Davidsabbath thewriteroom.org winner grand prize

Meet Our 2015 Winner: David Sabbath

Davidsabbath thewriteroom.org winner grand prizeIntroducing our 2015 Grand Prize winner for Best Screenplay:

David Sabbath is a director/writer living in Columbus, Ohio.  His international and national commercials have received 57 advertising awards for his direction.  As the writer/director, his feature film God Don’t Make The Laws was awarded best picture at the 2012 LA Film and Video Festival.  For his writing, David has receive the New Star Award at the 2013 Madrid International Film Festival; Best Movie Script and Best New Writer at the 2012 American International Film Festival; Gold Award from the 2012 California Film Festival and was just accepted to the 2016 Pasadena Film Festival.

9 Films to Watch for a Dialogue Bootcamp

[Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on WeScreenplay. It is reprinted here in collaboration with that site.]

glen_garry

by Mark Stasenko (@WeScreenplay)

1. GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS written by David Mamet

What we learn: Specificity makes dialogue work

It’s hard to talk about dialogue and not include David Mamet, and Glengarry Glen Ross is quintessential Mamet in all his glory. This play-turned-film shows the importance of being specific in dialogue. In his Oscar winning monologue, Alec Baldwin doesn’t say “It’s important for you to sell,” he says “Always be closing.” By using the vernacular of the occupation and a corporate A.B.C. pitch, the dialogue feels more honest.

Watch the scene here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4PE2hSqVnk

2. THE HATEFUL EIGHT written by Quentin Tarantino

What we learn: Dialogue should be poetic

While this is a quality in almost all Tarantino films, especially his more recent, you’ll notice it even more so in The Hateful Eight – Tarantino writes dialogue in an almost song like fashion. The repetition of words, the alliteration, the allusions, and monologues all give the dialogue in his films a flow that is very rare to find anywhere else. While this isn’t perfect for every genre, its a great learning tool.

3. SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS written by Martin McDonagh

What we learn: Characters should say what we don’t expect

First of all, Martin McDonagh is the only playwright to ever have four plays running simultaneously in London other than William Shakespeare – so we know we can learn a lot from this writer. However, what he shows us in Seven Psychopaths is that having characters say what we would least expect in that moment is extremely powerful. When a gun is raised to Christopher Walken and he’s told to put his hands up he simply replies: “No.” There are so many other great moments where McDonagh surprises us with a simple line.

Watch the scene here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsQq_w1jt5A

7_psycho

4. THE ARTIST written by Michel Hazanavicius

What we learn: Don’t say what can be shown

While this is an odd movie to think of in terms of dialogue, it shows how much can be SHOWN rather than TOLD. One of the best ways to improve your dialogue is to remove any dialogue that isn’t necessary and show us instead. The Artist is a great lesson in ‘show don’t tell.’

5. THE SOCIAL NETWORK written by Aaron Sorkin

What we learn: Misunderstandings are always interesting

Aaron Sorkin is another playwright (there’s a pattern here) who has mastered the art of dialogue for the screen. What Sorkin does so brilliantly is always have two characters misunderstand each other in conversation. This is an excellent way to reveal the priorities of the characters while keeping the pace of the story moving. The opening scene of The Social Network does this brilliantly.

Watch that scene here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlXwTxpC6u0

social_net

6. FARGO written by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

What we learn: Characters with the same accent can have different voices

Too often when we’re writing period pieces or stories where the local dialect plays a heavy role, we can find ourselves writing every character with the exact same voice. Fargo is a masterpiece for showing that despite every character coming from the same place, they can all have very different voices.

7. AMERICAN BEAUTY written by Alan Ball

What we learn: Subtext, subtext, subtext

Every single line in this script is dripping with subtext. However, this only works because the story sets up every character’s goals so clearly by showing what they want, and then having that character say what they want in a different way. The most interesting dialogue doesn’t actually mean what it says. American Beauty is one of the best examples of that.

8. THE HANGOVER written by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore

What we learn: Dialogue is based in character

One of the reasons Lucas and Moore created such a great comedy with The Hangover is because the dialogue and jokes are routed in the characters first. Great lines of dialogue will fall dead if they aren’t believable. Had Phil (Bradley Cooper) said a line that was written for Alan (Zach Galifianakis) the comedy wouldn’t have worked. If you’re going to have insane lines of comedy, make sure to create an insane character to say them.

9. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION written by Frank Darabont

What we learn: Sometimes a voice over works brilliantly

Voice overs can be perceived as lazy writing, but if done properly, they can also elevate the viewing experience. The rule of thumb with VO: never use it unless it’s revealing something about the character and story that the audience wouldn’t otherwise realize. The Shawshank Redemption has one of the best running voice overs of any film, with Red (Morgan Freeman) giving us a beautifully rendered narrative of the story.

show_shank

Thanks for reading and let us know what your favorite lines of dialogue are from any movie!

