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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.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Animation Features

Seems like every studio is getting into business on this and that is very exciting. I worked at Dreamworks last spring on a great project and loved it. Hired this summer on another animated feature at a different company and met at Universal just last month on a short list of those being considered on - you guessed it - an animated feature. Big business and really big fun for the writer as you win the day going in with the really exceptionally whacked out version of reality - the story you could never pitch to a studio with a straight face.

But that's because the old "Katzenberg" line comes in to play when you pitch an animated concept. You will definitely hear his edict whispered through the responses of any executive you meet "why are we doing this story animated?" Is the world special enough, are the characters impossible enough - could this all not exist in reality, etc. If it's just a great story about people with one fantastic element, why not shoot it live as an effects movie?

And they're right. It's a great question. Why the hell is this an animated film? What is so fantastic, impossible and visually stunning about it?

So to all of you out there pitching the animated film: You want the ice giant hanging out with floating jelly fish and all crossing a world where time goes backwards but they go forwards, etc.

Keep it emotionally grounded in reality, that's your anchor, the heroes love, suffer loss and fight back to love again. And the structure we all know and love has to play across the landscape of the impossible. Surround characters that are emotionally real with the truly impossible and you've got a winning combination.

The New Landscape

Well, what is happening to our business does anyone know? I'm sure that most people in the business don't. And I'm sure that the few people at the top who okay the checks are sitting on them and saying 'wait' and 'everyone will take less." A sad truth that's happening all across the financial structures of our country, it's not just us. Full timers are being cut in all business, and only part timers and temps are being hired, so no medical coverage payments that way, no 401K, no stock, etc.

So what does that mean for us? The providers still need content. And we all write content much better than they do. But are we looking at more and more of the *gasp* micro-budget productions? Hearing a lot of that lately. Such a nuetural, almost pleasant sounding term, like something that might go in the kitchen and warm your oatmeal in the morning.

But the friendly euphemism for the above definitely makes one reconsider private school.

Don't EAT a fish. Learn how to FISH!

Did you know that every script has four acts, not three? That there are 8 major sequences to each script that your character must pass through in the right order? Did you know that each story has both an “emotional “story and a ‘situational’ story – but that they have to come at each other from different directions like speeding freight trains until they crash? Do you know how to end your scenes but never resolve your tension?

Jeezy Louise-y, let's get serious folks. Script writing is the most structured for there is. Get your form down and everything else falls into place. It goes from being a script that is put down on page 30 to one that has to be read to your last words: THE END.

And of course your characters can't be dead on the page either, but that goes without saying.

but it's a lot like Real Estate's three laws of location, location, location - for us it's structure, structure, structure. Don't doubt it, even when it feels old, embrace it.