How definitely NOT to write a screenplay

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Do you know McSweeney’s? No? What a pity, becuase McSweeney’s is a fantastic publisher based in San Francisco. They publish books (Books & Quaterly), magazines (The Believer) and a DVD edition (Wholphin DVD) and they do a lot of awesome stuff on the internet. But what did I actually want to say?

Ah, yes. Now they published an article about the things you should do if you DO NOT WANT TO write a screenplay. there is a lot of things to consider, for example this rule:

A really good way to not get started on the screenplay that you are not writing is to realize that there are no new ideas out there and that, even if there were, someone either already has or most certainly will get there before you do.

All ten rules for not writing a screenplay are explained here.

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InesHow definitely NOT to write a screenplay

Screenwriting 101

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You might already know the website GO INTO THE STORY by Scott Myers (if you don’t, please check it out, there is tons of useful stuff for aspiring and advanced screenwriters).

There are lots of different categories, and one I find especially interesting is called SCREENWRITING 101. Here is a quote from writer Carl Foreman (HIGH NOON) and it starts like this:

When I first came out to Hollywood, it never occurred to me that the story had to be about something.

Read the whole quote here, it is a pretty good definition of emotional theme. (Did I already tell you that I consider the emotional theme of a movie as important as three-dimensional characters?) You can find lots of other quotes here.

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Trailerwatch: REVOLUTION

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A few days ago I saw the trailer for REVOLUTION, a new series produced by J.J. Abrams (LOST). But I forgot to post it, and now I was reminded by an article on Flix (German only) to write about it.

I really like postapocalyptic drama. THE ROAD, CHILDREN OF MEN and in a way THE HUNGER GAMES as well – I like imagining what might happen with us human beings after the big catastrophe.

In this case all electricity is gone. And all computers, airplanes, cellphones, even everything that is run by batteries does not work anymore. But obviously there is a secret and maybe the electricity might come back again. At least that is what I got from watching the trailer.

By the way, there is a girl with a crossbow in the trailer, and a young man with a bow and arrow. This reminds me a little bit of Katniss from THE HUNGER GAMES. I like that a lot, and I am really excited for the pilot of REVOLUTION.

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InesTrailerwatch: REVOLUTION

The Writer’s Journey revisited

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I have to admit, I am no big fangirl of Christopher Vogler’s “Hero’s Journey“. At least as long as someone tries to fit his or her idea into this theorie, no matter what –  but that will not work with any other screenwriting theory as well.

I find it very strange that many diagrams on the Hero’s Journey simply convert the cycle of the journey to the linear model of the good old 3 act structure. What happens is that the showdown of the 3rd act all of a sudden is at the end of the 2nd act while the 3rd act is simply the return of the hero. I don’t know how you feel about this, but I am always getting lost and feeling confused in the end. But I must say that I really like playing around with the archetypes for character development.

Now I found an article, written by Christopher Vogler himself, where he breaks down the Hero’s Journey for short films like commercials and so on. This I find very interesting because by doing that he explains the essence of his theory.

SO…the absolute bare minimum, I would venture, is
1. an implied Ordinary World,
2. an efficient Call to Adventure,
3. a distinct Threshold Crossing,
4. a death-and-rebirth Ordeal(or Resurrection) and
5. a Reward (or Return with the Elixir).

In reality, almost always the other pieces are either implied or present in truncated form, and the audience will labor mightily to fill in any blanks you leave. For example, the audience will fill in a wild night of partying if you just show a teenager sneaking into the house at 4 in the morning.

Also, I found that link again to Christophe Voglers seven page memo where he laid out his ideas about using Joseph Campbell’s theory fot screenwriting for the first time. It is a real gem of screenwriting history. Read the whole memo here.

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InesThe Writer’s Journey revisited

The Art Of Title Sequences

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While series like LOST and GLEE do not have a real title sequence apart from the name of the show shown on screen, other series and films have really great and often artistic opening sequences, like DEXTER, TRUE BLOOD and MAD MEN.

Here is the great title sequence from TRUE BLOOD. I have seen it so many times now, and it is still not getting old:

Here is a great Making Of Video. They shot a lot on real film stock. I think this is why it feels so “haptic” for me.

At the end there is a video where you can see the people who are creating those opening sequences talking about their craft. Highly fascinating stuff, because you have to get the essence of a story (the “emotional core” so to say) and find a way to express it visually in only a minute or so. Maybe it would be an interesting exercise to explore how an imaginary title sequence of the screenplay youa re working on would look.

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Ken Burns On Story

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I have to admit that I did not know why the Ken Burns effect in iMovie is called “Ken Burns effect”. Now I learned that there is a filmmaker called Ken Burns who was the first to use this effect frequently in his movies. Alright. Now here he is, talking about how to tell great stories.

So what makes a good story, according to Ken Burns? You just have to see the big picture. Be it the irony of fate of someone who just won a big war, goes to the theater – and is assassinated. Or the hypocrisy of a person who proclaimed freedom and equality for everyone while he literally owned 100 people. “The good guys have really serious flaws and the villains are compelling”, Ken Burns says.

This reminds me of a screenwriter who managed to write a screenplay about some internet start up called Facebook. Aaron Sorkin managed to look beyond the facts and figures and wrote a story about the desire to be accepted and friendships getting destroyed by betrayal. In its core, or “emotional truth”, als Ken Burns might say, it reminded me of an ancient Greek drama – big, universal emotional themes and highly emotional turning points and dilemmas.

I really liked the part where Ken Burns talks about his documentary BASEBALL. But he does not talk about the sports:

“I made a film on baseball once, and it seemed to me that there was a dilemma for the racist about what to do about Jackie Robinson. If you were a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and you were a racist, what do you do in your lives? You can quit baseball all together. You can change teams. Or you can – change.”

Very interesting stuff, for me it was 5 minutes well spent.

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Recommendation: WRITE, WRITE, WRITE

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Today I want to point you to the great blog by screenwriter Daniel Martin Eckhart. We worked together on WOLFSFÄHRTE, a tv movie based on the novel BROTHERS GRIMM by Craig Russell, written by Daniel (and directed by Urs Egger)*.

I really like Daniel’s attitude – determined, creative and very skilled. And he shares his insights in lengthy articles in his blog. Check out his thoughts on the 10 commandments (and 12 principles) of screenwriting, discipline and lots of other interesting topics.

* Here is a short interview with Craig Russell on the set of WOLFSFÄHRTE.

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InesRecommendation: WRITE, WRITE, WRITE

Trailerwatch: THE GREAT GATSBY

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I am really looking forward to the new Buz Luhrman extravaganza. Music, colours, costumes galore! Triple-yay!

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InesTrailerwatch: THE GREAT GATSBY

Inspiration

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14 months without an update is not what you expect from writing a blog. I really want to try to post more regularly in the future, I promise.

I am starting with a little bit of inspiration. Thanks to witer Daniel Martin Eckhart, who shared this photo on Facebook. After some research I found the original image by Joel Robinson.

These Are The Creatures In My Neighborhood

I like it even more without the caption, and it shows pretty much how I felt as a kid and why I love my work in script development.

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