Archive for January, 2010

19.01.2010 How To Screenplay, Screenwriting Blog 1 Comment

How To Write A Screenplay

Would you like to learn how to write a screenplay from a working Los Angeles-based Script Doctor with industry experience that includes major movie studios like Miramax and Fox? Is your goal to gain the skills to compete in the top markets in the movie and television industry in Los Angeles, California, Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world?

I can give you the roadmap and the skills — the professional screenwriting how to — to write a great movie screenplay or television script. My method is called Story Maps Screenwriting and it is the most simple, clear and effective roadmap to take you from your initial concept all the way to a polished draft that you can submit to agents, managers and producers in the movie industry in Hollywood. read more

19.01.2010 How To Screenplay, Screenwriting Blog No Comments

How To Write Screenplay

Do you want to learn how to write a screenplay from a professional Script Doctor and screenwriter who has worked for major movie studios and is based in Los Angeles, California, Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world?

I can give you the CRAFT, the TOOLS and the METHOD — the professional screenwriting how to — to write a great movie screenplay or television script. My method is called Story Maps Screenwriting and it is the most focused, clear and effective roadmap to take you from your initial idea all the way to a polished draft that you can submit to managers, agents and producers in the movie industry in Hollywood. read more

19.01.2010 How To Screenplay, Screenwriting Blog No Comments

Learn How To Write A Screenplay

Would you like to learn how to write a screenplay from a professional screenwriter and Script Doctor who has worked for major movie studios and is based in Los Angeles, California, Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world?

I can give you the TOOLS — the professional screenwriting how to — to write a great movie screenplay or television script. My method is called Story Maps Screenwriting and it is the most simple, clear and effective roadmap to take you from your initial concept all the way to a polished draft that you can submit to agents, managers and producers in the movie industry in Hollywood. read more

19.01.2010 How To Screenplay, Screenwriting Blog No Comments

Screenwriting How To

Would you like to learn how to write a screenplay from a professional screenwriter and Script Doctor who has worked for major movie studios and is based in Los Angeles, California, Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world?

I can give you the TOOLS — the professional screenwriting how to — to write a great movie screenplay or television script. My method is called Story Maps Screenwriting and it is the most simple, clear and effective roadmap to take you from your initial concept all the way to a polished draft that you can submit to agents, managers and producers in the movie industry in Hollywood. read more

19.01.2010 How To Screenplay, Screenwriting Blog No Comments

Write Screenplay

Would you like to learn how to write a screenplay from a professional screenwriter and Script Doctor who has worked for major movie studios and is based in Los Angeles, California, Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world?

I can give you the TOOLS — the professional screenwriting how to — to write a great movie screenplay or television script. My method is called Story Maps Screenwriting and it is the most simple, clear and effective roadmap to take you from your initial concept all the way to a polished draft that you can submit to agents, managers and producers in the movie industry in Hollywood. read more

17.01.2010 How To Screenplay, Screenwriting Blog No Comments

How To Write Screenplays

Would you like to learn how to write a screenplay from a professional screenwriter and Script Doctor who has worked for major movie studios and is based in Los Angeles, California, Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world?

I can give you the TOOLS — the professional screenwriting how to — to write a great movie screenplay or television script. My method is called Story Maps Screenwriting and it is the most simple, clear and effective roadmap to take you from your initial concept all the way to a polished draft that you can submit to agents, managers and producers in the movie industry in Hollywood. read more

13.01.2010 Screenwriting Blog No Comments

Three Shades Of The Romance Film

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005)

My take on the success of this film is that it was Casablanca for gay men. It’s a classical period “doomed” romance in a unique milieu that had never been presented in this way, at least not in a wide release with major movie stars. Put simply: its time had come. This was great writing about two people in quiet desperation (actually, four people), one of whom is a man so beset by guilt and fear and held to a code of ethics formed in his youth that he absolutely CANNOT allow himself to be with the person he truly loves the most.

