WEBINAR 09/19/12: Story Mapping the Films of Christopher Nolan (The Writers Store)

Calling all screenwriters, story analysts, fans of The Dark Knight, Inception, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises, Memento, Insomnia and The Prestige:

I invite you to attend my upcoming Webinar hosted by The Writers Store: Story Mapping the Films of Christopher Nolan!


This Webinar includes a FREE CRITIQUE, a Q&A session and an exclusive Inception Story Map (you’ll notice that I’ve never uploaded a map of Inception in my various blog posts about the film, which many call Nolan’s masterpiece.) Read more

Is Inception better than The Dark Knight Rises? (Inception Podcast)

Which film can be called Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece? His Dark Knight trilogy is truly an amazing accomplishment, with The Dark Knight shining tall as the greatest of Nolan’s Batman films, in my humble opinion, but one must consider that Inception was all Nolan. His concept, his script, his direction. It’s a complicated movie and a complicated screenplay structure, so Rob Rich and I took time out to discuss it in the latest episode of our Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast.

Listen to the Inception Podcast:

Back to the masterpiece question. Let’s compare Inception to Nolan’s other films. Read more

The Dark Knight Rises Beat Sheet and Podcast (FREE Story Map Download)

The trilogy is complete! How close did I get with my predictions?! (Not too shabby, if I may say so myself.)

We’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises twice in the theaters and we have lots to discuss about the film, the story, themes, logic issues and Bane’s voice. Read along with the free The Dark Knight Rises Beat Sheet download as you listen.

Listen to
the Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast #3:
The Dark Knight Rises


Download the FREE
The Dark Knight Rises
Story Map

Read more

Louie Season 3 — Louis C.K. continues to tell new stories that we want to see

Do writers keep telling the same story until they get it right? In the past week, I’ve watched Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love and Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom (pilot episode available for free streaming on HBO.com), and I met author Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections, Freedom, Farther Away). Throw in the trailers for Judd Apatow’s new film, This is 40, billed as the “unofficial sequel to Knocked Up,” and Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer, his sixth (?) film set in Brooklyn, in which he even reprises his role of Mookie from Do The Right Thing in 1989, and you’ve got some really interesting case studies for this theory.

In all of the examples above, I see so many common themes, characters and situations in these artists’ work that it’s difficult to deny that they may be just chipping away at the same block of stone, one iterationat a time. Maybe that’s okay, and they just get better at it, or maybe it’s a sign of creative stagnation? I think it depends on the subject and the work, but it’s definitely a topic worth discussing.

However, I’ve also just watched an advance screener of the first five episodes of season three of Louie (the TV series on the FX network that returns tonight at 10:30 pm in the U.S.) and it throws a wrench into this theory. Louis C.K. just may be the exception to the rule. Well, almost. Read more

The Dark Knight Rises beat sheet speculation

The Dark Knight Rises Script

Originally published on May 7, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises has yet to open, and since I’ve been analyzing Christopher Nolan’s films for a larger project, especially the first two chapters in his Batman trilogy, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, I can’t help but speculate about The Dark Knight Rises beat sheet.

I’ve seen a lot of predictions and theories online as to the story, but not any that attempted to break down the entire film or incorporated Nolan’s signature style of complex story structure, using templates like The Dark Knight and Inception. Below, you can download my Full Story Map for The Dark Knight Rises, before I’ve seen the movie.

I’m using a five-act structure which most closely resembles The Dark Knight, as that seems the obvious parallel, plus there’s so much content advanced in the trailers that a four-acter (my normal Story Maps structure) just won’t cut it. Read more

Story Maps Podcast #2: The Dark Knight (Free Story Map download)

Episode #2 of the STORY MAPS SCREENWRITING PODCAST is here: Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT:

Listen to
the Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast #2:
The Dark Knight


Download the FREE
The Dark Knight Story Map
screenplay analysis by Daniel Calvisi

Read more

Reader Reviews of Story Maps screenwriting book

“Daniel Calvisi’s Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay
is readable, insightful and exciting.
It focuses on the hard work and narrative strategies
the screenwriter needs to adopt to write a
commercially viable screenplay, and is up to date
and strategic in the clearest way. Dan’s book will help you
do what you must do to succeed with your screenplay.”
-Ken Dancyger, Professor of Film at NYU’s Kanbar Institute of
Film and Television and best-selling Author of
Broadcast Writing, Alternative Scriptwriting,
The Technique of Film and Video Editing
Writing the Short Film (Focal Press)

“There is a lot of great advice here…
Most important, as I read Calvisi’s Story Maps,
I was inspired to rethink my current project.
And that’s what it’s all about, right?”

