6 Screenwriting Lessons from Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)

nv

by Angela Bourassa

My Saturday at ScriptFest was a whirlwind experience. I sat on a panel about pitching with John Bucher, Tara Bennett, and Scotty Mullen, then I got to meet one-on-one with writers for the entire afternoon, helping them perfect their pitches before the Pitchfest on Sunday. That meant that I only got to attend one session myself, but fortunately, it was one of the top-billed sessions of the day: an intimate conversation with Nia Vardalos, writer of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel.

Nia was a delight to listen to and positively overflowing with useful advice. Here are my top six takeaways from Nia:

1. Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.

One of the first stories Nia told was about how she got hired at Second City. She’d been trained in Shakespeare but felt like there were very limited roles for a woman like her, so she was drawn to improv where any person could play any character. She auditioned for Second City with no improv experience and, unsurprisingly, didn’t get in. So she enrolled in their classes and took a job in the box office, which both gave her a discount on classes and allowed her to watch the Second City show every night.

One night, a core performer got sick, and her understudy was unreachable. Nia summoned her courage and said that she knew the role. She was brushed aside until it came time for the show to start and they literally had no other choice. Nia performed, and she was hired the very next day.

2. “The battle of writing is that we judge ourselves.”

We all come up with a million reasons why we’re not good enough or not worthy of success. We judge our own processes, we judge our “ugly, fat” rough drafts, and we think there isn’t value in our scripts. Nia said, “Give yourself a moment to say, ‘I’m doing this.’ Don’t judge yourself… The process is always different in the industry, but no matter what your process, don’t listen to the odds. Say, ‘Why not me? I’m doing this. I’m an optimist. I can write a script and I can sell it.’”

mbf

3. Don’t wait for an agent or manager — make things happen for yourself.

When Nia got to LA, her agent told her that she wasn’t pretty enough to be a lead and wasn’t fat enough to be a character actress. When asked, Nia told her agent she was Greek, and the agent said, “Well that’s the problem.” Sadly, Hollywood still has this perception that only what’s been done before can be done again. That’s why Asian actors can’t be leads and Greek women can’t star in their own movies — it’s all bullshit.

So Nia decided to write herself a role. She didn’t get anywhere sending her script to studios, so she started doing it as a one-woman show. The show was selling out, so she put a small-but-pricey $500 ad in the LA Times, hoping it would draw someone — anyone — who could help her turn this show into a film. As fortune would have it, Rita Wilson saw the tiny little ad and came. The next night, she sent her husband Tom Hanks to the show. The day after that, Nia’s phone rang, and it was Tom Hanks. That was the genesis of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Nia made sure to mention that Tom and Rita treated her like gold before she made them a dime. In her experience, the kindest people are the most consistently successful people in this business.

4. Stop making your female characters “likeable” — make them relatable instead.

Nia said that she is so tired of focus groups that say women have to be likeable on screen. You should make your characters relatable, but don’t care if they’re likeable. When they were testing My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, focus groups found the teenage daughter unlikeable, but a teenager rarely is likeable. To keep her honest and create conflict, Nia refused to make the daughter any more likeable. Now the actress has gotten a lot of great attention because of the role.

sc

5. “Today is the day…”

At Second City, Nia said, they always used to say, “Today is the day…” That’s the point that stories start from. Today is the day that I ask the girl out. Today is the day my daughter was kidnapped. Today is the day I face my greatest fear. Whatever the situation, your catalyst should be a vital day in the life of your main character. Then, for Nia, she writes from a point of motivation — what does the character want? That’s what drives the story forward. In her stories, the answer to that question is usually happiness.

6. The ending is in the beginning.

This is another lesson that Nia took from Second City. She said movies are like a thesis — in the beginning you tell the audience what the story is going to be about, and in the end, you deliver on that promise. The end should reflect the beginning. Once you’ve delivered what you promised (or some take on what you promised), you’re done.

~

Angela Bourassa is the founder and Editor in Chief of LA Screenwriter.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

6 Screenwriting Lessons from Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)

nv

by Angela Bourassa

My Saturday at ScriptFest was a whirlwind experience. I sat on a panel about pitching with John Bucher, Tara Bennett, and Scotty Mullen, then I got to meet one-on-one with writers for the entire afternoon, helping them perfect their pitches before the Pitchfest on Sunday. That meant that I only got to attend one session myself, but fortunately, it was one of the top-billed sessions of the day: an intimate conversation with Nia Vardalos, writer of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel.

