Getting fired is no fun, but for former Han Solo movie directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the glass is half full.
The pair were unceremoniously removed from Solo: A Star Wars Storyin June, three weeks before filming was due to be finished. A statement at the time cited “creative differences” as the reason for their departure.
Horror has been good to these directors. (Or is it the other way around?)
Like comedy, horror is a tricky genre to get right, because right away you’re faced with the inescapable expectation that your work must, in fact, be the very thing that makes the genre what it is. For comedy, it has to be funny, but for horror, it has to be scary. Though there are plenty of horror flicks out there that are reductive, predictable, and barely able to make you flinch, there have been some truly great films that have come out in the last several years that remind horror film fans of why we love this bloody genre so much—and an exciting number of them have been women.
In this video from Fandor, we get to explore the work of three female directors who chose to make a name for themselves in the horror genre with their transgressive, challenging, and yes, really, really scary films. Check it out below:
I’ve recently been able to get a hold of the personal email address of one of my favorite screenwriters. I have no intention of trying to sell him an idea or get him to read my script — I just want to buy the guy a beer or a cup of coffee and chat. How would you suggest I approach this?
It helps if you can attach a bottle of virtual scotch to your email, preferably this:
Short of redefining the laws of physics by pulling that off, here is more reasonable advice:
Write something short. This is not the time to post an autobiography. Rather offer your name, explain why you’re emailing, tell them you’re a fan, state your request, say thanks, fade out, the end.
Write something non-threatening. I would imagine that for most stalkers, screenwriters don’t rate high enough to make it on their list of potential victims, but at least in the world of cinema, try telling screenwriters David Kahane and Joe Gillis they’re safe (20 bonus points for anyone who gets both of those references). I think the phrase you’ll want to insert is, “I just wanted to see if I could possibly ask you a few questions about the craft.” That way the writer knows you have put a limit on your own expectations. By the way, suggesting coffee or a beer in an introductory email could be taken as, if not threatening, at least too assertive. I’d hold off on that level of potential connection until you’ve swapped several emails.
Write something laudatory. Here’s what you have going for you: Unlike actors and directors, who gets heaps of press coverage and attention, screenwriters — by and large — live rather anonymous, and some would say, disrespected lives. So if you say something like “I wanted to let you know how much I admire your work,” that’s probably a “you had me at hello” moment right there.
BUT BIG NOTE!!!
If you do have a writer’s personal email address, that could be disquieting to them. Like seriously so. You will almost assuredly have to explain how you got that information. This could be problematic depending upon who you got the email from, so be aware you could be messing with other peoples’ friendships.
But on the whole, most screenwriters I know are interesting and interested people; that is they know a lot and are innately curious. Plus writing is a lonely gig. And bottom line, we’re always looking for an excuse — any excuse — not to work. So write something short, non-threatening, and laudatory, and see how that plays out.
GITS readers, have any of you reached out to industry professionals you didn’t know to ask a few questions? How did you approach contacting them? Any further / better advice for Josh?
Reader question from @farrtom via my recent #scriptchat appearance :
Should the antagonist think he’s the protagonist of his own story, or does that make him too relatable?
I provided a brief snippet of a response in the #scriptchat conversation, but there is an important point here worth delving into more thoroughly.
@farrtom: Yes, by all means, the Nemesis / Antagonist should think they are the Protagonist of their story. You know why? Because they are the Protagonist of their own story! Indeed, every character is their own Protagonist. They experience the story universe through their specific senses, their own perspective, and as a result develop their own world view.
So at the very least, you would be wise to spend time when developing your Nemesis character(s) to spend time with them seeing the story universe through their eyes. Sit with them. Talk with them. Experience how they relate to the other characters, what each represents to the Nemesis. The same questions you ask a Protagonist, e.g., What do you want, What do you need, What are you most afraid of, etc, ask of your Nemesis.
What is the value of these exercises? If you immerse yourself in the life of your Nemesis, you are much more likely to craft a multidimensional character, one a script reader may find compelling. And a more complex Nemesis who we can relate to and understand, even if we don’t sympathize with them, becomes a more interesting, engaging one, a more effective character in the context of the narrative, and an appealing figure for actors to want to play.