~

Mark is a writer and co-founder of WeScreenplay.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

9 Films to Watch for a Dialogue Bootcamp

[Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on WeScreenplay. It is reprinted here in collaboration with that site.]

glen_garry

by Mark Stasenko (@WeScreenplay)

1. GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS written by David Mamet

What we learn: Specificity makes dialogue work

It’s hard to talk about dialogue and not include David Mamet, and Glengarry Glen Ross is quintessential Mamet in all his glory. This play-turned-film shows the importance of being specific in dialogue. In his Oscar winning monologue, Alec Baldwin doesn’t say “It’s important for you to sell,” he says “Always be closing.” By using the vernacular of the occupation and a corporate A.B.C. pitch, the dialogue feels more honest.

Watch the scene here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4PE2hSqVnk

2. THE HATEFUL EIGHT written by Quentin Tarantino

What we learn: Dialogue should be poetic

While this is a quality in almost all Tarantino films, especially his more recent, you’ll notice it even more so in The Hateful Eight – Tarantino writes dialogue in an almost song like fashion. The repetition of words, the alliteration, the allusions, and monologues all give the dialogue in his films a flow that is very rare to find anywhere else. While this isn’t perfect for every genre, its a great learning tool.

3. SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS written by Martin McDonagh

What we learn: Characters should say what we don’t expect

First of all, Martin McDonagh is the only playwright to ever have four plays running simultaneously in London other than William Shakespeare – so we know we can learn a lot from this writer. However, what he shows us in Seven Psychopaths is that having characters say what we would least expect in that moment is extremely powerful. When a gun is raised to Christopher Walken and he’s told to put his hands up he simply replies: “No.” There are so many other great moments where McDonagh surprises us with a simple line.

Watch the scene here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsQq_w1jt5A

7_psycho

4. THE ARTIST written by Michel Hazanavicius

What we learn: Don’t say what can be shown

While this is an odd movie to think of in terms of dialogue, it shows how much can be SHOWN rather than TOLD. One of the best ways to improve your dialogue is to remove any dialogue that isn’t necessary and show us instead. The Artist is a great lesson in ‘show don’t tell.’

5. THE SOCIAL NETWORK written by Aaron Sorkin

What we learn: Misunderstandings are always interesting

Aaron Sorkin is another playwright (there’s a pattern here) who has mastered the art of dialogue for the screen. What Sorkin does so brilliantly is always have two characters misunderstand each other in conversation. This is an excellent way to reveal the priorities of the characters while keeping the pace of the story moving. The opening scene of The Social Network does this brilliantly.

Watch that scene here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlXwTxpC6u0

social_net

6. FARGO written by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

What we learn: Characters with the same accent can have different voices

Too often when we’re writing period pieces or stories where the local dialect plays a heavy role, we can find ourselves writing every character with the exact same voice. Fargo is a masterpiece for showing that despite every character coming from the same place, they can all have very different voices.

7. AMERICAN BEAUTY written by Alan Ball

What we learn: Subtext, subtext, subtext

Every single line in this script is dripping with subtext. However, this only works because the story sets up every character’s goals so clearly by showing what they want, and then having that character say what they want in a different way. The most interesting dialogue doesn’t actually mean what it says. American Beauty is one of the best examples of that.

8. THE HANGOVER written by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore

What we learn: Dialogue is based in character

One of the reasons Lucas and Moore created such a great comedy with The Hangover is because the dialogue and jokes are routed in the characters first. Great lines of dialogue will fall dead if they aren’t believable. Had Phil (Bradley Cooper) said a line that was written for Alan (Zach Galifianakis) the comedy wouldn’t have worked. If you’re going to have insane lines of comedy, make sure to create an insane character to say them.

9. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION written by Frank Darabont

What we learn: Sometimes a voice over works brilliantly

Voice overs can be perceived as lazy writing, but if done properly, they can also elevate the viewing experience. The rule of thumb with VO: never use it unless it’s revealing something about the character and story that the audience wouldn’t otherwise realize. The Shawshank Redemption has one of the best running voice overs of any film, with Red (Morgan Freeman) giving us a beautifully rendered narrative of the story.

show_shank

Thanks for reading and let us know what your favorite lines of dialogue are from any movie!

~

Mark is a writer and co-founder of WeScreenplay.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

How to Cope When a Freelance-Writing Client Dumps You

Sooner or later, every freelance writer will get the dreaded phone call or email: Your client’s business is shutting down.

Or they’re restructuring and bringing the work you did for them in house.

