MORE RANTINGS AND RAVINGS OF A SCREENPLAY READER


rant and rave secondEver wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks of your screenplay? Frustrated that your screenplay isn’t getting the reception you need or want? Do you want to try to expand your vision as a screenwriter? Try the second edition of my screenwriting book, More Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GD1XP9Y

These essays are based on my twenty year experience as a reader and judge for numerous competitions, as well as a provider of one-on-one personal consultation. During that time, I have come to notice that writers often seem to make the same sorts of mistakes over and over and over…and over again.

The essays are not rules to live by. They are not an attempt to codify and tell you what you have to do. I don’t believe in that.

The essays are just a way to give you, the author, more of an idea as to what you may need to do to make it up to that next level.

“The author’s wealth of knowledge of movies across all ages and cultures is beyond impressive. The rantings and ravings from his experiences reading scripts for contests are fascinating and insightful. I don’t always agree with his viewpoints (such as the chapter about if a movie is good or bad and thinking critically about it), but I’m still surprised and impressed by the book as a whole and found it educational in so many ways, it’s a must read!”

 

“I got a Kindle addition of Rantings and Ravings about three days ago. I’m maybe a fifth or a quarter of the way into the book. And I see a lot of good things you are pointing out that are mistakes that writers are constantly making in screenplays, and some laughs at some of the unintentional things writers often do. Your book would be $3.00 well spent for 80 or 85% of the writers here…” Eli  Donaldson (for the complete review go to: http://ow.ly/CGqhQ )

“Not just a nice perspective of a contest reader but some helpful … hmm, tips is the wrong word … insights (that’s better) into the writing process–again, the wrong word — reading of the writing process. We write to be read. So how one’s screenplay is read is as important as how it was written. This book reminds us of the importance of the read as the read proceeds all the other steps that lead to a viewing.” Tim Lane

“Information that needs to be heard.” L.A. Sidsworth

“Don’t be fooled by the amusing title of this fascinating book. Howard never actually rants or raves, but instead provides a plethora of valuable insights into the art and business of screenwriting. If you’ve ever entered a screenplay contest and have wondered what goes on once your script is received, look no further. Howard pulls back the curtain to give us a rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse at the judging process, and he’s not afraid to reveal the different factors that go into choosing the winners. (It’s not as cut and dry as you might think.) If you are just starting down the path of pursuing a screenwriting career, you’ll definitely want to check out the chapters on common mistakes, what works best and what to avoid. For the more seasoned cinephile, the book is also crammed full of thought provoking essays on the art and craft of cinema, as well as an eclectic assortment of movie reviews. Quite a lot of bang for just a few bucks. And best of all, Howard’s encyclopedic knowledge of cinema, combined with a keen sense of humor, makes for a very enlightening and entertaining read.” Jeremy Carr

To purchase the book, please go to http://ow.ly/xK2L0.  More reviews follow:

“An insightful book from the perspective that matters the most…that of the professional reader. As writers we sometime get far too absorbed in the minutiae of our story that we can easily miss the forest for the trees. Howard’s book helps take a couple of steps back and allows the writer to step into the reader’s shoes. I think this book should provide useful and practical advice to any aspiring screenwriter. While this is not a how-to manual on the art of writing, it should nonetheless be a good addition to most screenwriter’s libraries. Highly recommended.” Kays Al-atrakchi

“I read this book to get a perspective from the “other” side, the side of the screenplay contests readers. Howard tells it like it is. His “rantings and ravings” details how screenplays succeed or fail with specifics of what contest readers look for in great scripts or find in horrible scripts. In more than half of the book, Howard presents examples of movies, in different genres, that show original screenplays, successful character development, plots, premises, and concepts that work.” Dinah

“Great read for any screenwriter, just starting or an old dog looking for new tricks. Been following the writer on Facebook and reading his blog for a while now. This collection of his “Rantings and Ravings” is just what a screenwriter needs. Sage advice, encouragement and the truth. As a writer and screenwriting coach I can tell you he speaks to the things that we all need to pay attention to. Not just the obvious, but the little things that really matter. Buy this book! I did.” Steven Esteb, writer/director (Dirty Politics, Baller Blockin’)