-Script Magazine (Full Review)

“”Writing a great screenplay is not easy. Dan has created a book that is straightforward and full of valuable insight and guidance for screenwriters at different experience levels. This book provides a simple way to approach your idea or rewrite for maximum results…and helpful to evaluate your work in whatever stage it’s at so you can make necessary improvements that will allow your unique story and vision to shine!”
-Laurie Lamson, co-editor Now Write! Screenwriting

“In truth, I found this book to be brilliant. [But] please don’t think the book is composed only of structural templates. It’s not, and I don’t want anyone to not buy the book because they have that expectation. Story Maps gives you excerpts from actual screenplays, showing you the format and language on the page in use by pro screenwriters. Any book that gives lessons in the skill of blowing the reader away is a book writers need to read. From the Introduction to Dan’s closing, “Good luck and Happy Writing,” Story Maps delivers. Imagine sitting around a coffee shop or a bar and talking one-on-one to a movie-writing, storytelling pro like Dan Calvisi. A no-holds barred, no frills, tell-it-like-it-really-is, no sugar-coating conversation. That’s what reading this book is like.”
-Best-selling author Joan Reeves, Slingwords review

“Just finished your book. Loved it! Should be required reading in every film school.”
Daniel Fazel, sold screenwriter and VFX Artist (Alice in Wonderland, Benjamin Button, Speed Racer, I Robot)

Click to Learn More about Story Maps

Click to read excerpts and purchase Story Maps

“I’ve read numerous books on screenwriting, story and structure but none come close to Dan Calvisi’s Story Maps – Calvisi simplifies structure, the principals of screenwriting and offers ‘real world’ insight into the profession. Put it simply – this book is a MUST for all screenwriters… Dan, I’ve referred it to some colleagues, produced writers who can certainly use your mapping techniques. Keep up the good work!”
Michael Adante Writer/Director (Vanished, The Line)

“I’ve read your book, and can honestly say it’s one of the best. I’ve read a lot of them, and I’m in the camp that likes to know what I don’t know, so that I can work towards something, all the time trying to listen to one’s instinct or gut on story decisions … [Your method] resonates with what others say, but is so crystal clear, and defined that it’s actually refreshingly simple. I agree also with your analysis of what makes a good screenwriting teacher. Your experience…is perfect. You’ve read, reviewed, recommended/rejected countless scripts, unlike many of the gurus. You know how good scripts work. Congratulations on the excellent and extremely useful book. I’m about to re-read it so I have a thorough grasp, and apply it to my new script, and I’m very happy (and flattered) to write this testimonial.”
-Steve Isles Director/Producer, Authentic Films & Composer (Guy Ritchie’s RockNRolla)

“Calvisi’s Story Maps is a brilliant example of what every aspiring screenwriter needs to know about  the art of writing screenplays. Dan has a  no-nonsense approach to screenplay analysis that cuts through the bull and delivers the goods. A must read for serious screenwriters.”
J. Stephen Maunder, writer/director (Tiger Claws I, II, III, The Veteran, Shadows in Paradise)

“Dan’s Story Maps e-book is an essential tool for screenwriters at all levels, providing invaluable insight into the architecture of screenwriting.  The maps of produced films are great, especially his discovery of the ‘sweet spots’ for story turns, and learning the structure that Calvisi illustrates is something all writers should have engrained into their nature as creatives, before they type that first FADE IN.”
-Paul Van Carter, screenwriter, Lenny McLean [Hollywood Reporter]

