Monday, February 14, 2011

If you plan to turn a book into a screenplay, here are some terms you need to know:

Biopic -- a biographical movie.

Target -- audience who the producers think will pay money to watch the movie.

Pitch or pitching – a pitch is an attempt to sell the story idea to the decision maker or investor. It can be lot like a sales pitch.

Green light – means someone with the power to say "Yes" his given the OK to make the movie.

Raising the stakes – in a screenplay, somebody must want something and take action to get it. To raise the stakes means to put even greater pressure on the protagonist , which makes achieving the objective that much more critical.

Backstory – everything that happened before the story begins. Can include the characters' education, job history, relationships, health, major events, both happy and traumatic, that shaped your character and set up the situation.

Pace – how fast the screenplay moves. Some have leisurely pace with long scenes, other have shorter scenes, which conflict rises quickly and increases in speed.

Synopsis – a short overview of the story, hitting all the major plot points. Does not contain dialogue. Like the screenplay, it is written in the present tense. Usually just a few hundred words.

Treatment – is a longer version of the synopsis. It can be short or long, four or five pages up to about 20 pages.

Logline -- a one or two sentence description used to sell a movie idea. It contains the main selling point of the story.

Inciting incident – gets the story moving. In the beginning of the movie, we are first introduced to the protagonist and their life. The inciting incident thrusts a change upon them, forcing them to move their life into a different direction. It must occur within the first 20 pages, though many happen much sooner.

Dramatic Irony – happens when the audience knows something that the character or characters do not.

Beat – a short pause, either in dialogue or before someone commits an action or reacts to an event or statement.

INT. – stands for interior, meaning inside.

EXT. – Exterior, meaning outside.

Slugline – begins each scene. The slugline indicates whether the scene is inside or outside, where the scene takes place and the time of day.

Montage – a series of scenes used to denote the passage of time or a theme.


Tags: screenwriting,screen writing, book into a movie, turn a book into a movie, movie script

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Joe Eszterhas on Writing Your Story

Joe Eszterhas is one of the most successful screenwriters of the last two decades. Here are his thoughts on the process of screenwriting.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Screenwriting Tips from Screenwriter Susannah Grant

Susannah shares some tips on dialogue.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

The Most Popular Type of Screenplay

What do Avatar, The Godfather, The Devil Wears Prada, Finding Nemo, Casablanca, Chinatown, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, When Harry Met Sally, Gladiator, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Sleepless in Seattle, The Matrix, No Country for Old Men, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Kite Runner, Million Dollar Baby, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Shrek, Dances with Wolves, Titanic, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Citizen Kane, Wall-E, Pirates of the Caribbean, Slumdog Millionaire, It's a Wonderful Life, Rocky and A Christmas Carol all have common? 

They are all based on the story-telling and screenwriting framework known as The Hero's Journey, or the Monomyth, as delineated by Joseph Campbell, author of the book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, first published in 1949.  

Campbell studied myths from different cultures that have lasted for thousands of years and believes that they all carry common threads that touch us on a deep level. Hundreds of successful  movies, many of which won the Oscar for best picture, employ the template of The Hero's Journey.

Many successful novels have also benefited from this template, and the screenplays based upon them were made into wildly successful movies, such as No Country for Old Men, The Godfather and Q & A (Slumdog Millionaire).

Although you may think that using a template constricts creativity, the wide variety of films listed above should convince you otherwise.  You would be hard-pressed to convince untrained observers  that all of these movies are essentially the same story, but they are. And yet they're not. That is part of the beauty and magic of this template.  You can tell so many different kinds of stories with it. 

What makes them different are the characters and their situations, their overall goals, the setting, the obstacles, pacing, themes, the surprise elements, plot twists, approaches to creating suspense, the dialogue, use of humor or lack of it,  the genre and more.

So what is The Hero's Journey?  It is essentially a series of progressive steps, experiences and changes  that the Hero undergoes in an attempt to solve the main story problem. Please be aware, lest the PC police are reading this, Hero is not a gender-specific term. It is an archetype. It represents a focal point in the form of a person, male or female, for the story. The Mentor, such as  Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, is also an archetype, and is also found in many of the best stories. 

It is also important to note that the journey, though often a physical one, such as in Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, can also be an internal one, such as the character arc of Michael Corleone in The Godfather or Andy in The Devil Wears Prada.

Many of the best screenplays employ both inner and outer journeys. The bottom line is, if you want to be successful at screenwriting, you may want to study and master The Hero's Journey.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why Characters Need to Be Different from Each Other

Because conflict is the key element in any form of story telling, it is important to make sure your characters are different in significant and minor ways. Characters with differing world views, attitudes, values and modes of operation offer a wealth of opportunities for  conflict.


The by-the-book cop partnered with someone who thinks the rules are merely suggestions meant to be broken.

A neat freak living with a slob.

A night owl married to an early riser.

A penny pincher and a compulsive gambler.

A daredevil into extreme sports and a fearful homebody.

These are just a few examples of character couplings with built-in conflict possibilities. 

Not only will these characters have a natural conflict simply by being in each other's presence, they will disagree about how they go about solving problems and achieving the major goal of the story.

Take a cop story, for instance. Say one character wants to bust the drug ring by carefully building a case, while the other want's to bust in with guns blazing. Great conflict.

Having two or more characters who want to achieve the same goal together, or for an even greater level of conflict, two wildly different characters who are, for whatever reason, forced to solve the problem together, can create several levels of conflict.

So when starting your next story, create characters who will naturally conflict with each other. It can lead to great story telling.

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