I don’t think the ‘shock factor’ had as much to do with the phenomenon as the press would have had us believe. And for some viewers who didn’t “get it,” they complained that not much happened. But this film is not so much about actions — it focuses on theme, character and inner conflicts. Subtext is a huge factor in this story, and the writers (Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana adapting Annie Proulx) use it to create great depth from what seems to be a narrow-focus story. read more

13.01.2010 Video No Comments

Story Maps #2: The First Trial/ First Casualty!

The First Trial is the first test of the commitment that your protagonist made at the end of Act One when they made that active decision that pushed them and us into the second act. This must be a setback…a failure…thus there is a First Casualty…

read more

12.01.2010 Video No Comments

Story Maps: A Quick Introduction

The Story Map breaks down your narrative into its eight main dramatic elements, the four major story engines and the ten crucial story beats that must be in the same order and must fall in specific page points in your screenplay, no matter the genre.

Learn more about Story Maps and buy the new E-Book Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay.

Good luck and happy writing!

-Dan

11.01.2010 Video No Comments

Trilogy Mapping: Star Wars and Lord of the Rings! Dan’s 2-Minute Screenwriting School #5

Not only does each film adhere to the story map structure but there’s an over arcing structure where the trilogy is a story map unto itself as if it were one film.

read more

09.01.2010 Video No Comments

Dan’s 2-minute Screenwriting School #3 – THE FIRST TEN PAGES!

The first ten pages of your script must establish the world of your story, set up a compelling conflict with intriguing characters, establish your skills on the page and suck in the reader.

Related: Don’t Suck, Suck in the Reader!

Click to read excerpts

08.01.2010 Video No Comments

Dan’s 2-Minute Screenwriting School #2 – The Big Idea! Supercharge Your Screenplay!

The Big Idea has replaced the term “high concept”… they essentially mean the same thing.  The big idea is the first and maybe the only thing that will get your script read if you’re a new, unproven writer…the big idea is not just a stringing together of familiar elements from other hit movies, as many newbie writers think.

08.01.2010 Screenwriting Blog No Comments

Screenplay Terminology

If you are looking for common screenwriting terms for the aspiring professional screenwriter…

See my Screenwriting Glossary HERE.

-Daniel Calvisi
http://actfourscreenplays.com/
copyright (c) Daniel Calvisi

Where are you at in the screenwriting process?

No matter if you’re just starting out or have written several scripts, I can help you to achieve your goals.

Good luck and happy writing!

-Dan

07.01.2010 Video No Comments

Dan’s 2-Minute Screenwriting School #1 – How Your Screenplay Should Look Industry Format Final Draft

Don’t print the title of the script on the card stock cover… it should go on the title page of the script. If you’re using Final Draft…define a title page so you don’t get the generic, default title page.

CALL TO ACTION:

06.01.2010 Screenplay Analysis, Screenwriting Blog No Comments

Million Dollar Baby Screenplay

Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby

(2004; Screenplay by Paul Haggis, based on stories by F.X. Toole; Directed by Clint Eastwood)

Million Dollar Baby is an incredibly focused story. Screenwriter Paul Haggis achieves what I call “story cohesion” by making sure that every element logically flows from strong main dramatic elements while generating dramatic conflict.

The first level of focus is on a crucial element in the “Basic” portion of my outline method which is called Story Maps Screewriting: Theme.

The theme of Million Dollar Baby is “second chances.”

Every character is pursuing a second chance and the character construction, goals and plot beats reflect this. This pursuit is most often shown with active devices, i.e. visual devices as opposed to just being “told” in dialogue. A simple example of this would be the letters from Frankie’s estranged daughter, returned to him unopened, which set up his failure as a father in the past that he hopes to make up for when he gets his second chance to father Maggie. But Haggis knows the letters, although an elegant device, are a bit too simplistic on their own so he builds in active scenes to illustrate Frankie’s inner struggle (e.g., Frankie at church, Big Willie leaving him for another trainer, Scrap admonishing him for being too controlling when he was a fighter).

Let’s look first at the two main characters…

FRANKIE DUNN (Clint Eastwood): Second chance as a trainer and father.

