Tag Archive for screenwriting

Three Bars in a Single’s Joint, Still No Reception

texting.manFADE IN:

INT, INTOWN RESTAURANT, NOON

PHYLLIS, a thirty-something single, sits with her best friend JANEEN eating and dishing.

PHYLLIS

So I order a martini last night and spot this guy on the other side of the bar…

JANEEN waves for the waiter, who passes them by, and PHYLLIS looks at his behind, grins and raises eyebrows.

PHYLLIS

…he’s the right age, got curly dark hair, no facial hair and a nice build, so I stroll over to give him a better look.

JANEEN

Of you?

 PHYLLIS

Of course of me!  The place was dark, and I was wearing black. How else is he gonna see the curves?

JANEEN shrugs and stabs the last bits of her salad.

PHYLLIS

So I slink over holding my cocktail like a prize and position myself in his sight line, only he’s looking down at his smartphone.

JANEEN

Dumbphone…another dumbass hiding behind social media while in front of a possible relationship.  It’s like face time doesn’t exist—

 PHYLLIS

—except in cyber space!

PHYLLIS aggressively flags down the waiter for the check.

 PHYLLIS

So through the whole time I sip, he never raises his head.  And I’m getting irritated, thinking he’s probably sexting, and if I only had his number, I could text him something like ‘Look up and catch my smile,’ then I’m drinking more and getting pissed, ya know, like ‘why bother coming out to meet people if you will never make eye contact?’

JANEEN nods and laughs.

PHYLLIS

And then it gets worse when I’m done with my drink and over this one-way stare-fest while he smiles and laughs at his phone, and I realize this stupid bar that’s a WiFi HotSpot doesn’t let me text the waitress to bring me another lemon drop!

JANEEN

Ugh, more insulting than getting broken up with by having your boyfriend change his relationship status to ‘single’ on Facebook.

PHYLLIS

No kidding!

The women simultaneously pull wallets from purses.

PHYLLIS

I had to go home!

JANEEN

Alone!

PHYLLIS drops her gaze from her friend’s face to –

CLOSE UP—

JANEEN’s hand wrapped around wallet with acrylic nails and a three-carat solitaire wedding set.

BACK TO—

MEDIUM SHOT of PHYLLIS putting her wallet away as the waiter sits the check on the table.

PHYLLIS

I think it’s your turn to pay.

JANEEN takes the check, reads the total, then looks up at her friend.

JANEEN

Then how ‘bout the next time you’re angry, you just text me?

CLOSE UP—

PHYLLIS’ eyes narrow, then widen as she smiles.

MEDIUM SHOT—

PHYLLIS reaches for the bill and JANEEN pulls it away, then with her free hand, takes PHYLLIS’ hand.  They laugh.

JANEEN

Always fun to be with you!

FADE OUTput.the.phone.down

 

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CUT TO: Your Dream of Screenwriting

FADE IN:

INT.  AUDITORIUM

Muffled CROWD NOISE as average-looking SCREENWRITER nervously blinks and darts eyes…

PULL BACK –

…as s/he sits amongst a glamorous audience

CUT TO –

INT.  AWARDS STAGE

Stunningly gorgeous ACTRESS fondles an envelope as gorgeous ACTOR devilishly looks on.

ACTRESS

                        And the Oscar goes to…

CUT TO –

INT.  AUDITORIUM

CU, SCREENWRITER’S TENSE EYES as a single bead of sweat drips directly down nose…

screenwritingThe Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences place screenwriters dead last on their web listing of Oscar nominees.  After feeling a teeny bit of outrage, I realized maybe that’s because the screenplay is where the movie begins, the pages of dialogue and visuals that many other artists build upon to get the product into theaters.

Good movies have a great screenplay as solid foundation.  Whereas bad performances, production values or directing can spoil a good screenplay, I can’t think of an excellent film warranting such praise that began with poor writing.

Consider what Hollywood deemed the best of the year –

Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees:  Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook 

Writer David O. Russell gave actors a lot to chew on in Silver Linings Playbook by providing characters with tricky motivations for hills and values in action.  This moving depiction of mental illness, both funny and tragic, often both at the same time, remains realistic and respectful.  Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild made a strong statement of a very different world and culture not so far from home with vivid imagery and action written in language and point of view honest to a 6 year old girl.  The truth of the lead’s brilliant performance started with strong writing.  Life of Pi, written by David Magee, accomplished the feat to translate a spiritual allegory into a screenplay using strong visuals and voiceover with very little on-screen dialogue.  Before the Oscars, I plan to see Chris Terrio’s Argo and Tony Kushner’s Lincoln.

Best Original Screenplay Nominees:  Amour, Django Unchained, Flight, Moonrise Kingdom, Zero Dark Thirty

I also have yet to see the work of Michael Haneke, Quentin Tarantino, John Gatins and Mark Boal.  However, screenwriters Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola’s Moonrise Kingdom was subtle and picturesque, charming and inviting, a story simple on the surface, but the threads of imagination wove the screenplay into a rich tapestry.  Totally pulled me in, made me laugh and cry.

What story would you like to write for the screen?

Write a screenplay that will capture audiences, keep their interest and move them.  Enroll in my 4-week intensive.  You’ll get the basics of style, format and structure and have the opportunity to map out your plot and write opening scenes.  Learn how to look within your vision of performance and production to discover the bones of writing a great screenplay.

Screenwriting workshop information.

Make Movie Magic

Network Poster“So, what’s your favorite movie?” he asked.

“Oh, I would say—“

“Yeah, well,” he interrupted.  “That’s kinda impossible, huh?”

“Nope, it’s easy — 1976’s ‘Network.’”

Honestly, there are many magical movies I love, but this black comedy struck gold as it satirized a flailing network’s entertainment division taking over news programming.  The movie features great relationships and compelling action, plus it tickled me with its famous line — “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

With powerful players like Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch and Robert Duvall led by director Sidney Lumet, the finished product crackles with focused energy.  Still, it all began with the magician who conjured these characters and tightly wrote the layered story: screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky.

Movie’s magic is collaborative, starting with the secure scaffolding of a screenplay upon which other artists – actors, directors, cinematographers, costumers, set designers, etc. – build their work to create the final product.

If you want to learn this writing trick, join my screenwriting class.  Have fun learning the secrets of combining dialogue and visual imagery in this unique format.  Begin construction on your screenplay, pitch your treatment, then write and revise opening scenes.

Imagine being asked to pick your one favorite movie someday and choosing the one you wrote.

Screenwriting Workshops are offered seasonally; more info here.  Skills can also be acquired through private coaching; more info here.