“Your book is by far the best one on the topic that my wife and I have seen. My background is academic writing. I have written several books and many papers in the area of philosophy of education. I can say with some expertise, you are a natural teacher. The essence of good teaching is giving direction to tendencies already present. Anyone who already has the urge, drive, or passion to write screenplays cannot find better direction than that presented in Dan Calvisi’s Story Maps.”
-Jerome Popp, Professor Emeritus

“I call myself a writer (that is, I’m working on my first novel), and only half way through “Story Maps” I found myself restructuring parts of my own story; elements, scenes and other sections that I subconsciously knew were in need of help. So, before I’ve even finished reading this book, it’s already given aspects of my own writing a much needed boost, and has re-invigorated my novel in my mind. “Story Maps” is aimed at screenwriters, obviously, but there’s no reason why Mr Calvisi’s ideas and sincere advice cannot be applied to other forms of storytelling. A story is a story by any other name, after all.”
-Ben Roberts

“Dan has written an excellent book. I’ve used his Story Maps method to break down countless films and it’s definitely helped me improve my craft. Highly recommend!!!”
-Rob H.

“I vowed I’d never look at another story map/plot plan/paradigm etc. again because they seem to throw me in a different direction each time I read one. But your examples guided rather than confined me, so I broke my own rule.”
-Beverley M.

“Dan’s background as a reader for major studios and production companies as well as a working screenwriter makes his approach unique. Instead of theories and overly complex concepts, STORY MAPS is just that: A simple map to follow to create YOUR story in a professional and marketable way. Clearing the major hurdle of readers is a must to get to a greenlight. I will be referring back to this book for future projects as well and happy to have it on my eBookshelf.”
-Stephen Hoover

“I’m an actual screenwriter who on a daily basis uses Dan’s Story Map for my spec scripts, hired book-to-script adaptations and other literary projects.  By using his maps I’m able to see potholes in my stories before starting the actual writing of the scripts, which is a beautiful thing because of the time, energy and effort saved by avoiding such pitfalls as logical errors, poor scene placement, character growth (development) throughout the script and absence of scene subtext. This book is filled with useful information any writer, regardless of skill level, can benefit from. And perhaps the most practicable information this book has is the detailed maps of previously produced and released films. Maybe you’re stuck on what your main character’s Fatal Flaw should be. You can refer to these sample maps, see what type of Fatal Flaws the characters in their movies had, and generate a Fatal Flaw for your character. The information in this book is a steal. The price is a steal. What you will take away from it and achieve as a writer will be a steal. Heck, it might even be a robbery years down the road when your script gets produced and grosses $500 million at the BO.”
-Maurice Vaughn

“Thank you for sending the e-book so promptly!  It looks great in Kindle on my Ipad.”
-Russ K.

“Really love your books.  I pretty much have every type of screenwriting book out there.”
-Phil C.

“I’ve read Story by McKee and a few other books etc. and they are very helpful but I’ve been trying to write for a while and always get stuck when it comes to moving things forward past the first few scenes.  I always said to myself, Can’t someone just break down a movie in bullet point format so I can see how the thing is supposed to progress – much like writing a memo – so I can visualize the structure better? You’ve done that and that’s what led to the purchase.”
-Ramesh G.

“I looked for something analytical and concise about screenplay structure without the You can do it and be reeeeally creative if you get in touch with your inner self stuff. [I wanted] something about mapping out the story and… voila!… your web site. I thought, ‘I’d better give your book a try.'”
-Ina K.

“I have studied dozens of screenwriting books and I can say without any doubt that Story Maps is definitely within the top 3 of the books that most inspired me.”
-Alberto R.

“It’s way deeper than Save the Cat and other story mapping techniques I’ve read. I’m currently re-booting my latest script with Dan’s technique. Finally, things are flowing and hitting the mark. A must for beginners and pros.”
-Randy M.

“Metaphorically speaking, Dan is a great Swordsman who knows, like Indiana Jones, how and when just to use a gun instead of fancy martial arts to make a point!”
-C.J. Dean

“I stumbled upon your site as I was searching for different methods to write a screenplay. I have to say that I really like your method and look forward to applying it to my current project.  I have written before but never a screenplay.  My fiancee is a cinematographer and he pitched a story and believes I can write a great screenplay for it.  Hopefully, with this I can. Thanks again!”