  • Past: His daughter rejects his attempts to reconcile (the returned letters, unopened)
  • Present, negative: Big Willie, his number one fighter, leaves him for another trainer.
  • Present, positive: Maggie gives him a second chance as a trainer and father.

MAGGIE FITZGERALD (Hilary Swank): Second chance as a boxer and a daughter.

  • Past: Her father died when she was young.
  • Present, negative: Her mother rejects her gift of a house.
  • Present, positive: Frankie takes her under his wing and pledges to never leave her.

…and at two of the supporting characters…

SCRAP (Morgan Freeman): Second chance at being a boxer, or, retiring from boxing on a win.

  • Past: He was retired early with an eye injury. Wonders if he could have made it. (setup)
  • Present: He defeats Shawrelle (Anthony Mackie) in the ring to defend Danger. (payoff)

DANGER (Jay Baruchel): fulfillment as a real boxer.

  • Present: Danger is a supporting character meant to show contrast and color at the gym.

Danger is the boxer who only has the heart, but not the talent, whereas Shawrelle has the talent but no heart, and Maggie has BOTH.


So we see how the other boxers are written so as to highlight what makes Maggie special (again, using active, shown devices for character development and plot progression).

SPOILERS AHEAD – But if you’re serious about screenwriting you’re here to analyze movies not just watch them (nice guilt trip, huh?).

The story pushes Frankie and Maggie to a FINAL DECISION. The catalyst for this final decision is the big beat — the crippling of Maggie — which is initially shocking to any first-time audience member. But it is the perfect method to show how she has truly been fulfilled by her experience with Frankie — she got her second chance at a better life and she was satisfied by it — which forces Frankie to decide between his own selfish needs and the best wishes of his adopted daughter.

Frankie tells Maggie that he has plans for her when she gets out of the hospital. Maggie tells Frankie that she saw the world, she heard people chanting her name, she fought for the title. That’s enough. She is ready to die.

Maggie is a young woman who was left by the only man who ever loved her: her daddy. Frankie is an older man whose daughter left him. They give each other a second chance, the possibility of redemption. In the end, Frankie makes his final decision, the ultimate conflict: to decide to facilitate the death of his most beloved. In essence, to give up his chance at salvation for Maggie. For a man who’s been paying for his past sins for decades, it is this final, most painful act that redeems him as he succeeds at being the best father and trainer he can be.

-Daniel Calvisi
http://actfourscreenplays.com/
copyright (c) Daniel Calvisi

Where are you at in the screenwriting process?

No matter if you’re just starting out or have written several scripts, I can help you to achieve your goals.

Good luck and happy writing!

-Dan

http://actfourscreenplays.com/
03.01.2010 Screenplay Analysis, Screenwriting Blog No Comments

Million Dollar Baby Script

Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby

(2004; Screenplay by Paul Haggis, based on stories by F.X. Toole; Directed by Clint Eastwood)

Million Dollar Baby is an incredibly focused story. Screenwriter Paul Haggis achieves what I call “story cohesion” by making sure that every element logically flows from strong main dramatic elements while generating dramatic conflict.

The first level of focus is on a crucial element in the “Basic” portion of my outline method which is called Story Maps Screewriting: Theme.

The theme of Million Dollar Baby is “second chances.”

Every character is pursuing a second chance and the character construction, goals and plot beats reflect this. This pursuit is most often shown with active devices, i.e. visual devices as opposed to just being “told” in dialogue. A simple example of this would be the letters from Frankie’s estranged daughter, returned to him unopened, which set up his failure as a father in the past that he hopes to make up for when he gets his second chance to father Maggie. But Haggis knows the letters, although an elegant device, are a bit too simplistic on their own so he builds in active scenes to illustrate Frankie’s inner struggle (e.g., Frankie at church, Big Willie leaving him for another trainer, Scrap admonishing him for being too controlling when he was a fighter).

Let’s look first at the two main characters…

FRANKIE DUNN (Clint Eastwood): Second chance as a trainer and father.

  • Past: His daughter rejects his attempts to reconcile (the returned letters, unopened)
  • Present, negative: Big Willie, his number one fighter, leaves him for another trainer.
  • Present, positive: Maggie gives him a second chance as a trainer and father.

