recently said that he didn’t read the entire Avengers Infinity War script as well, but he made it sound like it was a personal choice he made. Responding to a fan on Twitter, Bautista posted this:

Even if Bautista made the choice not to read the script as opposed to being deprived the opportunity to do so, one member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is being kept more in the dark than the others. Apparently Spider-Man: Homecoming star Tom Holland likes to run off at the mouth a little too much with spoilery information. In fact, Holland is so much of a security risk when it comes to giving away secrets that the Russos wouldn’t even tell the actor who he was fighting in a particular scene. Holland told the BBC awhile back:

“Yeah, there is one moment in Avengers where I don’t know who that person is. And I’m fighting him, and there’s nothing more embarrassing than pretending to fight a ‘monster’ in front of 200 people, in Spandex. You know, literally like dodging stuff and trying to web him. They’re all like, ‘That’s Great Tom, more energy. More Energy. Jump. Jump.”

When you consider the fact that the Avengers: Infinity War cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Bettany, Samuel L. Jackson, Chadwick Boseman, Cobie Smulders, Benedict Wong, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Bradley Cooper, and Anthony Mackie, that’s a lot of people to give the entire story of Infinity War too. Statistically speaking, it’s just smart to limit how much those people know about the movie. So some of them won’t know what’s happening until they see the movie like the rest of us.

Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters next summer on May 4th, 2018.

The post ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Cast Members Didn’t Receive the Entire Script During Production appeared first on /Film.


/Film

Reader Question: What questions should I be asking when rewriting a script?

Writing is rewriting. Here are some questions you should ask in that process.

A reader question from Robin:

I am in the process of working on my third draft of a screenplay. I know there is something still missing from the story. I just can’t quite put my finger on it. What kinds of questions should I be asking in regards to story and/or character that may help me figure this out?

Robin, you have hit on one of the biggest issues in the entire process: Rewriting. Of course we’ve all heard the adage, “Writing is rewriting.” Fine. But what to do? How to do it?

I’ve had long conversations about this with Tom Benedek, the screenwriter who wrote Cocoon and my partner at Screenwriting Master Class. Tom taught a rewrite class at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts in their MFA program and is as well-versed in this subject than perhaps anybody. There are many areas to focus on, but for purposes of this response to your question, let me suggest your first order of business is to make absolutely sure that the most fundamental dynamics related to your story’s characters are in order. Here is a series of questions to help start you in that process:

  • Who is your Protagonist?
  • What do they want?
  • What do they need?
  • Who is attempting to stop the Protagonist from attaining their goal [Nemesis]?
  • Which characters are the most intimately connected to your Protagonist’s emotional development [Attractor]?
  • Which characters are the most intimately connected to your Protagonist’s intellectual development [Mentor]?
  • Which characters test your Protagonist by switching from ally to enemy, enemy to ally [Trickster]?
  • What is the arc of your Protagonist’s metamorphosis?

By “want,” I mean conscious goal, something we know by the end of Act One the Protagonist is actively attempting to achieve.

By “need,” I mean unstated goal, some aspect of the Protagonist’s inner self that represents a key part of their Authentic Being or Core Essence.

The underlying assumption here is that most stories are psychological journeys, the events that transpire in the External World (Plotline) impacting the Protagonist’s Internal World (Themeline) which results in their metamorphosis.

Oftentimes I read scripts where it’s clear the writer has little to no idea what is going on in the story’s Internal World, the script a series of occurrences that don’t tie together in any emotionally satisfying way or barely scratch the surface of what transpires in the Protagonist’s metamorphosis.

And while it’s true that in some stories the Protagonist does not go through a transformation process, the fact is in most movies, they do.

Thus if the meta point of a story is about the Protagonist’s metamorphosis, then the surrounding characters and events that happen need to service that emotional plot.

I had a terrific conversation recently with David Seidler, the screenwriter who won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The King’s Speech. We discussed how powerful a metaphor Bertie’s stuttering was. In the External World, this Protagonist had a speech impediment. But the real meaning of that condition is tied precisely to the story’s Internal World, the challenge for Bertie to find his voice to claim his right to be the King of England. Thus on the surface, there is the relationship between Bertie and Lionel, the speech pathologist, attempting a variety of methods to overcome Bertie’s stuttering. But the power of the story lies in Bertie’s psychological journey from a man plagued by the shadow of his father and haunted by the fear of his monarchical responsibilities to being thrust into a situation where he had to assume the throne.

David Seidler, screenwriter, “The King’s Speech”

In that process, Bertie had a Nemesis [his stuttering and at the root cause of that condition his father], an Attractor [his wife], a Mentor [Lionel], and a Trickster [his brother Edward]. Each plays a role in Bertie’s psychological journey as he moved from a state of Disunity [a member of the monarchical family who can not speak in public, who does not want to be King] to Unity [he learns how to manage his stuttering and finds his voice to become the King of the people].

In all honesty, I would say that 90% of the scripts I review that have rewrite issues, the problems go directly back to the characters and a lack of understanding about why they are there in the story, and what their respective narrative functions are.

