Tag: film

Webinar on 9/21 w/ EIACE – Power Up Webinar – Comedy, TV writing, Representation, Writing Action Lines & Cinematic Storytelling

by on Sep.11, 2017, under events, Featured

eiACE Power-Up Webinar – Sept. 21 – 4PM PT

The third installment in the Power-Up Webinar Series features Dan Calvisi, Jen Grisanti,

Lee Jessup and David Misch. These industry-leading educators will provide instruction

through 20-minute segments, live at the Relativity School Studio in LA.

Dan Calvisi – Write Great Description Paragraphs – Learn From The Masters!

A lot is written about the art of dialogue, but what about the equal challenge

of writing great description/action? Citing examples from modern masters like

Christopher Nolan, Vince Gilligan, Shonda Rhimes and Quentin Tarantino,

Dan Calvisi will explore the mechanics, formatting and execution of this crucial

element of the screenplay. Dan will also lead the class in writing the introduction of a famous movie

character, to be compared to the actual text from the original screenplay.

Jen Grisanti – Writing A TV Pilot That Sells: Setting Up The Series And Season One

Through The Arc Of The Wound

In this talk, Jen Grisanti will go over how to set up the series and season one arc by

creating a strong arc of the wound for the central character. It is when the personal

dilemma links to the professional pursuit and the pilot arc is one step toward healing

the wound that we root for the outcome and emotionally connect to the story. Jen

will discuss the season arcs for FLEABAG (Amazon), RIVER (Netflix) and HAPPY VALLEY (Netflix).

Lee Jessup – Representation Rundown

This will cover everything you ever wanted to know about agents and managers,

including how to get the right representation, what to expect from your agent vs.

what your can expect from your manager, how much you should pay them, what

they will expect from you, and what you can do to motivate them.

David Misch – How “How Comedy Works” Works

My seminar “How Comedy Works” makes a unique guarantee in the world of

screenwriting seminars: it gives you absolutely no help with screenwriting. HCW,

as we in the office like to call it (Note: There is no office), is about comedy as an

art form; what it is, what it means and how it works. Why take time with that instead

of figuring out why your 2nd act sucks?, I hear no one asking. Because learning how comedy works will

help you do it better. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. This talk will show how looking at

comedy not screenwriting can help your screenwriting; how contemporary comedy goes back to ancient

Greece (and yes, I’m looking at you, fart and vomit jokes); and the precision, skill and ingenuity that

comedy requires. Most of all, this talk explains why everyone who says examination kills comedy is

not only wrong but should be killed, and shows how comedy principles translate into actual laughter.

So, y’know, forget that stuff about no help.

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WHY STORIES LIKE “THE MARTIAN” WORK

by on Oct.20, 2015, under Featured, Motivation

The Martian is an extraordinary feel good film that really takes you into the idea that anything is possible if you focus on a desire, take action, don’t let the setbacks bring you down and always move forward and believe. It takes the idea of being positive to a whole new level. The Martian’s success at the box office is a sure sign that this type of story appeals to the masses. We all want to believe that we can achieve the dream despite the odds. It shows you that the underdog holds a place in all of our hearts. When the focus on the outcome is clear, it is truly amazing to see what can transpire even in what appears to be an insurmountable situation. This story takes achieving the dream to a whole new height. It is universal. It is accessible. It will make you feel like you can accomplish anything if you put forth a plan in action.

I was fascinated by this story. Drew Goddard wrote the screenplay. My first thought was that it is similar to Gravity that was written by Alfonso Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron. Both films started with a very powerful trigger and dilemma. In The Martian, the trigger was when Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is thought to be dead after he is hit in the middle of a storm and his crew leaves him on Mars. His dilemma is that he has to figure out how to survive until there is a return visit. He knows that this won’t be for 4 years. His pursuit is to do the math and figure out how to make food and create an environment that will allow him to survive. In Gravity, Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock), a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission with veteran astronaut, Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) must face disaster when their shuttle is destroyed and they are left alone in space. The dilemma is clearly to find a way to survive despite the odds. The pursuit is to make it back to earth. In both films, I think that we knew what the outcome would be, but being part of the journey and learning what it took to get there is why we go along for the ride. We want to be able to see what heroes do to get over their hurdles. We want to learn how to be the hero in our own life and to be able to get past what appear to be insurmountable obstacles.

In stories like these, we know that the pursuit feels unattainable. The fascinating thing in The Martian was that the science was simplified and we were able to understand some of the choices that Matt Watney’s character had to make in order to survive. His tactics were so logical. His character remained incredibly optimistic for the majority of the journey despite the odds, the obstacles and the stakes that he faced. There was so much emotion that came from seeing his drive and watching his belief. This is such a strong message for everyone who faces a situation where it seems like “all is lost” and the chances of moving through it seem unattainable. By watching the actions that Watney takes and seeing the obstacles that he is able to overcome, we can apply the same thought to our own lives. What if we took optimism and determination and used it to fuel our pursuits? Usually, our fuel is the pain of knowing what the worst that can happen is if we don’t pursue our dreams. What if we started focusing on what the best is that can happen and believe in this possibility? How could this approach change our lives?

