Womanly Panther: A Conversation with Director Mimi Leder

Scott Glenn and Director/Executive Producer Mimi Leder on the set of THE LEFTOVERS Season 3 in Australia. Photo: Ben King/HBO

by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)

Mimi Leder is one of the most respected directors in film and television. Her ability to bring out the subtle nuances of the human experiences has made her a highly sought after artist and collaborator. Helming films such as The Peacemaker, Deep Impact, and Pay It Forward, Leder has brought her talents to some of the most beloved franchises in the world of television in recent years – ER, Nashville, The West Wing, and Shameless, just to name a few. She has also been a key voice in guiding HBO’s The Leftovers, directing ten episodes of the show.

Leder sat down with LA Screenwriter’s John Bucher to talk about her career and her experiences.

John Bucher: You’ve said in other interviews that The Leftovers, and especially this season, is really about the story that we tell ourselves. That seems to be an on-going theme in a lot of your work. Can you unpack that?

Mimi Leder: Well, we all have stories we tell ourselves to get by, to make things all right in our individual worlds and the world as a whole. We see a lot of coping mechanisms. We see how people on the outside look, and then in private moments how they really look and feel, and see the things that they do to get through the day. Kevin putting a bag over his head, getting near the point of death so he can feel alive in The Leftovers is certainly an example of that. We see how each and every one of our characters exists, does things so they can exist in a place where they can breathe.

John Bucher: You have directed more episodes than anyone else over the course of the show’s run. You’ve become one of the chief storytellers for this show, especially where it’s taken off from Tom Perrotta’s original work. It seems like the audience that has developed for the show are really thoughtful people, and that has a lot to do with how the show is directed. So, what’s been your approach in connecting with that audience?

Mimi Leder: I feel that my approach to directing the show is always somewhere very honest and grounded in a real place from the character’s point of view. We dig deep when we approach a scene. We discuss the hows, the whys. I feel I just approach it from a storytelling point of view, and it’s really been an exciting journey to be able to be with the show since mid-first season and really experience it from the characters’ points of view. Even location scouting, finding the right house, the right landscape, how it fits the characters and how the character will fit within it.

John Bucher: Since you brought up locations, let’s talk about Australia. Were there films that were influential for you in approaching the Australian storytelling? Was it different than Austin?

Mimi Leder: Well, going to Austin, Texas, felt like the right place for season two, and going to Austin felt like they had such great little towns that we could find our little town that was untouched. It just felt right for Miracle, Texas. The blue skies and the vast landscapes, the open sky. When they talk about Texas and the open skies, they’re not kidding. They’re hypnotizing. They really are. You just watch clouds a lot of the day. It’s hypnotic.

Going to Australia and finding the right place to shoot, for example, in episode three, in the outback, was something we did last February when we decided we actually were going to Australia. We had to go find the right outback because the outback exists everywhere there. We didn’t quite know the storyline at that point, but I knew that I was going to be shooting an episode in the outback with Kevin Sr. on his journey with his flood narrative to save the world. Scott Glenn is one of the greats. He gave every ounce of himself to this role, and it’s a very beautiful, honest portrayal of a man trying to save the world.

We went to a place called Broken Hill, which is out of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales. Broken Hill is where they shot Wake in Fright that Ted Kotcheff brilliantly directed. It was a very beautiful and haunting and magical place to film. It was a great experience for all of us. We took in every moment. We didn’t take it for granted.

John Bucher: It feels like one of the re-occurring themes throughout the seasons that’s really coming to a pinnacle in season three is this idea of family, of fathers and sons, and the idea of saving the world but also saving yourself, saving your family. You have a daughter who’s beginning to enter the filmmaking world. Have you been able to draw from your own life at all in approaching these stories about families and the intricacies and nuances of families working together?

Mimi Leder: Yeah. I’ve definitely been able to draw from the intricacies and the moments in my life and the connections with my family: my husband, my mother, my daughter, my stepchildren as well. Family is everything, and it’s very complicated. This is the telling of that story, and the scripts by Damon and Tom especially spoke to that. Every ounce of The Leftovers, in so many ways, speaks to family and what the family means, and how could we live without our families. How could we go on? And how do our characters go on? That is what we’ve been exploring in depth.

John Bucher: Nora got a tattoo of the Wu-Tang Clan symbol to cover her children’s’ names. Were you given a Wu-Tang Clan’s name like the writers of that episode?

Mimi Leder: That was really funny. Mine was great. We were on set shooting one night, and everyone was getting a Wu-Tang Clan name. Mine is Womanly Panther.

John Bucher: That’s quite fitting.

Mimi Leder: Isn’t it amazing?

John Bucher: Has there been anything that you’ve learned from your earlier experiences or the earlier projects that you’ve done that you’ve been able to put into practice or that you’re really proud of or glad that you’ve been able to exercise?

Mimi Leder: Well, I would say that The Leftovers has been one of the best experiences of my career in that the material is so extraordinary. It opened me up in so many ways. I believe that it has opened me up as a director. I had many years of experience and it has in some ways made me more open and fearless and a better collaborator. It has made me explore my inner spirituality more. It has allowed me to be more free and somehow has cracked something open inside of me. I’m loving the work that we’re doing, that I’m doing. It’s been one of the great experiences of my career. I’m very grateful for it.


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

By | 2017-05-04T10:54:36+00:00 May 3rd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |

Not F*ing Around – The Screenwriter’s Edition

Editor’s Note: Jeff Leisawitz is the author of Not F*ing Around, a book about jump-starting your creative life which we had the opportunity to review. The book is a quick, uplifting, and fun manifesto on reaching your creative goals, and we heartily recommend it. You can read the first three chapters or buy a copy here.

by Jeff Leisawitz

Writing screenplays is hard work. I know. I’ve written a bunch. Not only do you have to know story structure, dialogue, formatting, tone, pace, and about a hundred other things, you actually have to sit there and do it. Sometimes this is the hardest part.

As a professional writer, award winning musician, internationally distributed filmmaker and life coach, I’ve been bashing my head against the wall for decades. In an effort to empower creatives of all kinds on how to bang their heads against fewer walls, I wrote a book called Not F*ing Around— The No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground. Here are few tips, tweaked for my screenwriting pals.

Start Before You’re Ready

Years ago, when I started working as a songwriting teacher at a local college, I was shaking in my shoes. I prepared the best I could. But at the end of the day I just had to step into the studio with the students and give it my best shot.

Here’s the point. You can read screenwriting books, magazines, and blogs all day long. You can go to workshops, take classes. But if you still haven’t knocked out a bunch of loglines, outlines, and a ton of pages, it’s time to start. Now.

Sure, it might be a total disaster. But so what? As I tell my freaked out freshmen, your first song is supposed to suck. Write more. They will get better. That’s how it works. Same goes with screenplays. Just pay attention. Get some qualified feedback. And learn from your mistakes.

Time Travel with Your Future Self

Here’s a secret. A vast majority of very successful people use mediation and/or visualization to help them move closer to their dreams. You may call it woo-woo. But it works.

Grab your pen or fire up the laptop. Take a few minutes to breathe deeply. Imagine what you want in your future as it relates to screenwriting (or anything else). Picture yourself finishing your project. Or sitting in a room with a hot shot producer. Or attending the premiere of your awesome movie.

Breathe deep and feel into the experience. Notice what it took to get you there. Notice who is around you. Notice the way you feel in these moments. Breathe this all in deeply. When you’re ready, open your eyes and write it out. Feel it again. Write it and remember it. You just tapped into your subconscious to access some big information and wisdom.

Say ‘Yes, and_______.”

A few years ago I took an improv comedy class. One of the main tenets of this world is to say “Yes, and ______.” That means that you have to accept the situation that the other actor drops in your lap. Then add something to it.

It’s a very simple yet profound idea. It also works quite well in life.

Be open to opportunities in the screenwriting world. In fact, seek them out on job boards, meetups, community film groups. Maybe your sister-in-law just got a new camera and wants a three page script about twinkie-loving truckers for her next YouTube video. Step up and write it.

Perhaps you met some over-caffeinated Millennial at your local coffee shop who wants to hang around and write forty plot ideas every Sunday afternoon. Buy the guy some decaf and tag team.

Always take opportunities for creative growth. Chances are good that you’ll grow creatively.

These are just a few very brief ideas on how to crank up the NFA and make your screenwriting dreams come true. For more wisdom, tips, and tools, click on over to http://jeffleisawitz.com/giveaway-spring-into-action/ to enter yourself a chance to win four hours of online creativity coaching ($1000 value!). You’ll also get free chapters of my book, Not F*ing Around— The No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground.

