Secrets of Successful Screenwriters Commitment 1000x400

 

Secrets of Screenwriting #29 - Commitment

Screenwriting is not an easy game. You will be tested every step of the way. It is not a sprint but a marathon, and you must recognize the long game and be in it for the long haul. There are too many distractions, too many exits along the way, for those who get easily distracted to make a quick escape. These opportunities exist to tease and divert us all along away.

To succeed as a screenwriter, you must have a laser-like-focus on your goals and inner-strength to keep going until you exceed them.


Productive Feedback vs Negative Criticism 1000x400

By Arik Cohen

I have an actor friend (in Los Angeles? WHAT ARE THE ODDS?!)  Let’s call him Fred.  Now Fred was in a small play in the area, though it was big enough to attract a review from an online LA theater site.  He read the review, and it was positive for the show, but not for him.  Poor Fred got a critical review.  It wasn’t angry, it wasn’t worded as “Fred sucks” or anything like that.  It was all legitimate criticism.  As expected, Fred didn’t take it well.  Fred is a man with a big, delicate ego (in Los Angeles? WHAT ARE THE ODDS?!)  He dismissed the fair criticism entirely.  He passed it off as jealousy or envy.  “He’s probably just pissed he didn’t make it as an actor,” Fred claimed, “And he’s taking it out on us actors with the guts to go for what we want.”


World Building Defining the Rules

By Armaan Uplekar

One of the most foundational elements of any story has to do with the nature of the world that your script takes place within. Whether your screenplay is set on a lunar space colony or on a 17th century pirate ship, it’s your job as a writer to establish the “rules” that make your story possible. On the outset, this might seem like a daunting task — the very term “world building” can sound enormous. And while, yes, world building can sometimes be a sizable undertaking, it will undoubtedly make you a stronger, more confident writer, and equally important, it will make your script feel more cohesive and accessible.


5 Characters Traits of An Awesome Action Hero 2

By Armaan Uplekar

Sarah Connor. Ethan Hunt. James Bond. There’s a deep bench of iconic characters that have helped define and exemplify action cinema for decades. Between preventing nuclear annihilation, rescuing hostages and restoring balance to the universe, these characters have proven themselves to be larger than life while also capturing the imaginations of generations of moviegoers.


Setting Matters

by Armaan Uplekar

“The setting felt like a character.” You might have heard these words before – maybe reading a movie review, or through a conversation with friends, walking out of a movie theater. It’s a high compliment meant to convey that the setting that the story takes place is just as iconic, important and indispensable as the actual antagonist or protagonist of that story. Sure – maybe you can look at that as an exaggeration, but some of the most classic and memorable films and television series of all time are tied irrevocably to the locations they take place in. Try imagining Taxi Driver taking place somewhere besides New York City or Batman being set anywhere other than Gotham City. The same goes for TV as well. Breaking Bad and CSI (Miami/ Las Vegas) masterfully used their respective cities as integral “characters” in each iteration.

Sometimes the ultimate setting of movies and TV series are determined by production particulars such available tax incentives or talent scheduling. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying to prioritize how you use setting to elevate your screenplay. You’ll want to use every tool at your disposal when writing a script, and setting is one of the most important aspects of any story; it can influence your story in a variety of ways. In the following sections, we’ll dive into how you can make your script’s setting feel not just necessary, but essential to the story you are telling.


4 Rules To Writing A Kick Ass Set Piece

By Armaan Uplekar

What exactly is a set piece? In a nutshell, set pieces are the kind of self-contained, high-octane moments you’ll find primarily in thriller, science-fiction and action-adventure movies. They tend to form the basis of the kind of jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring moments that make you sit up at the edge of your seat in a movie theater. They are often the centerpiece of many trailers, whether it be the collapsing football field in The Dark Knight Rises or an unbroken, death-defying skydive in Mission Impossible: Fallout.

They are, in effect, some of the most logistically difficult and expensive scenes you’ll find in a script. They are car chases, skyscraper rooftop fights, shootouts, major battles and bank heists. They are the climatic Death Star raid in A New Hope and the volcanic lightsaber battle in Revenge of the Sith. They are the kind of stand-out, no-holds-barred sequences that many genre writers dream of writing.