“To be able to read something before committing to buy…is the greatest marketing technique for e-books. (And why I also bought a Kindle) . I notice you let people read excerpts from your book at your website (which is great).”
-Ralph L.

“One of the most practical guides that I have seen, and I’m not just “KILLING YOU WITH KINDNESS (AND/OR STROKING YOUR EGO)” to take a page from your book! Most books or online info is just the same stuff rehashed and packaged in a different cover. I can actually use this stuff and apply it to my work. Looking forward to sending you some questions. Thanks.”
-Matthew M.

Click to Learn More about Story Maps

Click to read excerpts and purchase Story Maps

About the Author

Daniel P. Calvisi is a writing coach, screenwriter and former Story Analyst for major studios like Twentieth Century Fox and Miramax Films. He is the author of Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay, Story Maps: TV DramaStory Maps: 12 Great ScreenplaysStory Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan (with William Robert Rich) and co-creator of the Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast.

Daniel teaches webinars on writing for film and television with The Writers Store and speaks at writing conferences. He writes for Script magazine and is also a contributor to Now Write! Screenwriting.

Daniel is a graduate of the Film and Television program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and he resides in Los Angeles. Learn more about his books and services.

Miles and Jack in the modern "buddy comedy" Sideways

Rex Pickett interview (Sideways, Vertical)

Rex Pickett, author of the novel Sideways

Author Rex Pickett. Photo: rexpickett.com

I met Rex Pickett, the author of the novel Sideways that inspired the beloved film, at a showing of Sideways: the Play, which is currently playing at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica, CA.

We spoke over a glass of Pinot (yes, the wine comes with your ticket, which is already surprisingly affordable for live theater), and he was very gracious with his time, even though he was no doubt answering the same questions about the movie that he’s fielded dozens of times. Most of all, he came across as an uncensored, uncompromising artist with no fear of burning any bridges — he shoots from the hip because he has to — that’s just his personality and he doesn’t compromise.

I knew I had to get him on my blog. Read more

INDIE FILM Interview: Small, Beautifully Moving Parts

Small, Beautifully Moving Parts, written and directed by Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson and starring Anna Margaret Hollyman, is fast on its way to becoming an indie film success story. The film began as a low-budget web series shot in New York City that was optioned by the Sundance Channel, and, a few years later, the creative team decided to expand it into a feature. Now, the completed film has received glowing praise from many top publications, including Roger Ebert, who writes about the film: “Effortlessly engaging … this is a small film and knows exactly how to be a small film. Like many New Yorker short stories, its purpose is to strike a particular note and allow it to reverberate.” Read more


Welcome to the Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast, brought to you by Daniel Calvisi, author of Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay and Story Maps: TV Drama: The Structure of the One-Hour TV Pilot. Daniel created this podcast with William Robert Rich, originally to explore their mutual passion for the films of director Christopher Nolan, which resulted in their book, Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan, the most exhaustive story analysis of Christopher Nolan’s biggest films you can find.

Then Dan teamed up with Steve Lam to talk about superhero movies.

But, alas, this podcast is no more. Or maybe it’s just on hold for now. Whatever the case, you can no longer stream the audio episodes on iTunes or elsewhere. 🙁

But don’t despair, a few still survive on Dan’s Youtube channel in a playlist titled “Superhero Movie Analysis and Discussions.”

All of the original links to the podcasts are kept in the sidebar for your perusal, as some of them contain hyperlinks to compelling content.

Good Luck and Happy Writing,

Dan Calvisi

p.s. The best way to delve deep into the Story Map method of narrative construction and deconstruction is to read one of the Story Maps e-books, sold here in hi-res PDF format, which works on all platforms and readers:



Special Offer on Story Maps E-Books

The Human Race indie horror film needs your help (Kickstarter)

Dear friends,
My friend, former NYU Film classmate and award-winning filmmaker Paul Hough is looking for audio finishing funds for his smart Horror/Sci-Fi feature THE HUMAN RACE before it premieres at the FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL in Montreal in July (Tarantino’s North American premiere of Inglorious Basterds was at this genre festival; it’s a huge platform for an indie horror film and an honor to be accepted).