What does your future self have to say?

What have you started before you’re ready?

What do you generally say yes to, screenwriting-wise? What do you say no to?


Jeff Leisawitz burns with a mission—to inspire screenwriters, artists, musicians, filmmakers, entrepreneurs (and everyone else) to amp up their creativity, heal their hearts and shine in the world. Visit his site for a chance to download the first three chapters of his book, Not F*ing Around— The No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground and enter a $1,000 giveaway for a chance to win creative coaching with Jeff to get your next project rocket fueled.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

By | 2017-04-20T12:46:20+00:00 April 20th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |

4 Ways to Kick-Start Your Writing This Summer

by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)

May is only a couple of weeks away, and many of us are already thinking about the glorious warmth of summer. Perhaps you’ve also been thinking about beginning a new project, and summer looks to be the perfect time to write it. Maybe you’re thinking of breathing new life into an old story that’s long been buried. You might be one of thousands of writers who began the new year with a resolution to finally get a story on the page this year, but haven’t yet found time to get started.

Knowing how to begin your writing practice, or begin it again, can be tough. Here are four ways to prepare NOW for crafting a script to kick-start your writing this summer.

photo credit: Flickr/ laurahoffmann51


Stories come out of characters. Far too many writers try to begin telling a story with characters whose lives they know very little about. Researching a lifestyle, occupation, or era that you are unfamiliar with can be an invigorating experience. It can provide you with details about a person in that world that you wouldn’t be able to describe otherwise.

Researched characters feel more real. Charlie Hunnam portrays Percy Fawcett in The Lost City of Z. While the character is based on a real person found in a book by David Grann, Fawcett’s character on-screen embodies details that speak to the research that James Gray conducted to bring the character to screen.  Gray was clearly familiar with the language, fashion, and customs of the period – things only discovered through good research.

There are a number of ways to research characters outside of the obvious Google-related searches anyone can perform. Conducting interviews with individuals familiar with the world of your story is a good place to start. Another often-overlooked resource is the public library. Most of us assume anything found in a library can also be found online. While this is true of many things, it’s not true of everything. Books, encyclopedias, newspapers, and a variety of other resources can be found in many libraries, but may have not piqued anyone’s interest for scanning and being made available online. Many libraries also have free access to academic databases, journal articles, and back-dated periodicals that you have to pay to access online. Libraries also offer an environment for concentrating on research and writing. Getting away from the distractions found at home and in coffee shops can be a powerful way to welcome new narratives into your story world.


Writers often only look to books as a source of inspiration for adapting a story. However, there are multitudes that can be learned by reading books that were either written during or about the period that you are setting your story in.  Sometimes beginning with a book from a historical period that you are interested in can be the catalyst for finding a great story to tell.

While your reading may lead to an idea set within the time period, many times it will spark something best set in another time period. When constructing her iconic character, Frankenstein’s Monster, Mary Shelley was vocal about having gotten the idea while reading a story set in a completely different period and world – Paradise Lost. Engaging in the way another storyteller has constructed a tale can sometimes be just what we need to unleash our own creativity, and often leads to unexpected results.


Many people go to the movies to escape. We as writers also occasionally need to escape to find ideas, characters, and stories that might not come to us otherwise. Taking ourselves out of the world of now and looking to a world we recognize, but that is a bit removed from us, can help. Watching a film that you’ve never seen before made before 1950 can function like a hard reboot for your writing.

Looking for themes, archetypes, and storylines that would morph into relevance today can be like a narrative treasure hunt. Mining old classics for timeless truths is an enjoyable way to take spare time and make it resourceful. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1929 film Blackmail originated many tropes common to crime thrillers in more recent times. Knowing what the writers who came before us have done successfully not only informs us of possibilities – it makes us better students of our craft.


Becoming familiar with the other stories in the genre you want to write in is one of the best ways to prepare to construct your own script. Did you know that our site has a library of scripts from a wide array of genres that you can download for free? Academy Award winners, cult classics, and indie scripts you may have never heard of all await you. Click here to find feature scripts and here for television.


ISA and The Script Lab are putting on a free 30 Day Screenwriting Challenge, which starts tomorrow and which LA Screenwriter is co-sponsoring. Sign up today to get daily articles, reminders, and inspiration as you work on your story. The goal is to finish a draft of a new script in 30 days. As an added bonus, you might win some fun prizes along the way.


