[article first published in ScriptMag]
One of my favorite lines from THE AVENGERS occurs when Black Widow tells Captain America not to mess with Thor and Loki, saying “they’re basically gods.” With no hesitation, Cap replies, “There’s only one God, ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.” Then he jumps out of a plane. Read more
David Goyer, screenwriter of Blade, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, the hugely successful video game series Call of Duty: Black Ops and TV’s Davinci’s Demons, gave a fantastic lecture and interview for BAFTA.
He talks about how he broke in, the increasing importance of television in terms of craft and the corporate media landscape, changing the superhero movie genre, constructing the “Ten Commandments” of Batman and Superman, writing for games and juggling multiple scripts at once. Here’s the full lecture and interview… Read more
Make way on the blogosphere for the next big movie star killing it on TV. Billy Bob Thornton will soon be seen in FX’s one-hour drama “Fargo,” which premieres in the U.S. on April 15, 2014, and trust me when I tell you that you will be talking about his character, Lorne Malvo, a drifter who arrives in Fargo, Minnesota and starts to take a keen interest in its quirky denizens. Read more
My next webinar with the Writers Store, STORY MAPPING OSCAR-WINNING SCREENPLAYS, will go live on Monday, February 24, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. Pacific / 4:00 p.m. Eastern and you can now purchase tickets at the Early Bird Price of $69.99USD. Read more
Below are the nominations for the 2014 Oscars, which rewards the films of 2013.
Interesting batch this year. Some personal thoughts on the list:
- So glad Roger Deakins’ cinematography on Prisoners was nominated. Contemporary dramas and thrillers often get overlooked in this category, but his incredible lighting definitely stood out, even on the small screen I watched this great film on.
- No Visual Effects nom for Pacific Rim?!! Robbery, I say. This is probably a snub against a film that wasn’t considered a big hit at the box-office. When it comes to big ‘popcorn’ studio movies, a film often has to be a big hit to be acknowledged by the Academy.
- Nice to see four young newcomers get nominated for their song from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. I wish them the best. Who knows, maybe they’ll be the next U2 some day?
- Jonah Hill again? He doesn’t need any more help after the Moneyball nom.
- Meryl Streep again? Seriously, these “Academy darlings” take up spots that could be filled to recognize lesser-known actors that took on much more challenging roles this year.
- Why is Before Midnight considered an Adapted Screenplay? It must fall under some odd classification, but that still doesn’t mean it makes sense. I loved the film and think it deserves acknowledgment as a wholly original work. Read more
I first met Bobby Moynihan at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City in our “Improv 101” course. He was a bit younger than me, but it was clear that he had more experience with this improv stuff. He was definitely a standout. The class was a lot of fun and I would recommend UCB to anyone looking to learn the key principles of comedy from talented comedy pros, especially their sketch writing courses, which I’ve also taken and enjoyed.
I’ll always remember that first class because we had to perform our ‘graduation’ show on the UCB stage two days after September 11, 2001 when the city was still peppered in Missing Persons flyers and the smoke from the World Trade Center remains was still in the air. I showed up to the theater that day having come from volunteering on the docks helping to stock the boats that were supplying the recovery crews down at Ground Zero. I remember our teacher Jamie Denbo telling us how Amy Poehler had said 9/11 was like “the day the aliens landed.”
It was not a great time for comedy. Read more
Story Maps: 12 Great Screenplays (a.k.a. “Booster Pack #1”) is now available in its revised version AND it now includes a BONUS 13TH MAP OF THE BRILLIANT THRILLER “SEVEN!”
The e-book breaks down 13 GREAT MOVIES, primarily from the past decade, into a detailed but easy-to-follow structural analysis known as the Story Map.
Dear writers and readers,
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!
I hope that this coming year will be your greatest, and I wish you unlimited creativity and inspiration as you pour your passion on to the proverbial page.
Thank you for supporting me and Story Maps and congratulations on your writing achievements thus far, big and small. I know that it’s not easy to take on the risk and the workload of writing a screenplay and I applaud your efforts. I hope you feel good about just doing it and I hope you enjoy the process as well as the goal.
Looking ahead, I still have a few slots open in our upcoming online Group Master Class which begins on January 14, 2014. I’d love to have you in the class, so contact me asap if you think you might be interested. (Fyi this is a feature screenwriting class, not TV, but contact me if you’re interested in instruction in writing a TV pilot.)
For those on my newsletter list, I know I’ve been doing a lot of self-promotion lately of my various events and offerings, so I thank you for putting up with me and I promise I’ll get you more story analysis content very soon!
Thank you to all of my students, clients, friends and family for a great 2013.
Here’s to a great 2014!
Good luck and happy writing,
You’d be hard-pressed to find an actor with such an impressive television resume as Jimmy Smits. L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, The West Wing, Dexter and, now, for the past two seasons, FX’s hit drama Sons of Anarchy, created by showrunner Kurt Sutter. (I’m also still mourning the loss of Smits’ unfortunately canceled drama Cane from 2007.) Read more
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
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
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