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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Exclusive The Shawshank Redemption STORY MAP Download

You found it! That note I buried under the rock wall must have worked. Read more

Mad Men Episode 601-602 “The Doorway” Secrets Revealed (kind of, but not really)

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

Zero Dark Thirty Screenplay Analysis

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 Shawshank Redemption Podcast and FREE Story Map Beat Sheet download

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.

Listen on iTunes

Good Luck and Happy Writing,
Dan Calvisi

Related: More on The Shawshank Redemption screenplay

Related: More Podcasts

Related: Get more Story Maps of hit movies…

Special Offer on Story Maps E-Books

Christopher Nolan book is now available!

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…

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Story Mapping Oscar-Winning Screenplays! Webinar now on sale at Early Bird price

storymappingoscarwinning-500_tinyMy Oscar Screenplays webinar is back for 2014!

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

The Americans: the next great show (Updated with Full Pilot embed)


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.


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J.J. Abrams, you’re my only hope.

It was announced recently that J.J. Abrams has been hired to direct the first Star Wars feature film since Disney acquired Lucasfilm, joining Academy Award-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) who has been hired to pen the screenplay. They are both top talents and I’m hoping they can rekindle my interest in the Star Wars universe. Read more

Mad Men in Black and White

In a unique move, AMC has released the first publicity stills for Mad Men Season 6 and they are in black and white. They remind me of those candid photos from celebrity parties in the 1950S and 1960S. You expect to see Truman Capote or Frank Sinatra in the background of one of these shots.

Mad Men returns on April 7 on AMC.

Click on the pics for massively embiggened size.

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Cast and Creator of Justified discuss the show’s writing

Natalie Zea, Timothy Olyphant and Graham Yost

Justified Season 4 is off to a great start. They’ve introduced several new characters, and our favorite Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens has a baby on the way, a dad in jail and lots of new trouble from the same ol’ Crowder clan. Read more

Golden Globes 2013 Winners

The 70th Golden Globes telecast was a fun show, even if I could have used more Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. The love for Homeland continued, unabated, which makes me wonder, if Nikki Finke is correct in that the Golden Globe award goes to the highest bidder, how much money and gifts did Showtime shell out this year, considering Don Cheadle also picked up a Globe for Showtime’s House of Lies (a show that doesn’t seem to have got much recognition elsewhere)? Read more

Oscar Noms 2013 Full List

Here they are. Let us know who you’re rooting for in the Comments below and who you feel got snubbed.

Nominations for the 85th Academy Awards

Best motion picture of the year

  • “Amour” Nominees to be determined
  • “Argo” Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
  • “Beasts of the Southern Wild” Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
  • “Django Unchained” Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
  • “Les Misérables” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
  • “Life of Pi”Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
  • “Lincoln” Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
  • “Silver Linings Playbook”Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
  • “Zero Dark Thirty”Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers Read more

Spec screenplay market for 2012 is up 10%

Quick jolt of positive ions here for you guys:

Spec Market guru Jason Scoggins reports today that December 2012 was a strong month for spec sales in Hollywood, and 2012 was even better. Read more

Protected: Call for Screenplays (Exclusive Lead)

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Academy Award consideration screenplays available for download

I’ve seen a number of pages with links to the various studio sites where they offer pdf downloads of screenplays, but this page on Rope of Silicon looks to be one of the best. They include links to many of the screenplays that are serious Oscar contenders, like Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, Tony Kushner’s Lincoln, Rian Johnson’s Looper and Tom Stoppard’s Anna Karenina. Lighter fare like This is 40 and Ted are also included.

Oscar nominations will be announced this week, on Thursday, January 10, and the Academy Awards telecast date is Sunday, February 24.

Stay tuned for more information on my next webinar, STORY MAPPING OSCAR-WINNING SCREENPLAYS! on Wednesday, February 20, 2013, where I’ll be analyzing this year’s nominated screenplays and past winners, like Little Miss Sunshine, Sideways, Slumdog Millionaire, The Godfather, Gladiator and more.

Good luck and happy writing,



Dear Screenwriters,

Happy New Year and here’s to 2013 being the year of your GREAT SCRIPT!

I know it’s been way too long since I posted here, and even longer since I sent out a newsletter (yikes), so I apologize for the delay. But I can tell you that I’ve been very busy with my Master Class students and many other projects that I’ll be telling you about in the near future. Here’s what’s up with me and Act Four:

  1. I’m currently taking apps for new Master Classes, both group and private, to launch later this month. I’d love to run two groups, one experienced and one for newer writers, if we can field enough qualified writers. I also have one or two slots open for private students, depending on when I hear from you. I’ve updated the Master Class page with more information. Please don’t wait to contact me if you’re interested in applying as space is limited. Speaking of the Master Class…
  2. Update: Several of my Master Class writers have completed all-new spec scripts, developed from loglines in the workshop, and they are prepping them for the market. I can say with certainty that I plan to personally email at least three of these scripts to one of the biggest script managers in the business.
  3. I’ve been taking time off from script consultations so don’t be surprised if I’m not available to give you notes, but please check with me anyway and I’ll let you know my status or I can refer you to a trusted colleague.
  4. I’ve been catching up on movies from 2012, in anticipation of my next webinar with the Writer’s Store, STORY MAPPING OSCAR-WINNING SCREENPLAYS! on Wednesday, February 20 at 1:00 A.M. PST. I’ll get you a link when The Writer’s Store puts it on sale, and I promise I will cut down my intro this time! (I was a tad slow on my last call.)
  5. Hey, what happened to that Christopher Nolan book you’ve been touting for about 14 years, you ask? Well, we’re still in the home stretch (knock on wood) but we’ve got ourselves a new cover…


That’s progress, right?

Gotta go for now, but I’ll see you soon with some cool stuff.

Good Luck and Happy Writing,


Sitcom writing with the creators and cast of “The League”

The League on FX is now in its fourth season and I recently attended the premiere in Hollywood at the Arclight Cinemas and interviewed the talent on the red carpet. As always, I tried to ask each person about what they look for in a screenplay. Here’s three videos and I will have more coming soon.

Creators and Executive Producers of the comedy series The League Jeff and Jackie Schaffer (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) discuss their writing process:

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Contest: Win a free Christopher Nolan Webinar spot!

For the next 24 hours, I’m giving away five free spots in my webinar Story Mapping the Films of Christopher Nolan, hosted by The Writers Store, on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 1:00 PM Pacific time. Read more