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

By | 2017-04-19T11:47:25+00:00 April 19th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |

Spotlight on Leonard Maltin at the Classic Film Festival

Leonard Maltin at TCM Classic Film Festival 2017

by Scott Holleran (@ScottHolleran)

Leonard Maltin gave a rare personal interview during a Q&A at the TCM Classic Film Festival this month. Of course, he took classic movie questions and named his favorite movie director, Billy Wilder (The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, Stalag 17) and favorite movie (Casablanca). But with his daughter serving as moderator, he went into more personal details than he usually does.

Maltin explained that he was born in Manhattan and grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey, later marrying “a Bronx girl” named Alice (who was seated in the Club TCM audience). Maltin said that he loved comics as a boy—he narrowed it down to enjoying comic strips, otherwise known as “the funnies”—and loved to read and go to the library. “I was an indoor person,” he said, adding that, back then, TV programming was filled with frequent showings of classic movies. Maltin said he grew up watching them.

He favored television shows with the Little Rascals, cartoons, Laurel and Hardy and Barbara Stanwyck movies, and ABC’s Disneyland series hosted by Walt Disney, who “taught us the history of his company and his animated cartoons.”

If there’s a theme in Maltin’s work, it is Disney–the legendary Burbank-based movie studio whose classic pictures Leonard Maltin regularly highlights for Turner Classic Movies. Maltin was at New York University—where he studied journalism—when he was asked by a Signet editor to create a movie guide, which he subsequently did. But it was his passion for Disney that helped Maltin make his way to Hollywood.

He said that he was “devastated when Walt Disney died,” and at some point while doing research for his movie guide, he telephoned the studio and talked to Arlene Ludwig, whose father was Irving Ludwig, president of Buena Vista Pictures. Maltin asked for and received special access to Disney films so that they were fresh in his mind for review and coverage. He would note the end credits (there were no comprehensive credit listing sources back then) by hand from those Disney prints. These classic movie tales provided a crucial context for both the meticulous detail of his movie guides and Maltin’s deep knowledge and abiding respect for the Walt Disney studios legacy.

Other fun facts learned from his Q&A:

Maltin doesn’t like giving stars to films but when an editor asked him to do so, he relented and admits that readers like it as a shortcut to assessing his estimate of a film.

Bette Davis once sent the Maltin family a Christmas wreath.

He used to take passenger rail service to the nation’s capital to conduct movie research at the Library of Congress.

Asked to name his favorite foreign language picture, he paused: “Maybe La Strada.” But he says he “loves Truffaut” and “wants to be more conversant in Japanese cinema.”

Asked about his approach to work, he said he loves being his own boss.

Asked about his reading habits as they relate to movies, he answered that he first read David Copperfield by Charles Dickens because he had seen and been moved by the movie version.

When asked about his family, Leonard Maltin introduced his wife Alice, who accompanies him to screenings, and admitted that it “helps to have married a movie buff.” Maltin said that his daughter Jessie watched the barn-raising scene in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as a toddler “over and over on Laserdisc,” adding that it’s still her favorite movie, which she watched at a TCM Classic Film Festival after getting to meet its leading lady, Jane Powell.

Asked to name one of Hollywood’s last living “great broads,” Maltin didn’t flinch or hesitate: Angie Dickinson.

Answering my question about whether he ever asks for a second screening of a movie he’s assigned to review, Maltin said he rarely does because a critic reviewing a movie “should not have to see it again” if it’s a good movie.

And, asked by this writer to name one quality that differentiates today’s movies from classic films, Maltin said that he finds today’s close-up shots annoying (“I call it counting pores”), though, citing last year’s Arrival and Jackie, he likes the use of close-ups in movies when it’s warranted.

Maltin said that the main difference between movies then and now is that today’s motion pictures are losing what he calls the art of storytelling. “There used to be movies driven by fiction writers of short stories in magazines,” Maltin said, noting that fewer readers of abundant short fiction and other source material contribute to the loss of well-made, story-driven movies. “Broadway did hundreds, not one or two, productions a year.”

Leonard Maltin’s hour-long audience interview ended with a pointed question asking what he seeks when he goes to the movies. After qualifying his answer that one could reasonably have any variety of motivations to see movies, Maltin said that, essentially, he goes to movies “to be uplifted.”