Howard Casner is an amazing writer, reader and screenplay judge who was also the very first person to read and discover my award-winning script in the Slamdance Screenplay Competition. Now he is sharing his invaluable insight and knowledge so that all writers may realize their dreams. THANK YOU and CONGRATULATIONS Howard!!” Miranda Kwok, writer/actor (Spartacus: Blood and Sand)

“Howard Casner has just published a book called “Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader.” For anyone interested in screenplays, screenwriting or film, I encourage you to buy a copy. It’s only $2.99 and I’m sure you’ll find it well worth the price. I’ve read a lot of Howard’s film reviews, and with each one I’ve been impressed by his insight and knowledge. I’ve learned something valuable from every review of his that I’ve read.”  Todd Niemi, screenwriter/producer (Backgammon)

For all my screenwriting students and friends, Howard’s book is terrific, with some insider wisdom about contests. He is a very interesting, spot on writer. Congratulations, Howard.” Bart Baker, screenwriter (Supercross, Live Wire)

“If you want to know what the bleep goes on in a script reader’s head, Howard Casner’s “Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Consultant” is a good place to start and it’s currently available on Amazon.  Tanya Klein on Stormblog, the official blog of Coverage, Ink. http://ow.ly/zD6Ed 

 

What Do Screenwriting Contests Want? A Reconsideration.


 

rant and rave secondFirst a word from our sponsor:

Check out my Script Consultation Services at http://ow.ly/HPxKE. I offer several types of service. Testimonials can be found at the blog entry.

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out the second edition of my screenwriting book, More Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader published on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GD1XP9Y

Finally, I have published a collection of three of my plays, 3 Plays, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08478DBXF as well as two collections of short stories, The Starving Artists and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ and The Five Corporations and the One True Church and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF.

 

 

I wrote a blog entry sometime back called Everything You Wanted to Know About Screenplay Contests* But Weren’t Afraid to Ask. For those intrigued, the link is here: https://howardcasner.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/the-future-is-now-a-pretentious-essay-for-screenwriters/

 

Since then I have been doing some rethinking about contests. Most of what I’ve said above, if not all of it, still applies. But there is one area that I did want to address based on my own experience and based on some facebook posts I have come across.

 

What sort of screenplays do contests look for? Continue reading

Rules of the Formatting Game


First a word from our sponsor:

Check out my Script Consultation Services at http://ow.ly/HPxKE. I offer several types of service. Testimonials can be found at the blog entry.

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out the second edition of my screenwriting book, More Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader published on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GD1XP9Y

Finally, I have published a collection of three of my plays, 3 Plays, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08478DBXF as well as two collections of short stories, The Starving Artists and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ and The Five Corporations and the One True Church and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF.

 

The next in my blog entries on screenwriting and film will be about common formatting mistakes I still see people make. I am surprised at some of these, that they are still committed on such a regular basis. But it still happens.

 

Probably most of you already know these rules. But it never hurts to have a refresher course. Continue reading

LOGLINES AND TITLES AND BEARS, OH MY!


Check out my Script Consultation Services at http://ow.ly/HPxKE. I offer several types of service. Testimonials can be found at the blog entry.
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out the second edition of my screenwriting book, More Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader published on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GD1XP9Y
Finally, I have published two collections of short stories, The Starving Artists and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ and The Five Corporations and the One True Church and other stories, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF

 

     This is the latest entry in my blog essays on various screenwriting topics. These are mainly inspired by postings on various facebook sites. This one is inspired by numerous postings that I personally believe give the wrong idea when it comes to the above-referenced issues.
     However, before I begin I should mention and it should be noted that based on the postings I continuously run across, I am very much an outlier in my opinions. So take this into consideration as you read.
     When it comes to loglines, the main issue I disagree with is when someone says that you have to have a logline that will make whoever (agent, manager, producer, director) want to read your script. That they are compelled to read it, that the fate of the world, the very life of their first born, will depend upon it.  Continue reading