MAGGIE FITZGERALD (Hilary Swank): Second chance as a boxer and a daughter.

  • Past: Her father died when she was young.
  • Present, negative: Her mother rejects her gift of a house.
  • Present, positive: Frankie takes her under his wing and pledges to never leave her.

…and at two of the supporting characters…

SCRAP (Morgan Freeman): Second chance at being a boxer, or, retiring from boxing on a win.

  • Past: He was retired early with an eye injury. Wonders if he could have made it. (setup)
  • Present: He defeats Shawrelle (Anthony Mackie) in the ring to defend Danger. (payoff)

DANGER (Jay Baruchel): fulfillment as a real boxer.

  • Present: Danger is a supporting character meant to show contrast and color at the gym.

Danger is the boxer who only has the heart, but not the talent, whereas Shawrelle has the talent but no heart, and Maggie has BOTH.


So we see how the other boxers are written so as to highlight what makes Maggie special (again, using active, shown devices for character development and plot progression).

SPOILERS AHEAD – But if you’re serious about screenwriting you’re here to analyze movies not just watch them (nice guilt trip, huh?).

The story pushes Frankie and Maggie to a FINAL DECISION. The catalyst for this final decision is the big beat — the crippling of Maggie — which is initially shocking to any first-time audience member. But it is the perfect method to show how she has truly been fulfilled by her experience with Frankie — she got her second chance at a better life and she was satisfied by it — which forces Frankie to decide between his own selfish needs and the best wishes of his adopted daughter.

Frankie tells Maggie that he has plans for her when she gets out of the hospital. Maggie tells Frankie that she saw the world, she heard people chanting her name, she fought for the title. That’s enough. She is ready to die.

Maggie is a young woman who was left by the only man who ever loved her: her daddy. Frankie is an older man whose daughter left him. They give each other a second chance, the possibility of redemption. In the end, Frankie makes his final decision, the ultimate conflict: to decide to facilitate the death of his most beloved. In essence, to give up his chance at salvation for Maggie. For a man who’s been paying for his past sins for decades, it is this final, most painful act that redeems him as he succeeds at being the best father and trainer he can be.

-Daniel Calvisi
http://actfourscreenplays.com/
copyright (c) Daniel Calvisi

Where are you at in the screenwriting process?

No matter if you’re just starting out or have written several scripts, I can help you to achieve your goals.

Good luck and happy writing!

-Dan

http://actfourscreenplays.com/
02.01.2010 How To Screenplay, Screenwriting Blog No Comments

How To Submit A Screenplay

Would you like to learn how to write a screenplay from a professional screenwriter and Script Doctor who has worked for major movie studios and is based in Los Angeles, California, Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world?

I can give you the TOOLS — the professional screenwriting how to — to write a great movie screenplay or television script. My method is called Story Maps Screenwriting and it is the most simple, clear and effective roadmap to take you from your initial concept all the way to a polished draft that you can submit to agents, managers and producers in the movie industry in Hollywood. read more

02.01.2010 Screenwriting Blog No Comments

Choosing a Script Service or Screenplay Consultant Part II: The Three Main Types of Script Services You Can Hire

Scripts for your desk drawer or a major studio greenlight?

“Those Who Teach” Choosing a Screenwriting Coach

by Daniel Calvisi, professional Story Analyst (Miramax Films, Dimension Films, Twentieth Century Fox, New Line Cinema) and author of Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay

PART II: The three main types of screenplay coaches/consultants you can hire…

1) The Produced Screenwriter

A screenwriter who has sold scripts and had their work produced can give you great insights into the creative process and how to tailor your work for the market.  Their commercial instincts, stories from the trenches, and real-world experience from the writer’s side of the business are invaluable, but I have to stress that it’s also important that they have a good deal of experience as a coach/teacher.

