Story Maps: 12 Great Screenplays (a.k.a. “Booster Pack #1″) is now available! The e-book breaks down 12 GREAT MOVIES, primarily from the past decade, into a detailed but easy-to-follow structural analysis known as the Story Map.
The Story Maps Master Class has always featured the exclusive benefit of giving writers feedback on their loglines from industry professionals like development executives, sold screenwriters and major agency professionals. My goal from the start has been to get my writers read, repped and sold, and I’ve always promised them that if they complete their script and get it to a submission-ready level, I will pass it on to my contacts in the industry. I can’t guarantee success or even that a script will be accepted to be read by my contacts, because it’s always contingent first on their interest in the logline and genre, but I can assure you that I will never stop advocating for my writers. read more
The trilogy (of articles) is complete!
Here’s the third part of our analysis of the story structure behind great Science Fiction and Fantasy sagas, using the original Star Wars Trilogy and the Halo Trilogy as focus points. I’d like to thank James Robert Martin for his fantastic work on these essays, and I invite you to revisit Part I and Part II and to post a comment below.
TRILOGY BUILDING PART III: The Saga
by James Robert Martin read more
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.
Here’s your last chance to win one of TWO FREE SEATS in this weekend’s “Story Map Your Feature Film” boot camp with Screenwriters University. This is a $199 value!
Be one of the first two people to email me [dan at actfourscreenplays.com] the answers to the following trivia questions: read more
I’m teaching a weekend “Boot Camp” online workshop on November 15-17th, 2013, with Screenwriters University. This weekend seminar will give you a great crash-course in my Story Mapping method and a critique of your own story map plus a bonus webinar on mapping Oscar screenplays. The price is $199 and it includes an exclusive webinar lecture, a worksheet, a private 3 hour message board forums Q&A session and my notes on your work. Go HERE to sign up.
What do 95% of great movies have in common? They all follow the STORY MAP. read more
As the tales of Don Draper, Walter White and Dexter Morgan come to an end and screenwriters everywhere struggle to create the next great TV protagonist, I have only one question.
Where are all of the “beat sheets” and structure “paradigms” for television drama? read more
CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED — THANK YOU FOR ENTERING AND CONGRATS TO THE WINNERS!
THE WEBINAR IS STILL AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE FOR LIVE LISTENING AT 1:00 PM PST ON WEDNESDAY, SEPT 11, 2013 OR STREAMING LATER: HERE
“Justified” created by Graham Yost and Elmore Leonard
Raylan has his dark side… But the guy is a hero. I thought, ‘Man, it would be fun to do a show which has a true-blue hero.’
Justified is based on the Elmore Leonard short story “Fire in the Hole” (read it here) which provides the story for the pilot episode, in which U.S. Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens returns to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky, to track his old coal-mining buddy Boyd Crowder, an ex-con now leading a Neo-Nazi terrorist group, after Boyd blows up a black church with an RPG. Raylan meets Boyd at the home of Boyd’s sister-in-law Ava Crowder; [SPOILERS AHEAD] firearms are brandished and Boyd comes out on the wrong end of Raylan’s six-shooter. Boyd dies at the end of the Leonard story, but not in the Justified pilot. Which means veteran actor Walton Goggins will continue to appear (fun link: Walton Goggins’ blog from India in 2009).
Graham Yost is the series creator/Executive Producer of Justified and a veteran writer/director in film and television with an impressive list of credits that includes Band of Brothers, Boomtown, Raines and The Pacific and the feature films Speed, Broken Arrow and Mission to Mars. He won an Emmy for his work on the mini-series From the Earth to the Moon.
Elmore Leonard is an Executive Producer of Justified and the legendary novelist and short story writer whose works have spawned several feature films, including Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, Stick, Mr. Majestyk and 3:10 to Yuma. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana but has lived in Michigan since 1934. He is also well-known for his “10 Rules of Writing.” read more
Back to the Future (1985)
One of the greatest spec screenplays of all time and a timeless piece of entertainment that plays with pop culture in brilliant ways, Back to the Future, written by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis and directed by Zemeckis, is the topic of our latest Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast. Wes Alwan of The Partially Examined Life joins me and William Robert Rich for this discussion of the history, screenplay and philosophy behind the film, and, yes, the incest issue. read more
The Story Maps Master Class is for serious screenwriters who are willing to dedicate themselves to writing a winning screenplay for the current spec script market in Hollywood.