See footage from the film and a testimonial by its star, one-legged actor EDDIE McGEE, at the link below. The film features a number of disabled actors, so in that sense it’s breaking down some barriers. But above all, it’s just a bad-ass horror movie with a really cool concept that is sure to find a cult audience. Read more

Story Maps Podcast #1: Batman Begins (Free Story Map download)

The inaugural episode of the STORY MAPS SCREENWRITING PODCAST is here!

Listen to
the Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast #1:
Batman Begins


Download the FREE
Batman Begins
Story Map

Read more

THEME: Mad Men Season 5

"The Other Woman"

As per usual, we’ve been diligently watching each episode of the current season of Mad Men and loving every minute of it. In my household, one must respect the golden rule…

In Weiner we trust. Read more

HORROR: Interview with LOVELY MOLLY screenwriter Jamie Nash

Jamie Nash is a working screenwriter who lives in Maryland and primarily writes genre films — horror, supernatural, fantasy, etc. He has a strong working relationship with Eduardo Sánchez, co-director of The Blair Witch Project — they have collaborated on a number of projects — the films Altered, Seventh Moon and Exists, and the comedy web series ParaAbnormal.

Jamie and Ed’s latest film is Lovely Molly, an intense horror thriller about the possession of a young woman told via a mix of standard narrative and “found” footage. The film is currently in theaters in a limited release, after playing the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and South by Southwest film festival. There is a wider release planned for the UK and it will go to VOD and DVD in August. Read more

COMEDY: Chris Parnell on screenwriting (Archer, SNL, Suburgatory, Lazy Sunday 2, Anchorman)

Poop mouth

Chris Parnell is a veteran comedic actor who honed his skills in The Groundlings and on Saturday Night Live, before moving to films like Anchorman and Hot Rod. Lately, he’s appeared in 21 Jump Street, The Five-Year Engagement and he’s a regular cast member on the sitcoms Suburgatory and Archer. Those two shows had already finished for the season when Parnell popped up on the season finale of Saturday Night Live (Kristen Wiig’s final episode) in the sequel to one of the great viral videos of all time, Lazy Sunday 2. Read more

The Dark Knight Rises Pre-Cog Story Map or “How I would write the Dark Knight Rises screenplay”

The Dark Knight Rises Script

In anticipation of The Dark Knight Rises opening in theaters on July 20, I’ve been analyzing Christopher Nolan’s films, especially the first two chapters in his Batman trilogy, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. I’ve found myself buried so deep into Nolan’s complex story structures that it’s been impossible for me to watch the trailers and not start mapping the story in my head. It’s been keeping me up at night. Even before this latest one, The Dark Knight Rises – Official Trailer #3 [HD], I started to write a Full Story Map for The Dark Knight Rises, sight unseen, based solely on the limited clips and information available on the web.

There’s a lot of speculation online as to the story, but no one has attempted to break down the entire film.

Until now. Read more

Mad Men Images | Mad Men 501-502 “A Little Kiss”

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge, huge, huge fan of Mad Men. After each episode, I comb the web for any and all Mad Men-related material, and since there’s many other nutjobs out there who are also mad for Mad Men, the blogosphere never disappoints.

But most high-profile sites only feature one still photo from each episode, and since I’m on the AMC press list and have access to various publicity materials, I decided I’d work harder to bring you guys more images for your scrapbooks, including ones you might not see anywhere else yet (like the pic above). Read more

The Hunger Games story could only be written by a woman?

I’m almost done reading The Hunger Games trilogy of books on my trusty Kindle and I’m seeing the movie in a few hours (as it unleashes a Quarter Quell on the box-office in its opening weekend), so until I can offer an analysis of the screenplay or movie, I thought I’d share one of my first impressions of the story when I read the book. Read more

Andrew Stanton on Story

I came across this TED talk by writer/director Andrew Stanton, whose credits include Toy Story 1-3, Finding Nemo, Wall-E and the upcoming John Carter. He’s got some really interesting things to say about the emotional connection between screenwriter (storyteller) and audience (listener), touching on WHY we love a great story, what we expect and how the storyteller should meet these expectations. Read more