Or maybe they just say you’re no longer a “good fit” for them.

No matter the details, the result is the same. You just lost a client.

What do you do now?

1. Don’t panic

While it’s tempting to jump straight to freak-out mode when you find out you’re losing a client, don’t.

Losing a client, especially one you really enjoy working with or who is particularly lucrative, is certainly disappointing. It’s OK to take some time to mourn the loss.

Take an afternoon off and go for a long bike ride or meet up with some friends for happy hour. You’re allowed to be disappointed for a while.

But don’t let the situation drag you down for too long, because you have some important work to do.

2. Review your finances

Take some time to figure out what losing this client means for your business and your finances.

Calculate how much money you typically receive from that client each month or year.

Not every client is equal. If you lose a $200-a-year client, you might just need to sell an extra article this month to stay on track.

But if you’re losing a $20,000-a-year client, you may have to do some major financial reshuffling.

If you need to cut some financial corners in the next few months, evaluate your budget and make a plan to cut non-essentials as needed.

3. Consider your emergency fund

Check your finances to see if you’ll be able to cover your bills in the near future. If not, consider whether you’ll need to tap into your emergency fund. if you’ll need to tap into your emergency fund.

Most financial planners recommend having an emergency fund with six-months’ worth of savings set aside.

While six months of savings seems quite ambitious and not attainable for many people, many freelancers have some sort of “rainy day fund” to cover unexpected client loss or other situations that may come up.

If you don’t have one, consider setting some money aside each month once you’re back on your feet, to cover just such an event in the future.

4. Get paid

If the client you’re parting ways with still owes you money, be sure to act immediately to get paid. If they’re financially solvent and pay on time, it may be as simple as submitting your final invoice.

But if they’re going out of business, make getting paid your top priority. If a business is filing for bankruptcy, it may not be able to pay all its creditors (including you), so contact the company as soon as possible.

If you’re having a hard time getting paid, a strongly worded letter from an attorney has been known to do the trick to expedite payment. You may have to take the client to small claims court.

However, especially if they’re folding, your client may simply not have the money to pay you. This threat is a good reason never to let a client’s balance build up too high.

5. Evaluate what went wrong

After you’re set up to financially weather  your client loss, take some time to figure out what happened. In many cases, losing a client has nothing to do with you or your work. Sometimes clients change their direction on a project, merge with another company, bring work inhouse, or go out of business.

These things happen, and they’re all part of every freelancer’s life. Don’t take them personally.

But, as hard as it is to face, sometimes the reason you lost a client may have to do with you.

Did you miss a deadline? Did you and your client have different expectations? Were they disappointed with your work?

Or, maybe they can’t afford you anymore, and want to replace you with a less-expensive freelancer. If this happens, don’t cut your rates. Instead, find clients willing and able to pay you what you’re worth.

If the reason you parted ways is out of your control, you may just shrug your shoulders and move on.

But if you missed a deadline because you were disorganized, figure out how to get organized and learn how to manage your time so you don’t have the same problem in the future.

Recognize that even if you made a mistake, it’s not the end of your freelance-writing career. Any freelancer who has been in the business for a while has a tale or two of an epic screwup. The key is to learn from these mistakes and avoid making them in the future.

6. Find a replacement client

Once you’ve tended to your immediate financial needs and analyzing the situation, it’s time to look ahead. Make some time to fill your client gap.

Contact editors you’ve worked with in the past and let them know you’re looking for work and have availability.

If you’re looking for work in a hurry, cold-pitching usually isn’t the best way to go. It’s usually more efficient to reach out to the tried-and-true clients you’ve already worked with in the past and see if they have more work for you.

But if you do end up with time to seek out brand-new clients, send out a few letters of introduction and pitches to potential clients to work on forming new connections.

7. Plan for the future

As hard as it is to recover from losing one client, once you’re back to business, it’s important to start preparing yourself for the next one you’ll lose.

It’s not fun to think about, but it will happen again.

After you’ve weathered your first client loss, make a plan for the future to be even more prepared for a similar situation. You might bulk up your emergency fund or further diversify your income streams.

If one client makes up 80 percent of your income, losing them is a huge blow. Many freelancers prefer to have at least three or four key clients so the loss of any one of them won’t be as devastating.

Every freelancer has a different strategy to prepare for the future, but now is a good time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work when you lost a client — and how you can prepare best for the future.

Freelance writers, have you ever lost a major client? How did you adjust?

The post How to Cope When a Freelance-Writing Client Dumps You appeared first on The Write Life.