As to the second part of your question — does that make him too relatable — I suppose there is a risk a writer may so demystify a Nemesis, the character loses some of their power over our imagination. It’s one thing to be dealing with a mysterious Bad Guy/Gal, it’s another if the character has qualities which remind us of our pipsqueak brother. Then again, maybe not.
If your Bad Guy/Gal is worthy of being a Nemesis, they won’t be much like your pipsqueak brother at all. The more likely challenge in your work is to make the Nemesis more relatable. Why? Because when a script reader can find something within the Nemesis they can relate to, that shrinks the emotional and psychological distance between the reader and the Nemesis. That character is no longer an IT, rather they become a YOU.
I call this humanizing your Nemesis. It reminds me of that line from a writer I saw somewhere: “Even bad guys have mothers.”
So yes to doing character work with your Nemesis in which you look at the story universe through their eyes as a Protagonist.
And yes to digging into the Nemesis character’s inner life to find dynamics with which script readers and eventually moviegoers can relate.
That path will lead you beyond one-dimensional Bad Guys/Gals… into a world of complex, compelling Antagonist figures.
As previously discussed, independent filmmakers are never too far from budgeting problems. Whether it’s forking out for music rights, travel or casting, one can quickly feel squeezed by what may have originally seemed a generous budget. However, a new wave of filmmakers are turning to stuff-sharing in order to make significant savings on projects and generate serious passive income from their own gear whilst not using it. Fat Lama is a stuff-sharing website which insures users to lend out their own equipment for cash. After launching late last year, the platform has quickly made a huge impact on the film and photography communities. Many creatives are now able to pay their monthly rent from their lender income, which for some is as high as £3000/month. On the borrowing side, many have made significant savings by avoiding unnecessary purchases or the deposits and premiums of traditional rental shops. We got in touch with three Fat Lama users and asked each of them their favourite films, their regular rig of choice, and why each of them are using Fat Lama to lend and borrow gear locally.
Name: Radu Stefan
Three Favourite Films: Amelie, Forrest Gump, Mr Nobody
Usually Operates: Red Scarlet MX
Radu on Fat Lama: I believe it’s the best thing ever. And that instant live chat customer support never fails to solve any problem or answer any question. All film makers invest in equipment and we all have days when our equipment sits around. Hiring it can be an alternative way of generating income and being able to hire gear from other film-maker is very useful: cheaper most of the time and less complicated than hiring it from a hiring company. In a way it’s sort of helping or being helped by your competition but I think this just allows all of us freelance film-makers in London to compete over our skills and talent rather than over who has more equipment than the other. But I’m still waiting for people with good cinematic lenses to join and share. Overall, it’s opened new doors for me, new possibilities in approaching a shoot.
“It’s opened new doors for me, new possibilities in approaching a shoot.”
Name: Tom Bryan
Three Favourite Films: Die Hard, Drive, Tootsie
Usually Operates: My favourite set up at the moment is the Ronin with a Remote Follow Focus System and SmallHD monitor. It’s a great set-up for roaming and making everything look super smooth. In my recent short films I’ve been making the most of a home-made dolly track system.
Tom on Fat Lama: Over the years I’ve collected a lot of film equipment and recently it’s been sitting there gathering dust. I’ve been more than willing to hire it out but never known how to reach out to people outside my network of friends. Websites like Fat Lama are a great platform to get connected with local creatives who have a demand for the kit that I own. From hiring out through Fat Lama, I’ve met great people in the industry. Some of which I will be working with in the future. As a lazy networker, Fat Lama has brought many interesting people to my front door, and considering that filmmaking is a collaborative industry, this is an incredible thing.
“From hiring out through Fat Lama, I’ve met great people in the industry.”
Name: Duncan Leigh
Three Favourite Films: Kubo and the Two Strings, Good Kill, Goodbye Lenin
Usually Operates: For our last two projects we’ve shot on a Sony A7S II. Rig wise, we improvise mostly hand held with shoulder rigs. Gimbals are nice but an over reliance on them seems to be damaging the art of the properly composed shot – and besides we can get the majority of the classic, controlled, dolly-like movements with a slider. Audio wise I’ve relied for years now on an excellent (and relatively cheap) ME 66 mic by Sennheiser. I supplement it with a couple of Lavaliers where necessary.