Former Box Office Mojo editor and partner Scott Holleran writes scripts and teaches media and storytelling workshops and courses in LA. He posts movie reviews on his blog, where he writes about news, culture, and ideas.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

By | 2017-04-18T13:46:59+00:00 April 18th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |

Writer/Director Ed Gass-Donnelly On His New Thriller, Lavender

by Ashley Scott Meyers

This week I talk with Canadian director and screenwriter, Ed Gass-Donnelly. We talk through his early career as a stage director in Canada, and how that led him to directing films and led him to his latest project, Lavender.

You can listen to the audio portion of the podcast by clicking here or through iTunes by clicking here.

You can also read a transcript of this episode.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:21+00:00 April 17th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |

Writer Angela Workman On Dedication, Gender, and THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE

courtesy of Focus Features

A beautiful WWII drama, The Zookeeper’s Wife comes to theaters Friday, March 31.

by Angela Bourassa (@angelabourassa1)

Major films with a female writer, director, and leading role are incredibly rare. Hopefully films like The Zookeeper’s Wife from Focus Features will help turn the tides for women in film.

Based on the non-fiction best seller by Diane Ackerman, The Zookeeper’s Wife defies its romance-sounding title and somewhat cheesy poster to deliver a truly great World War II story of resilience, bravery, and conviction. The opening scenes at the zoo set a whimsical stage, making the transition to war feel that much more abominable. Suspense fills scene after scene as Antonina (played by Jessica Chastain) and her husband put everything they have on the line to save as many people as they can.

I got the chance to speak with screenwriter Angela Workman about how she constructed this beautiful tale, her view of the film industry, and what writers must do to achieve screenwriting success.

Angela Bourassa: How did this project and your involvement with it come about?

Angela Workman: Diane Ackerman’s book was brought to me by producer Kim Zubick. (It was brought to her by producers Diane Levin and Robbie Tollin.)  Actually, Kim approached my agent, Sandra Lucchesi at the Gersh Agency, and Sandra told Kim there was only one writer who could adapt that volume of material — me.  The book fascinated me for many reasons, and so I decided to come aboard.

Angela Bourassa: How did you approach the source material? Do you have a method that you follow when adapting books?

Angela Workman: I don’t know that I have one method when I approach an adaptation.  Generally I let my instincts tell me what the story is, where the focus needs to be, and to sort of feel out a beginning, middle, and end. If I can’t instinctively find those things in the source material, then I pass on the project.

Angela Bourassa: One thing I really appreciated about this film was that, despite all the death and horror, the darkest moments were handled very delicately. You and Niki Caro showed a great deal of restraint, which must have been hard to do — and do well.

Angela Workman: I think neither Niki nor I felt we wanted to be too explicit in the more atrocious aspects of the story.  We wanted the focus to be on the quiet bravery of Antonina and the more masculine bravery of Jan.  We wanted to reveal their humanity. But the story had to have its darker moments, and so I shaded them in the writing, and then Niki made her decisions as to how to present them.  She actually made some very bold choices, I thought.  We didn’t want to shy away from the truth of what happened during that terrible time.

courtesy of Focus Features

Angela Bourassa: The moment that struck me the most from the film was the scene at the train when the little children raise their arms to be helped up by Jan. Was that moment in the book, or did you come up with that scene? It absolutely broke my heart.

Angela Workman: The train scene was Niki’s idea.  I had written the scene to have Jan standing outside the ghetto gates looking in — I wasn’t certain that he would have been permitted inside the ghetto during the deportations.  But Niki offered me a beautiful, sad image, which was that she imagined one of the children would reach up for Jan’s hand, and Jan would then be in the position of having to help the child onto the train.  Once she described that visual horror to me I knew she was right, and I wrote the scene for her.

Angela Bourassa: Though this film is called The Zookeeper’s Wife, it’s really about this couple and what they’re able to accomplish together. In another writer’s hands, the Zookeeper himself might have become the main character. Aside from the fact that the book is called The Zookeeper’s Wife, why do you think it’s important that this story is Antonina’s and not Jan’s (if indeed you do think that’s important)?