     

Source: Writer Life

Oscar Nominated Writer James Schamus Tells It Like It Is

js

An interview with the writer of the upcoming film, Indignation, on his writing process, screenplays that aren’t over-written, and the violence of adapting great books.

by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)

James Schamus embodies what many desire to be in the world of film. He works with legendary directors. He’s been nominated for Academy Awards. He produces. He directs. And he writes. His work is acclaimed by critics and fans alike. With his new film, Indignation, he is wearing multiple hats for the first time. He is directing the work he wrote. Recently, James sat down with LA Screenwriter’s John Bucher to talk about his process and storytelling.

John: James, you’re no stranger to adapting great books and great work. Can you talk a little bit about your process in adapting Philip Roth’s Indignation?

James: Yeah, sure. As usual, I woke up in the morning, realizing I did not have an original thought of my own. Therefore, I felt deeply gratified that yet again, I’d been able to option the result of somebody else’s hard work in that category. The first feeling I tend to have, which evaporates quite quickly, is gratitude. That lasts about 0.87 seconds before anxiety sets in. Then usually, about 47 seconds after that, it’s of course time to get off the computer and have the mid-morning snack.

Usually, that’s followed by sitting behind the computer, realizing there’s a ton of e-mails that have come in that I probably should take care of before I clear my mind and start working. I do those and then it’s time, of course, to pee. At which point, the phone rings and I know I’m not supposed to pick it up, but it is my mother. Then I get back to work, but realize, it’s getting very close to lunch time and I probably should figure out what I’m having for lunch. This goes on for a few months and then somehow, I have written at least seven or eight pages that allow me to lay claim to some idea that I’m a screenwriter. Then real panic sets in and, somehow, I get to the end of a first draft.

John: That is the best answer I’ve ever heard to that question.

James: I know none of your readers can relate to that process.

in

John: Except every one of them. Well, talk a little bit about how you take characters that are established and really begin to flesh those out for a visual medium — how we’re going to encounter the internal journeys of those characters in a very external way on screen.

James: That’s right. There’s a contradiction in your question. You don’t flesh these characters out. In fact, you do the opposite. You reduce them to images and actions and words. You do that in the hope that then some living, breathing human — like a great actor — can re-flesh them out. It’s almost a process of dehydration and freezing. It’s a reduction, to the barest minimum of gesture and word and image. All of that is because you’re trying to create a formula for an eventual reconstitution of those characters and their actions, right?

John: Yes.

James: Look, the first part of the process — and again, I know I’m sounding glib, but really — is that often you go through the book and you transcribe any reported dialogue, throw slug lines on top of it, then fill in the briefest descriptions of actions that surround those scenes, and then type “The End” and pray that actually works.

Then you read it and realize, “Who were you kidding? This will never work.” That’s when the real work probably begins. For me, adapting not only great writers, but let’s say great living writers, that’s when the great trepidation sets in, because I know I’m not completely delusional, that the hard work of adapting is going to require condensing and eliding and changing and shifting and moving. In a sense, doing some real damage to the work that inspired you to get up in the morning and do this to begin with.

There’s a certain violence that’s associated with this process and that violence is often associated with those moments of imagination and creation that are unexpected and are not part of the original work. You have to be willing to go to those places. I find that very tough sometimes.

John: Did you know while you were writing that you would be directing as well?

James: No. I originally acquired the option to the book while I was running Focus Features. The idea then was that this would be something that perhaps would interest Ang Lee, who I shared the book with and who shared my enthusiasm for the book. Then a few things happened. Among them, I got fired. Also, Ang really stepped up in terms of his ambitions for the underlying and evolving technologies of the cinema in terms of 3D, in terms of expanded dynamic range, in terms of frame rates, in terms of just the saturation of data on the screen… all those things. You can imagine that this particular chamber drama was not going to be the right prospect for the kind of technologies and the associating expense that Ang is really passionate about exploring right now.

ind

John: If you had to go back and write it again, knowing that you would be directing, would you do anything different?

James: No, I don’t think so. I tend, when writing with filmmakers that I like in mind, to underwrite by contemporary studio standards anyhow. I tend to write screenplays that leave a fair amount off the page. The people who will be actually making them… not to simply instruct them and boss them into a corner and tell them what do. I think a good script for me is a script that proposes a lot of problems and questions that really smart people can answer later on. It’s still has a shape and it has a form and a feeling that gives you the hope and the optimism that those problems are not insurmountable and that they actually have a target that’s leading to a conclusion that everyone can share as the goal. That’s the right goal to be fighting for. But scene for scene, I do tend to not over-describe. I don’t over-psychologize a lot. I don’t tell you what people are thinking. I just show you what they’re doing.

John: Was there a particular scene or character with this script that was more difficult than the rest or more challenging?

