Rules of the Formatting Game


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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

EXPOSITION: CAN’T WRITE WITH IT, CAN’T WRITE WITHOUT IT or YADDA, YADDA, YADDA…THE END


For questions: hcasner@aol.com

First, a word from our sponsors: My short film 8 Conversations in 15 Minutes 58 Seconds will premiere at STUFF, the South Texas Underground Film Festival on January 27th, 2019 http://www.stuftx.org/

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

 

     Exposition seems to bring out the worst in screenwriters. I don’t mean how they use it when putting fingers to keyboard, but how they talk about it. The way some of them go on…and on…and on about it, one would think using exposition is worse than child molesting and will damn you to hellfire for all eternity…or longer.

But have no fear. In the real world, exposition is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, exposition can be your friend. You will not only invariably use it in your screenplays, you will quite possibly use it multiple times…and not once grow hair on the palms of your hands.

In fact, exposition is just about unavoidable. It’s just a fact of the writing life. Continue reading

IT’S TIME TO GET INTO THE SPIRIT OF THE ZEITGEIST or DOING THE ZEITGEIST RAG


For questions: hcasner@aol.com

First, a word from our sponsors: My short film 8 Conversations in 15 Minutes 58 Seconds will premiere at STUFF, the South Texas Underground Film Festival on January 27th, 2019 http://www.stuftx.org/

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

 

     It has been some time since I put pen to paper and wrote something for my blog. I got distracted for various reasons, some good (I wrote two books of short stories and published the second edition of my screenwriting book, see above), some not so good (I’ve been caught up in one of those downward swings moody, artsy people tend to get into from time to time). But for some while now, I’ve been mulling over an idea, a subject that has finally formed itself into something that compels me to share it.

 

In the past, I’ve written about the zeitgeist, that overall spirit in art that can define a creative period of time. However, my writing about it has been somewhat negative since for some time, mainly from 2007 and on, I felt there wasn’t one for US filmmakers and that American films suffered for it and were constantly falling short and disappointing.

 

One conclusion I came to for this state of being is that as a result of technology, anyone and everyone can and have been making movies, resulting in that ubiquitous saying that the great thing about filmmaking today is that anyone can make a movie; the awful thing about filmmaking today is that anyone can make a movie. But I think the main drawback to this advance in technology is that though we have a more than over abundance of filmmakers, at the same time, they have had nothing to say, no real reason to make a film. There was no zeitgeist.

 

      But I think that’s changed. Over the last few years, a new spirit of the times has wormed its way into the world of film, one that has taken filmmaking into a new direction and breathed new life into an art form that often seemed to be dying of mediocrity in America. And I think this has had, or should have, a serious impact on screenwriters. I suggest that new screenwriters (and even more experienced ones) should consider embracing it with, ironically, open arms.

 

The name I give to this brave new world of filmmaking is diversity meets genre.

 

Before I get any farther into why I believe this is central to what is happening in filmmaking today, I will backtrack some and suggest historically just how this came to be. And in doing so, I think I must admit to an error I believe I made earlier regarding a zeitgeist of the past, in fact the most recent American zeitgeist. I termed it post modernism and said it revolved around a group of core filmmakers: Steven Soderbergh, Quinten Tarantino and the Coen brothers, all starting in the 1990’s. However, I think it might be more accurate to call these filmmakers post post modernists.

 

     It might be more exact to attribute post modernism to the period from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. There are few reasons why I think this may be more exact. And here I am defining post modernism as artists taking everything from the past and treating it with equal value, from the lewdest of scatological humor to the highest of philosophical debate. Everything is of worthwhile fodder in creating art.

 

It was during this period, possibly for the first time in the history of film art in the U.S., that filmmakers were more influenced and inspired by movies and directors and writers and stylists that had come before them than anything else. These were artists who learned how to make movies by watching movies as they grew up.

 

These filmmakers lived, breathed and almost totally existed within the history of cinema. And not just art, foreign and prestige films, but also the lesser films, the B-films and lower budgeted genre films that were not held in as high a regard as many others. And this led to many changes in movies when these younger viewers became adults.

 

     One major one is that filmmakers began taking B-picture genres and making A films out of them. These included horror (Jaws, The Shining, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby); sci-fi (2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Star Wars); crime/film noir (Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, Night Moves, The Late Show, The Long Goodbye); comic book movies (Superman); and serials (Star Wars and Indiana Jones).

 

Another change was the introduction of existentialism from post war Europe, especially in the films of Paul Schrader and Woody Allen, as well as the films of other filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick and Paddy Chayefsky.

 

Finally, this was the period of great satires of film genres including Take the Money and Run (documentaries), Sleepers (Sci-fi), Love and Death (epic films), Blazing Saddles (westerns) and Young Frankenstein (horror), leading up to the great satires of Airplane and The Naked Gun franchise.