Angela Workman: Of course, we had to call the film by the book’s title because the book was a best seller (and is again, now that the film is coming out).  We’d be crazy not to use that title!  But a deeper answer is, we so rarely see female protagonists in these types of films, and we, as a bunch of women filmmakers, wanted to see what would happen when a woman was at the center of a story like this.  We have Sophie’s Choice and Anne Frank, and not much else.  This was our chance to tell a story of heroics during the Holocaust from a female point of view, a chance to show what compassion looked like, what it meant for Antonina to have essentially won her war, which is a story we’ve never really seen before.

courtesy of Focus Features

Angela Bourassa: Much of this film’s drama is built out of moments of suspense. How do you create suspense in scenes?

Angela Workman: I guess I create suspense by holding tension — I try never to break tension between characters, even in happy scenes.

Angela Bourassa: Does your experience as an actress inform your writing?

Angela Workman: I did train as a classical stage actress, and my stage training informs all my writing.  I think I developed an ear for dynamics between characters, rhythmic writing, tension, dialogue — all of that comes from theatrical training.

Angela Bourassa: You’ve written several period pieces about strong women. Do you ever feel pigeonholed as a writer, or have you carved out this niche for yourself by choice?

Angela Workman: I’ve written many scripts centering on male protagonists, too, they just haven’t been made yet.  But women writers do usually get hired to write for women, which I love to do.  I also love to write strong male characters.

Roland Emmerich was the first director to hire me to write a huge, epic history centering on men.  It was about Spaniards conquering the Maya in Yucatan.  He didn’t care about my gender, he just really appreciated my ability to write these large-scale histories.  He made it possible for me to write other films with male protagonists. I wrote a large-scale epic adventure set during the Ming Dynasty in China for WB, and was hired based on that script for Roland, which remains one of my favorite projects.  He still wants to make it, by the way.  I’ll always be grateful to him for that.

courtesy of Focus Features

Angela Bourassa: It’s unfortunately quite rare these days for a film to have both a female writer and a female director. What was it like working with Niki Caro? Can you comment on what it’s like for women screenwriters in Hollywood these days?

Angela Workman: It was great working with Niki.  She’s incredibly astute, very specific.  She knows her own mind, she knows exactly what she wants, she gives very precise notes.

Women need to be hired more often.  What else can I say?  The disparity is ridiculous. Roland Emmerich saw no reason not to hire a woman.

Angela Bourassa: Based on IMDb, it looks like you’re enjoying quite the hot streak right now. What does it take to have a solid career as a screenwriter?

Angela Workman: To have a solid writing career, you have to have skill, an agent who believes in you and who never sleeps, and you have to jump on material before anyone else.  And you have to be very, very disciplined.

Angela Bourassa: Any pieces of advice for writers trying to break in?

Angela Workman: My advice is to read every script you can get your hands on, good or bad.  Read them all.  The bad ones will teach you as much as the good ones.  I was a reader for a decade, it’s how I learned to write screenplays.  Read, read, read.  And learn to be disciplined.

And don’t talk about writing.  Just write.

The Zookeeper’s Wife will be in theaters nationwide on Friday, March 31.


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

Source: LA-Screenwriter

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:22+00:00 March 28th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |

Director Dagen Merrill On How He Got His Sci-Fi Thriller, ATOMICA, Made

by Ashley Scott Meyers

In this week’s episode of the podcast I talk with director Dagen Merrill. We talk through his process for finding a screenwriter to write the script as well as how he found funding for the film.

You can listen to the audio portion of the podcast by clicking here or through iTunes by clicking here.

You can also read a transcript of this episode.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:23+00:00 March 27th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |

Beauty and the Beast Script (1991)

The original Beauty and the Beast script (1991) was written by Linda Woolverton with lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken. This script is labeled as the “First Draft.”

Beauty and the Beast was the first animated movie ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and remains the only animated movie to hold that honor from the period when there were only five best picture nominees.

Source: LA-Screenwriter

By | 2017-03-23T11:45:52+00:00 March 23rd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |

9 Story Lessons from Beauty and the Beast

by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is taking the box office by storm, as it has every time a new iteration of the story has been released. We could chalk the success up to brilliant casting, memorable music, or simply the magical wand of Mickey Mouse. But those familiar with the power of narrative tropes know the real secret. Creatively employing timeless and universal elements of storytelling is what gives this tale as old as time it’s enchantment. Here are nine story lessons we can learn from Beauty and the Beast.