James: Yes. Well, in terms of character and challenge, I think the character of Olivia Hutton, played by Sara Gadon in the movie, who adds to the tragic spice of the whole endeavor. She was a great challenge. In the novel, there was not a lot of page count devoted to her, although she plays such a pivotal role. That challenge was very fun because I got to create whole scenes and dialogue for her that I felt very much in sync with what Roth was thinking and doing in the book, but with a much greater degree of invention and play. Those were really, for me, great and challenging but fun to write.

In terms of scenes, I would say, there’s a particular scene in the middle of the film that a lot of people were talking about between the dean of the college, played by Tracy Letts, and our hero, played by Logan Lerman. It’s a scene that’s rather lengthy for American screenwriting. If you have a scene that’s running much over page three or on to page four, that’s usually quite a red flag.

John: Right.

James:   Yet, in draft after draft of the script, I would find as I would read through my revisions that the scene in the middle of the script — now in the middle of the movie — was stubbornly remaining at an extraordinarily alarmingly high page count. I know how to economize and wanted to get this cut down. I never did. Then I realized that there was a reason for that, of course — that the scene had to be there and it had to be played at that length. We ended up shooting that scene in single takes again and again. Those were 18-minute takes.

John: In a lot of your work, this film included, you’ve jumped around throughout history. Any advice to writers that are trying to adapt something from another point in history about dialogue? Do you research how people spoke at that time? Did you do any research for this film as far as how people spoke?

James: Yes, a lot, actually. But it’s also being true to the kind of voices that you inherit in the literary context of the book. It’s interesting because, think of it this way: Let’s say, you’re in the middle of writing a contemporary romantic comedy. You think, “You know what I’ll do? I’ll put microphones under the bed of people who were just like my characters. I’ll put microphones at the bar where people who are just like my characters are going to be having drinks. I’ll put microphones in the office where my characters would be working.” Then you transcribe what those people say. You will notice that the transcriptions of actual speech in actual reality are nothing like what looks and feels and reads and sounds like “natural” dialogue in movies.

Then, in fact, what we think of as — especially in the American context — a very natural style, it’s just that. It’s a complete fake. If you start with the knowledge that it’s all fake anyway, you just need it to sound real. That’s a relief, but it’s also an acknowledgement that does require craft. There’s no such thing as real dialogue in movies. When there is, it’s usually pretty horrible. That’s why very, very, very, very few directors can actually direct very, very, very few times, very, very few actors using improvisational techniques and methods. In general, that works maybe for certain kinds of comedy, certain kinds of comic geniuses. But even there, the improvisational techniques tend to be used as a developmental or rehearsal tool and are then re-crafted, shaped, and re-envisioned during production or post-production.

Indignation opens July 29 in theaters.

~

John Bucher is a writer, speaker, and story consultant based out of Los Angeles. He is the author of several books including The Inside Out Story and Master of the Cinematic Universe: The Secret Code to Writing in the New World of Media. He has written for entities ranging from HBO to U.S.  Ambassadors. He teaches at The LA Film Studies Center and has conducted story seminars on five continents. He can be reached on Twitter @johnkbucher and through his site, tellingabetterstory.com.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

Oscar Nominated Writer James Schamus Tells It Like It Is

js

An interview with the writer of the upcoming film, Indignation, on his writing process, screenplays that aren’t over-written, and the violence of adapting great books.

by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)

James Schamus embodies what many desire to be in the world of film. He works with legendary directors. He’s been nominated for Academy Awards. He produces. He directs. And he writes. His work is acclaimed by critics and fans alike. With his new film, Indignation, he is wearing multiple hats for the first time. He is directing the work he wrote. Recently, James sat down with LA Screenwriter’s John Bucher to talk about his process and storytelling.

John: James, you’re no stranger to adapting great books and great work. Can you talk a little bit about your process in adapting Philip Roth’s Indignation?

James: Yeah, sure. As usual, I woke up in the morning, realizing I did not have an original thought of my own. Therefore, I felt deeply gratified that yet again, I’d been able to option the result of somebody else’s hard work in that category. The first feeling I tend to have, which evaporates quite quickly, is gratitude. That lasts about 0.87 seconds before anxiety sets in. Then usually, about 47 seconds after that, it’s of course time to get off the computer and have the mid-morning snack.

Usually, that’s followed by sitting behind the computer, realizing there’s a ton of e-mails that have come in that I probably should take care of before I clear my mind and start working. I do those and then it’s time, of course, to pee. At which point, the phone rings and I know I’m not supposed to pick it up, but it is my mother. Then I get back to work, but realize, it’s getting very close to lunch time and I probably should figure out what I’m having for lunch. This goes on for a few months and then somehow, I have written at least seven or eight pages that allow me to lay claim to some idea that I’m a screenwriter. Then real panic sets in and, somehow, I get to the end of a first draft.