 

     Then came the 1990’s and the triumvirate of the period, the aforementioned Soderbergh, Tarantino and the Coens. They continued to emphasize genre, but often with a post post modernistic smirk where it felt as if the movies sometimes were also commenting on themselves and the genre conventions.

 

Which leads us to the new zeitgeist which takes the post modern emphasis on genres, but breathes new life into them by having a new and diverse set of filmmakers making them. And these movies are doing well, both from a critical and money making standpoint. These films either having diverse characters in the lead (and I include women here with recent films having some of the best roles for female actors in some time), or have a diverse cast, or have diverse screenwriters, directors and producers, as well as other more technical aspects of film, behind their creation.

 

These include:

 

  Comic book movies (Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Spider-Man Into the Spider Verse, Aquaman);

 

Horror (Get Out, Hereditary, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus);

 

Rom Coms (The Big Sick, Crazy Rich Asians, Love Simon);

 

Film Noir/crime (Widows, Dope, Jackie Brown and the upcoming Scarface);

 

   Thrillers (Searching, A Simple Favor, The Girl on the Train);

 

Fantasy (Mary Poppins Returns, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, Moana);

 

Sci-Fi (Gravity, Annihilation, Arrival, Under the Skin, The Hunger Games).

 

This can also be seen in more non genre films as well, straight dramas or stories of social commentary (Boy Erased, Monsters and Men, If Beale Street Could Talk, Call Me By Your Name, Moonlight, Roma, The Favourite). In fact, there are studies that suggest the more diverse a cast is, the more money that film will make at the box office.

 

     So what does this mean for up and coming filmmakers, for writers, directors and producers? To me it suggests that diversity, especially diversity meets genre, is the zeitgeist of the day and this should be embraced and taken to heart. If you are a member of a diverse group, then don’t be afraid, in fact, be proud to tell your story from your own background, with that special insight that being a member of a diverse group can give you. For others, it might be something as simple as changing your lead or setting. Can your white-bread male lead, as well as supporting cast, be made female or gay or a member of a diverse group?

 

And generally speaking, it means making your world larger rather than smaller and be open to all possibilities in the world today.

 

In closing, I am going to talk about two movies that have core similarities: Into the Woods, the film made from the Stephen Sondheim musical, and the live action remake of the animated film, Beauty and the Beast, both fantasies, both musicals.

 

About halfway through Into the Woods, where on stage the intermission comes, everyone is singing Happily Ever After at the castle. Standing next to the main characters is a black woman, the only character of diversity I remember seeing in the film. And at that moment, all I could think is that, my, this movie is incredibly white. Cut to Beauty and the Beast which had an amazingly diverse cast, including two gay characters.

 

    Now, I’m not saying that this was why Into the Woods didn’t do as well as expected or hoped and Beauty and the Beast was such a success. Into the Woods had other problems. And there are many reasons why one movie fails and another succeeds.

 

But still, I couldn’t help but take notice. And I think this is an area where filmmakers should probably start taking notice.

HEY! WE ALL HAD TO START SOMEWHERE: an interview with Hernando Bansuelo and Josh Watson, writers of A Reunion


This is the next post in a series of interviews with writers who have had their first films, web series, television assignment, etc. make it to the big or small or computer screen. It is an effort to find out what their journey was to their initial success.
First, a word from our sponsors. I am now offering a new service: take the Howard Casner 20 pages for $20.00 screenplay challenge. 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
 
Next up: an interview with Hernando Bansuelo and Josh Watson, writers of A Reunion
Hernando Bansuelo
HB_Tribeca 2015Hernando Bansuelo holds an MFA in Film and TV Production from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and holds a BA in Stage Directing from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. His debut feature, A REUNION, produced under his production banner, Tricoastal Entertainment, during his final year in film school, will be released theatrically and digitally in September 2015. It is Executive Produced by the Ebersole Hughes Company (ROOM 237, HIT SO HARD).
His work has screened in Cannes, South Africa, Iceland, the UK, the Bahamas, and across the US. Hernando also has been a three time Sundance Screenwriters Lab 2nd Round Finalist and is currently developing a sci-fi epic (MONARCH, winner of the Silver Prize in Science Fiction at the 2014 Beverly Hills Screenplay Contest), GET CLOSE (about stage and screen legend Glenn Close) and several other projects.
With extensive industry experience, he has worked in production offices (Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center, Mike Nichols’ Charlie Wilson’s War, Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding), on-set with large-scale filmmakers (James Foley’s Perfect Stranger, NBC’s Lipstick Jungle) and completed A-list internships (Playtone Productions – Hanks and Goetzman, Double Feature Films – Sher and Shamberg). The award-winning filmmaker has also participated in the Ingmar Bergman immersion program at Sweden’s Lund University, the Reykjavik International Film Festival’s Talent Lab, and Film Independent’s Project:Involve. He recently completed THE DADDY (ANG TATAY), a hybrid documentary short set in the Philippines.

