Posts

Risky Business screenplay

Paul Brickman, writer/director of Risky Business, is one of those Hollywood enigmas. Risky Business was a very confident, stylish, well written and impressively directed film that performed well at the box-office. So why did Brickman go on to direct only one more film? (1990’s Men Don’t Leave with Jessica Lange) Read more

Saving Private Ryan screenplay


I’ve been using Robert Rodat’s Saving Private Ryan screenplay for years as a case study for my writers and I cite it a number of times in my book Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay. The structure is rock-solid, the story is active and Rodat’s voice on the page is commanding. Here’s one of my favorite introductions of a Protagonist… Read more

Avatar script

James Cameron’s script for Avatar was the template for an epic. At 162 minutes, the Avatar movie is a LONG epic, but here’s the deal:

Jake Sully meets his avatar eight minutes into the movie.

That’s page 8 in a script that uses proper screenplay format, and it’s prime real-estate for that Inciting Incident to really suck in the reader. Read more

Die Hard script

One can’t think “action movie” without thinking Die Hard. I remember watching the epic commercials for the film during the 1988 Academy Awards, wherein they promised the movie would be the first in decades to be presented in full 70mm wide-screen, and feature 6-track Dolby Surround Sound (yes, SIX tracks!). But that wasn’t all. What really mattered was the tagline: “It will blow you through the back wall of the theater!” Read more

Good Will Hunting Screenplay Analysis

Good Will Hunting is one of the finest screenplays of the 90s (a very strong decade in film) and it’s a great study in character and plot dynamics. There’s a new Good Will Hunting Story Map pdf online now that you should check out.

My talented student and friend, Robert Rich, has put together a fantastic site that showcases detailed analyses of popular films using my Story Maps method of narrative deconstruction. His latest analysis is of the Good Will Hunting script. The post begins by giving the history of the screenplay. Read more

Kill Bill | Setups and Payoffs Part One

Like Hannibal in The A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together, but especially when it happens in a screenplay in the form of a terrific, unforeseen Payoff to an earlier Setup. If you can call back to an earlier scene and reward me for remembering it, then surprise me with a clever way to use that knowledge, you’ve got me. Read more

Contest – Win free Story Maps E-books and E-Book Consultation!

Calling all screenwriters,

I’m launching a contest in which you can win a free copy of my e-book, Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay, and the first place winner gets the book as well as a free E-Book Consultation, which is a $49.95 value.

It’s FREE to enter and each entrant will receive a special discounted offer from me very soon. Read more

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

The “Mike Teavee is the Worst Character Name ever” Rule of Screenwriting

Dearest Screenwriters: If you find yourself wanting to give a character a supremely obvious name, please heed my “Mike Teavee is the worst character name ever” Rule, which states as follows:

Roald Dahl can name a character who watches too much television, MIKE TEAVEE, which is pretty much the definition of on the nose, because he’s Roald Dahl. You can’t because you’re not.

-Dan Calvisi

p.s. If you would like to receive more life-changing pearls o’ wisdom like the above, then you must redeem your (non-existent) golden ticket for Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay.

The “You are not J.R.R. Tolkien” rule of screenwriting


Dearest screenwriters: If you are thinking of giving two characters very similar names, please heed my “You are not J.R.R. Tolkien” Rule:

J.R.R. Tolkien can name two separate villains SARUMAN and SAURON, which is a horrible idea, only because he’s J.R.R. Tolkien. You can’t because you’re not.

-Dan Calvisi

p.s. If you would like to discover more nuggets of wisdom such as this, then you must enter the realm known only as Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay.

Black Swan story map screenplay analysis

Black Swan is a tight, merciless thriller that forges one, driving throughline that is supported by every character and element in the story. In order to become the Black Swan and achieve her dream of ballet perfection, Nina must prove to her director Thomas that she can transform herself on stage, fight off her mother’s attempts to stifle her and defeat her rival Lily, all while suffering from the rapid deterioration of her psyche. She loses the battle for her mind but she achieves her artistic dream, dancing a perfect Black Swan, at the ultimate cost of her life.

Download the FREE Black Swan sample Story Map Read more

Raiders of the Lost Ark story map

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a flawless classic and my favorite film of all time. It is the benchmark of the action/adventure genre and features one of the most iconic heroes in cinema history.

Download the FREE Raiders of the Lost Ark sample Story Map

Read more

Sex and the City movie screenplay analysis



My e-book Story Maps: 12 Great Screenplays includes a Full Story Map for the first Sex and the City movie, which is a great example of a well-written modern Romantic Comedy.

Sex and the City took proven, beloved characters from the television series and wove them into a classic Hollywood Romantic Comedy for the big screen. The first rule of the TV adaptation is “go bigger,” so they gave all of the women life-changing conflicts to navigate.

Download the FREE Sex and the City Story Map Excerpt

Read more

Story Maps: Peter Guber on the psychology and the emotion embedded in story

In an article titled “The Inside Story,” published in Psychology Today back in March, super producer Peter Guber talks about the psychological, emotional and transformative powers of storytelling and how they apply to the movies — WHY we love movies and what gets us engaged.

Stories… are state-of-the-heart technology – they connect us to others. They provide emotional transportation, moving people to take action on your cause because they can very quickly come to psychologically identify with the characters in a narrative or share an experience…

I couldn’t help but find many points in the article where Guber affirms the very same tenets that I put forth in Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay. The quotation above, specifically the wonderful phrase “state of the heart,” immediately made me think of a line from my Introduction (excerpt here): 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 www.actfourscreenplays.com

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):

GET EXTREME!

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.

Read more

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

Limitless screenplay

Here’s my short, exclusive Q&A with Leslie Dixon, screenwriter of Limitless, The Thomas Crown Affair, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hairspray, Freaky Friday, The Heartbreak Kid and the upcoming Tower Heist. Read more

Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay

This exciting new screenwriting book is available now

Cover art for Story Maps by Daniel P. Calvisi www.actfourscreenplays.com

Design by Sonia Fiore

Excerpt from the Foreword of
Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay
:

This book is the culmination of over twenty years of working with screenplays and screenwriters. Reading, analyzing, evaluating, studying, teaching and coaching. Read more

The Hangover Part II teaser trailer

The boys (a.k.a. “The Wolfpack”) are back! Read more