1. The Fish Out of Water

One of the first things we learn about Belle is that her village thinks she’s an odd girl. It is important that the protagonist doesn’t feel completely at home where they are. Otherwise, there is no reason to ever leave and seek the life that may await her elsewhere. This set up also allows the village to come to the realization that the girl they had dismissed as being odd was actually just misunderstood. Of course, this touches one of our most core psychological desires – to believe that when others view us askew, its their perception that’s off, not ours.

2. The Reverse Parental Role

While we immediately like Belle’s father, we quickly learn that he may need more care than she does. It’s Belle that must go after him when she learns he is in danger. She saves him from being caged for eternity when the Beast captures him, offering to take his place behind the iron bars. Again, at the tale’s conclusion, she leaves the world she has become comfortable in to go rescue her father. All these actions would normally be expected of a parent. However, in some stories such as this, it is the child who takes on the parental role. Psychologically, we connect this to an important step in maturing as an adult — when we recognize that we must care for ourselves and become our own parents, in a sense.

3. The Invitation to a Life of Safety

Aside from providing the story with a wonderful villain, the character of Gaston also offers Belle a life of safety. Choosing this life would mean never developing into the woman she images she could be. It means that she might never enjoy the creature comforts that a life with the wealthy Gaston would allow. It means that she would never have to fight her own battles. In good stories, strong protagonists will choose to take the road less traveled, though it will be dangerous and not allow a life of comfort. Only when we take the risks that these more treacherous journeys allow can we become the fully-developed people we are capable of being. We all must, at times, learn to choose what is best for us over what is easy.

4. The Unexpected and Ironic Relationship

In many ways, Belle’s relationship with the Beast would be the last thing we would expect. It begins with the Beast holding her captive and treating her poorly. Then, there’s the fact that she is a girl and he is a beast. However, throughout the story, the characters overcome what we would expect and defy the irony of their relationship. As an audience, we love to see characters who initially appear to have no romantic chances eventually find love, against the odds. It reminds us of the tenaciousness of love – how it often finds a way in the most unlikely of circumstances.

5. The Sacrifice

All of us have had to give up something we loved. Seeing characters do the same reminds us that we are not alone in making these hard choices, and that sometimes there are great rewards for making such difficult picks. When the Beast decides to free Belle to go and save her father, he knows he may never see her again. He gives up the very thing that has restored hope to his life and caused him to love again. There is power in watching a character develop passion for something or someone, only to have to give that thing or person up. In doing so, we are reminded that love cannot be caged, it must be free. When it later returns to us of its own choosing, we can be sure of its authenticity.

6. The Mysterious Magician

Though a minor character in the story, the Enchantress is very important. This mysterious magician initiates the catalyst that propels the story into action. Having a character who controls the fate of the protagonist allows us to be more deliberate in creating conflict. The Enchantress also restores order at the end of the story after the important lessons have been taught. Characters with this power serve as proxies for our relationship with the divine, the universe, and fate.

7. The Helpful Curse

In the beginning, the curse that the Enchantress places on the Prince seems like a work of evil, meant to punish someone whose heart is cruel. Over the course of the story, we learn that the curse is actually meant to develop the Prince into the man he was always capable of being. As humans, we need to feel as though the pains and trouble we experience in life actually have meaning. We need to believe that when we experience “curses,” they are actually developing us into stronger and better people in the long run. Seeing this principle become true in a character’s life affirms this for us.

8. The Darkest Hour

Story guru Blake Snyder referred to this moment as the “all is lost” moment. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle is betrayed and captured by Gaston while trying to save her father. The entire village is coming for the Beast with torches and violence in mind. It appears as though nothing could save Belle, the Beast, or any of the people in the story we have come to care about. Though somehow, in the midst of it all, solutions arise and good overcomes evil. This is what powerful writing is all about. Crafting our characters into the most impossible corners and then somehow helping them escape, against all odds.

9. The Restoration

While not necessary in every story, audiences generally love to see that which was bent crooked made straight. We love to encounter that which was lost become restored. We love redemption. Setting up impossible circumstances opens the opportunity for great emotional relief in the minds of the audience when we see people we assumed dead somehow live again, objects thought lost forever miraculously found, and love that we knew could never be given new life. This trope never gets old for audiences. It is at the core of who we are as humans. If we give people honest circumstances to overcome that feel as challenging as our lives tend to be, we will always cheer when the protagonist finds a way through the storm and lands safely.


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

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:23+00:00 March 22nd, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |