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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Screenwriting Seminars Really Necessary

First, writers often (mistakenly) interchange “story” and “structure.” These are two separate elements of the writing process. Story is the creative experience that only you can uniquely express from your vision. Structure is the foundation for that story, and the rules of structure have been accepted for thousands of years. The easiest way to grasp the distinction is to think of a dinner party. What you cook is entirely up to you (story). But you must serve your guests the appetizer first, then the entrĂ©e, then the dessert, in that order, and those dishes have to complement each other (structure). If not, no matter how great the food is, your guests are going to think you have no idea how to make dinner. And they won’t come back to dine with you again. Writing seminars tend to focus on teaching structure, NOT story, so that creative genius has a chance of being understood and enjoyed by buyers and audiences who innately expect a certain foundation to a script. And story instincts can be honed and expanded with professional guidance, as well.

Second, virtually all professions have rules for writing. Just as lawyers must learn proper structure and format for legal briefs and programmers do the same with software code, screenwriters must learn and apply rules of structure and format to screenplays. Most professions have training expectations, too. Just as no one is going to give you $100,000 to perform open heart surgery on a patient just because you’ve always dreamed of being a doctor, no one is going to give you $100,000 to write a script just because it’s your lifelong fantasy. Doctors, lawyers and other professionals get degrees and regularly attend seminars to maintain their chops and their edge, and so do writers. No matter how strongly emerging writers believe that Hollywood is a get-rich-quick-with-no-effort industry, in order to succeed, you will have to replace that belief with the simple acceptance of show business as a business.

There simply is no benefit to railing against the industry’s insistence that writers get some training before they attempt to get paid for their work. Any time you are asking someone to pay you, you must anticipate their establishing rules for that income. If you don’t want to have to learn the insider rules, the simplest solution is to write for free. But if you want to sell your work, just as in any other business, you have to respect the guidelines. The good news is that the rules of writing get far more flexible after a first sale!

Third, it’s common for people to mistrust writing teachers as unnecessary snake oil salespeople who are not personally successful themselves. Yes, the rules of story structure that Hollywood subscribes to are fairly standard. The laws of physics are standard, too, but not many people easily grasp and apply them! Training helps writers master the rules so they can craft solid scripts that can actually be sold. And just as you learned better from some teachers than others in high school, you will find in the variety of books and workshops at least one approach to structure that will help you effectively integrate it into your work.

Remember, selling a script is neither a requirement for nor a guarantee of being able to teach screenwriting. I’ve produced many writing panels and seminars, and many successful screenwriters lack the communications skills and the clarity of process to adequately guide another writer to a successful script. For my part, I teach from the point-of-view of the buyer instead because that was my background and because my personal business strategy is to always understand what the person who writes the check is looking for. Believe this – whatever an individual teacher’s approach, the ability to teach a subject well enough for students to grasp it is its own gift.

Hollywood and Martial Arts

Truthfully, many affiliations between big business and the music industry have netted fruitful endeavors for all parties involved. And now, a university-level homework assignment: see if you can use a keen eye to find a few more examples of relationships between big business, government, or social organizations with the Rap community. Chances are, there’s probably some right around you; you may not have even been aware of them before. Hint: Take a good look at those motion pictures hitting the big screen. Here’s an interesting scenario for you to sink your teeth into…action!

Celebrity Will Smith laughed his way straight to the bank when many Rap fans wrote “DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince” off as lame. But before ‘the show’ was over, Smith got the starring role on TV sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” which debuted in 1990. The show had a long successful run, and continues running in syndication. Will Smith ‘the rapper’ performed the theme song, while Will Smith ‘the actor’ made sure his Rap music homey Jazzy Jeff was also cast in some shows; but Mr. Smith did not stop there. He went on to star in movies which earned him as much as $10 million a pop. There is no need to mention his list of credits; just go to Blockbuster Video or the Internet and type in the ‘search.’

Finding a need to outdo ‘himself,’ Smith’s fee went from $10 million to 20 big ones, then from 20 large to $25 million per, before he dived into the big ‘M’ and ‘super-sized’ his life by marrying Jada Pinkett. She paved her own way as an impressive actress on shows like “A Different World,” “The Cosby Show,” and in blockbuster films such as “Ali,” “Jason’s Lyric,” “Menace To Society,” “Woo,” “Set It Off,” the “Matrix” spinoffs, “The Nutty Professor,” “Scream 2,” “Collateral,” and who knows what else by now. I heard a rumor that the pair might have to buy a continent to use as a tax shelter. Wow – that’s big enough to get on the Oprah list! Combined, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith account for about two dozen top films of the 20th and now, 21st centuries. And these films usually came with hot music soundtracks, too. This is another example of the deepening relationship between Hollywood and the Rap/Hip-Hop world. For the purpose of fun, let’s call their happy union “Holly-hood.” Watch out–more fun’s on the way!