Duncan on Fat Lama: The equipment we needed was a drone to get a POV falling shot for a short film I’ve been working on through my production outfit, StrayLeft. I’d spent weeks on the shot and tried everything. From projection mapping layered photos at different focal lengths, to building an elaborate rig to safely throw a GoPro off the roof – nothing was giving us the result we wanted. I’d looked into hiring this type of equipment before but it went far beyond my self funded budget. Then my friend told me about Fat Lama and less than 12 hours later, I’d had my ID approved and got my first rental – at a price I’d never seen from traditional equipment rental companies.
Tomorrow I’ll be using a high end shoulder rig worth just shy of £1,000 for a commercial client job. It’s costing me just £22 for the day. They say it’s the operator, not the equipment that counts, and that’s generally true – but when it comes to commercial work, how you appear to the client can have an equally big impact on how they perceive you and your level of professionalism. In the commercial sphere, Fat Lama is enabling me to secure more work at a higher level, and do a better job with higher end equipment. In my personal work, it’s giving me access to the tools I need to boost production values and tell my story the way I envisioned it. I’m excited to see how things develop from here for the service.
“Tomorrow I’ll be using a high end shoulder rig worth just shy of £1,000 for a commercial client job. It’s costing me just £22 for the day.”
“Fat Lama is enabling me to secure more work at a higher level.”
Curious? Why not hire a camera near you? Alternatively, click here to start listing your own gear and earning a passive income today.
Netflix is bordering on belligerent with the amount of content the streaming service has been offering to its subscribers lately, and if you’re looking to stay on top of it all, you should wipe your weekend plans because today marks the release of yet another full season of television. The 1980s-set series GLOW, which is loosely based on the real-life low-budget wrestling show “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” hit the streaming service earlier today and has earned some great reviews thus far.
But before you binge the whole first season, take a look at a new GLOW featurette that showcases the stars doing their own stunts in the ring.
Aside from the setting, this reminds me of Orange is the New Black: a diverse group of women at the end of their rope are joined together through unusual circumstances that result in deep friendships. And that parallel is clearly no accident, considering Orange is the New Black producers Jenji Kohan and Tara Herrmann are on board as executive producers.
I’m not into wrestling at all, but this definitely looks like a show I’d love. To me, the key to the whole thing looks to be finding the balance of having entertaining and outrageous characters who possess relatable motivations. Everything I’ve seen and heard about the show indicates that the creative team knocked that out of the park, and the near-universal acclaim seems to corroborate that theory.
GLOW is created by Liz Flahive (Homeland, Nurse Jackie) and Carly Mensch (Nurse Jackie, Weeds), and stars Alison Brie, Marc Maron, Betty Gilpin, Sydelle Noel, Britney Young, and Ellen Wong.
Inspired by the short-lived but beloved show from the 80s, GLOW tells the fictional story of Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), an out-of-work, struggling actress in 1980s Los Angeles who finds one last chance for stardom when she’s thrust into the glitter and spandex world of women’s wrestling. In addition to working with 12 Hollywood misfits, Ruth also has to compete with Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin), a former soap actress who left the business to have a baby, only to be sucked back into work when her picture perfect life turns out not to be what it seems. At the wheel is Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), a washed-up, B-movie director who now must lead this group of women on the journey to wrestling super stardom.
The ten-episode first season is available to stream right now.
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?
Branding your production company, your media business, or even yourself can be a difficult road to navigate, but these tips should really help you get on the right track.
Other than making movies and videos, one of the most important jobs you have as a filmmaker is getting yourself and your work out there to the masses. This is hard, frustrating work, especially for those who don’t have any marketing or advertising experience, but it’s definitely essential for most (if not all) content creators who want to have a greater online presence. If you’re totally lost and have no idea on where to start establishing your professional identity, Kris Truini of Kriscoart gives you five helpful branding tips in the video below.
If you have literally no idea how to start the branding process, you’re definitely not alone. As a filmmaker, you may not have a whole lot of expertise when it comes to building and growing a brand, but Truini gives you five questions you can ask yourself that will help you get started.
Vimeo takes the lead in 360° education, exhibition and monetization for creators.
360° and VR video could be seen as simply a passing trend, but Vimeo envisions an explosive space for creatives to explore new avenues of expression and, ultimately, a way to make money. As a platform that has always set a high bar for video quality, Vimeo’s approach to 360° video and VR is no different. With the recent release of Vimeo 360, the company has put together the world’s first platform for creators to truly cut their teeth in the rapidly-evolving world of this burgeoning visual medium.