STRUCTURALLY UNSOUND?: Some random thoughts on screenplay structure


top-50-screenwriting-blogsFirst, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013.  Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
 
blog3 I’m somewhat in the downtime of providing coverage for screenplay competitions (to everything there is a season, and this seems to apply to independent contractors of the script consultation kind as well). So I thought I would muse a bit on some issues in writing screenplays.
This time around, I’ll write about structure. There really isn’t a rhyme or reason to what I have to say here. It’ll just be a series of random thoughts that I hope will come in handy. These are based on my reading for contests as well as my own private consultation services.
First, an overall note. There will always be exceptions to any conclusions I make here, so consider well before automatically doing something just because I tell you to.
One of the main issues I run across is when a story is not focused enough. The plot tends to ramble on without a sturdy anchor to it or without a definite flight plan. One of the key clues to this is when you ask the writer for a log line and s/he gives you a tag line or the logline is rather longer than what is suggested, or even, and this has happened, the logline doesn’t match up to the story at all. Continue reading

DIRECTORS: CAN’T LIVE WITH THEM, CAN’T KILL THEM-Part I


top-50-screenwriting-blogsFor questions: hcasner@aol.com
First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013.  Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
blog1Written by the real heroes here
Directed by an overpaid tool
               Opening credits to Deadpool
Sometimes I am quite concerned for the wellbeing and psychological equilibrium of my fellow screenwriters. The more I interact with them, the more I feel that, though they like writing for film, they tend to walk around with something of an inferiority complex, especially when there is a director, or even more unfortunate perhaps, a film critic nearby.
I fully understand this. I’m the same way. And there are logical reasons for this that this essay will attempt to address.
But to begin, I not only ask this of my fellow screenwriters, but of everyone in the entertainment industry: does anyone really know exactly what a director does? Does anyone really have a specific and concrete idea as to what they bring to the table? What areas of the film they contribute that we see up there on the screen?
I often get vague answers to this question. It’s something generally to the tune of, they are ultimately responsible for what we see on the screen, i.e., theoretically, and only theoretically, the buck stops with them.
Fair enough. But what does that really mean? Taken at face value, all that genuinely suggests is that the director is a manager, or as wiser minds than I have opined, someone who does none of the real work, but takes all the credit.
That’s an extreme exaggeration, of course. But I still suspect there is some truth to it. Continue reading

OH MY GOD, THEY’RE CO-DEPENDENT: What’s More Important, Structure or Character, in Writing a Screenplay


For questions: hcasner@aol.com
First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013.  Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
blog1Over the last year or so, it has come to my attention that there is a central irony in how I cover and analyze screenplays.
When someone asks me what the most important aspect of a screenplay is, what I look for in recommending them for a second read in a contest or for further consideration for a production company, I always say: character, character, character.
For me, it rarely makes any difference as to how original a concept is, how clever or well plotted a story is, or how unique or intriguing the structure. If these other areas are not supported by rich and vibrant characters (or at the very least, a 7/8 on a scale of 10), it rarely matters what sort of folderol an author gets them caught up in. Continue reading

YOU WANT ME TO READ WHAAAAAAT? A Snob’s Guide to Alternative Sources for Structure in Plotting for Screenplay and TV Writing, Part V: Philosophical Depth


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
Also available for revising, script doctoring and ghost writing.

 

essay 11This is the fifth in a series of essays about alternative sources for structure and plotting for screenplays and television series (for earlier entry in the series, see the bottom of the essay).
By alternative, I mean sources other than the usual tomes written by the usual gurus, sources you might not immediately think about, that can be used as guides in trying to tell your story, sources that you might not have even considered of any use in this area.
The idea of writing these essays originated with the sudden rise of what is now being called a second golden age of television, as well as a paradigm shift in the way movies are made. There are now so many different ways of telling a story on television, while in movies there has been a swing away from the Hollywood/Studio type of filmmaking, that I believe thinking outside the box when it comes to finding ways to tell stories might be a wise move to make at this time.
However, before proceeding any further, I would also like to say one other thing. You may look at many of my lists and recoil at the hoity-toityness of them all and even accuse me of being a snob.
Well, what can I say? I am a snob and I’m proud of it.
But I seriously doubt it would hurt anyone’s ability to write if they let a little more snobbishness in. In fact, it might help. You never know, so give it a try.
And this essay will probably be the snobbiest of the snobbiest in that it focuses on films that take a lot of their cues from philosophers, theologians and great thinkers. These are films that really try to get to the heart of what makes us, well, us; what is the meaning of the universe; why were are here at all; why there is something instead of nothing; what is the point of being alive at all. These are questions that artists have been dealing with since time immemorial, and they still influence us today.
These are sources that have given guidance and depth to films since their inception and have influenced directly or indirectly such filmmakers as Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Martin Scorcese, Paul Schrader, Woody Allen, Michael Haneke, Ingmar Bergman, Robert Bresson, Michelangelo Antoinioni and many, many others. Continue reading

YOU WANT ME TO READ WHAAAAAAT? A Snob’s Guide to Alternative Sources for Structure in Plotting for Screenplay and TV Writing, Part IV: Grindhouse/Exploitation


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
Also available for revising, script doctoring and ghost writing.
 
essay 10This is the fourth in a series of essays about alternative sources for structure and plotting for screenplays and television series (for earlier entry in the series, see the bottom of the essay).
By alternative, I mean sources other than the usual tomes written by the usual gurus, sources you might not immediately think about, that can be used as guides in trying to tell your story, sources that you might not have even considered of any use in this area.
The idea of writing these essays originated with the sudden rise of what is now being called a second golden age of television, as well as a paradigm shift in the way movies are made. There are now so many different ways of telling a story on television, while in movies there has been a swing away from the Hollywood/Studio type of filmmaking, that I believe thinking outside the box when it comes to finding ways to tell stories might be a wise move to make at this time.
However, before proceeding any further, I would also like to say one other thing. You may look at many of my lists and recoil at the hoity-toityness of them all and even accuse me of being a snob.
Well, what can I say? I am a snob and I’m proud of it.
But I seriously doubt it would hurt anyone’s ability to write if they let a little more snobbishness in. In fact, it might help. You never know, so give it a try.
Today I will focus on grindhouse/exploitation films and TV series. These are stories that are highly influenced by everything from pre-code films, to midnight movies, to Roger Corman films, to low budget cult films, to Italian giallo films, to soft core porn and sexploitation films, the Ozploitation movement in Australia, the British sex comedies of the 1960’s, Blaxploitation, the list goes on and on.

Continue reading

YOU WANT ME TO READ WHAAAAAAT? A Snob’s Guide to Alternative Sources for Structure in Plotting for Screenplay and TV Writing, Part III: Night Time Soaps


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE

Also available for revising, script doctoring and ghost writing.

essay 10This is the third in a series of essays about alternative sources for structure and plotting for screenplays and television series (for earlier entry in the series, see the bottom of the essay).

By alternative, I mean sources other than the usual tomes written by the usual gurus, sources you might not immediately think about, that can be used as guides in trying to tell your story, sources that you might not have even considered of any use in this area.

The idea of writing these essays originated with the sudden rise of what is now being called a second golden age of television, as well as a paradigm shift in the way movies are made. There are now so many different ways of telling a story on television, while in movies there has been a swing away from the Hollywood/Studio type of filmmaking, that I believe thinking outside the box when it comes to finding ways to tell stories might be a wise move to make at this time.

However, before proceeding any further, I would also like to say one other thing. You may look at many of my lists and recoil at the hoity-toityness of them all and even accuse me of being a snob.

Well, what can I say? I am a snob and I’m proud of it.

But I seriously doubt it would hurt anyone’s ability to write if they let a little more snobbishness in. In fact, it might help. You never know, so give it a try.

Today I will focus on night time soaps. These are series which have continuing story lines (i.e., the stories are not fully wrapped up in one episode or even one season).   These are shows like Mad Men, Empire, Dynasty, Dallas, Downton Abbey, etc. They have several through lines, a ton of subplots and a myriad of characters (though there may be one main character that is the focal point of the story). Continue reading