But hold up and wait a minute: before we dig in any further, let’s pull over at a local Asian restaurant for some grub–we’ll need it for our next stop. My fingers tingle from all this typing action on the laptop, sitting here in the ‘time out’ corner of the classroom. Where’s my Dragon voice recognition program when I need it? At home parked on the desktop computer – what a bummer!

Please note that things have changed with regards to technology, folks. Not only does my voice recognition program type as I talk into a microphone, it’ll read it back to me, too. When my editorial consultant Ms. Melilli (also known as the infamous ‘XoxoJean’) sends e-mails to a friend with a text recognition program, it recognizes her name by saying “Socks-a-Jean.” I’m just happy she likes my smoked turkeys. According to information obtained from my old friend B.Brown of Bar-Red Entertainment, my confidential Author Code Name is: ‘Turkey Smoker of the Stars.’ His mother Ms. Lydia works for the Atlanta Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. Both she and Miss Jean can keep getting the big birds too, as long as their taste buds approve of the transaction.

Broadway to Hollywood

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

In the present economy, if a rising tide lifts all boats, what does the opposite do? Does Hollywood have the right stuff for another installment of Star Wars (Episode 7), Indiana Jones(5)?Is a potential Oscar winner sitting in a dreary room eating take-out while writing his or her groundbreaking screenplay for Avatar(2)? As Netflix rakes it in with oldies, Hollywood’s best are tailored to teenage boys, and comic book special effects devoid of anything fresh in human drama or comedy. So, what’s an actor to do? Jobs are scarce in the entertainment business. When eating out in New York City chances are your waiter or waitress is a Julie Andrews wannabe, or Hugh Jackman hopeful-hopeful they won’t have to return to Boise, heartbroken. Ergo, when veterans like James Earl Jones and Elizabeth Ashley can’t find work, what’s an actor to do? They can take it with them-all the way to the Longacre on BROADWAY!

Some Boomer Demographics

By 2015, those aged 50 and older will represent 45% of the U.S. population (American Association of Retired Persons). By 2030, the 65-plus population will double to about 71.5 million, and by 2050 will grow to 86.7 million people (U.S. Census). Adults 50 and older now own 65% of the aggregate net worth of all U.S. households (U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey). Entertainment cannot be exclusively geared to one genre-The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, or the highly successful PBS television series Downton Abbey. But there’s a vast audience to be counted among the living; and large number of unemployed talent. Do we need another Irving Berlin to tell us “there’s no business like show business?”

According to a Government Accountability Office study released last year, workers 55 and older experience consistently longer periods of unemployment than younger workers. Without cosmetic reconstruction, it’s especially difficult for older female performers, or network news anchors. If Barbara Walters looked like Sixty Minutes warhorse Morley Safer, would the octogenarian just retired broadcast journalist have withstood the rigors of her male-dominated profession? Former ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer was ‘the last woman standing.’

The Man From Malpaso

Riding into the sunset of history, 84-year-old Clint Eastwood is the atypical Hollywood mogul. With few duds in his resume, can he be “Forgiven” for, according to critics, his latest Jersey Boys? Spaghetti westerns and Dirty Harry made it possible for the multi-talented actor-director to make some of the most original films for adults in the history of cinema: the mystical Pale Rider, the inventive Letters From Iwo Jima, which isn’t even in English.

White Hunter Black Heart, the story of the making of The African Queen, is an underrated masterpiece, with the real life s.o.b. director Eastwood playing the role of the former larger than life s.o.b. director John Huston. From the romantic Bridges of Madison County to the racist curmudgeon in Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood is the epitome off “fresh.” The late Roger Ebert said it best. “The idiosyncratic director, the jazz-loving filmmaker and composer, the master of cinema and winner of two best picture Oscars. What is the thread that draws him through his life? I think there are two threads: Intelligence, and an instinct for the cinema that has compelled him toward ever more ambitious projects. He just gets better.”

Influences of Television

Influences Real Life

Most of our activities are now guided by what we see in the serials or movies. Even the music industry has influenced us. Some of the people try to imitate the life and styles of the star not knowing that this can be very much difficult in reality. Even one’s personality also gets influenced. From talking to dressing up and every other thing gets changed.

Peeking Into the Lives of the Celebrities

The ones who love to know more about their favorite stars, television serves as a medium for them several shows let them have a peek into the life of the person and everything he does. Thus, the fans are always kept updated.

Loss of Innocence

Television shows both good things and also bad things. Children do not necessarily understand the difference between good and bad and might hence commit mistakes trying to imitate scenes that they have seen on the television. They say such things and gives certain logics that no longer we can call them innocent.