July 2013 UPDATE: The current Group Master Class is now full, but I encourage you to contact me to get on the wait list for the next group class or I can check my schedule for a private coaching slot. My newsletter subscribers receive discounts on master classes, so sign up if you haven’t already. See the Master Class page for more information and how to apply. read more
Diane Kruger talks about her new series The Bridge, which is based on the Danish/Swedish television series of the same name. (Be aware that there are SPOILERS BELOW in regards to Diane Kruger’s character and some general information about the series.)
Both shows launch with the same brilliant high concept — a body is found cleaved in half, one half placed on one side of the border and one on the other — this forces police from opposite sides to team up to solve the murder. In the original, it was the border between Denmark and Sweden. In the new American series, it is the border between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico, and Diane Kruger’s counterpart is played by Oscar-nominee Demián Bichir. read more
Kickin’ it Old School with C & L
We’ve seen a fantastic wave of female protagonists on television in recent years, and many of them carry a badge. The viewing public can’t seem to get enough of cop shows, so you can’t go wrong in writing your next pilot in this genre. And why not build your crime procedural around a tough woman with (or, more interestingly, without) a gun? read more
In my ongoing commitment to bring you guys more information on writing for television, I’m happy to host this guest blog from industry veterans Sandra Leviton (FX, Paradigm, Under The Stairs Entertainment) & Miranda Sajdak (Practical Pictures, ABC Family, Adult Swim) and the new Script Chix Pilot Launch Contest…
When writing any television pilot, it’s important to pay close attention to format, structure, pacing, and character. Without full development of these vital components, even the best of ideas can easily fall apart. To examine some of these elements, we are breaking down the pilot episode of Nurse Jackie, Showtime’s popular series starring Edie Falco. The pilot is written by Liz Brixius & Linda Wallem and Evan Dunsky. read more
This is the most detailed structural analysis of the blockbuster Man of Steel you will find anywhere. With Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast Episode VIII: Man of Steel, we wrap up our analyses of Christopher Nolan’s biggest films (here, Nolan acts as producer with co-story credit) with Man of Steel, written by David S. Goyer and directed by Zack Snyder. You can follow along with the Full Story Map for Man of Steel, link below. read more
Christopher Nolan’s film noir masterpiece Memento gets the Story Maps treatment when screenwriter Christine Conradt joins us for this two-hour dissection of one of the most complex thrillers of all time. Just when we think we have it figured out, another piece of evidence pops up to complicate the case of Leonard Shelby. read more
The summer movie season is known for convention — sequels, remakes, broad comedies, CGI spectacles; rinse and repeat. But the films that really stand out and distinguish themselves creatively are those that break with commercial movie conventions in major ways, beginning with the script. Here’s three examples from recent years…
Arrested Development Season Four debuted over the weekend on Netflix, and, although we won’t see any kind of traditional ratings from Netflix, I can safely observe that it’s been a huge trending topic online and in traditional media. I was never a big fan of the show, but I watched the first three new episodes to see what all the fuss was about, and my opinion didn’t change. I admire the effort, but I just don’t find it very funny. The choppy structure and the omni-present narration become grating after a few minutes and I find myself itching to watch a complete scene. “Let a scene play out!” and “Shut up, Opie Cunningham!” may have been heard in my living room as I tried to keep up with what felt like a non-stop highlights reel. Maybe it’s just not my style of comedy; I happen to love Happy Endings, a sitcom that has now been canceled because I was apparently the only one who bothered watching it. Comedy is subjective, we know this. So I was planning to toss AD in the “Don’t Watch” bin with The Big Bang Theory.
But then I heard from a number of sources that the season really finds its groove around episode five or episode seven, depending on the source. In other words, the intricate story and character beats start to come together, pay off and the arc of the season is revealed — but you have to hang in there to really get it. In fact, the creators may have designed it this way intentionally, knowing that the Netflix platform allows for unlimited repeat viewings. read more
James Robert Martin returns for the second part in his guest blog series about the structure of a trilogy, using my Story Maps method to break down the Halo game universe and the classic Star Wars trilogy. [Part I here] read more
Our buddy Rob Rich over at Screenplay How To has an interview with screenwriter Joe Nienalt, who started up a program with his manager Daniel Vang of the venerable BenderSpink company to fight heart disease by giving free reads to any writer who makes a charity donation. read more