So I would suggest you start there. Once you think through all that, then you can address the script’s structure as it relates to both the Plotline and Themeline, and so on.

GITS readers, what questions do you ask when you rewrite a script?

Comment Archive


Reader Question: What questions should I be asking when rewriting a script? 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

Private Script Workshops

On a limited basis, I work one-on-one with writers on their script project.

In a workshop session at the 2016 Black List Feature Writers Lab in Los Angeles. I’ve been a mentor at every Black List lab.

Imagine having your very own private script workshop. A structured environment with content and a schedule tailored to meet your specific creative needs. Your own unique online course site. And a one-on-one mentor relationship with a professional screenwriter and educator.

You can do this through Screenwriting Master Class.

Perhaps all you need is a 4-week rewrite workshop to add more depth to a couple of characters in your script and polish the overall dialogue.

Maybe you have gotten through a few drafts of your story, but you need to do a page 1 rewrite.

You could have already worked out your story and want guidance during the first draft process.

Or you’re starting with a concept and want to do prep and page-writing.

Maybe you are a beginner looking to learn the essentials of screenwriting and end up with a finished screenplay.

At Screenwriting Master Class, we can create private script workshops to match up with your individual goals as a writer.

Since launching SMC in 2010, Tom Benedek and I have worked with writers of all backgrounds and interests in the context of numerous private script workshops. Here are testimonials from two:

“Working with Scott in SMC’s private workshop was an invaluable experience. The private workshop gave me the attention I needed to address my script’s problem. I was so impressed with the quality of his teaching, the way the course was structured and the interactive process. In the end, not only did Scott help me solve my character problem, he elevated my script as a whole. He is a wonderful mentor and I learned a lot about the craft of screenwriting.” — Gladys Stone, screenwriter of “Tulio” (Semifinalist, Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition)

“Working with Scott in a private workshop arrangement through SMC greatly accelerated my screenwriting knowledge and craftsmanship. Scott is a most dynamic, gifted and generous educator. He offered a holistic, character-driven approach to story that helped bring out my best as a writer. The flexible syllabus of the mentorship invites exploration of creative impulses without fear of losing direction or purpose. The script on which Scott consulted placed in the top one percent of the 2011 AFF screenwriting competition and has opened industry doors. Most importantly the SMC has cemented lasting self confidence in my abilities as a writer.” — Gyan Alexander, screenwriter of “Convinced” (Semifinalist, Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition)

People who have done private script workshops through Screenwriting Master Class include professional screenwriters, actors, directors, best-selling non-fiction authors, playwrights, and novelists, as well as beginning, intermediate and advanced writers.

We offer one-on-one sessions with any of our popular group workshops:

Prep: From Concept to Outline

Pages I: The First Draft

Pages II: Rewriting Your Script

For those who want a comprehensive approach to learning the craft — immersing yourself in screenwriting theory, then putting that to use in developing an original story and writing a complete draft — there is The Quest, a unique 20 week program.

The Quest changed my life. It gave me the structure to be immersed in screenwriting and the flexibility needed to write and accommodate work and family life. Not only did I come out with a quality screenplay, but a practical approach that I can apply to each script I write.

Scott’s instincts as a mentor are spot on. He can tell the difference between when you need encouragement and when you need a good kick in the pants. Under his guidance, you become the kind of writer you want to be, the kind that doesn’t need to wait for inspiration.

You can spend your time reading through screenwriting inspiration, tips or shortcuts, thinking it will help more than actually doing the work, or you can take the leap and do The Quest.

— Taylor Gordon

Here are three big reasons to consider an SMC private script workshop:

  • Writing a screenplay involves making thousands of choices about characters, plot, theme and so forth. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have feedback from a professional to help steer you through the process enabling you to avoid huge story pitfalls that could derail your scripting process?
  • Writing a screenplay is a thankless, lonely job. Wouldn’t it be great to have the ongoing support of a professional to enable you to overcome inevitable story problems and emotional downswings?
  • Writing a screenplay is a mystery. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to learn proven principles and practices from a professional with years of experience working in the entertainment industry, an approach to writing you can use again and again on your future stories?

For more information, contact us here.


Private Script Workshops 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

Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: “Galaxy Quest”

A 6 part series on the beloved 1999 science fiction comedy movie.

Screenplay by David Howard and Robert Gordon, story by David Howard.

IMDb plot summary: The alumni cast of a space opera television series have to play their roles as the real thing when an alien race needs their help.

Links to the GITS week-long discussion and analysis:

General Comments
Structure
Characters
Themes
Dialogue
TweetCast Transcript

Years ago, I came up with this mantra: Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages. A link to my reflections on that here.

Cannot emphasize enough the importance of reading movie scripts.

For all of the other screenplays and commentary in the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, go here.

For my 7-part series on How to Read a Screenplay, go here.

For links to over 100 free and legal script downloads, go here.


Go Into The Story Script Reading & Analysis: “Galaxy Quest” 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

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