Which begs the question – how exactly do you write a set piece? Do it wrong and you might end up with a complex and confusing assortment of scattered story beats that fail to grab the audience’s attention. But if you pull it off right, you can deliver the kind of bravura moment that gets a reader to imagine your movie unfolding on an IMAX screen. Here are four rules to writing a kick-ass set piece your audience will be sure to remember.


Secrets of Successful Screenwriters.Self Reliance 1000x400

#14 - Self-Reliance/ Resourcefulness

The successful writers I’ve met along the way were all resourceful. They always found a way to get the job done. Whether it was finding a creative solution to plug a logistical hole in their story or finding a way to get their script read by a producer they wanted to meet, there was always a dogged determination to find the course and take action.

Writers who are destined for success don’t wait for anyone and they don’t depend on others. They don’t sign with an agent and wait for the offers to come rolling in.  They don’t win a screenplay competition and wait for the managers to call. They don’t settle for no.

Successful writers hustle; when they are not writing they are networking, researching, strategizing. Successful writers are always pushing forward. They have a goal and they are focused on it. When faced with a problem, they don’t whine, cry or complain. They work with the resources at their disposal, they are creative problem solvers, and they don’t stop until an effective solution has been found.


Write a Killer Horror Script

By Armaan Uplekar

Horror is a hot commodity. It’s a one-of-a-kind genre with a built-in fanbase. It’s led to countless quotable classics from “The Exorcist” to “The Thing” to “Rosemary’s Baby” to “The Sixth Sense” to “The Silence of Lambs”. For decades, horror has been wowing and repelling crowds with its willingness to scare, provoke and shock audiences.

Some might say that horror films are more popular than ever. Recent years have found films like “Get Out” burrow their way into the collective conscious of moviegoers around the world, while movies like “Hereditary” and “Mandy” have captured twisted imaginations and ensnared devoted fanbases. You might be able to say that public appreciation for horror films has never been higher. There’s so much conversation around what constitutes the idea of a “cinematic experience,” but what’s more cinematic than being held in thrall by the kind of surprises and thrills that horror movies have consistently offered up?

That’s not to say that making horror films is an easy undertaking – quite the contrary. Like all genres, horror has its conventions and its mainstays. With that in mind, you probably can’t help but ask yourself: how do you make your horror screenplay standout?


Secrets of Successful Screenwriters.Conviction 1000x400

Conviction is an essential quality for any commercial artist to see their vision through. Conviction is not the same as being stubborn or arrogant and should not be construed so. Stubbornness and arrogance are the ego’s outright rejection of other’s ideas and opinions. Conviction requires the open-mind we discussed previously. With an open-mind, one can put ego aside, analyze the viewpoints of others, to ultimately decide not what is best for themselves, but what is best for the project.


5 Ways to Inject Drama

By Armaan Uplekar

The word “drama” is conventionally defined as “an exciting, emotional, or an unexpected series of events or set of circumstances.” As it relates to film and writing in general, drama is the essential engine that drives all stories and it can take many shapes and forms; its Brody’s failure to protect the townspeople of Amity from a killer great white shark in Jaws. Its Michael Corleone’s decision to avenge his father’s attempted assassination in The Godfather. But one thing is for sure - drama is the cornerstone of all your favorite films and it’s what keeps you interested and engaged for two hours. Drama must be at the core of every page you write, every decision your character makes and every sequence that transpires. It doesn’t matter if you write sci-fi or comedy, period romance or western, there must be inherent drama to drive the story.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy to stir up drama when you’re writing your own feature-length screenplay. The moments that might seem inevitable when you watch Citizen Kane or Unforgiven are anything but foregone conclusions – creating moments of intense drama are an absolute necessity to note-worthy storytelling, but they can be tricky to put into practice.

There are, however, five ways any writer can flavor their storytelling with added conflict and elevated dramatic stakes, to increase your chances of grabbing people’s attention. Here are five simple ways you can inject a healthy dose of drama into your next screenplay. 


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