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Story Maps Master Class: Write, Rewrite, Submit!

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

Interview with Diane Kruger of “The Bridge” new TV series on FX

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

My Lady Cop Can Beat Up Your Man Cop

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

Writing a TV Pilot (Nurse Jackie) guest blog from Sandra Leviton & Miranda Sajdak

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

Man of Steel Story Map Screenplay Analysis and Podcast

Man of Steel (2013)

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 our Man of Steel Podcast with the Full Story Map for Man of Steel.

Listen now to our Man of Steel Podcast: [audio:]

Download the exclusive MAN OF STEEL Story Map
from Amazon:

For more exclusive PDF downloads, special offers and leads from producers looking for scripts, subscribe to the Story Maps Newsletter for Serious Screenwriters. (I don’t send out newsletters very often and I will never share your email with any other source.)

Listen on iTunes

Good Luck and Happy Writing,

Dan Calvisi

Related: For more analysis of Christopher Nolan’s films, read our book, Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan, on Amazon or click below for the highest-resolution PDF version:
“…as much as an analysis of Nolan the filmmaker as it is an analysis of story structure within his films.”
-Script Magazine

Memento Podcast now streaming

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

Summer Blockbusters that broke the rules (District 9, Ted, The Hobbit)

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…


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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

TRILOGY BUILDING PART II: The Characters and Worlds of Star Wars and Halo


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

Donate to the American Heart Association & Get Your Script Read by Daniel Vang of Benderspink

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

How do I conquer my fear and just sit down and write?

I recently got an email from an aspiring screenwriter in the Ukraine:

Hello Dan!

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

Summer Blockbuster Webinar Today — Win a FREE SPOT!

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.


The first three people to answer this trivia question will win the tickets: Read more

Making Everyone Happy All At Once: Writing a Blockbuster

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

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New Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast with working screenwriter Christine Conradt

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:

[audio:] Read more

Iron Man 3 bonus Story Map included with Summer Blockbusters webinar

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

Script Magazine reviews Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan has given a thumbs up to Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan! You can read the full review by Brad Johnson here.

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

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TRILOGY BUILDING Part I: Story Mapping the Star Wars and Halo trilogies

Photo credit: AP Copyright LucasFilm Ltd.

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.
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