John: That is the best answer I’ve ever heard to that question.

James: I know none of your readers can relate to that process.

in

John: Except every one of them. Well, talk a little bit about how you take characters that are established and really begin to flesh those out for a visual medium — how we’re going to encounter the internal journeys of those characters in a very external way on screen.

James: That’s right. There’s a contradiction in your question. You don’t flesh these characters out. In fact, you do the opposite. You reduce them to images and actions and words. You do that in the hope that then some living, breathing human — like a great actor — can re-flesh them out. It’s almost a process of dehydration and freezing. It’s a reduction, to the barest minimum of gesture and word and image. All of that is because you’re trying to create a formula for an eventual reconstitution of those characters and their actions, right?

John: Yes.

James: Look, the first part of the process — and again, I know I’m sounding glib, but really — is that often you go through the book and you transcribe any reported dialogue, throw slug lines on top of it, then fill in the briefest descriptions of actions that surround those scenes, and then type “The End” and pray that actually works.

Then you read it and realize, “Who were you kidding? This will never work.” That’s when the real work probably begins. For me, adapting not only great writers, but let’s say great living writers, that’s when the great trepidation sets in, because I know I’m not completely delusional, that the hard work of adapting is going to require condensing and eliding and changing and shifting and moving. In a sense, doing some real damage to the work that inspired you to get up in the morning and do this to begin with.

There’s a certain violence that’s associated with this process and that violence is often associated with those moments of imagination and creation that are unexpected and are not part of the original work. You have to be willing to go to those places. I find that very tough sometimes.

John: Did you know while you were writing that you would be directing as well?

James: No. I originally acquired the option to the book while I was running Focus Features. The idea then was that this would be something that perhaps would interest Ang Lee, who I shared the book with and who shared my enthusiasm for the book. Then a few things happened. Among them, I got fired. Also, Ang really stepped up in terms of his ambitions for the underlying and evolving technologies of the cinema in terms of 3D, in terms of expanded dynamic range, in terms of frame rates, in terms of just the saturation of data on the screen… all those things. You can imagine that this particular chamber drama was not going to be the right prospect for the kind of technologies and the associating expense that Ang is really passionate about exploring right now.

ind

John: If you had to go back and write it again, knowing that you would be directing, would you do anything different?

James: No, I don’t think so. I tend, when writing with filmmakers that I like in mind, to underwrite by contemporary studio standards anyhow. I tend to write screenplays that leave a fair amount off the page. The people who will be actually making them… not to simply instruct them and boss them into a corner and tell them what do. I think a good script for me is a script that proposes a lot of problems and questions that really smart people can answer later on. It’s still has a shape and it has a form and a feeling that gives you the hope and the optimism that those problems are not insurmountable and that they actually have a target that’s leading to a conclusion that everyone can share as the goal. That’s the right goal to be fighting for. But scene for scene, I do tend to not over-describe. I don’t over-psychologize a lot. I don’t tell you what people are thinking. I just show you what they’re doing.

John: Was there a particular scene or character with this script that was more difficult than the rest or more challenging?

James: Yes. Well, in terms of character and challenge, I think the character of Olivia Hutton, played by Sara Gadon in the movie, who adds to the tragic spice of the whole endeavor. She was a great challenge. In the novel, there was not a lot of page count devoted to her, although she plays such a pivotal role. That challenge was very fun because I got to create whole scenes and dialogue for her that I felt very much in sync with what Roth was thinking and doing in the book, but with a much greater degree of invention and play. Those were really, for me, great and challenging but fun to write.

In terms of scenes, I would say, there’s a particular scene in the middle of the film that a lot of people were talking about between the dean of the college, played by Tracy Letts, and our hero, played by Logan Lerman. It’s a scene that’s rather lengthy for American screenwriting. If you have a scene that’s running much over page three or on to page four, that’s usually quite a red flag.

John: Right.

James:   Yet, in draft after draft of the script, I would find as I would read through my revisions that the scene in the middle of the script — now in the middle of the movie — was stubbornly remaining at an extraordinarily alarmingly high page count. I know how to economize and wanted to get this cut down. I never did. Then I realized that there was a reason for that, of course — that the scene had to be there and it had to be played at that length. We ended up shooting that scene in single takes again and again. Those were 18-minute takes.

John: In a lot of your work, this film included, you’ve jumped around throughout history. Any advice to writers that are trying to adapt something from another point in history about dialogue? Do you research how people spoke at that time? Did you do any research for this film as far as how people spoke?

