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 II


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
(When asked what a director does) I help.
                Krzysztof Kieslowski
blog1In the last essay, http://ow.ly/PAgv308jiAh, I had a lot of fun trying to poke some holes in the role of the director in the creation of a film. Especially when he’s given all the credit for what is ultimately seen on the screen. However, I never did answer the question I originally posited: just what does a director do?
Well, I’m not sure I can give you a definitive answer. But I’ll try and explore that question in this second part of the essay.
I would first like to say that little in film can ensure a movie’s success (at least artistically) than when a director with vision is matched to a screenplay of vision, whether or not they are provided by the same person. Second to this is when a perfectly acceptable piece of direction is paired with a screenplay with vision, or even a very strong and solid screenplay. But little can help any movie with direction, great or not, that is stuck with a screenplay that just really isn’t particularly good, or worse.
Usually it’s the screenplay that makes a difference in the success of a film, not the direction.
Now, for those of you who go to live theater on a regular basis, you are already ahead of the game here. Whether you realize it or not, you already have a better idea as to the director’s contribution than most movie goers. 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

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

HEY! WE ALL HAD TO START SOMEWHERE: an interview with Julius Kelly, author of Forgiveness and Ploy


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 Julius Kelly, author of Forgiveness and Ploy
 
kellyJulius Kelly has been making films since 2006.  He has worked on several television projects under MojoCreative Group: “The Mun2 Look,” where he served as second assistant camera, which aired on Mun2 television network, and “E Asylum,” where he served as a host from 2007 to 2010, which airs on TUN (The University Network).   Aside from directing, Kelly’s credits also include actor, entertainment writer, producer, assistant director, cameraman, and casting director.
In 2010 Kelly co-founded the production company Sunnyside Down Productions with Giancarlo Orellana and Christina Chu, to produce and promote independent film projects.  At this time, Sunnyside Down Productions has gained numerous accolades around the country and continue to set a goal of independent filmmaking.
Be sure to visit www.teamsunny.net to view their work.
  1. What is the name of your first screenplay that was produced, or your first project that was produced, or your first writing assignment?
The name of my first screenplay that was produced was titled “Forgiveness”. The short film was completed in 2009 and made its festival circuit run in 2010.
  1. Can you tell us a bit about the journey as to how it came about?
Forgiveness 1The idea was constructed to actually be a sequel for a film that was entitled “Hustler’s Last Score” that I wrote after I graduated from college. It took a process to write for these characters and figure out exactly how to give them a proper send off. Continue reading