Or is the Protagonist’s journey the only one that matters?
A tweet from @khanb1:
is it imprtnt to give all chars their own hero journy regrdless of acrhtype?
Okay, this one short question raises a plethora of issues. Let me break it down into three parts: Archetypes, Hero, Journey.
One of the essential principles of screenwriting that I teach is this: Character = Function. That is in a screenplay, every character has a narrative purpose. They exist for a reason. Part of the reason is tied to the Plotline [External World] in that the character influences events that transpire. Part of the reason is tied to the Themeline [Internal World] in that the character influences the emotional course of the story.
Most movies have five primary character archetypes: Protagonist, Nemesis, Attractor, Mentor, Trickster. These types are malleable in an endless variety of forms, but at their essence as characters, they each provide a specific narrative function: A Protagonist is most often the central character in a story and it is their goal which dictates the end point of the Plotline; Nemesis characters generally provide an oppositional dynamic against the Protagonist; Attractors are most fundamentally connected to the Protagonist’s emotional development; Mentors are most fundamentally connected to the Protagonist’s intellectual development; Tricksters test the Protagonist usually by shifting sides.
The ‘hero’ is almost always the Protagonist. It’s their story, they are the ones who go through the most dramatic metamorphosis.
Often a Protagonist does go an actual physical journey, leaving their Old World and venturing into a New World. That’s not always the case as sometimes the journey is purely symbolic in nature. But whether the journey is physical or symbolic, there is an accompanying aspect that is psychological in nature. Again Plotline (External World) where events happen and Themeline (Internal World) where the emotional meaning of those events unfolds.
Here is a classic example of the hero’s journey:
In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins must take the ring to destroy it in the fires of Mount doom. That is the spine of the Plotline, the actual physical journey. But in the story’s Internal World, there is an accompanying psychological dynamic: The growing influence of the ring over Frodo where he begins to suffer the very same fate that happened to Gollum, obsessed with possessing the ring. Fortunately Frodo can’t bring himself to throw the ring into the Crack of Doom, Gollum, a Trickster, is there to seize the ring from Frodo, eventually falling to his death and ensuring the ring is destroyed.
Now let’s look at two stories that are not your typical hero’s journey, yet are in their own way:
In The King’s Speech, the Protagonist (Bertie) never travels outside England for the entirety of the movie, so in that sense, his is not a typical hero’s journey. However he does venture forth from his Old World into a New World in at least two respects: (1) Old World as monarchical realm vs. New World as Lionel’s office; (2) Old World as Bertie suffering his speech impediment alone vs. New World as Bertie sharing the experience of his stuttering — and its underlying psychological influences — with another person in the form of Lionel. As noted in a recent post, the accompanying psychological dynamic is about Bertie going into those aspects of his psyche that bring him pain and cause him fear — recalling and reliving experiences with his father, brother, childhood nurse, and a lifetime of embarrassment re his public speaking — in order to overcome those fears and in so doing discover his voice to rightfully claim the throne as King.
In Bridesmaids, the Protagonist (Annie) does go on a few side trips, but they simply service the more symbolic nature of her hero’s journey: Old World as single woman hamstrung by infantile notions of what romance is vs. New World of the whole crazy wedding preparation thing for which she has zero preparation. The accompanying psychological dynamic is tied to her metamorphosis most definitively physicalized by her forsaking the dead-end pseudo-relationship with who she thought was an ideal romantic mate (Ted), then experiencing genuine love in the form of the police officer Nathan, eventually falling for him.
So speaking to the original question, do all the characters in these stories go through a hero’s journey? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that they are participants in the Protagonist’s journey. No, in the sense that the journey is not really theirs.
It may seem like a subtle distinction, but it’s an important one: In most stories, the symbolic focus and importance of the hero’s journey is tied to the Protagonist and their psychological metamorphosis. All the other characters’ involvement in that hero’s journey is secondary, they are tied to, advance, and influence events in the Plotline and Themeline, but fundamentally they do so in order to service the Protagonist’s story.
A related question: Do all characters go through some sort of metamorphosis? Some may, some don’t. But strictly speaking, the most important transformation dynamic is almost always that of the story’s Protagonist.
I look forward to continuing the discussion in Comments.