James: Yes, a lot, actually. But it’s also being true to the kind of voices that you inherit in the literary context of the book. It’s interesting because, think of it this way: Let’s say, you’re in the middle of writing a contemporary romantic comedy. You think, “You know what I’ll do? I’ll put microphones under the bed of people who were just like my characters. I’ll put microphones at the bar where people who are just like my characters are going to be having drinks. I’ll put microphones in the office where my characters would be working.” Then you transcribe what those people say. You will notice that the transcriptions of actual speech in actual reality are nothing like what looks and feels and reads and sounds like “natural” dialogue in movies.

Then, in fact, what we think of as — especially in the American context — a very natural style, it’s just that. It’s a complete fake. If you start with the knowledge that it’s all fake anyway, you just need it to sound real. That’s a relief, but it’s also an acknowledgement that does require craft. There’s no such thing as real dialogue in movies. When there is, it’s usually pretty horrible. That’s why very, very, very, very few directors can actually direct very, very, very few times, very, very few actors using improvisational techniques and methods. In general, that works maybe for certain kinds of comedy, certain kinds of comic geniuses. But even there, the improvisational techniques tend to be used as a developmental or rehearsal tool and are then re-crafted, shaped, and re-envisioned during production or post-production.

Indignation opens July 29 in theaters.

~

John Bucher is a writer, speaker, and story consultant based out of Los Angeles. He is the author of several books including The Inside Out Story and Master of the Cinematic Universe: The Secret Code to Writing in the New World of Media. He has written for entities ranging from HBO to U.S.  Ambassadors. He teaches at The LA Film Studies Center and has conducted story seminars on five continents. He can be reached on Twitter @johnkbucher and through his site, tellingabetterstory.com.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

6 Reasons You’re Struggling to Overcome Writer’s Block

Having writer’s block means something different to every writer. For some, writer’s block is just procrastination. For others, it’s a lack of ideas or inspiration.

What’s true for all writers is that writer’s block can be difficult to overcome.

Difficult, but not impossible.

By identifying the type of writer’s block you’re facing, you’ll be able to take the necessary steps to get unblocked once and for all.

1. You’re facing too much pressure

Maybe you’re turning a molehill into a mountain. If you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders when you sit down to write, it can be hard to get anything on paper.

Be it a deadline, a nagging agent, or a previous success, it’s possible that you feel like David fighting your Goliath of a project.

Solution: Cut yourself some slack.

When you’re facing too much pressure, cut yourself some slack. Although you can’t move a deadline or hide from your agent (well, you can, but you shouldn’t!), you can take breaks.

For the sake of your writing, sometimes you actually have to step away from the keyboard. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking care of yourself, both mentally and physically, is important for staying productive.

Without maintaining the vessel that is the writer, writing is impossible.

2. The stakes aren’t high enough

Alternately, it’s possible that you aren’t facing any pressure, internally or externally.

When you’re unmotivated, writing anything seems like an impossible task.

Solution: Establish motivating factors.

Whether it’s setting a deadline, making a promise to someone, or participating in a challenge, setting up an external motivating factor is sure to cure your writer’s block.

If external motivation doesn’t work, get introspective: what is your goal, whether short or long-term? Big or small? Consider writing it down and posting it nearby as a reminder.

3. You’re being too hard on yourself

Most writers are critical of themselves.

There’s an editor in all of us. We’re afraid to fail, both ourselves and to our readers. In a cycle of self-doubt, it’s difficult to remain creative.

For many writers, writing becomes a chore when they’re too hard on themselves.

Solution: Make something for yourself.

To stop being so hard on yourself, you have to block out thoughts about how your readers might react to your work, and just focus on the writing.

While you’re writing for your readers, you’re also writing for yourself. Try switching projects, starting a new project, or freewriting.

4. You aren’t making writing a priority

When you live a busy life with a long list of things to do (and not a lot of time), it’s easy to lean on writer’s block as an excuse. You might think you’re unable to write because inspiration just hasn’t struck yet.

I have news for you: Inspiration is a myth.

Solution: Force writing into your schedule.

In this busy world, you have to fight for your right to write. Writing should be at the top of your to-do list. By making writing a priority, you lose the excuse of waiting for inspiration to strike.

Writer’s block simply isn’t allowed! You have to sit down and put something on the page.

5. You just don’t have any ideas

Often, writers explain writer’s block as a lack of ideas. Every writer is familiar with the scenario of staring down a blank page and waiting and waiting and . . . nothing. Now what?

Solution: Absorb new information.

If the well has run dry, then you have to drill deeper to uncover new sources of inspiration.

Make sure you’re reading at least as much as you’re writing. Consider attending writing groups, book clubs, or poetry readings. If those aren’t accessible, you can brainstorm in online forums or try a few writing prompts.

6. You’re making writing into a big deal

Writer’s block is such a scary feeling, right? At times, writers make common problems — such as fear of failure and a lack of ideas — into huge problems.