It also comes down to the questions that we ask ourselves. In Gravity, it felt like the question being debated was “Do I want to live or die?” This stemmed from a deep wound that happened in the past with the loss of Ryan’s child. In The Martian, we know that Watney wants to live. Part of what is fueling this is that he knows his crew is going to feel like they made a mistake. He does not want them to feel this. With Watney’s character, more of what is being debated is; can he use his resourcefulness, knowledge and optimism to attain the outcome he wants. Both situations are being fueled by emotion and desire. When you understand how to tell a story where we fully feel the emotion that is fueling the desire, you attain an outcome that appeals to the masses.

It is interesting how the real life story of the author of the book that the film is based on, Andy Weir, has parallels with what could appear to be an insurmountable goal. After dropping out of college and getting rejected for his first two books, Andy went back to working in computers. He figured that with the Internet, he could do writing as a hobby. What he produced was The Martian. The Martian was Andy’s first published book. He self-published it when he couldn’t get a publisher. It sold really well on Amazon. When it started doing well, it got on Amazon’s bestseller list. Random House approached him. This led to him landing an agent and getting a publishing deal. The film followed this.

The insurmountable goal that gets attained is what inspires all of us to believe that anything is possible. This is why these stories work; they make the attainment of the dream seem possible.

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THE POWER OF THE EMOTIONAL FUEL BEHIND THE MESSAGE

by on Jan.15, 2014, under Featured, Motivation, Writing

 

When we feel the message in your story, there is an imprint that the storyteller leaves with the receiver. We experience what you wanted to say and we connect our own history and emotions to it and walk away with a stronger sense of fulfillment of what the journey was all about. Stories that make us feel the fuel behind the pursuit are the stories that resonate on a universal level because the message is clear. We understand what is motivating the character toward the goal. There is a quote that encapsulates the experience of life and the idea of choice perfectly, “Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald. I love this quote. It reminds me that this is what story is all about. With the incredible batch of movies this year, I felt a variety of emotions for stories that came from a place of depth and a wide array of topics.

With the movie Nebraska, written by Bob Nelson and directed by Alexander Payne, we felt the pursuit of a son’s desire to connect with his father by helping him on a pursuit that others considered frivolous. It is a story about belief. They go on a road trip. The father has to settle scores along the way. For the son, it was about the idea of allowing his father to believe in something as a way to give him purpose. In doing so, he gets a chance to get to know him more. I really connected with this. Now, the timing of just going through cancer with my mom certainly made the idea of this simple pursuit resonate even more. The humor was perfectly placed. There were lines that made you laugh out loud and moments that tugged at your heart and really made you feel what the storyteller intended. We understood the fuel behind the pursuit. Universally, the desire to connect with our parents before the time passes is a strong one. I loved this film.

With the movie 12 Years A Slave, screenplay written by John Ridley and directed by Steve McQueen, I felt so many emotions.  One of the strongest emotions that I felt was anger. I really struggled with the concept of human behavior. This was the first movie I’ve been to where I seriously wanted to leave several times because the brutality hurt my heart. The power of the story, the performances and the pursuit of the central character are what kept me there because I wanted to know the answer to his quest. The universal idea of one day we have everything our heart could ever dream of and in a moment, it is taken away. How strong is our desire to get it back? Do we have the strength to survive? What did it all mean? Can we get back to a moment that will forever change as a result of the pursuit and the obstacles hit? This powerful story is a gift. It shows the true meaning of kindness and the will of the human spirit to feel unconditional love.

In the movie American Hustle, written by Eric Singer and David O. Russell and directed by David O. Russell, we feel the fictional story of a con man on a quest to survive with a woman that he loves. The two, Irving and Sydney, are caught in the middle of a con when she accepts a check from an undercover cop, Richie, and is arrested. They are given the choice of her giving up her freedom or the two of them helping Richie to get four more con artists like them. They realize to pull this heist off and free Sydney from returning to prison, they will have to make one final play. The idea of “People believe what they want to believe” resonates throughout. We feel the pursuit of moving from the idea of conning people for a living to the idea of legitimacy and truth.  The emotional motivation behind the pursuit and the stakes were clear in this story. I loved the themes that were explored.

