Monday, June 18, 2018

First Drafts: Dos and Don'ts

DO... write it very fast. I start with an outline. Others start with just an idea. Write out a "vomit draft" (you vomit when you go back and read it later) to just get something down on paper.

DO... keep moving forward.

DO... set page goals. Five to ten pages a day is a nice pace, but do what you can.

DO... finish it. Mentally, it will help clear your mind for new ideas to arrive. Emotionally, you'll be happy you completed a script. Most people never accomplish even that. A finished first draft is what you need to start reworking it into something good.

DON'T... try to edit in the middle of doing that first draft. If you go backward, you won't finish. You'll keep finding flaws and will lose your passion for the project.

DON'T... get feedback. You've got nothing to show anyone until you are a couple drafts in and if you show it too early and the readers bash it, you will lose your passion for the project. Seeing a pattern?

If you are asked to give feedback on a first draft of someone's script, tread carefully. Stay positive. Highlight the opportunities and what's working. Don't bash it or kill it. You can't expect it to meet professional standards out of the gate. Discuss the rewrite process with the writer and encourage them.

Good luck and go get that FIRST DRAFT done. Because that's the fun part. After that, the work begins!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

New Judd Apatow Comedy MasterClass

Judd Apatow has a new comedy MasterClass available now and it's a great opportunity to have a top pro let you inside his world, his comic mind, and what looks like his very cool office. A couple hours of content for $90 and you have access for a year.

Judd discusses his story -- from comedy geek fandom to writer to producer/director/Hollywood playboy. Discusses stand-up comedy, creating comic characters, and making comedy films.

My favorite lecture was one on screen testing comedies (which he usually does 4 or 5 times) to see what's getting laughs and what to cut. Some 'auteurs' may have had a problem with that, but coming from a background in standup Judd knows that if the audience ain't laughing, it's time to make changes.

Click below to check it out and (disclosure) if you happen to buy it, I make a few bucks and pay for this wonderful site.

Oh, the site's free, right.

Judd Apatow Teaches Comedy

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Write the Story That's Your Next Task

When thinking about what to write I usually have one story concept that keeps recurring. I can't seem to get away from it. I can't get to the next idea either. I'm creatively stuck.

Whether you choose to believe in a Jungian "collective unconscious" from which we draw ideas, or an all-knowing, all-powerful God who gives us ideas, or The Muses, or Fate, or dumb luck, ideas come to us. They challenge us; they haunt us.

What are our choices when this happens?

We can ignore them, get stuck on them, or write them and turn them into full-blown stories.

I've seen people stuck YEARS on one story idea and they never just go ahead and write it. Then, they wonder why they can't move to the next idea or the next project. They're in a creative funk.

Write the story that you feel you need to write. Even if that screenplay, teleplay, novel, or whatever form it takes doesn't sell or even turn out all that well you honored the muses. You did your best. You developed and matured as a writer. You moved on from that one idea and now you have ten others as a reward.

So, go write it and write it fast!

What's Your Story's "Secret Sauce"?

There's a restaurant in Baton Rouge that started twenty years ago near L.S.U. called Raising Cane's. They sell chicken fingers. Nothing that special about chicken fingers in general, or theirs. They have a sauce though (mixture of several things and spices) that students loved. Now, Cane's is in many states and is a multi-million dollar in annual revenues business.

What did they have?

The secret sauce.

What's the "secret sauce" for your story?

What in your script is taking it to a new place or new level?

For example, there are thousands of "buddy cop" scripts out there. After the original Shane Black LETHAL WEAPON spec sale, the market back then was flooded with "two cops, an odd coupling, are forced to work together and..." scripts. They still circulate in Hollywood.

What about your buddy cop script separates it from the 1,000s of other buddy cop scripts they already have, made, or rejected?

Max Landis asked himself that question and came up with BRIGHT. I assume he was playing D&D with some friends and though, "What if... a cop was forced to team up with an orc in a world like our own but where fantasy creatures exist?

Buddy cop script... with a twist. With that secret sauce that took it to the next level and a $100 million production with Will Smith.

When considering your concept, make sure you've got something that separates it from the herd. There are going to be a dozen similar scripts out there to whatever you're writing. A million monkeys on typewriters. Be the smart monkey.

Sunday, May 6, 2018



When I was a kid I saw SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. The film was made in 1979 and was the first big budget superhero movie. No movie star wanted to put on a superhero costume as they believed it would make them look silly. How times change. The then relatively unknown Christopher Reeve was cast as Clark Kent/Superman and Margot Kidder played Lois Lane.

The film was a top-shelf production. Marlon Brando was paid a fortune to play Superman's father, Jor-El. The script was written by Mario Puzo (Oscar-winning writer of The Godfather and Godfather Part 2) and Newman & Benton.

At the end of the film, Superman is presented with a dilemma. He must choose between stopping two missiles heading in opposite directions. He's unable to stop both and, as a result, Lois Lane dies from the effects of an Earthquake.

Lois Lane dead? Quite an emotional moment.

But wait! Superman flies super fast around Earth and the planet goes backward and... time goes backward. Superman is then able to save Lois Lane and the film ends.

"What a cheat! Total ripoff ending," I thought as a kid. I'd felt manipulated by the storytellers that they gave Superman a do-over. Did the rest of the universe reverse time or just Earth? How did that cause severe damage to the planet? Wouldn't the other missile he stopped blow up because now that version of events wouldn't have taken place?

None of it made sense. As an audience member, I'd been manipulated and was ticked off.

In the 1930s and 1940s there were superhero serials (cheaply made films shown in theaters before the feature films) with Captain Marvel and Batman. I had some VHS copies of these and occasionally they'd do a complete cheat. They'd show the hero going off the cliff. In the following episode, the hero would jump out of the car. "What a cheat!"

We enjoy tension at the movies. Tension is the feeling generated from hope and fear. We hope that our hero will succeed, defeat the antagonist, and stay alive. We fear that she will not.

There must be REAL STAKES for the story to work. A big problem for Superman was always he was so strong - basically a god on Earth - that he wasn't that interesting of a character. No fear of defeat = no tension. Kryptonite originated on the radio show version of Superman and was a brilliant way to make Superman capable of facing defeat.

When we got the 'reverse time = win' finish it meant nobody ever really dies in Superman. There's no way to defeat him if he gets to try again.

Flashforward to ELEKTRA in 2005. ELEKTRA had died in the film DAREDEVIL. The unfairly maligned 2003 DAREDEVIL had told the story of the romance between the film's hero and Elektra and she'd been killed at the end. The 2005 film opens with Elektra being brought back to life.

"Huh?!" If she can die and not die, why do I care to watch the rest of the film? She could die again and... so what? Could be brought back to life. No stakes = no tension.


Yes, the film will make over a billion dollars. Likely the follow up will as well. But it's bad storytelling.

At the end of the film, a number of Marvel characters "die" -- are turned to dust by Thanatos, the antagonist. There's a line setting up the sequel where Dr. Strange says, "Now we enter the endgame." So the next film will involve a reversing of time and bring these characters back to life -- a "do over" if you will.

There was genuine emotion in the audience when I saw the film. Shocked gasps and crying as audience members believed this really was the last ride for their beloved heroes. However, just like Lois Lane and Elektra death won't mean a real death and they'll be back for further adventures. We'll just feel a little cheated as the audience.

Let me know your thoughts on these films.