Nia was a delight to listen to and positively overflowing with useful advice. Here are my top six takeaways from Nia:

1. Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.

One of the first stories Nia told was about how she got hired at Second City. She’d been trained in Shakespeare but felt like there were very limited roles for a woman like her, so she was drawn to improv where any person could play any character. She auditioned for Second City with no improv experience and, unsurprisingly, didn’t get in. So she enrolled in their classes and took a job in the box office, which both gave her a discount on classes and allowed her to watch the Second City show every night.

One night, a core performer got sick, and her understudy was unreachable. Nia summoned her courage and said that she knew the role. She was brushed aside until it came time for the show to start and they literally had no other choice. Nia performed, and she was hired the very next day.

2. “The battle of writing is that we judge ourselves.”

We all come up with a million reasons why we’re not good enough or not worthy of success. We judge our own processes, we judge our “ugly, fat” rough drafts, and we think there isn’t value in our scripts. Nia said, “Give yourself a moment to say, ‘I’m doing this.’ Don’t judge yourself… The process is always different in the industry, but no matter what your process, don’t listen to the odds. Say, ‘Why not me? I’m doing this. I’m an optimist. I can write a script and I can sell it.’”

mbf

3. Don’t wait for an agent or manager — make things happen for yourself.

When Nia got to LA, her agent told her that she wasn’t pretty enough to be a lead and wasn’t fat enough to be a character actress. When asked, Nia told her agent she was Greek, and the agent said, “Well that’s the problem.” Sadly, Hollywood still has this perception that only what’s been done before can be done again. That’s why Asian actors can’t be leads and Greek women can’t star in their own movies — it’s all bullshit.

So Nia decided to write herself a role. She didn’t get anywhere sending her script to studios, so she started doing it as a one-woman show. The show was selling out, so she put a small-but-pricey $500 ad in the LA Times, hoping it would draw someone — anyone — who could help her turn this show into a film. As fortune would have it, Rita Wilson saw the tiny little ad and came. The next night, she sent her husband Tom Hanks to the show. The day after that, Nia’s phone rang, and it was Tom Hanks. That was the genesis of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Nia made sure to mention that Tom and Rita treated her like gold before she made them a dime. In her experience, the kindest people are the most consistently successful people in this business.

4. Stop making your female characters “likeable” — make them relatable instead.

Nia said that she is so tired of focus groups that say women have to be likeable on screen. You should make your characters relatable, but don’t care if they’re likeable. When they were testing My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, focus groups found the teenage daughter unlikeable, but a teenager rarely is likeable. To keep her honest and create conflict, Nia refused to make the daughter any more likeable. Now the actress has gotten a lot of great attention because of the role.

sc

5. “Today is the day…”

At Second City, Nia said, they always used to say, “Today is the day…” That’s the point that stories start from. Today is the day that I ask the girl out. Today is the day my daughter was kidnapped. Today is the day I face my greatest fear. Whatever the situation, your catalyst should be a vital day in the life of your main character. Then, for Nia, she writes from a point of motivation — what does the character want? That’s what drives the story forward. In her stories, the answer to that question is usually happiness.

6. The ending is in the beginning.

This is another lesson that Nia took from Second City. She said movies are like a thesis — in the beginning you tell the audience what the story is going to be about, and in the end, you deliver on that promise. The end should reflect the beginning. Once you’ve delivered what you promised (or some take on what you promised), you’re done.

~

Angela Bourassa is the founder and Editor in Chief of LA Screenwriter.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

Want to Be a High-Earning Freelance Writer? 5 Skills You Need to Make it Happen

Want to know what high-earning freelancers do differently? Check out Mridu’s free report on the secrets of six-figure freelancers.

If you’ve ever read any advice out there about how to get to a higher income level with your freelance writing business, you’ll notice that it all sounds pretty much the same as the general advice given to freelancers: Learn how to pitch, market a lot, network, bring good stories to your editors, be proactive, etc.

Here’s what I believe, though: You can’t increase your income by doing more things; you can only increase it by bringing more value.

How can you bring more value when you’re already doing your best work and putting yourself out there to be the best of your ability?

Simple. Add new skills to your repertoire that will enable you to either bring in more money or charge more for your services.

Let me give you some ideas.

1. Learn to negotiate well

When I train freelancers, this is the first thing I tell them. The resistance I encounter is pretty much universal.

