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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Words as Toys

I have a friend who was lamenting the other night that he didn't write something like MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, because even though it was crap it did so well at the box office.

Are we having fun yet?

First of all, I thought the movie was funny.

Second of all, all I could think of to say was - the author didn't write it to make a box office smash, she wrote it because she loved writing it and it cracked her up.

Same for JACKASS, by the way. Sure there's a financial formula involved, but those jack asses really LIKE what they're doing and it shows.

The energy that goes into any project, is the energy we feel coming back out of it.

If that energy is fun, if your happiness goes in, or even if it's bittersweet and you're writing a tragedy, if it's still thrilling to you, soul healing, or just plain fun, we'll feel it.

Andthat's contagious.

So don't forget to play with words as if they were toys.

And don't play with words as if each line has to make $200 mill at the box office.

It's more of a problem for those who are successful. You begin feeling like you have to feed that success and you begin to second guess and doubt yourself. When the reality is, if you just be true to the fun you're having, the success will just come.

I'm a bootleg music collector, Beatles primarily, and the one thing that has blown me away when I hear a rehearsal track, or an out take of an incredibly famous song, is how much fun these guys were having together when they worked. Experimenting, trying different versions of the same song, not afraid to completely kill a slow version of something and turn it into something fast and you suddenly recognize the hit. What starts as a ballad on one track, becomes a hard rock hit several tracks later. Same song. Or the heavy metal sounding jam because a lighter rock hit because they pulled way back on the intensity - and you recognize the hit. They were incredibly unattached to what something had to be - they just loved an idea, ran with it, played with it, listened to it, followed the flow where it took them - until it felt right.

Don't be afraid to follow the flow and play even as you work within an outline.

And truly, the energy you put into your project is the energy people will get back out when they pick it up and read it.

Think of words as toys.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Write the Unsaid

Real dialogue has as much said as there is unsaid, as there is in any real discussion between two (or more) people.

Furious at your father, you may not mention your feelings.
In love with the woman you're speaking to, and she's unaware, you may not mention it.
Dreaming he'll ask you to marry him, it may not come up when you chat, but it's on your mind.

In drama the unsaid is very powerful, and it pulls us into that empty moment.

How do you write the unsaid?

You must know the emotional life of your characters. You must know not only how they feel in a specific moment, but what is the arc of emotions in their story. Often a character's mind wants something - that drives the plot (money, sex, power, an item) and their heart want something as well - (love of a stranger, reconciliation with a loved one, redemption for past failure) and that is what is completely UNSAID.

Specifically, it is unsaid TO the primary object of affection.

Crucial that is IS SAID to a trusted friend, ally, or piece of paper with a voice over.

That's the challenge in the spoken drama, how do you get OUT of the character's head? The friend can be a shoulder to cry on, or the voice of conscience urging action. So that the HEART story can be voiced. But when it comes down to closing the deal, the hero can't do it. They can't say what needs to be said, can't heal the wound, and has a moment of LOSS, an opportunity missed, perhaps eternally, where the loved one moves off. That is the power of the unsaid - the hero has to be facing the abyss of LOSS after a moment where they could have succeeded. Perhaps time and time again. But ultimately that is too unbearable, forcing them to grow - take a chance - and face their heart's desire and finally SAY the UNSAID.

We've seen it a thousand times in love stories and when it works at the end, it's incredible. Sometimes the unsaid is an action and it's the spontaneous passionate kiss - and when the lovers melt into each other - nothing needs to be said, you've shown it.

In an action film - not surprisingly - action has to accompany this moment, and it's often the physical action that has been UN-ACTIONALBE. Can the hero slay the dragon, essentially, after past failures and current narrow escapes where friends and loved ones have been lost in the struggle? The weight of failure resting so squarely on their shoulders that victory seems a distant dream. But the hero never gives up hope, or re-discovers hope, and re-commits to their mission, so that in the final moment, when they do slay the dragon, it carries that same power.

Less is more.

Write the unsaid.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Let the work reveal itself

You've heard this before, but you've got to be in love with the process, as well as the product.

After I get a great idea, and sit down with my outline and figure out exactly what I'm going to do, that's when I really discover how little I know about my own idea.

Happens to me, anyway, just about every time.

Interestingly, my structure usually stays pretty much the same, usually 75%. But as the interior life of the piece goes from dough to diamonds - that's where the real brutality lies.

Because the only way I can let my idea out into the world is to write it out, over and over, until things start happening i never thought of.

I throw away first drafts and first passes as motivations that seemed to make sense in an outline don't play in scenes. Characters that were just glimpses of an idea, suddenly talk with more authority than my lead.

I used to take this as clear cut evidence that I had no idea what I was doing.

Now I realize that it's more like I'm being done to.

The way a seed grows from the inside out, so I find I have to write from the inside out, in that if I'm not wholly in my character's voice, or thoughts, it all pales anyway.

And something cool plotwise that worked mindfully in the outline - may not make sense once a character locks in tighter than I expected.

That's how I know I'm writing something worth while. When it begins to reveal an emotional solidity, an undeniable reality that seems as real as memory.

Let the work reveal itself even if it shies from away from first thoughts. It may be leading you to it's best self.

If you're re-writing, and are assigned to keep your structure, find this in the inner landscape of the characters. Let their inner lives reveal things that make the spaces you are in make a deeper sense in their story.

Remember how loss connects us to a place, fills us with doubt, haunts our lives, creates the need for redemption or rebirth.

How does that reveal itself in your story?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Can't Write in Longhand

Getting back from my trip at the end of august I asked my computer to restart a way it couldn't and pretty much shut off its brain and it wouldn't restart. Then my lap top was connected to an external hard drive that was shut of incorrectly and wouldn't restart. Then when it did, it wouldn't connect to the internet. I basically pulled out all my remaining hair in the first 24 hours of coming home. And none of my hardware worked. Couldn't write, couldn't burn disks. So I was pretty much crippled.

It was not a nice feeling. You don't realize how much you rely on something until it's gone.

Don't wait until this is a wife, girlfriend or boyfriend out there by the way.

Anyway, without computers and internet for so long was very disturbing.

and i just can't write long hand anymore.

So up and running again. Will post more today. Wll be sending out CD's very soon! Thank you for your understanding out there!