WHO THE F*$K IS STAN? and 14 other questions about TRUE DETECTIVE SEASON TWO


“Forget about it, Ray. It’s Vinci.”

The great SLOG-WATCH of True Detective season two is over, and I’ve got a few things to say about it. But I’m not just here to point out flaws, I’m also offering solutions so that maybe we can learn something from the 8 1/2 hours of our lives we devoted to this season.

It was inevitable that from the first minute, the second season of True Detective would be compared to the first, and that would be a tough comp for any series. Season two has been almost universally judged to have fallen short of the bar set by the first season, which featured star talent, cinematic production values, some great writing and fantastic direction. Considering its evergreen pedigree, I can’t help but wonder if season two’s 8 episodes, as is, had aired on a different network, under a different name, if they would have been lambasted so badly. I’d surmise that it would have got off easier, but it still would have attracted a lot of criticism. With or without the comparison to the first season, True Detective season 2 was heavily flawed and utterly frustrating to watch. Read more

Interstellar: 5 Christopher Nolan Trademark Techniques


Christopher Nolan is the most daring film director working in the major studio system today, and each film he directs becomes an event. With Interstellar, he’s created (along with his co-writer, brother Jonathan Nolan) an epic that combines classic Hollywood storytelling with bold narrative choices, all displayed with cutting-edge theatrical presentation. Interstellar is certainly his BIGGEST film yet, not just in cinematic scope but in the size of the narrative stakes and thematic resonance, and makes me wonder how the hell he’s going to top it with his next movie! Read more

Seven screenplay analysis and free download offer

What’s in the box?!

Seven, written by Andrew Kevin Walker and directed by David Fincher, is one of the great thrillers of the 1990s, a decade with several exceptional thrillers. Walker’s screenplay for Seven shot him to the Script Doctor A-list, establishing him as a hot writer of dark material on spec, like 1999’s 8mm, as well as garnering him uncredited rewrites on films such as Fight Club, The Game (also Fincher-directed films) and Stir of Echoes (directed by Walker’s mentor, David Koepp). Read more

Actor Elijah Wood tells Dan Calvisi what he looks for in a script

I’m more interested in being a part of an entire piece that I think is brilliant, even if it’s a small part to play.

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The Shawshank Redemption Screenplay

The Shawshank Redemption screenplay by Frank Darabont, based on the novella by Stephen King, is a powerful character-driven drama that covers many years in the lives of multiple characters, all tied together around the theme of “preserving hope in the most hopeless of situations.”

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Adapting a book to screenplay with Coppola Part I

The Godfather may be the most famous example of a great movie made from a poorly-written book. With the release of this page of text from Mario Puzo’s novel with hand-written notes by Francis Ford Coppola, we can see this claim in action! In other words, if you click on the image below and actually read the text, you can see how bad Puzo’s writing really was and breathe a sigh of relief that Coppola meticulously planned his translation to the screen.

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What do Revenge of the Nerds and The Beastmaster have in common?

I recently looked at a couple Nineties films (Good Will Hunting and Saving Private Ryan) so I figured I’d hit the Eighties this week, when hair was big and love was real.

Two seminal films in the pantheon of cinematic history, Revenge of the Nerds and The Beastmaster, employ a scene archetype that we see in the climax of many a story — the beat that occurs when the friends that the hero made earlier in the movie, whom we’d forgotten about, return to help save the day, thus facilitating the hero’s triumph over evil. Sometimes, they are former enemies who have become allies out of respect for the protagonist’s actions since they first met. Read more

A Great Thriller


I’d like to tell you what I love to see in a great Thriller screenplay.
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Pro Screenwriters Panel at L.A. Film Fest (video)

Even Spike "the Story Analysis cat" is not entertained by me.

Dan’s 2-Minute Screenwriting School is back in action with an expert panel of top screenwriters including Dustin Lance Black (Milk, Big Love), Josh Olson (A History of Violence), Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Captain America, Chronicles of Narnia) and Diablo Cody (Juno). These professional script doctors discuss the importance of writing multiple projects at once. Read more

Buy Story Maps E-Book Now!

It’s HERE!

Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay E-Book is ready for purchase. Go HERE for excerpts, a sample story map and three options, including a “Booster Pack” with 12 new story maps!

Story Maps by Daniel P. Calvisi

E-Book now available for purchase - Click on image for Limited-Time Offer

Getting Extreme (Part II)

Story Maps by Daniel Calvisi book coverContinuing this Excerpt from Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay (Part One here):


I love it when I see a movie or read a script and the writer is willing to “go there,” to take the story to the extremes of the dramatic conflict. Not afraid to shock, offend or make their audience uncomfortable, but to be true to the story and the dramatic elements that they have built.