No one jumps up in their seat and says, “Yes! I can’t wait to ask for more.” Instead, most people try to shrink down further because if it wasn’t bad enough that they had to leave their comfort zones and indulge in marketing, now they have to push even more when that marketing pays off?

I get the resistance. I do. It’s a natural instinct and of course, you don’t to want to seem like you’re only in this for the money.

But here’s the thing I’ve learned: If you want more money, you have to ask for more money. It’s that simple.

This is where the whole value idea comes into play. People don’t just give you more money because you said they should (though sometimes they do), but more so because you’ve proven how valuable you can be to them.

So prove why you’re worth it. And then ask for more.

2. Start to diversify

Also known as: Add other income streams.

You can diversify in terms of the types of writing you do. You can diversify in terms of the subject areas. You can even diversify geographically, so that when clients in one part of the world are struggling with an uncertain economy, there are others in parts of the world that are booming.

What made a massive difference in my own career was adding in high-paying work that was also easy to get given my journalism experience. For me (and many others), that ideal work proved to be content marketing. I went straight from earning $100 an hour as a journalist to $400 an hour in content marketing — in less than a year.

3. Learn to repurpose your work

That series of articles you wrote for a finance blog — could it be turned into a short ebook to be sold on Amazon? How about taking one of those points and turning it into an entire article of its own? Could you create an infographic? Write a personal essay based on the topic of your article? Create a video?

There are so many ways now available to freelancers to get paid for work, but you do have be creative about it and you have to be willing to experiment with the new technologies.

Not all of it will stick, but if you’re using old content and repurposing it to create something in a different format or for a different market, your work is cut down massively and you get paid repeatedly for the same research and ideas.

4. Learn and practice new marketing strategies

You might get discovered. It’s great when it happens. It doesn’t happen often.

What does happen often is that you knock on doors. And you knock on more doors. And some of them are opened and you get invited in and others are slammed in your face. Then you go and knock on more doors.

The more doors you knock on, the more chances there are that some might open.

Do I need to go on, guys?

There will be a point in your freelancing life when you have regular clients and you’ve got money coming in each month that you can rely on. That’s great. Even so, if you want to grow your income over time, you constantly need to be finding newer higher-paying clients and replacing your lowest-paying ones with them.

Get skilled at it. Learn how to do it most effectively. Experiment with all the strategies other freelancers talk about and see what works best for you.

You won’t always be marketing aggressively, but you will always be marketing. It’s a good idea to get used to that.

5. Invest in your education

How do you consistently add to your skills? You learn, of course. You take free courses, paid courses, online courses, offline classes — whatever suits your personality, your budget and your geographical situation.

If you want to stay current in the market and increase your income, you need to constantly learn and stay one step ahead of the marketplace. Remember what I said about the only way to increase your income is to add more value?

You add more value when you make your client’s life easier by offering a diverse set of skills.

You don’t have to know it all. No one does. But make the effort to invest in learning about things that interest you. It’ll pay off, literally.

Listen, every writer I talk to says they want to make six figures. But “I’d like to earn more someday” is not a plan. If you want to make six figures, passively sitting back and waiting for it to happen won’t make it happen.

You need to create a plan, act in certain ways, and have marketable skills. You need to know how much you need to earn on a weekly or monthly basis to be able to hit your target and you need to be able to adjust course when you don’t reach your goal two or three months in a row.

Anyone can make six figures. Even you. But you have to commit to it.

Are you committed?

What are you doing to increase your freelance writing income?

The post Want to Be a High-Earning Freelance Writer? 5 Skills You Need to Make it Happen appeared first on The Write Life.

     

Source: Writer Life

Writing the Freudian Trio: Id, Ego, Superego Character Design

gollum-frodo-sam

by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)

Sigmund Feud is credited with popularizing the idea that the human psyche is multi-faceted. He suggested that our personalities could be seen as having three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. Long before Freud’s suggestion of this idea, stories were often told with a key character representing one of these three aspects of the psyche. The conflict created by these three ideas running into each other gives us more than enough drama to keep a story fresh for two hours of screen time, which is why this design is often seen in screenplays.

For anyone who missed the day they discussed Freud’s ideas in school, the id is the primal component of the personality. Experts attribute uncoordinated instinctual trends to the id. Our aggression to fight against death or harm, our libido or instinct towards sex, hunger, and thirst are all aspects of the id. The ego is the mediator between our sometimes unrealistic id and our over-idealistic superego. The ego is rational and oriented toward problem solving. Feud used this example: The id is like a horse and the ego is the rider on top of that horse. The superego consists of the conscious and the ideal self. Rather than just mediating, the superego can actually stop the id from doing certain things it may incline us to do.