 

Josh Watson
josh watson 1Under his production banner, TriCoastal Entertainment, co-founded with life and professional partner, Hernando Bansuelo, Josh Watson has produced about a dozen short films and the feature, A REUNION. The film is to be released in fall, 2015 after having been acquired by distribution company, Ariztical Entertainment.
Watson attended Loyola University Chicago (graduating Magna Cum Laude and gaining entrance to Phi Beta Kappa), where his wide ranging liberal studies included film, theater, political science and social justice. After graduation, Josh served two years with the AmeriCorps program, completing community service projects with neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, California. While in LA, he also began building a professional acting resume that included playing a lion in the LA Opera’s version of THE MAGIC FLUTE (Dorothy Chandler Pavilion), as well as a suspected killer in Timothy Folsome’s hip-hop horror flick, CUTTHROAT ALLEY. Josh, a member of SAG-AFTRA, continued studying acting at UCLA under the tutelage of Kim Darby, Paul Napier, and Robert Thompson.
Josh is thrilled that his next feature, AMERICAN JOHN, sheds light on the racial and class inequities that pervade this country and provides an inspirational story of perseverance and breakthrough.
 
  1. What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced, or your first project that was produced, or your first writing assignment?
reunionPoster-final-webA REUNION is our first screenplay that has been produced. And for it to receive theatrical and digital distribution and be out in the world is nothing short of a miracle.
Our limited theatrical run begins on Friday, September 18th through 24th at the Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills, you can purchase tickets here:
http://www.laemmle.com/films/39631
That will be followed by a digital and DVD release later this fall.
Check out our Trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCHdQwVh5PY Continue reading

HEY! WE ALL HAD TO START SOMEWHERE: an interview with Gregory Blair, author of Deadly Revisions


This is the next post in a series of interviews with writers who have had their first films, web series, television assignment, etc. make it to the big or small or computer screen. It is an effort to find out what their journey was to their initial success.
First, a word from our sponsors. 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
 

Next up: an interview with Gregory Blair, author of Deadly Revisions
 
GregoryBlair_DramaSmirk-0702A Southern California native, Gregory Blair has been active in the arts for many years as an actor, writer, director and producer.   His work has been published and/or produced in various venues: his editorials have appeared in newspapers, e-zines and academic texts; his poetry has been included in several collections; his stage plays have been produced across the country. His outrageous comic novella “Spewing Pulp” was honored with a 2005 Stonewall Award and he has garnered nearly a dozen screenwriting accolades, including the 2014 Claw Award for “Best Feature Film Screenplay” for Deadly Revisions (which also earned him the EOTM Award for “Best Director of an Indie Horror Film” as well as the L.A. Movie Award for “Best Narrative Feature” and the Flicker Award for “Best Picture”)

 

  1. What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced?
 
Deadly Revisions was the first screenplay that actually made it into the world as a film.  It was not the first screenplay that I sold, though, which is a good lesson: selling a screenplay—as exciting as it is—does not mean it will ever become a film.  I am still waiting for some of my sold screenplays to make it to the screen.  So you must enjoy each success for what it is…but only for what it is. And drink good martinis.
  1. Can you tell us a bit about the journey as to how it came about?
I wrote it to sell.  There continues to be a growing demand for low budget films that require only minimal locations and cast, little to no fx, take place in the present, etc. It seemed crazy not the feed that need.  But I had to keep it interesting for me, so that meant lots of twists.  That led me to choosing to write a psychological thriller.  The single location necessity, though, screamed horror genre, since people are always getting trapped in a castle, a cabin in the woods, a cellar, etc.  So I came up with a story that had elements of both genres.   Thus, Deadly Revisions, which tells the tale of an amnesiac horror film writer haunted by nightmares, is a valentine to the horror genre wrapped in a psychological thriller.  Or is it a psychological thriller wrapped in a horror film?  An interesting thing about the film is people come away with many different opinions about what really happened.  Continue reading

HEY! WE ALL HAD TO START SOMEWHERE an interview with screenwriter/director/producer and author of Rails & Ties, Micky Levy


micky picThis is the third post in a series of interviews with writers who have had their first films, web series, television assignment, etc. make it to the big or small or computer screen. It is an effort to find out what their journey was to their initial success.
 
Let me know what you think. Any feedback or suggestions for the sort of information you might like to know will be appreciated.
 
First, a word from our sponsors. 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
 
Next up: Screenwriter/director/producer and author of Rails & Tails Micky Levy
rails and ties oneRails & Ties (Warner Bros), directed by Alison Eastwood and starring Kevin Bacon was Micky’s first produced screenplay. She had completed several book adaptations, notably Donald Kraybill’s Amish Grace, for which she received a Humanitas Prize nomination. Recently, Micky directed Page’s Great and Grand Escape, a short she wrote that premiered at the Foyle Film Festival. Continue reading