In The Hangover, the guys tell Phil (Bradley Cooper) not to leave the baby in the car alone and he argues, “I cracked the window!” Awful…but hilarious.

In Million Dollar Baby, Maggie (Hilary Swank) is not just hurt but she is paralyzed from the neck down. Her condition worsens in horrible ways and she asks Frankie (Clint Eastwood) to euthanize her. There is no last-minute save; he must end her life to allow his arc to come to fruition.

In Sideways, Jack (Thomas Hayden Church) has already had one affair and got his nose broken in 3 places, but he still insists on sleeping with the waitress, leading him to get caught by her husband. It gets worse when Jack makes Miles (Paul Giamatti) go back to the house to retrieve his wallet, and Miles gets chased by the naked husband. This represents the ultimate test of Miles’ loyalty to his friend.

Or in Total Recall, when this happens to Arnie…

Total Recall copyright Sony Pictures

Now that’s good writing.

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Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg Gets Extreme

Story Maps by Daniel Calvisi book coverExcerpt from Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay, coming soon.

Scott Rosenberg is a very successful screenwriter whose produced credits include Armageddon, Beautiful Girls, Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead and Gone in 60 Seconds. I had been a fan of his for years before I met him at the Austin Screenwriters Conference. Read more

Screenwriter Q & A: common questions answered

Here is a compilation of questions I was asked by screenwriters on varying topics a few years back and my advice still holds firm — some helpful screenwriting tips that I’ve learned over the years and I hope this information can help you…

Questions Below (links removed):

  • What is the criteria for script contests?
  • How long should I wait to submit my work to the industry?
  • Getting the read
  • How long will it take me to break through?
  • What do you look for in a story?
  • Art Films vs. Popcorn Movies
  • A contact wants a “cut” to pass on my script, should I do it?
  • To a writer worried about their idea being stolen…
  • I know I’m shooting my script as an indie feature, do I need your services?
  • Is it a big Hollywood movie or a TV spec sample?


hi Dan,

What is the criteria for judging scripts in script contests? If you don’t place in one does that mean odds are you won’t place in another? Is it possible for a good script to not place simply because it wasn’t what they were looking for?

I entered my script into the San Diego Script Competition and found out yesterday I wasn’t even a finalist.  I was pretty disappointed and it got me thinking that my script isn’t as good as I thought. I am still waiting to hear from another contest but, I can’t get it out of my head that it is hopeless…

I won’t ever give up and have already begun redrafting, but man did that hurt. Can you offer some insight into to how the whole script contest thing works?

Thank you from a newbie!


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Act Three Tips

Act Three in your screenplay — the final act — is the race to the finish line. It’s a fast-paced, high stakes push toward the climax, which ideally should be a direct confrontation between your Protagonist and your Antagonist. Read more

Story Maps: Meet The Parents

The Meet The Parents screenplay is a classic example of a well-executed, high concept comedy that uses every dramatic element and beat of the Story Maps method of screenwriting.

Well, except one. Read more

Which screenwriting software is best?

Which screenwriting software do you use to format your screenplay? There’s more options than ever out there. This article in Variety (squint!) talks about the two majors, Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter, as well as the young upstarts like and ScriptWrite, which exist on “the cloud” (the hot phrase right now). Read more

Screenwriting Career Goals for the New Year

Continued from Page One: Screenwriting Resolutions: Craft Goals

If you aspire to get paid for your writing, you will need to balance your craft development with marketing efforts.  We writers are often most comfortable alone in front of our laptops, so it’s tough to put ourselves and our work out there. But you have to do it. There’s no way around it. Read more

Screenwriting Resolutions for the New Year

It’s that time of year again and we’re all making our New Year’s Resolutions.

Or are you avoiding them, like me? (In my defense, I’m just now finishing up a writing assignment and I wanted to maintain my focus on that, so suck on that, haters.)

Ahem. So…let’s give each other a kick in the pants, shall we? Here’s some advice, take it or leave it… Read more

Sequels to classic Miramax films, with Bob and Harvey once more at the helm?

It was a bygone era known as the late 90s. I stepped out of the elevator on the 7th floor of the Tribeca Film Center into the lobby of Miramax Films and saw the above poster, beautifully framed, for an upcoming movie named Shakespeare in Love. Read more

In praise of notecards

Beware paper cuts. And fun!

Anyone else use the old-fashioned, classic index cards to compile your scene list?

Sure, your screenwriting software has a super-cool 3D index card “mode” and you can drag-and-drop those shiny digital cards all you want and the edges will never fray and the ink will never smudge because there’s no edges and no ink.

But it’s just not the same. Read more