In case you’re still a little confused, here are ten films that use characters to represent the the id, the ego, and the superego in their story structure.

THE NICE GUYS

Jackson Healy, portrayed by Russell Crowe, represents the id in the new Shane Black comedy. He goes into every situation swinging. He embodies all our human base instincts. Ryan Gosling plays Holland March, the ego in our story. He often mediates between Crowe’s id instincts and the idealistic approach his daughter, Holly. Speaking of Holly, she is the superego of the story. She shows her power by literally stopping the id of Crowe from killing a man.

jo

THE DARK KNIGHT

The id in The Dark Knight is clearly The Joker. He appeals to the primal side of humanity with his philosophical approach in society. Bruce Wayne/Batman is the ego trying to mediate between The Joker’s id and the idealistic views of society, specifically Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent. Dent best personifies the superego, with his desire to take the moral high ground above the chaos.

FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF

Ferris is the highly entertaining id of this story. He is interested in whatever his instincts push him towards, as long as its pleasurable and fun. Cameron is the superego, reluctant about any pleasure that might be less than ideal or moral. Ferris’s girlfriend, Sloane, is the ego, mediating the extremes, and providing level-headed balance.

THE MATRIX

Neo represents the id. Trinity is the superego. Morpheus is the ego. The film’s plot is structured around the conflicts and balancing act that encircles the three.

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TOP GUN

The Tom Cruise classic has been in the news lately, because of its 25th anniversary. The story has endured greatly because of Maverick’s id and Iceman’s superego. Of course, Goose’s ego is what many of us remember being the highlight of the film.

THE WIZARD OF OZ

The classic from Kansas is Freudian psychology 101. The id is the Tin Man, who represents the heart. The superego is the Scarecrow, representing the brain. And the ego is the Cowardly Lion, representing the courage it takes to mediate between the two.

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THE BREAKFAST CLUB

Proving the trio works across genres and generations, the John Hughes film plays out a Freudian character design with the males in the story. Bender is the id, who is loud, instinctual, and rebelling against authority. Andy is the superego, a jock who has strong ideals and tries to keep Bender in line. Brian, the ego, is the nice guy, mediating and attempting to reason between the others.

HAROLD AND KUMAR GO TO WHITECASTLE

Harold plays the superego, highly moral about getting the work done that he’s been assigned. The id is Neil Patrick Harris, a man absolutely consumed by his own urges. Kumar is the ego, seeing the value in both approaches and trying to create a third way.

jaws1

JAWS

In this tale of a man trying to catch a fish, Quint is the anger-prone id. Hooper is the idealistic superego. And Brody is the ego mediating the Freudian feud.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS

Tolkien was a master of psychological storytelling, working in three different sets of Freudian trios to the expanded universe of this story. Within the ring-bearing trio, we have Gollum as the id, Frodo as the ego, and Samwise as the superego. Within the hunters, we have Gimli as the id, Aragorn as the ego, and Legolas as the superego. And within the world of The Hobbit, we have a Freudian trio among the wizards. Radgast is the id. Gandalf is the ego. Saruman as the superego.

~

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 the upcoming Secrets of Short Visual Storytelling. He has written for entities ranging from HBO to International 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 blog, welcometothesideshow.org.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

Self-Publishing: How to Promote Your Book With One Easy Photoshop Technique

Are you looking for eye-catching images you can use on social media, in newsletters, and elsewhere online to market your self-published books?

Do you also have Adobe Photoshop on your computer?

Then you’re in luck!

Photoshop mockups are Photoshop files that use smart objects to allow you to easily insert your book cover into the photo. In the end, they’ll turn out like this:

Crystal Frost Series

Beautiful, isn’t it? Let’s start by finding some free and premium mockups, and then we’ll take a look at how to use them to help market your book.

Free Photoshop mockups

If you don’t want to put a lot of money into your marketing images, have no fear. The following resources provide free images you can use again and again.

  1. Covervault: Covervault is a website by Mark Monciardini featuring more than 40 free mockups, with more being added frequently. Discover a range of designs, including paperback, hardcover, eBook, iPhone, and box sets, all with beautiful backgrounds.
  2. Adazing Design: Adazing Design features seven realistic mockups in its “It’s a Real Book” package, and they’re completely free!
  3. Freepik: Freepik offers hundreds of Photoshop mockups, including those for books, posters, and billboards. You can use the images for free with attribution or sign up for $10 per month to download images without attribution. You can use all the images you download within your month-long term for life, even if you cancel your subscription.
  4. DealJumbo: DealJumbo has a “freebie” mockup section with a couple of good ones for book covers.

Premium Photoshop mockups

If you’re looking for more options, perhaps try premium mockups. Start with these suggestions:

  1. Graphic River: Graphic River, part of the Envato Market, should be the first site you check out if you’re looking for premium Photoshop mockups. Most packages start around $10, and there’s a wide selection of realistic-looking images.
  2. Behance: Although you’ll notice some of the same mockups from Graphic River advertised on Behance, you’ll find others in Behance’s range of more than 100 photo-realistic book mockup packages, some of which are free.
  3. Creative Market: Creative Market is packed with product mockups. Book-cover packages featuring multiple images run around the $10 mark.
  4. Zippy Pixels – Zippy Pixels offers a couple of $15-range mockup packages for books.

Be sure to double check the license you’re purchasing, since some only allow one-time use on mockups. Others require an extended license if you plan to use the content on printed materials, such as t-shirts.

How to use Photoshop mockups

Now that you’ve downloaded your mockup files, you can insert your book cover into the image. You’ll need Photoshop on your computer, which costs as little as $9.99 per month.

  1. Open the Photoshop file you downloaded. In your “Layers” window, find the smart object that correlates with the location where you want to place your book cover. Designers make this easy by labeling each layer.

Layers

  1. Double click on the smart layer, and a new window will open.

new window

  1. Now, place your book cover file onto this canvas. Resize if necessary, and then go to File > Save. (Make sure to click Save, not Save As.) The original image will now update.

update

  1. If your mockup has more than one smart object, continue working until you’ve modified them all. Then, simply click File > Save As, and save your new image. In the case of the example above, here’s what the final image looks like.

Paperback and iPhone

You can always move elements around, add text, or remove the background and save your image as a PNG file for transparency.

I use mockups like this for cover reveals, teasers, and other social media and blog post images.

You can also use them on swag, in newsletters, for Facebook and Twitter banners, and for other marketing purposes. Just be sure to check the license you’re getting before distributing your images.

Will you be using Photoshop mockups to create images for marketing your book? Let us know what you think of this process in the comments.

The post Self-Publishing: How to Promote Your Book With One Easy Photoshop Technique appeared first on The Write Life.

     

Source: Writer Life

NWP Radio—Research Writing Rewired

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Type: Event
How can teachers integrate inquiry-based research approaches with digital reading and writing in the classroom? This is the question that Dawn Reed and Troy Hicks explore in their 2016 book, Research Writing Rewired: Lessons that Ground Students’ Digital Learning. Join us to talk with the authors about strategies, lessons, tools, and principles for supporting connected learning in the English Language Arts classroom.
Source: The National Writing Project

‘The Flash’ Reveals The Man Behind The Iron Mask In Season Finale

SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Season 2 finale of The Flash
So that Man in the Iron Mask? He looks a lot like The Flash — the one from 1990, that is. Tonight’s Season 2 finale of the CW’s The Flash revealed the face of the Man in the Iron Mask, aka Jay Garrick, and it was none other than actor John Wesley Shipp, best known for playing Barry Allen way back on the 1990s CBS version of the series.

Tonight, Barry Allen…
Source: DeadLine

Empire State of the Dead Bites on to Limited Edition Blu-Ray and DVD

“Empire State of the Dead”, an anthology that chronicles the early days of a zombie virus break out in New York State, begins limited edition Blu-Ray and DVD pre-sales this Sunday night at 7pm EST.  Copies are expected to start shipping right around the movie’s premiere on Saturday May 28th at the Palace Theater in …

The post Empire State of the Dead Bites on to Limited Edition Blu-Ray and DVD first appeared on HNN | Horrornews.net – Official News Site


Source: Horror News

Gold Coast International Film Festival Announces 2016 Young Filmmakers Program

Attention all young filmmakers (grades K-12)! Do you want your film to appear on the big screen in a movie theatre in front of a live film festival audience? This Fall, on our Sixth Anniversary, The 2016 Gold Coast International Film Festival Young Filmmakers Program will give you that chance! We will showcase the best …

The post Gold Coast International Film Festival Announces 2016 Young Filmmakers Program first appeared on HNN | Horrornews.net – Official News Site


Source: Horror News