When a problem looks so gigantic, it feels impossible to solve, and it’s easy to give up.

Solution: Write anyway.

In the end, writing is just writing. It’s as simple as putting one word after another. While it is difficult to write well, writer’s block is often an excuse to not write anything at all. When it feels like you can’t write, there’s usually another problem at work. The only way to overcome writer’s block is simply to write anyway.

Break writing into the tiniest, most manageable chunks.

Write three words. Write for seven seconds. Then, work your way up.

You’ll be unblocked in no time.

Which one of these causes of writer’s block sounds most like you?

The post 6 Reasons You’re Struggling to Overcome Writer’s Block appeared first on The Write Life.

     

Source: Writer Life

6 Reasons You’re Struggling to Overcome Writer’s Block

Having writer’s block means something different to every writer. For some, writer’s block is just procrastination. For others, it’s a lack of ideas or inspiration.

What’s true for all writers is that writer’s block can be difficult to overcome.

Difficult, but not impossible.

By identifying the type of writer’s block you’re facing, you’ll be able to take the necessary steps to get unblocked once and for all.

1. You’re facing too much pressure

Maybe you’re turning a molehill into a mountain. If you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders when you sit down to write, it can be hard to get anything on paper.

Be it a deadline, a nagging agent, or a previous success, it’s possible that you feel like David fighting your Goliath of a project.

Solution: Cut yourself some slack.

When you’re facing too much pressure, cut yourself some slack. Although you can’t move a deadline or hide from your agent (well, you can, but you shouldn’t!), you can take breaks.

For the sake of your writing, sometimes you actually have to step away from the keyboard. It may seem counterintuitive, but taking care of yourself, both mentally and physically, is important for staying productive.

Without maintaining the vessel that is the writer, writing is impossible.

2. The stakes aren’t high enough

Alternately, it’s possible that you aren’t facing any pressure, internally or externally.

When you’re unmotivated, writing anything seems like an impossible task.

Solution: Establish motivating factors.

Whether it’s setting a deadline, making a promise to someone, or participating in a challenge, setting up an external motivating factor is sure to cure your writer’s block.

If external motivation doesn’t work, get introspective: what is your goal, whether short or long-term? Big or small? Consider writing it down and posting it nearby as a reminder.

3. You’re being too hard on yourself

Most writers are critical of themselves.

There’s an editor in all of us. We’re afraid to fail, both ourselves and to our readers. In a cycle of self-doubt, it’s difficult to remain creative.

For many writers, writing becomes a chore when they’re too hard on themselves.

Solution: Make something for yourself.

To stop being so hard on yourself, you have to block out thoughts about how your readers might react to your work, and just focus on the writing.

While you’re writing for your readers, you’re also writing for yourself. Try switching projects, starting a new project, or freewriting.

4. You aren’t making writing a priority

When you live a busy life with a long list of things to do (and not a lot of time), it’s easy to lean on writer’s block as an excuse. You might think you’re unable to write because inspiration just hasn’t struck yet.

I have news for you: Inspiration is a myth.

Solution: Force writing into your schedule.

In this busy world, you have to fight for your right to write. Writing should be at the top of your to-do list. By making writing a priority, you lose the excuse of waiting for inspiration to strike.

Writer’s block simply isn’t allowed! You have to sit down and put something on the page.

5. You just don’t have any ideas

Often, writers explain writer’s block as a lack of ideas. Every writer is familiar with the scenario of staring down a blank page and waiting and waiting and . . . nothing. Now what?

Solution: Absorb new information.

If the well has run dry, then you have to drill deeper to uncover new sources of inspiration.

Make sure you’re reading at least as much as you’re writing. Consider attending writing groups, book clubs, or poetry readings. If those aren’t accessible, you can brainstorm in online forums or try a few writing prompts.

6. You’re making writing into a big deal

Writer’s block is such a scary feeling, right? At times, writers make common problems — such as fear of failure and a lack of ideas — into huge problems.

When a problem looks so gigantic, it feels impossible to solve, and it’s easy to give up.

Solution: Write anyway.

In the end, writing is just writing. It’s as simple as putting one word after another. While it is difficult to write well, writer’s block is often an excuse to not write anything at all. When it feels like you can’t write, there’s usually another problem at work. The only way to overcome writer’s block is simply to write anyway.

Break writing into the tiniest, most manageable chunks.

Write three words. Write for seven seconds. Then, work your way up.

You’ll be unblocked in no time.

Which one of these causes of writer’s block sounds most like you?

The post 6 Reasons You’re Struggling to Overcome Writer’s Block appeared first on The Write Life.

     

Source: Writer Life