If they don’t have the ability to assess your skill level or find the right words and examples to guide you to make progress, then their experience is not worth much.  Keep in mind that many screenwriters only know the biz from their side of the desk, which may or may not be what you need.  For example, you’ll hear screenwriters bitching about coverage and how it’s the scourge of the industry.  But coverage is a necessary evil and it’s here to stay, so I advise that you try to write your script with an eye toward blowing away the Reader who will be writing that coverage report.

I’ve also heard about screenwriters who try to make your script more like theirs.  They are essentially guiding you to rewrite your script how THEY would rewrite it, which is not helpful, especially if they’ve never worked in your genre.

Buyer beware.

The next type of script service is…
read more

01.01.2010 Screenwriting Blog No Comments

How to Write a GREAT Script! page 2

back to page one

In fact, each one of those categories in the Great Script list represents a great deal of study and practice. To truly understand each element is the first challenge and it takes time to get there. From there, the ability to implement each element on the page requires a strong focus, a raw instinct for story, a dedication to working hard over a long-term schedule and the helping hand of smart, experienced friends and mentors.

Even the pros have trouble pulling off all the elements of a great script. And even they need to show each draft to another reader as no writer, no matter their level, can be truly objective about their work.

I have so much to tell you about each one of the above elements that will help you look at movies and television in a new light.  Basically, I can hand you the keys to how the pros do it so that you can find out who exactly is behind the curtain pulling all the switches and turning the dials.

But wait!  There’s also those things you should not do.  And I have a list for that crap, too.

In fact, I have a bigger list that I’ve given my students for years, but here’s the majors, the dealbreakers…

Biggest mistakes (in no particular order of badness):
Lack of a clear theme
Passive protagonist
Story not active
Lack of conflict
No “rootability” for your protagonist
No “clock”

Got it?  Good!

I mean…Great!

Because that’s the goal, right? To write a great one. I see no other way.

It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be rough. But it’s going to be exhilarating.

I’d love to help you get on your way, build your story with the strongest foundation possible and ultimately achieve your craft and career goals. If you’d like to work with me, please take a look at My Script Services and drop me a line.

Good Luck and Happy Writing!

-Dan Calvisi

CHARACTER = ACTION:

01.01.2010 Screenwriting Blog No Comments

Choosing a Script Service or Screenplay Consultant Part III: The Triple Threat

The Triple Threat: Industry Vet, Teacher and Coach

Due to the recent economy woes and all the layoffs in Hollywood, you’ll probably spot more new script services founded by recently downsized development and agency employees,.  Yes, they’ve worked in the industry, but have they taught and coached writers to improve their work?

As I stressed in part one of this article, there’s no substitute for years of teaching and coaching writers.  My time on the job in the industry was only half of my training — teaching and guiding hundreds of writers was the second half.  I’ve learned so much from you writers and I’ve tried to use it to make me better at what I do.

Here’s an example. Years ago, a client stressed to me that I was being quite harsh.  My “tough love” approach was leaning too heavily on the tough and not enough on the love! So I took that lesson to heart and from that day forward, decided to communicate more positive feedback into my notes. I now always begin with what I liked about a script, before I get into what needs work.

I’m still going to be direct, honest and yes, tough, because I can guarantee you the industry will be ten times tougher, but I also understand that an artist needs to first hear good things about their work for them to be receptive to any criticism. When I show my own work to friends and colleagues, I say “Tell me something nice first.  Tell me what you liked before you get into what you didn’t like.”

And if they don’t, I force them to watch a Twilight marathon on a continuous loop until their head explodes.  But that’s just me.  Your “approach” may differ.

Key principles…

  • Buyer Beware

  • Know your Reader

  • Industry Vet AND Teacher

  • Coverage? Meh.

Does that help? I know there’s a lot of options out there on Ye Olde Internets so it helps to have some context and experience to guide you.

I wish you luck in finding the right coach. If I get the opportunity to work with you, then I look forward to helping you achieve your writing goals.

Good Luck and Happy Writing!

Sincerely,

Daniel Calvisi

Related: Don’t Pay for Script Coverage

Click to read excerpts

SPECIAL OFFER: Discount on my script services with mention of this article!

CALL TO ACTION: