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, Netflix and Nolan walk into a bar named VOD for some binge-viewing and we all win
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
I recently got an email from an aspiring screenwriter in the Ukraine:
I’m reading your book and would like to learn more about how to make a “great script.”
May I also ask you – how do you inspire authors not to be modest and blocked, but be brave and write write write? Do you have any tips? Thank you in advance!
Here was my answer: read more
Dear Screenwriters: I have THREE FREE SPOTS in today’s webinar with The Writers Store: STORY MAPPING THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER at 1:00 PM Pacific time.
NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED. THANK YOU TO ALL WHO JOINED US ON THE CALL. THE RECORDING OF THE VIDEO FILE (which includes the slide show presentation) WILL BE AVAILABLE SOON AT THE WRITERS STORE.
The first three people to answer this trivia question will win the tickets: read more
Note: This article originally appeared in Script Magazine here.
There’s a debate raging now about whether or not the actors who play the superheroes in hit franchises are worth as much as the brand. Would we accept Chris Pine as Tony Stark or is Robert Downey, Jr. the only actor who can pull off Iron Man? Mark Ruffalo was great as Bruce Banner in The Avengers, but did we pay to see the co-star of You Can Count on Me or did we pay to see THE HULK smash things in all his 3-D CGI glory? read more
Screenwriter/Producer Christine Conradt joins Rob and I for the latest episode of the Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast, a casual discussion touching on many topics of interest for writers and filmmakers: Structure, concept, networking, budgets, breaking in, the Lifetime Movie Network, MOWs, Inktip, Kickstarter and more.
Christine gives a lot of great advice to aspiring screenwriters, drawing on her experience with her 38 produced writer credits, and talks about her upcoming directorial debut and, of course, Christopher Nolan.
Listen to our conversation with Christine Conradt:
Summer movie season 2013 launched with the record-breaking $175 million opening of IRON MAN 3 and I’m already busy in the labs mapping it for my upcoming webinar with The Writers Store: STORY MAPPING THE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. PDT.
Sign up now at the Early Bird Price of $69 and your ticket will include my exclusive Iron Man 3 Story Map and my critique of your Basic Story Map.
If you aspire to write big popcorn movies, this webinar is a MUST. read more
Here are some pulls from the review:
“Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan functions quite eloquently as an intricately detailed and compelling look into one of today’s most successful working directors. Each [story map] works to bolster Calvisi and Rich’s original analysis of Nolan’s filmography and functions as much as an analysis of Nolan the filmmaker as it does an analysis of story structure within his films.“ -Brad Johnson, Script Magazine read more
Some of you may remember a video I made back in 2008 talking about the concept of “Trilogy Building” and the connections between one entry in a trilogy and the trilogy as a whole. In terms of story mapping, it’s basically using the Story Maps beat sheet to break down a trilogy as if it were one movie narrative. My buddy James Robert Martin and I originally developed this material with the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movie universes, but we eventually made the decision to sideline Rings in favor of Halo, to acknowledge the increasing importance of story in games. We believe that this analysis can be used to construct a trilogy of screenplays, books or video games, depending on your interest.
James is here for an exclusive guest blog series that contrasts and compares the most popular movie series in history with the most popular video game in history. Enjoy.
You found it! That note I buried under the rock wall must have worked. read more
I’ve seen it.
The Sixth Season opener of Mad Men? Seen that thing. Twice.
That’s two times, son. A full ten days before it airs on April 7, 2013 on the AMC Network, which is better than only nine days before air.
This may not seem like a big deal to you, oh Big Bang Theory enthusiast, but as a certified Mad Maniac, this excites me so much that I am bursting to talk about it. But, alas, I can’t.
Or can I? read more
For its subject matter, Zero Dark Thirty became the most controversial movie of 2012, but the storytelling is what makes it the year’s most bold film. The screenplay breaks a lot of rules, but it works, in large part because of the weight of the subject matter and the knowledge that the audience brings into the theater. read more
The Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast Episode V: The Shawshank Redemption is now available for download along with an exclusive 13-page Story Map PDF for newsletter subscribers.
Listen now to our Shawshank Redemption Podcast:
Exclusive PDF for Story Maps Newsletter Subscribers: Download the FREE The Shawshank Redemption Story Map and read along as you listen to the podcast when you subscribe to the Story Maps Newsletter for Serious Screenwriters.
For current newsletter subscribers: You will get the link and a password to download the story map soon.
Good Luck and Happy Writing,
Related: More Podcasts
Related: Get more Story Maps of hit movies…
The new Story Maps book is here! Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan is the most detailed analysis of this brilliant director’s storytelling techniques ever written, and is sold exclusively in PDF format here…
I just wanted to throw out a quick recommendation to watch the debut of The Americans on FX on Wednesday, January 30 (in the U.S.). I’ve seen the first two episodes and I was really impressed. Great characters, a fascinating milieu, gritty visuals that recall a classic spy thriller, and LOTS of room to grow.