What do Revenge of the Nerds and The Beastmaster have in common?

I recently looked at a couple Nineties films (Good Will Hunting and Saving Private Ryan) so I figured I’d hit the Eighties this week, when hair was big and love was real.

Two seminal films in the pantheon of cinematic history, Revenge of the Nerds and The Beastmaster, employ a scene archetype that we see in the climax of many a story — the beat that occurs when the friends that the hero made earlier in the movie, whom we’d forgotten about, return to help save the day, thus facilitating the hero’s triumph over evil. Sometimes, they are former enemies who have become allies out of respect for the protagonist’s actions since they first met. Read more

Saving Private Ryan screenplay

I’ve been using Robert Rodat’s Saving Private Ryan screenplay for years as a case study for my writers and I cite it a number of times in my book Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay. The structure is rock-solid, the story is active and Rodat’s voice on the page is commanding. Here’s one of my favorite introductions of a Protagonist… Read more

Avatar script

James Cameron’s script for Avatar was the template for an epic. At 162 minutes, the Avatar movie is a LONG epic, but here’s the deal:

Jake Sully meets his avatar eight minutes into the movie.

That’s page 8 in a script that uses proper screenplay format, and it’s prime real-estate for that Inciting Incident to really suck in the reader. Read more

Die Hard script

One can’t think “action movie” without thinking Die Hard. I remember watching the epic commercials for the film during the 1988 Academy Awards, wherein they promised the movie would be the first in decades to be presented in full 70mm wide-screen, and feature 6-track Dolby Surround Sound (yes, SIX tracks!). But that wasn’t all. What really mattered was the tagline: “It will blow you through the back wall of the theater!” Read more

Good Will Hunting Screenplay Analysis

Good Will Hunting is one of the finest screenplays of the 90s (a very strong decade in film) and it’s a great study in character and plot dynamics. There’s a new Good Will Hunting Story Map pdf online now that you should check out.

My talented student and friend, Robert Rich, has put together a fantastic site that showcases detailed analyses of popular films using my Story Maps method of narrative deconstruction. His latest analysis is of the Good Will Hunting script. The post begins by giving the history of the screenplay. Read more

Dan’s 2-Minute Screenwriting School: Danny DeVito and the cast of “Sunny in Philly” on great scripts

Your main character has to really WANT SOMETHING.

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Cast of Sunny in Philly on a Great Script

Dearest screenwriter,

They can stop me, but they will never stop my Flip Cam.

I’ve once again turned my tiny (yet 1080p!) lens on an unsuspecting batch of celebrities and asked them what they want to see in a screenplay. Here’s another clip from my video interview of the cast of the sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Read more

Cool Viral Campaign: American Horror Story

I’m really liking this viral campaign for the upcoming series on FX, “American Horror Story,” which is created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Galchuk of Nip/Tuck and Glee Fame.

I know what you’re thinking: Wait, the guys from Glee are doing an edgy, creepy horror genre show? Can the guys from Glee actually SCARE us? Read more

Billion dollar screenwriters Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon

A clunky first draft is a million times more valuable than a perfect 10 pages or only 3/4 of a script that that never gets finished.

Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon are a very successful screenwriting team whose films have grossed $1.4 billion worldwide (with the Night at the Museum franchise, their creation, being the heavy lifters in their filmography). Garant and Lennon met in 1988 while at NYU film school and joined with other students to form the comedy group, “The State,” which would later become an MTV sketch comedy series and land them a movie deal. Garant and Lennon were the only two members of the group with the discipline to sit down and write a feature-length screenplay, but they were newcomers and the deal fell through (in their words, they “would go out to L.A. and people would yell at us” because their ideas were just too weird for mainstream producers). Read more

I Love You, Man | Setups and Payoffs Part 2

Excerpt from Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay, Chapter 12: Scene Work:

“One could say that a screenplay is merely Setups and Payoffs, nothing more; I wouldn’t disagree. Often the strongest payoffs come in the third act and are set up in the first act.

A payoff is always best when WE get to recognize it, without it being explained to us. In Kill Bill Vol. 2, The Bride uses her hand technique to escape the buried coffin, which we just learned about in the flashback entitled, ‘The Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei.’ Read more

Louis C.K. Interview — Writing and Directing “Louie” on FX

I can’t call upon the writing the same as the other jobs…The writing has the most pressure, it’s the toughest but it’s also the most rewarding when it works out.

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Superman Returns opening and other bad ideas

I recently found the deleted opening scene from Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, which is rumored to have cost $10 million (huh?) and was meant to show where Superman went and thus where he’s returning from (thus the title), so I was psyched to view it since I’ve always felt that this unanswered question in the theatrical release was the biggest thing that torpedoed the first half of the film (and the second half’s torpedo came in the form of Lex Luthor’s preposterous real-estate plan). Read more