With the movie Philomena, screenplay written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope and directed by Stephen Frears, we feel the story of a man who is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace and a woman who had her son taken away when she was an “inmate” at a Catholic convent. The pursuit is fueled by a mother’s desire to find out whether she made the right choice in giving up her son. There is strong emotion behind this. He helps her in her pursuit and in doing so finds some of the answers to his own. Through her emotional responses to the obstacles that they hit on their quest, he is able to open his eyes to his own flaw and what is holding him back in his life. It is about a man’s search for meaning as we see this odd couple learn about life through the conflicting perspectives that each of them has toward it and the choice that she thinks she made but discovers was really made for her.

In the movie Her, written and directed by Spike Jonze, we feel the pain of life after divorce through the lead Theodore. He purchases an OSI to help him cope with the loneliness. He falls in love with an Operating System named Samantha. The gift of this journey is that it is such an internal experience. The writer and director brilliantly figured out how to tell it externally. It is a movie about living after trauma and how we find closure when parts of our story end. I was totally immersed in the gift of this vision. Having gone through divorce, I know what it is to move through the filling of a hole after something major changes in your life. Universally, this hits all of us who’ve known the experience of love and loss.

Storytellers, when we feel your intent with clarity and can define the fuel behind the pursuit, you give us the gift of understanding your message and interpreting it in a way that speaks to our own journey.

 

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PHILOMENA: A STORY STRUCTURED TO PERFECTION

by on Dec.09, 2013, under Featured, Story

 

I am a story/career consultant. I analyze story for a living. It is very rare that I come across one that is perfectly structured. I feel that the last film that fell into this realm for me was The King’s Speech. I am always on a quest to understand how story can be structured in a way that makes us feel the content, the message and the pursuit in the strongest way possible. I found this in the brilliant story of Philamena. Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope wrote it based on the book by Martin Sixsmith. This movie is what strong storytelling is all about.

 

This is a spoiler alert: Philomena is about a woman facing the shame of a choice that was made 50 years earlier. I will be going through the set up in Act I of the story so that you can see what led to it being crafted so perfectly.

It begins when Philomena hears in church, “You are the cause of your shame. You and your own indecency.” Then, they show flashbacks of a Young Philomena during the trigger moment, when she meets John. This moment would later lead to the choice. We see the symbolism of an apple with regards to the forbidden fruit.

When we meet Martin who is set up on page 3, he is at the doctor’s office. We learn that he lost his job and he is in search of a way to process the change. This creates empathy. His doctor suggests that he try running.

We see more flashbacks of Young Philomena with John. In the present, Philomena tells her daughter, Jane that today would have been Anthony’s 50th Birthday. Jane doesn’t know what she is talking about. She shows her a picture of when Anthony was a baby. This sets up the “why now” in regards to why we are entering the story when we are.

In the inciting incident from the flashback, we see Philomena when she is pregnant and talking with Mother Barbara. Mother Barbara asks her if she took her knickers down for him. She says, “He got an awful lot for a toffee apple.” She asks about Philomena’s mother. One of the other nuns says that she died ten years earlier. This builds on the empathy that we feel for Philomena. She was left motherless at a young age. So, when she gives birth to a child as an unwed mother, she has to make a choice of what to do that will be for the betterment of her child.

In the present, Philomena’s daughter, Jane, meets Martin at a party. She hears that he lost his job and that at one point he was a journalist. She tells him that she knows a story about a woman who had a baby when she was a teenager and kept it a secret. The nuns took the baby away from her and made her have it adopted and she’s kept it a secret for all of these years. Jane tells Martin that the story is about her mother. She asks him if he’d want to do a story on this.

This is the trigger that brings the two worlds of Philomena and Martin together. Both have gone through loss. Both are on a quest for meaning. I think it’s fascinating that shame is what drives Philomena; yet, through the story, the question of who should be feeling this is debated.

The trigger incident from the past was the choice that was made. The trigger incident in the present had to do with the sequence of when Philomena hears about “shame” in church and the fact that it is her adopted son, Anthony’s, 50th Birthday. The trigger incident is continued with the moment when Jane runs into Martin, a journalist, at a party right after he lost his job and asks him if he wants to cover this story.

The dilemma for Philomena is that if she doesn’t find out what happened to her son, she will never know the answer of whether she made the right choice or not. The dilemma for Martin is that he has no job and he is given the opportunity to write a story of human interest that could bring him more opportunity, which could also help in processing his own loss.

The pursuit has to do with getting the story for Martin. For Philomena, it is about finding out what happened to Anthony. The obstacles have to do with getting information from the nuns, uncovering a secret that they were keeping, discovering what really happened to young unwed mothers at the Abbey, finding people who knew Anthony and could share the truth.

The part of the story that mesmerized me was the idea of who really should be feeling shame from the choice that was made. I found the story to be so powerful. The movie was phenomenal. The script is simply brilliant.

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